The scene I’ve been munching in my head for several days (and tried writing today, with mixed results) is one that has antecedents a long way back and needs to connect to an earlier book…without being a copycat scene of a particular scene in that book. And it has to fit seamlessly into this book, hitting exactly the right note of climax-resolution for its character arc and the overall plot.
In other words, it’s a very complicated jigsaw puzzle piece, and more resembles one of our state’s badly gerrymandered Congressional districts, with a long skinny tentacle all the way back to Gird & Luap’s description of Gird’s actions, some fatter and shorter tentacles to specific parts of the original Paks books, and some very direct and obvious connections to events in the new Paksworld books, especially Limits of Power.
Real world history does this seamlessly, of course. The roots of today’s political situations go back along narrower and narrower (but still vital) roots to events hundreds of years in the past…in some cases issues that were alive thousands of years in the past. Nearly all the current disputes in American political life predate the American Revolution–they came here with the first colonists and with all later colonists. You find them (in sometimes less obvious forms) in Greek and Roman history and philosophy.
But a novel is not, despite a writer’s best efforts, “real” history. And in a novel, unlike a history book, every element must serve Story–that ancient and powerful form of narrative that is (by all research can show so far) wired in to human neurology. Connections must be felt, not stated.
More than one scene in Book V needs to have a similar connection to past books, sometimes all the way back to the deepest history yet told of Paksworld. More than one character’s arc resonates with a past before that character’s birth. If I get it right, the whole thing (and by that I mean all ten books, the old and the new) will be like a great bell, and the reader will feel the vibrations of that resonance in chest and belly and bones.
IF I get it right. That’s what’s so scary about this book. I’ve done good final volumes of series before but this one is bigger…with the parts of the series separated by two decades…with every element in the series longer and more complicated than in the SF groups. Because if I don’t get it right, I’m robbing you, the readers, of the pleasure you could have, that I want you to have, that I’m presently vibrating with as I discover the range of resonances at play here. Some that I knew of before and some that I’m discovering now.
Limits of Power sets up some of the last book, of course–that’s what penultimate books do, but without giving it all away. You’ll think you know things that you don’t actually know–there are still surprises ahead, and some things that will be what you think, only…more so. I hope. In a way, it’s acting (and I’m acting) like a rider on a top-level event horse at the start of the cross-country phase D. We’ve had roads and tracks and steeplechase and another roads and tracks and now–it’s nothing but the big course, hitting one giant impossible obstacle after another at the right tempo, from the right angle, with absolute concentration every stride of the way.
And as I often do on the big books, I’m not feeling sure I can do it. Part of that is coming out of several weeks of being sick, but the other part is…this is a very big challenge , with a project (on a horse) I love, that I know is big enough to pull this off if I don’t lose concentration, if I don’t screw up someplace and present the story (the horse) at the wrong angle, or too slow or too fast. I know what I want this book to be…what it needs to be…but between here and there is a lot more writing, all of which needs to be my very best and maybe beyond, because there’s no margin for error.
So today I worked on a scene in which someone important dies, and so far the resonance with the past event(s) is more “clang” than the deep distant bonnnggggg that it needs to be. It can’t be clang (or worse, clank.) Yikes. And I don’t have the music for it yet. I think I’ll try going back to the music I used for Gird’s book, Brahms’ German Requiem. That will take the clang/clank out of it. I hope.
Wish me luck. No, wish me skill and insight and inspiration. And half dozen plot bombs wouldn’t hurt.