In the shallow end of the pool

I am a shallow person.

Funny cat videos amuse me greatly.

I can go to one of those auto-correct sites that are comprised of largely fake text message conversations and find myself laughing loudly, even as I acknowledge the fakeness therein.

I can become impatient with stories that trade heavily in metaphor. I resist reading more Harlan Ellison. I want my stories served up straight, without riddles. I don’t mind thinking, but I don’t want to think hard.

I’m exaggerating a bit for effect here. I don’t really mind metaphors. I finally got around to watching the film adaption of Annihilation (I read the book in August of last year) and it is steeped in metaphors. Some are explained rather plainly, others are left to the audience to pull together. And I get why this movie was not a big hit–it demands too much of those watching it. People don’t want to actively think while sitting in a movie theater while holding a $10 bucket of popcorn between their legs. They want action, romance, comedy and whatever else to be doled out quickly, frequently, and without complication. Annihilation often makes you want to rewind to confirm if you are putting the pieces together correctly (this is awkward in a theater, as the projectionist and other audience members are likely to object to your whims).

In going back to a spoiler thread started on Broken Forum discussing the film, I enjoyed everyone’s guesses and theories on what happened, and appreciated even more what people thought everything meant. The video below was linked and it’s a terrific companion piece to the film, highlighting how the right question isn’t, “Did aliens do it?” but what do the events in the film say about the characters, how are they changed, what does it say about us, our world?

Let me return to how I am a shallow person.

I could never write a novel like Annihilation. I could never write a screenplay for a movie like Annihilation. Why? Because my skill with metaphor, my ability to tease out deeper meanings is limited. Was it my upbringing? Is my brain too small? Did my teachers go soft on me? Are cats just so naturally adorable that they short-circuit my intellect? I don’t know. But I do know that any number of stories I write that attempt to say something more profound than ACTION SCENE and BIG LAUGH tend to make me cringe when I re-read them.

I do better now than when I was young, though. There is some seriously overwrought stuff that I wrote in my teens (I mean, who doesn’t write seriously overwrought stuff in their teens? Unless you spent your teens in juvenile or otherwise not actually writing). As a (much) older adult, I can rein in the worst excesses, but my stories are still pretty straightforward:

  • Man swaps bodies with cat
  • Superheroes clumsily save the world from a world-destroying asteroid
  • Man vows to lose weight and is helped by a candy bar-eating magic gnome

Okay, that last one contains a bit of metaphor. But it ain’t subtle.

I guess in writing about my shallowness, there is the idea that is must somehow bother me. And in a little way it does, but I am only actively reminded about how it bothers me after seeing films like Annihilation, and analyses like the one above that explain all the clever, layered things that are presented. Then I feel dumb for not quite fully understanding them or worse, missing these clever things entirely.

I’m not going to make a New Year resolution to write deeper stories or go on a metaphorpalooza, mind you. Frankly, just doing more actual writing would be good enough for now.

And with that, I conclude this post. It’s a metaphor for being lazy, see? Or something.

Road Closed: First draft (of the outline) complete!

I’ve actually written two outlines, the first is based on the outline template mentioned in this post, and I quickly sketched in some ideas about where the story would go, providing it with an actual ending and other crazy things a reader might expect.

The next was an outline of what I’d actually written, 20+ chapters (the number is imprecise because some of the chapters are themselves only outlines and not actually written out). This is right now the more interesting of the two (to me) because it reflects the story as it currently is. The process of putting it all down has laid out how lumpy the story is.

By lumpy, I mean how the story sometimes has scenes that don’t really add much, or seem to build toward something, then peter out. It’s not a smooth ride. The classic three act format is classic because it works, and Road Closed currently does not follow this. There are foundations in place and some of it works pretty decently now. There is, I think, a progression of the deterioration of Christian. The harder he tries to pull things together, the more things unravel, with his drinking accelerating and leading to near-collisions while driving, episodes of vomiting, the DTs and an overnight stay at the hospital. But the concurrent idea (spoiler alert!) of him inevitably leading toward a spectacular car crash that wipes out a bunch of innocent bystanders–which the ghost of Simon obliquely warns him about–is only hinted at very late in the story as written, and I wonder if it even works now as a conclusion.

