Please welcome Carrie Patel to The Qwillery. The Buried Life will be published in Spring 2015. You may read an interview with Carrie here.
Fiction is about transformation. Blurred snapshots become cities and worlds, half-remembered dreams become characters, and the glances and whispers exchanged between them become a story. And nearly every story is about changes large and small.
Writing a story is often about fleshing out a metamorphosis. Part of the thrill for a reader is seeing a world under a bell jar and watching what happens when the pressure changes. As the heat rises, the setting melts and reforms. Characters slough off one skin after the next, and the landscape of the story is transformed by these gradual or violent changes. We the readers wait to see what’s on the inside.
A good transformation is carefully paced and painstakingly illustrated; you can see a seemingly incongruent beginning and end that nevertheless fit together perfectly once all of the stages are assembled. A shoddy transformation becomes melodramatic at best and unbelievable at worst. If a writer’s job is the suspension of disbelief, then the most important trick of all is the alchemy of characters and settings.
The Buried Life takes place in Recoletta, a city that is the product of one momentous change that has settled into an entirely new shape over hundreds of years. An underground city built from the ruins of one civilization has become a tiny empire of its own. By the time of events in the novel, Recoletta is due for another tectonic shift. The factions that have controlled the city find their power base eroding. As it crumbles, it exposes a sordid and long-hidden history that they fight desperately to cover up.
The characters who get caught in the middle of this shift find themselves transforming, too, dodging the warring factions and trying to anticipate the emerging shape of their new world. They must adapt to survive the changes around them, which means stripping away the trappings of their classes, backgrounds, and professions to find the hidden strengths and vulnerabilities that will drive them.
The most interesting mysteries aren’t just about what lies at the heart of a plot, but rather about what makes up the characters caught in the thick of it.
Anticipating a character’s reaction can be one of the hardest parts of writing for me. Sometimes, characters’ responses will be clear and unambiguous; I know exactly what they’re going to do. But at other times, they can feel as maddeningly unpredictable as real people. Ask them the same question at five different parts of the story, and you’re likely to get as many different answers.
Part of the fun and mystery of writing is plotting those trajectories, for characters and stories alike, with known reference points. You start with the data points you know and puzzle out how to get from one to the other. The blank spots on the map—the ones that come alive with monsters—can then be illustrated in full color. In that way, discovering the story and the characters can be as much of a mystery for the writer as it is for the readers.
The Buried Life
Angry Robot Books, Spring 2015
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 336 pages
Cover by John Coulthart
The gaslight and shadows of the underground city of Recoletta hide secrets and lies. When Inspector Liesl Malone investigates the murder of a renowned historian, she finds herself stonewalled by the all-powerful Directorate of Preservation – Recoletta’s top-secret historical research facility.
When a second high-profile murder threatens the very fabric of city society, Malone and her rookie partner Rafe Sundar must tread carefully, lest they fall victim to not only the criminals they seek, but the government which purports to protect them. Knowledge is power, and power must be preserved at all costs…
File Under: Science Fantasy [ Thriller | Society in Ruins | Fully Booked | New and Weird ]
Carrie Patel was born and raised in Houston, Texas. An avid traveller, she studied abroad in Granada, Spain and Buenos Aires, Argentina.
She completed her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Texas A&M University and worked in transfer pricing at Ernst & Young for two years.
She now works as a narrative designer at Obsidian Entertainment in Irvine, California, where the only season is Always Perfect.