Writer’s block of another kind

I hate it when I have a story concept that haunts me, but I can’t seem to tie it together into a story.

I’m at one of those crossroads today with one of those themes that lingers on the periphery, but never quite works. It doubly frustrates because it has been nibbling at the edges for over 20 years.

I murdered more than a few thousand-score words back in 2003-2005 in serialized form (a serial killer, then) on the concept and then gave up as I painted myself into a corner and discovered that, while bits and pieces “worked”, the whole of it was pretty much rank with pretension and the kind of high urban fantasy that I grew to abhor. Plus, it had the “dark overlord” and the “worldwide calamity” that never sat well with me, which is why I can’t handle most high fantasy these days. Tolkien did it already, and a myriad of others copied it. It’s time to let that trope rest in it’s grave.

But I never quite got over it and could bring myself to entirely scrap the ideas within.

Over the years, explorations into what captured me when I started writing it have evolved from the short-story beginnings, but some of the themes have remained the same. And maybe that’s my problem.

It seems it should be “fantastic” without being high fantasy. An alienated drifter who doesn’t belong because of something; either they are an outlander, or they suffer from some curse, or they did something so outre as to warrant being put beyond the pale. A journey through liminal spaces between worlds (or TARDIS-like spaces within the the world, places that are larger inside than they seem outside — like between walls). Shadowlands, twilight realms not necessarily touched by mana, but somehow don’t obey reality in the same way as we are used to (or we didn’t realize existed). I like the idea of worlds within worlds without end, if that makes any sense.

And, throughout the plan is to make it a trope-twister and/or -breaker. That’s probably related to the trashed original piece — it was so riddled with tropes that I grew to hate parts as I was writing it. It was obviously derivative and painfully like many of the self-published Kindle books out there that want far too much (or too little) cash for the promise of torturing yourself reading them.

Aside: When Covid-19 first descended on us I made the mistake of promising to agree to read someone’s self-published novel and regretted the decision by page 40. I can usually find something positive to say about most writing, but I struggled to find anything positive with that “book” aside from saying that it would be improved with the help of a good editor. An editor that would cut it down to short-story length, correct numerous typos and language structure, remove repetition with plot-same chapters with different names appended to the characters and basically warn away from charging $10 for what was plainly an unjustified price point. Ugh. I’m sure the same could be said about my works, but I give away my implements of torture; I don’t charge you for the privilege.

Plus, the original effort was full of adverbs and I’ve grown overly (ha) sensitive to their usage in the years since. I’ve grown quite a bit as a writer of fiction since that time, and I find most of the original piece to be cringe-worthy to the point of not being salvageable. So re-writes are off the table.

Instead, I want to take some of those core concepts and revisit — except I can’t seem to pull together something cohesive. And I can’t entirely drop it because it works on my psyche like a festering sore whenever I sit down to write something new.

And the latent tale is nagging me in an extreme way these past few days and I just want to write a “serialized” short story in the milieu… Wish me luck and I pull out my hair.

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