I told you I’d share the BIG PROBLEM at the core of NEXT BOOK, and here it is:
You’ve also figured out, because I’ve written it more than once this week, that one of the themes of NEXT BOOK is STUCKNESS vs. POSSIBILITY.
So. Here’s the problem.
Will NEXT BOOK imply that the only way out of the stuckness is an unreal event?
Am I creating a story in which the possibility given to the characters is an impossible possibility for the reader?
Am I suggesting that the only way out of our current stuck-and-possibly-dying world, the only path away from political cruelty and late capitalism and Millennial burnout, the only way these characters’ lives change is through A DOOR INTO NARNIA or AN INVITATION TO WIZARD SCHOOL or FIRST CONTACT FROM AN ALIEN SPECIES* or something like that?
I’ve been thinking about two of my favorite fantasy series, The Raven Cycle and The Magicians. Both are set in our current world, and both hinge on characters wanting something more (which is a specific Raven Cycle phrase, gotta cite your sources) and then finding it through a combination of hard work and emotional honesty and friendship and discovering that magic is real.
I guess the question is: if magic weren’t part of these stories, would these characters have found their something more?
I know that these types of stories include enough real-life experiences, like FACING YOUR FEARS and ACCEPTING RESPONSIBILITY and WORKING AS A TEAM, that readers can take the feelings that the characters have and the lessons they learn and apply them to their own lives.** No magic required (besides the magic of fiction, of course).
But if I’m specifically writing a story about people in their late 30s (aka Millennials, yes we are THAT OLD NOW) feeling stuck and then finding new possibilities, and if those possibilities are not available to the reader, what story am I actually telling them?
That, since they don’t have a Narnia or Hogwarts or Brakebills or Glendower, they have to stay stuck?
That’s the big problem at the core of NEXT BOOK.
I’m hoping I’ll discover the answer as I write it. ❤️
*We all know that first contact from an alien species would be disastrous, right? Look at how America treats the actual humans trying to cross its borders.
**How many times have I thought about what Henry says to Gansey in The Raven King? Or Julia, in The Magician King, becoming who she is becoming? (Also, yes I just noticed the way the two titles parallel each other.)