ymmv .12 – #366stories
I made a New Year’s Resolution.
I’m writing a story idea a day down and putting it into this notebook. It’s my #366stories notebook.
The aim of the game is just to get my mind spinning. It should also – conceivably – just be a little thing every day. I couldn’t guarantee that I’d be in a place to write a page of script a day, and there are other fun resolution activities that are ace but I didn’t think I’d have the time [you can scope them out here – LINK]. I wanted something quick and dirty to do and I found it, boy did I find it.
The ideas don’t have to be fully formed, they don’t have to be mega-detailed, they don’t even have to be good. C’mon, I’m going to do 366 of them, many of them will be insanely terrible, the kind of thing to make you weep in the night.
But if even a dozen are good, one a month, then that’s a win. Though this isn’t about actually coming up with great ideas in the 366 mix, this is about getting my brain to do something else, do something new. And it’s working.
A lot of the writing process can be quantified, to some degree, and there are tips and tricks to make good stories/comics but that initial spark, the totally unfathomable Promethean Heist that we pull to craft that idea, well, it’s wild Nordic alchemy in my eyes, so of course I wanted to study it a little.
In the past, ideas come at wild times, and there are droughts, and I feel I suffer at the whims of chance [because, duh, of course we do]. If I think over past projects and there their ideas initiate from, well, it’s a wild bunch:
FATHERHOOD – came from a phone convo with my brother about a short film competition prompt and I ran with it
HEADSPACE – actually started because I was thinking about the way 18th century England had so many incarcerated people that they started putting them on hulks in the Thames [hulks were these decommissioned and stationary ships]. It made me wonder if in the future, with similar incarceration problems facing our penal system, could we look to shrinking prisoners and housing them inside the bodies of other prisoners, or even just regular people. It would have been CAGED HEAT meets INNER SPACE.
NEGATIVE SPACE – it all started with that opening page, what happens when a writer get writer’s block on his suicide note?
These ideas always came out of nowhere and they all obviously needed a lot of massaging, but it’s a lonely wait something to see when the good stuff comes through. This is why i wanted to manufacture the process a little this year, study it, and see what data I could take from 2016 into the wilderness of my future.
I have found, just in this short time, that I’m actively analysing the world around me to see what I can find. And it’s interesting to see where the ideas then come from. I’m enjoying how much it has opened my vision, and how much fun it is.
Remember, if I want, I can just dump a high concept mash up and call it a night [Alvin and the Chipmunks Noir is being saved for the lowliest of nights] but sometimes you pull the thread and you take the whole sweater vest. There’s a few cool ideas in the mix, some things to massage, and I’m becoming fascinated by when and why my ideas come to me.
To give a little rundown on what this whole malarkey is doing, here are the first ideas I wrote down [very loosely] and what’s going on with them.
001 – Space Truckers Haul a God
I got this idea while driving home after two weeks on the road visiting family over xmas/NYE. I overtook a truck, I looked up at it, the idea kinda morphed into view. I ended up coming up with a pretty detailed cast of characters and what they all wanted and loosely how this would play out. I could see this as a mini, it goes just about deep enough.
A detailed idea, but probably not a great one. Anyway, off to a decent start, or at least off to a start.
002 – The Weather Machine
Super short, and no doubt lame, idea. Somewhere between The Monkey’s Claw and The Box but with a weather machine. Think I was looking at the back of my Jack Davis Artist’s Edition when this popped into view. Ugh. This idea has no length because it’s an idea not a story, and will remain that way.
Nuke this one from orbit, it’s the only way to be sure.
003 – Female Fantomas on a Spaceship
This started as me moving my Diabolik trade on my shelf and then pondering the possibilities. But then, and this surprised me and was kinda cool, the idea totally veered away from this, admittedly lazy/boring, high concept and became a one-shot idea about fate. It really ran away as I wrote the notes down and now I kinda wanna write this one. Kinda rad.
004 – Cape Parenting Project
There was a comment in a conversation, and my brain branched off and made this one scene too quickly for me to stop it — A guy walks out from the delivery suite and he is asked if he is a father and he says yes. And he is also a widower. I figured his face remained flat for the whole thing.
From there, I wondered what would make a single parenting story different from the many others – well, this girl has superpowers, like her mother – and I’ll admit, this is instantly where I tuned out of the idea as being anything useful. I dig cape comics, even some creator owned ones, but it’s not an area I want to pitch into. It just seems so fraught with dead ends.
But this is a game, so I broke the story quickly anyway and I at first came up with the cute idea of the father becoming a proxy ‘secret nemesis’ for his daughter in order to train her. And I wrote that down and thought it was superlame but could work in that ‘aw, shucks’ way but then I instantly thought of another way – and this is story breaking, it’s spitballing, I’m allowing myself to offer forks in the road for these things.
I thought about how parenting is hard, and the last thing you want is to become engaged in a really destructive relationship with anyone in your immediate family, but imagine raising a teenage girl with superpowers on your own and it’s going bad? Man, that would be a very uncool situation in which to find yourself.
