Tuesday, October 09, 2012


So, writing PYRAMID OF SKULLS was interesting.  (To me.  I have absolutely no expectations that this 'process' post will interest anyone else at all... in fact, I might as well post it on my old blog.  Maybe I will.)

I'd been restless, lately, with a feeling I've come to recognize over the past forty years or so as "I want to write something".  I've found various useful (or, bad, depending on how you look at it) substitutes that more or less satisfy this feeling over the years... running my RPG is probably the best.  But playing a detail heavy game like ARKHAM HORROR is sometimes enough of a fix, too.

But, mostly, when I feel like I want to write, what's best is, to sit down and write.

Sometimes I have a story idea that is banging around inside my skull, picking up velocity until I get it outside of me.  Other times, though, the feeling is more general... no real story concept, but, I just want to write.  Something.  Anything.

This, I've found, is the impulse that tends to produce interesting story frags.  I used to have a big manila folder of these, some from as long ago as 8th grade... but I lost it during one of my many moves.  Which is too bad, there were a lot of hilarious three or four page Star Trek parodies in there that used to amuse some of my classmates in high school no end.

So yesterday I had this feeling, and I was at work and had no real ideas at all for what I wanted to write, but I wanted to.  So in the hour or so I had before my shift started, I opened a Notepad window and started typing.

All I had was a title... the rather Conanesque PYRAMID OF SKULLS.   I had no idea what it was or where to start the story or how it would get eventually so some pyramid built out of skulls, but I just started typing.

My opening paragraph went something like this:

"As Kordek Axehand came around the last curve of the River to the north of Bearfang Bay, he could see that the main gate leading through the city wall was jammed with a sherdak caravan."

I had no idea who Kordek Axehand was, and while the story was clearly going to be set in the backdrop of my long running fantasy RPG (Bearfang Bay is one of many cities situated along The River where various parties of Player Characters have wreaked havoc over the last quarter century), I still had no clue what Bearfang Bay had to do with a pyramid of skulls, or how Kordek Axehand was going to be involved with a pyramid of skulls.

Hell, I didn't even know what a 'sherdak' was, except that it was big.

I typed on the story until my shift started, then kept typing on it between calls all day. I had about 3,000 words of it down when my shift ended.  By then I knew what a sherdak was (it's a mammoth).   I knew more or less who Kordek was at that point, and had introduced a buddy for him, some obnoxious little puke named Gafeq the Sunfingered.  And I'd started to get an idea of the shape the story would take, and how the pyramid of skulls was going to come into it.  

I typed another thousand words or so last night.  Today, I sat down and finished the story.  It comes in at just over 7000 words, so I did about another 3000 today.  In the course of it, I found myself continually surprised by where the story was going.  In the end, I was probably as astounded by how that story got to the pyramid of skulls, and what happened when it got there, as I hope any readers the story may eventually have will be.

I generally start writing a story, regardless of length, without having any clear idea how it's going to come out.  This is the first time, though, that I sat down with an empty word processor window and just started typing and an entire coherent narrative came out.

If I were interviewing myself, and I asked myself "Where do you get your ideas?" I would have to honestly answer, "I have no fucking clue".

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