Frank Fiore – Novelist & Screenwriter

April 4, 2013

How to Write a Novel – Once More Into the Breach

Filed under: How to Write a Novel — Frank Fiore @ 11:29 AM

When I do interviews, I’m often asked, “How did you write your novel? Who do you get started and where do you get your ideas from?”

Soon, once my 5th novel MURRAN has been put to bed and the marketing of it is on it’s way and THE ORACLE, my book of short stories is complete, I will begin in earnest writing my 6th novel. Like MURRAN, my next novel deals with the coming of age of a young boy in a different culture than his own.  In this case, an American teenager growing up in Japan during World War Two.

Like Trey in MURRAN, he has to find himself and a life with meaning.

I came up with the idea for the story watching young inexperienced Japanese Kamikaze pilots climb into their planes and set out to crash themselves into American warships. The thought hit me – ‘What if it was an American teenager climbing into that plane and going on a Kamikaze suicide mission?’

I had to first come up with a name for the story that reflected the American teenager as an outsider – since he would be. The name I came up with many years ago when I was contemplating this story was ‘Shudo’. I thought, at the time, it conveyed the meaning different and the idea I was after. I soon discovered after picking up my file on the story, that I was a little sloppy with my research. It seems the word Shudo could mean homosexual. That was not the image I wanted to convey of the title character as a true outsider since there most certainty had been gays in Japan at the time.

So I had to look for a more suitable name and I found two.

One was a simple translation of ‘outsider’ or ‘alien’ – Gaigin – a derogatory word, and Burako meaning a class in Japanese society that were considered unclean. I don’t know which I will choose for the title of the story and thus the name the Japanese calls the American teenager.  The word ‘burako’ had nice coronations since they were an actual class of people and that may come in handy later in the story.

Now that I have a choice of names, I need to start creating a ‘wire frame’ that I can ‘hang’ or develop the story on. I knew I had several elements in the story that I wanted to use in some manner.

One was pre-war Japan since the American teenager will arrive there a year or so before the war. Then I need to research Westerners living in Japan at both times to make the story as close to reality as possible.

I also needed a character that would describe to the teenager the Japan he was living in and how it evolved from a peaceful democracy to a militaristic society that the teenager is drawn into to prove he is not an outsider. I also need characters that make up the Japanese family he is living with. The boys go to the war when it breaks out – one as a naval pilot on an aircraft carrier, one as an army solider on mainland Asia, and one as a marine in the Pacific atolls.  The youngest son, younger than the American teenager, loves American culture and is later persecuted for it. The sister and mother will be forced to leave their positions in society and work for the war effort eventually growing food in the fields with the peasants. The father will work in some capacity in the government or war department and through his eyes and his sons’ we see the war develop.

The teenager finds his way into the Japanese family first in California or Hawaii. His father abandons him and his mother, his abused mother dies and the Japanese sons protect him until he joins by the Japanese family. This way he learns how to speak Japanese.

He later meets his father in a POW camp.

Another character is a geisha that represents the dying traditional Japan that he experiences.

Finally, I need a character to play the wise man that counsels the teenager away from the militaristic version of Shintoism. I’m thinking a ‘Sohei’ – warrior monk. – or ‘Yambushi’ that has a warrior tradition but can practice Shintoism.

There will most probably be other minor characters needed to move the story forward at certain points.

As far as historical events in the story, the teenager will experience an earthquake and tsunami, the fire bombing of Tokyo, and finally, Hiroshima enters the story in some fashion. Perhaps that’s where the family lives.

So there it is so far. Like MURRAN, I will have to do a lot of research in the libraries. Google, in the case of this story will take me only so far.

As the project progresses, I’ll add to this thread. I hope after all my research I have an interesting story to tell.

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