Feelings (aka. world-building)

My MA lecturer was nice enough to let me borrow this book from her. I read it within a few days (not just because her copy was signed and appeared to be a first edition, which made me paranoid any time I set it down close to a cup of tea).

It was a very interesting read, chock-full of strange facts about water and the various stages it comes in. It primarily focused on ice and liquid. I’m not sure if steam wasn’t mentioned because it’s just boring in the grand scheme of physics, or if it was because the author got a little too distracted talking about outer-space at the end. That final section dragged on a little too much for me but I was happy to see that the Alok Jha considered the case for a non-carbon form of life (which, it turns out, is just a freaky, giant piece of living paper).

My favourite parts were the descriptive tales of the author’s time in Antarctica, which were very well done. I felt physically sick when he was on the boat and I felt as if I was seeing the sun paint the sky orange as it skimmed the horizon without setting at the south pole.

I also felt cold. The author has some truly wonderful descriptions of how his body reacted to the cold (such as having to sit on his hands to keep warm, or how quickly his fingers went numb as he tried to check his email on his phone without his gloves).

Because my project starts off in a cold climate I want my readers feel the same way; but I also want them to feel some warmth too. I want to make a point that my protagonist comes from a loving community and that his family cares for him. When my initial draft was critiqued by the rest of my MA class there were mixed feelings about how I had portrayed the family. Some thought that there was too much kissing/touching.

So as I set about rewriting my draft for the final submission I decided to remove some of these touchy-feely parts (since they did seem to happen every few paragraphs) and I decided to focus on building the world instead. And my protagonist’s world is his home. I want the reader to not only be aware of the family, but also of the community.

Initially the protagonist spoke with his mother and then went to talk with his father, who was going on the journey with him.

After my rewrite, the project now starts with the protagonist living in a commune, where he has several ‘other’ mothers and ‘other’ fathers. There is a new man at the commune who has interests in this mother. This man eventually becomes the protagonist’s father after a series of events. I think this demonstrates the attitudes of my characters better than hugs/kisses can.

I also think that this makes the narrative more dramatic when the pair head out onto the ice together and get separated. It means that I’ve been able to foreshadow a future event (history repeats, after all) and it works better than the ‘all-knowing, all-seeing’ narrator that I attempted to use before.


Jha, Alok (2015) The Water Book. UK: Headline.

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