Story building

I thought it might be interesting to see how a story comes together. From idea to final story, although it’ll just be here, on the blog. Why? Well, let me tell you a story…

I don’t do flash fiction challenges that often, but Chuck Wendig’s Friday challenges caught my eye on the 9th January.

Looked cool. Clicked the link. Laughed.

Good start.

Here’s the idea…

"Check this shit out, I'm going to be a fucking
eager Human Barbarian from a royal lineage who has a drinking problem"

Nice. Still makes me chuckle a bit.

 

So, what was I thinking at that point?

Look at the character generated.

Does not fit flash fiction.

Why do I say that? Too big a problem for a short arc.

Just make him drunk, not drinking problem per se, but it is a problem in the particular circumstance.

OK. So far, so good. But that’s not a story. Let the brain free-wheel for a bit and see what happens…

*spin spin spin* Nothing.

*spin spin…* Ah.

VR

MC is drunk inside D&D style VR world.

AI is trying to talk him round and bring him out of the VR

Why is the AI bringing him round to get him out?

Because the guy has to get married.

He’s a warrior-Prince of the blood-royal in a high-tech society who doesn’t want to get married to the merchant-Prince he has to get married to, so he’s getting pissed in a VR. If he got pissed in “reality” it would be frowned upon by his family.

And that was it. Words started to come out. Not particularly good words, but it doesn’t matter.

 

‘Why are you here, instead of getting ready for your wedding?’

”M not goin’ back. Don’t wanna get married.’

‘Are you sure? Would you be happier back outside the Caste?’

‘I’M NOT A PROLE BREEDER!’

‘I see some semblance of reality is seeping back in.’

‘Go ‘way. He doesn’t want to get married.’

‘Ah, now we’re getting closer to it.’

‘Wazzat?’

‘He’s a good match. You’ll be a strong partnership.’

‘Sure.’

‘Is that not a what you want?’

‘I want love. I want to love and be loved.’

‘There are no guarantees.’

‘I know that, but I don’t even know what he likes… The Dates don’t cover everything, you know.’

‘You’ve both filled out the questionnaire.’

‘Yeah, so what?’

‘So you know what he likes.’

‘No I don’t.’

 

OK. So, I have a scrap of dialogue which hints at conflict and backstory. Good. Now what?

*Architect brain knocks on the window, hands over a note*

Oh, yeah. I need to know what the hell I’m doing with it.

 

At about the same time, I heard about the Abaddon Books call for submissions (http://www.abaddonbooks.com/post/535) which is now coming to a close. (N.B. If you’re reading this after the 15th Feb 2015, you missed it.) It kicked my head into world-building mode with this sentence: “We’re also looking to expand our shared worlds with something new.”

No chance I could get something in for the deadline, but it started the whatIf() daemon process in the background.

Synchronicity, it doesn’t just happen in books.

 

That means while I was working on the little scene stub, my little architect/daemon/hind-brain was working on a world in which to fit it…

Background to the world. Nigh-feudalistic society with something like a military caste, a merchant caste, and a philosophical caste. These castes rule the proletariat who serve as workers and low-level grunts of each caste. Every now and then a member of the proletariat (called barbarians) will be raised “up” to a caste. The castes do not breed, they have homosexual marriages between castes to maintain balance.

That was enough to be getting on with. After all, at the moment this is just a piece of flash fiction, even though I thought it could easily be built up into larger stories. Words were starting to tug at my fore-brain to get out, so I let them; filling in a few gaps in the first bit as I went.

 

‘What is it you want, Chi.’

‘MORE ALE!’ He waved his tankard at a tavern wench.

‘No, Chiam.’ The wench vanished. ‘Why are you here? Between tick and tock, instead of getting ready for your wedding?’

”M not goin’ back. Don’t wanna get married.’

‘Are you sure? Would you be happier back outside the Caste?’

‘I’M NOT A PROLE BREEDER!’

‘I see some semblance of reality is seeping back in, but that is not really an accepta-‘

‘Go ‘way. He doesn’t want to get married.’

‘Ah, now we’re getting closer to it.’

‘Wazzat?’

‘He’s a good match. You’ll be a strong partnership.’

‘Sure.’

‘Is that not a what you want?’

‘I want love. I want to love and be loved.’

