One of the key moments in the genre is the arrival of the hero in the new planet; it’s a well-oiled plot device and gives way to a number of actions that will set the pace for the novel. After the arrival, our hero will need to quickly adapt to the new world and discover his/her role in the local society (start of the main quest). In the classic works of the genre, the journey is usually something worth a few lines of description and, optionally, some mumbo-jumbo in a pseudoscientific tone. The same happens for the return of the hero, where the mysterious phenomenon that connects Earth and the new planet is set to work backward – usually after a secondary quest dedicated to retrieving one or more useful objects to make it work.
What about a different direction? If the hero is set from the beginning on a quest to find a way to reach another place, say a lost city in the jungle, it’s possible to add a layer of adventure in the story, not to mention a lot of elements that could be useful later (i.e. an antagonist, strange objects and so on). Our hero could also be from the new world, trying his/her best to find a way home. A variant on this subject could be about an “alien” sent on Earth to find something unavailable on his/her planet (or somebody?).
Usually, the shift from a planet to another is almost simultaneous; a few seconds of fireworks and it’s over. What if the journey gets a different development? Our hero could find himself/herself stranded in a physical dimension between two planes of reality, a different space/time continuum where anything could be possible. If the same hero goes to and fro the new world, every time he/she gets in this weird place the environment could be different, adding more and more adventure to the plot.
And again, why does exists a link between Earth and the new planet? Is it a random accident in the universe or does it happen by purpose? What if half a billion years ago an unknown entity just creating a network of planets? Here’s an opportunity to set up a cosmic-level stage for your favourite hero, not to mention the choice to create a tailor-made cosmogony for your novel.
One more question, what does it happens to our hero while his/her journey takes place? In this genre it’s easy to get changed, usually enhanced, once arrived in the new world. So we can shift the focus on this matter on the journey; a voyage thru space/time or thru different dimensions could be used to explain some changes in the hero’s physiology. When it comes to the hero, changes are somewhat physical in the 99.99% of the stories. What if said changes are mental? Just think about the psi-talents or the challenges of a superior mind could face in the new world, or think about specific mental issues in a world that don’t know this kind of illness.
The potential for a real diversification in the plot development is quite strong here, so a few words for another scenario: what if the voyage is totally mental? The mind of your hero will take control of a different lifeform, raising the concept of adaptation to the maximum. The body of the host and his/her/its consciousness will strain to accept the presence of an alien mind and said mind will face a reality where everything, from eating to walking, is out of its knowledge. There could be an exchange, mind against mind, useful to spin a double story of parallel quests, with a lot of room to set up humor and wackiness along the road. Once again, there are no real limits with the exception of internal coherence; as soon as your story is logically sound (not scientifically, of course) then it will work out fine.
For the next installment of this series, the romance factor. Is love interplanetary?