Pantser Stage 1: What the Heck Do I Do With This Story?

Miners gather around a ditch to mine gold.

I thought I would document my story process for something I’m working on now.  It’s a fantasy short story with a minimum 3,000 word requirement.  I’ve wanted to do something other than flash fiction, since there are more paying markets.  An anthology call inspired it, though, for me, it’s venturing into very scary territory:

Fantasy in a historical setting.

Writers talk about being 100% accurate right down to the obscure details, and take glee in outing people who got something wrong.  I’m not detail-oriented at all so this is really intimidating.  I’ve avoided anything historical like it had the plague because of this.  But I took a lecture series on research, and that’s given me some ideas of how to make it happen without spending a fortune in time doing research.

I have no idea what I’m going to do with this story.   At this point, I don’t even know what it’s about.  But I do know that I have to start with the setting first.  That I learned during the 10 Weeks of 10 Stories.  I’m really bad with details, and have ended up redrafting stories solely because of the details.  But if I have them up front, I’ll do a lot better about getting them in the story when I create it.

What setting?

I’m thinking that everyone is likely to do Steampunk and head for the Civil War, or soon after.  I’m from California.  What’s there?  The Gold Rush!

I hit the internet, playing book tourist, or in this case, web tourist.  What’s out there?  I quickly find the Oakland Museum of California, and it’s got lots of pictures.   I was a little aggravated that I couldn’t make the pictures bigger to see them better.  Hey, guys, some of us are old and can’t see as well any more!

But I liked that it wasn’t a university site that dumped dull information on me.  I got nuggets (pun intended) of information that started an idea to bud.  Maybe.  Hawaiians were in Gold Rush (along with just about everyone else from all over the world), so I can piggyback existing novel research into the story.  I’m lazy!  I admit it!  And there’s a piece of technology from this time that I might be able to turn into something magic, which I got from a photo.

Gold Rush will work.  On to digging out the details on Sierra Nevada Mountains, where all the pretty stuff was found.  Won’t be as painful as it was mining all that gold.

Coming Next:  I have a setting: Now what?