Quick Story Ideas

The Ancient King

posted Apr 17, 2015, 7:04 PM by Jeremy Poehnert   [ updated Apr 17, 2015, 7:11 PM ]

The Ancient King didn't look particularly ancient. I mean, he didn't look young, but he easily could have passed for my father's age. In fact, he reminded me of my father; short gray hair, weather beaten, leathery, wrinkled skin. On the older side, sure, but nothing that shouted ancient.
For that matter, the Ancient King (the capitals are important) didn't look particularly kingly. He was wearing old, weathered leather armor. Much like the king, the armor looked solid but heavily used. The king was also surprisingly short; at this distance I would guess he was at least half a head shorter than I, and as much as it pains me, I'm a bit shorter than average in our kingdom.

The king did at least have a sword and a crown. But the crown was small, and like the king, rather dull looking. Not only did it lack any of the expected gems, from this distance it looked as though it could be made of wood, and a rather dull wood at that.

The sword also failed to inspire any sense of awe. It was plainness personified. An unadorned hilt with an unadorned blade. No gems, no precious metals, no mystic words or symbols. I could see the sword in detail, because it was drawn from its scabbard and laid across his lap.

Rather than feeling as though I was in the presence of arguably the greatest warrior and ruler of our legends, I felt like I was seeing an old footsoldier, past his prime, who had just sit down for a rest. In fact, his head was bowed and his eyes were closed, as though he had passed away quietly while contemplating his sword. Although I couldn't see anything that would make the weapon worth much contemplation.

All of which led to one, devastatingly disappointing conclusion; I was wrong, my search had gone awry, my efforts wasted. This was not the long dormant Ancient King. This was just some old guard who, trapped in the lost throne room in a lost castle, in a lost land, had passed away, alone and forlorn. I signed, fighting off the threatening depression. Perhaps examining the throneroom would yield some hints of where to continue my search.

I took one step closer to the throne and stopped in my tracks. The figure had lifted his head and opened his eyes, and I was frozen in the power of that terrible gaze. Suddenly, undeniably, I knew this was the Ancient King. Instinctively, without conscious thought, I fell to my knees, in the most sincere bow I have ever given. Once down, I kept my gaze facing the floor, the better to avoid making contact with that horrifying gaze.

 The otherwise unnoteworthy face, on an otherwise unnoteworthy body, made the overwhelming power of the eyes even more unbearable.

I kept my gaze down until I heard the voice, both quiet and absolutely commanding "Rise, and tell me what has brought you to this lost and terrible place, and what you seek from the Ancient King. For none embark on such a treacherous journey without reason, and fewer still survive to reach this forsaken place."

I feel no shame admitting, that in that moment, standing up, forcing myself to meet the gaze of the one true Ancient King, I felt small and impotent, like a butterfly facing the power of a hurricane.

The Squad

posted Nov 4, 2010, 5:34 PM by Jeremy Poehnert   [ updated Nov 4, 2010, 5:52 PM ]

This is a variation on a popular science fiction/fantasy theme, and one I often muse about in random moments of the day.

It's a squad of troubleshooters that travels from dimension to dimension helping people.  As I said, it's a very 
popular concept in speculative fiction.  Here are the basics of my idea:

A group of 6-8 people, highly trained and extremely professional.  Their leader is affectionately called "The Captain."  She is tough, and tends not to talk any more than necessary.  Each member has certain specialties and a certain basic level of super abilities.

They have certain military trappings, and they are skilled fighters, but fighting is only a small part of the work they do.  When they land in a new dimension they receive information about their current assignments.  Assignments can be anything from "help the locals get their crops in before winter sets in" to "spend three months helping teach in the local school" to "help overthrow the local tyrant."

When I imagine the stories I tend to avoid the high drama adventures "overthrow the tyrant," and focus more on subtle developmental stories.  My stories often come after the "big adventures."  For instance, we see them land near a pastoral community after they've just finished an incredibly violent, challenging assignment. maybe one that failed.  They've been sent to the peaceful community to help the locals finish a new town construction before the rainy season, but also so the team has a chance to recover and reflect on their recent, high stress mission.  The story is about how they relate to the locals and each other while helping with local projects and processing what they've been through.

