Visionary Fiction’s Effect On This Author

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.

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10 Responses to Visionary Fiction’s Effect On This Author

  1. Thanks for sharing this, Eleni. I especially like:

    "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 agree completely. I find that this approach to writing is deeply fulfilling, but can also be emotionally exhausting!

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  2. Reading this post had me saying over and over, "Yes, that's exactly how I feel." Thanks for so accurately–and eloquently–putting into words how it feels to be a visionary writer. My four novels evolved out of a personal search for that something more, when my usual worldview didn't "cut it" anymore. My protagonist's journey into uncharted territory, her trials, her victories, and her failures, meshed with mine. We learned together. As you said, it's like communicating our spirituality in an artistic way. "What a way to live…and write!"

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  3. Admin - Eleni says:

    Thanks for the comments, and have a wonderful weekend.

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  4. Eleni,
    I totally agree with your passionate and articulate sharing of how you must experience your characters growth first (especially spiritual in VF). I have found that to be true in my Visionary Fiction writing, too.
    With my last novel, my writing stopped for several months while a crucial piece of healing around a long ago loss healed at a deeper level. The result was a more deeply believable main character that readers could empathize with…and the spiritual awareness my character gained (me, too) was not a philosophical concept, but was visceral, grounded, and embodied, and thus easier to relate to for my readers.

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  5. Admin - Eleni says:

    Hi Jodine.

    You bring up an excellent point. I stopped in the middle of another manuscript based on a screenplay I'd written. I couldn't move forward with it because although it had a great character with a satisfying ending, it felt a little shallow. I've also had days like you, where I needed to get over a personal issue and didn't feel I could present my story honestly or effectively until I did so. I find it interesting how our spiritual growth can either make us take pause, or change direction, in our writing. Either way leads to greater insights and personal evolution…and deeper characters, as you've stated.

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  6. Eleni, I second Margaret – I too can relate to my own experience of writing my VF. I understand completely about allowing the story to write itself, in effect.

    Btw, it was interesting to know you have a degree in music and have fronted your own band. You are a multi-talented lady! 🙂

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  7. Victor Smith says:

    As a new member I am looking over older posts and comments on the VFA site.

    Much in this one rang true. I especially like the line: "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." Might not that be a description of 'enlightenment'?

    From the age of 20 to 60 I wrote about ten full versions of my VF novel, The Anathemas. Several times I thought I'd nailed it, but then something blew up; I either spotted something terribly wrong in the book or something in my life belied what I'd written. It was only after the current version that I could sit back, call it authentic, and send it off to make its own way, a grown child leaving home.

    It's hardly a perfect book, but it says what I intended to say, if only to myself. I believe that every authentic work, VF and maybe otherwise, must first resonate with and to a profound change in the spirit of the writer. If the change and the journey to achieve it is one common to many people–and the majority of pivotal changes are–the book may go on to become a best seller. As its parent, I work and root for its success, of course, but even if no one ever buys a copy, it remains priceless to me.

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  8. Admin - Eleni says:

    Thanks for the reply, Victor, and welcome to the VFA.

    "Several times I thought I’d nailed it, but then something blew up; I either spotted something terribly wrong in the book or something in my life belied what I’d written."

    Yes, this has happened to me, and when it does, I stop writing that particular story. I find that I have to be living the story's internal theme in order to write it. I also resonate with you when you say your work is priceless. It most certainly is when you write something truly authentic. It's a present that you can't place any monetary value on. I've written a lot and have only recently understood the depth of what that means.

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  9. Excellent post—fabulous Journey…

    You said:

    "…I let the story grow as it needed to, without any resistance."

    I've told myself, "Just shut up and let the book write itself!" 🙂

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  10. Never saw your reply to my comment before, Eleni. Must have been my first comment on the site now over two years ago. Had to laugh. It was the beginning of a great adventure that came also with a wonderful group of friends. Hope you see this sooner than I saw yours. Let's keep going.

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