(This posting originally appeared on The Melt-Ink Pot)
I’ve known this moment was coming since the beginning of November, and I really hoped that when it got here, I’d have the answer I needed, but I don’t. Inspiration has failed to strike, and I’m stuck.
I’ve reached the point in my current Work In Progress, The Daughters of August Winterbourne, where I need to describe a bit of technical gadgetry. Dr. Winterbourne has designed a small weapon that can be made up of parts from four ordinary-looking items. And he has given one of the items to each of his four daughters.
The weapon is a small gun that fires poisonous darts using compressed air. That much I know. I also know that three of the four items Dr. Winterbourne gave the girls are:
- A circular slide rule (looks like an oversized pocket watch, but when you open it, it’s a slide rule. Such things do actually exist, although they weren’t invented for at least sixty years after my story’s time. But it’s an alternate universe, so I’m cheating and using it anyway.) I think that it doesn’t actually get used as part of the weapon, but rather serves as a place to hide the instructions for assembly.
- A very nice, top-of-the-line fountain pen. I’m figuring this is the barrel of the gun, and it might also serve to compress a small amount of air into a chamber.
- A brooch that uses the poison darts as design elements that look like stylized flower petals.
But I’m stuck as to what the fourth item should be, and how it could fit into the weapon. All I know is that it needs to be something a female university student could carry or wear on a daily basis without exciting comment. It should be the kind of thing that (to use a modern analogy) you could take through airport security without getting pulled out of line and strip-searched. But I have no idea what the item could be.
So now what do I do?
Perhaps it’s time to consult The Oracle (a.k.a. my friends on the Internet) once again. They were certainly helpful in the matter of Mr. Fletcher’s name.
In the meantime, I’m not sure how to proceed. I’d really like to know what Mystery Item #4 is before I write the next section, but failing that, I might just have to put up [[And A Miracle Happens Here]] signs in the manuscript and come back to them later. I hate doing that — when I’ve done it in the past, when I go back to fill stuff in, I always end up having to change more than I expected — but it may be my only choice.
What do other people do when technical inspiration fails to strike?