Monday, October 31, 2016

NaNoWriMo: What To Do?

NaNoWriMo starts at midnight tonight, and I haven't actually figured out what I'm going to work on.  Last week I came up with a list of things I can do for NaNoWriMo:

Option One - Grandpa Anarchy:  write more Grandpa Anarchy short stories.  Eh, I did this in July and I've been writing 1-2 stories a week since August.  I'm up to 235 short stories written, more or less, and I'm publishing 1 new story a week on my web site.  I don't really need to force myself to write even more.

Option Two - Grandpa Anarchy:  specifically finish longer Grandpa Anarchy stories:  Second Class, Oz on the Half Shell, Unpossible, Patron of the Arts, World of Hero, or the novel I tried to write 2 years ago, Serial Anarchy.  I do want to get all of this done, and some of these stories will take a significant amount of time and work (Oz on the Half Shell is mostly written however), but at the same time... I kind of want to do something other than Grandpa Anarchy.

Option Three - Fanfiction:  work on Girl's School.  This is my default option that I usually choose.  Last year I was supposed to finish the long adventure arc I've been on for years, but I didn't quite manage it.  Plus I've written more stuff beyond that arc that I want to complete.  Plus I stopped posting to again, and I need to finish things off.  I've been struggling for years to get at least the three big magical girl adventures arc done.  At the same time, I worked on this last year and I kind of want to do something different.

Option Four - Fanfiction:  finish my other fanfiction stories, specifically A Goddess In Oz, but also I Can See Clearly Now, or that superhero crossover story I plotted and partially wrote years ago, Nerima All-Stars.  Actually I'm pretty interested in working on Nerima All-Stars and maybe A Goddess In Oz.  I Can See Clearly Now is a five-chapter story that I never finished chapter five of.  It wouldn't be hard to complete, but I just haven't done it.

Option Five - Original Fantasy:  work on my fantasy story Otherworld Blues, which I tried to work on over a year ago for Camp NaNo in July.  I have a lot of ideas in my head and some stories plotted out, but I really struggled to get going on it the last time.

Option Six - Original Oz story:  work on Jubbei in Oz, an Oz story I plotted and partially wrote years ago.  I still like the idea and characters, and would like to complete and publish at least one of my own Oz stories at some point.

Option Seven - Original Fantasy:  I have several old fantasy stories that I wouldn't mind actually working on and finishing.  Land of Nottodd is one (I had to look up  the title -- it needs a better title).  Like a lot of my old stuff, this is a beginning with some fun characters and dialog but not a great deal of plot, that manages to roll along for a couple of chapters before I quit.  Quite possibly it needs to stay buried and unfinished, but I still remember laughing at some of what I wrote.  There are several other fantasy stories like this that have less to recommend them.

Option Eight - Original Fantasy:  Come up with something entirely new.  At this point, with so many unfinished stories waiting to be worked on, and less than 24 hours before NaNo begins, this is not the best option.

I'm leaning towards working on my "other" fanfiction stories.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Construction of a Story

How to construct a story:

I get the idea sometime in August or September to write a story about an entire supergroup of bug-themed characters.  I create the file, name it A Bug's Life, and then let it sit.  Meanwhile, sometime in September when the phrase "Number One Is Insane!" is trending on twitter (as far as I can tell, just because people are posting a particular clickbait link over and over, possibly as part of an ad moneymaking scheme, and not for any more ironic reason), I decide that this should be a story title.  After thinking on it a bit, I also decide  that it involves a sidekick named the Clickbait Cockroach.

In late September or early October I begin working on A Bug's Life.  The first step is to figure out who the group of bug-themed heroes are.  I come up with a B-grade hero group called the Brookhaven Bug Brigade, consisting of Ladybird Beetle Man, the Schoolbus Yellow Scarab, Termite Woman, the Happy Hornet and the Pirate Spider.  While I'm at it, it seems like a good idea to fold my other idea into this story, since the Clickbait Cockroach is also a bug-themed hero.

After some thought I come up with a villain named the Porkin Man, and a scenario in which Grandpa and his sidekick are helping out this group of heroes who are being overwhelmed by their arch nemesis.  I manage to get the first half of the story written -- setting the scene, describing the characters and the situation.  The characters themselves are kind of funny so that carries me for several paragraphs, but now I have to figure out what happens next and how the story ends.

This is pretty typical of how I write these stories.  Sometimes I have a funny ending in mind already, but a lot of the time I just have characters and/or a situation, but I'm not sure where the story's going just yet.  Then I think about it and try to come up with a good, funny ending.

Option 1:  I come up with one joke about the Porkin Man's previous name, the XXXterminator.  But  I decide that this is a separate villain named the Wilmington XXXterminator (from nearby Wilmington) and that he shows up to help -- or maybe after a very tough fight, the bug heroes want help taking on this other villain, and Grandpa's worn out and doesn't want to help anymore.  I could try to sell the idea by involving Grandpa in a knock-down, drag-out fight.  I keep going back and forth on this idea but it doesn't seem to add up to a really funny ending.

