Remembering how to Believe

The original version of Believer had six main characters, each filling up one year between 18 and 23, each living in the same suburban community.  Their connection was going to be that they were all in a garage band together called “Demo Graphics”.  The main storyline was going to be about a machinima series for a fictional video game whose primary selling point was the customization of its characters; most of the band members were either actors, writers, or cameramen for the series.  The series would achieve vast internet popularity, and a large part of the story was going to be about what fame means, what playing a game means, and where people’s place in life is.  Quite a number of chapters would take place within the fictional storyline of the machinima, giving a constant juxtaposition between larger-than-life battle action and the boring reality of all that action taking place on a computer screen.

In the second iteration, the machinima idea was scrapped and replaced with the idea that all the characters were supernatural in some way but just living out their normal lives, and it was going to be much more of a slice-of-life character study.  There were also sub-iterations where they were living inside a sort of gated community with other supernatural people, and potential conflict dealing with rogue supernatural villains.

The third iteration merged the first and second by setting the world in a viral/zombie apocalypse where infected people did not turn into monsters but still lost other physical or mental functions of the body, particularly pain sensitivity.  The six band members would be different levels of infected or uninfected, and it would again be a character study, discussing mortality and humanity amongst other ideas.

The fourth iteration went back to the second but lept to the side of it.  The band and six central characters were gone, replaced with more of an ensemble cast living in an apartment building.  All characters focused upon would have been supernatural, but secretly so, and the world at large would not be affected by it.  The plot would focus upon the budding relationships between the characters, both positive and negative, as they learned and came to terms with each others’ true identities.  It would later be underscored by a crisis of some kind where the main characters are forced into a reluctant superhero-team situation, though the crisis would be localized to the main city/town.

The fifth iteration was the version I struggled with the most, since I knew that I was very close to the story I wanted to write, but not there yet.  It was also the most amorphous version.  Here I was essentially tweaking the “level” of supernaturalism I wanted in the story, but the central theme was that the supernatural occurrences happened in barely-noticeable ways, to a very small number of observers, or in isolated events, so as to give the reader room to doubt them.  The amplitude and frequency of these events would gradually increase as the story’s focus shifts from reality to fantasy, and characters shift from static to dynamic, but always in such a way as to keep this central question intact:  Is any of this really happening?  All scenes would be written in such a way as to allow the reader to explain everything through alternative means or artistic license.  This was all meant to convey a central theme of the merging of reality and fantasy, displayed literally as the characters lose their grip on what’s real and what’s not.

Ultimately, I decided that the presence of any real-world fantasy at all undermined the direction I wanted to take, which is a slice-of-life character study of modern times.  Even if the focus was solely on characters and relationships with the fantasy acting as a backdrop, the eye would constantly be drawn to it, question it, and think about it, rather than the real focus.  Additionally, I did not was to have to deal with how to explain the existence of magic in a realistic world.  However, I still wanted a fantastical and whimsical vibe to be present within the story, to again address the concept of merging fantasy and reality, which is one of my personal favorite themes in fiction.

At some point I stumbled across the device I am using now, likely inspired by the original machinima idea:  have all the fantasy be imaginary.  It’s often said that everyone sees life in their own way, and that you have to walk a mile in someone’s shoes to understand where they’re coming from.  I decided to take this concept literally, and have Cecile augment her reality in a fantastical way, while all the time realizing that it’s not real.  In this way I have relative carte-blanche to approach fantasy as I choose and have it tie into the themes I am trying to present within the story, without being inhibited by having to explain all the details.



{As I was thinking about Believer today, I thought it would be beneficial to track exactly how it changed from its inception in my mind to finally getting onto the page.  If I don’t do it now while Believer is relatively new, I’ll likely forget.  While this is not exactly the entire story, it’ll serve as a reminder should I or anyone else want a quick summary of where it started.}


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