Cleolinda Jones (cleolinda) wrote,
Cleolinda Jones

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Writerly blather

Change of plans: because of some unsightly chores I got sucked into today, I'm putting the Filminute stuff off until Wednesday. That way we can have a fresh start, uninterrupted by pirate-talking. Arrrr.

Hmm. I have, in fact, started going over my Black Ribbon notes again. The fact that I can even bear to look at it may tell you that the Lamictal (day 17) is having some positive effects. I think I've been terrified of going back to the story, which is, after all, more than three years old, and discovering that it was juvenile crap. I know that it needs to be rewritten; the existing three segments were written very quickly, under a serial deadline just for fun, and I know they need to be fleshed out a bit--they have kind of a roller-coaster quality at the moment that people seemed to like, but I'm not sure it's enough for a publishable novel anyway.

(Another thing that cracked me up: I workshopped the first two chapters in a class I was taking at the time, and everyone kept saying in tones of astonishment, "God, things actually happen in this story! You never see that anymore!" Not in a graduate course in Serious Writing, I suppose.)

For those of you newish to the journal, Black Ribbon was a story I started writing in Julyish of 2003, and thought, oh, it would be cool if I serialized it online. It would have five parts, since there happened to be five weekends in October that year (or I'd start it the last weekend in September, or something like that). It was sort of a Victorian historical thriller--I got several reviews/comments to the effect of, "No one does psychological horror like this anymore!," which was really sweet of the reviewers, but somehow, I doubt the actual truth of the statement. As in, if you look hard enough, I'm sure you can find some. My point is, that's the kind of thing it was. It enters a certain literary subgenre around the third section (the last one online. There's a link on the sidebar here somewhere. ETA: If the Geocities site--webhost of kings!--won't load, try the text-only version at Fiction Press. I think all three chapters are there) that I kind of don't want to specify, because a lot of the buildup is the mystery of what it's actually all about. Unlike Lost, however, you start getting solid answers halfway through, and the rest of the story is about how the main characters deal with a central catastrophe. I'm sure if it ever gets published, this genre point will be first and foremost in the marketing, so, you know, enjoy the surprise while you can. I kind of wanted to reinvent the genre--"reinvent" is a bit strong a word, because it's not like I'm reinventing the wheel, but I wanted to have my own mythology and whys and wherefores and have my own set of causes and effects. So I wanted you to have the same experience as the main character, Rose Hannah--what the hell is going on, what are you talking about, are you serious? That's what this was all about? And you have to learn the rules along with her.

I have it compartmentalized in my mind--it sounds complicated, so I'll use a handy analogy. Black Ribbon is like a basket of oranges. The first "orange," "The Bitter Kiss," is the story in question. It has five chapters, or segments, and mostly takes place in London. The second "orange," the second story or volume or whatever, will have I don't know how many segments (five if I can manage it, just for symmetry), and it's going to take place in Paris. The third orange/story takes place in Romania. The fourth one, according to my current notes, wanders around a bit, but I think it's going to end up in India. That's the first series--the first basket of oranges. That series is "The Black Ribbon." After four stories, the black ribbon of the title will, uh, be no more. The second series, or basket of oranges, will deal with the fallout from the end of the first series. I don't know what it'll be called yet, because I only have a vague idea of what's going to happen--I know the end of the series, what I'm working towards, but I'm trying to leave things loose so that developments as I work on the first series can be incorporated. And really, that's why I'm sketching out all four stories at once--if I want to reach a certain point in the fourth story, I need to make sure I've got all my foreshadowing laid in and all the necessary characters and plot points in place. And when I think of new things for the first story, I need to be able to work them in. I'm a big picture person, after all; I want to lay out my pattern before I start sewing.

(Yes, I named it "The Black Ribbon" because I had the story about the girl with the yellow/green/red/black/[insert variation here] ribbon around her neck in mind. Not in a literal way--nobody's head falls off--but I knew that other people would remember it, too, and the ribbon is, after all, worn around someone's neck.)

I'll tell you one thing, though--I'm desperate to get my hands on Jess Nevins' Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana, because I consulted his site so much when I was world-building. (He's on LJ around here somewhere...) I wanted kind of a steampunk feel to the whole thing, although I'm trying to back off that as an official description, because I'm afraid it promises more science than I can actually deliver. Unfortunately, getting the book is probably going to have to wait until Christmas, along with a number of others I want to use for research. So I can noodle around on the other three volumes in the meantime, I guess. Today's random point of research: Parisian catacombs on Flickr, for the second orange volume.

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Tags: black ribbon, books, writing
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