National Novel Writing Month 2018: Ideas from elsewhere

Looking over the various OneNote pages, Word files and other bits and pieces where I’ve recorded story ideas, here’s a list of some of the more intriguing ones, again rated on a scale of 1 to 10 pounds of James Patterson novels.

Time After Time (yes, YATTS*): A person with Stage 4 cancer comes across a flat translucent stone that lets them jump ahead in time and then back. They decide to see if it can be used to cure their cancer.

I’m not sure this could work at novel-length because I frankly don’t think I’m clever or sophisticated enough to pull it off, and my natural (and sometimes terrible) tendency would be to somehow make light of the inevitable “What does it mean to live? What price to pay?” theme that would develop. For example, maybe the protagonist discovers they can survive the cancer by sacrificing someone else or by allowing something horrible to happen. And I’d play it for laughs. But maybe that could work. Still, a thin, if interesting premise, with potential for some solid characterization.

Rating: 7 pounds of James Patterson novels

Grinder: A thriller about someone using a dating app with GPS locations and getting undesirable results

This has actually happened in real life, where people have used hook-up apps that show location to meet and then beat unsuspecting men. This would probably work better as a short story. I imagine it having either a supernatural element or some kind of Twlight Zone twist to it.

Rating: 3 pounds of James Patterson novels

One Slip: A couple meet in their early 20s and spend the next 20+ years together, experiencing the usual ups and downs of any relationship, against the backdrop of the Vancouver gay community and the specter of AIDs. One day as they stroll around the rugged terrain of a national park, one of the partners slips at the edge of a lookout over a spectacular waterfall. There is a safety barrier but it’s too low and he goes over, as his partner watches in horror. The body is never found. As the surviving partner grapples with the loss of his spouse, he begins to experience odd phenomena that seems related to his departed partner. Gradually he begins to wonder if they are messages “from beyond the grave.” Eventually he realizes that his partner is still alive and somehow trapped in another dimension, one that has a portal just below the falls. The other dimension is unstable and unfriendly and time is running out. The story concludes with a return to the waterfall and a last ditch effort to pull the missing partner back into the world he belongs–or risk pulling both into the bad place where neither should be.

This is a rare in that it’s relatively fleshed out for a simple idea. I like the concept of the surviving partner going from thinking he’s seeing signs of a ghost to gradually realizing his partner is still alive and somehow trapped. It’s a bit goofy, though, but I’d be able to weave a lot of small details into it for added authenticity (write what you know, you know).

Rating: 7 pounds of James Patterson novels

Wake Up: Protagonist is in a coma (but doesn’t know it, and neither does the reader at first). The story follows the vivid thoughts inside the protagonists mind, as doctors and loved ones try to find a way to connect with this person from the real world. Their efforts result in strange, seemingly unexplainable phenomena in this “coma world.” Finally, the protagonist sees the message: “If you’re reading this, you’ve been in a coma for almost 5 years. We don’t know if or when this message will reach you. Please wake up.” (Think Inception, but like, sad and coma-y).

This was actually given as a suggestion on the NaNoWriMo forum a few years ago. I like the idea of bridging the gulf between a conscious and unconscious mind. There would probably have to be some bigger stakes at play, and this would require research and I’m lazy and hate research. Still, a solid idea.

Rating: 6 pounds of James Patterson novels

Best Friend Dead. A friend accidentally killing another friend, and trying to hide the fact, or something to that effect.

Pretty thin idea. Basically, “What do you do if you accidentally kill your friend and really, really don’t want anyone to ever find out for reasons?” Could go many different ways.

Rating: 4 pounds of James Patterson novels

The Broken Bridge. After a near-fatal pool accident, two friends find themselves at a crossroads, where taking responsibility can mean more than just growing up, it could save a life.

This was a long short story I wrote a hundred years ago that I think could potentially work at novel-length. It’s dark and despairing, because it’s about a friend saving another from drowning and the saved friend believing he was meant to die, and slowly unraveling as he attempts to “right the wrong.”

Rating: 7 pounds of James Patterson novels

Sanity Road. A man pulling an all-nighter on the road battles to stay awake—and sane, as the trip wears on his body and mind.

I am a sucker for this idea, even if I have little idea on the specifics. To me it oozes atmosphere. A man has a deadline to meet and has to drive all night, going from the city, through the desert and mountains, before arriving at the destination city. Along the way he thinks he sees things along the sides of the road, maybe something in the backseat–something bumping around in the trunk? He essentially drives himself crazy, then probably dies in a horrible car crash just short of his destination when it’s either revealed that there really was [some awful thing] or he just finally snaps.

Rating: 7 pounds of James Patterson novels

Clean Slate. A person has the ability to literally wipe anything out things—wipe the words off a sheet of paper, wash a car out of existence, etc.

An intriguing but slight premise. And I have no idea how to flesh it out.

Rating: 2 pounds of James Patterson novels.

***

Tomorrow I’ll pile together all ideas so far and begin The Winnowing.

 

* YATTS = Yet Another Time Travel Story

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