1. Spacer
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    Spacer Active Member

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    Storyline: Why kidnap or kill someone?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Spacer, Jan 14, 2011.

    I'm working on a short story with serious intent to write a good story. I'm experienced with non-fiction, so I know how to string a few words together to present a coherent thought. But as long as I can remember, I've aspired to write Science Fiction but have never written a complete story (well, other than vignettes as a young kid).

    My weakness is plot and story line. So, I'd like to discuss ideas as I come up with something.

    I had an idea for a "gimmick" or "concept" for a hard SF story, but my muse did not supply a story to take place in that "world".

    My first thoughts are that I need some mystery and suspense, so I'm thinking that someone "vanishes". The main character gets caught up in things and gets to the bottom of it. Next loop of the reasoning process is that this mystery plot should be tied in with the main concept of the fictional world. It's not some random story that just happens to take place here, but could only take place here and is even a direct consequence of here existing!

    So, with trepidations of giving away too much, let me spill a little of the SF World I have in mind.

    This is in the near future, with human minds being transferred to computer hardware upon the person's death. It is still early in the technology, so social upheavals are a given. The people can then live on in virtual environments.

    A person in a virtual environment can't "die" in the ordinary way, but suppose her "brain box" in the data center can be stolen or destroyed.

    The people in this particular virtual world "afterlife" are involved with further developing the technology, and studying the mind itself and the meaning of "self" and "consciousness".

    So what's a possible motive? Clearly social change brings a lot of motives. One character remarks that this project might be the last great fortune left to be made, so money/power might be a motive. Maybe the antagonist wants to stop it, or maybe wants to own it for himself?

    And there should be a good reason why it's mysterious at all, rather than just a bombing or something.

    Perhaps those more practiced in this type of fiction (SF or not) can help me brainstorm on this.

    Thanks!
     
  2. FrankABlissett
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    FrankABlissett Active Member

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    "...So what's a possible motive?..."

    How about unrequited love? As in - the kidnapper cannot be with the deceased (maybe could not in real life), so takes the ghost in the machine to a private "paradise".

    "And don't worry. I'll be able to be with you fully, as we were meant to be, soon." Implying that once everything is set up and secure, the kidnapper will commit suicide and join the victim in the "paradise".

    Does the box need to physically be stolen? If the kidnapper found a way to seal the victim off from the rest of the virtual world via software, that could open possibilities by allowing the victim chances to at least attempt to escape.

    -Frank
     
  3. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    if it is anything like my world snippets will never give that much away.

    Like Frank says love is one motive, money and greed are always one that can be used, some sort of instablity mentally, ransom of some description wanted to get a friend back or something similar.
     
  4. Spring Gem
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    Spring Gem Member

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    There could be religious or ethical reasons. Does everyone in the virtual afterlife agree to go there, or are they just sent there by someone else's decree? What happens if someone doesn't agree? Is it possible for a person in the afterlife to do something that would sabotage the project? What if a religious leader were sent to the virtual afterlife and his followers wanted him back as a spiritual guide? Do those inside the afterlife work with those outside to solve the mystery?
     
  5. Ellipse
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    Ellipse Contributing Member Contributor

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    Based upon the details you shared with us, I can't help but wonder if the MC's world is actually one of those virtual worlds and the missing person was 'disconnected' from it.:)
     
  6. Allegro Van Kiddo
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    Allegro Van Kiddo Contributing Member

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    I believe that you, or your muse, has supplied the best answer right in your post!

    You mentioned, social upheaval, and I'm thinking of abortion and the murder of abortion doctors. It's like the exact opposite of your situation. If people can live forever in a virtual world, then that is like a denial of heaven, or worse yet, a man made heaven. Many people would hate that for a variety of reasons. So, some religious, or philosophical, terrorists decided to kidnap a virtual person to either kill them "for real" or force the operation to close.

    If you can get a bunch or existential arguements in there and not make either side evil, I'd read it.
     
  7. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    Perhaps to really murder someone, you also need to find and delete all of their backups. So we get a situation like in the movies where the police has a list of a serial killer's potential victims which they try to protect, but keep getting outsmarted by the killer. Only in this case, all the victims are the same person, and he/she isn't really dead until the last copy is gone.
     
  8. Kevin B
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    Kevin B Member

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    That's a great idea for a story Spacer, I like it! And as you can see already, there are plenty of avenues to take as far as motive is concerned. Good luck trying to pick just one! (or you could use several):)

    Read this quote from Islander and see if you got the same thought from it as I did...

    Depending on the motive you decide on, a working title might be The Last Copy. :D
     
  9. EineKleine
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    EineKleine Member

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    Interesting. This idea is very similar to one I have myself.

    Bolded- Mystery and suspense are a great device in almost any story and it is right of you to pursue it.

    If you plan on writing a serious story and approaching it, story-wise- like a professional I recommend doing an outline. Write down every major event that will take place in your story. Represent each event as a bullet-point and write it in chronological, point-by-point order. This is your best bet to creating a air-tight plot, in my opinion.

