By Eleni Papanou
In the not so distant past, writing felt more like a chore. It took ten screenplays and one badly written novel to admit I never felt satisfied with what I produced. It seemed like I wrote only to satisfy an audience, which made the experience hollow. Longing to create something more personal, I switched my focus from high concept to indie and began working on The Cabin. The concept was simple: two ex-lovers, Damon and Flora, meet up for eight lifetimes. The hook: Damon’s memories of his past lives are triggered when Flora arrives to arrest him for assassinating their leader, and they soon end up murdered by a well-respected elder. Each lifetime, Damon races against time to save himself and Flora.
After I finished the screenplay, I liked the story enough to explore the idea of writing it as a novella. Starting was easy as a screenplay makes an excellent outline. I expected all the plot points would be the peaks, and the new material would be the valleys leading towards them. Yes, this was going to be easy…so I thought. Little did I know The Cabin was about to transform into a full-blown epic…something I had dreamed of one day writing.
The move that changed everything…
The Cabin evolved after I introduced a piece of technology from an older screenplay I had given up on. This fortuitous maneuver ended up connecting the two stories together and made the peaks of The Cabin less significant to the overall story! Other characters entered The Cabin, and it was now too small to contain the large cast. I changed the title to Unison, and it’s the first installment of a four book series that I’ve already plotted out. I’m glad I didn’t know what I was getting myself into ahead of time as I might not have even started. I had to make a timeline, glossary, and a spreadsheet to keep the order of events straight, and I also had to create a new calendar along with mythologies for various cultures. As exciting as it was to build my own story world, all these challenged me as I have a short attention span and find it difficult to commit to long-term projects. I typically give up either out of frustration, boredom…or both.
After the initial edit, I liked the story, but I knew I had to go through it again to check for consistency. I found a few problems with the flow, and the final read through seemingly took forever and pushed me to exhaustion. As I toiled over every word, paragraph, scene and chapter, I asked myself why I was putting myself through all of this. Although I had no concrete answer, I continued forward, allowing the story to develop without my interference or concern over its marketability. I just wanted to write a good book, and one that I’d be proud to attach my name to.
Distance made my heart grow fonder…
After I got my manuscript back from the editor, I did my final read through, and that’s when I knew I was meant to be an author. Unison was the first piece of authentic work I had ever written because I let the story grow as it needed to, without any resistance. There was this level of satisfaction I never felt before—and I’ve done a lot, so that was very revealing to me. In addition to writing screenplays, I earned a degree in music and fronted my own original band. None of the above gave me the feeling that this was what I was meant to do for the rest of my life. Perhaps that’s why I never stuck to projects long enough to complete them. In order for me to feel fulfilled with my work, it must coincide with my desire to express my spirituality outwardly. I never had a creative outlet to accomplish that until I began writing visionary fiction. It woke up a new part of me, the part that was seeking out purpose. For me, having a purpose gives life meaning and leads to the most enriching experiences. I once received the following message in my meditation that became my personal philosophy: It’s not about being right or wrong. It’s all about the experience. That’s how I try to live my own life, and it comes out in my fiction as well.
As opposed to other genres I’ve written, in visionary fiction I must experience the interior growth of the character myself…before I type out the words, “The End.“ I see this as another form of meditation, and I feel fortunate that I can communicate my spirituality in an artistic way. I also feel fortunate that I found a genre where people appreciate this type of storytelling. What a way to live…and write!
For more information and updates, visit Eleni Papanou’s website to find out more about her debut novel, Unison, an epic that will take four books to tell, as well as future releases.