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Future Story Ideas . . . At Least, That’s What It Was Supposed To Be About

Posted by Shannon Haddock on January 18, 2017 in Rants, Writing process |

Welcome to a new, (supposedly) regular feature of this blog where I go through a list of some “things for writers to blog about”.  Sometimes I will, amazingly enough, actually be blogging about whatever the suggested topic is instead of snarking about it!

Today is not one of those days, however.

Today’s topic — as the title suggests — is “story ideas I hope to tackle in the future.”

I will go ahead and share these ideas, as I have them recorded, so you can see how utterly useless this is as a blog topic for me:

  • Kenodori ninja killing one of the Theocratic States of America’s theocrats.
  • Vague thingy from listening to “Hairtrigger Colt 45” by Chris LeDoux.  Try listening to it when wider awake maybe.
  • Jar with 10,000 year old souls in it.
  • Short about Kay
  • Barely adult Ilzwokie assassin
  • Fantasy travelogue
  • (This and the next one aren’t actually recorded anywhere, but this is all I know about them, so same concept)  Fairy urban fantasy thingy inspired somewhat by that dream with the purple winged fairy and the way Mount Greylock looks on snowy nights.
  • Superhero thing that might be combined with above

So, does that help anybody decide “Oh, wow!  I’ve got to follow this blog.  This author has some cool ideas!”?

I didn’t think so.  Supposedly, listing ideas I want to develop someday would do that.  I can’t help but feel that this works so very much better for authors who start with ideas like “a story exploring what it means to be human” or “a story about racism, using alien felines as a metaphor” or other stuff like that that is completely alien to the way my brain works.

You see, some authors — and I’ve found more than one insisting this is the way we all work, which pisses me off immeasurably — start with some big idea, like the meaning of being human or racism in modern America using felinoids as a metaphor or whatever (I totally made this up, but it really wouldn’t surprise me if someone has written it.), then create a setting to support the way they want to explore the idea, and then create characters to tell the story.

First, I don’t deal in big thematic ideas.  A couple keep finding their way into my work, but those are definitely not my starting point when I sit down to write.  I get either full paragraphs, sometimes full scenes, that demand my immediate attention because they’ve so taken over my brain that I can’t do other things fully formed in my head or I get very vague things like the list above.  (It doesn’t have any of the paragraph examples, by the way, because the most recent of those is already short story length and they haven’t even left the planet yet.)  In either case, I record what I’ve got and either my brain keeps going so I end up writing the first chunk of the story already or I’ve got nothing else.  If I have nothing else, I read over what I’ve got a few times to make sure I really don’t have anything else, then let it sit there until someday, hopefully, I’ll think of more.  I start writing when I’ve got about half a scene in mind because I’ve found forcing things before that doesn’t work for me.

Second, while I adore worldbuilding, I can’t do it in a vacuum.  Setting, plot, theme (if I’m bothering with thinking about it), characters . . . for me these all interconnect and grow from each other.  This is why I snark so much about character questionnaires and have similar opinions on worldbuilding ones (and because worldbuilding ones all have religion questions that are far too Abrahamic-religion focused . . . polytheism is not multiple-choice monotheism in most cases, guys, nor is the main focus of many religions where you go when you die!).  Before I can answer what my character’s favorite snack food is, I have to know what snack foods exist.

And, finally, when reading a story, I can almost always tell when characters were created to serve the plot and theme instead of being people in a situation.  They, no matter how many of those fucking questionnaires the author filled out, no matter how much the author knows about their goals and motivations and what’s in their refrigerators, always seem to be lacking real depth.

And I think this discussion of my process and how it differs from what I’m “supposed” to do was far more interesting than a list of ideas that I may or may not ever get around to writing.  That said, if you are interested in any of those ideas, feel free to tell me so.  Or if you’re interested in what inspired them . . . for at least one of them I have an actual, non-sarcastic, answer!

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