A Story Idea Each Day for a Month — Day 20

April 20th, 2015 by

This is the sixth year in a row I’ve run this series in April.

Today’s story: You Could Wake Up Convinced You’re In a Duplicate World.

Or, at least, that you’re in a duplicate town, house, and hospital. Reduplicative paramnesia victims believe that someone or something has constructed a duplicate structure, that looks exactly like the one they remember being in. What part of the brain can make you think you’re on the set of your own life?

One day, a 71-year-old man went missing after he left a friend’s party. His family at first thought that his bus home was late. After some time, they became alarmed and wondered how to find him. Fortunately for them, about five hours after he was initially expected back, he came home in a taxi. His daughter, concerned for him, ran out to the taxi to see how he was and ask why he was missing for so long. He recognized her and seemed perfectly fine, but had a question for her. What was she doing “in this place.” When asked why she wouldn’t be there, he told her that this was not his house, but an identical duplicate house. He was immediately admitted to the hospital.

Another man was already in the hospital, after a head injury. He spoke perfectly well with his friends, family, and hospital personnel, but insisted that he was in a duplicate hospital. A woman with the same delusion was asked whether the other hospital had different doctors and staff working there. She said no. The doctors in her hospital also worked at the other hospital.

All these people have reduplicative paramnesia – which most doctors think is a fancy way of saying a lesion in the frontal lobe of their brain. Doctors first suspected a physical cause to this seemingly psychological delusion when they noticed that it was (relatively) often found in soldiers, or people who had hurt themselves.

The most common characteristic of this condition is the conviction — in people who are otherwise entirely rational — that they are in a duplicate setting. Although they freely admit that this makes no sense, they are still entirely sure of the falseness of their surroundings. Occasionally it spreads to duplicate events as well as settings – one woman believed that her dead husband was in the hospital with her, and another believed that a mugger who had given her the brain injury had actually mugged her on two separate occasions – but most of the time the syndrome is confined to the idea that the patient is living in a set.

This reminded me of some movies notable for playing with paranoia as a narrative element. For example, the 1956 science fiction movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers:

IMDb plot summary: A small-town doctor learns that the population of his community is being replaced by emotionless alien duplicates.

How about The Stepford Wives:

IMDb plot summary: Joanna Eberhart has come to the quaint little town of Stepford, Connecticut with her family, but soon discovers there lies a sinister truth in the all too perfect behavior of the female residents.

Rosemary’s BabyThe ConversationEnemy of the StateBlack Swan… those are some other paranoia-centric movies off the top of my head.

One dynamic that lies at the heart of paranoia movies is this question: Can you trust the world around you – people, places, things? Trust is one of the earliest stages of childhood psychological development, so to put it into play is to go deep, deep into a character’s psyche – and by extension script reader and moviegoer.

So I’m thinking high school as a setting. What type of character would be ideal to go through a journey into her paranoia, believing that the world around her is — person by person, place by place — not original, but a duplicate of her ‘real’ world?

We could go with a young woman who is at the top of the social pecking order. In fact, what if she — let’s call her Claire — is the universally acclaimed leader of the most influential clique in school? Being in this position, Claire would have a lot invested in things being the way they are. Then reduplicative paramnesia sets in… at least that’s what the doctors call it. Of course, Claire can’t trust them because… well, they’re duplicates, not the real doctors.

Or what if we went the other direction entirely? Abby is an edgy cynic who stands outside all of the cliques, very much in judgment of them, ostensibly because of their exclusionary tactics. Perhaps her sharp wit and snappy rejoinders are a defense mechanism developed over time as she was steered into an outcast role. She loathes these people, hates this town, can’t wait to graduate to go off to the big city and start her own life. But then she starts noticing the tiniest of things suggesting to her that these people are somehow not real, but duplicates. “You’re unhappy living here,” her psychiatrist says, “So you’ve developed this paranoia as a way of distancing yourself from your peers.” But that’s what he would say because… yeah, that’s right… he’s a duplicate, too.

