Thursday, September 30, 2021

Writing Newsletter Third Quarter 2021

In the last three months, I’ve republished three of my stories.  They are “The Greater the Risk,” “Good for the Goose,” and “Shake Things Up.”

I also published my … unfinished story “The News.” This is a story that I should have finished in 2005, but it got forgotten about.  And now, it’s too outdated to really work without a major overhaul.  I hated to just throw it away, so I just cut out all the “Add details here” bits and published it.  Someday I may have to look through my dead story folder to see if there are any other unfinished stories that are finished enough to work as a blog post. 

A big thing I started in the last three months are my Free Story Ideas.  I have more ideas that I will ever be able to write, so I’m writing up my outlines and notes for various stories and just posting them to the world.  If someone can make something with these ideas, great. 

Things have been hectic for a while, and I haven’t gotten much real writing done.  Hopefully, things will ease up and I’ll have the time and energy to write more.  We’ll see.


Image from Pixabay.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Free story idea – The Wall

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.

The Wall

CB – not his real initials – was a friend of mine from college.  We stayed in touch, but starting a few years ago it was mostly through arguments on Facebook.  Basically, since I didn’t agree with him that capitalism is the bestest thing ever and CANNOT be question, it just meant I was a dirty socialist bent of using the dark arts to resurrect Stalin.  To be honest, he didn’t sound that crazy, but ….  I haven’t talked to him for about two years, but I would not be shocked if I found out he was firmly in the “The government can’t tell me to wear a mask, because … FREEDOM” camp.

Anyway, after some argument – probably over the “socialist plot of climate change to take away people’s guns” – I wanted to write a story on how, if his ideology was actually practiced by the world, things would suck.  Specifically, the idea that only individuals should be able to make decisions on their lives.  If anyone makes decisions for other people, that’s tyranny.  Well, if it’s a government that does it.  In the name of capitalism, corporations can do whatever the fuck they want to anyone.  It was while I was trying to hammer out an idea, that we had our final argument where I think I hurt his feelings by crudely stating a – for him – unpleasant fact and he unfriended me.

Anyway, since then I’ve hammered out a little bit of this story I called CB’s Wall.  The barebones plot could be a short story, but it doesn’t feel like there would be enough meat to be a good story.  Fleshing things out could bulk it up to a novella, but unless you dive deep into several social issues, I don’t think you could get a novel out of this.

The story starts with Person (I had been leaning towards having the main character be a woman, but I hadn’t fully committed to it.) who is four or five.  They live with their father in a log cabin.  It’s very 1800’s, but there may be some odd knickknacks that don’t fit that time.  Their mother died a few ago, possibly while giving birth to a baby sibling, who also died.  Anyway, the week before, there was a storm that ripped a hole in a neighbor’s barn roof.  The man of the house was away on business, so the wife asked Person’s Father to fix it.  He did, but she didn’t have enough money to pay for it all, so she offered a way to make up the difference, which Father accepted.  When the man came back, he knew something was off with the price, and probably got the full story after beating his wife.  So he came and nearly beat Father to death.  He probably only stopped when a crying Person shielded Father’s body.  The man swore that they could both “Go to the Wall,” then stormed out.

For the next week, Person had to tend to Father, and try to keep the farm going.  Once Father was feeling better, Person asked him what the man had meant by “Go to the Wall.” Father sighed, and said it was probably time for Person to find out.

They pack up supplies for a long hike.  They head East through the woods, taking a few wide turns around Plague Villages.  Disease of some sort had hit them decades – or longer – ago, and they were abandoned and nearly taken back by the forest.  They also pass a few Ancient Sites which – the reader will hopefully figure out – are the thousand or so year old decayed ruins of modern cities.  Eventually, they come to a small hill, and when they get to the top they see the Wall on the horizon.  It’s a couple hundred feet tall, smooth, unbroken, and stretches as far as can be seen to the north and south. 

Father explains that there are apparently other Walls in other directions.  Nobody has walked far enough to know if they’re separate Walls, or if there’s one Wall that encloses them.  Nobody knows how the Ancients built it, or why.  Were they walling something out, or them in?  Person wants to know all the answers, but Father tries to discourage them because there’s too much work that needs done – harvesting crops, hunting meat, cutting firewood, etc. – to waste it pondering the unknowable.  “Only worthless drunks wonder why the sun rises in the east.”

If Father doesn’t want Person thinking about the Wall, why did he take them to see it?  I think in this society seeing the Wall is like a rite of passage.  You see it once so you know there’s stuff out there you’ll never understand, so you stay focused on the more important stuff like having food for the winter.  Also, this is the farthest Person has been from the farm, and it was a chance for Father to teach them some forest skills like tracking game and what plants you can eat. 