As ever, I tend to be more interested in the pauses, the moments of reflection and development, rather than the high action.  I'm less interested in the big explosive showdown, and more interested in the human moments that come afterwards, as people seek to find peaceful equilibrium, and rebuild themselves individually as a group.

I also like to avoid some of the standard sources of drama, like having the group be unprepared, not like each other, or be sent on missions contrary to their personalities.

My team is highly trained, only sent on missions they're ready for, and only asked to do things they think are ethical.

That doesn't mean that the missions are easy, or they always like them, or they're always successful.  It just means that rather than being full of melodrama the stories are more grounded.  The stories are about professional, thoughtful people trying to the best they can, which is probably not good for movies or television, but seems interesting to me.

The Last Man, Continued

posted Jan 17, 2010, 9:01 PM by Jeremy Poehnert   [ updated Jan 17, 2010, 9:19 PM ]

This is a continuation of an earlier post that I didn't have time to finish.  You can find that first post here - The Last Man.

I have a sequence in mind for how the Last Man's experiences develop.

First, the energy aliens have taken steps to insure that his basic needs can be met.  Because they didn't have much time, and don't have a good understanding the physical universe, let alone Earth culture, their efforts demonstrate their tremendous power, but also their limited grasp of human needs.

They shut down any immediate threats, like nuclear reactors or crashing airplanes.  Then they establish a "protected space" centered on the Last Man's home.  His home is the center of a circle with a 1/2 mile radius (the layout is based almost literally on where I currently live).  Within that area, things are preserved.  Power still works, plumbing still works.  Buildings won't decay.  Broken things fix themselves.  The weather is always mild.  It is intended to be a safe zone, giving the Last Man as many resources and as much basic infrastructure as possible.

The important part of the story is the existence of the zone, but I'll also give a bit of a sci-fi explanation.  First, the area is surrounded by a special force field that keeps the weather stable.  There are nano-creatures that go around fixing everything.  Underground there is a special energy warp that provides water and electricity and removes waste.

But the aliens aren't able to take care of everything.  Specifically, they didn't give him a food supply.  So one of his first tasks is to gather food and figure out how to store it.  Because he has power (and therefore refrigeration) in his protected zone, he gathers as much food as he can before it spoils and stores it throughout his home zone.  He also gathers other resources he needs/wants; batteries, first aid supplies, clothes, etc.

This leads to a very surreal setup.  He has this deserted area at the heart of his city where things function, and he has supplies stored all over the place.  

He finds that animals are attracted to him, and gathers a certain group of special pets around him.  He has an "inner circle" of pets that are special; he seems to have some unique bond with them, and they are unusually smart.  But lots of other animals move into the area to be near him, and he starts taking care of them.  They all seem to respond to and obey him.  The force field seems to keep out pests or any dangerous animals.

The aliens also gave the Last Man an Observer; a ball of energy that follows him around, apparently recording what he does.

I'll stop here, but I'll continue the story later...

Dystopian Future - Another Dream

posted Jan 9, 2010, 8:17 PM by Jeremy Poehnert   [ updated Jan 9, 2010, 8:42 PM ]

So, I was going to take a break from documenting my dreams on the site.  I was going to just write them down in a little journal near my bed.  But when I started writing this one down it was taking so much time, I thought it would be more useful and time efficient to just put it here.

This one took place in a futuristic, dystopian future.  It functions during the day, but at night all hell breaks loose.  The authorities kidnap children and arrest families.  Monsters roam the streets, Tyrannosaurs Rex roam the streets!  Crime abounds.

It's so dangerous, people don't live on the first floor of buildings; they live on the second floor and above and the first floor is an armored entrance.

There is a separatist community that is hidden away and removed from the main community (the main community is called "The City").  This separatist community is happy and relatively primitive - think of a New York City neighborhood from the 1920s.  They send an agent, in a super, super, amazingly cool, mega car to The City at night.  He travels the streets at night rescuing people, especially children.

The agent doesn't do it purely out of generosity.  He's somehow indentured to the separatist community; he owes them something.  He's not that excited to be risking his life rescuing people.  But he takes it seriously, is good at it, and is basically a good guy.  He's somewhat reminiscent of Snake from the movie Escape from New York.

