Friday, April 18, 2014
Worlds and Time
Warning: this post may contain spoilers for Millennium Crash (though hopefully not for future books in the series) and I recommend reading the book first.
Also be warned that this shows the ‘sausage-making’ aspect of writing the book, which some of you may not want to know about.
To show how simply a story can start, this one began because I love time travel tales and I wanted to tell one. There are many possible approaches to take, but the one that most appealed to me was having time-travelers from the future come to our ‘present’ world – to see it from a different perspective, and of course to have all kinds of adventure in what would be their past.
Before I could even begin to develop a specific story, there were a couple of things I needed to do. The first was to find out about this far future world the travelers would come from – what it was like so I could know how it would influence their perspective on our modern world and the characters themselves.
Rather than try to develop this far future from scratch, I decided to employ the law of conservation of setting. (And if there’s not such a law, there should be – as a corollary to the law of conservation of characters.) Since I’d already spent a lot of time developing the near future world of the Slowpocalypse series, I extrapolated a far future based on what would be happening in the Slowpocalypse books. (Yes, that means Watchbearers takes place in the same ‘universe’ as those stories.)
Of course, I can’t go into detail about where and when the travelers come from (spoilers!) but I can and do offer glimpses of that future when I write their points-of-view. And one of the challenges to telling these stories (that I realized right away) would be avoiding giving away too much through these future characters’ points-of-view.
Part of figuring out that future also meant figuring out who would be traveling into the past and why. Based on the future world I had in hand, it made sense for those headed back through time to be academic researchers. And because they’re all researchers, focused on observing the past, they don’t spend much time thinking or talking about their future.
So the hints I give come through the comparisons they make with our time. Fortunately, it made sense for such researchers to want to study the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, since I wanted to put them in our ‘modern’ era. (At least to begin with.)
This also meant a hierarchy among the travelers particular to where they’re coming from. Someone would have to be in charge – and how they organized this research expedition would be based on how they dealt with such issues in the future. Figuring that out gave me ideas for the relationships of characters I didn’t know yet.
Knowing what the future they came from was like, I then had to figure out how they traveled back to the past and how that might impact their stories.
Next: Part 2 – Theory and Practice