First, check out this Twitter thread:


proposed twitter game: write about your own work as if you're writing one of The Toast's "How to Tell if You're in a ... Novel" series (also: The Toast, dreamy sigh)

Then follow the link to the source: How To Tell If You’re In a Novel

I like the idea. A lot.

What makes an F. L. Stevens novel unique? How would you know you were in The Forge?

  • The highest priests in the kingdom — from two different temples — are out to get you. One wants you dead, the other’s willing to settle for banishment.

  • You’ve had your life saved by servant girls so many times, you’ve almost lost count.

  • The women on the front-line of the war may be a little too ambitious for their own good.

  • Your job is your name.

  • Your captors are reduced to begging for your help.

  • Seeing the future will make you insane. Unless, of course, you started insane, then it may help you act more neurotypical.

  • If you can’t sing, you must at least try to keep the beat. If you can’t keep the beat, you’re going to get hurt.

  • It’s never clear whether or not you can accept gifts from the dead.

  • The compass has six directions.

  • If you can’t swear the oath, you shouldn’t pick up the sword.

Clearly, this idea works both ways. These are summaries from the current draft. I may want to look at places where I can add something this list in order to create a more gritty, detailed, immersive, and unique world.

I worry, a bit, about going too far down the road toward unique. There’s a balance there. I know if I don’t go too far, my writing can be dismissed as derivative and mundane.

The world of The Forge is politically complex, and I’m more interested in the consequences of the conflict, and how people are forced to respond to bad situations. I’m drawn to the idea of people who are ennobled or diminished by their response to a crisis. It happens in many small ways and a few big ways.

While my idea of political complexity doesn’t preclude striving to create a unique world, it makes the story potentially difficult to understand. Politics and the associated criminality are rich with conflicts, and many of the conflicts are hidden. In a sense, much of the book is an exposition of a secret puppeteer pulling strings to create situations for the characters to resolve. Exposing a complex world and complex politics? Not sure I want to try that.