Axon, Inc., Writing Process

Work In Progress Ask Game

Thanks go to Fury’s Reign, who created this ask game on Tumblr.

1: Summarize your WIP in 10 words or less.

Tech startup creates telepathic computing; social and personal tragedy ensues. 

2: Post a line from your WIP with no context.

“Artificial intelligence is a tool for solving problems — problems of any sort. But why would you need to develop a tool to solve any problem, when it’s so much easier to build tools to solve particular problems?”

3: Does your WIP have a title? If so, explain its significance. If not, what are you calling it for now?

Axon, Inc. It’s the name of the tech startup, and is a reference to brain biology.

4: Describe the setting of your WIP.

The late 21st century. Most of the action takes place in Seattle or nearby, but there are some scenes in Virginia and Iceland.

5: Search for the word “knife” in your WIP. If you find it, paste the line and explain the context.

“He would be able to grab a knife from the kitchen on his way…”.  (Walden, one of the startup founders and the main protagonist, has woken in the middle of the night to find that someone has broken into his apartment and is watching TV. He’s creeping up on them and intends to grab a weapon on the way.)

6: Search for the word “dream” in your WIP. If you find it, paste the line and explain the context.

“And oh yes — it remembers your dreams.” (Walden, describing the capabilities of telepathic computing, mentions that it can read your mind as you sleep and tell you what you dreamed about.)

7: What are you most proud of?

The characters of the founders. I think they’re interesting, compelling, surprising, proactive characters.

8: What is your biggest challenge?

I need to rework the opening to draw the reader in better. I also want to do more to convey the societal changes brought about by telepathic computing.

9: How would you describe your writing style?

Simple, direct, pragmatic. Intended to be evocative but mostly invisible.

10: How would you describe your WIP’s narrative style? (1st person, 3rd person, multiple POVs, single POV, alternating chapters, etc.)

Mostly Walden’s POV, very tightly focused. Could probably be done as first person.

11: Which character do you have the most in common with?

Probably Walden. Walden is a much better salesman than I am, and he struggles more with ethical dilemmas. And I’m very interested in pure research into linguistics, which he is not. But we’ve both spent a lot of time in the tech industry, and are somewhat cynical about human nature — but also hopeful.

12: Which character do you have the least in common with?

Probably Paula, a character with religious and military background.

13: Your characters are stranded on a deserted island. What happens?

Most of them would work together quickly to find a way off the island. They’re intelligent and creative and driven. Logan, a backstabbing trickster figure, might end up drowned or eaten by the end of the first week. Or he might build himself a raft and be gone, abandoning everyone else, after the first hour.

14: Have you chosen birthdays for any of your characters? If so, when are they?

Walden: late Dec 2001 (Capricorn)

Logan: I’d originally had him born almost exactly a year before Walden, but I’m thinking now I might make them explicitly twins, for more family drama. (Capricorn)

Tori: Walden’s younger sister, born July 2005. Cancer.

Paula: Sept 2005. Virgo.

Other major characters (Max, Dale) I haven’t figured out.

15: Do you know your characters’ MBTI personalities?

No, I’m not familiar enough with that framework, but I do know their astrological signs, as noted above.

16: What would your characters be for Halloween?

Walden would be something understated but rather wickedly clever, with a hint of social commentary. Like he might go as “Dead Steve Jobs” — just jeans and a black turtleneck, but under black light you can see the rotting flesh makeup on his face.

Logan would do something outrageous, involving nudity and / or breaking gender normativity.

Tori would go as something unabashedly sexual and nerdy, like an MCU female character. She would be mainly there to enjoy the party.

Paula might do a simple, easy, pun-ish costume.

Max would go as a character from a military video game. 

Dale has a simple increasingly ill-fitting witch costume she’s worn for the past 20 years.

17: Does your WIP have any themes or motifs?

There are a lot, but the biggest one is the issue of vulnerability and privacy, and the way these serve to create and destroy social relationships, and the effect of technology in the mix.