Perhaps this becomes an homage to one of my favorite movies Donnie Darko by Richard Kelly which does a wonderful job of playing with what is reality and what is not reality. And while we couldn’t invite this six foot tall bunny named Frank into our story…

…how about if we come up with an elusive Trickster figure looming at the fringes of either Claire or Abby’s experience.

Is there a giant conspiracy? Is it all an illusion? Or merely an actual medical condition caused by a lesion in her brain? It’s an interesting setup to jump-start the brainstorming process.

There you go: My twentieth story idea for the month. And it’s yours. Free!

What would you do with it?

Each day this month, I invite you to join me in comments to do some brainstorming. Gender bend, genre bend, what if. Take each day’s story idea and see what it can become when we play around with it. These are all valuable skills for a writer to develop.

See you in comments (hit Reply to join the conversation). And come back tomorrow for another Story Idea Each Day For A Month.

A Story Idea Each Day for a Month — Day 19

April 19th, 2015 by

This is the sixth year in a row I’ve run this series in April. And this is a first: A guest post for the Story Idea series, courtesy of Will King!

Today’s story: Could civilization reboot without fossil fuels.

The article examines the question: if civilization as we know it came to an end, are there enough resources left in the world to reboot humanity?

Imagine that the world as we know it ends tomorrow. There’s a global catastrophe: a pandemic virus, an asteroid strike, or perhaps a nuclear holocaust. The vast majority of the human race perishes. Our civilisation collapses. The post-apocalyptic survivors find themselves in a devastated world of decaying, deserted cities and roving gangs of bandits looting and taking by force.

Bad as things sound, that’s not the end for humanity. We bounce back. Sooner or later, peace and order emerge again, just as they have time and again through history. Stable communities take shape. They begin the agonising process of rebuilding their technological base from scratch. But here’s the question: how far could such a society rebuild? Is there any chance, for instance, that a post-apocalyptic society could reboot a technological civilisation?

This got me thinking about the post-apocalyptic genre, which has spawned a lot of movies, everything from The Last Man on Earth/Omega Man/I Am Legend to On The Beach and Damnation Alley. But they are often focus on the immediate aftermath of the devastation and on survival.

This article, however, imagines needs and possibilities well past that point, once humanity has gotten to its feet again. There have been films that examined this era. The Hunger Games exists in a rebuilt future after the end of civilization, and posits that technology fully recovered. The original Planet of the Apes also assumed the world recovered, just with apes instead of humans, but technology stalled at a pre-industrialized stage.

The article proposes that fossil fuels would be the limiting factor because the reserves we can get to now require a great deal of technology to harvest. If technology were obliterated and humanity had to reboot, we might not be able to use the same development timeline which relied heavily on fossil fuels to make other innovations possible.

The real need, according to the article, is for heat, which is what fossil fuels provide (coal, natural gas, oil). White heat. The temperatures needed to melt steel and produce cement and pure silicon are not something you can do over a bonfire. However, one possibility is the use of charcoal. The article points out how Brazil has built their steel industry around sustainable charcoal production.

These particular paragraphs caught my interest:

In a temperate climate such as the UK’s, an acre of broadleaf trees produces about four to five tonnes of biomass fuel every year. If you cultivated fast-growing kinds such as willow or miscanthus grass, you could quadruple that. The trick to maximising timber production is to employ coppicing – cultivating trees such as ash or willow that resprout from their own stump, becoming ready for harvest again in five to 15 years. This way you can ensure a sustained supply of timber and not face an energy crisis once you’ve deforested your surroundings.

But here’s the thing: coppicing was already a well-developed technique in pre-industrial Britain. It couldn’t meet all of the energy requirements of the burgeoning society. The central problem is that woodland, even when it is well-managed, competes with other land uses, principally agriculture. The double-whammy of development is that, as a society’s population grows, it requires more farmland to provide enough food and also greater timber production for energy. The two needs compete for largely the same land areas.

