That’s something my high school Algebra teacher used to say during class. He was a bit of an odd duck, but a great guy and probably a decent math teacher. I wouldn’t know. I’ve never met a mathematical formula I wasn’t allergic to in some way. But he tried his best to help me out and that was enough to earn me a weak “C” and let me get on with life and never have to do another scrap of math homework ever again, so I guess that says something good about his skills.
But “Moving on… as we sometimes do” was a little phrase he’d use whenever he seemed to sense that he needed to move on to the next point he was trying to make instead of letting himself get bogged down. That’s more or less where I’m at with my writing now. I’ve been holding off on any further major revision work on book four while I go back and tear apart and reconstruct the “metaplot” – that’s the collection of continuing plot elements that bridge all the books. Sometime after book two came out and while I was writing book three, I had decided I wanted Grant Scotland’s adventures to revolve more or less around a major multi-volume story arc. The biggest reason for this was that I felt I couldn’t mimic the exploits of Robert Parker’s Spenser or Ian Fleming’s James Bond over an extended series in a fantasy world. Without an environment set in our modern world, I think reading about Grant solving crimes and engaging in clandestine operations would get old and silly rather quickly. I think (but I don’t know for a fact) that this is why Glen Cook stopped writing the Garrett, P.I. books. Well, his name is still on the new books, but it’s pretty obvious that ghost writers have taken over the series for the last few installments.
A fantasy world is hard enough to create out of whole cloth. To do so and then leave 90% of the cloth away from the reader’s eyes seems insane. My original idea was to have major plots typical of fantasy books unfold around Grant and have him only be tangentially involved. This would insure Grant could continue to have adventures without end and I would not have to stipulate a series finale. But in plotting it out I realized it was too much work for too little reward. Grant needs to be much closer to the epicenter of these events or the readers are going to feel like I don’t care about what’s going on, so why should they? On the other hand, Philip Marlowe can avoid getting involved in World War Two and Spenser can get away with barely acknowledging 9/11 happened, and these characters were and are as popular and readable as ever. So, why can’t Grant just float along and live his Grant life and just have a series of adventures with little to no connection between them?
The answer I settled on is that I don’t think most fantasy readers have the patience for that. Or, more accurately, they want more from a fantasy world than just set-dressing. Secondly, the world of Spenser and Marlowe is changing and everyone who read those books knew it. Chandler and Parker didn’t have to mention it – it was already obvious to all of their readers. Unfortunately, I have no such luxury. If something changes in Grant’s world, I have to let the reader know about it or else the environment seems stagnant and dull. The real world changes, so mine should too. However, the reader is never going to see it change unless Grant is more actively involved.
So, for a while there I was not “moving on” but rather sticking in place and rebuilding the scaffolding around Grant’s adventures. However, that work is completed and I now have a new outline for world events that solves a few critical questions I had to answer for book four. I can now return to revising it with confidence.
That’s all for now. Time to get back to work.
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