1. Simon Price

    Simon Price Active Member

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    Getting my story rolling: need help

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Simon Price, Jan 21, 2018.

    So, I've reached the point where I know enough about the general framework of the plot and what I'm writing towards that I feel comfortable writing without feeling too much like I'll just write myself into a corner for lack of preparation. Based on what I've heard, it sounds like I shouldn't stress too much about the outline (to a point) and just get into writing, see what comes out, and then build up from there in subsequent drafts. But when I actually sat down to start writing my opening scene, I realized there were major problems with the idea I had for how to open it and that I have to come up with something else.

    Basically the main plot focuses on a 19 year old boy named Keaton, living in the modern day when out of nowhere, all at the same time, everyone on earth has a mysterious rune magically branded onto their arms, which new symbols start appearing on each week, each one granting everyone on earth a new superpower. In addition, Keaton, along with 23 other people on the planet, are each given their own unique additional power, which in Keaton's case is the ability to dive into the senses of any of the last three people he's touched, allowing him to see everything they see, hear everything they hear, etc.

    The first half of the story is a mix of slice of life and mystery as Keaton, along with the rest of the world, adjusts to life in a world where everyone gets a new superpower every week, while trying, with his friends, to solve a series of murders he suspects is being carried out by another member of "The 24".

    The second half of the story is when the darker implications of this sort of world rear their ugly heads and one week the new power nearly destroys the status quo of modern life entirety, with the world's infrastructure in ruins, mass prison breakouts, and nearly everything the police and government use to assert their authority rendered completely useless, forcing Keaton and his friends to fight for their lives to get back home.

    Now, the planned opening I had for this had Keaton in the car with his mom on the highway one afternoon when the rune first appears, and it's burned, painfully, onto everyone's arm in such a way that it causes Keaton and his mom (along with countless others) to get into a nasty car accident. I figured this would be a good way to inject some early excitement into the story, throw in a lot of injuries to make the discovery of the first power (a healing factor) both easier and more interesting, and provide a good opportunity for Keaton to bump into one of the other main characters who's kind of a wandering teenage runaway.

    But I then realized that having the powers get introduced in such a dangerous way would probably make everyone much more suspicious about the intentions of the mystery entity/entities responsible for the empowerment and make it much less believable that anyone wouldn't suspect that the party responsible isn't exactly giving them all of these wonderful toys for particularly benevolent reasons. Plus, it would probably, if done remotely believably, result in a catastrophic number of deaths that would probably severely darken the tone of the story before I'm ready to take it there in the second half.

    So I thought I'd ask around if anyone either

    a: Has any suggestions for how they would open a story like this if they were writing it,

    b: Can think of a way my original opening plan could work if just tweaked a bit in a way I haven't thought of,

    or c: has any other advice to help me work out on my own what a good way to open this up would be.

    Any advice would be appreciated!
     
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  2. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    This scenario has a slightly familiar ring to it. Did you talk about it on another thread?
     
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  3. Simon Price

    Simon Price Active Member

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    Yes I did, though from a different angle and asking different questions to the point that it didn't make sense asking new questions there. Did I misjudge the situation? Is that not allowed?
     
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  4. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    No no ...I just wondered why it sounded familiar to me. It was the thing about getting a mysterious rune brand of some kind, which gives superpowers ...and then more brands and more powers, etc. I was sure I'd seen this discussed before. I was hoping it had been you who brought it up on a previous thread ...otherwise somebody else stole your idea! :eek:

    Give me a bit of time to have a think about your question, and I'll get back to you.
     
