Nov 01 2008

Superhero Nation: Novel Synopsis

OK.  We’re writing a rough draft of Superhero Nation for National Novel Writing Month.  If you’d like to beta-review our novel synopsis, we’d really appreciate that.  If you’ve already left an email or comment asking to be a beta-reviewer, we have also e-mailed this synopsis to you.

If you’re not sure what to write about, here are a few sample questions that may help you do a beta-review.

  • What do you think about the characters?  How might we make them more interesting, likable and/or dramatic?
  • Is the plot coherent?  How might we make it smoother?
  • What are some ways we could draw the plot out without making it feel padded?

UPDATE: I’ve made a diagram showing plot-links between the characters.

20 responses so far

20 Responses to “Superhero Nation: Novel Synopsis”

  1. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 01 Nov 2008 at 3:44 pm

    I think all the characters are very interesting, and I especially like the part with Gary having to gather evidence against Agent Orange.

    Agent Orange does strike me as a bit of a weirdo, having picked his name for that reason. I think that a good way to add another trait is that maybe he likes to scare children swimming in rivers/beach by swimming just under the surface of the water so it looks like a non-mutant alligator wants to eat them. I think that would make him even more strange.

    As for Catastrophe, you could add an addiction to a food, like peppermints, chocolate cake or tuna. Perhaps claustrophobia?

    Jacob’s story fits nicely together. He’s smart enough to test the blood, and gets the funding to run his project from the government, who he has completely fooled. I think that’s better than just “he’s a billionaire who built a giant private lab”. Does he extract the mutagen from the blood? Even though there will be millions of cells in it, he’ll have a limited supply. Maybe you could tie Gary and Agent Orange to him by a report of a possessed bin, behind which is hiding one of Jacob’s scientist friends, hoping to injure him and get some blood. Or something similar.

    So some of Jacob’s team know about his true project? How many of them know, and why does he trust them not to steal his results or inform the authorities? Also, I think a nice add on to him would be that perhaps he’s in a relationship. Not that his better half would play much of a role, but maybe he makes a call to say he’ll be late home, or that he’s excited because the success rate has gone up .001%? Just to show that he cares about something other than his research. The downside is that the girlfriend/fiancee/wife would feel a bit two dimensional, but I don’t think that will be much of a problem so long as his family is kept minor.

    I’d say that it’s probably best to leave Lash out. It seems as though there’s enough going on without having to introduce a new character, his friends and family etc. But, on the other hand, if you do decide to introduce him, he could be the link between Jacob and Agent Orange. Maybe he sees something he shouldn’t have at the lab, informs the OSI and wants to help. Then they could accept or reject him. If rejected, he could take it into his own hands and begin the superhero stuff. He could be your key to drawing the plot out.

  2. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 01 Nov 2008 at 3:45 pm

    Oops, I misspelled “billionaire”. I didn’t see the red line until it was too late.

  3. B. Macon 01 Nov 2008 at 3:55 pm

    Hmm. I really like the idea of Jacob coming back for Agent Orange to replenish his supply of the blood. That’s an excellent idea.

    In fact, to show Gary coming into his own as an almost-superhero, rather than just the sidekick to a mutant alligator, I could have Agent Orange get kidnapped and have Gary try to save him…

  4. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 01 Nov 2008 at 4:53 pm

    So it becomes humanoid? Or does it attack like the rabbit in Holy Grail? I love that movie.

  5. B. Macon 01 Nov 2008 at 5:02 pm

    Well, actually I had kind of forgotten about it. I suppose that it would become a humanoid. Also, we kind of needed a henchman anyway. Jacob will eventually figure out a way to evolve himself some nasty fighting powers, but that’ll probably be around the climax. We need to have the heroes get beaten around the block before then.

  6. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 01 Nov 2008 at 5:08 pm

    Agent Orange could eat him in the end; use his impressively large teeth to rip Mousie’s head off.

  7. B. Macon 01 Nov 2008 at 5:24 pm

    I will definitely consider that. It may be more dramatic if Agent Black kills him, though.

  8. Bretton 01 Nov 2008 at 7:08 pm

    A good reason for Orange and Stull to hate each other could be that Stull despises mutant animals. Period. A funnier twist would be that he despises all mutant/superpowered creatures/people, despite himself and all his employees belonging to that category.

