Collaborative speculative fiction part 4 is the last photo prompt for our shared story. Below is the last contribution from last week and my addition for this week. To read all parts of the story, click here. On July 11, I’ll post the entire story. If you haven’t played yet, please feel free to add your inspiration to the the story in the comments.
The creature glided toward the light, its long body leaving a slow wake. My jaw open, I watched it too. Then a gentle splash to my left caught my attention. I stared for a minute and then realized that a second creature like the first was making its way toward the light. I quickly looked between the two animals, and then glanced back at the distant light. Clearly I had been forgotten by the enormous and mysterious creature. Had I also been forgotten by the hurt people back in my house? Now that I wasn’t about to be torn apart by teeth the size of my arm, I had a chance to go back and apologize. I blew out my cheeks, dropped my head, and took two steps toward home. Another thought crossed my mind. Now that I wasn’t about to be torn apart by teeth the size of my arm, I also had the chance to find out what that animal was. And who the person with the light was. And what they were doing. I looked back to the light and counted four distinct swells with tails cutting through the water. I turned my face toward home and heard the door slam. That was enough to make up my mind.
I strode down the pier, the only sound the slapping of those tails and a gulping sound. Through the mist, I saw a white head illuminated by a lantern. The elderly person was pitching something from a garbage can seated on a dolly.
I had the strangest feeling I was interrupting something but cleared my throat.
The person whirled to me, an old man, his face seamed from age and weather. “What’re you doin’ out on a night like this?”
“I-I-I–who are your…pets?”
His eyes narrowed. “You’ve seen the animals?”
“Yes.” I stepped closer, and the stench from the garbage can pushed me back.
“And you didn’t run away?”
I decided to be honest. “I thought one was going to eat me, but then it swam out here to your light.”
“Ain’t my light.” He dug a short shovel into the garbage can and heaved the stinking meat into the sea. “They smell the rotten fish. They can smell it on still nights.”
A thousand questions swirled in my mind like the mist. As I was trying to choose one, the old man stiffened. “That shouldn’t be on the water at this time of year.”
I peered at the sea. The boat that took tourists on pirate cruises in the summer chugged toward the pier.
The old man rummaged through items in a box beside the garbage can. “It’s gettin’ so’s a man can’t have any peace with a few friends any more.”
Onto the next installment of our group story! Here’s the photo for our collaborative speculative fiction part 3. In collaborative fiction, writers take turns adding sentences or paragraphs to a story. To read the first installment, click here. The second installment is here. Below is the last paragraph from last week. My next contribution is below it. I’d love for your to play along! Write your inspiration in the comments.
What was it? And why was it coming toward me? The creature’s eyes had to be as big as my head. And its eyes were fixed on me. It was approaching me fast, now only ten feet away. A wild cry, a high-pitched roar that seemed to slice my ear drums, raged from the creature’s throat. I spun on my heels, adrenaline surging and heart pounding, but I slipped on the wet pier and face planted the cement. Was this it? Why, oh why did I leave the house, slam the door, yell that I never wanted to see any of them again? Was that really the end of it all?
I whipped around to a seated position, expecting to see the creature opening its mouth for its first taste of me.
Instead it lifted its head and made a sound like a giant sniff. Then it swam toward the end of the pier.
Leaping to my feet, I was about to turn and put as much distance between me and the sea as I could when I saw a light bobbing at the furthest point of the pier. That bobbing had to mean a person was holding a light. I’d thought I was alone on the pier. Had the light or whoever was holding it attracted the creature?
My friend author/editor Michelle L. Levigne is back to give advice on writing speculative fiction. Michelle has written books in almost every genre but her favorites are science fiction and fantasy. She writes about the fandom method of worldbuilding as a way for budding speculative fiction writers to learn the rules of the genre. Take it away , Michelle!
There is nothing new under the sun — no matter what world you’re talking about.
Our Lord is the Creator, but face it, gang, no matter how much effort we put into makin our brain children appear to be totally new, unique, fresh … writers are RE-creators. We take what we see around us and reweave, slap some paint on, cut a few new holes, patch holes, add material, whatever. Bottom line: we’re recycling.