So, suppose civilization is in need of heat-producing wood, but is limited to a finite tillable area (perhaps surrounded by radiation or other factors that prevent widespread planting). But, people also need food. One can imagine a situation similar to what happened in the American west in the competition between cattle ranchers and sheep ranchers as they tried to graze their respective herds and got into battles over land use. What might happen between two sets of farmers: one dead set on producing enough food to keep people alive while another group needs the heat-producing capacity of trees and grasses to get mankind back to previous tech capabilities? There might be a story of two farmers as they plot and scheme to get control of a precious plot of land, each motivated by the best of intentions for the future of humanity.

And what might a skilled producer of charcoal be able to command as his or her price for services?

Without the manpower or skills to use them as intended, what might become of offshore oil derricks and gigantic cargo ships? Floating cities a la Waterworld?

It seems that there’s a lot of fertile story space in the era long past the collapse of civilization to imagine what the rebooted world looks like. What technologies could we repurpose, what would be lost, and what new ideas might come to the forefront if fossil fuels hadn’t supplanted them in the first place?

This is real sci-fi, post-apocalyptic stuff, really push it out. Depending on how lo-fi the society is, that could help push down the budget.

Thanks, Will, for that set-up. What would you do with this?

Each day this month, I invite you to join me in comments to do some brainstorming. Gender bend, genre bend, what if. Take each day’s story idea and see what it can become when we play around with it. These are all valuable skills for a writer to develop.

See you in comments (hit Reply to join the conversation). And come back tomorrow for another Story Idea Each Day For A Month.

A Story Idea Each Day for a Month — Day 18

April 18th, 2015 by

This is the sixth year in a row I’ve run this series in April.

Today’s story: 5 People Who Were in the Wrong Place, at the Wrong Time—Multiple Times.

1. Tsutomu Yamaguchi

At 8:15 am on August 6, 1945, Tsutomu Yamaguchi (above)—who was in Hiroshima on a business trip for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries—was stepping off a streetcar when a plane passed overhead. He looked to the sky and saw two parachutes descending—and, the next instant, the atomic bomb Little Boy exploded. The blast site was less than two miles away from where Yamaguchi stood. The flash of heat left him with burns across his torso, and the blast ruptured his eardrums and temporarily blinded him. He found his way to a bomb shelter, and the next day was healthy enough to make the journey back home—to Nagasaki.

On August 9, Mr. Yamaguchi was well enough to make it in to work. At the exact moment that he was explaining to his boss how Little Boy had destroyed the city of Hiroshima, he saw the same white flash in the office window. Fat Man, the second atomic bomb, had just detonated over the city.

Tsutomu Yamaguchi is the only officially recognized survivor of the two bombings (there are about 165 double survivors of the bombs, called nijyuu hibakusha, who have not been recognized by the Japanese government). He lived to be 93 years old.

This is just one of five extraordinarily unlucky people detailed in the article… which got me thinking. Remember this guy?

Forrest had a knack for being in the right place at the right time. What if we told an anti-Forrest Gump story? A Protagonist who lives under a perpetual dark cloud. With thunder. And lightning. Tectonic plates shifting under his/her feet. Bad things happen to good people? That’s this character.

Take blights on human history from the last few decades and put this Protagonist right there to suffer the slings and arrows of cruel fate.

Dark comedy. Mockumentary. It’s Forrest Gump meets A Serious Man.

There you go: My eighteenth story idea for the month. And it’s yours. Free!

What would you do with it?

Each day this month, I invite you to join me in comments to do some brainstorming. Gender bend, genre bend, what if. Take each day’s story idea and see what it can become when we play around with it. These are all valuable skills for a writer to develop.

See you in comments (hit Reply to join the conversation). And come back tomorrow for another Story Idea Each Day For A Month.

A Story Idea Each Day for a Month — Day 17

April 17th, 2015 by

This is the sixth year in a row I’ve run this series in April.

Today: Scientists have found that memories may be passed down through generations in our DNA.

New research from Emory University School of Medicine, in Atlanta, has shown that it is possible for some information to be inherited biologically through chemical changes that occur in DNA. During the tests they learned that that mice can pass on learned information about traumatic or stressful experiences – in this case a fear of the smell of cherry blossom – to subsequent generations.

