1. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    Handling a time loop paradox

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Lea`Brooks, Mar 4, 2016.

    My current WIP is a fantasy with a loop paradox. I didn't think it would be much of an issue, but the more I think on it, the more I realize I could use opinions.

    Short version: Hundreds of years before my story begins, there was a war. A king became greedy, and the Death a God became too powerful. The Death God was sealed to prevent him from accidentally destroying the world. Flash to present, the Death God has been released. Only the person with the power to control time can defeat him. There is only one person alive who can do this -- my MC. So she defeats him, then realizes she has to go back in time to the first time he was defeated and do it again.

    Long version: There are three gods: Life, Death, and Spirit. They rely on a delicate balance of power. If one of them gets too strong, it weakens the other two. After the king became greedy, he started a war to take over the world. In this war, many died, fueling the Death God and making him stronger than Life and Spirit. They have no choice but to seal him (isn't revealed how they did it), so that his power will decrease until they are balanced again.

    Flash to the present, the Death God has been released. Through two or three books, it's revealed that only one type of magic can defeat the Death God -- time. It was a gift given by the Gods as a fail safe in case the balance between the gods needed to be restored (because they would be too weak to do it themselves). But only one person in a generation has it. It passes from parent to child at birth. If said time user has no children, it passes to closest relative at death. My MC is this person. She defeats the Death God, then figures out that she is the same person who sealed him the first time. She's also an ancient queen that legends are told about. Because, before she can seal the Death God in the past, she has to stop the war that gave him power to begin with, otherwise it'll just keep fueling him. So she ends the war, seals the Death God, and becomes queen in the past, setting many of the rules and regulations that she lived by in the present.

    Issue: I have three ideas on why SHE was the one that had to go back -- but I'm not sure which would be better. So...

    Option One: She has to go back in time because the time magic user during the first imprisonment of the Death God is still a baby. The issue with this one though is why this baby couldn't just go back later once she's grown up to entrap him, or why her child couldn't have done it, or.... Something... (Paradoxes hurt my head.)

    Option Two: Life and Spirit gods hadn't granted anyone the ability of time travel yet. They hadn't realized it could be an issue, so they didn't bother. But after my MC travels back in time, they learn it must be done, so they granted someone the ability after she leaves. But the issue with that is, it creates a major argument -- if the gods didn't give anyone the power, then no one would've been able to travel back in time to tell them to give someone the power. You feel me?

    Option Three: Same as above, except the gods don't give anyone the power. My MC simply stays in the past, has children, and continues the line of time magic users herself. But then the obvious issue with that is she's her own great (times a hundred) grandmother, and where did the magic come from in the first place?

    Or Secret Option Four: Whatever the hell you can come up with that's better than what I came up with. :D


    I just don't know how thoroughly I need to explain this concept to the reader. It's partly inspired by a game on PS2, the Jak & Daxter series. In the second game, Jak travels into the future, only to learn that he was born in that time and sent back into the past to be raised. In the third game, it's speculated that he's the same person who created all of the cool shit you've been using in the game. And the game didn't give too much detail about it. They didn't explain it too much. And they probably should've. Because Jak literally saved his own life (the child version of himself) and literally brought the time machine to the future that sent him to the past. The time machine breaks, so then the girl who came to the future with him makes a new one in the future, based on the model from the past. So the loop there is probably worse than the one I'm creating, and they didn't elaborate too much...

    So I guess my question is, other than which option is best, do I really need to go into heavy detail about it? If I just have a scene where my MC says, "Why me? Why can't someone else go back and do this?" To which the gods reply with, "Because your magic doesn't exist in that time yet." Is that enough? Or do I need to give the reader a solid explanation? Am I making any sense? lol

    Thanks for reading.


    Now I wanna play Jak and Daxter....
     
  2. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    To quote Star Trek "you humans think so linearly"

    Time does not move, it just is.

    If you have power over time (like Doctor Who) you just are wherever in time you need/want to be.

    It is just humans whose existence perceives time as flowing only one way.

    Your MC is able to step apart from the "present" time and step into the "past" time.

    Because the logical corollary of power over time is that you do not age, therefore the one neo-human with power over time does not need to reproduce - in fact it's positively discouraged; who needs hundreds of them? So your MC has always been.
     
