Story Jam 1 – Chapter 2

Multitudinous microscopic creatures that power household appliances, a desperate last-ditch hybridisation experiment and a dysfunctional couple expecting a baby. These were the primary themes of last week’s post – what sort of shape will the story be in at the end of today? Read on to find out!

First things first though, a few exciting things have happened in the past week, which will change what I’m doing with my blog ever so slightly. The original plan was to have an interview with another Patreon creator every fourth Monday, but after the massive reaction I got on the Patreon facebook page and with so much enthusiasm from everyone involved, I’ve decided to post those interviews every second Wednesday instead. This means that there’ll be much more time for me to spend on writing these Story-Jam blog posts, which in turn means that I can make each post shorter – after all, I think that 2k+ words every week for a blog is a little ambitious really.

Anyways, let’s continue with Abb and Bee’s story from last week. I think I’ve got a fairly decent dramatic framework using their relationship storyline, and I did highlight some things last week that really need addressing before I can properly continue planning the story.

The first is the creatures. I started out with the random trope of Hybrid Overkill Avoidance last week, but became very preoccupied with working out what was going to happen between Abb and Bee. I do think that it’s very important I understand that, but we all know that the cool unique thing with this story is going to be the creatures that Abb’s company is performing experiments to try and hybridise. So what are they?

There are two issues really – if they are too big their ‘powering’ appliances wouldn’t really be believable enough for a reader or audience to overlook. Too small and they risk becoming more of a collective entity like a cloud or swarm, which could work, but it’s not quite what I’m going for as the story needs to focus on the combination of two of them. Of course they could be explored in a way which reveals them to be individual creatures – i.e. Abb looking at them using a microscope or some other sort of magnification device – and then have other depictions of them later on in the story as more of a cloud.

I think, for sizing purposes, lets imagine them as the size of an iron-filing for now. When manipulated with a magnet, iron filings do have the right sort of murmuration effect I’m imagining. You can see each individual one with the naked eye if you look hard enough, but you can of course magnify them too. Now I just need to think about why the creatures do what they do I suppose.

I guess animals like electric eels and stingrays can discharge a biologically produced electricity, so it’s probably not too much of a stretch to imagine that if a large group of miniature creatures were able to do that too, it would be impossible to harness it somehow. I suppose a ‘battery’ could be more of a small habitat for them, complete with a food supply and material for them to breed in. Through several decades of special breeding and research programmes there could be different breeds which are patented to energy providers and can offer unique things like longevity of charge, more reliable life-cycles, a higher rate of charge etc.

Perhaps then, if the batteries are more like ‘habitats’ for these little creatures, you could extrapolate that wiring inside appliances would be more akin to pipelines than wiring. When the creatures are confined to their battery (I just realised, the word battery does also apply to what this would be – like battery hen, for example) they can eat and breed etc. When the appliance is switched on, the battery is opened, for the creatures to launch out into the ‘pipeline’ and distribute its electric charge around the circuit, eventually returning to the battery. When the appliance is then switched off, it closes the ‘out’ gate, meaning the creatures are only able to return to the battery – a neat little thing that could happen in the story could be that all appliances have a cool-down phase where the last few creatures return to the battery. That could also mean that the longer you use a battery at any one time, the shorter it will last as the creatures aren’t able to breed and replace their exhausted creatures etc.

Anyhow, let’s move onto the other creatures. They need to be significantly different to the ones we just described, but adhere to the same sort of rules. The first thought I’ve got is that they’re bigger – not much bigger, but big enough that they can’t fit through the same ‘pipes’ that the others do. Therefore, the batteries and pipes would need to have more technology in them to contain and sustain them. However, the one benefit of them would be that they offered a significantly higher amount of energy.

Ok, this is good. One the one hand there’s the teensy-tiny creatures which power the every day appliances the world runs on. They offer reliable and clean electrical power at fairly low prices, with the one downside being that their output can be quite limited.

On the other hand there are the tiny (not teensy-tiny, just tiny!) creatures, which power things like transportation and more of a national-grid-like energy. As the technology is more advanced, the electricity is more expensive, but the output of the larger creatures is not nearly as limited.

This gives a clear and quite easy to understand motivation for hybridising the two species of electric creature; if a much more highly-powered but smaller creature was made it would vastly increase the applications of the batteries and make electricity much cheaper, more portable, and more accessible. Yeah! I think that really works, if at least for a broad overview of what these creatures are.

I was also thinking that if appliances had a charge function – like a phone or a laptop, the ‘battery’ would be more like a habitat which could store the tiny creatures – it’d be packed with food and space for them to rest, which would degrade over time similar to a real-world battery. Perhaps the smaller creatures can self-sustain in these ‘chargeable’ habitats quite well, whereas the larger creatures require far more resources to be able to. If the main grid runs from the larger creatures, that means that these chargeable batteries are only viable by the smaller batteries off-grid; another reason that hybridising the two would be advantageous.

Another thing to consider could be that the larger creatures are hardier, meaning their much more adapted to ‘traveling’ the distances in the national grid; hybridising them could mean that the grid would have a much hardier creature at its disposal. Also what about disease? If these creatures are alive then that would be something that would have to be taken into consideration. Maybe the larger creatures are hardier in that way too. Also maybe the larger of the creatures are slower, meaning that they do build up a bigger charge, but you have to switch the appliance or vehicle on in advance of when you need it for the creatures to get going – hybridising the creatures would allow for a faster delivery of energy.

Another thing I’d like to think about is where these creatures come from. Even though, sadly, it’s probably not too far from the truth if this were a real-world scenario, I don’t like the idea that humanity is forcing these creatures into situations which aren’t suited to them. It would be cruel for these creatures to be essentially caged to power humanity’s appliances and I don’t really want that to be an aspect of the story; if possible, it’d be nice for these creatures to be encouraged to do what they already do naturally and to harness what is produced from a happy and well-treated population of these tiny creatures. I do have a few ideas of how to get around this though, which also feeds into providing more of a difference between the two sizes of creatures.

  • The smaller creatures naturally live inside a specific type of tree. They have evolved to be able to travel inside the cells with water and the long thin tubes have allowed them to develop speed and agility. However as they have evolved to be largely encased in water, they haven’t developed to be very hardy. They’ve developed the ability to emit a weak charge to stun microscopic bugs for their consumption; as they’re quite freely available in the water-stream the creatures traverse, the creatures are numerous and their charge has only developed to be very weak. If those trees contain large populations of the creatures, they can sometimes emit a glow which would then have factored into local folklore and beliefs, and there are internationally protected forests where the largest populations of naturally occurring creatures still live (which would have significant spiritual importance to many people). On observing and researching these famous trees, the small creatures would then have been discovered. Recreating the long thin, tree-like tubes would then be relatively easy to do in a lab, making for cheaper production.
  • The larger creatures, by contrast, have evolved to live in porous rocks commonly found surrounding volcanoes and places of tectonic activity. They’ve evolved to fit into the larger-sized holes and the barren environment means that they are much hardier. However, due to the twisted and disorganised nature of the rock pores, they haven’t developed to be very fast at all. As they have to consume more of the microscopic bugs, and the bugs aren’t as freely available they have evolved a much higher charge so that when they do ‘hunt’ they are more likely to be able to eat. The rocks also tend to glow in places where there are large populations of the creatures, making for similarly protected and culturally significant areas. Recreating the habitats and breeding conditions of the larger creatures could be much more difficult and costly as they prefer more convoluted pathways.

I’m really happy with that, so far, and with both sizes of creatures, their whole lives would have evolved to shoot up and down tiny pipes like the ones they do to power appliances, so offering them a safe environment and plentiful sustenance would be nurturing and encouraging them and wouldn’t – I sincerely hope – read that humanity was forcing them into horrible situations.

A final thought – as I do realise I’m nearing two-thousand words once again – is that there is one way I could describe the difference between these creatures in a way that might be easier to understand using real-world examples, if I haven’t explained it well enough. Imagine that the larger creatures are elephants and the smaller creatures are horses. An elephant is slow and requires a lot of resources to sustain but can carry much higher amounts of luggage. Now imagine that the smaller creatures are horses – faster and less resource-hungry, but can carry less weight, comparatively.

Abb’s company are trying to hybridise the two different-sized creatures together to try and yield their respective benefits. But it’s an experiment which is akin to trying to make an elephant/horse hybrid, which is why it’s proving so very difficult.

Awesome! Ok, I’m buzzing with ideas now, but I think I’ve got a really good grasp on what the creatures are now. Next week I’ll explore how societies have developed based on these creature-powered appliances, and also whether I might be able to draw some comparisons with Abb and Bee to the traits of the large and small creatures, to parallel the experiment with their relationship even further.

Don’t forget to comment below or on the TideBreakers Facebook or Twitter. Again, I’d be really interested to know what you think of the story’s progression – but please try and keep any criticism constructive!

Posted in Creature Feature, Story Jam, The World, Uncategorized
2 comments on “Story Jam 1 – Chapter 2
  1. Alex says:

    So cool! So what do the creatures actually look like individually? I imagined the tinier ones to look like micro machines from big hero 6, until you mentioned that they live in trees… The bigger ones make me think of hermit crabs!

    • Duncan says:

      You know, strangely, I guess I was thinking more about their evolution and narrative purpose than what they look like! At the moment, I just have this image of a load of tiny round glowing blobs and their beefier counterparts. This will change as I put more thought into it! Perhaps not this evening though!

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