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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A New Novel, Part 16 Comments and Questions

I've been passing a little bit of my new novel, Daemon each day.  Today, I'm going to answer some questions and comments from a reader.  My comments/answers are in italics.

Have been enjoying each new installment on your novel; and, have a few comments, and questions, I'd like to share w/ you. I warn you up front, these are just 'free flowing' ideas, opinions & questions, jump backward/forward in your unfolding novel.  I like any comments/questions--even if they are criticism.  This way I can improve the writing.

Big picture, my questions all center around the theme of how/why the girl is being tricked, controlled & progressively conditioned by the demon, both by his word, his act & the surrounding; and, why she doesn't appear to recognize it's going on.  The novel has just begun, she is young, and I have been feeding only about one page a day lately.  In novel time, she has only been with the demon a few days.  I want to really place the hook before I give Aksinya any line.  This lets the reader see the character of the girl and the demon.  I do understand your frustration.  I have to control myself in the writing all the time.  I want to resolve each situation and let her have some upper hand in the incidents.  That will not happen until chapter 8--I just wrote a pivotal scene there.  Part of the point is to let the reader see the methods the demon uses to tempt.  I still have many methods to get through.  In the current chapter we will see a blatant one.  Most of the early methods have been subtle or tricks.

1. Can you explain why more warning flags aren't being raised in her, realizing that demon is tricking, tempting and conditioning her? ( Restated another way, is it too early in the story's development for her to start mulling over the recent events in her mind's eye, to start to look for clues, or examples of the half truths, or whole lies, the demon's is spinning? )  I like your observation because, as I revealed (perhaps too much) the demon almost always lies.  He does not tell her the truth.  He is a perfect observer of human activity and emotions (as you would expect), but can he really read her mind?  That is still in question.  She begins to catch a clue in this chapter (chapter 3).  Unfortunately, she can't do much about it yet, but she does plan and begin to act.  We will see the beginning of her actions soon.  Part of the problem is that she is unsure if the demon knows her thoughts.  Plus there is the shock factor.  I tried to show this in her lack of interest in life after the death of her family.  She has little motivation--revelation, I tried to show that the demon motivated her when she just wanted to curl up and die.  Kind of a paradox that the demon would seek to encourage her.  This is part of the bounding of the demon's abilities.  We will see more of this.  As Aksinya learns about the demon's limitations, we will also learn about them.

2. Reason I ask, it is clear to me, the demon is attempting to making subtle claims of semi-omniscience (all knowing)....or should I say, more precisely, implied claims at inherent omniscience (reads her mind) vs total omniscience (reserved for God). But, she doesn't seem to grasp that. Why?  Great observation.  I tried to show subtle hints that she is realizing it a little.  The key was even his initial claims that she refuted, "You weren't there at the beginning..." etc. 

To elaborate: Why isn't the girl starting to question the demon's claims, actions & authority over her, over their physical world? Why doesn't she begin to challenge his claims more, "read my mind". Or perhaps, command him to retrieve multiple objects from her home, from the chest he carries..... to either validate or invalidate his (implicit) claims at semi-omnipotence.....w/ his many feats, and abilities. That's coming.  I'm trying to place little clues for the reader and Aksinya.

3. Speaking of the demon retrieving & storing the objects from her home... that whole scene seemed a bit extraordinary...awfully hard to swallow. Now, I realize we're dealing with the supernatural world here, but, stuffing everything into a chest? Is it really happening? is it a illusion or deception? Is it (chest) a portal to another supernatural realm? Doesn't it warrant further elaboration, for the sake of reader? (Maybe, ref. to past demonic folk lore, or Russian folk lore, etc.) This is a great question, and likely the writing requires more elaboration.  There are some great Russian tales that talk about sacks and closets that can fit unbelievable amounts.  I like the idea of presenting more information--especially related to Russian folklore.  On the other hand, I don't want to give too much explanation.  Part of the excitement of this kind of book is that there aren't pat explanations.  There are inexplicable mysteries.  For example, I intentionally don't give any of the spells in Latin or English, the reason is that I want the reader to imagine the words without having to try to develop some fancy phrase that locks the verbiage and the ideas of the reader.  There is also another aspect of the chest--it is supposed to be funny.  It is really a subtle joke, but when I told you the demon was carrying a chest on his shoulders filled with all of Aksinya's family's goods (including the carriage), in my mind, that's just funny.

