Even though I currently have two full works-in-progress running through my head, my evil brain decided at 4am this past Thursday morning (hi, Kate!) to come up with a completely new plot bunny. The good news is that this potential plot develops rather organically from the stories I’ve been writing these last few years, so I think I’m in a better place now to tackle some of the issues to be presented therein than I would have been even a year or two ago. The bad news, of course, is that I don’t need a new story to write right now.
I’ve had persistent plot bunnies hijack my waking brain before. Usually, writing down the one or two integral scenes in my head allows me to move on. This happened most recently with that bit of Pacific Rim side character story I had. But, this new one is more elaborate than a single scene. It’s grown from a place of inner turmoil and dissatisfaction, one that would take more than a few thousand words to satisfy the nagging in my head and guts.
I keep thinking the stories and characters to have come before each new story are simply leading me to The Story of my writerly life…which each successive story still fails to be. Too long, too complicated, too much sex, not enough action – there’s a slew of reasons why my inner critic and editor always decides any particular story is not The Story I’m meant to share with the world…if there even is such a thing, for me. I write and share those stories anyway, of course, because I can’t not write, and I feel like a story not shared is hardly a story at all. But, how am I supposed to know where to put my efforts? Just keep moving forward, absorbing and learning and creating as I go? Should I just give up on The Story and write the lesser stories that come into my head but still manage (somehow, folks surely wonder) to bring me joy?
For anyone interested, below is the plot idea I had, the story’s working title being the title of this post. I guess I’m curious to know from any of you if the idea is worth pursuing…though, I’m pretty sure it will get written no matter what anyone says, if I decide so. Because I’ve been in an FTW sort of mood when it comes to my writing, lately. 😉
Marshall Wright has the perfect uncomplicated life. He loves his days as a paramedic pilot and even more his nights of bachelor autonomy. No clamoring kids, no ball-and-chain, not even a nagging girlfriend to make him stop drinking milk from the carton and leaving the toilet seat up. No one to help him finish off that opened bottle of Shiraz, either, but that’s all right. His freedom isn’t worth the cost of a woman’s saved mobile number, not when there are so many beautiful women to be had.
Civil rights attorney Sasha Price should have been just another beauty to share his bed one night. But, oh! That night! Marshall can’t stop thinking about that night, about the woman who gave as well as she got, enough to make his head spin.
He looks for her again, back at the bar where they met. That one night leads to two, three, four, and more, full of wine and roses. His friends think Sasha may be the one to get Marshall to move on from his swinging bachelor ways. Marshall even starts to think so, too, when the woman of his dreams drops a bomb he never could have suspected.
A girlfriend is complication enough in Marshall’s life. The secret of Sasha Price’s past adds a whole new set of ingredients to the mix.
…But, damn. She might just be worth it.
(This is also a first attempt at me writing a synopsis. I don’t know if it gives away too much of the “plot” in these few paragraphs, and it’s a bit too long to satisfy most submission rules (232 words). The story itself has less to do with the “surprise” than it does with the ramifications of the protagonist learning it. Though, I do wonder whether I should make that particular hurdle known in the synopsis, so readers would know what sort of story they’re in for.)
I won’t put you on the spot about this idea or the synopsis itself, so how about this question: how do you decide on which story you should concentrate, when you’ve got more than one (or two, or three!) fighting for your attention?
So, as some folks know, I’m writing this sci-fi western story based on a videogame universe. Blah blah blah, I know, it’s fan fiction and not real writing, whatever. I’m still having a blast with it, and just one of the reasons why is it’s given me a new perspective on some old characters.
For those who read “Anywhere but Here,” my 2012 NaNoWriMo project: Remember Tych and Imien? They were the pilot and the cypher, the secondary runaway characters following the two mains in the teenager half of the story. (Don’t worry if that’s confusing. It’s not important for this post.) Anyway, I came to a point in my current story, “From Hell,” where I needed a getaway ship. At first, I’d planned to model the ship’s captain on the character VT from the seventh session (episode) of the anime Cowboy Bebop, “Heavy Metal Queen.”