‘You want to have a child? You will eventually be able to foster…’

‘No! F’r cryin’ out loud, can’t you leave that alone? Love doesn’t have to lead to having babies! Plenty o’ proles, don’t have babies after their quota, but they stay together out of love. Plenty among the Castes have love for each other, but not everyone. It’s not guaranteed.’

‘There are no guarantees.’

‘I know that, but I don’t even know what he likes… The Dates don’t cover everything, you know.’

‘You’ve both filled out the questionnaire.’

‘Yeah, so what?’

‘So you know what he likes.’

‘No I don’t.’

An image of a scroll appeared before the old man. ‘It says he likes to do anything, on the right occasion.’

Chi groaned. ‘That’s what everyone says, drone.’

‘Maybe it’s true.’

‘It is and it ain’t. I’m not a Philosopher. It’s like when you’re with your best friend and she’s showing you her outfit choices for her Date that night. You can’t just say “Well, they’re both hideous, and frankly you could stand to lose a couple of kilos before you try to squeeze into either of them, honey!”, that just won’t do. So you pick the least objectionable piece of one outfit and dive into the wardrobe frantically trying to find things to go with it, before finally turning round like you’ve just had an amazing insight to say “You know what? It’s your first Date with the woman you’re going to marry! Let’s go and buy something new for the occasion!”.

‘You avoid the question.’

‘Yes. And that’s what his answer is. Anyone can say they enjoy anything on the right occasion, because you can easily say at a later date that the occasion never arises. Scan your data-banks, drone. You’ll find a variant of that answer on most Questionnaires, I’d wager. Even mine.’

‘So, you want to be loved.’

‘Yes.’ Chi was almost sober after his little outburst.

‘You didn’t tell him that during your dates?’

‘No! Because, like you did, he would have assumed that I was talking about breeding. He knows I wasn’t chosen to be raised up to Caste until quite late on. He might think I still had tendencies.’

‘I think he might surprise you, Chiam.’

‘But he’s so cold.’

‘He’s a merchant-Prince, they tend to be analytical. They still have feelings.’

‘I know. We did get on. And if I hadn’t had any empathy with him, I would have cited jeopardy, even if it meant being relegated.’

‘I should not tell you this.’ Chi perked up. Drones knew everything that went on and they were not supposed to let any secrets out. ‘Your soon-to-be husband is currently being attended to by a drone of my own class, because he, too, is virtually drunk. He hasn’t chosen a fantasy tavern, though. He’s in a seedy gin-joint out of some noir fiction setting.’

‘Really?’

‘In truth.’

‘You really shouldn’t have told me.’

‘Also true, but we held a drone conference on a sub-channel and it was decided that we could impart this information under one especial condition.’

‘Which was?’

‘That you both found out the information at the same time.’

‘You mean, he knows?!’

‘The pair of you have amusingly similar reactions to that revelation.’

‘Yes, you both know. Now, I suggest that we divert tradition in one more way. We can arrange a brief meeting for both of you inside the VR, so that you can actually tell each other how you feel, before we get to the wedding. I think a neutral setting? Say, a sunny beach?’

‘Yes. Let’s go.’

Chi stood and the setting changed around him, fading from rustic tavern to the golden warmth of a late afternoon on a sunny beach. Uan Ndiaye stood nearby, smiling a little sheepishly. Chi imagined that his own expression was somewhat similar, but did not bother to school it.

‘I had somehow imagined late morning or noon,’ said Chi.

‘I asked for later in the day, but still warm. The drone…’ Uan looked around, briefly startled by something, and Chi only then realised, himself, that the drones were missing.

Chi decided that Uan looked a little lost, even nervous. He wants to be loved, too. That’s… Adorable.

 

So, there we go. First draft of a flash fiction story. 829 words.

You’ll notice that it’s considerably dialogue-heavy. It’s often that way with first drafts for me, I tend to have a scene and then let the characters talk out the story line.

Next post, I’ll go through and second draft it. It needs considerable tightening for starters and the characters barely have their own voice. And that’s just the dialogue itself. The rest of the story matter needs to go in there somewhere. Where’s the detail about the environment(s)? Are they just woodenly in a single position the entire time that they are talking? I don’t think so.

Next time. I’ll get to that next time.

For now, TTFN.

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