  3. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    Umm.... That could dramatically change my story, and I'd have to redo everything I've planned so far. :p Thanks though.
     
  4. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think I got something for you! :D

    Okay, so first. General ideas I try to keep in mind with this. Readers are not quantuam scientists and because of this, you don't need to reflect real life. I think Shadowfax is right but you are writing a fantasy book with gods of life and time and stuff. Right is over-rated. I think it is true to say if popular opinion is one way, then you can benefit to play off of that opinion. It depends what you are doing though, if you want a serious story that debunks common mistakes. Than, yeah, your limited, but if you want a fun story it is more about sounding right, than being right.

    So, that being said. What is the most common thing that I think angers me and most people about time travel? The fact that time travel re-writes the events and some needed assumptions get made with that. Take Harry Potter, book 3. The most perfect example for this to me. Like where they threw a rock at themselves to help them escape. How did they originally escape? Or Harry said that he knew he could do it because he saw himself do it. How did he know before he did it? These might even be answerable questions but because the material didn't answer them. I disliked it.

    So here is my idea. What if, sealing the god of death severally injured the other two gods. To the point that their power became weakened to the point of non-use. Your MC goes back to save them from that. Normally this would beg the question. Wouldn't time re-write itself now that they aren't injured. Nope! Because! They were to weak before to get involved. Knowing that, they can stay out on purpose to prevent the timeline from changing. If the gods helped in the story. They can still do that. Because if they helped, they helped the MC, so she could in theory make them aware of this either by knowing and telling or by showing them the original time line since she has time based magic.

    I really like this idea mainly because it has this one super epic moment. In which either they tell her or she figured out, the other gods had been inactive all this time for the sake of the time line and after she wins, they will have safeguarded the timeline and can now once again reemerge into the world doing what they do.

    I know it wasn't as simple as me picking your 3 options but I think this fixes the paradox issue, as there is an original timeline, a altered time line and an explanation on how the altered timeline didn't negate the original altering of the timeline. Does that make sense?
     
  5. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    You're thinking about this in the wrong direction. There have been legends about a time traveler who could fix everything. You main character has heard the rumors, passed down through centuries. But why would the Gods need to make more than one person with time powers? All you need is one person, who can travel to any time. The Gods gave her the power when they realized she needed it, but when they gave her the power is irrelevant in any but her personal perception of time.

    So your main character has heard rumors of herself traveling through time, assumed that there were several people passing it on genetically, not realizing that she was the focus of all of the rumors and legends.
     
  6. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's what I originally planned. But then it turns into the "Chosen One" trope, which I was trying to avoid. I know how many readers dislike it.
     
  7. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    But she's not the chosen one at all. She's just some schmuck who got time powers, and then became a legend before she was a legend, so she could become a legend again.
     
  8. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    But... The gods had to give her the time power for a reason, right? Wouldn't that make her the chosen one?

    Just to add, I need her to have powers throughout the whole book. There's magic in my world, but it's incredibly rare. It's only when she displays her use of magic that people start to believe in and encourage her to do her work.
     
  9. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    See: some schumck (above)

    She got the magic powers because she was in the right place at the right time. The gods needed someone and she was there. But this is the best part: because time doesn't matter, she can have had the powers before the gods gave them to her! And then when she goes back in time she can mention that she will be born in the future, and there's the prophecy all wrapped up.
     
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  10. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    I suppose I could make that work... Her parents were helping to bring down a bad group of people, which gets revealed later, so they could've given the power to her because of that... Hmmm... I'll have to see if I can work it out.

    Thanks! :-D
     
  11. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    "Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so." - Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, which should be the sci-fi and fantasy writer's bible IMO. You can never explain/justify a paradox, if you do so it is no longer a paradox from my point of view anyway.
     
  12. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's kind of why I was leaning more toward the unexplained ending, unless I go with what Jack suggested. Just having the answer be vague. It's nearly impossible to explain a paradox, and when you do, it feels less... enjoyable somehow.
     
  13. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    Gods are Life, Death, Spirit, and Time
    Make your MC the god of Time. She reincarnates over and over into a new body during the time periods she needs to go to instead of having her own form. She only understands her whole history when she's around the other gods.

