Meeting Seven-The Uncanny Valley of Plot
At tonight’s meeting, I’m the lucky recipient of lots of discussion. Much better than last time. There were plenty of questions the group had about the state of the planet in my universe. Even though the chapters I’ve read for them so far, haven’t fully explained things to the reader, I went ahead and gave them my description. I’ll do the same for you now since it’s important to the plot of my WIP. Keep in mind that much of what I tell you is never fully explained in the story. This is mostly what I’m thinking in my head as the backstory for the fictional world.
After another millennia of humans destroying the environment, the habitability of Earth has become less conducive for humans to live on. There is massive climate change which has altered the flow of the world’s oceans and increased the level of the water. These changes have triggered some of the tectonic plates to shift. That in turn, has caused a massive increase in the frequency and intensity of earthquakes and volcanoes throughout the world. Entire countries are being wiped out.
Some people who’ve read parts of my WIP have accepted all this without question. Other people, not so much. This group has told me that climate change would never have any effect on the tectonic plates. They argue that a thousand years isn’t enough time for these things to have occurred. They also say that IF these changes have already happened, the planet would no longer be liveable. One person even seems disgusted with the whole idea that humans have caused climate change.
The premise is fictional. That’s why it’s called fiction. Faster than light travel isn’t possible either, but we see it almost every time there’s a movie involving aliens and accept it as a given. I have fallen into the uncanny valley of plot. Concepts that readers have no familiarity with, they can accept. Concepts that are familiar and are portrayed accurately they accept. But concepts that readers are familiar with and aren’t portrayed the way they think it should, causes revolts in their mind. I think if I was writing this story fifty years ago, nobody would question the situation.
Imagine I went back in time (something else people just accept in fiction.) and wrote a story involving cars for a 16th-century audience. In this story, I describe the driver of this fantastical vehicle as needing to open the trunk of the car and lighting something on fire every time they needed to start it. That audience wouldn’t notice the silliness of that action the way a modern reader would.
We live in a world where we have lots of facts about the planet and the environment. Some of these facts may not even be true, or there will be readers who don’t believe them. So I find myself stuck with a plot that some readers will consider idiotic and will not be able to focus on the story and the characters.
I was quite upset when the meeting ended, frantically trying new ideas in my head to save the story. When I got home, I used the internet to track down several college professors and researchers in the fields of climate change and geology. I sent out about a dozen emails explaining my situation and asking for any ideas they have that would help me make the story more plausible. Hopefully, one of them will give me some suggestions.
The only solution I’ve come up with so far, is to describe a recent incident in the history of this universe. An accident where scientists were working on developing a new power source and something unforeseen happened to trigger a disaster. I still have no idea how I can resolve the drastic changes to the planet I need for the story while still having an environment that is mostly liveable.
As frustrating as this situation is, the writing group has helped me focus on something I wasn’t seeing. Most of the people in the group have a science background. The other people I’ve had read selections of my WIP don’t. These guys aren’t going to let me wander into fantasy and still consider the story science fiction.
I kept thinking about Brandon Sanderson’s series, Stormlight Archive (which is actually fantasy, not Sci-fi). In that world, there are some very implausible things going on in nature. Some of it bugged the hell out of me while I was reading it. The parts of the story involving fairy type spirits showing up everywhere I loved and accepted. The part where he describes the grass retracting into the rocks when they sensed movement nearby I couldn’t accept. He had all kinds of plants that reacted with the speed of an animal. The problem there for me was that the story wasn’t really described in mythological fantasy terms. Sanderson presented some of these aspects like a normal part of nature, and it just felt “off” somehow. I still loved the books.
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