Now that Firebird is out to agents my thoughts have turned, as they will, to the next book. In recent years I’ve become increasingly fascinated by how information sharing, urbanisation, and increasing global wealth enabled by technology might change us as people, and the corollary of this: if a minority were to turn their backs on these things, what their fate might be. Cue the next book’s still evolving backdrop.
Of course it’s all very well to have a setting, but a novel needs characters. Sci-fi as a genre has sometimes been criticised for two dimensional characterisation. To be worth writing, a story like this should deal with how people’s development, desires, hopes, and dreams might be shaped and constrained by the world they find themselves in. Should the hopes and dreams of individuals actually shape future societies, or is a more utilitarian, Chinese type model in the better interests of the majority? Observing the varying responses of individuals from different cultures to restrictions intended to protect people from covid-19 is interesting in this respect.
While I’m often content to let the details, at least, of plotting evolve out of how I feel my characters would react to different situations, I can’t start writing without at least some major characters, because it’s going to be their story. My last three books have all been the culmination of projects spread over many years, so that their scaffolds were already there, but that is not the case here. Characters do come to mind over time, in part engendered by setting, and once they’ve come to mind they can be developed and fleshed out as people. Then the way they might interact can be considered, and the story itself begins to emerge. But it’s intensely frustrating waiting for the process to mature sufficiently, because I want to be actually writing, and life feels constrained enough already during lockdown. I suppose I’d just forgotten how long this part of the process can take.