The Last of the Ideas List (Part 3 of 3)

And finally, the last of the much too long ideas list (I haven't even mentioned the Tumblr draft section).

  1. unbaptised children who died out of wedlock turned into owly marsh-spirits
  2. X in the style of...
  3. Still on Patrol
  4. Editors are author's bartenders
  5. Super/meta-human schooling
  6. Humans as the galaxy terraformers
  7. "I’m just imagining this knight changing and looking at a pair of breasts like “…Those are new.” "
  8. Abbess Superior of the Authorial Confessional
  9. YA: vet tech for mage/wizards' familiars (dragons, etc.)
  10. Alternate English written as the pronunciation guide to words
  11. Vampires driven off by the Mourner's Kaddish
  12. Rats as psychopomp conductors of human souls to the afterlife
  13. Eclipse Phase Insurance fraud (It's the octopus's fault, okay?)
  14. Motto: Truth, Compassion, and Attention to Detail

The first one came from someone on Tumblr talking about either Swedish or Dutch folklore. When I initially read the post, it sparked an interesting scene in my mind. But I've lost it by now and it's not being recreated by rereading the notes now. I'd either have to read up on Swedish and/or Dutch folklore, which wouldn't be a bad thing. But I've got a long list of ideas I'm still excited to write about. So this one is coming off the list.

#2, X in the Style of ..., came from reading part of the Communist Manifesto in the style of Beowulf and thinking that would be a good exercise, to rewrite something famous in the style of something else from a different time period. This isn't high on the priority list, but I'll get to it eventually. Probably a flash fiction or short story length. 

#3 was, yet again, inspired by a Tumblr post. This one was about submarines: 

There is a tradition in the US Navy that no submarine is ever lost. Those that go to sea and do not return after considered to be "still on patrol."

— pipistrelle

There's definitely something ominous about that—there implication that, one day, they will RETURN from patrol.

— tharook

Space context asap

— bastlynn

There's a few places I can go with this — one, where are the subs, what are they doing? Two, what happens if they weren't wherever they've gone? Three, how have they changed since being gone? And Four, what happens if/when they come back? The idea needs more development though before I figure out which way I want to explore on this and get a guess on length.  

'Editors as author's bartenders' came from doing editing work on Red Markets combining with a scene from The Ship Who Searched (many years ago) where the bartender was also a licensed psychologist. 'Abbess Superior of the Authorial Confessional' came from talking about that editing work with a bunch of friends in a very long running group chat. Either work in my head as the setting of a short story and the vague suggestions of an outline of a plot. 

#5, super/meta-human schooling, is what happens when a bunch of geeks who are fans of a podcast that featured a campaign based on parodying the No Child Left Behind act start talking about a member's new comic book project set in a super-human high school. You end up talking about the ethics of busing non-metahumans into metahuman schools, the meta-teacher to non-meta ratio, after school mentoring programs, and the economics of the private schools snapping up the metahuman teachers on the market. This group is awesome. We frequently sidetrack ourselves into brainstorming gaming scenarios and other writing projects. I'm pretty sure there's enough her (from the teacher's perspectives) for a novella, probably a novel. I'll probably start by exploring the concept through some short stories though. For now, to the length uncertain list. 

#6, Humans as the galaxy terraformers, came from one of the 'humans are the weirdos' threads on Tumblr with the posit that humans evolved on, by galaxy standards, a death planet. And consequently get the 'terrible' planets to colonize and become the galaxy terraformers. Or front line terraforming species. I mentally took that and made the species the galaxy conservationists too. I'm thinking short story on this one. Eventually.

#7 is a quote from the Drunk & Ugly folks. I think. I should have taken notes. Whoops. 

#9 also came from the podcast fans group chat, from one of the members, who is also a writer, talking about their day job as a vet tech and how they wanted to write a story with all the snooty dog owners the encounter as the wizard and mages bringing in their familiars. I thought that sounded like an awesome story seed and shamelessly added it to my ideas list as well. Even if we start at the same core idea, we'll end up in very different places. I have to develop this character and their world more, even just inside my own head, beforeni'll have a feel for how long their story will be. 

#10. Does anyone else take a look at the pronunciation guide for words in dictionaries? One, I should learn to read those things, given how horribly I mangle pronunciation on occasion. Two, I want to rewrite a poem or something else shortish in pronunciation guide English, just to see what it would look like. Leave the grammar, sentence structure, and meaning, just do a straight up one-for-one substitution and see what comes out.

