As part of my thesis project, I have to write a prospectus detailing/outlining what my project is going to be about. In reality, this is going to be a 10-15 page paper that is incredibly an highly detailed.
Last fall, as part of my ENG 500 class, I had to write a pre-prospectus that I would use to get my thesis advisor on board with my project. I’ve gotten my advisor, Dr. Wurzbacher, and I’ve submitted my pre-prospectus. My next step is to get a reading list drawn up (and she’s given me several good ideas!) and work on rewriting the pre-prospectus to its final length and submit it to get the rest of my thesis chairs on board.
Since it’s been awhile since I posted about my thesis project, I’m using this time to update you as to what’s going on with it. This is my pre-prospectus in its unedited form. I’m writing a novel (or at least an extensive part of said novel, since I have to submit it for publication as part of submitting my thesis for defense) for my thesis. I attempt to explain it as best I can in the following part, but my main problem is that I have to figure out how to get things down to a 30-second summary, you know.
The proposal that I have for my thesis that I am presenting in this pre-prospectus is the first eighty or so pages of a novel that I have been working on for several years. My original goal was to have this manuscript finished by the time I finished my undergraduate degree, but that never happened. Putting this down as my final creative thesis project will force me to finally finish what I have been sitting on for years and help me revise it to be the best that I can be, in order to help with publication some day. Originally, I was going to do a loosely-related group of short stories, but decided that this could help me more.
I am going to be doing a creative prose thesis containing several chapters or even the first third of a novel that I have been working on for several years. Currently, in the initial stages of planning, this novel has a semi-quest theme, but also a discovery of self and a realization that things are going to get worse before they will ever begin to get better. Maybe things do not ever get better at all. I have always considered thematic concerns to be things that are realized after the completion of a project, or something that those who read the material come up with on their own, as it cannot always be true that the author planned every single theme down to the wire in their stories, as some have to have happened accidentally. The subject of this novel concerns an alternate world from ours called Yimir, which contains three continents, the main storyline taking place on the continent of Terra. The story is set in an alternate version of our Medieval Period right on the verge of the Renaissance (albeit with more magic than our own Medieval times contained), and is told from a first-person prospective, by a nineteen-year-old protagonist named Drake. Drake is the Thief Lord of Shibya (a district in Terra), and his group of Thieves are trying to keep the state of Shibya and (ultimately, after teaming up with the Duke of Shibya) the continent of Terra out of the control of the Demon King (working title). Along the way, Drake has to figure out how to get Miranda Levingston (seventeen year old female), who was kidnapped from Earth and dumped on Yimir, back to her own planet and time. The working title of this story is Unconquered, as Shibya is the only “unconquered” territory in the whole of Terra. The main antagonists in the story are Victoria (also known as the Sorceress), who originally kidnapped Mira and dumped her on Yimir; and Joline (who was once Victoria’s protege until she revolted and nearly got herself killed by the stronger sorceress), who killed Drake’s father and now commands a network of Rebels whose goal in life is to get a final revenge on Victoria for exposing her as not being ‘good enough.’ Another thing I need to work on — learning how to summarize. It has never been my strong suit.
At the moment, I am not sure what is different about my writing in comparison to other stories of this type. I know that it is not a straight quest story, like Lord of the Rings, but neither is it a romance story, as the main characters (Drake and Mira) do not end up with each other at the end of the story, and in fact appear to be separated forever, with nary a proclamation of love between the two. It is set in a fantasy world, but there is only one race of characters: humans. There are rumors that there were once dwarves, and that they are the ones that once carved out the tunnels the Shibyan Thieves dwell in, but they are long gone. Dragons exist only in myth and legend, and while some seem to have reliable evidence that they also once existed, it is generally accepted that they did not. There are no elves, hobbits, or anything along the lines of what one would “normally” expect a fantasy novel to have. There is magic, but it can only be controlled by specific people and only in specific ways. I want to believe that the concept of separate but nearly-parallel worlds existing is relatively new (one world being set in our contemporary times, but the alternate one still being in a version of medieval times), but I am sure that, while I have read hundreds of books, there is a book among the millions I have not read that deals with the same subject.
