Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Free story idea – Elf Cop

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.

Elf Cop

This began with Lindsay Ellis’s video essay Bright: The Apotheosis of Lazy Worldbuilding.  It wasn’t she said something and I immediately had an idea, but more she said something I thought was interesting, and over the next couple of days it took five random turns in my brain and became the nucleus of this story.  I’ve rewatched the video, but I can’t remember what point she made which began the rock rolling on this idea.  This has absolutely nothing to do with Bright, although, to be perfectly honest, for the longest time I referred to this project as “Dim.”

I guess this could be a novel, but I see it better as a movie.  Admittedly, a large part of that is a training montage at the beginning, but I’m sure a talented writer could work their way around the issue.

This is set in a fantasy world with humans, centaurs, elves, dwarfs, goblins, etc.  There used to be dragons, but they were hunted to extinction centuries ago.  It’s a completely different world than ours, but it is comparable to the 80’s or 90’s technology wise.  This world is split into various nations.  Some of them are a single species, while others are maybe a mix of two or three.  There are also a few cities where all are welcomed.  The reason these cities exist is mainly for trade.  Centaurs may like goblin coffee, but they don’t want to deal directly with goblins, so they go to dwarf coffee shops to get their goblin coffee.  (Because everything we do in the real world makes perfect sense.)  Odd little quirks like this started in small trading ports, and over the centuries these grew into city states.  The story is set in one of these, which will need some name, but for now we’ll just call it the City.  There is an Elf Kingdom, but they are very closed off.  They do allow ambassadors from the other nations in, but the elves themselves rarely leave.  As a result, in this world elves are almost mythic.

So the movie starts with the camera sweeping over the City late at night.  We see normal cars on the roads, but there are also these van things that are centaur cars.  We go from the “good” part to the “bad” part of town.  Like maybe we see a group of prostitutes, there’s a human, dwarf, and centaur.  The camera ends up in the ally next to a dingy bar – possibly called The Hexed – and we see a portal open.  On the other side of the portal is a day lit forest meadow, and a hooded figure.  The figure looks behind them, then steps through.  The portal closes.  The figure looks around, then starts walking. 

They eventually arrive at a police station.  I was thinking that these police have a motto that’s some variation of “To Protect and Serve.” Whatever that variation is, I was thinking that might be the title of the movie.  Anyway, the figure goes in and the desk sergeant asks what they want.  The figure lifts up the hood revealing an elf woman, who says she wishes to become a police officer.  In this world, elves have a glowing glamour that more or less stuns anyone looking at them for ten seconds or so, especially if you’re attracted to whatever gender the elf is.  So this desk sergeant just stares at her with his mouth open for like ten seconds, and then he does a little shake of his head and asks, “What?”

Then the montage.  It starts with our elf – Shay – in a small room sitting before some mirrors.  She has some things of makeup before her.  She puts foundation for white skin on one cheek, and black skin on the other.  She looks back and forth between them.  We then see that she just mixes the two, which cuts back on the glamour and if you don’t noticed her pointed ears, she’d just look like an extremely attractive human woman.  For her hands she just wears gloves.  She then flips through a book on the laws of the City.  She reads as fast as she flips the pages.  We then see her rapidly filling in answers on a test in a classroom with other cadets.  Then begins physical training.  There’s a track and when the instructor fires off the pistol she goes right around, like she’d easily “On your left” Captain America.  When she gets back to the starting position, she stops and the instructor just looks at her for a second or two before clicking the stopwatch.  The cadets also run to a tower with cargo nets that she goes up in no time.  Then instead of climbing down, she just jumps and does a superhero landing.  She then runs towards the rope to swing over the thirty foot wide stretch of mud, but she just jumps over that.  In hand to hand training, she easily overpowers everyone and we see her casually flipping a centaur.  In gun training, she fires off ten rounds as fast as the gun allows, and the gun doesn’t move.  As she’s bringing the target to her, we see the next trainee – maybe a centaur – is shooting slower because the gun recoils, like in real life.  In Shay’s target, there is only one, perfectly centered hole.  She smiles at the instructor next to her, who looks at her for a few seconds, then makes a mark on a clipboard.  (Also, my idea is that this is the only time in the movie she fires her gun.)  Up to now there’s probably been some fun, montage music, but now it turns mournful as we see Shay getting lunch.  She sits alone and eats, while the other cadets give her occasional glances.

We next meet … someone I’ll just call Partner.  She is a loud mouthed, somewhat crude cop who is not thrilled to learn she is being partnered with the Elf Cop.  She thought Gay Cop was going to be partnered with her, but the LT says Gay Cop thinks he might be bi-curious, and even though Shay is wearing makeup to hide her glamour, they don’t want to partner her with anyone who is attracted to women.  Partner has a lengthy, profanity laced comment to all that.

The next scene I have is them in a car, with Partner driving.  Partner says she finds it odd her name is Shay, because “I thought elves were all named after flowers, or whatever.” Shay says that Shay isn’t her real name.  Partner asks what her real name is, and Shay replies with this long, (not Tolkien) Elvish name which does not contain Shay in any part.  Partner asks how she gets Shay from that, at which Shay replies with an even longer string of Elvish, and then she laughs.  She then explains that it’s an elvish joke that doesn’t really translate.  Partner isn’t sure what to do with that.

