29 Apr

The Beginnings of The Good Ship Whimsy

My biggest writing problem is letting go of things and sending them out into the world. Ideas push their way into my head and bloom on paper, and then I shut them up in file cabinets and hard drives, where they languish for years. So, maybe it’s fitting that this story began from something floating free: a dandelion seed.

About a month ago I decided to get a tattoo. I’ve wanted one for years, ever since I interviewed a bunch of people with tattoos and piercings for a study in college. I knew that I wanted the tattoo on my right shoulder blade. But, I’d never figured out what I wanted the tattoo to be.

Bright yellow flowers dotted the grass all over my neighborhood in late March. Some of them had already turned into little white poof-balls, the delight of children and bane of lawn-keepers everywhere. I picked one and blew it at my husband, and that was when I finally realized what I wanted: a tattoo of a dandelion gone to seed, with little parachute-seeds flying off along my shoulder.

I began to doodle when I got home, trying to get it right. All of my siblings can make beautiful pictures with their eyes closed. Me? Well, there’s a reason I paint my pictures with words. I break a sweat drawing a stick figure. While I often have very clear pictures of settings, characters, and all sorts of other things in my head, I usually don’t try to sketch them out. But a tattoo seemed different. It seemed like it needed to come from me. As I wore out my eraser trying to draw this picture, though, a strange thing happened: I began to remember an idea I’d had for a story about a year ago.

What if a little girl hitched a ride on a dandelion seed?

It was just the breath of an idea, a bit of colored light. I’d nearly forgotten about it. But, as I sketched, bits and pieces of this story idea became part of the picture.

There’s a ship resting above the seed-head. The hull needs to be the hollowed-out husk of a small nut. No, a blade of grass, shaped and dried and cured. The captain needs a big hat. The rudder is made out of a piece of a butterfly’s wing…

Soon, I was no longer drawing a tattoo. I was drawing a story.

Now that story is growing in my head. It’s going to be a serial story, and I think I’m going to put it here, on this blog. I’ve never done a serial before, and my plan is to post each piece soon after I write it–before I get a chance to panic and bury it in a drawer somewhere. It’s going to be an experiment, and it’s going to be rough. Hopefully it’ll be fun, too.

I am going to take some time to build the world and characters before I launch into telling the story. It’ll probably be about a month before I’m ready to start, and I’m going to let this blog idle until then.

In the meantime, here is my best doodle of The Good Ship Whimsy. With luck, I’ll be back with more in June.

The Good Ship Whimsy

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