Story ideas I had today that I’ll probably never get around to writing

An experiment gone awry sends a man back in time. He must live hidden away from the world lest he alter time an prevent his own birth. He risks everything to save a woman lost to history. A woman forgotten by history and no legacy, but someone he comes to love. Their very lives threaten his existence – can they find love?

A scientist builds a robot capable of love…. but does it love too much?

Dammit, scooped again

Dammit, scooped again

A woman with a terminal illness is put to into medically induced coma, never expecting to wake up. Thousands of years later she is awakened from cryogenic sleep into a culture where death hasn’t just been defeated – it’s illegal.

A scientist creates a robot capable of farting… but does it fart too much?

A young man without any ambition in life accidentally achieves nirvana. But maybe that’s not what he wants either (Just kidding. I wrote that story. It’s in my collection VISOLTH: A GIRL AND HER ELDER GOD)

A bunch of interesting ideas without a good writer to back them up

A bunch of interesting ideas without a good writer to back them up

A group of retired law enforcement, lawyers, and hobbyists have meetings in coffeehouses, exchange emails, and trade information about old, unsolved murders. Until one of the pensioners is killed. Which armchair investigation got him killed? Only Peg Fleming, retired columnist, can find out.

Maybe I’ll get around to writing full manuscripts for these. I’m especially proud of the robot ones. Those have legs.

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Sequels Pt. 1

You know what’s the worst? Sequels and trilogies. I’m so sick of them. I remember a time when you could pick up a book at the library, read it, and finish it. As in, the story was over when you ran out of pages. Now EVERYTHING is a series. And you don’t even get a resolution worth diddly.

This book is such a beat-down I couldn't even try

Such a beat-down I didn’t even try sequels “Medium Women” or “Venti Women”

Here’s a scenario I frequently: I’m reading a book and really enjoying it. But a sense of dread is building: I’m three quarters done. And I don’t think I’m close to the end. There’s no way the author could create a satisfying conclusion in the last quarter. I only just met the love interest, like, three chapters ago. Now I’m fifty pages from the end. Forty. Oh, shit, I’m holding the last pages in my fingers and my thumb is practically touching my index finger. There’s nothing leftandIwantaresolutionand

Coming soon: the thrilling filler book in the trilogy!

Damn it! Come ON. All you had to do was shoot the badguy in the face and everyone could have had a happy ending. Except for the badguy.

Look, I liked your characters enough to read ONE book. The law of diminishing returns says that the longer you draw this out, the more the author becomes the antagonist.

This comes down to audience expectations and what publishers want.

Sellingout.jpg

Nice cash grab, Tolkein. Way to sell out.

Audiences right now expect for there to be a Harry Potter and the Next Class Year. Hunger Games established in YA dystopian novels the could-have-been-one-book-but-ok-let’s-deal-with-the-whole-systemic-problem trilogy model, I think.

Don’t get me wrong. There were already series out there. I grew up on wanting the next Animorph book or Nancy Drew or whatever. But no one read The Hardy Boys and the Secret of the Old Mill, got the end, and thought “I can’t wait to find out if Tom Hardy and his brother Tanya Harding survive in the next book!”

If Tolstroy wrote today, there'd be War and Peace 2: Dawn of Rising Unrest and War and P3ace

If Tolstroy wrote today, there’d be War and Peace 2: Dawn of Rising Unrest and War and P3ace

So I’m forced to ask at the end of a lengthy post: what happened to concision, people? Must I skim through a middle book that amounts to little more than “Screw Flanders” repeated over and over?

All that said, I’d love to have the royalties from a trilogy. Do as I say, not as I do, people.

The Mary Sue

A Mary Sue character, for those unfamiliar, is an idealized character in a story. It’s often a stand-in for who the author wishes himself/herself to to be. And importantly, real consequences don’t really apply to them.

CONSEQUENCES

Writers and critics alike tend to look down upon the Mary Sue, and for good reasons. The MS is all about wish fulfillment. Who doesn’t want to imagine themselves as The One, that person that’s special? The unique fella who discovers he’s actually a lost prince, or has a secret superpower?

Sue. Mary Sue.

Sue. Mary Sue.

Hell, I’m no different.

Any day now I expect an attractive young person to approach me and say, “This Starbucks was actually built as a test to see who could idle their time in the most ineffective manner possible. You’ve passed that test, and are therefore the Last Starfighter And Supreme Makeout Artist.”

