THESIS – THE WRITING OF ‘MADAM PELE: A Contemporary Fantasy Novel’

What led me to write my novel ‘Madam Pele’, as a contemporary Mythical Fantasy novel – including discussions of both literary theory and influential authors of several genres.

For those of you who wish to view the complete Thesis, the following Link takes you directly to my Thesis page within the Edith Cowan University Repository.   Click on Madam Pele: novel and essay to open, then scroll and read the complete Thesis.

Below is a Synopsis laying out the format of the Thesis.


In this essay I cover contemporary theoretical considerations, such as Modernism, Postmodernism and Fantasy, and the influences of various authors’ writing techniques, descriptive language and narrative-plot genres, that led me to want to write my novel Madam Pele as a contemporary mythical fantasy.

Naturally, my personal experiences form the foundation of the novel, especially those in Hawaii which contribute to its scope, but writing style is of equal importance.  In order to demonstrate what has led me to this stage of style development and position of perceptions, my early reading history and an analysis of the influential authors is a necessity.

‘Travelogue’ novels.

My definition of a ‘travelogue’ novel is one that describes the details of a journey to another country or location, as the vehicle for the story which is often secondary to those details.  I discuss two influential ‘travelogue’ novels: A Pattern of Islands by Arthur Grimble, and Faraway by J B Priestley.

Crime novel plotting.

Having, over the years, accumulated an extensive library in Crime/Mystery fiction, with their often complex logical plots, I have learned not only to apply my analytical mind, by focussing on minutiae, but have gained a firm grounding in plot construction.

Analysis of influential authors.

Moving through the works of various authors I rejected many and was drawn closely to others.  I found that the novels that remained embedded in my mind contained the elements of satisfying plots, and mystery that was not always criminal, as I was drawn towards fantasy fiction.

Modern and Postmodern characteristics.

I discuss what characteristics constitute Modernism and Postmodernism, listing them as gleaned from my studies of Literary Theory, and reinforcing it with quotes from  Lewis and Moss.

Descriptive Language.

I define some literary terms, such as metaphor, simile, metonymy and synecdoche, and the specified or unspecified tenor of these language tropes which were often used figuratively.  They could all evoke an image that was instantly recognized, including the connotations of the chosen likenesses, and the baggage of intertextuality, the resultant image suggested – imagery contributing to the clarity of the wit, humour and landscape of the authors’ texts.

A particular knack with words.

Under this heading I deal with those authors whose works demonstrate this particular language use, plus aspects of literary theory that have been influential to my writing style.

Dylan Thomas:  I discuss Dylan Thomas’s use of evocative language in his prose, in some detail, referring to works such as Quite Early One Morning, HolidayMemory, and Under Milk Wood.  I love his prose.  It is easy, enjoyable, and engaging to read, written to be read aloud so that the music of the language can be heard.

P G Wodehouse:  While his plots and characters provide some comic nature to his stories, I believe the main contribution comes from his use of language, his surprising descriptive imagery, his use of metaphors and similes.  They engender chuckles that swell to gales of laughter.  I discuss this aspect of his writing, referring to Galahad at Blandings to illustrate my views.

Tim Winton:  Like P G Wodehouse, Tim Winton is a crafter of words, with the gift of creating evocative imagery.   I discuss his novel Lockie Leonard, HumanTorpedo, with its colloquial Australian language; followed by a detailed analysis of his novel The Riders and the Postmodern aspects of its text, including fantasy elements.

William Golding:  In his novel, Pincher Martin, Golding depicts the plight of a man lost at sea during the war, struggling to survive the elements while stranded on an isolated rock.  This novel demonstrates a Bakhtinian notion of ‘self’, as the protagonist strives to retain his identity without a reflected image or his view of himself as seen by others.


            After defining Fantasy, Imagery and the Imagination, arguing for the legitimacy of fantasy as a general product of the imagination in line with Coleridge, Tolkien, and Le Guin’s opinions, I indicate the different types of Fantasy – High Fantasy, Sci-Fi Fantasy, and Realistic Fantasy – pointing out that my novel, Madam Pele, falls between High Fantasy and Realistic Fantasy, containing as it does authentic mythology presented within a real setting.