When it comes to the adventures of the starship Defender (shameless self-promotion of my book in print this month, FRIENDLY FIRE), I freely confess it’s all recycled material. To be specific: my worldbuilding is firmly based in fandom.
This is the AA part of the meeting:
Hi, My name is Michelle. And I am a recovering Trekker …
Many moons ago, I wanted to get my MA in filmmaking, focused on writing. (With a theater/English degree I could either continue my education or go work in a fast food restaurant until someone bought my Great American Science Fiction Novel.) I went to California to live with my aunt and apply to film school. I had a connection there with a fellow fan of the TV show The Phoenix. She invited me to her Star Trek club, the USS Defiance. One of the watershed moments of my life: More crazy people like me, who lived in their imaginations. They had stories in the monthly newsletter and a yearly fanzine. I hooked up with people who were constantly talking stories and it was glory.
Writing for fandom is an incredibly useful, strength-building and skin-thickening exercise. You’re playing in someone else’s playground, and other fans will NOT let you get away with breaking the rules. They will let you know when your characters are being Too Stupid To Live and when you’ve violated the laws of that particular universe.
The important point here is that the foundations, the boundaries, the research and worldbuilding had already been done. I could concentrate on the characters, the dialog, the plot — learning to simply put stories together, with the scenery, the costumes, the props already provided by someone else. Like learning theater in summer camp, rather than starting your own theater from the ground up.
Fandom provides the answers to questions writers need to learn to ask in their own, original stories: WHY can’t the characters act that way? HOW are they going to get from A to B? WHAT happens if they do C instead of D? And when you violate the understood, unspoken rules of that story world, other fans let you know. They explain, with varying levels of kindness, why what you want the characters to do, or to have happen, won’t work.
Get slapped with, “Nuh uh, that would never happen,” often enough, you learn to think and figure out the rules for yourself. You learn consistency. You learn to come up with logical reasons WHY a character would violate his behavior patterns, how rules CAN be violated. Finding the guidelines, the foundation, is trained into you. You know to ask the plot-crucial questions before you start writing and to have the props, the scenery, the costumes, the special effects ready and on the set, to be used when needed. To paraphrase Chekov (Anton, not Pavel), if you want a gun to fire in Act III, it had better be on the table in Act I.
Fandom writing is like theatrical rehearsals. Actors learn their lines, then block the action on the stage someone else built, then rehearse with props, costumes and makeup provided by someone else. When you switch from fandom writing to writing your own stories, you transform from actor or crew to director/producer/set designer — and you know what to do because you’ve been watching others do it and following their rules.
As Kirk said to Saavik, “We learn by doing.”
Captain Genys Arroyan has a problem with her shiny new command — the dregs of the universe are laughing.
While the Defender is in spacedock, getting upgrades, Genys has to deal with mind-hunters and farting fur balls, merchants-of-insanity and diplomatic intrigue. Her Chief of Talents is hiding from forced matrimony and her new crewmembers aren’t too happy to be transferred to the Nanny Ship.
Then she finds out that the insectoid Hivers have a taste for the brains of the children of her crew. Falling through a Chute to another galaxy might turn out to be a good thing, even if dangerous.
A rescue mission turns into a battle to save a race of miniature dragons from genocide. They might just be sentient — but more important, dracs could turn out to be the defensive weapon the Alliance needs against the Hiver threat. Genys and her crew could end up breaking dozens of regulations in the quest to save dracs and maybe the Human race. Just how much trouble could teleporting, fire-breathing creatures with the personalities of four-year-olds cause on board a military vessel?
The misfit luck of the AFV Defender might finally be running out.
Michelle has 40+ fan stories in various SF and fantasy universes. She has a bunch of useless degrees in theater, English, film/communication, and writing. Even worse, she has over 100 books and novellas with multiple small presses, in SF and fantasy, YA, suspense, women’s fiction, and romance. Her training includes the Institute for Children’s Literature; proofreading at an advertising agency; and working at a community newspaper. She is a tea snob and freelance edits for a living, but only enough to give her time to write. Her crimes against the literary world include co-owning Mt. Zion Ridge Press and Ye Olde Dragon Books. Be afraid … be very afraid.