Running head: SLEEPSAND REVISION
Honors Capstone Process Narrative: Sleepsand revision and development John Nelson Kennesaw State University
Honors Capstone Process Narrative: Sleepsand revision and development Introduction What do you do when the words want to flow? When stories of fictional heroes and struggles consume your thoughts so utterly that they threaten to burst unless you put them down on paper? As a young writer, you are constantly faced with the passion to create, but it laps against a solid wall: how do you get the Word document on your computer into a readable state? Once you do, how do you get it into the hands of readers? What are the steps between? For that matter, how do you even convince yourself and your readers that your book is worth picking up? I have spent my entire college career trying to answer these questions. While I am still not convinced that Sleepsand will ever mean as much to someone else as it does to me, I am happy to say that, at the very least, I have grown and matured as a writer through classes and through the help of endlessly patient people. Project Synopsis Sleepsand is a roughly 300-page, near-future, semi-dystopian, science fiction novel that takes place in the Southern United States a few decades from our current time. It is written in third-person limited, told primarily through the protagonists’ eyes, but occasionally switching to those of other characters and to flashback. The current elected president, William Frederick Praddus, has been in power for over twenty years. His term in office has been marked by significant improvements in the living standards and finances of the average American, but at the quiet cost of most of the liberties the country takes for granted. President Praddus envisions a golden future in which the world’s various countries’ economies, ideologies, religions, and political systems stand in harmony, and he believes that his goal is noble enough to justify any measures taken to attain it. A militant
organization operating under the name of New Philadelphia have risen to the fore in the wake of his abuses, believing that Praddus is a tyrant to dethrone. NP is composed primarily of people that the President’s quest for justice and forcibly-induced peace has trampled. James Monomen, the first protagonist’s, parents were two of the founding members of New Philadelphia before Praddus found them and had them executed. After their deaths, James became the original, unsuccessful test subject for a series of experiments undertaken by President Praddus and the brilliant Dr. Heather Stratos, his daughter and the second protagonist. As a result, he suffers from severely unstable emotions triggered by trauma-induced association, along with deeply-rooted hoplophobia, the fear of firearms. A few months after he escaped from the government, James met a young woman by the name of Ann Bates, whom he dated for two years before becoming engaged. Only weeks before their wedding, Ann Bates revealed herself to be Agent Jezebel, a federal assassin from the President’s own Cabinet tasked with neutralizing James, as well as a driving antagonistic force of the novel. He barely escaped with his life, earning a deep scar across his face in the fight. Broken and injured, James stumbled into the bar of the gentle Thomas Shepard, who would become his closest friend and a reluctant ally in his fight. The bulk of the novel’s action takes place in the southern United States about five years after Jezebel’s attack. Heather, disillusioned and growing to despise Praddus and his callous disregard for life in his quest, has joined New Philadelphia in an effort to make amends for her actions and research. James, meanwhile, has become very close to a fiery Irishwoman named Beth Daniels, another member of New Philadelphia. His experience with Jezebel has left him terrified of any deeper affection on her part, though, or from most people for that matter. Being forced to work with Heather has only made things worse, as seeing her triggers all of the mental
insecurities and emotional struggles that James, Beth, and Thomas have been trying to contain for the last few years. In the midst of James' struggle with his own mind, New Philadelphia’s leader, General Patrick Aster, has decided that the time has come to begin the uprising against Praddus in earnest. Process Narrative Sleepsand began six years ago when I was sixteen and still in high school. Twenty-three handwritten loose-leaf pages covered the first three chapters. It had a vastly different plot and concept, but the bones were there. It did not come into its current form until a couple of years later, when events happening in my life combined with meeting John Steinbeck’s terrifyingly fascinating Cathy Ames in East of Eden, ultimately growing into the character of Jezebel. Even then, I would only write when I felt “inspired,” and I made very halting progress for the next few years. When I started classes at KSU, I had written little more than half of the book. I knew, though, that I was happiest when I was creating. Despite this epiphany, I wandered around a bit before I settled on my major, and around the same time I settled on that decision, I gave myself another commitment: to finish