Hi, Gang. Craig here again, and I’m back on the topic of starting a story. I also want to weave in the importance of a good notebook. For reference purposes, here are the links to the previous posts. New Story and Media Res.
I get ideas all the time. Most of them are pretty worthless. Other times, I jot a line or two into my phone or iPad and store it away. These can become stories all by themselves, but more often will appear as a situation in something I’m already writing.
Occasionally, I’ll share a vignette on my own blog, and this is what happened back in November. The value goes beyond just entertaining my followers. I have a category in the sidebar called Short Stories and Vignettes. Surprise! It’s another form of notebook for me.
This little story doesn’t even have a title. It’s very short, so I’m going to post it here, then we’re going to poke it with a stick and see what we can do with it.
I’ll post it between some section breaks for clarity.
Cybernet Library Access Point……………………
General Public Profile…………………..
I stole this computer from an abandoned library. Dogs are howling down the street, so I don’t have much time.
Wind is from the west, but I can’t smell them yet. They must be east of me. I hope they’re east of me. I won’t let them get their tentacles on the baby again, I promise you that. Little Bit is fine, but she misses her mommy.
I’m going to head north, then veer west. We might make the safe zone in three days, two if we’re lucky. Whatever you do, stay in the safe zone.
The howling is getting louder. We’ve got to go. Love you.
PS: Hope they aren’t monitoring the library sy
For the original purpose the spacing, partial word at the end, and flashing light was important. If we expand this story, most of that should change.
Remember, we need a person, in a place, with a problem. I think we have that covered, but it’s a little thin. We need some tension too, and we’ve got that covered.
So what could we do with it? One of the important things is to assess what we don’t have right along with what we already have.
We don’t know who the writer of the email is. This could be a spouse, but it could be a sibling, parent, or lover. Maybe it’s a wanna-be lover. We don’t know if the writer is male or female either. At this point it could be a robot servant of some kind.
This deserves some serious consideration if we want to make this into a “real” story.
Another fun thing to consider is placement of the letter. This could actually be Sarah’s story, and we are using an epistolary style to weave two stories into each other. Maybe she’s already left the safe zone, and is tracking her lover’s progress via these emails in an attempt to find them. As authors we could open every other chapter with a new email. This would be a great way to build tension. The writer has Sarah’s baby, and she’s worried. As the letters get more intense, the tension builds to the breaking point.
If we go down this path, there is an added bonus of keeping the lovers apart. This builds tension for the reader, and makes them happy when they finally reunite.
If we were to write Sarah’s story, we need to drop the cheesy parts about logging into the Library System, because she wouldn’t experience that.
Might be fun to turn the whole thing on its head and have some of the words in the email be code. This could be the story of the resistance leading the invaders into a trap. They know the aliens are monitoring the emails. Maybe Little Bit is actually a bomb of some kind and not an actual child. Maybe Sarah invented the bomb, and the writer of the letter is on a suicide mission to get it into the heart of the invaders’ territory. Sarah has to set it off remotely, killing the person who delivered it. Talk about tension.
The added bonus in this version is the twist. I love a good twist, and think most readers do. Don’t give up the secret code too soon. Give the reader a chance to decipher it themselves.
We talked about Media Res in a previous post, and you could certainly use it here. Open the story with this vignette, then walk our readers back and tell the story of how we got here.
We placed some foundation stones, but we haven’t completely settled on a genre either. While this screams science fiction, it could be urban fantasy pretty easily. Tentacled monsters could have a paranormal background. This could also be romance or horror with a background of science fiction… or paranormal.
This is the kind of thought process one author goes through; me. I think it’s a fair process. It’s also important to have bad ideas too. This prevents us from going with the first thing that comes to mind and helps us avoid what I call Low Hanging Fruit.
Bad Idea Example: A director yells, “Cut.” The whole thing is a movie set and we’re going to tell a completely different kind of story.
That will piss off a bunch of readers, but it’s nice to think about this stuff before we start writing. I read somewhere once that in order to have a good idea, you have to have a lot of bad ones.
What do you guys do to start a new story? Mine rarely come fully fledged. I jot down a cool name and save it for years. I awaken in the morning, and make a note or two. Sometimes I write a vignette. My morning commute helps me flesh out the worthy ones. This is where I poke and prod it to death or into something better.
Tell me about your process.