I’m in the process of prepping for NaNoWriMo (NaNo for short), something that may or may not happen depending on how absolutely insane November gets in the US between elections and fights for a SCOTUS replacement for Ginsburg. NaNo is a challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days, which amounts to about 1667 words/day.
These posts are nothing more than an attempt to pull back the curtain on my own writing practices a bit on the off-chance you can learn something from own my mistakes and successes. I highly suggest skipping this category of posts if that doesn’t interest you, or if you’ve got you own process down to an art. I’m writing “out loud” my thoughts, which is probably closely linked to some kind of metal disorder, if I’m honest about it.
And away we go…
In my last post, I covered the backdrop (Central/Eastern European flavored with a 1920s-mech feel, along with the possibility of werewolves, vampires and other Slavic creepy-crawlies making an appearance) and a few of the key character I expect to play a role (although they are yet to be fleshed out).
It’s probably time to come up with a problem for these folks, don’t you think?
One potential plot thread:
Winter (one of the characters) is a mech operator for a semi-authoritarian government in the region. She’s the driver and has a gunner partner. They have been tasked to police a agricultural region that borders one of the great forests in the region (think “Tulgey Wood” or Black Forest; dark, vast, ancient, dense, and a source of stories meant to keep kids out that may or may not be true).
Winter’s loyalty to the government is in doubt because of her brother’s affiliation with an insurgent group, so she is given an out-of-the-way assignment to limit any damage she can do to the government, although she’s never given them reason to doubt her commitment to her job. In truth, she’s ambivalent about her government, leaning towards them because she doesn’t have the ambition for government change that her brother has. To a point, she’s lazy about that particular matter.
One day, Red (current name, but not sold on it) wanders unaccompanied out of the forest. She has few memories of the time before she was found wandering the edge of the wood and can’t recall her own name or where she was from. Red is in the range of 8-11 years of age and possibly unable to care for herself. They pick her up and call for instruction.
About the same time as Winter finds the girl, the dispatcher for the military orders her to investigate a nearby incident in a mining village. There had been reports of worker rioting before they lost all communication with the village commissar. As the materials mined in that village are essential to a looming war effort, she and her partner are to investigate and pacify the community to ensure the continued production of the mined materials. When she asks about the girl, her orders are to let that community deal with solving Red’s mystery and finding her parents/caregivers. Winter’s orders are to deal with the village and continue her patrols.
What they find at the village changes everything… And probably has something to do with Red’s exceptional nature.
Here is where I’ll make more private notes and share less (on the off chance that I’ll serialize the tale here), but suffice it to say what they find at the village doesn’t meet their expectations. Winter’s partner doubts where her loyalties lie as they get more involved in the village’s problems, and challenges her in unfriendly ways. Red is an unwitting part of the solution, which unveils a larger problem that involves more than the village.
While there is a fine line between magic and supernatural, I think I am going to try and go in the supernatural direction with this story. Magic is the conscious application of will (per Wicca/Crowley/Gardner definitions), whereas I am going to keep this in the realm of something outre operating on the situation. Think Poltergeist: Carol Anne doesn’t have “magic”, but is acted upon by forces beyond our understanding (paranormal or supernatural). I imagine Red being a conduit for those forces, and not necessarily able to direct those forces, although I might change that as I develop this story further. If so, more Firestarter than little girl tossing fireballs like a high magic wizard [this is an example, not what I imagine Red’s skill to be].
I don’t have anything against magic, I just think I rely on it too much in my other writing and I want to shift things away from high and low fantasy into something more centered in a low-magic world. Magic exists, maybe, but not in any kind of abundance in this place. It’s rare enough that people scoff at its mention, and it this is an industrialized world. I imagine the village mines some exceptional material, be it fuel or metal, that doesn’t exist in our reality, but there is nothing necessarily magical about it. But synthetic variants of the mined material don’t exist and alternatives have been failures, which is why this village is so important to the war effort (of which the war machines are highly dependent).
Okay, I’d yesterday said I didn’t want to get too wrapped up in politics, and I still intend to gloss it over, but it looks like my subconscious is wanting to include at least some in the background (as the post title suggests, this is a brainstorm, not a fully developed story plan). So, I’ll be tossing in something that might resemble post-WWII communism into my mix, but will not be entirely based on those tropes. I may retain some constructivist elements in the architecture and the utilitarian approach to civic design. As this is a rural location, it might only be evident in the story parts told from the capital, if I decide to include those. I tend towards keeping my stories localized and not based on multiple viewpoints, but I could argue with myself that it would add depth to this particular story to get that perspective. Do I want to worry about it during a month-long cram session of writing? That makes it less likely and, should the story be worth keeping, I could see adding in those elements in rewrites.
I think this brainstorm actually sets me up pretty good for starting. I need to figure out the BIG PROBLEM still, and that will give me a goal to approach and following resolution. In my next post about NaNo, I think I’ll start developing the primary characters a bit further.