Monday, May 10, 2010

[Book Update] Cataclysm!

This isn't so much an update, but since I never enabled tagging it helps make it easy to find these related topics if I always title them that way.

No, this article is about Cataclysms. Boom! Big, bad, destructive, world-changing, apocalyptic, catastrophic, armageddonous events. In English, those are about all the words you get for that concept. It's one of those things you can only refer to in a relatively limited number of ways.

I have a cataclysmic event in my novel. It's a post-apocalyptic urban fantasy, after all, and the only way to get to the post-apocalyptic part is if, at some point (past or present) there has to be an apocalypse. And, if there are survivors, they're going to call it something. We've had minor cataclysms in the last few decades, events like 9/11 and Katrina, where we've named them and everyone instantly knows what we're talking about. I decided a year or more ago that people would probably, logically, refer to my event as "The Cataclysm." That could still change if I come up with something I think is better, but for now, that's what I've been using.

Here's the problem - when you're writing a sizeable work, you become very sensitive to any other work you encounter that seems to use similar themes, plots or terms. The last thing you want is to put thousands of hours of effort into an original work and have somebody (or, worse, lots of people) proclaim, "oh, well, it's just a knock-off of [writer X's] work."

So there I am reading my kids the Dragonlance novels, and I see that in that fantasy realm there was once a world-shattering event (literally) that they all call The Cataclysm. And then I see that the new World of Warcraft expansion will ALSO be called the Cataclysm. Which actually helps me feel a little better.

Let me explain - there's a reason why we'd all use the same term. That's because there just aren't that many alternatives. Short of making up a new word or finding a suitable "Katrina-esque" name, you're pretty well stuck with the half-dozen or so we already have. And you can be darn sure that other writers of novels, movies, TV shows and whatnot have been up one side and down the other of whichever word you pick. I try hard to tell myself that everytime I stumble across a term or concept that's central to my work and prominent in someone else's.

Ok, so here is an update - chapter 11 has been totally re-written and, as usually seems to happen, it's now gigantic. The old chapter 11 has been smashed together with the old chapter 12, which makes the new chapter 12 also gigantic. It will need some serious editing. Chapter 13, on the other hand, has been gutted in order to create chapter 6b, so it needs to be re-written. If I can get the new 12 and the new 13 finished this week, I'll be very happy.


  1. I think you might possibly be missing an opportunity here. By going with an more specific name you get to add more flavor for the the readers re: the survivors. How they name the apocolypse says a lot about their collective character. =)

    Jason aka Hamlet3145@ OO

  2. I had thought about that (and still am toying with it if a more appropriate term comes up). Thing is that this isn't the sort of thing that wiped out all but a small handful of survivors nor did it happen especially quickly. My thought is that more than likely the talking heads in the media would have been the ones to come up with the term, and this seems like the sort of generic word they'd use for it. "Good evening. Tonight's topic, once again: Cataclysm 2010. Bob McMoustache is in the field and has a special report. Bob?"

    It's one of the names that I'll revisit once I've got a full draft of the novel written and have a feel for the flavor of the work as a whole. It'll be easy enough to change if I decide something different works better.

    Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts, Jason!