Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Basics

I want to talk about basics today. Really pare back things to their core and see if I can't remind myself what this book about. This might be helpful, I think, because this thing really started to get away from me when I began piling elements on to the work in progress.

This book, you might remember, is currently called A Body Up the Well, and I say "currently" because, while I like the title (it is long, and awkward, and overly-but-poorly poetic and, thus, exactly the kind of title that I love to give things), I'm pretty sure that it's actually no good, and...

And I'm getting away from myself.

At it's very heart, ABUW can be broken down into three elements that, together, form the A-story:

  1. A murder has been committed and covered up on the lunar surface.
  2. A UN Security Consultant is ferried up-well to investigate the crime.
  3. The crime is solved, despite adversity and possible repercussions.

There. That's it. I just told you—without effort or misgiving—the plot of this novel. I'm done. There are no misspellings or significant grammatical errors. I can publish this bitch and go to bed.

But, alas! No! Because, much as in all things, details matter. Details are where the story stops being a three-sentence summary and start being an actual story. Obviously, I've got the summary down, so maybe my problem with this book is coming from some of those details. Some of the padding that keeps getting piled on as I continually consider new avenues that remove me from my story. Let's take a look at some of them:

  1. Global Politics: There's a lot going on with the death of Warren Cole. He's the first man murdered outside of Earth's atmosphere, so obviously there's going to be a lot, lot, lot of scrutiny and publicity levered at the lunar colony and the UN. Enough so that the UN might just want the whole thing to go away without anyone knowing about it, or paying for it. The communications blackout between Earth and Luna at the beginning of the book, and the quarantine of the colony, is ostensibly there to keep people from finding out about Cole's death before it is deemed a homicide—but it could just as easily be the first step in bottling the whole thing up.
  2. Local Politics: I've had a lot of concern about this one since the beginning. The comms blackout and quarantine makes too much sense to let it slide, but it's also highly problematic because of the pressure that it puts on the lunar population. I've considered growing tensions coming to a head with a riot in the main dome, but that seems overdone. There's also Security Chief Bessette and her people on-site, and the conflict between the investigation/secrecy and their closeness with the local population.
  3. The Corporations: I haven't played much with corporate influence in the parts of the novel that I've written. At least not beyond the potential link between one or more corporate entity and Cole's death. I'm a sucker corporate-heavy settings, though, and for monolithic, morally suspect sci-fi mega-corps, so I might reconsider their level of involvement and the degree to which they are present at the colony.
  4. Dow's Past: Dow is fairly archetypal, but also somewhat complicated. His existing personal relationships, military background, possible PTSD, and general misanthropy are all very compelling for me. I've had a tremendous amount of trouble finding a consistent voice for him, and I'm wondering if maybe he shouldn't just be simplified some.
  5. The Setting: I pride myself on my research, and my ability to know when to let good research go by the wayside when it serves the story. That said, I'm not sure that I'm doing a very good job with that second part here. This is a much nearer future than I'm used to writing, and that unnerves me a bit because I feel a greater obligation to get it right. So as much as I love some of what I've done so far, I think I might want to let drop in the interest of simple clarity and fun. I'm not talking about throwing away physics, but maybe I shouldn't be so concerned with the scatter patterns of loose paper in sudden atmospheric decompression.
  6. The Suspect Pool: This is the general list of people who might have killed Cole and need to be investigated in some capacity. It keeps growing as the writing continues, because I keep coming up with more people who would have a reason to kill the unlikable bastard. It really needs to be trimmed back.

So, I think that's a good enough list to start with. These are the primary things that are going to be informing the story of the novel, growing on their own and then bouncing into the plot at various times to keep it going in proper and interesting directions.

It may seem curious that I've thrown a list like this together, but I've been giving it some thought for the last couple of days and—if I'm going to fix and finish this novel—this seems like a good place. Each of these presents its own set of complications to the writing process that I hadn't considered at the start of writing, so I'm going to spend the next little while trying to come up with ways to get them all lined up and working in concert.

Until then, I'm open to suggestions.

 

-Sean

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