rewriting

All posts tagged rewriting

IWSG – Massive Rewrites Ahead

Published September 2, 2020 by Iphis of Scyros

Okay, pre-writing this post even more in advance than usual (today is the 21st!), because right now the situation is freshly in my mind and I haven’t been distracted by the other, much smaller rewriting project I’m about to start (and which I will be eyeballs deep in by the time this post goes up).

So, for the past week(ish), I’ve been rereading the series of quasi-Young Adult novels I wrote in 2104, set 17-20 years after the Trojan War, starring the illegitimate daughters of Achilles and Odysseus (both characters I made up) and the (equally illegitimate) son of Aias (who is a genuine mythological character whose actions as an adult have been lost to time but undoubtedly do not resemble my version in any way).  This wasn’t a simple reread, however.  This was a detailed reread, leaving myself a lot of notes using the “Comment” feature on the word processor.  Because I had a look at these already, back in July (or was it June?), and realized that hey, they were actually a lot better than I had remembered them being.  And so I kind of wanted to polish them up for release (for free via LeanPub and itch.io, naturally), which promises to be a much faster endeavor (sort of) than finishing the world-building to polish up that low-fantasy-with-steampunk-elements novel that also needs rewriting and releasing.

Of course, there are a lot of associated works that would also want fixing up.  The whole novel series started out as a spin-off of my Trojan War novel Ilios, which I had temporarily published via LeanPub and then eventually took down because I was quite ashamed of how bad it was.  (I have not at the moment revisited it to see if I want to try to fix it up, because I know that would be even more work.  Plus it is not aimed at the same audience.)  On top of that, there’s a novella called “Patroclos and Achilles” which was also a spin-off of Ilios, and which I directly referenced in the new introduction for Ariadne, the daughter of Odysseus.  I just reread that one this morning, and overall it’s actually pretty good (which is good, since it’s currently floating around the internet already…I think…or was it the other thing about them in the afterlife that’s already up…?) except that the ending makes me cringe, because it got a lot of things flat-out backwards, because there was a lot I didn’t understand about same-sex relationships in ancient Greece before reading The Greeks and Greek Love by James Davidson, and now that I do understand those things (and consequently a lot of ancient Greek culture makes more sense!) I want to fix anything and everything that I’ve written that gets it wrong.  So the novella probably needs to get the first rewrite, before I move on to the Atalanta and Ariadne books.  There will need to be a lot of work done on every reference to same-sex love in those books, naturally.  The mindset I gave the characters was appallingly modern in that for some reason too many people found it funny to think that Achilles had been the boyfriend of his friend and “squire” Patroclos.  There is no reason anyone in classical Greece would have found that funny…though there is the question of if we have any freaking way of guessing what the Greek attitudes towards such relationships would have been in the Late Bronze Age, since we have no written texts from the Mycenaeans other than clerical documents like inventory lists and notes on court cases.  (Though considering some lines of the Iliad have to be aged back to the Mycenaean era in order for the lines to be restored to their proper dactylic hexameter, it does seem possible, if not probable, that enough of the mythic aspects of the culture were unchanged by the end of the Bronze Age that they can be taken to reflect many of the cultural details of the era in which they were set.  Possibly.)

Anyway, the same-sex stuff is pretty minor in the Atalanta and Ariadne books (which really need a series title, but I’m not sure what the heck it would be, considering the early books give no indication just what a massive foe they’re eventually going to go up against, even though at foe’s servants have been targeting them at least since book one, if not from several years before it) compared to a lot of the other things that need fixing.  Matters of clothing for non-Greek peoples at the time (though at least I did learn at some point post-writing them that they would absolutely know what trousers are, so I can dispense with the absurd descriptions of “leg sleeves”) are one of the things that need a thorough fixing, but at least that’s something that will be relatively easily dealt with.

The biggest problem is how to handle the lack of money.

And no, I don’t mean I’m broke.  (Though I do have less of it than I’d like since I lost my job.)  And I don’t mean my heroic trio is broke, either.

I mean the fact that they didn’t have coinage yet in the Late Bronze Age.

I apparently didn’t know that when I was writing these books, especially the first one, which (among other things) has a fairly lengthy and important sequence in a marketplace.

How do you write a marketplace in a barter economy?

