Monday, July 25, 2016

Writing "The World That You Want"

"The World That You Want" is a favorite of mine. It's probably the first story I've written while aiming to hit a specific length, and when I went over, I edited the crap out of it to bring it back to the appropriate size.

This is probably one of the densest things I've written, fitting in a post-apocalyptic world filled with demons and a journey to create a new one in just 4000 words. If you're a fan of the Shin Megami Tensei series, you'll be able to see a lot of influence on this particular work.

I originally wrote this for a themed dark fantasy/horror anthology I didn't get in, and the guidelines were to pick something personal as the subject matter. As it happened, a few days before I heard of the anthology, I’d been talking to a coworker about Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne.

The Shin Megami Tensei series typically features teenagers or twenty-somethings dealing with extreme and deadly supernatural events that often shatter their notion of what reality should be. Rather than going to pieces though, the protagonists somehow obtain a way to fight the supernatural through magic of their own or by recruiting demons to their side (or both). Several, though not all, of the Megaten games will give the main character, the player surrogate, the ability to choose among several endings that will decide the fate of the world.

While I was deciding what to write, what struck me was a decision I hadn't made when I was playing Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne. There was a particularly appealing ending available to me, if I was willing to kill a particular NPC to get it. But I wasn't. Sure, it was just a game, but I was trying to play from my personal perspective and that forbade me from killing a character who was more of a bystander than a bad guy.

The seed of my story grew from there. That was the personal hook, though I don't think I would have chosen the ending my protagonist does since it, as a friend put it, "leaves people in a world of suck."

In fact, my "usual" Megaten ending is one the protagonist overhears (and obviously does not choose) on her way up the US Bank Tower. I thought it would be funny if she passed by my dying player insert on the way up.

The US Bank Tower is a real building by the way, though it's a lot less imposing as the scene for demon congregation ever since they put in a glass slide you can ride between two of the upper floors. That hadn't existed at the time I wrote the story and it just opened earlier this year.

"The World That You Want" is my love letter to the Megaten games with a local southern California twist. The world we know has ended and the cityscape is populated by demons and ghosts. In the face of all this, a pair of teenagers head towards the US Bank Tower in downtown Los Angeles where an important Decision will be made.

If you still have not had a chance to read it yet, you can find it in the July 2016 issue of Galaxy's Edge which is online free until the end of August.

Music listened to while writing: Soundtracks to Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne and Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor.