I trip over story ideas all the time. It might be something I read, or a shop window display, or a person I see in the street. If something catches my interest I squirrel it away, even if I don’t know why. I have a phone full of notes, a scrapbook crammed with articles ripped out of magazines or newspapers, and a bookmark on my laptop called ‘story.’
The end is in sight on my time-sucking, non-writing-related project, but I won’t be ready to dive back in to Cam and Mary’s story for another week or two. I could use the odd snippets of time I do have to think about them and plan ahead, but I’ve found that doesn’t work well for me. I get frustrated if I know what I want to write and I can’t get the words down. Focusing on my WIP will only make me cranky with my non-writing friends and crankier still about my lack of progress.
I need to keep my imagination ticking over though, in ways that bring me pleasure and remind me why I love writing. Little boosts of story that will deliver me to Cam and Mary primed and ready to roll. Reading has been good, but Elizabeth’s Friday Improv challenges have been better, so today I decided to take a leaf out of her book, pull something from my ‘story’ archive and play around a little.
I made a promising start, but there are gaps all over the place, so if you feel inclined to join in, please do!
My starting point was this article, which I read a couple of months ago. In short, a Welsh technology company is building a website (London Pavement Geology) to create an interactive fossil map of London. Apparently the stones used as a decorative facing for many of our most familiar and important buildings were brought to the capital during the Industrial Revolution from all kind of far-flung locations and many include fossilized creatures. For example, the limestone used to maintain the Houses of Parliament contains the fossils of sea urchins dating back to the Middle Jurassic period.
It’s a wonderful story and an inspired project – next time I’m in the West End I’m going to stop by the Burberry store, skip the window displays and see if I can spot the echinoids – but it also set me wondering if there might be more to this than meets the eye.
Why are so many of the great buildings in London faced with stone from the four corners of the globe? And why do so many of those stones contain fossils of ancient creatures?
My urban fantasy brain started working overtime. Those stones are mostly on famous, well-guarded buildings. What if those buildings are really portals to far-flung places and ancient times?
If they are, why are they here? Who would need to use them, and why?
Perhaps there is a Thing or Things in ancient civilisation that is important to our world today. Mystical artifacts? You can’t beat a good Magical McGuffin. Maybe they need to be guarded, and kick-ass Hot Heroic Types take turns to travel back in time to keep them safe? (Why, yes, I default to mysterious organisations peopled by hot heroes. I’m happy with that. Your mileage may vary 😉 ).
I’d want a series of books, each one involving a trip back to some amazing place and time, and a grand adventure.
Obviously my heroines will be smart, have agency, and hold their own when they team up with the HHT, which inevitably they will do. The first story should be Girl Gets Building. It’s not a highly protected place like the Houses of Parliament or Westminster Abbey. Maybe it’s fallen into disrepair. Maybe Our Girl is an architect and she’s been hired to refurbish it. Maybe she has a family connection to the place, which is why she felt called to bid for the job.
Our Hero is the geek from the Historic Buildings organisation, who looks over Our Girl’s shoulder every inch of the way and who turns out to be less geeky than he seems.
The purchaser of the building is a Bad Guy. He’s after wealth and/or power and/or total world domination. I think the place is a dormant portal and the Bad Guy needs Our Girl to activate it. She’s inherited some kind of key, or knowledge, or whatnot.
I’d set the series around Vauxhall. It’s an area of London that’s not especially pretty and has escaped gentrification until now, but the US is building a new embassy and is set to relocate there (from super-posh Mayfair) in 2017, and developers have been scrambling to take advantage of the opportunity. All kinds of old factories and houses are suddenly coming under the hammer, so maybe the dormant portal is a small, historic part of a much larger development site. Maybe, say, something like Brunswick House (a refurbished Georgian mansion that now houses an architectural salvage business and an excellent café and restaurant). It has a foundation stone in the cellar dated 1759 – hmm, that’s handy. Click here to read more about the history of Brunswick House.
Vauxhall is home to MI6, so it would be a good setting for a Mysterious Organization. And then there’s a fascinating snippet on Wikipedia (click here) that explains that ‘vokzal’ is the Russian word for a central railway station. There are some anecdotes linking the place with Saint Petersburg, and that sounds like a great place to develop a story featuring ancient treasure and legends.
What do you think? Why are the portals important, and who are the shadowy heroes who keep the world safe? Any thoughts about my hero, or heroine, or anything else?
Or do you have a completely different theory about the mysterious fossils hiding in plain sight about London?