I could struggle along for the next two or three years without a single new story idea, but it seems that isn’t going to happen. I woke up (too early) this morning with a brand new character walking around in my head. And I couldn’t get him to go away. Maybe I shouldn’t complain because he’s perfect short story material, and I would like to get some shorts out there in between the novels.
So he walked around in my head for an hour or so until I felt I knew quite a bit about him. He is, of course, a slave, and he’s mute. He has the physical capacity to speak, but his owner prefers him silent. It’s a story of psychological compulsion and I want very much to drop everything else and write about him — right now. But I resisted and simply started a file with a few notes.
Another story idea popped up later, an article on io9.com. But this one illustrates the difference between a character-based idea that’s ready to go, and a vague idea for a possible plot. From IO9: How vaccines saved the world “Vaccines are one of the greatest inventions of the last 150 years. They’ve all but eradicated deadly diseases like smallpox, polio, and measles from most of the world.” The moment I saw that, my first thought, being the hardcore environmentalist that I am, was: It’s far more likely that vaccines could be considered one of the factors that’s destroying the world.
And there’s the plot — no method has ever been found to keep humans from breeding themselves out of existence, so evil dictator/worldwide conspiracy of population control nuts/you name it decides to destroy all vaccines and let nature take its course. It’s a great idea, and I’m unlikely ever to write it. Why not? Because it’s inherently a plot-based story. A big story. It could be character-driven, but then the big picture would have to take a back seat to the central characters. Plot-driven: possible bestseller. Character-driven: obscure niche novel, and that’s what it would be in my hands.
Anyone want to write a novel about saving the world by destroying vaccines? It’s all yours.