The End, the Beginning, and Everything in Between
In a Boing Boing interview, Ted Chiang talks about being a science fiction writer.
I found that his remarks about reading the Foundation Trilogy were really close to my own experience. I was at a similar age when I found this science fiction saga on the library bookshelves. I’m not sure how well Asimov would hold up to a reading now but I do remember how it opened my eyes to how much more sophisticated the genre could be aside from all of those Star Trek reruns.
What was really interesting, though, is Chiang’s writing process in which he writes the end to his stories before everything else. This is not something that I have ever specifically tried. I’m rather more linear in my writing. On the other hand, my outlines are more vague. The first iteration usually looks like this:
1. The situation is presented and characters introduced.
3. Profit! The finale.
The hardest part is always the middle, because the writer has to figure out the most exciting path to take from A to B. Taking the boring path is out of the question. Not only will that bore the reader to tears, but it would probably drive the author into considering another occupation altogether. I think there’s some leeway in a novel, but in a short story, everything should be, metaphorically at least, non-stop thrills in the sense that every word written should count.
However I’m currently working on a short story where I’m not quite sure where I’m going. The outline looks more like this:
1. The main character finds an interesting situation.
2. Adventures happen.
I think that this came about due to how I thought up the idea in the first place. I didn’t put so much emphasis on the plot as the concept. Which is pretty much about nostalgia taken to the extremes. So far, the protagonist–a roboticist recovering from an industrial accident–has decided to visit her grandparents who operate a love hotel on St. Lorenz, a cloud city on Jupiter. It’s on St. Lorenz that she encounters a mysterious underground group called The Restorers. After that, well, I suppose I’ll make it up as I go along.