Whenever I have an idea for a new story, I jot down the basic idea, makes notes about the main character, what assumptions I’m making about his world, etc. If the opening arrived in full bloom, I’ll also write part of the first chapter. And then I put it away until I have time to work on it further. Most of those stories take up residence in my head, each of them digging out their own cozy niche where they can grow and ripen. And every so often, one of them will wave to attract my attention and offer up a bit more of itself, which gets written down.
What sometimes happens when one of these story ideas pops its head back up is that I look at it and wonder whether it’s too fragile to survive. Not much of a plot. How would I get from point A to point Z? There’s no antagonist and, without an antagonist, there’s no potential conflict. It requires more world-building than I’m willing to invest in. Any of these can be a killer.
Very recently, I wound up with two of these delicate premies. The older one has been intriguing and frustrating me with its possibilities — and its complexity. The younger one is just the bare bones of an idea without any real idea of where it could go. Well, not to worry, With three or four novels well advanced in their development, two little stories like that aren’t worth worrying about. But that didn’t stop them from nagging.
What these two stories apparently did was get together and talk about the problem. And what they proposed is something that’s never happened to me before. I discovered that they were two parts of the same story. Both central characters needed someone to bump his head against. Each one brought a different perspective on the world that they would live in. Together, they could provide all the personal conflict the story would need. Together, they would let me explore all the issues that consume me — personal freedom and the constraints on it; power and its abuses, relationships and they evolve.
I don’t know that this kind of mashup could happen again, but it’s given me a new way to look at some of my weakest story ideas: with the hope that they might possibly see the light of day — someday.