1. Zaphodb2002
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    Zaphodb2002 New Member

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    Help with avoiding cliches

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Zaphodb2002, May 9, 2011.

    So I'm writing a short story now, a sort of horror suspense thing, and I wanted to end it with a twist, something to make the reader think. I'll give you a brief overview of the plot:

    MC wakes up in dilapidated house, doesn't know how he got there. He hears his wife calling for him, and assumes he's been drugged or something, and someone has taken him and his wife hostage. He explores the house, occasionally glimpsing her, as well as the shadowy figures of her captors. Through flashbacks, it is explained that MC and his wife had lost a son in a car accident, and you eventually see their marriage fall apart. As MC continues to try to find his wife, minor supernatural events occur to MC, causing him to doubt his sanity. Shadowy figures try to stop him from reaching his wife, and when he finally gets to her, MC sees her standing over his own dead body, apparently after committing suicide. He had been dead all along, and the shadowy figures take him into the darkness.

    Now, there's a bit more to it than that, but that's the gist. I really like the story, but it's a little M. Night Shyamalan, and I worry about it being kind of cliche. After some interesting research on Wikipedia about the folklore of Shadow People, I learned that there are parts of the brain that can be stimulated to generate shadowy images in a person's peripheral vision, often mistaken for humanoid shapes due to the phenomenon of "pareidolia", or the tendency to see human features in random shapes, which I always thought was interesting. Also, I read about insane asylum patients who are given sedatives that induce a state of vivid, paranoid hallucinations. So I guess my question is, do I go the supernatural route and have him just be dead and in a Purgatory of sorts, or do I go one step further and say it's all in his head, and is an allegory for his deteriorating psyche?
     
  2. JimFlagg
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    JimFlagg Contributing Member

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    This is more like a Poe story than a Shyamalan. What is the story you are trying to tell other than a dead man runs around for a while before he realizes he is dead.

    With 6th sense Manoj was trying to tell us a story about people that can see dead people and how hard it is for these people. The MC being dead was telling us that the dead must move on from the living. What is it that you are trying to tell.
     
  3. wicked_poppies
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    wicked_poppies Member

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    Well, here are my thoughts on the whole thing… first of all, I love the idea. However, I’m worried that the part where the man is in the house will be interesting, and the part where he’s reliving the past won’t be. I can see myself thinking “OMG!!! I don’t care that he and his wife are fighting! Just tell me why he’s in the house and what’s going on!” Also, I don’t think you should go the crazy route, because that’s too overdone. People use the insanity defense more in telling stories than people do in court. They tell crazy stories with crazy things happening, but then in the end you just find out that the MC is crazy and it’s all just kind of anticlimactic.
    I would make the MC start the story in the house. I wouldn’t do the whole “where am I, how did I get here thing” thing at all. You could just start with the MC just walking around and you could describe what he was seeing, and then he sees his wife, but something about her isn’t right, so he follows behind her. Tell about him following her for a while, and then abruptly switch to him waking up in the flashback. You never actually have to say that the time spent in the house is a dream, but just always begin the flashback with him waking up, and end it with him going to sleep, and the reader will just assume he’s having crazy dreams. Then, in the end you can reveal that the dilapidated house he’s in is his own, years later, and that he’s actually dead, and that the other part was really just him remembering his life. His wife is different because she’s older, and it’s his spirit following her through the house. And then you could end with her killing herself, and their family being reunited as spirits of something…..
    I know, it’s a lot different than your original story, but that’s just how I would tackle it to avoid it being too similar to anything else. However, I’m sure that it will be an amazing story however you write it, and again, I do love the idea, and I think it’s original.
     
  4. Zaphodb2002
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    Zaphodb2002 New Member

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    There's a lot of guilt associated with the character, his son's death was (either directly or indirectly, haven't decided yet) his fault, and I like the idea of this place being his Purgatory, and his coming to terms with his death. He's not the nicest guy in the world, either, and perhaps there's a redemption story in there as well. Character growth is good, I suppose.

    Also, Poe is one of my favorite authors, so I'm sure he's influenced me.
     
  5. wicked_poppies
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    wicked_poppies Member

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    I think his story could be a commentary on how we take things for granted until we lose them. Or it could be about how the death of a child can change two people completely. It could be about coming to terms with our own mortality, or realizing that there are things worse than death. It could be about how there are some things people never fully recover from, or the dangers of feeding the wildlife. Ok, I made that last one up, but my point is that it can be about anything. It’s all in the way he/she writes it.
     
  6. Zaphodb2002
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    Zaphodb2002 New Member

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    I agree with you that it's a bit anticlimactic with the crazy ending. Feels a little like cheating. I often complain about the "It's all a dream" endings. As for the flashback bits, they're short, and I feel like I've tied them them well to the main plot. I did want to keep them as short as possible, to keep them from being too boring, and from pulling too much attention away from the actual story.

    I played around with the idea of him not really realizing things were wrong at first, but I think the urgency of not knowing where you are, and constantly thinking you're in danger, helps to push the story along. I was originally thinking the house was his own, but I like you're idea of the wife killing herself as well. Maybe he's trying to stop her? That could be his redemption, as I talked about with JimFlagg's post. I really appreciate the comments, guys, helping me a lot!
     
  7. JimFlagg
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    JimFlagg Contributing Member

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    I love the idea of getting what you deserve after death. If you flash back to times when the MC did something bad to make us hate MC then you are telling us a story about being bad in life and you will have to pay for it in death.

    Good luck.
     

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