Tuesday, February 02, 2021

Worldbuilding for Multiple Alternate Universes Part 3 - What Makes an Idea Too Crazy

Worldbuilding for Multiple Alternate Universes

Part 3

What Makes an Idea Too Crazy? 

Previous entries in the Worldbuilding for Multiple Alternate Universes Part 4 are:



And if your Idea is "too crazy" even for a novel crossing multiple alternate universes, how do you sell the novel to traditional publishers?  

Some people view "Love Conquers All" and "Soul Mates" to be ideas way too crazy for mass market.

But reader appetite for types of stories evolves faster than the editorial willingness to invest all that money in manufacturing books and spreading them around where readers might randomly stumble over them (Supermarket shelves, book stores even).

It costs a lot to publish a novel, and the economics demand the prospect of selling a number of units that would return the investment plus a nice profit for the company.

Long before the 1960's, a "profit for the company" was the last thing publishers wanted.  Publishing companies were owned by bigger corporations specifically to lose money, and to be a tax write-off.  This changed when the tax laws were rewritten to classify books stored in warehouses in the same tax category as hammers and tools -- so every year a book is stored, the company that owns the company pays an additional tax.

The whole economics of fiction and non-fiction was changed by a tax law.  

Now books don't get published because they "ought" to be (because of the content), but rather they get published because an acquisitions editor sees a market for them.

If the market isn't visible, the author doesn't get an offer.

So in the last couple of decades the market for what used to be called "everything and the kitchen sink" plotting has become visible.  

This is the sort of novel with worldbuilding that depicts a reality even more complex than our real world.

Classic Soap Opera ladle's onto characters one massive disaster after another - until viewer credulity is stretched almost too far.  These are the sorts of personal disasters that do happen in real life (being widowed while pregnant, being jailed for a crime you didn't commit ) but they happen once to one person, not every few months to the same person year after year.  

Classic Science Fiction depicts an ordinary individual handed an impossible task and accomplishing it by discovering or inventing something that didn't exist before, render the formerly impossible possible.

Classic Romance depicts the forming of a Relationship as a life-altering event, which just like the Science Fiction discovery, renders the formerly impossible life-achievements into possible ones.  

Classic Soap Opera leaves the Characters few free-will choices, few chances to act to change their lives for the better, and when they do have such an opportunity, they choose incorrectly (but the viewer doesn't see the error at first).  

When you combine all three Classic forms with the all-male style Action-Action plotting (fight scene, after chase scene after mortal combat scene, after dire threat scene, after unarmed combat scene, etc), you get a story that you could never have sold into the 1960's market for Science Fiction.

The current editors have been rewarded for acquiring and publishing long series of long novels blending all three Classic forms with action (the more action, the better).

I have reviewed Gini Koch's ALIEN series (16 very long books) consistently, with recommendations to read and study them carefully.


Now, contrast/compare the structure of the ALIEN series with Karen Chance's Cassie Palmer Series, book 10 published in 2020.  

Then contrast both of those with the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher (book 17, Battle Ground,  published September 2020).



THINGS ARE ABOUT TO GET SERIOUS FOR HARRY DRESDEN, CHICAGO’S ONLY PROFESSIONAL WIZARD, in the next entry in the #1 New York Times bestselling Dresden Files. 

Harry has faced terrible odds before. He has a long history of fighting enemies above his weight class. The Red Court of vampires. The fallen angels of the Order of the Blackened Denarius. The Outsiders.

But this time it’s different. A being more powerful and dangerous on an order of magnitude beyond what the world has seen in a millennium is coming. And she’s bringing an army. The Last Titan has declared war on the city of Chicago, and has come to subjugate humanity, obliterating any who stand in her way. 

Harry’s mission is simple but impossible: Save the city by killing a Titan. And the attempt will change Harry’s life, Chicago, and the mortal world forever.

---end quote--

Gini Koch's character Kitty Kat has an Alien (on Earth) fall madly in love with her -- and she reciprocates vehemently -- and that changes her life, handing her (unbeknownst to her at the time) the impossible task of making peace in the galaxy.  Classic Love Conquers All because of Soul Mates meeting.

