Shooting Stars

Casablanca was great. The Mall was packed, but everyone was friendly and having a great time. We bartered our food with our neighbors in a very school-cafeteria-style manner, and clearly didn’t smuggle in enough wine. Oh, and there were shooting stars! One was very very bright, even with the lights from the Capitol building right there. Amazing.

Update on Rampant: “Unicorns are Back,” says USA Today. Take that, Justine.

Update on Rites of Spring (Break): I just got a look at the flap copy today. Great stuff. It will be a while until I can post it, but I get warm fuzzies every time I read it. The storyline excites me so much. I know I haven’t written much on this blog about the development of this particular book, especially in comparison of my posts about the other two. I think it’s because it’s very in process for me, and it will probably be something that I’ll be able to understand much better in retrospect. My process has changed significantly over the past year, but it hasn’t settled yet. It’s still in dark room phase.

One thing which is always a balancing act in the writing of these books is the blend of fact and fiction. The core of the series has always been showing secret societies the way they really are — not the way they are portrayed by Hollywood thrillers. But at the same time, I am telling a story, so certain facts need to be massaged or compressed or altered for the sake of a) drama, and b) respect for the subject matter and for the readers. But you’re always making a choice: what part of this is going to be “ripped from the headlines” and what part is going to be larger-than-life? The strange thing is that sometimes I choose not to include something real in the books, because it sounds too outlandish. Ironically, I’ve been called on the carpet by readers for having unrealistic elements about my made-up society that are one hundred percent true, as well as by readers (society members) who want to know how I found out about some aspect of a society that I made up because I thought it sounded cool. I think it was Twain who said that the difference between fact and fiction is that fiction has to be believable.

And I also have to be conscious of not hitting too close to home: these are novels, not roman-a-clefs, though there are elements of the latter in the story. Eli is obviously Yale, for example. But no character in the story is based on a real person. They may have characteristics in common with real people (we all do), but they are all completely made up. But, as I mentioned above, sometimes you can make things up and discover later that they are actually true. Then the question becomes: does this weaken the book? Will readers find it derivative, even if it works wonderfully within the context of the story? There’s definitely the impulse to go, “Screw reality! I thought this up first!” However, it also gives you the opportunity, perhaps, to twist the reality a little more. Play a little more “what if” with the new parameters. It’s an interesting dilemma.

I’m thinking it might not be an issue in the fantasy novels. 😉 Or not as much, at least, since my fantasy novels are very fact-based.

Posted in ROSB, SSG, UTR

9 Responses to Shooting Stars

  1. ozjazza says:

    Seems sad that USA Today failed to notice that Stardust totally tanked. Unicorns are dead.

  2. Diana Peterfreund says:

    It is a shame that the director (in the article) played down the unicorn.

    Also, good unicorns? Blecch. Killer unicorns are where it’s at!

  3. Patricia W. says:

    I’ve only read SSG so far but, as an Ivy graduate and member of a secret society (you’ll never guess and I’ll never tell!), I thought it was dead-on. Of course there were some things made up but so much felt real/plausible that it was an enjoyable read.

    After all, it’s fiction. Something has to be made up. So I could appreciate all of it, even if it didn’t mirror my experiences exactly (and I’m glad it didn’t, because that would have bored folks to tears).

  4. Miri says:

    Hmm. See, I disagree. I think that sometimes fantasy authors have a harder time of it, because we have to make readers believe in an obviously made up world.

  5. Diana Peterfreund says:

    Oh, Miri, absolutely! “fiction has to be believable” and all that… I meant, specifically, that I won’t have a problem with the stuff I’m writing about actually HAPPENING before the book has a chance to hit the stands.

    Say, for example, you have in your book a White House chief of staff who mysteriously resigns…. you know, as a hypothetical. 😉

    patricia, ain’t that the truth? When I told my boyfriend my idea for the series, he goes “secret societies as they really are? that would be boring!”

  6. Miri says:

    Ah! Right. 😉 Hypothetically, of course.

  7. eatrawfish says:

    I was wandering around my local cemetery with the boy for fun (yeah, well) when we came across a series of graves set in an odd cement pathway. The boy was quicker on this one and realized they were all Freemasons, and they were laid out to look like their symbol from above.

    As someone whose only experience with any of these kind of societies is thanks to you and the Da Vinci code it felt a bit surreal.

  8. Patrick says:

    I wanted to mention that I have nothing in common with ‘real people’

    I am all women’s fantasy.

    well, there are a few exceptions, but those women just have some absolutely sick fantasies…

  9. ERiCA says:

    Yay for (killer) unicorns!!

    I’ll weigh in on the fact vs fiction discussion to say that 2 of my first stories were Regency-set historicals, and while fun to write, they were also extremely difficult to write, mostly because of the whole “fact” thing bringing me down. (That, and I’d never had the opportunity to *live* in Regency England. Stupid time continuum. *g)

    Then when I wrote TATTF and was able to completely make up a whole world and its rules and inhabitants, I was freed from my research books and able to just enjoy myself. (Seriously–writing that one was sooo self-entertaining. Lurved it!)

    ‘course, the whole thing didn’t take place in NNL–there were regular modern day Earth scenes too, which were also easy enough to write, as I *am* familiar with modern day Earth.

    So maybe it’s less fact vs fiction and more familiarity vs unfamiliarity? (NNL being “familiar” to me b/c I made it up in the first place.)

    Eatrawfish: Oooh, weird! How come *I* never stumble across cool stuff like that?!