Posts Tagged creating a world

Do androids dream of electric horses? Creating the future – interview about Lifeform Three at @AuthorsElectric @AuthorKatherine

In 2013, I designed the future for my novel Lifeform Three. I wrote about robots that were more human than people, people who were slaves of their devices, and creatures who wanted to escape the algorithms and find real connection and meaningful lives.

Today I’m at the Authors Electric blog, talking to fantasy and historical fiction author Katherine Roberts about the making of Lifeform Three. (Katherine guested on my Undercover Soundtrack series a while back – ‘A ballad of fairyland, but not sweet and innocent’. Find it here.)

Katherine and I discuss key fundamentals of writing a futuristic, science fiction, dystopia or speculative novel: creating a viewpoint character who is non-human yet relatable; designing a world with plausible social systems by figuring out the priorities of the rule makers; choosing names that reinforce the story’s themes and resonance; and lacing the text with warnings that are subtle and not preachy.

So, do androids dream of electric horses? We also discuss homage to favourite books – Lifeform Three is, in part, a love letter to the pony stories I devoured as a kid. (Apologies; I’m bringing you horses for the second time this month. The next post won’t be horsey.)

Do come over.

And here’s a bonus! A bit of bookish chat with Tim Lewis on his channel Book Chat Live. He asked me to make an Amazon wishlist with favourite books that have influenced my own writing. That’s quite a wide brief because I’ve written memoirs, contemporary fiction, SF and writing craft books, but there are literary touchstones for each of those, which you might like if you like my kind of book. Tim has a wildcard question at the end – choose anything you like from the Amazon store and say why you’d like someone to buy it for you. Ever since, I’ve been bombarded with adverts for the thing I chose. People, the algorithms are watching.

Find the show here.

There’s a lot more about writing in my Nail Your Novel books – find them here. If you’re curious about my own work, find novels here and my travel memoir here. And if you’re curious about what’s going on at my own writing desk, here’s my latest newsletter. You can subscribe to future updates here.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

2 Comments

Pretend your main character isn’t there

You may have developed your main character, but what would your supporting characters be doing if they weren’t there?

As one novel flies the nest, there’s another poking its beak out of the egg.

Its working title is Echo, but so far it’s nothing more than a concept, some exciting developments I must include and two main characters whose story it is.

But I’m not going to do any more work on those two yet. My next job is to look at the other main characters around them – the people who are important, but whose change and resolution is not on the same scale as the MCs’. Not Lizzie and Darcy, but all the Bingleys, other Bennets, Wickhams et al.

What are they doing without my MCs?

Echo won’t be their story, but I’m going to start with them – and what they want to do if my MCs aren’t there. They will have aims, goals, agendas, worries, people they adore, people they loathe, rivals and scores to settle.

It’s a little like what mystery and crime writers do. They create a murder or other crime, then add the people who are investigating, or feretting out what’s going on, perhaps getting into trouble with it themselves.

Then add MCs… and stir

But my MCs aren’t going to be investigator, observer types. They have needs of their own and will get into the biggest trouble of all. Once I add those to the other characters who already have full lives… it should be a good ride.

Writing in a vacuum

Too many writers get into difficulties because they start the other way round. They have an MC who is minutely drawn but seems to exist in a vacuum. It can be a struggle to write because it feels as if the character is walking through an undecorated TV studio with only the props that immediately fly into the writer’s mind – a milk bottle, say. Or the people who pop up to help something along – a mother or a boss.

To write your MC well you also have to write their world – and the most significant factors in that world are not where the corner shop is, but the lives of the other people. If you make them up as you go along it can be a huge mental effort, especially if you need to create people with credible lives.

So the more complete your other characters are, and their problems, the easier it is to throw in your main one. Also, the supporting players will be less like puppets of the main trajectory.

By seeing what they would do without my MCs, I can make sure that when I throw them in, they really start some trouble.

Start your story as if your characters didn’t exist, then add them – and you’ll have a lot more fun.

What do you do to flesh out your world beyond the main characters? Share in the comments!

Thank you, Atmasphere, for the pic

In case you’re curious, my novel My Memories of a Future Life launches on August 30th!

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

33 Comments