It's about time for a trip to the old Idea Mill. This is a regular feature of my blog where I discuss ideas that come to me in the news.
I set up a bunch of push feeds and get news I might be interested in pushed my direction. When something clicks with me, I save the link until I have enough to make one of these posts.
The idea is that maybe it will pique your imagination too. Some of these ideas might make a great story element, others might fuel an entire novel.
Let's dive right into our first story.
We start with an outbreak in the American Midwest that's probably over by now. At the time of this article the body count is at eighteen. It involves a rare bacteria called Elizabethkingia.
This is what appeals to me. I really can't let go of a character named Elizabeth Kingia who turns out to be patient zero in a disaster story. She's a modern day Typhoid Mary who spreads a disease everywhere she goes. It wouldn't be hard to turn her into a supernatural character if that was your mindset. Maybe she's the daughter of the horseman, Pestilence.
I just love the name. I'm sorry about the real life situation, but this kind of thing lends a bit of realism to a plague story. This is a real bacteria. It's really called Elizabethkingia. It's really causing problems. You can read the article I saw here.
In this story, a mummified sailor was found floating on his yacht. It is believed he could have been dead for up to seven years. A genuine ghost ship in the modern era. Police say he split from his wife, and believe she died of cancer. He was last documented in 2009.
This kind of story can lend some real authority to any ghost ship story. There are any number of Flying Dutchman type stories, and this story gives them legs.
When I think about this story, the sailor isn't the problem. What killed him is the problem. You could put him on a spaceship, a train, or whatever you want. I see him as the opening scene in the story though. Read the article, with a picture, here.
Finally we have curses. I was first exposed to this in a television show called Rome. Curses were scratched out on sheets of lead. In this case, they had to get to the underworld, and they were placed in someone's grave. I suppose this made whoever's grave it was into some kind of afterlife messenger.
This television show caused me to research until I found the prayer/curse stones I used in Panama. Counterclockwise for a curse, clockwise for a prayer.
The story is that someone didn't like a barkeep and his wife very much. Here is the translation:
“Cast your hate upon Phanagora and Demetrios and their tavern and their property and their possessions. I will bind my enemy Demetrios, and Phanagora, in blood and in ashes, with all the dead…”
“I will bind you in such a bind, Demetrios, as strong as is possible, and I will smite down a kynotos on [your] tongue.”
One of the things that appeals to me from the article is the idea of a professional curse writer. I can imagine that writing wasn't a common skill, and that sheets of lead weren't something easily procured either. This means a professional curse writer could probably charge a steep fee. I want to be a professional curse writer in my next life. Maybe this writing gig could be more profitable then. (Just joking… Not really, I want to be a professional curse writer.)
I can imagine a husband and wife working in a city. He is a professional curse writer, she sells counter curses, like the eye amulets or phallic symbols in previous Idea Mill posts. They might make fun main characters in a con job type story. Read the story yourself here.
These are fun, because there are recent news stories to support them. Part of the Idea Mill is me coming up with a corny story that incorporates all of the ideas. My goal is to spark your imagination.
Let's say Elizabeth Kingia is spreading a disease around … Let's use Southern Europe somewhere. A professional curse writer causes her so much trouble that she flees the country on a chartered boat.
Authorities in a new country find the boat run aground. The only person aboard is the mummified captain. There is no evidence of who his passenger was, or what cargo he was hauling.
Elizabeth Kingia is free to spread the plague to England, America, Australia, wherever you want to send her. You'll have to come up with some kind of hero to chase her down, but this is the root of a story. I would probably make my hero the professional curse writer and bring his wife along for color and backup.