According to the Telegraph, Dr Brian Dias, from the department of psychiatry at Emory University, said: ”From a translational perspective, our results allow us to appreciate how the experiences of a parent, before even conceiving offspring, markedly influence both structure and function in the nervous system of subsequent generations.

“Such a phenomenon may contribute to the etiology and potential intergenerational transmission of risk for neuropsychiatric disorders such as phobias, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.”

This suggests that experiences are somehow transferred from the brain into the genome, allowing them to be passed on to later generations.

Okay-okay-okay. This may be a TV series concept. What if there’s a woman. She’s a 10th generation cop-sleuth-private investigator. Family tradition working law enforcement. And somehow, either naturally or through some external means (cool ass machine?) she is able to delve into the ‘memories’ of her ancestors within her own DNA to explore unsolved cases?

She can bring modern technology to bear on unsolved murders from the 1700s. Or the theft of $10M worth of gold in the 1800s. Hell, I Googled “unsolved crimes history” and immediately came up with this:

I’m sure there are a ton of cases in the public domain to use as source material for episodes.

But wait. What if our Protagonist’s meddling into cases in the past catches the attention of some sort of secret society which has a long history of criminal activity? So there is this malevolent Nemesis activity going on with an overarching plot, a longtime conspiracy of global proportions. And they want our Hero taken out.

So… you’ve got case of the week. The meta mystery. And the hook: Mystery Memories.

Anything there? Huh huh?

There you go: My seventeenth story idea for the month. And it’s yours. Free!

What would you do with it?

Each day this month, I invite you to join me in comments to do some brainstorming. Gender bend, genre bend, what if. Take each day’s story idea and see what it can become when we play around with it. These are all valuable skills for a writer to develop.

See you in comments (hit Reply to join the conversation). And come back tomorrow for another Story Idea Each Day For A Month.

A Story Idea Each Day for a Month — Day 16

April 16th, 2015 by

This is the sixth year in a row I’ve run this series in April.

Today: Woman brings life-size cutout of late father on trip so they can travel together one last time.

Jinna Yang wouldn’t let her father’s death keep him from his dream of seeing the world. So, she made a life-size cutout of her dad and brought it with her to Europe, snapping photos at the Eiffel Tower, Roman Colosseum, Leaning Tower of Pisa, and other landmarks.

It has been a healing experience for Jinna; it took her two years to come to terms with her father dying from cancer, and she needed a fresh start from a bad work environment and unsupportive boyfriend. Throughout her journey, she has posted photos to Instagram and her blog, Grease & Glamour, where she also shares information about her beloved dad. “My father never had the chance to travel the world,” she wrote. “He sacrificed his entire life for others — his parents, his children, his wife, his family, and his friends.”

Here are some images from Jinna’s blog:

My guess Jinna was inspired by a minor subplot in the movie Up In the Air (Ryan is supposed to get a picture of his sister and her fiance’s cutout photo in front of the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas). No matter, this seems like a no-brainer indie-dramedy. It’s like is Lars from Lars and the Real Girl woke up and said, “Real Girl, we’re goin’ on a road trip.”

In this story, you’re trafficking in some big emotional issues. Death. Grief. Separation. And saying goodbye.

Who might our Protagonist meet in her road trip? Perhaps some potential travel companions. Maybe an eventual love interest. Could the Protagonist lose the Cut Out. Or it gets kidnapped along the way?

It’s Lars and the Real Girl meets The Bucket List.

There you go: My sixteenth story idea for the month. And it’s yours. Free!

What would you do with it?

Each day this month, I invite you to join me in comments to do some brainstorming. Gender bend, genre bend, what if. Take each day’s story idea and see what it can become when we play around with it. These are all valuable skills for a writer to develop.

See you in comments (hit Reply to join the conversation). And come back tomorrow for another Story Idea Each Day For A Month.

A Story Idea Each Day for a Month — Day 15

April 15th, 2015 by

This is the sixth year in a row I’ve run this series in April. Each day, I’ll give you some tips on how to come up with stories.

Tip: Public domain

Laws vary from country to country, but if a person, event, book is considered to be in the public domain, then from a writer’s perspective, it is free content, you don’t need to secure any rights.

