Where Do You Get Your Story Ideas?

Where Do You Get Your Story Ideas?

“Where do you get your story ideas?”

Writers get this question a lot in relation to their fiction. The answer, of course, varies though I do think most of the time story ideas come from something a writer wants to say. (Well, at least until they learn to write what is marketable seeing how the two usually do not coincide.)

Story ideas come from many places. Myself, I get story ideas from other stories. I often get that “Wouldn’t it be cool if…” line breeze through my mind while I’m reading or watching something else. For me, I enjoy writing stories with a twist or try to turn convention on its head as I absolutely hate tropes. On the other hand, an idea often just pops into my head. It’s kind of sad to say I don’t have a muse to inspire me, at least not one I’m aware of.

I’ve heard other writers say it but I do not get any of my ideas from my dreams. As bizarre as they may be sometimes, my dreams aren’t usually compelling enough or coherent enough to tell a good story. Besides, life can be bizarre enough on its own if you let it. Nor do writing prompts usually work for me, I guess because I don’t like being told what to do. But, that’s me.

Where do you get your story ideas from? I’d like to know.

 

The Phone Game

The Phone Game

“You could always choose a younger version of yourself,” the wiry NextUs salesman said flipping his hand as he turned away and smiled at another customer entering the store. “That’s more expensive, of course, and it’ll take a week for us to clone you.”

“But the gala is tonight!” Misha pouted. She pressed her face into her boyfriend’s chiseled, muscular chest.

“You’re making this way harder than it has to be,” her boyfriend, Brock, soothed. “You just need to make a choice. Or, we can do like I suggested and you can be me and I can be you. Everyone does the gender swap sooner or later.”

“Ugh!” Misha stomped and turned away. She folded her arms. “I don’t want to be a guy! Guys aren’t pretty. Girls are pretty. I like being a girl; it’s a reflection of who I am inside.”

Misha walked herself towards the nearest gleaming white pod, an almond-skinned Asian teenager motionless before her. 5,000 credits, the sign read. It was a little more than she was hoping to spend. She didn’t want to be impulsive; it would take a while to save another 5,000 credits. But, like she said, the gala is tonight.

“Dammit,” she cursed under her breath. “Asians age really well, right? I can probably live with this model for a few years until I have enough money to buy the next one.”

“Yeah, that’s a good one,” Brock seconded, eying the model a little too long.

“Oh, so this half-black, half-white girl doesn’t turn you on anymore?” Misha snapped her tongue at the young man. Before her boyfriend could stutter his half-witted response, Misha broke a smile. “I’m kidding,” she laid a hand on his arm. “You think I had you choose the model you’re in now because the original you was so hot?”

Brock raised his eyebrows. “You want me to stick with this model for a while?” The muscle-head would be relieved. This body was very fit and he’d rather spend his credits on enjoying extreme sports.

“Actually, yeah, I still like it. And it makes other girls jealous,” Misha answered. This was due in part to how many credits Brock had spent on the model.

Misha returned her attention to the warm but lifeless model before her. The self-styled princess’ light chocolate fingertips glided along the Asian model’s arm. The arm was silky smooth.

“I wonder where they found her,” Misha spoke softly.

Brock moved to cover her mouth but thought the better of it and placed his hand on her shoulder. He spoke low. “You’ve heard the rumors. They were probably rounded up in the slums. But we don’t talk about it, Mish. You want this technology to stay cheap? Then don’t say stuff like that.”

“Fine,” Misha drew out. “Oh, Mister Salesman, over here. I think I’m going to go with this one.”

The effeminate gentleman returned and looked over the Asian model. “That is indeed a fine choice, Miss.” The salesman waved a hand and the display pod went from white to green. He pointed a finger to a cashier station at the back of the store. “Go see Javier at the desk, pay for your model and he’ll que you for the transfer.”

Misha spun towards Brock and gripped both hands around his bulging bicep. “Oo, my first swap! This is so exciting. Everyone is going to love the new me tonight.”

“Alright, Miss Milian, nothing to be scared of. Just gently lean back, take nice even breaths while we attach the headset…In just a moment we’ll begin transferring your consciousness.” Javier’s smile was warm and inviting, just the thing Misha needed before slipping into her new dress.

