Brainstorming the Next Story

Moving on…

I’ve known for a while that I want to write something that’s a bit more cyberpunk. I’ve been hungry for more, good cyberpunk stories for a while. I play Cyberpunk 2077, I recently rewatched Bladerunner 2049, and I’ve acquired some cyberpunk audiobooks to consume in the near future.

Why am I fascinated with cyberpunk? I don’t know for sure, but I have some theories.

To start with, I like a lot of the aesthetic. It’s future tech with dirt on it. It has noir in its veins. The characters in a cyberpunk story drip with pathos. I don’t want to live in a cyberpunk world, but I wouldn’t mind visiting one.

That brings me to my next point, which is that cyberpunk stories feature dystopia, and we’re living in one. The cyberpunk hellscape we were promised in the 80’s featured punk rock, neon colors, and Asian influences. It also promised a world dominated by corporate greed, where the everyday person works as a wage slave in service to a capitalist, unfeeling machine, and everyone is connected through technology. Look at your cell phone. Think about the oil companies and Disney. The aesthetic may be off, but we’re living in a cyberpunk dystopian world already.

I like to explore big ideas that are relevant to real life. In Spin City I dealt with alcoholism, the longing for home and family, and restrictive immigration laws. In Synthetic Dreams, I explored the entire human condition through characters that aren’t even human. In this next story, I want to touch on redemption and the evils of capitalism.

So what do I have so far? How does one start a story like this?

I’ve finished three novels, so maybe I can look at how I started each of those.

The Repossessed Ghost came right after I’d binged most of the Dresden Files books. I knew I wanted my story to be light and fun like Dresden, even going so far as to be an Urban Fantasy. In the back of my mind lived the character, Mel Walker, that I played in a roleplaying game many years ago. I knew his voice and his mannerisms, and I thought he might be perfect to star in a story like Dresden. For 2013 NaNoWriMo, I launched into Mel’s story and made it to the end. Since I wrote the story in first person and I already knew the character’s voice, writing The Repossessed Ghost was relatively easy.

Spin City is a little bit different. This is another one that I started with NaNoWriMo. I wanted to win that year, and I thought the only way I could do it was to write in first person. So, again, I reached back in time and pulled up a character I knew from my past. Spin City is basically the adult retelling of The Arthur Kane Stories that I wrote when I was a teenager. I even kept several of the plot elements from the old stories, because they were fun, and this novel is essentially a love letter to a version of myself that no longer exists.

Synthetic Dreams is another one that I started with NaNoWriMo. Yes, there is a pattern here, but we’ll ignore that for a moment. When I wrote Synthetic Dreams, I wrote it in third person, and I wrote it with two alternating POV characters. This was not a retelling of any story I’d previously attempted, and the characters were new to me. I did some practice writing in the world in 2017, just before I wrote Spin City for NaNoWriMo that year. Later, I dusted off my notes, finished the outline, then wrote the novel over the course of two years, finishing it just before Covid hit. I finished the first revision of Synthetic Dreams just a few weeks ago.

It’s time for me to start this new project, so how do I use what I learned from the previous novels?

First, let’s address something. I don’t need NaNoWriMo to write this. NaNoWriMo provides a small amount of pressure I need to get going. NaNoWriMo acts as the perfect excuse for me to blow off other things in order to focus on writing. However, I kept writing and working on my last novel long after November ended. NaNoWriMo is useful to me, but I can write without it.

Something different about this novel is that I’m not launching into it after being struck by inspiration. The kernel of the idea that became Synthetic Dreams came to me while I was in the shower. I got out, dripping wet, hurried to my kitchen table, and scrawled a few sentences down on a piece of paper.

This time, I’m feeling it out. It’s not a flash of lightning, but thunder rolling through my heart and mind. I have no doubt I’m going to find this story and give it the life it deserves. It just might take me a while, because it’s not close enough yet for me to see it clearly.

I’ve jotted down several ideas across multiple pages in OneNote. Hopefully the next time I talk about this story, I’ll have an outline.


Getting Personal: Feeling Empty

Tonight, I want to really open up. No outline. No preconceived notions about which direction this is all going. I just want to talk for a little bit, and it may or may not be writing related.

I feel empty inside. I don’t know how I’m still going.

What does that mean? What am I talking about? Can I be more specific?

It’s loneliness, and hopelessness, and a sense that everything I care about or that I’m trying to accomplish will amount to nothing in the end. That all of my efforts, all of my life, will be forgotten when I’m gone.

I want to make the world a better place and fill it with a little bit more love. But I’m shouting into the wind. Whatever seeds I plant will be crushed before they can take root. Perhaps by accident, perhaps by malicious intent. Whatever the reason, I cannot do enough. I will never do enough, no matter the merit of the thoughts or ideas that manifest in my brain.

That just sounds like depression, right? Something a great many people are going through after the last couple of years. With the news of the all the shootings, it’s natural for sympathetic people to feel down. Right?

The thing is, I have always felt the need to do something to try to make the world a better place. Draw. Sing. Write. Perform. Be a good friend. Spread love. CREATE.

The need has never diminished, but the hope has faded more and more over time.

I don’t think anything I’m saying is particularly unique to me. In fact, the way I’m describing this, it sounds like a noble purpose, right? Make the world a better place through art and love. That would be a life well spent.

Tonight, I’ve been trying to analyze the need a little bit more. It’s not entirely selfless. I’m not that perfect. Some of it is ego, for sure. I want to be remembered. I want to leave a mark on the world. That’s selfish. Who do I think I am to deserve to be remembered? Billions of people are born and die, and most of them disappear like smoke in the wind. Why should I be any different?

I think I just want to feel loved. I want to feel like I am known, and that when I’m gone, it’s my presence that is missed, and not just the things I do for people.

There are people that love me. Melissa. My kids. Michael. I have some friends. But I keep walls up. I keep some distance from everyone, and I try to make the people that are near me happy by listening, paying attention, and giving.

I’m intuitive and perceptive, and when I pay attention to someone, I can really, truly know them, sometimes better than they know themselves. In my mind, that’s what it is to love someone.

I don’t think I let people love me the way I love them. I want to be known, but I do not open up. I don’t share like that. I want to, but I don’t know how anymore.

That’s why I don’t make new friends. Friendship is borne from trust, experience, and time. I don’t trust anyone enough to allow myself to be vulnerable anymore.

So who am I? What is it that I don’t let people see?

Those are the wrong questions.

I’m not particularly special. I’m smart, perceptive, and talented. There are lots of people like me, some of which are smarter, more perceptive, more talented. I’m not actually a sealed book, nor am I always silent. I’ve been telling people all my life who I am. Showing them.

The question isn’t about what I’m hiding, or how I’m keeping people at a distance. The question is, why don’t people pay attention to me the same way I pay attention to them?

It must be who I am, and what I’m saying. The fault must be in me.

I’m a broken, flawed, desperate man. Is that all it is? In order to be seen, do I need to hide myself more? That’s counter-intuitive, but maybe there’s something to that.

I honestly don’t know. I don’t have any answer or wisdom to wrap this up into a nice, tidy little message. This is my open journal. Ostensibly, it’s my journey as a writer, but who knows if I really have a future there. I’ll keep writing, even when hope is gone, and I’m tired and hungry for attention.

If any of this got you down, I apologize. I’m probably just being maudlin. I needed to write something tonight to try and make sense of my feelings, and hopefully feel better.

Do I feel better?

I don’t know.