Posted by: victanguera | October 14, 2009

Exercise #74

Although I thought to focus on characters for this prompt, I’m wondering if I should have determined setting first. At the early planning stages, there probably isn’t a right or wrong way to do things. My first NaNo, I went into it with a slim idea: what would happen if you had a character that had the ability to influence how others thought about people. The first day, I jumped in with a blank computer screen and no clear direction. I lost sleep as my mind asked the question WTF is she DOING? I still don’t know.

Because I completed those 50,000 words in one month and went on to complete an entire draft by the end of the following month, I thought the process worked. Like Chris Baty says: “No Plot, No Problem”. I believed him. Until last year. I started off with the same shiny blank computer screen and a nebulous what if or two. Although I completed 50,000 words of one idea and 10,000 words on another, both drafts are sitting at the bottom of a virtual desk drawer. Lack of a plot paralyzed me.

I don’t want to make the same mistake this year. Some people can write by the seat of their pants. I don’t think I’m one of them.

Here are the two potential settings:

A. Steampunk. I have a few choices with this. One would be a future where society as we know it has disintegrated and people have gone back to steam (or at least a form of technology that they can fix with a hammer and wrench). Or it could be set in Victorian England (or its equivalent), either an actual reality or an alternate reality. Setting makes a considerable difference to who the main character is. This girl (or young woman) is operated on without her knowledge.

That is one premise that I know will be central to the plot, probably as backstory. Who does this makes a big difference. It could be a patron, if she lives within upper society, or her parents even. She must be significant if they value her enough to attempt something that has the potential to both kill her and leave her at the outskirts of normal society. Thinking again of setting, it could be that turning people into steam-borgs is common practice. This would imply either an alternate history or a future society.

B. Magical realism. I posted a short story a while ago with Arachna, the spider that eats Tricia’s boyfriends. When my writer’s group read it, one fellow thought it would make a much different story if it was magical realism rather than urban fantasy. I did some brief research on El Día de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead) and it would make an amazing backdrop for a story. This one has more shape in my mind as I started something with it already, but I don’t know if it is large enough for a novel. It might only merit a short story. My idea is that Tricia and Manuel are newly married. He books a cruise for their honeymoon (potentially without telling her where they are going). They wind up in Mexico on a day trip, in a El Día de los Muertos celebration.

Tomorrow, I’ll work on developing both ideas even further.

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