The Science in After Destiny: Underground Plants

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t use a lot of science in my stories. When I do use it, I tend to pick and choose between various elements and skim over the rest, usually to keep the text from dragging like crazy while I’m writing. I might have been great at math and science while I was in school, but even I found most of the classes pretty dull.1 That means After Destiny doesn’t have much in the way of long explanations for some of the elements in it.

It also means I definitely made some of the science up and based it off of old propaganda films I remembered from high school or that binge of them I watched a decade ago back when I first wrote the story.

It doesn’t, however, mean that some genuine science didn’t slip in there. I took them to a different place, but they do exist.

The first of these things is the farm downstairs that is entirely underground. While there is mention of these plants being engineered to have different nutrients and tastes to them,2 I added in an interesting bit of research. See, apparently you can grow plants under different coloured lights to create different effects.

It’s cool, right? You grow plants under a different colour and you get a different effect on the plant. Blue will allow plants to grow and red lets them flower, all based on the spectrum the chlorophyll can take in and process. Over the years, the plant leaves may change colour to adjust to their environment.3 Give science a few generations with this technology and who knows what it could eventually be used for.

Well, besides using various spectra to help create a genetically-enhanced, protein-rich apple that tastes like bacon.

Of course, this is not interesting to the people on the Janus Complex, so they don’t really mention it. Those who even understand how it works.4 It was an explanation I couldn’t work into the story and, in the end, it wasn’t that important to leave in. The food was strange colours and there were strange lights on the ceiling to help the genetically modified plants grow. Downstairs was more important as a setting and the food as a background element that the explanation for the lights and the science behind any of it seemed unnecessary.

One of the many darlings I ended up killing. And that’s not the only one.

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  1. Although that’s true of most of my classes back in high school. []
  2. And that would imply that, reasonably, they were also engineered to survive in the climate created in their underground farm []
  3. This was from another article on the process, but I can’t seem to find it now. []
  4. Admit it, you don’t really remember how plants feed themselves anymore. My mother plants a garden every year and she couldn’t tell you about the inner workings of her plants. She can tell you which ones are jerks, though. []

But Which Darlings? – World Building Edition

By this point, I think everyone’s familiar with the Quiller-Couch1 advice of “Kill your darlings.” It doesn’t matter how much you love that passage or that word, you need to get rid of it to make your story better. Unless you have a good reason to keep something, you should probably cut it.

I went through a very extensive high fantasy phase in my reading in high school,2 followed by a space-related science fiction one. If there’s one area where people like to throw this advice right out the window, it’s with world building in these two genres. In order to get their point across, these authors often feel the need to explain everything about their universe so that the reader can understand.

Now, there should be a lot more world building in these sorts of stories. You have to. There’s a whole world you’re plunging the reader into that they are going to need to understand in order to follow along with the story. There’s a lot they need to know, and there’s a lot you need to get across. I’m just suggesting that maybe it’s not all relevant information.

For example, I distinctly remember a fantasy story that explained that they had a system to empty chamber pots so that they weren’t dumped out the window and into the streets. At no point in the story did a character ever use a chamber pot. I don’t think they even had to urinate once in the entire narrative. They didn’t even spend much time in towns or cities where this would be relevant information and, say, they would want to stay in the middle of the road to avoid unfortunate accidents.

Universe elements are like everything else in the story. Feel free to include them all you want in the first draft, but when you’re editing, really think about whether or not that information is actually doing anything for the story. I know how tempting it is to include every single thing about the universe and how it all feels important so that the readers know exactly what they’re dealing with in terms of the universe, but it’s probably not all necessary.

When you’re looking over those parts of your story, keep the same thing in mind as you have with the rest of the story:3 Is this actually important to the narrative? Does it further the plot? Does it add to the characters? Does it help the ambiance? Does this element ever come back into play again later?4 If it doesn’t, make it do one of those things somehow. If not, consider cutting it to help keep the story moving at a good pace.

I know I’ve had to do a lot of it with After Destiny. I’ll tell you about some of the world building-related cuts from that later.

  1. Or Faulkner. Or Wilde. Or any number of other people this quote is attributed to. I really don’t know anymore. []
  2. And Game of Thrones recently []
  3. Or the thing I always think of when I’m rewriting/editing. []
  4. Yes, red herrings are a thing, but I don’t tend to use them as often as I should. []

After Destiny Begins

So After the End has already been renamed. I was going to wait, but I kind of like the name.1 I think most people saw that coming, but I’m glad it’s done and that I like the name. The rewrite is going just as rocky as I was worried it was going to be. It’s going to be a bit of a slog to get through, but I’m hoping a couple people will join me on it.