#11, vampires driven off by the Mourner's Kaddish, once again came from Tumblr, which I am beginning to maintain is the world's largest brainstorming and short writing session. Which I love about it. Seriously, read that post and tell me you don't want more in that universe.

The next one I'm going to delete. There's nothing wrong with 'rats as the psychopomp for human souls,' is just not enough for me to build a setting or story around. I'm sure it would be for others, it's just not working for me now. 

#13. Look the octopus started it, okay? In this case, that's actually true: I got the idea for writing a short mystery set in the Eclipse Phase universe based on what constitutes insurance fraud while writing the story off the writing prompt: "In my defense, the octopus started it." I mean, in a universe that canonically has sentient octopi and insurance in case of death, how could I not? 

The final and most recent idea came from a friend's assertion that if Clark Kent worked in a library, Superman's motto would be: Truth, Compassion, and Attention to Detail. As a cataloguing librarian, yes. So very much yes. So now I want to write a superhero (not Superman) who actually uses that motto.

 

And that's it for the current non-picture ideas list. Both written words and art pieces can work for me, although music and other sounds don't. Let me know in the comments how y'all keep track of your ideas and potential stories. I love swapping tools and tricks that work for other folks.   

More of the Ideas List (Part 2 of 3)

The other day, after reading over the previous post on the ideas list for typos and whatnot, Partner looked at me and said "I'm looking forward to the novel ideas." So let's try and get to at least one of those this time.  

  1. Teleporting SWAT team
  2. Invert The Fall of the House of Usher
  3. Warrior Kings 
  4. Poor Private Collins 
  5. Cellmates 
  6. Glamour for plainness 
  7. Izzy
  8. Fertility Deity
  9. Ghost rescuing 
  10. Totemic spirit animals of extinct species
  11. Ghost ship one-liners
  12. Hellocene era
  13. Locked spaceship ensemble mystery

Idea #1 came from thinking about superheroes and how I'd actually work to integrate them into society. Because maintaining the status quo is the first impulse of folks in power. And personally, I do prefer the rule of law. Anyways, my thought was, in a world with teleporters, why wouldn't you have a central dispatch to send specially trained SWAT teams (superpowered or not) in at local request. I'd route it through the FBI who already send task forces across the country. Something like the Justice League except part of the existing law enforcement I suppose. So that's a world setting to explore if/when I come up with characters and a plot. I could see this as anything from flash fiction to a novel to a series. So, onto the 'length uncertain' list.

#2 came from a couple writers on Tor.com talking about The Fall of The House of Usher about being the fridged woman in a Gothic horror story. With a psychic connection to your brother who's too busy being gothy to open the door. Sounded like a good idea so I wrote it down to take a stab at myself.

#3 came from a review of a Southeast Asian horror film review in... I think The Atlantic. The film was set at a psychiatric hospital (I think) where dead warrior kings were stealing life force from soldiers to continue fighting each other. With a set up like that, I mean how could I not want to play with the idea at some point.

Poor Private Collins came from playing a Call of Cthulhu game when Ethan, the GM, mentioned the different ways various group have played the scenario and the different results that's produced for an NPC. The idea was the NPC being aware of previous iterations of the scenario but unable to change his own behavior to affect the outcome. So he suffers through several deaths, praying for this new configuration of adventurers to finally get it right. Definitely a horror piece, the poor kid. But to write this one, I'd need to relisten to the recording of that session. And I really dislike hearing recordings of my own voice. Definitely a short story though, if I do it.

#5, Cellmates, stems from an article on how unlikely it was for complex organisms to form from simple bacteria. Which prompted the question: What if we are the only life in the galaxy that made both the leap from simple bacteria sized life to complex organisms AND into consciousness/sentience? I'd set this right as a bunch of scientists are coming to that conclusion, have them grapple with it for a bit. Make a report to some bureaucracy dealing with colonization and terraforming efforts.

#6 came out of reading Mary Robinette Kowal's Glamourist Histories series (well, the first three) and an article by a woman on what it's like getting approached all the time based on their looks. The thinking went that there would have to be at least one or two women who could cast illusions on themselves who would choose to alter her looks to avoid male attention. Which might be interesting in a Victorian comedy of manner piece. I'd aim for a short story out of the idea, but probably get a flash piece. Like I do.