It is a very surreal society.  Strange things happen.  There is woman who roams the street with her husband looking for their lost child (who is long-dead).  She has tamed some Tyrannosaurs Rex's (is that how you say multiple Rex's?), and is completely crazy, with a personality like an unstoppable force of nature.

Once a year there is a parade of children, when selected children are sent away for "education."  They parade down this dark grim alley and disappear.   No one knows what happens to them; the agent knows they are taken away by what appears to be a UFO, but there is no hint of what happens after that.

There are youth with super-powers.  In one sequence, several of them are murdered by an unknown force, and some of their friends try to track it down and stop it.

The dinosaur woman meets the agent in a tragic way.  She and her husband encounter an experimental monster that posses her husband and kills her dinosaurs, in the process also suppressing her usually dominant personality.  In a dramatic moment, she recovers and kills her possessed husband with the decapitated head of one of her T-Rex, in order to save their surviving son from the monster.  The agent then takes the son to safety.  It is a very dramatic scene, it could be straight out of the movie Blade Runner.

The whole thing was very gritty, very dark, but ended on an optimistic note.  The agent kept saving people, even after his official debt to the separatist community had been met, representing his fundamental decency and a spark of hope for the future.

I wish I was an artist, because the agent's car was awesome!

Saturday, January 2, 2010 - Recurring Dreams, Continued

posted Jan 2, 2010, 7:48 PM by Jeremy Poehnert   [ updated Jan 2, 2010, 8:52 PM ]

I'm going to continue describing the dreams I introduced in the previous post.  I didn't mean to spend so much time on this particular topic, but i think there's some meaning in it, so I'll keep going.

These are three recurring dreams I've had in the past.  Until last night (when I had two of them) I haven't had any of them for a while.  They have similar themes, so it makes sense to describe them together.

The Cave

The oldest of the three dreams, and the one I didn't have last night.  It's really simple, but evokes all sorts of emotions when I have it.  

There is a cave in the side of a mountain, and I'm walking into it.  It's a nice cave; open, smooth, lighted by torches.  It's not at all gloomy.  But there is a tension in the air.  Sometimes it's excitement, sometimes it's agitation, sometimes it's nervousness.  The mood intensifies as I get to the back of the cave, where it ends in a smooth wall.

That's it; the cave ends.  I'm standing in front of the blank wall.  But I know there's a way through the wall, and this is the test, the source of the atmosphere.  I know it's possible to pass through the wall, to somewhere else.  I desperately want to pass through the wall.  It's a test, a challenge and/or a necessity, depending on the dream.  Sometimes I'm nervous about trying, sometimes I'm scared I'll fail, sometimes I'm excited to try.

It's hard to describe what happens next, because really nothing happens.  It feels like I'm trying to pass through a thick fog, and trying to navigate a maze, trying work my way through some complex path.  But in the dream, nothing actually happens.  I'm trying to pass through the wall, and it feels like I'm moving through a barrier, travelling somehow, but I'm standing still.

Sometimes I make it through the wall, and their is a feeling of euphoria and enlightenment, a feeling of having surpassed something and moved to another point.  Sometimes I don't make it through the wall.  That evokes different feelings, depending on the time, from fear to frustration to a sense of tragic loss.

The whole idea is simple, but it is an INTENSE dream.  I always feel emotionally worn after I have it, and there's definitely a sort of "hung over" affect, where the emotion of the dream (joy, fear, disappointment, excitement, etc.) stays with me after I wake up.

The Carnival

In this dream I'm living in a house in an area that feels like Alexandria, Virginia.  A carnival comes to neighborhood and sets up next door.  It is an old school, "vintage" carnival with performers rather than rides.  It is very spooky and creepy, in the way that carnivals often are in horror shows.  But it's not actually bad or evil.  It's scary, but in a challenging way.  It's a gauntlet to pass through.  It can hurt you, but it's your choice whether or not to take it on.

The physical layout is very surreal.  The carnival starts on the street, but extends into the underground basement of the house next door to me.

