1. Oscar Leigh

    Oscar Leigh Contributor Contributor

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    Normal jobs, Alternate Lives and the Hidden World Genre

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Oscar Leigh, Oct 26, 2018.

    So,
    One of my more significant projects isa hidden world type urban fantasy thing. Although I define it more as "paranormal" because I'm deriving from a slightly more urban legends and sci-fi material base than most such fantasies. In this setting the characters need some way of interacting with, managing and controlling their normal human identity.
    One of the things I had thought was that many, if not all, would have some sort of normal job they would hold that would match somewhat with their paranormal interests in activities. However given some of these characters have quite serious investments in this paranormal community, including jobs of their own, there's potential time constraints and conflicts of interest in having a normal human role. The main characters have a fairly workable version of this I think, because their normal role is largely congruent with and serves as dressing for their paranormal. To the extent they perform a separate role, they work as a paranormal PI unit, it is basically the same thing without the context and stakes of their paranormal role, that is that most of their cases are actually real, serious paranormal shenanigans. It's more like a cover than having two roles.
    But other characters I have, particularly those involved in the central organisations of the society that give it what order a subculture can have, they posses more serious problems with time and conflicts of interest. They're not so neatly congruent.
    So should I use more flat-out covers where they don't actually have separate roles? Should they be like the MCs, as re-skins of what the actually do isn't just a fake id? Would someone of them be better with more of a "fake id" type thing, which would probably be necessary if I removed competing roles. How do you carry this thing off well?
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2018
  2. Alan Aspie

    Alan Aspie Banned Contributor

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    You can solve this yourself if you first take it a bit more complex and then reduce it to the core points.

    Think of these concepts.

    - Self, the core and essence of being just that person.
    - Identity. What we are as part of different groups. Our social bark or cytoplasm. The shallow masks we have.
    - Role. The way we act out our identities.

    Hauge will help you.



    Protagonist must act in two different kind of storyworlds.

    Vogler will help you.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Writer%27s_Journey:_Mythic_Structure_for_Writers

    If you solve these questions yourself, the story will be better.
     
  3. Some Guy

    Some Guy Manguage Langler Supporter Contributor

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    Harry Potter, Dark City, and Dr Who come to mind when I think of time and multiple roles. Time seems like an awesome paranormal plaything...
     
  4. Oscar Leigh

    Oscar Leigh Contributor Contributor

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    I-I don't understand your advice. I'm not asking metaphor or narratives. I'm talking about literally roles, identity and jobs.
     
  5. Oscar Leigh

    Oscar Leigh Contributor Contributor

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    Plaything? My mention of time was to do with time constraints for the characters. Are you suggeting I use time manipulation to solve this problem? On a such a scale that seems excessive and unlikely.
     
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  6. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I think you can probably use the time crunch as a source of added tension? These characters aren't Bruce Wayne or Tony Stark, with endless resources at their disposal. They're more heroic than that. They're the volunteer firefighters of the paranormal world, holding day jobs AND fighting evil. They get tired. They have no time for meaningful personal lives. Maybe sometimes they get fired for repeated absenteeism.

    They could just quit being heroes--it'd would be so much easier to quit being heroes. But they can't walk away, so they have to make it work. But it's definitely an extra challenge for them.
     
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  7. Alan Aspie

    Alan Aspie Banned Contributor

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    Sorry.

    My usual way of thinking that kind of things is a bit like this:

    1. Add few levels of abstraction.
    2. Have a look to the thing in all those levels at the same time.
    3. Pay attention to dynamics and structures. See if you find anything interesting or important. (Patterns are most interesting and important things.)
    4. Then come back and have a look to substance - if it is necessary - and pay attention to it's relation to dynamics and structures in both abstract and tangible levels.
    5. Go forward.

    To me this is fastest and easiest way to think anything that has emotional, socio-emotional, social... substance.

    I would like to help you if I only could, but seems like I'm unable to do it.

    If I read that...

    ... I go "Hey, here we have these two easy-to-learn, easy-to-use DIY toolboxes for managing and controlling identities in story telling".

    I find this approach fast and time saving because often solving one problem takes you to the next problem that arises from your first solution. If you think things in a bit multidimensional structures, it is easier to rule those second, third... problems out.
     
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2018
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  8. Oscar Leigh

    Oscar Leigh Contributor Contributor

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    But my question is more about in story stuff not narrative design. I want to know what people is more effective or plausible.
     
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  9. Alan Aspie

    Alan Aspie Banned Contributor

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    Psychologically plausible character is effective and plausible.

    In Hauge -clip I did not put the focus on story structure but to his essence-identity -talk.

    In Vogler's book I did not put the focus on his story structure points in any other way but his Ordinary World <--> Special World -texts.

    You might find something useful from those two in few minutes.
     
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  10. Some Guy

    Some Guy Manguage Langler Supporter Contributor

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    Okay... I read through OP a few times and I took a guess at my varied interpretations. So these people are blending with our mundane world, hiding in wait for a crisis? Or looking for a 'specific'? Or guarding? Can they be in relationships, or have pets? I guess if they posed as a detective agency, they'd have a better advantage on the time thing? Are they taking the place of people?
    I'm now going back and forth as I type and reread OP. It looks like a 'field operatives' and hidden 'HQ' thing? Can the 'HQ' guys be seen or do they enjoy stable concealment - until exposed? Is the time conflict part of the story or just a plot problem? I'm obviously casting about, so what do I lack in understanding?
    Still, sounds like a cool story!
     
