Sunday, March 11, 2012

Using Medical Symptoms to Add Depth to a Story

In my Sci-Fi trilogy (The Judge, Infinity Quest, The Empress of Tridon), I developed a new concept of God and His relation to man. The story is extremely complex and, at one point, the heroine, Eve, sets a plot in place to destroy one version of the entity claiming to be God. The plot is twisted and, like a sweet onion, has many layers of delicious deceit. At the time I wrote the story, I was motivated by a TV series called “Rome.” The series fascinated me because the women in it were consistently conniving and vicious. They never said what they meant; they never did what they said. It was better than watching C-SPAN.

As my Sci-Fi story developed, it was clear to me that Eve wouldn’t be able to confront “God” on his terms, or any reasonable terms for that matter. In the context of the story, God used alternate realities as weapons, so Eve could not really know if she were attacking God, or if she was just doing a “dry run” in an alternate reality that God created to gather information. That’s the problem with trying to attack an omniscient foe—He really can know everything, or can trick you into revealing what you intend to do.

As an author, I find situations like the conflict between Eve and God exhilarating. Maybe it’s my own devious nature. I’m not sure. What I know is I love reading material where the solution isn’t obvious, because those situations are more like real life. I also enjoy writing my characters into situations that seem impossible. Relative to God, Eve was in such a situation. Without going into how Eve tricked one version of God, there came a time when that version of God took her bait, and paid the ultimate price with his death. But even then, I didn’t want his death to be obvious, and I wanted the reader to feel sorry for him even though he was the villain.

My villains are never one-dimensional. They have good and bad features, with the bad only slightly outweighing the good. In fact, one could argue that Eve does the Universe a disservice by killing the version of God she manages to terminate. By the way, that is also true of Lucifer when Miss Havana triumphs in The Substitute. Most readers feel sorry for the devil.

But back to the main point of this blog. So, when it came time to kill off Eve’s enemy, I wanted to do it in a way that God himself didn’t know He was dying. After all, if He knew He was dying, He would strike back at Eve. That’s where a little research on medical symptoms came in handy. In this case, I used the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. If God went slowly into the night, He wouldn’t know who to strike back at or why He should … or even that He was dying.

Therefore, I let Him drift in the heavens where He had reigned from trillions of years, gradually becoming more impacted by a slow moving virus … until He just ceases to exist. That was a most interesting chapter to write for a number of reasons. First, the reader gets insight into what God is seeing and feeling, like a real Alzheimer’s patient might. Second, I could give glimpses of distant memories from God’s point of view as his older memories become clearer and his most recent memories fade. I also found it fascinating to attempt to infuse Gods fading memories with the frustration of knowing something isn’t right, but not being able to put your finger on what it is.

While God is dying, Eve twists in the wind, wondering if another version of God will find out about her deceit. Before the story concludes, another version of God does discover what Eve has done, and confronts her directly with her ultimate “sin.” No one will see the end coming; it was a delight to write.

I’ve copied a portion of God’s parting thoughts below (taken from Chapter 23 of The Empress of Tridon, an xoxopublishing.com e-book) As the chapter unfolds, all Alzheimer’s well-known symptoms come into play. I believe the use of real symptomology adds depth to a very difficult question: how indeed does one kill God? Here’s the excerpt:

How many millennia have I watched the stars come and go? I remember clearly the day of my death as man, the day of my introduction to eternity, but there’s a hollowness growing in me I cannot explain. Have I slept? Do I sleep? Events I have set in place have come to pass, I’m certain of that because I can see glimpses of the results in my mind, but I don’t recall the intervening steps. How did those things happen? Have I always been like this?

Before me lies the vastness of space, the beauty of it all, but I don’t remember my exact place in all of creation. I know I am Marid, but where is my home and how do I get there? Do I have a home? I believe I’ve been wandering for some time, but I don’t remember where I was going or how long I’ve been here. Do I continue on this path?

I feel an odd pull on my mind, as if a distant memory is trying to reach out to me. I can’t see it clearly; it’s as if someone close to me is calling out, but there are no others like me, are there? Am I not alone? Haven’t I always been alone? If so, then what can this memory be? Why does it touch the far corner of my mind as if I should know it? Who could it be?

Perhaps there are others, less than me, which I have put in place to help me manage…that which I am to manage, perhaps a vast domain, but I don’t recall now how I reach out to them, to the others. How do I commune with them? Is there a sequence of words I’ve forgotten, perhaps a code of some kind? Where are they? Where did I leave them when I put them in place? Do they still exist?

There might have been something important I was to do soon, something very important…a place to go, perhaps an event? It nags at my mind. Maybe I should stay here until I remember? Will wandering like this help me find my way? Is someone waiting for me ahead? Oh dear, will I disappoint the others if I don’t meet their expectations?

I played a game once. Would that help me now? Numbers! I remember…something about primes? But what are primes and why did I want to know about them? Numbers and…infinity…they’re related, aren’t they? I remember the game, but I can’t recall how to play it. Were the others involved too? Funny, I don’t remember being this forgetful, but I’m really not sure about that either. Have I always been like this? There are no others here, or I would ask them; others? Where are the others?

I remember working on a project, long ago. There were many others then, but they were not like me. They were more like I once was. But where did I put them? They were here a moment ago, they were all here, but where are they now? Perhaps if I focus really hard, I can remember? Where are they; where am I?

Damn! This is so frustrating! The goddamn universe is stacked up against me! I will get you, all of you! In a blinding instant, ring after ring of radiant energy surges from Marid’s body like rings of lightning, dissipating into the emptiness of deep space. You bastards! I will get you all! I hear you in my mind, snickering because I have forgotten some trivial and insignificant thing. You have no value to me! I am who I am, and I always will be so! You are nothing! Show yourselves that I may deal with you NOW!

Isn’t the tranquility of space relaxing and peaceful beyond measure? See the colors of the stars; see what I mean? All the wavelengths together, they light the path ahead and beckon me.

I’d like to go there, to see the colors up close, but I’ve forgotten how to do that. Yesterday I could do it, I think, but today I feel different. Something has changed, like I am somehow different within. I don’t feel like I once did. There’s calmness within me now, a lack of urgency to things. Why was I so rushed before?

Please visit my web site at http://cookinwithmisshavana.blogspot.com/ for excerpts and buy links for all my novels.

Thank you, Sweet ‘N Sexy Divas, for having me here today.

James L. Hatch


Tina Donahue said...

Wow - what a concept - God dying. I don't think I've ever heard that before. Your books are amazing, James. So very unique and thought provoking.

Sarah J. McNeal said...

James, I left a comment for you earlier but something happened to it. I loved your plot line, a wonderfully convoluted approach. I also liked that you had God as a multi-facetted being. What a concept, to use Alzheimers as the killing tool. I liked your terrific idea. The last two paragraphs of your excerpt read like poetry.
All the best.

James L. Hatch said...

Hi Tina and Sarah:

Sorry I didn't respond yesterday. I was on the road from Texas to Colorado. Thank you both for your comments. I try to make everything original, but am still having trouble getting my name out there. Writing is a tough business to break into. I'm hoping I can make sales progress with the three I have in print (Kill Zone, The Substitute, and Oh, Heavens, Miss Havana!) and somehow use that to bring the others to the public's attention. There are just so many great authors. Good thing most of us write for the fun of it.