Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Did this guy miss something?

I was reading the synopsis of William Gibson's "Spook Country" on iTunes.

Yes, I'm an audiobook junkie.

Anyhow, the synopsis mentions a girl who writes for a magazine that doesn't exist yet. And I thought to myself...does Gibson know just what kind of gold mine is held in a statement like that?

The idea--which may or may not be original--came to me of a reporter from the twenty-something-th century who works for a magazine. The magazine's content is the past, and so the reporter regularly travels into the past to cover stories.

There's a ton of material there.

If it hasn't been done already...


Sunday, July 15, 2007

"Hasn't This Been Done Before?" moment #794

Countless writers have this problem, or so I'm told.

You're daydreaming. Suddenly something clicks. It's the greatest story idea in the world. It's a bestseller. No! It's three bestsellers, a trilogy! Better yet, it's a franchise that can spin off bestsellers ad infinitum. It's the next freakin' Harry Potter.

And then...doubt sets in.

It all seems...familiar. Like you've had the idea before. Or worse: Someone has already written your idea.

I had a moment like that today. Here was the idea: The President of a local Addicts Anonymous chapter gets hit by a cigarette truck because the driver was drunk and speeding across town to buy his next 8 ball of cocaine. The AA president ends up in limbo, where he is given a face-to-face meeting with Death. THE Death. Capitol "D." The D-man shoots straight: There are thousands of ghosts on earth, and they are all souls of people with the biggest addiction of all: life. It turns out that Life is a bigger high than drugs, booze, sex, and video games put together. It's the most addictive element in the universe, and Death wants it solved. So he puts this former 12-step leader incharge of Life-a-holics Anonymous, the afterlife's own addiction therapy group.

Brilliant, I thought. Think of the franchise possibilities, think of the movies, of the sit-coms, comic books, cereal endorsements...

But wait... This seems all too familiar. But I couldn't put my finger on where I had come across it before. Was it Beetlejuice? Was it the old cable program Dead Like Me? Or was it somewhere else?

The truth is it may be a completely original idea. And I may not be giving myself enough credit. If that's the case, maybe I'll pick it up later when my current novel is finished.

If you've ever heard of such an idea, shoot me an email at putnamm@gmail.com and tell me where you've heard of it.


Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Therapist to the superheroes

I was listening to Mur Lafferty's podcast yesterday and it inspired an idea in me. I've sent this idea to Mur, asking if it's been done before. I'm not up on the podiofiction or online books, and she is an expert in that world. So we'll see if it's original.

The idea is this: A young, female therapist has established a successful and very lucrative practice by serving the therapy and psychoanalytical needs of the superhero and supervillain community. As such, she knows all of their identities, which she keeps private as an ethical professional, of course. She knows these people as they really are, not as they appear in comics or on television. In fact, she knows a little too much about some of them. As the work begins to bore her and become more of a daily grind, she is summoned to appear in court where she is challenged to reveal the identity of one of her clients. It turns out that a senator, who is in league with the world's most diabolical supervillain, is attempting to make her patient records public, which would obviously be disasterous for her clients, good and evil.

The book could be a satire, obviously, playing on the cliches and pretenses of superhero fiction and comic book culture. But it could also be quite serious, addressing a topic like doctor-patient privilege.

Just another idea. Now...back to the Plotastic! book.


Saturday, June 30, 2007

Understanding magic

I'm studying up on blog copyrights, in order to maintain at least some claim to whatever original ideas I may post publicly. In the case of something I really want to hold on to, I will become a little more...generalized in my descriptions. This is one such case.

I have worked on an idea for a novel that concerns "the science of magic." The real question is whether magic can be subjected to the same academic scrutiny as science, and thus reveal particular immutable laws about itself that would allow someone to master its use. What's interesting is that this ongoing brainstorm has resulted in an unanticipated, additional storyline.

I think it is generally accepted by fans of fantasy and science fiction that magic is somewhat like "the Force." It cannot be entirely understood and there is a certain amount of faith involved. Thus, the above mentioned storyline has added to its development a faith-based component, so I now have three components to the story: science, magic, and religion. It's beginning to get interesting...


[Another] twist on aliens

So I know the whole "aliens from another planet" thing has been done. Many times. Many, many times, and without a whole lot of variations. That's the point of an idea I've been tossing around.

See, aliens--like hobbits or ghosts or other forms of otherworldly creatures--give us an opportunity to hold up our own civilization in comparison with another. It's a great tool for modern morality tales or even satire, because with a benchmark comparison our own flaws are amplified. I think most modern writers have considered using alien beings at one point or another, for something.

My own recent idea was in keeping with my theory that by twisting a story element 180 degrees, we can derive a more interesting and less typical scenario. In the case of aliens, rather than having them be an advanced technological society from light years across the univers, why not have them be a not-so-advanced civilization from somewhere nearby? The point of such a story, I would imagine, would be that such a society can thrive without the bells and whistles of modern technology such as laptop computers, instant coffee, and self-cleaning ovens. The aliens themselves may represent an offshoot of humanity; a tribe, so to speak, who at one point in our evolution split off from the main line and left to do their own thing. And they've done great. What would we think of such creatures? How would we treat them, if they truly came in peace? WOULD they come in peace? Who knows?


Sunday, June 24, 2007

"No Sympathy Night"

So I've had it in my head to write a short story based on a brief, five-word comment made by Bill Hicks on his album Rant in E Minor.

Bill was notorious for belittling his audiences from the stage and for snapping back at what he felt were slack-jawed yokels who heckled him from the safety and anonymity of the darkened room. On one of these occasions, capture on "Rant," he plainly told one of these hecklers, "Welcome to 'No Sympathy Night.' Welcome to 'You're Wrong Night.'"

That phrase--"No Sympathy Night"--and the fact that I've always been interested in stand up comedians spurred on a short story about a standup comic who belittles his audiences. It works for a short time, but eventually it begins to drive the people away.

The story opens as the comic is being confronted by the comedy club manager, who gives the comic his last shot. The meat of the story is an exchange between the comic and a 9 year-old boy who is waiting for his sister to finish waiting tables for the night. Because the kid's sister is a particularly atractive waitress with whom the comic has some history, the comic bears the obvious annoyance of the kid's omnipresence. They discuss comedy, and the comic tries to bounce some material off the kid, who obviously doesn't understand the intellectual, politically fueled rantings of the professional comedian. Finally, the kid tells a simple, straightforward "Knock, knock" joke. The comic waves it off as uncultured rubbish and chastises the kid for his laziness. But when the lights go up on the next show, the comic opens with the kid's joke, which starts the crowd reeling.

Like most of my ideas, I like it. And I've gotten maybe 500 words into this short story, which should be maybe 4000 at the most. But as the Plotastic! novel kicks in, I'm going to have to shelve it.