Number seven, Izzy, is the one Partner's probably happiest to hear about. This reminder is a bit unusual for me in that it's just the one word and a name at that. No notes. No description. Just a nickname. And that's enough to remind me which setting I'm planning to place this novel in (PostHuman Studios' Eclipse Phase), the character (a Fall survivor stuck on Earth post apocalypse and evacuation), relationships (dead lover, dead smart-baboon companion, live smart-dog), opening scene/inciting incident, other characters (well, first draft sketches of them), and story structure/plot (travelogue/heist/adventure). Izzy's been gestating in my head for quite awhile. It's time to give her room to grow in the page. Just as soon as I finish off the current WIP, The Dangers of Fraternization.

The fertility deity idea, #8, came from Greg's backstory in our Monsterhearts campaign over on Technical Difficulties. His character's mom is a fertility deity which, combined with some friends having fertility issues, got me to start thinking about an old fertility deity in modern times and how they'd fit in. How would they feel about modern birth control? Or fertility treatments? Pretty sure this one would be short story.

The next one, ghost rescuing, came from a Tumblr post from RPPR's blog about people leaving reviews for haunted items they bought on eBay. Why are they buying these items? Are they reading the ghosts stuck to these items? Why? I'm just going to have to write this one to find out. And I don't know how long it'll take.

#10, Totemic spirit animals of extinct species, feels like an interesting seed of an idea with no supporting setting, characters, or plot. I don't know what to do with it, other than let it continue germinating and see if something else attaches to the idea to flesh it out.

I think #11 could be a lot of fun. I'd find copies of advertisements put in old newspapers announcing the sinking of sailing ships, then continue forward into the present day, the announcements getting shorter and more direct as the language style changes, and continue into the future, morphing the breadth of ships announced as lost to include submarines and container ships and finally spaceships. ... Oh dang it, I'm going to have to include the Russian cosmanauts, the Mercury fire, and Challenger. Well, that will make it harder to write a slow burn. I'll figure it out though. Short story or flash length, definitely. Too easy to wear out my welcome otherwise.

The Hellocene Era is a concept I learned about from the YouTube channel Kurzgesagt. The basic idea is that instead of counting of calendar from a religious dating perspective, we renumber the calendar based on when the archeological evidence says humans first built a temple. Which turns 2017 into 12,017. It is, once again, a seed of an idea, possibly just something to throw in the background of another story. Although, now that I'm thinking about it, I think I should pair it up with the totem spirits idea — humans are responsible for the most species-wide extinction events in recent (geologically speaking) history, so using when humans first really started altering the landscape around us as the apocalyptic marker to restart the calendar in totemic spirit society is rather appealing from a story telling perspective. I'll have to do that. Neat. 

#13, locked spaceship ensemble mystery, is just a plot, but one that combines my childhood era of too many mystery books and television shows with my ongoing love of science fiction into a locked room mystery where the locked room is a spaceship. If/when I build the setting and some characters for this plot, it should end up at novella length at minimum. I'll have to see though.

Going through the Ideas List

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:

  1. "Let's just get this out of the way," I said. "One of you idiots is likely to die."
  2. Even astronauts get the blues: or why boredom drives us nuts.
  3. How DO you break up with a demon?
  4. "The tag line of the robot apocalypse is going to be 'From you okay? I learned it from watching you.'"
  5. Your Third Wheel is Flat
  6. Witches Brew
  7. Aesthetic terrorist
  8. "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:

  1. Second contact
  2. Summoned demon baby 
  3. Time loop 
  4. Superhero rape 
  5. 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.

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?

Getting back into writing

Lately I've only been critiquing on Scribophile, trying to be a good member of one of my trading groups, and squeezing in some transcription of audio I'll need for the next big writing project. It wasn't until I sat myself down to write some backstory for my GM for one of my gaming groups that I realized how much I wanted to be putting words to electronic paper. It was also good for me in that a) I had a deadline, which always makes it easier for me to block out time and sit my butt down to just freaking do it already and b) taught me I can write a short story. Yes, that was the first time I've written something short that I felt was complete. Yay! 

So, flailing a little bit, casting around for what to talk about for this blog post, I decided to use that example, perhaps more literally than I originally intended. But the end result is that I sat down and wrote another short story, some flash fiction if you will. And yes, it's backstory for a character I'm playing in my second gaming group.

