I was debating making alterations to Dayna’s story, or at least to which part of it I used as a NaNo candidate, and I decided to talk some of it over with a friend. Talking (or typing, since it was an online conversation) forces me to put my thoughts and feelings into words, which helps me define what I’m really thinking. In this case it crystallised the whole general sense I had that something just wasn’t complete, didn’t go deep enough: that I was thinking of telling the wrong story.
The tale I was planning to tell is complete enough in and of itself, but it starts in the wrong place and is either irrelevant or repetitive in relation to the grand arc of the Federation’s overall plot. It’s a story best told later, as a tie-in that explores some previously offscreen events in greater depth. Writing the first Federation stories to be released to the world means I need to be writing on the Grand Arc.
The timeline of the Federation is immense, and the arc will take a long time to complete, compared to the lifetime of any individual resident. Galactic events happen on galactic scales, and while some of them are swift and close together, others are on timescales far beyond the usual. The tale of the Galactic Federation is the story of a civilisation, peaceful and exploratory; of a culture and a code, cooperation and respect. It’s a civilisation that meets its opposite number in the depths of space, a foe whose culture is to conquer at any cost. It’s the story of the conflict, and of how far the Federation can go to survive without becoming the very enemy they’re fighting against. Told from a human perspective (since I and my readers are human), the key events go something like this:
- First Contact. The Federation meet and greet humanity as we take our first baby steps to the stars. Humanity’s reaction to this is… complicated. Dayna’s first story takes place here, an officer of the Solar Police at a turning point in history.
- Piracy. Hundreds of years later, the Federation develops an apparently minor pirate problem. Dayna awakens again, and she isn’t the only survivor from her time; their experiences demonstrate the Federation’s development and our own species’ development within it. This is also Siris’ era.
- War. That pirate problem? Probably not just pirates. Many of the characters from the Piracy section join the suddenly-expanded army as the Federation rushes to militarise in self-defence. This is the key event ending the Piracy stage: most stories probably won’t continue much past this point.
- Victory. War has ravaged the galaxy, and the two sides are fighting to a bloody mutual annihilation. It falls to Tsien and her siblings, and their pilots, to decide the fate of the Federation — but everything in their lives is designed to make them almost the very thing the Federation is fighting against. The price of this victory will be reckoned in conscience and in blood.
- Origins. With the Grand Arc complete, there’s one last story to be told: the tale of how it all began. This is the story of E’hai of the Depths.
These key points are the framework for the stories I need to tell first. Which means that if I’m going to write Dayna, I have to begin with First Contact. That’s where the real story lies, at least for now.