1. frigocc

    frigocc Contributor Contributor

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    Plot With No Real Conflict / Showdown?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by frigocc, Feb 22, 2019.

    Writing a superhero comedy. It's about the main character realizing that being a superhero has tons of obstacles, and isn't very realistic. There will be a scene where he gets stabbed, but that's really the only big action. There's no mafia he takes down, his girlfriend isn't raped, he doesn't stop a bank robber. Sounds boring, but there's a reason for it. The entire story is about vigilantes not being able to really do anything. He doesn't take down the mafia because there simply isn't one. Who the hell crosses paths with the mafia on a day to day basis in real life? You ever seen a bank robbery? I sure as hell haven't, and even if I hear of one over the police scanner, the cops can get there with their sirens far faster than I can driving in heavy city traffic during rush hour.

    Can a story like this truly be compelling? I kinda do want one potential action scene in there (where he gets stabbed), but hard to think of something a vigilante would realistically encounter.

    What do you guys think?
     
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  2. Darius Marley

    Darius Marley Member

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    I think the idea is pretty cool, and if you can write a character that I really like, then almost anything is allowed! I've enjoyed many books that didn't have especially compelling themes... but the characters were great, and they kept me reading on.
     
  3. EdFromNY

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    For a story to be compelling it has to...well, be compelling. There are lots of ways to do that, but you've only listed the things your story doesn't do, do it's hard to judge. Keep in mind Steven James' Ceiling Fan Rule: you don't have a story until something goes wrong. So, what goes wrong for your hero, and what does he have to do to make it right?
     
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  4. frigocc

    frigocc Contributor Contributor

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    Well, everything goes wrong, but not in a dangerous way, or a way where he can do anything other than try harder, fail again, and quit. I can't really think of any huge event other than being stabbed. I'm sure I could make something out of that.
     
  5. EdFromNY

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, but what makes the reader want to keep turning the page?
     
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  6. frigocc

    frigocc Contributor Contributor

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    Seeing what goes wrong next And definitely character voice.
     
  7. EBohio

    EBohio Banned

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    What he gets cut shaving in the morning?
    And this is a comedy?

    Dude, re-think this.
     
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  8. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    How will you know when the story's done?

    That sounds kinda rhetorical, but I think it's a useful way to discover central conflicts. and I think a lot of the time your conflict doesn't have to be external... it could be your character coming to terms with the realization that super powers aren't that useful, or whatever.

    If there's NO way to know when your story's done and it could just keep on going indefinitely, then... well. I think that will make it more difficult for you to give readers a satisfying experience. Not impossible, I wouldn't say, but certainly a challenge.
     
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  9. frigocc

    frigocc Contributor Contributor

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    Yeah, it's a comedy. I have many ideas of things that will go right /wrong that I'll explore. But it's not supposed to be some big epic adventure

    Yes, the realization will be the end.
     
  10. EBohio

    EBohio Banned

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    Don't know if you are in the U.S. or how old you are but it sounds like an old tv show: The Greatest American Hero

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Greatest_American_Hero
     
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  11. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    Have you got any of it actually written yet? If so, what are you picking up about this character? Not his situation, but him, himself? Is he frustrated that there doesn't seem to be any purpose to his life? Is there something he'd rather be doing than chasing cops who are chasing criminals? What are you getting from this character? There's the old question you need to ask yourself ...what does he want?

    And then, it's fun to throw another character or two into the mix. Maybe you could create somebody who thinks your guy is a big hero, even though he might be feeling like a bit of a fraud. If you want it to be a comedy, you could make your hero go through all sorts of contortions in order to make his fan continue to believe in him. This person could be a love interest, OR a young fan who wants to be just like him. OR maybe another character who turns out to actually HAVE powers himself ...powers that may well eclipse your characters' powers.

    It's hard to envision a world where nothing ever goes wrong. Mafia types will always be with us. Bank robberies will continue to take place (as long as we have banks.) Then there is the region of cyber crime. What could a superhero do about cybercrime? The police certainly don't always get there in time.

    There are lots and lots of ways this story could go. Push ideas around, but try to stay away from the most obvious clichés. And get your own take on superheros into the mix. If superheroes did actually exist, what would their lives be like? Really like? Forget all the stories about superheroes that have already been written, and go for something uniquely yours.

    This story will succeed if you make your superhero a character people will like and believe in. Not necessarily in his superpowers, but in him as a person. And maybe give him a reason to figure out his life?
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2019
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  12. frigocc

    frigocc Contributor Contributor

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    I can address everything else when I'm not typing on my phone, but I will say that even though, yes, bank robberies and the mafia do exist, realistically, what are the chances of encountering one? Less than 0.1%, I'd imagine. Instead of making ANOTHER story about the 1 in a 100 million chance, I want an average dude. Goes out to fight crime, but ends up eating a burger and going home to jack off because there's simply no big crime that night.

    This isn't Gotham, it's 2019 Boston. Good luck finding anything more than some minor drug busts 99% of nights.

    I don't want this story to be the same stuff that's always written, just repackaged. I want the realism.
     
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  13. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    Is he an average dude, or a superhero? Maybe I'm picking you up wrong. If he's an 'actual' superhero, he doesn't necessarily need to be out there busting criminals 24/7, does he? He'll just be alerted when a crime is being committed? Presumably by more than the sound of police sirens enroute to the crime scene ahead of him?

    It's hard to work on this when we don't know what your vision for the guy actually is. In any case, this really is your story. It's a problem you will need to solve, in some way, yourself.

