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Author Topic: Story attempt, critique and suggestions wanted  (Read 1319 times)
Germany Germany

« on: July 20, 2013, 02:29:49 pm »

Greetings, I am a hobbyist writer and I am currently working on my first steampunk story. Here is the first chapter:

I hope the prologue will be done in a few weeks.

I am not quite sure about the title yet, but that problem will probably solve itself sooner or later: "The Chronicles of Dusk", "The Petroleum Wars", "The Bodacious Travels of Dr Anthony Parston" or maybe something different still.

Now for the setting:
It's an alternate History story set in 1888 with two changes, but I am trying to keep it realistic. This means no magic or Martians.

Firstly, the American Revolution of 1775 failed. The British Empire prevented a secession of its colonies by granting them more autonomy and a few representatives in the House of Lords and the House of commons. France also still owns Louisiana and large parts of Canada
The most important of the American Colonies is the "British Crown Dependency of Dusk" which is the same as our California. Dusk is San Francisco. Its importance comes from the many recently discovered oil fields in the area. This new source of energy draws many inventors and fortune hunters to Dusk, turning the city both into a center of technological progress and crime.

Secondly, there is a new continent in the North Pacific: Mu.
In the 19th century there actually were quite a few scientists who suspected a sunken continent in the pacific:
In my story, the continent is located further north and is about half the size of Australia. It's also inhabited (It would be a bit boring otherwise, wouldn't it?) by a people called the Stygg.
The Stygg are simply a different race of humans. They are about 1,60 m tall, tanned and have a receding forehead, and elongated ears, giving them a more animalistic appearance. (That's why the Westerners often refer to them as "hares")
They are technologically more advanced than the Westerners (I'd compare their technology to our 1920s) and they have aeroplanes, tanks, war dogs and sniper-like longrifles shooting radioactive bullets.
The Stygg have established colonies all along the Canadian west coast all the way down to California. The border between the Colony of Dusk and the Stygg territories is a heavily fortified line of trenches and forts, similar to the Western Front of WWI. Relations between the British and the Stygg is strained at best, the situation is unstable.

As much as I enjoy world building, the actual story is still somewhat lacking. I give you the basics:
Anthony Parston, a young doctor from London, travels to Dusk to see the world.
One evening during a great dinner with several politicians and generals present, a pro-war Senator is assassinated. Immediately, everyone blames the Stygg and demands war. Anthony however is skeptical and suspects that the assassination might have been ordered by Western politicians and industrial magnates in order to give them a reason for war.
[how Anthony comes to this conclusion is one of the troubles I'm having.]
He decides to travel to the Stygg territories to find out what's actually going on.
[actually there is little he can do to prevent the war and he'd need some really compelling evidence, but I don't know what exactly he intends to find]
First he travels to a Farm close to the border where he meets up with the other two main characters: Oliam, a Stygg whose family was murdered by Raiders, and Yolinda, a farm girl. They then continue their journey to the Stygg lands together, while the world around them slowly gets sucked into a massive war.

So much for that. What do you think?
« Last Edit: July 20, 2013, 05:28:39 pm by Pantaleon » Logged
Christopher Beats
Deck Hand
United States United States

« Reply #1 on: July 22, 2013, 07:33:50 pm »

On the setting:
I've considered the Pacific Northwest as a conflicted area myself. In our own time, we had the US, UK, & Russia. Since the US is out (a reasonable rewrite of history, I think), you might still consider having a Czarist Russia analog as a player. They'd be approaching Stygg from the other angle, so you'd have a threeway power dynamic between Russia, the UK, & Stygg. You might also consider Japan's role in this. Meiji Japan was anxious to modernize as quickly as possible, but that was because they were forcibly drawn into world politics by Perry from America. Since America isn't a nation, you'd have to decide who else has interests in the Pacific. In your world it sounds like Britain, Russia, or Stygg will eventually crack Japan—who does it and how it's done could be really interesting. Japan was very careful to play the powers off of one another in the modernization process. This might be difficult, depending on how the people of Stygg feel about outsiders, so they might stick with Russia/UK/other European powers or they might totally throw their lot in with Stygg because of the Opium Wars or any other colonial malfeasance your British Empire has perpetrated. This observation, of course, won't impact your novel much but it's something to think about as you do your world-building (though Russia or Japan could be good villains or perceived villains if they want Britain & Stygg to go to war).

