Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Truth ain't pretty

Finished the edits on Silver Age today, right on schedule. Hit a bit of a snag submitting it, but the plan is to iron that out this week as well. After that I moved forward on the submitting of the fantasy novel. It requires a "one to three paragraph synopsis" which I agonized over, and did not complete. I won't even say that I plan to finish it tomorrow either. I'm putting a lot of emphasis on it because those one to three paragraphs might be the difference between getting my novel read, and getting it thrown into the slush pile. The last editor that had it told me there were too many POV shifts, and too many characters that the POV could shift to. The first problem I worked on. The second problem... well, the story is about several different people. I didn't know what to say then, and I don't know what to say now. I shall now grumble about "some other authors."

But I'm happy to say that nothing else is really on my plate. Aside from the weekend writing, I'm free to consider other ideas. One of those at the forefront was a prompt suggested by the same man who emailed me about getting my stories done in audio. He put a prompt on his website, a sci-fi western premise that presupposes that the American Civil War was actually started by a shadowy, potentially extraterrestrial group operating out of a small town in a place called Diablo Canyon. I have to admit that I blinked at the idea at first, but have gone on to take it as a challenge. My first thought was to find an interesting angle to tell a story, any story, from. My first task on how to get to that place was to, generally, disregard the greater idea of the war and its cause. I've always believed character is key, so my search wasn't for an event, or an invention, but for a person. Who in the town, I wondered, would be interesting to tell a story about. The man provided several lists titled "heroes" and "points of action" and "enemies" which I hopped, skipped, and jumped over.

I have to admit that so far I've got nothing. Part of the prompt had to do with inserting some kind of technology into the setting that would allow the group to control South Carolina's succession and influence other states into fighting a massive conflict (there was another list of items labeled "devices"). And it isn't that I'm particularly attached to the conflict starting over the economic shuffle that would be created by freeing the slaves. I just don't know a whole lot about technology in 1861 to insist what kind of gadget could so completely offset things in whoever's favor.

I did have a brief thought to talk about alien abduction. I had an idea about the town crazy person, and the unwed woman who cared for him out of charity. I have a certain fondness for deranged people in stories. A rule I was taught in a Shakespeare class I took in college: fools are allowed to speak the truth. They can cut right to the heart of the matter, speak directly to the audience, even in a different accent. Why? Because they're crazy, and no one would believe them anyway. However I only got that far because I wrote a series of abduction stories a few years ago that reminded me of the prompt somehow. I thought it would be a neat exercise to add to that series of stories by adding abducted people throughout time.

Geographically, the town is supposed to be surrounded by impassable mountains, the only way in and out is a narrow road and a river that runs beside it. Caravan leader, no river boat captain, I think to myself. I think that to myself, then I circle back around to the crazy man no one believes. Yellow teeth? Missing teeth. Stubble, hm, beard. How much did a bath and shave even cost back then? Man he must smell. Oh, wow, his breath. Has dirt everywhere. Skin like old worn gloves, hair the color of brown dirt. Cletus? Marvin? Rupert. Disgusting.   

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