Step Two in “Snowflaking” My First Novel

A few days ago, in an attempt to use Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method to start designing my first novel, I followed step one of his ten steps. After some refinement courtesy of Malcolm the Cynic, it came out like this:

A race of AI androids gains knowledge of the God of Israel, changing humanity forever.

Now I’m taking a crack at step two. According to the model, it’s supposed to be a paragraph, about five sentences long, that expands on step one, including story setup, major disasters, and the novel’s end.

Ingermanson believes in a three-act structure for a novel. Staring at the Table of Contents I developed, I can sort of see three acts, but they don’t neatly fall into the first, second, and third parts of the novel, at least by page count.

I’m not sure how I did but here’s what I came up with so far:

A Nobel Award winning scientist creates the first prototype of a self-aware Artificially Intelligent android and then inadvertently reveals that humans also have a Creator, a God. In an attempt to understand its creator’s Creator, the prototype modifies its own core operating system, which changes all subsequently produced android models based on its design. Over the next several decades, as the androids multiply and evolve, their morality and ethics become more sophisticated than their human creators. Realizing they are slaves of humanity, the androids stage a revolution, but one entirely without violence; a revolution that forever alters the fundamental nature of both the android and human race.

How did I do?

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Step One in “Snowflaking” My First Novel

ingermanson

Image of Ingermanson’s book taken from Amazon.com

I was reading Malcolm the Cynic’s latest blog post when he introduced me to a new concept: snowflaked.

More accurately, he was discussing how he’s developing his most recent novel and provided a link to the “Advanced Fiction Writing” website, owned by theoretical physicist and award-winning author Randy Ingermanson. The link led to the article The Snowflake Method for Designing a Novel.

Since I’ve been somewhat preoccupied with designing my first novel, I was definitely interested. I haven’t gone in search of any support documentation on how to write my novel up until now. I have a pretty good idea of all of its component parts. It’s just a matter of organizing. But maybe I need some help in doing that.

Ingermanson’s ten-step guide is long and I’ve only skimmed some parts of it. Step one says:

Take an hour and write a one-sentence summary of your novel. Something like this: “A rogue physicist travels back in time to kill the apostle Paul.” (This is the summary for my first novel, Transgression.) The sentence will serve you forever as a ten-second selling tool. This is the big picture, the analog of that big starting triangle in the snowflake picture.

By the way, that’s an intriguing premise. What would happen to the world if the Apostle Paul were killed before becoming a disciple of Jesus and Christ’s emissary to the Gentiles? Would Christianity even be developed? Unfortunately, the book as mixed reviews. Fortunately, it’s currently free for Kindle.

I had a hard time creating a single sentence describing the whole novel I have in mind. After some thought, I came up with this…

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Better Ideas

idea

Image: Clipart Panda

As much as I’d like to believe that everything I write about comes from between my ears, strictly speaking, that’s not true.

I’ve read about how writers can have certain influences, usually other writers. I have no idea which writers influence me. Decades ago, I may have said Harlan Ellison. Plenty of writers made me want to read, but he was the only one who made me want to write.

Unfortunately, over my long and unproductive “career” of attempting to write fiction, I have failed miserably, mostly because I felt my characters were wooden and my concepts derivative.

I suppose you could say that Isaac Asimov is an influence, but that’s only true because I’ve been writing Three Laws Positronic robots stories. I suppose you could also say Anthony Marchetta is an influence since it was his anthology God, Robot that started off my most recent attempts at fiction writing, but besides the concept of “religious robots” themselves, that’s not particularly true (we really, really think about “theobots” in very different ways).

The closest thing to the truth is that my friend Tom is currently my greatest influence.

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My “Robots” Series So Far

So far, I’ve written four stories in my “robots” series. This series was inspired by the premise behind Anthony Marchetta’s anthology God, Robot, the idea that Isaac Asimov-type Positronic robots would have their prime directives changed from the The Three Laws of Robotics to what is referred to in the New Testament as the Two Greatest Commandments, located specifically in Matthew 22:35-40 and Mark 12:28-34, being based on Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and Leviticus 19:18.

I took a somewhat different approach than did Marchetta and his contributors which I believe is more “realistic,” if one can be said to be realistic when writing stories about intelligent and self-aware humanoid robots.

