the legend of Captain Hartley

One idea does not a story make.  Having attempted to write many a one idea story, and not yet succeeded, I have learned, truly and deeply, the truth of this statement.   But there are times when an idea comes along that seems to have some legs to run, but which doesn’t have the legs to finish the race.

At the end of last week, Fiona visited the office in the library she’ll soon be moving in to.  In the corner stands an old filing cabinet, and I wrote, It would be cool if there were a locked drawer in that filing cabinet, containing a map to the lost treasure of Captain Hartley.  And yes, I do think it would be cool, because I still not so secretly wish to find the map to a treasure whose value comes in the finding. I loved this sort of story when I was younger, and it’s a storyline that’s never let go its hold of me.

I should say that part of this is trying to create a local legend that doesn’t exist.  Our university library is the Hartley Library.  I have no idea of whether the Hartley for whom the library is named was ever a captain, and in fact I suspect he was an educator and never part of any military organization whatsoever.  But as contrary to fact as it is, I like the idea of the legend of a Captain Hartley.  I like this idea that this Captain Hartley has a secret significant enough to warrant a map.

I spent part of the time driving back from Oxford earlier today thinking about Captain Hartley, and what sort of map he might draw, and what sort of treasure he might hide, and how that map would find its way into a locked filing cabinet drawer in an office in the library. 

I have a file that I keep, of all of the ideas that I’d like to build into stories, and it’s getting long at this point.  Captain Hartley has a place on that list, along with Leavenworth for magic users (a story that I think I’ll never write, given the scale of the genre); pirate Santa (yo ho ho); anything involving Wilma the cat; the person whose job it is to distribute the last few possessions of people about to be executed; rewriting books I read as rewritten from a science fiction point of view, like Incarnations: 50 Indian Lives (which I’m very much enjoying); and ideas that are good enough that I want to save them for myself. 

But I also know that Captain Hartley has now stolen a piece of my attention that he’s not willing to give up.  And so at some point, there will be a story about Captain Hartley, and all I can hope is that, when it’s finally written and when you finally read it, it’s not the story you expected but it’s still a story that you will have enjoyed reading.

~ by Jim Anderson on 26 February 2017.

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