Two C++ related terms seem to be relevant at this point.
Most unsuccesful fiction is created through a top-down procedure. The author sits at the top, decides what the plot, the setting, the characters should be like, and presses the cookie cutters of stereotyped fiction down onto the play dough of creativity, be it a short story, a novel, or a movie script. Whatever it may be, it will not be worth reading.
Some fiction, thankfully, emerges through a bottom-up procedure. The author comes up with a few unique characters, individuals whom she feels she would want to work with. She passes some time with these people, toying around with them, until they feel sufficiently complete and competent enough to lead their own lives. She plonks them down into some arbitrary environment, and perhaps with as much curiosity as her readers, starts chronicling the events. The story that she ends up with is the result of what multi-agent system designers like to call emergent behavior, highly complex end products formed by the interaction of relatively simple subunits which never intended to collaborate in the first place. Some experts claim that the complexity of the results depends on a lack of intended collaboration. I claim that this author's short story will be well worth reading.
QUICK C++ CRASH COURSE:
Programs are first designed as top-down hierarchies. The programmer decides what she wants the computer to do, then breaks the main task down into simpler tasks, and those into even simpler ones, until the subprograms are of a manageable size. Then she starts writing them. Many months and many more liters of Diet Coke later, the subprograms are ready. She links these up according to the relevant hierarchy tree, clicks on RUN and all hell breaks loose. The tiny little critters collaborate in a bottom-up fashion, each small program doing its own thing, until a remarkably complex end result, something which none of the simpler programs could manage by itself, emerges.
An analogy to nanotechnology is both immediately obvious and delightfully alliterative, although the subject will not be explored in greater depth here.
An application of this notion to time travel (The regular passage of time is top-down, travelling through time is bottom-up.) seems almost equally obvious, and constitutes a subject relevant enough to explore further.