Karen Chance's character Cassie Palmer is handed the impossible task of freeing humanity from the ancient gods (Ares, Apollo,), and her love is torn between a Master Vampire and the ancient Merlin, a vigorous Incubus.  She teams up with the Incubus and kills a god, then goes on to settle things for humanity, all because of the power of love in her unique relationship with an Incubus. Classic Love Conquers All, not sure about the Soul Mate aspect.  

Jim Butcher's Dresden Files #17 (Sept 2020) I have yet to read, but I've read all the prior ones in this (absolutely magnificent) Fantasy Series about Harry Dresden, Professional Wizard (hard boiled detective crossed with Have Gun Will Travel gun-for-hire-but-the-good-guy).  Harry is driven by bone-marrow-deep affection for various people in his life, but seems more a free-radical, living a life without his Soul Mate.  Even so, his love does conquer pretty much all the problems that come at him. 

All 3 of these long series of long novels have fascinating main characters pursuing impossible goals against impossible odds and succeeding.

And although the characters are marvelous, the real star of the series is the world building.

Around every plot turn and twist lies a revelation about the true nature of the world the characters live in -- knowledge often won in the heat of battle, magical and otherwise -- and those revelations drive the plot into new vistas.

Keep in mind these series of long books all start with the very close, very tight focus on a character with one, or maybe five, problems to solve just to survive the current threat.  The reader doesn't know how vast and varied the protagonist's world actually is.  The character may have an inkling, but is off by orders of magnitude.

If the first book (or trilogy) doesn't sell well enough, the next contract won't be offered and the series dies.

Keep in mind that how well a first book in a series sells doesn't depend on its content or anything the writer has power over.  

How well a book sells has to do with promotional budget allocated by the publisher - and part of that budget is the cover art, another part precisely where it is distributed and advertised.

How well subsequent books sell has a lot to do with word of mouth (or Facebook) among readers who love that sort of novel.  

Hooking the specific market on a particular novel is the writer's first job.  

Today's market loves scrambled up, competing artistic symbolism, confusion, doubt and what appears to be winning by random thrashing rather than skilled planning.  

It may be too late to start writing a series with these traits embedded in the world building, as the market always shifts with the generations, and with the impression new generations have of the everyday world around them.  

In ten or twenty years - the time it takes to deliver a 25-novel series - tastes will have shifted.

Today, we see a world that just doesn't make sense unless there is some hidden under-layer seething with power and motion, surfacing in apparently random events and disappearing again.  So novels like the Harry Potter Series, and the three mentioned above, all postulate such a parallel or hidden reality unknown to ordinary humans.  All these lavishly built worlds seem completely plausible to today's readers.

What exactly will be next?  What will these series look like to readers 40 years from now? 

Are you writing for that far future reader?  Is your too-crazy-idea simply ahead of its time?  

Consider that in the days when my Romantic Times Award winning novel, DUSHAU, ...

Dushau, Farfetch and Outreach on Kindle:  


...was first published (my first novel that was distributed on supermarket shelves and such stores as Walmart, not just book stores), Science Fiction publishing absolutely rejected adding "Romance" tropes to a Science Fiction novel -- because you couldn't sell it to a defined and identifiable market.  

It was way too-crazy-an-idea.  

But just as Gene Roddenberry sold Star Trek as, "Wagon Train To The Stars," I sold DUSHAU as a galactic political adventure.  

That's what you do to sell an Idea that's just way too crazy - you repackage it as something familiar to the acquisitions department, hiding the hook you are planting to grab your intended market deep inside where only the reader will see it.  

Being too crazy to sell means being first with an idea.

If you're first with an innovation in story-telling, you may only make it to a trilogy (or as with Star Trek, 3 seasons, the minimum necessary for syndication in reruns), but subsequent authors may be able to drive the unfolding flower of a new genre to 25 novel series (or as with Star Trek, many other series and movies in that and parallel universes).

Do you want to be a pioneer, and change the world while being changed by it, or do you want to ride a wave started by previous authors?  

Do authors start these waves -- or do readers?  

In our interconnected, online world of social networking, maybe the origin point of the energies of change will continue to shift from the investing business to individual consumer (fanfic readers and writers?).

Jacqueline Lichtenberg


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