East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Five thousand words deep

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Two nights ago something happened that has to do with the book I am writing and that I think I will inflict you.
You have been warned.

Basically, and this is no secret, I am writing a big sea-monster story. A bunch of researchers get on a boat and go looking for a monster. Many shenanigans ensue.

There are four “building blocks” to this story, four pieces I must get right for the story to work.

The first is the monster.
I did some research and I have a clear idea of the sort of critter I want to unleash on the characters. I’ve got the biology and a fair idea of the ecology, and the modus operandi of the critter.
Monster, check.


The second is the ocean.
The Pacific Ocean, that is.
Thanks to my background and my various interests, I have a good set of references and a rather clear idea of things like climate, water circulation, air circulation, natural hazards, and the many ups and downs of underwater action. I’ve got books and charts and documentaries.
Pacific Ocean, check.


The third is the ship.
This will be the place in which the reader and the characters will be for most of the time. I need to know the ship inside and out, from the rigging down to the smallest nut and bolt. And I need a very specific kind of boat, and it had to be an R/V, a research vessel. This took some work, and digging online for photos and plans and technical specs. I burned a week this way, but now I am set. I have all I need.
Ship, check.


The fourth is the cast.
That seems like a no-brainer. After all, I have a clear idea of who’ll be on the ship, floating on the Pacific Ocean, when the monster strikes.
But what I had during the outlining of the story were not characters, but just roles
. The Oceanographer
. The Paleontologist
. The Scuba Specialist
. The Documentarist
. The Captain
. The Corporate Sponsor
. The rest of the crew as extras

But while knowing the roles allows me to know what each character will do, I still need to know how and possibly why that character will do a certain thing.
I need characters.
I need to hear their voices and their speech patterns, and I need to see their faces.
I need their names, because their names tell me something about their back history.

know-anything-about-a-party-dazed-and-confused-t-shirt.masterTwo nights ago the first character stepped out of a short piece of throwaway dialogue, wearing flip-flops, a pair of cargo shorts and a Dazed & Confused t-shirt.
I knew her name instantly, and I also knew the rest of the characters will always refer to her by her family name.
That set the gears in motion.
She is the documentarist, a woman in her forties with a background in underwater photography and filming.
She’s fun, and introduces herself with “I’m your shootist.”

And as soon as she started to click, all the other characters emerged, with their personality, their looks, their voices. It was like they were coming forward and stepping into their roles. One after another, and in a way that actually showed me what structure I should give to the whole chapter, and possibly the rest of the book too.

It would be nice should that sort of thing happen every time. It often does not.
But this time it did.
Cast, check.

Now we are 5000-words deep into a 35.000 words story.
It will be a long dive down to the bottom of this baby.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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