So is wish fulfillment inherently bad? Well, no, not when it’s done right. For example, Harry Potter is the Boy Who Lived. “The Boy Who Lived”… they practically nickname him “The Mary Sue.” But they’re wonderful, beloved books.

Contrarily, why does the ancient, beautiful vampire desire the bland Mary Sue? Just ’cause. It’s inexplicable and there’s no ‘cost,’ for lack of a better word.

Why is Harry Potter different? Because his parents died. And magic. And it’s as much a curse as a blessing. And REASONS. Hell, Harry even asks “Why me?” and gets unpleasant answers all the time.

Picture: Neo

Picture: Neo

Harry’s still a Mary Sue, but a darned good one in a darned good series.

RELATABILITY

The other complaint is that the character isn’t relatable. I have less of a problem with this, mostly for reasons you can find here and here. Often, people who say they want “relatable” really mean they want to read reflections of their own flaws and the conflicts they face. Pain, more often than not.

Personally, I’d rather read about the Mary Sue. But moving on…

OUT OF CONTROL CHALLENGES

There’s another problem with the Mary Sue. One for the author, rather than the audience. The problem of out-of-control ramping goals.

With each successive… success, the writer has to find a new challenge for our walking deus ex machina. “Well, he saved the city by discovering he could fly at the end of the last book. What power does he need to suddenly have at the end of this book to make it fun?” And the challenge has to be bigger and bigger with every story.

Example: I LOVE the Mass Effect games. The story is about the very first human to join an elite space police-force.

Next up: Balancing the checkbook!

Next up: Balancing the checkbook!

In the first game you have to save the citadel, the galatic hub of civilations. By the last game, you’re tasked with saving the entire galaxy.

Now there’s talk of a sequel.

About what, exactly? Saving the galaxy again? The universe? You blew your load a little early, Bioware.

Personally, I love me a good Mary Sue story. But unless you’ve considered the consequences, your story is going to be considered fluff by some people.

Give your protagonist consequences, some relatable characteristics, and if you’re planning on continuing the adventure, don’t write yourself in a corner.

 

Make Your Hero a Bastard

This isn’t so much a post about improving your writing as much as something to think about. It’s about your good guy and how he fights.

The instinct for many of us is to put our hero in the white hat. He prefers a stand-up fight. He’s fair, giving the antagonist a chance. That’s what makes him the hero and it’s what the audience loves about him, right?

Turns out, not so much.

It may be obvious to some, but audiences today in particular like the antihero. Hence the popularity of characters like Artemis Fowl, the Dragon in the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, semi-reluctant-hero Wolverine, and any former-cop-who-plays-too-loose-with-the-rules.

Funny thing is, we love when our heroes fight dirty.

Author Lee Child often has his character Jack Reacher describe himself in simple terms. He’s big. Really big. Like six-five and built like a truck. Not the smartest guy, but very well trained as an investigator and fighter. And big.

Uh, close enough?

Uh, close enough?

He runs into a lot of badguys. And when he does, he doesn’t give them a fair fight. If he knows a fight is going to happen before the other guy does, he ends it. It’s pretty awesome.

There’s nothing wrong with below-the-belt blows when the guy getting tagged is a pedophile terrorist woman-abusing Nazi.

When the badguy tosses sand in our heroine’s eyes, it’s a dirty trick. And it makes it better when the heroine wins by remembering how sensei made her train in a blindfold.

But when she tosses sand in the badguy’s eyes and eviscerates the antagonist right in the middle of his pompous ‘I-have-you-now’ speech?

Oooo…. that just kicks ass.

Worldbuilding: The Proxy Audience

I read and write fiction in fantastic worlds with their own unique rules.

As writers, we need more than just a pretty, unique setting. Story is god (and in this case, demigod). But alot of the time, the story and the world can’t exist without each other.

We can’t just start a story with “Here’s the world. Here are the rules. Here’s the glossary you’ll need. Got everything? Okay. Now here’s why you should care about the setting, starting in chapter 2.”

So how do you do all that and tell the story at the same time? Well, often, we use a PROXY AUDIENCE.

What is the proxy audience? Here’s an example.

Pictured: The Audience Proxy

Pictured: The Proxy Audience

The Star Wars universe has countless aliens, republics, rebellions, and space-wizards. Our hero, Luke Skywalker, will become one (a space wizard, not a republic).

Star Wars: A New Hope uses two great methods for world-building. First, it just lets characters live in their universe and the audience picks it up through osmosis. Galactic denizens buy secondhand robots from tiny sand-people? Okay. Aliens are as scummy as humans and they hang out in filthy cantinas? Sure, why not?