Analysis of influential authors.

High Fantasy.

I discuss J R R Tolkien’s views expressed in his essay On Fairy Stories, using an extract from my Honours thesis most of which I have included as an Appendix.

Sci-Fi Fantasy.

Briefly I discuss the works of Julian May, and glanced at “the increasingly inaccurately named Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy” byDouglas Adams.

Realistic Fantasy.

            The authors under this heading constitute my main focus as they deal with the area that I have chosen for my own novel.  Each has its own area of fantasy that is relevant to my work as indicated.

William Golding:  one step outside reality in The Inheritors.

Patricia Wrightson:  re her rock character in The Nargun and the stars.

Daphne Du Maurier: her temporal slippage between medieval and current Cornwall in The House on the Strand.

Susan Cooper: re her detailed use of medieval myths and symbols to authenticate her Dark is Rising series

J K Rowling: re the compounding complexities of her wizard world narratives.

Contemporary Fantasy.

This refers to other authors using postmodern format for fantasy, who opened doors for me to future writing possibilities.

Madam Pele : the novel.

My goal was to recreate an authentic myth into a contemporary literary myth including sufficient elements of the realistic novel to provide access to modern readers.  This section illustrates the methods that I used to achieve this.

Madam Pele – outline.

This gives a brief synopsis of my narrative, covering both the Hawaiian holiday taken by Di and Paul, but also their present predicament in Perth and their interaction with Madam Pele.

The importance of Madam Pele.

I discuss the importance of the character of Madam Pele to my narrative, through which her own story interweaves.

Postmodern characteristics.

I relist these characteristics and discuss their relevance within my narrative.

Geometric plotline.

This explains my geometric way of looking at the plotline, and includes a diagram.


After defining the term, devices, I then discuss each device individually, showing how and why I have used it as a writing technique, under the subheadings: Dialogue; Non-essential descriptions; Patterns; Voices; Active Verbs; Free Verse; Inserts; ‘Travelogue’ nature.



I mention that I hope my demonstration was successful regarding my reasons for writing my novel, Madam Pele, as a contemporary mythical fantasy, and that it indeed stands up as such – the implausable becoming reality with the Pele myth incorporated into the contemporary world.


This is my NaNoWriMo entry Part 2.

Every 31 minutes someone is murdered . . .

Midnight – New Years Eve.

 The attack was swift and sudden.  The blade sliced into his left side and up towards his heart.  His chest ripped, ribs broke, as he stumbled forward onto the knife, pulled out with violence.  He gasped, his eyes bulging in disbelief.  From his open mouth came gurgling, sputtering sounds.  He wanted to cry out for help, to scream his agony and fear to the party-lit street, but he could get no volume.

Without a word his attacker turned and left, purposefully, with no appearance of panic.  Alone, and to the sounds of revelry from every house, he clutched at the nearest fence, staggered along it to the gate, then clung to the gate-post to gain the strength to open it and proceed unaided.  He didn’t get far.  Dropping to his knees, then down onto his hands, he dragged himself about a body-length across the grass beside the path.  With a spluttering gasp he collapsed face down and lay still, as his life ebbed from him, and his senses faded.

Suddenly there was a great shout into the humid NorthWest night.  Cheers.  Auld lang Syne!  People spilled out of the houses and called to their neighbours.  Barbeques were re-ignited and meat was soon sizzling.  Music blared from various sound systems – Michael Jackson competing with Pink Floyd, Meatloaf, ACDC down along the street.

People danced on the grass, and wondered about the gate-crasher who seemed to have had a skin-full.  ‘Should we wake him?’  ‘Nah.’  ‘Leave the poor bugga to sleep it off.’  ‘Fair go – it’s New Years after all.’  Banter.  Laughter.  Arguments as a couple get too drunk and nasty.  The parties break up and people drift off home.  ‘Cover the gate-crasher with an old car rug or he’ll catch his death.’  ‘Night.’  ‘Seeya.’

