Building a Seabound Dystopian World
Building a world is the best part of my job as a writer. For me, places really get the ideas flowing. The unique characters, drama, and action sequences can come later. First, I need to build them a stage.
I got the idea for my New Adult Dystopian trilogy, The Seabound Chronicles, on a boat. I was sailing through Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong where I live and happened to look up at a passing cruise ship. I thought, “Man, it’s like a floating city.”
That’s when my Seabound world was born.
I started to think about a floating town where people had been living for years, long enough to develop their own system of governance, their own rivalries, their own language. Their curse words would be about rust and salt. Storms would be routine. They’d eat fish and seaweed, and they’d have to salvage all their raw materials. The inventor of their freshwater system would be revered.
And why would they live on a cruise ship for years? An apocalypse of course.
The pieces for my post-apocalyptic adventure came together quickly. I decided the ship, called the Catalina, had been at sea for sixteen years. She’d be like a small town, where everyone knows each other a little too well and gets a little too involved in feuds and power struggles. There would be a disaster, something to put the characters in immediate mortal peril.
Then I wanted the Catalina, my floating small town, to run smack dab into a seabound city.
I imagined a flotilla of cruise ships, a grand society where bridges connected the decks and water taxis sped between the ships like mosquitoes. There would be arts. Theater. Politics. Intrigue. It would be sexy and cosmopolitan in a way the survivors on the little Catalina had never experienced. It would be vibrant, surprising, and dangerous.
I walked the streets of Hong Kong, an island metropolis teeming with lights, and painted my seabound flotilla. As typhoons tore through my city and tropical rainstorms sent torrents down the streets, I imagined what would happen if a catastrophic storm struck this seabound city. I used the details of my surroundings to give my invented world life and breath.
And into that world stomped Esther, a 22-year-old ship’s mechanic. She would be gritty, determined, intelligent. She would be prickly and a little too sure of herself. At 22, she’d have a lot of responsibility for her seabound home. She’d be in the process of discovering her strengths, exploring a wider world. She’d make some big mistakes, potentially fatal mistakes, but she’d risk everything to fix them.
The character came to life when I sat down to write the first book in the Seabound series. I couldn’t imagine the windswept decks of the Catalina without seeing Esther climbing up onto the railing, storm goggles around her neck and a wrench in her belt. I couldn’t describe the fanciful performances of the flotilla without hearing Esther challenge an elegant and enigmatic man who was keeping her from helping the Catalina. I couldn’t explore this world without seeing Esther come into her own, a young woman at a pivotal age fighting against colossal odds.
The world and the character built each other, just like our surroundings shape who we are. As a writer it’s exciting that I get to help form a new world, no matter how perilous. My hope is that readers will be able to walk into my seabound world and feel like they are right there with Esther, working to save their friends as the decks lurch beneath their feet and the wind blows sharp across their cheeks.
Jordan Rivet is an American author living in Hong Kong. Seabound, the first book in the New Adult Dystopian Seabound Chronicles, is on sale for $0.99 this week only. The heart-stopping sequel, Seaswept, and the devastating prequel, Burnt Sea, are also available on Amazon.
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