2017 minus 47: Ideas, stories, and crap

Posted: 15 November 2016 in 2017 minus, fiction, writing

I like coming up with ideas for stories. I like it even more when I get the idea down on paper and turn it into a story. Many wise people – far wiser than me* – have made the point* that any idiot can come up with ideas… it’s finishing a story that turns you into a writer. 

* not hard
** repeatedly, yo me

And while I enjoy reading other people’s stories, occasionally I wish I’d come up with the idea myself. Like the comic book whose creator pitched it as Witness Protection Scheme, but they’re placed in different time zones, and the master list is discovered by criminals with their own time machine. What a great idea, and possibly, just possibly, one I could have come up with, but didn’t.

Then there are the many, many more ideas that other people have and I know that I’d never have come up with the idea. I’m currently enjoying the television shows Blindspot and Quantico; no way on earth would I have come up with either idea though, not even if I’d had a decade to think of a puzzle-drama show.

(Small diversion; while typing Quantico, my autocorrect changed it to Quantick… and now I desperately want David Quantick to guest-star in Quantico.)   


Every so often, like any writer, I’m asked “where do you get your ideas from?”

After 700-odd fast fictions, and a few dozen other stories, I’d be lying if I said I knew where every story came from. Some came from snippets of conversation, some  from hearing a piece of news and wondered ‘but what if…?” Still others have come from mixing and matching ideas I’ve had that just didn’t work individually but synergistically they combined. 

And one fast fiction, I recall, came from a pun upon the word chosen – halibut – that just ‘worked’ with the title offered; as I recall, I’d been playing with puns for something else and I was already in that frame of mind.

All of the foregoing is just introduction to explaining the following.

The idea for the story below was prompted by something that happened decades before I wrote it, a drunken, stoned and very silly evening at university, playing Trivial Pursuit. Something happened, something was said by my closest friend at the time. 

And almost 10,000 days later, I was asked to write a piece of fast fiction for A Thing and the story below … directly inspired by that night, that comment…  was what resulted. 



And to think that three weeks ago, all I knew about the alimentary canal was that it had no gondolas.

And now I’m immersed in it, clearing out the detritus from last night’s excesses for a woman who’d rather pay than trust her own enzymes to do the job. The limits of miniaturisation mean that I’m shrunk to about the size of a medium-sized beetle. And she has to swallow me.

And I have to be swallowed. The suit protects me against everything other than odour, but it’s not as unpleasant as it sounds. 

I’ve told the lie so often to new recruits, but they correctly never believe me. Because yes, of course, yes it is. It’s exactly as unpleasant as it sounds, but it’s a job. And it pays. 

She can feel me inside her, moving through her pharynx and then oesophagus, before reaching her stomach. Once there, I squirt a compound made up of acetic and hydrochloric acids and her own concentrated digestive juices, harvested while she slept. Oh, and the company’s Solvent X. I don’t know what’s in Solvent X. I don’t want to know. The rumours are bad enough. Then it’s another squirt, with some kind of solidifying gel; compresses it down to 1000th of the volume.

The sludge that’s left is sucked up into the container on my back. I don’t ask where it’s later emptied, but ever since that outbreak of food poisoning last summer, I no longer eat in the subsidised staff canteen. 

They paralyse her once I’m in and later movement is involuntary, which suits me fine.

An hour later, I’ve finished and I trigger the reflexor, which in turn forces me down and then out with the waste. It’s a crap job, I’ll agree, but it’s a living.

© Lee Barnett

See you tomorrow, with something… different. I’m not quite sure what yet, but I have a plan. And if it works, then it’ll be something special for you tomorrow.

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to 1st January 2017. You can see other posts in the run by clicking here.

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