Sandworms of Dune

Sunday, April 1, 2007



For the past five days, Brian Herbert and I have been alone in his house, bouncing ideas off each other (and bouncing off the walls). We're doing the ramp-up work for PAUL OF DUNE, developing the story together so that we both have the same novel in our heads before we separate again -- I go home tomorrow -- and then flesh out the "skeleton outline" (about ten pages long) into the "full-blown outline" (about a hundred pages long).

We've been contemplating this story since at least 2000 -- that's the date of the first letter in my "Paul of Dune" file. The genesis of the story is based on a lot of Frank Herbert's character-history details, previously unpublished events in the early life of Paul Atreides and other characters from DUNE. We are using these story elements to create our own cohesive novel/trilogy.

Off and on while we wrote the three Butlerian Jihad novels, THE ROAD TO DUNE, and HUNTERS and SANDWORMS, we would write down ideas, plot expansions, possibilities for the story. So we have had the general concept for the novel (as well as the other two books in the trilogy, IRULAN and JESSICA) for quite some time. Now, though, we had to be specific: Lay out the storylines and break them down, chapter by chapter. We talked over our notes, sketched out the broad-strokes structure of PAUL OF DUNE (as well as a more general structure for the following two novels), and then did something else for a while. We'd go out to dinner or take a hike, notepads in hand, and continue brainstorming certain aspects of the story, furiously jotting down notes. Then, back home, we'd key in the "skeleton chapters." As the days went by we developed a more and more intricate map of the book.

We needed time to decompress in between the brainstorming sessions. The first night we rented two movies neither of us had seen, THE CHILDREN OF MEN based on a PD James science fiction novel, and then the new Nicholas Cage remake of THE WICKER MAN. Neither one was particularly enjoyable, but we hit the Pause button frequently so that we could talk about new ideas for PAUL. Next night, we decided to try for movies we knew were good. Brian, a fan of old classic movies, wanted me to watch the original noir thriller THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE, and I convinced Brian to watch THE INCREDIBLES. We both enjoyed each other's pick.

Today, we expanded the nearly-complete outline even more, brainstormed some more, went down to the harbor for lunch, fleshed out more details. Right now, the skeleton outline stands at about 100 chapters, and with the last round of fine-tuning over the next month, before we actually begin writing our chapters, we'll probably add more chapters as "connective tissue."

Now that we feel gratified and satisfied, pleased with ourselves for all the brain-draining imagination work we've accomplished, we're ready to watch a few more movies (with notepads at hand, in case other ideas should come) -- LIFE OF BRIAN (my pick; Brian's never seen it), the original LADYKILLERS (Brian's pick; I've never seen it), and the new Bond, CASINO ROYALE (neither of us has seen it).

-- KJA


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