Story-prep 2: Grounding a Vampire

Discovering the idea that wants to bury itself in your next story is one thing. Figuring out how to grow that story around it is something else again. The question this time was how to show the internal conflict between feigning polite acquiescence to an act of intimidation, or standing up to the Confidence Vampire to call its bluff? The answer eluded me, so I slept on the problem, setting it aside to simmer on the back burner of my subconscious.

In the morning, I awoke with some questions to ask that idea, starting with what sort of a situation could show how the vampire would gain strength from a prospective transfer of confidence, and then deprive the creature of it. After all, that is essentially an internal struggle. The questions piled up as I was preparing breakfast, so I ordered the idea to walk the spatula as I reached out to flip the bacon. I dangled it over the sizzling grease in hopes of getting it to confess its secret, but to no avail. Frustrated, I shelved the interrogation for the moment, muttering to myself that this story idea was a tough nut to crack.

That’s when it struck me. I smiled with the realization that the metaphor I’d chosen just happened to hold the answer to my first question, because the walnut in my mind protected the meat of the issue in a hard shell: that shell could either be a person or a group. If it was a group, the people in that group could externalize their individual struggles as they argued among themselves.

The vampire’s mark, then, would be a group of some sort. That could mean any sort of cohesive gathering of people, from a neighborhood or club, to a company or association, to a nation. Next, I needed to narrow the focus to some event, and to the people who are directly involved. Before breakfast, I’d watched a TED talk about fighting with non-violence. In it, Scilla Elworthy spoke about three types of intimidation, each playing in a specific channel of communication. These channels reinforce each other, conspiring to stifle the will to act. Thinking about it, I realized that the drama here is in the moment that the person or group decides whether to speak up and violate the politeness taboo.

By staging the decision as a group consensus, the interplay of forces can be personified, showing rather than telling. As my wife pointed out after breakfast, this process can only play out in a group that is not directed top-down, since in that situation the choice would be imposed by leadership, rather than being a consensus decision. She specifically called out the Occupy as an example.

So… the story takes place at the General Assembly of some Occupy. The next step is to determine what situation they have experienced, to which they now have to decide whether and how to respond. The usual tactic used against Occupy is violence, and the threat of violence. The chosen methodology used by Occupy is one of non-violent resistance and outreach. They have lots of practice, in lots of situations, so for this to be interesting it would have to be a novel situation that the group is split over whether to respond or not. What sort of a challenge are they fielding?

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[Note: You can read Story-prep 3, or the short story itself, “Crossing the Line“]

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