1. AJSmith
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    AJSmith Senior Member

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    compulsion

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by AJSmith, Apr 10, 2011.

    Okay, so, most of the way through my fantasy novel, and I've decided that I'm not quite sure I'm happy with the abilities that my MC has been gifted with. Quite frankly, it just feels too easy/convenient. I've spent most of today mulling this over as well as doing some other research and I'm stumped. I know that whatever direction I go, I will be in for a major overhaul during revision. ugh!

    My MC is an 18 year old who starts the story thinking she's normal... but as this is the age where abilities manifest, she begins having dreams. Her dreams begin telling her things that have actually happened in the past in another place. She soon discovers these aren't ordinary dreams, but more like visions of things that happened...giving her information about a life she knew nothing about. I'm happy with this ability, and it has caused her as much trouble as it has done good for her.

    Now, another ability that she has that soon becomes apparent to her is the ability to compel people to do as she says. They become very inhuman when responding to her commands and simply do as she says. She has hangups about treating people this way, but other than that, this ability comes with no issues for her. She is then able to use this ability to help herself when the antagonists come after her... a little too convenient.

    So... opinions are welcomed and appreciated. From a readers' perspective, does this ability seem too convenient.. a rip off?

    scrap the ability all together?
    keep the ability but add limitations and consequences? If so, what might they be?

    She will, much later discover that she will be able to actually use any ability that she's seen in her visions, but that will be after a lot of having to make due without, and having to make several "puzzle pieces" fit together just so.

    Thanks so much... I've just hit a mental wall at the moment.
     
  2. louismonette
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    louismonette Member

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    Hey, well i think its a great ability, but there are ways to make it more balanced. Like what if each time she uses the mind controle, she looses some of her humanity. The more against the will of the person the command is, the more she feels cold and empty.
     
  3. Mr. Blue Dot
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    Mr. Blue Dot Member

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    Can you give your antagonists defenses against it? Maybe they use earplugs, so her voice doesn't effect them? Or could they have trained themselves to counter/ignore her ability?

    Maybe one of your antagonists is simply deaf, and left unaffected, that could be interesting.
     
  4. NateSean
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    NateSean Active Member

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    First off, get that last three words out of your head. Because the more you think about how like something else it is the quicker you will lose confidence in your story.

    Of course I can think of other stories that have used the "memories from another life resurfacing" plot device. But that's not why I'm reading your
    story. I'm reading your story because I want to see if it stands out from those others.

    I find this interesting. In most stories where powers manifest themselves in a character, they usually surface at puberty. Usually between the ages of thirteen or sixteen.

    Why is it eighteen for this character? Is there a signficance about the age that made you decide that this was the time for her powers to manifest? And define normal. What's "normal" for where she has grown up?

    Does her family have a history of being eccentric and she's the one trying desperately to be more acceptable in the eys of her peers? Is she quiet and reserved in a society that punishes or alienates outspoken women? Is this a highly religious village that would persecute and condemn her if they found out about her abilities?

    Here's an interesting question. Are these actual visions, or are they memories? Something very signficant would have to happen in my life before I accepted a dream as a vision of something real. And I've dreamt about some crazy (and terrifying) things.

    Are these visions of things that are happening to someone else? Because this could be a huge step in developing her character. How does she react to that information? Do these actions ostracize her from her peers? (IE, does she see someone being murdered and because she goes to the police/sherrif/priest and helps them find the murderer, do the townfolk now suspect her?)


    So make it less convenient. I mean, if I could manipulate someone into buying me lunch or giving me a ride somewhere, I'd get over it pretty quickly.
    If I had to, say, manipulate someone to take a bullet for me, that would weigh pretty heavily on my conscience. Or in a slightly less extreme case, what if I manipulated a doctor into giving a loved one a procedure that wasn't authorized by the hospital, costing him his job and literally his career?

    All of these are questions, or instances that could come up that would force your character to question herself and her new development.
     
  5. Ellipse
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    Ellipse Contributing Member Contributor

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    What do you mean inhuman? Do they follow her commands like a mindless robot? Does the person have any recollection of doing as she says? Is there a certain ritual she has to follow in order to use this ability or can she just go up to any person and say, "Hey, you! Do this for me!"

    It sounds like you need to discover the limits and boundaries of her abilities.
     
  6. AJSmith
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    AJSmith Senior Member

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    Ellipse: when I say inhuman, I do mean that they get very robot-like, emotionless. When she discovered she had this ability, she tested it out on her sister (with her sister urging her to), and discussed it afterward. To her, her sister seemed robotlike, but it stood out to her because she knows her sister so well. In other recent incidents, she didn't notice it really, except to be surprised that the people just listened to her. Her sister told her the experience was more about forgetting any other option except the one the MC commanded. The sister said it was more like the best idea she's ever heard, the only idea.

    No spell needed, just a very direct command, eye contact, specificity.

    I agree I need to figure out the boundaries/limits to this ability.
     
  7. AJSmith
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    AJSmith Senior Member

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    NateSean:

    The abilities do normally develop beginning around puberty... late bloomers no later than around her age, though hers is on the late side. It was an intentional attempt on the part of her adoptive parents. Abilities often, not always, develop in a moment of distress/crisis. Her adoptive parents raised her in a very small, very quiet town and taught her a lot of self reliance skills in to hope to put of her abilities developing. It worked... until it didn't. Once the abilities develop, she can essentially be found by the world she doesn't know she's in hiding from.

