a simple question
“How old is this world?”
my wife asked this question as i was talking out the draft outline* i have for RoE. i’d been explaining that Herrick would be stopping by a personal safehouse to get some breathing room. she’d asked where it was. i said some kind of abandoned warehouse district or some such. i didn’t really have a proper answer, only a vague idea, but the warehouse was an easy fit.
thank god she saw right through this.
“How old is this world?”
“Uh…75 years old.” (we both knew we were talking about the age since the planet had been terraformed; still, i was making it up on the spot)
she paused, and i realized what i’d completely missed and what she was seeing with crystal clarity:
- please. abandoned warehouse district? come on. i can do better.
- was 75 years enough to create the requisite urban sprawl to generate such an environment as said cliche?
that single, simple question blew a door in my mind wide open, and suddenly i knew what i had to do.
after i finished correcting an embarrasingly large pile of terribly overdue school work.
but this morning, i put it to paper, racing through a series of developments that fleshed out a number of macro concepts that i had either taken for granted (more cliches) or hadn’t even considered. i think the story might have been fine without this information, but pretty ordinary. now, i realize i was resting on my laurels (or, more accurately, the laurels of those who’d gone before) and i can push this out of the ‘standard’ and into the ‘interesting’ (at least that’s what I’m shooting for).
i just realized as i was typing this that it ties to a comment from a VP-classmate, the insightful John Murphy, who asked a similar question about why the story was taking place on this planet. why here? why now? why sf?
and, if i follow this thread, i can now hear my college creative writing instructor asking me a now-too-familiar question about an early story i’d written: why this character? why now?
okay, so i can be a little thick.
i’ll get there eventually, though! a deep thanks to all of you.**
* and by ‘talking out’, i really mean ‘dragging her through every single step of the story with regular leaps back to the expanded backstory and the motivations of the various characters’. yeah, cue: glazed eyes. but she’s a trooper and tries to stick it out, but i really should know better by now. this is not a conversation for the end of the evening. silly boy. and yet, she does not complain. how truly fabulous is that?
** plus apologies to my wife for putting her through all that monologuing again. i’d like to say it won’t happen again, but we both know that would be a lie…