The dream is about "passing through" the carnival, as if the carnival is a maze, a labryinth.  As I travel through it I come to different performers; fire eaters, jugglers, "freak show" types, a ringleader, animals.  They are dark and a little scary, but they're not bad and they don't hurt me.  There's something that I have to accomplish or surpass at each performer.  Usually it's like the cave above; it doesn't involve a visible action, but instead something unseen, undefined.  I'm facing one of the performers, and they're "performing" (juggling, fire eating, whatever), and I'm standing still.  But something unseen is happening, within me and between us, and that decides whether I move forward.  If I don't move forward I either fail and get ejected from the journey, or get lost in the maze.

As I pass through I getter deeper into the underground of the basement, which, like all mystic places, is not bound by physical reality.  It is it's own dimension.

If I make it through the carnival I arrive at the entrance of a new, strange dimension.  Then I have to make a decision whether to stop there or to risk continuing.

This next part of the journey is through a strange, undefined dimension, one that barely adheres to physical reality.  It is ambiguous and impossible to pin down.  Here there is real danger; not that someone will hurt me, but that I'll get permanently lost in the un-reality.

Depending on the dream, I make different levels of progress.  Sometimes I don't make it through the carnival.  Sometimes I make it through the carnival but choose to stop rather than enter the un-reality.  Sometimes I continue and get lost in the un-reality.  Sometimes I make it through it all.  Again, the outcome of the dream shapes the emotion it evokes.

The Duplex

Sounds less intense than the cave or the carnival, right?  This one is a little less intense, although it still feels edgy.

I dream about this building in a couple of different ways.  It often appears in different stages of construction, from barely being framed to being completely finished.  It's a one story, all white duplex (ALL white; the outside, the inside walls, the floor, ceiling.)  It's long, and each half of the duplex is really the size of a normal house, with multiple bedrooms.

There's always something wrong with the construction.  Things at odd angles, missing walls, oddly shaped rooms, weird hallways.  It's livable, but not quite right.

I live in one half, and there is something mysterious and unknown about the other half.  Nothing dangerous per se, but spooky and a little disturbing.  The specifics vary.  Last night's actually turned out fun, so I'll go with that.

This "story" seems very familiar to me.  It makes me wonder if I read it or heard it somewhere else.  Overall it had the feel of a spooky teen detective story.

I'm in my half of the duplex; I'm a teenager, and some friends visit; a teenage girl and her little sister (again, this is a very "Goonies" version of the dream).  We hear strange noises from the other half of the duplex.  The owners are having a party, and don't hear anything wrong.  We find a "monster" baby crying in the hallway.  It is green and deformed; it's hair is long and like seaweed.  One of it's arms is badly mishapen.  It should be horrifying, but we feel warm towards it, and try to take care of it while we try to figure out where it came from and what's going on.  Although we're trying to take care of it, it keeps dissapearing and reappearing without explanation.  It seems completely helpless, so what's going on is a mystery.

That was it for last nights dream - the dream just stopped.  The basic structure of the dream is usually the same; I sense something is strange/spooky about the other side of the duplex, and try to figure it out.  It ranges from dark and scary to more adventurous (like last nights).  It often feels spooky, but not really dangerous.  Last night's was unusual because of my clear youth and that there was a team of us, which I don't remember every happening before.

Again, sometimes things get resolved in the dream, sometimes they don't.

The last few dreams I've listed have been intense.  I do have just fun dreams, though.  I'll have to try and write out some of those sometimes.  Here are teasers for two of them:

Muppets and Healthy Boundaries

Ernie and Animal from the Muppets have just started living in a super beautiful, huge apartment that someone is letting them use.  All of these other muppets end up coming to visit or are passing through the area and need a place to stay, so they crash at the apartment.  Inevitably it becomes a complete disaster, and Ernie and Animal learn how to set healthy boundries.  I had this dream the other night; it was great, and there were lots of fun details.  The apartment was MAGNIFICENT - I drew a sketch of it when I woke up.


Interdimensional Problem Solvers

One of my college professors (Dwight) and I are a team of interdimensional problem solvers.  We travel through fantasy dimensions fixing things that have gone wrong and helping people.  We travel on vintage bicycles and wear outrageously silly costumes, usually with silly wigs and handlebar mustaches.  At one point we visit the Bernstein Bears...Again, I really had this dream the other day, and it was great!  To get from dimension to dimension we rode our vintage bicycles through tree trunks (this might be inspired by a Nightmare Before Christmas, which has the tree trunks but not the bicycles).

