Saturday, November 23, 2013

One Drop of Inspiration: Eeks and Greeks

Thanks to Storydam for this prompt, about  stories that start with "one drop" of inspiration or perspiration, whichever of the two came first. Probably could write about the short stories I'm typing up for Nanowrimo, but they are still in the virgin stage and not ready to talk about.

I'm going to be honest; rewriting fairytales and folklore offers easier prose for this writer than crafting a personal mythology. For the example, I'm going to use my story "Ferry" as  the story that started with a drop. "Ferry" is a modern take on the Greek ferryman Charon, who takes undead souls to the Underworld by boat, so that they don't have to go for a freezing swim to reach the judges who determine their afterlife. The dead have to be buried with two coins, one for each eye, so that they can pay Charon for their passage. If not, they either swim or stay on the docks, waiting for their turn.

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This fact is all fun and dandy, but then I discovered a fairy tale where the ferryman was a side character. He hates his job, hates rowing people to and from places, and wants to know how to quit. When he learns that he just has to hand his oar to the next would-be passenger to resign, he heads off and sees the world. The next passenger happens to be a greedy king, whom no one would miss, so everyone is happy that he gets such a fitting punishment.

"Consequences" is a theme I like to write about, people reaping the consequences of their actions. Charon was good at his job, under a boss like Hades, and he had experience. A newbie ferryman would fail the job miserably, perhaps on purpose. Hades would not like the slacker, or the foolish Charon who hired the slacker in the first place. He's make sure that Charon would stay and enforce serious punishments.

My story, "Ferry," shows the title character after several thousand years of this forced labor, albeit with some variation. He's gotten used to taking people to where they die, and he wonders if he would ever hand them his truck keys, for he's upgraded his boat to a truck to fit modern times. "Ferry" answers his question with an unforgettable passenger.

"Ferry" is one of the few stories I've only had to revise twice. The rough draft had no real ending, just a resignation to the status quo, while the published version has the ferryman making a conscious decision to give up his job, for a good reason. I believe that because the idea was simple and intact, it required few changes, in contrast to some of the stories I'm rewriting for Nano.

A simple idea goes a long way. I am using complicated ideas to challenge myself, but sometimes take a breather to revise a fairy tale. At least one of my characters deserves a proper happy ending.

1 comment:

Matt Anderson said...

I like "Ferry". A good story. Very Gaimanian [ie like Neil Gaiman]. It just goes to show that one drop, one idea, can go a long way.
My own blogserial - Duke Forever - also came from a small idea. A very odd one. I was reading a article called "5 Famous People You Won't Believe Didn't Exist". In it, they mention Betty Crocker, the face of the Betty Crocker brand. This woman does not exist, but there are pictures of her from all different eras with different faces, clothing, etcetera. So, I thought:
"What if Betty Crocker was a time lord?" It would explain why she changes her face all the time and why she "doesn't exist" (she would hide her alien-ness). That made me wonder whether or not female time lords existed. Then I wondered if black time lords existed, and from that I developed the Duke.
One small drop created a ripple effect that lead to a huge story. So yes, don't underestimate the power of a single idea.