Here’s an alternate history setting I haven’t seen before - General Sherman’s orders weren’t rescinded and every freed family received 40 acres and a mule carved from the lands of rebel slave holders. Southern blacks were never bound to the repressive sharecropping system, and instead were as able to economically progress as the whites who benefited from the homestead act. This facilitates an alternate present that is far more socially and scientifically advanced as the backdrop for science fiction stories - and makes a much stronger and more cutting statement about institutional racism than “man, things would sure be worse if the Confederacy and 19th century style slavery still existed!”.
Hell - it liberates you to present a world where the United States can be unambiguous good-guys, but rather than white washing reality, it is a criticism of the reality by juxtaposition!
Yes, I do teach creative writing: your opening scene
The opening scene is the most important piece of your novel. This scene determines whether your reader is pulled in or puts the book down. Here are some important do’s and don’ts.
DO write it as a scene, not a data dump. You may have a fantastic premise, a marvelous alternate history or post-apocalyptic world or magical realism to die for, but if you don’t engage your reader in an actual scene, you will bore them.
DO write a scene that immediately introduces a character that the reader can root for. Yes, I know Stephen King has had great success introducing victims that are then shortly afterward killed off. That’s a horror trope and we expect it. But if you are caught up in world-building and haven’t dreamed your way into a character who is worth following through 100,000 words of writing, your story is pointless. I have read many pieces of fiction by would-be writers who can’t grasp this essential concept, and without exception, they fail to engage the reader.
DO introduce the stakes right away. In case that’s a challenge that needs some exposition to develop, create some immediate stakes (a life threat works) that keep the tension high and the reader engaged until you can lay out the larger stakes.
DO begin in medias res, which means “in the middle of things.” Most beginning fiction writers make the mistake of starting too early in the plot. Meet the monster on page 1.
DON’T include a flashback in the first chapter. Work on a scene, which means time is NOT compressed. It should include dialog, action, description, setting, and interior monolog. Keep everything happening within that scene for at least the first chapter. You can bring in a flashback in Chapter Three.
DON’T shift points of view within a single chapter. Let the reader establish a strong bond of interest (even if it’s with a POV villain) over the course of a whole chapter.
DON’T open the story with your character waking up unless it’s because she’s got a gun in her face (or a knife to her throat – you get what I mean). We don’t need to follow a character through their mundane daily routine.
DON’T be coy. Beginning writers often have this idea that they need to hold back on revealing all their secrets – what’s in the box, who’s behind the curtain, where they’re going next, etc. Their well-meant plan is to slowly reveal all this over several chapters. Trust me on this one: tell your readers instead of keeping it a mystery. You WILL come up with more secrets to reveal. Your imagination is that good. Spill it now, and allow that revelation to add to the excitement.
We are part of the generation that erases and destroys our history in all the wrong ways.
BlackLivesMatter makes a mockery of the Black Power movement from the 60s, doing more harm for race relations than good.
Feminism has all but been burned into ashes by surpassing equality to focus on supremacy, to the point where it’s frowned upon to consider yourself a part of the modern day iteration.
The LGTB+ community has become the very thing it tried so hard to argue that it wouldn’t become, the slippery slope. It’s become entirely too inclusive of imaginary identities and exclusive of actual ones.
Antifa is a laughable band of terrorists playing a 4D game of D&D where they roleplay as anti-fascists while unknowingly being fascists themselves.
And believe me, it’s not just the Left embarrassing and erasing history. Even if you’re a white supremacist/neo-Nazi, you’re embarrassing yourselves.
The Alternative Right, Neo-Nazi, White Supremacists, or whatever you want to call them, are nothing compared to the groups whose history they invoke and would themselves be laughingstocks if only the Left would stop building them up to be an amassing credible threat.
The Left pose a credible threat to the Freedom of Speech, while the Right pose a credible threat to Freedom of the Press.
I’ve heard the phrase “post-truth society” and I couldn’t agree more. We are a society beyond truth. We actively deny it and obfuscate it, filling it with whatever ‘truth’ we believe in. I, myself, am not exempt from this.
Whether it’s real or not, there are groups of people who feel their lives are in constant danger; their rights are being taken away; their enemies are being empowered; that they are being oppressed.
We are going backwards as a society; backwards as a nation. We’ve hit the reset button, there’s no undoing that fact. The only thing we can do now is make sure that we end up back on the same path as before, otherwise the result, I fear, will be a lot less pretty.
I want to write a story set in Arizona, but where the Americans weren't invaded. I realised this after I made the plot and the culture is the same as I've lived it, and I'm also worried I don't know enough about Native American culture to write about it. Is it realistic to have the people live in houses and have jobs as the ones that are in America now, and can they use the same zodiac signs? I'm planning on mentioning their religion and such though so do you have any resources for that?
Accidentally Recreated Modern Culture, Is This Okay?
> I made the plot and the culture is the same as I’ve lived it > I’m also worried I don’t know enough about Native American culture to write about it
You’ve basically answered your own question with these two lines. Because you didn’t even stop to think their lives would be different when you were building it, you don’t know enough about our cultures.
You shouldn’t be jumping into this situation without being able to build a culture that is different from what you’ve lived automatically. Instead, you’ve gone and built something that is completely based on your lived experience, and promptly asking if your lived experience is possible for them instead of starting over and building your story based on our reality and imagining how our reality exists in a future where the Americas were never invaded.
You should be using cultures, plural, and you should have a tribe selected based on the Arizona area (I’m unfamiliar with the region, so I won’t list any— but there are many possibilities and google is a good place to start). You should be looking at what technological advancements would’ve spread via trade and what would be adopted.
Is it realistic to have industrialization happen around the globe? Possibly, depending on the global setting (I personally would rather see the level of industrialization we have not actually be at modern levels, because our current production is unsustainable, but advancement happens naturally). Is it possible zodiac signs have spread out and Natives have adopted the Western one? If it interests them, sure.
But those are the wrong questions to ask. The questions shouldn’t be based around “oops I didn’t build in difference, is it okay if they’re the same as modern people?” Basing your questions around that doesn’t actually address your knowledge issue.
Once you realized you made their lives completely identical to your modern life, you should have started over and gone to research how Arizona tribes lived, imagined how industrialization would’ve spread globally, and then begun building again.
Don’t launch right into the elaborate stuff if you haven’t got the basics down. Work your way up and don’t just jump to level expert when you’re still a beginner. It’s perfectly okay to be a beginner and not be able to tackle the elaborate stuff at first! It’s okay to shelve ideas aside because as you build them you realize you don’t know anywhere near enough to do it justice.
As we said in So You Want To Save The World From Bad Representation, you have to start small when you’re starting from the beginning of learning how to write representation. Everyone starts somewhere, and picking a more manageable project will give you a better starting place with fewer mistakes that can be made.
Take a step back and work on the basics. Tribes in the area, what their lives used to be like. Maybe write a modern story with Native side characters so you can learn about what their modern life is like. Once you’ve gotten those building blocks in place, you can start to build them up into something more elaborate.
It’s a very Greek idea, and a very profound one. Beauty is terror. Whatever we call beautiful, we quiver before it. And what could be more terrifying and beautiful, to souls like the Greeks or our own, than to lose control completely? To throw off the chains of being for an instant, to shatter the accident of our mortal selves?