“With a Chance of Tomorrow”

Photo by Jason Payne, PNG

Her first forecast caused her friend to disappear and precipitated a thirteen year path to disaster; can the forecast unravel past and future in time to save them now?

Carma learned hacking and heists playing with David when they were kids. She followed him everywhere, even shivering waist-deep into the cold lagoon to spy directly on Merlin, the Intelligent Data running Vancouver since the rebuild. But when they first kissed, that kiss intrigued her more than any of their games and she spent her life savings to forecast it. He’s been missing ever since.

At You+, Carma works as root matchmaker alongside her best (and only) friend who forecasts fashion. Her childhood of deceitful plotting makes her brilliant at matching couples but otherwise dreadful in life. She never considers a heist of her own until one is forecasted to explain David’s disappearance and how to find him.

The heist is successful — too successful — and Carma is arrested for conspiracy to collapse the economy! The Data Agency wants her help to avert disaster and will get it, willingly or not. A fashion counter-revolution, emergence of a hidden “ghost” population, and a tense first contact with China are competing threats that ensnare everyone Carma knows, including the missing David.

If Merlin crashes, the collapse would leave the city isolated, starving and ignorant, and all trace of David gone forever. But what can she do when the assigned agent and maybe even Merlin itself is lying to her?

The idea for this story began as a simple romance: she’s falling in love with him despite being embarrassed by him (in a very shallow future); they break up; he rises to the top of social ladder by devising an app to predict fashion while she plummets to the bottom (for reasons that I hadn’t worked out); a fashion counter-revolution equalizes them and they get back together. [Note that this barely resembles the current story.]

I fleshed it out during Nanowrimo last fall — the future they were in (dystopian of course), the characters, their motivations — and found myself converging toward a vastly different story!

December I let it sit and Jan/Feb I tore it apart. I’ve restarted draft 1 (and calling my Nanowrimo one draft 0) from an detailed outline, cornering all the major events, climax and resolution (mostly/sort of but leaving room for the protagonist to make a few major decisions that will decide the ending, her own choose-your-own-adventure).

I submitted this pitch to the affiliate competition Pitchapalooza. Pitching within the 250 word limit led back and forth to changes in the overall outline: I had to present the protagonist, her motivation/obstacles/failed attempt to overcome it and the crisis that it led to, her world, the stakes and all in the correct tone for the genre1. Both flow far more smoothly and I can ‘feel’ the whole story fit together now.

Back to writing and we’ll see just how far I deviate after I’m done!

1. I still don’t think I’ve nailed it. But then what do I know: it’s still not finished.


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