Thursday, June 10, 2010
Attack of the World Building Bunnies
(Or: A diversion on writing process)
So there I am, sleeping peacefully - or as close to it as this narcoleptic gets (kind of a drugged doze, usually) - and I get ambushed. This happens with disturbing frequency.
I know you're not supposed to admit you get ideas from dreams, but I do, often. What I don't get are plots, which means after the idea makes its appearance there's an incubation period of indeterminate length while the idea ferments and characters start lurking behind odd corners of grey matter waiting for their chance to ambush me. Occasionally they'll insist I tell their story without letting me know what the end is, but usually I have to pry it out of them. There are times when I wish for a crowbar, then I remember they live inside my skull, and the result of me applying a crowbar to that wouldn't be all that scenic.
Anyway. So I wake up with this haunting image and a data dump about this world and setting. It's SF mixed with steampunk, an accidental colony on a world that's a) orbiting a huge star close enough that the thing positively looms in the sky, b) has a moon that's also huge (it may actually be effectively a binary planetary system, but that's not entirely relevant) and in geostationary lock, c) has a ridiculously long rotation period, d) has an even more ridiculously long planetary year (as opposed to what the locals call a year), and e) the entire civilization has grown up from its origins during a solar eclipse. Oh, and the world is very volcanic. They use this as a power source, and live in perpetual twilight.
The image is glimmerings of a dark orange sun around the edges of shadow against the silhouette of Victorian-esque buildings. It comes with a sense that the whole place is doomed - Nightside is largely unexplored, cold, and people who explore there don't come back. It's relatively warm with the eclipse: full sunlight will be too hot for fragile humanity. And vulcanism is tearing the land apart.
All of this is quietly simmering somewhere in the back of my head, accumulating depth and history and waiting for the right character to emerge and to carry a story which I suspect will involve an apparently doomed battle to survive the combination of an increasingly hostile physical environment and a decadent cultural environment. And just to prove that the way I build stories is... interesting, I now have the titles of at least two books in this world: Twilight, and Nightside. It's going to be dark. I suspect 'lyrical' may creep in just from the feel of the place in my mind.
Yes, this is what passes for my process at the very beginnings. Whether this one goes anywhere will depend on whether a character emerges to carry the piece. It's a rather complex synergy for me, requiring any number of pieces to land in place. If/when they do, I have a story which will devour what I laughingly refer to as my spare time. Until then, I have an annoying itch in the back of my head and some odd mental imagery.
To those of our readers who write, how do your stories start? What is your 'seed' and how does it grow? To everyone - do you want to hear more of the progress of this particular seed as it happens? If so, are there any special requests? I can't make any guarantees - at this stage it's quite possible the whole thing will die - but I'll do my best to oblige.