1. Rcds
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    Rcds New Member

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    Sci-Fi premise, but no plot to go with it. Help?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Rcds, Aug 10, 2009.

    So I have this idea that I really want to do a story about, screenplay, novel, whatever.
    It's about an "airport through time" called a time-port. The currency exchange desk will change 2008 dollars for 1970 dollars instead of one currency for another, security will check you for anachronisms instead of weapons (no iPods before the 2001, no Chuck Taylors before 1917, etc.), but functionally speaking, it's just like going to the airport. You go to your 'gate' and get sent back in time, then for your return trip you go and stand where your gate is going to be. Naturally, interfering with history in any way is verboten. In fact, instead of having TSA workers and air marshals, the time-port has people whose job is to preserve history (of course, if they failed they'd never know, would they).
    I figure the time-port is situated just outside Los Angeles, so the Wild West, the Golden Age of Hollywood and the Watts Riots are all possible destinations for time tourists.
    My problem is, I can't come up with a good overarching plot to go with the whole 'time-port' concept. I have a lot of smaller ideas: a man runs through a crowded room, then has to run through it again and again, until he realizes the whole crowd is him; a time police man is bitter and disillusioned because he had to save Hitler from a time traveling assassin; a common cold from 2525 becomes an incurable epidemic in the present day; a boy takes a girl on a date to an old fashioned movie premiere; a climatic showdown during the meteor shower that killed the dinosaurs, or while the sun is going supernova.
    But I don't have a big overall story, and I'm struggling to come up with one. I know I want my major theme to be "you can't change the past, you have to learn from it" but other than that I'm stumped. Help me out here?
     
  2. tauruslambda
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    tauruslambda New Member

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    I think the concept is great, although I think there could be issues with the whole changing history/time paradox thing.
    If someone tinkers with history, changes the future, and nobody is aware that this has gone happened, why would the time-port perceive to preserve history? The only explanation I can come up with is a perceived need for time marshals.
    My second question is thus: Is it even possible to change the past, or does it simply work out such that the future as it's known always comes to be?

    Barring those philosophical questions, I think the concept is really interesting. I think it would work well as a series of short stories, especially since you already have several ideas (the one about the disillusioned time cop sounds very intriguing).
     
  3. Unit7
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    Unit7 Contributing Member Contributor

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    You could turn it into a series of short stories and such. heh you can even have a few of the characters bump into eachother as cameos or not.

    It sounds like you have a ton of small ideas, so why not write them? Then if you come up with a larger plot worthy of a novel you can always write it. :D

    Its a very interesting idea.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    What you really have is a setting, Until you have characters with obstacles to overcome, you won't have a plot.

    Run some scenarios. If you have someone with a conventional problem (one that would occur in an ordinary story), how would this technology and the society it exists in impact the problem? Would it give him an edge, or would it work against him? If there is someone on the other side of the problem, what is the impact of the technology/society on that side of the problem.

    For example, someone is accused of a murder (guilty? falsely accused?) Does the technology provide an easy ecape from justice? Does it make it possible to go back and remove overlooked evidence? What about officers of the law? How would they use the technology to thwart criminals, or does it just make their job more difficult?

    Work through some scenarios like these until you find one that you really want to tell as a story. Maybe the technology itself poses a serious threat to society. How do you convince a public that has fallen in love with the technology to stop using it, or to not rebuild it if you destroy all the depots?
     
  5. MacGuffin
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    MacGuffin Member

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    Nice idea.

    I like the idea of the time-cop having to save Hitler to preserve continuity... maybe he could even be Jewish? Maybe he knows that parts of his family died under Hitler's brutal regime? This could be an internal conflict for him?

    Perhaps as background reading you could try 'Making History' by Stephen Fry. This is about a scientist who manages to send sterilisation tablets back in time to prevent Hitler being born. This changes the current world but only the hero (not the scientist) remembers the 'old' world. It's a good read and might give you some ideas.

    Could you perhaps think about an alternative take on terrorism. Time terrorism? If you think about the security head aches at airports, imagine what they will be like at a time port.

