I think it is time to go through my list of story ideas again, discuss getting started on some of the prompts that'll turn into flash or short fiction and deleting the ones that have turned too cryptic or I won't get to for some other reason. If nothing else, on the personal level, explaining my organizational process will get me to reassess how it's working for me.
I have a paper and pencil notebook I write scenes freehand in, jot down quotes, and take notes on writing panels and videos on writing. Every so often (maybe twice a year), I'll go through the notebook(s) and copy any phrases or quotes that still spark story ideas into my to-do app (Wunderlist). In that app, in addition to my chores and day-to-day household stuff (very useful for reminding me to do stuff on an irregular schedule), I have lists for currently active projects, keeping up with this blog, things I want to look into for improving my writing, what I think of as administrativia, and finally, the relevant list: Story Ideas.
There are 33 items on the list right now, one of which was added two days ago, while discussing a different piece I'd written with Partner. The list never ends... Or gets any shorter... At any rate, I'm thinking that I should break this list up into three lists and group the results in a folder labeled Story Ideas. The new lists would be flash/short stories, novellas, and novels, all based on how long I think the relevant idea would turn into, story-wise. I'll have to revisit that after I walk through the current list.
The first item on the list is simply labeled 'Writing Prompts' and has the following sentences, phrases, snippets, and such saved as subtasks:
- "Let's just get this out of the way," I said. "One of you idiots is likely to die."
- Even astronauts get the blues: or why boredom drives us nuts.
- How DO you break up with a demon?
- "The tag line of the robot apocalypse is going to be 'From you okay? I learned it from watching you.'"
- Your Third Wheel is Flat
- Witches Brew
- Aesthetic terrorist
- "In my defense, the octopus started it."
The first one came from a blog post on Scalzi's website a few years back, as the first line of a project he was working on at the time. The second was a headline to a science article I saw on NPR at some point. The fourth one came from an episode of The Drunk & The Ugly (I don't even remember what they were talking about), and the seventh one comes from RPPR's Caleb describing Ross's taste in music, movies, books,... The last one I grabbed from Reddit's writingprompts subreddit the other day and ended up writing a story to on the commute home. Well, a first draft anyway. The rest, I honestly don't remember where they came from.
Deciding to go through my list also got me to set up some Google documents and actually get started using these prompts. It's not like I'm going to magically have a story burst forth like Athena; I have to make the time to write them and setting up each with their own document eases the start-up cost for me. So yeah, in the week since I decided to write this post and made the documents, I've written a revenge fantasy piece for the first one that will almost certainly never see the light of day, a 635 word short for the second that I'm pleased with (needs a revision pass obviously, but they always do), am a third of the way into a story off the third prompt, and have a decent first draft off the eighth prompt.
Look, the octopus started it, okay?
In all seriousness though, I think I am going to delete the fifth and sixth ones as not meant to be. I'm not sure what I was thinking about when I wrote that the fifth one down anymore and it's not sparking any ideas now. Beyond a "is that word salad or something?" The sixth one is just too generic for me to want to save or work with right now.
Please note that when I said first, I meant the first item that had been added, not the one at the top of the list. So if I mix up my terminology talking about the next (arbitrary) set of items, my apologies. But. This set is always a short two of three word encapsulation of the idea with notes attached to the item. The five oldest are:
- Second contact
- Summoned demon baby
- Time loop
- Superhero rape
- AI authors
Second Contact stems off of a story I read as a teenager about first contact between humans and another species, not on one or the other's home-worlds, but because both had sent scientific exploration ships to the same astronomically interesting spot on space. And let me tell you, tracking down that title and author roughly 15 years later when all you remember is the plot was a bit rough (Murray Leinster's First Contact from 1945 btw). My idea is that the two species have worked out a general treaty to share science exploration ('cause money/resources) and discover a third species, this time at their home planet. I'll be honest, I haven't read a first contact story with multiple species as one side before, which is part of why I want to write it. The tracking down the citation for the original story is because I do want to reread the original before I start, to try to be faithful to the technology and characterizations Leinster did. A bit of homage to a story that stuck with me for more than a decade and a half. I think this one would tend towards a long shot story or short novella, to do the complexity of the issues involved justice.
The second idea came from a scene I had pop into my head, probably somehow related to Hellboy. Not that I know what prompted me to recall Hellboy. But the scene was some poor schmuck in military fatigues standing in the middle of a summoning circle comforting a crying demon baby, and then trying to gingerly hand the baby back to their parent. Who'd now been summoned into the same circle. The story idea and notes then came from trying to work backwards from that scene in order to make it plausible and an appropriate stinger/story ending. This one is definitely in the short story range, possibly flash fiction.
I'm torn about the third one. It originated out of an impulse to invert the 'magical black person' trope, but I'm not sure I have enough of a plot or characters to justify this impulse. It'd use the crazy amount of cop dramas I grew up watching as a story structure, but beyond having an older white lady as the mentor and a younger queer black guy as the two leads and the guy eventually raising the baby version of the lady (hence the time loop), I don't really have that spark of what the story is. So do I keep this one in the list and periodically pull it out to try and develop it or let it go? I'm not sure yet, so it survives for a while more.
I'm just going to copy out my notes for number four:
First trial for mental rape via chemically/psychically forcing someone to feel sexual desire at a gay conversion 'therapy' camp.
Yeah, this one came out of reading about the comic Jessica Jones and television show. Short story length.
Number four came out of reading a review of a new science fiction book, I think, and after review, is probably going away. To quote my notes again:
AI emulation of the author's mind comes with every copy of a book/game/text – how does literary critique change
This is sounding more like a think piece essay than a story now, and I do not have a background in literary critique, either the theory or the practice. Also I'm not finding it that interesting anymore, to be honest. I'm pretty sure I read that book review back when I first started critiquing and getting critiqued on Scribophile, which is probably why the idea of how critique would change if you had access to the author's creative process was interesting.
So, there's some of the oldest ideas I've kept around for writing projects one day. Next week I'll walk through the other 27 more quickly, and possibly include talking about that Tumblr draft section I've got too.