Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Process of Elimination

With NaNo looming in the next few hours, it is time to cut down my 20 ideas. Watch as I winnow them down below the fold.
  1. Build on Protagonist #1 or #2's story from last week. I feel this is cheating, since several pages of writing are completed before November begins, so I probably won't choose this.
  2. During a storm, a luxury cruise liner begins to sink, and the survivors are rescued by unknown forces from under the ocean.
  3. Comedy, modern setting. A man learns his wife has been cheating on him and makes an unexpected new friend. I hate love stories, even love stories about broken love.
  4. Comedy/Drama, modern setting. A private detective is tapped by NASA to investigate a murder in space. Potentially fun to write, but mystery-comedies are hard to do well.
  5. Medieval High Fantasy. A young squire meets a wizard, falls in love and abandons a corrupt empire. Trite, cliche, but fun to write.
  6. Kilgore Braineater, in novel form instead of as a comic book.
  7. Fantasy space exploration. The captain and crew of a long-range exploration ship lose contact with Earth, journey home and find the planet completely devoid of life and must decide what to do next.
  8. A newspaper photographer stumbles across an arcane conspiracy and is forced to learn the truth about a series of missing persons aboard a luxury cruise liner.
  9. An amnesiac wakes up in an alleyway covered in blood with a faded journal; new entries appear as he watches, setting him off to find out what has happened to him.
  10. After a widower remarries, she finds herself haunted by the ghost of her dead husband, who claims their daughter killed him.
  11. After being kidnapped by giants, our hero makes a deal with them to recover the giants' three sacred treasures from tribes of sentient rats and birds that have infested the giants' castle.
  12. People have started going missing from the local mega-mall, and the owner has hired a psychic to help him find the source of the disturbance.
  13. A government conspiracy is attempting to cover up the details involving a small town on the border with Mexico.
  14. A team of trained paranormal special operations warfighters are deployed to an undisclosed location to thwart a supernatural threat.
  15. High fantasy: As the caves in their mountains slowly flood, a race of underground people must begin their journey to the surface and their exodus to find another, suitable home.
  16. A man rescues a dog, finds love, and learns the meaning of friendship, told from the dog's perspective.
  17. A strict, by-the-book cop, is shown up again by the department's consultant, decides to quit his life as a cop to start a band. A sort of parody/send-up to the glut of amateur sleuth genre that remains popular today.
  18. A dying girl's parents make a terrible choice to save her life, and their community suffers.
  19. On her first day on the police force, a rookie cop's trainer is killed by what seems to be a werewolf.
  20. After failing out of college, a young woman decides to pursue her dream of opening an ice cream shop.
First things first, since I feel it is against the spirit of the rules, I am removing #1 and #6, since I have done significant pre-writing and actually have complete pages/scenes scripted out for both. So, now let's start cutting out some that might be hard to actually do within a month due to research requirements. That is pretty much #14 and #4; #4 requires too much detailed spaceship knowledge and #14 too much pseudo-military/special operations type knowledge to be authentic feeling while keeping with the brisk pace of writing. I could do it on the cheap with research, but since there are still a stable of ideas, I feel safe removing them. For similar reasons, let's cut out #13; I don't feel like risking making border towns seem realistic, so that's out.

#7 could be done using pseudo-scientific jargon, but I hate when sci-fi writers do that to get out of doing their homework, so I won't do that either. For the same reason, I'm cutting #17; if our protagonist is going to be a strict, by-the-book cop, then I should know what the book says. Ditto for #19; I have no idea how a police force would react to this, so let's cut it out from the running. #2 feels like it could be made a lot better with even just a preliminary understanding of cruise liners and oceanography, things I don't have. This leaves us with 11 possible ideas.

