Thursday, January 21, 2010

1 + 1 + 1 = Story

1 + 1 + 1 = Story

By Pat Cunningham

I can’t remember the book or the author now – it was either Damon Knight or Ben Bova, I was writing SF then – but one of the many how-to-write texts I studied in my early writing years offered this advice: for a good story, you need more than one idea. A single idea is a sketch, a scene, a vignette. A story needs at least two ideas to play off each other. Not too many or the story gets muddled – I’m looking at you, Pirates of the Caribbean 2 – but enough to provide weight and depth, and give the characters, and the readers, something to sink their teeth into.

I got to test this theory recently when I was inspired by a TV show and started fiddling with plots. I found several ideas that fit together and gave me plenty of grist to put my characters through all kinds of angsty hell. Isn’t that’s why we write in the first place?

Idea #1 – a couple months back I guest-blogged on the bizarre ideas my mind keeps throwing at me, like where a shapeshifter’s clothes go when they change and would a vampire’s fangs be considered concealed weapons by the police. One question dealt with a vampire’s sex drive; can the undead get it up? This led to the theory fresh blood in a vampire’s veins makes them horny, and sooner or later some enterprising brothel owner would catch on. Originally I’d planned to write about a prostitute and the vampire she falls in love with, but … well, you’ll see in a minute.

Idea #2 – I try to write every day. When I don’t work on a WIP, I jot a few lines in a notebook. Sometimes it’s flash, sometimes it’s a scene or a character sketch or a dialogue exchange. Recently what came out of my pen was a bit about a human who’d been raised by vampires. That’s not a story by itself, but if added to something else …

Idea #3 – okay, this one’s embarrassing. It stems from that TV show, and the fan fiction that’s grown up around it. I’m familiar with fanfic – I’m a Trekkie from way back – as well as the interesting phenomenon known as slash. So I went poking around on a fanfic site, and – well, as the pistol-packin’ preacher said, Holy shoot. I don’t remember Trek slash being quite that graphic. There was stuff on there that would make Ellora’s Cave editors blush. And so MUCH of it! You wonder where these guys find time to actually fight evil. Inspired, as it were, by this, I decided to try my hand at a M/M story. I couldn’t use the TV characters, of course, but there’s nothing to stop me from “casting” the actors in the roles. I find it’s easy writing dialogue when you can hear a particular voice. (I put Stone Cold Steve Austin in a novel once and his dialogue just flowed. Not bad for a wrestler.)

Adding the three ideas together, I had my plot and characters: a young human man, raised by a nest of vampires, who becomes a prostitute in a bat brothel and the object of affection of one of his male vampire clients. Both come with hefty baggage, especially the vamp (idea #4, which I can’t divulge because it’s a plot twist) which they have to wade through to reach their HEA.

None of these ideas could really sustain a full story, let alone a novel, on their own. Put ‘em together, though, and I just might have something. I’m still working on the draft. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

By the way, I’m not going to say which TV show it is. Bad enough I start laughing whenever the one actor comes on screen because I can’t help thinking, “Hey, it’s the man ho.” I don’t need any defamation lawsuits. Writing as a profession is risky enough.

Coyote Moon

Blurb ~

It's that time of the month -- the full moon -- when Willy Alvarez's moods go wonky and her dreams fill up with wolves. A time for hungers she doesn't dare fulfill because they lead to violence. She's resigned herself to a manless life, then Cody Gray arrives.

Cody is cute, funny, charming, and a werecoyote. His nose knows what Willy doesn't: she's half werewolf. He's convinced this repressed half-human she-wolf is his perfect mate. Now he just has to convince her. And quick, because her long-lost pack has learned about her existence, and they've come to town to claim her...

COYOTE MOON by Pat Cunningham at ~ ~
Pat Cunningham’s next release is BEST OF BREED ~ coming soon from BookStrand Publishing.


Savanna Kougar said...

Pat, wild how different ideas come and work against each other into a story. I've done that instinctively, at times.
Or, I'll think ~ how do I resolve these two ideas if I throw them together. The heroine and hero always come to my rescue... at least, so far.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure how it happened myself. I think the inciting idea was the guy raised by vampires. I just couldn't leave it alone. The other ideas were added to beef up that original flimsy premise.

By the way, who's that guy in the picture? He's not in the show I was thinking about.


Savanna Kougar said...

Pat... why that's Adrian Paul... when he was Relic Hunter as vampire romance writing professor.

Serena Shay said...

Pat, I love the idea flow and how it turned into such an interesting idea for a story. I'll definitely be tuning in to see how you fare and when I can buy the book!!

by the by, I think I know of which show you speak, however I can't think of those two together without little old me in the middle!! muahahahaha ;) They have however spurred many a story idea in this writers head as well.

Anonymous said...

Sav - oh Lordy, I didn't recognize Adrian Paul. I was never a Highlander fan, alas.

Serena - if we are thinking of the same show, yeah, that would be fun. Dunno how 5'4" me would handle the height difference, though.

The problem is, I've started thinking of Actor X as my character. This is especially fun in the opening scene when he's standing beside the bed in tight leather pants, a choke chain collar and a leash. I am such a dirty girl ...

Pat C.

Serena Shay said...

Oooh, Pat I love that kinda dirty! I can totally picture Actor X dressed to please!

Yeah, the height difference would be tough, I'm 5'5 myself, but we'd make it work! ~whew~

Paris said...


Great blog;-) and your story idea sounds wonderful! As for Adrian, how the heck did I miss that series (Relic Hunter)? I loved Highlander!!! As for the height challenged, at 4'11 I could always stand on a chair or better yet, sit in his lap

Savanna Kougar said...

You gals are cracking me up... hmmm, at 5'4''... well, that makes Paris the most diminutive of us all..

Not that's a concept ~ "when he's standing beside the bed in tight leather pants, a choke chain collar and a leash. I am such a dirty girl ..."

What a fun idea to spin in another way... alas, I must add it to my never-ending list.

Actor X... someone want to blog about him?