Sunday, June 28, 2015
Warning: this post contains spoilers for the first 3 Slowpocalypse books and the prequel short story, and I recommend reading those first. Also be warned that this shows the ‘sausage-making’ aspect of writing, which some of you may not want to know about.
I’d been considering ideas for short stories for some time already when I was writing Compromised Inside. I really prefer bigger plots that require the space of a novel to unfold, though, so any short story I wrote would be more of a character piece. And I did like the notion of seizing the opportunity to take an in-depth look at one of my characters. But there were too many people I wanted to write more about. So who would be first?
Of course I was contemplating minor characters I hadn’t had much chance to spotlight yet, but as I was writing Slowpocalypse book 3, I realized Kat’s story needed to be written more than anyone else’s. Not just since she’s my favorite character to write (or yours to read about, apparently) but because she’s become the star of the Slowpocalypse series (narratively speaking.) And a prequel would let me do more world building, to show society gradually breaking down as well as some of Kat’s own background. After all, when we first meet her in Certain Hypothetical, she’s already a hero. And a hero needs an origin story.
Usually when you see the ‘origin’ of a hero, it’s one defining moment that transforms the person, and as a storytelling device that can be quite effective. But I wasn’t sure there was such a sudden transformation for Kat, since she didn’t discover she had superpowers or become imbued with special abilities out of the blue – she had trained hard for years to do what she could do. The closest to that kind of change for her character was what became the second of this story’s three scenes.
Already highly capable because of Tony’s training, that moment in the mall is a powerful point in Kat’s journey for two reasons. One is that it’s her first real fight to test that training. The other is the way it challenges her not only to choose the right thing to do, but to overcome a kind of inertia and force herself to take action rather than simply react.
But the story needed more context than could be had in that one incident, so I started with a scene that would show some of what she went through to become such a capable fighter. And since this is fiction, it would be a training session that directly related to the upcoming scene. It would also give me the opportunity to show more of her early relationship with Tony.
So why bother with the third scene? As much as the second did a good job of portraying a significant shift from her preparation to actually acting like a hero, I wanted to show that she would learn there’s more to protecting people than taking down the bad guys. As that third passage takes place halfway through the events of Certain Hypothetical, it would also be a glimpse into a future where Kat is maturing in her role of hero and what that looks like.