You want to adapt “Romeo and Juliet” into a contemporary gang shoot-em-up love story, you can do that.

You want to turn Abraham Lincoln into a vampire hunter, you can do that.

Straight adaptation, genre bend, gender bend, whatever you want to do, you can do it with a public domain entity. Plus the added benefit: Pre-awareness.

Today’s story: An S.O.S. in a Saks Bag.

In September, 2012, Stephanie Wilson, a twenty-eight-year-old Australian who lives in West Harlem, bought a pair of Hunter rain boots from Saks Fifth Avenue. She was digging for her receipt in the paper shopping bag when she discovered a letter inside that, in its urgency, started higher than the ruled paper’s printed lines. “HELP! HELP! HELP!!” a man had written, in blue ink on white paper. He opened, “Hello!! I’m Njong Emmanuel Tohnain, Cameroonian of nationality.”

The writer explained that he had made the bag while captive in a Chinese prison factory, where he was being held after an arrest on accusations of fraud. He wrote, “I’ve been molested and tortured physically, morally, psychologically and spiritually for all the while without any given chance to contact my family and friends. We are ill-treated and work like slaves for 13 hours every day producing these bags in bulk in the prison factory. Please help to contact the United Nations Human Rights Department or if possible Samuel Eto’o and let them know my sad story. I’m Eto’o’s fan club manager in the University.” He signed off, politely, “Thanks and sorry to bother you.”

Here is the letter:

Pretty remarkable story and quite a set-up for a movie. I mean talk about a Call To Adventure. It’s kind of the equivalent to this:

So what to do with this setup? We could go with the letter recipient as a 1% type. Perhaps they’re feeling a lack of purpose or meaning in their life. Born into wealth. Prep school. Ivy League. Fed right into a job at Daddy’s corporation. Is that all there is to life?

Then boom! This letter. How could you not choose to interpret this as fate? The Protagonist begins an investigation much to the chagrin and consternation of his/her well-heeled friends. Why concern yourself with someone you don’t know? A worker? Worse, a foreigner.

I’m seeing our Protagonist head off to whatever country where the letter-writer is being held captive. Fish Out Of Water. Forced to circumnavigate the labyrinth of customs, regulations and bribes. Finally finds the letter-writer… who is quite real.

Problem: Because the poor guy’s letter drew the attention of the Protagonist, that puts the prisoner’s life in jeopardy. If their system is made known to the public, lots of heads will roll and that is precisely the type of thing that could happen if the Protagonist goes wide with the contents of the letter.

Oh, yeah. Now the Protagonist’s life is in danger. Maybe s/he gets arrested. No first world justice here, it’s like the wild West.

Protagonist and Prisoner have to team up to survive, eventually escape? Lots of possibilities.

There you go: My fifteenth story idea for the month. And it’s yours. Free!

What would you do with it?

Each day this month, I invite you to join me in comments to do some brainstorming. Gender bend, genre bend, what if. Take each day’s story idea and see what it can become when we play around with it. These are all valuable skills for a writer to develop.

See you in comments (hit Reply to join the conversation). And come back tomorrow for another Story Idea Each Day For A Month.

A Story Idea Each Day for a Month – Day 14

April 14th, 2015 by

This is the sixth year in a row I’ve run this series in April. Last week I provided a daily explanation about why you should make it a habit to be generating story ideas. This week, I’ll give you some tips on how to come up with stories.

Tip: Go random.

This is going to sound really stupid. Well, it is really stupid. But all it takes is one time to pay off, then it becomes clever because as we know, there’s a fine line between clever and stupid.

Anyway the very first screenwriting class I taught 13 years ago was at UCLA. One night, I took two caps and some 3×5 inch index cards. I handed out 10 cards to each student, then instructed them on 5 cards to write a job [e.g., plumber, lawyer, dog catcher] and on the other 5 cards to write a location [e.g., shopping mall, swimming pool, church]. I collected the cards, jobs in one hat, locations in the other.

