In the original Spirit, the idea was to have my main 21st Century character overcome her fear and ride and win a prodigious competition that lasted a few months within two weeks. Realistically, she wouldn’t have either the stamina or skills to do that. Sure, her body would have the physical memory of how to ride, but it wouldn’t necessarily remember all the finite details. Like, for example, positing in order to counter the bounce of a horse’s trot. She just experienced that in Chapter 9 and as a result of that and the whole ride, aggravated her bum knee. Chapter 10 was supposed to be her and her brothers talking about the ride and then committing to ride in the competition, thinking they would make an appearance in the first stage of the competition without her riding that much. Except as I wrote, or rather picked at, the chapter this week, it started coming across as contrived to me. To be realistic, I need my main character forget about riding for a year and concentrate on building herself up.
Lack of realism and things seeming too contrived or too easy are some of the biggest negatives that I see on Amazon. So, of course, I am trying to avoid them. But this puts me in an interesting dilemma. Do You Believe In Legend? has a scene in the last chapter that I don’t want to lose. That passage involves the shuttle Endeavour‘s final mission down the streets of LA toward the California Science Center.
While I wanted to be among the crowd witnessing the extraordinary event live, the CNN’s video and picture coverage gave me an interesting, broader perspective. Three items especially stick in my mind. The shuttle making it’s way down the street with inches to spare, the shuttle driving over an empty 405 freeway, and a man on a rooftop coming body to nose with the behemoth. While living in Southern California, I may have driven down the street I saw and I know I drove down the 405. That freeway was never empty! Most of the times, it was a parking lot of cars stuck in traffic. To see it deserted as the shuttle passed over was surreal. The sheer scale of the shuttle against the humans and buildings was amazing, especially when I thought about the guy on the rooftop.
I used my feelings of wonder and amazement to write this passage:
All these images and many more were burned in my memory because they reminded me of Randy. He was so out of place in my time, yet he had brought hope to me and everyone else he met. His presence in our lives made the dream of space seem, for a brief moment, so real.
If I push Spirit back a year, the timeline in Legend will get messed up. Now, granted I could move the passage to earlier time in the book, so it still happened in its proper time in history. But the context and power wouldn’t be the same.
One solution to my problem is to start Spirit a year earlier. I’m hesitant about doing this because I’ve already re-written the timeline of events in these books so many times it isn’t funny. When I wrote the original story, it was 1986 so I based everything around that time. As the years have progressed, I’ve wanted to keep everything current and relevant, so I’ve moved the event dates around to match.
A second idea, write the books in parallel making Legend basically repeat the same of the events in Spirit with more details. The final one is to have Spirit end before its story arc finishes. I’m leaning more toward the last because I hate repeating myself. And right now, I’m doing that with the backdrop of both stories, the annual competition.
However, I keeping thinking back to another Amazon critique or two where the reader knew the book didn’t end quite right and was obviously a set up for a sequel. I definitely don’t want to come across as doing that. The two books were originally written and completed as individual entities with the only overlap being the fact that they involve the same people and places during the same months of different years. I want to keep it that way, if at all possible. Though if I decided to go with the idea of making Spirit and Legend two parts of the same story, I would solve yet another problem, the books’ titles.
A person who has read parts of both books doesn’t like the title of either book. They think I’m too sentimental about them and need to change them to fit marketing. While I kind of agree with that thought on Spirit, I definitely don’t on Legend. The title’s question may invoke thoughts of fair tales, knights, dragons, and castles, which I make reference to in the book, but it actually could be taken one of two ways. Believing in the legend of a hopeful future, which the story is about, or the reason the book is titled what it is, believing in my dream of becoming a published author and encouraging others to believe in their dreams. If I went with the idea of making Legend part two of Spirit, it would actually resonate better because readers could identify my main character’s victory in the prestigious competition after overcoming her fear with the story of the 1980 US Hockey team and the announcer screaming ”Do you believe in miracles?! YES!”
Or maybe that will make the whole two-part idea seem even more contrived!
Of course, you could all take a look at the book and tell me what you think of the story so far and how you might solve my problem.