Any Budding Pratchetts Out There???

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The Terry Pratchett Prize

Postby Vega » Thu Jun 24, 2010 11:37 pm

Hi folks

I fancy having a crack at this. And by ‘crack’ I don’t mean to denigrate the sheer effort, skill/talent and expertise that real novelists put into their work of course. But I feel I could write approximately 1000 good words per day… and make that an entertaining read. And it if it didn’t make the shortlist, well, that’s not so bad. An endeavour like this pays in all sorts of ways.

I do have a query however, that I will direct at the publishers (in shortened form!) but thought it would be a good idea to ask here too. If you’ve read the competition details page, you’ll know the objective is to write about an alternate Earth. Except, of course, that’s not quite right. It’s not the alternate bit we’re supposed to write about, is it? This, from the second paragraph:

“But it won't be a story about being in an alternate Earth because the people in an alternate Earth don't know that they are; after all, you don't.”

I’ve been working on some ideas for the last few days and I’ve got what I’d consider to be two very strong contenders, from which I planned to pick one and start outlining. I re-read the guidelines/rules today though and wondered whether I was hitting the mark after all.

On the face of it, creating an alternate world seems easy. Almost any idea can form the base for your characters and plot etc. to sit on. Trees could be sentient; the seas could have frozen over, humans could be living underground… Wales could be a walled-off prison. OK, maybe not all of Wales. Just most of it. The rest of the world could still tramp around the Brecon Beacons and Snowdonia freely at weekends. I could go on but you get the idea. And frankly, I’m now afraid of Welsh Nationalist reprisals.

So anyway, it’d be easy enough to come up with something different and have the characters and plot behave accordingly. But, of course, that’s not strictly alternate. To be truly alternate, there has to be a point where things change, compared to what we already know. Essentially an historical change. A point in history where the timeline divides.

That split could be at any point, including very recent history, although that presents its own problems. For example if right now is the point where the timeline divides, the Earth after that point would be, relative to us, a future Earth, even if it’s a relatively nearby future. And it would need to be defined as something more than could be accounted for by ordinary technical and sociological progression.

But how would we even recognise what comprised ‘ordinary’ in that case, in order to understand an alternate? Anything written about the future could simply be interpreted as futuristic, rather than alternate. Although the characters in our story must not know they’re living on an alternate Earth, the reader absolutely must!

So, I guess that means we’re limited by – or should I say, focused on - an historical change with a divided timeline further back than the right ‘now’.

Or am I just going a bit doolally?

Anyway… this got me thinking that my ideas might not be suitable because they require a curiosity in the hero/heroine about their world, with subsequent discoveries, as the plot progresses, which expose their way of life as ‘broken’ or even a sham. I can’t go into too much detail because I naturally don’t want to give anything away… but would that curiosity and later shock/horror at the discovery break the guidelines for this competition?

This isn’t one of the ideas I’ve been working on (I hasten to add) but a brief example of the above would be:

    1) Welcome to Ker Fi – one of the largest cities in the south west.
    2) A young man makes his living there, working as a Brokko* delivery guy
    3) One night during the late shift he sees a *mysterious thing*
    4) No-one believes him. They laugh and convince him he’s just overworked.
    5) He sees the *mysterious thing* again some nights later. Decides to investigate.
    6) This investigation beings him into contact with all manner of city dwellers and agencies. His life is in danger.
    7) Eventually he discovers the truth. It blows his mind!


I know, a best seller, right? Now, according to the competition guidelines, we’re not to write a ‘… story about being in an alternate Earth…’. But is that what the example above does? Or is it about moving the character’s environment to a different level of understanding? As a reader we could see the alternate world for what it was once we’d got into the novel a bit… and we would also ‘get’ the later discovery because we could relate it to the timeline/event/environment (or whatever) that we currently live in and understand. The hero character, however, would have no knowledge that he lived in an alternate world. To him, it’s just the world. Do I break that mindset with a discovery (and therefore the competition guidelines)? Is any recognition about the world the character lives in a no-no?

