Part four. This is the easy bit, after all the effort of creating the world and the technology we actually come to the one thread of commonality in all storytelling. The plot! There are really only seven plots, a fact known to man since the time of the Greek tragedian. And when you look around at human behaviour (you need to do a lot of ‘people watching’ as a writer but be careful or you’ll get funny looks!) you can see the truth in it.
There is little new in human behaviour, the same old vices recur on a regular basis, almost in turn, if you live long enough you’ll find that everything comes back around, it may make use of modern technology or have a slightly different flavour but in the end its just like it was last time. As the song says said, ‘Meet the new Boss; same as the old Boss.’ (If you don’t know it, click here, it opens in a new tab.) One of my all time favourites.
And one thing is certain, if as a species we spread out into the galaxy, we will take all our emotions and quirks with us, love, hate, fear, ecstasy, greed, envy and all the others will still be there when we are masters of the universe. Because it’s the emotions that make us what we are.
So in reality, any story can be set anywhere, the setting and the time become nothing more than a backdrop for human nature. And if you try you can make the setting become a character with vices of its own. And in just the same way as we have emotions, so do places.
I’m sure you’ve all felt emotion in a place, a sense of wonder or excitement on seeing a panoramic view or a waterfall or the wild ocean. Well, these things are just as important to your plot as the words that your characters say, or what they do. They can be like having an extra person in the scene, with just as much influence, no dialogue needed. And just as people have motives, so do places, the only difference is that the motives of a place are devoid of emotion in themselves, we can give places emotion; in fact, we do it all the time with memories and association but the place itself is neutral. So you can have the same setting inspiring different things in different people.
Anyway, I digress; back to the plot and my personal preference.
I’ve always liked the idea of a chase or a quest, especially if it involves injustice of some kind or a search for a hidden truth. You can throw quite a few things into that mix, a bit of romance or a discovery that changes things. There’s always a lot of scope to introduce interesting characters and locations that can emphasise the point you are trying to make. You can tease out traits of the protagonists that you (or they) never knew existed and make it into a tale of redemption as well. So the villain can become a hero and vice versa. If you can build the reveal or a twist that no-one was expecting until the last page that’s even better.