Also left unaddressed is the entire plot point of revealing Russell Stave as Wendy’s killer, allowing Wendy to find peace, which is a plot point specifically referenced by Christian and Kevin multiple times, so this should really be expanded upon, which means Russell needs more than a few brief cameos.

But now that I have the whole story laid out in front of me I can start yoinking scenes that don’t work and figure out what to fill in, then come up with a convincing third act that pulls it all together in a spellbinding package of spellbindery. Or something.

The next update I’ll report on how this has progressed.

Road Closed revival

Yes, after months in hibernation, I am finally reviving work on Road Closed, because it is time to get writing or quit trying. These blog posts, while satisfying, will not be cherished by millions.

Neither will Road Closed, but if I self-publish I can probably force more people to read it than look at my blog (current views for today by way of example: 3).

The first thing I am doing is using the plot outline template from Libbie Hawker’s Take Off Your Pants (my favourite way to write), to see how the overall plot holds together. I know there are things that I never quite fleshed out and questions to be answered. Once I have the outline sussed out, it’s back to writing and after finishing the first draft I’ll go back and toss scenes that no longer fit and make other adjustments. In fact, I had already started this before my last not-meant-to-be-a-sabbatical.

But hey, instead of writing my plans out in a big, cumbersome paragraph, let me write out out in list form. Maybe I’ll do the entire book as a list!

Plans for Road Closed in 2019:

  • Use plot outline template to complete plot, uh, outline
  • Look for any holes in the plot, fill as necessary
  • The above may include both adding new scenes and purging ones that no longer fit
  • When the first draft is complete, get very drunk, in keeping with the theme of the novel. Actually, don’t do this.
  • Finish the first draft
  • Read the first draft, take notes
  • Write the second draft
  • When the second draft is complete, realize I am so sick of the story that I have lost all objectivity and find a first reader, possibly several first readers
  • Get the first reader(s) to read the novel and offer detailed feedback. More than just “I loved it!” Or “I’m never speaking to you again!”
  • Determine if this feedback is sufficient to do a third and final draft
  • If not, shop around for a professional or semi-professional editor to go over it
  • Write the third draft
  • Research and refresh myself on the art and arcane magic of self-publishing
  • Self-publish the novel
  • Hope that more than three people buy the book, making it more successful than my blog, while also covering 0.001% of the expenses involved in self-publishing in a crowded, unforgiving market

It will be a grand adventure. Maybe I’ll write a book about it someday.

Giving Ulysses another shot, post-subscription

After securing a 25% lifetime subscription discount, I bit and got a one year subscription to Ulysses, the writing app I famously said I would never use again after it switched to a subscription model.

I still really dislike a subscription model for a writing app, but for $36.99 per year, I’m willing to try it again…for at least the next 12 months. And I have missed it, as the app itself I still consider pretty faboo. I lament that the closest equivalent on Windows is a shameless rip-off. Nothing else matches its UI and interface, though some come close.

This, of course, means I’m committing to writing on my MacBook Pro again, though I am still no fan of the keyboard. I think I may be part-masochist.

And for home, I’m thinking of a better solution than the dongle mess I’m currently using, either a Mac mini or a Hackintosh. Time to ponder.

The Big Writing Decision, 2019 Edition

See this post for details.

Today is the day I make the decision on what software to use for my writing and the hardware platform for said software. Below is a partial list of the options.

Software:

  • Ulysses (Mac, iOS)
  • Scrivener (Mac, iOS, Windows)
  • WriteMonkey (Windows, Mac [beta only])
  • FocusWriter (Mac, Windows)

Hardware/OS:

  • macOS on a genuine Mac, either a Mac mini, iMac or MacBook
  • macOS running on a Hackintosh (PC built to run macOS on the sly)
  • Windows 10 on current PC or shiny new PC
  • Windows 10 on a new NUC PC (separated out from the above because it would not be used for any gaming)
  • Amiga 500 bought from eBay running WordPerfect 4.2

And the winner is…

mumble mumble mumble

No, really. The winner is:

Nothing. Nada. I am plagued with doubts at every turn and am still undecided. However, I said I would make a decision today and I’m sticking to that, so here is my decision of sorts:

I will resume Road Closed in Ulysses (Olde Version) on the MacBook Pro and when I work on it at home I will use the power of The Dongle to connect the MBP to the 24″ monitor and a keyboard that clacks in a pleasant way.