Am I making any sense?

If any of you made it to the end of this ramble, well done! If you also understood what the heck I’m on about, could you let me know? :)

But seriously, if there is anyone here who is entering the competition, what do you think? Does my idea of curiosity/discovery break the rules? Interestingly enough, Terry’s Discworld stories wouldn’t be admissible, since they rely on magic as opposed to the science and physics of our Earth.

Cheers,

Darren.


*A delicious and very nutritious Pizza analogue
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Postby Tonyblack » Fri Jun 25, 2010 12:11 am

Welcome Vega and good luck with the contest! :D

The way I see it it, it would be like the alternative Earth in the Thursday Next books by Jasper Fforde (if you are familiar with them).

In these books, the Crimean War is still going on, George Formby is President of England and Wales is a People's Republic. The airplane doesn't seem to have been invented, but airships have and there's a system called the Gravitube which is basically a series of tubes that go through the centre of the Earth and make transport from one place to another very quick. :lol:

The people there are unaware that they are on an alternative Earth - they probably think that it's us who on the alternative Earth.
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Postby michelanCello » Fri Jun 25, 2010 7:31 am

As I've been reading what you wrote, Vega, I got the same thought as Tony, i.e. that the idea is a bit Thursday Next-like (Love those books! :wink: )
Anyway,
Vega wrote:[...]we’re not to write a ‘… story about being in an alternate Earth…’ [...]

I think what they want to awoid is "travalling in the space-time quontinuonuonuonum ( :wink: )". I mean, (at least, that's what I made of it) they don't want a simple human being (of our world/time/dimension i.e. look in the mirror-sort-like) to (after a serie of unfortunate events :wink: ) find himself being in a whole new world/time/dimension and goes and explores how that one works, compares it to his own world/time/dimension, probably gets into trouble, probably falls in love with probably the prettiest girl in town, and after the probably happy end, decides not to go back to his own w/t/d (I didn't want to write it down once more...), and stay where he is with the love of his life.
As you put it, your going-to-be story won't be like this, so I guess that's OK. (By the way, you have a nice writing-style. Normally, I'd have fallen asleep while reading such a long post, and wouldn't have been able to concentrate after the first part, but yours was actually interesting, and when I finished, I thought, o, it's over...)
I wish you good luck with the competition (and would love to read it after you've finished it :wink: ).
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Postby Jane » Fri Jun 25, 2010 9:25 am

Gravitube?
How can you go through the center of the Earth without burning to death? I thought it was like a giant spinning ball of iron in there that makes a magnetic field or something like that...

Alternate history/universe stories are always pretty confusing. *scratches head*
The rumour spread through the city like: ______.
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B) Margarine
C) Venereal disease
D) A disco of pain
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Postby michelanCello » Fri Jun 25, 2010 10:40 am

Jane, this is science fiction you're talking about. Anything can happen... :wink:
Anyway, has anyone been actually in the center of the Earth to prove the theory? :wink:

You should read those books, Jane. I think you'd enjoy it! :wink: Here's a reference to Australia (just scroll down) where you can buy the books (but I'm pretty sure you can find them in the library too...) http://www.jasperfforde.com/buythebook.html
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Postby Jan Van Quirm » Fri Jun 25, 2010 12:34 pm

So long as the characters and their situations are believable (no matter how unbelievable it sounds) and, more importantly, you can make the reader care about them, then you've cracked it - doesn't matter about the genre it's the human elements that will make it work, even if you aren't writing about a human... :wink:

Sci-fi's a misnomer - you can chuck all kinds of things into the mix with the jargon and the wonderful gizmos people will be using but there's only so far that you can go with that before people's eyes glaze over and all they really want to know is whether the hero survives and how that comes about, gets the girl/guy or attractive being of his or her choosing and generally lives to tell the tale - or least that someone will tell the tale if they can't because it was wonderful or exciting or just plain mattered.

