In April I blogged about going with the flow of some time-worn astrological advice to revise some fiction that had been rejected. With Mercury again in retrograde this month, while I got back to work on another dystopia that I’d started but never finished, I found myself thinking about an even older story: the sequel to Possum Kingdom, Streets of Abaddon.
Last week’s plotting exercise was a part of it. Rereading Streets of Abaddon, I remembered why I dropped working on it the first time: how many threads I’d started but been unable to tie off in a satisfying climax. (This is a perennial problem for me: enjoying the world so much, I could let it go on and on.)
Had I still been working in Boston, I might have gone for a twilight walk around Central Square or another nearby neighborhood that constituted Streets’ setting; doing this has helped me work out plot issues before. After being laid off from that job, though, I no longer had access to the places that might have helped me.
That, however, turned out not to be the real problem. As I began to re-piece together the story, I realized that some things that I thought fit in one place actually made better sense in another… and all of them hovered around the edges of the climactic scene without wanting to plunge straight into it.
I realized that the real reason why that was, was I didn’t want to have to write the necessary showdown. (In real life, I’m terribly nonconfrontational, which results in one of the major weaknesses in any of my writing.)
The result: lots and lots and lots of talk, with very little action. The plotting exercise helped me see what was needed to pace the story, and while I have plenty of other fiction to work on, Streets of Abaddon might actually be closer to done than I think.
Finishing the writing projects I start
I confess, too, that I haven’t been 100% comfortable reminding people that Possum Kingdom is out in the world. I never did run it through a sensitivity reader, even though its characters (intentionally) represent half a dozen marginalized groups. Granted, beta readers didn’t see any overt problems, but let’s just say that Twitter backlashes can make you think twice.
The thing about intersectionality, though, is its mulitlayered complexity. Just because my narrator, Theo, is gay doesn’t mean he isn’t still white and male, and still needs to confront that privilege relative to the other characters’ experiences. That’s what Streets of Abaddon is really about — taking lessons I personally have learned since writing Possum Kingdom, and using them to add new dimensions to the overarching story of this series.
The same is true of my Running Wild novella series. I wrote “Sodom and Gomorrah on a Saturday Night” before learning how people in marginalized communities see, and don’t see, themselves depicted in fiction. “Sodom”’s sequel, “Kings of Babylon,” works harder at correcting this lack of awareness, as does the third novella in the series, “Queen of Sheba.”
That isn’t to say I won’t continue to seek out sensitivity readers for my work; just that I want to be cognizant of what it is I’m trying to accomplish. As much as I feel that it’s important for white, cis and/or hetero readers to see how to grow, I never want to depict a marginalized character at the expense of a white, cishet character’s growth. My work with and reading about sensitivity highlights that the two goals can comfortably coexist.
I’m not comfortable saying when to look for Streets of Abaddon, though I’d like to try to get it out before the end of the year. Meanwhile, look for Kings of Babylon to be out around Halloween in the Running Wild Novella Anthology, Volume 2 Part 1!