Possibly their first call is for some deranged guy with a knife yelling in front of a store.  They show up, and Partner starts talking about how to make sure everyone is at a safe distance, only to turn around and see Shay walking right up to the guy.  She talks with him for a bit, he’s a little stunned by her, but he eventually hands over the knife and she walks him over to the crowd and says something like he just needed his medication. 

They call an ambulance and get the guy some help.  Partner and Shay drive off, and Partner starts by saying, “If you do anything like that again, I promise I will shoot you myself.” Shay raises an eyebrow.  Partner then starts about how there’s a ton of paperwork if your partner is killed.  She can’t imagine how much there’d be if they died on their first day.  “And if it’s the first goddamned elf cop, killed on her first goddamned day, I’ll be filling out paperwork for twenty years after I’m dead!” To which Shay asks, “Will the paperwork be less if you shoot me yourself?” “Don’t tempt me to find out.”

Then you might have a montage of boring, mundane cop stuff to show the passing of a few days or weeks. 

Then there’s an incident which makes the other cops not too fond of Shay.  The end result is she arrests another cop.  Why, is a bit complicated.  The first idea I had was some cop arrested someone and had them handcuffed, but then – while members of the public watched – they punch them a couple of times.  So Shay immediately arrests the cop for assault.  For the department, Shay stopped the PR nightmare of them being lax on police brutality, but for the other cops it rubs them the wrong way that she’s watching over them.  Partner points out that this idiot did it in front of people, so what else could Shay have done?  The reason I’m not fond of that idea is that it might seem too … topical.  The other idea I had was she arrests a cop for stealing evidence, which, just seems somewhat bland.  This is a free idea, but there is some work you’ll have to do if you actually complete this project.

So Partner takes Shay to a bar, where a lot of guys hit on her, but she turns them all down.  Partner asks if there’s an elf waiting for her back home, but Shay doesn’t answer.  We then find out that elves can’t handle their liquor.  Well, one shot leaves Shay plastered for about a minute, until she completely sobers up.  Partner finds this amusing.  At some point she had asked Shay why she wanted to be a cop, but Shay doesn’t answer, and maybe she asks Partner the same question and we get some of her backstory.  But at the bar, Partner gives Shay a second drink and then asks why she wants to be a cop.  To which Shay slurs something about stopping a prophecy.  When she sobers up and sees Partner just starting at her, she says, “Fuck,” which I think is the one time she swears in the movie.

Shay then explains that in this world elves have a thing for prophecy which they don’t let the rest of the world know about.  And prophecy isn’t a certainty that something will happen, instead it’s more like a 98% chance something will happen.  The prophecy that she got was that one of her bloodline would destroy the City.  So she left the Elf Kingdom to come here and hopefully do some good before then.  Also, if she gets killed in the line of duty, that would end her bloodline.  Partner is rather unhappy with all of this.

We then go back to The Hexed the next day, where another portal opens.  This time an elf man steps through.  He sneers at the surroundings, then starts walking.  Partner and Shay get the call for an elf causing trouble, basically just slapping away people trying to get close to him, so they go to the location.  They pull up and as soon as Partner sees him in his full glamour, she’s dumbstruck.  Shay gets out and the two start speaking in Elvish.  In the subtitles, we learn that they were engaged, but she broke it off when she left the Kingdom.  They found out where she went when one of the ambassadors to the Kingdom told them about this elf who became a cop.  He sneers about the human filth and her wearing makeup, and orders her to come back with him.  She says no.  He doesn’t take this well, and she orders him to go back or she’ll arrest him.  He says she’s crazy, but he eventually goes.

Partner asks who that was, and Shay explains how she left him just so she wouldn’t have a bloodline.  Partner offers to marry him instead, but Shay says he would probably rather die than marry a human. 

Some other stuff happens, and then we see the portal open again.  This time an older elf man steps through.  This is Shay’s father.  I’m not sure of the exact steps for this, but her father is so upset at what Shay is doing, that he wants to do some blood magic – requiring him to sacrifice Shay – that would destroy the City.  When Shay realizes that it was her coming to the City to prevent the prophecy that made her father – part of her bloodline – want to destroy the City, she lets out an elvish curse – the one time she yells in the movie – that blows the parked car she’s standing next to back like ten feet and sets it on fire.  Partner sees that, but is like, “I don’t want to know.”

There’s a part where the other cops come to their aid.  They protect and serve, that’s what they do, even if they are still unsure about Shay.  So while the other cops are evacuating people, Shay and Partner try to stop her dad.  Somehow, her father gets a knife to Shay’s throat.  Shay sees Partner and tells her, “Do what you promised to do.” Partner hesitates for a second, but Shay nods.  So Partner draws her gun and shoots Shay. 