Make it as real as you can - it's still fiction not a 'how to do quantum physics' manual. Decide on your 'break off' point and develop it from there. If it's in the Cretaceous period then your heroes are perhaps the bi-pedal apes subjugated by the descendants of velociraptors who finally rebel - or if Troy never fell because Achilles wasn't a demi-god and so Dido and Aeneas never met - if Abelard didn't fall for Heloise and became Pope?

I've decided not to enter this, despite the lure of possible publication, because I do far too much fantasy as it is and I'm writing something I think is worthwhile, centred on recent but modern African themed shorts, that's completely stalled so that's what I really want/need to concentrate on. But I'm doing the same in that - there's a central character and event that effects them profoundly and the rest is woven into that in some way that will strike a note with the reader whether the action's from a human, military or in two cases an animal's perspective - the latter are actually the more interesting for me and have little to do with the hero. I care about the 'leads' in the sub-plots, and that comes out in the writing however slight the connection is to the hero's story.

Write about the people realistically, whether or not they're people, and the rest will follow - Terry does, else we wouldn't give a toss about his dwarves and trolls as much as his witches and vampires and indeed orang-utans :D
"Some men see things as they are and ask why. Others dream things that never were and ask why not.” George Bernard Shaw
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Postby Jane » Fri Jun 25, 2010 1:33 pm

Coolio advice, Jan! ^___^

I'm going malling tomorrow, so I'll check out the shops to see if Jasper Fforde's there. If I can find them under all that Eclipse merchandise stuff...
The rumour spread through the city like: ______.
A) Wildfire
B) Margarine
C) Venereal disease
D) A disco of pain
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Postby Tonyblack » Fri Jun 25, 2010 3:30 pm

Jane wrote:Coolio advice, Jan! ^___^

I'm going malling tomorrow, so I'll check out the shops to see if Jasper Fforde's there. If I can find them under all that Eclipse merchandise stuff...
Can I suggest you start with The Eyre Affair, as the rest are really part of a series? :wink:
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Postby michelanCello » Fri Jun 25, 2010 7:03 pm

That's only logical. Otherwise you can't understand what's happening... :?
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Postby Tonyblack » Fri Jun 25, 2010 7:11 pm

michelanCello wrote:That's only logical. Otherwise you can't understand what's happening... :?
Not really - the Discworld books can be read out of sequence. :D
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Postby michelanCello » Sat Jun 26, 2010 7:51 am

Not every one (like I think I wouldn't have understood Lords and Ladies if I hadn't read Witches Abroad)... but I know what you mean. Still most of the sequels (of other series of couse, not TP) can't really be read individually...
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Postby Jane » Mon Jun 28, 2010 8:06 am

I think you could start anywhere in the first 10 books...then after that, it's pretty much assumed that you already know what Ankh-Morpork is, who the Watch people are.
My first real Discworld book was Sourcery, and I found it pretty funny. Especially the Klatchian wall murals and mustache twirling grand vizier. ^__^
The rumour spread through the city like: ______.
A) Wildfire
B) Margarine
C) Venereal disease
D) A disco of pain
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Postby joemcf » Mon Jun 28, 2010 3:20 pm

I liked the idea of the competition, and it would have given me the push i needed to finish some of the novels that i started. Main problem for me is i am too young. :( :( :(

Ah well. good luck to anyone who is considering entering.

BTW any chance of me getting into your story Poohcarrot? :wink:
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Postby poohcarrot » Mon Jun 28, 2010 3:51 pm

I'm not sure if you'd want to. It's becoming a tad controversial. :twisted:
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Postby joemcf » Mon Jun 28, 2010 5:22 pm

Controvesy is my middle name. My...third middle name. After sexy...and...james. Anywho i don't mind. Insult away. :)
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