One of the (many) weird things I've discovered about being a writer is the way something sparks an idea in my mind and it grows in ways I could never have expected. Even the things I know will touch me don't always have a predictable effect. Take the musical Les Miserables, for example, and the Dream'verse.
Some twenty years ago I saw a touring production of Les Mis. It blew me away. I spent the rest of the weekend in a music-filled haze, playing over and over my Original Broadway Cast Recording Double-Length Cassette that I'd begged/borrowed money to buy.
Before that fateful weekend I'd poked at writing. Like many beginners, I had story starts in many sizes and genres, begun on a surge of inspiration and abandoned when the glow faded. Maybe the ideas weren't fully-formed, the characters flat, the spark not strong enough...who knows. All I knew was that I had a lot of failed stories that I'd cared about once, that I wanted to care about again. The last thing I needed was another false start, but Les Mis took hold of me and wouldn't let go. I had to do something with it, even if it turned to cold cinders like the others. Resistance, as the Borg will have it, was futile. I had to try. (Though Yoda and my character Eve Marcori would remind me there is no try.)
And so on Monday I sat down at the computer and started writing a scene. A woman on the bridge of a starship stared at the slagged remains of her space-station childhood home. A man, a doctor, tried to comfort her, but his sympathy was unwelcome.
I didn't know either character's name. I didn't know why the station was destroyed, or what ship my scene was set on (in my mind it looked like the bridge of the Enterprise, no bloody A, no bloody B) and I didn't know why the woman and the doctor were alone on it. All I knew was that Les Mis had stirred my muses, and I had to let them run.
As I wrote, I learned. Eve Marcori, former Marine now captain of the freighter Pendragon's Dream, wouldn't let me stop, and because of that she taught me so much about her world, my world, writing... Hers was the first novel I finished, the first of seven in the Dream'verse so far. She was the first character to step fully-formed from my mind. She still had secrets--and still does, after twenty years of my writing stories in her world--but she knew who she was, and I couldn't go far wrong in writing her. Or she'd hurt me. (Her compassion is of the tough-love variety.)
Back then I had no clue, but now I can see some of how Les Mis led to the Dream'verse. So many people in that show were or could have been saved with just a little help at the right moment. The Bishop of Digne turns Valjean's life around. Valjean, and then the factory manager, fail Fantine. Eponine is inspired towards better things by her love for Marius. Javert receives his moment of mercy and can't accept it.
The Dream'verse is my exploration of that fraught opportunity, that moment of desperation when a soul hangs in the balance. The for-the-want-of-a-nail instant. Eve Marcori is my banner-carrier, but all of the Dream'verse is composed of those stories and what happened after. As witnessed by Valjean's journey, redemption is a long road and a hard one, but the smallest thing can start someone down it and lead to the salvation of many.
I hope you'll find these stories as fascinating as I do. And if you catch yourself singing "One Day More"...hey. You're welcome.
Anyway. Tomorrow I'll be posting a short story in which Eve doesn't rescue anyone. Even Eve Marcori relaxes sometimes.