May 17 2009

Six Superhero Plots That Need to Die

1. Shrinking. First, this is a horribly cliche type of one-off story.  Second, it is pretty much impossible to do anything fresh with it. The characters get shrunk, deal with some tiny obstacles (usually including a cat or some other suddenly dangerous animal), and then get their size back. What else could you do with it?

How can I do it right? Have the character stays shrunken for longer than just an issue.  It’ll push you to develop the formula in a fresh direction, and hopefully one more fertile than “and then they discover a microscopic civilization!” E.g. it seems to work fairly effectively in Ant-Man, where the character spends most of his time full-sized.

2. Body-swapping. One character switches bodies with another, usually involuntarily.  The drama usually comes from the characters having to survive despite having different powers or different roles than they’re used to.

How can I do it right? This isn’t necessarily bad, but it has been done extensively.  It tends to work best if the characters have to keep their identities secret.  If Jim and Luke can just tell everyone that their bodies have been swapped, it’s not really an interesting obstacle.  But if Jim and Luke can’t talk about magic or the supernatural hijinks they’re involved in, then body-swapping makes it that much harder for them to maintain the masquerade.  Give them difficult situations they can’t duck.  For example, “Luke” suddenly has a piano concert and “Jim” is now the starting defensive tackle.  The only way for them to protect the secret is to learn (or feign competence in) something totally new.  Good luck!

3. Age change. The villain or an accident causes a character to get drastically younger or older (usually younger).  This is even worse than shrinking because a hero turned into a baby is no longer a character so much as a prop.  Also, these episodes/issues tend to be overwhelmingly cute.  Ick.

How can I do it right? I’d recommend trying it like Big or Thirteen Going on Thirty or Seventeen Again. The story follows the character as he enters another stage of life. How does he handle his new predicament?  That’s an interesting situation.  In contrast, babies can’t do anything but cry.

4. World War II time travel. Time travel is not a problem in series that have been built around it, but “let’s do an issue set in World War II!” is shoot-me-in-the-face bad.  The villains are one-dimensional, there’s no chance the writers will let the heroes lose and it’s cliche.

How can I do it right? Realistically, you can’t and I wouldn’t recommend it.  However, if you’re dead-set on trying anyway, maybe try something more creative than sending the villain back in time to help the Nazis.  One alternative would be having the heroes try to stop a well-intentioned “antagonist”–say, somebody who lost his family in the Nazi death camps–from going back in time to kill Hitler because killing Hitler might lead to Germany winning the war with a competent leader.  This setup is stronger because the villain is more morally complex and because sneaking in to guard a hostile target is inherently more dramatic and challenging than an all-out assault.  Also, the outcome is less guaranteed/predictable, particularly if the story is set towards the end of the war.  Perhaps the story ends with the heroes and assassin agreeing to stage Hitler’s murder as a suicide, but only when the Allies’ victory is guaranteed.

5.  Underwater adventures, particularly with Atlantis. It’s very hard to do an interesting aquatic tangent.  Have you ever heard anyone wish that Aquaman or Namor would show up?  Me neither.

How can I do it right? I think your best bet is to set most of the story in a sealab or a sealed city under the waters.  The less time the characters spend in submarines or swimming, the better.   Also, this kind of story might work better as a series focus than as a tangent.  It’s not that aquatic stories necessarily suck (please see Finding Nemo or The Little Mermaid), just that an aquatic setting is usually a waste of time for land-bound heroes. Additionally, few land-bound heroes have powers well-suited to interesting underwater fight scenes, so it might help to have the climactic battle in a sealed environment like a domed city or in a coastal city above the water.

6.  Saving helpless women. (Hat-tip to commenter Heather).

How can I do it right?  At the very least, if she’s going to get herself kidnapped or otherwise endangered, maybe it’s because of something she did besides dating the hero?  For example, in Iron Man, Pepper Potts endangered herself by sneaking into the villain’s office to steal his computer files.  Sometimes Lois Lane is a competent investigative journalist.  Give your characters a chance to be something besides just The Screaming Girlfriend.  Maybe even you have some female characters that aren’t love interests!  (A revolutionary concept, I know).

UPDATE: If you’re interested in plots that don’t need to die, I think this list of stock plots might help.

210 responses so far

210 Responses to “Six Superhero Plots That Need to Die”

  1. Tomon 17 May 2009 at 10:41 am

    Wow, you’ve missed so many off this list.