  5. Rob40

    Rob40 Active Member

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    Do these new powers disappear with the appearance of the new power the next week? Like everyone only has one power at a time and it changes so you suddenly cant see through walls like you could since last Tuesday but now you have amazing E.T. style healing powers? That would inject a new measure where the tables turn every seven days. Already you have a world that suddenly will be in mass hysteria because governments and police and military cant handle any of it. So you do have a great hysterical and crumbling world to run your characters through to fight in new ways to get where they're going. Look at the setting, what's the thing everyone will do when they have their powers? Honestly, they will think of themselves first and what they can do, get, or cause. After that then they start to settle down but are again given another power and the new hysterics start up every seven days. But, if you have new powers every week showing up, then you now have a long timeline over which to spread their story across. How many cycles of these new power discoveries do you want to see? How can you use those styles at each level of the story progress? Because if you have 5 new powers show up, you now have a 5-week storyline at least. That's a long time for the world to crumble around the characters.

    The opening is interesting because the crash they have would undoubtedly not be the only crash caused by this. Airplanes suddenly fall because passengers have a power they cant control. Trains, ships, boats, buildings even might collapse with thousands of people suddenly igniting themselves or others on fire, laser vision, super strength at inopportune times. Just the mass change alone of becoming a person made of metal would upset the balance of a hammock, if not breaking the thing. After the crash, they would have to come to their senses, find some burn cream, be healed by a witness to the crash because they now have that power, and then they have to either get home or find their friends and just come to grips with whats happening. Imagine the news TV or radio reports of the reporter describing their own powers much less what they see happening around them.

    In a way, you have a journey through a dystopian aftermath. That's what the world will become until everyone can establish a civilization of super-powered people. That would take much longer than 5 weeks so your 5-weeks will be about survival I think.

    Those are just my thoughts but that opening could be pretty octane-filled because that world change would be very intense over a long time for everyone.
     
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  6. Simon Price

    Simon Price Active Member

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    Thanks for your input, but just to clarify a few things:

    Every week everyone gets the exact same power. Everyone can have up to six powers at once, and whichever power is in the rune's sixth circle will be replaced with the next week's power, but you can control which power is where on the rune so you can decide which ones you want to keep. I did this to make sure I allowed for individuality for characters' powersets while still getting the opportunity of exploring what happens when, say, everyone on the planet gains the power to teleport.

    The first power is a healing factor, which is pretty benign (though game-changing for a great number of people, namely the disabled and elderly who become healthy and young again). The only really noteworthy bad things that happen from this power are the gruesome side effects for anyone who's undergone significant aesthetic surgery.

    The idea is that the first few weeks are sorta calm, though with some fun superpowered hijinks and stuff obviously happening, like a lot of the average people just kinda go "so this is what life's like now, huh, this is pretty awesome", but then certain powers start dropping that get people a little on edge about how dangerous this could be, before finally, BOOM, the first power that sends all of the shit hurling at all of the fans drops, and it's absolute bedlam. The idea is I want to take the opportunity to explore the cultural impact this would have on our world while the powers available still allow for the world to be recognizable since I'll never have the chance again. But I want to start the story on something interesting and exciting that ideally would give Keaton a chance to discover his unique power and put it to use while also making it readily apparent that everyone can heal now.
     
  7. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I think that the car accident is likely to add a lot of not-directly-relevant complexity, especially if there are "lots of injuries" rather than just a little bump and a ticket.

    I also think that within minutes of these runes and powers appearing, the entire planet is going to be up in arms. In the US, I would expect National Guard to be on the streets within a day, new laws passed, possibly martial law and curfews. I don't think that you can get "much more suspicious" because suspicion will be pegged at maximum level immediately. Everywhere that depends on security will be ramping up their security in every conceivable way.
     
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  8. Simon Price

    Simon Price Active Member

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    Hmmm... That's a good point too... no matter what the first rune does, everyone suddenly getting a weird symbol on their arm (even if I decide it doesn't burn) is going to have people in a panic just at the sheer scale of entity required to be capable of that, at least initially. When there's no subsequent alien invasion and the runes prove to be entirely beneficial to the bearer, I imagine things will calm down and people will adapt, but I could definitely use the initial panic to get the story going... Definitely an option to consider.
     
