Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Certain Characters

Behind the Story of Critical Contingencies (Part 4)

Warning: this post contains spoilers for Critical Contingencies (formerly Certain Hypothetical) 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 novel, which some of you may not want to know about.

I had the basic premise for the book.  The question then was – whose story was it?  There was FURC Director Jonathan Miles, the architect of the project behind the FURCS community.  But considering that he’d have others doing most of what needed to be done and that he knew too much that couldn’t be revealed yet, he wasn’t a good choice for a main POV character.

So what character or characters would be the engine to drive this story?

To answer that question I looked at the people in Miles’ life – that’s how I discovered Anthony, Verity, Ken and Caroline.  These were four people Miles could trust to carry out his ad hoc plan to protect the FURC.

Each of these had their part to play, but I didn’t think either Ken or Caroline had enough to do to sustain a major point-of-view.  Ken’s job was mainly to make haste slowly on enhancing the compound’s defenses, to convince the governor’s spies that there was no reason to rush a military attack.  Caroline was just acting the part of a separated wife who wouldn’t mind poking a pin in her ‘estranged’ husband.

Verity had a critical acting job to carry off and none of the training or experience that would help her do it – I thought that would make hers a good story.  And she was the key person the enemy needed to make smooth their takeover of the FURC.

I liked Anthony for a second major POV as a counterpoint to Verity’s as he investigated the suspected moles.  I thought he had enough to do and found him an interesting character.

Since both Verity and Anthony knew exactly what was going on – the closing of the compound, the nature of the threat they were under and the plan Miles had concocted to deal with it – I thought it might be nice to have a couple of minor point-of-view characters whose stories would show how events were affecting people who didn’t know what was happening.

I already had the characters of David and Kat and this is how I decided to use them.  Despite who their parents were, they would both be caught unawares by Miles’ decision to seal the compound and the revelation of the threats they faced.  They would provide a different perspective as they gradually got swept up into the larger story.

What?  That’s not the book you read?  It’s not the story I ended up writing – I started to, but I quickly realized there were major problems with telling the story this way.  And to fix it, I had a big choice to make.
Next week:  Part 5 – Diagnosing the Problem

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