    I’d like to submit more:

    6. A variation on swapping bodies: swapping powers. Slight distinction. Same problems.

    7. Negative universe. Firstly, there’s inherent fridge logic. (wait, if this universe is the polar opposite of mine, why isn’t everything made of antimatter and therefore liable to explode if I touch it) Secondly, IT MAKES NO SENSE. Usually it’s a way to introduce an ‘evil counterpart’ to your hero. Really, it’s just incredibly illogical.

    8. By extension, parallel universes. Like the kind where the bad guy won. Similar problems to negative universes, but with MORE. Firstly, fridge logic. If there’s a parallel universe, no one can die since there will always be a universe where they didn’t die. Also there’s the inherent issues with how the system works.

    I’m sure there’s more but I’ve forgotten them.

    On an unrelated note: B. Mac, I think TVtropes is muscling in on your territory. 😉

  2. Holliequon 17 May 2009 at 11:13 am

    I think parallel universes can be handled competently, though admittedly not too often. I think Doctor Who has had some good parallel universe stories. “Father’s Day” (okay, that’s pseudo-parallel; it counts in my mind), “Rise of the Cybermen/Age of Steel” and “Turn Left” spring to mind in the new series.

    I agree that it needs a capable writer, though. (Or alternatively, good actors. Chris Eccleston and David Tennant are very good.)

  3. Tomon 17 May 2009 at 12:47 pm

    Those are among the many I forgot. Seriously, you’ve stumbled onto something huge here.

    Oh, and the TVTropes thing was purely tongue-in-cheek. Forgot the 😛 smiley.

    At least in Justice League they punished Grodd for turning everyone into apes in the form of Luthor pulling a Starscream on him, specifically for that reason. I think the quote went:

    Lex: Alright I can’t take much more of this. Turning everyone into apes? That’s your plan? I was going to wait until later but you’ve forced my hand. *pulls out a gun*

  4. Ragged Boyon 17 May 2009 at 12:53 pm

    You know what? I never knew what the expression “tongue-in-cheek” meant. Could you elaborate, Tom.

    Oh, and how’s production on Psykid (if that’s the name of the show) going? You haven’t posted much in your forum lately.

  5. B. Macon 17 May 2009 at 12:55 pm

    I doubt I was the only viewer to applaud when Grodd got thrown out of the airlock. Now, if only Lex Luthor hadn’t had to use a magical artifact to do it.

  6. B. Macon 17 May 2009 at 12:58 pm

    Also, “tongue-in-cheek” usually means something that isn’t meant to be taken seriously, but is more subtle than a parody. For example, Agent Orange is a parody of the Matrix, but Marty Stull is a tongue-in-cheek take on Marty Stu/Mary Sue characters.

  7. Tomon 17 May 2009 at 1:09 pm

    Psykid’s in a position that can only be described as quantum. It exists and doesn’t exist at the same time.

    It exists for the following reasons:
    1. I have a script written and I’m (theoretically) working on another.
    2. I actually have a meeting with a production company in London soon. Not a pitch, but they might be interested.

    It doesn’t exist for these reasons:
    1. I’m currently in the middle of an exam season, and a big one at that. Really I shouldn’t even be here. That’s the reason for the ‘theoretically’, it’s on hold until the mid-exam-season-break.
    2. The meeting isn’t until after exams, so I can’t progress until then.

    But I digress… Seriously, I think this issue merits more than five plots. There’s loads you can mention.

  8. B. Macon 17 May 2009 at 1:18 pm

    –Convenient amnesia.
    –The Christmas/holidays episode. Not even Star Wars could make it work.

    Feel free to offer your own, but mainly I’m interested in ones that are so consistently hopeless that they will scare away readers. For example, WWII time-travel always sucks because the villains are weak and there’s no way you can let the heroes lose and because the premise reveals 95% of what will happen. Maybe you could make it work with a bizarre twist like “we’ve got to save Hitler from a well-meaning assassin or the Nazis will win the war,” but even then I’m not hopeful.

  9. Tomon 17 May 2009 at 1:23 pm

    Christmas episodes work as breather episodes. As long as no one takes them seriously they can be accepted… no, not accepted… forgiven.

  10. Ragged Boyon 17 May 2009 at 1:27 pm

    Don’t forget the classic:

    – Hero gets sick/injured and (usually) has to use less competent teammates to fight for them.

