Saturday, April 11, 2020

Anatomy of an Idea: Waterways

My story Waterways was recently published in Storyhack, Issue 6, available here.  The catalyst of the story is a sacred pool that bestows upon the people the skills of ancestors.  When the city is conquered, the youngest of those who were immersed in the pool have no opportunity to train and hone their abilities.  The result?  A truly random skill set.

In the brainstorming phases for the story, I decided to choose the skills quite literally at random, so I went for an old resource:  GURPS Compendium.  GURPS is the Generic Universal RolePlaying System, a detail-heavy roleplaying system that is designed to encompass everything from space cowboys to time travelers to high fantasy.  It has its flaws, but having that exhaustive skill list was perfect purposes.  I rolled randomly to pick a page, then a column, then a specific entry.  I had to discard some results, of course, as I couldn't really work Starship Navigation into my story ...

So I ended up with a list of skills for each of the secondary characters that were a deliberate mismatch.  I then had the fun of working these skills into the plot without shoehorning the characters into far-fetched situations.  It was particularly fun because my narrator was the new girl in this group, so some of those skills came out of nowhere.

This is not the first place where I've used deliberate randomness to generate a character, but I really enjoyed using the conceit of the pool to justify the strange combinations.  It let me range more widely.  Who knows, maybe I'll return to this city and setting with another skillset gone wrong.