Don't Shake the Flask

Because you don't know if it'll explode

Tag: ideas

A Tentative Idea for Camp NaNo

With the April session of Camp NaNoWriMo just around the corner, this is basically the prime time for planning out some ideas for a new writing project. Unlike the November version, the April and July challenges are more relaxed and half the time, I don’t finish the challenge (I’m old school and keep my goals at 50,000 words–so even if I reach 25,000 and “fail”, I may have still written more than others who win with smaller goals.) I primarily use this time to test out ideas.

My thought was to play around with a written form that is usually not thought of as a straightforward storytelling device. Specifically, I want to tell interconnected short stories through entries in a fictional museum catalog. The museum and the artifacts within will be fictional. Through a curator’s voice, I want to hint that there’s something odd going on aside from the boring work of researchers and archivists through the stories and myths behind the objects on display.

For the past couple of days, I’ve been doing some pre-writing, trying to figure out what kind of narrative voice to take. I don’t think I’m quite there yet, but I’m veering towards “apparently neutral yet deeply unsettling”. I have also been trying to get a firm visual in my head of the museum–I haven’t decided yet on whether to set it in some kind of historical palace or a modern building, but I definitely want to convey a sense of vastness, sort of like Borges’ The Library of Babel

And as for the artifacts populating the museum? I think they will come from all sorts of fictional times and eras and places and cultures. But mostly they will be MacGuffins, only serving as entryways into something else altogether.

Gearing Up For Camp NaNo

April’s Camp NaNoWriMo session is just around the corner and like every other die hard participant, I signed up for it. I also signed up to do NaNoWordSprints again so I’ll be metaphorically cracking the whip on Twitter to get people writing. In a fun way, of course.

This time, I decided to do a bunch of science fiction short stories. We’ll see if anything pans out. My planning this time primarily consists of gathering ideas and doing outlining depending on how complicated the idea is. So without further ado, some possible ideas I might end up using next month:

*Cluck. Based on my first tweet, a murder mystery taking place on a Dyson sphere where the investigator also has to contend with alien possession. I’m still not sure whether I want to eventually put this up as an interactive fiction or not–if I manage to finish this.

*Histone Corps. Basically, fairy tales in space. The monsters are genetically engineered creatures and/or aliens and the main characters stumbling upon this science fiction version of fairy tale tropes are named after famous fairy tale collectors and writers. (Grimm, Anderson, Perrault, d’Aulnoy, Lang, etc.)

*Hair Apparent. This one takes place in Restoration England. People start acting funny. It’s due to mind controlling parasites hiding in wigs. My original intent was to lampoon wallpaper historical romances, but the more I think about it, the more serious it gets…

*Fred. This is a murder mystery told from the point of view of a pet python owned by a psychic who denies her abilities by stubbornly running a gag shop. It takes place in the same steampunk universe as another idea I’ve been trying to develop for a full fledged novel.

*Back to Nowhere. The main character needs to go back to her home planet–a backwater mining colony–because of reasons (I’m still trying to figure this out). It’s a parody of a small town romance. But it takes place in space.

*Tooth and Claw. Humans are insignificant. Shapeshifting dragons secretly control the planet. The shapeshifting is not the result of paranormal woo woo but due to movement in higher dimensions. Think: the Sphere passing through Flatland. The plot for this one is kind of up in the air at the moment, though.

So, those are some ideas in a nutshell. The titles are all tentative–they’re just place holders for now to help me keep the ideas straight. Unfortunately, my problem isn’t coming up with ideas but the execution…

Some Ideas for Camp NaNoWriMo July 2013

Well, another Camp NaNoWriMo is coming up soon which means it’s time to get organized on all of those ideas. Or attempt to, anyway. I find myself oscillating between feeling like the idea is so silly that I might as well use a lorem ipsum generator and that it’s so crazy it might just work.

