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  #1  
Unread 27th of May, 2012, 04:04
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Help a Writer, Win a Prize

Okay, the prize thing is just drama, though I will buy anyone from ORP a beer if I run into you IRL. If I make it big as a writer I foresee lots of beers...

Anyway, yes I have been a GM here but lately I am trying my hand at writing no-kidding fiction as a career, or at least a paying hobby. The ebook revolution is making publishing more democrratic, and I have a couple of childhood friends (shameless plug), Vaughn Heppner and B.V. Larson, who are actually making a living doing this.

I'm fine with style and structure, and characters. What I have a problem with is plots in longer works (not shorter stories), especially in resolving them. It's actually the classic roleplaying campaign dilemma - a great start, a good middle, then how to wrap it up?

So I thought I'd seek help among the some of the greatest minds in the prose plot biz, but Joss Whedon wasn't available, so I came here.

I'd like to put out the plot of my first novel - well, over half of one anyway, you see the problem - and take suggestions from any of you brilliant and talented, or just insane and twisted, people on where to go with it.

I'll post the plot in a few minutes...
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Unread 27th of May, 2012, 04:49
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Okay, super-condensed:

Disabled, PTSD-ridden vet DJ Markis comes home to find two men in his home. They have come from a CIA-controlled secret Company project to recruit him. It goes sideways, however, and DJ kills both of them. Only one of them (Phil) doesn't stay dead, he heals due to an experimental virus.

Phil wants out of the project and after giving DJ minimal information he gets away (because DJ is still unstable, maybe homicidal). He phones DJ shortly afterward, aggreeing to meet and talk in a public place. They meet, but the Company shows up and recaptures Phil. DJ gets away but not before Phil passes on the virus (has to be passed through body fluids, in this case a bite (no, not sex)).

So DJ is infected and his injuries begin to heal, his PTSD starts to improve, but he has a dead body in his home and he figures they will come for him, so he runs. He contacts some fellow vets that owe him, gets together an A-team and goes to the Company lab in a military-style raid to break Phil out and get some answers.

They end up rescuing three scientists that have been working on the genetic engineering as well as Phil. One female scientist is the love interest for DJ. They get some answers, summarized as follows:

The healing virus is derived from what they believe was an extraterrestrial virus, albeit one that fell to earth more than ten thousand years ago. The Soviets found it, used it to genetically engineer an attempt at a super-soldier virus (it got lost in the collapse of the Soviet Union).

It has drawbacks, however. Infectees heal fast but burn food at a prodigious rate, at least twice normal in ordinary circumstances and up to then times normal when healing, due to the supercharged metabolism. This is minor, however, compared with the fact that it not only heals the body but the brain, in a certain particular way (this is one of the central points of the story, upon which a lot depends) - 99% of infectees acquire what might be called an overactive conscience, especially regarding harming or killing other people, oppressing them or doing anything commonly called "evil." The other 1% or less go the other way; supercharged brains and bodies with no conscience, completely amoral and self-serving. Obviously you can't make decent super-soldiers out of either kind. In fact, despite the fact that the virus can cure cancer or whatever and extend lifespan, people who crave power can't risk it - they end up being unable to exercise that power, or they become wack jobs that the others around them can't tolerate.

So the Company project was to "improve" the virus to remove this "problem" - that it basically makes people into better people.

Okay, back to the plot line: One of the other vets (Zeke) had found a large forgotten Govenment bunker in the West Virginia mountains a while back and destroyed the records, so he leads the group to this bunker as a hideout. They start setting up another lab with the scientists to keep working on improving the virus.

At this point infectees are DJ, Phil, Larry (injured in the rescue raid, had to be saved with it), Zeke (volunteered to get infected because of war injuries and age), and Elise (the female scientist) who got it a while back by accident. There are also 2 more vets, one computer wiz kid, and the 2 other scientists, not infected.

it also turns out that the man DJ killed in the opening scene is the son of the CIA bigwig in charge of the whole thing, so there's a personal element to it.

Zeke takes a team to go get his family and bring them back to the Bunker, because they figure the Company will soon connect them to the whole thing, and also his son has muscular dystrophy and they figure the virus will cure him. The Company is watching the family so although the team gets them out, Zeke dies in the attempt.

So back at the bunker we subtract Zeke and add in Cassandra, Zeke's widow and she's a former CIA field agent, kids Nick and Millie, and Zeke's mother Beulah (the virus cures her Alzheimers).

And that's where I'm stuck.

Where would you guys want or expect this story to go? Where would you send it if you were the GM or the writer?

Last edited by Wired*Nun; 27th of May, 2012 at 07:01.
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  #3  
Unread 28th of May, 2012, 07:04
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I'll read through this again later before I give feedback. I did just want you to know that I have read it, and that I intend to give you some help.
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Unread 28th of May, 2012, 12:44
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Going after zeke's family seems like a side plot, and a distraction away from DJ being the main protagonist and plot driver (unless I read that wrong). Once you have the big reveal as to what is going on, it feels like you should be building straight up to the climax of the story.