Sleepsand before I graduated college. Going on past experience, I knew that I would never accomplish it if I did not set a deadline in absolute stone. My Honors capstone gave me the opportunity to kill two birds with one assignment and simultaneously meet my self-imposed goal and complete an essential part of my degree. After taking Fiction Writing in Fall 2014, I approached Professor Grooms to request his assistance as my capstone mentor. I knew by then what I wanted to do for my capstone, but I needed to find a mentor who would be able to assist. I am incredibly lucky that he agreed. I also spoke to Dr. Davis to ask if my idea was even a viable option for capstone. As far as I could tell, the creative assignment only called for short stories or films. She seemed thrilled by the idea,
though, so buoyed by that knowledge, I finally embarked, full of confidence and starry-eyed determination. The first order of business was to actually finish the book. Before I could propose my project to the school, it needed to be complete. The capstone would then consist primarily of revision and marketability. I spent the majority of my first semester of capstone simply focusing on reaching the end of the manuscript. I knew how I wanted the novel to end, and I had written over half of the book, but the difficulty sprang from bridging the gap between Point B and Point D. Point C was illusive and frustrating, but I ultimately finished the manuscript in mid-March. It was an absolutely phenomenal, exhilarating moment; the story and characters that had been bouncing around in my head for years had finally been set to paper. As my capstone mentor, Professor Grooms generously agreed to read the first manuscript and return notes to me. A good friend, Tara Casaburri, an English teacher at St. Catherine of Sienna Catholic School in Kennesaw, found out what I was doing and, to my surprise and excitement, offered to read it as well. In addition, I reached out to three good friends and asked for their opinions. They all acquiesced, but only one of them was actually able to commit the time (as it turned out, Mrs. Casaburriâ€™s son; my best friend and current roommate, John Casaburri). Everyone was busy, after all; they were students, too. With those three promised readers set, I continued to explore plot and character development and to learn about writing as a viable career. I took two excellent screenwriting classes with Dr. Aaron Levy, both focused on adapting the novel for television. The screenplay, being a more constrained medium, forced me to consider passages and plot elements that could be cut, and the input of my classmates as to characterization and plot pacing proved invaluable. During the same time, I also took a wonderful class with Dr. Lara Smith-Sitton, Careers in
Writing, where she introduced me to the professional writer’s world, both creative and technical, and laid out realistic prospects and avenues for the future. All of my readers returned to me in October 2014, right as I was drafting the progress report for the second semester of capstone. Professor Grooms sent me an electronic copy of the manuscript filled with notes, comments, and recommendations, as well as a detailed summary email. He saw great potential in the book, but also honest flaws. There were holes, things that did not quite make sense, questions he still had. Mrs. Casaburri loved the draft, noting only a few grammar and usage errors in a letter; she attached it to a hand-marked copy of the manuscript she had been kind enough to print for me. Unfortunately, John Casaburri’s computer malfunctioned as he was finishing. Though he lost his formal notes, he offered me his thoughts in person. He felt that there were segments that were overly wordy, but enjoyed the manner in which I wrote action scenes. Then came the most difficult part of the entire process. If I thought that opening up and allowing people to read my draft would be hard, I had no idea what I was in store for me at the revision desk. Taking all the notes I had been given, I initially set out to edit and flesh out the manuscript I had, but the more I looked at it, the more I convinced myself that I could do better, that I could not only incorporate the comments I had been given, but could dramatically improve upon what I saw before me. So, that March, around a year after I had completed draft one, I delved headlong into not a revised copy, but into a completely rewritten draft two. There were elements I could expand upon, characters I could frame more deeply. This second draft instantly took on a more serious tone than the first. I had, of course, taken the original story seriously, but I had also begun it when I was sixteen. It was full of references and jokes only I really cared about. The original’s tone also shifted dramatically between chapters, some of which had been
