Daily Thoughts 189: Sticky Ideas for Drive-By Stories

Author's selfieI want to write more stories. Particularly, I want to write stories while driving for Drive-By Stories. I’m out of practice. For the past couple years, I haven’t written much. My attention has been mostly on school. I’m off this summer, so I’m spending more time on some of my other projects. I’ve been dictating each morning on my commute. And I have managed to come up with a few stories, or partial stories. I haven’t gone through the transcribed drafts to write coherent drafts of the stories yet. I’m hoping that being more organized will help.

Sticky Ideas for Drive-By Stories

I posted the other day about relaunching some habit streaks. Dictating each day fulfills the writing requirement, but I’d like it to be more productive. Ideally, I want to get in the car, start the recorder (I only work hands-free), and dictate the story with a minimum of digression and useless chatter. I have nothing against useless chatter. I just want to make my commute more productive.

This morning was productive. Not because I wrote a story, but for developing an idea that I had yesterday. I’m going to start doing some sticky brainstorming.

4 Steps to Sticky Ideas

  1. Briefly, write a story concept each day in my journal (share on Instagram).
  2. Copy the story concept to a sticky note.
  3. Stick the note on the dash before leaving as a reminder of the story idea.
  4. Peel the note off the dash and stick it on the journal page after dictation is complete.

By adding new ideas each day (potentially more than one), eventually I’ll build up a backlog of story ideas. I only dictate for Drive-By Stories on days I go to the library.

Story idea 1: #drivebystories drivebystories.com

A post shared by Ryan M. Williams (@ryanwriter) on

In this example, I’ve used the elements Damon Knight described when writing about creating short stories. Character, Situation, Setting, and Emotion provide a way of thinking about the story. I’ve defined a particular character, a potential title, and a short summary.

Everything is subject to change.

It’s an idea. It gives me something to work with. I’ll see how it goes. I ordered some new Post-Its. Who doesn’t love new office supplies?

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This blog post by Ryan M. Williams is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Daily Thoughts 186: Stories With Kick

Author's selfieThis morning I finished listening to the audiobook of The Girl With All the Gifts by M. R. Carey. I started listening to it after having seen the trailer for the movie. I wasn’t aware of the book until then. How did I miss it? There are a great many books published each year. TBook coverhe cover didn’t communicate anything to me in particular about the book. After having read the book, the cover makes some sense. It works well online and has a creepy factor that’s good. It’s iconic and recognizable, so much so that the publisher has used it as a sticker on other books. This morning I thought about why I liked the book. I narrowed it down to one key element. It has kick.

Stories With Kick

What do I mean by a story with kick? I’m looking at stories with impact. Stories in which the author didn’t flinch. They showed something, wrote something that doesn’t duck the consequences in favor of an easy or comfortable answer.

Example: A massive planet-killing asteroid hurtles on a collision path with Earth. It’s really moving. An interstellar body propelled across the galaxy, one pellet of a supernova explosion millions of years ago, it’s trajectory puts it on a head-on collision with Earth. Both objects are bound to intersect at the same space-time point. It’s not just going to wipe out our civilization—it’ll turn the Earth into a dusty ring of debris around the sun and cause the Moon to go into a looping trajectory through the system until it crashes into Jupiter in fifty years. Without a significant presence in space, humanity has few options and less time.

Except then a hastily cobbled together mission actually manages to get to the oncoming planet-killer, triggers the alien device kept at Rosewell, and successfully deflects and slows the trajectory to cause the planet-killer to become a second moon orbiting Earth at a safe, but accessible distance, which gives us access to all of the resources it provides. With renewed enthusiasm for space exploration and colonization, the event becomes a watershed moment for humanity.

If this scenario happened in reality, the planet (and humanity) wouldn’t survive. The concept might make an interesting story, with fun characters, and a positive ending. Nothing wrong with it. But it’s a case of the author flinching because it’s so implausible. A mission getting launched. The alien device. Obtaining a stable orbit without causing planetary seismic destruction. Failing to address the potential political and economic squabbles around the new moon. It’s the easy answer.

Stories might have kick in other senses. Emotional impact. Complex, challenging situations that cause the reader to question assumptions. Topics considered taboo or off-limits.

A story with kick is remembered. It stirs the reader’s emotions. Others might be entertaining, but ultimately not much other than that. I have nothing against entertaining. That’d be great. Certainly better than a story that doesn’t stir any emotions.

It’d be really great to write entertaining stories that pack an emotional wallop. Stories with kick!

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This blog post by Ryan M. Williams is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Daily Thoughts 19

Author's self-portraitI’m actually in the office today. I needed to catch up on some work. Even though I can work when I’m out in the libraries, it is harder to get some things done. My focus in the library is on people and people take time. It’s great, but paperwork also takes time.

Happy Winter Solstice!

EarthSky.org offers an article with information about the solstice. “No matter where you live on Earth’s globe, a solstice is your signal to celebrate.”

I agree! This time of the year, I’m much more likely to celebrate the solstice than anything else. I love that the days will get longer from here. In my family, we do celebrate Christmas despite being a bunch of atheists, though it is more a matter of growing up in this culture than anything else. At least the solstice makes for a good reason to celebrate.

900 Seconds

For my drawing streak, I’m restarting my 900 seconds (15 minutes) project. The goal is simple. Spend 900 seconds drawing each day. I can do more, but I’m going to aim for that much. It means taking a 15-min break and drawing. I believe I can find at least that much time.

General Purpose Computing

Wil Wheaton posted about general purpose computing.

Want to get into the guts of it and hack the hardware to do something nifty? You got it! You owned that computer, in every way that mattered, because it was General Purpose, and was able to do whatever you wanted it to do.

He talks about the neat things that can be done with a Raspberry Pi. I’m just getting started with the tech, having bought a Kano kit to build with my son. I think there is tremendous benefits to this sort of technology. It makes everything much more visible instead of hiding everything from view.

Cover art for Information Doesn't Want to be FreeWil also recommends Cory Doctorow’s Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free, which Wil narrated for the audiobook edition. I loved this book and highly recommend it. This is exactly the sort of thing that librarians should be bringing to our communities.

Writing/Art Progress

I wrote a new story opening today during lunch. I think I’ll stick with this one and see where it takes me. It’s nice getting some words written.

Daily words: 327 words
Monthly words: 634 words
Writing streak: 2 days
Drawing time: 15 minutes
Drawing Streak: 2 days