I mean, I know they had them.  The Mexica (aka Aztecs) had marketplaces, but in their case it was made simpler because they used cacao beans as a form of proto-currency (which even led to a form of counterfeiting, because some people would hollow out the beans and be trading with empty husks!), but that’s the only case I’m aware of in which there are written records of a non-money-based market.  (The written records being the accounts of the conquistadores seeing said market, so they are not the greatest of records, being essentially tourist accounts written by people of lesser education and not scholarly analyses.)  Based on the Iliad, the main way things seem to have been “valued” was by how many oxen they were worth, but I can’t really have two teenage girls and an early twenties young man carrying oxen about to trade with.  (Though it would be amusing to see them try it!  Goodness knows Atalanta would probably be able to carry a small ox a short distance, as could Eurysakes…maybe.  Ariadne, no.  Just no.  A very small calf, maybe.  A lamb or a kid, definitely.  But I don’t recall measurements of value in sheep and goats, just oxen.  Though I’m ashamed to admit that it’s been years at this point since I last read the Iliad.)

Does anyone know of any books — fiction or non-fiction — about how people might hold a market in a place without money?

I could really use some examples, whether how other people handle it in fiction or how people in reality dealt with things before there was money.  (I mean, realistically, how did food get shared about?  Did the nobles gather up the food from the farmers and then redistribute it to the people, or did the farmers take it to a market to trade it for other things they needed, like clothes, new animals or hired hands?)  Outside of the first book, it’s not going to be a huge issue, since they mostly get what they need in the later books via guest-friendship as they spend a lot of time visiting (and often going on quests for) kings who had fought alongside their fathers at Troy, but wow, is that first book hamstrung until I know how to handle the marketplace!

Additionally, there are various other concerns, mostly around trying to make the books line up better with history/archaeology.  There are a lot of books I read in the two years after writing the books that dealt with the subject of that area in the Late Bronze Age, like The Ahhiyawa Texts, but that was years ago now, and I’ve forgotten a lot of the details, and some of them were gotten out of the university library that I no longer have access to now that I’ve graduated, while others are probably in this house somewhere but I have no freaking idea where because my life is a pigsty.  For two of the books, I’d also need to do a lot of research into what Babylon looked like at the time, and what the court of Ramses II would have looked like, but those shouldn’t be too difficult with non-academic sources…I hope.

Speaking of other things that need fixing up, you may have noticed the word “squire” in quotes up above.  The translation of the Iliad that I’m fond of (it’s prose instead of trying to force the translation into English verse, and it uses the proper Greek names instead of Roman ones) is from like 1913 (give or take a decade), so it does use some awkward things like describing Meriones as “nephew and squire” of Idomeneus, and describing people as “knightly” and so on.  That means those things got into my books, too.  😦  It is so annoying, and decidedly anachronistic, but I have no idea what the period-appropriate term would be.  While I’m sure most readers would probably accept using the anachronistic medieval term “squire” since it’s quite easy for modern people to understand what it means about the person’s professional role, I dislike it for its extreme anachronism.  I should probably have a look at the most recent translation(s) of the Iliad and see how they handled whatever term was being replaced with “squire”.  Mostly, this is only going to impact the prologues (each book has a prologue set during the war) and when they meet certain Trojan War veterans (including the aforementioned Meriones), but it’s something I want to be able to fix on general principles.

A more wide-ranging problem is that I have to figure out how much a sixteen-year-old slave girl in the Late Bronze Age who had somehow kept herself entirely chaste would typically have known about sex.  Because one of the ways I wanted Atalanta and Ariadne to be different from their fathers is that they remain virgins, unlike Atalanta’s father who was quite lusty (the number of his accomplished/potential/desired conquests at Troy seems to grow every time I read a new book on the subject) and unlike Ariadne’s father who slept his way around the Mediterranean for ten years before finally going home to his all-too-faithful wife.  For some reason, when I was first writing these, I decided to accomplish that by having Atalanta nearly kill a man to stop him from raping her, following which Athene erased all her memories of the very concept of sex, and nothing can ever make her remember that sex even exists.

I have no idea why I did something so mind-bogglingly stupid.

My new version is much more simple:  she’s asexual.

