1. ManOrAstroMan
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    ManOrAstroMan Magical Space Detective Contributor

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    setting things off

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by ManOrAstroMan, May 21, 2013.

    I'm currently writing an urban fantasy mystery, and I'm having some difficulties. Before I get into my problem, here's some background on the story:

    Recent global events have made it necessary for those with power over the elements of nature, known as Talents, to come out of the enchanted wardrobe and let the world know that magic is real. My MC, Riley, is such a Talent, from a family of Talents, and works as a graphic designer. His uncle is murdered, and a deadly family curse demands that he hunt down the killer, or he'll be joining his uncle.

    I know my characters pretty well by now, and I know the setting and the general direction in which I want the plot to go. I know whodunnit and how it was dun. I know why things are happening. But here's what's tripping me up: How does Riley learn about the curse? I've tried a couple different methods, but none have felt just right.
    Any thoughts?
     
  2. rhduke
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    rhduke Contributing Member Reviewer

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    So to be clear, there's a curse where if a member of your family dies, you die if you don't avenge his death? Are there any effects of the curse other than death? Does he eventually get weaker or does he just drop dead? How much time needs to pass?

    1. The first thing that comes to mind is that this has happened before. Perhaps Riley's grandfather had to do this and he's alive today because he successfully took revenge. A little talk with grandfather would be one method.

    2. Riley finds a connection between his uncles murderer and a murder that happened in the past involving his family, and he only learns of the curse through ancient Talent records and history books.

    3. You could go the twist route and have him only find out at the end. He chases after this murderer to seek revenge, but at the last moment he spares him. Then a moment later, he learns of the curse and, boom, he's faced with a moral dilemma.

    4. You have a "companion" who joins him on this quest who was a family friend or something. He tells Riley of the curse.

    5. The murderer purposely leaves him clues of the curse because he's a sick bastard and wants to see Riley die in a desperate attempt to hunt him down.
     
  3. PyrZern
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    PyrZern Member

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    Or Riley not planning for avenging for real, and so he suddenly becomes very ill. Like, collapses, strokes, pain all over his body. And it only gets worse. By talking with someone, he is then told about the Curse. And so now there's a time limit factor that helps make it more exciting. It's a race against time :p Or if he's really hell bent on avenging then he prolongs his life a bit ^^ ?
     
  4. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Unless this is a YA novel, I'd really encourage you to change the name Talents. It just sounds so... odd... and a little arrogant. Just my personal opinion though.

    As for how Riley learns about the curse - why don't you throw in some of your own ideas and we can comment on them? Rather than basically asking us to resolve the problem for you. Right now without basically any detail of the plot, it's hard to even give suggestions in any case. There're a million ways someone can discover something. You need to be more specific.
     
  5. heal41hp
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    heal41hp Contributing Member

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    I second Mckk. If we can get some of your ideas, as well as why you don't like them or think they won't work, it would help aim us. I think it would also help if you gave us more detail of the curse. Who put it in place, what its purpose is, who it affects, what triggers it, etc. Knowing those details will help us play around with the idea and find good points for information to leak from.
     
  6. ManOrAstroMan
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    ManOrAstroMan Magical Space Detective Contributor

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    First off, thanks for taking any kind of interest in my little dilemma. And y'all are right--I should've included a few more details. So here goes:
    *The curse actually started centuries ago, back when the family was a prominent power in Europe's magical community. The spell was created to ensure justice for any wronged member of the family, but it's mutated over time into a dangerous curse.
    *It first manifests for Riley as visions and dreams, but, when he decides to let the police handle things and not take an active role, the curse gets more forceful with him, until it becomes a ticking clock.
    *Since the story takes place in modern times, and the family has been pretty well out of magical politics since before the civil war, things have been pretty live-and-let-live for them. There hasn't been much need for anyone to bring up the subject. (You talk to your kids about family history of cancer or diabetes, not supernatural vendettas, right?)

    Here's some of the things I've tried, and why I wasn't sure about them:
    *Riley blacks out from a vision, is taken to a healer who sees traces left by the curse.
    --Seems a bit "Basil Exposition". (Hi there! Here's the answer to your problem!)
    *Riley talks to his grandmother when the painful visions start.
    --Like a lot of young adults who realize their grandparents are getting older, and what that means, Riley is irrationally protective of his grandmother, and doesn't want to worry her, especially so soon after his uncle's murder.
    *I had considered having either his roommate or his cousin (his "sidekicks" I guess you could say) either pushing him to ask Nana about the painful visions, or even going behind his back to find out about them. I just wasn't sure about the mechanics of it.

    Rhduke actually hit on a couple of things I had already planned on bringing up in the book.
    And as for the term "Talents" being used to refer to the supernaturally gifted, I never really sounded odd or arrogant to me. They really aren't mages or wizards or witches by definition. Many Talents are of a scientific frame of mind and don't see what they do as magic at all. Plus, they had to think of a term that would be acceptable by the mainstream world, which contains a lot of religious zealots.
     
  7. heal41hp
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    heal41hp Contributing Member

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    You're most welcome. :) That's what we're here for (one would hope).

