I believe that it is a healthy thing for a writer to stretch. I’ve done things here and there, but not to anything of the nature I think I need to do. But what to do to stretch? And how do I keep from pulling a muscle at my age?
Looking at my twenty plus stories (short, long, published, unpublished), I have a closet full of fantasy. True, some have very little magic, but most have elements of the arcane that overflow the world they are written in. So, sitting on the couch, scratching my bald spot, I began to consider what I might do within the realm of Speculative Fiction while using past writing efforts as a sort of foundation. I asked myself what sort of things are of interest to me but I lack in having a proficient grasp on. History popped into my head and US history at that. I sighed, but this is an exercise in stretching.
Knowing my weakness in such an area, I pondered how I might use this to encourage brain activity and grow as a writer (changing genres and such) while still having the fun of just making stuff up (fiction). Certainly, it would need to be an alternative history. Where to start? Well, I thought, I used to do Civil War reenactments when I was younger and had more hair. Perhaps there? I would wager I would get hate mail within a day from enthusiast of that time period once they have read what I would come up with. Such is life.
Hmmm, maybe I could use a range of dates and blend them so it doesn’t scream a particular date? Maybe 1875-1885 ish? I know little about the time so that would force me to do a bit of digging and kick start some brain cells. But I don’t want to write a historical fiction piece. I would get bored and wouldn’t finish it. What to do about that? Well, Narnia took a jump out of the 1940’s and the Shannara series is set in a post-apocalyptic United States. Hmm, not working for me. What about an actual occurrence in history but just magnify it to bring on major change? Such as? And then, like most of my ideas, the scene set itself.
In short, I started with the post-reconstruction period as a sort of pseudo familiar time period. Then I hopped on the web and looked old maps drafted around that era. Out of the blue, I ran across the global warming sites. As I was reading the more out-of-the-norm “theories”, I found one that fit beautifully into what was forming in my head. The New Madrid Fault (it’s in southern Missouri, if you’re interested). Too small. Now, if I just add a dash of crazy to it and have this sucker crack all the way up and down the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, I have a new US to work with. A big fictional event within itself, but why stop there when you have all these other fault lines? As you probably have guessed, the US map looks very different in my Photoshop. Slice and dice the west coast all the way to the Rockies, mess with Texas (sorry) and the Gulf of Mexico, make the Mississippi and Ohio rivers about five miles wide, and slide most of the east coast into the ocean. You really don’t want to see what Canada looks like. Anyway, that’s my physical world starting point.
Now that I have messed up my country, and with no undue concern for the timing, I have to put on my thinking cap and force my attention to define other aspects of life in this fictional world. I KNOW I’m going to get hate mail for not being historically correct, but its time to mess with history in this piece of fiction. But that, my friends, will have to wait for another post.
Wishing you all a very blessed New Year. May it bring peace and happiness to the world.
Bless and Keep,
P.S. It would be cowardly and heartless if I didn’t admit that I flinched when creating the map for this story given all the terrible weather events that have actually happened in the US. To look at this map-in-the-making, it was not without a sense of sadness. I honestly apologies to those that have lost so much during earthquakes, fires, floods and, of course, hurricanes who may take offense to this world-build. It is in no way a means to capitalize on such hardship. My thoughts and prayers are with you and yours.