The current working title I have is Six Persimmons. It’s more of a placeholder, really. I’m not sure if there are going to be any persimmons in the story, let alone six of them. And as for the ideas and themes floating around:

  • Mashups. I really like fairy tales especially for the way they explore archetypal themes and characters. One fairy tale that I’ve always found intriguing is The Snow Queen. So if I were to compare my nascent story to a fairy tale, that one would be it. But that said, I am definitely not adhering to the original story. There will also be quite a bit of inspiration, theme-wise, derived from The Shining and shows like ×××Holic and Iron Chef.
  • The cat house. So, this is my nickname for the fictional apartment complex where most of the plot takes place. It’s named that because every single occupant in that apartment complex is a shapeshifter of the cat persuasion. And like real cats, these characters are all crazy, neurotic, and inexplicable. They don’t particularly like playing nice with each other. And since they’re going to be snowed in, they’re going to be even crazier than usual.
  • Obsession. This will probably be a major theme. Every character will have an obsession of some sort. For example, the main character is a translator of foreign language novels and has an obsession with finding the right word or phrase to express a concept. Her apartment looks like a dictionary factory had just exploded.
  • Gentrification of neighborhoods. Like other minorities who form their own ethnic enclaves in the cities, the shapeshifters traditionally live in segregated neighborhoods. However, the human yuppies are moving in, driving up the property prices–so it’ll be interesting to explore a bit of that conflict.
  • Unnatural weather. I sort of covered this theme before in my 2009 NaNoWriMo novel but I’m going to have another crack at it this time at a different angle.

So, that’s what I have at the moment. Now onto some semblance of an outline…

Ideas and Point of View

I recently came across a remark comparing abandoned French apartments–which may have beautiful paintings and love letters written by prime ministers–and abandoned American apartments–filled with old newspapers, junk, and mummified cats.  I found this juxtaposition very interesting so I had to write it down.  And from this juxtaposition, a nascent idea began to form.

This is how my ideas often coalesce.  Something I read or see provides the spark.  But often, I am unable to use it right away.  It needs time to incubate–weeks, months, maybe even years.  And when I do get around to writing about it, the idea has already been rolling around in my brain in one form or another for a long while.

I am not sure how or when I’ll be able to use the notion of abandoned apartments containing strange things.  Maybe I’ll use it for next year’s Nanowrimo.  Certainly not right now.

* * *

I’m at an uneasy impasse at planning this year’s Nanowrimo novel.  The problem is: what point of view should I use?

I hadn’t been thinking too much about it until I came across some point of view discussions on the Nanowrimo forums.  In my notes, I had written that I would write from the point of view of the assistant “cameraman” (or in this case, the assistant holographic projectionist), most likely in first person.  The only thing is, this would relegate the narrative to the inside of one person’s head.  This could easily go downhill into seriousness.  And that is not the sort of tone I am aiming for.

Third person could allow me to explore comic situations in a more controlled fashion, but while things wouldn’t be tainted by an upset character’s view–which could easily turn things far more serious and angsty–it could also be too objective and detached.  I toyed with the idea of the characters writing a group blog about their adventures, but then I decided that this would involve too much head-hopping.

But leaving aside the whole comic aspect to the thing (which I’m not even sure I can pull off), there’s also a mystery in the plot line.  I really need some of the major secondary characters to remain enigmas.  If I write this in first person, I can use the narrator as a vehicle for the reader.  And as the narrator slowly discovers things, so will the reader.

If someone else were to agonize over point of view, my own advice would be to write in the point of view that would be most natural for the story (not necessarily most natural for the writer).  But even if I were to use my own advice, I still feel indecisive.  The other part of me–the part who is extremely impatient about any sort of silly waffling–is pretty much mentally slapping myself for being such a nitwit.  Shouldn’t I just pick something and go with it?  This will, after all, be a draft.

So I suppose I would just pick something and go with it if I haven’t made up my mind when the month is up.  And that something will probably end up being my original decision on point of view.