I'll try to go more in detail about those dreams later, but you get the drift; not all of my dreams are so serious!

Saturday, January 2, 2010 - Recurring Dreams

posted Jan 2, 2010, 6:43 PM by Jeremy Poehnert   [ updated Jan 2, 2010, 7:13 PM ]

I didn't mean for this to become a dream log, but I do have a lot of complex dreams, and I think they do connect to my creative ideas.  I also enjoy the process of trying to remember my dreams and then writing them up!

Last night I had three dreams.  One was new, two were recurring dreams I've had before but not in a while.  Both reminded me of yet another recurring dream I used to have quite often, and I thought I'd catch all four here.

All three dreams have some kind of plot.

The New Dream - Travelers to a new land

The basic plot of this one was quite simple.  A diverse group of residents from a fantasy land migrate to a new, "non-magical" land.  

There was a group of residents who were going on an uncertain journey from their magical land to a special gateway that would transport them to a new, unknown realm.  Some were refugees, leaving because they had too, some were choosing to leave in search of something new, some were doing it out of a sense of duty (to what, I'm not sure).

The residents were largely characters from different fictional worlds I'm familiar with.  The leader was Taran, the main character from a book series by Lloyd Alexander (the most famous in the series is probably the Black Cauldron, which is a good book but was made into a bad animated movie).  The Gummi Bears, from the Disney cartoons were also there.  There were other famous fictional characters, but I can't remember them.

They all boarded a small boat and took a perilous trip to an island in the middle of a lake; the boat was constantly on the verge of capsizing, and there were sharks in the water (I know, sharks don't live in lakes, but it was a dream...).

In the center of the island there is a store run by a "Mysterious Woman" fitting the image of many fictional mysterious women; she was a beautiful tall brunette and wore an off the shoulder white gown.

They each had to pay her something for passage to the new realm, something important to them (no specifics of what each paid).  Then they traveled to the other side of the island, then across to the other side of the lake.  Somewhere along the line they passed into the other realm.

At this point, the characters were completely different, not for any specific reason, they just suddenly change.

The new realm is a town on the edge of a lake (where they landed) that is like a fairly developed late-19th century american frontier city/town.  This world isn't completely without magic, but has a lot less than the world where the travellers came from.

After that the story is about the travelers trying to adapt to their new world.  It's kind of sad, in a realistic way.  Some of them acclimate well, some don't.  They have a range of emotional and practical reactions and experiences.  A lot of it is about them trying to find jobs and places to live (no surprise there, since it's what I'm worried about) - at the beginning they're all packed into one small apartment.

There are some meaningful experiences and reflections among the characters, as they reflect on their journey to this new place and what it means.  Some regret it, some enjoy it, some just accept it.  Probably pretty realistic.

Then there is a weird third part of the dream.  The leader of the group of travelers in in the laundromat when he is confronted by a group of town residents that worry that he is secretly a superman.  In order to prove he's not, he tries to tear a book in half (with the idea that's he's not strong enough to do it, so not a superman).  But something written in the book turns him into a demon!  He turns pitch black, with a demon head and horns, and burns with black fire.  The men attack him and he burns them up.  Then he stops still, in a sort of trance.  Two of the other travellers are with him, both from comic books; Metron from DC comics and Wong from Marvel Comics.  Wong thinks they should probably kill him because he's dangerous, but Metron wants to preserve him.  A third member of the travelers is a female demon, and is hoping to marry him.

So this dream had three distinct phases; fantasy travel, "mundane" life challenges and a strange violent ending.  It was quite surreal.  The violence wasn't especially intense or scary; it was like the attackers weren't "real" in the context of the dream...

That was pretty long!  Just to break things up, I'll describe the recurring dreams in a different post...

Tuesday, December 29 - Three Dreams in One Night!

posted Dec 29, 2009, 7:35 PM by Jeremy Poehnert   [ updated Dec 29, 2009, 8:33 PM ]

So last night I had three dreams that I remember!  They were each pretty well plotted, and very different.  I'll do summaries of each here.

