Last weekend my wife reminded me of a story from my youth that got me thinking about beginnings. The story is about a little league baseball game, an ice cream cone, and a camper full of teenage kids on a hot summer day. The story is intriguing, full of conflict and action and all sorts of things that can grab a reader and hold them until the end.
And I want to retell it here... but not yet.
I really want to do it up right.
Today, since I was prompted to consider beginnings, I will tell you my dear readers and fellow plotters, about the beginnings of The Plotters of Cantaera.
Some may ask how I came up with the idea for The Plotters of Cantaera, or what the beginning was. There are many beginnings we could discuss, so when I encounter this type of question I often throw back a few question of my own:
Do you mean to ask about the very first creative spark that prompted me to write this story?
Or do you mean to ask how I came up with or decided on the beginning of the first chapter?
Or are you really asking how I decided to begin to write fantasy novels?
I believe these are all good questions with intriguing answers.
To begin, I will address question #1:
What was the very first creative spark that prompted me to write the story The Plotters of Cantaera?
First, a little history, a little backstory, is necessary so that a reader new to this blog might understand this world.
When we first encounter Cantaera, we enter a world that is intended to be a utopia. It is a world controlled by a race of seemingly benevolent beings called the au-Vonya, beings with almost God-like powers. The au-Vonya control the thoughts and actions and memories of all the inhabitants of Cantaera through a powerful device called “plots”.
All au-Vonya are trained from an early age to help in administering the plots. Through years of schooling and apprenticeship training each au-Vonya rises through the ranks until they are fully mature and begin to one day work as fully trained plotters.
Beginning as day-plotters, the youngest fully trained plotters work with a sub-section of Cantaeran subjects within a specific region. Day-plotters watch the Cantaeran’s and monitor and report on daily activity. If a day-plotter finds a subject who steps out of line of the prescribed plots as written by the senior plotters, a report (called a following) is written which can suggest certain edits to the plots to, shall we say, nudge the Cantaeran subject back into a range of action better suited to the au-Vonya dictates.
The first spark I had for this story begins here: Keeril, a young day-plotter fresh out of apprenticeship, discovers a young Cantaeran named William Deane has done something, has behaved in a way which is counter to the prescribed plots. This action is called a leap. Keeril understands that it his duty to report this leap. He believes, as do all au-Vonya plotters, that his suggestions to ameliorate the effects of the leap will be added to the master sequence, the powerful editing process tool which runs at night and adjusts the memory and behavior of the people of Cantaera to get them back on track with the plots.
Keeril and his friend Siper decide to tell Leader Tanak, the senior leader of their section, about the leap. But the experienced (and jealous) Tanak discovers that what William Deane has done is no mere leap. Tanak finds that William Deane’s actions are so powerful and profound that the plots themselves could be destroyed and au-Vonya could lose control of Cantaera.
And that is the origin of the story.
It came to me as I was sitting in my car late one night in a grocery store parking lot while my young kids slept, waiting on my wife to buy milk and cereal. I wrote all of that on the back of an envelope.
As intriguing as that story seemed to be, I did not believe that the telling should begin there. After much thinking and inner debate (something writers do a lot of), I decided I had to start the story with William Deane.
And this brings us to question #2:
How did I decide on the beginning for the first chapter?
William Deane was the beginning. His story, and thus the story of ALL Cantaeran’s, was the most intriguing and most worthy of devoting an entire novel to tell. The au-Vonya are amazing and definitely worthy of a major sub-plot, but William is the lead.
I decided to begin the entire novel at (or near) the point where William performs his leap. That’s the point where Keeril finds William, and the point where we discover William as readers. Deciding on this as the beginning allowed me to bring in characters and relationships I could never have envisioned if all the action occurred in au-Vonya. And, as a nice little twist, I was able to bring a little of au-Vonya to Cantaera... and if you want to know more about that you will have to buy the book.
And now, on to question #3:
How did I decide to begin to write fantasy novels?
This seems like an easy question. I read Tolkien as a kid (in fact I have read the LOTR trilogy over one hundred times! True story!) And I have read numerous other fantasy greats like R.A. Salvatore, C.S. Lewis, Piers Anthony, Poul Anderson, Stephen Donaldson, and of course Orwell and many many others.
But, I also read a LOT of scifi. Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke, Philip K. Dick, Niven (ah Ringworld!), Wells, Verne, Huxley, Bradbury, Chalker, Miller (Canticle for Leibowitz) and on and on...
And as an adult I keep on reading: Rowling and Rothfuss, Goodkind and King, Martin and Jordan...
Why write fantasy?
Fantasy is/was my first true love. I can dig a good scifi, or even an OK scifi.
Fantasy just gets me right here (puts fingertips lightly to heart).
But ... I also write scifi. Urban scifi called the Romy Malloy series with book one called Brilliant Disguise coming soon and you can find info about it here.
And if you watch closely, I weave a bit of fictional technology into my fantasy stories.
And you cannot deny that there are some fantastical elements to my scifi.
When The Plotters of Cantaera and Brilliant Disguise are released you will know what I mean.
Keep watching. It will be soon.