1. spotty11222
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    spotty11222 New Member

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    Squid ruin everything

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by spotty11222, Jun 13, 2010.

    I started writing a novel about a month ago, and its been going pretty well, I guess. I've basically have everything in place when I wrote my synopsis, but I've hit one little (OK, major) snag. I don't want to put too much detail in, but here it goes.

    A swarm of giant Humboldt Squid travel up the Pacific coast, wreaking havoc and nearly killing the son of a teuthologist (squid expert), who now looks for revenge.

    Now for my problem. After all my main characters meet up to find and destroy the swarm of squid, they find out something about the squid that makes it impossible for them to go through with their mission and kill them.

    And that is where I'm stuck. The researchers attempt to contact the squid by flashing colored lights, but I can't seem to think of anything beyond that. I can't find a way to make it believable that the squid "understand" the people and are going to stop attacking them. Yes, the researchers are making contact with the squid with colors, but there is only so much you can "say" without words. In the story, the squid respond back by changing colors themselves. But it is like learning a new language, there are differences. There isn't a human-squid translator.

    An idea I entertained in my head for a bit was based on a Nature program on PBS. In it, the divers swam with the squid carrying an array of red and white lights. When exposed to the lights, the squid became docile and the diver could actually go close and touch them. But I feel that if I use that, the story (which was building up in tension) will fall flat. It just seems so, anticlimactic.

    I've been stuck on this for over a week, and reading a couple hundred pages of books and scientific papers on squid communication hasn't helped much.
     
  2. Anonym
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    Anonym Contributing Member

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    I'm a little confused, sorry.

    What do they discover about the squids that prevents their mission?
    Why can't they just kill em?
    You absolutely must be able to communicate with them? Why?
    Instead of killing them, they seek to diffuse their aggressive tendencies by communicating or somethin?

    Sorry, i don't have anything constructive to say really. At the very least i know nothing about squid commo.
    Sounds pretty interesting tho. good luck
     
  3. spotty11222
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    spotty11222 New Member

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    That's ok.

    I don't want to reveal too much about the plot. Basically, these huge squid have certain medical properties that make them worth a fortune and they can help mankind.

    See above. Originally, the expedition does plan to kill them, but they find out their importance and cannot go through with it. Also, the team finds out that the squid are sentient beings capable of intelligent and abstract thought, and so they would be killing off a species that is self-aware.

    Yes. This is the major problem that I've been having. The squid were attacked before their medical properties ascertained, and so they retaliated. Now that they are "pissed off", so to say, the squid are going on a rampage and terrorizing the coasts of the entire Pacific Ocean. It is not feasible for the military to wipe them out, especially with all the media attention surrounding the squid now.

    It is the humans who first initiated contact, not the squid. In order to save the Pacific coastline from attacks of huge squid, it is up to the expedition to convince the squid to move out into the open ocean where they can hunt in peace without being disturbed.

    The only problem is I can't find a way to make the squid understand this besides with simple lights (seeing as how they don't speak human.)

    It's ok! Thanks for the encouragement!
     
  4. Anonym
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    Anonym Contributing Member

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    If they're highly intelligent (more so than normal squid obviously), it doesn't seem like a much bigger leap to make them capable of language.

    Why is that exactly? I imagine it might be somewhat like mountain lions that acquire a taste for human: they exterminate them. Is the media sympathetic to the squids or something? Or aware of their 'properties'?
    So... they're aware of their abilities and spare them, or they are unable to reach them for whatever reason, or they kill them. Seems like what the military would do IMO.

    That's what I thought. Wasn't clear enough I guess, sorry.

    Lights might work. Binary is as simple as 1's and 0's, and yet can be incredibly complex. Koko the great ape knows over 1000 sign language signs, so it can be done, although the more complex the language the less plausible it would be presumably.

    If nothing else, it would probably take quite a while to teach an animal even a rudimentry language. Years maybe, depending on its intellect.
    I don't really know. All i can think of is non-communication related solutions for a squid invasion, which don't sound like they'd help.
    I hope someone else has better advice.
    Good luck!
     