  9. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Problem is, 'beneficial to the bearer' isn't necessarily beneficial to everybody. You already pointed out that it may harm/kill people who've had plastic surgery. And will people born with life-threatening birth defects that were corrected surgically lose that correction? Will removed appendixes return, only to go bad and kill people when the healing power is gone?

    I'd bet that I can come up with a bunch of horrible impacts of any of the other powers. And, more importantly, other readers can. I think that a whole lot of people are going to die as a result of each power.

    And in any case, the government isn't going to believe that the powers will always be beneficial. They're going to assume, from the first moment, that something dangerous will come along.

    If you're making this a sort of cartoonish situation, this could all be ignored. But otherwise, this is gong to be a dark world in a huge amount of fear and pain.
     
  10. Simon Price

    Simon Price Active Member

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    I think you may be over-exaggerating things. Yes, nearly any power imaginable could have a dark side, and yes a lot of the complications society will run into will be a huge thing to explore, but that doesn’t mean that every introduced power is going to inspire widespread panic and an inescapably dark atmosphere. Many of them will drastically improve the average person’s quality of life.
     
  11. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I think that you're over-exaggerating the placidity of the government. :) I just don't see Congress saying, "Huh. All of humanity is being fundamentally changed in a way that is unprecedented in human history. They have new abilities that don't, yet, have the ability to destroy society, but there's zero reason to assume that the next one won't destroy us all. We also have no idea whether this change might result in everyone dropping dead on Thursday. So, ho hum, let's not worry about it. What's for lunch?"

    No; I'm pretty confident that in 24 hours every critical member of the government is going to be evacuated to whatever salt mine has been prepared for nuclear war, and every member of the National Guard will be deployed. Assuming, of course, that the government still trusts the armed forces, given that they, too, are being changed.
     
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  12. Simon Price

    Simon Price Active Member

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    I did say “the initial panic”, did I not?

    And yes, I did from the beginning have plans to acknowledge the paranoia the government would be experiencing, but eventually they’re going to have to realize that other than general things there’s no actual scenario they know in advance to prepare for. And at any rate life will have to go on eventually or society will just collapse from lack of productivity.
     
  13. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    They'll come up with scenarios and add layer after layer of security. (Prisons: Prisoners might be able to telekinetically defeat mechanical locks? Also add electronic locks with passcode combinations. Prisoners might be able to telepathically determine the combinations? The combinations are scrambled every second and the guards use a device that calculates the combination at the moment of unlocking. And just in case that doesn't work, the most dangerous prisoners get an armed guard on them 24 hours a day. And so on.)

    But it sounds like "government isn't worried" is a core basis for your novel, no matter what. Given that, I'd recommend having your novel not have a too-realistic vibe--you could get away with a lot more with a sort of Hitchhiker's level of semi-reality, than with something closer to hard reality.
     
  14. Simon Price

    Simon Price Active Member

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    I think we may have misunderstood each other. You seem to be talking about the government making sure to be crazy prepared, but I was talking about the government doing its best but realizing that the government at least has to return to normal function and not hide 24/7 in bunkers because if the entity is malicious there’s nothing they can truly do to stop somebody who seems to be able to alter physical laws on a whim. And I was also talking abiut the citizenry at least eventually returning to something resembling a calm normal life after it becomes clear this isn’t a prelude to an invasion.
     
  15. Rob40

    Rob40 Active Member

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    The OP straightened out the direction of the powers and when they change. Initially, they are nice and helpful; healing, insightful, etc. and then at one point the big ones start coming. Where gangs fought in alleys with knives and now pistols, all of a sudden they're fighting effectively with heavy weapons and now buildings look like war zones and the police and national guard have the same thing happen to them. The government wouldn't have any guidance at all this quickly and are still trying to figure out the impact of the nice powers on the balance sheet of public services when the heavy stuff shows up. So there will be a government in panic at first and although the national guard and riot teams called in, what do they have but equal powers now.

    So instead of shaping the government and military into a buzz kill, they could equally be fractured just like society will be with the powers. What we're doing is world building for the OP instead of answering the question of how would we open it a different way.

