For the pass-the-baton story “Circle of Champions,” Jim Hamilton wrote the third segment, titled “Don’t Panic.” I gave Jim the task of adding a “problem/challenge,” continuing the story smoothly, and using the color “yellow” in a mere 250 words.
This interview is full of spoilers, so read the completed story here first.
Jim has published a number of Sci Fi novels–I don’t know the number exactly–but I think it makes him the most experienced writer who participated in the pass-the-baton story. He’s got all the tools in the writers toolbox, and he’s undaunted by any challenge.
Here’s my Q&A with Jim on the behind-the-scenes creation of his story segment:
1) What did you first think when you were invited to participate in “Circle of Champions”?
I somehow won the October Contest and when you hit me up with the idea of a collaborative piece, I thought it was an excellent idea. And it was!
2) What did you think of your assignment to add a “problem/challenge”? I think Frasier, who wrote the second segment, jumped line and posed the problem of the “dodgy thrusters” as he puts it in my Inside Scoop interview with him.
Frasier presented the fact that I needed thrusters to survive the Flaming Fury and yet they were dead. I also thought by diving into the main event, things were a bit rushed. So, I added some backstory and provided a solution to the thruster problem. I didn’t know if Shanel [Wilson, the writer to follow Jim,] would pick up on the not-yet-green light, but I tried to set it up that way for her.
3) Do you remember your first impression of the story, the 250-word “Introduction” I wrote?
My first impression was that it wasn’t quite my preferred flavor of the [Sci Fi] genre, but that wasn’t a problem. I wasn’t really clear on how to begin until Frasier wrote his piece. He’s very creative!
4) And how did things change for you when Frasier, the next writer in line, completed his segment “Round One”?
Frasier firmly fixed a number of things in my mind. Once I can “see” the whole story, writing it is the easy part.
5) What did you find most intimidating about the process?
I don’t intimidate easily. I try not to volunteer for something that I can’t deliver on, but I’m not always successful.
[Editor’s Note: Of course, Jim was very successful in his segment.]
6) Why did you accept the offer? I mean, it’s only 250 words, I paid nothing for them, and you had no idea whether this project would be a success or a disaster.
I read and I write. What to write about is the hardest part. As I mentioned above, once I can “see” the story, telling it is the fun part.
7) You deftly handled a challenge that developed regarding the passage of time. In my introduction, Salem saw her suit for the first time, and in Frasier’s “Round One” Salem immediately entered a battle with Neon Tigress.
As I explained above, I felt it jumped in too far and too fast. But that was okay. I just needed to pace it a bit with the backstory and set it up for Shanel. I like how it all worked out.
8) You had to use the color “yellow” as an additional challenge.
I was originally planning on using it as the color of another mech. The failed thrusters led me in a different direction. Less structure gives each writer more freedom, but more structure provides more continuity for the reader.
9) Did you intentionally leave any breadcrumbs for Shanel and I to follow up on? Did we miss any?
I left the lights . . . hoping she would have them turn green. That and Salem knew the other players’ weaknesses.
10) How did you find the 250-word limit?
Challenging. I tend to suffer from diarrhea of the word processor. Pruning is like working a sudoku.
11) How did this experience compare with finishing a contest story in 500 words?
It was about half as much work. <Joke!>