Posts Tagged ‘stories I'd like to write’

Stories I’d Like to Write: Fantasy That’s Really Scifi

Okay! This is the last one of these for now.

I love fantasy that is high fantasy, but as you get further into the book or series, hints start to be dropped. Ruins that sound familiar, or hints that there was a previous civilization that has since collapsed.

I think this may be because my very first high fantasy series–the Shannara books, by Terry Brooks–does this. But it’s very subtle. You can read most of the Shannara books without this being obvious. It’s only when you take the series as a whole that it becomes more apparent.

But also, yes, lots of other series do this. Some more obviously than others, some more successfully for others. The Pern series, for example. Dragons! Adventure! But all happening on what’s essentially a failed human colony, Pern standing for “Parallel Earth, Resources Negligble.”

I have actually done this a bit myself already, though not quite how I would like. In City of Hope and Ruin there’s talk of an older civilization, a more powerful civilization, that collapsed because of war (more specifically the bioengineering and biological warfare tactics of that war, though that’s beyond the characters’ understanding, at least for that book). But that’s a completely secondary world.

I feel like to do this trope properly, it’s got to be Earth in the future. An Earth where humanity causes (or, I guess, experiences at the very least) some great calamity, something that has society collapse and humanity change. It’s dystopian, but not exactly. Like, the fact that this is our world and something happened to it isn’t normally important to the plot of the story. It’s background. It’s setting. Maybe some artifacts or something might feature in the plot every now and then, but for the most part it is a fantasy world, doing fantasy things.

And I like that! I like that it’s not necessarily important, it just is. It’s like…an extra dimension to the world.

That being said, I do think you can overdo this. And it may be a bit overplayed as a trope, especially recently where everything has to be dark. You know what I mean. I recently finished the first season of the Shannara TV series, and the post-apocalyptic parts were pushed much more than I remember. Maybe they were always there, and I just skimmed over them in the text, or maybe it as just more apparent because, you know, visual medium and all that jazz.

How do you feel about this trope, squider? Overdone? Fun worldbuilding? Favorite example?

Stories I’d Like to Write: Nakama

I first found the term “nakama” in one of my favorite anime/manga: Bleach. Back when I was really into the series, I followed this website, where the community would translate the chapters into English as they were released in Japan, instead of waiting until they made it over State-side. Since the translators were volunteers, there was some variation between terms, and sometimes they would leave Japanese words and add a bullet to explain what it meant in English.

Nakama is a Japanese word that means comrade, friend, or compatriot, technically someone working toward a shared goal with you. But in many anime/mangas, it means something more than that, something along the lines of Found Family, but even more than that.

Found Family is the idea that you can make your own family, by finding people around you who share the same values, and who support and understand each other. Basically, you can’t choose your biological family, but you can build a new one.

Nakama is not quite the same idea. In Bleach, for example, people who consider each other nakama do not necessarily get along. They don’t even like each other. But that doesn’t mean that, in another character’s hour of need, the first character won’t be next to them, willing to sacrifice their own life to protect and help them.

There is grudging respect. An acknowledgment of shared goals and perhaps values. A willingness to protect and help no matter the differences between characters’ attitudes, beliefs, and whatever previous conflicts the characters have had before. In Bleach, at least, characters that were, at one time, mortal enemies, people who had tried to kill one another, eventually become nakama.

There is something very satisfying to me about this concept. I’m not sure if it’s the idea that enemies can become, well, not friends (though sometimes!), but at least people willing to fight beside you, or if it’s something more primal, something that draws on the idea of belonging to and fighting for your clan, for lack of a better word.

Don’t get me wrong. I love found family too–the idea that a group can come together and be what they need, what they didn’t get from their biological families–but I like nakama better, perhaps because there’s built-in tension, or perhaps I just like the idea of someone who dislikes someone else still being willing to do the right thing by them.

But, how to build this into a story?

When I see nakama in anime/manga, it’s often something that happens over time. Episodes, or even seasons, dozens of chapters. Theoretically doable in a series, if it’s long enough, though I don’t tend to write series. But I often want to skip over the build-up and just drop the characters in, already nakama, and I’ve found that that doesn’t work. If you can’t see the change in the relationship over time, it’s not really the same thing.