    I think it depends on what you want the end story to be. This premise could easily become a pacy thriller (time terrorists), imaginative sci fi (alternive realities caused by time tampering) or a comical farce (story told form point of view of hard pressed security guard who has to follow massive amounts of beaurocracy, regulations and form filling)
     
  6. scubadiver
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    scubadiver New Member

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    That is a great concept and I wouldn't even call it sci-fi. The "Dark Tower" series resembles this in a way because from what I remember from part 2 (I think) that the gunslinger finds a portal and picks up a boy in New York and takes him back to this fantasy land.

    "Back to the future" and "The terminator" are great films and expose the paradox of time travel.
     
  7. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    My favourite time-travel movie is The Butterfly Effect. He can change the past, but no matter how good his intentions are, things turn out to be for the worse. I guess the theme in that film is that we should just accept life having ups and downs and that some bad things can lead to good things too.

    12 Monkeys is different - whatever changes he makes in the past have already impacted the future he comes from. Thus, he can't change anything because it already happened.

    I would suggest you put down some 100% clear rules for how time travel works and what effects it can have on past, present and future. Perhaps through those you'll find a plot.

    If your theme is "you can't change the past, you have to learn from it", then prove it to us with the plot. Add some antagonist(s) who's goal is to change the past for some reason. Perhaps there's a group with a greater mission, behind the assassination of Hitler. If told well, that could be a main plot in itself. Perhaps the result of assassinating Hitler is a new future where some totalitarian rules the world, because nobody in that future have learned from World War 2.
     
  8. Trojan
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    Trojan Member

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    The idea of several short stories coming together to make one larger story sounds like a good idea to me... if done right it can be very successful. Pulp Fiction is a great example.
     
  9. tcol4417
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    tcol4417 Member

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    I'll see your pulp fiction and raise you one Otherland Quartet.
     
  10. seta
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    seta Contributing Member

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    Yeah. Just use some basic rules of plot to create something. Plot requires tension. Tension is just a problem. What sort of problems would someone at a time-port face?

    Also, remember "bigger isn't always better" - you don't need to have the galaxy under threat of destruction to have a good story.

    I call your bluff. I've got a barbershop quartet in Skokie, Illinois.
     
  11. Aidura
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    Aidura Member

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    You could also make one character/a group of 'em go through an event where they realised how small the world is and how things are essentially still the same no matter the timeline. Like people drowning in debt, racism, fear of the unknown, and so on. All the best with it! :D
     
  12. bluebell80
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    bluebell80 Contributing Member

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    Rcds, I think it's a matter of finding your conflict. You have the setting, like Cog said, but now you need characters with conflicts to populate your setting.

    To explore the paradox of time travel (the ability to change the past, sending the present and future onto parallel universal planes) or inability to change the past because there are no alternatives) is something that could pose a simple conflict for the characters you intend to follow. It could characters involved in famous events, or it could be the unknown man who travels back and accidentally kills his grandfather, or travels ahead to save his grandson (back to the future kind of thing.)

    So what will your conflict be? What side of the paradox will it reside in? Who will your character's be and how will their story fit into your setting? You don't have to answer these here, just think about the questions and answer them as you write.
     
  13. Operaghost
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    Operaghost Contributing Member

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    Looking too deep into any time travel story always oncovers plot holes and paradoxes, so it is the story that really counts as this detracts from these (the terminator series being a casing point, they make no sense temporally), but it wouldn't hurt to have a series of rules, much like asimovs robotic laws, and these are rules which every travellor must adher to, but it is the conflict that you really need to think about, obviously its your own idea, but the mention of a timecop suggest that people have attempted to change tiem in the past, so what if someone was succesful, maybe trying to stop the technology from ever being invented so they can have it for thmeselves, another problem could come from the travel itself. obviously this is set in a future world where time travel is possible but if its set in an airport style station then how does one take the return journey, and is this something people from that time line can slip into? If so waht could the consequences of the someone from the past entering be? what if hitler manages to fidn his way to the future?
     
