I am in a quandary.
On the one hand, the reversioning of Castellan Dreams is simply not progressing as I had hoped. The story itself seems to be resisting me. Or maybe it’s just my own inability to write as prolifically as I once had. It has resisted me every time I have tried to take it back down to the beginning and rebuild it because of the changes that were taking place within character backstories.
On the other… attempting to recover the original manuscript, all 75 chapters of it (averaging 2800 words a chapter), creates potential issues regarding the conflict between what an author can write and what an audience can accept.
Ahhh, that sticky issue of Creative Integrity. Where to draw the line between the sensibilities of your audience and being true to your artistic vision… and trying to unravel how much of that “artistic vision” is simply not helping the story progress. Musical artists and songwriters sometimes cry out “Artistic Integrity!!” when asked to alter their lyrics for one purpose or another. In some cases, I can understand the natural instinct to resist alteration. “The Devil Went Down to Georgia“, by the Charlie Daniels Band, will always, to my mind, properly include the term “you son of a bitch!” rather than the more mild “you son of a gun!”. Additionally, I have great respect for Johnny Cash when he performed “Coming Down Sunday Morning” on live television and insisted on using the lines, as written by Kris Kristofferson, “wishing, Lord, that I was stoned”.
On the other hand, more recent examples make me wonder if maybe a little more restraint from artists would better serve their subjects, and their audiences. “Sexy Chick” is an easier version for me to listen to than the original, “Sexy Bitch“. Various other, “edited versions” seem, at least to me, to be just as effective and much easier on the ears than the arguably offensive original versions.
I’m not against sensitive subjects in art, not when they’re handled with care and they’re actually pertinent to the matter. I grew up reading the comic ElfQuest, by Wendy and Richard Pini. The elves in that universe are somewhat more free-spirited than could be portrayed in conventional comics, but they are what they are. Elves are, as described by their creators, “omnisexual”, which is to say that they are capable of being attracted to either gender regardless of their own and they are quite unashamed of the fact that they don’t always embrace more human concepts of “fidelity” in terms of sexual exploits. That said, the actual sex doesn’t take place “onscreen” so to speak and it’s actually fairly mild in terms of presentation. There was one “orgy” that was handled with a great deal of discretion to my mind and a couple other situations with non-traditional, in the human sense, family units.
I was raised Mormon. The idea of a person having more than one spouse was not alien to me, nor was it automatically considered evil. Many Biblical patriarchs had more than one wife and though the records left within that document do great service to the idea that such a situation is difficult at best on a personal level, it was still presented as something that society, in that day and age, made work.
So the concept of “three-bonds”, or even the “four-bond” that was shown for two different family units, is something that my mind is going to automatically see as difficult but not impossible to manage, and which becomes more possible the further from a “human” mindset, bounded by jealousy and such, that a given character is. And, as long as the emotional connection, the devotion and the commitment, is there, I’m not a stickler for ceremonies.
The problem comes in that I am fundamentally a romantic. I write romantic stories, full of action and adventure and, most importantly, love and devotion. Those sort of stories pretty well presume that you’re going to follow the traditional concept of a single pair bonding. Romantic triangles are resolved by one of the options losing, or dying, or whatever. The so-called Tenchi Solution isn’t really an option… or is it?
I don’t know. I don’t know what I can get away with and what would be too much. I don’t know where the line sits anymore because at the time that I initially relegated Castellan Dreams to the Round File of Doom I couldn’t handle it myself. I was so used to censoring myself internally that I was incapable of being true to the characters, true to the consequences.
I’m not the same writer that I was, not anymore. And my characters have changed over time, as have their stories. Castellan Dreams, as I originally started writing it, is an excellent piece of fiction. Arguably one of my best. And I was barely halfway through the story at the time that I gave up. I started writing it in 2007. Two years of writing is invested in that tale and I have never truly been able to let it go.
So what do I do? Do I go back to the story as I’d originally started to write it and just let the relationships fall where they may? However many and convoluted as they might be? Or do I try to push through on a reversioning that would be more acceptable to conventional minds?
Or is the choice already made and I’m just arguing with myself out of fear? I pray I’m not making a mistake, but Galadriel isn’t her mother and a tale created for one character… never quite fits any other one.