written years after others. I had incorporated new thoughts as they came, not in any kind of unanimous process, and to my perhaps biased eye, the differences were egregious. The most significant change to the second draft was in Heather. As I had worked through the original manuscript, she had gradually become a more and more important character, taking on as much narrative and personal import as James himself. As such, the second draft featured greatly expanded exposition on Heather, to the point that I now see her as a second protagonist. The fact that she was the Presidentâ€™s daughter was supposed to be a major plot twist, but it seemed so much more interesting to give the reader that information in the beginning, then to let things unfold. James would know, of course, as would any of the characters who had known her longer. But Thomas would not, and their relationship became a more central focus. Furthermore, her confusing and tumultuous relationship with her father, a man she still loved, a character who was the primary antagonist in the story, was fascinating to me as a writer. How could I rectify the fact that Praddus had raised her and truly loved her with the fact that she was now actively working against him? How would it impact the overall plot? I planned it all out ahead of time, I created an outline based on what I had already written and what I wanted to incorporate (something I had not done until now), and I started writing. That brings things to today. As of this writing, I am about 80 percent of the way through the second draft. I still feel as though it could be better, but I also know that, as the writer, I will always feel inferior to my own vision. This story and these characters are incredibly important to me, and I want to do them justice. From here, my plan is to finish the draft as soon as possible. For my Major capstone, I am focusing on the visuals of the novel, working to create an artistic rendering of Jamesâ€™ backstory. I would love to have the manuscript emailed to agents by
January, but I know that I have a lot of work to do between now and then. Right now, my focus is on making this book the best I am capable of writing, and then I will look forward. Revision The following paragraphs are excerpted for active comparison between the original Sleepsand draft and the current one. These are examples of passages that I feel have improved significantly thanks to the comments of Professor Grooms and my other test readers, along with a deeper understanding of the craft I have been lucky enough to gain from my classwork. 1. Original James felt flat, empty, defeated. The grim
Current And now they both lay dead. Her father had
sense of justice he had attained by killing the
taught her to never balk at the idea of killing, should
scientists felt dead in his chest now, meaningless.
it be necessary. He viewed deaths as capital spent for
“Ten.” He repeated for the sixth time as they drove
the greater good, even if the people used as sacrifices
back. “Ten.” Stratos had been quiet for quite some time, eyes on the road as it slowly slid by. “And they volunteered.” “Do you think all of them did?” “I can’t say for certain, Captain. If they did, then they were fed lies.”
were allies or innocents. They’d be remembered in the next world, after all, and emotions were a barrier to success. They had nearly reached the car, parked deep into the brambly woods that surrounded the factory. Monomen had pulled several strides ahead, and she studied his back. Sacrifices. Unlike the captain, she felt no
He paused for a moment, caught between old anger
qualms about killing in combat. The crazed subjects,
and new respect. In his state, the latter wanted to
while ultimately her responsibility, something she
win out, but that wasn’t fair. So, he took a breath,
would face later, they had made their choice when
looked dead ahead, avoiding her gaze, and said,
they struck, and some had paid the price.
“Thank you.” She didn’t answer for a long moment, his words faded into the hum of tires of asphalt.
Of course, so had the two scientists. They’d decided where their loyalties lay. That was the President again, always
“You’re welcome. Thank you.”
weighing the economics of existence, deciding whose
Neither spoke for the rest of the trip. The silence
lives were worth keeping, which ones needed to be
wasn’t uncomfortable, but gloomy, hanging over
ended. Was she any better? Sentencing the Sleepsand
them like a shroud.
participants to death while wanting to protect Ryan and Dr. Monico? The idea haunted her as the Charger put miles between them and the factory. The faces of her two dead former colleagues swam in her memory. Around an hour into the silent drive, Monomen shivered noticeably. His eyes were fading back to their normal color, caught somewhere poisonous between cerulean and amber. Without words, he pulled the car to the side of the road, got out, and threw up in the grass a few feet from Heather’s door. When he’d finished, he stood for a moment, leaning his back against the rear passenger-side window, hands in his duster’s pockets, eyes focused far away. Heather let him, unsure how to respond. Would he appreciate her words? Or would her presence make it worse? Everything she’d studied and learned while growing up in Washington D.C., and yet, when it came to the feelings of other people, she felt woefully incompetent. Praddus’ training had not been concerned with such pedestrian problems. After several more minutes, the captain returned to his seat and resumed driving. Eyes locked firmly onto the road before them, he murmured. “Thank you, Doctor.” Sacrifices.
