Story Ideas

So partway though the book Story I’m thinking about ideas I care about. What would I say to the world if I could really express it?

First thing on my mind is “enterprise software wastes time and money.” I know, really high minded philosophy at play here. Maybe that’s too specific. It’s a variation on “The world has changed. The old way is wasteful.” And maybe that’s the idea here. There was an old way of doing things, but the world turned under our protagonists and now they are getting things done but slowly. So what happens next?

Before we go there, we need a setting. From Story we learn that the setting is more than a backdrop for acting and dialog. It defines the limits of what we can do as well as the limits of where we have to go. The protagonist has to be tested to their very limit within the confines of the setting. If this were an action setting then the protagonist would be facing death at least once and nearly lose the entire city, nation, planet, universe, multiverse, love interest, museum, school, deed to the vacant lot, mother’s wedding ring. Anyway, the setting defines the limits of where we can go without spoiling the story, and where we must go to make the story satisfying.

So back to my story. Our protagonists are doing things an old way, and it’s going to cause them some trouble. In the setting of an office we can vary the scope narrower or wider and affect our limits. If it’s a whole company then at least the company has to be at stake right? I can’t really write a story like that. It’s going to involve a lot of executive drama and I’ve had mercifully little experience with that.

We could narrow the scope down to an individual. Obviously the individual must face the treat of firing. I don’t think that’s the right setting either. Also mercifully, I only know a little about getting fired. And a quick note, we could make the individual face death. Death! That would completely contradict our setting. The story would have this “stupid part” that makes no sense, or a stupid ending. (That does remind me a compelling office story, completely true, where the unexpected death of a key employee was the inciting incident for some real drama, but I digress.)

If I were to actually write this I’d like the setting of a team. A team has a nice set of calamities to choose from. Their exciting project could fail and get cancelled and they get disbanded. They could all get fired, but that would be hard for me to sell. Project failure, I get that. I’ve been there. There’s a lot of nuance to project failure. The project could get rolled out in a desperate stop loss, a paper success but achieving none of it’s potential.

Ok. Setting picked. It’s a team.

We need an inciting incident and a climax. And that’s the end of my attention span. For now.

I’ve got some other ideas. I hate internet political advocates. Oh I hate them so much. I’m a McCain supporter. I’ve liked him since March of 2008, which was way before it was cool. I look at places like politics.reddit.com and you’d think Barack Obama was the savior of the world and my guy was the devil incarnate, except now Palin is the new she-devil. All these Obama supporters get together and fire each other up with their stories of the downtrodden true believers, trampled by the evil Republicans and a vast media conspiracy. Invert the party and keep the media evil and you’ve got a perfect picture the conservative community, downtrodden by the evil liberal villains, also by the vast blind complicit media. The two groups immerse themselves in these outrageous caricatures of the other, oblivious to any pesky contradictory facts. The story that needs to be told is that they are rotting their brains and we are all a lot worse off because of it.

The only thing I find less appealing than hanging out in the opposition camp is hanging out in my own camp.

There is a fabulous story to be told in there. That one is probably too big for me to handle given my skill level which is best described as newly informed amoeba.

Anyway, back to the story of the enterprise software. It needs an inciting incident, maybe a second act deepening of the situation, a good climax, and a satisfying resolution. The climax is reportedly the toughest part, and probably what I want to think about the most for now.

And one more thing. It sounds like I’m moralizing. The key to preaching a point without coming across preachy is to fully develop the opposing idea. So for me the idea is that new stuff, which needs to displace the old stuff, has costs of it’s own, especially at first. Things that used to work well won’t work well anymore. That’s going to be tricky for me.

I hate the old. I hate it a lot. The story can’t. The story has to present enterprise software honestly. And thinking about it the opposing idea might be different. I need to think that over too.

If you read all this, well, I’m so sorry. Stream-of-consciousness out.

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2 Comments on “Story Ideas”

  1. Michael L Says:

    So, where does the love interest come into the story?

    Maybe the promoter of the new approach should be a fashion trendy gal, and the stodgy old school protagonist a fuddy-dud guy, and we’ll watch to see how they influence each other — through friction and maybe eventually some romance???

  2. Dan T Says:

    A man goes into a store to pick up something to read on his way to get an oil change one Sunday afternoon. He chooses the August 2008 copy ScientificAmerican Mind. He knows he never got much out of plain ol’ ScientificAmerican, despite his desire too, but several headlines on the Mind jumped out at him.

    Makes it to JiffyLube. Once there, he decides to watch the Colts instead of reading.

    The magazine finds him again several days later. He skims for something interesting, and sees a big-fonted quote saying:

    “Studies such as these suggest people accept ideas more readily when their minds are in story mode as opposed to when they are in an analytical mind-set.”

    Forgets to mention it to someone he knows who has been thinking about storytelling as a means for persuasion.

    In an unexpected plot twist, said man ends up on a http://www.sciam.com/mind-and-brain and sees the link to the on-line version of the story.

    On-line connectivity being what it is these days, he quickly aims to pass that story on as this one ends.

    http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=the-secrets-of-storytelling

    Not such an interesting story or presentation, but it really is happening that way.


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