Wednesday, January 15, 2014

When Research Changes Plot, Or What To Do With A Vengeful God

I've been digging into Edith Hamilton's Mythology this week. No, I'm not indulging some bizarre nostalgia for my early teenage school years (I am not one of those insane quirky people who wishes she could go back to the halcyon days of high school, probably because I would never even think to call them 'halcyon' days, not that I hated them, because I didn't, I just found them full of growing pains and awkwardness and I'm going to stop this run-on sentence now); I'm doing research.

Granted, I'm supposed to be looking into (to quote myself, here) "Day-to-day life in the Classical Period of Ancient Greece, including specifics on the worship and temples and priests of Apollo", so technically I suppose I'm also procrastinating. See, I do have a book on the "Daily Life of the Ancient Greeks", but 1) it's duuuulllll, 2) it's written for teens, and is therefore a bit oversimplified, and 3) while it's absolutely chock-freaking-full of information about the daily life of Athenians, it's got all of about two wee paragraphs on the daily life of goatherds and/or shepherds and also priests of Apollo, which is what I really need. What I'm saying is that the book has a misleading title and it's irritating. Not to worry, I do have a list of other books to look into (thanks to a certain brilliant and generous librarian friend of mine); I just don't have them in my possession. Yet.

So I'm taking a break from said irritation, and reading Hamilton instead. And happily, like other research, it's a useful and fascinating procrastination. I've got this little story planned out for a brief, possibly violent, and certainly tumultuous love affair between Apollo and a mortal youth, so this particular reading is actually part of my character development for Apollo. And like most research, it's changing my story.

The thing is, since Apollo does exist as a well-known mythological figure, I need to walk a fine line between meeting certain expectations for his behavior, and also crafting my own version of him. I did start some development for him, which mostly entailed combining what I remembered about Greek mythology with what I needed for the story I'm creating. I then used that combination to help me come up with a basic plot structure for this particular lifetime.

Well, it turns out I missed a few important things.

As I've said before, research is character is plot. In this case, I forgot a few things: namely, that the Greek gods can often be cruel bastards with a marked indifference to human suffering. Not all of the time, of course, and actually Hamilton points out that Apollo is one of the more beautiful and less crude of the pantheon, but he stills does stuff like have his sister kill his unfaithful lover, and rabidly pursue an unwilling maiden until she begs for mercy and gets turned into a tree (one that's sacred to Apollo, just to add insult to injury).

I also learned - and this I don't think I ever knew - that Apollo is the God of Truth and Light. Hamilton puts this quite beautifully, actually, saying that "he is the god of Light, in whom is no darkness at all, and so he is the God of Truth. No false word ever falls from his lips." Apollo really cannot tell a lie, nor can anyone lie to him.

Both of these things are important facets of his character, and they change what I'd been planning. I was thinking about having Apollo's mortal lover be unfaithful to him, and get away with it. Well, now I need to reconsider. I can disregard parts of his mythology that don't suit my purpose (thank you, artistic license), but these pieces are so interesting and so full of potential for great conflict that I don't really want to discard them. Now, if his lover is unfaithful, I need to think about how Apollo finds out (because he always finds out), how he reacts, and whether or not he tries to have this lover killed - or even whether he kills him himself.

I'm not sure yet what exactly is going to happen, but I won't be giving much away if I say that both Apollo and his lover will die somehow. After all, I'm writing a book about the various lifetimes of two souls, so in order to move on to another lifetime, the current one has to end.

This is one of the great things about research: when you find something that really does shift the story. What could be better than figuring out what a vengeful, all-powerful god might do to punish his faithless lover? I'm rubbing my hands together gleefully even as I write this...

41 comments:

  1. Ooh I can't wait to read what you come up with! What a fun development. :D

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    1. Haha, thanks, I thought so, too. Revenge and omnipotence are a fun combination.... ;)

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  2. That's a lot of information to juggle and consider. I think it's all right to drop some things. It is your vision after all.
    And I have no desire to ever go back to high school! I escaped and never want to look back.

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    1. Escape - yes! That IS the right word :)

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  3. Did I already suggest searching Google Scholar? ...can't remember--the curse of middle age. LOL

    Or you could have Apollo not really want to know and ask questions that his lover can tell the truth about and still conceal the affair. Maybe in his heart, he knows, but he loves this woman so much he doesn't want to face the truth. (Not sure if that would go with his other traits, though.) And what about these gods and their spells and betrayals of each other. Maybe another god could cast a spell that shields his lover from Apollo's ability to discern truth. *shrugs* Just brainstorming...

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    1. Yup, you did. I do have some other resources - just not in hand yet.

      Thank you for the brainstorming!! I was thinking along the same lines, actually.

