Flatland – 01

Flatland - an unfinished String City manuscript

Welcome to the first of a series of blog posts about a new story I’m writing. A sort of live ‘making of. As the writing progresses, you’ll be the first to know about developments. And if it dies in the cradle, you’ll know that too. Because sometimes that happens.

It’s another story about my dimension-dabbling private investigator. As always when I set out on one of these, I worry I’ve done the series to death. But the detective genre is exceptionally robust (and these are detective stories at heart, despite all the fantasy trappings) and as long as the ideas keep coming I’ll keep writing them.

Enough waffle. What’s the story about? Well, today is Ground Zero – the day I Had The Idea. I’ve got a first line in mind that sets it up pretty well:

I woke that morning to find the city had been flattened. Literally.

The idea is someone’s stolen a whole heap of dimensions, leaving just two (in the PI’s world there are eleven dimensions; some scientists think it’s the same in our universe – Google it if you don’t believe me). So everything’s left flat and two-dimensional, except the apartment block where the PI keeps his office. The building’s just stood there like a hotel on a Monopoly board.

That’s the premise. It’s a long way from being a story though. But I’ve got in mind that whoever committed this crime did so in order to expose something – or someone – that was using all eleven dimensions to hide in. So by stripping away the dimensions, that something gets revealed. Like pulling brushwood away from a hide. That may be a bit esoteric – if I run with it I’ll need my gumshoe to explain it all in suitably pithy terms. But he’s good at that. Anyway, this gives me an opportunity to give the perpetrator a sympathetic motive – maybe finding a lost love? Or they could be cynically uncovering a pile of swag stashed by a double-crossing partner. Not sure which route to go down yet, but I’m favouring the sympathetic crook.

Isolating the building means I’ve got to explain why it’s isolated. Not too hard – I’ve already established that the dimensions go all wiggy around the PI’s office. However I get round it, it’ll need to be key to the plot. Perhaps even the reason for everything. Isolation also lets me explore the PI’s building, which I’ve never done before. Who else lives there? Opportunity for a siege story perhaps. Something like Assault on Precinct 13?

Other occupants: the femme fatale on the top floor; the janitor; the mutated cockroach in his scuzzy apartment in the basement. Title of the story: Flatland, after Edwin Abbott’s sublime Victorian novel. Call one of the characters Edwin – the cockroach maybe.

Phew – I’ll stop before this gets any more incoherent. All these pieces and more are gradually taking shape in my head (and my notebook). I scribbled some of it down this morning. Strike while the iron’s hot. A word of warning though: these things can take a while; I’m not the fastest writer in the world.

Next step is working through the plot. The most important thing is to establish the perpetrator’s motive, and determine the story’s resolution. Working from the inside out. Also how the PI solves the case. If the detective elements are solid, everything else will hang off them nicely.

A final thought: Gaia as a character in one of these stories would be nice.

Read the complete Flatland diaries:

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