NaNoWriMo Chapter 2 – The What and How
And the winner, after a particularly hairy vote, is Desertpunk – Kaiju! Not going to lie, this is definitely the harder of the four genre options, but I wouldn’t have put it up there if I weren’t game for a challenge. Now on to the story…
Christopher Booker’s Seven Basic Plots supposes that all narratives ultimately fall into the same basic pattern or series of stages with seven broad themes that inform the story, either alone or in combination. Polti’s Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations help set the stage and give me a few ideas to build upon. I advise anyone who’s planning their first novel to have a look at both of these as a jumping-off point, mix and match, see what inspires you.
To make full use of the genre omits a lot of the options. The Rags to Riches basic plot doesn’t really work in a world where water is the only valuable commodity, and giant monsters will have very little personal impact on the journey made by the protagonist. The Adultery drama also seems a little petty when lives are on the line every day.
For my inspiration I’ll be drawing on the likes of Dune, Tremors, and the D&D world of Dark Sun as my strongest connections to the mix. Pile on top of that a little Mad Max, Fallout and Godzilla. In effect I’ve built a mood board of films, games, artwork and story to toy with.
So what’s going to happen?
We Need Water
It’s an obvious choice to make but has potential. Our monster sits jealously over the water source, or perhaps contaminates it in some way. Something so vast in such an impossible situation probably means killing it won’t be an option, but some plan could be put together that could lead it away, or distract it long enough to get a tanker full enough for humanity to live a little longer.
The desperation of this story is the key factor to build on. The kaiju makes the mission all the more deadly, but the real enemy is thirst. The panic of leaders brought low, the fight for loved ones left behind, and of course a heroic sacrifice is almost guaranteed along the way. While slow and encroaching death remains a very present danger, the kaiju can then be built into a legendary threat or obstacle with a grand reveal towards the end.
Sickness begins to spread as what little water is left is spread thin and becomes infected. Leaders facing the prospect of telling their people that the water is gone struggle with the spreading panic and daily inquisition from the diseased. Champions must be gathered to do the impossible, but can they bear the burden of expectation?
This monster doesn’t nest, it hunts, and its’ travels are bringing it ever closer to one of the last human settlements. The people have little choice but to run, but the world beyond is as lethal as the terrifying creature that’s approaching. For the very young, the very old, and the sick, there’s almost no point in leaving, either way it’s a death sentence, and even for the fit and healthy hope is slim. Home is where the water is, and finding a new place to settle may prove harder than standing and fighting back.
Effectively this story is the reverse of the one above, the kaiju becomes the immediate threat and the environment becomes the long slow building problem. The narrative would focus on the journey, though it may prove aimless, hopeless, and ultimately doomed, the stories that arise on the blind path to unlikely salvation would form the backbone of the novel:
The rise of a messianic leader who claims secret knowledge could prove to be a charlatan who led the people on false hope. A family splinters as their desperation elevates, but catastrophe forces their bond to strengthen. The exodus is halted by an insurmountable obstacle, and with their backs to the wall, the people can only turn to watch as doom approaches.
Heir To The Hero
An unwitting leader emerged amongst the people many years ago, and under his/her rule survival seemed to be a very real possibility, and hope was permitted to flourish. With his/her death, someone else presumes the right to seize command, but this new leader is too desperate to prove their capabilities, and risks dooming everyone to extinction.
Our protagonist of course should not be the hero to replace the one who died, just for long enough to make the reckless “Heir” realise that they’re being foolish, and proving a greater menace than the death that lurks outside. It’d be too cliché to have our main character be the saviour that the people are crying out for, so part of the narrative could involve the discovery of one who is fit to lead, or perhaps the emergence of many leaders and greater self-reliance.
Tragedy is felt more keenly by those who are reminded daily of their mortality, and the loss of a great leader has brought the people lower than ever. As a new leader arises, so does chaos, in-fighting between those who support them and those who refuse to accept them. Slowly the need to prove themselves turns to madness, and the only choice left is to kill the lunatic or kill everyone else.
Something a little more conceptual. A lone wanderer travels the endless wastes, unarmed despite the danger, with only a few essentials strapped to their back, and yet they seem to have survived for a long time alone in the face of immense danger. How? What secrets does the stranger keep? In a world of impossible odds and immense monsters, even the hardiest survivors must band together.
Dropping a mystery into the middle of an apocalypse can make the voyage of discovery so much more interesting. The story would be told from the perspective of someone who follows the nomad asking them questions, perhaps receiving revelations along the way that mean the observer can’t return to their normal life, and takes to the desert themselves, either alone or in search of their new prophet.
A few soft words can make more difference in a world so full of noise and fear than men of action and strength. Sometimes a mystery can grab our attention in spite of danger around us, and the obsession can make us lose focus on what’s important. Perhaps the secrets the stranger holds could provide incites into the world that could prove the salvation of the species, so why walk alone when you could save humanity?
And now I leave my fate in your hands! Choose your own adventure and vote for it down below, and come November that is the story I shall write for NaNoWriMo.
Big thanks as well to NaNoWriMo for their support to all writers whether they take part or otherwise. I for one will be making good use of their advice on how to quit procrastinating and actually get on with it for a change. Don’t forget that NaNoWriMo is all about promoting literacy, creativity and dedication. If you’re planning your own NaNoWriMo entry, or have any suggestions or ideas for my own, join in the conversation on Facebook or in the comments below.