As far as my path to this particular project, writing has always been a creative outlet for me. I remember we had to write daily response journals in first grade, and that grew into me keeping a diary. I kept a diary nearly daily for about seven years (age six to age thirteen), and eventually I started branching off into creative writing. I took Creative Writing for three years in high school, and I took three Creative Writing classes during my undergraduate career, as well as one during my first semester of my graduate school career. When it was announced that we could do either a creative or a critical thesis, I knew I needed to go the creative route. While I am relatively good at writing academic papers, I feel like creative writing is more my strength. I have been working on this piece of writing for a few years now, since as I said I originally planned to have it completed by the time I finished my undergraduate degree but actual school got in the way.
For me, the most challenging aspect of craft is writing a convincing villain. The villain is also one of the most central parts of a story, because nobody wants to read a story with a weak antagonist. Since the only sort of experience I have with “villains” are those who break hearts, I knew I needed more than just a woman who was puppeteering a younger man along through a fake romance. I did not want it to be just an aspect of revenge for a broken heart, but revenge on someone who played him for so long and then destroyed someone else he loved entirely (Joline ends up killing Drake’s father). I don’t want the villain’s main reason for becoming a villain to be that she had a man break her heart, because that’s just too cliche.
Another challenging aspect of craft would have to be writing convincing dialogue. I have taken several creative writing classes and suffered through stories with stilted and unreadable dialogue. This semester, the creative writing class that I took with Dr. Wurzbacher focused on the craft aspects of a short story, and we spent about two weeks on the elements of dialogue alone. I realized I was guilty of putting in a speech tag on (nearly) every single line of dialogue, when it did not need to be there in the first place. This is something I am going to have to watch out for when I begin editing the parts of my story, so that I do not end up with constant speech tags throughout the piece.
There are so many artistic influences on my writing. First and foremost of those influences would probably be Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien, considering that this story is somewhat of a Quest-style story (even though it does not involve returning an object or retrieving an object, it does involve getting somewhere and sending someone back to where they came from) and contains fantastical elements. There are no elves, dwarves, hobbits, or dragons, though, just the race of Men. Another artistic influence that I used for my story would probably be the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan, as my main character is a teenage male (even though Percy was thirteen and Drake is nineteen) who uses sarcasm to his advantage, and has to deal with finding a world that he never knew existed (although in my story, it is Mira who has to come to terms with the hidden world). I have read a lot of fantasy books over my lifetime, and I feel like they have all influenced me in some way or another. While my story is not specifically about magic, I feel like another fantasy series, The Lost Years of Merlin, which also features a sarcastic teenage lead who is just attempting to find his way in the world.
As of the time of this writing, I am unsure as to what creative, contemporary works I will include in the final prospectus. It will require perusing the New York Times Bestseller list, for sure, along with the release list of all the new fantasy or science fiction novels (as there are a few science fiction elements, but it’s mainly a fantasy novel). Figuring out these particular works, taking the time to read them, and then seeing how people are pushing the fantasy genre forward will take a lot of careful research and planning. What is considered “contemporary prose,” after all? Is it stuff from the past year? Five years? Decade? Stuff written so far since the dawn of the twenty-first century? I have not read a lot of contemporary fantasy novels for adults, as I have always found the novels for young adults and children to be more interesting. While I worked in a bookstore for about two years, I mostly read historical fiction about World War II and some biographies. I suppose the books do not have to be strictly contemporary adult fantasy as I’ve included several non-adult fantasy books in the preceding paragraph. It is just going to be a lot of researching. as I have no idea what the current fantasy books for adults are, as most people view fantasy as something that is solely reserved for children, and all the young adult fantasy novels usually end with a romantic subplot eclipsing everything (like Twilight, even though I shudder to even type that title).
Whew! I know that was a lot of reading! Congratulations if you were able to get through all of that. You’re amazing.
Do you have any reading list suggestions for me? Any ideas as to how I need to fix this up? (For reference, this is 4.5 pages double-spaced in MS Word.)
And as always, keep reading.