MAKE BELIEVE STORIES NEED MAPS THAT ARE REAL

Every evil scientist needs a secret lab, right?

I gave the bad guy in The Deep Cove Lineage, Dr. Sleeth, more than a lab.  I gave him an entire underground complex fully funded out of the covert operations of the United States.  Yeah, I was having  fun with that.  His job was to create a monster that could be useful in warfare, that could be unleashed behind enemy lines and turned lose, so to speak.

Of course he succeeded, because that is how the Deep Cove monster came to be.

The last two weeks I’ve been working on the next installment (I hope to have it out by Thanksgiving) and it is set almost entirely in the underground complex named DECOSOL, which is an acronym for Deep Cove Special Operations Laboratory.  I gave it a long acronym name because when I was in Port Orchard I was surrounded by government employees and sailors in the Navy, and those people use acronyms like you wouldn’t believe.  I mean, everything is an acronym.  Whenever they talked it was like a whole other language.  So, I made this one up as a tip of my hat to them.

Continuity has been an issue with this story, now the fifth one in the series, but the biggest problem has been the actual layout of the compound.  In The Deep Cove Lineage I mostly described individual rooms–the lagoon where the monster was kept–the cafeteria–private quarters–administrative areas–you know, the places things happened.  What I didn’t do was work on a unified map of the complex.  Shame on me, because now the plot requires an almost systematic walk-through of the facility, and I need to describe where the characters are, where they are going, and how they get there.

So, with my large red Sharpie I made a map.

TOP SECRET:  A map of DECOSOL
TOP SECRET: A map of DECOSOL

I am not much of an artist, but in my mind I need to know where things are because those things matter when telling a story.  I recently read a novel that had people on a spaceship and, although the book was good, I never could get a mental map of where they were on the spaceship and what was happening where.  I don’t want my readers to have the same problem.

I don’t think sharing the map gives too much away, and you probably can’t read my handwriting anyway.  The bottom of the map where it says “Above/Below” is the entry place.  I really liked that piece in the story.  You’ll have to buy it to find out why.  From there, on one side of the compound is the lagoon, which I sometimes call the lair, and on the extreme other side (top left) are the private quarters for the bad guy Dr. Sleeth.  I had to shrink them down a bit because I ran out of paper.  In between those two areas is essentially an H-shaped facility.  Again, I was thinking about government buildings here.  One hallway is filled labs that heads into the cafeteria.  A hallway joins that large room to another large room, what I call the workroom.  To the right of the workroom is a hallway that runs parallel to the labs, but it has living quarters for the scientists.  Above the workroom, along a zigzag hallway is Dr. Sleeth’s bedroom, living room, and private laboratory.  There is lots of cool stuff inside his private lab.

The blue ink line represents the water line.  Everything to the right of that line is actually built under the lake.  And yeah, that matters.

I share all of this just to say that when writing it is sometimes helpful to draw it out, or diagram it, even if the actual picture or image never makes it into the text itself.  This kind of grunt work is a part of the background story, and that is what I think gives even far-flung fiction like government engineered lake monsters a feeling of reality.  I am reminded of a story I once heard about C. S. Lewis.  Apparently he made the first map of Narnia when he was about seven years old.  When he was an adult, he could write about Narnia as an adult with clarity, even though Lewis still had some major continuity problems, but that is a topic for a different blog.

I resisted the temptation to put a “You Are Here” sticker on the map.  I am proud of myself.

If you’re interested in reading the first four stories, head over to my Amazon author page (click here) and pick them up.  Most of them are only 99 cents.  The first two, Deep Cove and Deep Cove: The Party Crasher are pretty short, but The Deep Cove Lineage and The Deep Cove Investigation are both good sized short stories, about 12,000 words each.  Those last two are also more sci-fish than the first ones, which are more horror/monsterish . If you read Lineage and Investigation, you have the essence of the story.

CHRISTIAN WRITING

Yesterday Matt Ventura came by the Pastor Greenbean office and recorded on video for my upcoming presentation about literary apologetics for the Christian Writing Conference.  The webinar is free this year, but you have to sign up (click here to register).  The conference is put on by my publisher Athanatos Christian Ministries.  This is the third one I’ve participated in and it is always a learning experience for me.  I’ve cut-n-pasted a small portion of my opening.

. . . Let me start by taking you back in time.  Yes, let’s start our story with a little time travel.  Let’s go way back in time—not days, weeks or months but years.  Go back in time, let’s say, a decade ago.  Can you remember?

It is a decade ago and I am at a camp, a children’s Bible camp and some of the children and I are helping the missions teacher clean up after a lesson.  One of the children asks me, “Pastor Jamie, have you read Harry Potter?”

“No,” I said.  “I’ve never heard of Harry Potter.”

Yeah, that is how far back in time we are, pre-Harry Potter saturation.  It feels like forever ago, but, yes, once upon a time no one had ever heard of a muggle.

Another woman, who was also helping clean up shouts across the room, “Harry Potter is evil and is a book of Satan!”

I asked the woman, “Why is that?  What is it about?”

She told me that it was about witches, and any book about witches is evil and against God.   Her pastor had said so.

That was when it got really interesting.  I said to her, “Well, we need to remember that perhaps one of the best children’s Christian books ever is titled, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

“I’ve never heard of that book,” she said.  “Who wrote it?”

Befuddled, I replied, “C.S. Lewis—the great apologetists and scholar of the Christian faith.  ScrewtapeMere ChristianityA Grief ObservedThe Problem of PainThe Weight of Glory?”

Nothing.  She had never heard of any of these.  I was making no progress.

Finally, she said, “Well, I’ve have to look into this Lewis guy, but I seriously doubt anyone who is a true Christian could ever write about witches and magic.”

She stayed away from me for the rest of the camp.

If we do literary apologetics correctly it is likely that people within our own faith community, people who would agree with our worldview and our love of Christ will misunderstand us and think we might be the enemy . . .

There will be many other presenters at the seminar, and remember, it is free.