Story 7 – Life on the Line (Speculative Fiction)
I have been doing Story a Day since 2003. Some years have been easy, some hard, and some, like this one, just filled with too much other stuff to be able to concentrate. However, analyzing the process is proving quite interesting. For example, SAD 7 has been waiting for me to do something about it forever. It’s the 20th and I got the prompt on, I believe, the 8th or 9th. Now there was a lot going on in my life to account for, but ultimately I didn’t have even an idea to jot down, though I had some rumbles rolling around in my head.
Today, I sat down with an "or else" hanging over my keyboard and produced an interesting little story, and I mean little at 1124 words, based on that group of random thoughts. It’s not a bad story, but neither is it one I feel will cause me, or others, to sit up and take notice. So what’s the difference between that and some of the prompts that have haunted me for years because I ran out of time to write them (and do plan to someday)?
Simple. This is tripping over something I already knew (and even mentioned in the Story 6 analysis) but hadn’t really nailed down. Prompt writing works best for me when I get a visual of a character. Curve of Her Claw, my story in the Cloaked in Shadow anthology, came to me in a rush as the words "dark elves" gelled around a very distinct figure (which, btw, the artist did an excellent job of capturing). From there, it was just a matter of nailing down the story.
In contrast, From the Ashes, my story in Triangulation 2004, with "hard port," or Unique Worlds which won the Confluence 2007 writing contest, with "fewmets at the end of time," came very slowly, almost teased into existence. In both cases I almost didn’t have a story in time for the deadline.
Characters bring their story with them for me. Ideas do not. I do write idea stories, but they may take years to come together and are written in snatches here or there rather than as a concentrated whole pouring out as quickly as I can get my fingers to move (well, on the good days ;)).
What purpose does this serve? I now have a better idea of which generators are the safer to use during SAD, but this extends beyond that. I know if I want to do a themed anthology that offers ideas not characters, there’s a good chance it will take me longer to put something together. There’s always the idea stories that rush out and kidnap a character into them, but I can’t count on those as easily as I can character stories that will shanghai ideas to wrap around. I also know that when on a strict deadline, I should focus on finding the character however the story came to be.
What prompted this analysis is:
A Quick Story Generator:
The theme of this story: dark comedy. The main characters: clumsy novelist and stressed astronomer. The major event of the story: surgery.