Writing this wasn't as daunting and didn't take nearly as long as I thought it would. Lucky me!
All right, so the last time we discussed this project, I posted up my initial pitch to Chris Stevens with a general idea of where I wanted the story to go. I think we can all agree that the pitch I posted was pretty atrocious, yeah? After Chris and I dismissed that one, we talked about the original story a little bit, and he asked me to break it down into a sentence or two describing what it meant to me. Once I recognized that, to me, the story was about using love as the driving force to face down your fears no matter how overwhelming they might seem--well, I thought I might be onto something.
Chris suggested trying to write a more humanistic piece that had a future slant, but retained the familiar tones of the original. So I looked at the original story, and broke that down into easily digestible chunks.
1. Family moves into house with a garden.
2. Family saves mongoose from drowning during a storm.
3. Snakes live in the garden.
4. Snakes want family gone by any means necessary.
5. Mongoose defends family that saved his life.
My first idea had been to have humans settling on an alien planet that was already occupied, but although that was technically in line with the original story, it wasn’t something heartfelt that people could relate to. So I thought about it a little bit more, and what immediately came to mind was my son. I’m a father. A relatively new father, actually, as my son is around two and a half years old. There’s nothing in the world that means more to me than my son, and I’m constantly worried (not to the point of paranoia or anything, but worried nonetheless) that something might happen to him. And I think there are a lot of people out there that can relate to that, and I know whenever I talk about my son I’m speaking from the heart. That’s the definition of heartfelt, I'd say.
So I gave rise to my worrisome nature and let it run wild for a minute or two. And it started to click from there. What if the house the family moved into was their son instead? Not to say that the family moves into their son’s body (because, uh… weird), but the son could easily be used instead of the house as the place where the snakes dwell. Of course, literally having snakes living inside a kid is another weird idea that wouldn’t exactly fly, so my next task was to consider what type of threat could live within a child. What type of threat could be as sleek and effective a killer as a poisonous cobra? I had an idea, and so I sent the following to Chris…
What about a child fighting some sort of sickness? Maybe the sickness could be the snakes, and Rikki could be some kind of nanobot created to combat that? It could be explored through the child's eyes/imagination, and then at the end revealed that he's in a futuristic hospital.
Now, I didn’t exactly love this concept, but I liked it well enough to send it off to Chris. And, wonder of wonders, he liked it too! He wanted more meat on the bones of my story, of course, and I didn’t have much to offer as I’d just thought of it. But what I did have, I sent to him. Here’s how I originally expanded on the idea…
Ok, so let's say that the boy is suffering from two fatal diseases. While the boy is under, he journeys with the nanobot, helping it to identify the diseases by dreaming about the memories he has of when the diseases first manifested while he was with his family. With the diseases exposed, the nanobot can isolate and destroy them. When the nanobot kills the last traces of the diseases, the boy awakens in the hospital with his family and the "Rikki Tikki Tavi" book by his bedside.
Looking back on that description of the story now, I think I can see immediately what’s wrong with it. First of all, it’d be hellacious to write. Breaking it down would be nearly impossible, especially considering the fact that there’s not too much in the text above that parallels the original story. Secondly, if it’s difficult to write, you know it’d be twice as hard for an artist to convert into workable pages. And finally, there was a pretty specific limit on the number of pages that would be dedicated to this story. Chris was looking for an eight to twelve-page story. Not a twenty-plus monstrosity.
I didn’t realize any of this at the time, of course. I thought the story was sound and would work wonderfully. And when Chris came back with the opinion that we weren’t quite there yet, but that it was good enough to go forward with, and that I was in the book… well, to say I was ecstatic would be an understatement.
Of course, I had no idea what I was getting into. And we’ll talk about what that means, and definitely get into the point where I almost quit altogether (sorry we didn’t have room for it this time) in the next installment. Until then…