Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Where does the story start?

My latest writing project is something that I consider a crossover between Battlestar Galactica, The Walking Wead, and the video game for Xbox "XCom." In my review last week I played up some of it stronger points. Honestly the game is, hyper addictive, and has me almost wanting to write fanfiction for it. 

In addition, it also has what I consider a fairly underplayed story line for the dystopian world that seems to be very much commonplace. The Hunger Games for example I believe is meant to be a highly evolved American, human society. Revolution, for as long as he managed to keep watch it, was us without electricity. But what about the wasteland caused by aliens? Definitely stories there that need to be told.

The real challenge I'm finding now, is figuring out exactly where the prose will be begin. I know going into my project that I will be posting things out of linear sequence. I know that I want to do flash-forwards and flashbacks all over the map. I want you to find out about something that the main character, well one of the main characters, did 30 days after the alien invasion. Then, in the next update, I want you to see her give a video diary taken three days before the first attack. I want to create that conflict of what is happening now, then give some some of what came before and what you can expect to happen in the future.

I believe that nonlinear storytelling is one of those challenges that I need to take on. Plus, in making this a web serial, but giving myself a nonlinear storyline, I allow myself to update any part of the story whenever I feel the muse, or the motivation. It frees me from having to keep plugging along nicely straight-line, and allows more freedom to explore flashbacks as they become part of excepted system.

But that raises a whole new challenge unto itself. Where, exactly, do I want my story to start? What are the first moments I'm going to use to grab casual reader and say "hey you want to read more of this! This is going to be a very interesting story that you're now finding just the first part up read more!"

My choices seem to fall in my choices seem to fall in several categories.

I can start with the first moment that the aliens begin their attack. Life is happily plugging along everyone is smiling and oh no here comes death upon us in big fiery waves.

Option two, would be some short time thereafter. Our main characters have discovered that all is not right in the world, they begin to take steps to save themselves, and their loved ones. Perhaps they're not being fully successful. Either way things have been going badly for several hours now and there is great tension in the air.

Choice number three, would be picked up several days after the attacks, when things are still uncertain as to exactly what is going on everyone is trying to sort things out. The advantage of starting here is that I provide more room for flashbacks, however it is also very easy to slide in some kind of melancholy some kind: oh wow, now we get to breathe and while we breathe nothing interesting is happening because we're pausing to breathe.

My fourth option then seems to be to begin several weeks or months possibly even a year after everything has begun. Rather than establishing how the only resistance is built itself up, I simply say "Hey, look! There is a resistance against the aliens. What aliens? Well the aliens that attacked sometime ago. We'll talk about them later. For now all you need to know is the world sucks, there are aliens everywhere, and mankind has been reduced to about oh say 30 people."

Of course the advantage of taking that route is that I can dive in on writing heavy action. I can get right into what these people are doing now to survive in a life radically different from our own. And I can easily fall into the trap of writing genre fiction. That trap would be that I am worried more about the world, than I am worried about developing good characters.

Moving forward I think my top priority is to save myself from the easy pitfalls of genre fiction. I put the start of the story sometime sooner, such as as everything is plunking along and my character is just now thrown into turmoil, or shortly thereafter. This will force me to deal with them as characters dealing with real reactions. After all, at any moment there could be a cataclysmic attack of comets and life is we know it could cease; we will be forced to make tough choices.

Of course, it also creates it's own dilemmas. There are many tropes common in this kind of fiction. The most classic, of course is the "There's only so much room in the lifeboat folks, so we're only going to take five of you. Let's pick the five people out of the 50 that are going to live on."

Part of me knows I will have to deal with that at some point, but do I want that to be one of the early clich├ęs that the people see me using?

At any rate, things are plugging along very well. If this story, or the style, is at all fascinating I do encourage you to look over open auditions post.

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