Dream 1:

This was a comic one, and a very unusual kind for me.  It's tone reminded me of the Woody Allen movie Bananas.

In a small, underveloped, very rural country, an ex-pat American ("played" by Scott Bakula of Quantum Leap)  has settled into a friendly and laid back relationship with a local seaside community (it "felt" like a South American country).  He lives on a boat and has a very low-stress lifestyle.  A friend of his ("played" by Dean Stockwell, also of Quantum Leap) visits, and almost by accident they get involved helping the locals build a clinic.

Then there is some sort of political turmoil in the country, and the funding for the clinic is cutoff.  They come up with a plan for getting funding for the clinic by pretending to build a country estate for the new president of the country.  But because of political issues between the country and the US, the two Americans can't be seen helping with the project, which leads to them visiting the site in a series of comic costumes.

At one point they make a deal with a former president of the country, who is in a sort of unofficial exile in the countryside, who helps them in exchange for something (I'm not sure what).

It was funny, and had a different feel than my normal dreams; the setting was much more tropical (that's not the right word, but I'm blanking on it) than my normal dreams.  It also evoked images similar to what I imagine when I hear the Jimmy Buffet song "Cowboy in the Junge."

Dream 2:

This is a very "niche" dream.  It sounds very weird, but it had a concrete tone to it, and it wasn't especially surreal.  It was very comic book like - not surprising, since it was about a comic book superhero.  This is also unusual for me.  While I used to be a comic book reader, and they still have a certain attraction for me, I don't remember ever dreaming about a superhero before...

A superhero named Captain Marvel (from DC comics - the Billy Batson version) has to go to a "pocket dimension" for some reason.  When he got there it was set up like a small, worn out deserted city (it looked like run-down areas of Fitchburg, MA) inhabited by a small group (less then a dozen) of "toy-people."  They were toy people because inside they had the feel of complex children's toys.  But on the outside they had all sorts of looks; there was one that looked like "real" man, one that looked was a cartoony, mule-like creature, a flying one, etc.  It turned out that they are all powered by a special fluid (it was white and creamy, and ran through them in clear tubes) that also had an addictive quality for them.  The whole group was oppressed and tyrannized by the smallest one of them (really small - her true self was a weird plastic head only a few inches high - it was clearly a she, I don't know why).  This dictator plays mind games to them, steals their fluid and is cruel to all.  The story is Captain Marvel trying to capture her.  She's not powerful enough to confront him directly, so she does all sorts of tricky and manipulative things, hurting the other toys along the way (but they're toys, so they can fix themselves, and don't really feel pain).

At some point Captain Marvel comes across another race of "toy people" (they look like military/soldier toys and arrive in a military helicopter), who have been sent by someone else to study the situation.  The implication is that the whole things was set up as a kind of cruel experiment.

Dream 3:

The dreams got progressively darker, and this was the darkest.  It wasn't quite a nightmare; I felt nervous, not scared when I woke up, but the tone and plot had a lot of horror elements.

The two main characters are "toy-like" monsters; they were giant (15+ feet tall), moved on four legs, and looked cobbled together with elements of stuffed animals and legos (it doesn't sound good, but they were cute!).  It takes place in a world similar to the real world, but apparently the world has a species of these created monsters, which serve all sorts of purposes.  These two are special and powerful, but also very mellow; they are actually the mascots for a small neighborhood store, and are beloved by all.  The store is in a kind of run-down semi-industrial city area, but everyone if very friendly and tight knit.

The two nice monsters (one is bulky and looks kind of like a buffalo, one is sleek and looks kind of like a Chinese dragon) are on the way to perform at a fair when they are attacked by a super powerful monster which is huge and horrible and scary; a real monster.  It was created by a really really bad character (maybe the worst I've ever dreamed of) to destroy all nice monsters; I don't know why.

The story is the two nice monsters running from the big nasty monster and it's creator.  The monster is an unstoppable threat, but the creator quickly becomes the true villain.  He is cruel an nasty and kills several people during the pursuit for no reason.  He has a looming, dark prescence that is much scarier than the monster...the part of the dream that made me nervous was this feeling that he was in the room with me while I was sleeping...