  11. Oscar Leigh

    Oscar Leigh Contributor Contributor

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    They're not waiting for a crisis they just have to manage normal world identities is the thing.
    The time conflict is the problem that managing two identities with their own jobs might be more difficult than if the normal world identity was essentially just a cover or re-skin rather than creating any independent work. It's not about time as a element just a a factor. I'm doing funking around with time as a main theme if that
    s what you thought. I apologise if my OP is a bit opaque it's hard to word these things.
    So my question is what do you think about the plausibility of managing those two alternatives? And which one is more effective at hiding? And how would you do it? Like, Spider Man has school stuff, usually high-school but sometimes uni, in most version and this makes it more difficult to manage. Would it be easier if they didn't have such clearly defined separate roles but instead it was something more the Men In Black movies where they don't really have another job or identity in particular?
    Everyone can be seen, and everyone who has a normal human identity is, but they do use some forms of concealment and deception to help with the elements that are particularly difficult to explain or hide otherwise. And there are non-human entities, some of which don't use covers such as demons and various cryptid creatures. Additionally, the paranormal world of this story exists under, and is indeed referred to by the term, an effect called "The Shadows" that makes it harder to be perceived or understood properly by normal people. Although some ostensibly normal people are "Sensitives" who are related to some sort of Sorcerer or Esper(the two main types of human people with paranormal ability) and have latent power-aura that makes it easier to overcome The Shadows.
    Essentially the main point of the story is threefold. One: the lore is more paranormal urban legend based than usual. Two, it's slightly more on the ground and local, if only because I don't introduce any eldritch gods, ultra-powered original vampires, as well as the less hustle and bustle setting(the primary locale is Salem, Massachusetts, although in this community it's more important than it size suggest but it's still smaller than New York). And three, the style deals with a certain amount of mundane elements in a way that's supposed to somewhat subvert the atmosphere of the paranormal things in their sense of weirdness and distance from normality. Instead, every is presented very humanly, dealing with real and normal problems. And eccentric-ness is an element of the style as well. Generally not taking the paranormal elements so seriously, and not isolated from the modern world setting but instead having if affect them and seeing how they conform or contrast. There's a bunch of detective stuff, buddy hijinks, horror, a bit of action and even some politics along the way.
     
  12. Some Guy

    Some Guy Manguage Langler Supporter Contributor

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    Okay. So, choose the easiest paradigm(?) to write (ie MiB) and work up to the most intricate you're comfortable with. Perhaps by buddies or group or individual. A personal 1 v 1 with a 'spook' could be a simple (detective) sideline? Then the new-partners or throw-together thing? Then the Army Of Darkness thing... Then the big bad something-or-other that brings em all together? Each one diving into politics or work-a-day or relationship or grudge or... ? It sounds like you have a work-a-day people meet the Strange, with lots of personal people-stuff?
     
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  13. Oscar Leigh

    Oscar Leigh Contributor Contributor

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    The genre and pacing elements aren't my problem. My problem is simply the question of how many jobs one can maintain, what is an efficient cover in regard to jobs, and how best to make that work. That stuff was just context to explain more clearly what's going in the story and how it works.
     
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  14. Some Guy

    Some Guy Manguage Langler Supporter Contributor

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    So, like detective, night-job, faux-cleaning service that's an excuse to drag equip in and bad guys out, clergy, some unseen and unappreciated occupation? Street people come and go. Something funny? Ice cream truck? Ooh, palm reader!
     
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  15. Oscar Leigh

    Oscar Leigh Contributor Contributor

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    That's more what I was going on for. My main concern specifically is it some of the characters with particular responsibilities would be able to manage two jobs. The Abriters Counil, the closest they have to subcommunity leaders, have under the current idea separate but relevant and manageable alternate careers. For example, local gov councillor or priest. Is this realistic to manage those two lives without the simply being a cover for the paranormal?
     
  16. Some Guy

    Some Guy Manguage Langler Supporter Contributor

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    Well, if they function as a dispatch or report-to, they're fine. They could probably have a bring-your-toaster-in-for-an-exorcism thing. Course, they would have to be kidnapped or rug-pulled for drama's sake! I see the clergy thing working if they arrange shifts, and smirk about upsetting that applecart for drama's sake. Or even having a team on standby, to kidnap a politician-agent so he can do his para-thing with a team already deployed, for a smooth-operation thing. Some serious, some hapless, some getting bailed out again and again?
     
  17. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Are there substantial resources available, so that covers could be created, secret agent style? Or are these people essentially on their own, so that their non-supernatural job is not just cover but actually making a living? And are they making a supernatural living?

    One scenario: “Sure, we can figure out what’s haunting your mansion. To pay us, you can pay Jane $10K for one of her paintings, or buy two junker cars from me at $5K apiece. What’s your preference?”
     