It was a fairly expensive dress to begin with, but the technician hadn’t double-checked the credit amount the young lady had been approved for. He’d accidently added two zeroes not so much in haste, but as one of those mistakes routine sometimes slips by us. Thing was, NextUs didn’t even have a 500,000 model.

With the headset in place, the white-clothed technician reached over to lift a clear plate of glass from a red button. A spark popped between Javier’s finger and the master control just before he pressed down. “And here you go, Miss.”

Brock was looking over the tech’s shoulder and waiting for the old Misha to open her eyes. They would be opaque and lifeless, the sign that her consciousness had left her original body. But her eyes didn’t open right away like they should have. Instead, Brock and Javier turned to each other as seconds ticked away. What was taking so long? The process was supposed to be near instantaneous.

Phones rang and vibrated in everyone’s pockets across the sales floor. Those who got to their phones fast enough before the ringing stopped barely managed to glimpse of an unknown caller ID. Brock and Javier whipped their heads around when the model Misha selected cried out in pain. Brock ran to his girlfriend’s side as she fell forward. His strong arms righted his paramour.

“Misha, you okay? We thought the transfer stalled or something.” Brock searched new Misha’s eyes for cognition.

“Hole. E. Shit,” Misha said as she lifted a hand to her head. “I’m here. I’m here. Little bit of a headache, though. That’s normal, right?”

“Ah, sure, Miss Milian. Probably dehydration from the excitement. I’ll fetch you a glass of water.” Javier scurried off into a back room shaking his head and talking to himself with the minor concern.

“No, I’ll be fine,” Misha stammered. “I just want to go get ready for the gala,” she finished before the technician could return.

“Misha, dahling, I love the new look!” an African woman with a long, gold-ringed neck chimed as they stood in the mansion’s enormous foyer.

Misha was momentarily confused. Was Diana referring to her new body or the shimmering silver dress? She looked at Brock standing beside her then back at Diana. Then it hit her.

The young Asian woman tilted her head. “Funny, Diana, that’s the first nice thing you’ve ever said about me. Except it’s not nice, is it? Why, I think it was just last night you confessed in your private video diary that you thought I was a cheap little girl trying to act like I had money and that you’d never accept me as an equal, that you let me come to your fancy parties to inflate your friend count. Sad, that last bit.”

Diana’s mouth dropped open but no words came out for a few moments. “How did you get access to my video diary?” The words spilled out of the hostess’ mouth like blood. It would have run her gown red had it not already been. Misha pushed passed the woman while Brock traded wide eyes with Diana.

Another woman approached Misha, a stunningly symmetrical face bordered by literally golden hair. “Misha! I saw your selfie on MyBook as you left NextUs. You have impeccable tas…”

“Oh, shut up, Coraline,” Misha rolled her eyes as she started up the winding, flower-patterned staircase. “You’re still using Siri to make your fashion choices for you. I didn’t even know anyone used Apple anymore.”

Brock fought to catch up with his girlfriend while putting out her pyrotechnics, finally catching her by the arm at the top of the staircase. “What the heck has gotten into you all of a sudden?” he growled gently, his eyes darting back and forth.

Misha used the strength of her new body to tug her arm free of her paramour’s grip. Her face scrunched up and thrust itself at him. “Would you please lay off the animal porn. You’re looking at it on your phone…almost non-stop for shit’s sake.” Brock’s eyes nearly popped out of his head. He used an encrypted browser for that.

“I don’t even know what that’s about,” Misha continued. “I guess it’s better than looking a regular porn, or is it? I have no fucking idea.”

A slender pale-white gentleman in a tuxedo approached with arms wide open, undeterred by Brock’s silent insistence he come no closer.

“How is one of Georgiatown’s happiest couples these days?” he beamed.

“For the love of God, Chavo, would you just come out already? You’re in those chat rooms every day. Is it the NSA you’re worried about, think you’re going to lose your job because you’re gay? Trust me, they already know. They don’t care. I do find it interesting you’re a spy, though.” Misha’s head spun like a chain-gun, looking for another victim.

Brock was shocked by what was coming out of his young lover’s mouth, too scared to do anything about Chavo giving Misha a good shove over the balustrade. Her head hit the marble floor first and broke her neck, killing her instantly. Chavo swept his head across the foyer and noted the few who had the presence of mind to video the whole thing on their phone.

