I’m cheating tonight. I spent so much time writing a possible time travel scenario for the steampunk collaboration I’m involved in with seven other authors, that I didn’t have time to write a blog. So I’m posting the scenario. What do you think?
Possible time travel scenario:
A tourist is found dead in a time travel machine, clutching some sort of gizmo in his hand. Knowing that a death could kill business in what is supposed to be a safe traveling mode, the operators of the Time Travel Company decide to investigate.
They have some sort of recordings of where the traveler has been, one from each era he visited, (secret, of course, since if the tourists knew they were being recorded, it would put a damper on business) and the Time Travel Company sets employees to watching these tapes (crystals? discs? a sophisticated version of Babbage’s difference engine or analytical engine?). Since it’s real time, they all watch at the same time, otherwise it could take weeks for them to see what went on during the tourist’s trip. Perhaps news of the death leaked, and if they don’t discover the truth fast, they will be ruined, so time if of the essence. This is how we could get by the problem of doing five sets of eight chapters. After each set of chapters, the TTC operator and a trusted employee could discuss what they saw, see if there were any abnormalities, and when they don’t find anything out of whack, they continue watching the tapes.
Since our guy is by himself, posing as a tourist, chances are his reasons for traveling are personal. Considering that coal is such a polluter, perhaps his wife died of lung cancer, and if they weren’t wealthy, chances are they couldn’t get out of the city to clean air. Maybe he studies alchemy texts, finds a way to produce clean steam by means of cold fusion or atomic energy (supposedly the alchemists knew how to do this without producing radioactive side effects) or some other energy source, and he wants to go back to the past to find someone who will utilize the machine so that by the time his era comes around, there is no pollution. (There’s no point in his finding backers in his own time since his wife is already dead.) Another possibility is that he is looking for a way to blow a hole in time to change things, so that perhaps by the time he gets back to his era, things will have changed. He is killed before he can put his plans in motion. It would be up to you to decide why your character would want to kill him to maintain the status quo.
If he is lower class (or low middle class) his clothes would not be out of place in any period in the steam era. This would save him from traveling with an extensive wardrobe.
He and his agenda would be the unifying factor of all the POV characters. You tell the story from your character’s POV, but he is a major character in your substory. During each set of chapters, he grows more and more frantic, since he can’t find what he wants (someone to give his gizmo to, or perhaps a way to use it to blow a hole in time to change the future. We don’t see the end of his story, the TTC has to figure it out, because once he is dead, his story ends. We would not know in which era his story ended, because in the past, all time happens at the same time.
The benefits of this scenario are that the authors can decide what year/era they want their character to live in, can write their story without much regard to other authors’ stories (except to keep the tourist consistent), and the tourist would provide the unifying factor without having to spend weeks trying to figure out what all the chapters have in common. Another benefit is that the scenarios wouldn’t have to be based on history, but could be more personal as long as they were consistent with the time period you choose.
The drawbacks are that you might not be able to tell the story you want — you’d have to keep the story simple, focused on both your character’s agenda and the tourists, and somehow link them. You’d have to pick a past era, rather than a fanciful future era since a future era would do our traveler no good. And you’d have to pay attention to how the other authors develop the character of the tourist to keep him consistent.
If you don’t like this scenario, we can still do the one we talked about where all of our characters once were members of a think tank, and now someone is killing all the members. The remaining members (our characters) get together to figure out who the perpetrator is and why he wants them dead, and they discover that the assassin is one of them.
Either scenario would work for our purposes.