Friday, May 9, 2014
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.
Because stories are about confronting challenges, starting them right means things going wrong. Any part of the narrative that comes before the conflict arises is like a still life – it may be beautiful, but it isn’t going anywhere.
There’s a sense of anticipation when you sit down on a roller coaster, but it’s that first jerk of the chain that gets the blood pumping. If you just keep sitting there, anticipation can quickly turn to annoyance that the ride hasn’t started. And while it may be difficult to get up and leave once you’re on a roller coaster, even one that’s not going anywhere, it’s all too easy for a reader to put down a book that hasn’t caught them and started dragging them forward, into the story.
So I knew I wanted to begin Millennium Crash with everything going wrong – but what did that mean, specifically?
As I’d developed the story so far, I had only one defined character – the professor. As the man in charge, with time-traveling experience and who knew what he was doing, the sooner he died the better. His death derails the research project before it even starts, and it means the travelers can’t return to their own time. But that didn’t seem to be a sufficient challenge for the characters.
Since the professor had previously only traveled back in time on his own, no one would find out – until he took the entire expedition back to the summer of 2000 – about the flaw inherent in multiple people traveling through separate fields whose co-ordinates had been set by one primary device. That flaw meant they all ended up in different physical locations, separated from each other.
The scattering of the time-travelers would create different difficulties for each of them and allow for the characters to have distinct adventures responding to a variety of challenges. But to truly have their own stories, they needed to be separated in time as well as space. How would that happen?
One way would be to have a research assistant who’d joined the expedition to try and use the time travel technology for their own ends, who kills their team leader to get their more advanced device and travels further back in time – while another research assistant tries to stop them.
Another way to separate some of the travelers would be to have one of the team leaders run into a year 2000 native who wouldn’t know what the watches were for and would then accidentally send them both to another time.
Those initial complications would create three different storylines centering around three separate sets of characters. But I still needed to find out who those characters were in order to tell their stories.
Next: Part 4 – Three for Three