Setting – Why I Chose Saturn’s Moon: Daphnis

The prologue is complete at 2,500 words. Finally. I went through this many times, adding content, revising character names and deleting it entirely to re-write it twice. I tried putting as much into the first pages of the novel as possible, while finding a balance between establishing the setting and capturing the reader’s attention.

Our story begins when a distress signal from an unknown source on Daphnis is received by a protectorate patrol ship. The ship lands on the moon to investigate.

I chose Daphnis as the setting because I wanted the opportunity to explore the moon in detail. The moon orbits Saturn within the Keeler Gap in the rings. Its gravity impacts the nearby edges of the rings by creating waves with opposing amplitudes moving away from moon in different directions.

How fascinating would it be to stand on Daphnis, looking at the huge waves of the rings, with Saturn itself looming in the background?

Many of the edits to the prologue concerned Daphnis’ geography. What is the surface of Daphnis like? Humanity hasn’t been close enough to know. The closest photo we have that I’m aware of is from 2017.

One of our characters originally stepped out of their ship onto bare rock, but after more thought on this, I changed the surface of Daphnis to have a fine dust. If Daphnis has a gravitational force significant enough to impact Saturn’s rings, perhaps it also brings any nearby dust particles from the rings to its surface. (I’m sure there will be some debate among beta readers as to the physics in SPACE RACERS, thus I hope my explanations here will be sufficient.)

What about sunlight? The character sees the “nightline” on Saturn, giving a timeline for getting on and off the moon to create suspense. What would it feel like to physically see night coming? With no other sources of light, to be on Daphnis behind Saturn could be frightening.

Regarding suspense, I wanted to capture the reader’s attention in this first portion of the novel. There are several layers in which I attempt to do so. First is the distress signal, where we wonder where (and what) it’s from. Then there’s a time limit: the incoming night. With no source of light except for a headlamp on a moon with no atmosphere, everything would be dark in the shadow of Saturn. I intend to also out the reader’s feet on Daphnis through the telling of the story.

 

I’m not sure I’m set on how I wrote the landing sequence, but also not sure I need to add much more either. While I’m a science fiction writer, I don’t feel I need extensive detail on such things. I intend to get to the story. Keep things moving forward. Detail may slow down and disinterest the casual reader, and I’m trying to appeal to a larger audience.

I also cut much of the beginning I originally wrote. It took too long to get to the action. I needed to build the suspense right away. I had several paragraphs of history of the rings being under a new environmental protectorate, and even a few sentences describing the process by which a radio signal leaves a ship and transfers between several orbital satellites before making it to a communications relay on a large orbital station. While the information was “cool” to write in the beginning, it isn’t essential for the reader to know, thus I cut it. 

Now that I’ve hopefully drawn the reader in through the growing suspense in the prologue, I intend to initiate the novel’s primary conflict in Chapter One. More to come in the next few weeks.

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