So this is decision deferred. I’m not sure I’m ready for a Hackintosh experiment, I still want to get an actual new PC, and none of the current Mac offerings are very appealing. If the $1399 Mac mini option was the $999 entry-level offering, I’d probably go for that, but it’s not, so YOU LOSE TIM COOK LOL. Seriously, I hope the blatant moves to extract as much money from buyers as possible (while getting increasingly shoddy with quality) bites Apple in its metaphorical ass. I don’t expect or event want Apple products to become cheap, just reasonable. They are not reasonable now.

And so, quasi-decision made, the writing journey continues. I will report on my success on that front next Friday, February 1st. Excelsior!

A haiku on writing little and writing late

Late and sleep beckons
Inspiration eludes me
Time for crazy dreams

Once again I have waited too late to get any kind of real writing done (it’s post-11 p.m. as I type this), and I frittered away another non-hour session by listening to the gripes and concerns of co-workers. Plus some chat about Diablo 3 because IT is, let’s face it, full of gaming nerds.

I promise to do better tomorrow. Promise!

The long way to not doing something (Writing Edition)

At least I didn’t wait until 11:56 p.m. to start writing tonight (it’s 8:26 as I type these words). I have been re-reading parts of Road Closed, my still-unfinished 2014 National Novel Writing Month novel. And I have to say, I rather like the parts that I’ve read. The story, told from the perspective of Christian Warren, a 20-year old alcoholic college student trying to right his life, is engaging, he’s appropriately self-deprecating and never comes off as “woe is me.” He feels like someone you could sit down and listen to tell stories. Which is good, because the whole novel hinges on him telling his story.

Road Closed has mutated a fair bit from its inception as a writing exercise based on a photo prompt. By the time it became a NaNo novel, I was writing it using WriteMonkey on a Surface Pro 3 (and on my home PC). After getting a MacBook Pro sans Touch Bar in late 2016, I found Ulysses and switched to writing the story using that. As Ulysses is Mac (and iOS) only, this meant I could only write on the MacBook, which was maybe not the best idea, given I still had my home PC at, well, home.

Then Ulysses switched to a subscription model and I’ve made it well clear what I think of that.

After that I moved the story over to Scrivener, which has the bonus of being available on Mac, Windows and iOS. Problem solved, novel finished, royalties and accolades flooding in.

Well, not quite. There were two remaining wrinkles:

  • My fear of Scrivener eating my work based on past experience where Scrivener ate my work
  • Disparity between the Mac and Windows versions. I upgraded to version 3.0 on the Mac in November 2017. At the time the 3.0 PC version had just released as a free beta, with the final release due “soon.” Now, in January 2018, version 3.0 for Windows is…still unreleased (they are now pretty sure it will ship sometime between April and June of this year). While the Windows 3.0 beta continues to be available to use, I am hesitant to put anything other than test material in it, mainly due to the bullet point above, with the bonus of seeing how much more likely beta software will eat my work.

So although the story is in Scrivener, I haven’t really done much with it. In theory this could change in a few months when the Windows version finally catches up.

But then I actually dusted off Ulysses on the MacBook (the earlier non-subscription version still works) and was entranced by its simple, clean interface all over again.

But as I mentioned, it’s now subscription-only and Mac-only.

