Learning Lessons from the Master Plots


C. Jordan

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I'm grateful to Michael Stuart Kelly, the Toxic-Slug in Residence, for posting the ""Master Plots" thread. I mentioned in that thread that I've been working on a LONG story for some time.

I thought I'd sign in and tell you where I am in my plot.

As it stands, the project I'm on is called WEI HU SHAN (Taking Tiger Mountain). It was a story larger than I expected it to be, and at present it will have 3 or 4 parts. That's to be decided.

PART I: Basic plot might be coming-of-age.

I'm thinking of it in musical terms, as a long overture. We get to learn more about Asia of the future. Also, I'm introducing the large cast of characters. Among others, we have a Chinese Ayatollah, a Polish reporter, an Uzbek mercenary leader, a terribly courageous Iranian woman — and so forth.

But the focus of the story is on the twins, Zakariy and Zebadiy Qhatuujil. Most of the names of the characters have a double meaning. The twins' name "Qhatuujil" is Mongolian for "Stamina."

I had not started out thinking of Howard Roark; but in thinking about Roark, I realised: surely "stamina" is a leitmotif of Roark's character? He is creative, confident, generous – he also has incredible stamina. His frend Kent Lansing remarked on that.

Roark had friends who were also his admirers; he had Dominique, who learned from him. What Roark did not have was an equal. Which is where the concept of twins comes in.

Writes Kaspar Raczowski, the Polish reporter: "There is something primordial about identical twins, something archetypal. My favourite story as a boy was the one about the Dioskouri: twin brothers who literally died for each other."

Another point about Howard Roark: we never see his struggles to grow up. By the time "Howard Roark laughs," he has already come of age. (Granted, this is a "dishonest" observation because Nathaniel Branden has also made it; but never mind.) I've been struggling to let Zak and Zeb come of age.

That's been hard. Perhaps that is why Ayn Rand skipped that part of Roark's story. Perhaps that is why Ayn Rand kept John Galt, and his emotional life, at a worshipful distance from the reader. It is difficult to create a a character (in this case, a matching pair) who embody what you consider to be heroic virtue — and then give them flaws.

I might speculate here that it was too painful for Ayn to write any flaws into the characters of Roark and Galt. That is true of me.

Now Michael Kelly can take some credit here: after reading the "Master Plots" thread, I realised that's precisely what Zak and Zeb need. This way one can feel for them.

Raczowski observes that because they are big (7' tall each) and strong, that makes it "easy to fear them, and harder to feel for them."

Without giving too much away, their story is not much different from Roark's, in the broad strokes. For that matter, Roark's story bears some resemblance to that of Jean Valjean: all the above characters struggle to survive, and to thrive, in spite of an enemy.

Jean Valjean has Inspector Javert. Roark has Ellsworth Toohey. The Qhatuujil Twins have Colonel Yüsuf Dostam, the Uzbek mercenary who hates them.

They have each other. That gives them a bond which perhaps even Roark might have envied. (And let me add a personal confession here: I wish I were a twin.)

For the plot of Part I — I'm not going to give you all the details.

I will say only that it follows the twins from their birth (1666 A.H.) to when they are 19 (1685 A.H.) and living in Samarqand. For the record: Samarqand has a long history in Central Asia. The city is today located in the Republic of Uzbekistan.

A brief note of tribute: I believe it's clear that Ayn Rand has been one of my inspirations. The truth is, I hadn't thought of Rand's influence on me in detail until I wrote the above. But there we have it.

Another note: Raczowski interviews Zak and Zeb when they're 15. "Unlike their cousins, they were open-faced and happy to talk, chain-smoking Belo'mar cigarettes throughout." My tribute there is to Barbara Branden, and her interviews with Ayn Rand.

And a final note: the character of Kaspar Raczowski was inspired by the life and work of Ryszard Kapuscinski. (Note the initials: R.K. to K.R.) The real life story of Kapuscinski is stranger than fiction -- and that is of course someone else's story.

With that, I close.

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