Saturday, January 17, 2009

Captcha 2: In Which The Adventure Commences or Huzzah! The Creative Process Revealed!

So I ran across a sketchbook that had some of my earliest adult attempts at drawing dinosaurs in it -- that's where yesterday's pictures came from. It's interesting to see the differences in the way I worked then as opposed to the way I work now. While these may not have to much credibility I kinda like them as drawings...

Here's a Gorgosaurus libratus, originally published in Prehistoric Times magazine.

So when I got home yesterday I went right up to my computer, opened up a word document, then stared at the screen until the surface of my eyes were dry and sticky. Then I went and read Cracked for a while.

Then I went downstairs and screamed at the missus that my imagination was failing me and I watched an episode of Mythbusters. (I adore Mythbusters.)

Then I thought about the way I'd totally blown off my last big project announcement and then sank into a slough of despond. So I girded my loins (which means I put on my sweatpants) and went upstairs and pointed a gun at my imagination and said, "Dance, you son of a bitch. Fucking dance!"

(I don't know about y'all but this is the single key moment in any creative project -- the point where your imagination has to either put up or shut up.)

At which point I started writing a scene with a pure collector and a bodysnatcher sharing a drink. Not a scene I was particularly enthusiastic about but it started me thinking. Their conversation suggested that there was some kind of gang war brewing among the pure collectors. What if the bodysnatcher had to dispose of a body? This setting seems kind of generic. What could liven it up?

So then I remembered some notes I have tucked away for a story called The Hangman's Bride which had a setting I thought of as Oz noir.

Hmmm. Oz noir...

And then I had a sequence flash through my head, a little mental cinema of von Frankenstein looking at one of his failed experiments and wondering what the hell to do with it, passing it to the bodysnatcher who he'd purchased the parts from, and then when the bodysnatcher's cart is surrounded by an angry mob the body in the back of the cart gets up...

Now in Frankenstein you can take body parts, fasten them together and bring them to life. In Oz, you can take various inanimate objects, fasten them together, and bring them to life.

Hmmmm. Now we've got something to work with. And the chapter flowed naturally from there. While I was writing, any time I had a concept I wanted to use a Captcha name for I just plugged in a stand-in word and when I was done writing I went to my list and picked out the words I really wanted to use and then did a cut-and-replace in Word.

Then I took the words I'd used in the chapter and organized them into a little glossary and wrote in a few definitions -- and in some cases the definitions went beyond what was in the chapter, giving me more material to work with. Just to give you a taste, here's the glossary thus far.


Coccho – A bodysnatcher’s animated coach; garrulous, philosophical, good-natured. A fool.

Fashu – An ancient sage, a master of the obvious, the father of clich├ęs. Currently long-dead, rumored to be a eunuch.

Flograt – A Sopshno bodysnatcher. Cruel and unethical, but service oriented and fond of his family. A villain but not a fool.

Letelie – A mad scientist/witch of high family, beautiful, crazy, aristocratic. A Mismot. Occasionally troubled by the fact that her will is not manifest in the natural order of things.

Patorti – Letelie’s childhood doll, now brought to life. A pretty porcelain face, a stained sack of a body, and more on her mind than she cares to discuss. Laboratory assistant, personal servant, confidant – no one knows Letelie better and no one has less reason to love her.


Captcha – The island empire in which this story takes place. It is divided into four smaller kingdoms.
Galhoua – The green kingdom.
Mismot – The purple kingdom, Letelie’s home.
Sopshno – The yellow kingdom, where Flograt’s people came from.
Tuding – The blue kingdom.

Ovento – The ruby city, the capital of Captcha. A scarlet bubble of aristocratic blood surrounded by a broad scab of slums. A grim town but you can party there.


Mislin – A form of small bipedal vermin. Fond of shorts with suspenders and gloves; bad conversationalists due to squeaky voices and squeakier intellects.

Zolypin – Urban hunters, specializing in sewers and alleyways. The use echolocation to find their pray and prefer to kill it slowly, over a period of days. The techniques they use to keep their victims alive during torture have contributed greatly to the medical traditions of Captcha.

Now this glossary is already asking questions and making suggestions. What are the ethnic characteristics of each of the four kingdoms -- what are they actually like and how do they regard each other? What is the geography of Captcha -- is it naturalistic or does it have that Oz-like whimsical or surrealistic quality?

And we've used all the primary collors and two of the secondary colors here. That leaves orange left over. What to do with the color orange?

And it's pretty clear that we have some talking animals going on and they are not regarded as part of the citizenry here. The book Wicked by Gregory Maguire covered a lot of this territory and did it quite well -- but that was a literary work and this is balls-out pulp. Have to keep Wicked in mind as I work so as to avoid walking Maguire's side of the street.

But now I have a first chapter and a rolling story.

A few more thoughts on how this is going to work. I'll try and write a chapter a day and blog on anything of interest that comes up in the process. I'll be running this through the writer's group as I go -- since I'm putting it into the public eye at least one revision seems reasonable.

Starting next Friday I'll post chapters twice a week, once on Mondays and once on Fridays. Once the book is complete I'll make it available as a print-on-demand book while continuing to serialize it. I'll also make it available as an E-book, with free postings of each chapter being serialized and a for-pay version of the whole shebang.

This is, as I said, an experiment. This isn't my glowing literary pinnacle -- this is me testing the waters of commercial fiction.

Still, I think it's gonna be fun.


robp said...

If you decide to do a porn version of Captcha the last word I got was rodfun. And now this one is anialisp. I feel like they're dipping into the cheap depths of my subconscious.

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