On Writing – Mapping & Morality

middleearthlargelargerstillWhen I’m working on genre fiction, I begin with a message and feeling that I want to communicate. This is why I started with the last line of Unicorns weeks ago. Beneath the Wood was written with the end in mind as well to tell a story of goodbyes, and the challenges of forgiveness and grief.

I know the sense of loneliness I want to delve into with Unicorns: a failure of connection when stretched thin by the glow of social media and illusory presence. The threads of that line there have been floating about, but the way I begin to weave them together into the rope of a complete story is a matter of planning and constant introspection. Two weeks ago, that introspection revealed that the story needed to be told in first person. This week, the moral elements of the story finally revealed themselves to me.

I take pause each time I have a moment of these revelations and new questions and ask myself what my characters’ tragic flaws are. I use  the framework of sins and virtues as the major archetypes for building the morals and message of the story will have in its DNA.

In the case of Unicorns, the morality of focus is that of jealousy. I’ll be doing some character bios to fill in my cast with respect to questions of their morals- both as they know themselves and their blind spots. The story events and conflict is now being framed and measured against that morality, and it will help inform and guide me through the drafting.

This isn’t a hard outline. I have major story beats and events that pace three acts of the story and the ultimate ending and tragedy. I have a moral and message that is the goal for those three acts to explore and finish in respect to. Metaphorically speaking, I know the destination, and I now have my (moral) compass.

The next work is outlining to provide myself more of a map, but we can always do some cartography en route.

It’s time to set out on the adventure with my characters to get there.

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