But for the story to progress further we need to know the RULES of space-wizards. So to do that, Luke doesn’t know jack shit about them. Having an ignorant character is method number two.

Everything about space-wizards has to be explained to Luke. He has misconceptions about the rebellion so Han Solo can disillusion him.

Luke Skywalker is the stand-in, or PROXY, for the audience.

When Obi Wan tells Luke that the force is an “Energy Field created by all living things blah blah,” He’s really saying that to the audience. Remember, the writer could have had Luke just already know this.

So remember, the easiest way to create a world with new rules is just to write in an idiot.

Harry Potter didn’t know what british-wizards were, so they held his hand along the way.

Neo didn’t know what techno-wizards were, so Morpheus gave him a tour.

And Ryan Gosling didn’t know what notebook-wizards were until Rachael Mcadams sent him to notebook school.

I think. I didn't actually read this one

I think. I didn’t actually read this one

And it doesn’t have to be your main character. Your sidekick leans over your main character’s shoulder and says, “What are you doing?”

BAM, there’s your chance to explain that Barney the Dinosaur was a serial murderer in your universe and why it’s important to the story.

Whether or not it’s mentioned, that’s true in all of my stories.

Good vs Fun (Stories I Care About Pt. 2)

I love things that I enjoy.

Some things that are good are not always enjoyable.

Lemme give examples from movies. I’ll pick on Spielberg. Schindler’s List is a good movie. So is Saving Private Ryan. ‘Good’ may be understating it a bit.

However, I can’t really ENJOY these movies. They’re a beat-down, emotionally. God, that moment where Mr. List is talking about he could have saved a few more… I cry like a little non-gender-specific girl.

I can’t watch these movies more than once. I know they’re GOOD, I just can’t ENJOY them. I know quality when I see it, usually. Doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Probably a great book. I refuse to find out.

 

 

But Jurassic Parque and the Indiana Jones trilogy? Those are good AND fun. I can watch those, love those, base romantic relationships around those, et cetera.

So the ideal stories are good and fun. But the latter is more important to me than the former.

Some examples of good stories I dislike:

  • The Dark Knight
  • Anything by Neil Gaiman
  • The Name of the Wind (But I enjoyed Wise Man’s Fears)
  • Most scif/fantasy by Stephen King (Most recently 11/22/1963 – The poor man does not know how to end a book)
  • Minority Report

Some examples of flawed stories I like alot:

  • Pacific Rim
  • The Harry Potter books (I’m probably not going to hurt her readership by calling her stories flawed)
  • Most movies starring Will Smith
  • Books by Dean Koontz where the villain is a monster and not a human/pedophile
  • Pirates of the Caribbean (it has a zombie pirate monkey! This might require a new category)
  • The stuff that I write.

Coming soon: Write conflict on every page. But for the love of god, stop doing it by adding unnecessary asshole characters (I’m looking at you, The Walking Dead)

What’s 2nd Chair Kazooist about?

About a year ago (early 2013), some nasty life stuff happened to me and those close to me. At that point I started writing a book, something I’d always wanted to do. Not about me, mind you. I’ve lived my life, I don’t need to rehash it in words. My ideas are more fun than regular life.

Stories about a guy trying to sell his soul to the devil with a coupon. Or a young man who accidentally achieves nirvana, but decides maybe it isn’t really for him. Or a homicide detective in a land of magic.

While I learn how to write – A process I’ll probably talk about here and there on this blog – I’m also turning into a storytelling geek. A self-styled aficionado of how to craft ideas into narrative.

This, it turned out, was a HUGE mistake.

Copyright-free imagery. Yes, I DO have that!

I can’t just read a book or watch a movie now. I have to mentally bullet-point their strengths and failings. This is bad enough for movies I dislike. Everyone likes to tear apart hated movies, authors, or creatives.

But now I can’t even safely enjoy the stuff I love. I pick it apart.

SO HERE’S WHAT THIS IS ABOUT:

Eleventy12 is a release valve for the stuff I think. Heavily censored, of course. I don’t want anyone going blind.

I’ll review stuff, probably favoring the stuff I like. Because as much of a cancerous whipping-boy as Michael Bay is on storytelling, I’d still love for him to make a movie out of my stories. Because I want his money more than I dislike his movies.

And I’ll just post the dross that enters my head in general. You know, like every other blogger.

-2ndChrKzooist