This is the eighth year in a row I've run this series in April. Each day, I'll give you some tips on how to come up with stories.
Tip: Public domain.
Laws vary from country to country, but if a person, event, book is considered to be in the public domain, then from a writer's perspective, it is free content, you don't need to secure any rights.
You want to adapt "Romeo and Juliet" into a contemporary gang shoot-em-up love story, you can do that.
You want to turn Abraham Lincoln into a vampire hunter, you can do that.
Straight adaptation, genre bend, gender bend, whatever you want to do, you can do it with a public domain entity. Plus the added benefit: Pre-awareness.
Today's story: In India, a Young Girl Was Found Living With Monkeys.
Making headlines worldwide is the disclosure by a hospital in Uttar Pradesh that they are rehabilitating a girl who has been with them for two months — ever since woodcutters found her in the forest, naked and surrounded by monkeys.
Stories of "feral children" raised by animals are well-known in fiction and have been recorded throughout history, but with the advent of the modern media, international fascination with this case is huge. In the video above — one of many online — we see the girl, thought to be 10–12 years old, lying in her bed. Around her is the flash of cameras and the murmur of crowds. As the Washington Post reports, the Indian press has taken to comparing her to Mowgli, the Indian feral child character in Rudyard Kipling's "The Jungle Book."
When she was discovered, the girl appeared emaciated and "had wounds all over her body," leading police and doctors to speculate that she could have been raised since infancy by the primates — she was groomed just like a monkey. When the police removed her from the forest, monkeys chased the car, after trying to protect her as one of them. Even after the past few months at the hospital, she displays "an aversion to human interaction." The chief medical superintendent overseeing her hospital, D.K. Singh, told the press:
"The way she moved, even her eating habits were like that of an animal. She would throw food on the ground and eat it directly with her mouth, without lifting it with her hands. She used to move around using only her elbows and her knees. … She behaves like an ape and screams loudly if doctors try to reach out to her."
The situation does not seem completely hopeless, however. Her condition is improving, and "she has begun to walk normally by herself and eat food with her own hands." While she still does not speak, she gestures with the staff in order to communicate. And there are past examples that suggest she might one day be able to integrate with human surroundings, although many cases do not fully "recover" from their experience.
The article is right: feral children stories have been popular in literature and film. But there are two things which sparked something in my imagination:
Anthropologist Mary Ann Ochota, who has studied the phenomenon, and emphasizes that the real-life children are not subject to the magic of myth and fairytale. It's often, unfortunately, very much the opposite. "These aren't Jungle Book stories, they're often harrowing cases of neglect and abuse," Ochota observed. "And it's all too likely because of a tragic combination of addiction, domestic violence and poverty. These are kids who fell through the cracks, who were forgotten, or ignored, or hidden."
What is the background of the girl? What happens when it hits the news that the girl has been found? Do her parents / caretakers come forward? If they do, do we learn of the circumstances of the girl's disappearance? In a twist, maybe the people presenting themselves as the girl's parents aren't and are appear on the scene to profit off their relationship with the girl.
The second thing is this: "When the police removed her from the forest, monkeys chased the car, after trying to protect her as one of them."
This ratchets up the story significantly if the monkeys persist in trying to free the girl. Especially if the girl is not taking to her reintroduction to the world of humanity.
One possible final image: Buildings ablaze, the monkey clan having set fire to them, and the girl joins the monkeys in moving away into the misty night. In effect, she rejects her humanity in favor of her monkey 'family'.
There you go: My fifteenth story idea for the month. And it's yours. Free!
What would you do with it?
Each day this month, I invite you to click on RESPONSES and join me to do some further brainstorming. Take each day's story idea and see what it can become when you play around with it. These are all valuable skills for a writer to develop.
See you in comments. And come back tomorrow for another Story Idea Each Day For A Month.
For other posts in my A Story Idea Each Day for a Month (2017) series, go here.