So I came up with the idea of the father actually becoming her nemesis, and once they fracture, he starts to double down on his own hate, that he blames her for killing his wife, that he blames her for ruining the rest of his life as he had to dedicate it to her. So he’s not exactly the hero either. It’d be this operatic family drama, and I’d want it to go really dark.
This is still an idea, so I wouldn’t presume length, but what I got from this one is that you can start with something and then there can be two ways to go – two wildly different ways – so you shouldn’t always settle with the first path you see just because it looks clear and easy to traverse. You should always explore with some questions, even if they do go nowhere.
005 – Mental Hospital Heist
My wife works in mental health. She was talking about a completely gonzo patient visit she had to do [not great detail, but a few broad strokes] and it got me thinking about mental hospitals, and that they’d be an awesome place for an action flick, and then I wondered if ‘DIE HARD in a mental hospital’ would work – where you have your John McClane avatar undercover in the hospital and he partners with this nurse when a bad guy SWAT team raids the building and sets every patient loose.
It’s not actually a good idea so I pursued it not much further than that.
006 – Vinyl Time Travel
Very loose skeleton of a father in his garage, cooling off after a marital fight, and he starts playing his old vinyl out there. One of the unlabelled platters yields a voice, talking right to him, purporting to be his son who has travelled to the past and left this for him.
I blame Tristan Jones with his incessant posting of quality vinyl from his office daily coupled with the fact I know I need to clean out my garage for this floater.
I literally ended this one with the words ‘Time travel. Intrigue.’ because I think I knew this was just that Dennis Quaid/Jesus flick with maybe a soupcon of EVIL DEAD in there if I workshopped it any more. Which I didn’t, this is tired.
007 – Traffic Jam
Another idea from behind the wheel. Was driving along with the kids through a spot of relatively thick traffic. I wondered what would happen if every car around me was filled with vampires.
Thus was born a story of a mother in a car with her two kids who gets caught in a real traffic jam and they come to realise they are surrounded by vampires, and maybe some werewolves, and then I shelved this one because it was starting to sound like TWILIGHT meets CUJO and I realised I kind of dug the idea – road travelling vamps have been my jam since NEAR DARK – but this was merely an idea [hence the kernel of the idea being the exact same line as the next paragraph, but with a gender-flip in character], and it’s probably really just a scene, and it isn’t a story, and not even a story springboard.
It’s important to know when you have a story and just an idea or scene. It’s really important if you want to save yourself time and not try to build a trilogy around this cool conceit. It can work but it’s usually a bigger time sinkhole than facebook.
008 – Canopy
There’s something in this one but I sure as shit haven’t got it to work yet. I was thinking about extreme bmx riding because a friend of mine had a video posted to her Facey wall of someone riding along this skinny log, and then I was thinking about planets like Kashyyyk and how cool it would be to ride through the canopy there. The two things felt good together but I needed a reason.
I lifted a touch from THE LONG WALK and wondered about some sort of contest held there to see who could make it through the whole globe-spanning canopy but then I remembered that THE HUNGER GAMES already exists and so does BATTLE ROYALE and so I know this doesn’t have legs as it stands, but the idea of traversing a global canopy is something I want to use. Or at least see used.
009 – A Western
I started the day knowing I wanted to do a western because I watched some of BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID the night before. It really is that simple.
From there, I stewed on it because westerns have been done a lot, and so well, and so like werewolves or dystopias you have to bring your A game of gtfo.
I considered a nice twist on the western mythology of the lone stranger hero coming into town and it’s fun and I like it but I’m not won over to the fact it’s worthwhile making a future project. But there might be something here to swipe later so I’m glad I wrote it down and figured it out a little. At present, it feels like a short story, with the ending especially, but you never know when these things find a place in your other story some time.
010 – Small
It was close to midnight and I had been busy and hadn’t been thinking much, so I just sat back from the computer quickly and looked around my office. I have some comics framed and I looked at WHAT IF…? #35 and a loose idea quickly popped up. I wrote it down, and then immediately had another layering thought around it – the first thought being a character/skill set and the layer being the environment.
From there, I put together a very loose opening act and inciting incident that’s got me excited, but I have not the time to sit and stare at it and prod it and coddle it right now. But I know the back of my brain does, and no doubt will, and this is how this dance goes for me.
So, out of all the ideas so far, this one is the winner. It plays to my wheelhouse, it offers up opportunities for some new ideas and takes on old things, and it would just be fun.
It took me 10 days but I finally got something I’m glad I found, and I know I wouldn’t have found without this, and so that’s what this whole malarkey is all about. Anyway, I am certain it’ll be 40 days before another thing comes along, but for now I’ll be busy. Now, I doubt I’m any smarter about finding/making new ideas but at least I can be self-aware, at times, and that’s gotta be some kind of skill to slap on the CV, surely.
Oh, and I’ll admit that idea 011 is a David Bowie one. Because this has always been how I process grief.
Whether it’s dealing with the world, or shooting out a thought to see if it draws oxygen, I’m digging #366stories. It’s got me moving, it’s got me energised, and it’s got me doing it daily. You can’t ask for much more when it comes to the blue flame of creativity.