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  4. Yes, I do love it when the research leads to new story developments. Sounds like you've got a lot of reading to do. Good luck. :)

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  5. I had similar research issues when writing The K-Pro. I was dealing with slightly less common gods, though: Hecate and Janus. So I felt I had more wiggle room in developing their characters.

    Apollo is pretty passionate, and in the role of the sun (yes, Helios, but for simplification purposes), he sees everything. So if his lover is being unfaithful, Apollo will know it.

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    1. Yup, exactly. That passion is going to be fun to write.

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  6. Well, it certainly sounds like you're knee deep in it! And you'll know when you're done researching because the story will come pouring out of you. Looks like this is going to be fun for you to write.

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    1. More like in over my head, LOL. But that's OK - because it's also fun :)

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  7. Woman, you totally need a subscription to JSTOR. Specifics galore on any historical aspect you can imagine. I get sucked in. For days. Which may not necessarily be a good thing.

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    1. I'm laughing out loud at being called 'woman', but you're right - I DO need a subscription!! Ok, I'm joining!

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  8. Oh I love the thoughts you are going to with Apollo's lover. I can't wait to hear more. I've always pictured Apollo in my head as being an impossibly beautiful blond man so statuesque and perfect. Sigh.

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    1. Haha, yes, he IS supposed to be the god of youth, after all - I think it's totally within character to make him GORGEOUS ;) It won't hurt if his lover is totally buff and cute, either, right?

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  9. Ooh, yes this is a tantalizing plot, indeed. I like that even though you plan to make Apollo a fresh new version, you respect the greater part of his mythology.

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    1. Thanks! That's my hope. It's a delicate balance...I hope I get it right!

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  10. This is normally when I'd do my "I like making stuff up so I don't have to do research" line, but I can't, because you're ridiculously right. I decided a book's climax needed to take place at a decommissioned nuclear power plant, and found one that will work, but now I'm figuring out why the antagonist would choose the place and how he'll have to alter it for his plans. It's really helping to flesh out the guy. So, yeah, with you 100% on this one.

    I also e-mailed you about CP stuff, so... yay?

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    1. Yes! Thank you for the gentle reminder :) I emailed you back.

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  11. Considering the Greek myths, Apollo will have some serious standards to live up to when he decides on his punishment! :) Those Greek gods sure didn't mess around!

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    1. Haha, you're right, I didn't even think about that! I DO have high standards to live up to....

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  12. Sounds like your research is really going to enrich your story. I love that bit about Apollo being the god of truth and light. Might be fun to read some historical fiction about the period to see how others have treated it.

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    1. Hmm, good idea, actually! Also another great way to procrastinate ;)

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  13. I bet you'll come up with something awesome!

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  14. I've always loved Greek mythology. I am so looking forward to your story and getting to read it. Sounds like it's going to be AWESOME!

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  15. It's so interesting reading how your research is guiding your plotting.

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  16. Halcyon...hal-cy-on. Haaal-ceee-yawn....I just like the way that trips off my keyboard. Oh, and I had to use an inhaler to get through that sentence! ;)

    I really do try to plan things out and do the research beforehand (at least the major stuff that may change characteristics and behavior), but in rooting out the details, that always seems to change it a bit.

    This sounds like it's going to be a fun and juicy read. I love research!

    M.L. Swift, Writer

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    1. Yes, I do tend to write oxygen-sucking sentences... ;) Thanks, Mike!

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  17. That's cool that you get to write about that. I've been proven wrong with research and I've had to make only a few minor tweaks.

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    1. Thanks! At least you only had to make minor changes. Thank goodness.

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  18. All good things must come to an end, right? I'm liking the premise; good luck with your ongoing research.

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  19. I swear I posted a comment here two days ago that was thoughtful and yes, maybe a bit sarcastic. (That's to be expected with me.) But it's nowhere to be found.

    Blogger ate my comment! Stupid Blogger.

    Okay, so this one probably isn't as good as the last one. But . . .
    I think that it could be a fun challenge to make him the god of truth. With some creative and smart writing (which I've seen you do here on the blog many a time) you can wiggle around this requirement with side-steps and creative wording that makes the statements true, yet not all the way. (Think Elizabeth Bennet speaking to Lady Catherine De Burgh as she questions her about her relationship with Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice.)

    It could be really fun!

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    1. Ooo, I HATE it when that happens. I swear that's happened to me before, too. Thanks for coming back!

      You got me with Elizabeth/Lady Catherine. I'm a P&P junkie (have you SEEN the 6 hour long BBC mini-series?), so I automatically think whatever you're saying is a good idea. Plus, it IS a good idea. Thanks for your faith in me... :)

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  21. Ah! I love all of this mythology talk. :D

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