Inside My Head: Cleansed By Fire Edition, Again

So, the first time I did this “Inside My Head” thing I tried to both summarize the happenings of my novel Cleansed By Fire up to that point (when I had completed the first 13 parts) and give you some sense of how and why it was pulling together the way it was.

I’m finishing up the latest installment of the novel and have had limited time to really delve into the last segment or two that I need to write, so as I rebuild the creative juices, I thought I’d let you inside my cranium again, and do so (again) with the novel. I promise, at some point I’ll let you into my psyche (if you dare enter) with regard to other things I write around here.

Something has struck me since the last time I did this, given that I’ve written eight more installments, with a ninth almost ready to post: It is easier to be dystopian than hopeful.

I don’t know if this is an adage of writing in general with regard to future events or a reflection or my own mindset or just a sign of the times. But in coming to this realization, it reminds of the old saying “It’s easier to destroy than to create.”

Negativity, it seems to me, is easy to tap. If I may be so geeky as to say so, it’s like the Dark Side of the Force in the Star Wars movies. It gives you immediate satisfaction and power, simply by letting anger or fear rule you, instead of taking the harder and more positive route and getting better (and kinder) long-term results with the Light Side.

The thing is, while the setting of my novel, in the year 4001, isn’t truly dystopian (I don’t have slate gray skies and drab colored clothing as people are overtly oppressed by a totalitarian regime), there are definite dystopian elements. I have a very aggressive and well-nigh tyranical Vatican ruling over two and half continents. Sexual, procreation and marriage laws are frightingly rigid and violation of them can bring horrendous punishments to bear.

Also, I have several characters, both on the Vatican side and the terrorist side, who are ruled primilarly by naked ambition, sadism, or a combination of the two. I have a pair of twin mercenaries who are essentially aliens and probably seem amoral or just plain weird to many readers.

As fun and exciting as the stuff has been through much of the novel, from people getting sentenced to grisly punishments for premarital sex with prophylactics to mysterious murders to torture and revenge…well, one might start to wonder where the humanity is.

I started to key in more on that humanity when I realized in the eighth installment that Paulo was someone with a heart, a secret life that he treasures, and a complex set of obligations. I still have more fun with Maree, and she has a very noble element buried insides her I think, but I hope that Paulo is, ultimately, someone that readers will worry about more. Likewise, I have fun with Domina’s game playing, but it has become important for me to begin showing Gregory and Amaranth as a married couple with family on top of all their cares and concerns and need to play the game of intrigue.

In the end, I guess what I’m saying is that it’s easy to just go to the sex and violence and deceit. Much like a soap opera, that’s what oils the gears. But I force myself (and I’m generally glad that I do) now to remember that there are tender moments and warm moments that need to be in here or all I’m doing is providing entertainment. I want that entertainment to be there, certainly, but in the end, I want the story to matter to the readers and for them to walk away having cared about some of the characters on a visceral level, whether they end up living or dying by the time it’s all over.

(To view backstory information about the novel and access specific installments, click here.)


3 Responses to “Inside My Head: Cleansed By Fire Edition, Again”

  1. October 24, 2008 at 3:24 pm

    Wow. This is awesome. I realized the series of posts was a blog novel too late, so I never got to read any of them. But this post caught my attention, and now I want to read the completed work. Thanks for the page dedicated to links about the novel. I’ll make sure to give it all a read.

    (Did you ever think about publishing?)

  2. 2 Deacon Blue
    October 24, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    At some point, I’m going to begin putting the chapters together as independent PDF and/or Word files, assuming there is some way to download documents from this blog (not sure about that), but one of the reasons I did that portal page is I realized it would be challenging without it for anyone to try (or want) to begin reading it now.

    As for publishing, I don’t have any particular thoughts with this novel. I certainly wouldn’t mind if it happened. I always wanted to be a novelist but my career in writing turned to journalism, and both lack of time and laziness conspired to keep me from ever writing one. But with a blog and a desire to have content nearly every day around here, I realized that by doing it in installments, I could finally break my deadlock and begin writing a novel.

    Whether it will come together and be a successful effort in the end remains to be seen. But for now, simply doing it finally (at the age of 40) is enough for me.

  3. 3 Deacon Blue
    October 24, 2008 at 3:47 pm

    (By the way, I should note that when I say in my blog post that I am working on the last segment or two, I should clarify that I mean the last pieces on my next installment. The novel as a whole is still far from completion. I doubt we’re at the halfway point yet.)

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Deacon Blue is the blogging persona of editor and writer Jeffrey Bouley. The opinions of Jeff himself on this blog, and those expressed as Deacon Blue, in NO WAY should be construed as the opinions of anyone with whom he has worked, currently works, or will work with in the future. They are personal opinions and views, and are sometimes, frankly, expressed in more outrageous terms than I truly feel most days.

Jeff Bouley


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October 2008

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