Got it. Jason’s parents were killed by an alien weapon — that’s why he wants them off his planet, now. But the Taurans blew up that particular stretch of countryside only because the US government told them that anti-alien terrorists were hiding there and only that particular weapon could take out their fortified hide-out. It was a ploy to get better data on the capabilities of the weapon. The aliens have apologized for blowing up innocent civilians, but they don’t know how thoroughly they were hornswoggled. The US Army officer who instigated that scheme is also part of the DER faction that is supporting the FFL. At the climax, Jason is using the social engineering skills Sienna has taught him in an attempt to outwit pursuit (they are on the run at this point — Sienna knows that her former allies are now trying to get her, because the plague has worked too well and she is now a liability). But what he learns is not just the current info he needs; he also finds out that a) Sienna is working for the government, and b) that selfsame government is responsible for the death of his parents. So, in effect, Sienna causes her own downfall, and the outer crisis is resolved by an inner turning (Jason switches loyalties, leaves Sienna to be torn apart by an angry mob [handwave handwave] and avoids pursuit by running to the aliens instead of from them — his previous relationship with Clarity gets him in the door with the aliens). The novel now starts with Jason, pissed, making contact with the FFL and demanding to be allowed in. Sienna’s lieutenant wants nothing to do with his hot-headed, inexperienced kid, but Sienna thinks he might be just the thing they need to crack the alien biocomputer they haven’t had any luck with so far… Oh, by the way, a 1995 calendar will do for 2051.
I’ve been having trouble getting a handle on Jason, and yesterday I recalled something from The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing about using contrast between characters. I know that Sienna grew up poor, is still poor, and this has shaped her. I was thinking that Jason would also be from an impoverished background of petty thieves, like Kevin Mitnick, but that makes them too similar. What if he grew up rich instead? What if his hacking (and maybe his bisexuality) are a reaction to that background? What if he is committed to making it on his own — he has estranged himself from his family? This explains why he is working in a coffee shop but has serious computer skills and an apartment full of hardware. (Or does it?) Anyway, I think it gives me the “handle” I’ve been looking for. It also gives some parallels between Jason and Clarity — they are both rebelling against their parents and background. But in the case of Jason and Clarity, they are so different already that creating parallels is a good thing. This also gives them something in common to explain their sexual relationship. I have not yet decided whether Jason and Clarity meet during the novel or beforehand. Probably beforehand, and reveal the relationship in flashback. As for Jason and Sienna, I want to start the novel when they meet, but it might be better to begin in media res. Ah, but if so… where? I am also not yet sure what effect the aliens’ preference of one-to-one vs. one-to-many communication has on their society and psychology. I had written “they are more individualistic and more hierarchical than we are”, but I wonder if hierarchy is not their style either. An alternative thought I had was “they form networks rather than hierarchies”, which sounds great, but what does it mean? I need to answer this question before I can get a handle on Clarity. Wrote about 900 words on the history of the world, 2003-2051.
Just got back from a writers’ get-together at Kris & Dean’s. Talked with folks about how to handle multiple viewpoints and subplots. Mike Moscoe recommended The Peshawar Lancers by S. M. Stirling as a good example of multiple viewpoints, and The Honourable Company by John Keay for information on the English East India Company. Kris Rusch recommended The Bone Collector by Jeffry Deaver, and gave me a copy of her own first novel The White Mists of Power. She also said that the alternating timelines outline I’ve been considering, which many folks have said will be too difficult for the readers to keep straight, is worth tackling if I think it’s the best way to tell my story. “You’re a good writer,” she said, “don’t listen to anyone who tells you you can’t do something.” Also talked with Nancy Boutin, who is a doctor and recommended a friend of hers who is an infectious disease specialist as someone I might talk to about how epidemics work.