  5. spotty11222
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    spotty11222 New Member

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    Yes, but they way the story is, there are several of these "swarms" of squid, ranging all the way from Peru in South America to the Pacific Northwest of North America. It would require a vast amount resources to kill all of them, and the navy cannot do much about them in such a short amount of time.

    The media is not so much sympathetic to them as the animal rights groups are. Like I said, these squid are at least as intelligent as humans, so extermination is really the "nicest" option. The medical qualities of the squid are known solely by the government and a corporation.

    That's the problem, though, I don't have a few years to teach the squid a complex language. The timeline of the novel is roughly one week.

    I was thinking that perhaps the squid could be trained to respond to color signals simply (by copying the color of the lights if they agreed, or something). But then how would they know in the first place that they should even respond?

    I recently read a novel by Warren Fahy entitled Fragment. He did a similar thing. An unexplored island is investigated but deemed hostile, and the expedition decides to nuke it...at least until they find a sentient species of insect that can speak. Unfortunately it's harder for me because the squid are aquatic and therefore don't use language.

    While writing this, I came up with a new idea. As far as we know, cephalopods have no gas-filled sac that can be used to produce various sounds that other undersea creatures use. I was thinking that this squid may be a new species that is merely using the smaller squid as part of coevolution. What if these squid evolved a gas-filled sac and can communicate with sounds.

    I was thinking of something along the lines of Bloop, and the squid could communicate in that fashion. It would simplify things. Although, I don't want to get rid of the visual lights completely.

    One problem, though, is how do I get my main characters to understand this "squid language".

    Either way, I think I can work with this. I just got a ton of new ideas I could use now!

    Thanks Anonym!

    Daniel
     
  6. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    Perhaps the researchers finds a simple way to repel the squids without hurting them (say, a simple chemical, or ultrasounds), obliviating the need to communicate with them?
     
  7. spotty11222
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    spotty11222 New Member

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    There are a few problems with going along that path. The first is a scientific problem. The squid I am talking about live deep in the water column, and if we do drop certain chemical or biological agents designed to kill them, it would have to be an enormous quantity (a greater volume would have to be administered than the current size of the BP spill, as these squid are far-ranging). Secondly, it would take side-effects on the environment of the entire Pacific ocean. I have actually included this information as a scene within my novel in which the researchers are in a meeting with the President's advisers and they advise against such widespread and destructive action.

    Another point is that I've been building up a sense of the squid's intelligence and communication abilities. To just repel the squid, I feel, would leave the reader feeling that "they spent the whole time trying to find and communicate with the squid, but they just destroyed them instead." I don't feel that that would work well.

    I think I have a good mechanism to work out a squid-human communication scene, but it requires a (believable) jump of faith.
     
  8. Northern Phil
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    Northern Phil Active Member

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    Maybe you need to add a little twist in there, what if the squid kill everything and succed at whatever they are trying to do?
     
  9. spotty11222
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    spotty11222 New Member

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    That is interesting, and I didn't think of that before. What I'm thinking though, is that the readers may find it to be a bitter ending, although I enjoy such endings myself.

    However, if the squid do succeed then they stop mankind from sailing on the Pacific coast again. I might think of doing something like that for an epilogue. That is, after it seems to be a happy ending and the squid retreat to the depths, they resurface a short while later with a vengeance.

    Interesting. Thanks!
     
  10. Peregrin
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    First of all, this sounds like a really cool project and I hope it works out for you!

    I've read a number of books like this before where a field expert is researching a recent anomaly and most of the books events center around that character. It can be interesting if done right. Be sure to do a lot of research and keep a check on how technical information gets conveyed to the reader.

    Anyway, for the problem I quoted above, I'd just make it work. The squids can understand the lights somehow and the humans can somehow understand the squids. You'd be surprised how much two people can convey without words and you can limit its use to situations where it lends itself to working well such as in the real life example you cited where the squids become less aggressive in response to the lights.

    Also, you can make the limitations of the communication work as a source of conflict for you. Create a tense moment where correctly interpreting the creature's reaction could resolve the conflict favorably.

    Those are just a few ideas, hope it helps at least a little bit.
     
