It’s tough living in a family of writers. It can make a person feel downright inadequate. My sister, Psychiatrist Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, published a book on infertility and one on developmental disabilities. My cousin, the former newscaster Naomi Pringle, wrote a couple of books chronicling my family’s immigration from Jamaica to the U.S. The book Freeing Charles tells how Harriet Tubman literally snatched my wife’s great(x4)-grandfather right out of the hands of the slavecatchers. My uncle, Charles Dryden, was a Tuskegee Airman, one of those World War II heroes who kept our bombers safe, and—you guessed it—he wrote an autobiography.
And if they aren’t writing a book, they might be reading one: my cousin, Robin Miles, is an award-winning audiobook reader.
It hardly seems fair; I minored in writing but haven’t a single book to my credit. So, maybe I’m a little jealous, or envious, or conspicuously covetous. BUT! I recognize that inspiration has been the difference between myself and my family’s lettered productivity. Until recently, I hadn’t found my muse. Then came Christmas vacation 2014, when I got a big, hairy, audacious idea. That idea launched my first novel.
Developing this idea into a novel has been such a process, I wanted to share it in the hopes that it will inspire you to find and tell yours. Or, maybe it’ll cause you to run screaming in the other direction. It’s all good either way—at least you’ll know what lies ahead.
The first step for me in writing a novel was getting a nugget of an idea for a trilogy. That means the idea had to be epic—freakin’ ginormous. The stakes would have to be both macro and micro. That is, my protagonist’s failure had to have tremendous, adverse consequences for the community, but also had to be devastating to her on a personal level. Check.
This isn’t all of my protagonists, but a sampling to illustrate some of the range of characters in the story. It’s a diverse bunch from different countries and cultures, which I selected intentionally to reflect an optimism that people in the future could team up despite their differences to tackle existential an existential threat.
As important as the protagonists are, every story is only as good as its protagonist(s) is(are) evil, so I spent just as much time inventing them:
Needless to say, my characters span all ages and multiple races and ethnicities.
A key element of many scifi, fantasy or superhero tales is fantastical powers of some kind, without complete loss of vulnerability. So even Thor can be vanquished without his hammer, Frodo may be seduced by the Ring, and we fret that Rey, the scavenger-turned-Jedi from Jakku, will turn to the dark side of the Force.
So I imbued my characters with extraordinary, but limited powers that are so life-changing they would never give them up willingly. On the other hand, their powers are so precious my characters must dedicate their lives in service—whether for good or evil—to repay the investments made in them.
Finally, I decided that no scifi story should be without cool transportation:
Boy, was I excited by the end of that Christmas vacation! I had an epic storyline, protagonists, antagonists, and spiffy transportation! How hard could it be to put it down on paper?
Next: Meat On The Bones.