Every author that is worth something-at some point-has a scratch file of ideas. The stories that we want to do, and all of the ideas and notes that we’ve accumulated for them. Sometimes we can’t tell the story for one reason or another-we can’t find a good narrative “hook” to get into it. Or we don’t know how to write the story so that it’s convincing.
But authors are like pack rats, we won’t throw away a story idea just because we can’t exactly use it right now. We might learn something, or develop a technique, or something that lets us write the story. Hell, we might just have an apple hit us in the head and that inspiration lets us finally sit down at the computer and type until we fall asleep or something.
(I actually did that once or twice…look it was college. You had last-minute papers to do, the deadline was 9 AM and you start thinking that you can get away with going to bed at 3 AM if you only get the writing done… I’m just glad it came out coherent.)
So, I’m deciding to share a bit of my scratch files, because The Winter Solist final dance number isn’t coming together the way I want and I keep going back to fix things. To get my head out of that mess, I look at my scratch files for inspiration, and maybe work on those stories for a little bit.
And if I share some of these ideas, an apple will land on me.
An Ethical Succubus
The concept behind An Ethical Succubus series is built around the ideas of addiction, survival, and having your world upended. The genre could be called “urban fantasy,” but there are no supernatural elements to it. Barring “sufficiently advanced technology,” mind you.
The main character discovers that he’s become…well, something very closely defined as a “succubus”-he can change his shape, he’s incredibly strong, he’s incredibly tough, he knows what men desire, and he has a very uncomfortable need to sexually ride men to death as a woman. Bad enough that if he doesn’t pay attention to it, he just might do it without him having any real control over it, the same way a serious alcoholic or other kind of addict always has to avoid temptation or fall dangerously off the wagon.
The first book covers the main character learning about his new…condition and coming to some kind of terms with it. There’s a hilarious suicide attempt montage that takes about two chapters (and, I mean, he tries everything-hanging himself, bullet under the chin, three kinds of poison, throwing himself off a cliff, electrocution, homemade napalm…). Then, he has to figure out how he can live with himself. Thus the “ethical succubus” of the series title.
And, the more that I’m writing it, the more I’m realizing that it’s also an epitaph to San Francisco.
Because in the boom/bust cycles that San Francisco has always had, this one looks like it’s going to actually turn the city into a version of Detroit. Office rentals are massively down, costs of living are high, the problems of addicts and the homeless and crime in general, the decay of any kind of middle, and so many things about the city that I loved are dead or dying.
I go there once a month, and the city is just…sad. Like watching an old ship rot in the dock, something that was once beautiful just falling apart from apathy. And, that’s going to be a theme in the story, where the main character realizes just how the city is dying and he has to wonder at some point…
Is he a noble predator?
Or is he a carrion-eater?
It’s not quite a personal story, but San Francisco does feel bad at this point. Far too many stories of the city breaking bad. And, that’s something I would emphasize as I was writing this tale.
STATUS: I’ve written the notes for the first few books and the outlines for the first two books. There’s been some writing (the chapters are short in comparison to others, because the main character is terse at the beginning), and some progress is being made.
Hey, who doesn’t want to write their own manga? (Not a comic book, at least not in the usual Marvel/DC sense.)
Armor Girls is that manga. I wanted to do something that was a hybrid fantasy-one part Tenchi Muyo, one part Guyver, and one part Dresden Files. And, it all started out as a random idea for “pitching a harem series” on a forum somewhere…
Anyways, we start out with Reiji Fujiko, who is a good kid. He’s good, and he’s nice but he isn’t soft. Working three jobs so that he can go to college, as his parents died when he was young and his Grandfather died when he was 14. He bounced around the Japanese foster-care system until he hit 18 years old, and now he’s trying to finish his degree, stay sane, and remain employed.
This is when the Tenshi, appeared, in the form of the first four Armor Girls-
- Chikyū-A pillar of strength and power, who wants to be more than just that. And, somehow, every time she tries to relax, something happens.
- Fuzei-Take a femme fatale and add Yamato Nadeshiko and you have Fuzei in a nutshell. She’s beautiful but underneath her flirtation and charm, she’s scared that she’s just a facade.
- Ōumi-She’s patient. Calm. And dedicated. And a big believer in the past and how beautiful it is (we’re talking formal kimonos and Victorian-era clothing here). But, the future scares her, and to embrace Reiji is to embrace the future.
- Kogasu-What happens when you put Pinky Pie, Death of the Endless, and Merdita in someone that is an even split between Scottish ginger and Japanese country girl? You get Kogasu-who is…enthusiastic. And has a whole lot of other issues. Including a fear of pants (trust me, it makes sense in context).
-and, we of course have the girl that would be Reiji’s girlfriend if they had three seconds to spare between work and school, Mari. Who has her own set of issues (her parents moved overseas when she was young, left her with an aunt, and she hasn’t ever seen them when they spent any time in Japan-and her aunt treated her like an accessory).
