I have a lot of ideas for stories. Like, if I wrote a novel’s worth of them every month, I’d still most likely die before getting through them all. I will admit that some of the ideas probably suck, but I think there are some that a good writer could make something of them. I’ll just never get a chance to. So, I give them to the world. If you can make something of these, go right ahead. And if these are the ideas I’m giving away, maybe check out the ones I keep.
This novel is almost written backwards. By that I mean there’s an archeological excavation on an alien world. The novel is broken up into ten or so parts, and each part starts with a page or two of the archeologists finding some item. Then the rest of that part is set in the past showing how that item ended up at that location. The next part follows another item a few meters lower down, meaning it was left there decades or centuries before the previous item. Basically, we learn aspects of this world’s history, but we just start at the last chapter and read back to the first one.
So what’s this novel about? At some place on this alien world, there is a giant sinkhole, like a hundred meters deep. (You’ll need to do some math to figure out just how big it is because you’ll probably want it to take at least a thousand years for it to be filled with fist-sized rocks.) Near this sinkhole is a monastery. The story goes, that one day this monk named Petep was meditating and reach a point where he split himself into his good and evil halves. The two fought, and the evil half was thrown into the sinkhole and a boulder was rolled down to bury him. Petep took on some disciples, before going directly to the afterlife. The disciples built on his teachings and started a religion. The followers of the religion began writing their sins on some paper, wrapping it around a rock, and throwing it into the sinkhole, thus casting away their “evil halves.” And they believed that once the sinkhole was filled, it would be the end of the world. Oh, and “By Petep’s Boulder” is a saying that over the centuries has been a battle cry, their version of “Goddamnit!” as well as their version of, “Aw jeez.”
The novel begins with human archeologists starting to excavate the filled in sinkhole. After removing a layer or two of rocks, they find some of the sin papers are still there. They find one with some mundane sin, and that becomes the item for the first part. We see what the person who wrote it was going through.
As the archeologists dig deeper, it will be harder to find distinct items. I think one item could be a special rock. Like most of the rocks thrown into the sinkhole comes from a nearby quarry, but maybe they find a chunk of obsidian or something that came from the other side of the planet, so we learn why that person went through the trouble of carrying it all the way there. Maybe for a time people carved their sins onto sheets of metal. But that only lasted for a short time, since it was a waste to throw all of that metal away. And maybe Big Quarry stepped in to stop it.
But there are also darker items. Like maybe somebody stabbed someone and they throw the knife into the sinkhole. This casts away their sin, but also conveniently disposes of the murder weapon. Darker still is when they find a skeleton. This turns out to be the last Pope-equivalent. Petep had two main disciples. At first, they worked together for the religion, but over the decades they started to split over doctrine. Eventually two branches of the religion developed, we’ll call them A and B. For the first two or three parts we read, there is no mention of A. But then maybe the guy with the knife killed someone because he thought they were an A heretic, or whatever. During the part with the skeleton, we learn that there was a civil war between the two and that B won. To cast away the sin of A, they take the last A Pope-equivalent, and throw them into the sinkhole. The two sides had lived mostly in peace for centuries, but they grew more antagonistic towards each other, eventually leading to the war. And we learn about all of this in reverse.
Eventually, the archeologists get to the bottom of the sinkhole where there is a boulder that had been rolled down from the surface. What is underneath it will depend on what kind of story you want to write. There could be nothing under it, and we could find out that Petep just got high one day and had a vision that got blown out of proportion. To the point that centuries later, when the people had finally filled in the sinkhole, they – on their own – fulfilled the “prophecy” that it would be the end of the world and they destroyed themselves, which is why it is human archeologists doing the excavating.
Or maybe there is a skeleton under the boulder. But whose is it? There are several ways this can be taken. Maybe Petep wasn’t a monk, he was just the guy that grew the mushrooms the monks used for their visions. Maybe some of the monks in training befriended him so they could get some of these mushrooms. And one day they were out by the sinkhole goofing off and one fell in, and they thought it was all a vision or whatever and rolled a boulder in on top of them. When they sobered up they panicked, and came up with this “Petep split off his evil half story.” But Petep could only stay “good” for so long, and to keep him from blowing his part of the story, his disciples made him disappear, saying he went off to the afterlife. But years later, one of the disciples wrote out their confession. Maybe they threw it into the sinkhole, and somehow it survived the centuries, or maybe it was just hidden away in the Vatican-equivalent vault and the aliens only recently discovered it. After the sinkhole was filled, and the world didn’t end, the religion died off. So they started studying the history of it more. The reason they aren’t doing the excavation, is that the site is still sacred, or taboo in some sense, so they hired human archeologists to excavate. Any interesting items will go to a museum, and all the rocks will just be dumped back into the sinkhole.
Or maybe it’s Petep’s skeleton under the boulder. Maybe, Petep was a minor monk who often meditated on the rim of the sinkhole. From there he could see several boulders already on the bottom of it, and one day – after some mushrooms or other items – he had a vision of splitting off his evil half and imprisoning him in the sinkhole. And for whatever reason, this idea took off. Petep went from some nobody monk to someone with disciples. But the power corrupted him. Maybe he started sleeping with some of his followers, but things went too far and for whatever reason a couple of them killed him. Maybe it was a spur of the moment thing, so they were limited in how to hide the body. So they threw him in the sinkhole and rolled a boulder in. Although, I’m not sure how well you could aim a boulder to cover a body. Or maybe they planned things out and took the risk of going down into the sinkhole to bury him. Although, would they have easy access to a hundred meters of rope strong enough to be able to climb down into the sinkhole?
Or maybe the monks were strict on celibacy, but Petep got a woman pregnant who threated to go to the other monks, so Petep threw her in. Or maybe Petep was gay, and that was illegal at the time, and his lover threated to tell everyone. Or maybe Petep figured out he could climb down into the sinkhole each night and find everyone’s sins to blackmail them, and one of the disciples killed him. Or maybe the disciples were doing that, and Petep threaten to stop them so they killed him. Or maybe Petep was actually a woman, but at the time women weren’t allowed to be intelligent. So she became monk Petep to speak her mind. And when the disciples discovered this, they killed her.
Or maybe Petep was like the Intro to Philosophy teacher at the monastery who taught this “split yourself into good and evil” bit as a thought experiment. But a couple of his students made a cult out of it. At first Petep was happy that more people were thinking about his ideas, but over time he saw his students were just using it as a way to gain money and power. When he tried to stop them, they killed him. But Petep had told his wife everything, and she wrote it all down. And maybe this account was passed down through their family for a thousand years or more, until the world was ready to know the truth. Or maybe it was hidden in the monastery. After the religion died off, it was being torn down and the true history of Petep was found. Or maybe the monastery was damaged in an earthquake and the documents were found while repairing it.