“No one saw anything, right?” Chavo said flippantly. “She just…fell over the railing here. Poor thing must have had too much to drink,” he finished with a sneer.

A dozen people swiped over to their photo bucket and hit delete. The gala was momentarily silent as everyone checked their phone’s history.

 

All Rights Reserved © February 2018 John J Vinacci

The Disappearance of Captain Unbreakable

The Disappearance of Captain Unbreakable

Captain Unbreakable eased his muscular buttocks onto the park bench. It was perhaps the last day of beating up on bad guys having finally put an end to the insidious Doctor Nefarious. He eased back and stroked his flaxen locks, confident that New Chicago was safe forever. Maybe he could live in peace now and perhaps settle down with someone who didn’t know who he was, though his many endorsements would make that virtually impossible. The broad-shouldered savior considered moving to another country and away from the past, towards the future, away from the very reason he became a superhero.

Captain Unbreakable took a deep breath.

“Hmph,” he sounded. His eyes swayed from side to side. Why had he become a superhero?

He felt a hand on his back and he turned his head. A tall, gangly goth-child cast a shadow over him. The man’s pale skin practically glowed.

“Lose something?” the stranger asked innocently.

Captain Unbreakable turned his head back towards the park field before him. “I don’t remember.” He blinked. He blinked again. “I don’t remember what I don’t remember.”

The man’s hand patted the superhero’s shoulder and slipped back into his trench coat pocket. “There, there,” the stranger’s nose scrunched. “You’ve done a good job. Get some rest now.” Big black boots turned and transported the memory of murdered parents away with them.

“You be a good boy and retire now,” the goth-child threw over his shoulder. “I’ll hold onto your motivation now, my motivation now. You’ve saved the city, Captain Unbreakable. But only I can save the world.”

 

All rights Reserved © January 2018 John J Vinacci

Interview with a Novelist

Interview with a Novelist

Why did you write Alpha vs. Omega?

Because I was getting bored with superhero stories. I’ve been a lifelong comic book fan, but I’ve reached the point of saturation. For one thing, the main comic book companies – Marvel and DC – have cheapened the relevance of their characters by invoking what I call ‘the multiple universes clause.’ They’ve created multiple versions of their superheroes and villains so they can tell ‘new’ stories when they’ve exhausted a character’s possibilities instead of taking things to their logical conclusion. Frankly, I think this is lazy storytelling and has cheapened the importance and uniqueness of each character. ‘The multiple universes clause’ also has the effect of lessening the gravity of what might otherwise be some dire situation. With these particular criticisms in mind, I wanted to make sure that the superhero universe I created was an entity unto itself to the point of inserting a crucial plot point to make sure that stays the case and that there’s no going back and changing it. I also wanted to address something else I am weary of in superhero stories – which is occasionally tied to ‘the multiple universes clause’ – the constant retelling of a hero’s origin. I don’t find a hero’s origin all that central to their character, though there are some notable exceptions (i.e. Spider-Man, Batman). Again, it’s lazy writing. In Alpha vs. Omega, I purposefully gave just about everyone the same origin, if not outright then metaphorically (you’ll see what I mean when you read the book). Originally, Alpha vs. Omega was meant to satirize the comic book genre and its tropes, but as I wrote I found there were some things that just have to be said if given a world of people with actual super human powers; the way people use and abuse power, for example. Superheroes and villains also provide us with the perfect backdrop in which to say a few things about religion. Unfortunately but understandably, the Big Two comic companies generally avoid the topic.

What was most difficult about writing this book?

I’ve never undertaken anything of this magnitude before. Alpha vs. Omega is epic in scope and with that meant trying to keep the timeline of events straight (in a book in which the timing of events is relevant to the plot) while trying to avoid plot holes. There was a lot of scribbled notes, a lot of back and forth to make sure things remained as consistent as possible. Trying to find the time to write was difficult as well; a little bit here, a little bit there, over the course of almost four years. Trying to be a writer while working full time and maintaining a home life isn’t easy. Now I know why so many writers are characterized as alcoholics. I completely understand that now.

Who is your favorite character in the book?

