The 11th Hour: Evolution of an Idea

**A/N: This was originally written and posted to Facebook, before LR was resurrected. I am re-posting it here for those that do not have me on Facebook.


Some of you may remember that last November I attempted to write a novel for National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo). The goal was to write a 50K/100pg novel in a month, and I actually succeeded. It was stressful and tiring but also so much fun, and I feel I learned a lot as a writer.

As narcissistic as it may sound, I feel like I've improved as a writer over the past year and, while I am quite proud of my 2009 accomplishment, a mere 100 pages does not qualify as a novel. It's more the length of a short story, to be honest. And that's fine; it was my first year attempting NaNoWriMo, I wasn't sure of the rules, and I didn't have an idea until October. Not much time to really flesh it out.

My initial idea was to redo the story I did last year: edit it, elaborate certain areas, make it more in depth and make it an actual novel. This was mostly based on the fact that I loved my characters from last years novel. They were easily the strongest and most realistic characters I had ever created... but while I enjoyed writing the story, the idea of redoing it became less and less appealing as time came on. First of all, I'm pretty sure it's against the rules (even though plenty of people do just that every year). Second of all, part of the fun of writing is creating all new worlds, and I wasn't sure I'd have the motivation to finish if I was using a story that already had an ending. The idea to rewrite A Fine Line was quickly scrapped.

My next idea was to write something that sort of paid homage to one of my favorite books, Under the Tuscan Sun. I had never written a story completely in first person before, and the idea was very appealing. I also enjoyed the challenge of trying to paint a portrait with words. Imagery is a subtle art and I wanted to try my hand at it. But, again, as time went on, the idea of a story of someone who was spending some time at some beautiful place became frightfully dull. There was no conflict and the thought of turning it into some romance/drama seemed to be ripping far too much off of UTTS.

So I decided to try my hand at something I had only minimally attempted over the past year: a zombie story. It was clear to me - as I am sure it is to many of you - that zombies are being too overused, but I think that's because people focus too much on the monster aspect and not enough on the psychological and environmental aspects of a zombie-ridden, post-apocalyptic paradise. The p-a setting has always been of great interest to me; I feel that, if used correctly, such a desolate world can be utilized to conduct an engaging character study. When there's nothing to lose and fear/adrenaline are at their highest, people can do surprising things. Things that seem taboo in normal society - murder, looting, torture, etc - can become second nature when protecting oneself/loved ones.

And then this little gem began to blossom. The first thought was: what if I take the monster aspect out, and just deal with the psychological and environmental aspects?

This sent me back to my UTTS idea. There were a lot of aspects in that particular idea I wanted to hold onto, and possibly combine with this one. And once more thought was applied to the idea, I realized I could combine bits and pieces of each story:

  • Strong, solid characters like those in A Fine Line
  • First person/imagery like in the Under the Tuscan Sun idea
  • Post/Pre-Apocalyptic setting/psychological and environmental stress from the zombie idea.

I became very excited about this idea. If I played my cards right, I would have the chance of writing the story I always wanted: A suspenseful character study/mystery. All I needed was some reason for the people in my story to realistically accept taboo acts as every day tasks.

It took a bit of work, but I have finally constructed an idea that I am excited about/ready to write.

The 11th Hour is set in a futuristic America in which society has declined rather than progressed. President Cain (a man that is more dictator than president) has split the citizens into two groups and convinced the poorer citizens that their predicament is of their own doing, preaching self help but not providing any real way for them to actually help themselves. He keeps the richer citizens well fed and provides a fixed game for the poorer, offering them a way out of their predicament but never intending to deliver, and thus keeping order. By convincing them to help themselves, they have forgotten the power in helping each other.

Or so he thinks.

I'm still working on certain aspects, but for the most part, I have a pretty good idea of how I want it to work, and I am simply waiting for November to get here so I can start writing. The goal is 50K words in a month, but I don't intend to stop there. I'm in this for the long haul - an actual novel. 300 pages minimum.

While I can't start writing until November, I have been able to create a few character bios, and play around with a few "viral" techniques. I'll include links to each at the end of this note.

This is in no way only a note for those that are tagged; the people tagged in this are simply the ones who let me know a while ago that they wanted to be tagged when I talked about my NaNo idea. I am open to questions/suggestions from everyone. So bring 'em on: What do you think?

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