Years ago, I started a Star Trek novel, which I abandoned because there was no internet, no place to find the kind of information I’ve been sharing for the last year. The only book I’d gotten on how to write fiction was from a man whose novels were all rejected, and he had the worst advice possible in his book – “Let your story simmer for a few years. Then write them.”
So earlier this year, I began writing it again, just for myself and to actually finish the thing up.
When I planned this novel out back in 1978, I had of course Kirk and Spock. But after so many years, I’ve changed it up. This is the story of Joseph P. Lohman (pronounced Low-man).
The catalyst of the story is literally his personality. In Roddenberry’s somewhat lacking novel of “Star Trek – The Motion Picture”, there was a comment from Kirk that the first Starfleet was filled with the smartest, the most brilliant people Earth could offer, but they actually were a poor choice for Starfleet. So Kirk was the first class of the “lower standards” Starfleet.
My premise for the novel is – what if one of these brilliant types was to enroll in the lower standard Starfleet that Kirk excelled in? What would it be like?
Lohman is a guy with an IQ in the 170’s. He has the ability to take one skill you show him or give him, and turn it into a hundred unrelated skills, simply because he can see the possibilities.
The back story for Lohman is that he – like a lot of other geniuses – has a hard time relating to other people who aren’t as brilliant as he is. So he’s perpetually in trouble. He wants to be a Starship commander, but his mouth and his temperament keeps him in so much trouble, that it’s not likely he’s going to ever get command.
Now, Lohman is the kind of man who doesn’t suffer fools at all. And he has absolutely no filter between brain and mouth if you’re an idiot.
He’s got a mirror character – Ramaar, the villain of the series. Ramaar ends up the Praetor of the Romulan Empire. Both of them have exactly the same personality, except that Ramaar is bent on conquest.
When you create two characters like this, suddenly everything in the universe seems to fall away from between them. There’s going to be a war, and Lohman is going to face off against Ramaar – no matter what.
There’s your antagonist and protagonist. Honor drives them both.
So, character drives plot – plot drives character. What’s my situation at the beginning of the book?
Lohman in Starfleet Academy is given a lecture in Starship design by a man with too much arrogance and not enough brains. The man gives a brief lecture on the scrapped design for a battleship, called the Dreadnought. He describes its brief history, and mocks it as insufficient.
Right away you can see that’s going to irritate Lohman. So what’s he do? He spends the rest of that day and night updating the Dreadnought design to current Starfleet standards, and starts getting ahead of himself. he updates the design to far exceed all other Starfleet ships. And he sneaks into the classroom, and loads the new design onto the projector screen. The next day the arrogant instructor turns on the screen, and is humiliated as the new design is projected in the middle of the classroom.
Put things together. What’s coming next? Lohman is going to become the captain of the new design of Dreadnoughts, in time to face war with the Romulans.
This is how you set up your characters. Make them diametric opposites. Make them huge, bombastic. Make it seem as if the conflict is inevitable, predestined. And you have an epic novel in the making.
All you need is the right inciting incident.