Then we went around the room, each student pulling a card from each hat, an exercise in generating totally random story conceits.

So someone pulls out “Doctor” and “Cruise Ship.” Nothing much there.

Then another person pulls out “Jockey” and “Restaurant.” Again nothing.

Then someone pulls outs “Cop” and “Kindergarten.”

I. Kid. You. Not. “Kindergarten Cop,” totally random, right there in that Westwood classroom. Okay, so the moment of inspiration was 12 years after the movie, but still it proved — sorta — that sometimes totally random, stupid ideas have the potential to generate story concepts… and even be a little clever.

Today’s story: Missing Old Man Turns Up In France, With Medals, for D-Day Anniversary.

An 89-year-old veteran who went missing from his retirement home in Sussex, England yesterday morning has been located: He showed up today on the beachhead of Normandy, medals pinned to his coat, to take in the anniversary celebration of the D-Day invasion.

—-

Sussex police were called at 7.15pm on Thursday by staff at the Pines care home, Furze Hill, in Hove, who said an 89-year-old who lived there had gone out at 10.30am and had not been seen since. He had gone out wearing a grey mackintosh and a jacket underneath with his war medals on, police said.

Officers began searching the area, including checking hospitals in case something had happened to him, and spoke to bus and taxi companies, but none of them knew where he was.

Late last night, a younger veteran called the nursing home to let administrators know that he’d met up with the old man on a France-bound bus, and they’d split a hotel room not far from the battlefields of Normandy.

The younger veteran reportedly promised to make sure the codger got safely home, just as soon as they were done celebrating their conquest of the Nazis and the fact that an almost-nonagenarian British pensioner is still such a complete badass.

Here is a photo of the “complete badass”:

I have to admit, I have a special fondness for this story. My old man was an Air Force Colonel. Flew 200 missions during the Berlin Airlift. Piloted spy planes over Russia and China during the Korean War. Logged hundreds of hours piloting B-52s, each plane armed with active nuclear warheads.

Toward the end of his life, he fell prey to Alzheimer’s disease. Sadly, for his own safekeeping, he was moved into the dementia ward at the military retirement community into which my mother and father had moved. That part of the facility was a lock-down unit so none of the residents could get out.

That is until Dad was put there. You see, he figured out a way to unscrew the windows, climbed up and out, dropping several feet to the ground, then calmly wound his way back up to my mother’s apartment where she found him upon returning from an errand… calmly sitting watching Fox news like nothing had happened. Mind you, he was over 70 years old at the time.

Another complete badass.

You hear the saying, “The story writes itself?” Doesn’t this one seem like it could? Old codger is bound and determined to make it to Normandy to commemorate what he experienced there. I imagine his journey is a la Planes, Trains and Automobiles… without the planes. There are police authorities on his tail. And I like the idea of the “younger veteran” with whom Colonel Badass intersects, who takes it upon himself to accompany the old dude to France.

Everything comes to a head in Normandy and we take a page from Saving Private Ryan:

Perhaps deposits his medals on the grave of a buddy who saved his life. Roll credits. Commence weeping.

There you go: My fourteenth story idea for the month. And it’s yours. Free!

What would you do with it?

Each day this month, I invite you to join me in comments to do some brainstorming. Gender bend, genre bend, what if. Take each day’s story idea and see what it can become when we play around with it. These are all valuable skills for a writer to develop.

See you in comments (hit Reply to join the conversation). And come back tomorrow for another Story Idea Each Day For A Month.

A Story Idea Each Day for a Month — Day 13

April 13th, 2015 by

This is the sixth year in a row I’ve run this series in April. Last week I provided a daily explanation about why you should make it a habit to be generating story ideas. This week, I’ll give you some tips on how to come up with stories.

Tip: Obituaries.

When it comes down to it, people live extraordinary lives. And obituaries summarize those lives in nice, neat packages. For some examples, go here.

So if you’re stuck for story ideas? Hit the obits.

Today’s story: Indian court blocks cremation of frozen guru.

