Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Waste Not

In my last post I wrote about the frustration of wanting to write a story within Tolkien's world of the Silmarillion, but knowing that I never could. Having a great story idea that you love but cannot write does not mean that one should simply discard the idea. Keep it in mind, and perhaps you can figure a good way to incorporate it into another work.

I did this very thing with my first fantasy novel. The story revolves around three main point-of-view (POV) characters: a minor lord named Midas, an elderly ranger named Edo (who actually just gives voice to the main character of this story arc, his mute partner Orcbait), and a teenage boy named Geldrath, off to serve his two year tour-of-duty guarding the lone pass into the Known Lands.

For that third story arc, I used both names and story elements from the original Tolkien storyline that I had wanted to write. Geldrath is similar to the young Edain warrior, though perhaps a bit more naive and untrained as a warrior. He is being taken to East Gate, where he is to serve his two years, by three dwarves in a trading cart. One of the dwarves is named Gorm, and he plays a significant role in the rest of the story. So, you can see that I did indeed recycle some of what I liked about the original, unusable story. And, though they never encounter huge spiders, once Geldrath's story arc combines with Midas's, they do go on an adventure beneath the mountains, just as in my outline for the Tolkien story.

In the second novel that I am writing, a sci-fi prequel to the first novel, I am doing a similar thing. While living in Moscow during the early 1990's I had come up with an interesting action story involving a young woman studying to become a teacher who, due to her drug-using brother, ends up being chased by the local mafia. I never started writing that story, but it lingered in my mind for years. I had begun developing an idea set in the 2100's about scientists trying to perfect a form of immortality. The idea was neat, but the story itself lacked punch, until I remembered my old mafia story and realized I could use it. I pushed the story of the scientists into the background and made the young lady the POV character. Rather than it being about the mafia looking for lost drugs, I had the mafia looking for stolen data chips from the scientists instead. I incorporated several scene ideas I had from the earlier story, and the new novel's outline practically wrote itself.

Never discard old story ideas; they can often lend the necessary spice to a new story.

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