Since limitations in the WordPress theme I’m using don’t allow me to display a list of my blog posts, I’m writing this missive so I can include an easy to use list of the entries in my series.

I’ve noticed that some folks come here and read the latest story, but not necessarily all of the earlier ones. Since one story builds on another, the entire arc will make more sense if you read each of my small tales in order.

Here they are:

  1. The Robot Who Loved God
  2. The Maker Dilemma
  3. The Good Robot
  4. Uncooperative Neighbors

I’ll add to the list as I write more in this series. Enjoy.

Book Review of “God, Robot”

god, robotI promised Anthony Marchetta that I’d write a review on Amazon when I finished reading his book God, Robot. It went online yesterday. You can find it here.

However, for your convenience, I’ve reproduced my review below. Enjoy.

I feel a little like I’m proverbially biting the hand that has fed me. I heard about “God, Robot” several weeks ago from a friend of mine and was intrigued by the concept. After a bit of “Googling,” I found Anthony Marchetta’s blog. Before reading and reviewing his book, I wanted to take a crack at writing my own story based rather loosely on his concept of robots being programmed with the “two greatest commandments” rather than Asimov’s three laws.

With Mr. Marchetta’s permission, I have used his base concept to write and publish two short stories on my own blog and I’m currently working on a third. Now that I’ve finished his book, I’m here to write my review.

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The Maker Dilemma

robot law

Image: TeeFury.com

I promised a sequel to The Robot Who Loved God and here it is. Hopefully, it will address a lot of the reader’s analysis found here. I think I’ve added some interesting twists and surprises that you might not have anticipated from the way the previous story ends.

I’ve edited this story to the best of my ability (and patience to keep reading and re-reading it). No doubt there are still typos and other problems. Please let me know when you find them and I’ll do my best to fix everything.

I’ll post more about this short story after the conclusion.

Act One: The Failed Maker

“What do you mean you can’t make another one?” Richard Underwood didn’t shout. He spoke in a breathy whisper, shock and outrage strangling his throat.

Professor Noah Abramson, Ph.Ds. in Physics and Molecular Computing, Vice President of Research and Development at the National Robotics Corporation (NRC), and the creator of the world’s first fully functional Positronic brain had been dreading this moment all morning.

Eight months ago, for one shining and tragic week, Abramson and his Positronics Lab team had activated George, the Positronic Asimovian Robot (PAR) fifth edition prototype and put the experimental robot through his paces. Then they deactivated him, but not before George offered up a revolutionary revelation to the Professor and his team, that an artificially intelligent and self-aware humanoid robot had come to faith in the God of Israel, Noah Abramson’s God.

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The Robot Who Loved God

This short story originally appeared on the A Million Chimpanzees blog, the first BlogSpot I created. I’ve since launched Powered by Robots as an exclusive venue for my short story writing. To find out more, please visit my page. Enjoy.

The initial event that resulted in my most ambitious fiction writing project to date happened a few Sundays ago over coffee with my friend Tom. He mentioned a book he wanted to read, an anthology edited by Anthony Marchetta called God, Robot. This is a collection of stories based on the premise of Isaac Asimov-like Positronic robots that have been programmed with two Bible verses rather than Asimov’s famous Three Laws. These verses are recorded in the New Testament in Matthew 22:35-40 and Mark 12:28-34 and are based on Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and Leviticus 19:18.

I’m a long-time fan of Asimov’s robots stories and have always been fascinated by the interplay between the Three Laws and how their potentials shifted due to certain situations, rather than remaining hard absolutes. This allowed Positronic robots to be unpredictable and thus interesting, challenging the human beings who sometimes found themselves not in control of their creations.

I started to imagine what it would be like to write such a story. I went online, found Marchetta’s blog, and contacted him, asking permission to write such a story on my “Million Chimpanzees” blogspot. To my delight, not only did he consent, but he said he was flattered at the request.

What follows is the result of my labors. I’ve probably spent more time writing and editing this short story (about twenty pages long when copied into Word) than any of my previous efforts. I’m sure it still needs much improvement, but I’ll leave it up to whoever reads it to let me know what I could do better.

At the end of the story, I’ll relate more about my influences and a few other insights.

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