According to his wife and son, Maharaj died Jan. 29 of a heart attack. His death was confirmed by physicians and the Punjab police. His followers in the Divya Jyoti Jagrati Sansthan sect say he has achieved a transcendent state called “samadhi” where he is at one with the universe. They are keeping him “alive” in a commercial freezer in his ashram.

Maharaj’s family say that the sect’s elders are insisting he is alive so they can control his finances. Maharaj is one of India’s wealthiest religious leaders with an estate worth an estimated $170 million. Maharaj had no named successor so his fortune would remain in a charitable trust if declared dead by the courts.

The Punjab High Court has dismissed the police report, saying Maharaj’s death is a “spiritual matter.” It will hear an application from his wife and son to investigate his death and return his body.

HT to @BrianDuffield for surfacing this story. My first thought was it’s Weekend at Bernie’s meets Slumdog Millionaire. Slacker sons of some rich dude have to keep their dead father ‘alive’ in order to keep feeding off the company teat. Could be a sect, could be a corporation, could be any type of operation which the dead dude headed up before his untimely demise. Pretty much a straight-ahead comedy.

But here’s a twist: What if the dead dude suddenly doesn’t seem all that deceased. Slackers are sure they left his corpse over here, but when they come back, the body is over there. And the dead dude’s eyes always seem to be following the guys, his face getting darker and meaner looking.

Strange things begin to happen. If you go the sect route, maybe the sons begin to think the dead dude is who he claimed he was and is now raised from the dead. Or each of the sons begin to suspect the other of messing with their heads, accusing each other of creating a ‘ghost’ from the dead dude to scare them away from the money.

By the way, here’s a photo of the guy from the article:

Imagine this corpse seemingly in stalker mode!

There you go: My thirteenth story idea for the month. And it’s yours. Free!

What would you do with it?

Each day this month, I invite you to join me in comments to do some brainstorming. Gender bend, genre bend, what if. Take each day’s story idea and see what it can become when we play around with it. These are all valuable skills for a writer to develop.

See you in comments (hit Reply to join the conversation). And come back tomorrow for another Story Idea Each Day For A Month.

A Story Idea Each Day for a Month — Day 12

April 12th, 2015 by

This is the fith year in a row I’ve run this series in April. Last week I provided a daily explanation about why you should make it a habit to be generating story ideas. This week, I’ll give you some tips on how to come up with stories.

Tip: Look at Craigslist.

Dreamworks bought this pitch based on Craigslist ads.

There is this musical based on Craigslist ads.

There was this TV movie based on a Craigslist story.

Now something proactive you can do for your writing career while searching for a used barbell set.

Today: Louisiana man claims his biological father was Zodiac Killer.

A Louisiana man claims in a new book that his biological father was the notorious Zodiac Killer of northern California, who’s still sought by authorities, publisher HarperCollins said Tuesday.

The Zodiac serial killer is believed to have killed five people in 1968-69 and gained notoriety by writing several letters to police boasting of the slayings, with swatches of bloody clothing as proof of his claims. The serial killer claimed to have killed as many as 37 people and has never been caught.

Now Gary L. Stewart, a vice president at the cleaning company Delta Tech Service in Baton Rouge, is recounting his decade-long search for his biological father and has concluded that man — Earl Van Best, Jr., who’s now dead — was the Zodiac Killer, the publisher said.

So you’re an adult. You discover you had been raised by adoptive parents. Shock to the system. Your life is kind of a mess and over time you come to think that somehow, if you can locate your biological parents, that will be a key to figuring our your life.

You do some research. You discover that your mother is dead. But your father is alive. You set off to find him. You do. And it’s this guy:

Well, not really Hannibal Lecter, but as it turns out, a variation on the same theme: A psychopathic serial killer. In normal society, he is seemingly a decent dude. But the more you get to know him, father and son, suspicious behavior mounts up, including the mysterious nature of your own mother’s death.

What would you do? The initial glow of finding your father lost amidst your increasing conviction that your father is a serial killer.

Of course, you inherited some of his DNA. And what if some of the problems that have emerged in your life included a stint in jail for violent behavior.

And what if your father began to lure you to the Dark Side… and you liked it?

Like father… like son?