What particular climax really depends what the characters are trying to do. Are they trying to take down/destroy the company? Spread the virus to everyone and cause world peace? Expose what happened to the media? Just escape so that they can live in peace?
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Unread 29th of May, 2012, 12:23
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Great questions. I took some time to think about it. Also Vaughn gave me some ideas.

The Zeke's family thing was to kill off Zeke. He had been starting to take over the story and I needed to get him out of the way (with some nice action and pathos thrown in) so DJ could take over.

I had to think long and hard about what does my protagonist really want? As you kind of said there.

The Company is just an obstacle, not a goal; that was part of the problem I was having. Living in peace would leave me with half a book, and no setup for the future of the story that I envision. Too neat and boring. Exposing it to the media would be too weak too and would end up being a story about something other than DJ and his little gang. Okay, so he wrestles with it but what woudl he really do? And I decided he would eventually say "damn the consequences, full speed ahead."

So yes, spread the virus to everyone they can, and let the chips and world chaos fall where it may. I actually wrote two chapters today. So thanks Itches, what you said was very valuable to help me sort it out.

So now the conflict can go forward with, as Vaughn said, "two dogs fighting over a bone." Or more properly, two people with mutually exclusive purposes. Jenkins, the CIA bigwig, who will spearhead the efforts of reaction to suppress the virus and keep the status quo, and DJ, who has decided to get the virus out there and start infecting people.

The next thing is, do they start doing it as it is now, infected by body fluids, or try to engineer it to become airborne contagious?

I'm leaning toward the former because the airborne scenario makes it almost too easy. So it needs to resist being genetically engineered for contagion.

If the body-fluid transmission vector, how would you do it? Try to infect a promiscuous community, like prostitutes? But once they got the virus, would their enhanced consciences deter them from their sexual activities? Or would a desire to "do good" by infecting people make it easy? How about taking over a medical supply or drug company and spiking the drugs? How about putting it in a water supply? Find a small country to take over entirely, possibly resulting in a shooting war as the rest of the world tries to stamp it out? Send everyone out into the population to start infecting every sick person, especially terminally ill people, and depend on a multiplication effect?

How would it be done?
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Unread 29th of May, 2012, 12:46
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The next thing is, do they start doing it as it is now, infected by body fluids, or try to engineer it to become airborne contagious?
Water supply seems your best bet. It doesn't magically infect everyone in the world at once, but it does take out a wide segment of the population in an area. Go to a city's main dam or water processing plant and bleed into it (I don't know a whole lot about the water distribution of a city).

It would also give you a nice setting for a big climax show down. If the company finds out about the plan, (someone from the protagonist group disagrees with the plan and defects/leaks the info/something else?) they can try to stop it. A plan for the ATeam to put into action, what goes wrong with the plan and as they try to adapt to it, a clear set of "Win" conditions they need to meet.
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Unread 30th of May, 2012, 10:45
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Yes, good point. I was thinking "what would I really do" and the answer was, scatter everyone around and start infecting a lot of little sources. Make it impossible to suppress. For example, I thought of cruise ships. Several people go on cruises, infect the whole ship in a controlled environement. Put people ashore in other countries or ports of call. By the time the authorities figured it out it would be too late.

I also thought of sending one of the young guys to bang every prostitute in Bangkok...or get it into third-world Africa and it would spread by sexual contact just like the AIDS epidemic...

But the logical answer is not always a good story. I like the water supply idea for at least part of the story, it may be the big climax or one of the big chapters. It's kind of funny that these guys are the "terrorists" trying to "poison" the water supply, usually that's the villains' job.

Now what city would be hardest to control, easiest to "attack?"

I also have another set-piece battle planned, where the heavies find the Bunker but the team had a plan for that, lets them invade, traps them inside and completely contaminates the attacker's whole force with the virus.

So maybe that's the two things, all I need. Plan the water supply gig, send one team off to do that, set up the massive trap for the baddies, then release information to go viral on the Internet about it, then execute the water supply thing.

I was also toying with the idea of a crop duster sprayer over a city. Maybe there should be multiple simultaneous ways, and not all of them work. Provide some setbacks, some heroic deaths. I am strongly leaning toward having the protagonist sacrifice his own life to succeed, that's always a winner. His son, now just a bun in the oven, can carry on in the next book if there is one.

Thanks a lot for the sounding-board, and please if there are any more thoughts, put them up. I'm still trying to arrange the whole thing in outline form and there's lots of time to adjust to make things better.
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Unread 31st of May, 2012, 22:45
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I have performed for you a service. One day I may ask for one in return.

I only have two other thoughts. The first, be careful to avoid having the protagonists lose the sympathy of the reader as they go about killing and trying to spread a virus to everyone.