  14. Twisted Inversely
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    Twisted Inversely Senior Member

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    Damn Rcds that’s a good idea, now you have my brain is just fizzing away with possibilities which I know I can’t use because it’s your story.

    As for your ideas, the Hitler one has the most potential I think, but the man in the crowded room could possibly make to be a good short story.

    An idea you may want to consider is that originally history took a different course. WWI, WWII, the cold war didn’t happen and the 20th century was one of peace. Instead these wars were instigated by time cops to start humans off on the technological path that would lead to the creation of time travel technology sometime in the future.
     
  15. JohnLaylian
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    JohnLaylian New Member

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    Time traveling concept, to me, is the concept full of incredulous amount of works just to mend the loop holes, since you have to adjust each major actions your main or minor characters makes and integrate with the future world.

    If things such as time port existed, there will be countless people who would want to change the history for their own profit (i.e. a person who makes his ancestor rich in order to inherit their wealth), whether illegal or not. You could use this fact to base your conflict.

    Personally, I liked your 2525 common cold idea, although the story might become too short or too long (ever tried to deploy a vaccine from the future all over the world anyone?)

    You could say that there is only one time-port in the whole world, due to vast moneys and time to create it, and have an antagonist fight over the control of the port to rewrite the history, while the protagonist tries to stop him but ends up having to destroy the port, despite the great loss for himself and the society.
     
  16. Cyrano
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    Cyrano Member

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    I like your time-security-guy idea. It could be a collection of various incidents the time-cop would have to deal with, such as people changing or attempting to change time, time paradoxes, and the internal struggle of having to stop people trying to better history. Maybe for a climax, after a large internal struggle, the main character lets somebody pass who wants to better humanity by changing the past, which results in a disaster he has to fix.
     
  17. orange_domino
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    orange_domino New Member

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    That's a brilliant idea- these are times in which I wish I could come up with soemthing as inventive! if I were you I would set the story year in the future, and have people travelling back to the present day (you could do some interesting things with that!) I would aslo make the time travelling less of a holiday- although it does sound cool! -and make it more of a job. For instance, someone might be trying to figure out a code or a murder mystery and to figure it out they ahve to send people back in time? That would do for a series! :) Good luck, that's a great ide,a I hope things run smoothly.
     
  18. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Perhaps your MC goes into the past to save a loved one. He keeps going to different periods trying to find a way to warn her, but at the same time he needs to avoid the time cops.

    Through the process of trying to save her, he realizes he can't, but at the same time he finds a way to move on with his life. Maybe he meets someone else.

    Maybe the reason he can't help her is because even if you try to alter the past, all you do is create an alternative universe, so you can never actually alter your future.
     
  19. sapphire_chan
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    sapphire_chan Member

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    The time terminal idea has been pretty thoroughly covered in Robert Asprin's Time Scout novels.
     
  20. Davylove21
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    Davylove21 Member

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    What I would do is have my main character a Time Security Guard. It isn't as glamourous as a Time Cop but he still has access to the time portals because he is responsible for checking their passports or whatever.

    Give him a past that has left him disgruntled and angry day to day. Something that burns at him but make him the sort of man who bottles it up.

    I'd give him repeated opportunities to follow travelers back in time to rectify his past but limit his opportunities to times when someone just happens to be going back in time to that specific month. Keep him struggling with the notion that just one change won't hurt anything but it will make his life anything other than the anguish it is now.

    Then eventually take him through time and tempt him, see what he does. Can he go through with it? Does he remember the lottery numbers? Can he put them on morally?

    Writing a novel is like driving by headlights - you can only see whats in front of you but you can make the whole journey that way.
     
  21. AmandaC
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    AmandaC Member

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    I'm going to answer with a few questions. Why would people want/need to time travel and what are the rules/laws governing it's use? Who enforces these laws to make sure people aren't going back in time to start some **** or kill someone? And what a great getaway it would be if you were to commit a crime and then go back and hide somewhere in time...

    I think it's an interesting idea. Brainstorm. See where it takes you.
     

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