There you go: My twelfth story idea for the month. And it’s yours. Free! What would you do with it?

Each day this month, I invite you to join me in comments to do some brainstorming. Gender bend, genre bend, what if. Take each day’s story idea and see what it can become when we play around with it. These are all valuable skills for a writer to develop.

See you in comments (hit Reply to join the conversation). And come back tomorrow for another Story Idea Each Day For A Month.

A Story Idea Each Day for a Month — Day 11

April 11th, 2015 by

This is the sixth year in a row I’ve run this series in April. Last week I provided a daily explanation about why you should make it a habit to be generating story ideas. This week, I’ll give you some tips on how to come up with stories.

Tip: Halliwell’s Film Guide.

This is based on the anecdote I heard about Woody Guthrie. Having written 4,000 songs in his life, he was asked how he came up with so many melodies. His answer: “Well, I take a melody I like, and I change it a lil’ here, and change it a lil’ there, and I make it my own.”

Same thing with Halliwell’s. You can read a post I wrote about it all the way back in November 2008, how you can read through the 24,000 movie listings — each with a logline — then gender and genre-bend your life to creative bliss.

Today’s story: Miner Found Alive After 17 Years Underground.

A group of coal miners from the western province of Xinjiang, had an unbelievable surprise when the gallery they were excavating opened up on a section of an old mine, that was abandoned 17 years ago after an earthquake that caused some large sections of the tunnels to collapse. While they were exploring the galleries, they stumbled upon Cheung Wai, a 59-year old survivor from the 1997 accident, obviously in a rather bad shape. He was immediately taken to the hospital where a complete evaluation of his physical and mental states will be done over the next weeks.

The poor man had remained trapped underground with the bodies of 78 of his dead coworkers, after an earthquake of a magnitude of 7,8 hit the region and caused the wooden support structure of the mine to crumble and collapse. Somehow lucky in his misfortune, Mr. Cheung was saved by the fact that some ventilation duct still connected his underground prison to the surface, allowing him access to air that was  sufficiently pure to keep him alive.

He managed to survive thanks to an emergency stash of rice and water, stored in an underground depot, conceived especially for this kind of case. The man complemented his diet by catching and eating the countless rats that populate in the mine, as well as collecting large quantities of some sort of phosphorescent moss, which constituted his only source of vitamins. Even though he was suffering from great physical and mental stress, he managed to give proper burials to all of his comrades, spending almost a year in this great selfless act.

Okay, the straight-ahead drama here is The 33 — “When a gold and copper mine collapses, it traps 33 miners underground for 69 days” — meets Cast Away“A FedEx executive must transform himself physically and emotionally to survive a crash landing on a deserted island”.

I imagine you’ve got the same sort of Robinson Crusoe elements of the ingenious ways the trapped miner manages to survive over time. One big fork in the road: Do you open up the story to his fantasies and/or memories of his past life? Or do you keep the story completely contained in the mine? The latter would be a challenge to pull off for 90+ minutes. How to create a sense of narrative drive?

Well, we can take a clue from Chris Sparling who wrote Buried: “Paul is a U.S. truck driver working in Iraq. After an attack by a group of Iraqis he wakes to find he is buried alive inside a coffin. With only a lighter and a cell phone it’s a race against time to escape this claustrophobic death trap.” In this take, time is not so much about the longevity of the Protagonist’s experience, but a ticking clock as one means of physical support after another begin to be lost to him (e.g., air, water, food).

Then I had another thought: What if the earthquake not only traps the miner, it awakens something buried deep within the mine? You know, those creepy wall drawings the dude discovers…

Yeah, that thing? It emerges from a long winter’s nap. It’s pissed… and it’s hungry.

There you go: My eleventh story idea for the month. And it’s yours. Free! What would you do with it?

Each day this month, I invite you to join me in comments to do some brainstorming. Gender bend, genre bend, what if. Take each day’s story idea and see what it can become when we play around with it. These are all valuable skills for a writer to develop.

See you in comments (hit Reply to join the conversation). And come back tomorrow for another Story Idea Each Day For A Month.