The stats:
Status: First draft. Very much so. Written in one sitting with editing and spelling correction happening as I write.
Time: Written in two hours (including the two different 15 minute breaks to play 2048 as a mind clearing move).
Word count: 881
Feelings about: Reasonably pleased. It's a pure descriptive piece, no dialog, which is unusual for me, but that's how everything was working in my mind. And I'm happy to have concentrated on description for once.

Critiques, things you would like to see added (or taken out), typos, spelling mistakes, grammar fails, what you liked and what you hated all welcomed in the comments!

Catrin rolled over and fumbled for the alarm clock on her bedside stand – no need to wake up her parents for this little chore. Especially not at 8am on a Saturday. One of the so very few times in the week she was sure she would have some privacy. She just needed to finish packing her personal things before heading off the other side of the country for college on Monday. The last of the going-away and graduation parties had been thrown months ago, at the beginning of the summer, but there had still been the chance she’d run into someone at her crummy retail job or out on the beach over the summer. With only two days until she started the cross-country trip though, it was time.

Sitting up on the edge of her bed, feet flat on the floor, Catrin rubbed her face briskly for a moment to wake up just a little more. She then grabbed the hair scrunchy on the stand and pulled her hair back into its accustomed ponytail. Standing up, she briefly debated not getting dressed but settled on a loose pair of yoga pants and a sports bra – easier to lie to Mother that she’d gotten up early for one last morning meditation that way. If it came to it. Not that Mother would approve of all her bracelets.

Looking down at the open dresser drawer, Catrin had to admit that Mother might have a bit of a point. Enough thin, single-band stainless steel charm bracelets to form a solid(ish) cuff of two inches up each of her wrists was a lot of bracelets. Slipping them on one-by-one was a bit of a pain in the ass too, but moving from just one to multiple charms per bracelet would make it harder to grab precisely the right one in an emergency. Which had been the entire point in the first place.

Finished slipping all of her bracelets on, Catrin reached in the back of the drawer and pulled out a box. It wasn’t a very interesting box to look at it, just one of those cheap colored cardboard pieces jewelry stores packed your purchases in to walk out the door with. But inside were about half of the charms which had originally come with the bracelets. She was going to need to put roughly three-fourths of those back on their bracelets.

Sitting down in the middle of her floor, in between the packed suitcases and sealed boxes, Catrin began systematically taking off all the bit-and-bobs type of sympathetic tokens she’d collected from her classmates over the past four years of high school. Once those were all off and in a small heap at her feet, Catrin examined one of the teeny-tiny test-tube charms she’d spent so many hours scouring the city for. Be a shame to loose those, but she really didn’t need the scraps of bloody tissues in them anymore.

Trying to work the first of the little corks off the charm nearly sent it flying out of her hands and across the room. Tapping the end of the tube to get the tissue out was not working either. Catrin made a moue of frustration with her lips for a second, before her face cleared and she headed off to the bathroom for the pair of tweezers in there. And the tiny bottle-brush that’d come with the box of test-tube charms.

Half an hour later, the heap of old sympathetic tokens on her floor included all the test-tube contents and all the bit-and-bobs had been replaced with some of the original charms. The cutesiest of the originals stayed in the box – Catrin figured she might need them at some point, like if some of the tubes broke. May she could drive over to that crafting store she’d found the tubes in the first time and pick up another set today.

Catrin paused at a sound from her parents’ room next door. Were they getting up already? No, must have just been turning over in bed.

Looking at the heap of tokens on her floor, Catrin bit her lip. Some of them were probably old enough to have lost their emotional significance to her former classmates. But most could still be magically useful for hexing their original owners. Wouldn’t be fair to the classmates for her to dispose of them only for some other witch to come along an use them. Seemed like a remote chance, but still. Worth the time to do things right, Catrin figured. A cleaning ritual should do it.

From the back of the bracelet drawer came her ritual blade. She did rather hope that Odin would approve of the wisdom or Loki would be amused at the trickery of a butterfly knife as her magical tool. She wasn’t worried that any of the Æsir would object to using a practical fighting knife for magic. After all, what good was a knife you couldn’t fight with?

