Scribbler’s Saga #41 – Amazing Story Generator

Posted: June 24, 2017 in Uncategorized

© 2017 G.N. Jacobs

You’d think I’d quit while I was ahead with the story dice, but I pick up all kinds of things that allegedly will help me write or get ideas to write tomorrow. Ladies and germs, I present The Amazing Story Generator by Jason Sacher. A three-element flipbook widely available on Amazon. 

At this point, I just want to see how the fun the prompts are; what should be the only criteria for a review like this. Look, if you tear open the Amazon envelope and don’t see torn card stubs like with a checkbook or the similarly designed spiral notebooks preserving your choices, then you’ll find it simple technology to grasp…a flipbook. The top row of flip cards represents some sort of prepositional setup followed by a comma. The middle row is for the subject (a.k.a. the Protagonist) and the bottom row presents the verb that launches the story.

First up for your bloodthirsty pleasure – Upon winning a Nobel Prize, a computer hacker steals a baby. I think I just wandered into a remake of the Coen Brothers’ Raising Arizona. Replace Edwina the barren cop with Sansa (Waiting out Game of Thrones like the rest of us) the equally barren White Hat data cop/hacker hooked up with Darth Zero (real name Chris Myers) a dim witted Black Hat who “borrow” a child to fill a void.

Nah. I don’t have either Coen brother’s comedic timing, except by accident. Let’s leave that sleeping dog lie. And when Blake Snyder references “give me more of the same, but different” as a common Hollywood suit mentality, I suspect the deceased writing guru would hope I’d put a little more effort into disguising my plagiarism.

Besides, that cookie cutter Raising Arizona riff didn’t actually address the odd juxtaposition between Nobel Prze and hacker. The closest category at the Big Show in Oslo a hacker might fit into is either Math (not actually a Nobel category) or Physics (presumably his/her groundbreaking work on multidimensional storage matrices paid off huge).

But, in the spirit of not letting odd get in the way of writing, let’s write and think at the same time…and we get a comic book origin. Doctor Peter Imbarus, fresh off a Nobel Prize winning paper exploring the interface of theoretically derived hyperspace and a serious of curious Internet outages, detects a small ship heading to Earth and races to Kansas to snatch the alien infant inside to provide a good upbringing away from those soulless intelligence operatives. Superman meets Twins salted liberally with Starman.

Or how about this – On the run from Federal Agents, a night watchman receives a message from God. Flipping to Message from God as the last element almost ruined for me a good Tournament of Death movie until I remembered how many deaths that people freaking out over religious disagreement can cause. But, this is what you get flipping from the back of the book trusting your finger to stop in the right place. Nothing stops you from starting from the front. Back to this pitch, I don’t want the dream that helps put this story together.

Thirdly – One week before retirement, one half of a husband and wife crime fighting duo is trapped in an abandoned gold mine. Crimefighting duo says spandex to me and I’m pretty sure I can do better than abandoned gold mine as the jeopardy. Even so, I would be more interested in the four-color family dynamics of the team.

Will Hank Pym redeem his somewhat dark family by saving Janet van Dyne from the gold mine? Will Invisible Woman get much needed attention from Mr. Fantastic pretending to be trapped in the mine? And while we’re rehashing already published Fantastic Four tropes, does Namor swoop in first beating Reed Richards to the save? There’s a spandex-clad soap opera to be sure.

Fourth – After a failed bank job, a North Korean scientist is transported to another galaxy. Ooooooh! Put this one in the Holy Fuck category. Could anyone actually resist the temptation to switch out the unnamed scientist for Kim Jong-Un?

Here’s how that might work. We give Kimmy Boy a pretense a high-energy physics to go with his known pretensions at basketball (the pitch element said scientist). I might switch out bank heist for just received a phone call concerning an arrest in the United States of several minions for passing counterfeit $100 bills (morally equivalent and actual reported behavior). And then the Lizard Men of Andromeda Galaxy put the snatch on that loathsome bridge troll.

