Brainstorming short story ideas

Well, I actually wrote this before and edited over it like a fool. C’est la vie. You live, you learn (to save your work).

Anyway, I’ve got a class tomorrow I have to write short story ideas for. And…well here’s round 2 of that! Quality not guaranteed on the ideas contained herein!

Idea 1

A walk through the main character’s regrets. As a child, promising to write to a friend (never doing it). Stealing a birthday card from a super market. Throwing a rock at someone and giving them stitches. Never learning the piano. Never learning how to draw. Never trying in school. Later, trying too hard. Doing a year of physics because her parents wanted her to. The first diet. The first cigarette. The first boyfriend. That one first date. Getting her PhD. Work. More work. Getting married. Not getting remarried.

She looks down at her hands. The skin is paper thin, the flesh wasted. The radio plays Edith Piaf. She turns to her side, careful not to disrupt the IV plugged into her arm. The radio plays on.

I thought up this idea for another class but never developed it. I see it as a guide through the past, through a series of choices. They’re not all regrets, they’re simply moments that stood out in this woman’s life and as she reflects on her past, she gives them new meanings. I want to play with the idea of memories and how we see our lives. It’s a potentially interesting idea but I think I’d have to flesh out the story a little more to make it something worthwhile.

Idea 2

An interweaving of two tales to chronicle different kinds of relationships. One character is having difficulties in her long term relationship. She is discontent and at a crossroads in her relationships, deciding whether to stay or leave. The other character is in a brief but intense fling. She can stay and try to live without a commitment or leave and find someone who is more stable. Both are not sure if they are in love or not. The story is written from the character’s perspectives only, interactions with partners are memories, not scenes, and have the narrators interject often. Both characters vacillate between their choices, but in the end, they chose the easiest path. The first stays, the other leaves.

Excerpt:

Should I stay or should I go?

A: If I love him, it’s because I had no choice. If I love him, I’m not sure much of the time. Time softens even the hardest heart. Is this love or just days passing and an attachment based on convenience? Well, here we are now, choosing, and the most important piece of information is missing. If that is the most important part. I cannot stay, but is there anything more…?

B: If I love him, it’s because I had no choice. My heart is not strong. There was attachment where you would wish there to be none. I gave him nothing but the promise that my life would be mine, I would not burden him. I love him. I am sure I do. There is nothing more to say. Yet, I cannot stay, not here, not like this.

***

The difficulty would be weaving the two stories together and capturing their vacillations. I like the format of merging two independent stories together and trying to highlight a common thread. I feel this story will be challenging though, to capture the feeling I want.

Idea 3

A reinvention of the Frankenstein story. A scientist makes an android in the hopes it will be an improvement on humanity. He merges biology with robotics to create a female android. He boots her up for a test, with only basic machine learning algorithms. He plans to install more programming to make her a standard robot, obedient and functioning as programmed. But confused, she escapes and he cannot find her.

He grows depressed and mourns his life’s work. But, one night, she comes back. She details learning through her basic algorithms to process the world, to learn to interact with the outside world. Eventually, she tries to enter civilization. But when people find out she’s an android, they try to destroy her or capture her, believing her to be nothing but an object. Eventually, she seeks out her creator for one simple purpose. She wants him to create a companion for her. He refuses, claiming she is not human and doesn’t have the right to demand anything of him. She only smiles and asks what her name is. He tells her she doesn’t have one, giving her a serial number instead. At this, she leaves, to his desperate pursuit.

He eventually discovers the lab book where he chronicled her creation was gone. The story ends with a new android sitting up and asking “Where am I? Who am I?” and someone answering “You are here. You are anyone you want to be.”

Idea 4

“Oh, it’s not that I’m jealous, no, no.”

She laughed and smoothed her bright blue dress against her knees.

“I just…don’t know what to do. And she’s so beautiful…”

***

The last time Marie Anne went to the carnival, she went with her boyfriend at the time, and he bought her a candy apple. He played for a big teddy bear and lost and all the rest of the time he kept talking about how it was rigged. He drank a lot of beers, the ones they give out in big, clear, plastic cups. She didn’t remember how many he had, but she remembered he never seemed to have an empty cup.

They went on some of the rides before Marie Anne’s boyfriend threw up, and then they went to play for the teddy bear again, except he got into a fight on their way back to the game, and then they got kicked out.

Marie Anne was never allowed to drive her boyfriend’s car, because he said women can’t drive, so he drove home. Then again, they didn’t live in a car flattened right up against a big old oak, so he only tried to drive home. They got within six miles of the town, before the big oak swerved right into the road and killed him and left Marie Anne with great big scars running all down her body.

Everyone said she was lucky but when she was in pain for six months and in a wheelchair for a year, and when her friends stopped looking her in the face, and the boys stopped looking at her entirely…well, she didn’t feel lucky.

That was the last time Marie Anne went to the carnival.

***

In the years that passed, Marie Anne tried everything to get the scars to fade. She bought the fancy creams with beautiful, smooth skinned women on the bottle, sometimes just to look at those women. When bottle after bottle vanished, but her scars didn’t, she turned to back alley doctors. And when their treatments left her skin bleeding and sore, but still gashes ran down her body and a spiderweb ran across her face…

Then she went to a witch.

I actually have no idea how to end this. I’m thinking to write it in a series of progressively more mystical attempts to solve her problem. Marie Anne learns a lot about herself, grows as a person, but in the end, is still no more beautiful than she was before. She has a bit of an epiphany, but ends the story feeling jealous of someone else’s beauty. I’d like to weave her perception of her face in with concrete incidents, but leave some room for interpretation. Are her scars really as severe as she believes? Do people really react so poorly? I’d like to play with her perception of herself, before the witch and during the rituals. And perhaps go back in time a little to try to understand her perspective before.

Well, those are my four ideas. I’ll see if any develop, for this class or for the future. I think this gives somewhat of an insight to my creative process. It’s interesting to see how a story starts, for me at least!

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