Keeping track of story ideas

I've mentioned my poor memory skills on the blog before. Plus, I really prefer to work on one writing project from beginning (outlining) to end (final draft/POD file creation, depending on the project). So, no surprise, I have a method for keeping track of the random story ideas I have while at work.

First there's the slim moleskin notebook I carry in my bag. It's not just story ideas in there though, I take notes during writer's panels at conventions, on using the print-on-demand machine at my local library, while listening to the Writing Excuses podcast, interesting things from non-writing podcasts, good quotes from actual play gaming podcasts (I listen to a lot of podcasts at work okay?), and have, on occasion, hand written a scene from a current project (I was really frustrated with work that day). Every few months, I try to read through the whole notebook again, to refresh my memory.

More recently, I created a new list in my to-do app on my phone (I use Wunderlist), titled 'Story Ideas'. I initially populated it by going through that notebook and adding an item for everything I'd labeled 'story idea', thinking it'd be good to have it all centralized. The full list currently sits at 15 items long, one of which is the collection of writing prompts I think I should free-write off of one of these days. One of those items is definitely a novel, conceived as such from the start and so firmly in my mind that I noted it with one word (the main character's nickname, actually). The rest are between two or three words, with notes if necessary. But I think most of them will be short stories, which surprises the heck out of me – I thought my natural writing length was novellas. Up until I started writing short stories off the latest RPG campaign I'm playing.

So dear readers, what should I write next?

Scenario building of the idea of a 'Giftschrank'

A little bit of stream of consciousness scenario planning.

Giftschrank, a poison cabinet. A place to store dangerous materials such that the only folks with access are the ones who will do legit academic research on the materials.

Well, doesn't that just scream set piece for Call of Cthulhu, Delta Green, or Eclipse Phase. So now I have something I strongly want to make into a game, but it's a setting piece, not plot. And more than setting, it's really just the name for a setting. But it's a name that suggests the purpose...

Alright, use Eclipse Phase because I know the system and world better (and I rather play Eclipse Phase than Delta Green or CoC, just personal preference). Giftschrank. A collection separated from the rest of the library holdings for safety sake. Into an informational biohazard zone. Well, that fits with some ideas in Eclipse Phase better than Lovecraftian mythos anyway – Lovecraft, you'd have to (somewhat) understand the information for it to drive you mad; Eclipse Phase, your brain can be hacked just by exposure.

Okay, so informational biohazard zone. Well, whatever this is, it'll probably be located on an exoplanet then. For isolation. For safety. For being able to nuke it from orbit quietly if (when) things go wrong.

What is the most dangerous information in the Eclipse Phase universe? Artificial Seed Intelligence code, exsurgent virus/code samples, basilisk hack code, ... lots of options.

So who's running the Giftschrank? If we're on an exoplanet, it has to be a faction with access to a Pandora's Gate, which doesn't really narrow down the options. Could be a hypercorporation who came out through the gate on Mars - they'd be happy to weaponize TITAN tech. Could be a Firewall pragmatist's base, trying to understand what they're up against. Argonauts, they'll try to learn anything. 

And honestly, it's Eclipse Phase. Should you really trust the GM when they tell you who runs the base?

Alright, so I've got some setting, an idea of what's in the base, and possibilities of who's running the base. Now, what's the plot?

Well, obviously someone attacked the base, stole some code, blew it all up, and are now high-tailing it across planet to disappear through the second Pandora Gate on planet. The players should be the on-base security team (who got done blown up) getting an emergency resleeve at the off-site back-up facility. And now we have a capture the flag scenario, with the players needing to engage in asymmetrical warfare against the attackers as everyone moves across the planet. Win condition: the players prevent the attackers from making it off planet with the research and materials from the Giftschrank facility AND the attackers don't have time to integrate any of their brain meats with the stolen code. Aiee. Especially if that stolen code is sections of ASI code. That produces baby TITANS that does. Lose conditions: players are killed. attackers make it off-planet with some to all of the stolen research.

But is this twisty enough for Eclipse Phase? Some of the big ideas in EP are about identity, and reality, and the perils of technology. So to cover that, I should play with hints that you aren't who you think you are (psychosurgery? straight up been lied to? fork-napped?) and/or the attackers aren't who they appear to be...

I think I'll leave it there, just in case I do manage to carve out the time to turn this into a proper scenario (got to build that exoplanet and terrain map) AND folks I play with read this post. No spoilers and all ;)

 

Couple ideas for a title though:
The Flag is an Idea
Poison Closet (real original this one, but I think it'd capture the feel I'd want to start with)

The Giftschrank

Inspired by listening to http://99percentinvisible.org/episode/the-giftschrank/

In German,
Gift = poison
Schrank = case or cabinet

So a Giftschrank is a poison case. In a pharmacy, a Giftschrank is where the controlled substances go. But in a library, its a biohazard zone for information. Somewhere to put books, materials, or other information storage media which is neither completely censored nor completely open access. Somewhere where information can physically be controlled so that only the people the gatekeepers decide can access the material, do.

On the one hand, that is really sounds like censorship to me, at least in a public library. Oh, not complete censorship, i.e. banning. But a form of censorship.

On the other hand, it's the same thing as a special collection in a library. Maybe a different cultural context, between an American special collection and a German Giftshrank, but special collections control access to materials (as do archives by the way). I mean the avowed purposes for all the special collections I've heard about are preventing theft and protecting the physical integrity of the special collection items (most special collection items are old, rare, or both); same stated purposes for archives. Actually in an archive, the items could literally be unique – destroyed or stolen and those items (and their information/historical value) disappear from history.

And we, as a society, try to control information and access to information all the time, both explicitly and with softer methods. Businesses keep proprietary information behind their firewalls all the time. Parents limit access to television shows as well as steer their kids towards some information, by bringing it into the house, which implicitly steers them away from the rest of the firehose of human-generated information. Neither of which even touch on militaries and spy agencies with their operational information (not even glancing at spy agencies and domestic 'intelligence gathering').

Total transparency means no privacy and information overload. Information denial limits individuals' agency and ability to make decisions for themselves.

So I guess it all comes down to the gatekeepers – do we, the people, trust them? Are the rules and procedures they use available and transparent? Are they applied consistently? How and when are things moved out from behind the gatekeepers and become publicly available? And how does the general public have a say in that?

How do we ensure trust in the gatekeepers?

 

And now I need develop a gaming scenario or set piece centered around a Giftschrank in Call of Cthulhu/Delta Green or Eclipse Phase.