I keep coming up with plot ideas that I can’t possibly write, don’t have time to write, or that it just plain doesn’t make sense for me to write.
No matter how I kid myself to the contrary, I can’t write my novel about Iphis, because it’s supposed to be an instense, sexually charged (and sometimes explicit) tale of the turmoil of emotions raging inside the hut of Achilles during the final year of the Trojan War. It’s supposed to be about the three competing romantic/sexual relationships at work: Achilles/Briseis, Patroclos/Achilles, Patroclos/Iphis. And, of course, about how the women–particularly Iphis–go on after the deaths of the men. I’ve got a lot of incidents planned, and a really interesting take on the post-Iliadic content (though actually I change some of the Iliadic events as well) and I feel like I’ve given them an interesting history that’s very different from what I usually give them.
But I can’t write that book. How could I write it? I’ve never even been on a date, let alone involved in a torrid, world-shattering romance. And my experience with personal loss is limited to grandparents and cats. Painful, but very different from seeing the man you love brought into the home you’ve shared with him as a maltreated corpse.
Worse still is the “what the heck am I thinking?” stuff I keep coming up with.
My NaNo novel last year was called Helen of Space, and it was the reincarnations of the Trojan War characters in an anime-inspired setting, complete with giant robots and some common mech anime tropes in the story. So the idea was great, but it started falling apart in execution, and it turned into a trilogy instead of a single novel (and realistically it needs to be a multi-season, highly-structured television show to have time to get all the characters to have a proper arc as initially envisioned) and then I got stalled out in book two, and still haven’t finished that one. (It doesn’t help that I can’t write combat, and I’m even less skilled at mech combat than person-to-person combat.) But that’s not what I actually wanted to talk about.
See, the only character who knows she’s a reincarnation is Cassandra, of course. And she remembers all of her past lives, and does things like slipping into the languages she spoke in previous lives without meaning to, and rebuking people for things they did millennia ago, and quoting The Pirates of Penzance. (Okay, that did make some sense in context, btw. In a fit of, uh, weirdness, I decided to give the reincarnations of Sarpedon and Glaucos the names Sullivan and Gilbert. So, whenever Cassandra sees “Gilbert and Sullivan” together, she can’t help but quote the works of the 19th century Gilbert and Sullivan, and Pirates of Penzance is the one I actually know, so she ends up exclusively quoting it.) Anyway, because she remembers everything and does talk about it, I decided I had to know what all they’d been through in every single life. (Oh, and part of the set up is that they repeat the Trojan War in every single life. With variations, of course, but the basic events always play out the same basic ways every time. Until this time, ’cause Alexander/Paris gets killed before he can meet Helen. On account of the alien invasion.) Not that I planned all those lives in excessive detail, mind you. Most of them just get an “okay, so let’s say this century is the one they were in Heian Japan” and move on. A few have a little more info than that, but most of them can be summed up in a single sentence. Like “the ‘war’ in Pompeii got interrupted when the volcano went off, but ‘Achilles’ had still just barely killed ‘Hector’ before succumbing to the rain of hot ash.” Or how the one shortly after the death of Alexander the Great had the reincarnations of Achilles and Patroclos comparing themselves to Alexander and Hephaistion, even though those two had compared themselves to the people that these two are reincarnations of, a fact that Cassandra would find hilarious if she had any way of knowing about it. (I couldn’t think of one, though. I could have her speculate that they made that comparison, but it’s not quite the same thing.)
One of the lives was to have taken place in 1972, and it was like a super-violent exploitation film (or something), wherein everyone got snowed in by a blizzard in a ski lodge in Colorado, and so the mass murder was partially caused by mass hysteria since the power (and the heat) had been shut off by the storm, and they were all afraid they were going to freeze to death.
I don’t know why, but for some reason that one really resonated with me.
I wrote a short story about it first. It started out with the last two entries in the diary of the reincarnation of Patroclos, er, well, no, maybe not the last two, but the last one and one six months earlier, with an unspecified–but fairly small–number of entries skipped over in the middle. Then the story skipped ahead to the trial of the survivors of the massacre, as the prosecuting attorney had used those diary entries as part of her opening remarks. (Which is probably not proper court procedure, but who cares?) Then the story skipped to the reincarnation of Cassandra waking up at some point during book two–some point I haven’t reached yet, btw–and reflecting on how that was the only time she’d ever felt sorry for Achilles (through one thing and another, they only got three days as lovers before dying) and then trying to figure out just what Helen’s deal is, since she’s always named Helen, even in places where Helen isn’t a name. (Which is kind of absurd, since “Helen” is actually not the original form of the name, but…)
So, while a bit odd, that wasn’t a problem.
No, the problem is that at this point, I’ve written two different alternate reality stories in which the 1970s reincarnations of Achilles and Patroclos find love early enough that they never go to the ski lodge and get involved with that massacre. (And when I say “different” I mean it: they take place at different times, and in very different ways, so that one of them precludes the other from happening.) Even weirder, I’ve written two–well, one and a half–“interviews” with those characters decades later after the first alternate reality story, because after that one they ended up becoming actors in independent gay movies. (I have no idea if there was a “gay Hollywood” counter-industry in the 1970s, but…there is in those interviews. And considering they’re an alternate reality of the backstory of a rather cheesy sci-fi piece I haven’t finished writing yet, I think it’s okay if I’ve totally made up something that never existed, because it’s such a layers-on-layers of bad fiction thing already.)
Weirder still–and this is the part I wanted to get to in the first place–in the second of those “interviews” the reincarnation of Patroclos complains that he’s never gotten to play the leading role in any movies; he’s always been the second fiddle. So yesterday I came up with a great leading role for him.
WTF am I doing?
What am I thinking?
Am I even thinking?
I just don’t understand myself.