I think the reason for the bizarre backstory gymnastics is that I wrote these books about a year and a half before I came to understand that I myself am asexual, so…I don’t know.  As an explanation, it doesn’t entirely make sense, but it’s the best one I can come up with, honestly.

Whatever the reason I originally wrote it, it has to go.  Now, I do want Atalanta to retain a childlike innocence (including on sexual matters), but there’s not going to be anything supernatural or traumatic about it.  She’s just not terribly bright and doesn’t pick up on subtext and subtle details of situations, and the classical Greeks certainly didn’t like to…well, they didn’t like to write about sex, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they didn’t like to talk about it and doesn’t necessarily mean the same was the case about their Late Bronze Age ancestors, but one does tend to fill in the gaps with the historical culture when one is dealing with the Greek Heroic Age.  Anyway, I have to decide just how much she knows, and how much she suspects of what she doesn’t know, and how she would interpret any mentions of things she doesn’t know.  That will have to be figured out before I can start writing, and it will be a lot of work making sure to catch every single absurd instance and replace it with something more simple and believable.  Atalanta spent all seven books sort of traipsing back and forth across the line from “possessing the mind of an absurdly stupid child” to “just a little bit dim and very innocent”, and that’s generally something I need to fix.  I also need to fix Ariadne’s side of their relationship; they’re very co-dependent, in an entirely platonic, non-romantic way on Atalanta’s part, whereas I realized late in the game that Ariadne is actually in love with Atalanta and refusing to admit it even to herself, so I need to work that in and make it more obvious throughout and yet in a way that makes it clear that Ariadne will never be willing to act on her feelings.  (That may be a more subtle task than I’m capable of, but we’ll just have to see what happens in the new drafts!)

I also have various other things I have to decide on, too.  Like, I don’t want to use the Aeneid‘s version of the immediate post-Troy events, but I also have scattered throughout the books various references to the journey of “Aeneas” with his band of Trojan refugees.  So I’m thinking of setting up something halfway between the Iliad‘s version of post-Troy events (in which Poseidon commented that Aineias was to become the new king of Troy after the war) and the Roman version, so that Aineias became King of Troy as planned by the Greek gods, only then Korythos (son of Alexander/Paris by his first wife, the nymph Oenone) drives him out and takes over the kingship, so Aineias still sets off for the future site of Rome.  (And I don’t think the gens Julius completely made up the idea of Roman descent from Aeneas/Aineias; I think they did get that from some of the Greek settlers in Italy, as the ancient Greeks did love to set up mythical ancestors for various people they met (Medes, Perses, etc).)  But I’ll have to decide when that happened, how far they had gotten in rebuilding the walls, how much violence was entailed, why in the world Aineias would have fled rather than stayed and continued to fight (especially against a son of that weakling Alexander!) and so forth.  Some versions of the abduction of Helen do include Aineias having gone with Alexander to Sparta, so maybe this should be a version like that (though there’s no indication of Aineias being there in the one flashback I have to the abduction itself…though given the presence of his mother in the flashback it wouldn’t be hard to believe it) and Korythos makes the demand to the remaining people of Troy that they shouldn’t follow Aineias since he aided and abetted in the arrival of the harlot who ruined the marriage of Korythos’ parents and for whose sake the citadel of Troy was besieged for ten years and then destroyed.  Yeah, that might work, actually.  Korythos wouldn’t even need an army if he turned the majority of the people against Aineias.  Cool, so that’s one less thing to worry about.

Names, on the other hand, are something to worry about.  Specifically, how far do I want to go in using the Greek names?  Like, some of them are easy.  Patroclos > Patroclus, Aias > Ajax, Aineias > Aeneas, Heracles > Hercules, Zeus > Jupiter (like anyone now would use that in a Greek setting, lol), but do I want to go the whole hog?  Do I want to use Achilleus instead of Achilles, Alexandros instead of Alexander, Ganymedes instead of Ganymede, Bellerophontes instead of Bellerophon…stuff like that.  (And yes, all those names do come up in the books.  (BTW, the spellchecker in my browser is insisting that the correct spelling of “Bellerophon” is “Telephoner”.  Like, wow.))  Part of me is annoyed with myself for using any of the Romanized/Anglicized versions, but the rest of me is like “seriously, Achilleus and Ganymedes?” (For some reason I’m much more cool with Bellerophontes than a lot of the other typically-always-Romanized/Anglicized-even-by-scholars names.)