The second was takes more than a dozen words to write up and I'm lazy. So very lazy.
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Unread 1st of June, 2012, 12:23
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Yes, no one is directly killing anyone. In fact, the whole point of the Eden Plague (my working title now) is that it so bolsters the conscience and mental balance that intentional killing is impossible. The biggest thing my protagonist had to wrestle with is whether it's moral to make the decision for other people, to spread it unannounced. If the powers that be allowed it, in a perfect world, it would be available to anyone but forced on no one. There's a lot of discussion within the book, both internal and external, on that very point. Eventually he decides the lesser of evils is to get it out to enough people that it can't be bottled up again. That's his theory anyway.

But other than the very first murder at the protagonist's home - for which he feels quite guilty, though he wasn't completely in his right mind - they have not killed anyone. Combats have all managed to be nonlethal, except for Zeke dying.
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Unread 1st of June, 2012, 14:13
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Wasn't this the basic plot of the Doom movie?
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Unread 2nd of June, 2012, 09:24
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If it is, it's wholly coincidental.

Nope, I just checked. Nothing like it beyond the idea of some kind of genetic engineering thing.
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Unread 2nd of June, 2012, 13:34
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I meant the idea of the serum making good people more good and bad people more bad thing.

I didn't think you stole the idea. Hell, I doubt most people have even watched that movie. So even if you did you likely had little to fear.
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Unread 4th of June, 2012, 11:07
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Yes, I did not see the movie, just the trailer.
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Unread 5th of June, 2012, 08:47
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Originally Posted by Lune # I meant the idea of the serum making good people more good and bad people more bad thing.

I didn't think you stole the idea. Hell, I doubt most people have even watched that movie. So even if you did you likely had little to fear.
I own that movie.
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Unread 9th of June, 2012, 01:03
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I claim this thread in the name of itches. That's what happens when you leave things just laying around.

Okay so a project I'm working on has several characters in a boarding school. In this school each student needs to take part in at least one club or sport, to force socialisation for both IC and OOC reasons. Most students are part of more than one and most take part in a sport.

My main characters aren't sporty, so that leaves me scratching my head as to what the club should be.

The characters - all female - are:
  • An outcast nerd who also really likes pink and other girly things
  • The sarcastic goth reclusive protagonist (Ami)
  • The psychopath rainbow hippy lesbian (it makes sense in context)

For the purpose of the story, SarcasticGoth starts in Club A, which she picks at random and ends up swapping over to ClubB, because ClubB seems slightly interesting and has PinkNerd in it.

So what are the clubs? They're mostly background, but necessary background. I'm toying with the idea that ClubB is some sort of school paper, which would let SarcasticGoth be sarcastic as she writes, and I can find something for PinkNerd to do there. But it feels like I could find something better.

As to ClubA, the closest I've come is a drama club. I want it to be something that SarcasticGoth feels she can avoid doing anything in, but it isn't meant to be something that fits her. And I have no clue what RainbowLesbian is doing, if she is in one at all.

So school clubs/activities. Inspire me.
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Unread 9th of June, 2012, 01:31
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Club B - A/V club? Some of the schools I know have a tv program that they produce and show weekly.

As for Club A - Yearbook? Poetry?
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Unread 9th of June, 2012, 03:37
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pulling heavily on my anime roots here ... so shoot me

Club A - Photography Club
Club B - Tea Club
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Unread 9th of June, 2012, 10:35
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What is a Tea Club ?
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Unread 9th of June, 2012, 11:29
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Chess
Sewing
Religion/Bible study
Spriritualism (seance)
Band
Other music - chamber?
Glee
Creative writing
Genre clubs (Horror, Sci-Fi, fantasy, romance, whatever)
Roleplaying
Wargaming
Walking/Hiking/Volksmarch
Golf
And i just googled this.... http://www.hchs.hunter.cuny.edu/wiki/index.php?title=Clubs

By the way I am currently getting cover art together and doing final edits.

I hope to have it up on KDP (Amazon Kindle ebooks) in a week or two.
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Unread 12th of June, 2012, 14:05
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Originally Posted by itches # What is a Tea Club ?
http://www.wannabefansubs.info/harim.../Tea_Club.html

"A little to-do club that embraces and teaches the Art of Tea Preparation and Serving."

An excuse to do as little as possible when you're forced to choose a club.
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Unread 12th of June, 2012, 15:54
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Hey now, that holds some potential.
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Unread 15th of June, 2012, 14:11
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Is that like the tea ceremony thing from karate kid?
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Unread 28th of June, 2012, 07:26
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Here is is, published on KDP (Kindle). And it's FREE for the rest of the day. It will also be FREE on Saturday the 30th of June, my thanks to all the players here.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Eden-Plague-Wars-ebook/dp/B008EMKJ6Q/

If you don't have an Kindle you can just get the app for your computer from Amazon.
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Unread 28th of June, 2012, 12:05
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Just downloaded it. How was publishing through amazon?
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Unread 28th of June, 2012, 22:07
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I downloaded a copy last night. I can't find my Kindle at the moment, but I will later today and start reading.

I meant to ask the same question JK did. My father has a few crime/detective novels that he's been working on for years, and is looking to publish the first soon. He was asking me about what service to use for self-publishing, so I sent him links to the Amazon and Barnes&Noble publishing options, but I don't know anyone who's actually used either.

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