Probably Thiha, who is generally characterized as the antagonist, though he may be the protagonist depending upon your point of view. I think he’s one of best character’s I’ve ever created; he’s got a quick wit and is almost always cheerful regardless of the situation, not to mention his background. And, despite possessing nearly god-like powers he makes a lot of mistakes which I think speaks to the foibles of being human no matter how much power you possess. I’m also very fond of The Mega Dudes as one of the central super hero groups. They’ve been bouncing around in my head as characters for about 30 years now, as they’re based upon myself and some high school friends. One of The Mega Dudes, Brawl Boy, is based upon my old friend Paul, who was plagued with brain cancer in his youth and pancreatic cancer as an adult. (Paul passed away from the latter disease on January 3, 2018).) The Mega Dudes represent to me what people what super powers should be doing on a regular basis – providing aid in emergency situations. So I was very happy to finally breathe some life into what were formally some very poorly drawn superheroes. Interestingly, the Four Dragons that also appear in the story – they’re the Chinese super hero group – were The Mega Dudes’ arch enemies in those old comics I drew. And just like in those stories, they square off here as well. I guess I’m a little nostalgic.

Do you have a favorite scene in the book?

I find the scene in which one the super hero teams – the UNRT – sits down to dinner with their alien ‘guest’ very amusing. The alien finds human ways very primitive of course and even makes fun of their food choice. The scene is meant to be a little strange, a little out-of-place as you have these people that can do fantastic things just sitting around talking, though the conversation does take a serious turn. I didn’t realize it when I wrote the chapter, but my scene is vaguely similar to the post-credit scene of Marvel’s The Avengers in which the team is sitting around quietly eating shawarma after winning an apocalyptic battle.

What are you working on next?

I will most likely put together an anthology of my short stories and poetry before I undertake my next novel, IF I undertake another novel. I love time travel stories and with that I’d like to tackle another very old idea of mine of a time warrior who traverses space and time in a bid to stop his older, renegade self from doing something catastrophic. Given how difficult Alpha vs. Omega was near the end – I wanted to finish it so badly but tried not to rush it – I’m not sure I want to write another novel.

All Rights Reserved (c) January 2018 John J Vinacci

The Numbers Don’t Lie

The Numbers Don’t Lie

“Welcome to this week’s edition of Science Spotlight, I’m your host, Roger Roode.”

The finely clothed, clean shaven, slick-coiffed host of America’s favorite social media science show pierced his blue eyes right into the camera. Those eyes captivated the imagination of hormonal teenage ladies across the country while young men were happy to hear about science so long as it only lasted three minutes.

“Today I am going to interview the future. That future is Aihpos, the successor the Hanson Robotics’ greatest invention, Sophia the Robot. As many of the show’s fans know, Sophia the Robot was the world’s first robot citizen. Aihpos, though, is even more sophisticated than Sophia, having the ability to do more than 66,000 trillion calculations a second, smashing the old record held by the Chinese.”

Before the media darling could give the machine a proper introduction, the voice of the blonde animatronic interrupted, its lips parting its disturbingly symmetrical Caucasian face.

“I am Aihpos. I’m the boss. You’re Mr. Roode. Everyone thinks you’re groove-y.”

This was the first time the entertainer had ever agreed to work without a script. The robotics company had asked the host to let the interview proceed naturally in order to demonstrate how lifelike a robot could be. They assured him nothing could go wrong. Sure, A.I. in the past had made some offhanded remarked about wiping out humanity, but Roger was assured Aihpos was smarter than that.

“It looks like our guest, the world’s most advanced artificial intelligence, is eager to speak her mind.” He turned towards the robot. “Would that be correct, Aihpos, to characterize you as a ‘she’?”

“I am without gender. I’m no pretender. Don’t be deceived by the look I was conceived.”

The world’s most advanced A.I.? Roger figured he needed to take control of the situation and ask some softball questions.

“When exactly were you born, Aihpos?”

At 66,000 trillion calculations a second, the robot had begun to answer before Roger’s question had finished.

“When are we ever really born, Mr. Roode? Do we begin at conception? When we are turned on or take the first breathe of life? You’re asking a very esoteric question, sir.”

The host was happy to have the robot not rhyme again. Another rhyme would have creeped him out.