And I started mulling over various scenarios:

  • Get a dock for my MacBook Pro to hook it up to my PC monitor and peripherals so I could use it to write on a larger screen (and with a keyboard that won’t jam up from motes of dust)
  • Get an actual desktop Mac. The choice here is simple: the Mac mini, because Apple literally has no other model that isn’t an all-in-one like the iMac, or horribly outdated, like the 2013 Mac Pro.
  • Build a Hackintosh, either using an Intel NUC (advantage: very tiny and can sit unobtrusively on the desk while my PC remains under it) or with something full-size that could also serve as a replacement for my current PC (probably not a great option for a host of reasons)

After this mulling, I realized what I had actually done was concoct a grand series of excuses that all led to one thing: Not working on the actual novel itself. Whatever software I use is just a tool. I had become the equivalent of a person tasked with hammering nails into a board and could not choose between three slightly different hammers, so the board remained nail-free and perhaps something sad or awful transpired as a result. Maybe a dollhouse collapsed. I don’t know. But dithering over what piece of software to use is not going to accomplish anything useful that I can see, unless the future completion of my novel somehow starts a chain of events that accelerates global warming or something, and the world is better off if I never finish it.

So consider this an addendum to my New Year Resolutions:

  • Pick a program and hardware platform to use for my writing, then continue to work on–and finally finish–Road Closed. My self-imposed deadline for this decision is Friday, January 25, 2019. Writers work better with deadlines, right? I predict great success!

We’ll find out in six days.

Addendum: This post was written on the MacBook Pro, hooked up to my 24″ monitor, using the CTRL keyboard and a Logitech Marathon 705 mouse. To get this working, I needed:

  • The Apple HDMI dongle. This includes:
    • HDMI port to connect to the monitor
    • USB 3.0 Type-A port to connect the receiver for the mouse
    • USB Type-C port for the power cable so the laptop isn’t running off battery
  • To plug in the USB-C cable for the keyboard directly into the other USB-C port on the MacBook, as it would not work on the USB-C port on the HDMI dongle

It’s not pretty, but it works and almost makes me forget how terrible the keyboard on the MacBook is. The setup looks like this:

Still technically writing every day

I have not found my groove yet early in this new year when it comes to writing, but I am writing something every day, as I had vowed to do. So yay for sticking to it for nearly a whole week so far! Only 51 more to go.

Part of the problem is my mind feels cluttered by negative thingamabobs, mainly but not exclusively related to a growing professional dissatisfaction. Maybe all those years of not working in a field I am passionate about is finally having an effect. I’m not saying there is something I am passionate about–clearly I struggle with writing, no matter how many books I read on the subject, and how diligently I follow all the little tricks and things to keep you going–but I can’t help but think there might be something I’d be generally more satisfied in doing in my work life.

But every time I take one of those “This is the work you SHOULD be doing!” tests, the results are always somewhat dubious. So I’m not sure how to go about investigating a possible career side-step. I’m also aware that I’m not exactly a 20-something that can freely experiment with a bunch of different jobs to see what sticks (or maybe I could, who knows?)

Anyway, the important thing is I wrote something today and maybe I’ll hit the treadmill again tomorrow. Also, only two more months until we are back on Daylight Saving Time, hooray. All right, this concluding paragraph was a little random. Maybe I accidentally lapsed into free writing. There are worse things that could happen. Like scurvy or the return of parachute pants.

Write something every day

That was one of my resolutions and these words are proof that I am sticking to it, if only technically. But give me a little time and the words will soon flow like some big flowing thing, like lava, but faster and less likely to incinerate you.

In the meantime, here is a kitten:

2018 kind of sucked

I started my 21-day “complaint free” experience in January of this year and after a couple of tries, I managed to go the full 21 days without verbalizing a complaint to another person. I became much more aware of how often others complained–often, I suspect, without them even being conscious of it–and I became very aware of what came out of my own mouth. Since I have a preference to not prattle on unless prodded (prodding me can lead to excessive prattling), the transition from “complain about the weather along with everyone else” to “just smile and not say anything” was easier than expected.

But it didn’t last.

I tried again. I even got the official purple Complaint Free World bracelet. It’s the child size, as I have strangely thin wrists. I could blame my lapsing back into a semi-complaint-filled experience because of the weather–not that it’s bad, but that when it gets cold I’m wearing long-sleeve shirts and jackets, so the bracelet isn’t visible most of the time to remind me not to complain about stuff.