    You can even have an other character come right out and ask her ... "Hey! How'd you do that? Won't you blow up the universe with a paradox." Then she says "I'm a god ..... we don't explain anything."
     
  14. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    That was my very first idea. But I ditched it. :p Just didn't work right.
     
  15. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    I was thinking about this idea yesterday, because I think I'll end up going with it. But a question popped up that I realized might annoy a reader. Why would the gods give her the gift now instead of giving the gift to someone the first time the death god became a problem? :bigconfused:

    Edit: Nevermind, I think I figured it out. :p The gods can't stop the death god because he weakened them. By the time they realized he would need to be stopped, it was too late for them to help. But when they suspect he'll rise again, they give the magic to someone, anyone, just to have a chance.

    But wait! Wouldn't the gods have seen Seren in the past and thus know to give her the magic in the present? No. Duh. Cause they give it to her when she's little and they see her as an adult.

    K, nevermind. :-D
     
  16. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    Another angle might be to change the time traveler's appearance each time they travel. Actually that opens a door to why the traveler doesn't jump back in time whenever, each time they become a different person, new problems, etc. I haven't watched enough Doctor Who to know if this parallels that story line too closely, but I am pretty certain the Doctor doesn't change too often.
     
  17. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    The paradox you're descibing is the bootstrap paradox - a man literally trying to lift himself up into the air by pulling up his boots up by their straps one at a time. And as with all true paradoxes it's unresolvable. If there was an answer as in it were possible it wouldn't be a paradox.

    My thought would be to go for the Moorcock solution - it's not really a solution but it sort of works. The champion eternal. A champion born in many different times and places, in many different forms, but always with the same task - to defeat a foe.

    So in this you have past Ms X and present Ms X - both with the same task of sealing away Death. Past Ms X has already done it. but present Ms X doesn't know how she did it. So she contacts herself in the past. At which point you have two Ms X's fighting two identical battles at two different points in time. (I'd intersperse the chapters.)

    Now both battles are fought simultaneously. The paradox still exists - but doesn't look like one. Especially if you throw in phrases like "you just don't understand time" everywhere. And at the end you then have past Ms X becoming the past Ms X of legend and present Ms X becoming whatever. Then I'd tend to right at the end chuck in something about how Ms X has now "become". Ie she's now a woman who exists throughout time at all times at the same time (yeah the language sucks but the idea sort of works), can interfer with time at any point but in doing so can also unmake the changes simultaniously at another later point in time. In short she has become a god. (Save that she always was - she's really just woken up.)

    Hope that helps. It may require a major rewrite I'm afraid.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  18. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    Oh, well, carry on then.
     
  19. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    I know this is old, but I wanted to let y'all know I figured out the solution!!! I'm actually really excited about it too. I think I'm going to scrap the idea of the gods giving her the power all together, thus eliminating both the potential Chosen One trope and the paradox.

    See, in my novel, there are three groups of magic users. The Guild of the Keepers of Life (life magic), the Acolytes of the Aeron Brotherhood (death magic), and the Grey (spirit magic). It gets a little confusing from there, because a lot of twisted shit happens. But essentially, not all of the Keepers are good guys. They start experimenting with ancient magics, trying to figure out a way to bring them back into the present. My MC's family is part of this group, though they aren't involved or aware of the experiments being done.

    However, when the parents leave on a mission, they leave my MC (Seren) in the hands of the other Keepers. They decide to start using her as part of their experiments. She's only one at the time, so she is the perfect candidate for them, since she can't talk and spill the beans on their project. They somehow figure out a way to harvest an ancient time magic (which went extinct thousands of years before the war), and they end up passing it to Seren! They don't realize it worked though, since she is so young, so she carried on in life having this power without anyone knowing.

    I think it's a very interesting twist that cuts all the issues I was having. Plus, it makes for loads of additional drama that I haven't mentioned here. Weee! I'm excited. :D
     
  20. Raven484
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    Raven484 Contributing Member

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    Very interesting Lea, hope it works for you. Time travelling can be very tricky. A lot needs to be thought through for it to make sense. Good luck!
     

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