Friday, January 24, 2014

Personal Victories

Behind the Story of Critical Contingencies (Part 9)

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.

Long before I started writing this book, or even developing the specific ideas for it, I had spent a long time imagining and developing the premise for the series – how the ‘Slowpocalypse’ happened and what its effects would be.  But that was all just background until I found my characters and discovered the story I wanted to tell in how they dealt with the disruption in their lives.

I started out focusing on the very personal stories of David and Kat and what the changes taking place meant for them.  (And I wasn’t surprised that even at the end my focus was less on the larger plot and more on what the events of the climax meant for those two.)
When I had gotten to the point in the story where David and Kat finally met, both of them were at low points in their personal stories – David had tried to do his best and realized he may have ruined everything, and Kat had become completely frustrated by the lack of definite action to take.

Of course, in saving David’s life she not only had the chance to do something, her actions set the endgame in motion.  And she’d created the opportunity for herself to play an important role.

Although David’s outward actions may not seem to have changed much, he moved forward with a different motivation.  No longer worried about what might happen if he didn’t do something, he chose to do what he believed was the right thing for its own sake.
What difference did David and Kat’s decisions and actions have on the outcome of the larger story?  The bad guys would probably still have been defeated and the threat to the community averted.  (Though as Caroline points out in the epilogue, it likely would have been a great deal messier.)

That larger story is important, though.  It’s not just there in the background – the closing of the compound and the threats to their community defined the changes taking place in David and Kat’s lives.  And those threats were the source of the challenges they had to overcome.

In the end, the book is more about how they responded to events around them and their roles in resolving the conflict than the central problem itself.  And as the larger story of the Slowpocalypse grows and expands over more books, I plan on keeping the focus squarely on the characters.  (And as I finished writing this book and thought about where all the characters were at, not just David and Kat, I started getting ideas for the next book.  Because there are a number of loose threads left over from this one.  Minor points that may become major problems.)

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