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William Lashner's PI-Writing Blog

HENCHMEN: the root idea

Monday, April 25, 2011

I like to read other writers' compendiums of ideas.  I mean, Shakespeare stole all his stories, right?  I have a book of Fitzgerald’s notebooks and he had tons of good ideas, such as:

(1) “Story about a man trying to live down his crazy past and encountering it everywhere.”  -- Pretty much “Babylon Revisited,”   -- ; or

(2) “Boredom is not an end product, is comparatively rather an early stage in life and art.  You’ve got to go by or past or through boredom as through a filter before the clear product emerges.”  -- Strangely, a little bit like David Foster Wallace’s posthumous novel, The Pale King.

These are not fully fleshed out things, but you can see enough of the bones to get an idea of what the thing would be.  I’m always jotting down ideas for stories, just enough so I can see the skeleton, and here is the idea I jotted down for Henchman, the incipient novel I’m discussing here (excuse the scattered nature of what follows but this is exactly how I wrote it down a couple years ago):


Told in the voice of the big one, who also, against all odds, is the smart one.  It’s the small one that has the moxie and guts and leads them into all kinds of crap.

His voice is sort of half Brit, not slow so much as considered.  And the way I see it is they end up getting hired by one of the guys trying to take over the world and there’s this secret agent, and the whole James Bond thing happens, but since we get if from their point of view it is all just boring day to day guard this guard that shoot this guy run after that guy sort of stuff.  The world hangs in the balance and they’re blathering on about this and that.

“People all the time are asking how do you get started as a henchman.  I understand, it looks so glamorous from the outside, the clothes, the cars, busting noses, packing heat.  But really, it’s mostly just waiting around.”

Underlying the whole thing is the job, you know, whenever there are partners, one of them is at some point going to get the job of killing the other one.  It’s inevitable and it is frequently discussed by our two henchmen.
Okay, there’s the idea, or the ghost of the idea.  A whole James-Bond-world-at-stake kind of story but told from the POV of a couple of henchman, you know they guys who James Bond kills in bunches.  I like the idea for a lot of reasons: because I think it could be funny, because I always wanted to tell a secret agent story and this seems to be the freshest way, because I like the idea of all this complicated plot machinery happening the background while our two henchmen grouse about the food and the weather.

But before I go on and figure out how to tell the thing, I need to work out whether its startling lack of originality on all levels is enough for me to bury it before it up and burps.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

When are you going to have a new book out for sale? Eagerly awaiting.

June 1, 2011 at 7:35 AM  
Blogger Allan Lloyd said...

Interesting. I've long had the idea of a medieval castle under siege, the handsome hero and his men trying to save the beautiful princess from Basil Rathbone or whoever, and one of the faceless troops being kicked off the ladder he's scaling, him falling to his death, and then a flashback to the real story - his humble life and ordinary love and so on up to his death.

Because it's always pissed me off that so many people get killed in these stories and they're not as important as the hero and heroine.

November 20, 2011 at 11:57 PM  

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