When creating the concept for a story, developing a setting without developing plot or characters is silly. It’s the characters that will be the focus of the actual story, creating the narrative by navigating the plot they’re thrown into. The setting is merely background. Trying to create it in isolation of the rest would result in a setting that doesn’t feel really part of the narrative, but merely tacked on.
The character concepts for my eventual story for Concordia actually started to come to me very early on in the process of conceiving the project. The next few posts will begin to explore them, and how they fit into the setting.
First, the protagonist. I decided pretty immediately that I wanted my protagonist to be a kick-ass girl, because I love a good kick-ass girl, and I rarely write them. I don’t know how well I’ll write one, but I’d like to try, I’d like to get better at it.
Oh, and let’s call her Skye. [Burn the land and boil the sea—you can't take the sky from me.]
Skye is fifteen years old—I wanted this to be a YA story, where I’m most comfortable, and wanted to start it a little younger than I usually do. And because when I conceived of the space-station-with-mostly-abandoned-old-parts the most interesting part of it to me was the most-abandoned-old-parts, that’s where she grew up. You know, give her a hard life, lots of adversity, lots of demons to work through. That’s always fun.
She grew up basically on the street, eking out a survival. She’s a tough gal, doesn’t take shit from anyone. She’s a loner by nature—prefers to be alone, to live alone, to keep away from the eyes of others—especially adults. And what of her parents? The old YA trope of parents-are-dead is too easy; the parents have got to matter somehow, even if they are dead. I think her mother was raped. Hurt in the assault, maybe she hit her head and was never quite right after, wandered to the lower city when she couldn’t support herself anymore, raised the child of the rape for a few years before finally succumbing to death.
So yeah, her mom’s dead, but very present in her mind. And her father—well, her father is out there somewhere. A rapist. A brute. And you know what? Probably something more. And therein we have drive, motive, purpose for our main character, and a little plot seed.
So despite being a loner—she tends not to trust others—she’s cultivated a network on contacts in the lower city, other street kids like her that look up to her for… well, I was going to say her hunting or something, y’know, she gets food for them, but that’s so Katniss Everdeen. And I can’t imagine hunting rats in the lower city would be a thing. Would there be rats?
But maybe she’s protected them. Protected other kids from the evils of the lower city adult dregs. So she’s a survivor, and she’s a fighter. She probably has a sense of humour, but rarely gets to use it—maybe it’s something that will come out later, as she begins interacting more with other characters. I hate characters with no sense of humour.
She needs a skill, I think. What about her allows her to fight off aggressors? Stealth would be a major asset, a general acrobatic ability, but there needs to be something combined with that. A gun’s too easy, a sniper rifle’s too a) ridiculous and b) Katniss, martial arts is too unrealistic (where would she learn?). Not that it needs to be a weapon per se. But maybe knives? That could be cool. Dangerous, but cool.
A couple other things for dear Skye: one is that natural result of implanted computers I mentioned before—growing up in the lower city, mostly alone, Skye wouldn’t have the implant. This will be a hindrance often, unable to connect to the networks without an external unit of some kind. It also means she’ll know very little about the setting outside of what she observes herself, and what she hears on the street. A useful plot device for keeping secrets and discovering information, as well as for explaining the setting to the audience as she discovers it. It also means there’s no way for any evil corporations to use experimental technology to get into her head…
I also had the idea that she would have an interesting place to live, a little hovel in the lower city, a secret spot: exploring one day, she happened upon a sealed room from some ancient origin of the station, a room once occupied by some poor bloke long-dead who was so in love with his literature, his history and mythology, and that smell, oh that smell of old bookstores, that he smuggled a small library of books—real, physical, paper books—onto the station. Smuggled, because the weight and space they would take would be probably not allowed on a space station, especially the early one. But there nonetheless.
I like this for two reasons: One, a love of books. I love the concept of a love of books in fact. And there’s the symbolic debate between physical books and electronic books. There’s a lot of potential symbolism to work with. And two, because then Skye—cut off from “modern” pop culture of Concordia—has a frame of reference, a knowledge base: history and mythology. The stuff we know. And a whole bunch more potential for symbolism and meaning—the origins of Mars, of Phobos and Deimos, of Concordia itself. The gods—the wyrms.
And, y’know, I just love mythology, so shut up.
Project Concordia is a new science fiction project, wherein I’m blogging the creation of the setting as I create it, in preparation for making a story of it. See all the posts at the Project Concordia tag.