Books By C. LItka

Books By C. LItka

Friday, July 1, 2022

The Making of The Girl on the Kerb -- Part 2


This is the second installment of my series “The Making of The Girl on the Kerb”. The post below contains the first installment, if you haven’t read it and are curious.

In my first installment, I explained that I liked the idea of setting a story in an early to mid 20th century society, with a super-advanced civilization buried beneath their feet. This allowed for the prospect that some of that civilization’s technology might have been dug up and gotten to work – in the hands of an ambitious leader who intends to use it to expand his or her power.

I had several versions of this story partially written in my head, but the only one that made it as far as 4.000 words on a screen; a story I called Rust in the Dust.

But first more on the premise.

The setting for all these stories would be Europe united under one weak king, but divided into provinces, each with small regiment or two that could be called on to defend Europe, if necessary. For the story, I had one those provincial leaders determined to expand his domain at the expense of his neighbors. While he may have some allies, most of the provinces would, in theory, unite their regiments to stop any such move. This prospect, however, did not seem to deter this leader, leading the other leaders to suspect and fear that he/she had found a working device from the ancient tech age that could be used in a war, which would make all the difference.

The story would then involve amateur agents being sent into this province to discover what exactly its leader had found and how they were planning to use it. It would have been a story of travel and intrigue with these agents following clues and local rumors of mysterious going doings to discover the leader’s secret. There is a Sax Rohmer book called The Day The World Ended that is a partial inspiration for this story, at least for mood.

In some versions the war was just looming. In others I had “air pirates” of an unknown origin already attacking provincial air bases, calling to mind the summer of 1940 in Britain. In most stories an archaeologist, familiar with advanced technology form the past, is the narrator. In one, I had him drafted into the army and assigned to investigate crashed aircraft for clues as to their origin. In all he would serve as narrator, with the other agent more politically connected serving as the female/romantic co-star. For a number of these stories I had at least the first couple of chapter in mind, but I only have Rust in the Dust got some words on a screen.

So why did these variations on a theme fall apart?

The first reason is that, though I was attracted to the mood of those times, I don’t really like writing dark, serious, or sad stories. And though looking back on those historic times one can get a sense of romance – of being part of a special time, in reality, it was probably anything but romantic, so that it would be hard to write a story that was both realistic, and romantic.

Secondly, a more practical road block: I could not come up with a technology that would fit the bill for the story. What could be dug up and used to dominate the world? A giant robot? A flying machine? Battle tanks? What would be cool, and clever, and make the leader invincible?

And then, if I managed to come up with some sort of cool, invincible technology, how would I then make it so that it could be defeated by our heroes? Not impossible – many stories do that. But I like to write realistic stories with grounded, everyday heroes, which makes it a lot harder...

Which brings me around to my last issue, which is that I don’t like writing stories where my characters have to save the world. I like smaller, more personal stories. So, when it came right down to it, I simply could not stay excited about the whole concept.

And yet, in the end, many of these elements and settings ended up being tweaking to play a large part in the setting of The Girl on the Kerb. Still, it would take parts from two other failed story attempts to create a story that I could write all the way to the end. I think it turned out pretty good, but you’ll have to take my word on that for a little while.

In any event, I will talk about the next failed project that contributed to The Girl on the Kerb in the next installment of this series, at some future date, to be determined, i.e. when I can think of nothing else to write about.

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