The examples I can think of in anime/manga (and other books where the idea comes up) almost always involves fighting. There’s a war going on, or they’ve got to fight their way to their goal, whatever it is. The main character defeats another character, who eventually comes around to their way of thinking, either by learning more about a situation (i.e., someone who was following orders blindly before who learns that there’s something shady about what their side is doing) or by having some other reason to join up with the hero(ine). Or the second character realizes they have a common enemy, or something. I wonder if it could be done without the fighting aspect, or if the “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” is an essential part of the whole idea.

This isn’t really a plot idea, nor a structure. It would be something to add into another story, a way for the characters to relate to each others. I’d like to do it someday, bring a group of characters together, willing to fight for each other even if they don’t like each other. I’d just need to figure out a story to put the idea into.

What do you think about nakama, squiders? Got good examples that aren’t anime/manga (other than Bleach, I’ve seen this concept in One Piece, Naruto, and Fairy Tail)? Thoughts on how slow the build has to be?

Stories I’d Like to Write: Interlocking Lives

Somewhat related to Tuesday’s post, but another type of story I’d love to try is what I’m calling interlocking lives. This is where the main character is living two lives, without a clear delineation of which is the “real” life, or where there’s a “dream” life that may actually be real.

I feel like I’m not explaining this terribly well. So, uh, let’s say there’s a girl. And she’s a teenager, going through her normal life at high school. But at night, she lives another life, where she’s a elven princess, and it’s the normal, high school life that seems like a dream.

And then, over time, the lives start to bleed into each other, or actions that take place in one life affects things in the other life.

Like the dual timelines, the structure of this idea kind of boggles me. At some point, it seems like one of the lives has to be the “real” one, and that one has to be more important in the end, with the other one being a subplot of some sort. But I don’t know! I’m kind of hoping, when I sit down and plan this sort of story, what I need to do becomes obvious. Or, maybe, as I do more research into this particular type of story structure, everything will all make sense.

This idea has some wish fulfillment tied to it, I think. I think it’s easy to wish that you were more important, or that life was more exciting, or that you’d find true love, or any number of things, and this sort of structure allows you to mix the mundane with the fantastical, or anything really. I tend to fantasy and scifi, of course, but I could see this being used in conjunction with, say, historical romance, where the dream life is somewhere and somewhen else.

And, I mean, why have to choose between urban and high fantasy when you can do them both?

This idea is one that has appealed to me for a long time, but unfortunately, liking an idea doesn’t necessarily come supplied with a story to actually go along with it. Maybe I’ll poke this for a bit and see if I can’t put something together for Nano, and this can be my new thing to try for November this year.

What do you think, squiders? Got any recommendations for books where a character is living in two different times/places/worlds?

Stories I’d Like to Write: Dual Timeline

It’s summer, so time for a blog series, amirite? I am right. Because it’s my blog. So there.

For this year’s series, I thought I’d focus on stories I’d like to write someday. Because writing, like anything else, is a skill, and some things are things that are advanced, that take time and practice before you can pull them off. And I keep a list of things I’d like to try some day. And maybe the day will be soon! Or maybe it will be in five, ten years. But, you know, someday.

One thing that has always really interested me is stories with interlocking timelines. You’ve probably read some of these. I find them a lot in family dramas. There’s a modern timeline, and normally a historical timeline, but they’re interconnected, what’s happening in the past relating to the present, and vice versa.

This seems very complicated to me. I think it’s because pacing has historically been one of the harder parts of writing for me, so the idea of having two stories lining up, echoing each other, feels impossibly hard.

You’ve got to have two stories that match up somehow, same theme, mirrored challenges, something along those lines. And they have to do it with the same cadence, the same beats, so that the two stories make a coherent whole.

I mean, I don’t know what I would do. I don’t have much interest in writing a straight family drama. Maybe one with supernatural influences. Or! Or I could set it in a fantasy world. Oooh. Now that does sound interesting. A “modern” fantasy story interacting with an older one, maybe part of that world’s mythology or something like that. Yes. I like that a lot.

On one hand, it seems like if you can figure out the pacing and mirroring, it does seem like the writing might be a little easier–instead of one 80,000 word story, you’ve got two 40,000 word stories. But I am a little confused about beats in general. Do both storylines have the same level of rise and fall? Does the secondary timeline function on its own or more of a subplot?

Of course, it’s questions like these that make it why this is something to try in the future. Got to figure out the structure of the thing first.

Do you like dual timeline stories, squiders? I suppose you could do more than two, though that does seem like it might get a little unwieldy. Have you seen dual timelines in genres other than family dramas?