“What are you writing for NaNoWriMo? Briefly explain how this book idea come about. Then write a mock first page for the novel.”
The prospect of NaNoWriMo used to scare the heck out of me, until Miriam Joy bribed me into it in 2010. That year, I scared myself half to death by writing a dark, disturbing, and chronically plot-hole-ridden dystopian novel. The next year heralded the arrival of a set of incomplete short stories, which had evolved out of a world building exercise for what, I thought, would be this year’s NaNovel.
I should know better than to try and plan novels by now. It only ever ends in disaster. And, in this case, that disaster involved so many knots in my brain that I took the coward’s way out and gave up on that idea.
One trip to Paris, acquisition of a street map of London, and several fever dreams worthy of a cracked-out Lord Byron later, the concept of my 2012 NaNoWriMo novel had well and truly bludgeoned all the competition to death and was awaiting its time to strike by filling my imagination with plot bunnies.
The story itself, Ikarus, is nothing like I’ve ever written before. Normally I stick to my forte, that of historical fantasy, but here I’ve decided to plug my nose and vault into a pool of a different ilk; steampunk. Steampunk, for anyone who doesn’t know, is basically mixing futuristic technology to a historical setting by adding bundles of cog-and-wheel-and-aviator-goggles technology to anything and everything you can get your hands on. For this, you can blame my love of meddling with the laws of science, in revenge for all those years spent staring at the classroom wall while my experiments single-handedly defied the laws of nature.
You can blame three days spent learning about 17th Century France amidst the gorgeous capital of France for most of the rest. The politics, the powerplay, the outrageous costumes, the sheer madness of life in general . . . I absolutely had to play with it. The map of London was simply to give me an idea of how to lay out such a city. The setting, the city of Scatterank, is the sort of place that results from 17th Century France crashing into a train full of Victorian London, and being splattered with liberal dollops of something that doesn’t really fit anywhere. You can see why I’d need a map, if I was going to set my characters running amok in it. As for the fever dreams? That’s where the characters came from.
Speaking of the characters, they themselves have become the real driving force for the story itself. Being the inevitable cultural, racial and nonsensical melting pot it is, Scatterank is full of all sorts of interesting people. I pushed a few more boundaries than I usually do in their creation, and they are certainly more complex than many of my past creations. Especially as at least two of them don’t set much store by the laws of gravity.
The narrator, luckily, has yet to demonstrate any more dangerous traits than being rather good at causing small explosions when meddling with things he finds under the stairs. Cue smugglers, conspiracies, feckless mayors and canny deputies, civil unrest, an unpleasant family legacy, wrathful gods, kidnap, murder, magic, irresponsible use of undergarments and . . . well, you can guess where this is going.
What’s more, I haven’t written from a first person perspective in over five years. It’s going to be fun.
Unfortunately, I will be unable to treat you to a supposition of a first page today – not in the least because this post is already far bigger than perhaps it ought to be. The simple fact of the matter is that, whatever I bash out here, the actual opening of the story will be nothing like it. Having a concept of the story is very different to knowing what’s going to happen, and, as the Yiddish proverb goes, “man plans, and God laughs”.
. . . And yes, that is just a more delicate way of saying “I have no idea what I’m doing”.
For anyone who is still curious about the endeavour, you can hop on over to my NaNoWriMo profile to check out the "official" blurby thing for Ikarus, as well as tons of awesome forums, writerly tips, and other awesome stuff.
Feel free to send me a buddy request too! Let's bork our brains together!
~ Charley R
The rest of the blog chain, and all its fantastical posts, is here: