So I’m labeling Rakers as a “thriller” as opposed to a “space opera”, which is the genre for Wild Nines and its sequels. There are obvious reasons for this, namely that Rakers doesn’t take place in space. But also more subtle ones – namely, Rakers has more suspense. More mysteries. There are points of view on both sides, as in Wild Nines, but the stakes are different, the people involved have different ends, and the question of who is going to live is central to the story. Wild Nines, in contrast, is more about adventure. A crew running amok through a dangerous solar system and taking all comers with weapons drawn.
From a writing standpoint, the most important conscious change I made was in how to present information to the reader. In Rakers, knowledge of the world comes in drip-fed bits and pieces. Need-to-know basis. Motivations are kept on the mum because the characters at play aren’t all that interested in sharing their goals for a variety of reasons. This creates a tense conflict in scenes because people are less trusting of one another. Think about it – if you’re in a crowded room with a bunch of friends, you’re going to be more relaxed. Open. Change most of those friends to strangers and you’ll be more reserved. See someone look at you from across the room and if it’s someone you know, you react one way. A total stranger, you’ll react differently.
In Space Opera and more traditional fantasy, there’s not as much ambiguity. In Star Wars, for instance, Han Solo doesn’t hide the fact that he values cash (at the start) more than helping out wayward heroes. Darth Vader doesn’t hide that he wants the plans, nor does the Empire disguise the ultimate objective of the Death Star. You’ve got evil, and people out to fight that evil. It’s fun because it’s more clear-cut, because it’s a ride from start to finish with characters you love to get to know.
Not everyone in Rakers is good, though they don’t necessarily know that. Part of the fun in writing a story like this is that your characters keep so many secrets; from themselves, from each other, and from the writer. I don’t necessarily know how they plan on accomplishing their goals, or if those goals will change based on things that happen. It’s a fluid environment, and that edge of unpredictability keeps the writing fun and the story fresh.
One last thing – setting is so important no matter what the story, but I’d argue that a “thriller” has one of the widest possible settings you can choose from. Mystery, that threat of violence, and heroes and villains with hidden agendas – all of that can take place just about anywhere. Space opera generally needs, well, space. Epic fantasy needs some sort of fantasy/medival/steampunk-esque setting – otherworldly, I suppose. But a thriller lets you craft the story and fit a setting to it with all the variables at play. It’s a true sandbox.
And, of course, I ran with it.