I landed my gyrocopter at the writing cabin mid morning. Something felt off, but I had a decent idea to toy with.
Lisa Burton, the robot girl handed me a mug of coffee, as she took my hat and coat. “Percy’s waiting in your main office.
I looked at her nebula print skirt and how it hugged her curves. “You look ready for space today.”
“That’s where you left off last time. If I have to change for the Hat story, let me know.”
“You’re good. I want to go back and plant some things in my story. Just enough to lodge in the readers’ minds.”
Percy, the Space Chimp waited on the couch. “What are we working on today?”
“Not sure. I’m at a place I’ve never been before. Both stories are log-jammed in my mind somehow. I’m going to back up and add some data to your story. Maybe it will inspire me to move it forward.”
“What are you adding?”
“We already have Classic aliens. The kind everyone thinks of with big eyes, bulbous heads, etcetera. I’m going to give them a form of telepathy.”
“That’s been done, dude.”
“True, but my Classics are annoying. They invade people’s minds, they go on illegal adventure tourism, and most of my galactic inhabitants hate them.”
“I hate them.”
“Plays right into my hand. You’re the one that feels discrimination everywhere. Sometimes, when it doesn’t exist. It’s because you’re a genetically engineered species. When you discriminate in turn, it gives me a chance to teach you a lesson.”
“That’s bullshit, dude. I’m supposed to be the hero here. You know, heroic?”
“You still need some kind of character arc. Besides, it’s a team adventure. Maybe someone else can be the focus for a few chapters.”
“I doubt it. Don’t see anyone else here today.”
Lisa walked in and flopped down beside Percy. “I can remedy that. My database is full of contacts. I have everything from a talking yak to a devil lady called Mustang Sally.”
“What are you doing?” I asked her.
“Please. I monitored your typing speed, and you aren’t hitting any word count records today. Talk to us, maybe it will help.”
“Okay. The Midnight Rambler has taken refuge, and is building a fortress. His plan is to make Lizzie and the hat come to him. To fight on his turf, so he can kill the hat.”
“Sounds great,” Percy said. “What’s the problem?”
“Lizzie can’t just wait around until I send her into the big fight. She needs to be a little more proactive. I’ve expanded her world to a degree, and readers seem to love that, but the main story needs a bit more.”
“How did you expand it?”
Lisa leaned forward with a business card. “Castor and Pollux, Attorney’s at Law. Makes for a great side story with the attorney’s from the supernatural world, but I can see what he means. Side stories are great, but the main event needs to stack up properly.”
“I set the whole story during a major flood. We’re talking tornado sirens, rain, thunder, flooded buildings, the works. I can’t use Kevin as her street informant, because he lives in a culvert. He has to be missing somehow. I can bring him back in the future, but Lizzie needs something else this time.”
“Get rid of the flood,” Percy suggested.
“I can’t. I want Lizzie’s band to play a set of rain and flood songs.”
“That’s just stupid.”
“Now you get the point. The Hat stories are supposed to be corny. One day someone is going to leave me a review that reads, ‘This is the stupidest story I ever read, and I absolutely loved it.’ Sometimes people just need an escape from every day life, and a chuckle along the way.”
“Frenemies,” Lisa said.
“I don’t get it?”
“Back in Mrs. Molony, you introduced a female vampire that hunted the special events. You could bring her back to fill Kevin’s role for one story.”
“Oh yeah, short, stacked, flirty. She was a redhead.”
“Maybe you could have some fun with the frenemies concept.”
Percy slapped his hands together. “Great, we’re all stupid and funny now. What about my story? Why do the Classics have to be so creepy. Seems to me if they’re telepaths, there’s no reason for us to sneak about and do spy things?”
“Ah, you’ve reached that point. Someone who likes speculative fiction has to suspend disbelief in varying degrees.”
“I get that. I’m a space chimp genetically created from a dish-full of human and ape DNA. People have to believe that.”
“Nope. This is the deeper version. Why didn’t the eagles just fly the ring directly to Mordor? Indiana Jones had no influence on the story about the lost arc. It’s like time travel. Once you introduce it, there’s always the question about why someone didn’t travel backward or forward to fix everything.”
“Why don’t the cops ever show up? Why can’t Stormtroopers hit anything with their lasers?” Lisa added.
“Then why keep writing at all?”
“Because people who like speculative stories will go with the flow. Authors learn to add limitations and it helps make things more realistic. Your Classics have to be close to make it work. Maybe even invade personal space. That’s another reason why people shun them.”
“Okay, we completed half our spy mission and we’re floating around in the void. Let’s fire up the engines and do the next part.”
“I don’t want the second half to be like the first. You might complete the quest, but it has to pose a whole bunch of new problems.”
“And you don’t know what those are. Figures. I should have held out for a better author.”
“I know what they are, but it’s kind of like building a puzzle. Things have to fit together the right way. Thirty-eight thousand words in, readers will have already seen space travel. They know how the ship works. I can’t get any more mileage from that while you trek across deep space.”
“So we just float there until you figure things out. Meanwhile, you’re planning on bringing a vampire to the cabin? Lisa doesn’t have blood, so I have a little problem with that.”
“Wouldn’t be the first time one came here,” Lisa added. “Relax, Uber eats comes if I call them. We can order some dumplings or something, and she can snack on the driver. If I tip them well, they seem to keep quiet. She leaves them with a huge smile on their faces.”
“We didn’t get anything done.” Percy slumped back into the couch.
“I don’t see it that way. Sometimes thinking and talking things out is more important than word count. Besides, I got this long blog post out of the deal.”