A Rose By Any Other Name

I’m back in the office. My summer is over with, voluntarily. I’m thinking that I could use the extra time to get ready for the class I’ll be teaching this fall, but I’m also hoping that the time in the office will force me to get back into writing Tesla’s Ghost.

The other motivator came from my good friend Celeste Perrino-Walker. She just finished her latest novella and asked me to take a look at it. Looking at colleagues’ work is always a good incentive for working on your own.

Anyway, this afternoon’s work has me adding a scene to chapter 1 of the book to foreshadow what happens later. Chapter 1 is set in 1892 and circles around Fritz Lowenstein, his bride of two weeks Elizabeth and their arrival in New York from Europe. Fritz has come to join Nikola Tesla in his laboratory in New Jersey. Most of the chapter establishes Fritz and Elizabeth as characters as well as sets the plotline in relation to Tesla. Usually I am pretty firm in what I have planned for the opening chapter, then go back halfway (or mostway) through the book and rewrite the first chapter, and there’s always the chance I will do that, but I am still trying to see how it will all work, so there’s a lot of tweaking going on.

Chapter 2 is a hard left turn. It’s set in the present, 124 years later, and concerns Eli Inverness, the great-grandson of Fritz and Elizabeth. Future chapters will jump back and forth between the two time periods. What ties them together is a secret notebook that Tesla asks Fritz to keep over the years with research in it that Tesla doesn’t want made public. When that notebook gets into Eli’s hands in modern day, it creates all sorts of interesting challenges.

I want the two time periods to be a study of parallels and contrasts. I have Elizabeth having vivid dreams that end up being predictors of things to come, and Eli inherits that trait from her. So that is in both time periods. At the same time, I want to contrast the behavior, the motivations and even the language of the people in the two time periods. It’s easy enough to do this when you are talking about 1892 New Jersey, but the modern-day scenes talk about college students, so I want their language to be as contemporary as possible.

In my Interpersonal Communication class, we studied about an Open Dictionary that Merriam-Webster offers online where new words for the English language are submitted every day. My plan was to take a smattering of these words and add them to the dialogue with the college students when they are by themselves. It sounded pretty cool, cyberpunkish even, but when I started replacing common language with the new terms, I found it didn’t seem to work. Not only did the words seem like they were phony and didn’t belong, but I worried (as has been the case in other projects I have written) that my readers would be turned off by anything that wasn’t easy to understand.

And so, even though I haven’t completely given up on the idea, I doubt I will use it. This is a multi-book series, spanning several years, so there may be an opportunity to go cyberpunk. But it would have to justify itself, and I would have to convince my writer self that I can pull it off.

We’ll see.