Tuesday, January 14, 2014

I Probably Owe These Guys Royalties (Briane Pagel)

This is "Indie WRITERS Monthly" and though I rarely give writing tips or even discuss my writing process, I've decided to open up a bit and see where that leads.  Most likely an embarrassing amount of oversharing and then you'll grow distant from me because every time you look at me, you think "Seriously: that many Cool Ranch Doritos?"

But for now, let's pretend we're still friends and we'll therefore be more than willing to discuss

Where Ideas Come From, Or I Seriously Hope Andrew And Rusty Don't Talk To Lawyers.

I am more or less as I write this hard at work on a new story of mine, one that started out as a short story but has hit nearly 50 pages now in just over a week, and that story came to me from the unlikely source of a joke about how few people bother to read my blog, and Andrew Leon's comment about being the man mentioned in that joke.

About 9 days ago, I posted one of my increasingly-rare forays into the world of sports, a guide to the then-not-yet-started NFL playoffs.  They're almost over now, but don't let that stop you from going and reading it, because it has very, very little to do with sports, as is the case with most of my sports posts.

I began that post with a joke about how if someone was a regular reader of that blog, there was a 90% chance that person was Andrew Leon. Get it? Because he reads it and nobody else does? And also because investigation will almost certainly prove that the person/web presence we know as "Andrew Leon" is merely a clever computer 'bot program created in 1997 by the same man who would go on to father nearly three members of "One Direction."  (I say that because although "Andrew Leon" maintains that he has a corporeal presence, has ANYONE other than his family members, friends, associates,neighbors, and people at the supermarket ever seen him in person? I REST MY CASE.)

Andrew, in response to that joke, posted this comment:

 But you're also saying is that there's a 10% chance that I'm -not- Andrew Leon... I don't know how I feel about that. I've thought all this time that I was Andrew Leon but, now, there's a chance that I'm not. How do I find out? Is there, like, a testing center somewhere? I think there's a story in there somewhere, but I'm not going to look for it, right now. 

To which I said:

 I'm not sure R2 is likeable. The more I think about it, the more I DON'T like him. Which is a lot like the Saints. I think there might be an even greater than 10% chance you are not Andrew Leon. If you stuck out a whole football post? I'd get tested, right away. Your right. There is a story there. Like a Philip K. Dick story: Find Out Who You Are.

There's two important points there: first, R2-D2 is not a likeable character. He's a blank, a cipher onto which people project their own emotions, much the way we do with other things that most likely have no emotions or separate reality, like cats, houseplants, 40% of our kids, etc. etc., but that's for another day.

The second part is there WAS a story there: I thought about that comment that Andrew made, and the one I made back, and about two hours later (after letting in the DirecTV guy who was here to move the box from downstairs to upstairs) I sat down and wrote this:

The store popped up one day, in the kind of minimall in which stores were always popping up one day and then disappearing the next: a lunch counter serving real, ‘retro’ sandwiches. A repair shop for servobots. A souvenir stand
 (Souvenirs of what, Robbie wondered)

That store was the "Find Out Who You Are" store, and from that beginning paragraph I've gotten nearly 50 pages, so far, of what (I hope) is a Phillip K. Dick type of story about Robbie and Archie and Louis and their boss (?) Koss Ernst and an unnamed corporation all in the near future, and featuring people who may or may not be who they think they are.

That was not the ONLY time I've gotten ideas from offhand comments people made.  My story for Andrew's contest, "The Electronic Fish Tacos From Jupiter Save The Day??!?" (which actually is a much, MUCH grimmer story than that title would imply) got its title from Rusty's mentioning fish tacos (and features Rusty, Andrew, and PT in cameo roles as near-godlike beings).  Earlier than that, I wrote a story called "This Stupid Pineapple Is..." which again came from a phrase Rusty threw out there.  (Rusty, apparently, is my muse. I hope he's not uncomfortable with that. He shouldn't be.  I'm still maintaining the 500 yards distance mandated by court order and I hardly EVER get pictures of him tattooed on me anymore.)

