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Picturing a World

Shelter in place

I was searching the McClung Collection of the Knox County (Tennessee) Public Library for a totally different historic image when I ran across this house plan from 1901 (Mattie might know someone back in Ohio who built just such a house). House plans are wonderful aids to imagining places in fiction, and local libraries like the Knoxville can be unexpectedly rich sources of images.
 
In this case, however, what struck me was how useful the image was for carrying out Natasha Pulley's exercise in starting a fantasy story. Remember? It has three parts: List five impossible things. Choose one and list questions related to "If this is true, what else must be true?" Think about those particulars, then write a paragraph.


 
Okay, first, five impossible things about this house that might launch a story:
1.     YA steampunk: The tower is a rocket, a space ship.
2.     Children's cosy: A hob lives in the alcove between the kitchen and dining room
3.     Too obvious: It's a witch's house.
4.     Weird and difficult: Explorers find it in a dry valley in Antarctica.
5.     Whimsical: It's a bookstore where the books rearrange themselves at night.
 
Second, some questions to further #5:
1.     Where is the bookstore?
2.     What does it look like now, and how has the house been adapted?
3.     Who owns it?
4.     New books or used or both?
5.     Who notices the rearrangement—owner, employee, customer?
6.     Are there patterns to when and in what way the books move around?
 
Third, a sample rough paragraph written in Pulley's stipulated five minutes (well, seven):
 
"The public library in Islington faced Main Street, with a parking lot around the corner on Railroad Street. The first house on Railroad was one of several Victorian cottages that had become shops or apartments. The Crooked Nook was a bookstore owned by the entrepreneurial TK TK and her shy partner TK TK. They had bought it from the estate of the late Professor TK TK with the stipulation that all the books remain—a condition that the heirs honored with relief. That was the beginning of the inventory. What they had not expected was to inherit the professor's sole remaining steady visitor, TK TK. Nor that she would notice how much the books had been moved around—far more and more often than they could account for."


For those of you not in the publishing business, TK means To Come (the K stands out better than a C). Names are very important to me in creating fiction. If I went on with this, they would decide the mood and probably the plot of the story.
 
What I'm trying to illustrate here is how much fun Pulley's exercise is and how a story can be stimulated by just about any image. Also, that first drafts may be clunky, but the main thing is to get going. So now, while we all shelter in place—your turn!

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