But, in this world elves are so badass that they’re bulletproof.  The bullet falls to the floor and her father starts to say something about foolish humans, but that was the distraction Shay needed to disarm her father (perhaps with a move we saw her do in the training montage?).  I don’t want her to kill her father just because, but also it leaves room for him to come back in a sequel.  Perhaps Shay adjusts whatever spell he was using to tie him to the City.  Like, if the City is destroyed he’ll die, or something.  How it all works, I don’t know.  I leave hammering out the finer details to you.

Shay does explain to Partner that the last time humans and elves fought a war was before the invention of guns.  To kill an elf required either an enchanted human blade, or a captured elf blade.  She suspected that she would be bulletproof, but wasn’t sure how to test the theory.  If she wasn’t, then she would die which would have prevented the blood magic from working, thus saving the City.

So that’s my idea for Elf Cop.  A big question is why Shay is different from the other elves.  By being stronger, smarter, faster, etc., they feel they are better.  They’re basically Elf Supremacists.  So why does Shay show compassion to others?  One possibility, is that Shay got this prophecy like ten years ago.  At first she wonders why she should care some city she’s never heard of will be destroyed.  But she’s curious, and starts looking into it.  One idea, since this is like 80’s level technology, is that the elves have a space program, which they might not have told the rest of the world about.  Do they have spy satellites watching the rest of the world?  Are there, think all echoey, Elves … In … Space?  (I don’t know why I found that so funny.)  By taking an interest in the City, did she come to question some of what she had been taught?  I don’t know.  Part of the reason I’m doing these Free Story Ideas is to stop thinking about projects I’ll never do so I can focus on ones I can do.

Anyway, I did have an idea for a sequel.  The idea is that elf blood is like super glamour.  If you put a drop of elf blood in someone’s drink, they become your slave for like a day.  And if you do this every day for a month or so, they just become a mindless zombie.  Perhaps a way for her father to not destroy the City, but cause a lot of havoc.  Something to think about.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Too much data

For those of you who just read Kindle ebooks, you might not know how much data those of us who wrote those ebooks get.  Every month we get a report.  This shows how many of our ebooks were bought, how many we gave away in free promotions, and how many pages were read.  (If you don’t know, if you grab an ebook with Kindle Unlimited but only read part of it, the author still gets paid something based on how much you actually read.  There’s a formula and stuff for it all.)  The report shows this for each market, like the US, UK, India, etc.  These reports can be downloaded as Excel documents, and when I first started publishing my ebooks that’s what I did.  The problem was trying to look at all that information into some coherent organization.

I forget how many ways I tried to organize this data, but the system I ended up using for several years was one big Excel Sheet.  For each book I had sections for each market, which had columns for each type of sale: bought, free, KU.  And each month was a row.  So if someone in France bought one of my books in June, I’d put a “1” in the appropriate spot.  I then added everything up in such a way so that I had the grand total of how many of these books I’d sold in France.

I forget exactly when I first set up this system, but I filled it out to the year 2020.  All I had to do was add in new books whenever I published them, but I don’t publish that often so I had time to set stuff up.  And I usually could just copy everything over from the last book.

Then came 2020.  I knew I had to update it for 2021 and beyond, but it wasn’t until July or August I finally got around to it.  And that’s when I realized my system wasn’t that easy to add on to.  To get my Grand Totals, I just summed up a dozen or so numbers.  Which isn’t so bad.  But when you have a Grand Total of Book A sold in the US, Grand Total of Book A sold in the UK, and so on and so on for every book, for every manner of sale, for every market, just to update my system for 2021 meant going into over a hundred cells to add in a number.  I started working on it, but soon realized it was a massive hassle.  I plugged away at it for a while, but soon decided I needed to redo everything.

My new system – which I set up to go through 2030, and should actually be easy to extend – solves my main issue by doing in two or three steps what I had done in one.  Now instead of one big sheet, I have individual sheets for each book where I enter all the raw data.  Then, instead of adding everything together, I have a Subtotals sheet where I have yearly totals for each book.  Before I could only see that I had sold 6 copies of a book in France, but if I wanted to see when I sold them I had to go look at the raw numbers.  Now I can easily see that I haven’t sold any there in two years.  From the Subtotals sheet, I then add everything up for the Grand Totals, which I show in my Totals sheet. 

I’m sure that all sounds … boring.  So why am I writing this post?  Well, in my old system, I would scroll through the raw data trying to find trends.  Occasionally, I might see something, but that was as far as it went.  Now, even though it’s still all the same data, since I’m not just adding it all together in one go, I have more things to look at and play with.  Which means, that throughout the first half of 2021, I’ve been doing all sorts of odd things.  Like I had wondered if I could see any relationship between how many copies of a book I’d sold, or given away, and how many reviews it had gotten.  Which is something I could have done in my old system, but now I can look at how this changes over the years.

There are other things I’ve looked at, but the reviews is probably the easiest to explain.  And in all of these investigations, the results are … inconclusive.  Because I haven’t sold enough books, or gotten enough reviews for anything to really stand out.  But the reason I keep playing with these numbers is that there’s a feeling that if I can just find the right formula to mine all this old data, I’ll somehow be able to turn that into a way to sell more books.  I haven’t found anything, but I keep looking.  Even though I think the best thing to do would just be to write more.