Quiet descends on the street, on the town.  The humidity mists onto the lawn and the body, glistening in the street lights till they too turn off.

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12.31 am 

The pounding his wife was taking was beyond description.  He’d sorted out the boyfriend, and now it was her turn.  Again.  It had been going on since Xmas.  She’d screamed then, but noone came to help.  Her neighbours, her friends thought they’d make the situation worse if they did, and domestics weren’t considered as priorities at that time.  If they waited till he went to work, they could make sure she was okay then and help her get away.  But he didn’t go out, and she didn’t appear again.

The beatings got a bit worse each time.  Furniture was smashed, he yelled abuse, then forced her to cook his meals without snivelling or she’d cop it again.  The last time had crippled her, broken her legs,and ribs, and she’d lain on the bed, bound hands and feet, in a foetal position, unmoving since then.  Into her mind had crept the incongruous thought of Douglas Adams quote in Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy about ‘bits of her kept passing out’, and had wanted to giggle but couldn’t.  The pain was too great.  Her eyes were all puffy and she couldn’t see, and wouldn’t know if he was standing there watching her.  So she kept still, and when she was conscious pretended she wasn’t.

But it was no protection from the sudden beatings, each more shocking than the last as she had no way of knowing when they would begin.  He pulled her by the hair and flung her, still bound, across the room.  He kicked, and kicked, and kicked, before pounding into her head with his fists.  After flinging her back onto the bed, he quietly picked up his knife.  It had done such a good job on that bloody boyfriend.  Now it was her turn.  Bitch!  He slashed her unprotected body, watching the terror in her eyes.  Then he sorted her face out as well.

Closing the bedroom door for the last time, he went and made himself a cuppa, and a sandwich, and turned on the TV to watch the New Year fireworks replay.

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1.02 am 

In the High Rise apartment complex a drugs deal was underway.  The men entered the dimly-lit central courtyard through the ground-floor car-parks and headed for the lifts.  Pretending to press the button, then retreating to the base of the stairs, the Dealer swore.  ‘The bloody lift’s out of order again.  Have to climb the bloody stairs!’  ‘What floor?’  ‘The bloody top of course.’  ‘Geez!’

Halfway up the mugginess was getting to his Mate, so the Dealer told him to wait while he went to see the kid.  Didn’t wanna spook him anyway.  He might rack off before doing the deal.  He plodded on up.  The Mate leaned on the railing and looked around the compound created by the railed walkways lining the inner walls of the complex.  Geez he’d hate to live here.  Looked like a prison.  He leaned over and glanced down at the courtyard.  At least there were some palms in tubs down there, some greenery.  Mostly paving, but.

On the sixth floor, the drugs had changed hands, the money been counted and the kid had sauntered off.  Descending to join his mate, the Dealer commented on the couple of gay guys in the courtyard below.  ‘They shouldn’t do that in public!  Not even at night.  Kids live here.’  His mate craned his neck to get a look.  ‘What?  Where?’  ‘Down there.’  Pointed to the thickest foliage below.  ‘You’ll have to get on the step and lean out a little.  See?’

He crossed to the lift and pressed the button calling it up.  He returned to his mate, leaning dangerously out trying to see the gay guys in the gloom below.  With one swoop he grabbed his mate’s legs out from under him, tossed him up out over the rail.  In three steps he was in the lift which was ready, barely hearing his mate’s furious frantic scream or the sickening thud as his body hit the concrete paving slabs below.  His head struck the corner of a garden-bed wall, splitting open and spattering its contents onto the cool leaf-strewn surface of the courtyard.

Leaving the ground-level lift he hurried to the courtyard to gaze up as if startled by the scream, as people appeared at the railings and peered down for the same reason.  Several men approached the body.  ‘Call an Ambulance!’  ‘Call the Cops!’  A tall, bearded Bikie grabbed a dropsheet from a nearby carbay to throw over the nauseating sight.  The smug Dealer slipped away to hide in the air-conditioning plant room till it was all over.  Petty blackmail sorted.

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(C) Copyright Jud House 6/11/2011

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