Showing posts with label DuBois. Show all posts
Showing posts with label DuBois. Show all posts

19 September 2012

Lights bulbs, twelve for ten cents

by Robert Lopresti

So, let's say you're a writer.  One day you introduce yourself to someone and that person asks what you do.  Being an honest sort you say "I'm a writer." 

Nine times out of ten, that's fine.  But the tenth time you will see the face of your new acquiantance brighten wonderfully.  "I have a great idea for a novel/story/sccreenplay!"

Uh oh

Here's your best move: Point over his or her shoulder and say: "Look!  A silver-crested wookpecker!   They're supposed to be extinct.  I have to call the Audubon Society!"

 Then run like hell. Because this conversation is not going to go well.  Let's assume you stck around long enough for our  newcomer to explain his story.  One of three possibiities will likely occur.

1.  The idea is terrible.  Well, most are, mine included.

2.  The idea is good, but not one you could do anything with.  Most writers are inherently suited to write about the ideeas they come up with themselves.  Problem is if you tell your new friend that he/she will think this is an excuse you came up with because you realy think the idea belongs in category 1.

3.  The idea is good and one you could work with.  (Hey, it could happen.)  You tell acquiantance this and the person suggests you write it and spit the profits fifty-fifty with the person who did the hard work, i.e. thinking up the idea.

I have now managed to sneak up on myy point, catching it unaware, I suspect.  Here it is:  Ideas are a dime a dozen.

I know that isn't a popular point of view, but consider this example:

A boy discovers he is a wizard and goes off to wizard school.

Is that a billion dollar idea?  Nah..  What J.K. Rowling did with the idea is what made her richer than Queen Elizabeth.

In other words, the idea is not the precious pearl.  It is the grain of sand the pearl grows around.,  As the philosophers would say it is necessary but not sufficient..

I am pondering this because there is a grain of sand rolling around in my brain, irritating the heck out my cerebellum and medulla oblongata.

Basically, it is a new concept in blackmail.  (Suddenly I feel like I'm in the marketing department.  Exciting Breakthrough In Extortion Technology!  Ask your victim if it's right for you.)

So far the idea has not developed into a plot.  The pearl has refused to grow.

Now, let's consider another idea.

A young woman is brutally attacked by a son of power and privilege.  Her only parent seeks justice and, failing that, revenge.

That happens to be the plot of idea behind two of the best stories I have read this year.

The more litigious among you may now be thinking: Two stories with the same idea?  Author B stole from Author A!  Plagiarism! 

Well, yes and no.  I am fairly sure that Author B stole the idea from Author A but I don't think there will be a lawsuit.  Because in this case Author B is Author A.   Both stories were written by Brendan DuBois.

"His Daughter's Island," ( Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, July 2012) is the story of Zach Ford, a mild-mannered accountant in a small town in Maine.  His beloved daughter goes off to a party at the home of a millionaire and dies.  The millionaire's son is whisked out of the country, far from the possibility of justice.

"The Final Ballot," (Mystery Writers of America presents Vengeance) tells us about Beth, whose daughter suffers life-threatening injuries at the hands of the son of a senator and presidential candidate.  The candidate's fix it man offers her a couple of choices, but can she get what she wants?


 They are both excellent stories but I prefer Ballot, for two reasons.  In Island the revenge begins on the first page and stays fairly static throughout, but in Ballot the revenge comes late in the story, in a non-violent twist that nonetheless takes one's breath away.

Second, in Ballot the odds against the protagonist are even higher.   

Beth knew in a flash that she was outgunned.  This man before her had traveled the world, knew how to order wine from a meny, wore the best clothes and had gone to the best schools, and was prominent in a campaign to elect a senator from Georgia as the next president of the United States.

She put the tissue back in her purse.   And her?  She was under no illusions.  A dumpy woman from a small town outside Manchester who had barely graduated from high school and was now leasing a small beauty shop in a strip mall.

But my main point here is to demonstrate how a talented writer can produce two very different, but equally fine stories from the same idea.

And speaking of ideas, I wanted to tell you some more about that blackmail concept--

What do you mean, you saw a silver-crested woodpecker?  We're indoors!  Get back here!