Option 2:  Maybe the Clickbait Cockroach defeats Porkin Man by compromising his computer systems (he's a villain in pig-shaped armor, with robot pigs under his command).  Maybe he falls for a clickbait ad!  I keep toying with this idea, which I kind of like since it justifies the sidekick being in the story and he doesn't really have much else to contribute, but I still have a hard time imagining a really solid ending based on this idea.  It seems like a very straightforward ending, no surprises and the "he clicked on the clickbait link!" joke is not that funny or surprising.

Option 3:  Trying to imagine a more unusual and surprising ending, I wonder if the Brookhaven Bug Brigade can summon a giant bug or maybe combine to form some sort of giant robot bug.  This is certainly more like my usual ending -- something a bit more out of left field, but still related to what's come before.  But then one wonders why they didn't do that to start with, or why they needed Grandpa at all.  Perhaps there's a joke in that very question -- why did they need Grandpa's help to defeat this villain?

Option 4:  It occurs to me that the Pirate Spider may be a computer hacking sort of pirate.  In this scenario it's not the Clickbait Cockroach who hacks the villain's electronic systems, but the Pirate Spider.  This possible ending is similar to option 3, in that you wonder why they would need Grandpa in the first place.  But I'm starting to sense a possible ending for this story now, after a week of puzzling over it.  Option 4 is the solution, and the actual joke becomes the answer to the question of why they need Grandpa's help at all -- but in the end, all of the other options are mentioned in passing as well.  I quickly finish the story, and when I'm done, I'm fairly satisfied with how the story ends.  ^_^

Monday, October 24, 2016

A Bug's Life, and Halloween Stories

Once again last week I wrote two stories early in the week, then failed to finish anything the rest of the week.  I was working on a story called A Bug's Life and intended to finish it over the weekend but that didn't happen.  Hopefully I'll manage to finish it today -- I've got more work done on it in any case, and it's nearly done.

The good news is that I've plotted/started three more stories today.  One is about the replacement of the Anarchy Computer, an idea that I thought of over the weekend.  I'm calling that one Annie, which will be the name of the new AI.  The second is an idea I had yesterday about a sidekick who is being kept in stasis in some corner of the Anarchy cave until science advances far enough to fix whatever's wrong with him or her... but as usual Grandpa's simply forgotten all about why the person was there.  That one's called Until the Day.

The third story idea continues in a line from the first idea -- an efficient and self-aware computer decides to try and fix things that Grandpa never wanted to fix, so it replaces the old Anarchy Mobile with something sleek and modern and sophisticated, with lots of special abilities.  But Grandpa loves his old AMC station wagon.  I called that one New Car, for obvious reasons.

I have to admit, upgrading the Anarchy Computer makes me a little sad.  It's been a fun recurring joke that Grandpa has a crime computer like the one Batman had in the 60's tv show, only it's still there after 55 years, upgraded a bit but still a giant computer terminal desk with lots of reel to reel tape.  On the other hand, there's a lot of mileage to be had in giving Grandpa a futuristic computer with an AI.  I suspect I'll get several stories out of it, and who knows, maybe I'll figure out what happens to the old computer.  Is there a Grandpa Anarchy museum?  There ought to be.

In the meantime I posted my second Halloween story of the week this morning, Buckets of Blood.  I read through it and decided that the things I was somewhat worried about a week ago weren't real problems.  I was afraid that the conversation about the rock band was too much of a sidetrack, but it didn't bother me that much on a new read-through.

The other thing I was worried about was the side joke about the former sidekick Princess of Purple Prose.  It wasn't necessary, and I'm not sure it adds much to the story but I decided it didn't really detract too much either.  This is a story without a big surprise ending, but on the whole I think it works so I left it as is.  All in all not my best story but I think it works well enough.

My original plan was to write three Halloween stories in a row so I'd have a third one to publish next Monday, which is actually Halloween.  But I haven't written a third story, and I have several spooky-related stories I can use instead.  One of my favorites is Abjure the Realm, based on an H.P. Lovecraft story, so I'll probably post that one.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Oct 12 - 2 New Stories Written

I'm in a much better mood this week.  All last week I struggled to come up with a Halloween story.  Towards the end of the week I strung together the part of the story where Grandpa explains all of the weird things in his hidden room in the basement, but I still wasn't exactly sure of the ending.  By Friday I had decided on how to end it but I still didn't manage to finish the story off, and then I didn't work on it all weekend.

