Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Digi City: Creating familiarity

We just got back from a quick trip to Kansas City for a family wedding. It was nice to get up there for a happy event. The last two trips have been up-and-back affairs for funerals. Never enough time to get quickly reacquainted with my hometown.

This time, though, we had a little bit of extra time, and I got to show the girls the houses I lived in, the school I attended. Ellie even got to play at the park I played at as a kid. It was fun.

The thing that was somewhat remarkable to me, as it was the last time I was up there and was able to see some old familiar places, was just how much I still knew the are of the city that I grew up in. I could find my way around. I could find landmarks without the help of a map, or much help at least.

I've been thinking a lot about book stuff lately. Honestly, I think about book stuff often, but it's more often now that I have a book release imminent (Tomorrow, in case you didn't know.). When I created New Eden I knew that it was a place that held a lot of stories, a lot of stories that I wanted to tell. To do that you need to create a world that people want to spend a lot of time in. Hopefully, I've done that. But what makes people want to spend a lot of time in a literary universe? To my thinking, and really that's all that I've got to go on, it's familiarity. It's a place that feels comfortable and familiar but leaves you with the want to explore more.

Familiarity through character

Some authors create that comfort and familiarity with a character. Think Jack Reacher or Harry Dresden. Or, if you're a movie person, think the Mission Impossible franchise. There are plenty of other examples. If these stories the settings change, but you have characters who are essentially the same throughout the series. Reacher is Reacher. Dresden is Dresden. For the most part, you know what you're going to get. Even when you're away from a series for a while, you can pick up a new release and settle into it quickly. That character is familiar.

There's nothing wrong with these types of series. They are obviously popular. I've read several of Lee Child's Reacher novels. They are very entertaining. Ditto for Dresden.

Familiarity through setting

The other route is creating familiarity through setting. What this is should be obvious. The players change, but the place they are playing doesn't. Larry Niven's Ringworld series is a popular example.

In the New Eden series, New Eden is the constant. Even though we've so far focused on just two main characters — Rexall and Berger — there are plenty of other stories that can and will take place in this world. That puts it on me to create some place that readers will want to spend a good amount of time. It has to be full of interesting people and interesting places. It can't, in my estimation, be a place where just Rexall and Berger and the people connected to them live and act. I need a cast of characters bigger than that because New Eden is a city that's bigger than that. That's what I'm starting to do with these Stories from the In-between.

It's a bit like concentric circles. If Rexall and Berger and their New Eden is the center, then the new characters I'll be introducing are those rings that pulse out from there. In Digi City, we get more on Jensen Miller, the Roma agent who is chasing Rexall and Berger in Finding Faded Light. He's a first ring character who has his own New Eden. He spends time in places that are familiar for anyone who has read the first two New Eden books, but he also has places that are his own. By reading Miller's story, readers get to learn more about not just him but the city he calls home. And hopefully, it's learning about these new places that will help New Eden become a place that readers will want to come back to  often and will feel familiar when they do.


Digi City publishes tomorrow, but you can pre-order your copy now so it'll be on your Kindle or Kindle App when you wake up. Click here to do that.

Still not sold? Get a sneak peek at the first chapter here.

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