The Poe Fossil

Great Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan PoeThe path I have followed to this story's archæological site is intriguing. It began with an exercise found in Damon Knight's Creating Short Fiction, wherein he outlines several methods for generating story ideas. These are found in part 2 of his book, titled "Idea into Story." Detailed below is the one method I have used to advantage:

Another way [to generate a story idea] is to open a small paperback dictionary, choose a word at random, then do it again and find another. What do the two words, taken together, remind you of? Vonda N. McIntyre's award-winning novel Dreamsnake came from a similar exercise at the Clarion Workshop.

I followed the advice in this paragraph, but had to drop one of the first words I came up with. It did nothing for me. The third time I fished for a word, however, I caught a big one (this being no fisherman's tale). I mulled the words over. I chewed upon their definitions, letting their flavour caress my tongue. Their taste alluring, they drew me to savour them more, leading me to investigate them further at Wikipedia. From this I captured that list of Poe's stories, so I read. Soon, the barest of ideas began to fill me. I tried to write an outline, but didn't get very far, so I let it lie.

Then, today, I picked up what I had from yesterday. I read more Poe. I read the Wikipedia articles again. I took a toilet break, then, while in the toilet, I looked at myself in the mirror and I chided myself for wanting to follow one idea too closely. I encouraged myself to open up. I went back to yesterday's Wikipedia articles, and another word struck me, leading me to yet another article. I browsed it, then I printed it. I read all three articles through. I redigested the ideas which had occurred to me yesterday, rejecting things that either wouldn't fit, or for which I lacked confidence. Having done this, the third word morphed the idea into something far better.

This is not surprising, for Knight continues in the very next paragraph:

When you have an idea, you're not done: the idea is not the story. But it's pretty hard to write a good story without at least one; more often it takes two or three.

And there you have it. Two ideas, and I've absolutely got a story on my hands now. Absolutely! I've trashed my earlier effort at outlining this story and have begun anew. On my desk, I've a printed copy of Algis Budrys's outline of Aristotle's ideas behind the three-act play. I'd just read about this again last night in Gillian Roberts's book, You Can Write a Mystery. Applying Aristotle's ideas to my newly morphed idea unearthed more of this fossil, revealing hitherto unknown, yet very necessary parts and characters of this story. I believe I should now be able to write up a complete outline that will actually amount to a first draft of this story.

I am now groping for a working title, but it is still buried.

The Alan Parsons Project: Tales of Mystery and ImaginationI'm confident that this will be a short story. As I've been working on this, I've been listening still to Tales of Mystery and Imagination by The Alan Parsons Project, and two of the tracks, "The Fall Of The House Of Usher: IV. Pavane" and "The Fall Of The House Of Usher: V. Fall," capture perfectly the sort of mood I want this story to convey, so I've taken to listening to them repeatedly.

Listening to this music, holding this story idea in my mind, and mulling over the emotions of the characters of this story, gets me all a-dither! Soon I shall not be able to hold it in! I shall moult, and out from within me shall come a story!

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