Friday, May 29, 2015

The Great Novel Pondering of 2015

With the first draft of Unnatural Causes down, I’m trying to decide on my next novel project.  At one point, I had eight ideas that I was pondering; over the past week or so, I’ve narrowed it down to five.  The remaining ideas go onto the backburner:  I’m still interested in them, just not right now.

I’m still torn between the five, however, and I thought that one way to make my brain work faster (I am a notorious incubator) would be to blog about the pros and cons of each project.  So ye few who read my blog, you are my guinea pigs!  I would also welcome any thoughts, concerns, angles I might not have thought of … unless it makes my final decision harder, of course!


The first novel concept is an extensive rewrite of storylines that originally played out in fandom – that is, a roleplaying environment based on another author’s work.  Obviously, the worldbuilding challenge is to come up with something where the same general outlines work, without creating a world that is too derivative.  Put simply:  it needs to be wholly my own.

Basic Premise:  Story centers a group of warriors defending the world from supernatural threats.  A community leader that was paying them for support withdraws, threatening their livelihood.  Our heroes are delighted when she gains a rival from within, but soon discover that the enemy of their enemy is far from their friend.

Pros:  I am really excited about the idea of redefining familiar characters and plot in the context of a new world and different relationships to each other.  The way small (and sometimes large) changes have consequences and create new dynamics sounds like a lot of fun.  It is a strong storyline, I think, with some unusual facets.  And perhaps most telling, I spend a lot of my spare time fooling around with this one in my head.

Cons:  This is still a rewrite, and I’m leery of treading the same ground, nervous that I should be stretching myself, trying new things, instead of trying to recapture nostalgia.  The number of characters and subplots is also huge and potentially unwieldy.  I’m also a trifle worried that I have too many reactive (as opposed to proactive) chars.


The second novel concept is an abandoned journal story I started a long time ago – so this would entail starting again, and probably going in a different direction.

Basic Premise:  Post-apocalyptic world where the destruction was caused by an overload of magic dispersed via the internet, leaving a chaotic, fantastic world in its wake.  Our narrator is a magic-afflicted individual in one of the larger new nations.  She was part of a rebellion, but betrayed them to save their lives.  The plan is to write a dual storyline, both explaining how she got to the “now” point (not necessarily in chronological order) and unfurling a new plot.

Pros:  This is far and away one of the most original settings I’ve come up with.  It’s wacky in what I hope are all the right ways.  There’s also a strong protagonist, and I’m drawn to the idea of doing a parallel storyline.

Cons:  I will need to do some pre-planning / plotting to make the parallel storylines cohesive, and this plot needs to be more or less started from scratch, because … the one significant problem with the setting is I didn’t come up with any coheisve idea of how surveillance and record-keeping works.  Which, in a story where “I’m labeled and monitored” is a plot point … is a problem.


The third novel concept takes a couple of my old characters from other places (both roleplaying campaigns, in this instance), introduces them to each other, adds a dash of conflict and … well, it would be fun.

Basic Premise:  Chiria is the adoptive daughter / servant of a villainous sorceress, trained as an assassin / enforcer but mostly raised by the sorceress’ animal constructs.  Her intended targets convince her to defect and run away.  Aforesaid target(s) take her to Pirelle, a high society lady, illusionist and spy, for training in how to live in the real world.  And that’s before one of Pirelle’s close friends loses his betrothed …

Pros:  These are chars with whom I am intimately familiar and engaged.  There are great opportunities for interplay and conflict between them / with the rest of the world.  Potentially, I’m also writing a fantasy-mystery, which is a goal of mine.

Cons:  There really is no firm plot yet.  I’m also concerned that Chiria is too similar to Vil, who was my POV char for Unnatural Causes, though Chiria is much less intellectual.


The fourth novel concept also takes old characters, though in this case, they both exist in the same universe and, in fact, they’ve had a published story:  Pazia and Vanchen of Fatecraft.  (I have one more story in submissions about Pazia, another Pazia / Vanchen story on the backburner, and a third story about Pazia’s less-than-wise brother, Mathory – this last connects with the novel plot.)

Basic Premise:  Pazia, dicemaker, and Vanchen, clockwork inventor, have settled comfortably in a city when their lives are interrupted by her brother, Mathory, and an old acquaintance of his – a veiled mage who has been falsely accused of a crime.  It is left to the trio to unravel what really happened, tripped up by old rivals along the way.

Pros:  These are established characters I’m comfortable with, and I like their interactions.  The storyline also has the advantage that, again, it plays to my ambitions of writing fantasy-mysteries.

Cons:  But does this setup run the risk of being too similar to Unnatural Causes?   And, of course, to build this world, I have to comb the prior stories for details I’ve referenced, though that isn’t a huge deal.


Fifth and last!  This story is set in the same world and with one of the same sets of toys as a short story series I’ve written:  my Ishene and Kemel stories, which are about a time mage and her bodyguard.  I’ve decided I could take another time mage and bodyguard and send them careening through time on their own research project …

Basic Premise:  There is an island on this world that quite literally “dropped in” from another.  It was forcibly conquered and colonized, with the natives held as second-class citizens … and expressly forbidden certain types of magic.  This began to change when a young man stole books of time magic and brought them to our heroine, who studied them, figured out their workings, and is now ready to make journeys of her own.

Pros:  I think the idea of time traveling in a magic realm is a great one and has a wealth of opportunities for exploring, as does a dynamic duo.  The background allows for multiple levels of conflict.

Cons:  I have to do a lot of world-work for this one – not just now-time worldbuilding, but past and (possibly) future.  The amount I have to do varies inversely to how specific I get with the pre-plotting, roughly.  Second, I risk falling into the trap of either copying Ishene and Kemel, or trying to make the chars so different that I’m just making them blind opposites.  (I also have to comb stories for details, as above.  This is a bigger detail, because there are 5-6 I&K stories, one of which runs well over 10k.)


Unknown said...

2 & 5. Of the two, 2 sounds more interesting -- which surprises me as I typically shy away from "tech things."

I picked these two for my probably-inconsequential stamp of approval because I know you: you would forever be frowny-frowny face at yourself for treading and retreading water without going anywhere new. You list research as a "con," and I think a twist of perspective makes it a pro: you'll learn new things and potentially even meet new people if you're contacting experts in the field or something.

As an aside I think the "born/bred sorceress raised by animal constructs" strikes me as a cool concept for young adult readers. I know it might not have been what you were aiming for, but it gave me that vibe. (Hey. Money is money, right? >_>)

Lindsey Duncan said...

Any thoughts that are not my own help, seriously! I've been going round and round.

... haha. Well, there are a few aspects of the storyline not covered in the summary that make it distinctly not YA. ;-)