Friday, 6 March 2015

E is for ENDS

Later in the year I’ll be bringing you an A-Z of THE MADAGASKAR PLAN which, like its predecessor, will give a ‘behind the scenes’ insight to the writing of the book. In the meantime I’m going to sneak in the letter E.

I never write ‘The End’ when I finish a book. I’ve always found it rather juvenile (with apologies to all those writers who do). I also think it inaccurate. A novel doesn’t end just because you finish putting the words down on the page. An author can revisit their work (and here I must admit I’m still tinkering with the text of The Afrika Reich; the definitive version of which is not the paperback but the one on my computer.) A book also develops a life of its own once it’s published and readers begin to make it theirs. If it stays around long enough, different generations of readers will interpret it in different ways. ‘The End’ sounds presumptive, and far too final.

Nevertheless, Madagaskar is at last finished. I’ve checked the proofs, made my final alterations, and from this point to publication I can no longer make any substantial changes to the text. I require something to mark the moment and tell my publisher that I’m done. 

When I worked as a foreign correspondent, I needed a similar word to signify an article had reached its final paragraph. This was especially true when I was filing from some dodgy country abroad in those days of more primitive telecommunications, when articles were sometimes cut short in transmission. The word I was advised to use was ‘ends’. There’s something about the present tense of the verb with its double connotation of conclusion and continuation that seems ideally suited for being the very last word in a manuscript. I’ve always used it for my books. It seems appropriate today.

E is also for Epic

I’ve written before how I planned [geddit?] to do something different with Madagaskar. One of the qualities I wanted was a much bigger feel than the first book. To give it a truly epic sweep. To that end it’s meatier than the original in both the physical sense - it’s almost 100 pages longer – and in terms of content which sees six interweaving narrative strands, much more world building and a story that will take you from Britain to Africa (Kongo, Sudan, Deutsch Ost Afrika, Mozambique), to Madagaskar and finally the heart of the Reich and Germania itself.

Intriguingly, if you look at this Wikipedia entry and its list of ten characteristics of the epic, Madagaskar uses all but numbers 3 (evocation of the muse), 5 (epithets) and 6 (epic catalogue):