Wanted: A plot
With only a few days left before I actually start writing the sequel to Blood on the Motorway I thought it might be an idea to start on the process of plotting it out, or at least working out some of what I’m going to be writing about, so that I don’t find myself writing all my characters down a dead end. This is, however, proving slightly harder than anticipated, although I have managed to come up with a working title that made me chuckle: Blood on the Motorway 2: Motorway Harder. Oh how I chuckled to myself. The reason I wanted to press ahead with a sequel instead of a new story was fairly simple. I know the characters and I know the world, so given both of these things I should be able to get back into things a lot quicker than if I was creating a world from scratch. I also came up with an idea for an opening chapter that had a real kick to it and should get it going really well. The problem though, is that this is not enough.
Sure, I have my characters. I know them pretty well by now, and know how they’d react in a crisis, having put them all through a fair few of those in the first book. I’ve got a couple of new characters in mind, and plans to expand a few of the characters from the first book. That’s fine.
I’ve also got the setting. Blood on the Motorway is set in a pretty specific version of the apocalypse, so any world-building is limited to seeing how the situation has deteriorated since we left the characters. The first book is supposed to be a fairly breathless page turner so I’m aiming to let things breathe a little more here as the characters come to grips with the new reality they’re in. So that’s also fine.
What I don’t have, however, is the story. I have a world, I have people, but I have no idea what the driving force of this story will be. What are our characters up against? What is their goal? I am really really stumped on this and aside from a few chapters of getting to know you again kind of stuff, I’ve got nothing. So I go into NaNoWrimo in three days with a very big question mark over my head.
I need to answer the question of what kind of story it is. The first book is apocalyptic, yes, but it’s also a horror story, and a crime story. But robbed of the antagonist from that tale, what am I going to do with my characters this time around, save for having them stand around talking about where the next meal is coming from for 80,000 words? I mean, I know Cormac McCarthy did that, but he was able to do that because he’s Cormac McCarthy. I most definitely am not, no matter how much I wish I was.
The first book was a very purposeful melding of genres, so that’s something I’d like to do again with the second (and the third, which I do kind of have a direction for), but I don’t really want to re-tread the ground covered in the first book. I also don’t want to take it in a direction that betrays the first book entirely. I’ve had some vaguely science fiction-y ideas for what could happen in this book, but each one of them would feel like a bit of betrayal of the grounded reality of the first one. I could very easily find myself pole vaulting the shark if I go down that road.
I think that as much as I didn’t want to, I’m going to have to ‘pants’ this one, and just start it and see what happens, unless inspiration hits me in the next few days.