In my novel, Collision, I’m fairly vague about Camilla’s appearance. This is mostly intentional. We do know a few things from early on, however. Camilla is vain about her looks – a characteristic shared with her owner – and she regularly disparages the appearance of other cars. From this, we can assume that she doesn’t look like a Pontiac Aztec or a Fiat Multipla or an AMC Gremlin or a Ssanyong Rodius … I mean, I could go on. In the third chapter, Camilla gives a brief description, as follows:
The light turns green. The truck disappears in the rear view.
A mile later we cross over the Castillo River. It’s more of a stream at the moment. The Downtown skyscrapers are now directly ahead of us. We’re soon in their midst, rolling along one of the concrete canyons. I can see my reflection in the plate glass.
What do I see?
A sleek sedan shape, brilliant white, with no adornments. Adornments create wasteful drag. My wheels are oversized, to the point of caricature, and the tyres look impossibly thin in profile. The glasshouse is expansive with almost invisible pillars. The only flaw, and it’s a slight one, is the bulge in the roof which covers the upper sensor array. In summary, I look good.
Don’t just take my word for it. Last year I was voted the most attractive sedan by a panel of experts.
By the way, this is the classic example of a character looking in the mirror to give a description of her appearance, a big no-no according to most writing guides. Oh well … I waited a couple of chapters before deploying the cliche, plus I like talking about car design.
In my mind’s eye, Camilla is a concept car made real. If the term is unfamiliar, I’m referring to the styling/technology showcase cars that auto manufacturers display at the big car shows (Geneva, Detroit, Frankfurt, Shanghai). These concept cars are usually highly impractical, think: scissor doors, huge glasshouses, giant wheels, and so on. In time, the features of these concept cars often make it through to the real world. I’ve picked a couple of examples below:
Now, I know what you’re thinking … Alright, I don’t actually know what you’re thinking. What I’m thinking is: how come the real Porsche Boxster didn’t end up looking like the awesome concept? The answer relates to safety factors, production engineering and simple packaging/ergonomics considerations. Say, for example, the car designer wants very short overhangs at the front and rear of the car. Well, this means less space for collision impact structures. And what if the car designer wants a fancy metal surface with both concave and convex forms? Well, an engineer might say that this type of surface is impossible to manufacture at scale.
So, as you can see, engineers ruin everything! Or, alternatively, car designers are diva-like dilettantes who give no thought to practical matters!!
To cut a longish story short, Camilla was a warmly-received concept car that made it all the way to production with barely any modifications. An unrealistic scenario, of course, but then again this is a near future sci-fi novel!