thesis tuesday

Thesis Tuesday

So until I’m done with the thesis, I am going to, whenever I feel like it, talk about my thesis project. You may or may not remember but I am doing a creative writing thesis which means I am writing a novel instead of an academic paper (though paper is hardly an accurate representation of the work poured into a thesis). I am currently two thirds done and yes, it is as difficult as any author will tell you. I still hesitate to call myself a writer or an author simply because I feel like I’m being too pretentious and reaching for glories that are not truly mine. Can you see the insecurity? Can you smell it? Take a deep breath!

Anyway, so my novel is folk fantasy since it predominantly deals with supernatural folks. Okay fine, it is about Fae. It’s a fairytale. Sort of. I hate writing synopses because I suck at them so spectacularly. Now writing a novel is hard work. That much you knew, right? This does not mean that anyone reading my novel has to consider the work I have put in it when reviewing it. I’d like to think that hard work is something that goes in any novel and as such should not even be considered. In fact, if people were to soften their reviews, I’d be offended. But I’m getting ahead of myself because I haven’t even finished my first draft.

I’ve writing in first person, present tense and oh my god, it is so limiting. I mean, it is invigorating but at the same time, it is definitely limiting the stuff I can talk about. Worldbuilding becomes extremely difficult to do when your perspective is limited to one character and I have that word three times. I’m sorry. My character only knows what she can see, understand and know. She cannot use certain words because they are too modern, stuff like electricity, molecule and okay are not in her vocabulary. Her experiences are finite and narrow, her landscape has been unchanging, she’s a sylvan character and her sense of self is shatter in the most spectacular way. Her comprehension is tied to the landscape in which she grew up (a forest) and her desires are birthed by her inability to find a place in which belongs. As are nearly all the protagonists in children’s novels, she’s an outsider. That’s what makes her so interesting.

Her name is Croi (Kree) and I have tried to ensure that all the names I use in my story have hidden meanings that will be apparent to no one except me but that I feel adds a depth to the novel to anyone who wants to go there. My thesis supervisor looked at the pages and pages of family trees and other background information I gave her and sent me a harried look like “What is this?” But you know, no matter how much behind-the-scenes work I do on the world, none of it means anything if I cannot weave it into the story. And it’s so easy to get overwhelmed by other issues. So I’ve decided that the first draft will be purely for the story, the second will be for the language and the third will be when I try to iron out everything that needs to be ironed out.

What matters most to me at the end is that I like what I’m writing. Anyone else liking my story would be a bonus but if I can’t live with the characters I’ve created and the stories they tell, what’s the point, huh? For the longest time, I was uncertain because my writing is not like other people’s writing, as in, the way I structure my book is a bit different and honestly, most of the times I’m swimming in the dark. I do two or three raw drafts of one chapter simply because I hate what I write so much. But if I work hard, it’s bound to reflect in the work I do. I’m not afraid of people telling me that something needs changing or doesn’t make sense right now because it is important that I know what other perspectives on the book are. Because ultimately, though I am writing a book I like, I want other people to read it and perhaps, if possible, like it somewhat.

It doesn’t bode well me for me though when, after I’ve explained to my mother what I’ve written so far, she gives me a look and says, “You’re an alien, aren’t you?” Here’s an excerpt I’ve shared before but reworked:

A hint of red. An alluring curve. The anticipation of sweetness.

The apple promises and I fall. Eyes wide open and hand grasping. My teeth bite into the flesh with a satisfying crunch. My chin is sticky with juice.

The fruit-selling human will wonder about the missing apple later. He will think one of the dirty little humans took it. They run wild in the market – their fleshy forest. Right now, as I crouch under the fruit cart eating the apple, Mr. Fruit-Seller is talking to Madame Big-Nose and her three daughters. The third one, I like. Her eyes are like purple grapes. She leaves me food in her garden next to the well. Cinders, they call her. Sooty Cinders.

I am not supposed to be here. In this sticky, stinky collection of moving humans. Rich ones that try to mask their stench with perfumes. Flowers are sacrificed and the bees mourn. The poor ones cannot afford the floral sacrifice so theirs, at least, is an honest stink.

I look around the market and spy an old woman with too many toffee sticks. I ease her burden. The merchant across from the baker has scarves the colours of the sunset. I help myself to one. The market is my favourite place in the human city. It is set up by the big gates and it is always full of sounds, smells and colours. The smells are not always pleasant but the colours frequently dance in the sunshine. Humans set up shop in any space they can find. Sometimes they quarrel in loud, ugly voices and I study the shapes their mouths make as they throw their words at each other.

These humans cannot see what walks amongst them. What runs, skips, breathes amongst them. The animals do. A tabby purrs from her perch on a wooden fence as I pass by and I hiss at her. Meows are not music to me.

They live such busy lives. These humans. Running, crying, breaking and mending. A carefully choreographed chaos. Who is their creator then? These mud puppets who think they rule the world?

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13 thoughts on “Thesis Tuesday

  1. I’m not usually attracted to fae books, but your writing here is beautiful! There’s a lyrical quality to it. Thank you for sharing the excerpt of your book. Best of wishes on finishing your first draft and on the revision process. :)

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  2. My favorite line is “The apple promises and I fall.” It’s a line I’d add to my “beautiful words of others” tattoo collection. I have faith in your writing, Nafiza. You should, too. Really.

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  3. Call me a mad creature as well because I love stories from non-human perspectives. Yep, swimming in the dark sums up writing well.

    I love the spunk of your character’s voice. I love the imagery and the words – especially the ‘fleshy forest.’ I really like the 5th paragraph because it descends into a ground level look of the market and so much is happening but Croi’s perceptions and interactions with it are balanced well. The opening lines are fragmented which made me hesitate too but I was hooked from the apple promise line. I also love the last line with the mad puppets.

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    1. My thesis supervisor alerted me to the presence of numerous sentence fragments and I don’t know, I didn’t intend for it to be as fragmented as it is. The style seems to fit the character though she does change as the book progresses and as she grows becoming different. I think I’ve tried to make her honest in her reactions and observations. I hope I’ve succeeded.

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      1. I think that you do succeed in capturing an honest character voice =) Fragments work in some instances because they poke the reader to slow down and actually read the words, consider and savour them.

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