I should have written this last night, but yesterday I set out at 8:00 to write in Hero in Exile, and two hours / 1,300 words later, I realized that I really like this story.
Maybe I’m just a sucker for the romantic, exotic Western view of the Middle East–stunning deserts with their rocky cliffs and enormous sand dunes, desert caravans with their exotic wares, colorful clothing and tents, etc. Desert Bedouin with long, flowing robes and headscarves, swords and horses, striking fast and then disappearing back into the desert. I know it’s not entirely true…but I’ve been over there, and it’s not entirely false either. But in any case, I just really love this kind of stuff, and it really shows in the stories I write.
I mean, both Hero and Phoenix feature relatively primitive tribal desert cultures. In Phoenix, though, the people have a very low level of technology (bows and arrows), whereas in Hero they have stuff like nuclear powered dune buggies and portable hydroponic gardens. However, in both stories, the society is very tribal, monotheistic religions with prophets play a very important role, women and men are strictly separated, and everything else is just very…Arab. Maybe not Arab 100% (because hey, I’m not an Arab myself and even though I’ve lived among Arabs for the past year+ I’m sure I still have some misconceptions about them), but enough so that a Westerner reading one of these stories will basically be like “oh, these are Arabs on another planet. Cool.”
But last night, as I finished up the first chapter of Hero, I realized that I’ve got a really interesting set of conflicts going on here. Tristen (the main character) basically crash landed on this world after his family’s ship was attacked in orbit, and he’s been raised by this group of pseudo-Arabs in the desert. He wants to get back out into space and find out what happened to his biological family, but he has mixed feelings because he’s strongly attached to his adopted family.
Meanwhile, the sheikh of the tribe (Tristen’s adopted father) doesn’t want Tristen to leave because he has no living sons to inherit after him. He wants to manipulate Tristen to keep him in the camp. And the way he tries to do it is sooo dirty! It’s going to screw up Tristen’s emotions and relationships so bad, it’s just going to be so much fun to write. Because, you see, the sheikh assumes that Tristen, like most adolescent boys, is a slave to his hormones. The thing is, though, that Tristen has a conscience and a sense of honor that he’s willing to die for. But when everything starts to go grey, and all the role models Tristen’s ever had turn out to be false, what does he do?
Oh, it’s going to torture him! And this is just the first section of the book–this is nothing!
The trouble is, if I’m already 7,700 words into this novel and I just finished the first chapter, the completed first draft is going to be WAY long. As in, maybe 150,000 words if I’m lucky. I mean, the scope of my novel here borders on epic. There is so much cool stuff I’ve got planned for this story, and I haven’t even really figured out the ending.
So, if I’m going to write this novel, I’m really going to have to focus. No more avoidance behavior or procrastination. Butt in chair, hands on keyboard.
I did that the last two days and really had a lot of fun. Friday, I wrote 1,300 words in Hero in Exile, and today I revised the first part of chapter 6 in Phoenix of Nova Terra. Trouble is, I have trouble switching between the two projects. I can work on one the one day, and the other on another day, but not both on the same day. Still need to work on that.
So anyways, since I talked about how my understanding (and love for) Arabs and Arab culture has influenced my writing, I’d like to close this post by linking to some my friends’ blogs from the Jordan study abroad this summer:
I hung out with Nikki quite a bit on the Jordan study abroad, and she’s got a pretty cool blog. She has tons of pictures on her site that you can check out. Right now she’s in Ecuador blogging about her experiences there, but if you check out the archives you can see some really interesting posts she wrote.
Gini didn’t blog very much while we were in Jordan, but she has an interesting post up right now about her feelings on Americans and the Arab-Israeli conflict. I’ll just say that I share her frustrations 100% and leave it at that (for now).
Nate’s got an interesting blog about the far off places he visits. You should check it out; he’s got some interesting stories and perspectives about the places we visited in Jordan. Plus, he can name 88 countries in five minutes.
Finally, Breanne blogged extensively about Jordan and the Middle East, probably more than me in fact. Even though her experiences were not always as positive as mine, she describes what things are like over there really well. Her blog isn’t active anymore (she’s on her mission now), but it’s worth it to check out the archives.
One last thought: I was chatting with an Arab friend of mine from Zarqa today. She’s a writer like me, and we exchanged stories and gave each other book recommendations while we were over there at the University of Jordan. I emailed her a copy of Hero in Exile (what I have so far), and it’s going to be really interesting to hear back from her. She’s probably going to think it’s ridiculous–my dreamy, romantic ideas about Arab culture as a foreigner looking at her culture–so it’s going to be really interesting to get her feedback.