Still, that has given me the barest framework on which to hang the entire "flashback" sequence for #Big_Rewrite_Project. It took me quite a while to figure out where to start and how to do it, but I think I've got what I need now.
I have three major problems.
1) Before this, I never gave much thought to the culture I need to depict. The result is that in prior versions of the story these people were approximately present day Western civilization folks with a few wrinkles, which is (of course) almost totally ridiculous. In my abortive attempt to plow ahead with this part of the novel I tried to use modern equivalents for their measurements, but it just doesn't work, and all it really did was point out to me that I don't know what the hell I'm writing about which is violates the first commandment of writing: Thou shalt write what you know.
Having given it a lot of thought, though, I do believe I know what differentiates these people from 21st century Americans, so it's not going to be like Star Trek: The Next Generation where all the alien cultures are approximately Hollywood liberals with a few twists to make them alien and weird. (Unless they're bad guys, in which case they're the liberal caricature of Republicans.) This culture is still very close to the one I come from, but I know what the differences are and how to portray it.
2) The story I'm trying to tell with this part of the novel isn't like other stories I've tried to tell. It's simultaneously very big and very petty, because it involves literally moving worlds around yet deals--essentially--with the vanity and selfishness of one woman.
Which brings me to
3) I don't like the main character of the flashback. I really don't. She's not nice; she's arrogant, supercilious, manipulative, vindictive, selfish, and cruel. These traits end up helping her save her civilization from extinction but that does not help; and the problem is I have to find a way to convince my readers to keep reading her story even if they end up disliking her as much as I do. That's not an easy thing to manage.
But I have done exactly that, though I never finished the story--I have a story set in the same universe as the rest of this wherein the main character is a pedophile and a homosexual, as well as being a marxist who engineers the socialist takeover of his world...and though he's a bastard the story is still a good one. I detest that skunk much more than I dislike the bitch in this story, so it should be possible for me to do this.
...though I should also add that it's necessary to take all this with a grain of salt. When I'm on this side of a project everything is liable to change, and sometimes the results are virtually unrecognizable compared to what I originally planned to do. It's like how the manga I draw ends up being totally different from what I plan, and I just say, "Well, looks like the Hand had other ideas...." It's the same with writing, although I usually have more control over it.
Still, if--as an artist--you are not at least occasionally surprised by how something turned out, I'm convinced you're doing it wrong.
After I get #Release_Candidate_One published, I need to work on a story set several hundred years later in the same universe. That one surprised me by centering on the relativity (and the absolutism) of morality, particularly sexual morality; it suffers from being a very poorly-written murder mystery. The mystery isn't the point of the story but it looks like it is, and if I'm going to do that I have to do it right. Problem is, the mystery meanders off into irrelevance as it becomes immersed in a much larger conflict, and though it all fits together rather nicely it's still not a very well-told story. And the stuff about morality is largely incoherent, too, coming to no real conclusions...but then that's pretty much the story of morality in human culture anyway.
All of this stems from the fact that what I wrote was not what I'd intended to write, originally. I just need to rewrite it with the stuff added by my subconscious, though, and it should be a pretty good story.
The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. At least I got that part done.