Frank Fiore – Novelist & Screenwriter

July 8, 2013

How to Write a Novel – Do I Have a Story?

Filed under: How to Write a Novel — Frank Fiore @ 12:33 PM

When I first started blogging on how I’m writing my next novel, I mentioned my fear of not being able to create a marketable story. That fear has haunted me as I marinate myself in the books and materials I am now reading in hopes that the story arc and thematic thread  I have in my mind will produce an entertaining and believable storyline.

I’ve set myself up at the very beginning with the premise that an American teenage boy would willfully climb into a kamikaze plane and smash himself into an American warship off the Okinawa coast. The story arc has been set and I have the challenge of having the reader, as he or she follows the story, believe that such a premise is viable – that I have shown the teenager’s motivation in this regard in a believable way.

Now, I’ve blogged on what it means to write and that ‘writing’ is not just putting words to paper, or doing research, or rewriting what you have written. My wife has found me laying in bed watching TV or just staring out the window petting my Newfoundland. This too, is writing.

On one such occasion it paid off.

Last weekend, while watching TV, I was pondering the challenge of making the teenage boy’s need to crash his plane into the American fleet a believable behavior. What was the motivational path he had to follow throughout the book that brings him to preform such an act and what event threw him into a final state of confusion that a mentor can use to have him pass from boyhood to manhood.

Certainly not out of nationalism. That would be too easy. Even if his preteen years were raised by a Japanese family in LA. That would not make for an interesting motivation. It had to be more personal and one that derives from the main theme of the book – a young boy coming of age in a foreign culture.

The pieces seem to have come together while watching a movie on TV. It wasn’t the movie itself, but the thoughts that crossed my mind while I lay there. It’s funny how the subconscious mind works on a problem when you hit a creative roadblock.

My objective is to create in the boy’s mind a dead end – the result of conflicting emotions and goals. None of which provide a solution to who he is and what he must become.

Through the book, he experiences the bigotry against his Japanese nanny – the person who loved and cared for him after his mother’s death and his father’s abandonment. Then his acceptance by his adoptive Japanese family and his acceptance of their culture – in particular the Japanese father’s Samurai code – which is then ripped from him when he arrives in Japan as an outcast. He finally gains acceptance by his Japanese brethren while working for a criminal element that uses him for their objectives. He also is seduced into the militarist Bushido Way and its hijacking of the true Samurai code. But he creates an enemy that tries to stifle him at every turn. He arrives at a crisis point when he is told that he is half Japanese because his mother was a Burako. Now he can prove himself as a Japanese. But the Burako is a looked down upon class of Japanese islanders and highly prejudiced against. Now being ostracized because he is both American and a Burako, he sees his salvation of proof in the ultimate ends of Bushido which he still clung to – the kamikaze. But even then, he is prevented from this by his sworn enemy and finally understands that there is even Japanese against Japanese bigotry and no bastardized code of honor will gain one respect.

In the final analysis, he understands what the Shinto monk was trying to teach him in the book. The true meaning of the Samurai and his respect by his community in exchange for his responsibility to his community and that suicide is a coward’s way out – not the warrior’s way.

I think I can use this process to make the story arc believable. We’ll have to see.


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