After years of unedited additions, I recently decided to clean up my chaotic “story ideas” document. Most writers have one. Mine had gotten a bit unruly, and I thought scraping some mold off the bread would do it—and my brain—some good.
The document has three general tiers. The top tier is a list of well-developed ideas, each with several paragraphs of notes. The second tier details less-developed but fairly complete story ideas usually boiled down to a few sentences.
The final tier is a list of random scenes, images, or ideas often scribbled or typed in incomplete phrases. They sometimes lead to stories… and sometimes make little sense. I rarely remember writing them down, but one thing is for sure: at the time, I felt it was ESSENTIAL to have each one for later reference.
From that third tier, I’ve chosen my ten most genius scribblings and reproduced them below in their entirety. Enjoy.
Note: the boldface phrase in quotations is all there was to each scribbled idea. Really.
1) “Storage units”
I was really cooking with gas when I wrote these two magical words. Oh, the possibilities…
Imagine a story about a couple who once had enough room for their old furniture. But then they ran out of room… and had to rent a storage unit to keep it safe.
Also, the storage unit is in SPACE.
See how I did that? Sci-fi.
I really averted a disaster by writing this down. Without this note, I might have forgotten about the existence of storage units forever, depriving myself of an endless fountain of material.
2) “Lichens cultivated on someone”
In a flash of brilliance, I identified the lack of lichen-themed science fiction literature and decided to capture the market. You have to be a storyteller AND a keen business mind to make it in this industry.
As for the idea itself—cultivating lichens on someone—it makes perfect sense. The human body has tons of underutilized real estate that would be perfect for lichen cultivation: your calves, for example. Elbows. Behind your ears.
And plenty of lichens are endangered. Once we figure out how to grow them on people, I think almost everyone will sign up for body cultivation. That’s when people will look back at my lichen stories and say “good ‘ole Walker, he saw this coming.”
3) “Woman interviewing frog suit”
Is this woman interviewing a frog suit, or is she wearing a frog suit while being interviewed?
What do I even mean by frog suit? It could be scuba gear—I think “frog suit” was an old slang term for that. Or perhaps this woman is trying for a role as Kermit and boldly decided to wear a frog costume to the audition.
I’d like to think that I left out a couple of words and actually meant “woman interviewing a frog in a suit.” I still don’t know what that story would be, but the image makes me smile.
4) “Squirrel crying”
Are you seeing this, publishers? Get your check-writing hands ready, because a novel is coming, and in that novel a SQUIRREL WILL CRY.
It’s going to blow minds and break hearts. Who doesn’t want to see character-based, plot-driven squirrel tears? This is not the 1890s; we don’t keep squirrels as pets anymore. We live alongside them, imagining their rich internal lives as they steal birdseed and screech at us.
If you’re interested in a multi-book deal, I can guarantee that a squirrel will cry at least twice in every novel. What’s the story, you ask? No idea, but that doesn’t really matter, does it? I’m selling SQUIRREL EMOTION here. Get on board while you still can.
I’ve spoken with my agent about the Squirrel Tears Trilogy, and she has never been so excited about a story concept before (she may deny this is if asked).
5) “1950s cop”
I actually wrote this phrase down. Took the time to stop what I was doing, pull out my notebook, and write these two words.
Let’s move on.
6) “time capsule just biscuits”
I’d be pretty pissed if I dug up a mysterious time capsule, opened it, and found only biscuits. Maybe I was planning to write a story about disappointment.
Or maybe the capsule doesn’t have actual biscuits, but a recipe for biscuits? The best biscuits ever known to humankind? A recipe so good that it drives people mad? It grants a kind of mind control to the baker, turning people into drooling automatons willing to do anything you command just for another taste of the BISCUITS.
I tried you guys, I really did. I think I have to let this one go.
7) “Woman living upside down—Battle of Waterloo”
This one is so weirdly specific, I feel like I should have at least a vague memory of what I meant.
I’m going to take a crack at it anyway:
This is the story of Isabelle de Gamont, famed owner of the Gamont bakery in the town of Waterloo. Years of hard work, great skill, and an improving local economy have paid off for Isabelle. It’s 1814, and things are looking up in the Belgian territories. Peace has returned to Europe.
With her impressive savings, she decides to fulfill her lifelong dream of becoming a homeowner. She plunks down all her savings for a down payment on a nice home at the edge of town and arranges a very comfortable 10-year mortgage rate with her lender (just go with it).
But disaster strikes. Napoleon escapes from Elba and reignites his campaign against Europe, culminating in the Battle of Waterloo in 1815—right in Isabelle’s backyard. Her bakery and most of the town are destroyed, causing property prices to plummet.
Her home is now worth less than her mortgage.
Thus… “woman living upside down—Battle of Waterloo.”
8) “gum chewing nervous mutation”
Mutations that grant strange powers have been big business in the SF&F genres for ages.
Mutations that lead to nervous gum chewing, less so.
Sigh. Moving on.
9) “brings bug back to life. then rat”
You don’t go straight to mammal when bringing back the dead. You start small. Insects. Probably an ant, maybe a ladybug.
THEN you move on to rat. Then opossum, then feral pig, then moose, then human.
10) “Stonehenge who cares?”
Because I’m OVER IT.
Sure, Stonehenge used to be a big deal. We all cared—a lot. Stones, henges, druids, circles, ancient Britain. It was fascinating for a time.
But I’m DONE. I have a life to lead. Work to do, social engagements to attend.
I don’t have time to care about Stonehenge anymore, and neither do you. It’s just a bunch of rocks.
I’m telling you to move on. Don’t look back. The future awaits.
Stonehenge, really… who cares?