The chase climaxes in an industrial warehouse behind the shop where the two nice monsters live, and they manage to get the bad monster and creator to fall into a very deep industrial trash compactor/incinerator.

The whole thing was much more violent then my normal dreams.  Nothing graphic, but a sense that people were actually getting hurt and killed.  The horror aspect came up in the end, because at some point after they get rid of him, the creator comes back for revenge.  There's a spooky scene where he comes back out of the compactor...

That being said, the story also had a lot of really fun, nice, even magical components.  The two nice monsters were really nice and sweet, and had a great friendship.  They were really close to their human "family" and their neighborhood was run down but everyone was very friendly.  There were also funny elements; at one point they travel through a graveyard and meet a nice talking raven and three nice singing female zombies.  One of the darkest scenes is the villain chasing them and "killing" the zombies in an offhand, completely unnecessary way.  But they were zombies, so we'll assume they were fine. 

This dream did have a theme I've often explored, and started when I was a kid.  I always had this idea that my toys could come alive and fight monsters.  Whenever I thought of some sort of scary beast/monster I would imagine my toys coming alive to defeat it.  This also tended to make things funny rather than scary, because my toys aren't tanks and stuff; they're stuffed animals and cute figurines, and they would often defeat the monsters in toy-like ways; there's something about watching a giant teddy bear hugging a monster into submission that makes the whole thing comical...maybe what monsters really need is more hugs.

Saturday, December 26, 2009 - Strange Dream

posted Dec 26, 2009, 11:44 AM by Jeremy Poehnert   [ updated Dec 26, 2009, 12:21 PM ]

So, I tend to get a lot of creative ideas from dreams, which I love, but sometimes they even seem weird to me!  This is one of those.

It was a fully plotted story, from beginning to end, and unlike most of my dreams, it took place in a "realistic" setting, rather than sci-fi/fantasy, although it was very surreal.

The three main characters were a kid ("played" by the kid from the movie AI), an older cousin, and their grandfather.  The kid was elementary school age, and looked even younger.  He went on a trip alone (the alone part was important) to visit his grandfather in a frozen northern town.  I would describe the town as a sort of surreal yet idealized version of how I imagine a small town in northern Canada to be.  It was rural and stark, but also friendly and peaceful.

In the story the grandfather was "played" by my maternal grandfather, who in the dream lived in the house that my paternal grandparents lived in, but transposed to this northern town (I often dream about their house).  The child and the grandfather had a peaceful, reflective time, quietly enjoying the beautiful environment of the area.  There were distinct images of them just sitting quietly at a picnic table in the back yard enjoying beautiful views, although there were also images of them watching TV.

An older cousin of the kid arrives.  She is in her 20's and transgendered (went from male to female).  She was recently diagnosed with a terminal illness.  She is wearing an outfit that covers her from head to toe except from her eyes.  It is something like a cross between a burka and mummy bandages.  It is a spectacular crimson color (she isn't Muslim, and there was no explanation for the clothes; in the dream it just seemed like her style).  Her eyes stand out vividly.

She is from a very conservative community, and is largely alienated from her family (no explanation for why, although the obvious explanation would be the transgendered issue).

Because of her illness she has decided on euthanasia.  She has come to the kid and the grandfather so they can help record her final "story" (in the dream it was clearly "story" rather than testament or something else).  They spend peaceful, comforting time with her, talking to her about her life, then make a video recording of her last story.  She then leaves.  There is no discussion of how the euthanasia will work.

The child then travels, alone, to the cousin's family/community to take the video of her story and talk to them about her decision (it is clear at this point she has died, but there are no details).  This is intense and difficult.  He then travels back to the grandfather's house, where they reflect on what happened (again, scenes at a table in a back yard, taking in stunning views).

The End

The dream was surreal, but also deeply moving.  There was a sense of sadness, frustration and dissapointment, but also a sense of peacefulness, acceptance and comfort.  Roughly a mix of the feelings that would seem appropriate for that situation.  Sadness at the loss and the lack of community/family support, but comfort and peace in coming to terms with life and death.  

The three pivotal characters, the child, the cousin and the grandfather, were each very vivid, and felt like they represented certain essential characteristics.  The cousin as the tragic outsider, but someone who has found peace with themselves despite a difficult life.  The child as a nonjudgmental messenger, carrying her story to the world.  The grandfather and his house as a place of peace and reflection.

