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An Unlikely Combination: Developing Hapax
Ever have that moment where a scene flashes across your mind’s eye? Every detail shines sharp and clear, you know some things, but you’re buzzing with questions?
That’s how my novel Hapax started.
A pretty young woman in a cream-coloured evening dress sat in a theatre, watching an opera. The music thrilled her, but she was also terrified and distracted—because she was concentrating on moving her chest in and out so that the man next to her would think she was breathing.
Spoiler: this scene appears nowhere in Hapax.
But this woman fascinated me. Why wasn’t she breathing? Why was she so scared? Deep down, I knew she was an android. No question. But see, I had wanted to write about magic....
...and so I wrote about magic androids.
Personal archaeology into my own notes reveals a gradual, convoluted creation process. Over the next several months, I’d think about her sometimes. “River” was a librarian—magicians had collections of information too vast for a human brain to catalogue. She was a Magically Created Being who was starting to have emotions. That was a bad thing. But who would have the skills/power to create a Magically Created Being in the first place?
A university-like organization emerged, along with a system of magic in which magicians carried blue fire from another dimension and bound it into doing their will. I called it Ayr.
So, I had a pretty good grasp of my MCB and magic system, a general idea of the university, and no idea what their story was. I let them drop.
A year later, another woman barged into my life: a flaming redhead with a sense of humour that ranged from playful to downright sardonic. Through all my notes, the same name emerges over and over, right from the start:
Around the same time, I learned two interesting things:
- A hapax legomena is a word that occurs only once in a text, corpus, or language.
- In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God and the Word was God.
What if the Word of God was a hapax? slightly-older KT wrote. And what if no one knew what it was, because no one heard it the first time? That would really suck if you needed to create a new world, like if it was the Apocalypse...
And Serafine flashed me one of her now-infamous grins.
It was the Apocalypse, and she was determined to stop it. Based on two main ideas (“The Word was with Ael and the Word was Ael,” and “Ael is That Which is All,”), I sketched out a theological system and religious institution. I even had a rough plot outline. But somehow, it never quite worked. I let it drop.
None of these ideas ever really went away. My magic system and my theological system, River and Serafine, my college and my cathedral...they lurked in the background, emerging from my subconscious every so often.
Until the day they joined together.
My two half-stories collided and set off a spark. Magic made Aelism make sense. Aelism explained the “aither” (my old Ayr). The two institutions I’d created—Magistatiem and Ecclesiat—conflicted with each other, and in probing that conflict, I found history that illuminated the world and suggested the story.
It was still the story of my terrified, emotional MCB. It was still the story of Serafine stopping the world’s end. But each half of the story depended so completely on the other that it’s strange for me now to think that aither and Ael had ever been separate. When developing Hapax, there was no story without the world—but the world wasn’t whole without the story.
There’s a lesson in this. There always is. In this case, I learned that nothing you create is ever wasted, and that you never throw anything away. You never know what combination of ideas might ignite when brought together.
At least I get further along with every novel, teenaged KT wrote. So hopefully I’ll be able to see River’s story through to the very end.
It took a while. But I’m so thankful I did.
K.T. Bryski is a Canadian author and podcaster. She made her podcasting and publishing debut with Hapax (Dragon Moon Press, 2012. Select credits include stories in Black Treacle and When the Hero Comes Home Vol.II (Dragon Moon Press, 2013), the libretto for East o’ the Sun and West o’ the Moon: A Children’s Opera (Canadian Children’s Opera Company, 2014), and various scripts for Black Creek Pioneer Village, Toronto. When not writing, KT enjoys Doctor Who and Pokémon Crystal. She is currently working on the prequel to Hapax.
Find K.T. At:
Blog: K.T. Bryski
Facebook: The Group Page of K.T. Bryski's Writing
The Apocalypse has come, and in seven days the world will be no more. Only the Hapax, the Word which began the universe, can recreate the world and avert the Apocalypse, but that Word has been lost. Brother Gaelin finds his faith crumbling as he is forced to shelter two fugitives from the Magistatiem, the college of magi which has been divorced from the Ecclesiat monks for centuries. As time slips away, the monks and magi must do more than just heal the ancient rift that divides them—they must trust in the very Being who drove them apart.
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