18: What’s easier, dialogue or description?

I find them equally easy, but I think I’m better at dialogue. My characters are talkative in my head.

19: Post a picture or gif that describes your WIP.

This is a picture of the underside of a bridge in Seattle. The girders remind me of the links between axons, but in a mechanical way; and the launch of the architecture into the sky reminds me of the revolutionary nature of the technology. The colors are somewhat apocalyptic as well.

20: Post a brief excerpt.

In this excerpt, Walden and Logan, who have started the company in Logan’s apartment, are trying to convince their friends Paula and Max to join the company.

—————

“Let’s take it one step at a time,” said Walden. “One. We have a device that can read minds. Not perfectly, but well enough. You put on the ring, it reads your mind. But — two — we also have a device that reads your mind from a distance.”

Walden took the Argus out of his pocket. It was just a black cylinder, the size of a lipstick tube, wound round with a spiral of silver. “It’s nothing more than an antenna and transmitter,” he said. “It sends your EEG signals to our servers for analysis. Range, at present, is about thirty yards.  — And don’t worry, it’s off.”

“I suspected you had something like this,” said Paula. Her voice shook. “Why anyone ever trusts you…”

“Paula,” said Walden, “I –”

“Why should I believe it’s off?” she demanded. “I should just walk right out of here and report you to the police. Eavesdropping — all these people here — invasion of privacy –”

“Paula,” said Walden. “Think about this. We have this technology. Would it have been better not to make this? Maybe. Should we just throw it away? Maybe. But we have to be careful. We have to decide what to do with it. Ok? Help us decide. If you had this technology, what would you do?”

He waited, but Paula just glared at him. Max frowned into his coffee, thinking. Logan looked back and forth between them, like a hunted animal. Part of Walden’s mind vaguely registered that the barking of the dogs in the background had become louder, more insistent.

“Basically there are four options,” said Walden at last. “First, we could ignore it. Throw it away. That isn’t really possible, though. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that the time for this technology has come. Logan made this by stitching together two existing technologies that were already pretty mature. Other people will do it — maybe already have done it. He’s a genius, but this was a baby step. So if we throw up our hands and do nothing, we give up any hope of having any influence on how this technology matures.”

Paula was still scowling, but Walden could tell he was making her think. Max was looking speculative.

“Second, we could sell it. To the military, to law enforcement, or just license it to the government generally. And regardless of what we decide, this might be what happens anyway — a court could declare EEG radiation eminent domain, or something like that, just like radio waves, and then they’d have a government monopoly. If we were lucky they’d give us some money for it.”

“Obviously not a great option,” said Logan. “I’ve always had a libertarian streak anyway –”

Paula rolled her eyes.

“But regardless of your political philosophy,” he continued, “it’s not a great idea for the government to have a monopoly on any surveillance technology.”

“And I will not allow this to fall into military hands,” Walden said. “For my own reasons. So set that aside.”

Paula opened her mouth, saw the expression on his face, and closed it again.

“The third option,” he continued, “is to license or sell the technology to another tech company. Microsoft, Google, Apple, Amazon — they would sell half the kingdom for something like this. Phones that are controlled by your mind? Advertising targeted to your thoughts? The possibilities are endless. And pretty scary.”

“I hope the fourth option is better,” growled Paula.

“Keeping control of the technology,” said Max. 

“Exactly,” said Walden. “Wrapping a company around it. Making a few small, non-threatening products, products that won’t hurt or alarm anyone, gathering enough funds for legal defense, physical defense if necessary… Making sure all access and use of it goes through us, and us alone. It’s not used without our permission, it’s not used without our knowledge, it’s not used without our control and consent. No one even knows about it unless you tell them.”

“So you see why we’re doing what we’re doing,” said Logan. “We really don’t have a lot of choice. It’s like… it’s like that Greek myth, with Prometheus or whatever, who just handed us fire from the gods, and said: use it wisely.”

“And we need your help,” said Walden. “We need your expertise.”

—————

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