On writing simultaneous novels, Part 2
Another issue that has confronted me in the process of writing four novels at the same time: back story. Four main characters, four sets of secondary and minor characters (many of them overlapping from one main character to another), four individual histories. Right now, however, it is the individual history side of the matter that troubles me. One is a visual artist who has been taught that the visual arts are frivolous, shameful and at all costs to be avoided. One is a young bookkeeping clerk being blackmailed into obedience by the man who murdered his father. One is a brilliant student trapped in a world of hallucinations due to his own foolhardy overconfidence. The last is the student’s younger sister, trained in the tradition of the prayer singers and chosen by the casting of the Lot to replace her brother– the only female child ever chosen by the Lot.
You might be able to see already the problems. Each person has a different set of circumstances, a different knowledge base, a different personal back story. At the moment, I’m wrestling over the girl’s story. She has committed to memory hundreds of prayer songs. I’m neither poet nor musician; I need to know something of both in order to create a knowledge base for her. Before that, it was the artist– and I have little to no skill in the visual arts. The clerk, being a numbers person, forces me beyond my limits in that direction as well. The student is, for me, the nearest to my own knowledge base, but in his hallucinogenic condition it won’t do me much good.
I don’t mind a challenge, especially if it requires me to learn new information. It’s simply a little discouraging that the finish line keeps moving farther and farther ahead… [sigh]