1. Tim Gaylard
    Offline

    Tim Gaylard New Member

    Joined:
    May 19, 2014
    Messages:
    1
    Likes Received:
    0

    Believably placing an average character into extraordinary circumstances

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Tim Gaylard, May 19, 2014.

    Hello everyone.

    As an introduction to myself, I am new to this forum and also new to novel writing. I may possibly be on the spectrum (but we all are) and I have been meaning to actually turn some of my more creative ideas into something for quite some time. I am asking for help with a plot device/character development issue but I am also open to criticism so if this sounds more like a screenplay then please let me know.

    To describe the opening chapters....I have decided on the name of Christopher Anselm for my main character (due to the religious and philosophical connotations). A science fiction story of an average man being chosen to act as an ambassador for mankind due to his ability to empathise with his fellow man on an unusually high level. Aliens land on earth and upon meeting them, the main character is exposed to a full understanding of the universe. This is too much for the human brain and the main character suffers a fatal aneurysm. The aliens revive the main character. He is then informed that the reason the aliens travelled to earth is due to a war on their home planet. In their desperation to survive the onslaught, their attempt at a scientific advantage led to a formula that would create a perfect soldier, but was only compatible with human DNA. The character is then told that they must travel to this planet immediately and that he is not permitted to say goodbye to his loved ones. He is also informed that he will never see them again due to the amount of time space travel takes.

    At this point, I'm slightly embarrassed as I am unsure if this is a decent plot or something you'd read in a 1960s comic.

    Anyway, taking some pride in my idea, what I'm asking for is... Any ideas on how the main character is approached by the government to act as an ambassador in the first place. I'm thinking social network but I want it to seem believable and not like a conspiracy theory. The character is 32 and I would like him to work in customer service or retail as it gives more depth to his understanding and empathy for people as well as makes him average on a universal level.

    Any help is appreciated.
     
  2. jazzabel
    Offline

    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2012
    Messages:
    4,273
    Likes Received:
    1,666
    By the time I read 'due to the war on their home planet' I started thinking 'Superman' and when I read the 'only compatible with human DNA' I started seeing those villains floating in oddly shaped tv/mirrors through space. So I think your plot idea could do with being better developed and less predictable and plot-devicy. But, and this is a massive but. Regardless of the ideas, the only thing that matters is whether you can write well enough. A good writer will tell an engaging and meaningful story regardless of the theme, and well measured writing lends itself particularly well to the most outlandish as well as most boring ideas. But that kind of skill takes time to master, years at least, so don't expect miracles overnight :)
     
  3. Pepsik
    Offline

    Pepsik Member

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2014
    Messages:
    46
    Likes Received:
    11
    Ok so two questions immediately popped up after reading your plot synopsis thing. Sooo first question. Is there any particular reason that the formula the aliens made only works when paired with human dna? Did they make it to be the way? Did they have any idea that it would turn out that way? And if so why didn't they make it compatible with another species of alien? I mean, you already insinuated that there is other life out there other than humans. Idk, maybe you'll explain it later, but that's besides the point.

    Question number 2, how long exactly has this war been going on? Because you said the main character would NEVER be able to see his family again due to the amount of time it takes to travel from earth to their home planet. Soooo wouldn't your main character be like 70 by the time he got to their planet or something? And wouldn't by the time the aliens got to Earth their planet would be...blown up because of...war.... Idk :)

    ALSO, Your main character is an ambassador for human kind...for what exactly? Are the aliens gonna blow up Earth and humans need someone to tell them not to? Also he's the ambassador, him alone, because....he's unusually understanding and nice to people? Just a few things I was wondering before I could give you advice really on how to better your story.... :)
     
  4. HelloThere
    Offline

    HelloThere Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2014
    Messages:
    295
    Likes Received:
    240
    I don't think it's believable that one man out of seven billion would be chosen on no other grounds than his empathy. It's more likely they'd use a fully trained diplomat, I mean there's even government departments and organisations dedicated to preparing for first encounters so they'll already have ambassadors selected and whatnot. This idea could perhaps work for a young adult novel but I think other people would question the details too much.

    Just out of interest, is Tim Gaylard your real name? If so, how often has it been changed into Tim Gaylord? :D
     
  5. Catrin Lewis
    Offline

    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2014
    Messages:
    1,668
    Likes Received:
    1,065
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    C. S. Lewis puts his character Elwin Ransom into a similar situation in his space trilogy, but dispenses with the idea of his being "chosen" for anything except as the biological specimen the aliens seemingly want. As it turns out, Ransom has abilities and traits that make him an ideal go-between between Earth and the aliens, but nobody knows that when he's first taken, he's simply there handy.

    By having your Christopher Anselm "chosen" by the authorities for his unusual empathetic abilities, looks to me he stops being ordinary at a very early stage, even before the aliens actually appear on the scene. I'm not suggesting you play a riff on the Out of the Silent Planet scenario, but you might need to do something other than what you've outlined so far if "ordinary guy in extraordinary circumstances" is really your main story question.

    A few questions you'll need to answer for the reader:
    • How are these aliens able to give C. A. "a full understanding of the universe"? Obviously they're finite, mortal creatures as we are, since they're struggling for their survival. If they have this insight to give, what do they need with human DNA? Convince me that's the only thing that'll do for their super-soldier. Re: what @Pepsik said, what do our genes contribute, anyway? Why don't they just take a sample and leave instead of kidnapping a whole live human? If they know so much, surely . . .
    • Following on that, is it really necessary to put him through this death and resuscitation? Is its similarity to a resurrection significant to C. A.?
    • Ditto not allowing him to say goodbye and telling him he can never return. Sure, it ups the pathos in a scene or two, but why not have them just snatch him (or have him come on board for a meeting and treacherously detain him) and let him find out how final his departure is later on?
    I suppose this doesn't answer your question on how the government would recruit such a character, but again, if they go recruiting such a one he's not ordinary and never was, low-level job or not. (If he's that empathetic, why isn't he working as a counsellor someplace? Unless he has flaws and weaknesses that will bite him in the butt later.)

    Following up on what @HelloThere said, the logical candidate for that spokesman role would be a trained and seasoned diplomat. But what if said diplomat chickens out and doesn't want to deal with the aliens? What if he sends his aide, who turns out to be C. A., out there to tell them so, and they think he's the official Earth spokeman and run off with him? And there you go.
     
  6. Catrin Lewis
    Offline

    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2014
    Messages:
    1,668
    Likes Received:
    1,065
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Oh, yeah. Welcome to the forum. :)
     
  7. GoldenFeather
    Offline

    GoldenFeather Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2012
    Messages:
    219
    Likes Received:
    79
    Hmmm this is tricky.

    A random person would not get hired simply because they can empathize like no other. Perhaps this man USED to be in politics, so he has the background, but quit out of disagreement with what the government is doing and then started working a regular job. Years later, the government intentions have changed and so they sought him out and brought him on board again.

    Also, maybe instead of him having an "aneurism" from all the information, he could just have a psychotic break. Makes more sense that it's psychological, cuz knowledge itself wouldn't cause a physical reaction.
     

Share This Page