The Graveyard

The Lair Of Gary James

The Primordial Stew Of Imagination, Part 2

Posted by BigWords on November 30, 2009

When To Add, And When To Take Away

In the previous post I ran through the precedents of the story, but sticking all of those ideas together higgledy-piggledy would be a mess. Simply adding ideas without knowing who, what, where, how, why and when is madness of the highest order. The bag of tricks is filling, but to pull out objects in the right order we need to go back to basics and ask whom the characters are. This is where I normally throw away the rulebook and look to television for a bit of help. There are lots of threads at AW which have various people urging against the use of televisual techniques in writing, but one in particular is acceptable. If you go back to the beginnings of my story you should see where I drew from Star Trek.

Yes, the cold, analytical mind on one side of the focus character, the hearty life and soul on t’other. It isn’t, you will discover, a particularly original idea. There are examples you could pull from very popular books of the last few years that contain the same set-up, though I’m sure J.K. Rowling wouldn’t admit to borrowing the make-up of the central trio from an old SF show. I also allowed myself the luxury of hand-waving the living situation of the characters at that point in the story, mostly to let the narrative move quickly on to other things rather than worrying about how they could get their hands on regular money.

There is very little in the above taken from the previous post. This is important. When the story requires any of those elements to be brought in they are already bubbling away under the surface, there to be brought onto the stage when they will have the best possible effect then quickly ushered from the limelight to concentrate on character and plot. It may seem counter-intuitive to plan deeply and yet present a thin slice, but reversing the levels would turn the novel in to a comedy, or unbalance the flow so severely as to make it unreadable. I think I have gotten away with most of the descriptions in the first draft, but they will be refined and pruned, edited and clarified as needed.

None of what has come before actually answer where the ideas come from, but I’m getting there…

I skipped any explanation of where my hovs came from in the last post. This is where I show how I stitch together the different ideas that others have come up with, throw in some new thinking, make major (and fundamental) changes to the transport system of the future. There isn’t enough space in a single post to list every instance of flying cars ever seen in fiction, but you should know the basics anyways.

  • The use of petrol in the future strikes me as dumb, mainly because the stresses would make it uneconomical to use. A fuel cell of some sort seems more believable. This would eliminate a lot of engine noise (handy if it was ever filmed :D), and provide a logical reason for bigger explosions than you would see than with an ordinary car crash. Hollywood Rule 1 is The bigger the explosion, the better.
  • A HUD rather than a conventional dashboard would be a logical step forward, with adaptive and customizable software to make each vehicle perfectly suited to its’ owner. There are already steps towards this kind of use, but we are still a way from having a completely digital representation rather than dials. I never completely bought into the fact that dials and switches in spacecraft for this reason.
  • Your now thinking “how do you stop fender benders?” right? Well, sensors on the sides, top, bottom, and on each of the corners would keep a minimum safe distance between the vehicle and all those around it. The screen could then flash red if an accident was imminent.

None of that is radical. This is:

  • Every action, every movement even, would be recorded and fed into a main computer system so that safety could be assured by insurers. The police would have full access to this system.
  • Roads incline up to the next vertical level anti-clockwise around buildings, descending clockwise. This wasn’t a big deal in my story, but I had it worked out before I started.
  • Hacked cars can be made invisible to the constant recording.
  • The cars need to be at least four feet above a solid surface to operate safely, save for military-grade vehicles. A plot point about the DCU vehicles travelling freely in a vertical manner never came across clearly, but it was what I had intended.

The rest of my uses of the technology rested on the fact that it wouldn’t be cliché.

I have to admit that I was reminded of an old First Comics’ series called Zero Tolerance when I got into any sequence where the flying cars came to prominence, though that is obscure – even for me. Umm… Maybe if I just pretend I was thinking of Fray, nobody will shake their head and sigh at my geekishness slipping to the fore.

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