The Evolution of a Story

I talk to people all the time who, when they find out I’m a writer, tell me how they would love to write but can never come up with any ORIGINAL IDEAStm There are no really original ideas anymore, supposedly, that may also be a lie, but let’s take it on faith that this is true. What there are, are variations on a theme … a juxtapositioning of notions with a different perspective or twist. You CAN find these if you try. I know I did, but it was a meandering path. It was like a seed that mutated as it grew, like a mad Dr. Frankenstein kept adding parts to it. I’m going to share how my current work-in-progress came to be the story that it currently is. I say currently because I’m still revising it. It likely won’t have any substantial changes at this point though, as it’s pretty well fully formed. 

Let’s go back to 1991, Desert Storm was ending, and I had just completed my first overseas combat support deployment and I wanted to write the story, but I was distracted by a multitude of other things and really didn’t have the first clue how to start, but the seed to write had been planted. I toyed with the idea of writing for almost two decades and over that period I had this recurring desire to write something about being a pilot as that is the one thing I really know well. I also loved science fiction, and still do. The seed had been germinated somehow (perhaps maturity, I’m still not sure why), but was growing very slowly, it started to nag at me, it broke through the soil. I had to do something. But the whole, “I can’t come up with any ORIGINAL IDEAStm was still plaguing me.I kept coming back to the concept of a crew on a starship, sitting on alert status. I needed a reason for them to be there, what were they sitting alert for? I hit on the idea of a scout service, which also doubled as rescue service and technicians for a Quantum Data Relay Station. I started reading more science articles on the interwebs. I found a few magazines that I really enjoyed like Scientific American and Popular Mechanics and devoured them. I wanted initially to incorporate Faster Than Light Travel, so I was looking desperately trying to find a loophole in General Relativity. I found some guys out there doing the math and trying to punch holes in the theory. One of them led me to the idea of my Quantum Gates, which is a pivotal part of the story. I chucked FTL travel. I knew it was a trope that would likely upset some potential readers as reaching too far. I still love the idea and I’m not giving up hope, but it just wasn’t needed to make the story work anymore. I had the first couple of elements, and then I focused on the characters. I had originally made the Main Character the captain of the ship and male. He had an all-male crew of poker-playing foul-mouthed rocket-jocks. I based them on a bunch of guys I knew from back in the war — I played a lot of poker in my off time. Now I needed something to happen, a major conflict to be resolved. I needed a villain, a big nasty one was what I was shooting for. It was feeling a little cliché at this point though. Continue reading