A few years later, Father is killed, possibly by another outraged husband.  So Person has to learn to support themselves.  This would be a great place to flesh stuff out.  Person is strange – for this society – so they probably don’t fit in well with their peers. 

Person becomes a hunter and trapper who spends months at a time out in the forest, and who frequently goes to the Wall.  They go right up to it, and see that it’s smooth and there’s nothing to climb.  They try digging under it, but the Wall goes down as deep as they can dig.  With a compass, they find that the Wall curves ever so slightly.  With their observations, and possibly the help of a scholarly type – a worthless drunk as Father would say – They work out that the Wall is about a 1,000 miles in diameter.  And the eastern most point, is just a few days walk north of the spot Father showed Them.  If there were any doors, or markings, or anything on the Wall, it’s likely they would be at the four cardinal points. 

So Person sets out, and they almost miss the door.  The only thing that marks it is that there is the tiniest crack and moss is growing in it.  Person manages to pry the door open, and it leads into a tunnel twenty or so feet deep.  Person lights a torch and goes in, but once they’re in, the ceiling of the tunnel “magically” lights up.  Then a strange voice says something.  It sounds like Their language, but the words aren’t right.  Person says something, and then these images appear on the wall of the tunnel.  Some are basic, like “human, dog, tree,” but some show items They don’t know.  The voice starts talking, and slowly it becomes more and more understandable.  Basically, when Person entered the wall, They woke up an AI that had been turned off for a thousand years.  In that time, the language Person speaks has altered from what the AI was programmed with, so it had to relearn the language.

Once they are able to understand each other, the AI tells Person that about a thousand years ago, humanity split into those who wanted to stay unmodified Mark 1 Humans, and those that wanted to evolve.  So the evolved made a reservation for the Mark 1s.  Person is excited and wants to meet these evolved humans, but the AI – after contacting a more advanced, hibernation AI on the outside – says that these evolved humans left Earth centuries ago to explore the universe.  Besides, to these evolved humans, Person would probably just be a primitive being worthy of study, but not interaction.

And that’s it.  The reason I was trying to hammer this story out for CB, was to counter his argument that only he should be able to make decisions about himself.  But the only reason he is where he is, is because of decisions other people made long ago.  And the decisions he makes now “that only affect him,” will change the options for future generations.  It’s like a skill tree in a game.  He could put everything on strength, which could work very well for him, but his kids may be left out in a world that requires speed.  Because, let’s be honest, the playing field onto which we are all born is far from level.

An easier way I could have gone about this would be with a generational starship.  The first generation decides for themselves that they want to go on this journey, but the result is that their kids and grandkids have no choice but to be stuck on a ship they can’t leave.  Person’s ancestors decided they liked things the way they were and didn’t want to evolve.  But now Person – who to be honest wouldn’t have existed if they had decided differently – who is at least curious about this evolving can’t because that’s no longer an option.  Someone else’s decision removed an option from their choices. 

CB’s choice not to care about climate change means future generations won’t have the option to not care.  Probably, using his logic to point out that his choices will have negative effects on other people he’d just dismiss as socialist propaganda.  Which is probably why I stopped working on this story.  The person I was writing it for would refuse to see the point of it.

Friday, September 24, 2021

Unfinished story, “The News”

I probably started this story a few months after 9/11, back when I’d turn on the news the first thing in the morning just in case something had happened in the night.  I started the story, thought it was interesting, but didn’t finish it for one reason or another.  A few years later, I came across it and added in some new details, but I think it was becoming dated, so I didn’t put much work into it because I didn’t think I could do anything with it.  And that’s how things have stood for the past ten-plus years.  But with the recent 9/11 anniversary, I was thinking about this story so I dug it out.  It has become even more dated and I was about to move it to my Dead Story folder, when I realized that was a bit of a waste for a story that’s 90% done.  I could update it, but that would basically be rewriting the whole thing.  So I took five minutes and cut out all the “Add more details here” bits, and ended up with a story that would have been interesting fifteen years ago.

“The News”

Jason Cole stood on the end of a pier watching his coworker Susan Black swimming naked in the ocean.  She had not seen him and he smiled thinking what everyone at the office would say when he told them of her tattoo of a four-leaf clover on her right buttocks.  Then his alarm went off.

With a groan he rolled onto his side while his right arm flopped around until he hit the snooze button.  He stayed on his side and fell back asleep.  When the alarm went off again his right arm shot straight out and hit the snooze.  This time he sat up, and held his head in his hands.  He was still like that when his alarm went off for the third time.  He turned the alarm off and continued to sit on the side of the bed for another minute, yawning, stretching, and scratching his side.  What finally got him to his feet was not the fact that he had to be at work in an hour, but that he had to piss.