  11. Mcarpenter
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    Mcarpenter Contributing Member

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    I'm sorry, I still can't get past the fact that a squid expert is called a teuthologist... Blow me down.

    How about if there's a special computer gadget that has been programmed to translate the flashing light patterns and even communicate what they try to type in for it to flash back to the squids. The gizmo could have been developed by the eager teuthologist over a decade of studying high def, high speed camera footage. Who knows, maybe the squids could bond with teuthy and lead him to Atlantis or something... ;)
     
  12. RobT
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    You could have them trying to use sound to stop them, then finding that the squid return sound the same way as dolphins and whales.

    You'd just then need to twist the sounds into something like morse code that could be understood by humans. Maybe have a computer genius or scientist in your team that runs the squid sound waves through a computer, they have a "Eureka" moment, and you have a whole new communication language that you'd have to call "Squidlsh". :)
     
  13. Karwedsky
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    It sounds like your problem is that you need a form or communication between the scientists and the squid in your story. You said that the squid weren't capable of language because they couldn't produce sound. You don't need sound for language. The scientist could discover that the squid already have a complex language that combines their color changing abilities with a form of body/sign language that they perform with their tentacles. If they used a form of body/sign language the scientists could build an artificial squid robot to communicate with them.

    Or the squid could be communicating through some form of telepathy. The scientists could figure out some way to tap into that communication and talk with them that way.

    Sounds like an interesting story, good luck.
     
  14. spotty11222
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    spotty11222 New Member

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    Peregrin,

    I have planned to make it so that the researcher's are able to interpret the squid's motives and resolve the situation without more bloodshed. I've also lightly altered the storyline in that I gave the squid the added ability to make some sounds via a gas-filled sac.

    What I'm thinking of doing is when my main character is down there in a sub controlling the lights and communicating with the squid, he will be trying out different combinations of colors and see how the squid react.

    Mcarpenter,

    I really like your idea. The way I have it written, my main character knows that the squid are sentient, but he's having difficulty with convincing the rest of the expedition. I might make it that he left a previous institution in disgrace after his "failed" experiments with squid intelligence. Now, however, his experiments have come back to serve him a purpose. Interesting.

    I don't really think that a "computer gadget" might be the best way to go about doing this, however. I could make it so that his experiments with squid communication could help him "bridge the gap" between squid and man. Something like thousands of photographs of squid language over some decades leading my main character able to communicate with them effectively.

    RobT,

    I like your "Squidlsh" idea. Particularly since the squid can produce sounds (only in the story, not in real life).

    Karwedsky,

    Creating a "squid language" wasn't really my most major problem. Trying to get the main characters to understand and comprehend this completely alien language was. Tue, you don't need language for sound, but I had an idea that these squid are actually a completely new species that is evolutionary unique and can produce some sounds.

    So far, I have lights and sounds that I can use. I also have some computer software that can "translate" the squid sights and sounds into something humans could understand. Thanks for all the ideas everyone. You've helped me get through one of the major problems I've been having!
     
  15. Mcarpenter
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    What if he invented a special eye surgery (with squid lenses) or genetic squid injection that altered his eye to be able to perceive the flashing light patterns fast enough to get the messages? He could have a colleague perform it on him.

    Another option is a special contact lens that exposes a deeper layer--unseen by the naked eye--which allows him to read some sort of aura waves emanating from the flashes.
     
  16. rhsexton
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    If the squid are so intelligent, the should have a form of language already. Many aquatic life have languages that we may not have direct translations for but we understand well enough to watch for in certain situations. So, here's an idea...

    After it's discovered that the squid swarms are what are attacking, all kinds of people begin tracking and observing them. Even the military has scientists. One of the scientists discovers the squid's form of communications and can (by the needed point) do some loose translations. It's a subtle background thing, he's always found watching and listening to various recordings of the squids, etc. He/she is smart enough, or has enough experience with aquatic life, to understand what they've observed and use it. as a motivation, he/she was asked into the expedition for their expertise and they've decided to learn as much about the squid before extermination.

    use it as you see fit, but I think it simplifies your problem with that part of the story.
     

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