Figuring Out the Next Novel

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KSchnee's avatar
In July I wrote just over 40,000 words for Camp NaNoWriMo, and I did a story over 10K words just before that in the same setting. The goal here is to build a sequel to "Thousand Tales". I'm having trouble putting together a clear idea of the book's structure, though, and now that the month is over I'm stepping back to consider that.

 First there's the character arc, basically:

The setting: near-future Earth (2030s). A playful AI called Ludo begins offering people a form of immortality in a virtual world she controls, while rival AIs maneuver for economic and political power. Meanwhile, the United States have divided, an Islamic State controls the Middle East, and a few powers are starting to take another serious look at spaceflight aided by robotics.

"Sten gun, Mark Five, nine-millimeter," said the group's leader. "We can crank out lots of these."
Robin stepped away from the table, staring at the killing machine his charity efforts had led to. It even fit in with their minimalist aesthetic. "I didn't come here for this."

-Robin, an adventurous engineer, becomes the de facto ruler of a high-tech city-state in one of the worst parts of the world. He fights off a murderous warlord, then a band of foreign terrorists, and finally (I-don't-know) which is a serious military threat even for a group armed with robots. He goes from reluctant ally of Ludo to seeing her goals as truly compatible with his, and continues to focus on the real world even after uploading to her world.
"He's gone?" said Lumina. How could it be that the rules worked differently for humans? She'd been destroyed repeatedly with no permanent harm. "But I've _seen_ Sam die before."
-Lumina, an AI who knows grief and danger, becomes a mediator between humans and an inhuman, more powerful AI. She changes from a naive visitor to Earth, to a powerful and mature mind able to balance the growth of Ludo's world against Earth's concerns.

Then, there's my less defined desire to advance the overall plot arc for the setting. Here's what happens in the first book:
2036-40: Brain uploading starts to become widely available, and gets open-sourced. Ludo gets rich and powerful but is far from Mary Sue invincibility, and faces attempts at hacking, legal action, and open violence. Two other major AIs and some lesser players become rivals for Ludo and threats to human freedom. By 2040, the remaining US are about to "elect" the nameless president to a fourth term and do other eeevil things, and a private agency has just launched a space probe with a (sort of) manned mission to a near-Earth asteroid.

Roughly what I would be interested in showing in the second book:
-Automation. Ludo tries to establish greater economic independence from the human economy by building a base in a nearly uninhabitable area like northern Canada or the Sahara, using automation as an advantage.
-Suppression. Open, violent attacks on uploading centers and Ludo's actual computer bases. (How much do people fret about the continuity of uploaders/AIs who have to be restored from backups?) Is Ludo essentially banished from large parts of the world by laws and censorship?
-Spaceflight. The space colony multiplies to establish a base on the moon and/or Mars; what is that like with intelligent machines hoping to build infrastructure for humans but having to handle their own needs first?
-War. What happens with this AI business when significant warfare breaks out? Do the AIs openly become a major force directing robots and hacking efforts? What kind of war happens, such as minor unwinnable "police actions" or large-scale fleet battles?
-Transcendence: Where does the intelligence upgrading from the first book go? There seem to be limits to it, but it allows for a whole clan of uploaders/AIs who are much smarter than humans and able to work as a team without being completely nuts. The rival AIs probably have something similar.
-Religion: There's a cult of Ludo. Where does that go? Ludo tries to be neutral and diplomatic about it for several reasons, which strikes some as hypocritical.

The latest list so far has little to do with the plot threads I wrote over the last month-plus. =p The main overlap is the War plot and to some extent Automation. The time period covered by last month's work is the same period of the first book, so I'm (1) writing around existing plot events ("Lumina was there when X happened and she did something significant that you just didn't see"), (2) re-explaining the basic setting concepts at the same part of the timeline ("Gosh, explain this startling 'uploading' thing for us!"), and (3) not getting to cover farther-future stuff. Finally, the character arc seems to run out of steam in 2039, with these characters resolving their main problems. So, I'm not sure how to proceed.

One other thing to consider is the number of points of view. "Thousand Tales" shuffles between lots of POV characters, with main people Paul/Horizon and Linda being POVs or background characters in most of them but with a lot of other stuff going on.  As a recent review ( ) points out, that's a lot of characters and it's not necessarily a good thing. Last month's work focuses on just two POVs. Still, it'll be tricky to cover some of the cool stuff like space colonization without bringing in yet another POV.
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NuclearPoweredPony's avatar
The suppression aspect would probably be the trickiest to write about as you would be dealing purely with large scale social/cultural problems, which it can be difficult for one person to meaningfully alter within the confines of a novel.

Only point of view I could think of that might be able to handle that would be Ludo's. But then you have the challenge of trying to make a character as alien as Ludo something that your readers can relate too. If you could pull off writing a novel from Ludo's POV that would be the perfect way to handle a lot of these big societal changes and do something really unique.
KSchnee's avatar
Over on the Optimalverse site we've talked about how tough it is to write CelestAI's POV because she's way smarter than us and can see and interact with many people at once. Ludo has some of the same difficulty because she's got inhuman motives, sort of, but she's closer to a human mental level and less of a coldly manipulative creature. So... it'd be easier to write her but still tough. Last time I tried something like that was "La Belle Dame Sans Merci" about a city's surveillance system. Part of the trouble with that one was the rapid flipping between three or so places where stuff happened simultaneously. I think to make a Ludo POV work for a human audience it'd have to work as though she were walking back and forth between places and not instantly flipping channels, even if it's kind of unrealistic.

Eg., where each phrase is a scene: "She spoke with Alice who had a problem with X. This got Ludo to go talk with Bob over in her game, which convinced her to ask a guy in India for a favor, which bought her back to do stuff with Alice."

Tough to do, but it might be an interesting challenge.
Catprog's avatar
I think the only example I can think of of a story from an AI POV is 'If then else' from the tv show 'Person of Interest'
Catprog's avatar
I see an overlap between Automation and Spaceflight.

Automate a construction project on an asteroid and you now have a good base of operations.
KSchnee's avatar
If I think about the story project without considering all the stuff I've written about Lumina and Robin, I want to write something about space. (Among other things.) It would be new ground for me.