Friday, October 23, 2015
"8 Days": Keeping It Real
Basically, that big "V" word means you write about something like it's real. You treat it real so that the reader accepts it as real, too. Obviously, this is a must in science fiction. Without it, scifi won't be taken seriously.
For something like 8 Days, it's needed in more ways than the obvious. Since this is a story about the near future (2019), it can't feel too far flung from the present. And since this is set in the real world, any interaction my characters have with the real world must feel real, too.
Thanks to Google Earth, it's easy for me to pick a route for bank robbers to follow in Des Moines. I can choose a neighborhood for a family to live in Phoenix. I can find grocery stores near an old lady's house in Little Rock. But it's more than just that.
I had to learn a little bit about a steam power plant on the outskirts of Atlanta. I studied up on the primate population at the Greensboro Science Center. I know the names and faces of local TV anchors in several markets now. The layout of the University of Florida in Gainesville. NASA's Near-Earth Object program. (The facts and figures laid out in a chapter featuring a Senate committee hearing are all true. And a NASA director did recently say that Congress shouldn't "pour funds" into the NEO program. And a lot of what the president and others say about the federal budget is completely true, too.)
Trying to "keep it real" did bite me on the ass, though. While the president was always going to be a fictional character, I intended to surround him with real politicians. Speaker of the House John Boehner put in an appearance, too. Well, that didn't work out so hot. I decided to go ahead and fictionalize all of the politicians. (See if you can guess who the senators in the committee hearing chapter were originally supposed to be.) But all of those TV anchors? They're real.
Next week, I'll post about the two realizations that made me clutch my chest. Also, as I wrap up my third and final reading/editing/rewriting session, I may give away the book before its Friday 10/30 release.