    I think as you write this, your characters will drive the story very hard in directions different to what you planned for. Don't resist that because I know you have planned how you want the story to run but how they get there may surprise you. There is a changing world that you get to play with and will allow you to throw all kinds of wrenches into their efforts and plans. Have fun with this because it could be a great time. An action adventure mix with the fantasy story could work very nice.
     
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  16. Thundair

    Thundair Contributor Contributor

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    A story like that would need to focus on the MC and not reveal the others 23.
    You could tell each story in omni. I'm sure the government would want to put a stop to it, and put them in a CIA black hole.
    The doctors would have a coalition against anyone healing without a license. The pharmacies would have a hit squad, because you would put them out of business. Then there is the police, what are they to do if there is no crime? Your 24 chosen ones would wreck everything. It was 24 wasn't it?
     
  17. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    I kind of like the car crash opening. I don't think you have to make it a deadly crash if you don't want to, but I car see your opening scene from the little you've provided and I think it can really work. I mean people everywhere are going through this at once. Of course, it's going to make a mess of the roadways. It sounds like you've been in the prewriting stage for awhile. This is a good idea for an opening. I would write it out. A lot of the times things we think will give us trouble don't actually while we're writing. Trust in yourself that you will figure some of this out as you go because nothing ever goes 100 percent as planned. If you ask me, it sounds like you're more than ready to start writing. Good luck!
     
  18. TheRealStegblob

    TheRealStegblob Kill All Mages Contributor

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    A car crash opening works, if you think you can write it correctly. Starting any story with a "AND THEN SUDDENLY A TERRIBLE ACCIDENT HAPPENED" is rather difficult no matter what the scenario is, because it gives you no time to establish characters or a setting before throwing both of those things in chaos. You of course have a very unique scenario, with everyone suddenly having mysterious runes branded into their skin, so while it will take some finesse to write it correctly it would serve as a bombastic way to set the tone of the story. The world you describe is one where no one has any of the answers and the playing field is constantly changing, with everyone constantly getting new powers, so an opening that tosses itself right into that form of action might be very interesting.
     
  19. Kalisto

    Kalisto Senior Member

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    a: Yes, I do. What was Keaton's life like before he got super powers? This is how most stories start. And I'm not suggesting that all stories should be the same, but in the science fiction and fantasy genres, is often a good place to start because that's where you establish a sense of normal. It's very difficult to show just how much a conflict affects a character's life when there's no establishment of normal to compare it to.

    This will also help us learn about Keaton. How does he view his life? Does he see it as mundane and boring? Does he find it good? What we know about him from the beginning will help readers understand some of decisions he makes particularly when he first gets his powers.

    b: Well, it depends what exactly you feel about it doesn't work. Is it too boring? Does it have an inconsistent tone? Do you struggle with how the characters are? The early excitement is okay, if it works. Consider possibly taking to heart the quote that readers will more likely read about interesting characters doing boring things before they read about boring characters doing interesting things. You don't have to have a car accident if the accident itself is what isn't working.

    Also trust you readers. Yes there might have been a car accident, but if the good outweighs the bad, then maybe the readers might forgive your aliens for trying to help. (PS, I work in Insurance. MOST car accidents results in no one getting hurt.)
     
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  20. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    @Simon Price -
    I think that's the crux of your problem. It might be 'exciting' to open that way, but it wouldn't be just car accidents this sudden appearance of runes branded on people's skin would cause, but other things as well. Imagine a surgeon performing an operation, or any other job that requires skill and precision, or involves operating dangerous machinery, etc. You'd have planes falling out of the sky, people dying in hospitals, roofers falling off roofs, etc. You'd be starting out with a disaster on your hands.

    What if this transformation happened while people were asleep? They wake up to find a rune branded on their arm, and then realise they can do something they couldn't do before? By the time they realise everybody else has been given the same 'gift,' the panic would have subsided.

    OR ...maybe they could discover the superpower BEFORE they notice the rune?
     

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