Thursday, December 29, 2011

Volcanoes and grasshoppers

 Tonight seems like it's going to be my week to plead brain-dead.  I got home from San Francisco at midnight last night, and then had to work all day.  So I've spent most of the evening trying to deal with the following:
-great! My two remaining indoor plants died.
-the roommate's kitten has scratched himself near raw from fleas (poor baby), so I had to go buy flea meds
-let's not talk about litter boxes
-more unpacking
-various roommate issues (see above about kitten, and also, who puts empty ice trays back in the freezer? I mean, the one time I want a soothing iced drink in December, and all that's in my freezer are four empty trays).

And thus, as I'm writing the first draft of this, it's almost 9pm and I haven't eaten yet.  Proper brain function appears far off, and anyway, Melanie got me a scary deadline for Christmas (see comments on this post).

The story right now is still in idea phase.  Thus attempts to write a description are formless and uninteresting, along the lines of "So there's  this group of people who live near the polar regions in an Ice Age, but see, long ago they made a deal with a demon who would protect them from winter in exchange for something and it all works until a few centuries later when a new demon comes in and tells them he can do better than their current god, but it all gets screwed up and the volcano loses all its heat and the society collapses."

Ah, horror. Such a cheery genre.

Ka pew! BOOM!

Anyway, in lieu of torturing you with further unclear details at this stage, I'll share one of my favorite story development methods. To my sorrow, I cannot recall the source of the strategy, except that someone on Hatrack told me about it.

Say you have a story problem you want to solve. You then make a list of ten possible solutions.  The idea is that most of the ten are clichéd, but once you get those out of the way, you start to get into unique and truly interesting ideas.  I generally don't reach ten before I get distracted by an interesting idea.  

As an example, Pill Hill Press has put out  a call for a Bugs anthology, and since I don't have any bugs stories ready to go, here's how my thought process might go:
1) Bugs eat you alive (snore)
2) Talking bugs (too Pixar)
3) Giant bugs attacking humans (too Starship Troopers/Aliens)
4) Bugs as nanobots (but nanobots are way overdone right now)
5) If all the bugs in the world disappeared (interesting on an ecological scale, but could come out too preachy)
6) What if bugs developed a god? (not as bad as some of the others, but I feel like someone has done bug/animal gods before. Possibly Terry Pratchett).
7) Something metaphorical with bugs, like the statement that God must love beetles, because there are more species of beetle than any other taxa on the planet (but I'm terrible at deep metaphors, and the quote is very well-known and possibly another cliché).
8) What's fascinating about bugs anyway? Colors, numbers (swarms of them), how hidden they are, how alien they look compared to any other life form on earth, some of the strange abilities they have (grasshoppers transform into locust stage… what if humans had that sort of transformation?)
9) It wouldn’t be like a personality change in humans, but an actual physical change caused by some sort of stimulus.  But what would the change be? For grasshoppers, it's changing from solitary behavior to a group form, swarming across the prairie and devouring all crops.
10) What if we, as humans, have been in locust form all along and we suddenly stopped? What would we become?

Okay! I didn't actually expect to get a story idea from writing this list on the fly (har) like that, but I'm actually kind of intrigued by the human form of the grasshopper/locust transformation.  But that's why I love that method.  As to where to take that idea.... well, maybe it's time for another list.

But not tonight.

(Read more about locusts here and here.  Though some refer to cicadas as locusts, when one speaks of historic plagues of locusts, they do mean grasshoppers. 
Fun fact: 'bug' is an actual scientific term, specific to the Hemiptera group of insects (known as "true bugs") (don't ask me what a false bug is).)


  1. Humans as locusts...there's a story there. Go get some sleep, Sabrina. And probably a sandwich.

  2. If I were in a cynical mood, I might say we humans had been in locust form for quite a while, Grasshopper.

    I will buy you ice cream if you can work locusts AND demons into a story about the supervolcano in Yellowstone that's going to take down the world.

    Ideas are always the hardest part for me, so I collect all these idea generators in a file of treasured bookmarks. Thank you! :)

  3. This brainstorming idea sounds like something Rich Ware might have come up with.

    And I'm glad you're enjoying the scary deadline I got you. Hope you enjoy it as much as I have!

  4. I actually do think it was him; I meant to mention that but it got accidentally lost between drafts of the post.

    Sarah - since you only live three hours or so away from me, I'm tempted to write this story and demand my prize. ;)

  5. I will never offer to buy ice cream and not follow through :)

  6. Great brainstorming advice. I'm so willing to beta read a human locust story. Sounds fun. :)


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