On the story:
Anthony's reason for investigating might be tied into his character and his past. Maybe after dissecting so many murder victims and executed thugs in med school he's grown a deep distaste for violence, becoming a pacifist as a result. Another possibility is that he's an early anthropologist, anxious to study the misunderstood Stygg. As a doctor his interest might be in their physiology but it could easily meander into politics. I think either of these would work with his current drive, that desire to say "I was there" (which was a great way to express the character).
The other possibility is that the pro-war senator is a friend of Anthony's and quietly takes him aside before hand and tells him that he's rethought his position. When he's killed and everyone assumes he was still pro-war (naturally they don't believe Anthony), he smells a conspiracy and acts accordingly.

Also, a pet peeve of mine: I dislike using blimps in Steampunk. I don't know if you mean to use blimp as a synonym of airship, but they are essentially a funny-shaped balloon, not a proper rigid airship at all. I much prefer dirigibles.
I like the count he meets. This dialogue is great good world-building, but I've been accused of using too much dialogue and world-building in my writing, so you might want to ignore me on that.
Netherlands Netherlands

~~Blast from the past~~

« Reply #2 on: July 22, 2013, 10:27:16 pm »

Some say they hop around, hiding easter eggs. Others say they're manimals from the future.. All we know is theyre called the Stygg!
Germany Germany

« Reply #3 on: July 22, 2013, 10:54:08 pm »

Thanks, that actually helps a lot.
Some time later this conflict should turn into a global war with the British Empire and France on one side and the Stygg, Spain (they're still angry because California used to be Spanish) and Japan. I haven't thought a lot about Russia, maybe they'll join the French and the British in order to conquer Alaska.

Anthony is supposed to be rather naive in the beginning, so taking a distaste for violence as reason might not be very realistic. But the anthropologic idea is good. He can't believe the Stygg are the mean creatures they're supposed to be.
The senator who rethought his position would also be really helpful, but that sounds quite cliché. But Anthony could get Stygg-friendly opinions from somewhere else, that'd be helpful.
I am trying to keep the expository dialoge to a minimum, as it truly can take the flow from a story. I tried adding Anthony's journal as an alternative, i'll see how it works out.

Oh, and thanks for pointing out the blimp! I support your position, I guess I was just running out of synonymes. Dirigible is better.

Some say they hop around, hiding easter eggs. Others say they're manimals from the future.. All we know is theyre called the Stygg!

in my head, the stygg either look like humans with rabbit heads or like dark-skinned elves... It annoys me gravely. xD
Deck Hand
United States United States

What's worse than war? Slavery is worse than war!

« Reply #4 on: July 26, 2013, 06:50:51 am »

Intersting concept with much potential for intrigue;

Anthony is at first wholly convinced it is the Stygg who are responsible, having had no reason to doubt the media and the various interactions he has had with his own countrymen of power. But, (injecting a new character) his brother (or beautiful sister) who is having a hot but short affair with a man/woman with access to secret information about a secret power organization which is pushing the government toward a war for purposes you have stated. Thus, his world view is tragically shattered- his friend/brother/beautiful sister is killed (or more dramatically kidnapped) while trying to convey the information to him- (or more dramatically), he accidentally intercepts the information and is now being forced to run because the same people who killed his loved one are now trying to stop him using any means possible (he barely escapes with his life- which thoroughly convinces him, the information is accurate!)

Also, you have a problem with the nature of the advanced society. If you make the Stygg too advanced, you strip away the motivation of the British based government to promote a war with them- an obvious a55 whupping will be their reward. So, the balance of power should be of such to give the Brits a fair idea they could succeed- or they in turn develop a secret and powerful  weapon of their own, giving them a potential for success in a provoked war. The Stygg should be different, but, not overly obnoxious, keeping the opportunity to keep the reader invested in their fate. 

The information he has is doubly valuable because he suddenly realizes (because he is also a man of science) that the new weapon is not nearly as powerful as it is advertised to be. He finds this out because he meets a very intelligent female Stygg (Kr’aaliea) who is also a scientist, and once they overcome their initial animosity toward each other, find they must become allies to head off the looming disaster for both their people after Anthony discloses his purpose and his information to her. She keeps certain secrets from Anthony- such as her knowledge that with only a very sleight modification ,the new weapon the Brits think they have, could be made into a really devastating game changer, and really could destroy her people- Yijeks (Styggian for ‘Yikes’) .

