Friday, March 29, 2013

Getting back to reality

Cursed by the Sea God now being out, I can talk about some of the challenges I had while writing it. One of the big ones was connecting Homer's Odyssey with reality. I don't mean the presence of monsters, witches, Hades, etc. Those are simple fantasy, and although we don't see evidence of them in our world, there's nothing inconsistent about finding them in Homer's.

The challenge is the stuff in The Odyssey that isn't consistent with itself. A prime example is at the island of the Laestrygonians, or "ship breakers", as I called them. (I had originally called them "ship eaters", but decided that was too close to Rowling's Death Eaters. Google ship breakers if you're curious what they are in our world.) In The Odyssey, when Odysseus and his ships sail up, the rest of them sail into a small inlet with high cliffs around it but Odysseus, sensing danger, moors his ship outside.

Say what? I can just imagine the court martial scene, with Hugh Jackman as Odysseus and Morgan Freeman as some hypothetical rear-admiral looking into why Odysseus has managed to lose ... well, I won't say exactly what in case you haven't read the book yet. Suffice to say that a bad thing has happened on this island.

"Admiral Odysseus, you yourself moored outside the inlet while letting the rest of your squadron moor inside it. Why?"

"Well, your honour, I thought it might be a trap."

"Gentlemen, I don't think we need to hear any more. Guilty!"

Or to put it another way, Odysseus's own actions here are totally inconsistent with what he would actually do. So I had to find a workaround that would explain why he let them go in. Turned out not to be hard - read the book to see why - but without a small touch like that I (and presumably the reader) would be left with a niggling feeling that this just didn't work.

In fact a lot of the time I spend in writing is making sure that people act consistent with their natures. That and not relying on too many coincidences, an author's favourite plot development tool. Although the biggest coincidence of all is that the person I chose to write about happens to have all this interesting stuff happen to him, I suppose.