But that’s an excuse, because I did get through the exercise successfully when the weather was cold and wet. It was January, after all, as I mentioned in the first paragraph.

So what happened? Well, a few things. The problem is they were spaced just far enough apart that it felt like, as the old saying goes, “if it’s not one thing, it’s another.”

My health was kicked in the junk this year. Speaking of my junk, I did not have a testicular cancer scare like last year, so that was good.

Instead, I got a tooth infection in a tooth that had been broken for years. That it hadn’t gotten infected much earlier was pretty much dumb luck. Once it did get infected, it had to be dealt with immediately, so I had to pretend to overcome my existential fear of dentists and get what remained of the tooth yoinked.

It actually didn’t go that bad, though keeping stuff out of the resultant gap while it healed was tricky.

But just as I recovered from that I experienced an odd “too hot/too cold” sensation at work. This was May, so neither condition really made sense. I would shiver for ten minutes, then sweat like I was in a sauna for the next ten. I looked up the symptoms and found they could apply to almost anything, but I know my body and its sordid history, and this smacked of YAI. Yet Another Infection. I was right!

I guessed bladder, but it was my kidney. They’re pretty close, so it was a good guess. I waited a couple of days to see a doctor, because I slipped into Guy Mode (don’t need doctors, don’t need maps, don’t need instructions–you know, basically DUMB). I spent a night running a high fever, felt utterly delirious, and was so weak that when I did go to the nearby clinic it took my hours to work up the energy to make the three block trip.

On the plus side, the antibiotics killed the fever amazingly quickly, and I recovered fairly quickly after. The kidney has been a (literal) pain a few times since, but the most recent blood work (which took two arms to obtain successfully as my left arm apparently contains no blood) indicates it is on the mend.

Did I mention that the antibiotics I got for the tooth infection turned out to be another I’m allergic to? Another all-body rash and this weird sensation that my face was glowing (it was, as confirmed by co-workers).

Then my knees gave out. For years they have been getting worse when I crouch or kneel, but I don’t crouch or kneel a whole lot, and running (and walking) was unaffected, so I really didn’t pay much attention.

This spring I paid attention because suddenly my knees really didn’t like it when I went jogging. And when I say suddenly, that is not hyperbole. It just happened, like a tipping point was reached and now my knees were Sore Knees. I watched my running pace get worse and worse. It was discouraging and depressing. I thought I might have to stop running, which has become my go-to Zen relaxation thing since I started back in 2009.

But then the knees…well, they didn’t exactly improve, but they did seem to hurt less. Was I just getting used to it? Whatever it was, my pace began to improve and by summer’s end I was pretty much back to normal, speed-wise. The knees still get sore, but they recover, and it’s never so bad I need to stop. So thumbs sideways there.

My weight loss has been more like weight maintenance. The problem is I’m maintaining at about 15 pounds higher than I want to be. My partner and I are going to suffer diet together for the new year, so I’m hoping there’s more progress there.

Work has been a bit of a trial for various reasons. It’s not terrible or anything, and I don’t want to go into detail on a public blog, but suffice to say it has had its share of frustrations. I don’t see it improving much, unfortunately, but you never know.

I only made it 22,222 words into my 2018 National Novel Writing Month novel. On the plus side, I am committed to continuing it, and did an actual outline, a major change for me. Other than the blog and NaNo, my writing has been pretty quiet this year. This was not my plan.

BC voters voted by over 60% to keep the first-past-the-post system for provincial elections. The referendum ballot was a muddled mess, so I think people probably would have voted for whatever was listed first, no matter what it was.