The double cross- all good stories have to have a double cross- come to find out, the information was deliberately planted for Anthony to find out and to take action on, hopefully leading the bad guys to the main source of Stygg scientific headquarters (by his nature, they knew he would do this- and he is also given a head start by a “friend” who give Anthony valuable information to start him on his quest- Anthony later confronts this personal traitor, who almost succeeds in killing Anthony and Kr’aaliea – during this confrontation, they find out the truth and now must change their plans to head off certain, unstoppable disaster! The bad guys have a special way of following Anthony in his travels (kind of a special trained flock of ravens- that constantly watch and follow Anthony delivering data and info back to the bad guys via special little clock work chest cameras –( Ohh, more chance for advanced Steam Punking in the story). He is unknowingly leading them to the main Stygg scientist, A Wizerned (Stygg wise man and scientist) named “Len’el’ya Krr, whom they hope to capture and torture into giving them the key to making the weapon really destructive- come to find out, it is Kr’aaliea’s father! And she has been helping Anthony get to him, - !!! 

Along the way they have to fight off wild bears, vicious tribes of mercenary “no-man’s landers”, hide from the spy ravens and use a special kind of propeller driven snow mobile, -- oh, the possibilities are endless here for an adventure story.

Goodness, I could go on all night with this.

I leave the details to you, the author, of course. But, the plot can obviously be made as thick as you please.
« Last Edit: July 26, 2013, 06:56:32 am by Altoidian » Logged

It could work!
Germany Germany

« Reply #5 on: August 04, 2013, 06:45:27 pm »

Those are quite a few interesting suggestions! I actually have a few similar ideas and there is definitely going to be quite a lot of intrigue and double crossing!
It's interesting to design the Stygg society. In reality, all modern civilisations have a very similar, western style to them. It's an entertaining challenge to figure out what industrial cities, airplanes and fashion will look like without any western influence.
United States United States

Swordsman, Gentleman, Scholar

« Reply #6 on: September 04, 2013, 10:40:14 pm »

What a fascinating read!  I anticipate with confidence that the rest of the novel will as well written as the first chapter.

As for advice, I think that basing the story around convoluted politics and intrigue among the various great powers would be best, especially if viewed from the exasperated eyes of a middle-class physician.  Also, the Stygg should not be depicted as unusual in appearance, only viewed as such (think of how the natives of various exotic lands appeared to the first European explorers there).  Also, it should not be so much black-and-white political morality; there could be proponents of war within Stygg society and various Western individuals fighting for peace even after the assassination.  The main conflict could be between Anthony and the warmongers.

As for Stygg design, the Polynesian peoples in the general area of Mu are very tied to nature.  I think nature-oriented designs for vehicles would work.

You could even fit in a moral for the story, if you favor it and it does not overpower the story.
« Last Edit: September 04, 2013, 10:44:07 pm by Zorro » Logged
Flightless Phoenix
Zeppelin Captain
United Kingdom United Kingdom

« Reply #7 on: September 04, 2013, 11:22:11 pm »

This seems like an interesting world and story concept. I'm looking forward to seeing which direction you choose to take the story in. I do love a good bit of intrigue.

I've got a bit of a background in human evolution and anatomy from my archaeological studies and your idea for the Stygg (and the area of the world they are from) reminded me of homo floresiensis.


Being a separate homo species (also evolved from homo erectus), rather than a race of homo sapiens would also for a greater separation of physical characteristics, e.g. the cranial shape and the ears (which I assume would need to be located much higher on the head to have a hare-like appearance; perhaps good directional hearing was especially important in their early habitat?). The tan skinned tone would be appropriate for that latitude too (dark skin is good protection against UV but makes vitamin D absorption less effective so its a trade off between the two). Homo floresiensis were thought to have been a dwarf species because of their island habitat, but with a whole continent to inhabit the stygg would not have had this selection pressure so a height of 1.6m is perfectly feasible (many south east Asian populations are somewhat shorter and more gracile than Europeans anyway).

Sorry for the ramble, i'm rather over-tired and perhaps over-thinking things...

'a lighthearted academic blog about funerary practice' - Updates Sundays*

*gremlins permitting
New Zealand New Zealand

« Reply #8 on: September 12, 2013, 05:39:23 am »

Just as an interested watcher ( I don't think I have a story or the skills within me ).
Maybe Easter Island is the last vestige of Mu ? A strange folk that had dissappeared by modern times. Gives you a 'beleivable' location to work from, isolated and unknown till stumbled upon by adventorous souls or aviators blown off course.
If you know 'Shogun' where the British crew were storm blown ashore and how they were treated as barbarians by the Japanese maybe you also have a starting point for the conflict.
Just an idea or two.
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