    Secondly, you should explore the genre you want...is this story like film noir, logical mystery, horror, thriller or even buddy cop drama?

    thirdly, the biggest mistake anyone writing sci-fi often makes, ESPECIALLY me, is that their main character is a pawn being moves around with no will or his own. That must be avoided at all costs, as it will destory any emotional connection your reader will have with your story.

    It would be intersting if their were two major plots, one within this virtual world and one within the real world that interwined in some way...not sure how just think that'd be quite clever if done right.

    Good luck!
     
  10. TokyoVigilante
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    TokyoVigilante Member

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    Information. Big time CEO gets put in one of these boxes and is kidnapped for top secret information. If a persons conciousness can be digitised, then couldn't it be infected with malicious programming, hacked, or picked apart?

    Could there be a black Market of people who specialise in hacking digitized conciousness? What if one of these hackers became victim of counter-hacking defenses?
     
  11. Spacer
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    Spacer Active Member

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    Yes. Software can be simply copied and backed up, but the "brain boxes" limit the person to a single and tangible physical artifact. It can't be trivially duplicated (but could be in principle), and must be located in proximity to the virtual world's server.

    I figure the brain box would be the size and shape of a piece of roll-on airline luggage.


    Yes, it is voluntary. In fact, it's expensive.

    I'm not sure.


    That's what I meant. The MC is in the virtual world and a friend vanishes; her brain-box is physically stolen from the data center, and rather than a robbery, the security is hacked and records doctored so management doesn't know she was even there, 'till people who knew her pester them about it.


    That's an interesting idea. But on its own, not very mysterious: Just smash & grab, or bomb the whole datacenter.

    I certainly will outline it. But I have no idea what the storyline is yet.

    Are there any outlines and analysis of famous stories that I might be able to read?
     
  12. EineKleine
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    I don't know of any unfortunately. I'd say just try doing it and go with what feels right, often a wise course of action. However, maybe you can find some examples of outlines...

    http://www.sff.net/people/alicia/artout.htm

    That looks interesting, all though I find website outlines don't always work for me.

    I'm curious, how are you dealing with the question of the technology, world and authority structure's believability? I am always phased at that aspect. For example, how are you going to introduce this alternate consciousness universe, while keeping real? The hardest aspect of fantasy/science fiction is probably the creation of a new world. This new world has to be rich enough that is isn't just part of the story, it drives the story.
     
  13. EineKleine
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    BRAINSTORM

    What if the villain, which is a mind within the virtual world, absolutely hates the virtual world. They want whoever made it suffer. Maybe the villain's relatives chose to put them in this world, post mortim. Anyway, s/he's bitter and s/he finds a way to manipulate the real world, (I HAVE NO IDEA HOW), possibly control over someone. Wow, what if this villain manipulates someone into stealing the "brain bank" by torturing their dead relatives in the virtual world?
     
  14. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    If the computer professionals are worth their salt, they should have multiple back-ups in multiple secret locations. In real life of today, it's more or less required for a company to keep back-ups of their data outside the datacenter, sometimes in a secret location.
     
  15. Spacer
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    Spacer Active Member

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    I'm interested in "hard" SF, and know enough to deal with physics and engineering. With my experience in technical essays, I think I'll have no problem explaining things, but I'll have to make sure I keep explanations short or work them into the story or it's a tech manual on a spaceship or whatever and not a story!

    I think a technical appendix or online extra would supplement my story, as well as be used by me to make my writing consistent.

    In terms of introducing the world, this story in particular jumps right in. The novel experience within is a large part of the piece.
     
  16. Spacer
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    Spacer Active Member

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    Interesting thoughts. I was just crafting a scenelet where the MC meets a new arrival who hates his predicament, and even expresses that he wishes he was (really) dead instead.

    In order to help support the idea that brain boxes are tangible things and cannot be easily copied, I'm supposing the hardware neural net is "built" not just programmed. That is, all the connections are made physically between elements, not specified via a table.

    I suppose it should be S.O.P. that the data from the organic brain scan, used to create the brain box, is to be retained and archived. Making a new brain box from that would restart the person from that point. It's not practical to make fresh backups very often, so maybe a catastrophic failure might lose up to a year of the person's life.

    Maybe it is highly illegal to have more than one running copy of a person, so a new brain box can't be made unless it can be shown that the old one was in fact destroyed (not just misplaced).

    Maybe there is a big deal about what it means to keep the "soul" continuous and singular. Run two copies and each thinks he's that person. Yet each feels he's the ego looking out and experiencing consciousness. How does that work? Creating a new copy from dead data would create a new person that loved ones would not realize was any different, but is legally murder because that first "ego" stopped and the new one is a different soul.

    Maybe the idea of murder or kidnapping doesn't even make sense in a post-human world, and I'm introducing more problems for myself than I'm solving by using what seems to be a common plot device.
     
