Prospectus

I’ve finally finished my prospectus for my thesis! Now, I can’t promise you that this 100% perfection, but things seem to be going all right so far. I just turned it in to my advisor this morning, so I hope to hear from her about this soon.

I’ve had one hell of a week. If you remember last week, I talked about my grandfather and my cat both being sick. The cat is better. However, my grandfather died last night and I’ve been in sort of a fog. We were never super close, and I’ve only cried when I talked to my mom on the phone last night (she was there when it happened). Hopefully my advisor understands.

Anyway, here’s my prospectus, which will hopefully give you a bit more information about my thesis and what I’m working on this semester!

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Lauren Roland

Prospectus

January 8, 2018

“Unconquered”

For my creative thesis, 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 the planet of 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.’

Drake is a 19 year old man at the beginning of the novel. He has had to grow up faster than a person would for someone his age. At the age of nineteen in our modern age, most people are still living with their parents and are going to college. Drake is the leader of the Shibyan Thieves, a band of rogues that have existed since the continent of Terra was founded, whose sole goal now is to keep Shibya – the last free district on the continent – from being conquered by the Demon King Andras. Drake’s father was the previous leader of the Thieves, but was murdered by a spy when Drake was just barely fifteen (his mother was murdered when Drake was just seven). Drake won the leadership in a fair vote, although there was grumbling because of his age. He relied heavily on his father’s right-hand man, Storm, to help him govern for the first few years, but now that he is older, he feels like he is ready for the bulk of the responsibility to fall on himself. Drake is worthy of being the main character of this story because his experience is so very different from that of the second main character, Mira. While she is from our world of Earth, he is not. Instead of describing Drake’s world through Mira’s eyes, as an outsider, I want to describe the world through the eyes of someone who sees everything as normal. He has had to make some tough decisions throughout his young life, such as banishing or executing those accused of treason or worse, but has managed to get through all of it without losing the faith that his father had in him. His men see him as fair, and he wants nothing more than to uphold his father’s legacy. He still stumbles because he is so young, and he is still extremely fallible and sometimes prone to bouts of anger, which showcases his flaws. He is not perfect, nor is he intended to be, but he is the narrator of the story and I want to show both his inner and outer struggles as he navigates the new position of being placed on the frontlines of an upcoming war.

I have always been fascinated by the medieval period of our world. It is a time where many still believed in magic, and although you might catch the plague by walking down the street, there are many things that existed in that time that no longer exist today. Since the majority of my novel centers around the beginning of a war, I knew I did not want any modern technology in the book. I have done a lot of research on the way warfare was conducted during the medieval period, with trebuchets and swords, and want to bring that knowledge into my novel. I have tweaked a few things; the time period may fall more in the realm of that in-between time between the medieval period and the Renaissance. Things are changing in Drake’s world, and the old magic is trying its hardest to remain relevant in a time where technology is rapidly gaining pace.

I began this novel the fall of my freshman year of my undergraduate career, and wrote nearly 100 pages before setting it aside as I struggled with where to go with it next. I did not pick it up again to move forward with the writing until my junior year. I had spent the previous two years going back and editing and re-editing what I had already written, but was never satisfied with what I had written. I seriously started working on it in 2014, forcing myself to move forward with my story. Instead of writing from where I was stuck, however, I wrote the ending to the novel, including the final climactic battle with the villains, hoping that having both a beginning and an ending would allow me to write the missing middle portion. I was able to sketch out a rough outline for the middle part of the book; the only thing remaining on that is to go and get it written. Once the thesis requirements were changed for the graduate program, I picked up my story once again with fresh eyes, knowing I would have to rewrite the majority of it and not just edit it. I ended up doing just that, and am still working my way through the first major part of the novel. My writing has improved tremendously in the past six years, and I want to give this story what it deserves.

Currently, my goal in writing this is that this does not become a straight quest story, like Lord of the Rings, but I also do not want it to end up as 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. The concept of separate but parallel worlds is not a new one – One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, while it does not deal directly with the concept of parallel worlds, shows the reader a Columbia that is not Columbia. That is something I want to do with my story. The base setting is an alternate version of Earth’s Medieval period in Europe, but there is something slightly unsettling beneath the surface that does not quite match up with the way the previous medieval period went. This is apparent to Mira, as she came from Earth and went through a basic understanding of medieval Europe in high school, but of course none of the other characters notice anything different.

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. Instead, I want Joline to be more of a black widow type character, who preys on unsuspecting men to do her bidding, but has a heart of stone. She does not get caught up in any mind games or feel any real emotions aside from greed and hatred. She is, by all accounts, inhumanly emotional.

I have chosen to go with a slightly-older teenage male as my protagonist in my novel.

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). In the same vein, the protagonist of Ready Player One, Wade Watts, has a very strong narrative voice that I want to investigate as an example for my own protagonist. RPO involves a journey to a fantastical digital world in order to escape the horrors that are in the real world after a total economic collapse. Wade ventures into unknown lands and faces nearly impossible odds in order to find what he has been searching for throughout the novel. While the genre and the technology varies greatly from my own setting, the narrative voice is very close to what I want. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka holds a different sort of influence: in my novel, the protagonist Drake is pushed into a new world after his father’s murder, before he has been properly trained to follow in the man’s footsteps. Mira, the secondary character, is literally pulled from her own home planet of Earth to Drake’s planet of Yimir, and she must figure out how to survive, because she wants to return home at some point. In a similar way, Gregor Samsa is thrust into an unfamiliar rearranging of the familiar when he awakens one day to find himself morphed into a giant insect, and must attempt to understand it. I am also interested in looking at Gulliver’s Travels, by Jonathan Swift, as I feel like this plays with the element of wandering and displacement in my own novel. As Mira is introduced to more aspects of life on Yimir, she comes to realize that all is not always as it appears on the surface, and indeed, there may be some very dangerous consequences in store for her. Other novels I am looking at completing for this project include Fools Crow by James Welch, Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino, and an as-of-yet-undetermined one by Margaret Atwood. In terms of craft books, I am looking at investigating The Art of the Novel by Milan Kundera, The Half-Known World: On Writing Fiction by Robert Boswell, Burning Down the House by Charles Baxter, and Magic(al) Realism: the New Critical Idiom by Maggie Ann Bowers. I am looking to inform my writing by studying different styles of magical realism as well as different fantasy and science fiction settings in the novels mentioned above, as well as familiarize myself with the depths of writing fiction in general.

Reading List:

 

  • One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Marquez
  • Magic(al) Realism: The New Critical Idiom – Maggie Ann Bowers
  • Fools Crow – James Welch
  • The Metamorphosis – Franz Kafka
  • Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift
  • Inivisible Cities – Italo Calvino
  • Ready Player One – Ernest Cline
  • The Lightning Thief – Rick Riordan
  • The Art of the Novel – Milan Kundera
  • The Half-Known World – Robert Boswell
  • Burning Down the House – Charles Baxter

 

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That got a bit long at the end! I hope it made sense to you, and if you made it all the way through that, please let me know what you think about my plans for this project!

Thank you, and as always, keep reading.

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