The Story's Story - Spook Wagon
I thought I would start putting up some posts to explain how some of my stories came to be. If you like these posts, please say so in the comments, on Facebook, or by sending me a message on Twitter. I'll begin with one of my recent Gwen Conner stories, Spook Wagon.
Back in the late 1980s/early 1990s I wrote for two of Steve Jackson Games' periodicals, AutoDuel Quarterly and Pyramid. One of my articles for ADQ was a scenario idea involving a remote-controlled "ghost car" that was troubling a small town. The players would have the task of dealing with the car, as well as finding out why the car was "haunting" the town.
I had wanted to use the idea in a short story. It wasn't until I had created the character of Gwen Conner for Something About the Vegetables that I was able to pair the idea with a main character.
Since Gwen lives and works in a world with magic, the next problem was this: was the ghostly wagon a real wagon made to look that way, or was it an illusion spell?
Third problem: the reason why the "spook wagon" is employed. My first thought was the reason that Gwen discovers. However, that reason seemed too simple, and had the possibility that, if it was true, it could radically change the town. Thinking about it not only led to how the story does actually end, but allowed me to bring Gwen's brother back in and make him useful to the plot.
One of the lessons I learned from writing this story was that sometimes your first idea is the most obvious. The obvious idea rarely makes a good story. If you want a story to stand out, you might have to give that idea more thought.