What Would Happen If?

This entry was posted by on Friday, 3 February, 2012 at

In my previous post, I tangentially mentioned that I sometimes think of story ideas, but never write them down. It occurred to me afterward that someone out there (and you know who you are) might insist that I should write and make available these stories. This is actually a minor subset of “projects that I could be working on, but I’m not”, which is a much greater issue. But since I already brought it up, I will discuss this specifically

The thing is, I do not usually come up with STORIES, I come up with story IDEAS. I have think of premises for stories, not the story itself. A premise asks a question: “What would happen if…?” The story is the answer: It tells what would happen.

For example, many years ago I had an idea for a story called Holiday Ten. The idea was this: There are ten* federal holidays in the United States. Yet take, for example, Columbus Day. I realize that some people do take all the holidays seriously, and that around that particular holiday, certain types of people want to argue over whether Columbus really should be honored. Yet aside from that, and perhaps store promotions and such, I expect that most people do not give more than a passing thought to Christopher Columbus. They just take their three day weekend. In the UK, they actually have what are called Bank Holidays. It is just a day where the banks are closed and most people have the day off. Not in honor of anything, just because.

So imagine that a hundred years or so in the future, no one cares what anymore about what ANY of the holidays were intended to celebrate, they just welcome the extra day off. Having lost all original meaning, the holidays are simply referred to by number.

I further noted that, rather than our current calender, the 365 day year could be divided into 13 months of 28 days (4 weeks) with one day left over. That day would not belong to any month and would mark the start of a new year. Holiday One, if you will. Though I came up with this entirely on my own, I recognize that it is basically a lunar calendar, but I never bothered to research how it compares to the lunar calendars that other cultures have used for millennia. I also did not have a specific plan for leap years.

In any case, as indicated, my story would take place on Holiday Ten, previously known as Christmas. And when I say “take place”… I am pretty much out. What takes place? I have no idea. No plot, no characters, nothing. I actually came up with the idea several years before I ever started going to church, so it is not as though I even intended it to be preachy about the “true meaning of Christmas” or anything like that, although it is hard to imagine where else one might go with it.

So if any aspiring authors out there want to run with that, be my guest. Let me know what you come up with, and if you happen to write a multinational bestseller, please mention my blog on your book tour.


I did get a little bit further than that on this more recent story that I mentioned last week. I had an idea that I found intriguing. It felt like it would work best as a movie or graphic novel. Perhaps as webcomic since I enjoy those so much. I would like to do webcomic** sometime, however, I have had several ideas in that vein already, and if I ever did decide to formally begin one, this particular story would not be first in line. No, the best thing for this would be to just write it out, post it online somewhere and move on.

So I had this idea, but needed some characters and plot. I came up with a murder mystery sort of thing. But after several days thinking about it and getting the story all worked out in my head, I realized that I what I had was basically a murder mystery with a gimmick. As a consumer of entertainment, I absolutely hate it when I see something that wastes a good premise on a mediocre story. I certainly did not want to be guilty of that myself. Especially since the more I thought about it, the more I realized there was a certain richness and depth to my original idea and I kept asking myself, are you going to explore THIS aspect? And the answer kept being, “Not really.” I wanted to include little hints to some of these things for the audience to think about and discuss, although I find it hard to believe that people are going to set up a forum to discuss my work.

Another problem is that there is a certain supernatural element for which I really need to work out the rules. Not so much explain how it might scientifically possible, because it obviously is not. Rather, if we simply accept that this does happen, under what circumstances does it occur? Who can do it? Whom does it effect? I was not being consistent about these things. Of course, one can always just say, “Ha ha, magic!” but that is sloppy.

So after an overall evaluation, I realized that with the red herrings, hints to things outside the scope of the story, intentional ambiguities, and straight-up plot holes, I had quite a mess on my hands. Off to the back burner with that.



*It turns out that there are actually eleven federal holidays. I did not realize that Inauguration Day is an actual holiday as it only happens once every four years, and even then it is only observed in Washington D.C. and surrounding areas. Ignore that one.

**The lack of any drawing ability is not as much of a hindrance to webcomic authorship as you might think. While many do have quite excellent artwork, in the case of two of my favorites, one is draw with stick figures and the other has identical artwork every day – literally the only thing that changes is the dialog. Other options for the non-artist include: photos (either taken yourself or found online), Lego or other posed toys, crude MSPaint drawings, 3D computer graphics, and if all else fails, partner with someone who CAN draw.

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