Saturday, November 24, 2012

Creating the Unexpected when so much is Known...

One of the immense challenges with writing "The Death of O'Ryan Ross!" - aside from the Tolstoy sentence structure - was in creating a narrative that was somehow interesting when so much was known from the start. Heavens, the very title tells you all you need to know, doesn't it?

Or does it?

If that were the case, why write the story at all? Indeed. O'Ryan Ross lived; then he died. Big surprise.

But it is that journey from A to B that is revelatory. How and (more importantly) why did he die? Part of that is explained away in the opening scene which takes place at O'Ryan's funeral. We know he committed suicide, we know he used a gun, we know he's dead. Done, done, and done...!

But despite that fore-knowledge, there is much we don't know as well. We are given some hints in that opening scene, and the stage is certainly set, but with a work that is so dogmatic as is this - it is so very important to add surprises where possible, just to maintain the reader interest. Even up to the final line, I have tried to do that.

One thing I have attempted to do is to slightly skew events by having unreliable narrators at times. It is more fun if even I don't know precisely what is happening and when. By having characters be self-delusional (O'Ryan Ross, Jadwin Ross) or simply mistaken (Peter Ivanovich, Alwyn Ross, Professor Hays), we are able to keep that suspense evident along the way.

Or so I hope.

By writing with this in mind, I feel I have veered a couple of times from where I thought the story was going. Several of the twists were un-explored when I began and only revealed themselves with the writing of each scene. What made this interesting was that I did not write "The Death of O'Ryan Ross!" in sequence - but rather, I wrote Chapter One, Twelve, Nine, Two, Three, Eleven, Four, Five, Ten, Six, Seven, Eight. So surprises had to be consistent with the continuity without mucking up something already written. Fortunately there were few instances where I had to rewrite an existing section of an existing chapter.

Adding to this continuity challenge was that at about Chapter Six in my writing, I began to work on "silent words..." which added a layer. That companion book didn't really alter the original concepts of "The Death of O'Ryan Ross!" which is a much more vital book in my mind (right up there with "The Missionary and the Brute" for me) - but it did add some nuance and a sense of symbiosis. In a way, "silent words..." is a parasite-pecking bird on the back of the crusty-backed rhinoceros that is "The Death of O'Ryan Ross!", but the relationship hopefully benefits both works.

Coming soon: How animation legend Chuck Jones influenced "The Death of O'Ryan Ross!"

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