Speaking of names, I’m not even sure what I should be calling the Greek people as a group.  For the historic period, Hellenes would be correct, and I do use it sometimes.  In the Iliad, the names Achaians, Danaans and Argives are used pretty much as direct synonyms, chosen for metrical reasons.  Of course, Argives was right out as a choice in my books because that specifically means people from Argos.  Achaians — while the source of the Hittite name for the Mycenaean Greeks, Ahhiyawa — seems most likely to refer specifically to people from Achaia Phthiotis, the region of Thessaly where Achilles’ father Peleus reigned.  (Unlike the classical Greeks with their city-states, the Mycenaeans seem to have had kingdoms in more of the sense we think of for Medieval Europe.  As far as I can tell.  Which isn’t far.)  Danaan was likewise the source of a foreign name that may have referred to Mycenaean Greeks (Danaja, used by the Egyptians and possibly also the Phoenicians, and which I do have Ramses II use), but as I recall it doesn’t even refer to a particular location in Greece, but rather to a mythical ancestor figure.  I’m not sure if that makes it more likely to have been what the Mycenaeans called themselves (Hellas and Hellene, after all, coming from the mythical figure Hellen) or if it was actually applied to them by mistake by their contemporaries and then the mythical figure was made up to explain it after it had stuck.  (The mythical figure might have even been made up in the classical period to explain the LBA-authentic name Danaan used in Homer, for all I know.  There are, after all, many things in the Iliad that are accurate to the Late Bronze Age but not to the classical era, particularly in the Catalog of Ships, where some of the places were so long gone by the historic period that no one even knew where they had been.)  There’s a lot that the scholarly community doesn’t know about this sort of thing, and even more that I don’t know, since it’s been years since I did the research, and I never got too far into the really detailed and up-to-date research even back then.  What would actually be correct is, of course, of lesser importance in this case than the basic question of which name should I use?  In the original drafts of the books, I primarily used Achaians, with a pretty hefty dose of Hellenes, and the occasional Danaans thrown in there just to be confusing.  😛  At some point after the novels were finished, I wrote an invocation of the Muse-type intro to the series that defined Achaians as people from northern Greece and Danaans as people from the Peloponnese, which is not entirely out of line with scholarly thinking as far as I remember and is entirely in line with how foreign people use the related terms (since the Hittites were more northerly and the Egyptians directly south), but…I dunno.  Among other things, trying to define the peoples by where they live in an invocation to the Muse feels weird in and of itself!  (But on the other hand it would at least give me some consistency, while still allowing the Egyptians to call them Danaja.)

*sigh*

I could probably keep going with this post forever and not run out of issues I’m going to have with these rewrites, but I’ve been at this for like three hours now, so I think I better stop.  Especially since I was supposed to be spending this afternoon sorting through the ghastly build up in my inbox.  😦  Guess that’s being put off yet another day…

Anyway, my biggest worry at the moment is, as I indicated, how in the world to handle a marketplace in a pre-money economy.  I’d like it to be as realistic as possible to what the Late Bronze Age was like, but how in the world does one look up what a Hittite marketplace looked like ca. 1230 BCE?  (It’s the marketplace in the mostly-rebuilt Troy, which was in Hittite territory.)  I’m going to have to do some heavy research before I dive into the rewrites.

But first I’m going to do the rewrite on my fusion of Velvet Goldmine with the 1996 (rather awful) movie adaptation of Emma, which means now I need to dive into rereading the original book and keep my rewrites in pace with my rereading, so I can keep straight things like how long Emma spent using “Mr.” in talking to and about Frank Churchill, when Mrs. Weston had her baby, when the Knightley boys returned to London, etc.  (All things that were completely ignored by said film adaptation, naturally.  I need to watch the new adaptation whenever it makes it onto Netflix or Hulu or whatever.  I missed it in the theatres because its release was cut short by all the theatres closing…but I do want to see a good (or at least better) adaptation, even if its Frank Churchill will never be as hot.)  And that’s precisely why I’m writing this post so far in advance, because otherwise my mind will be filled with Regency England instead of the Mediterranean in the Late Bronze Age .

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