Sunday, November 14, 2010

Guest Blogger: S.G. BROWNE

I first came up with the idea for Fated late one night in September 2003. At the time, I didn’t realize the idea would turn into a novel about fate, destiny, and the consumer culture. It was just this kernel of a notion for a possible short story about a main character who knew certain things were going to happen because he was Fate. And that’s where I left it. As an idea waiting to become a story.

The following July, while sitting in a shopping mall and watching people walk past and wondering what their futures held, I wrote down the line:

I look at people and see what they’re going to be like in twenty years.

What followed was a short scene about a handful of people and where they would be in twenty years. While I connected it to the concept of Fate I’d touched on the previous September, I didn’t pursue it any further. Instead, I filed it away until, more than two years later, the scene became part of the opening chapter of Fated.

But even then, I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with the idea that I had. When I first sat down to start writing Fated, I had no idea I was going to be writing a social satire on the consumer culture and the stupid things that a lot of people do to screw up their lives. But in the same way I wrote my first novel, Breathers, the social commentary just sort of evolved as the story unfolded.

From December 2006 to March 2007, I wrote approximately half of Fated. Forty thousand words, or roughly one-hundred-and-sixty pages. And I had a lot of fun doing it. Scenes with Fate and Destiny. Lunches with Sloth and Gluttony. Awkward moments with Death and Secrecy and Failure. An unexpected romance with a mortal woman. And, of course, meetings with God.

Personifying abstract concepts led me to do a bit of research on the Seven Deadly Sins, the Seven Contrary Virtues, and the concepts of Karma, Fate, and Destiny. While most people tend to think of these last two as one in the same, I differentiated between them due to their corresponding connotations. Fate tends to be more negative (a fatal disease, a fate worse than death), while destiny implies a more favorable outcome (he was destined for greatness, it was her destiny).

Because my main character has been around for the entire existence of humankind, I wanted to include references to famous people and significant historical moments in the narrative. So I consulted my Handy History Answer Book for events that took place during the Renaissance, the Classical Age, and the Scientific Revolution. I Googled to verify the passenger list of the Titanic and if someone during Henry VIII’s reign would wear a tunic. And I spent a lot of time researching the population of the planet, the evolution of man, and determining how many people God smote (Jezebel, Saul, Lot’s wife, and some guy who made the mistake of picking up sticks on the Sabbath, among others). After all, when you have God as one of your characters you need to try to get these things right.

Also, since Fate has to tend to the futures of people across the planet, I did research on a number of geographic locations, including Paris, Los Angeles, Vienna, Duluth, San Francisco, and Daytona Beach. But the majority of my research on set locations was for Manhattan, as that’s where Fate and most of the rest of the immortals reside.

Although it was some of the most enjoyable writing I’d ever done, I began to wonder where the story was going. Why it mattered. What was the purpose. I like to discover the story as I write it, so plotting everything out has never been my style. I’m kind of like Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark. I’m making it up as I go. Problem is, if you’re not sure where you’re going, sometimes it takes a while to figure out how to get there. So I played with some ideas, tossed them out, went back and revised sections for continuity, and scratched my head a lot.

Finally, in December 2007, I figured out what I wanted to do. How everything would tie together. Why the story mattered to me. At that point, after nearly a year working on Fated, I’d only managed to get another twenty thousand words written. Half of what I’d done in just the first three months. It was a humbling and often frustrating process.

But over the next month I poured out the last twenty thousand words and finished the first draft of Fated on February 2, 2008, two weeks after I sold Breathers to Random House. Twenty-one months later, I finally get to share the story with everyone else. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Visit the author's website: S.G. Browne

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