    Maybe what you need is a bit more thinking time, when you're not trying to write. Just let the story cook in your head, till an idea comes to you. You need focus for your story. You have an idea that it would be funny to write a story about a superhero with basically nothing to do. Okay, that's a start (and an interesting one.) But you need to push it. What's the purpose of the story? Not his purpose, but yours. What do you want the story to do? (And no, I don't mean 'make people laugh.' That's hopefully the result you're going for. What you need to decide is how you are going to make this happen.)
     
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  14. frigocc

    frigocc Contributor Contributor

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    Again, can elaborate later. But he's an average dude. Slight beer gut, out of shape, balding. Think Bill Burr trying to become a superhero.
     
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  15. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    He is trying to become a superhero? So he has no supernatural powers at all? No wonder the cops keep getting there first! :)
     
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  16. frigocc

    frigocc Contributor Contributor

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    Now, the whole story is about him finding purpose in his life. It does use a cliche where he realizes that the real heroes are firefighters, EMTs, and cops. He ends up deciding to be a firefighter.
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2019
  17. frigocc

    frigocc Contributor Contributor

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    Exactly. One of the things that goes wrong is that there's a big, say, bank robbery, after nothing for weeks, but when he hears the call on the scanner, he's can't get there. Instead, he's stuck in traffic because this fucking fairy 3 cars ahead of him got in an accident. Stuff never addressed in other hero books.
     
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  18. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    What happens next? Is he pretending he's already a hero, or is he just trying to be one?

    Maybe other people here are having the same problem I did, grasping the basics.

    For me, there is a difference between superhero and hero. A superhero has magical powers. A hero is an ordinary person who does extraordinary things (or people think he does) although he doesn't have any more going for him than just maybe a well-developed skill set.

    So your character—is he a hero in the minds of others? Or just in his own mind? Or maybe he'd just like to be one? Does he have any particular skills? Is he a realistic sort of person who wants to do good things? Or is he kind of childish, thinking he'd love to be wearing a cape and flying above the city?
     
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  19. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    That sounds like conflict to me. Story conflict isn't all bank robberies and Mexican standoffs, it's when a character has a want or need and there's something or someone stopping him form achieving that. Superman wants to help people and stop crime, Lex Luthor and others are stopping him. Your character wants to help people and be a super hero, but his lack of innate ability and bad city infrastructure are stopping him. You could even grow your conflict on something as mundane as your protagonist wanting a corner store burrito, and something, or many things, are keeping from achieving that goal.
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2019
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  20. X Equestris

    X Equestris Contributor Contributor

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    You could take a look at the Bromley Batman/the Shadow, one of the only remotely effective vigilantes I've ever heard of:

    https://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/call-me-the-shadow-not-bromley-batman-masked-vigilante-speaks-for-first-time-about-his-war-on-crime-10320782.html

    He patrolled on foot in high crime areas and intervened in street crimes in progress. Mostly muggings, though I vaguely recall that he might have foiled an attempted rape.

    So if you're going for your character getting stabbed trying to be a hero, I'd have him try to stop a mugging and--unlike the Bromley Batman--fail miserably.

    On a side note, I'll point out that even though La Cosa Nostra got shredded in the US during the 80s and 90s, they're still a factor in certain places. Hell, my dad once had an encounter with thugs who were almost certainly Matranga family muscle, despite the organization being shattered in the 90s. And even if an area doesn't have Italian Mafia presence, any big city has some form of organized crime/gang activity. Could be Russian mob, Irish mob, Triads, Latin American drug cartels, Hispanic or African American street gangs, the Aryan Brotherhood, etc.

    So yeah, a normal person probably isn't going to cross paths with them on a day to day basis, but they're around, and a vigilante is probably going to try to seek them out.

    I think, rather than there being no mafia/gangs for your hero to take down, a better development would be for him to encounter some form of organized crime but realize he can't do anything about it as a vigilante without breaking laws, making him a criminal too.

    Maybe he tries to bust one of their fronts, but when he barges in everyone treats him like a joke and he almost gets the cops called on him for breaking and entering. That sort of thing.

    Fair warning: audience sympathy tends to evaporate pretty quick when the protagonist fails over and over. Making this funny rather than just plain pathetic is going to require you to walk a very fine line.
     
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  21. Seven Crowns

    Seven Crowns Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Currently Reading::
    "Ghost Story" by Peter Straub
    I've read a story like this once where the story was front-loaded. It was exceptional. The trick was that the action was extremely vicious and then the MC kept expecting a follow-up that never came. The reader sees the MC crumble under the stress. His friends leave him, his marriage fails, he's near suicidal. Actually, I think he is suicidal because at the end he seeks out the original disaster, now willing to die. (In the beginning he was a coward and ran.) The character arc is absolutely there, but the story is all about the denouement and paranoia.

    So I would say that yes, it can be done. It's completely defying normal structure, so your writing mechanics had better be very, very strong, and you'll need to push tension elsewhere.
     
  22. frigocc

    frigocc Contributor Contributor

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    He's trying to be one. And, no he's definitely not a hero in the mind of others. Because superheroes don't exist. I'm aware that a hero without powers is pretty much just a vigilante. But it's just some guy that wants more out of life, and becoming a superhero seems cool.
     
  23. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    So how are you going to work this? It's your angle that's important here.
     
  24. frigocc

    frigocc Contributor Contributor

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    It's going to be done through tons of trial and error. He's not some guy that's already in shape and is already pretty much perfect. The book is filled with lessons he learns along the way. For example, the first lesson comes after he realizes that a superhero costume costs money.

    Tip #1: get a fucking job
     
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  25. X Equestris

    X Equestris Contributor Contributor

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    I think this is something a lot of beginning writers miss. Conflict is easy to conflate with action, even though they're not the same.
     

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