Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Idea

I was searching through my old idea file today looking for the original synopsis I wrote for Ghost Writer when I found this partial scene I wrote back in 2012:

“Lunch.” I handed Lucy a wrapped sandwich. At her hurt look, I added, “It’s an all-veggie pita with no-fat dressing.”

“I love you. If you weren’t a girl, I’d have your babies.” She stopped to rip paper and take a huge bite before taste-bliss made her lashes droop. “Oh, God. Maybe we could adopt.”

Lucy had been dieting since high school; I knew because we’d been best friends since the first day of freshman year. I never kept any secrets from her, either, which was making it tough to decide what to tell her about my luncheon appointment.

“So?” She took a bottle of protein water from her bag. “What happened at the bank?”

“Nothing much.” I sat down in the client chair next to her desk and eyed the scuff mark on one side of my right shoe. “Anyone call?”

In mid-chug, Lucy nodded and passed me a small stack of message slips. Because she was the world’s finest receptionist, they were all neatly and beautifully written, and because I was the head of Accounts Receivable, I’d have to call them back.

“You look like someone just kicked your dog,” she told me after she swallowed. “What’s nothing much?”

“It’s just a family thing.” I sorted through the slips, shuffling them according to accounts and making some predictions about what they wanted to tell me. “No money, no money, probably filing Chapter Eleven, no money . . .” I came to one from the bank officer I’d just seen. “Oh.”

“He needs you to mail him a copy of your birth certificate.” Lucy balled up the empty sandwich wrapper, expertly tossing it into the garbage can in the corner of her cubicle before she gave me the eye. “You gonna tell me, or do I have to spread a rumor about you having the hots for Dale Bilmer in Collections?”

“Dale Bilmer is sixty-two.”

She nodded. “And still single. And looks upon you with lust simmering in his pacemaker while he adjusts his toupee.”

I wanted to laugh, but I was too depressed. “I’ve inherited something.”

Lucy leaned close. “Something like what?”

“A French chateau.”

“A what?” Lucy whooped, jumped up and dragged me to my feet before she danced me around. “You’re rich, you’re rich, you’re rich!”

I let her spin me a few more times before I stopped her. “I’m not rich.”

“Oh, sure.” She laughed. “You’re so poor you own a chateau in France. The true definition of poverty.”

“It’s not in France.” I eased out of her arms. “It’s in California.”

“Huh?” Now she looked perplexed. “What’s it doing there?”

“Someone moved it there.” I sat back down and gestured for her to do the same. “It’s in the mountains in the north part of the state.” I hesitated before I added, “I inherited a couple of mountains, too.”

My best friend grinned. “In California? Girl, trust me, you’re rich now. You’re so rich that you could—”

“I have to live there,” I told her, shutting her up instantly. “I mean, if I want the land and the money and stuff, I have to move to California and live in the house.”

“For how long?”

“A month.”

I believe this was the first incarnation of the idea I had that resulted in Breath of Ice, and what's odd is that after I wrote it I never looked at it again until today. So my Accounts Receivable protag (never got around to naming her) heiress morphed into a property manager named Stephanie and the French chateau she inherited because a not-actually-haunted uber McMansion prison for a yeti. I don't recall what I had planned to have haunt the chateau, but I'm sure it would have been something just as strange.

I like haunted house stories, but I don't like how most of them end, and I think that was why I wanted to take a crack at writing one of my own. I liked my two girlfriend characters (actually pretty rare for me; I don't especially like BFF characters) and the dialogue seemed snappy enough. Once I got to the month residency requirement I remember my interest in it quickly evaporated, and I stopped and filed it away.

It's not a horrible idea, and some of it obviously stuck with me long enough to simmer itself into Breath of Ice, but I'm glad I didn't write more. Sometimes an idea is just supposed to be an idea. Do you save your partials and unfinished stories? Ever go back and read them? Do they have any value for you as a writer? Let us know in comments.


  1. What I like about ideas is that even if you don't use them as a basis for a story it becomes fuel, a catalyst of sorts for other things. Perhaps it's the location, or the friends, or the haunting.

    I like 'haunting' stories but many of them end too cut and dry for me. A real haunting always leaves a few mysteries behind. We can't know everything behind the veil. That's what make it surreal.

  2. I am a prime example of the plot/partial hoarder from hell, lol. I save every. Freaking. One. In one form or another. To be honest, I rarely return to them, unless I'm clearing drives or doing backups. But I do keep them, and yes, they've proven more valuable than I thought, if only for inspiration or characters. I retrieved one recently that's proving to be the foundation for a novella that's due next month, rather than the full-length story I'd planned. And am I glad I saved it for the past six years!

  3. I keep everything. Yes, I read my old scenes and partial stories. They sometimes turn into something, spark something else, or simply get returned to the file for next time. I should probably get rid of the paper files I have been keeping since high school, but every time I'm supposed to sort them I remember that only time I turned a short story in there into a novel and I keep the whole lot of them for another year. One of these days...

  4. I keep them all: character sketches, scenes, partials that stopped on page 5, everything. All in their own folders with the date I wrote them and what they were meant to be.

    I learned long ago I can return to one later and find a little piece that sparks the story to life. I recently finished a story that was four paragraphs I wrote eight years ago.

    Nope. I never throw anything away.



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