Afterlife

maxresdefault.jpgMy main character is not dead.

I have no interest in this novel being an “Oh btw I’ve been dead this whole time!” story. Nothing against novels that do that of course! It’s just not what I want this one to be.

So really, my MC is in limbo.

Now I’m a pretty devout Christian and my beliefs are in Heaven and Hell. But my MC is not a Christian, and she’s also still not dead.

Maybe I’ve read too many versions of the “I visited Jesus while I was clinically dead” stories and now I’m having a hard time imagining a good way to go about this limbo thing.

Part of me imagines it as being like Scrooge inΒ A Christmas Carol, where the MC is guided through her past, present and future and has to make the ultimate decision at the end. But I feel like

  1. That’s too ‘been there, done that’,
  2. I don’t need this section to compromise a majority of my novel, which it probably would,
  3. and I don’t really need her to make a decision or to change her life drastically. I just need her to realize some things.

These issues are why I tend to stick to contemporary, super realistic ideas. Because I have a hard time imagining things of this nature. But I’m trying to ditch my comfort zone for a little while. I’m just struggling.

Should she have a ‘limbo’ guide? Should it just be her? How does she come to these necessary realizations? Does she travel through time? Or just to different locations in the present?

I guess I should answer these questions.

I imagine it’s just her, travelling in the present, learning of the consequences of her actions. Seeing peoples’ lives fundamentally changed because of her.

See, I’m answering my own questions. These are things that blogging is good for! I’m off to attempt to write this.

In the meantime, if you have good examples of ‘limbo’ type stories/novels/poems, etc. send them my way!

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4 thoughts on “Afterlife

  1. First and foremost, I just wanted to say you should try not to worry about a lack of originality or that you might end up doing something similar to other writers. Of course, as writers, we worry a lot about whether a plot is original. Somewhere (on a fiction course website or somewhere else… it escapes me), I remember reading that when you’re writing, you are the only one who can write the way you do. Even if you do end up being strongly influenced by Scrooge’s tale – or more broadly, anything you read – you are the only one who can string words together in the particular sequence and way that you do. I guess influences are inescapable in a way, but it seems better to acknowledge them and move on, rather than try to pretend they don’t exist. Besides, the more you write, the more you’ll eventually come to find your own voice and your own ideas (at least, that’s what I’ve come to understand).

    Of course, another way of doing it would be to actually sit down and write out your version of the limbo/three ghosts story with your MC’s circumstances and see what develops from it (for all you know, it might reveal something very interesting about your character).

    The afterlife idea seems to me sort of like a lot of books and films that dismiss a weirdly-written plot by saying ‘oh, it was just a dream’. More often than not, that seems to provide an exit for the writer (as if they can’t think of something better to end with), although it can turn out to be a really great twist if it’s well-written. Might be worth a shot. πŸ™‚ Perhaps it’s relevant to consider who is having the realization and at which point. I mean, does the character keep doing what they’re doing until it becomes inevitable that something has to change (think Greek tragedy…)? Does reader realise something has to change or click before the character does? Or does the character do something completely contrary to intuition and then, when you look at possible outcomes, it all falls into place? (Did that make sense?…)

    And now, for the references! Some of these are fictional, some are sort of speculative non-fiction. I suppose from the moment that you’re considering the idea of a sort of redemption narrative – or even just a realisation that could alter the natural turn of events – you could end up doing a lot of exploration about the existence of a soul, the power of guilt, etc. Anyway, I hope these are useful – even if they’re not related to what you might want to do with the MC, they might still provide some ideas.

    An interesting book about the afterlife is SUM by David Eagleman. It’s a collection of 40 short stories with semi-philosophical theories about what happens after we die. Most of these are quite hilarious (in my opinion…maybe I’m just morbid :P), since he takes one concept and exaggerates it a lot. There’s one about being stuck in a sort of limbo – while waiting for your name to be spoken for the last time: http://www.eagleman.com/sum/excerpt . Admittedly, a lot of these stories make a point about the way we live life rather than a serious contemplation of what actually happens after death, but they certainly provide a fresh perspective!

    Also, at around 11 or 12, when I was still reading anything I could get my hands on, I remember discovering a psychology/philosophy book about near-death experiences that somehow ‘induced’ out-of-body experiences, and whether these were actually possible or not. Unfortunately, I have not retained the name of the book or the author (it was in Greek or translated into Greek and sounded as though it was written by a very smug psychologist), but I could try and hunt it down for you, if you’d be interested in exploring that idea.

    Another book about a sort of timetravel/limbo-y situation is the Oracle by Valerio Massimo Manfredi. It starts in Greece of 1963, and jumps forward to a more recent time, featuring a sort of self-appointed vigilante character who decides to punish a bunch of wicked people (trigger warning: it’s because of some sexual violence they exacted on his girlfriend). While the main storyline is fascinating, it kicks off with the death of an archaeologist who is exploring a site that ancients believed to be the gate to the Underworld. This is interesting because Manfredi (an archaeologist, journalist, and archaeology professor himself!) doesn’t really tell you what kills this man, but basically says that he’s stepped past some sort of boundary/curtain (literally or figuratively) or come face to face with Death, which triggers all the things that cause his body to fail.

    The Perfect Sinner by Will Davenport is another interesting read, with two storylines in completely different time periods – modern and medieval. It’s jumps back and forth between narratives, and is kind of mushy/romantic by the end, but if I’m not mistaken, one of the points the book makes is that we can learn a lot from our ancestors, though we sometimes think their values could never work in modern society. Unless I’ve read into it too much, heheh.
    http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2057233.The_Perfect_Sinner

    A recently popular one is Outlander (I must confess, I’ve not read this, but I do know the basics of the plot…) by Diana Gabaldon. It too features a time jump!
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outlander_(novel)

    Time-travel-wise, there is, of course, Timeline by Michael Crichton (also made into a feature film starring Paul Walker, Gerard Butler, Billy Connolly… http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0300556/?ref_=nv_sr_1 ). I can’t remember the book much, though I’ve seen the film several times. It’s not a great film – in that the characters don’t really undergo a huge transformation, but the circumstances they live in change to fit what they want/need.

    And finally, there’s a film called Flatliners. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0099582/ I only remember the opening scene, where medical students are trying to induce a near-death episode so that they find out ‘what lies beyond the veil’.

    Anyhow, that was my two cents (looks more like a pound after all that writing!). I hope some small fraction of it helps! I’d be happy to be a bouncy castle of ideas (instead of a springboard… seriously, bouncy castles are way more fun!) or help with research and stuff. πŸ™‚ I hope you had a great birthday! πŸ™‚

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