Posted on November 29, 2010 by Flames
Our design essay series continues with Scott Browne telling us about the process of writing the novel, Fated.
Fated is a dark, irreverent comedy about fate, destiny, and the consequences of getting involved with humans.
Fated by Scott Browne
The inspiration for Fated was more of a series of connected ideas than an inspiration: a journal entry in 2003 about a character who can see the future because he’s Fate; a scene written in a shopping mall in 2004 from the point-of-view of the same conceptual character; and the splitting of the often married concepts of fate and destiny into two separate characters.
This last idea came about as I began writing the first chapter, which takes place in a shopping mall much like the scene I wrote in 2004. The more I thought about it, the more it seemed like fate and destiny should be different concepts. That while fate carried these negative connotations (a fatal disease; a fate worse than death), destiny implied a much happier outcome (he was destined for greatness; it was her destiny).
After all, you never hear about anyone being fated for greatness or suffering a destiny worse than death. So it just made sense that there should be a distinction between the two. And that Fate would be overworked and frustrated with his single-term Presidents and one-hit wonders, while Destiny tormented him with her Super Bowl MVPs and Pulitzer Prize winning authors.
While I was working on Fated, several friends mentioned that the concept sounded similar to Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman series. I have to admit that I’ve yet to read the series and so I can’t really comment on any similarities, and while writing Fated I refrained from reading any of Gaiman’s novels that dealt with related concepts, such as American Gods and Good Omens. However, I have since read both novels, along with Anansi Boys, and enjoyed them quite a bit. As for similarities, I wouldn’t necessarily compare them other than the fact that I personify abstract concepts like Fate, Destiny, Death, and the Seven Deadly Sins, among others.
Out of all the characters I created for this novel, if I had to pick a favorite, it would have to be Fate. His voice was so much fun to hear and his character so much fun to inhabit. I think I had more fun channeling him than any other character I’ve written. But if I had to pick a favorite other than Fate, I’d say Destiny. She’s the yin to Fate’s yang. And although I didn’t write from her POV, it was still fun to write her – not just because it gave me the chance to write from the female perspective but because she’s this strong, confident character who has a complicated relationship with Fate. I also thoroughly enjoyed writing the scenes with Sloth, Gluttony, and Karma.
Since I was writing from the POV of a main character who has been in existence since before the first Neanderthal set himself on fire, I discovered that he would often reference other moments in history that he’d witnessed or in which he’d been involved. So in addition to doing research on the concepts of Fate, Destiny, and Karma, I spent a fair amount of time finding fun little historical tidbits I could work into the story – from Paleolithic man to the Black Plague to Watergate. I think I learned more about history writing Fated than I did in my entire academic career.
For various reasons, I also did research on Christianity, Buddhism, birth rates, world population, strip clubs, the ingredients of crystal methamphetamine, hydraulic presses, Scrabble, greyhound racing, homeless shelters, the Westfield Mall in San Francisco, the Formosa Café in Hollywood, CA, a shopping mall in Rockford, IL, that was converted into a church, and numerous locations throughout Manhattan, which is where Fate and most of the rest of the immortals live.
That was one of the challenges of writing Fated. Coming up with the different roles and rules for the different immortals that populated the novel. I had Fate, Destiny, Karma, and Death, who weren’t supposed to get involved, but then I had Lady Luck and Guilt and Anger who, by their very nature, had to interact with humans. Eventually it helped to classify characters like Love, Honesty, Fame, and Gossip into subgroups like the Emotives, Attributes, Intangibles, and Lesser Sins. Once I defined them and gave them specific tasks, it helped to create a more cohesive mythology. Although I fixed the problem with a lot of rewrites, my writers group played a significant part in helping me to point out the inconsistencies in the world I’d created.
The biggest challenge with writing Fated was the relationship between Fate and his love interest, Sara Griffen – a mortal woman who is on the Path of Destiny. Since she’s not on his path, Fate can’t tell what she’s destined for. He only knows that there’s something special about her, something other humans notice, too. I didn’t know what it was about Sara that made her so special when she appeared in Chapter 2, I just knew that it would be integral to how the third act would play out. It took me nearly nine months to figure out Sara’s role but once I finally did, everything just fell into place.
I have to admit, the original idea that I wrote down in my journal back in September 2003 bears little resemblance to the book I eventually ended up writing. The initial idea was actually something completely different that had nothing to do with the concept of fate and sounded better in my head than it did when I started writing it down. That’s when you know an idea is bad. When you realize it halfway down the page and write: Where the hell was I going with this?
But instead of giving up on the idea that prompted me to start writing in the first place, I kept journaling until I eventually came up with the idea that this main character lived in New York and had first hand knowledge of some supernatural event because he was Fate. That’s as close to the finished product as I got. Just the idea of Fate living in Manhattan. At the time it was just an concept for a short story and most of the rest of the story I came up with stayed in the journal. But that’s how most of my ideas come to me. In bits and pieces. Kind of like a puzzle that I eventually figure out how to put together. And I had a lot of fun with this one.
Scott Browne – 2010
About the Author
Scott G. Browne is the author of Breathers, a dark comedy about life after undeath through the eyes of an ordinary zombie. His second novel, Fated, is an irreverent comedy about fate, destiny, and the consequences of getting involved in the lives of humans.
Scott’s writing has been influenced by Stephen King, Chuck Palahniuk, Christopher Moore, Kurt Vonnegut, and the films of Charlie Kaufman and Wes Anderson, among others. For more information, visit: sgbrowne.com