How Turning Point was Written

I started writing Star Kings a long time ago. I wanted to write a series of stories, set in the far future, that I would like as much as those which I had written for Blood of Ten Chiefs, the six Elf Quest anthologies, and which I had collected in Freefoot. I did a lot of preparation: character names, personalities, descriptions; plot-points, time charts, obstacles, conflicts, adventures, and so on. It went nowhere. 

Years went by until I finally realized, that what had worked for Freefoot, was that the stories were about ordinary Elfquest people, in peaceful times in a safe world, living normal lives, with only occasional unexpected events. It was how they dealt with those events which were the subjects of my stories. None of what I had done for Star Kings had been anything like that. That had been about heroes seeking out adventures and excitement in a dangerous time, not just getting along with a life so different from ours. It was not about people.

So on December 8, 2017, I returned to Star Kings. I threw everything out and started all over again. It would begin when my hero was born, and it would eventually end when his first child was born. I knew little more than that, and the basic premise based on what I had learned about Freefoot. I did sketches and rough drafts, and wrote what turned out to be the first third of the book. 

I had to set it aside for other reasons, but when I came back to it and read it again, it felt right. This was what I wanted. But I had to change the title, because Star Kings is the title of a book by Edmond Hamilton, published in 1949. Look it up. My book is now called Turning Point.

I learned about my hero as I wrote, and about his people, who were called the Khestari, and who were ordinary in their own way. I learned about their safe and familiar culture as star-miners and galactic traders, about what they did at home in their city between the stars, about the non-human peoples with whom they traded in the Cold Star Cluster, and about trading with the worlds and peoples out beyond the Great Cloud in the limb of the galaxy. It was sort of like trading in the Mediterranean when that was the center of the known world. 

The challenges the Khestari dealt with were appropriate for their time and place, and each challenge had to be met in it’s own way. There were a few conflicts, but almost all of them were resolved to the satisfaction of both sides.

Turning Point has nine parts, each of which is a long story. There are forty seven chapters altogether, which are almost stories in themselves. I knew from the ending of each part and chapter how the the next would begin, and I had an idea about how they might end, but I knew nothing about what would happen in the middle. That developed as I wrote the sketches. 

I wrote no biographies for my characters, who all came from that part of my unconscious which I call my muse. They are like people whom I have just met, but whom I do not yet know. I let them be who they are, let them behave and deal with their issues their own way. I was constantly surprised by what I learned about them.

My characters were not static, they grew. My understanding of the Khestari grew, and I realized that their culture was almost ideal — as I might wish, in some ways, that our own culture could be. But it was not a Utopia. I discovered what the over-all arc of the story was, and how to bring it to a satisfying conclusion, even as I wrote it. 

And I realized that every chapter and every part had a turning point; in a character’s life, in the culture of the Khestari, and in their place in the larger culture of the limb of the galaxy. That is what gave me the title which I now use.