5. Also, speaking of objects from her home, why didn't you have the girl walk through her home, gazing upon different family objects in different rooms, to evoke memories...which will be later explored..maybe a source of happiness, hurt or longing.....which helps maybe explain her family relationships, or why she turned to sorcery in the 1st place. Yes, I noticed some subtle clues, regarding her sense of self identity, her description of herself in the mirror, etc; but, not much explored. I think that was a missed, golden opportunity. This is a great idea.  I intentionally didn't have her walk through at the beginning.  I may have made a mistake, but my reason is that I wanted to move the novel along at first.  This is the kind of novel where there are not many action scenes.  I'm trying to pace the action vs. less action scenes to properly pace the novel.  We shall see if that is a good balance or not.  She will walk through the belongings later and in another location, chapter 7, I think. 

6. Have you considered her retrieving a family artifact of (implied) spiritual or social significance, say a family photo, crest, locket, or photo that (perhaps) might speak to her mother's (Orthodox) background, or her father's background. Great idea.  Since I've already written the next parts I can tell you, in this chapter she will make a connection with an item (a bookstand) and that is the beginning of many of the answers to the questions/comments above.  Next, she will make more connections with her mother's possessions--a crucifix to be exact.  That is already happening with the dresses.  The demon delays some of this action, but we will not be certain if he is doing that on purpose.  There is also the connection with the demon's surety--the locket.  I dropped that early, and intentionally, but I didn't complete the idea.  That's a fix that is required in the early chapters.

(You know, an object, that may be a key for future use, coinage for future passage, or signpost for redemption etc) Definitely.  I like the way you are thinking, it shows I am getting across the points of the story.  I do want the reader to anticipate, but I don't want the reader to predict.  Predictability is death to a great novel--anticipation is life.

Such a a symbolic item, whether it be a physical key, a locket, a dress or a family crest, could be stashed, ignored by the demon, and later retrieved by the girl..or, periodically pulled out, considered, mulled over. ( Sorta like the Ring, in the Hobbit..or the war/healing equip Aslan gave the Naria children to combat evil. )
I like this idea.  I haven't included this much.  In general, the item specifically will cause her much pain.  The mulling over and considering is a great idea--I will include that.
Or it could be something to wake her up from her evil stupor, say a childhood creed, or poem or memory.... (such as the name of Aslan called out by the Prince, in the Silver Chair). Or maybe, something to act as a symbolic sign post... to help point her back in the direction of repentance & redemption. Yes, definitely.  I won't use just one.  The problems Aksinya is encountering are not solved simply.  I have to take her a long ways along the path before she can begin to have some success.  Plus, there is her problem... 

Could be as benign as an old child's dairy, which the demon overlooks, w/ words or creed or child's prayer, from her mother's Orthodox faith. Anything benign, which is now brought along, largely neglected, but eventually act as an 'ace in the hole' to help her combat the demon, in that final fight for control/contract over her soul & spirit.  Great ideas.

7. Are you intending to place the girl through a series of temptations, each linked to one of the (7) deadly sins, or simply focus on one of the seven sins? If so, which one? Is it a secret for the reader to unravel over time...with hints, clues, etc.? Revelation here.  Generally, the demon is trying to get her to sin intentionally without his intervention.  I'm revealing a lot here.  The worse sins against other humans are murder and adultery.  These are the specific sins the demon will try to get her to do.  The means of temptation will be the seven deadly.  This is one of the points I am trying to make, the seven deadly are really temptations, the sin are the actions as a result.  The demon's specialty is lust.  This is a theme in the novel.  Aksinya's problem is luxaria which is overall lust.  His temptations will be related to this idea. 

The reason I ask; the choice of temptation of f1 deadly sin vs 7 deadly sins will greatly influence the storyline, character development, scenes, the dialogue between the demon & girl, and the private musings or thoughts that are in her mind. And, it will greatly influence, how the reader picks up on these clues. I try to not have any private musings.  There will be a few, but very few.  In general, the entire story should reveal itself through the conversations and actions of the characters.

