A ‘what if…?’ question has been nagging me for days, but I was too busy on other things to kick it into the dust. I finally had a few minutes of peace and quiet (that is if you can get peace and quiet in a coffee shop). Out came the piece of paper and pen, and the doodling started. By the time I finished my americano, I had a new world, a new society and a fairly good idea where in the universe I would site it! And I had a very basic story that would naturally fit in, or putting it another way, the world lent itself to an obvious story arc.
Now all I need is the the plot and the characters… and the time to write it… and one nagging question of ‘how did that happen?’ Well, it’s not every day you end up with the whole basis for a science fiction novel!
I can only assume that my subconscious has been rather busy gnawing away at something obscure, to produce something as fully fledged as that.
Then I thought back to my three novels that I’ve written and how they came about. Let’s call novels 1, 2 and 3.
Novel 1 is a typical beginners novel where you work a massive number of mistakes out of your system, which is why this novel will never see printer’s ink. That novel began as a short 500 word description of a place that did not exist. At it doesn’t exist these days, but may do in the future. That came about as a result of a call for a competition. And what did I choose as a basis for the competition… a crazy discussion while travelling by car through the wild countryside of Wales, you know, one of those silly glib comments made about the passing scenery. Things just kind of grew out of that comment.
Novel 2 grew out of why can I displace this thing to that place kind of question. Then the engineer in me got busy playing around to see if it was possible. The detail just grew and grew and grew and…. well you get the picture. I have had some short stories published that are good background stories to this novel. Pulling those together helped solidify my thoughts about that universe.
Novel 3 started out a description of a place, written as an exercise for my creative writing course. Only of course some of the patterns I saw in the on-line pictures brought other things to mind, which of course led to the basis of the storyline. Only one slight snag with that one. At one point, early during writing the first draft of the novel, I realised that not only did I invent one world, I had to bring together a kind of second world so you could get to the world I first thought of. It’s a kind of you get two seriously detailed new worlds for the price of one novel type of thing.
So we come to Novel 4. Interestingly this did not start with a place, but with a question about the impact of certain trends in the development of society, and then moulding the place around the society.
There are basically two trends in this little history:
- Each novel has started with a trigger, which only took a few moments to happen. But those triggers were intriguing enough for me to want dig or develop further. This seems to be a constant in the instigation of my novels.
- The triggers have moved from what I call experiencing reality close at hand through finding out about distant places that I’ve never been to to coming up with totally imaginary places. Or putting it another way, I have shifted my way of working from how do places affect societies to where do I find certain types of societies.
This has left me wondering if other more advanced science fiction writers experience a similar kind of development arc?
Your guess is as good as mine.