Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Free story idea – Lost wallet

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.

To start, I don’t really have a title for this story.  For my records I labeled it “Lost Wallet” for reasons which will be explained.  The idea as I have it would work as a novella, but if you can think of more material to add it could be a novel, or even a series. 

There are over a hundred spacefaring civilizations around the galaxy.  They fall into basically four groups.  There are the ones that have been around for tens or hundreds of thousands of years and have technology that basically make them gods.  They are around, but nobody really knows what they are doing and they play no part in the story.  The second group – of a dozen or so species – have been around for maybe ten thousand years and are extremely powerful.  They are well on their way to being in the god tier, and the lesser species just hope not to be noticed by them.  The third group have only been around for a few thousand years, and are still figuring out the galaxy.  There are fifty or so species in this group.  They are the main movers and shakers in the galaxy.  There are trading stations every few hundred lightyears all over the galaxy – some have been around for thousands of years and nobody really knows who first built them – and most of the business done on them is handled by this third group.  And the fourth group are the newbies, and they are another fifty or so species.  They know of the larger picture in the galaxy, but they usually stay within tens of lightyears from their homeworld.  They maybe stick with just one or two of these trading stations.

Humans, are sort of a fifth group.  The story is, that an object was detected entering our solar system.  The more telescopes that looked at it, the odder it seemed, until the most likely explanation was that it was an alien spacecraft.  A probe was thrown together and sent, and it indeed was a damaged, alien ship.  It was recovered and scientists took it – and what was left of the crew – apart and figured out all the technology, including the warp drive, or whatever.  So Humans built a ship and went out to meet the galaxy.  But things didn’t go well.  Turns out, desecrating the remains of someone’s dead isn’t a great opening move.  The way I thought of it was humans found a wallet on the street.  We looked in it and saw the person lived a few blocks away.  But instead of walking it back to them, we took the money out of it and hired a limo to take us the few blocks.  And while we did return the wallet, we took all the photos and credit cards out and photocopied them.  Fortunately, for us, the ship was from a civilization in the fourth group who didn’t really have the clout to do anything about it.  If it had been a ship from the second group, they probably would have just wiped us out.  So Humans are out exploring the galaxy, but there is the feeling that we hadn’t “earned” the right to be out there so few species wish to deal with us.

That’s the backstory, but what’s the actually story?  To try to give Humans a better name, several ships are sent far across the galaxy with samples of art.  There is music and sculptures, but the main thing are books translated into several of the bigger languages.  The story basically follows a trader trying to sell Shakespeare to aliens. 

The version I came up with had a father set out with his young daughter to spread the “Humans aren’t all bad” message.  So the daughter grew up interacting more with aliens than Humans.  And after her father died – probably just some accident – she continued.  It may have been twenty years since she’s left Earth, and over a decade since she’s spoken with a Human, but she’s still on the mission because it was important to her dad.  Her father was something of a poet, and after he died she started including his work in the sample of great Human artists.  Which means that at some point, hundreds of years later, when people finally reach this area of space, some of the aliens might want more work from this great Human artist, and the people won’t know who they’re talking about. 

But what’s the meat of the story?  I don’t know.  Maybe some other Human comes looking for her.  Maybe they had a similar origin story and they’ve gone looking for other orphans among the stars because they haven’t had Human contact for years either.  The bland story would be the two would fall in love and have a child to carry on the mission for a homeworld they’ve never seen.  But something different would probably be better. 

Or, maybe it’s a deep dive on what does it mean to be Human.  Like she’s spent so much time with aliens she’s more comfortable with them.  Maybe on the other side of the galaxy, she comes across members of a Fourth Group species that – from a distance – look Human, and she freaks out.  She is so accustomed to “alien” that something “humanoid” disturbs her. 

There are various things that could be done with this, but some things would probably be best not to do.  Like there’s some sinister plot in the galaxy and this single Human is the only one who can stop it, seems like a story from the 1960’s.  Or that by traveling across the galaxy she discovers some long-kept secret from Earth’s past, which seems like a 1990’s story.  A story where Humans aren’t the center of the universe seems more befitting a modern audience.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Random Writing Tips – Cliché timing


Imagine this story.  One of the main characters is traveling to some castle and comes across a woman.  We the audience know that she is the other main character, the Queen who was travelling amongst her people and got lost, or something.  They start heading to the castle, and have some adventures on the way, and the Queen falls for the other character.  She finally works up the courage to tell them who she is, just as they crest a hill and see a dragon rampaging over her castle.  Interrupting someone just before they can tell a big secret is dramatic, but it has been done so often it’s now cliché.  You can probably think of a couple examples from movies or TV shows without straining too much. 

Another example of cliché timing is how someone will be explaining their backstory, or some key aspect of world building, and just as they finish – sometimes within seconds – an alien will burst out of the wall for an action scene.  On one hand, having action scenes in between all the exposition dumps is an efficient way to give all the necessary information without it being too much, but on the other hand we’ve also seen that a thousand times before. 

Cliché timing is an efficient way to give the readers needed information and to keep some tension for the sake of drama, but it also makes it easy for the reader to see the scaffolding the story is hung from.  And when the reader can see the structure of the story, it becomes harder for them to get lost in it.  Some cliché timing can help the story, but too much can leave the reader rolling their eyes.


Image from Pixabay.

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

My writing goals for 2023


One of my writing goals for 2021, which carried over to 2022, will carry over to 2023.  That’s to finally finish, and publish, my collection of fifty stories about writing, The Uncapped Pen.  I am nearly done with it.  There’re one or two stories that are about 90% done, and the entire thing needs a good polish, or two.  But my goal is to finish it up and get it out, hopefully by April. 

Last year I wrote that I hoped to finish off a story and start submitting it to magazines.  I did finish it, and I did submit it to four or five magazines, but none took it.  There are a couple other places I could submit it to, but they’ve been closed to submissions.  Some because they only take submissions for a couple of months each year and I missed them, but others because they had all their upcoming issues filled.  So I need to keep a watch for when they open so I can submit.

My general plans are to write more, try to finish more stories to submit, and to start work on my next collection, Collection X.  We’ll have to see how things go.


Image from Pixabay.