  17. FrankABlissett
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    FrankABlissett Active Member

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    Hmm - can someone within the virtual world request to be killed? In the real world, one can at least engage in self-destructive behavior. In the V-world, though, there are no costs to risky sex, extreme exploring, drugs etc. Much less outright suicide.

    Maybe that's a polite fiction / marketing pitch? "Oh, don't worry - you will still be special and unique." "Well, it costs so much because we have this super-duper tech involved." So, there are in fact copies, but the general public (even those in the V-world) don't know it. Some may assume/suspect it though.

    In fact, if bandwidth and speed were not an issue, multiple copies could be made of the entire data center, with the multiple copies of a "brain-box" working in parrellel with each other through the one avatar. They remain, however, mirror images of each other. Of course, what happens if a design flaw or cosmic ray changes one of the copies ever so slightly.

    This would, I imagine, require A LOT of data resources however. Maybe well beyond the practicalities of real world infrastructure for a long, long time.

    -Frank
     
  18. FrankABlissett
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    FrankABlissett Active Member

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    OhOhOh!

    If you do use one, unique brain-box, how about this? Let's say there are a large number of boxes in the data center. Could someone simply change the seriel number/nametag/whatever on the box, then unplug the bus that connects the box to the V-world? A little monkeying with the records, and it could remain hiding in plain sight till there's an audit of the boxes.

    -Frank
     
  19. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    One aspect I often find missing from future scenarios is the speed at which computer technology develops. If technology is sufficient to simulate a brain in real-time at t=0, it could simulate a brain at thirty times normal speed for the same cost ten years later.

    A few decades later, a brain simulator could cost as little as a laptop costs today, and people could, legally or illegally, run multiple simulations in their own homes.

    But perhaps you addressed that with requiring special hardware to simulate brains?
     
  20. EineKleine
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    Yes, you'll need to be wary that you don't alienate the majority of readers with textbook talk. However, you're experience definitely gives you an advantage. Also, jumping right in is easily the best approach. In any story, there must be consistent rules, and the author makes these rules in the first part of their story itself. Make sure everything that the story hinges upon later, is at least introduced, or foreshadowed in the beginning.
     
  21. Ellipse
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    Ellipse Contributing Member Contributor

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    A word of warning: If you write your story and it requires your readers to go to a source book just to understand the universe, that can hurt your work a lot. People generally don't want to read two books just to understand one story.

    Dune and the Wheel of Time books have apendixes included with them, but everything in the apendix is actually explained in the story.

    To avoid the problem I am talking about, try reading the novel Neuromancer. It came out in the 80s before the internet and computers and AIs were common knowledge. The author does a good job of implementing all those things into his story and explaining how they work without lecturing the reader on technology.
     
  22. twopounder
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    I'm giving a quick aside here in mentioning that this is remarkably like Total Annihilation, where the idea of transferring conscience from humans into computers sparks an intergalactic war.

    Back on the subject, sci-fi is hard to write. It is a very hard balance between what is believable and what is possible. Star Trek introduced self opening doors and voice activation, which everyone thought was gimmicky and impossible. Ironically, the most widely accepted sci-fi (Star Wars) has yet to include any potentially viable technology. Some of the most realistic (like battletech and it's Neuro Helmets) are largely ignored as "improbable and impracticable."

    It ultimately comes down to how interesting the story and characters are.
     
  23. Spacer
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    Spacer Active Member

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    Yes, I figure it will be done by hacking the system. So, workmen think they are making normal pickup and transfer arrangements, but deliver the victim into the evil lair, or at least to someplace less secure.

    I'm designing the world so that the growth curve has petered out. Although still technically exponential, the cost of further improvement is very high. The market is no longer driven by constant upgrades since once you have something powerful enough to do full immerse VR, why do you need a newer model next year?

    Brain boxes are standardized to run at 1/3 organic speed, BTW.
     
  24. Spacer
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    I figure Hal Clement and Robert L. Forward sold a few copies, so there is indeed some market.

    My gimmick to keeping it understandable is to write from the POV of the MC who needs to come to terms with things. As the MC learns from his experiences and tutelage, so does the reader. The MC is a "common man", not a brilliant scientist or anything.

    There is no narration. I have to work exposition in my having the MC think about it, or be told something.

    The more I think about it, the more daunting it seems.
     
  25. FrankABlissett
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    FrankABlissett Active Member

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    "...The more I think about it, the more daunting it seems...."

    That's common - I get it all the time. Even in short stories.

    You can either take on this project one bite at a time, or you can start with smaller works, with an eye on building the skills to write this story.

    Here are some potential projects, which can either be stand alone pieces or a piece of your larger work:

    A) Family discussing whether or not to go through the procedure.
    B) Someone post-dead, who finds out that a loved one has died, wanted to go on to the V-world, but could not (ie was suddenly poor, died in an accident that made the procedure impossible).
    C) Someone accidentally gets uploaded - was supposed to be another person.
    D) The first post-dead person to desire to run for public office.
    etc, etc.

    -Frank
     

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