So the point is, from a trade-off of jokes and a reference to a style of writing -- Phillip K. Dick is a particular style of sci-fi -- I got a whole story idea, one that has grown beyond the 5-10 pages I planned on to become, probably, a novel when it's done.  (That alone is not proof that the idea is good: I could write 10,000 words on, say, building a walk-in closet.)  (My home-repair/gardening posts, like my sports posts, have VERY LITTLE to do with those topics, which I know almost nothing about.  They are, like most of my writing, 90% about pizza and the rest stuff I plagiarized from the second half of John Steinbeck books. Nobody ever reads an entire John Steinbeck book, so I'm pretty safe.)

That's how I get my ideas: something I see or hear or think about sparks something in me, and from there I decide to start writing and see where it goes.  Sometimes it goes nowhere -- I've had stories that I quit on, although rarely for reasons I'll go into in the future -- but mostly it goes in almost entirely unexpected directions.

And I know that I am supposed to end posts like this with a question to get people to leave a comment, so I will do that:

Where do you get your story ideas from, and do you agree that it would be really, really, mean for Andrew and Rusty to sue me?


Here is the story "The Electronic Fish Tacos From Jupiter Save The Day??!?" 

"This Stupid Pineapple Is..." was the second in a series of sci-fi stories starring nearly-failed UFO Maker Nick and his wife, Other Sexy Cop.  It's not available online anymore, but will be out in book form eventually.  Until then, the first Nick and Other Sexy Cop adventure can be found in a 99-cent ebook, "Santa, Godzilla & Jesus Walk Into A Bar: The Greatest Xmas Story Ever Told."


  1. I learned a lot today. Like, for example, that my post went up less than half an hour after yours did, and also, that my carefully photoshopped fish taco what I worked on so hard didn't make an appearance here.

    Also, I think that I may have the single longest post in the short history of this blog. I haven't actually counted, but I'd assumed that would be a record you would hold, or maybe Andrew. But I'm pretty sure it's me now.

    Also, being a muse is a lot of work. I do deserve fair and reasonable compensation. I mean, those fish tacos and pineapple things, they don't just come to you you know, I have to pry those ideas straight from them void, they don't come willingly. It's like ish-fishing for Great Whites: They're not many of them, but if you do land one, it's not fun pulling out of the water.

  2. I've never had a fish taco but it's on my bucket list.

  3. From what I gather, Rusty, you get fish tacos and pineapples from underwater?


    But if I ever actually make any money writing, I will immediately promise to send you some and then move to a small island in the South Pacific where I can sit in a hammock and read books to my heart's content, safe from the extraterritorial jurisdiction of America's civil courts, laughing, laughing, laughing until one day, a hurricane washes over the island and I and all my belongings disappear forever.

    When the investigators get there, they'll discover that and assume I was washed out to sea and drowned.

    Rusty will give my eulogy at the funeral held in absentia:

    "He sleeps with the fish tacos and pineapples now," before someone explains to him that's not where those things come from.

  4. PT, yours is the least challenging bucket list entry I've seen since Dagwood put "video poker" on his.

  5. There are tears coming out of my eyes!

    How many Cool Ranch Doritos do you eat? I expected an answer and didn't get it.

    Man, I had so many comments, but I think I lost them all to the TEARS IN MY EYES!

    You know, I have so many ideas; I mean, I have folders of them. I can't keep up with them all and some of them don't deserve to live their lives in a folder hoping hoping hoping like that doggy in the window that I will one day choose it to turn into something more real than just an idea in a folder. So, you know, if I leave an idea lying around, feel free to use it. Kind of like loose change in a couch.

    I think I mixed up a lot of metaphors in that last paragraph and I didn't even use the one about the kid in the orphanage who just wants a family for Christmas. Or his front teeth. I always get those confused.

    Oh! I've read entire Steinbeck novels. I like Steinbeck. The only I didn't finish was the one he died without finishing.