In any case, one of the random story prompts I've had floating around is to take the letters on license plates and turn them into acronyms. On Monday, I picked up the following trio:
I decided that HBU = Here Be Underlings, and EQE = Elemental Queen Elegies. So I had this image of a group of servants who were trying to deal with an overly dramatic queen in mourning. Magical grieving, perhaps, hence the elemental? I did fool around with the acronym a bit before deciding on that form.
But still not a complete concept, or at least not one that interested my brain enough to stick. So I hunted for another license plate:
All right, to me, YLL = Young Lions Legion (or League). I wanted some connotation to the use of lions that wasn't necessarily the obvious: fierce, brave, etc. All right ... so why young? My original thought was that young male lions get kicked out of the pride by the alpha male, so "young lions" would be without mates - pure, in other words. Now, I just looked this up, and it turns out lions don't actually do this, but I may go with it as the denizens of a fantasy society don't know any better ... or I'll change the animal of the acronym, since the point is the inspiration, not slavish dedication to its source.
In any case, I decide the YLL is a mixed gender military company that derives some kind of power from abstaining from sex. And yes, mixed gender, which means that this abstinence is a bit tricky to maintain ... and this starts to suggest a character.
Still not a story. One of the best techniques for coming up a story is to throw two disparate ideas together, so I decided to randomly select an exercise from The 3 A.M. Epiphany (Brian Kiteley). I don't think I've raved about this book recently. It is probably the best writing exercise book I've seen, and best of all, it works for a fantasy writer. My problem with a lot of exercise books is they presume a mainstream setting, and/or the exercise requires modification / contortion to write SF/F ... this one wasn't intended for SF/F writing, but most of the exercises are broadly applicable.
The first exercise I chose was to write a story based off a sporting event, where the result is life or death. Nothing wrong with this, but it just didn't inspire me, so I moved on. A couple inappropriate results, and then I ended up with: "Write a story in which, during several conversations, two people create a fictional character."
That. Lightbulb. I can see a plot where two people, one of them a member of the perhaps-to-be-renamed YLL, the other a palace servant, try frantically to "cover" for their queen to a visiting dignitary by inventing a third party responsible for her distraction. A conclusion suggests itself (which I'm not going to spoil by sharing). A vague arc is implied within these multiple connotations. And I still don't know the details of this fiction-within-a-fiction, but this, to me, is a rounded idea that just needs fleshing out. I've already got some flashes of worldbuilding and character, a conflict, a goal, a direction for solution ...
It's game time. No, I discarded that part.