4 min read

Process Three

Two folks sparring with rapiers and daggers, on the lawn in front of a house
Rapier sparring with Jordan Both, pre-Valkyrie

As promised, I started to re-write the short based on the idea I had for starting it further along the story. Working title of this short, by the way, is "Preppers vs Commies" so I'm thinking a little tongue in cheek here. It amuses me, in any case.

Okay, so I toss out the previous writing. No loss, it wasn't great. For reference, here's the entire mess:

"The downside of relying on old chips was that you could only repair them so much. At a certain point, Emie had learned, you just couldn’t anymore. The little wireless unit in her hand was definitely past repair. It was one they’d worked on a few times before. The audio controller chip was completely missing. They’d been puzzled by that until they checked their notepad, and found that they’d scavenged it for another board about a year ago.

The USB connector had stopped working some time before that, but they’d long ago found a workaround for that. USB had been a great combo power source and data transfer option before things went to shit, but since then? Emie could only barely remember when the last of the USB cables had given up the ghost. They’d only been a kid when that happened. So much of the old tech was never intended to last long. And by the time the USB cables had all worn out, no one really used them anymore. Or used any of the old tech.

Nice benefit of the end of the world? Great time to start from scratch. From what they’d heard, the first few years had kind of sucked, lots of hardship, but once people got their act together again it had all gone pretty alright. Necessity had driven a lot of changes at first, but that had been followed by an enormous explosion of creativity. A new renaissance in every aspect of humanity had followed.

Which was great, but it meant no one had ever bothered to rebuild the tech base. Which meant Emie had no replacement for the burned out chip."

Bleaugh. Kind of hard to re-read that a few days later. That's some terrible, that is. Writing is often about putting down garbage to get to the better, and sometimes to the good. It's too expository, too much me wanting to get my cute idea across, and not enough telling of a story that anyone wants to read. So here we go, take two:

"In another few hundred years, this would be archeology. That thought gave Emie more comfort than thinking of it as garbage picking, which is what everyone else called it. That attitude is why Emie was out here alone.

Or maybe it was the smell. Also possible. The Muskies didn’t seem to dispose of any bodily waste in their monthly garbage expulsions, but they also seemed to toss out a fair bit of compostable materials. Like whatever the fuck it was that Emie had just stepped in.

They looked down at their shoe, and saw that it was another one of those plastic bags that the Muskies seemed to use to collect garbage. It had spilled open, and she’d stepped on what had looked like half eaten food. A pie, maybe. Not even moldy. What a waste."

Better? Maybe? Still don't like it, and the biggest sign that I'm doing something wrong is that I just can't bring myself to write one more word. It all feels terrible. This is a low point. I stopped at this point, and played Battletech for a few hours, and contemplated getting a retail job or something else easy to do. Then Courtney and I went out to run an errand, and...a new beginning popped into my head.

Change of location is great when you're stuck. We loop when we are in one place too long. Defect of the brain and its habit of prediction. But a change of scenery is often enough to get the brain out of rut and back into actually working for a living. This is why walks are often sources of inspiration and "good health." It's mostly getting the brain to stop slowly stultifying itself. I'm sure we've all learned this intimately in the Covid years. The slow horror of the same unending walls, day in and day out.

Anyway.

The line that sticks in my head. I don't trust it to stay in my head before I get back to writing, so I take a quick note on my phone. When I get home, it's waiting for me, and the rest of the story starts to spill out:

"Our hearts break over the little things.

It was just a child's toy. A little plush kitten, black and white. I don’t know why it made me sad. It was garbage, and probably outgrown, so not even missed. I suppose it made me think of toys I’d had over the years. Some of them I’d outgrown, but mostly? Mostly I’d moved on to other more interesting toys.

Didn’t mean I’d really forgotten about that toy. Just that the space inside me grew bigger, and had more room for things. And in time, the space in my head got messy enough that I sort of lost the connection to that toy. But sometimes years later the connection would pop back up, and I’d realize that thing I loved was gone, never to be found again. Maybe that’s what it was with this toy. Maybe some kid had loved it, and a parent had thrown it out. Regardless, I was holding the ghost of a child's love in my hands.

And now it was garbage. Just something to be chucked in a chute, lumped with all the other garbage, and then disgorged up in the monthly vomit from the underground silos of the Muskies."

Much better. Now we have a story. And we've got a main character, and some emotional arc going on. This makes me want to know what happens next. Now I've got some work to do. Gotta explore more, and see what Emie wants to do, and then see what happens and how she reacts.