1. Dewin

    Dewin New Member

    Apr 19, 2020
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    Help with a vague plotline!

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Dewin, Apr 19, 2020.

    Hello, I'm new and registered so to start on a horror story I've been wanting to do now!
    The story's concept is based on a dream I had years ago. It's about a class of students who are on a dangerous field trip led by a substitute teacher, who wishes to sacrifice them to an unknown entity.

    It's simple, but when I thought about it, I didn't have any idea why this teacher would want to use these students as sacrifices. Not to mention, I don't know what kind of trials the students would have during the field trip (not to mention most of them are going to die).

    Any ideas?
  2. cosmic lights

    cosmic lights Contributor Contributor

    Aug 30, 2018
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    Norwich, UK
    I can't really help with giving you any ideas but this is very vague almost to the point there is little premise to start with. You have more of a situation. How does the teacher expect to get away with this? What's dangerous about the field trip and why would students allowed in dangerous situations?

    I think doing some work on your teacher and who he/she is and the belief system he/she has is going to help you answer the other questions. What is he/she hoping sacrificing a group of youths will achieve? What's the goal he/she wants to accomplish and why does he/she want to accomplish it. Is it a cult thing? Is it a personal thing? What are conflicts and stakes of this desire? Answering these questions will help you with your other questions. What is this trip all about? Is it a religious studies trip or something else? Try getting into the psychology of this teacher.
    jannert and Steve Rivers like this.
  3. Aaron Smith

    Aaron Smith Banned Contributor

    Jun 2, 2013
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    Find inspiration in mythology. This way you can justify any weird shit you write as an allegory (see: The Killing of a Scared Deer by Yorgos Lanthimos). I am sure there is some story out there about a person who sacrificed twelve of his children to some unknown entity for divine purposes. Or something.
    Rzero and cosmic lights like this.
  4. Cdn Writer

    Cdn Writer Contributor Contributor

    Aug 11, 2019
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    Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, North America
    Currently Reading::
    TRYING (!!!) to read Eric Flint's "Ring of Fire" series.......it's soooo many books!!!!!
    The teacher wants to sacrifice the kids to a dark power in exchange for riches, immortality or fame?

    The kids explore a "safe" site that turns out to have an underground cave and there's a cave in? Several kids fall in, are in immediate danger of dying so the teacher gets the others together to mount a rescue operation (which he sabotages) and gets his sacrifice to the dark lords and his reward.

    A week later, the teacher stumbles out of the brush into the hands of a search party which back tracks and finds all the dead kids and while investigating, they find out the teacher had the winning $100 million Powerball lottery ticket in his pocket....too bad he died getting out of the bush.

    The aftermath, the teacher is enroute to hell and complaining he was cheated. The dark lord says, "I didn't cheat you! You WON the freaking POWERBALL LOTTERY!!! $100 MILLION!!! I never said you'd live to spend the money..."

    BTW, I'd like 90% of the revenue when you write the book if you use my idea. Thanks!
  5. Rzero

    Rzero Reluctant voice of his generation Contributor

    Oct 29, 2018
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    I think what you have here is a short story, maybe a great one. In a short story, you don't have to worry as much about histories and motivations. In fact, I might consider leaving it very dreamlike. The children start on a field trip on a sunny day and end up in a fight for their life nightmare. You don't need to know the teacher's motivation. He or she is just a part of this system, henchman to an ancient evil that devours children. (or maybe an extension or avatar of the evil entity.) In a short story, we don't need to know how they've gotten away with it for years. We just need the story and the action and the terror. Don't overthink this. I'm a big fan of outlines and architecture writing, but on a piece like this, I might advise discovery writing. Start the story and see where it goes. At most, you might want to decide a few things beforehand, like what exactly the monster is going to be and whether or not any of the kids will survive, but even these things, you could figure out as you go. Good luck!
    Xoic likes this.
  6. Oxymaroon

    Oxymaroon Contributor Contributor

    Dec 25, 2017
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    Ontario, Canada
    You have one event, which will be central. There are a couple of implied sub-events: 1. the regular teacher became unavailable (how? why? did the substitute engineer that?) and 2. the field trip was scheduled through the regular school curriculum (by whom? where to? by what means? what was the educational purpose?)
    That's the start of a plot, in which you will have to decide what else happens and how it ends.

