Story Idea

It was a dark and stormy night…”

“Haven’t we heard this story before?” Richie asked.

“Dad, come on that is so cliche.” Connor made a face.

“Mom! Dad is trying to be a weatherman again.” Duncan yelled.

“Listen to your father boys. He is trying out a new story idea.”

“Where was I?” Dad clears his throat. “It was a dark and stormy night. Conan threw the tent flap open and…”

“Wait. Are we talking the Conan? Like The Cimmerian Conan? Or TV dude Conan?” Connor asked.

“What? Yes the real Conan. Why would TV guy be in one of my stories?”

“I think you should Dad. Conan vs Conan.” Duncan giggled.

“Honey, where did we put the boys? These are heathens. And critics. No respect at all for the arts.”

“Oh dear. Did we not get the right ones? I told you we should have picked the other three.”

“Mom!” Connor, Duncan and Richie chorused. “We are your sons.”

Dad clapped his hands. “Back to the story. Conan stepped out of the weather. His advisor handed him a towel…”

“Remember to keep the naughty bits out. Your audience is still in the PG category.” Mom called out. “Just in case you forgot who was listening.”

“Aww Mom. Those are the best parts. Don’t listen to her Dad. Fellows gotta stick together.”

“Boys this is a learning moment. Moms are always right,” he leaned close and whispered “until they’re not.”

“I heard that dear.”

This is an ill omen for the battle tomorrow. Slogging through mud gets men killed”. His advisor said.

Perhaps. Perhaps not. Bad weather drives man and beast inside. Guards are down. Bad weather is the thief’s friend.” Conan muttered to himself thinking.

What are you thinking old friend?”

A small force sneaking into the camp and causing chaos. Perhaps if they’re lucky they’ll get the one in charge. Men won’t go into battle without a leader.”

Who will you pick? We can’t afford to lose you. So you must pick someone to lead this merry band of lunatics.”

“Hurry up Dad. Get to the good parts.” The boys chorused.

“Dear you had best pick up the pace. Your audience is getting restless.” She peaked into the bedroom. She hid a smile, the boys were scattered around the bed surrounding him. Even the dog was listening intently.

“Fine. Fine. Screaming trailed through Conan’s camp. “What is all this ruckus?” Conan roared. The camp fell silent. The wet bedraggled woman landed at his feet. His men were bleeding and panting with the effort. She growled at him. He looked at her.

Who is this? Looking at her curiously, he noted the bruises and cuts on his men. The woman didn’t look to have been misused or abused. Her clothes were muddied and soaked, but she was otherwise unharmed. He frowned at her. Had one woman gotten the better of his men?

“Who is she Dad?”

“What happened to taking out the bad guys’ leader?”

“How come she beat up the good guys?”

“All in good time boys, all in good time. It takes time to build a story. And not everything is as it seems.”

“Mom! Dad is talking in cliches again. Make him stop and just tell us who she is.” The boys pouted.

“Now, now my loves. Sometimes storytellers have to take a moment and regroup. Is that right dear?” She stepped into the room and lightly massaged his shoulders. A quick peck on top of his head and she left the room.

He watched her leave. Clearing his thoughts he said let’s get back in the story.

Conan and Writing

Quiz time: Conan, first thought?

Some folks might answer the late night show host or Arnie’s big break out movie or the new Conan movie. A few die hards will think of the comic books or campy books from the ’70s and ’80s. Not sure how many will think of Conan and his creator, Robert E. Howard, the father of the “sword and sorcery” genre. Most us at some point have come in contact with the whole barbarian, sword and spell slinger tall tale and for a while it was a staple in the movie going world. Howard wrote for the “pulp” magazines of his day, some of which are still around. Weird Tales published most of his stories, including the Conan tales, Krull the forerunner of Conan, and Soloman Kane. The Kane stories pit a man’s desire to save his soul and saving the innocents around him. Very strange twist of writing and may expose Howard’s own conflicted emotions. I offer no info or conclusions as I have not yet read the Soloman Kane stories.

Conan offers no such moral dilema, he does as he pleases with little regard for the consquences. He is sure in his right, however rarely do we see him engaged in bad behavior. Howard through Conan alludes to his theivery and murdering yet when we join him on his quests there is method and purpose to his madness. Always portrayed as a barbarian from Cimmeria, he is intellegant yet supersious of magic and the supernatural. His code and honor are unbreakable and he helps the ones that can not help themselves. Only after they have proven themselves to be worthy of our hero’s aid. The old adage of help yourself and help will be given. 

A less kind reader would note and speak at length on the dated language and attitudes presented. In fact many an older writer has fallen into this quagmire Kipling, Hemingway and other distigushed writers. To this reader I would say in 80 or 100 years our own language could be viewed in similar terms. So if you look for bias you will find it. 

So what does this have to do with writing? In one of my writing projects I revisit Conan in the modern world. I use his mythos and strength to teach my heroine that she can be the hero of her own tale. She is contracted to create an illuminated manuscript of the Howard Conan tales in time for the hundred year celebration of his publication. And then the bad things start happening, her shop is broken into, her father disappears and other misadventures. 

Just some thoughts on how Conan is still a valid hero of the modern age. Cheers on the 4th of July week. james