I think I’m getting the hang of Twitter. It’s for those news stories that don’t merit a full blog post, just a quick one-liner. Those where the idiocy speaks for itself.
This post is not about smoking or politics. It’s about the inner workings of a writer’s mind and where ideas come from. It may bore you to tears. You have been warned.
My job at Local Shop requires little thought, most of the time. It has been most helpful in showing me how happy, compliant drones think, which is very useful for ‘Panoptica’.
Stimpy, the new guy, is absolutely perfect. He switches off if the conversation gets away from his narrow comfort zone. Literally. It’s like watching a robot go into power-saving mode. Bring it back into his comfort zone and he’s fully animated again. I’d never have believed it if I hadn’t seen it. You can turn him on and off like a light bulb, with just a few words. Imagine a society full of people conditioned to do that. You don’t have to imagine very hard.
Since the job is on autopilot I can let my mind wander and hope it comes back. Sometimes it comes back with ‘Hey, what about this then?’ It did that today.
One of the other stories in the works is ‘Channelling’, about a TV fake-psychic who finds the ghosts can really talk to him. This is the one I wrote as a short story, but then found I had a ‘Chapter One’. The first part ends with his total mental collapse. The ghosts can talk to him but he cannot control or filter any of it. He is in a permanent shouting crowd.
In the hospital, he is dosed up with drugs that stop ‘the voices’. This stems from a thought I had years ago when hearijng about such drugs foir schizophrenia. The drugs stop the patient hearing the voices – is that because the voices aren’t real and the drug fixes something? What if the voices are real and the drug just blocks the patient’s ability to hear them?
If he takes the drugs he doesn’t hear or see the ghosts. The hospital won’t let him leave with the drugs at the strength they are using. He has to be on a lower dose or no dose to get out. If they lower the dose, he sees and hears the ghosts again. No way out.
This is where two ghosts come in. The psychic manages to reason with the ghosts. They want him to get messages to their families. He can’t do that if he can’t get out of the hospital. They have to leave him alone so he can convince the doctors to let him go.
The ghosts agree. All but two leave him. One of the two is called Hal Brandt.
That name has a history. Years ago, when rummaging through EVPs posted online (recordings of claimed ghost voices) I came across one that had sparked an argument over what it said. To me it sounded like someone saying, very slowly and clearly, ‘My name is Hal Brandt’. So there might actually be a ghost of that name out there.
I had this fictional ghost introduce himself in the same way. He spoke slowly and clearly. I had no idea why, other than that was how I heard it all those years ago.
There comes a point in writing a story where it’s not work any more. You are no longer struggling to work out what happens next or what a character would do. They come alive and the story wrirtes itself. Motivations and histories just appear. All you are doing is documenting it. This does mean that the beginning will often change completely.
That happened with ‘Channelling’ today when the thought came – ‘Who is Hal Brandt?’
I realised that he has been doing things that mark him as ‘different’. He has a plan. An agenda. He has a very big use for this psychic and he is not yet telling what it is. Even that introduction – the name spoken slowly and clearly in a ‘Remember this’ kind of way. Hal Brandt is up to something.
Who is he? Where did he come from? How did he die? What is he planning? Hal Brandt has a very interesting backstory and it is linked to the story’s bad guy. This is where a lot of new stories come from. Offshoots of existing ones. It’s why the Blackthorns keep showing up, and why so many stories take place in or near Marchway. One day I will see how all the bits join together – if they do – and the result will probably keep a whole team of psychoanalysts occupied for a very long time.
I think I might have my short story for Halloween. The origin of the ghost called Hal Brandt.
Enough talk. I have plenty of finger-fuel but not much time tonight (early start tomorrow). Still, the wind is howling beautifully, the rain sounds like teeth on the windows and I hear the sound of things breaking in the distance. It’s a perfect writing night.
Have to make the best of it. I might even take the little Acer to work tomorrow, for those quiet patches.