Sunday, March 23, 2014

The 26 Story Challenge

In Friday's Story Game post, I mentioned how I had always wanted to do a particular experiment: I wanted to take the table of contents from an old adventure book from Project Gutenberg, and write a story from the titles of each chapter.

Well, on Friday (which was another one of those crazy bad days in which things went moderately but continuously wrong) I gave up and sat down to play with one of the TOCs.  The story in question had 25 chapters, and I decided to use the title of the book too, so that made for 26 stories.

Then, just for grins, I added a game element: I took my Big Wheel of Crimes and Theories (which temporarily resides here) and rolled a crime or motive element for each title.

Boy did that turn out to be COOL.

Some of the random elements came out with perfect kismet, such as "A Human Spider" which came up as "Burglary."

Others had a title I wasn't sure I could come up with a story for.  For instance, "A Store in Chicago" feels like a regional subject and I don't know enough about Chicago to feel comfortable. (Though I'd come up with something.)  But then I rolled the crime for it and it came up with: "Murder for Inheritance."  So it doesn't have to take place in Chicago. If I like, the inheritance in question can be a store in Chicago.

And there are some old fashioned titles that just feel weird: "So Long as God Gives Us Breath" and the crime came up: "Fault in an unintended misfortune (sports loss, job loss, humiliation in front of mentor, etc.)"  The fact that these don't go together that well might actually be the leverage to coming up with a good story for them.

The Challenge

The stories will be between 200 and 2000 words each.  I might stretch a point for a really good longer idea. (Or I'll save that longer idea for later, and come up with a different short idea -- and write them both.)

Since I want to start submitting to major mystery magazines again, the genre will be loosely defined as "crime" -- just as Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine defines their stories.  (I.e. mildly supernatural stories or SF can be fine if they involve a crime.)  However, I'm going to try to stick to non-supernatural stories.

For the first few stories (this week) I will try to come up with some under-1000 word stories for that KB anthology.

Time frame? No idea.  Other than trying to have a few stories right away, to submit to various publications, I suppose I could set a rough goal of one every two weeks for a year.  They won't have to be polished until I want to submit them, or until the end when I put them in a collection.

Furthermore: it takes time to run stories through the submission process, and any that get bought will take a while to get published, and then a while to revert rights -- so the collection of all of the stories could be years in the making.   We'll see what I'll do with them when I get them in hand, though.

Oh, and one of the things I hope to accomplish with this project is to make it a "fill in" task.  If I run out of steam on a major project, I pick one of these to work on for a change of pace.

(LATER NOTE to all and to self: I'm thinking of turning this into a formal challenge, maybe for next quarter's ROW80.)

See you in the funny papers.


Kyra Halland said...

This sounds like fun! Looking forward to seeing what you come up with, and I'd like to try something like this myself sometime, but it's going to have to get in line behind all the other projects.

The Daring Novelist said...

Yeah, I've got so much to do too. But I'm hoping this will be a fun project that can be picked up and put down at will.