Steven Savage has the turn of mind that plays with permutations, and has come up with an entire page of generators. Mostly they’re just for fun, or as an aid to imagination for gamers; but a couple of them generated material that would catch my eye in a slush ms. One is the Academic SF Generator (inexplicably filed under character-related generators), which generates fields of study:
Alien Pharmacology Business Artificial IntelligenceEven better is the Action Film Trailer Generator. It’s meant to generate parodic action-movie trailer voiceovers. I looked at the first one it generated:
Ethical Industrial Computing
Modern Interdimensional Zoology
In a city of fear, four actors and a bounty hunter oppose crime.Sounded interesting.
In a galaxy of computerization, an astronomer tries to participate in the greatest fighting tournament of history.Cool. (Later on, I also got In a dark universe, two supercomputers hope to participate in the greatest fighting tournament of history. I liked that one, too.)
In a corrupt world, in a time of conspiracy and illusions, a grave robber and a conjurer seek vengance.That had possibilities.
In a forgotten world of magic, in a time of confusion and prophecy, three computer programmers search for a mystic artifact.So did that one.
In a hellish empire, two colonists and a prospector battle crime.There’ve been days when I’ve killed slush for hours without running into anything that interesting.
On a planet of enchantment, a gigolo searches for a mysterious treasure and battles evil.
In a terrifying city of monsters, four botanists search for fame.
In an empire of blood and warfare, in an era of lies, three queens battle an evil corporation.
In a land of barbarism, a swordsman and an artificial intelligence fight evil.
In a city of demons and wonder, a nun and a gambler attempt to solve the ultimate crime and prevent the apocalypse.
In an empire of dreams and illusion, four psychologists and an exorcist fight a syndicate of aliens.
In a mysterious land of technology, an assassin searches for the ultimate weapon and fights evil.In a universe of fear and sorcery, seven priests search for love and battle crime.
You can configure the generator to give you a bunch of results at once, so I set it for 25 per click and kept reading. Within half a dozen clicks it came up with summaries of the plots of John Brunner’s The Traveller in Black and Roger Zelazny’s Jack of Shadows, and did a near-miss on Jim Macdonald’s The Apocalypse Door. You could be in worse company.
A summary isn’t a plot, a plot isn’t a novel, and having the ingredients isn’t the same thing as knowing how to write fiction; but if that’s what you’re trying to do, you might want to have a look at that generator and see if it shakes anything loose inside your head.