Ryan Baron North
I've made it to draft III of a book I've been working on that I call Strix. I've been working on the damn thing for much longer than I care to admit. Granted, what it is now does not resemble what it looked like back when I started out to write a vampire book. I had an idea back then, but I did not understand it. I was not old enough to realize what exactly I was trying to say.
Many years later, I've found my voice—I think. Coming to the third draft, you start to question yourself. With so many hours of work under your belt, you start to ask if you are good enough—if the book will be good enough.
To top it off, I've been working non-stop. I've put more consistent time into this novel than I have ever put into anything, and I'm terrified that my whirlwind of productivity will give way to burn out.
Anyway, the reason I bring up voice, and the understanding of what I'm trying to say, is because the third draft, for me, is about themes. Over the next few months, I won't be writing like in Draft II where it's all about scene structure, plot progression, and story-arch. Draft III is about deciding what sentences have earned the right to stay, finding what words invoke the atmosphere I am trying to create, and discovering what details
are keeping my characters from being truly dynamic.
To look at it for myself, I'm going to lay out a few of the key themes of Strix:
First... Guilt and Remorse. Strix is a vampire novel, but if I had to say what it was about, I would say, Strix is an exploration of guilt and remorse. This theme is truly the one I was not ready, or knowledgeable enough, to discuss when I first had the idea for the novel. Even when writing about dark gods, demons, and vampires, portions of my work are autobiographical, and I write what I know. To write about guilt and remorse, there's a very dark and lonely road a person needs to walk first.
Strix focuses on a young vampire—only a few years dead. Before he died, he made mistakes and lost the love of his life, and as a relatively fresh divorcee, he carries a lot of the pain from that event into his new, dead world with him. On top of the guilt and remorse he feels from his past, he is now a creature that, by definition, rapes and murders to survive. Strix reveals how destructive remorse can be when it is left unchecked, it explores how there's many hands involved in a single mistake, and it walks the reader through what it is like to reconcile with ourselves.
Next... Masculinity. This story is about the damage a person can do to themselves, so Strix also explores why a person can be their own worst enemy. The main character is a recent divorcee that lost everything that mattered to him. What's worse, he did it to himself—as he sees it. When the reader meets Tyler, he has already been spending time trying to be a better person, perhaps too late. Part of his journey is recognizing the negative behaviors and thoughts that are a part of him. Like most men of his generation, he was taught that he should never show any emotion beyond anger, he should be competitive in all things, and the only thing he should be afraid of is his own personality unfiltered by the negativity of his father, and his father before him. Realizing that his habits of anger and self-destruction cost him everything, Tyler attempts to walk a path to bettering himself, even when his undead-nature makes the path nearly impossible to traverse.
Finally... The Generational Divide. Most vampire novels usher the reader into a world of ancient nobility "colonizing" whatever lands they set their sights on, or sexy teens learning about love. What I find far more realistic, based on my experiences in the land of the living: Imagine a world where your boss never has the good grace to finally die. They simply continue to exist, using their position to make decisions for a world that does not exist anymore, and a world where only they can benefit--and they have a century's worth of depraved, bloody habits. A difficult topic, Strix explores the relationships between the young and the old.
These are only a couple of the topics I want to tackle with Strix. It's a lot, and sometimes I fear I bit off more than I can chew. But something in me says I don't have a choice. So, I'm off to go get some more work done.