I've blogged before about Project G, a promising work-in-progress that's gotten perhaps a bit too complex and complicated over the past few years of revision. As an author, I love the challenge of coordinating events in seven time zones and across the Solar System. But as a reader, I'd probably be hopelessly lost without the benefit of consulting my timeline and author notes.
That's all changed with the new "streamlined" version of Project G. Events in China, Germany, Brazil, and Mexico now happen off-stage and behind the scenes. There are fewer viewpoint characters to keep track of. The book moves faster and there's more room for deeper development. I still have an epic story to tell, but this part of it no longer feels like the opening book of an epic series. Also, I'm no longer pitching it as a series. This book will stand alone with an opening for potential sequels. Mind-blowing epic sequels, muhahaha!
I've been thinking about The Phantom Menace as a model. The movie had some truly irredeemable aspects but many critics piled on because Menace wasn't the galaxy-spanning epic film they were expecting from the Star Wars franchise. That never seemed fair to me. Menace is structured as the first movie in a six-movie series, the one that introduces the key players and kicks off the action, and it does that very well.
When we first see Yoda, for example, he is at the height of his powers, ruling an invincible Jedi Counsel from the political center of the galaxy. Seeing this aspect of Yoda makes it that much more impactful when he's reintroduced as a fugitive, hiding from the Empire in a swampy unpopulated wilderness. We have a few hints in Menace that there's a dark side to Anakin, but his development into villain of Darth Vader's stature is meant to be a surprise. Having a believable Anakin-to-Vader arc would, theoretically, give us a better feel for the villain's motivations and a bigger context to his ultimate redemption. The subsequent lack of a deep or believable path of the character's development is a shame, but I can't fault Menace for how badly Anakin's character arc is mangled in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.
Menace would have been a huge critical success if it had been released in 1977. For one thing, a non-CGI Jar-Jar would have had been a hundred times more watchable, but also the film wouldn't have been burdened with many years of anticipatory buildup after the grand climax in Return of the Jedi. As a small movie, Menace makes a big statement: the corruption of the Galactic Senate, the establishment of an Imperial dictatorship, and the end of the Jedi order all have their roots in a seemingly insignificant trade dispute on a single backwater world.
So that's my model, with Earth being the single backwater world and a game of Tic-Tac-Toe instead of a trade dispute. Of course my story won't have any Gungans in it. And no midichlorians. And I'm trying my best to avoid plot holes and bad dialogue. And now that I think of it, maybe The Phantom Menace isn't the best model to work from after all.