I recently was advised by a fellow blogger to offer a few writing tips on my blog as a way to painlessly market my writing. Okay, I’m a writing teacher, so I can do that. But in my own writing I have hit a snag. Yes, there are things much, much bigger than my humble skill as a writer.
My current novel project, the Bicycle-Wheel Genius has grown into a science-fiction monster. It is not only about a scientist who has secret government connections, but about time travel and people changing into rabbits… or rabbits into people… or boys into girls… dogs and cats living together… No, that is Ghostbusters.
But it has reached a point where the most important theme is incredibly clear and difficult to deal with. The theme I find myself weaving into this story is; “All men are basically good.” Gongah! Wotta theme to try to write! Do I believe it? Of course I do. Can I put the story together in such a way that I illustrate it to the reader’s satisfaction? Of course I can’t. So what do I do? This story has some of the best villains and evil people in it that I have ever written. I can’t kill them off to solve the story’s plot problems (Well, I can, but I don’t want to). I have to show how evil can be redeemed.
My cast of characters include the scientist himself, calmly dealing with time travelers, invading aliens, government assassins, and a group of young boys known as the Norwall Pirates. There is a time traveler who appeared in a book within a book in my novel Catch a Falling Star. There is also an alien space navigator who has been shot by a local Iowa Deputy Marshall and stranded on Earth. Another character is an artificial man, an automaton who has been crafted as a government assassin made from alien technology. Okay, I know you don’t believe I can make serious science fiction out of such crazy-quilt characters, especially with a primary theme like the one I’ve claimed. So, I have to confess that it is not serious in any way, shape, or form. It is a silly fantasy comedy.
So, how do I generate a theme as big and bold and important as the goodness of all men? Well, here’s a secret recipe;
- Take one genius who has lost all the people he loves and has to start over with new friends and, eventually, new family.
- Add a brother-in-law with mental health issues and financial dependency.
- Add a group of young boys hungry for adventure and new experiences and a little bit short on common sense.
- Add a paranoid evil government that has secrets it will kill to protect (the factual part of the story).
- Mix well.
- Add vinegar.
- Boil at 350 degrees for a year.
Of course, if you thought I was giving you real writing advice, then SURPRISE! It turns out I have been making it all up as I go along. That’s how you do it. You write and write, knit it all together tenuously, and then edit the heck out of it, hoping to make sense of the whole thing.