Author P.J. Anderson Offers An Insight Into The Writing Process
Transformation and the discovery of one’s identity are two of Zenith’s key themes. During the events in Zenith, the main characters, including the female aliens, all experience change – be it on an emotional, moral or physical level. As a result, the characters find new purpose.
In an unintended irony, Zenith changed forms many times while I was writing it. A quick bit of background: in the time between my initial idea and publication, Zenith came in and out of my top drawer (so to speak) scores of times. Other writing projects – a true crime series and an adult crime novel – took precedence during my many years as a newspaper crime reporter here in Australia. So, in total, Zenith took 17 years to fully write and get published! I always believed in the story and the characters, but the plotline changed and the characters evolved (one major character was cut and a new one added to replace him) as the manuscript organically grew. Names changed. And themes and subtexts developed. In this blog I’ve included two pictures. One shows two pages of my very early handwritten notes with ideas about plot, themes and characters. The other is a page from an early draft marked with edits and additions.
The biggest changes, however, related to the style of the story. Zenith started as a standard third person/past tense linear piece. It progressed (on and off) in this form for many years until I decided to play around with a non-linear first person format. Expanding on the main characters’ journeys and experiences, I had the story backtracking over each character’s point of view, one after the other, from the start of their involvement to the finish. I didn’t mind this as it was a fresh approach and quite engaging. It gave greater insight into each of the characters’ experiences and emotions. But it was repetitive and felt clunky. Inspired by my favourite graphic novels (especially Frank Miller’s 224-page masterpiece Batman: The Dark Knight Returns), I eventually decided to selectively cherry pick from my characters’ narratives so I could stitch Zenith’s story together in polyphonic linear style: this means the main characters drive the narrative in chronological order. As it stands, Zenith is a first person/past tense piece. But every now and then the characters break from the narrative to talk directly to you, the reader. These breaks are called asides. (If you’ve seen any of the Deadpool movies, you’ll know Deadpool is the king of asides!)
It took some serious work to change Zenith’s whole style for a second time. But it was worth it. Zenith moves at a very fast pace. The story is like a rollercoaster ride. It’s like a graphic novel without the pictures. It’s up to you, the reader, to imagine the story happening in your mind’s eye – just like I did when I was writing it!