Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Piecing Together the Story - NaNoWriMo

When I was thinking about what I wanted to write for NaNoWriMo this year I had a bit of a problem. No real great story ideas were circulating in my mind.

I had finished my long mythological novel, and so I was pretty sure I wanted to steer clear of fantasy. My space opera idea wasn't too appealing at the moment, (my last attempt at working on it was frustrating at best). This left my supernatural thriller ideas that I've been cooking around with for almost fifteen years. This slow and simmering evolution of stories, ideas, characters, settings and themes has been a bit of a pet project - something I'm not sure if I have the guts or skill to pull off. Over the years I've written two novels set in that genre with those characters and a pretty good sized fragment as well. A few of my more sinister short stories also fall in this realm.

The problem was, I didn't know what story I could tell (I've got a huge time line of events and characters, and picking is tough). So while I was rooting around in my hard drive, I came across a whole set of interesting short stories, story notes, and half started fragments. I started to see little hints of a story wanting to be told, but lacking a cohesive idea. Here's what I found.

Several of the fragments and short stories dealt with a man who was suddenly given the ability to see things that others could not see. In some cases it was visions of the future, sometimes it was the true faces of others, sometimes it was something just buried behind our reality.

So he became my protagonist.

I ran into a half finished novella about a cult that abducted a boy because they thought he was their god reborn. His best friend teams up with a group that is trying to stop the cultists. The two kids were just getting old enough to see each other as more than friends. It was an interesting idea that never really went anywhere.

But those cultists were pretty damn creepy, so they became my antagonists.

I also liked the idea about a childhood friend coming to the rescue of my protagonist. So I took that character and fleshed her out a bit (making her older to fit the protagonist's new age [mid twenties or so]).

I also ran into some great scenes that I wondered if I could use. One in particular was a visit to a museum where the paintings were so vivid they caused people who looked at them to react in disturbing ways.

That became my opening scene.

Finally I had a very strange image pop into my head a few years ago. It involved a song by ABBA, the cartoon Sailor Moon, and a synchronized dance number in a club that normally played techno music.

No, I wasn't drunk or high when I thought of that. But if you listen to enough ABBA you can feel drunk and high!

Believe it or not, I've worked all these things (and quite a few more odds and ends) into my NaNoWriMo story so far.

Have you ever tried to create a story from fragments of other work that you never finished? What do you find is the best way to come up with story ideas on the fly? What does the music of ABBA inspire you to do?

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