I am working on getting back into a writing group. Before the second quarter 2022 started, it seemed like my group would be disbanding. Which makes me sad. Why, oh why, can't I find a group that I like, which works for me?
I wanted at least one character to be a bit overweight, so I essentially elected her to the task. Because the first seven or so chapters exist to foreshadow much of the rest of the story, her weight does the job admirably. For, who to better contrast with starving characters than an overweight one?
For Untrustworthy, the people and the scene were both so utterly unfamiliar that I needed more familiar touchstones. This meant adding a central river which characters had to cross using bridges. It also meant creating a new form of going, the transportation sleigh. A reader even asked me if Caboss is a snowy world. And I'm still not sure! But all these alien things have familiarity baked right in. We all know what sleighs and bridges are. This made it easier for a reader to connect to what went on in that book.
When we first see Ceilidh, Devon, Shannon, and Jake, they are riding in a carriage in Scotland. It's the 1880s, and there are strange things happening throughout the planet. Some of these odd occurrences happen due to alien intervention. But some of them happen because of what human beings do.
When Ceilidh leaves Ireland, she knows absolutely no one. She ends up as a charity case on a freighter, where there is a mysterious first mate who wears only black and never smiles. When the ship lands in Boston, it’s July 4—the Centennial. But nothing is open and there is no place for her to go. But through pluck and luck, and by shedding her Irish name and putting on a fake British accent, she lands a job with the wealthy Edwards family. She endures a lot of the standard indignities of the women of her time, including being paid less and being what we would now call sexually harassed.
Consider how NaNoWriMo can also affect how we write. I know it affects my own work. Wanting to make word count at all costs can mean front loading a book. It can also mean oppressive dialogue and extra characters. Meandering is great for word count. But it also adds to chapter length. And it's often the kind of addition that isn't necessary.
With nothing to do but read, eat, and fool around, the narrator and her husband are at the ends of their tethers. They are older people—there aren’t going to be any children. So they are not going to repopulate the earth. The one break to the monotony comes in the form of something you and I both hate – automated telemarketer calls.