My day work has always included an element of strategy and future visioning. When I started my novel in 2006, I, of course, planned out the environment to some level of detail, I knew where to put my story. I had planned on, and think I still do, to write a series of novels starring the same characters.
Spins on Reality
I’ve always enjoyed how some writers can spin real history into an alternative future. Based on a well-known historical event and then spun up with a different outcome. Yet that alternative future, isn’t, the focus of the story, it is just the setting. What would a murder mystery be like in a world where semiconductors had never been invented? A wink, wink, nudge, nudge to those very inventive British gentlemen.
With my novel, I was going to take a look at an alternative future post 9/11. I was stretching out for about 20 years. And here I am, 21 years later looking at an outline that is no longer future-facing.
I had included a small device using a touch screen that connected wirelessly to other devices useful to a detective, a DNA scanner for example. I had called it an ePad. In 2010, 5 years after I started my novel, Apple released the first iPad. I may be able to use the technology concepts easily enough, but I’m sure I will need to come up with a new name. I had other interesting toys too, such as a lapel camera; can you say body cam? Argh.
Location. Location. Location.
The city and state that used in my outline are tied very closely to where I was living in 2006. Familiarity with the city, streets, districts, and so on plays heavily in the outline. Now, 21 years later, I’ve changed home states three times. Where I live now I expect to be my final home and it doesn’t lend itself well to being a good setting for my novel. The closest city is five miles away and the largest major city an hour and a half.
I cannot see continuing to use the original location. It no longers feels like it will lend to an ongoing series well. While I could leverage the nearest major city, I am not familiar or intimate with it enough to really capitalize on its history and the nuances of different districts.
What to do?
While I won’t get into tracking word count details as much as the original, I know I will ultimately map out the entire location. Record all of the locations, street names, and buildings I use, probably down to locations of annoying potholes that my characters will complain about often and how long it takes to get from point A to point B. That is, in my mind, a daunting task in and of itself.
Having the time, devices, and locations set in my mind gave me a foundation to draw upon that did not require much thought. I could drop an event in any given location and already instinctively knew or felt how long it would take to get my characters from one place to the next. Plenty of conversations between my main characters occurs while in transit, they think out loud and bounce ideas, conjecture, and scenarios off of each other, review the interviews they just did and compare notes.
I am a writer and I can do whatever I want, right? The creation of a whole new city feels like it will blow up my reality shift. A major city cannot be created and populated within twenty years. An existing city can have major changes, new buildings, highways, and potholes within that timeframe, but a new city entirely will just be jarring to the experience.
In reviewing the work I have already done, each time I run into one of these elements I stop and tell myself that I need to fix that and it derails my current story-focused thinking entirely. I’m letting these elements hold me hostage on moving forward with the story, of finishing the damn book.
I know, it is all in my head. But isn’t that where the writer’s workshop is, where all the magic happens, and if that workshop is strewn with obstacles that the writer keeps tripping over, it needs to be sorted out. The story has to flow and feel natural, the reader will pick up on anything that feels out of place, if the writer trips up, the reader will see it and it will take them out of the moment. That, I think is a really bad experience.
As a writer, I know I can do whatever I want, invent whatever I want, and write whatever I want. There is the rub. I don’t know what I want.
This post isn’t working, still don’t know where to put my story.
I thought that if I could write this post, it would have a therapeutic effect and help me to work out this challenge. It isn’t working and my brain still hurts.