    You have characters. The teacher, the [how many?] students and the narrator. Obviously the teacher is the antagonist. One of the students must become the protagonist. The rest of the students, the supernatural entity, and any persons, creatures or spooks they encounter during the adventure will become secondary characters.
    The two primary characters must be well drawn, with a history, demonstrable traits, credible motivations and distinctive voices.
    The secondary characters may come into focus, or not, as the plot development demands.

    One of the two, primary characters, another of the students, an uninvolved bystander or an omniscient external narrator has to tell the story. Whichever one you choose, the POV and voice must be self-consistent.
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2020
  7. Friedrich Kugelschreiber

    Friedrich Kugelschreiber marshmallow Contributor

    May 8, 2017
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    In this sort of horror story, the mysterious supernatural can explain away quite a bit.
    Rzero likes this.
  8. Steve Rivers

    Steve Rivers Contributor Contributor

    Dec 15, 2019
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    In a tent built out of facemasks
    The thing that struck me about your initial synopsis, Dewin, was you including the word "substitute" teacher. That might be your subconscious giving you a hint in itself (or maybe not, who knows!) but it's a good hook to start building the character and giving him/her motives for what you want. Why are they a substitute teacher and not a full teacher? A story for that reason might lend to resentment, personal family circumstances, a personality quirk or mental problem, lots of reasons that meant they are not a full teacher, and lend to a sinister reason why they subversively don't actually like the children they're in charge of. That will go a long way towards motive. Then, you can dream up that linking up with whatever demonic or cultish phenomenon you want giving them the opportunity to take out their built-up hatred and resentment on the snotty nosed little punks :)
    jannert and Xoic like this.
  9. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

    Mar 7, 2013
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    Yeah, or they might have registered as a substitute teacher in order to gain access to students, without having to go through the hassle of getting a real job. But ...do substitute teachers usually get to take students on field trips?

    @Dewin I agree with all the others. Focus on the teacher, till you have the background straight in your head. It will take time to build your story's 'world.' Just dig into it, and use your own imagination. There isn't really any short cut. Get into the writer's habit of developing your own ideas. Then it's your story, not some cobbled together version of somebody else's.

    Sounds as if you're in a hurry to get to the exciting bits, about what happens on the trip, and what happens to the individual students. However, while the story can focus on this, if you don't have a reason for the teacher's behaviour (0ther than something naff like 'pure evil') the story won't have any substance.

    Think about the teacher. Is the teacher willing to do this 'sacrifice?' Or is he/she being forced into it, and is appalled by what is going to happen? Could the teacher U-turn at the last minute, to save the remaining students by sacrificing him/herself instead? Play around with all the possibilities.

    You can also just jump in and start writing—write one of the scenes you have strongly envisioned already—and see what the interaction between your characters tells you about the foundation of the story. You don't have to start at the beginning. Start with whatever scene you've already thought up. That's a pretty great method to get ideas going, if they're not fully formed in your head when you first start writing. It's also a great way to recognise potential plot holes. You can throw away anything that needs changed or doesn't work later on.

    The trick is to get started. Nothing is set in stone until you get published! :)
    Steve Rivers likes this.
  10. faustian90

    faustian90 Member

    Apr 24, 2020
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    I would research the personality type of your typical cult leader (malignant narcissist). Try to dive into his mind's bizarre machinations and come up with ways in which the sacrifice might help him suit his own ends. Would his sins be forgiven by sacrificing innocent kids? Would he gain their powers and unlimited potential? You might want to look into the myth of the Scapegoat and some other mythologies that may be relevant.
    Xoic likes this.
  11. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin A tombstone hand and a graveyard mind Staff Supporter Contributor

    Jan 8, 2017
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    Rhode Island
    How dangerous? I take it they're not going to an art museum or the Statue of Liberty (though the latter wouldn't be a great idea now).

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