– screen capture: “Cowboy Bebop” –
If you’ve any interest in anime, sci-fi bounty hunter stories, or jazz music, check out Bebop. But, again, not important to this post.
In playing around with the different interaction scenarios between the main characters of “From Hell” and the ship’s captain, I realized the ship couldn’t have just one crew member. So, I developed a daughter for Janus (that was going to be the captain’s name). On the story went, but neither Janus nor the daughter character really took hold with me. The daughter, by the way, never even got far enough in my thought process to get a name. That should tell you something about how well that subplot was going.
One afternoon, I was sitting at my writing desk working on designs for the ship. (That went through a few permutations, too.) I stumbled across an old sketch I’d made of the Ridout, the smuggler’s ship from “Anywhere but Here.” Never one to pass up the opportunity to save the world from my terrible vehicle sketches, I considered my work on the new ship done. And, quite suddenly, it hit me.
I already had a smuggler crew, all ready to go, fleshed out and everything. Enter Tych and Imien…or, as I renamed them, Twitch and Ivory. I’d always liked the Tych and Imien characters, but their personal stories never got any deep attention in “Anywhere but Here,” focused as the story had been on the more major plight of four teenagers on the run from the galactic government. Bringing them into “From Hell” offered me a chance to examine their personalities in a more acute light. Plus, their own conflict, such as it is, relates well to that of the main characters…who are also on the run, now that I think about it, but that’s a thought for another time.
Of course, Tych and Imien had to go through some changes to make the jump from one universe to the other, but I couldn’t believe how stupid I’d been not to consider reusing these characters before! I’d borrowed pieces of other characters to create new ones before – I think every writer does that, at least at a subconscious level. For instance, the second principal character in “From Hell” – Hal, Axton’s engineer partner – developed from a mishmash of Amber from Fearless (cultured and sensitive, but also an elitist snob), and the Brock and Captain Aral characters from “Anywhere but Here” (sharp, loyal, a know-it-all techie, but afraid to pull a trigger). In turn, those characters developed from ones to come before them. I could draw up a whole family tree of where my characters come from…but it would probably be as confusing as the Baratheon/Lannister line of heirs!
I had to bring this up because I’m just having so much darn fun writing this story, and I wanted to share some of my excitement. I’ll go back to more serious stuff next time. Maybe.
Do you recycle characters?
(Mostly recycling from Tumblr again, because, after a long week spent helping care for my dad, who’s still going through chemo, I just don’t have the energy to put forth a completely new post.)
In a recent post over at Kourtney Heintz’s Journal, Kourtney brought up the idea of which actor might play which character from her book, Six Train to Wisconsin. While this is different from the idea of who or what may inspire a character, it did make me realize that many of the characters – notably the female ones – from my most recent story were actually based on specific looks and performances.
In “From Hell,” the main character’s appearance has already been determined for the reader, because he’s a borrowed likeness:
-Axton, the Commando from “Borderlands 2”-
The story may be about Axton, but there’s a slew of women in the supporting cast whom I’ve just adored writing. Among them:
Cin, the charming and sensuous madam who runs the brothel “Cin’s Deadly Seven,” and who was based on gorgeous Adrienne Barbeau’s Ruthie from “Carnivale,” complete with slithering snake tattoos;
-Carnivale publicity photo-
Red Widow, the cunning, discerning, and dangerous grifter who gives Axton a full-on run for his money in the sexuality and profanity departments (inspired by Gail Potocki’s beautiful and intimidating art below);
-by Gail Potocki: “Femme Fatale” Cella Gallery show press image-
Marshal Kotonou, who wears a duster and wields a shotgun as well as any man, for protection of her borderworld town (and to whom I’ve attempted to give a nod of attitude and beauty to Gina Torres’s Zoe from “Firefly);
-“Firefly” publicity photo-
Lucy, the practical and sassy prostitute who has better insight into the main character’s head than he does, himself (based on the luscious Patricia Arquette’s portrayal of Sally Wheet in “Boardwalk Empire”);
-screen capture: “Boardwalk Empire”-
and Sarah, the main character’s ex-wife from his military days, who provides some telling background about why he is the way he is (inspired by the many roles of lovely singer/actress Ana Brenda Contreras).
