Winks 5 - What! No Aliens?
“Everyone's quick to blame the alien”
Aeschylus, Ancient Greek Dramatist and Playwright, founder of Greek tragedy, (525 BC-456 BC)
SPOILERS AHEAD Do not read if you haven't read the novel!
and again, If you haven't read the novel yet... Just what are you waiting for? 5 Star reviews?
Not so long ago I received an e-mail from fellow author David Llewellyn in which he told me how much he enjoyed the novel and then raised the issue of "where were the aliens?" In my response I let him into some of my planning of the tale, which I will reveal to you now.
The novel was envisaged from the start as a 3 Act piece, which I knew from the get-go would be 'The Past', 'The Present', and 'The Future'. 'The Past' would consist of a date countdown which would set-up the main body of the story. 'The Future' would be a very short epilogue, and a cheeky 'Author's Note', where we see that this was a trial run for the real announcement, and where we get a glimpse of some of the consequences of the President's actions. 'The Present' would be the main tale, ping-ponging between Silverline and Washington D.C.
Now, although the first Act sets thing going mainly outside the Texan township, the reader is drawn into its day-to-day existence firstly by Chief of Police Tony Walker as he catches snakes, then as we join Anson Moore on his journey there. I looked upon this as a sort of drawstring bag, with both strings (Walker and Moore) being pulled to entrap its contents and create a slight claustrophobic feeling for the reader. It looks like all my hard work on this approach paid off when, in a 5 Star review on Amazon, a reader described the events in the town as "a closed-room mystery."
So far, so good. Up until that point I had my protagonists where I wanted them, and it was time to "Cry Havoc, and let slip the dogs of war!", as Willy Shakespeare wrote in "Julius Caesar". My "Cry Havoc" was of course the President's speech.
Without a doubt, that speech was one of the hardest things I have ever written.
As I'm sure you know, I'm British and living in Europe. We do see snippets of Presidential discourses occasionally, but, given the critical nature of that chapter in setting the tone for the tale, I wasn't comfortable with just sitting down and writing a Presidential speech as though it were just more character dialogue. So I located as many Presidential Addresses (State of the Nation, speeches before the UN, speeches during foreign visits etc.) as possible and studied these, focusing on rhythm and flow, and more on what was not said, than on the content itself. I also homed in on recent Presidents, as the style changes with the times, although I did find myself inspire greatly by Reagan's UN speech about threats from outside our planet!
Once the 'feeling' for the speech was firmly fixed in my mind, I drafted, then re-drafted what I wanted to say - and, more importantly, what I didn't want to say.
As I was writing the content, I realised that it would be unlikely too many details of what/who the aliens are and where they come from would be given initially. Why? Well I felt the question uppermost in our minds, as recipients of the announcement, would be 'do they come in peace?' I also realised that the message regarding the ET's intentions needed to be constantly repeated in the first few days by all Government representatives to assuage initial hostile over-reaction by certain sectors of the population.
However, my biggest surprise, when reading my own first few drafts, was the shift in focus.
From the start, the events in Silverline were to reflect how Joe Public reacted to the news. This would be the backdrop to the Moore/Snow/Walker storyline, as well as a motor to keep things moving along at the desired pace. Yet as soon as I mentioned 'ALIENS', the spotlight was on them. I felt that the readers were going to be more dependent upon the ETs making their appearance than the tale I wanted to tell. Hence I decided: NO ALIENS!
Being me, however, and with the characteristic twisted humour of the British, I couldn't resist teasing the reader - remember the scene where one of the Stooges has photographed a UFO? I'm sure that got you going... aliens, at last!
So that's why there are no little grey guys in the tale.
But, just so you're not disappointed...
Not exactly a Smiley Face, is it?