  9. Bretton 01 Nov 2008 at 7:14 pm

    Also, if you’re looking to tie together Black and Mallow, suppose one of his successfully mutated rats escaped, the mutation process increased exponentially, and it became the size of a tiger and went on a rampage that Orange and Black were assigned to stop? You can see how they’d start investigating Mallow from there.

  10. Bretton 01 Nov 2008 at 7:25 pm

    Exellent characters and plot coherence. The only wise way to make this “longer” would be to:

    a. show some “down time” interaction between Black and Orange (like your webcomics, which I’d love to see referenced/occur in the novel.)

    b. Bring Lash back. I actually liked the character. I’m not sure what happened to the whole Gigas/Paingod thing, but it’s forgettable. Paingod confused me anyway. Lash could be investigating Mallow to his own ends. Let’s suppose that Lash is an environmentalist (not too much of a step away from the Social Justice League). We can rightly assume that Mallow’s experiments would create toxic waste. Ta da! Lash investigates.

    Perhaps Mallow finds out about his investigation and decides to kill two birds with one stone. He knows Lash will show up at the chemical warehouse. Later, when he’s there to get rid of Berkeley, Lash shows up and tries to stop him. Both Lash and Berkeley fall into the vat. Berkeley comes out as Catastrophe and Lash comes out with powers. (Alternatively, Lash could escape after trying to save Berkeley and failing.) Voila! We just brought Lash back into the story!

  11. Bretton 01 Nov 2008 at 7:43 pm

    After reading the above comments, everything falls into place!

    Quote: “You know that lab-mouse that survives Jacob’s mutagen? We could use it as a henchman.”- After his success, Jacob unleashes his creation on the world to see what it can do, attracting the attention of the OSI and prompting an investigation.

    As for Lash, here’s what I envision. Lash is a retired OSI operative who recently taken on a role as a environmental activist. He discovers Mallow’s toxic waste and begins investigating, calling his old contacts at the OSI. The OSI however, spurns his “investigation” and ignores him. He takes matters into his own hands and thus the above vat incident. He does in fact escape that in my revamped idea. Also, while Mallow was gloating to him and Berkeley in true villain fashion (or not) he mentioned that he had kidnapped Agent Orange, Lash’s FORMER partner before he retired due to a leg injury, to get more blood for testing. Agent Black tries to find Orange but can’t so he enlists Lash’s help much to the chagrin of the OSI higher-ups. YES! It all fits! It’s brilliant, brilliant, brilliant!

  12. Ragged Boyon 01 Nov 2008 at 7:46 pm

    I think you should have the mutated rat get out, like Brett said, but instead of Black and Orange stopping it, Lash does. He brings it to the OSI headquarters where Black and Orange happen to see the bloody cage. Interested, they follow Lash to the medical room and begin to talk to him– you could thoroughly introduce him here. When the examiner tells them that they found Jacob Mallow’s DNA on the rat, Agent Orange instantly takes a more serious tone. He tells them about how Jacob Mallow once took his blood, and that if they told anyone he would chomp their heads off because Marty Stu would surely twist the information if he heard. Orange supplied tools for supervillainy, which would definitely be enough for Stull to fire him. Black is present and now has a loose link to Jacob.

    I think people across seas and otherwise, could understand a paranormal agency. As long as they know what an organization and a superhero is, they will get the OSI.

    As for a reason for the animosity between Marty and Orange. Well, if you want a comical reason (since Marty is perfect, he must be a master of wit) how about in a confrontation, a battle of wits started and Orange outsmarted Marty and made him look like a fool in front of his bosses. So now Marty plots to get Orange fired to get revenge.

  13. Ragged Boyon 01 Nov 2008 at 7:55 pm

    I definitely think Lash should be a part of the story. He could act as a “glue” character to link Black and Orange, and Jacob and Berkeley.

  14. Ragged Boyon 01 Nov 2008 at 8:04 pm

    Brett, your ideas probably work better than mine do. I think they accomplish a lot at once without lumping the story, kudos. Conversely, I think the comment about have Black and Orange conversing in a non-work setting would not advance the plot. It would probably be better to blend the story and the snappy conversation coherently, so as not to ramble on with jokes. Also, if you use Lash, make sure that he doesn’t spend all his time injured and bumbling.