See, I’m going to be putting up the rewrite, piece by piece as I keep writing, through Wattpad. It’s going to still be pretty rough, since this is before the editing and before a lot of the making-it-good parts of the writing process goes into it, but it’s the restructuring. If you like it, you can let me know a lot sooner than waiting for me to finish this way.

Fair warning, I’m probably going to be stopping part way through. I can’t go spoiling the ending now, can I? But please do give it a look.

Even before the world ended, everyone inside the Janus Complex knew that the earth outside was flat. When the mountain appeared on the horizon that morning, they sent a small team out to investigate.

When that team came back, the mountain was gone. The only proof they have that it was ever there at all are some soil samples, plants and insects who somehow managed to survive the irradiated haze, and a strange woman with no name who knows just a little too much about what’s coming next.

After Destiny

  1. Also, After the End being attached to that other book was really starting to bother me because they are similar in genre from the looks of it. I need to read it and find out. []

Not Quite From Scratch

So the rewrite has begun as far as I’m concerned. I’ve started going back through the initial story and I’m working through what can stay and what can go in the whole mess of it. Considering how long ago I wrote this story,1 I am not that surprised with what’s staying at what’s going.

What’s staying:

  • Basic plot
  • Most of the universe elements
  • Most of the characters in some way
  • A few of the scenes

What’s going:

  • All of the actual written text

This was written nearly 7 years ago. The ideas I still like, but the actual prose is… well, it’s like it was written by me 7 years ago. There are a lot of things in it I don’t like, such as the belief I used to have that a large vocabulary meant that I was awesome at this writing thing.2 There’s also the fact that everything is kind of traditional in that there’s a damn lot of dudes, all two of the women in the original cast fall into the traditional roles and there’s nothing societally that’s changed from what I thought things were like back in 2008.

Which is weird because I took a glimpse at the story I wrote the year before and none of these things were an issue.

I do, fortunately, have a bunch of notes of things to change and I’m working on writing up a new plot off the old one. I need to flesh out bits of the universe and get the setting down3 and make sure I have the appropriate back stories switched, but it’s definitely workable. I just need to write it again.

And edit.

And edit again.

And again.

You know how it goes. Wish me luck. This one’s going to be a bit of a rough one, I can feel it.

Also, I keep changing the cover around, so look forward to previews of the cover with every post.

  1. 2008, I think, for Nanowrimo []
  2. It doesn’t, 23 year old me. It really doesn’t. []
  3. Looking at Saskatchewan for this one, not that it actually matters []

The Reading Edit

One of the last rounds of editing: Reading it out loud. It’s horrifically embarrassing if you do it too early on in the writing process, but as I’m just about done, it didn’t turn out too bad. Just a few more tweaks left and off it goes!

You can find the guidelines for the Sword and Laser Anthology here:
http://swordandlaser.com/anthology/

Pantser or Plotter?

There are two types of writers, or so they say. Pantsers and plotters.

A pantser is someone who starts writing and keeps writing straight through until the end of the book, making no plans in the mean time and letting the story take them where they will take them. It’s a somewhat stressful, yet still pretty fun way of writing, hoping that you encounter no problems but if you do, you can go with your instinct and keep going as you want.

A plotter is someone who plans out their story before they sit down to paper and get writing. They come up with characters, plot and any little details they think they’re going to need while they’re writing. They know the ending already and they go at their writing without worrying about not knowing where things are going, instead running into the trouble of their story taking on a very different turn than they want to go in that isn’t a part of the plot.

I’m a plotter myself. I tend to get ideas when I’m in the midst of working on something else and jot it down when I can, then let it stew in the back of my mind until I have a little time. From there, I work out what needs to happen in the plot, some semblance of an ending and the main characters. I also get a notebook for the project so I have a space to jot down any further ideas and have a dedicated stack of paper to write on while I’m working on a project.

Still, I do like a little spontaneity when I’m writing. As such, my plots tend to consist of only about 3 pages of points I have to hit in order. I don’t plan out how they get from point to point and I don’t plan out characters outside of the main cast. Even those characters are subject to change as I’m writing, as are the plot points. I find doing this keeps things interesting enough that I don’t get bored while I’m writing.

What about you guys? Are you pantsers or plotters?