10 “Thank you.” She answered.
An entire half of the road was simply buried,
She stood directly in the center of the hall, one casual hand on her cocked hip, placing all her weight
lost under tons and tons of rubble, collapsed in house-
on her left leg. Her armor was somehow even darker
sized piles; girders, stone, pipes stuck up at oblique
than that of the DDS agents. Her raven colored hair
angles, some of it burning. Chalky dust coated
hung loosely and glossily around her shoulders,
everything, blotted out the night sky and the light from
highlighted in little flecks of blue from the overhead
the faint city stars. A pipe was spewing water in a
lights. Her frozen gray eyes and full red lips bore a
messy arc, sprinkling the ruins with ashen droplets.
delightedly surprised expression, as though she had
They sputtered and steamed where they touched open
just opened a particularly nice present.
Jezebel was undeniably beautiful, large eyes, delicate nose and mouth. But her features were pale
And atop it all, wreathed in fire, crouched a
and statuesque. No warmth emanated from them;
silhouette that drove the air from his lungs and froze
they were a glacial mask.
his fear into a solid mass in his stomach.
“Well of course it’s me, silly!” she crooned. “That’s the greeting I get from you after all this time?” “After all this time?!” James spat, shaking himself.
“Hey, Jamie!” she crowed. “Oh, I’m so glad to see you.”
“**** you. Get out of my way, Jez.” She frowned. “Now Jamie, don’t act like such a child.”
The shadows crawled back, her pale, porcelain face manifested, and she gazed at him with doleful
“Get. Out. Of. My. Way.” James leveled his sword at
gray eyes, belied by a wicked tilt to the corners of her
her pale throat, ignoring the memories of its softness.
full red lips.
“Now.” “Jamie, it’s been five years since we broke up...I
Agent Jezebel; Undeniably beautiful, but statuesque, a marble caving of a woman’s features. Her armor was
think that’s ample time for you to get over it.”
even darker than that of Praddus’ soldiers, her raven
“Time heals all wounds.” James agreed. “Most of my
hair caught the flecks of light capering from the
scars have faded. Still got one though.”
flames and tossed them back in grey and violet. The assassin rose, catlike, and padded down
She smiled. “How is your eye, dear?” “Don’t call me dear.” James hissed.
the eroding pile of rubble without apparent effort, not even nudging the chunks of concrete and metal. As
She sashayed closer. “You use to like it when I called
ever, a small, silver knife glinted in her hand, twirling
back and forth through her armored fingers.
The scent of her perfume wafted over him. Sweet and
“How are you, dear?”
delicate and infinitely feminine. A slight shiver ran down his spine. “If you come one step closer, I will end you.” “Will you, Jamie? You wouldn’t hurt me.” Another swaying, accentuating step. “You couldn’t even tell me when you were upset. You were too afraid of
James dislodged his voice, and it came free with jagged edges. “Don’t call me dear.” “That’s the greeting I get after all this time?” “After all this time? Get away from me.” “Oh, don’t act like such a child, Jamie. It’s
hurting my little feelings.” Her voice thinned to a
gliding, sensual murmur. “You were afraid of so
“Where are they, Jez?”
She stopped walking an inch from the tip of the blade
Metal rasped, and James leveled his sword at
and ran a languid finger down its length.
her throat, ignoring a sudden surge of memories the
James noticed each and every little motion of her
soft skin there triggered. The handle of the blade was a
body, aching in their familiarity.
reassuring anchor to reality.
“Drop the **** act and move.” James ordered again.