8. Related question, what is the primary purpose of the successive temptations? Is it to move the story forward, temptation to temptation, or to incrementally highlight the moral & spiritual decline she's well as more fully expose her vulnerability? This is a great observation/question.  In general, I've set up the situation that Aksinya has reached the bottom of her decline.  Her problems are specifically related to sorcery--this is her issue.  The demon's temptations are to make her sin.  The storyline moves because of these temptations.  Therefore, that is the exact point.  The plot moves on many levels--one of these levels is the temptations the demon places before Aksinya.  He gives her few choices and tries to drive her into a corner.  In many cases, we will see, as the demon sees, she does not really sin.  In the words of the rabbis, coerced sin is not sin.  For example, killing in defense is not sin.  Killing in defense of others is not necessarily a sin.  While the demon seeks her decline, she is struggling to fight him and to fight against his temptations. 

Kind of like Edmond (Narnia), craving/eating Turkish Delight, though the more he is taken in by temptation, the more he wants, and desire it, a powerful drug that toxifies his soul, into abandonment of all he hold dear, and virtual slavery (to the wicked white witch).  Yes, this is sorcery to Aksinya.  Later when we see how it motivates her and controls her.

9. Please discuss the different plot devices, and mechanisms you've employed to highlight (underscore) her growing dependence on the demon. From the mundane (physical needs) to the more elaborate (sorcery)... to heal her bruises.  This is a great observation.  The demon is playing her.  I really don't want to reveal too much yet because we haven't even seen her servant and we certainly haven't seen much of the gamut of his temptations.  I will make some general comments, perhaps too revealing.  One of the major plot devices is the puppy dog ploy (I promise it won't be tasteless or so direct in the book).  in the puppy dog ploy, a controlling character gives the dependent character a dog (something to love).  The point is for the dependent character to become dependent on the dog.  The controlling character then uses threats against the dog, attacks against the dog, and threats to take the dog away to further torment and control the dependent character.  We have already seen the demon do this.  He first grovels before her and tells her he can read her mind.  Next, he takes care of her and seems to sympathize with her.  He injures her--he did this intentionally knowing how he could use it.  He suggests revenge when she is at her lowest point, and she agrees to murder of those who killed her family.  He tempts her to sorcery by mentioning how it can heal her.  Again, he caters to her needs to bring out her pain and suffering.  The only reason he drew her bath was to ease her mind and let her temptations grow.  He fed her so she would eventually feel more pain.  His point, in every case was not for her benefit, but rather to drive her to do as he wished--to sin.  He intentionally tricked her to luxuria by leading her to choose to take everything from the house.  He used her vanity to trick her into using sorcery to assuage her curiosity and know what he looked like in the streets of Minsk.  Right now, in Minsk, we know she is cold, she is hungry, she has been walking all day.  The demon could feed her, carry her, clothe her, warm her.  He doesn't do any of these things and he doesn't give her any idea that he can, or that she can relieve her own suffering.  

10. Very interested in your use of sorcery (witchcraft); would be delightful if you took the time to speak about it's historical, anthropological, religious & mythological contexts...within this story, given it's setting, era, religion, etc? I should go back a little and add more.  I did plan to explain more later in the book.  I hope that will be sufficient.  We will see that Aksinya will be called and demanded to teach sorcery to others.  This will allow me to explain some of the bounds.  By the way, I use Frazier's ideas from The Golden Bough for my magical (sorcery) concepts.  This is the basis for most thought about this subject.

11. I like the metaphor of sorcery as a drug she takes, to alleviate her physical & emotional discomfort is great...but, is much more than a simple metaphor...especially if the reader take the time to research the root words of both...drugs & sorcery.  Wonderful observation.  We will see that Aksinya's real problem is sorcery.  She is good at it, and she is driven to it.  Her most difficult problem will be her desire for sorcery.

Sorcery is like a drug, prescribe by the demon go gain control over her, but, she's undertaking it to alleviate her physical & emotional ailment. She's taking it in limited duration, but, becoming more clear, she's becoming addicted to it; foresee, it will become taken on a more regular basis, justified to combat her chronic, than, that leads the reader to ask....what is her 'chronic disorder?" That is a fantastic question.  I'm not sure I want to reveal this at this point.  One could observe that all sin is a lack of proper relationship with the Creator.  I think I'll leave it at that for now.  I do not intend a perfectly clean end to everything.  I don't believe in such things.  There is never perfect resolution in any human life.  In salvation resides the propensity to sin.  In redemption is still temptation and failure to act in a redeemed manner.

You've been given several little clues...

Thanks for reading and thanks for the questions.  I tried to formulate answers that are cogent and reasonable.  I hope they are as helpful as the questions/comments have been for me.  More from chapter 3 tomorrow.

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