Thursday, January 23, 2014

When Ideas Collide

I had to resort to my stand-by desperation move with the kids last night: musical chairs, the one activity that keeps them occupied for ten whole minutes. We had three adults, since the other teacher made her husband join us, and two teens, since the usual teen helper brought her stepsister, and we still had a hard time keeping them corralled. The new teen wants to be Abby from NCIS when she grows up, so I'm thinking she'd know good ways to make a body disappear …

Problem Child was back, and there has to be a Jekyll/Hyde thing going on with that kid because when he's good, he's the most adorable thing, so sweet and so smart, and then he can turn on a dime and be nasty. When he showed up at class, he came straight to me and stood at attention, so I saluted him and said he was reporting to duty. He saluted back, then he handed me a love note he'd written for one of the girls in the class. Then in an instant it was like his eyes flipped around and turned black and suddenly he was talking about poop at every opportunity. And then he did something really clever that actually fit the assignment and took it a step further, and then he was demonstrating with pipe cleaners what naked people look like.

Yesterday I was flipping through my business notebook, looking at the stories in various stages of development to decide what I should be working on this year, and I had one of those fun moments where two different ideas collide to create a new idea that gets me excited. I guess this was sort of brought up by talking about maybe making a trip to England. One of my justifications is research for a story idea I've been playing with, a classic gothic with a twist or two. At one point last summer, I found myself thinking about the traditional cheesy gothic novel cover -- the woman in a white nightgown fleeing from a spooky house or castle as a storm rages. I started making up a story behind that image. What was she running from and why was she out in a nightgown during a storm? What happens next? In spite of that image being on the covers of dozens of books during the heyday of that kind of story, I don't think that actual scene was ever really in any of the books. Next thing I knew, I had this whole thing in my head of a secret magical security/investigative service, like the MI-5 of magic, keeping tabs on possible evil wizards, and the woman was one of these agents, sent undercover to work as a governess for a suspected evil wizard and spy on him, and her contact/handler was the neighboring landowner. She's running in her nightgown because she's just been snooping, discovered the incriminating evidence, almost got caught, and the only way out was to climb out the window and down the wall, and now she's running to the neighbor to tell him what she's found. It grew and expanded from there.

Then after talking about those books that have a framing story in which someone in the present researches a story in the past, yesterday I had the brainstorm that this would be an ideal story to do that with -- someone inherits an estate, or possibly is a museum worker in one of these old estates that's being turned into a museum, and finds something odd while going through the old house. That then turns into a research project that uncovers what happened in the past and reveals the secret magical agency that still exists. It does lack the WWII angle, but I suppose I could get really complicated with it and have part of the research involve interviewing an old person who spent the war in that house as a child and finding out what that person discovered, so there's the story within the story within the story. At any rate, it might make a nice bridge between my contemporary fantasy work and my steampunk, since the framing story would be contemporary fantasy and the story within the story would be Victorian.

Now I've got a lot of research to do in preparation for writing something like this. There's probably a year of reading and development before I write a word. And it definitely will require some travel (yay, tax write-off!). Oh dear, visiting great houses turned into museums. What a terrible ordeal that will be.

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