About 2:00 a.m. on December 6, on the drive home after visiting my sister and her husband, I was contemplating where I want to go with my current work-in-progress. I am loathe to give away the plot, so suffice it to say that it involves a scientist that travels to another planet and tours it with a fellow scientist from that planet. I have come to realize over the last few days that the original plot concept is boring, although in terms of literature it would be fairly intriguing, because of the internal struggles the main character would face and some social issues it would raise.
It occurred to me is that the critical question was not where to take the plot of the story, but where do I want the book to go in terms of its impact on the society/world. I am not so naïve as to think that it would have a earth-shattering impact like Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code or be controversial like Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer or Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World or even break out like Stephen King’s Carrie, but no matter how it is received publically or critically, it will make an impact, even if it is negligible one. The best I reason that I can do, is to try to make as big a splash as possible on its release and hope that it brings me some measure of success or at least puts me on the road to success. But what can I do to create that splash? What have been the characteristics of other initial successes?
I don’t know how the analogy suddenly popped into my mind, but I realized that what the story needs is thunder. Perhaps it was that a light rain had fallen sporadically over the last few days and the land was still wet with shallow puddles still lingering on the road in spots on this near-freezing night. Somehow this struck a chord in my subconscious that stirred echoes of similar post-thunderstorm summer nights. As I look back on that moment, though I wasn’t even thinking of those novels, it occurs to me now that they each have an element I would describe as “thunder”, something that resounds across the land striking a nerve in the public consciousness.
For some novels, like The Da Vinci Code, the thunder is an aspect that touches on a sensitive nerve within a large number of the public. In The Da Vinci Code‘s instance, this was deeply ingrained religious beliefs that, like the foundation of a house, if disturbed, shake the entire house.
For novels like The Tropic of Cancer, the thunder is something that disturbs the public’s sense of decency, which could be argued to be the image of itself that the public wishes to project.
Brave New World did not make as great an impact on its initial reception as it did later, when many of the technologies and issues it describes actually started to come into being. Then it thundered greatly.
Carrie did not rock the literary or moral or religious foundations of society, but it was a great personal thunder for Stephen King and brought him suddenly into the public view.
There are undoubtedly other forms of thunder, but these are the ones that spring into mind initially.
Once I recognized that my goal as a writer is to thunder, the next question became what type of thunder do I want to have?
For me, I want to ask a profound question (or questions) that demand answers. As stated, I don’t want to give away the plot of the novel(la), so I will unfortunately have to leave you in suspense for now, but check back with my blog periodically and let’s see if I can achieve this. Wish me luck.