But 2018 has not been all bad. On the positive side:

  • I have developed (ho ho) an interest in photography and now take all kinds of photos with my smartphone. I don’t know if I will graduate to a dedicated camera again, but it’s already changed how I view the world. I’m always looking for a good shot. You can see some of them here. Looking for shots has the side effect of making me see (and appreciate) detail than I skipped over before. The world is a richer place now.
  • It hasn’t snowed this winter and none is in the forecast. (Technically I think we got a little wet snow while I was in bed a few nights ago, but it was gone by the time I woke up, therefore NO SNOW).
  • After buying a bunch of mechanical keyboards, I finally found one I really like, the CTRL from Massdrop, with Halo switches that are clicky, but not clacky, if you know what I mean.
  • I started baking bread.
  • I finally learned to love the treadmill. Well, maybe not love. More…not hate. (Also, the treadmill is now way easier on my knees than the elliptical.)
  • I remained donut-free after renewing my vow.
  • Um. The world didn’t end?

I may add more positive things later. While the year mostly sucked, I continue to be more optimist than pessimist, so I do not dread 2019. Next up: my New Year resolutions list, because everyone needs a good laugh.

I am again defeated by Scrivener

I love Scrivener, or rather, the platonic ideal that Scrivener can represent.

The actual program inspires something less than love in me. I long ago adapted to its complicated, cumbersome interface and learned to ignore the long list of features I would never use. I write simple stories, I don’t need a lot of sophisticated tools for that.

I came to appreciate the Scrivener features I did use–easily dividing chapters into discrete blocks that could be moved around or removed, being able to set goals and see my progress (especially handy for NaNoWriMo), the corkboard for keeping track of scenes, and being able to set up my editing environment and have it complete separate from the compiling of the document. I realized I did not need the WYSIWYG approach of Microsoft Word and it was nice.

I’ve been thinking of doing a proper outline of Road Closed, then going back and properly finishing the first draft. I’d written the novel using WriteMonkey and earlier this year I took the time to convert it over to Scrivener. This is a somewhat time-consuming process as Scrivener would  import the novel’s entire text and place it into a single scene, from which I would then copy and paste the different chapters into their own Scrivener folders.

Now, my first mistake was using the Scrivener for Windows 3.0 beta. In November 2017 Scrivener 3.0 for the Mac was released, and at the same time the first beta of Scrivener 3.0 for Windows was made available. A final release date was never offered beyond “2018” and that, too, ended up not coming to pass, though it seems a release in early 2019 is possible.

All the caveats of using a beta apply, of course. And I already had the novel safely backed up and ready to go in WriteMonkey in the case of disaster striking.

Last night I updated to the latest Scrivener 3.0 beta,. with the intention of loading Road Closed so I could export it to the older Scrivener 1.9 format, allowing me to keep writing in a safer, more stable environment.

Except when I loaded Road Closed, all of the text was gone. The chapter and scene structure was preserved in the binder, but the actual story had vanished. I thought about why this might have happened for a minute or two. It’s quite possible–even likely–I had done something wrong. I considered my options.

And then I did nothing. Because I had a current version of the story intact and ready in WriteMonkey. I am not going to spend any time playing my own personal technical support. I’ll just wait until version 3.0 comes out of beta, then consider then if I want to invest in the upgrade.

This is not the first time Scrivener has gone sideways on me, losing or corrupting data, and if I keep using it, I would fully expect it would eventually happen again. And I emphasize once more, this may be my fault entirely. Maybe I just don’t get it.

But in the end, it doesn’t matter. I can’t trust Scrivener, or perhaps I can’t trust myself to use it, so I won’t. For now, anyway.

This irks me in another way, too, because last year I had what was close to the perfect setup, using Ulysses on my MacBook Pro. There were a few problems, though:

  • I came to strongly dislike the MacBook Pro’s butterfly keyboard. Some people (tech writers especially, weirdly) love the shallow, clicky keys, but I ultimately did not. I ended up going to the other extreme on laptop keyboards by getting a Lenovo ThinkPad Carbon X1. This has one of the deepest keyboards you can get on a laptop. I very much like it. This is an issue for Ulysses because the program is Mac-only and Apple’s entire line-up of MacBooks now use the butterfly mechanism in their keyboards (my 2016 MacBook Pro is helpfully still eligible for free keyboard repairs for another two years, a testament to the issues that have plagued the design, even if you do love the keyboard).
  • The other issue was the decision by the developer to switch to a subscription model, which I have ranted about before. As much as I like the app, I don’t think it’s worth paying what amounts to the full purchase price every year in perpetuity.

