The XPRIZE Writing Contest - Part 4 of ?

Here we go. We are going to make San Francisco into an artificial war zone using droid clones in the year 2037. I have a deadline coming up so I have to get this done, but I feel like working on other things. It seems I am not in bad company because both Douglas Adams and George Martin have had the same problem. Forward, always forward (except for when you need to move backward, of course).


I would like to just dive right in without much of a structure and begin writing. Some people can do that, but whenever I think about it I just get bogged down. So, let's work with some structure. I worked on a little bit of the plot structure in the last post, but I'm not sure I'm satisfied with it. There are a ton of options I have, and a few that interest me. Let's play with some of them and see what happens.

First, what things could I use to structure this? I could use some pieces and begin developing the story with intention, stakes, obstacle, and tactics from Sorkin. I could develop scenes I would like to see and then arrange them. I could use the "Who wants what? What happens if they don't get it? Why now?" framework from Mamet. I could decide on the reversals I want and build up from there. I could develop more of the character and build up from there. I could decide on the conflicts and build up from there. I could develop more of the setting and build up from there, like a lot of science fiction and fantasy writers. I could use the basic plot structure Koontz talks about. I could also use my own framework of subject, structure, style, and substance that hasn't really been tried very much yet for reviews.

Wow, that's a lot of options. I am definitely feeling what Steven Pressfield calls "resistance." I don't really want to go through all of these options . . . well, okay, I kind of do, but I don't have the time because of this stinking deadline. Let's just start with the four part system that I came up with for evaluating writing and see what happens after that.

Subject: on a flight from Tokyo to San Francisco a plane is transported from 2017 to 2037. In 2037 San Francisco is an artificial war zone where "wars" are fought between different countries utilizing droid clones as troops who are fully immersed in the experience of their droid clone. In this way all wars have ended, and because people can login to experience the action from any point of view that they want in a fully immersed way all urges towards war have been squelched as well.

Structure: Winston is on the plane when it gets shot down. He and a few others survive the crash landing, but he's injured. He tries moving away from where the fighting seems it is most intense, but gets tackled by a soldier from Team USA. The soldier tells him that he isn't supposed to be here, and that there is no way to stop or pause the fighting. He will have to last until a team has won before the forcefield will be opened and he can leave the enclosed area called The City of Peace. They regroup, he is treated for his wounds, and given some supplies. The Captain of Team USA says that he can join their team, but every member has to pull their weight, including him. That means carrying equipment for them. He joins in the fighting and tries to stay as safe as possible, but everywhere in The City of Peace is the frontline. While a sniper has pinned them down near the end of the battle Winston uses one of the weapons to kill him, allowing the rest of Team USA to finish the rest of Team Moldova and win.

Style: this is told as a bedtime story to Winston's grandson by his father.

Substance: maybe this is where I'm stuck. I can't figure out why this story makes a difference. It seems a little too fanciful about human nature. The absence of war isn't really going to happen. This type of thing as a bloodsport seems more realistic, but that's not very positive is it? And XPRIZE wants it to be positive. I don't mind fantasy being about dragons and warlocks, but ignoring human nature is something I can't get over. One of the best things about fiction is that it can be more truthful about human nature than we can in our daily conversations.

Well, it's interesting to know where I've been blocked on this, now, what to do about it? I'm not sure. I don't know how to turn this into a positive story about technology. I just don't see a positive outcome. Most likely they would be escorted to a landing at the airport, then they would all be detained and there would be a huge investigation that would end with a big coverup. That's obviously the way it would go. How do I change that? Maybe I could make the character really powerful, or rich, or famous? That might change things up a bit, but I doubt it. The world has moved on for twenty years without him. I could go with a pre-existing medical condition that is terminal now but is easily cured in 2037. That sounds rather boring though.

The struggle is real. I'm not sure this is going to work for me, which is rather depressing, but also maybe somewhat enlightening. Why do we write? Why do I write? What do I want to write? Who do I want to write for? These are all very important questions that are being brought up by this ordeal. I think that lying about human nature is too great a sin for me to commit in a story. Stephen King talks about that in his book, and I agree. Maybe I'm writing to find characters, interesting characters. Jerry Seinfeld talks about finding bits, maybe it's somewhat similar. Sol Stein pointed out in his book that it's the characters that we remember as important, it's the characters that we connect to. To find as many interesting characters as I can sounds like a good direction, a worthy purpose, an interesting pursuit, and a worthwhile destination. Character is revealed by the story, the events are the canvas that we paint our character across. That is the direction I must go.

You are welcome to join me on that journey at JeffreyAlexanderMartin.com

Also, if you would like to join me in the creation of these works you can fund the process at patreon.com/JeffreyAlexanderMartin

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