She frowned prettily, but her eyes shone, and she
She pressed the blade to the hollow of her throat and
sashayed a little closer. “You never did know how to
met his eyes. “No yellow, I see. That’s good. Your
make a threat, Jamie.”
eyes were always such a pretty blue. So if you were
“Maybe this time will be different. Where. Are.
to kill me now, you would have no excuse to fall back They?” on.”
“Oooooh. That wasn’t bad. But I know you. You’d
James’ fingers clenched on the handle “If I were to
never hurt me; you’d be too afraid.”
kill you now, it would feel so damn good you can’t
even imagine. Luckily for you, I only kill animals for food, not pleasure.”
Another swaying step, he could smell her perfume, now. Peppermint. Just like always. Her every
She threw back her head and laughed. Another stab
motion was aching in its familiarity. Boots clacked
of pain echoed in James’ chest.
until she was inches from the blade, and she ran a
“Way to turn a phrase, Jamie.”
single finger languidly down its length. Her voice
“Am I going to have to move you myself?”
thinned to a sensual glide.
She actually pouted. “I wish you would act more
“You were afraid of so many things.”
She met his eyes, looking up at him through her
James sneered down at her. “You’ll have to forgive
lashes, and pressed the blade to the hollow of her own
me, dear.” He said bitterly. “Now why the Hell are
you on guard duty? Don’t you have some thirteen
“No yellow! That’s surprising. But I’m glad…your
year-olds to seduce or something? Don’t let me take
eyes were always such a pretty blue. So if you were to
up your time.”
kill me now, you would have no excuse to fall back
A scowl momentarily darkened her features.
Finally got a rise out of you, you *****.
His blade shook slightly where it grazed Jezebel’s
She wiped it away almost immediately, but it didn’t escape James’ notice. “Jamie, don’t be ignorant. You know I’m not here on guard duty.” “Then why the Hell are you in my way? It’s not like you can stab me again, I’m looking right at you this time.” “You used to be such a nice man. What happened to make you so angry, Jamie?” “You want the short version?”
throat. “It’s all yours, Jamie.” She whispered; the twin gray orbs of her eyes were a physical weight, rooting him to the spot. “I’m open, vulnerable.” They stood before the burning wreckage for several seconds, gazes locked, joined by the cold length of the sword, the steel reflecting the shifting hues of the flame. Then, Jezebel smirked. “See, I told you so.” The pressure of her gaze vanished, the blade trembled, and she danced away, coming to a halt on
There was a soft click behind him.
“Shut up and move, Agent Jezebel.” Stratos’ voice
“Now, with that out of the way, I have something
super-duper important that I have to tell you.”
“Ooooh Doctor Stratos, you’re so angry too! Thomas,
She reached into a pouch on her belt and
will you complete this little angry trio?”
pulled out a crumpled piece of notepad paper. With a
“Probably not.” Thomas answered. “Shooting you
flourish, she held it out to him.
would be too much fun for me to be angry about it.”
“I really don’t care what your message is.” James
“You all three keep threatening to kill me, but none of fought the tremor from his voice and steadied his stance, returning his sword to a defensive guard across you will. Goodness, you’re no fun at all. You know that? Fine, Jamie, I’m here with a message.”
“You’re kidding right? Is this going to be one of
“Oh, I think you’ll find this very interesting.”
those please come alone at midnight’ type deals?” “Not in the slightest, dear.” “DON’T CALL ME THAT.” James roared. “Sooooo angry.” She purred, then stepped away from the blade and flicked her midnight hair out of her face, suddenly brusque. “But no, President Praddus
Instead of approaching, the assassin wadded up the paper, kissed it, and flicked it toward him. James caught it automatically with his free hand. Something about the page was familiar. He shook it out with a few quick swipes, refusing to take his eyes from her as he did so. It turned out that he only needed a glance at
says only this: You fight a hopeless, fruitless, fight that is a waste of his time and of the resources that
the page to recognize it. Torn from a notebook,
this country needs to thrive. He is perfectly willing to
marked with his own narrow handwriting. One
come to a rational agreement with General Aster and
crinkled corner of the paper was flecked with
yourself, Jamie. This is the Land of Compromise, is it shockingly scarlet blood, smearing the penciled words: not?” Beth, I know that I hurt you…
The truck was still rocketing insanely down the
James slammed on the brakes on pure instinct,
highway. A third rocket arced over the roof as he
just before the fifth shell blew a gouge into the asphalt
regained his focus, but it soared well past its target
directly in their path. A knife of stone cracked his
and annihilated a clump of trees several feet in front
windshield and skittered away. The nearest NP
of them. The blast wave still hit the truck like a
transport flew by them, still pouring machine gun fire.