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  18. Oscar Leigh

    Oscar Leigh Contributor Contributor

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    At least some of these people are making a living off supernatural activity, yes.
     
  19. Azuresun

    Azuresun Senior Member

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    It would depend on the demands of the job in question, so it's hard to give a blanket answer. Possible things to consider--

    --How much time does that job consume?
    --How predictable are the hours, and how much notice is needed to change it?
    --How closely monitored are they at work, and how tolerant would their management be for their needing to dash off at short notice, turning up to work exhausted or with strange bruises, or their being involved with odd occult stuff, sighted at crime scenes, etc?
    --How much can their supernatural abilities (if any) paper over the above problems? For example, can they rewrite memories, send a mirror duplicate of themselves to sit in at a meeting, assign the test paper marking over to an animated pen while they're off kung-fu fighting vampires, etc?

    One thing I wonder is, how much do you want the focus to be on them balancing their mundane concerns with their lives in the supernatural world? Is it the focus of a lot of the story and conflicts, or do you just need a quick handwave so that you can get on with the interesting bits?
     
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  20. Oscar Leigh

    Oscar Leigh Contributor Contributor

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    I want to deal with it more than just some handwavy Twillight explanation, and deal with the consequences. I think that has interest But I don't want it to become too much of a concern because it becomes difficult to fully answer at a certain point. And there are plenty of other things going
     
  21. Azuresun

    Azuresun Senior Member

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    Then it'll depend on the specifics of the job, and the demands that their other life makes. I'd suggest working backwards--think of what sort of conflict you want the characters to be having, and then give them mundane / magical responsibilities that will cause those clashes.
     
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  22. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    What you describe is called a masquerade. Some kind of either supernatural or otherly world living alongside the normally mundane world, hidden in plain sight.

    There are lots of ways to approach it, and you've mentioned MIB, which takes one direction where the characters' lives revolve around keeping the masquerade a masquerade, though they themselves aren't a part of what's being masqueraded. In their case, there's an initial setup wherein these people come from special backgrounds that suit them to the task of hiding the alien presence on Earth. Their skillset serves as the gloss that allows them not to have to work as accountants or teachers or something else by day.

    But, I'm sure you've seen the show Being Human?

    [​IMG]

    In their story (I didn't watch after the change-up in cast) no one has a nice convenient family fortune or country manor home that's been in the family for centuries or an enclave or anything like that at all. John and George work in a hospital as orderlies because being a vampire or a werewolf doesn't exactly pay the rent in working-class Bristol, now does it? Now, their story is different in that for George, werewolves don't have any kind of organized culture and John is doing everything in his power to stay out of vampire culture. Their conflict comes in the form of all the obstacles they face just (wait for it) Being Human. ;)

    From what you describe, I think your answer is already inherent in the question, and it would make for a ready and bountiful fountain of conflict. The social stratification of those without normal mundane concerns like an office-type 9-5, vs those who don't have that luxury and have to deliver pizza to make ends meet. Your Central Organization sounds like it's at least modestly in charge of those who live within the masquerade, and yet, perhaps, it's equally dependant on the "working class" members for its income and ability to be a dedicated Central Organization?

    Your choice obviously, but my pick would be to not make this masquerade a monolithic structure where everyone is covered by the same umbrella. The fact that there could be those standing at the edge of the umbrella, or wholly outside of its protection, feels like a very real and relatable source of conflict that relates to our unmasqueraded, real world.
     
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  23. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Ex-Patriot Supporter Contributor

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    If you can find the TV series Dead Like Me, the MC is juggling a job at a temp staffing agency (she works in the office that sends the temps out) with her supernatural job as a Reaper, where she has to go and release the souls of the soon-to-be-dead. She's got a whole bunch of scheduling issues she gets around by telling her boss that she's a recovering alcoholic and "needs to go to a meeting, like, right now" on a few occasions, as well as making up some other excuses. Money is an issue that all the Reapers face, since their supernatural job is compulsory yet pays nothing. Although it's not explicitly stated in the series, I think that the Reapers also have unconscious access to a bit of magic that makes people accept what they say more easily than they otherwise would, which not only grants them access to disaster scenes and such to free souls, but also may sway their temporal employers when they need time off.
     
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  24. Oscar Leigh

    Oscar Leigh Contributor Contributor

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    Interesting. I think the Arbiters Council though, the characters I'm most worried about in terms of the realism of two jobs, will get paid for their council work. Which does make it easier to justify doing it if it actually pays off.
     
  25. S A Lee

    S A Lee Contributor Contributor

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    I had to think about this a lot, particularly because of citizenship and other concepts for my own work.

    It's hard to express, but rather than isolate themselves from human society (ETA: Harry Potter is a good example here) they have an infrastructure that is either parasitic or symbiotic with humanity friending in your personal opinion.

    Most civilians have a day job, but appear to have a subscription of some kind, this is a contribution to a place of respite from the mundane world. Colloquially they're called pockets.

    Not many are off the grid completely, for the most part it is just the enforcers of the secrecy as some with specific expertise can be sent a long way from home base. There are those who merely visit this plane of existence, but they have their own system.
     
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2018
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