I have been doing an edit on a completed novel called The Bicycle-Wheel Genius, and I have discovered that I have grown quite a bit as a writer since I first began practicing the craft. This particular story has been rattling around in my brain since 1977. The mad scientist who is the title character, Orben Wallace, is based loosely on me. It is also to some degree a favorite science teacher from high school mixed up with a rather eccentric college professor whose bizarre nature led, apparently, to some really profound insights about the scientific reasoning process and how a person thinks rationally. From this character recipe I have learned the scientific method of experimenting, observing, theorizing, and testing theories works in all areas of life, including the complex mess that is our social life and relationship muddle. Order can be imposed on chaos, and even when chaos is not controlled, it can still be tamed.
I have learned also a thing of two about writing science fiction. I have made this story very science-y by adding elements of time travel, UFO’s, and conspiracy theories… as well as genetics, nutrition, black holes, and history from 1916 (World War I). I have done significant amounts of research because, even though the science is all about big, black, hoo-haw lies and prevarications, it sounds a lot more realistic and palatable if the science is right.
I have learned a few things about writing sequels and tie-ins. This novel is technically a sequel to Catch a Falling Star. No, that’s not right either. It is a prequel-equal-sequel because it happens before, during, and after the previously published book. I have learned to pick up scenes from the other book and rewrite them from the point of view of a different character than the story before. The dialogue is already fixed, but the interpretations and commentary on everything is from a whole different perspective. Not easy to do, but very enjoyable and educational.
I have learned that even though I am basically writing a comedy it also has to have its beautifully sweet-sad moments of melancholy to achieve balance and depth of theme. Two beloved characters die in this book, whereas in Catch a Falling Star only the villain dies without getting a last-second resurrection at the end. We do terrible things to our characters sometimes if it gives the book deeper meaning and resonance with reality.
I do still slavishly rely on the ridiculous. One of the characters in The Bicycle-Wheel Genius is a rabbit who bites a high-tech carrot attached to the time machine and morphs into a rabbit man. Millis, the pet rabbit, is the second Paffooney I am repeating for this recycled sort of post.
I have also learned that by using my obsession with that which is surreal, I can actually write things that make me laugh even though I’ve read and re-read them ten times, and am now reading them again. Humor comes from word-play and cleverness as well as from situations full of slapstick.
So, whether you can stand my purple paisley prose…or not, I am definitely working towards throwing a new novel out there… into the world of publishing… or am I throwing it at your head instead?