hammer, and James started to see telltale smoke
James did his best to ignore the bullets flitting around
drifting out of the smashed hood as the car threatened
his control again.
“Heather, focus, please!” he barked.
Beth wrested her bent glasses from her pocket and
“Right, right, yes. They won’t. We’re high-value. Er, I
put them on, only to swear and shout, “They’re
have an idea, but we’ll need to let the jeeps catch up.”
getting’ in position to chase us!” “Of course.” James muttered. “There always has to be a car chase.” He pressed the accelerator yet again. The truck whined in protest but pressed on. In the rearview, six black cars had moved in behind them. Rocket man poked his head out of the roof of the leading vehicle
He’d known her long enough not to question. “Just tell me what to do!” “Wait until the next shell hits, then brake, let them get right next to us!” “Ah, Hell.” Beth concluded. She ratcheted the shotgun. “Agreed.” James said.
and took aim once again. “Hell with this guy!” James shouted. “We’re not gonna make it out here on the freeway. I’m going into
It wouldn’t be long now; the last one— He saw it in slow motion, a massive shell a
town. Maybe they’ll put away the damn rockets!”
third of the size of the Charger mushroomed into flame
The closest exit was a half-mile away.
not ten feet behind them. The rear windshield shattered
James saw the flash out of the corner of his eye. Brake. He’d expect them to swerve again. James smashed the brake. Beth flew forward, but James softened her fall with an arm. The fourth projectile bit a crater in the road directly in front of
into glistening fangs of glass. The doctor flung herself over Thomas’ unprotected body. James and Beth bent double in their seats, screaming. A shard traced a searing line over James’ cheek. The sounds of pursuit abruptly dulled, even as rain flooded into the car. Ringing, high-pitched and
SLEEPSAND REVISION them. Fire washed over the hood, but James, acting mechanically, managed to absorb most of the blow on the right corner of the fender and keep the windshield from murdering them. It still cracked and groaned menacingly.
15 piercing in his ears. Beth bellowed something at him, but he had no idea what she’d said. He just followed Heather’s instructions. Thrown forward by momentum; the seatbelt bit into his shoulder, the car drifted wildly on
He hit the gas, Beth collapsed against the back of her
the pavement, but his fingers moved of their own
seat, Thomas and Heather, still shielding each other
accord, righting their path.
in the back seat, kept themselves in one place.
The jeeps closed in seconds once they’d
And the exit was in front of them. James wrestled the
slowed, and James floored the gas again as soon as
coughing truck onto the ramp, bouncing along the
they had. The machine guns tracked them, but the car
road and barely missing a line of trees on the
was beneath their windows of fire. He could see one of
shoulder. Their pursuit swerved to follow. Six vicious
the enemy soldiers through the tinted window, shock
black trucks hung onto their tail.
written across his face as he took in the car suddenly so
Rocket man pulled his weapon around, but before he
close to him.
could hone in on his prey, they surged into actual
Beth didn’t hesitate. The shotgun came up,
traffic. The highway may have been shut down, but
blossomed, blew out the Charger’s passenger-side
that didn’t stop people from clogging the main road.
window, caught the driver full on. The discharge hit
A crimson McDonald’s whipped by on their right,
James as a physical thump more than a sound. The
packed with cars.
