I’m writing a story. So far it has only a few hundred words, but already I want to find out what the characters in it do next. In fact, that’s the most exciting bit about writing so far. I have some idea about the general scheme of the story and what I want to be “true” for the world I’m weaving, but as it evolves gently before my eyes I’m still constantly in awe of the ease with which I can conjure and construct whatever suits my needs.
For example, I know a little about the diegesis of films. The “fourth wall” through which an audience watches is a powerful divide between fantasy and reality. In the film, you need to represent things visually. In the story I’m writing I need to account for things by dropping them in place but I can let the mind of the reader fill in all the details and gaps. I can also decide if I need to break a few rules or make some up.
A steampunk world in which history has progressed in a parallel fashion but nobody thinks oil or natural gas is worth digging out of the ground. We have the rest of the world you can get without them, electricity, radio, pharmaceuticals and advanced chemistry to an extent, but no proliferation of petrol and diesel powered transport. No plastics. Steam locomotives are high efficiency precision machines, and aircraft are instead airships with the lifting capacity to carry steam powered engines and considerable passenger numbers in relative comfort.
I’m tempted by a world in which there is an unusually high inciedence of cold-reading skills in the general populace so it’s very difficult to cheat face-to-face and how that might affect the moral choices of a society. Could such a world precipitate the development of cultures who choose to cover their faces as a mark of trust in each other? What about telephony and telegraphy when they became popular? Would a crime wave of personnation and fraud have been inevitable as people scrambled to invent video transmission to offset the dangers of trading without seeing the other person’s face? Would a face be more valid than a signature? How would it affect the status of a handshake?
To begin with I’ve gone for a world I know. More or less this one. It’s not set in sunny Aldridge, and it’s not featuring a thirty-something musician with a day job and a fondness for beer and chocolate, but it’s rather familiar in most respects. When I have decided what rules I will break or make for this world, the challenge may be then to hide the differences from the reader until it becomes obvious in a dramatic twist of the plot.
Or I could just enjoy writing the story and see for myself how it turns out.
One step at a time, Mr Fleming.