Once his bladder was empty, he walked through his living room to the kitchen and filled his stomach with a bowl of corn flakes and a large cup of coffee.  As he ate he mentally reviewed his presentation on the Tanaka account he was to give before the board that afternoon.  It did not require much thought; it was just a rehashing of the last three presentations he had given.  The information boiled down to the statement, “Things are going well, and they will continue going well as long as the board dosen’t screw things up.” It had taken him three days before his first presentation to stretch that to ten minutes and turn it into something that would let him keep his job.  Since then it only took an hour or two to freshen it up a bit. 

He rinsed his bowl out and set it in the sink.  As he was going to the bathroom for his shower, the image of Susan swimming in the ocean brought him to a stop in front of his TV.  His brow furled as he tried to remember the entire dream.  He was walking along the beach, something had happened, and then he saw her swimming.  And she had a tattoo.

This thought had him laughing throughout his shower.  Susan was the most up-tight woman he had ever met.  She would turn red if anyone used a curse worse than ‘heck.’ Once Mike had dropped ‘the F-Bomb’ in front of her and everyone thought she would faint.  But she had taken a deep breath, stood up, said, “Excuse me,” and walked out the door.  She did not come back for ten minutes.  Of course Joyce and Todd thought it was all just an act.  They figured that on weekends Susan dressed up in leather and hung out in biker bars.  He would have to tell them about his dream.  They would get a kick out of the tattoo.

Once dressed in a dark blue Appignani with a lighter blue tie, he grabbed his briefcase and went outside.  When he started his car, Pink Floyd’s “Welcome to the Machine” blared out of the speakers.  He needed music as he drove, something that had driven Carol insane.  He never listened to the radio because there were too many commercials, too many annoying DJs, and too many crappy songs.  He needed to get into his car, and hear nothing but great music as he drove. 

The streets seemed rather empty for a Thursday.  When he got on the freeway there was very little traffic.  He checked his watch and saw that he was running a few minutes early.  He had noticed that if he left home five minutes late he hit the rush and ended up being twenty minutes late to work.

Not far from the office was a huge church.  As he drove by he noticed the parking lot was packed.  It seemed odd to have a wedding or a funeral that early. 

He didn’t have much time to think of it because he soon pulled into the parking lot at work: it was empty.  He looked at his watch, 7:52.  He had never been this early, but surely someone else should be here. 

Then he heard Carol’s voice in his head, “Someday something big is going to happen, and you’re going to be the last one to know about it.” That conversation had taken place a few weeks after 9/11.  Like everyone, he watched the news constantly those first few days.  He had never been much of a news watcher before, but the weeks after 9/11 burned him out.  Carol would stay up until midnight watching the news, and then wake up around three to watch for another half hour, just in case something happened, then go back to sleep and get up at six to watch for an hour before going to work.

When they drove, she made him turn off his CDs and play the radio, just in case some breaking news happened.  The last time Jason had thought of her was when Pope John Paul II had died.  He had been flipping through the channels when he came to CNN which had a banner saying, “Breaking News: Pope near death.” Jason wasn’t Catholic, he wasn’t religious, but he thought the Pope was a good guy, and felt sorry.  But that did not stop him from watching a movie, going to bed, and not turning on his TV for almost twelve hours.  When he did, and turned to CNN just to see what had happened, their banner still reading, “Breaking News: Pope near death.” The thought hit him, Carol would have watched TV for those twelve hours, waiting for the Pope to die. 

Jason got back into his car and started the engine.  Then he ejected the CD, and searched for a radio station.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Random Writing Tips – Finding a balance


Lately, I’ve been having a hard time finding a writing/job/farm/life balance.  Meaning, I had plans for several writing projects this year that I’ve done almost nothing with and I’m behind on critiques for the writing group I’m a part of.  The crappy part-time job I got to pay the bills is … draining.  I live on a small farm and recently it’s been a never-ending job of picking beans, tomatoes, corn, potatoes, etc, not to mention getting enough firewood split for the winter.  On top of all of that, I also need to sleep, and it would be nice to get some reading done as well as keep up on the few shows/YouTube channels I follow.  It feels like if I could somehow get an extra ten, twelve hours a day, I might actually get something done.

Now you’re probably expecting me to reveal the secret I found to finding a balance to all of this.  No luck.  Even if I did find some way to balance my life, it probably wouldn’t apply to you.  Besides, I’ve come to the knowledge that balance is fleeting.  If you somehow managed to get to the point of things being perfectly balanced, the only constant in life is change, so that balance won’t last. 

How is this a writing tip?  It’s just a reminder that there is no perfect solution to hectic problems.  I think some writers want to stop and outline the plot forward.  That can work with fiction, but reality is too complex for a simple outline.  We need to accept that “It’s not pretty, but it works, for now,” is better than doing nothing while looking for a perfect balance.


Image from Pixabay.