We discussed euthanasia a lot in my Philosophy class this semester.  I can only assume that had some impact on the dream!

Monkey In A Box

posted Dec 24, 2009, 9:25 AM by Jeremy Poehnert   [ updated Dec 24, 2009, 9:41 AM ]

This came to me in a dream last night.  It's not a full story idea, but a fun story element.

I love the idea of "fun" magic, little touches of magic that make the world a brighter or more interesting place.  This is one of those.

Imagine a box, about a foot long, six inches wide and six inches tall.  The box says on top, in big, garish letters "Monkey In A Box: Endless Entertainment Guaranteed."  The sides of the box are decorated with pictures of a green, cartoony monkey doing silly things; juggling, singing, riding a unicycle, dancing, all in a carnival style.

The box opens at a hinge about half way up, and when it opens....there is a little (4 inches or so) cartoon like green monkey, performing.  Every time you open the box the monkey (whose name is Monkey) starts with a different performance.

In my dream a young college student finds the box in an old store room and befriends the monkey.

Monkey isn't a real monkey.  His is a little magical sprite that has been shaped to look like a monkey and who lives in the magical world of the box. He can't leave the box, and though he and his props look completely solid, if you touch them they feel "tingly."  They are solid in the box, but if they pass beyond the edges of the box they dissapear.  They exist only in the realm of the box.

Monkey is a consummate performer, and enjoys it's job (I don't know if Monkey has a gender).  Monkey can do it all; sing, dance, tell jokes, juggle, tell stories, whatever it takes to be entertaining.  Whatever props Monkey needs appear within the box; juggling balls, a unicylce, hoola hoops, whatever.

Monkey is conscious, sentient, and can also talk and interact with whoever is around.  Monkey and the college students become friends, and Monkey often tells stories from it's long existence about who it's know and what it's done (lots of magic; it's thousands of years old, and  has existed in different magical worlds).  Monkey is also very curious, and likes learning about wherever it is now; in the modern world that means watching TV, listening to music (Monkey can instantly learn, reproduce and adapt any music), looking at the internet using voice commands or a mouse put in the box) and just talking to the college student.

Monkey can interact with physical things put in the box, but Monkey is only four inches tall, so there are limits.  Monkey is an artist, and paints and draws and sculpts.  Anything Monkey makes using the magic within the box exists only within the box, and dissapears when Monkey stops working on it.  The college student loves Monkey's art, though, and gives monkey note cards and little pencil Monkey can use to sketch on, and because these are real Monkey can give them back to the college student to keep, so he starts a collection of beautifully illustrated sketches by Monkey.

This is one of those ideas I love; I can imagine working Monkey In A Box into all sorts of stories, as a fun light hearted element, a bit of happy magic...

List of ideas

posted Dec 16, 2009, 10:52 PM by Jeremy Poehnert   [ updated Dec 16, 2009, 11:01 PM ]

The other day I tried to brainstorm all the random story ideas I've kicked around over the years.  I thought I'd put them here, in the hopes of coming back to them eventually.

Mystery college - a group of college students at a seemingly normal college that is actually chock full of hidden magic.  They have various adventurous discovering the magic around them, and solving various challenges.  A light hearted series of stories, inspired by all the mysterious nooks and crannies of my alma mater.  I also envision a series involving the main character as a kid, and a series featuring their adventures after college.  One of my favorite ideas, but one that probably only appeals to me...

"Haunted House" - an occult investigator that lives in a generally nice haunted house; ie, full of fun magic and mysteries.  He has a lazy demon dog and an adopted daughter with tremendous occult magical potential, who he inherited when friends of his were killed during an investigation they were engaged in.  A series that included both light (the fun haunted house) and dark elements (unpleasant monters and magic)...and a lazy magic demon dog!  One key element; the house, the dog, and the sourounding property all love the little girl, and bend over backwards to spoil her...

My take on a superhero world - slightly more "realistic" and a LOT less violent than standard superhero worlds.  Came out of my many years as a comic book fan.  Another idea that probably only appeals to me...

There are a few others I'll add later...

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