enemy jeep careened to the right, wheels grinding
Gentle Christmas lights decked the roof. The sheer madness of the situation washed over James. The seven cars were hurtling down a four-lane divided road, James in the left lane, the soldiers spread behind him like wolves. Rocket man finally had to put down his weapon, but their pursuit was by no means done. They slid to either side, precise as machines, attempting to maneuver through traffic to
sideways. It took out a line of trees on the side of the road, tumbled to a rocking, smoking stop. The second jeep’s driver realized the danger and hit his own brakes, sliding from their line of sight. The New Philadelphia trucks were a quarter of a mile ahead now, but even as James got his punchdrunk brain wrapped around the situation, the Navy landed a hit. One of the NP trucks simply vanished into a sweeping fireball; a starburst of debris trailed jet-black
box them in.
wisps of smoke in all directions, the charred husk of
“Small weapons on the right and left!” Heather
the vehicle bounced across the road for fifty feet.
James screamed inarticulately, half enraged,
“You and Thomas get on the floor!” James shouted,
half terrified. The wreck hurtled toward them, and he
determinedly ignoring the gun barrels. They hissed at
wrenched the steering wheel, slamming his shoulder
him in his peripheral vision.
against the driver’s-side window.
Discussion As touched on above, I had a few key goals in mind when I embarked on my second draft. For one thing, I knew that my writing technique at least, if not my innate skill, had improved through all my classwork. Getting so many different perspectives helped me to see the story as a reader, not just a writer. It is something I struggle with; I have gotten too attached to these characters and to this story, and I do not always see things objectively. So, I spent a considerable amount of time rethinking characterization and personality, reweighing the importance of certain people and scenes. I took everything I had been given, everything I had written and experimented with, and condensed it all into a binder and a notebook. Together, they helped me keep things straight and (hopefully) barred the most egregious of the plot holes, gaps, and questions of the original draft from entry into this one. To the great credit of my wonderful friends and professors (and, I think, because I wrote this draft in one year instead of five), I feel like the second draft has a much more cohesive direction and development. At the outset, there were a few expository elements that I introduced later in the original draft that I wanted to set up earlier here. I added a prologue that introduced the reader to Heather’s relationship with her father as well as to how James and Thomas met and the circumstances of that night that shaped so much of James’ life. I also scattered a few scenes,
where they seemed appropriate, fleshing out James’ time under Heather’s experiments and the ensuing consequences for both. In this second draft, those snippets are intended to build up to another reveal at the end of the story that I will not detail here. Professor Grooms told me, after reading the original, that my primary antagonist, President Praddus, needed to be a more concrete threat. I intended him to be vague in the hopes that his nebulousness would be menacing, a contrast to the man himself. But it was too much so, to the point where Professor Grooms was confused as to why New Philadelphia needed to exist in the first place (much like Praddus himself). To that end, I made sure that the President featured prominently in all of Heather’s flashbacks, as well as in the structure of her personality. I wrote a brief scene from the President’s point of view, but I purposefully left much of the exposition about his character to Heather. I wanted her relationship with, and James’ hatred of, him to color what the reader knows about his character. I added a scene in the latter third of the novel in which a key member of Praddus’ Cabinet comes forward with deeply unsettling information about his leader’s plans. Heather also stumbles over a news story that leaves her even more disturbed. The prose itself, especially as it related to character development, received a muchneeded overhaul. I tried to delve further into my two main characters’ personalities and drives, especially in the second half as things start to spiral out of their control. I explored James’ depression and personal instability in greater detail, devoting more pages to his inner thoughts and attempting to realistically depict the condition. For Heather, I wanted her to read noticeably differently. She is a natural-born strategist, and in order to illustrate that, I had her constantly thinking, planning out each move ahead of time within the text.
Several readers characterized my style as over-written, so I strove to cut back. Part of my idea of James involved the use of somewhat surreal, impressionist imagery, especially where Jezebel is concerned. When she is near, or when he begins to slip out of control, his extreme anxiety warps everything he sees and feels. I think I was doing this subconsciously before, which is why it came across as so flowery in the original draft. By actively harnessing it, I hope to allay reader concerns without sacrificing my own voice. All in all, I am deeply proud of this second draft, though I know there is plenty still to do. But the body of work that I have created is one I that I would not quail from showing to the science fiction world. Annotated Bibliography Though this is a creative writing project, I still had a number of things to research. Most of them were assorted random questions about the way something worked, for example, or a distance between two cities. These questions could be answered by a few minutes on Google, and I have not noted them here. Some of the book required more in-depth research though, especially when it came to certain historical events referenced in the plot. The other titles below are works of fiction that personally inspired me to tread this path.
