NaNoWriMo Chapter 1 – The Where And When
As with starting a D&D campaign, I have to start with the broader picture, the genre and the world. They inform the characters, the story, the very tone of the writing. They can give us a base upon which to build detail, and out of an organic world living characters can arise to face real situations that practically write themselves.
My previous attempts were in a future earth with a strong super-power cyberpunk theme, so I am going to attempt to avoid that altogether. Here instead are some genre blends I think I could write, along with some ideas for stories that you’ll get the chance to vote for later in the month. Vote below for your favourite.
I am at your mercy…
Sci-Fi – Crime
As humanity spread to colonize every solid chunk of rock around Jupiter, we saw the return of piracy as never before. The ruins of Earth are fatal to those who dare attempt illegal salvage operations. An assassin starts to unravel a plot, and finds himself in the cross-hairs.
Law becomes an altogether different matter when governments have to encompass multiple planets or moons, and law enforcement has to change with it. What’s automated? What’s privatised and how? There’s a lot to play with and a lot of scope for toying with both genres. With crime being rife, theirs probably more to play with by taking the point of view of criminal enterprises, or make the plight of those precious few trying to uphold the law seem more dire.
Alternatively, how has the law changed by the changing circumstances? I could look to Asimov and consider the rights of AI, or look to Repo: The Genetic Opera (no, not Repo Men, trust me, watch the superior film) and consider how new industries can create new legislation and new crimes. I should also watch Almost Human. Because Karl Urban.
Dark Fantasy – War
Every creature who can raise a sword rallies to a banner these days. These are causes without borders, without blood-ties, fights can fill valleys with death and leave families torn apart. Choose your colours wisely, because everyone must take a side.
Feels a little like cheating I admit, these two lend themselves readily to one another and to my tastes very well, so I tried to rethink the nature of the war. I pulled my inspiration from Magic: The Gathering’s recent(ish) Tarkir block, where five clans wage war over philosophical stand-points rather than geographical or racial differences.
With this premise, fights can erupt anywhere. Cells allied to one faction can blossom within cities ruled by another, leading to mistrust, zealous inquisitions and sudden violent outbursts that can turn into drawn out campaigns. I’ll also draw on the history of Eberron, my favourite D&D setting, for ideas on how to mix magic and warfare in dynamic and interesting ways, with fewer drawn battle-lines, more sabotage, subterfuge and espionage.
Desertpunk – Kaiju
Beneath the sands a terror is stirring, worse yet it has made its’ home in the biggest source of water for hundreds of miles. Humanity scrambles for a lifeline, extinction beckons from the horizon, and death erupts from below.
Aesthetically this mix is beautiful, if somewhat reminiscent of Dune, or perhaps Tremors. The twin terrors of dehydration and giant monsters can build a world where human beings have next to no chance of survival unless fought for by the toughest of champions. It could be hard to create compelling characters out of people who live to fight to survive only to do it all again tomorrow, but in any Kaiju story the real main character is always to monster.
Ultimately of course, humans have to win, even if it’s a fleeting victory. In a world without skyscrapers and serious military backing, it’s probably going to be a little unfair to make our giant monster too big, but big enough to amp up the tension of the apocalyptic world to terrifying proportions. This monster could come from under the sand, or its’ size could send sandstorms before it like a deadly herald. The adaptations we make to survive may very well make for a dynamic and action-heavy narrative, underscored by a constant sense of hopelessness.
Horror – Noir
Deep in towns and cities around the world there are buildings left to be reclaimed by nature, most people walk by them without seeing them. Those who probe deeper find themselves in a world of occultism, semiotics and esoterica, all leading to some impenetrable truth.
Noir is more of a feeling than an actual genre, but it’s one that doesn’t readily lend itself to horror because of how scrutinous and hard-bitten the characters tend to be. Your Freddy Kruegers and Bubba Sawyers of this world wouldn’t know what to do when confronted by a guy in a trench coat with nothing to lose except a fifth of bourbon and his .45. But Lovecraftian horror could take a whole new level of terror when its’ the sanest of people losing their minds.
The story of Inspector Legrasse in the Call of Cthulhu is a good place to begin, certainly, alongside The Horror at Redhook, and the game Darkness Within: In Pursuit of Loath Nolder. Lovecraft and his contemporaries produced work that is still terrifying today, but a modern perspective can always help. I’ve always had an odd fascination for old buildings too, places left to rot and crumble, forgotten, like a wilderness in the middle of civilization.
One of these will form the basis for my NaNoWriMo entry and you lovely lovely people will get to decide which! I feel mildly confident with all of them, this could get way out of my control, but I will deliver! Internet as my witness I will deliver! Choose my fate…
If you have any other suggestions, advice, or things you’d like to see in my entry let me know in the comments section down below, or on our Facebook page. And tell me about what you’re writing this month.