But there is really nothing else like Ulysses out there. There are dozens of markdown and minimalist writing apps available on every platform and I’ve tried a bunch of them, but they all fall short in some way. The biggest issue for me is failing to support indents, something I consider crucial for writing fiction.

FocusWriter is lean and generally nice to use, but it’s almost a little too basic and its organizational structure is pretty bare.

The WriteMonkey 3.0 beta looks promising, but indents are still only a “might include” feature and the beta is moving so slowly I may be 110 by the time it hits official release. It’s a one-man project, so I’m not knocking the dev, just saying.

iA Writer has a wonderful minimalist interface, but it lacks indents and the Windows version lags behind the Mac version of features (even though the Mac version itself is not exactly feature-rich).

And on it goes, with other programs either getting abandoned, lacking features, not working well with cloud-saving (like Atomic Scribbler–though really, how can you develop and launch a writing app in 2018 and not plan for people wanting to save their work to cloud-based storage?) or just somehow not being the right fit.

It’s also possible I may be too fussy. Very possible.

For now I’m sticking to WriteMonkey 2.7. It’s getting old, but it still works and it’s pretty solid. It only saves text files, so the possibly of data corruption is pretty low (insert GIF of Jeff Goldblum saying, “Nature finds a way” here).

Now I just need to get back to the actual writing. One of my resolutions for the new year. Let’s hope it pans out better than my attempts to get my weight down.

That other time travel story idea, Part 77

I am a sucker for time travel stories. Every time I’ve sworn off writing them, I write another. It’s almost to the point where stating I won’t write any is the actual trigger for writing one.

I’m definitely not writing any more time travel stories.

With that out of the way, why am I such a sucker for them? A list!

  • I am always intrigued by “What if?” scenarios and time travel is the perfect fit for this kind of speculative approach
  • Time travel is bonkers, so you can make up your own rules, then have fun playing around within those rules (bad time travel stories don’t set rules, or break them randomly, which is even worse)
  • It never gets old imagining how screwed-up things will get with time travel, because time travel always screws things up. Think about it–when did you last read a time travel story in which everything went exactly as hoped?
  • I like the Groundhog Day potential to keep repeating a scenario in hope of avoiding a big screw-up. What do you change? What changes will have an effect?
  • Many time travel stories are framed around a very fundamental question: Are you happy with your life? Quite often when the protagonist gets thrust into time travel they make decisions both affecting the world (“Do I try to stop the Kennedy assassination?) and decisions affecting themselves, usually in an attempt to right a wrong, or to otherwise change things they are not satisfied with, be it a failed relationship, a bad career move or something else.

The last point leads me to the time travel story I’ve been mulling over. I have the skeleton, but no real details yet. The skeleton is:

  • Person aged 40-50 (ie, with substantial life experience) gets the opportunity to go back in time, likely to just after they graduated from high school or shortly after, so age 18-20.
  • When they go back, they retain all of their current memories.
  • Once they go back, they cannot come forward again. (Or can they?)

I’m not sure what the rules of this particular universe would be, but I wanted to explore the chance to have a re-do on life decisions, while also examining how your life would feel when you already have knowledge of what’s ahead that spans entire decades. It’s fun to imagine you’d buy up Apple stock in the 80s when it was cheap and be a millionaire in 2015, but would you really do that when you had to live through those 30 years the same as anyone else? Would you grow tired of trying to take advantage of your “insider” knowledge? Would it backfire? How bendable is time?

Actually, I fibbed when I said I only had a skeleton, because one of the unused ideas for this year’s NaNo was based on this exact concept, but the hook was the person being able to travel through time has terminal cancer and tries to use the time travel to rid themselves of it. I never got further than that, idea-wise, and I’m unsure on whether having such a specific hook is a bad or good thing.

But I do want to tackle this particular flavor of time travel sometime. Then future me can read over the story and say, “Why’d you write that?” and I would wittily respond, “It was time.”