We are not on the higher levels of intellectual experience here, although we will eventually arrive at those glorified heights. More in the oily confines of the local garage, with all sorts of tools surrounding us; the vehicle under construction, or repair, being the ‘story’.
The owner (writer) who brings a story into the garage should start at the very beginning, with the merest chassis on which the bodywork of the story’s setting and characters must be built. This chassis reflects the bare idea of the story; the setting, characters, or even merely a single scene. The engine to be fitted represents the genre of story. Whether it be mainline classic, uber, Conqueror, semi-original, or purely original. The side panels and styling represent the plot.
Then comes the model. Many drivers (authors) prefer a sturdy little town or city runabout. Nothing fancy, just adequate for those seriously congested streets involving heavy gas usage and wear and tear on the gears and brakes. Others enjoy the comfort of a four-door saloon, with plenty of luggage space in the boot, even if the engine leaves a little to be desired. It’s smooth-running, easy on gas, and has space enough for the kids on the school-run, as well as those Saturday shopping expeditions to the mall. Other drivers (writers) may like the kudos of a low, wire-wheeled sleek raceabout, with an evil engine that can burn rubber at horrifying speeds. Yet others (steady authors, with at least one long ‘Xena’ series behind them) may go for the SUV, or as it is called in Great Britain the 4x4 off-road model. These range from little delicate machines, which look as if they are only pretending to be SUV’s; to the heavy-set, massive ex-military Hummer-like vehicles which look as if they could take on a tank, and win.
All these represent varying kinds and types of story. It is the job of the driver/owner (author), working by themselves or with others (beta-readers/editors) to construct the vehicle (story) properly. Some prefer automatic transmission, giving a smooth run; the chapters of the story running easily in a free-flowing manner until the end. Others enjoy the old traditional manual gearbox lever, with its necessarily sometimes awkward clunky exchange from one gear (chapter/part) to the other. These all represent differing methods of delivering the story; whether in short chapters, long chapters; sections; or in a continuous stream-of-consciousness. There are many car models (story types) available, with various features and extra’s, for every taste.
Some prefer their engine to be standard grade, 0-60mph in 11 seconds. Others enjoy the thrill of a power plant which can rocket the passengers (the readers, may the Gods protect them) from 0-110mph in 7 seconds. This reflects the difference between a slow romantic tale, and an adventure packed with incident and action, never letting up on the tension for a single moment.
The vehicle make holds an important place in this theory of the novel. Most will carry on with their long-established and appreciated national representatives, Ford, Chevrolet, Chrysler; happy in their personal traditions. Others will feel the need for experimentation, going for foreign makes of higher standards or exotic style. Many will prefer to write the Hyundai type of story; set in foreign parts, but on a realistic basis in the ‘Lands We Know’. Others will step out into the unrestricted savannahs of the purely exotic; the Maserati; the Lamborghini; the Rolls-Royce; the Aston Martin. All these types of story are quite feasible and acceptable, if written properly.
Others may be more comfortable within the constraints of the vintage or classic. Pontiac, Lincoln, Buick, Oldsmobile. Perhaps straying, with a delicate toes-in-the-water precaution, into the erotic boundaries of an Edsel, Cadillac, Plymouth, DeSoto, or even Stutz Bearcat. These all represent the diverse possibilities any story can encompass, at the driver’s (author’s) discretion. Just as the aspiring vehicle owner can visit numerous dealerships, before making their final choice; so the author can experiment with varying styles, settings, types, and methods of writing.
And the end result, after the completed or repaired vehicle rolls out from the oily smelly confines of the noisy garage? This can be anything from a dusty, rusty, broken down Ford pick-up from 1948; to a modern bright red Chrysler 200 convertible. That is, a run of the mill standard boring classic tale based on the plots and episodes of the ‘Xena’ TV series; to a rollicking no-holds-barred sex romp of the imagination, featuring our favourite happy duo in all sorts of revealing and highly enjoyable frolics. The author’s imagination knows no limits; and the vehicle they eventually choose to drive, for the edification of the passengers who decide to accompany them on their journeys, will reflect their hopes, choices, desires, and needs for the ‘Xena, Warrior Princess’ stories they most enjoy. As Henry James said, in his ‘The Art of Fiction’,—
‘Art lives upon discussion, upon experiment, upon curiosity, upon variety of attempt, upon the exchange of views and the comparison of standpoints . . . The successful application of any art is a delightful spectacle, but the theory too is interesting; and though there is a great deal of the latter without the former I suspect there has never been a genuine success that has not had a latent core of conviction. . . . The only reason for the existence of a novel is that it does attempt to represent life. . . . Literature should be either instructive or amusing, and there is in many minds an impression that these artistic preoccupations, the search for form, contribute to neither end, interfere indeed with both. . . That, I think, represents the manner in which the latent thought of many people who read novels as an exercise in skipping would explain itself if it were to become articulate. . . The execution belongs to the author alone; it is what is most personal to him, and we measure him by that. The advantage, the luxury, as well as the torment and responsibility of the novelist, is that there is no limit to what he may attempt as an executant. . . ’
This is an Uberfic set in Great Britain in 1942. Zena Mathews, a young New Zealand woman, and her navigator Gabrielle Parker work as pilots for part of SOE—Special Operations Executive, where all operations are top secret. On a flying mission they meet an enemy aircraft.