Kneeling down, Catrin took a deep breath and centered herself. It wasn’t even nine o’clock yet. As soon as she’d cleansed the tokens of their sympathetic links and disposed of them in the trash, she’d have plenty of time to start hiding her sex toys in suitcases before her parents woke up.

Another scenario I will probably never make the time to write...

Because there are just too many ideas to ever get to all of them and writing projects float higher in the priority queue than gaming scenarios. Not because I think this idea would make a bad scenario. In fact, I have a clearer idea here than for the Giftschrank one. Aaaand I should really get to talking about the idea, than around the idea.

So I listen to quite a few podcasts, preferably ones that tell me a story in some fashion. One of these podcasts is Stuff You Missed in History Class. There are fascinating stories in history and Stuff gives me just enough to feel like I've tipped a toe into the story and could go research more if I'm interested. Or like I got a good encapsulation of the highlights of a very zoomed in story within history.

One of the episodes was on the Courrières Mining Disaster of 1906, which was this massive explosion in this enormous mining complex in France. Lots of people died but nearly a month later, a group of men emerged from the tunnels, having been trapped underground with no one looking for them for a month. They'd been in the dark, dank, claustrophobic tunnels eating only what they could find down there all that time.

Sounds like a horror scenario to me. I'm not particularly afraid of small, dark spaces, but damn if getting trapped underground for that long wouldn't induce that particular fear for me.

Things I would need to do to build this scenario:

  1. Relisten to the podcast episode, to get in the right mood
  2. Develop a list of sources, preferably translations of primary sources (they'll be in French), to do my own research
  3. Try to find a map of the Courrières Mining complex
    1. If I can't, got to draw one myself
  4. Research the state of mining at the time for good description of setting to give players
  5. Develop pregens
  6. Develop list of possible encounters for the players
    1. couple of ideas: dead horses, corpses, mushrooms, broken equipment, and cave-ins

This scenario, fairly obviously to me, belongs in the Call of Cthulhu system. That system already has the sanity mechanic and is (generally) intended for the 1920s/1930s period, so not horrendously difficult to pull back to the turn of the century. It's not a Trail of Cthulhu game because I'm not seeing a whole lot of investigation to be done, and I rather grind away at the characters/players' sanity than run a pulp-type game. It's not Delta Green because, well, it's just not. The characters aren't the folks trying to keep the mythos at bay, they're just a bunch of blue-collar folks who had the massive bad luck to be at their jobs when things exploded.

To be quite honest, I'm not sure I want to include any mythos in this one. The circumstances should be, with decent description and a little imagination, quite horrifying on their own.

To be further honest, I've never actually read any H.P.Lovecraft – everything I know about the mythos has been from cultural absorption, playing the board game Arkham Horror, and finally both listening to and playing in Call of Cthulhu/Delta Green/Trail of Cthulhu games. I'm sure there's something already in the mythos that lives underground and would be disturbed by a huge freaking explosion. And I'm sure that I could write an original monster for the players to encounter.

I'm just not sure that's the direction I want to take it. I could write it as the monster caused the explosion, but then that could diminish the horror of humans being quite good at killing ourselves through our own actions/inactions. Or I could write it as the monster has been disturbed by the mining, has been defending its territory by disappearing/killing miners who were off by themselves, and now has a large bunch of prey it knows it won't be disturbed (further) for killing - playing with the 'humans aren't the apex predators here anymore' theme.

But I think what I really want to focus on are the crazy, dangerous situations we humans habituate ourselves to, until something comes along and reminds us of why we should be scared. Whether that something is a natural disaster or a disaster of our own making. Really focus on the psychological aspects of the disaster.

Besides, if I run this for experienced CoC players, the longer they go without encountering mythos, the more they'll ratchet themselves up anticipating it.

So I recently read

a short collection of George Orwell essays titled Why I Write – do not recommend reading it. The first, titular essay is alright since it’s just Orwell writing about his view on why he write (hint, it’s all political) but the rest of the essays are a morass of unsupported assertions about England, the English, society, Fascism, etc., etc., etc. Completely unsupported, he cites no evidence. BUT. The point is that I got a story prompt out of this thing, from page 19:

“Military dictatorships exist everywhere, but there is no such thing as a naval dictatorship.”

Well, obviously I just need to write a world where that would make sense, now don't I. I’m picturing a lot of archipelagos and islands.

 

Like I don't have a notebook of ideas I'll probably never get to already.