The Best Stories I’ve Never Written
Earlier this week, I perpetuated a meme, providing myself a fine transmitter for psychological conceptual wads: Tell me about a story I haven’t written, and I’ll give you the opening sentence from that story.
Some of the stuff I wrote was pretty neat. You can take a look at the main thread (on LJ, which will of course be broken by the mere act of my linking to it), but here are some of the ones I’m prouder of.
A story about a woman who discovers a bookbag that has two unusual properties:
1) Its contents show up as a few changes of clothes on airport scanners, no matter what those contents actually are.
2) There seems to be no upper limit to how much the bookbag can hold.
She does some massive-scale smuggling for a while before she’s brought in on an unrelated charge and the feds learn what her bookbag can do. She finds herself pressured into the US Army, and has to deal with the ramifications of being a human personnel carrier in an active warzone.
So I said:
Evelyn had taken a flashlight in with her, a compass, enough food to last for weeks, bringing a bag inside the bag. The compass had been useless once inside The Sack, its needle jittering nervously in every direction, but she’d been smart enough to bring several cans of spraypaint to draw jagged arrows on the wrinkled proplyene surface.
The fabric cavern around her was lightless, sagging, occasionally sighing as mysterious winds rippled the cloth. Nothing lived in here. There was no water. Just a cave that went on until she ran out of paint, and a never-ending line of rough arrows pointing back to to the unzipped entrance.
This was no ordinary book bag.
The Schoolhouse Rock song “Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, get your adverbs here” is about a 3-generation family who run an “adverb store”, selling adverbs and singing their praises. They gloat in the song that the adverbs are “absolutely free”. How do they pay their rent? (How do they eat?) What do the women in this family think, married to a bunch of zealots who don’t ever bring home any money, but run a family business giving stuff away for free?
Hrm. I’d have to do some serious worldbuilding on that one.
That said, the obvious opening is “We are absolutely, positively, unquestionably, horrifically, and grievously starving,” said Lolly, Lolly, and Lolly, speaking frankly.
Richlayers: “A story about a woman who can plant fairy tales on scraps of paper and grow a garden of variations.”
The mice in her garden tried to turn her pumpkins into carriages. She sprayed them with pesticides.
Pachamama: “In a world where first-person subjective experiences can be harvested and delivered for virtual experiencing by punters, there obviously grows a significant black market in the less palatable aspects of human experience (the virtual experience version of snuff films). ”
The girl was fourteen years old, dead, and laid in pieces upon china plates.
Graeme sharpened his knives, though the cooking – what there was of it – had been mostly done. She was bite-sized, mostly raw, bits of her shoulder laying edge-over-edge on a sashimi tray, her liver in a bowl, both her eyes nestled in ramekins. They had stewed and seared bits of her, and Graeme wondered what had driven her to this. He’d seen the film where she had been dissembled. She went voluntarily though not happily, surrendering herself to the butcher, and Graeme decided that she must have had a family who needed the money. A woman who would volunteer for such a thing as kink was too monstrous to contemplate, even for Graeme.
He adjusted the electrodes on his scalp, nibbled at a Saltine cracker. His technicians gave him the thumbs-up; the other guests, vomit bowls at the ready, also nodded, feeling the salt dryness in their mouth as clearly as if they’d chewed it themselves.
Graeme was ready. His audience, though they would never admit it in public, were hungry to see what human flesh tasted like. And he would bring them every sensation.
(Hey, they’re not all pleasant.)
And my favorite, which Tithenai thinks I should expand into a story, is this prompt: “How about a sentence from that story of yours where drums are a divinatory tool?”
Jules often wondered if John Bonham had known what he was doing.
It was hard for him to listen to Bonham’s extended suicide note in “Moby Dick,” but Julies applied himself to it with the scrutiny that any diviner uses when they pushed their finger through moist dregs of tea. To the rest of the world, “Moby Dick” was the part of the Led Zeppelin concert where you went and got another beer – four minutes of furious drum solo, a dense polyrhythmic stew of paraddidles and crashes, with Bonham arcing up and down the scale in frantic, galloping rolls.
To Jules, though, the beats spoke of darker things. If you listened with the right ears, you could hear Bonham charting his future in detail, his mania, his despair, the rise of Zeppelin and his addictions. And when that final, thunderous beat came, the culmination of everything, he could hear Bonham bringing down both the sticks and the end of his own life simultaneously.
Had he known? Had Bonham understood that he was casting a spell? Or had he just, inchoately, been attuned to something that was nothing but instinct to him?
That’s not really a story for me, as I don’t know what Jules wants or what he’d do in the story, but it’s a fun way to look at Zeppelin.
(If you want to add more requests, dunno when I’ll get to ‘em, but I will.)