Then, we discover that the Tenshi are actually sophisticated sets of ambulatory nanomachines that can link up with Reiji to become suits of armor. The first plot arc (which would cover the first season of the anime) deals with this, and the mysterious Apple Man that is sharing what he calls “seeds.” These seeds turn people into monsters…but, according to him, all it does is “show the real person inside.”
It all winds up into a massive conspiracy, a secret war, and Reiji figuring out how to navigate the rocks and shoals of his relationships. And explosions. Big ones.
STATUS: I’ve got some commissioned art coming from Kittyhawk on the Tenshi, I’ve got the story bible and the script for the first two issues written, and I’ve got an outline for the first four tankobons (think “trade paperbacks” in US terms).
The problem is that I can’t draw worth a damn and I can’t afford an artist right now. Especially not playing cash-float games to make sure they got paid and I could eat on a regular basis.
Untitled Spaceship Isekei Novel Idea
If you’ve been reading my ideas about the Ghost Fleets, this is where it’s leading to.
We have one human (or a small team of humans) from present-day Earth that have been uploaded into Imperial warships. And then…
…that’s where the issue begins.
My two choices of direction from this is in or out.
Out is a “explore the universe, seek out strange new worlds” story, with lots of exploration and my little fleet of ships being able to fight and win localized battles, but could be overwhelmed by numbers. Numbers that the major factions have. And, these ships showing up causes a lot of the area politics to catalyze and now they have to fight a war between shifting powers that want the technology they have…and might not be too friendly to our humans and their efforts to establish a new human world.
In is simple. We have people that are now in command of ships that are hidden inside of Ceres come back from the dead…and head back to Earth. Which leads to a lot of issues, because now all of this advanced technology is in the hands of people that aren’t exactly under the control of people on Earth. Meanwhile, governments and power brokers realize that there is now a fleet in orbit that isn’t under their control and wants to establish an Empire that never ruled the Earth before and is rather…strict in ways that a lot of these power brokers would feel uncomfortable with. And a lot of them would have to either stop being who they were or face Imperial justice.
And, the big question of why were there hidden ships in the Sol System, and there’s no signs that the Empire ever existed in that universe…
Hilarity ensues either way.
(And, there’s one scene that I want to do, mostly because I want to have a young girl that never knew her father have him come back from being in a coma for nearly fourteen years.)
STATUS: I’ve got a lot of notes, but the outlines aren’t working the way I want them to. There’s a lot of starships, the historical structure of the Imperium (which gets interesting, especially things like the Archons, the Time of the Five Emperors, the Empire/Alpha War, and a lot of other little details), and a lot of tech information.
…I think I’d be happy writing up universes for other people to write in. How does someone do that?
Untitled Giant Robot/Fantasy Isekei Novel Idea
Why? Because chicks dig giant robots.
I’m wanting to do more giant robot/mecha stories, and setting it in a medieval/Victorian-era universe with swords, sorcery, fantasy creatures, and giant stompy robots has a lot of appeal to me. The big inspirations are The Visions of Escaflowne and Knight&Magic, with a few other accessories added to the mix.
The setting is very European, and it is roughly about the time when Germany actually started to be a country (mostly Prussia and its allies, but they’re expanding…), and our main character is a part of the minor British-analogue nobility. Unlike most isekei stories, he doesn’t have many memories of his past life, but he does have a lot of sheer information in his head. Information that he uses to build better giant robots for himself and others.
The main character is going to start out fairly young, and because of a cosmic angel goof, he’s way overpowered magically by the local standards. So overpowered that people think that he doesn’t have any magic, because he’s far above the usual scales. This is one of the big plot arcs-the main character having to learn magic differently because he’s far too overpowered in that respect.
The second is that we get to see the classic Lensman Arms Race from the inside, as the technology changes from late Georgian to Victorian/early Edwardian era. Muscle power begins to be replaced by steam and early electricity, guns start to appear and improve, the giant robots get more powerful, magic gets more controlled and higher in power (mostly because of the main character showing that higher power levels are possible), and the world starts to change.
The big question becomes-what is the tone of this story? Do I go for the Harry Potter/Schooled In Magic-type story where we get to see the main character do his time at a boarding school a’la Eton? Or something a bit more free form?
STATUS: I’m collecting notes, I’ve got a rough map of the world, I’ve got a historical chart of the giant robots on the major faction’s sides, and how the magic system works. I’ve also got a short glossary on the terms being used in the story, so that’s something. Also, a rough outline of where I want the story to go.
And, I get a chance to build big (okay, not that big, they’re in the Labor/VOTOM/Gear scale, about 8-10 meters/28-32 feet tall) stompy robots and work out all the neat details. Like control mechanisms, how they’re powered, weapons, and all of the fun little greebles that let me give the Knights such character of their own.
If there is anything you can take away from this little run-through, it’s this.
Collect your ideas. Even what you might think as a silly or weak idea might find use somewhere. I’ve got whole scratch files of stories that might never see the light of day, but learning about new things is never wasted.
And, it helps you to create characters and worlds, figure out how to hook new readers, and you get to relieve your curiosity. All of which is vital for a writer.
So, get out there and add a few more pages of notes today! And always remember to hug people you like as well.