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The story behind the story: Powers of observation

Beth Cato makes a welcome return to Futures this week with her new story Powers of observation. Regular readers will remember that Beth has previously introduced us to the Canopy of skulls, had a chat with a sidewalk, made some bread, rummaged through a food diary and been late to feed a cat. You can find out more about Beth’s writing and her series of books at her website or by following her on Twitter. Here, she reveals the inspiration behind her latest tale — as ever, it pays to read the story first.

Writing Powers of Observation

Some stories require a lengthy gestation period as I wait for the elements of the plot to come together in just the right way … and sometimes, a quick deadline provides the necessary motivation to finally get those words on the page.

In the case of this story, the popularity of the Pokemon Go app caused me to ponder how such applications might have a genuine scientific use during an emergency like, say, the end of the world. The idea struck me as fascinating, but I had no idea how to utilize it in a story.

Several months passed. I was taking part in a contest on Codex Writers, a fantastic forum for neo-pro authors. The contest asked us to create works of flash fiction in the span of a weekend, and provided various prompts as our springboards. During this particular bout, one of the prompts was ‘a new kind of technology’.

I remembered that old dead-end idea … and suddenly, I realized my protagonist needed to be a very unreliable child narrator, brilliant in some ways and oblivious in others. Perhaps even more importantly, I discovered the character of his mother, a woman willing to do anything to enable her child to escape the cataclysm to come.

As many times as I’ve read over this story, the very end of it still brings me to tears.


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