Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people. - Eleanor Roosevelt



Friday, September 19, 2008

How about the real reason I'm at ACC?

I've been so consumed by the happenings at the newspaper, that I've neglected to write about the real reason I'm in school-- my class!

Class is going good. I haven't published anything yet, but this class has helped me in different, amazing ways.

For one thing, the project we're working on right now is a book proposal. Now, I don't have a book, but my ultimate goal is to write one one of these days. Up until now, my vision of a book has been a little hazy. I simply had no idea what I wanted to make into a book, but I knew I wanted to write one.

A series of events recently has cleared up the murky waters, and the book proposal assignment is simply a way for me to put my vision of my book in writing and on paper. For the first time I feel I can answer the question: "What do you want to write?"

So, what do I want to write? Are you ready for this? Historic fiction. I love history, and I love fiction. A number of my favorite books fall under this category. I can't think of a better combination, and it's what I want to do.

The Bronze Horsemanwas a book I read years ago that is more of a romance, but has a very strong historic fiction aspect to it. This book is one of my favorites and really got me into reading the genre. Few books were able to hold me and draw me like it did for a long time, but it certainly sent me on a path. The path was long, but it finally lead me to The Birth of Venus, the book that truly got me thinking about trying my hand at the genre. I only dreamed about it, though, and instead just felt awed by the genius who wrote it (Sarah Dunant). Further down the path, I stumbled upon Outlander, part of a series, and which actually falls under fantasy, given its time-traveling aspect. This is the book that helped the machine run by the class work properly and produce a solid goal.

I am simply hooked on this idea, and have not only decided on the genre, but I've also decided on the setting. I've thought about a rough plot, and decided on the time my story will take place in.

Simply put, through this class assignment, I was able to insure that what I plan on doing has not been done often, and virtually never. Out of all this, new stories and ideas have surfaced that I think have finally given me a niche to strive for in the genre I've chosen. A ton of research is in order, naturally, but luckily, the research is on history... I said it already and I'll say it again... I love history.

Though I usually shy away from sharing my fiction/creative writing, I am going to share an excerpt of my first attempt at historic fiction, and would love to know your thoughts!

So, here goes:

It was the year 1257, and peace broke out over our city for the holy month of Ramadan, leaving us to tend to our religious duties as Muslims. Ours was a city that was rich with books on science and literature, culture and religion. It had been that way for over 500 years in Baghdad-- the City of Peace.

The smell of jasmine permeated the air, while the Tigris and Euphrates rivers glittered underneath Allah's light and glory. Minarets poked out like decorative needles against a backdrop of the orange setting sun in the horizon.

I was born and grew up in this city that was the home and center of the Abbasid Caliphate. My father was a respected merchant of all things exotic and spicy. I was sixteen then, and living in a palace with my father, mother, brothers and sisters. A slew of servants filled our courts to tend to our every need. It was the life of an aristocratic family in these Abbassid years-- one filled with delicious meats, breads, rice, and an assortment of fruits and vegetables virtually unknown to the commoners of our rich city.

Each day, the servants would spend endless hours preparing the family's meals, becoming mesmerized by things like a long yellow fruit that is joined at the top with others like it in a tough black bond.

I was a child of five, when I saw Amina, my nanny, marvel at the beauty of a bright red apple. Thinking her wonderment funny I broke out in laughter, sending Amina running after me as I maneuvered the palace's open courts. I knew every nook and cranny of the palace with its vast courts and majestic columns. I floated and disappeared behind exotic pieces my father had brought back from his travels as a merchant. Some of them still held the smell of spice and the seas that had absorbed into the wood during transport aboard ships. I could still smell the cinnamon, curry, cumin and paprika emanating from the Chinese wooden chest. My father prized this chest more than any other object he acquired during his sails. It had a lock and an accompanying key with golden tassels hanging from it.

Amina’s duty was to tend to my every need. She was like a mother to me, though I gave her more trouble than I gave my real one, who commanded the respect of all the palace’s occupants. My mother had gone through a dozen pregnancies, several difficult births and a handful of stillborns—a mixture I had come out from, healthy and mischievous. My mother was simply too weak to care for a child of my disposition, even if it weren’t already the custom for a family of our status to have nannies for children.

Amina's thick body often left her winded when she finally did catch up to me, making me succumb to the dreaded nightly bath.




I hope I was able to conjure up vivid images of Baghdad, back when it was the center of the world. There is quite a conflict being set up for this story, and I didn't have to do much to create it. History itself created the conflict for me, all I have to do is describe it in an engaging way. I mention the year 1257. Well, 1257 is the year before the Abbasid Dynasty ended. February 10, 1258 is when Baghdad was sacked by the Mongols, who wreaked so much havoc on the city, that the Tigris was said to have turned red with blood.

It's obvious that Baghdad is a city that has seen a lot of violence in its time, and it's unfortunate, because the violence is all most people see. They never see the beauty of this city, with its rich history and culture. I will paint Baghdad as the way it was once upon a time, and show how that beauty began to fade, yet never completely went away. That beauty still exists today, but I suppose it's a little hard to see with tanks rolling through streets that have existed for centuries, and hold secrets that were once written on paper, but burned by the Mongol invasion 750 years ago.

So, this is what my class has done for me just in the last month. This class has been worth every penny!

1 comment:

Elisabeth said...

Again, sorry I didn't comment before. But I wanted to tell you that I really liked it and I think it's such a great time to write something like this. So, if your new position at the newspaper leaves you any time for it, I hope you continue working on this! (and posting snippets)

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