What I'm writing. Project Aria: Book One

What I'm writing! Project Aria: Book One

I mentioned in my last post that I was planning to introduce what I’m working on at the moment, so here it is. Project Aria is the working title for a trilogy and I wrote the first draft of book one during NaNoWriMo 2019 after plotting, planning and worldbuilding for months. I have absolutely no idea what the real titles for any of the books are going to be, but in my experience titles arrive when they want to. So, let’s get into it!

When Aria Day, a black market trader in a futuristic metropolis, is tasked with rescuing a mysterious fugitive, she is drawn into a conspiracy that weaves through the criminal underworld she inhabits and a secretive government authority. As she fights to uncover the truth, she confronts a devastating betrayal from her past and discovers an opportunity to change the course of more than just her own future.

The blurb/elevator pitch/whatever, like everything else, is a work in progress. No doubt changes will happen, because they always do, but it’s a pretty clear explanation of the direction of the story. In terms of genre (which I can’t get away from thinking about, since publishing platforms require it) it’s science fiction, specifically cyberpunk/dystopian. Another term I use to describe it is neo-noir (or neon-noir, which is neo-noir, but with neon!), which I am so totally in love with. My favourite explanation of neo-noir is:

…contemporary dark fiction. It was built on the backbone of classic noir and hardboiled fiction, but it’s evolved to be so much more than that. It is a genre-bending subgenre that includes edgy literary fiction, as well as fantasy, science fiction, and horror. It also touches on niche storytelling like magical realism, slipstream, transgressive, and the grotesque.

from ‘10 Essential Neo-Noir Authors‘ on Flavorwire

This project began when two completely separate elements collided in my head. The first was a futuristic urban aesthetic, especially sprawling cities and overwhelmingly huge buildings. When I watch films set in environments like that, more of my focus is often on the way the places look than on what’s happening to the characters. The second element was a line that appeared in my mind one day, completely out of nowhere. “For the third time since she woke up, Aria Day ran out of patience.” I had no idea who the character was at that point. All I knew was that she had a name and she was done with everyone’s shit. From that collision, a story evolved.

It began as a straight-up sci-fi adventure and I imagined it would be like an action film in a book. I dug into worldbuilding in a big way, created the beginnings of character profiles, and did some free-writing to explore scenes and reactions to experiences. The more I got to know my world and my fictional people, the more I realised that certain themes were determined to be written about in addition to the action and adventure stuff. This project is an exploration of appearance vs reality, self-determined identity, “you are not what was done to you” and “nothing changes unless you change it.” I write a lot about people in states of flux and self-discovery. It’s a thread that runs through pretty much all of my work, although it was never intentional.

The world I’ve created for this book isn’t necessary our future, but it’s a future. It has many problems (welcome to dystopian fiction), but I decided to set my story in a time and place where gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity and dis/ability aren’t factors that limit opportunity or quality of life. This isn’t because I want to lazily ignore real world issues. It’s because I want my readers to find a story where they can see themselves represented as something other than the subjects of oppression. Even though I tend to write Very Dark Stuff, I also want to create welcome opportunities for escapism.

Another important aspect of worldbuilding for me was creating the techology. Rather than come up with random machines that conveniently did what needed to be done at any given time, all my tech is either solidly based on, or heavily inspired by, things that already exist, are in development, or have a firm theoretical basis for existence. What amazed me most about this area of research was that even the wildest things I could come up with actually fitted into my framework. I’m not going into detail in the book about how everything works because when you read a book set in our current time and place it doesn’t explain how electrical sockets work or where toothpaste comes from (are those weird examples?!), but I love having full, deep knowledge of the world my characters exist in…as much as I can anyway, without being a robotics expert, a weapons developer, an architect, an engineer etc.

I could talk about this for-absolutely-ever, but I’ll resist the urge. I do plan to keep you all updated on my progress though, so you can expect some more posts about this project in the future, especially as I start to work on the second and third books in the trilogy. My next post here is going to include a free downloadable character profile template that you can fill in to help you get to know your fictional people. I made it for myself, but it’s been pretty useful so I’m excited to share it with you.

I hope you enjoyed today’s post and that you’ll join me here again. If you’d like to receive notifications of new posts by email, there’s a bit in the sidebar where you can sign up for that. If you’re a WordPress user and you’d like my posts to pop up in your WordPress Reader, you can click the little Follow tab in the bottom right of the screen to subscribe.

I really enjoy hearing about what other writers are working on, so if you’re currently in a state of creation, why not leave a comment and tell me about your project so I can be excited with you? Thanks for reading and see you soon! ❤

5 thoughts on “What I'm writing. Project Aria: Book One

  1. You definitely made me think with the free-writing stuff and character profiles. I have this project that I’ve been writing for a year and I’ve been stuck for a while mostly because I need to do more world-building to continue and just couldn’t get started. I think this could be a good idea for me to try out this way, too!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I find free-writing really helpful because it takes a lot of the pressure off. Whatever comes out in those sessions doesn’t have to be part of the book (although it may end up in there in some capacity). It can just be an exploration with no real goal in mind other than to reach a bit deeper into the characters and the world.


    1. The original picture I had in my head was kind of Judge Dredd, kind of Alita: Battle Angel, but then I started reading about rain gardens, green rooftops and solarpunk aesthetic, so the whole thing changed. I see it as this huge, sprawling metropolis, all glass and metal and plants, but at night it lights up neon. I feel like this is a real place now, even if it only exists in my imagination…but I get to live in it every time I work on this book, so I’m happy.


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