    That is a wild curse. I must confess I find it a little hard to imagine the rationality of someone bestowing such a thing on an entire family. I'm sure there's a lot of information I'm missing, though, so I won't sweat over the details you didn't ask about. :)

    As far as the curse mutating over time into something dangerous, is that because information about it is now limited if not entirely gone? Or have the terms of the curse actually changed?

    Does the family still practice magic? Or has magic pretty much faded from the attention from the family? I guess I'm trying to get at whether Riley knows magic exists and if people in his family would know about it. Both important things. :) It sounds like Nana, at least, knows of the magic of the family, since she's a possible source of information about the curse. Also, is a magic a known thing in the world? Or is it hidden from the non-Talents?

    Quick note:
    I don't have a problem at all with the term. There's a brilliant pen and paper role-playing game called Godlike that I haven't yet had the honor of playing. It involves superhumans that are called Talents, and that has given me a great respect for the term.

    One last question. Is the curse affecting other members of the family or just Riley? (another question. lol) If it's just Riley, I assume you've got a reason for why it's targeting him instead of others?

    On to the important stuff now!

    (assuming Riley doesn't know of magic) My first thought was that maybe Riley thinks he's suffering from some sort of medical condition. The doctors can't find anything and so as a last resort he consults a spiritual healer his family's close with (I guess that means his family would have to be at least somewhat in the know). And while you were leery of the idea that the healer then just dumps the answer in Riley's lap, I think it's fine when who you know provides you with information since you'd have to know the right people. You could always have the spiritual healer not know what to do and consult others, thus creating more trouble in Riley's acquisition of knowledge. There's also the possibility that Riley has to undergo a spirit quest of some sort to find out what his dreams mean and there's a range of difficulties possible for this. It could just be that he has to wander around in the woods until he thinks of something or he might have to ingest poisonous and potentially deadly substances to induce enlightenment. He might have to participate in a week-long ceremony where he fasts or sits in a sweat lodge or has to be constantly immersed in dance or song or something. There are all sorts of possibilities there.

    Maybe the dreams reveal information. They could be a fail-safe of sorts to help guide those being affected by the curse toward rectification.

    Maybe the curse has artificial intelligence, in the way that a computer program does. It gets "frustrated" that Riley's not doing what he's supposed to do and takes over when he's at his weakest (like when he's asleep). He starts actually pursuing the investigation while he's asleep or maybe he just leaves himself information. The curse might even make him black out, where the curse has gotten so powerful and so "frustrated" that it just hijacks his consciousness. Riley's then able to investigate himself, through receipts, recordings, photos, call logs on his phone, etc. and has to figure out what he's doing and why and then is able to put himself on track.

    Maybe there's some sort of old family story or children's story told in the family (or maybe even a rhyme or something) that describes the curse in some slightly cryptic/poetic way and is meant to be a guide for any afflicted members. Once Riley's "symptoms" start lining up with this thing, he might just have a sudden revelation about its relevance.

    Maybe someone who's in the know about this whole thing, a family member or baddie, comes to Riley to help/hinder him and it's through them and their ignorance of his ignorance that he's enlightened.

    While you weren't keen on the idea of Nana being sought out over this, maybe she seeks Riley out because she becomes aware of what's happening. Maybe she has some preternatural sense or she's found out some other way. This one's a little weak, but an idea nonetheless. It might spark something in your head. :)

    Can't really think of anything else at the moment. I'll keep this rolling around in my brain and see if anything else pops up.
     
  8. ManOrAstroMan
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    ManOrAstroMan Magical Space Detective Contributor

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    Yeah, the curse began simply as a spell that would ensure those who wronged the family would receive just punishment. But it mutated over time. (Outside influence? Mmmaybe....)
    And yes, Riley does know about magic, as does the world in general. The Talents made their existence known using their powers in the 9/11 rescue efforts.
    I'm thinking your last suggestion is maybe best, even if you thought it was the weakest. Id rather not have to wrangle another character, and I can't see riley going to nana right now with his problems. But she would definitely cut through the crap and come to him.
     
  9. heal41hp
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    heal41hp Contributing Member

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    Iiinteresting. I'm all sorts of curious about how that works but I'll just have to wait for publication I guess (assuming it's even explained there). ;)

    I've never really read any urban fantasy where the world at large knows of magic like this but I know it was pulled off (at least regarding vampires) with the Sookie Stackhouse books (and the True Blood TV show). In the Godlike game I mentioned before, Talents are known to all the world, too. I guess I'm just out of the loop here. :)

    There is elegance in simplicity, for sure. Even the simplest ideas can work beautifully if done right. This option will definitely allow you some character development with Nana. If you're still not entirely sure you want to go this route, I can still keep thinking. Crazy schedule stuff has left me a sleep-deprived zombie for today, though...
     
  10. ManOrAstroMan
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    ManOrAstroMan Magical Space Detective Contributor

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    No, you all really helped me!
    I actually feel pretty stupid for not realizing it sooner. :)
     
  11. heal41hp
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    heal41hp Contributing Member

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    As long as the problem has been fixed, there's no worries. :)
     

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