In Germinal 1 I described how the story of SHADOWBOX developed from its earliest beginnings to the point where I knew what I wanted to write – what story I wanted to tell. But still I held off, unwilling to start writing until I had a framework – a storyboard – a script for the action.
In THE LAST RHINEMAIDEN, in keeping with the novel’s theme of a Sacred Kingship attuned to the tidal waters of the Thames, I deliberately set the action against the schedule of a complete tide cycle, 24 hours from high tide to high tide. The constriction set the pace for a novel that dealt with action, adventure, peril.
SHADOWBOX is different.
The overwhelming emotional drive of SHADOWBOX is the grief cycle, the adaptation to change and how different people deal with that in different ways. Grief takes time to manifest itself. I couldn’t cram the action of SHADOWBOX into a single day, nor even a weekend.
I needed more time.
Tied to this was the simple fact that Louis Beauregard travels from England to France. In 1832, this wasn’t as easy as hopping on the Eurostar. Dickens describes the journey in near(er) contemporary terms in A TALE OF TWO CITIES, and on that basis I knew that, again, I needed more time.
Then I remembered the elemental nature of the world I’d created.
The Sacred King – Le Roi Sacré – is attuned to the tides that affect the River Thames in London. The events of THE LAST RHINEMAIDEN take place over one tidal cycle, at the Spring Equinox. The one overarching, controlling factor in all this was clear:
Instantly, I grasped that a full month was the timescale I needed. My characters would have time to experience all the stages of the grief cycle in the 28 days, even if the timescale was too short for their grief to run its course.
From Full Moon – when madness stalks the earth – through the utter blackness of New Moon, when the night sky is darkest. A time of spiritual descent into shadow. Of light diminishing, of darkness, of utter annihilation.
But New Moon is also a time of renewal. A time when ideas, like seeds, sprout and grow, culminating in fruition at another Full Moon.
A month – a lunar cycle – gives my characters the opportunity to live for a little while with the consequences of the novel’s founding action.
A month is long enough for Louis to travel to Paris and for Godfrey to develop a life beyond his youthful parameters.
A month is long enough for grief to work on them both.
And thus, with this structure in place, I began to storyboard the novel which became SHADOWBOX.
Next: The fourth post in the SHADOWBOX series: The Maps I Used In 1832.
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