  15. Bretton 01 Nov 2008 at 8:18 pm


  16. B. Macon 01 Nov 2008 at 9:58 pm

    Thanks! You all have many excellent ideas.

    1. I think that having Lash as an independent investigator would be very useful. If Agent Orange gets kidnapped, having Lash around would give Agent Black a reason to think outside the box. (Cooperating with an ex-OSI agent would infuriate Stull, but it might be the only way to save Orange. This is a good ethical dilemma to test how much Black cares about Orange vs. his legal obligations to Stull).

    2. The mutant labrat will probably work as a good reason to get Lash on Jacob’s trail. Also, if Lash is a stockbroker, he would presumably have a financial background that would explain how he might get to Jacob before the OSI does.

    3. Paingod, Gigas and the Social Justice League will definitely not appear in the novel. We may mention offhandedly that New York has some non-government superheroes running around, but it will be with a wink and a nod that they never do anything outside of NYC.

    4. I’ll be careful to keep Black and Orange from wasting time on comic tangents, but I think that they can have comic banter as they go about their business. Ahem, it wouldn’t be much of a comedy otherwise!

    5. Ragged Boy, your observation about Agent Orange providing blood to the supervillain is genius. It makes sense that A.O. would try to cover that up. It’s even kind of morally complex; he’s trying to escape punishment for giving his blood to a government researcher, which at the time was not obviously a bad idea. However, I’d like to amend this a little bit. I doubt that the labrat would have Jacob’s DNA on him, or that the OSI would have a DNA sample for Jacob in any case. However! It would entirely make sense that the labrat’s mutated DNA resembles Agent Orange’s mutated DNA extremely closely. And of course the OSI would have a sample of Agent Orange’s DNA.

    So I think the logical connection would be that the OSI concludes that Agent Orange is somehow connected to the labrat. Agent Orange remembers vaguely that he gave a blood sample to a DEA researcher once, but decides not to mention that because Stull would use it against him. It also makes sense that he would decide not to mention it to Agent Black, either, because Black is essentially a spy for Stull. At the very least, mentioning it to Black would be a sign of major trust between Orange and Black.

    6. Let’s say Lash was Agent Orange’s partner and that he was let go a few years ago for a chronic leg injury. If we had to turn that into a (cliche) reason for the antagonism between Orange and Stull, we could say that Stull was the reason that Lash got retired. Agent Orange never forgave Stull for interfering in the partnership.

  17. B. Macon 01 Nov 2008 at 10:04 pm

    All in all, I hugely appreciate your ideas, everyone. This has already been far more productive than I could have hoped.

  18. Ragged Boyon 02 Nov 2008 at 7:31 am

    In general, with the new ideas, I think the story jels nicely. The characters each have specific role and no one is a filler character, not even Lash. My only concern is a lack of knowlegde Black will have about Jacob and Berkeley, but that can be resolved when he, possibly, confronts Jacob for the first time over the kidnapped AO. I think this will be interesting becuase neither of them have power, so it could lead to a dramatic, if not comical, fistfight. Unless of course if Lash is present, but even then Jacob could have Orange in a deathtrap preoccupying him.

    One question: Does Jacob get superpowers? if so when? (well that’s a follow-up question, so it’s still one question.)

  19. Ragged Boyon 02 Nov 2008 at 7:37 am

    I think it might be a little better to give Jacob some previous success in making mutated henchmen without AO’s blood. That would give him some supervillian credentials, instead of just spending a long time researching and never being successful, which makes him seem a little imcompotent. Adding henchmen, would also make it harder to infiltrate the kidnapped AO, adding realism, becuase now they can’t just walk in and find Jacob, which better adds to the superhero aspect of the story.

  20. B. Macon 02 Nov 2008 at 8:07 am

    Although Jacob probably won’t have superpowers until 75-85% of the way through the book, he does fight for his life against berserk-zombie plants in “Everybody Dies” (albeit with substantial help from Agent Orange). So he’s not completely useless. I think he could give an IRS agent a fight.

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