Now that we've culled the stuff that would take too long to research, let's be realistic and cut things that I would find too hard to write convincingly and at length about. Like, anything from the point-of-view of a dog (#16.) I'm, well, not a dog. #18 seems like it should have a lot of pre-writing done (what is the deal? Who are the parents? Who offered the deal?) At least, it should have it to be done well. So, that's out too. #10 is dying to be told in first person, and I just don't think I can realistically capture the voice of a widowed woman slowly losing her sanity because of her ghost husband. It could be a great story; I'm just not equipped to tell it yet.

This leaves us with 8 stories. Let's kill redundant ideas; if I decide on high fantasy, it will be #5 or #11, so we can kill #15. #8 and #9 seem very similar thematically, and I like the more mysterious #9. That leaves:
  1. Comedy, modern setting. A man learns his wife has been cheating on him and makes an unexpected new friend. I hate love stories, even love stories about broken love.
  2. Medieval High Fantasy. A young squire meets a wizard, falls in love and abandons a corrupt empire. Trite, cliche, but fun to write.
  3. An amnesiac wakes up in an alleyway covered in blood with a faded journal; new entries appear as he watches, setting him off to find out what has happened to him.
  4. After being kidnapped by giants, our hero makes a deal with them to recover the giants' three sacred treasures from tribes of sentient rats and birds that have infested the giants' castle.
  5. People have started going missing from the local mega-mall, and the owner has hired a psychic to help him find the source of the disturbance.
  6. After failing out of college, a young woman decides to pursue her dream of opening an ice cream shop.
Now that we've winnowed out the hard to write and hard to complete stuff, we need to just latch on to what seems like it could be the most fun. Of our two remaining fantasy stories, the new #2 is called "trite," so let's X that one out. I've said time and time again that I have trouble writing comedies because, well, comedy is hard to write well. So, despite having a good idea for how to plot it out, I've decided we should cut #1 as well. That leaves us with 3, 4, 5 and 6. Let's look at each one's merits.

#3 is a good mystery with a lot of jumping off points. It could go dark or hopeful. #4 is much more in my element; it has the feeling of a fairy tale, or at least the fantastic, to it. That's an area I'm very much at home writing in. #5 has a mystery and we have some wiggle room. Maybe the psychic is real; maybe he or she is a fraud. Maybe the protagonist is the psychic, maybe it is the owner. It also doesn't require a lot of the detailed police/investigation knowledge other ones do since either of our protagonists aren't official investigators. #6 is just a weird fit. The plot is incredibly basic, and, frankly, there's not a lot there. This story is going to be character driven, and I like making characters. The protagonist in it is going to have to carry the story; as opposed to wanting to know how the other stories end, I need to get you to root for this girl. That's an interesting challenge wrapped around a pretty basic plot. If I had infinite time, or were a professional fiction writer, I'd try my hand at all four for a few days each and see which one "spoke" to me or whatever it is professional fiction writers say to the press as code for "had ideas I could actually work with" to sound artsy.

I don't have that luxury. So, now, it is decision time. Let's look back at what I've been writing recently. The Parskins story ends with the hero dead trying to avenge his raped and murdered wife; the zombie story ends with the hero killing himself to not become a zombie. Across the Gap ends on a fairly neutral note; we saved the sick kid but at a pretty steep cost as the barony is on the brink of chaos. The band of kids and the inquisitor are murdered by an evil from the deep. Yeah, you know what I'd like to write? Something not dark and depressing. Just, you know, for once. So, let's rule out #3 and #5. Even if they have nominally happy endings, there's going to be some rather low points to get there, I think.

That leaves us with our hero working for evil giants or a young woman opening an ice cream shop. The giants story has a plot structure implied by the problem, while the young woman's plight doesn't really have any sort of strong structure. I feel like I'll be lost more often with her. Plus, compared to giants and mystical heirlooms, that seems kind of pedestrian. So, it is decided. Matt's National Novel Writing Story is: "After being kidnapped by giants, our hero makes a deal with them to recover the giants' three sacred treasures from tribes of sentient rats and birds that have infested the giants' castle."

... this is now the longest post on the blog, I think.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Are you commenting? Thank you! Please be nice; I'm lazy and would hate to actually have to moderate things.