In this last Writing Wednesday before NaNoWriMo begins I think I have finally settled on which story idea that was banging around my head I will attempt to tackle in the upcoming month.
I have long been fascinated by steampunk novels, though to be honest I do not understand steam technology as well as I wish I did, so I find myself more drawn to what is sometimes referred to as clockpunk — or novels that use clockwork and gears instead of steam technology. For whatever reason it just makes more sense to me. I can understand how gears and cogs and springs working together can make motion and build into wonderful technical machines in a way that I just do not understand with steam power. I get the basics of steam power, I’ve seen Thomas the Tank Engine. I know that water gets heated into steam, which pushes on pistons and turns wheels and causes a steam engine to roll forward. I just don’t see how that translates into some of the machinery and technology that is often found in steampunk novels.
But, as I said, I enjoy clockwork and mechanics and have designed a few clockwork tools that I would love to use in a novel. I have also pondered the idea of what would happen to a society that had extensive access to clockwork machinery. What would happen to the economy, how would the technology affect people in their daily lives. We have seen in just the last few years how prevalent a technology like the internet or smartphones has become. It is becoming increasingly rare to find someone who does not own a smartphone anymore, and even more impossible to find someone who does not own a cell phone of any type. In just a few years this technology has almost completely changed the way our society functions and interacts with each other.
I think that would be an interesting concept to pursue, how this type of technology would change a society. And related to that is how magic would affect a society, if it were to exist. If someone can wave their hand and mutter a few words and create an object that takes a skilled craftsman several days to build by hand, what does that do to the value of said skilled craft? What I imagine happening is that society would become very separated by class, with those who can do magic becoming very wealthy using their magic to perform tasks for others, and those who can afford magicians to work for them also becoming very wealthy on that labor. Then, those who do not have magic would become the poorer classes and have to resort to other means to achieve a similar lifestyle. I see them turning to clockwork or other technology to replicate what the magicians provide for the upper classes.
Thinking about this divide has led me to world build the setting for the novel I would like to write this year. And throwing in a little of my favorite subject, German History, I have been contemplating what a world would be like separated by a wall and then how people and society would react when that wall suddenly came down. So, I am building a world that is separated by a magical wall, one half of the world is populated by people who have and can use magic, the other half by people who do not have magic, but have developed clockwork and mechanical tools and toys, using technology to improve their lives. The wall has stood for so long that it has been forgotten about by all but the few leaders of society on each side who see to its maintenance, until one day it is discovered by a young girl from the technology side.
The summary I wrote for my profile over at NaNoWriMo.org is this:
A world separated by a wall — One part enjoys the use of magic to help them accomplish the tasks of their daily lives. Magic is innate and ingrained in every child that is born, they use it instinctively to live their lives. The other part has no magic, but has instead developed technology through clockwork-powered and steam-powered engines and machines. The smallest child can repair a watch or put together a machine to do their basic chores.
What happens when a young girl, the daughter of the clocksmith, discovers the wall that separates these two halves of the world and finds a way to pass through to the other side? And what happens when she discovers a young magician who has also discovered the wall and they decide to work together to bring it down?
I think this will be a fun way to explore ideas of how magic and technology affect societies and economies and worlds as well as giving an opportunity to explore what would happen if these two worlds were to suddenly collide and be forced to work together and live side by side. What would happen to technologically advanced world that suddenly had access to magic? How would a magically invested world react to the complex gears and cogs of modern machinery? Didn’t Arthur C. Clarke famously say, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.“?
So, this is where I’m starting from. I have two worlds mostly created, I have the basic idea for several characters and I have the framework of a plot. The rest of it will hopefully come as I think and prepare over the next week and then as I start to write during November. I am going to do my best to get a good first draft written, but some on the same issues I was dealing with last year during November which caused me to cut my NaNoWriMo short are starting to resurface. It is looking like my personal life is forcing me to deal with things which may significantly cut into my free writing time. Family comes first, even before NaNoWriMo, but I will try to write when I can and write what I can and we’ll see what happens this year as I attempt this one more time.
Here’s to a successful NaNoWriMo. I would be very interested in hearing what your plans are. what are you planning on writing about? How do you think it will go? Go ahead and add me as a writing buddy at nanowrimo.org, I go by dteeps over there, it would be great to connect and see how we’re all doing with our respective novels.