We’re just three short days away from the start of the Clarion Write-A-Thon. I’m looking forward to it! I’ll be in my home office bright and early Sunday morning, sipping coffee and banging out the first thousand words of my project before heading out to brunch with friends.
What will I be working on, though? Well, I have two — possibly three — projects in mind. They’ve all been settings I’ve been thinking about off and on through the years, but for some reason or another I’ve never pulled the trigger on them. I’ve told stories in those universes once or twice, but they were always exploratory, always meant to test the structure of the setting and just how well it will stand up to the weight of a story. I think these ideas are solid now, and talent or no it’s time to give them a serious shot.
These three settings all feature themes that I love, main characters that I’ve spent a lot of time with inside my head, and (perhaps best of all) aren’t (entirely) furry. That presents its own set of challenges for me; I’ve really cut my teeth on fandom stuff. Some of the first stories I’ve ever written, way back when I was eight or ten and typing on an old electric typewriter, were essentially Wind in the Willows fan-fiction.
But that’s neither here nor there. Here are my ideas! I’ll be rotating through them a chapter at a time through the six weeks, though I have no idea how far I’ll get with any of them or if they’ll make complete stories. The point is using the Write-A-Thon to get them started, to put them out there, to see what people like or dislike about them and use that feedback to make them better.
This was an idea I had for a TV show based on Changeling: the Dreaming. If you’ve ever played that White Wolf tabletop RPG, you’ll have a good sense of what this’ll be like. If you haven’t, think darkish modern fantasy. Changelings are half-fae, half-human hybrids who straddle two worlds. On one side, the Autumn Realm inhabited by humans who do typical human things. On the other, the Dreaming — a fantastic realm inhabited by every creature ever dreamed by man. Changelings have to essentially pretend to be human beings, paying bills and holding down jobs and such, while honoring the imagination that makes up so much of who they are. If a changeling is walking down the street and meets a girl pretending to be walking a dragon around the block, for the changeling it’s absolutely real. And it’s pretty awkward trying not to be eaten by a creature no one else can see.
Anyway, there are a few changes I want to make to the setting — the rules of Glamour (what changelings call magic) need to be solidified, and the Dreaming itself and how changelings relate to it has to be consistent. I call the changelings in this story “sleepwalkers” just because I wanted the whole setting to have a closer relationship with dreams. A lot of the powers these characters have come from the dreams of the people they’ve touched, and dreams carry a lot of power and importance in their culture.
The main character is a girl named Melissa, who discovers she’s one of these creatures during a particularly rough night of domestic violence. I know, it sounds like every overwrought and angsty amateur Internet writing ever, but I wanted to explore how damaging parents can be to the psyches of their children. In a setting like this, you can externalize a lot of the demons that people carry around with them, and I think it makes for exciting storytelling.
This was an idea I had for a comic book, but I can’t draw for anything so it’ll just have to be a story instead! The world’s scientists discover that a gamma storm is headed straight for Earth (I know this is scientifically inaccurate) and there’s nothing they can do to stop it; when it arrives, it will fry everything on the planet. Governments shut down, the planet falls to chaos as people face the end of the world. It arrives, and despite an odd tingling feeling as it passes over the planet, nothing happens. A confused civilization struggles to pick itself back up.
Then, scientists notice that single-celled organisms are mutating into something…else. Then, insects and other invertebrates. Then fish, and lizards, small mammals, large mammals. Then plants. And finally people. The lines between species become blurred, and people undergo painful, insanity-inducing transformations into monsters and alien half-breeds. Some men wander into a parking lot, grow roots that punch through the asphalt, and scream for hours on end as they slowly become ‘sentient’ trees. The further away from human you shift, the more devastating the transformation.
We follow a young man through this post-apocalyptic weirdness as he slowly transforms from human to some kind of bird hybrid. He has to face a lot of the stuff he’s seen — the mental breakdown of his parents, his own body “betraying” him — to survive, form relationships, join a strange community of similarly-affected people. Meanwhile, the world around them keeps changing, and their understanding of the way the universe works disconnects abruptly from what it’s become.
I wanted to explore the inevitability of change with this setting, and how damaging it can be clinging to the way things used to be. We all have a tendency to do this, and I’m more of a creature of habit than most I know. I wanted to never give people a chance to settle, but to find a way to build the fluidity of the world into the concept so that people actually got comfortable with the idea that nothing stays the same for very long. We go from the end times, to post-apocalyptic, to small town horror, to medieval fantasy, to a sort of advanced-tech utopia, over the span of years. It’s ambitious and weird, and I think it would take vast amounts of organization and delicate narrative finess to pull off. But any old fool can spin a good apocalyptic story, so that’s where we’ll start.
“The Cult of the Lunar Wild”
A girl moves from the capital city of a fantasy kingdom, into a small woodland town filled with mysteries. She soon discovers a group of were-creatures who protect her and the rest of the populace from even more dangerous things lurking in the woods.
This is a bit silly, but I haven’t been able to get this out of my head since thinking it up. Cross Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with Dungeons and Dragons, this is what you get. 🙂 I’m not sure how much to work on this, especially since I’m running a Pathfinder game that features a lot of the same things. I might find the draw irresistible, though.
So there you have it. Those are my three big ideas for the Write-A-Thon! Which one is your favorite?