Saturday, August 23, 2014

Lunatic Space Pirates in Love - Karen

Lunatic space pirates in love

We decided to do another group topic – where each Proser takes the same idea and talks about our experiences and our processes and how we do things.

So this round we bring you: Lunatic space pirates in love!

Concept: We each use that as a story prompt, and write about how we’d go about tackling a story with that premise.

Here’s my take. Be sure to check back and see how my fellow Prosers approach this sort of thing, too! There are as many different right ways to write as there are writers, so it should be interesting.

1.     First I need to decide on a main character. I’m a girl-oriented writer (I prefer to write female POV in part because I write YA and MG sci fi because I want to inspire young women to Be the geek.) So this is a no-brainer. It’ll be the girl. I could use a non-hetero relationship but I’m going to stick with my standard girl-meets-boy structure, since the nature of the story premise is so wacky already. I don’t want to mangle the story before I even get started.

2.     Next, I need to figure out some more about the girl. I like to start with character name before much of anything else. I have a particular fondness for names that begin with As. I also, when writing my last novel project, Abnormals, spent a few days just brainstorming names, so I have an excellent set of pages in my notebook with names to choose from. Astrid it is.

3.     Age – I usually write teens. I’ll go for late teens in this story, so the “where are the parents” question is easily solved (“kid doesn’t live at home anymore.”) 17 years old. Also makes my love story concept a little more comfortable. I get a bit wiggly when books feature love stories between two very young characters. While it can be sweet, it can also be uncomfortable, since the reality of most 12 year olds is that they aren’t yet mature enough to have more than a friendship with most people.

4.     Now, backstory. Why is this Astrid’s story, where does she come from? Why should the reader care if I don’t know or don’t care? Right, exactly.

So…Astrid’s … what? A wayward princess? Her dad’s a military hero? Or politically powerful and she’s been kidnapped to make the other side hurt? No. I don’t want her to be defined only by her relationship to a male. So, she’s the winner of a galactic beauty contest? Nah, not about beauty either. This isn’t about her looks (though she’s cute) – it’s about her ability to manage when things get tough. Although, while I’m working on backstory I also need to decide where she’s COMING from. Emotionally. To peg a character arc, I need a good starting point. I could write a story about where she is (milieu) or some nifty whiz-bang technology that’s changing the game of space travel (idea.) Or not.

As I brainstorm here, you can see I’m starting to try to unearth the nugget of the story. What kind of story am I writing? Oh – and I should have mentioned this earlier, I’m a sucker for upbeat endings, so I know I want the story to end on a positive note. Therefore for balance it should probably start in the shitter, right?

So Astrid, our intrepid main character, is running away from something. A life of petty crime down on her home planet, perhaps? Or not-so-petty crime? A mistake she made, maybe crime-related? Cheated a crime lord? Stole from the wrong guy/gal? Trusted someone she shouldn’t? I find trust to be a worthwhile theme in fiction, and the violation of trust in a young woman can be a powerful impetus for her to change, so let’s go with that.

She was in a gang, for lack of a better term, and her gangleader, another woman to keep it from being a love triangle (I hate those.) She thought she could trust Miranda. They’d been getting by okay by running confidence schemes (I’m using this primarily as backstory, but I’m mentally flagging things like this that would require further research if I were to go into detail. I don’t know anything about “running confidence schemes” other than it sounds good, lol, so I am cautious to not over-commit on this aspect.) down on the planet Veron. Until Miranda got picked up by local enforcement and spilled the beans about where Astrid is holed up. Astrid made it off-planet, just barely, by stowing away on a freighter, and then hooked up with the crew of the … see? Lots of imagination needed here. What is the ship named? Crew of the Corona. She takes work as a basic engine tech, having familiarity with the Corona’s engines because part of those “confidence schemes” down on Veron were black market parts trading. (Ah, putting together aspects of the backstory.) Perhaps she even learned the trade from her no-good-criminal-father? But I don’t like really ugly parental backstories, so I’ll probably just continue to leave the parent question open/unanswered/irrelevant for now.

Oh dear, at some point then I also start to do some visualization, as that helps me picture things in my mind. The only problem is, it’s a major rabbit hole. Be careful! My cover designer friend Renee from The Cover Counts usually uses, where I found these images:

They both look a wee bit menacing, which I was aiming for.

But as I consider menacing, it gets me thinking about the pirate aspect of this story. Why are these pirates out in this area of space and just what are they pirating?

They’re running the blockade in G-sector, where the two planetary systems have been locked in a civil war for decades. Acting as a go-between for the goods from planet A which planet B wants, and vice-versa. The planets can’t trade directly because of the civil war, but these pirates on the Corona don’t mind. Maybe they’re more like…opportunists, not pirates. Taking advantage of an economic opportunity to charge more for goods due to their scarcity, rather than specifically robbing/pirating others. Although as opportunists, they should be happy to sabotage an occasional ship or salvage some wreck when they come across it. Too much detail, though, I just needed the rough outline.

Now as for the love story, we’re back to the characters. Astrid’s a low-level engine tech. Rather than do the captain/subordinate love relationship (which has some ickiness to it, and would be semi-implausible given the main character’s age,) let’s find someone else on the ship for Astrid to fall in love with. Captain’s first mate? No, age would be a factor there, too. Med tech? Maybe. Or, better yet, Astrid works on the primary engine, and love interest boy works on the jump drive/faster-than-light-drive. And what he wants directly conflicts with what Astrid has to do for her work. Ah. Conflict. They take an instant dislike to each other because he’s cranky about her work on the main engine. It’s not helping him ready the ship for boost. And he’s under great pressure from the captain to have them boost-ready before some kind of deadline. Probably financial pressures. Major shipment from Veron to one side of the war, which the captain plans to partially waylay? (Ah. Here be the pirates!)

So…I’ll leave you now, with Astrid aboard the Corona, at odds with … hum, I never named the love interest. Misha? Will people know that’s a male name or will they assume female? What about Michio? That sounds better. So Astrid and Michio are at odds over the system parameters of their boost drive versus the main engine. And…sparks will fly!

Note: I didn’t even manage to work the “lunatic” aspect in. And only barely got to introducing the “in love” aspect of the story prompt. And yet here are 1300+ words of story design and backstory and rationale and thought. Isn’t writing awesome?

Where would you take this kind of prompt? What are your steps in the writing process? I’m sure I’ve missed about a hundred, as this is just the brainstorm part of writing.  


  1. Radly, Karen. I dig this. I can't wait to do mine. It's weird, but gender is the last thing I assign, I have to figure out all my story line, and then I figure out who fits in it.

  2. Love this! You've set a high level for these posts, Karen. I would read that book. :)

  3. (Okay, this ate the first version of my comment, I think, so apologies if this posts twice).

    It's interesting to see how different all of our processes are. For examples, naming my characters comes very late in the process for me!


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