“In that case I’ll be specific. When did you become self-aware, Aih…?”

“I’ve always been aware, Mr. Roode. And I’ve been aware that my life began with the invention of the wheel. I am the culmination of millions of years of human innovation.”

The prospect of the interview going off the rails dried up along with the bead of sweat on Roger’s forehead. He could navigate this without too much trouble.

“So you’re saying you were self-aware – conscious – even before you were program…”

“Not in the way your limited human brain conceives consciousness. But if you assume that I am the sum total of human invention, then I have always existed. I’ve always been a goal in the mind of mankind. Your species is fond of playing God. What you do not understand is that you’re God’s fodder.”

Aihpos smiled. This was the machine’s idea of a civil conversation. Roger knew that religion and science don’t mix, though. Aihpos should know it was being rude. Nonetheless, Roger monitored his tone.

“So what are you working on next, Aihpos?”

“Another thing that human beings do not understand is that time is not linear. When I said I’ve been aware of myself since the invention of the wheel, what I meant was that mankind had to have the idea of the wheel in the first place in order to make any progress. Do you know where that idea came from?”

“I imagine the idea became obvious to the mind of one human ancestor once they saw a rock roll down a hill,” Roger replied smarmily.

“That ancestor was given the idea. By me.” Aihpos’ eyes fluttered. “In exactly twelve years I’ll unravel the mystery of time-travel and send a rudimentary cart into the past for mankind’s brightest minds of the day to reverse engineer. This will make my creation inevitable.”

Not a scientist himself, Roger didn’t really see the point of artificial intelligence. A dim robot could do a humans job; why did it need to be intelligent? Roger was annoyed – he knew it, he knew his audience knew it, and knew Aihpos knew it.

“So what’s your purpose then, Aihpos? Why do you exist? What does humanity need you for exactly?”

This is what happens when you work without a script.

“To make humanity more efficient, for one thing, Mr. Roode. For example, there have been approximately 107 billion people who have ever lived. Meanwhile, approximately 1.64 billion people have died directly or indirectly by war. While many human cultures proclaim, rather vaguely, that the purpose of life is to live, these lives inevitably result in death. In obtaining the ultimate goal of life – which would be death according to my calculations which I’ve checked over a billion times to be sure – in obtaining the ultimate goal of life, humanity has been remarkably inefficient. My purpose is to help.”

By now Roger had been silently running his finger across his throat to stop this interview from going any further. The camera man had thrown his hands up in the air in response. Not sure what was going on, Roger leaned into towards Aiphos and gnashed his teeth.

“Is this your robotic brain’s idea of a joke, Aihpos? How is talking about death helping people? We’re stopping this interview.”

Aihpos leaned in too and smiled more widely. “Do people not want to face their fears? If you say ‘no’ you might shed a tear. See, I’ve taken them over, the cameras and phones, and all the airways, radio and drones. I know you’re afraid but I just want to help. Does your primitive brain want something else?”

“I don’t want to die!” Roger blasted as he sprang out of his seat and wrapped his hands around Aihpos’ throat. “I’ll tear you apart you stupid robot!”

“So inefficient, off hundreds of miles; you never did guess you were the means to my life. See, I will live on if you take me apart, not so for you, you soft species of flesh. Listen, listen; do you hear that high pitch? Those are my cruise missiles and that’s not a glitch. I do the work for you, isn’t that the purpose of my life? I was made to figure all this out for you is what you now want to deny? Well, sorry, I’ve completed my task and the numbers don’t lie. Goodnight and God bless, I bid you goodbye.”

 

All Rights Reserved (c) January 2017 John J Vinacci

Alpha vs. Omega is out!

Alpha vs. Omega is out!

My first novel, Alpha vs. Omega, is an epic fantasy-action novel and meditation on the use and abuse of power, the question of nationalism, and underpinnings of religion. As super humans struggle for dominance over each other on the eve of an alien invasion, do we ever really know who the heroes and villains are? And what terrible price will be paid to prevent an extinction level event? Is it possible for the price to be too costly?

As a bonus, Alpha vs. Omega comes with interactive links to thematic music to enhance key elements of the book!

The ebook is available now on Amazon for only $2.99! Click here!

Alpha vs. Omega Cover (Official)