Ideas Not Taken

Remember yesterday when I said I didn’t edit any of the ideas that I was jotting down? Well, I lied, but ignore that for now. Let’s take a look at some of the paragraphs I wrote and talk about some of the choices I made while writing them down.

Writing is all about choices. Word choice, voice, tone, setting. You make hundred of choices every time you sit down to write or outline. I think ultimately this is what people actually mean when they say they don’t have any good ideas. They really mean that they have a hard time choosing.

Let’s take a look at this paragraph I wrote yesterday:

They get to the village, and everyone is quiet. Men are working the fields. Women are churning butter, feeding the chickens, and stirring the day’s stew. Some children come and meet the heroes. The children are curious, friendly, and help them find food and drink and bedding for the night. Things seem to be going well until the sun begins to droop and the sky becomes orange.

The first choice I made was about the adults. I made them quiet, and docile, even though I didn’t mention that. A bunch of strangers riding into your town unannounced, especially in a place that has so much strangeness going on, those villagers could have reacted differently.

  • They could have formed a line, blocking their way into the village
  • They could have shooed the children into the houses to keep them from the view of the travelers.
  • The could have been welcoming.
  • They could have all hidden, down to the man; cowering in their tiny huts, trying to avoid any contact with the outside world.

Any one of these would have set the tone for the village and made the story play out differently. I chose for the villagers to be passive and pretty much ignore the travelers. I could have taken it a different direction and honestly as I write these others down and think through them, I think I’m inclined to go with the second one, hiding all the kids away. If the adults don’t want any trouble and just want to be left alone, that seems like the more likely thing for them to do to avoid questions.

  • The decision to include chickens also says something about this setting. Not every fantasy setting has to have animals that are common to our world, and I distinctly remember pausing before writing down chicken as my brain make a decision on if that was what I wanted or not.

One more paragraph before I get on to my little white lie:

For decades the village has been under a spell. Every night, from sundown to sunup, all the children in the community are paralyzed. They eventually seem to grow out of it, finally able to move again once they hit puberty.

  • I could have had the adults paralyzed instead of the children. Maybe it only sets in once you hit puberty.
  • Puberty could have been changed to some rite of passage, which might mean that it’s something to do with the scary cave to the south that everyone had to enter to become an adult.
  • I didn’t even have to mention it was a spell. I could have had these simple farmers not know exactly what the issue was.
  • For that mind, the villagers could all know exactly why it’s happening but chose to keep it from the travelers, which I think is a fascinating thread to explore

So we see how things could have been different. Now how about that line I cut from yesterday’s treatment? Here it is:

Turns out the kids aren’t just paralyzed, they all share in a common nightmare, but all the adults tell the kids to not talk about it.

Common nightmare huh? I loved this idea. Common nightmare could mean anything, and I don’t really have any specifics right now, but I loved this notion. This changes it from something that is just making them unable to move to something that is affecting their minds. Does the paralysis cause the nightmare, or is it simply the body’s reaction to it, trying to keep itself still so no one is harmed? Do the kids remember the nightmare after they come to the next day? I don’t know. Either way, you go with it will help you get down to the core of why which is really what we are driving toward.

Because I’m not planning on writing this story (at least not for now) I’m not going to worry too much about where the curse comes from. Sometimes going down that path and finding out as a writer means you now know, and once you know, you no longer need to pursue it. Many writers write simply to discover the story in their own heads and finding it means the adventure is over. I think it is best to let sleeping dogs lie. I will file this idea away though for future use.

Till tomorrow,

Tom

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