Oh! And, of course, Gaige
, the girl who starts the whole story rolling (head on over to Contagious Media
for the full photoshoot)…
-Gaige cosplay by ContagiousMedia-
Stories about men tend to focus on just the men. Especially in the Western genre, where supporting women can fall into pretty predictable (and often hackneyed) categories. The women Axton encounters throughout the story might exist within those same categories, but I hope I’ve added some new dimensions to a few of them. They’re just so much more fun to write, that way. Hopefully, readers are enjoying the women in this story, too. Because, really, what’s a man without a good woman, whether she’s there to screw, fight, or be his conscience?
From where do you get your character inspirations? If you could cast anyone as one of your main characters, who would it be?
So, forgive me if this goes astray…
Last night, I dreamed a man. Athletic, Nordic: tall, blond, squared, chiseled features. Scruffy for his faint stubble. Not overly muscled, but built to last. Also, soused to the gills, blue eyes swimming behind alcohol contacts.
He pushes me.
I push back.
Grabbing the top of his popped beer, the frothy foam spilling between my fingers, I tell him, “You do that again, I will hit you. And it will hurt.”
The soporific cloud blurring his eyes turns clear.
He says nothing, just shifts away.
We meet again later, his gaze and expression fresh, now, no longer the sloppy drunk. I don’t remember what we say, only that he sort-of smiles. One sharp eyetooth stands crooked from the rest. Watching it poke a dent into his lower lip, I smile, too.
Night. Maybe that same day, maybe days later. I’m sorting socks, of all things: knee-highed stripes, brown footies, patterned thigh-highs. I’m thinking, Which ones would he like? when I’m called to hold the camera. Why no one else can figure out how to frame a shot for a stage performance, I don’t know.
I look into the monitor, set the shot, lock the camera. A man sits down, right in my line of view.
Blond. Scruffy. Built.
“Glad you could make it,” I say.
He tilts his head back and laughs, showing off that adorable crooked tooth. As though he knows that’s what will make me melt. He looks at me, blue eyes bright. And magnified a little, behind narrow-framed, horn rimmed glasses.
Be still, beating heart. But don’t let on:
“Now, get out of my shot.”
He laughs again, shifting out the way.
I’m not looking at the camera window any more.
Most of my dreams don’t translate well to story format, but this one did. Those of you who follow my Tumblr or that Friendface thing have seen this bit of free writing already, but, since it’s the only thing I’ve written recently that isn’t deeply mired in novel or fandom continuity, I thought it was worth a little space, here.
“Joseph dreams of wheat”
Owen Jones [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Do you write down your dreams? Do you ever find they make their way into your stories?
It was such a pleasure to sit next to you on my flight from Memphis to Washington, DC. I’m certain none of us expected to have had our 6:00 A.M. flight rescheduled to 8:45 A.M. Nor did any of us expect to have to sit on the tarmac at Reagan National, waiting for a bus to take us to the terminal. But, I’ve absolutely never had the enjoyable experience of sitting beside a heretofore complete stranger who would, as it turned out, share my passion for writing fiction.
As I said during those two hours, I have a deep and unbreakable love for my family and friends…but none of them truly understand what it’s like to look up and see a piece of sky or to slow down beside an overheard conversation and have a lightning bolt of inspiration strike. These moments occur unexpectedly, and at often inopportune times. That’s why we carry that always-handy notebook, and praise the noise-canceling feature on our Bose headphones.
It’s also why I hope you find the success in your story of the little boy, his Elvis hero, and the Moon over Memphis, the same way I hope to find my own success in my story of those two young lovers arguing on a West Country beach.
Even if you never read this, and we never cross paths again, I wish you a safe, happy journey full of the same love and support you feel now, and more. Your brief interaction made me remember why I do what I do, and why I love it so.
All the best from a fellow traveler,