Super-competent protagonists can be a lot of fun — but sometimes it seems like there’s a cap on how much fun they can be. When the character is ready for everything, has a skill for every challenge and a solution for every problem, there’s never really any uncertainty about how it will turn out. Which is why our Spark of Life guest this week, Wendy Nikel, looked for a way to put her super-competent heroine out of her element, into a situation where she’d really have to stretch to win.
I’ve always been fascinated with time travel stories, so when I sat down to write THE CONTINUUM, I knew that was what I wanted this story to be about. It was the third of November when I’d decided I wanted to try my hand at National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), when I started writing that day, I had little more than the premise and a few key scenes to work off of.
My story, I’d decided, would be based on a short story I’d written a few months earlier about a time traveler returning home from a vacation in the past. Only instead of focusing on the time traveling tourist herself, I wanted this story to be about the people who work at the travel agency, whose responsibility it is to bring them safely back to the present from their adventures. So I started writing about Elise, a professional time traveler who jumps around through time, helping out clients who get into sticky situations on their vacations to the past. I settled in to pen an adventure about her dangerous rescues, perilous circumstances, and the struggle to protect the space-time continuum as she travels about in history.
But I think I knew, deep down, that Elise was a little too good at her job, a bit too skilled with blending into the past eras where she frequented. She was the James Bond of time travelers — always having a Plan B in mind, never losing her cool. She knew more than anyone else around her and was able to think her way out of any tough situation. And while those stories can be fun for a while, my subconscious realized it’d be a more interesting story if she was taken out of her element and presented with a situation that really challenged her and where she wasn’t confident of her success.
Before I really had time to plan out where the story was going next, she was being sent on a mission where she wasn’t going to be able to rely on her knowledge of the past and familiarity with historical customs. She wasn’t just going to be able to call upon her research or prior experiences. She was going to be sent somewhere new, where she’d never been before, and that was going to be the true test of her meddle:
Elise was going to be sent into the future.
Once I realized that’s where the story was taking her, the rest fell into place: the connection to her previous mission that takes place in the opening chapters; the internal conflicts that she faces; and the lessons she needed to learn about herself, her work, and time travel. For a skilled time traveler, the past is too predictable, too “safe,” and with the shift to the future world, I opened up for myself a chance to explore the unknown — for Elise, for myself, and for my readers.
As of January 23, 2018, THE CONTINUUM is available in ebook and print formats via World Weaver Press! (LINK)
From the cover copy:
Elise Morley is an expert on the past who’s about to get a crash course in the future.
For years, Elise has been donning corsets, sneaking into castles, and lying through her teeth to enforce the Place in Time Travel Agency’s ten essential rules of time travel. Someone has to ensure that travel to the past isn’t abused, and most days she welcomes the challenge of tracking down and retrieving clients who have run into trouble on their historical vacations.
But when a dangerous secret organization kidnaps her and coerces her into jumping to the future on a high-stakes assignment, she’s got more to worry about than just the time-space continuum. For the first time ever, she’s the one out-of-date, out of place, and quickly running out of time.
Wendy Nikel is a speculative fiction author with a degree in elementary education, a fondness for road trips, and a terrible habit of forgetting where she’s left her cup of tea. Her short fiction has been published by Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, Daily Science Fiction, Nature: Futures, and elsewhere. For more info, visit wendynikel.com or sign up for her newsletter HERE and receive a FREE short story ebook.