Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Hypothetical future epic novel

For quite some time now, I've had an idea for an epic novel floating around in my head. I have to confess that I don't believe I have either the talent or the time to write it well but it's an idea that I'd love to sell to someone one of these days. The central idea of the book is an exploration of meta-fiction. The main character, Tom (my prologue currently gives him an Homeric epithet, Thomas the Unbound) knows that he is a fictional character.

Furthermore, he knows that he is a main character which means that he is practically invincible, since an author will only kill his main character if it serves some higher, symbolic or poetic purpose (e.g. self-sacrifice) or if the author introduces someone or something more interesting than the main character with which to replace him. The author (to whom I have been referring as Arthur) basically tells him to find his own destiny in the fictional world and provides a guide to help him in his journey - Don Quixote de la Mancha.

Don Quixote is a powerful literary figure in that his belief shapes his reality. In the first part of Don Quixote, the fictions his madness invents are only in his own head but, by the second part, they begin to transform the world around him. Thus, centuries later, he has perfected to a degree the ability to travel between fictional worlds at will. His vision, however, is limited to books of chivalry and perhaps the bible (since a good knight is also a good Christian). Tom knows no such limits.

Tom begins travelling through the world of Fiction, gaining power as he learns more control. At some point, he analyzes his own text as though from an outside perspective, unsettling Arthur no end. He decides that he wants to be truly immortal. To achieve this end, he decides two things:
1. He must be the most interesting person imaginable and do many amazing things so that Arthur cannot invent anything more interesting.
2. He must be selfish - since self-sacrifice is a vulnerability - yet he must not become completely evil or risk the hand of poetic justice smiting him. He decides that being power-hungry is a reasonable balance between the two.

To gain in power, he begins placing himself in situations in which Arthur must grant him additional power in order to preserve him. In my great, climactic example, he travels to the biblical depiction of the 2nd temptation of Christ and flings himself from the temple heights. Since, in a biblical context, Arthur cannot send angels to support someone who isn't worthy of their protection, he must instead grant him the power of flight.

By the conclusion of the tale, Tom has gained enormous power. His control of the fictional world is virtually absolute. A massive storm builds behind him as he attempts to merge all fictional dimensions into a single, great kingdom, threatening to tear apart the very fabric of Fiction as we know it.

Arthur suddenly realizes that there is only one thing to be done to stop Tom once and for all. He writes himself into the novel and traps himself in it, knowing that a genuinely all-powerful author is the only thing more potentially interesting than a virtually all-powerful character. He destroys his creation, restoring balance to the fictional universe but now cannot leave.

Here's what I have written so far - it's only bits and pieces but I'd love to have the chance to make it more. One meta-fictional twist to it is that "I" shifts between Arthur and Tom as they struggle for power.
Sing to me, Muse, of Thomas the Unbound, of his glory and power that transcend understanding.  Speak to me that I may write his tale and do justice and honor to his name.  Fill me, oh Muses of Fiction and Fantasy with the power of pen to create new life.  Oh patron saints of madmen, artists and inventors, grant me thy gifts and bless me with the talent to bring him to life, to give him a voice and a will.  
I set pen to paper and began to write.  "Thomas was a perfectly ordinary name, one that would fit well in almost any book.  This is precisely why it was a perfect name for the moat extraordinary figure ever created on a page." 
Yes, that's a good start...   
Chapter one:  the birth of a legend  
I blinked open my eyes as if awaking from a long sleep which I knew I could not have had since I had never slept.  I looked around me, expecting nothing since nothing was precisely the sum total of my experience up until that moment and thus, nothing is exactly what I saw.   
Nothing is quite so difficult to describe as nothing.  Except perhaps for eternity.  You may imagine, if it comforts you to do so, a field of white, glowing haze, a dark abyss or a simple, flat, gray plane but each of those is still something.  They have a color and a shape and so cannot be considered nothing.   
I knew, though, that I could not be blind and that I ought to see something - even in the darkest chamber one can perceive the dark.  With that thought, I saw Him.  Arthur, His name came to me, was my creator, perhaps something akin to a father except with no possibility of a mother. 
"What I'm telling you," replied Arthur calmly, "is that your destiny is completely your own.  As a fictional character, you have the freedom to do anything you can imagine."  
"I haven't exactly had a lot of experience with imagining anything yet," I answered.  "How am I supposed to know what to do with my life without any experience to draw on?  I know nothing beyond my immediate context and those gifts of language you've given me."  
"While I wish I could be your guide on your journey of self-discovery," said Arthur as he shook his head softly, "I am rather Ill-equipped for the task.  My life's experiences are those of a student, a writer and a simple father of a small family.  However, while I, myself, can only be your chronicler, I know the perfect guide to help you to find your own voice and lead you the rest of the way."  
With that, Arthur bent once again over his notebook and began writing with his original furvor.  An admittedly overused (though no less impressive for that fact) swirling blue and purple vortex appeared providing a convenient image to accompany the appearance of a new figure onto the scene.  
What first appeared through the portal was the head of an old, grey nag, well past its prime, whose decrepit body soon followed, bone by protruding bone.  Atop the horse sat a tall, gaunt figure dressed in a dirty, rusted suit of armor cobbled together, it seemed, from old kitchenware and a dingy yellow wash basin for a helmet.  For a moment, I doubted Arthur sanity as the weatherbeaten tail of the old gluepot passed into existence through the portal.  This was to be my guide?    
My doubts were quickly put to rest, however, when the figure atop the horse raised his visor and said,"¿Quienes sois vosotros que me paréis aquí?". He glanced then at Arthur and inclined his head, his tone softening.  "O Sabio Encantador, escritor de la historia de mis hechos y aventuras en la Mancha, ¿que requiere vuesa merced de mi?"  
I turned slowly to Arthur, certain now he had, indeed, lost his grip on reality or, rather, what passed for reality in a fictional context.  He returned my glance with a look of confusion.  He snapped his fingers as realization dawned on him.  "Of course, you don't understand Spanish.  Yet.". This last was added with a rueful grin and a quick scribble.


Derrill Watson said...

I like the concept.

It helps that you set Arthur up as relatively unimaginative so that Thomas can manipulate him. A more imaginative god who believed in cliches would have a horse or cart full of mattresses drive past the temple to catch him and he gets no extra power. Or just let him fall, break several important bones and organs, and sit in the hospital for months learning his place.

Grandma Jule said...

Intriguing concept!! I'd like to see it fleshed out, as it were.

Keep Tom in your back pocket, and work on him in your spare time (HAHAHAHAHA!) on and off over the course of the next decade or two, and see what comes of him!

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