What do you do when you have an idea for a story that you’re pretty sure right from the start is irredeemably bad?
I woke up this morning with such an idea. I often wake up with ideas that I jot down – opening lines that go nowhere, titles that have no story attached, weird plots that make absolutely no sense five minutes later. This isn’t always a bad thing. And The came out of a non-sensical dream plot. But sometimes I think it can be bad, and today I struggled with wasting my time on a story that I don’t think has any positive social or literary value.
The title is The Angel in the Walls, and the story is about a stereotypical, poorly-educated hick-child who hears voices. He lives in an old church that (unbeknownst to him) has structural elements that pick up radio signals (a tired old trope if ever there was one). He thinks ‘Angels’ are talking to him, telling him what God wants him to do and think, when really it’s neo-conservative pundits on the radio, a’la Glen Beck or Sarah Palin. After seeking guidance from his elders, who either shut him down as an imaginitive child or tell him that obedience to God is absolute (apparently, nobody in my story has heard of schizophrenia, or the tired trope of metal structures and dentistry picking up radio signals), the kid takes daddy’s gun and, per Angelic instruction, goes off to shoot a local big-wig.
So. Like I said. Irredeemable. I’m embarrassed even writing that last paragraph. It’s dismissive of the nuances of human experience and perspective (crazy, backhills hicks! Crazy neo-cons! Crazy everyone-who-doesn’t-think-like-me!). It hits several tired tropes and does nothing new or interesting with them (I kilt him cuz the dawg tol’ me to!), and it exploits a recent, real-world tragedy without (again) offering any kind of enrichment, enlightenment, or new perspective.
What do you do when the Angels in the Walls talk to you and tell you to write a story like this? You wake up and think it through, and realize that not everything that comes out of your dreaming brain is gold or can be turned into gold. You bring out the guy with the broom and the white coveralls, and you tell him to sweep that junk down into the pit for the big purple Dune Worms to eat up and make into creativity compost (that’s a whole other post, my purple-Dune-worm fear compost post).
Good. I no longer feel conflicted about whether I should waste time pursuing that idea. Thank you, internets.