I set out to write an epic science fiction action blockbuster, but that’s not what I’m writing now. As I write the story of Jace Cox in What Once Was Home, I find myself focusing less on the war and more on Jace and his friends.
I realize, as I write, that the war isn’t the story, it’s the setting. Jace, and his life, is the story that I am telling. It is his coming of age story. It’s his struggle to survive hardships and his reluctant growth into a leader figure.
I recently sat down and watched a great war movie, Enemy At The Gates. This film, starring Jude Law and Ed Harris (among others,) is set during the battle of Stalingrad in World War II. It’s not about the battle of Stalingrad, though. The film is the story of Vassili Zaitsev, a Russian sniper and hero of the battle of Stalingrad. He is an ordinary person, however, thrust into extraordinary circumstances. Although the events of the film are not confirmed to be fact or fiction, the storytelling stands on it’s own as an artistic achievement.
I was already two chapters into What Once Was Home when I watched the film, and it helped me to recognize the direction in which my own book was headed. I observed that the story of Vassili isn’t the story of the battle he participated in, but the story of how he participated in it.
Wars, be they historical or speculative, are an amazing setting for storytelling. What I am starting to recognize – in what some may call my maturity – is that these amazing stories are not about the conflict itself, but about what people endure and accomplish given the situation in which they find themselves.
I’m excited about the direction that What Once Was Home is taking, and the story of Jace Cox is growing into something that even I had not expected. It is becoming something deeply personal, and Jace is growing to be a hero of the people in much the same way as Vassili did in Stalingrad. Vassili didn’t win the battle, but he became a symbol. In many ways, Jace is doing the same.