Friday, January 30, 2015

Friday Forays in Fiction: The Influence of Reading on Our Stories -- and a snippet

Thomas Covenant Trilogies
Several months ago I started reading Donaldson's Thomas Covenant series.  The first two trilogies are re-reads but I've not yet read the final quartet.  This rereading of the first six books had two purposes--to prepare to read the final four and to facilitate the rewrite of my story Blow Me a Candy Kiss, because I'd given one of my characters an obsession with it.

The first time I read it was the year the first one came out, the year I married.  I introduce Ed to it and he became as enthralled if not more than I and over the next decade or so that story colored all of our communication.  We found shorthand ways of saying what we were trying to say via everything from themes to metaphors to scenes.

Remember that Star Trek Next Generation episode where Captain Picard was kidnapped by an alien captain who isolated the two of them on a planet with a dangerous entity that would take cooperation to defeat and proceeded to use the situation as a way to teach Picard their very alien language?  That language was entirely based on knowledge of the stories of their culture.  Nearly the entire vocabulary consisted of phrases of this order: [Name of character] at [name of place].  Well that's how Ed and I once used the Thomas Covenant story.

Since I discovered that the story problem in Candy Kiss was the damaged communication between husband and wife, Iris and Greg, and because some of the themes in the story, especially those represented by Greg, are the same as those in Thomas Covenant, I decided it fitting to incorporate it into my story.  It gives me a lever with which to move them out of the rut they had dug for themselves.

I thought I'd share a snippet of the the current structural rewrite of the opening scene, incorporating advice from my beta reader and Hooked by Les Edgerton and showcase  how Donaldson's story is influencing my rewrite.

If you would like to compare the original 1990 version of the opening and/or see how the story ends:  part 1; part 2; part 3; part 4; part 5;

Blow Me a Candy Kiss [the beginning]
by Joy Renee

Turning the last page, Iris let the book fall closed on her lap where it settled the weight of despair on her thighs.  The lengthy expose of the foster care system by an investigative journalist had just quashed her latest (last?) hope of creating a family with Greg.

An indignation propelled surge of words swell in her throat, threatening to flood out of her mouth in a helpless harangue. How can an agency created for the best interests of the child actively discourage their foster parents from getting attached to the kids or allowing the kids to get attached to them? 

By policy no less! Love, they were told, was not their job.

What?  Are they trying to create a generation of sociopaths?

She desperately needs to talk to Greg about this and about where do they go from here--overseas adoption? open adoption? surrogacy? in vitro?  But the cost of any of them was prohibitive.

Besides, the fact of their childlessness was a topic they had talked to death long ago and buried under a tombstone marked TABOO.  

Yet it remains, a black hole to which all other subjects gravitate and  distort, leaving naught between us but the vacuum of my womb. She looked across the chasm separating them knowing Greg's face was hidden behind this weekend's fat novel.

After a brief glimpse of him laid back in his recliner with his book propped on his chest, she quickly looks away for fear the welling tears blurring her vision for the last fifty pages would slide free just as he happened to glance over the top of his book while turning a page.

Then he'd ask what was wrong or (guessing) not.  Which would feel worse?  Not something I want to find out.  

Either way, it's better to save the tears and rants for when she's alone.  For above all she couldn't bear to see his silent agony whenever he saw the sadness or anger overwhelming her--that look of pain and defeat in his eyes as his shoulders slump, his hands hang empty and impotent at his side and his eyes find anywhere to gaze but at her.

As she waited for her tears to dry and to be sure she had them well banked, she stared unblinking out the window beside her solitary seat in the loveseat-rocker--once one of their favorite weekend hangouts--watching the tops of the trees along the creek bordering their backyard converse with the sky.

Even the trees can shoot the breeze with the sky, while Greg and I can barely discuss anything besides the weather, aches and pains, or what's for dinner anymore.

Eying the whiplashed treetops again she noted that the predominant gusts seemed to be coming from the west.  She couldn't see the horizon in any direction so could not tell if there were clouds moving in on their summer-blue, heat-shimmered sky but the sensation of weight pressing down on the top of her head and pushing out from behind her eyes seemed more intense than what could be accounted for by the summer colds she and Greg were nursing on the only day of the week they both had off.

Sunday's and summer-colds.  Two things we can still share. Iris crooked her mouth in a grimace of irony.  All is not lost yet. 

"Hope it's not raining at the coast.  The girls were so excited about playing in the surf." 

As was she!  They were supposed to be camping at the coast with their parents and sisters this weekend but when they'd woke up Friday morning feeling miserable the others had gone on without them to soak up surf and sun, leaving Greg and Iris at home to soak up tissues and time. 

Greg did not respond as he'd started snorting and coughing just as she started speaking. Casting furtive glances toward him she sighed.  Not worth repeating.  What could he say anyway?

Staring at the cover of his hardback copy of Donaldson's The Wounded Land which blocked her view of his face she fumbled for something she could say that would prompt him to close the book on his finger or let it lay open across his chest so she could see his face.  How is it possible to miss so intensely a face that's in the same room with you?

What she really needed was to lay her head on his chest and listen to his heart beat as he talked about this story that had so enthralled him since his teens he'd reread the series from the beginning every time a new one was about to come out and from the beginning to the end of the second trilogy every two or three years since.  

Sharing in his enthusiasm for The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant had been an integral part of their courtship in their late teens. Reading the first trilogy through together the year after her high school graduation, they'd carried on impassioned discussions about the relationship between Thomas' two worlds and between them and our world.

They'd shared many such rousing discussions on numerous topics in the early years.  But not only had it been years since the last one, she couldn't remember when she last saw Greg roused about anything.  His reticence had gone beyond stoicism into implacable guardedness. 

He’s Colossus of the Fall, she thought, flashing on that iconic image from Donaldson’s Land.  Nothing represented his stance toward his world better than that monumental clenched fist of rock raised against a vast sky on the edge of Landsdrop, a ward against enemies of the land.  

Once this trait of Greg’s had given her comfort, a sense of protection against threat inside the circle of his ward. But of late she felt exiled from that circle.  When did I become an enemy to be guarded against? She wondered with a surge of adrenaline spiked surprise.

As she watched him find the corner of the page with his right index finger, she smiled at the memory of Greg's reaction to his professor's response to his essay analyzing the metaphors in Donaldson's series carrying the themes of shame, grief, regret, guilt and redemption.  She'd said that, though she hadn't read any of the books, she could not imagine such serious themes being so trivialized by wrapping them in the frivolous fantasy venue.  He was over-the-top outraged.

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