So last month I finished the first chapter of my rewrite of my second novel, Let No Man Put Asunder. I rewrote it once some 15-20 years back; I’d have rewritten it again by now except most of the manuscript is gone. I did get a couple of chapters beyond the cutoff, but somehow every attempt to progress further hit a mental dead end.
This version though is a radical break. My protagonists, Adrienne and Neil, were mostly in good shape when the bad guys kidnap them into another dimension. To their surprise, it turns out that a weekend of death and danger (the story moved pretty fast) also gave them things that were missing in their life. Fresh adventures would have lain in wait …
New protagonists Paul and Amanda aren’t in such great shape. Mandy has been de facto mother for her five siblings and caregiver for her terminally ill dad since she was fifteen — as we learn in the first chapter, Mom decided terminal illness wasn’t something she wanted to deal with and walked out. However it’s been twelve years and Mandy’s recovered from Mom’s betrayal (but has not forgiven her at all).
Paul is in much worse shape as his big blow came less than two years ago. His academically prominent parents pushed him to excel from elementary on. He’s had no social life, has no idea who he’d be if he didn’t have his nose buried in books all the time, so finally he told them, right before senior year, he was taking a year off after college. When he arrived back at school Paul discovered his folks hadn’t paid his tuition, had broken the lease on his apartment and drained the joint bank account they used to provide him with ready cash. But no problem, just take back your foolish decision, son, and everything gets back to normal!
He didn’t take it back.
The Adrienne/Neil version had a first chapter set here on Earth, then we were off into other, wilder dimensions. I’m not sure that’s the way I want to go. The town of Blue Ivy, where Mandy and Paul meet in 1976, feels like a good setting. It’s a grimy industrial town but it also has several colleges, with the usual college/townie conflicts. It seems a shame to just forget about it and go elsewhere, particularly in America’s bicentennial year (I don’t know if I’ll keep using that year but if I do, I should be able to make something of it).
The trouble is, I don’t want to go the urban fantasy route. I enjoy reading books where the normal world is just a shell hiding a reality full of magic but I don’t seem inclined to write them. Southern Discomfort is closer to intrusion fantasy: the normal world works much as we see it but something magical has intruded in, disrupting things. In Questionable Minds there’s no hiding: the world is full of psychic powers but they’re being wielded in plain sight. In Atoms for Peace the mad science that’s made the world so different from our 1950s is also commonly known. In Impossible Takes a Little Longer, super-powers are the same way.
If I set Asunder on Earth, I want it feel like magic is an intruder, not a regular resident. That was doable in Southern Discomfort because the magic almost all stems from the elves Olwen, Aubric and Gwalchmai and it’s limited to one small town in Georgia. Asunder has a lot more magical people running around with much flashier powers. And the different characters — Mountebank, Grainge, Cordelia Winters and Hypatia, to name four — don’t fit into the same magical mythos. They didn’t have to in the original version and I see no need to change that. But it would, again, make an odd urban fantasy
So do I go urban fantasy anyway and find some way to make it work? Go back to dimensional jumping and kiss Blue Ivy goodbye? Maybe make Blue Ivy some kind of Hellmouth where, like Sunnydale, things are weirder than the rest of the world?
There’s also the practical point that I’d like my protagonists isolated, at least for the first few chapters. That’s harder to do in a setting where they know everyone.
Normally I’d plunge ahead and pants these questions as I go but the first chapter ends with Mandy and Paul falling through a magical gate of some kind. I need to know where they land.
Wish me luck!
#SFWApro. Cover by Samantha Collins, rights to the image are mine.
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