Yeah…no. I haven’t paid for a firewall tough enough to take on state sponsored cyberterrorism (not without making some kind of deal with the NSA). Besides, whether it’s Kim Jong-Un or the original unnamed North Korean letting this imaginary joker have all the many pages makes him the protagonist which means I have to find something to like about the assclown. North Korea has done a brilliant job making me angry at the whole untitled monarchy. I won’t spend four to five months with this hypothetical protagonist. RIP Otto Warmbier.

Lastly – During a Leap Year, a mustachioed private detective dons a cape and mask to fight crime. That’s five random pitches conducted while writing this post of which three either directly reference spandex or allow me to shade things that way. Does the universe know my proclivities and guide my finger accordingly? Wow! Paging Carl Jung…or not.

Nevertheless, I’m tempted to take a black pen to the mustachioed part on this card. I have listened to too many discussions about how effective the glasses are at keeping Clark Kent from having blowback from Superman’s problems. The mustache is visible under the cowl always and only Alfred on the Adam West Batman show ever pulled off that bit of silliness (aided by overdubbing Adam West’s voice) when he didn’t shave his white mustache.

At least the Leap Year bit has some play to it. As in I have zero shame looting from Gilbert & Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance. Not only is it Leap Year; it is March 29th and it’s Unnamed Cape Man’s birthday. Public Domain, Ducky…PHHHHHT!

Now for how the flipbook works. You see in the picture there are three categories that I think have at least fifty choices each (I demonstrated mild difficultly at counting by fives starting around forty). I make the assumption that each category has the same number of cards to even out how the book lies or sits on a shelf. From top to bottom we have a section for prepositions and dependent clauses that set the scene or backstory. Then we have the middle row for subjects/protagonists followed by the bottom row for the inciting verb.

So being totally unsure if three sections of fifty choices each is a mathematical combination, permutation or just a good time to do fifty by a power of three, I picked the latter. Fifty cubed ends up as 125,000 choices. By comparison, let’s compare this to the reported output of awesome writer and infamous curmudgeon Harlan Ellison who may have written in fifty years or so at least 1,000 short stories and TV episodes.

One hundred Harlan Ellisons doesn’t even come close and he might want to pass some of the load to Steven King and the late Ray Bradbury. This is what most people would see as a lifetime of ideas. But, only if you can tolerate North Korean Scientist coming up periodically.

The comparisons to the story dice break down like this twelve dice with six choices each comes up, when I do the same dimly remembered pseudo-math, as 2,985,984 discreet twelve-element story pitches. Or less, if you consider that I allow myself to drop the three lamest dice results…just because.

It seems to me that the really stuck writer wants to use both the dice and this flipbook. The dice gives much of the elements that happen in the middle of the story or the act turns, midpoint and so forth. The flipbook gives a sentence that hints at backstory, identifies a protagonist and launches the story with a verb committed by that protagonist.

I have a mild preference for the dice (assuming possession of all dice sets) because you can game the system by choosing ahead of the roll which dice you want. You’ve been watching the good version of Clash of the Titans (1981) and you start wanting to mess around with Greek Mythology. So you reach for the die with the picture of Zeus throwing his thunder. However, I paid for having more choices with a plastic dice bag that doesn’t travel in my bag except on special days.

In contrast, the flipbook gives fewer choices but it comes in a package that fits easier in travel bags and such. And the flipbook cards are printed with thick glossy cardstock that has already survived a small coffee spill where I wiped it off and kept going. The hypothetical black Sharpie taken to the North Korean scientist card might not even take. And the printing is large enough not to need reading glasses. And I’ve already chased a die dropped on tile floor behind a bookcase.

So which tool a writer uses to throw hard elbows at the blank page is neither here nor there, this isn’t comic book publishing where choosing between Marvel and DC is expected to be a thing. However you start writing is what you should do.

And just for more giggles, I will close with two more pitches. Suddenly able to hear others’ thoughts, a jealous bridesmaid inadvertently starts WW3. After misreading an email, the heir to an oil fortune wakes up in a strange house. Choices. Choices. And now like Ferris Bueller I get to say “What? You’re still here? Go home the article’s over.” Start writing.

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