A few years ago, I was obsessed with the question: What would happen if Frosty’s magic hat had been put atop something other than a snowman? What if you put it on a coat rack? Would that come to life? I started writing a play about it with a very clear idea of who Frosty the Coat Rack was… but not what he was going to do in the story. I couldn’t get it off the ground. I put it away.
Some time later, I was working on a different idea about the way we get possessive about years we have a good feeling about (“This is going to be my year!”) but relinquish ownership when things go poorly (“Another strikeout! This just isn’t his year.”). It’s a weird language tick and I started thinking about it a lot until it became this idea of a year being a tangible thing that you actually could possess.
It was just a half-formed thought in my head that I was only beginning to explore when all of a sudden, boom, it merged with the Frosty idea. Suddenly I knew EXACTLY why Frosty the Coat Rack was back at the North Pole and exactly what he was going to do once he got there… steal the New Year. These two ideas combined into New Year’s Thieve a play I love so much I’m adapting it into an entire novel series.
When two ideas suddenly reveal they were only incomplete because they were two halves of the same idea, it’s like magic. It feels so good that pretty soon you start looking for it everywhere, trying to jam all your mish-mash ideas together to see if they’ll work as a combo. Which brings me to the murder mysteries.
In the summer of 2012, The Hus and I were on the way to a wedding and, over the course of the long car ride, I came up with this idea for a Clue-style murder mystery comedy… with a supernatural twist. It was broad and silly but had some unusual elements I was really excited about. I took some notes about the idea in general but it needed some more time to bake so I figured I’d leave it in the mental oven for a while.
Then, two years later, we went to another wedding. It was… interesting. And a few things happened at the venue that made us think something supernatural was going on. When we left that one, I knew I HAD to put some of that insanity into a play.
So I had this one partial idea for a murder mystery with supernatural stuff that I got on the way to a wedding and then I had this weird wedding story I wanted to tell… with supernatural elements. Well, duh, let’s just combine the two, let the murders happen at the awkward wedding since the supernatural stuff is already there anyway. It seemed perfect except… I still couldn’t write it. I’ve had dozens of false starts until I’m genuinely not sure if the two ideas belong together after all. But when I tried to separate them out again, I realized the idea of a murder wedding was too ingrained and I can’t see the wedding story as anything but a murder mystery too now.
Now I’m totally stalled out. Because the two ideas seem too similar to not combine… but they just don’t seem to work together. So where do I go from here? I’m happy to let ideas bake as long as they need but they’ve both been in there a while now. Do I try to force it and slog my way through some kind of zero draft to see if that helps me figure out the best way to tell this story? Or do I just wait and see if a third idea come along that fits into the missing pieces and makes the whole thing make sense? Are they meant to be separate stories or do they work better together?
I don’t know. But I find myself returning to the project again and again so I’m hoping that means my brain is still working on it, however slowly, and that it will all click together soon! I’m lucky that, right now, I’ve got so many other projects that are clicking that I don’t have to wait on this one, though it would be nice if it would eventually consolidate itself into something I can work on once these other projects are done…
Photo by BurgTender