Monday morning I finally finished the story, and I'm pretty happy with it.  Tuesday I finished off an old story called Sisterly Love, about Grandpa visiting a city in Japan that is the sister city of Frosthaven NJ.  This was a story I started in 2015 and was never able to finish, and so I'm really happy that I finally went back anc completed it.  It was pretty much the only unfinished story from book 5.  I still have 3-5 unfinished stories from books 2-4 though, and several from book 6.  I was going to work on another of those called Gate Into Danger today (a kind of homage/parody of Stargate), but instead I've started in on a different idea I had last night.

I was thinking about how some of the archvillains in the old City of Heroes game that I played for years would shout things at you as you fought them, and I wondered, what if they weren't supervillains you were trying to stop from taking over the world, but just your next-door neighbor?  Who are Grandpa Anarchy's neighbors anyway?  What if there's that one house that always seems to be occupied by villains?  I just like the idea of some of Grandpa's confrontations with Supervillains being over the usual neighbor squabbles like don't let your dog crap on my lawn, you need to mow your lawn and get rid of the weeds they're spreading onto my property, stop playing music at all hours of the night, etc.  ^_^  I titled the story Good Fences Make Good Neighbors but so far it's just a jumble of one-liners and a list of who might have been Grandpa's neighbors in the past.  But this one has potential and is an angle I haven't written before, so I'll probably have something done soon.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Ideas For a Halloween Story

My goal for the week has been to write a Halloween-themed Grandpa Anarchy story.  I do have one old story that is accidentally Halloween-themed -- it takes place on Halloween, and involves zombies.  As far as I can remember I didn't specifically intend to write a Halloween-themed story when I wrote it.  Maybe that's a good choice for my October "Classic Anarchy" story though.

Anyway I have this story idea/fragment called Buckets of Blood that contains some dialog about a speed metal band that only writes songs about buckets.  Apparently I was amused by this at the time, but I can't figure out any way to work it into a story -- but I used the file as a starting point for a story in which some of Grandpa's former sidekicks were hosting a Halloween party in the Anarchy Cave.

The question was, where do I go with this?  My first idea was that Grandpa would not mind having a bunch of teenagers and 20-somethings hosting a party in his basement because he knows mass murders, zombies, and otherworldly evil entities will show up, and he's prepared to fight all of them.  I imagine him with a whole closet of weapons to fight demons and undead -- everything you'd need to fend off a Halloween terror.  That seemed like a funny idea but I kept tossing it around in my head and I wasn't coming up with an actual story based on it.  So I started doing research on horror tropes -- if it's a trope then it's something Grandpa's seen over and over.

I read up on a trope called "And I must scream", from the Harlan Ellison story I have No Mouth And I Must Scream.  This trope is about people frozen or trapped for all eternity with no ability to move or communicate, but who are fully conscious.  It's a common horror trope.  When I thought about it, it seemed very likely that Grandpa had some former villains in the mansion like this.  I mean, I've already written about the demon trapped in a kewpie doll, although it can apparently talk.  But surely there's a former villain who's stuck as a stone statue, but still aware.  Maybe even the eyes can move about, that would be creepy.

After I thought bout it, I decided that Grandpa probably has a room full of things like this -- living brains in jars, rusted sentient robots, people turned into statues and dolls, evil spirits trapped in gems and crosses.  All stuffed into a dusty room and left there.

All of this was interesting but still didn't really suggest a story.  I imagined the former sidekicks using at least one statue with moving eyes as a prop for their Halloween party.  That was creepy, but again, I didn't see a story.

So I read a bit more on haunted houses.  Surely the Anarchy Mansion is haunted -- Grandpa probably is very familiar with all of the ghosts, although in a very real sense, it's not a situation where he's trapped in the mansion with the ghosts, but they're trapped in it with him.  That seemed promising.  There's also the fact that haunted houses always have a creepy old man as caretaker.  Grandpa isn't a creepy old man, is he?  The more I thought about it, the more it seemed like he really was, in a way.  If you set the story up to say that haunted houses are supposed to have creepy curators, but clearly Grandpa isn't one, and then you reveal things like the room full of people frozen forever but still conscious, well, that's proof that he really is creepy, yes?

Speaking of creepy -- a friend told me about a real event near a school that her daughter goes to.  There's been a person (or more?) dressing up as a clown and trying to lure children down a nearby trail into the woods.  At least, that's the story -- it sounds like one of those urban legends, but they've supposedly found three clown costumes near the school, and police are patrolling the area looking for the person responsible.  So -- that's neither here nor there, but it led me back to the idea that Grandpa was hoping creepy killers would show up.  "You haven't seen any creepy clowns in the area, trying to lure children into the woods?  No?  Just checking.  What about zombies?  Any zombie activity lately?  No?"

Currently I'm still running ideas through my head, trying to find at least one good punchline for a story.  I have one now that's completely unrelated to the above ideas, but I kind of have an idea in the back of my head that I can write two or three stories set around the same Halloween party, if I play with these ideas long enough.