    When I say normal, I mean pretty normal. No real trauma, emotional or physical up until this point, supportive parents she doesn't know are adopted. Small friendly town. She has always felt she didn't quite fit in though.

    She thinks her dreams are dreams in the beginning... actually for quite a long time. They are incredibly vivid, and she is always in the body of someone in the vision, doing as they do. She realizes it's something more when her parents names are very specifically mentioned after having the dreams (that are all connected for weeks). She confronts her parents about it (maybe thinking it is memories), and accidentally commands them to tell her the truth, finding out she's been having visions.

    She does have emotional hang-ups about using the compulsion even on a small scale, but is that enough to limit such an ability. I need some major consequences I think, to discourage the use... hmmm
     
  8. AJSmith
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    AJSmith Senior Member

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    Mr. Blue dot: I've considered something along those lines. The antagonists (at least one of them), has a very convenient, yet different ability of his own that he could use to help him get past her compulsion.. at least to the point of duct taping her mouth shut. I don't know if ear plugs would do it... just because he can't hear it.. does that mean the command was not made? I don't know :)
     
  9. AJSmith
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    AJSmith Senior Member

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    louismonette: I've thought about the loss of humanity thing... the more forceful the command/or less likely the person would actually be to do it, the more humanity she would lose. But how would she know this was happening to her?
     
  10. louismonette
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    louismonette Member

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    Ummm, that is a good question, i will ponder over that question while i sip on my coffee and comeback to you with an idea.
     
  11. AJSmith
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    AJSmith Senior Member

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    also... as far as limitations go...

    can she make someone do something totally against their nature, such as take their own life?

    how long could something like this last?

    over what distance? Could she tell someone to go back to where they came from, and they would listen, even if it required two plane rides and some ground travel to get there?

    I've been mulling these over in an attempt to set limits on this one, and I have not come up with a happy solution

    In the world she comes from, each ability is as unique just as each person is unique. There may be two similar abilities, but there were be subtle differences, just as two blonds have various differences between them. Because of this, there is no manual... the abilities are more of an art form learned over the lifetime of the user. Additionally, she had no clue about them, so she's even more in the dark.
     
  12. KP Williams
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    KP Williams Contributing Member

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    Why does she have to know? I'd say slowly losing your humanity without realizing it makes for a much more interesting tale. It would be tricky to do well, though.

    This power makes me think of the Jedi mind trick, a compulsion ability that only works on those of weak willpower. If the person has a simple and naive mind, you can tell him to do almost anything--jumping into a hundred-meter pit, for instance. But the stronger a person's mind is, the less effective the trick is and the quicker they can overcome it, up to a certain point where the person is completely immune to it. That could be a possible limitation here.

    Alternately, if you need to power to work on everyone, you could make it so that the compelled person is less capable than he usually is. Instead of his graceful stride, he stumbles around; instead of his educated eloquence, he speaks in monotone or with a slur. Et cetera.
     
  13. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    The ability does sound a little over-powered. Some suggestions for weakening it:

    • The MC is rendered unconscious for as long as it takes her victim to carry out their task.
    • After the MC has used her ability on someone, they become aware of it, and get angry with her.
    • To use her ability on someone, she first needs to trick them into ingesting some part of her body - a small amount of blood, a toenail clipping, a strand of hair...
    • After she has used her ability on someone, that person can make her follow their commands for the same length of time.
    • After she has used her ability on someone, she becomes passive and will-less and follows anyone's commands for the same length of time.
    • Instead of making people do anything, the MC can make them believe anything for a short time, so she has to be clever and manipulate them into doing what she wants.
     
  14. Mr. Blue Dot
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    Mr. Blue Dot Member

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    From the way you were describing it, I was sort of picturing the power being based off of sound, since she has to say the commands out loud. And if the power is based on sound, all the limitations of sound could come with it. You can filter sound, or cancel it, it can't be made in airless spaces, stuff like that.
     
  15. AJSmith
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    AJSmith Senior Member

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    I see what you mean. :)

    Thanks everyone for the great ideas... not sure how I'm going to fix this girl yet, but you've given me plenty of possibilities to consider. This really has been helpful for me.
     
  16. AJSmith
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    AJSmith Senior Member

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    What if... once someone has recognized what she is doing in her commands, they are less effective on them, unless they are incredibly weak willed. This would make the ability unpredictable and and inconsistent. Those who are very strong willed would possibly not even be affected in the first place.

    When trying it on family, those more willing to do things for her anyway, it appears to work, but then she realizes, possibly at a very bad time, that people can think their way through it if they want to. It turns out to be more of the ability of persuasion than compulsion. ??

    This too, would make it less likely that she could make people do things totally against their nature... such as killing themselves at her command or stopping their attempts at whatever goals they've set for themselves.
     
  17. Backbiter
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    Backbiter Contributing Member

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    The compulsion ability seems very similar to the power of Lelouch Lamperouge in the anime/manga Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion. In the anime, his ability has many restrictions that he discovers and tests over time, one example being the requirement of direct eye-contact. Another of his restrictions is that the power can only be used on a person once; the same person cannot be affected twice.

    If you want, you could try searching on Google for "Lelouch Lamperouge" and reading up on his power, possibly borrowing or modifying some of those restrictions and limitations.
     
  18. AJSmith
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    AJSmith Senior Member

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    Thanks!
     

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