Whitey and I, with some of our Journey friends, have taken up the challenge offered by Mary Robinette Kowal, Brandon Sanderson, Howard Tayler, and Dan Wells of Writing Excuses.
Writing Excuses, if you’re unfamiliar with it, is a podcast series, now in its 10th season, which encourages people who want to write to go for it. To celebrate their 10th season, the hosts are giving away a fiction writing master class. For free! All you need to do is listen to the podcasts and do the assignments. Whitey, Tim, a few other writers, and I are giving it a shot, planning to get together (starting today) to compare notes and provide mutual support and aid.
The first assignment was to come up with five story ideas. Here are my five:
- From an interview or conversation you’ve had:
Got this from a conversation with Whitey. He said there are tunnels running under the surface throughout Disney World. The people who work use them to get from place to place if they don’t want to be in character. Though this applies to anyone who interacts with the public, whether they’re a costumed character or not, I think. The employees believe they can speak freely in the tunnels (though of course they can all hear each other). What circumstances might make this interesting? If, for example the tunnels were all bugged and/or had video cameras? (Which I bet they do.) What secrets might be revealed, and why might it matter? Does Snow White have a stalker on the security team?
- From research you’ve done (reading science news, military history, etc):
The Taman Shud case in Australia: an unidentified man dies on a beach in Australia, apparently of poison. In a concealed pants pocket investigators find a scrap of paper with the words “Taman Shud” (meaning “ended” or “finished” in Persian) written on it. This was later linked to a copy of the Rubaiyyat of Omar Khayam which had the same words missing (torn) from it, with an unlisted phone number listed in the back of the book. The holder of this number was a woman who may or may not have been named Teresa Powell. She told some story about a man, not, apparently the dead man. However, it was later found that her son had extremely rare genetic features in common with the murdered man. How to explain these events? What would it be like to be Teresa Powell or (more likely) her son, especially when detectives showed up? What would he or she do, once given this information.
- From observation (go for a walk!):
(This walk happend at the Art Institute of Chicago). James Ensor; putting pictures together in grid form (e.g., The Temptation of St. Anthony); putting patches over controversial parts. Why did he put pictures together the way he chose to, and why did he cover parts of the finished image?
- From a piece of media (watch a movie):
Peter Pan- what if Peter Pan was like the Dread Pirate Roberts? Really a series of people who only continue to be Peter Pan until they decide they really would like to grow up…and then, what if one incarnation was really a girl, using the Peter Pan disguise to escape the strictures of being female in her society? Does she ever decide to pass the torch and grow up? If so, how does she come to terms with being female?
- From a piece of music (with or without lyrics):
“Sin Wagon,” by the Dixie Chicks. I think the lyrics tell about a woman getting revenge on her cheating man by hitching a ride on the metaphorical Sin Wagon. It was really the title of the song that interested me most, though. What would an actual sin wagon be like? Are they buying sins, selling them, or a bit of both? If both, I can see how you might want to get rid of a sin, but who would ever want to acquire one?
Is anyone else out there in Internetland participating in this class? If you have a blog or other online space where you’re showing your work, I’d love to see it.
In the meantime, do any of the ideas above intrigue you? Any of them totally turn you off? Comments (of reasonable politeness) welcome below…