Burgess, A. (1962). A Clockwork Orange. New York. NY: W. W. Norton. Co. There are two seminal works of dystopian science fiction in my bibliography. For its part, Clockworkâ€™s dark vision of a violent future in a Weimar Republic-like English city, as well as Burgessâ€™ willingness to bend the rules of language, appealed to my imagination, writing style, and politics.
Burroway, J. (2003). Writing Fiction: A guide to narrative craft. (6th ed.). New York, NY: Longman. A good chunk of what Professor Grooms taught in Fiction Writing came from this book. Though we used multiple sources, including Professor Grooms’ own experience, I cited this book to represent the work from his class and because it is a great resource. Dickinson, E. Johnson, T. (Ed.). (1976). The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson. New York. NY: Little Brown and Co. In addition to my love of Dickinson’s poetry and her exploration of language, I cite this book because a fictional version of it actually exists in my novel. Heather identifies with Dickinson on an emotional and intellectual level, and the poems shape and hint at key aspects of her personality. It also serves as a symbol of her disconnect with her father. Electronic Arts, BioWare. (2007, 2010, 2012) The Mass Effect trilogy. [Video game series]. http://www.bioware.com/en/. I am a firm believer that video games possess the same narrative power as literature when properly employed. The Mass Effect series is a narratively-rich and character-driven trilogy of science fiction video games. My dialogue style was directly influenced by the game’s beloved script. Huxley, Aldous. (1932). Brave New World. [Kindle reader version]. New York. NY: RosettaBooks, LLC. I have always enjoyed the dystopian trope of an outnumbered, outgunned group of rebels taking on a tyrannical government. Brave New World is not this
optimistic or romantic, though. It is a warning as much as it is a satire, and the facilities for creating Alphas and the like factored into the Sleepsand Project’s creation. Irrational Games, 2K. (2013). BioShock Infinite. [Video game]. http://irrationalgames.com/. The BioShock series of video games, and particularly BioShock Infinite, are famous for being intensely and eruditely political. I cite this one, the most recent, because it features a fantastically conceived plot (and plot twist) that I hope to emulate in my own work, one that is enmeshed in politics. McCullough, D. (2005). 1776. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. I love history, especially the American Revolution, and I harkened back to several significant events and figures from the war. Several characters have names and/or personalities borrowed from history, such as General Israel Putnam, General Aster’s second-in-command. Rose, A. (2006). “The Adventures of the Culper Ring.” [Chapter 6]. Washington’s Spies: The story of America’s first spy ring. New York, NY: Bantam Dell. 1776 did not focus on the Culper Ring, as most of their activity took place later in the war. I am fascinated by the story, though, and also referenced it in Sleepsand. This chapter detailed their system for encoding messages. Rowling, J.K. (1998, 1999a, 1999b, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2007). The Harry Potter series. New York, NY: Scholastic. J.K. Rowling inspired an entire generation of young writers to pick up a quill and to create their own magic, growing up with her wondrous tales. If any author first taught me to love stories and to appreciate literary craftsmanship, it was her. I
once was amused, albeit unsettled, to find myself accidentally borrowing an entire phrase that I subconsciously remembered from a Harry Potter book. Steinbeck, J. (1952) East of Eden. London. England: The Penguin Group. Steinbeck’s East of Eden, in addition to being a fantastic book, directly inspired the character of Jezebel in her current form. She existed before I read the book, but, as mentioned earlier, his terrifying Cathy Ames fascinated me with her utter lack of emotion or compunction. She did Steinbeck himself too; he once referred to her as his “dear Cathy.” I find Jezebel similarly darkly intriguing as a writer, though I cannot explain why.