Don’t Fear the Medium

A large part of what I learned in SIAT was based around this one quote by Marshall McLuhan. The medium is the message. And I’ll be honest, I hated that quote and still get that little flash of red in the back of my mind when I hear it. It was stretched and twisted until it fit with every point that the professor wanted to make, or introduced and quickly dropped at the start of class. By the end of school, it was just a footnote at the back of my mind to be brought up when I wanted to sound smart. That was all.

And then I discovered transmedia storytelling and I did a little more thinking about it in that context.

Now don’t get me wrong. I still think that the message is the message. The medium, though, works as a platform and choosing the right platform is an important part of getting the message across. More than that, choosing your medium, the one you want to focus in as a writer, shouldn’t be something you choose lightly.

Stories are a strange thing to start with. They start as something small, just an idea, that a writer takes and shapes to be whatever they are going to be. To many people that’s enough. They want to be a novelist, they have an idea for a story and they write a novel. That works most of the time, but I’ve started add an extra little step in there, after the idea and before the writing.

I pick a medium.

I want to be a novelist. I know that’s one of my ambitions, but when I look back on my stories, not all of them are a good fit for novels. I have an idea for an ongoing super hero series that is really better suited for a more visual medium. I have an idea for a story about demons flooding a snowed in campus that would be more spectacular with a different ambiance entirely with different characters. There’s a whole series I want to make that revolves around characters that are all equally interesting, but as a book would get bogged down transitioning between them all.

For me, my stories aren’t clearly defined as novels anymore. While I still want to write novels, I know that’s not always what’s best for my fiction. I’d love to write them as novels, really. I know how to write a piece of prose better than I do any script, but that’s not the best medium for them. I could twist and shape them into the shapes I want them, but I doubt that I’ll be satisfied with the end result.

Because of this, I’m exploring more. I’m learning how to write for comics, still image by still image, and learning to split up dialogue for the medium. I’m learning about animation techniques, audio and voice acting for animation. I’m learning about the different sorts of narrative driven games so that I can write for those sorts of games as the narrative demands.

So how many other people are doing this? Is there anyone else out there who thinks about what medium their story is best told in before they start writing, or do you make your story work for the medium you want to write for?

Inspiration, Muse and That Other Thing

I wasn’t terribly concerned about being right as a child, I will admit. I was quiet and didn’t ask a lot of questions, finding that the information I wanted usually found its way to me. Those answers that didn’t come to me and I didn’t otherwise find an answer to, I made up answers that made sense to me.

Why do I bring this up now? Because I’m going to talk about how my stories happen and I’m going to be talking about things as I came to understand them as opposed to how they’re actually stated in accordance with reputable sources such as dictionaries.

The first step to a story is the inspiration. It’s just a spark of an idea that snowballs out of control. It happens on rare occasions, or maybe several at a time, but when it comes, I do try never to miss the opportunity. I’ll only know parts, but those parts are so much fun that I absolutely must do something with them. At this point I try to write down every loose, unconnected bit and ride out the inspiration for as long as it lasts. Usually, I only get as far as the basic concept and a few scenes at this point. Maybe a couple key characters show up as well.

And then the inspiration passes. It’s all been written down and I take a breath. The idea sits in my mind and I do nothing with it for a bit.

It’s at this point that the story’s muse is born. From that initial spark of an idea, they start nagging at the back of my mind within the underdeveloped mess of ideas and insist that I get to work making this all make proper sense. Where the inspiration has left the idea, the muse helps to make it into a story, meticulously creating characters and plot that actually makes things flow from one bit to the next. The events, the subplots, all of that is in the hands of the muse. It helps me create an outline and character notes so I know what happens and won’t get stuck writing.

So that’s it, right? That’s how the story is made. With just the inspiration and the muse that’s made the inspiration into something I can put down onto the page, that’s the end of it.

Except for the other thing.

The other thing happens to be the thing that causes all of my writer’s block. The thing without name. It’s not lack of inspiration, because that’s already come and given me lots to work on. It’s not the muse, who has ensured I have an outline and will always know what to write next.

The other thing is actually writing it down, the words coming out and creating the sentences that turn into paragraphs. The hard part and the fun part. The part that everyone can actually see once it’s all done with. The other thing is the technical getting down to work bit and it’s the last piece in the story puzzle. Once that’s done, the story exists physically (digitally, I guess, since I write on a computer) and the muse can finally rest.

Well, until the edit, anyway.