  11. B. Macon 17 May 2009 at 1:43 pm

    Tom, if you have one episode scripted to presentation-quality, I suspect you might want to think about doing a page or two to describe the progression of the first season. Even something as simple as a sentence or two for each episode will help establish that you have some direction in mind.

    Good luck with your pitch. Or non-pitch or whatever it is.

    I’d also recommend asking your contact there what he’d like you to have on-hand. You might want to ask about time constraints as well. Unless you’ve been told otherwise, I suspect it won’t get close to 15 minutes.

  12. Alice2on 17 May 2009 at 1:53 pm

    “If there’s a parallel universe, no one can die since there will always be a universe where they didn’t die.”

    Well, the alternate universe version is technically a different person. If Sonic dies, you can’t say, “we still have Scourge!”

  13. Ragged Boyon 17 May 2009 at 2:00 pm

    I do like DC’s Earth-Three, I got a few chuckles out of some of the events:

    – President John Wilkes Booth was assassinated by actor Abraham Lincoln.
    – Christopher Columbus was an American that accidently discovered Europe.
    – Instead of the Salem Witch Hunt, they hunted regular humans.

  14. Holliequon 17 May 2009 at 3:00 pm

    Also good luck with your exams, Tom. If you’re 16 you’re probably doing the same ones (roughly) as me, right?

  15. Davidon 17 May 2009 at 3:11 pm

    another one is the hero makes one mistake bad guy gets away and he loses his confidince
    i dont really like this plot but thats jusst me

  16. Mr. Briton 17 May 2009 at 3:52 pm

    Plus a hell of a lot of sidekicks and even a S.H.I.E.L.D like organisation in Torchwood (but with more bisexuals).

  17. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 17 May 2009 at 4:33 pm

    I use a parallel universe, but it’s not a “everyone has a clone who lives there” place. It’s where the human race as a whole evolved slightly differently, and it’s where Isaac and Tristram are from. There are no duplicates of anyone there.

    I don’t plan on anyone visiting it, though. I would give it some consideration if I knew I could pull it off.

  18. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 17 May 2009 at 4:34 pm

    “I use a parallel universe, but it’s not a “everyone has a clone who lives there” place”.

    Whoops, that should be:

    “I use a parallel universe, but it’s not AN “everyone has a clone who lives there” place”.

    I really suck at editing lately.

  19. scribblaron 17 May 2009 at 5:28 pm

    Actually, WWII storys about time travel can kick-ass.

    Don’t believe me? Read this (it’s not mine, it’s excellent, it’s short).

  20. Wingson 17 May 2009 at 7:39 pm

    I technically wrote a scene that used an aspect of a parallell universe. The original Specials (excluding Connor) fought copies of themselves created by Fantasma (temporary name, written for the sequel), who created them after reading Connor’s memories and bringing them to “life”. I actually rather liked it, what about you guys?

    – Wings

  21. B. Macon 17 May 2009 at 8:16 pm

    Scribblar, I love Wikihistory, but it’s definitely not a superhero story. 😉 Also, I think that time-travel generally works better when it is a central part of the story rather than just a throwaway tangent. For example, time-travel worked in Back to the Future but it was a sign that Seaquest had jumped the shark.

    Daniel and Mr. Brit, although there is an argument for Dr. Who as a superhero story, I don’t think that Dr. Who is generally regarded as one. For example, Dr. Who’s Wikipedia entry uses no variations on the word “superhero.” In contrast, the entries for Superman and Batman and Spiderman each use it around 20 times.

    I think Star Trek might be a better analogue than the superhero subgenre.

  22. Tomon 18 May 2009 at 1:56 am

    The reasons Dr. Who’s WWII episodes worked was because a) time travel is integral to the entire show’s plot and b) he was in blitz-era London, and not on the front lines fighting Nazis. Basically he was living the experience most British people had during the war as blitz victims, as opposed to the experience of most Americans during the war of fighting the Nazis.

    Although having said all of this, the Justice League cartoon pulled off several of these ideas quite nicely, notably WWII time travel, parallel universe (Justice Lords), in fact, the Justice Lords episode was one of the best in the show, since it deconstructed to heck the idea of superheroes being shining beacons of justice. They also did the underwater thing several times with Aquaman, though admittedly it had the qualities of an Eigen plot. They did the people->animals thing, though lampshaded it, and they did the turning into kids thing, which was unbearably cute. And the mind-swap episode lead to some great comedy with these lines of dialogue:

    Dr. Polaris: Aren’t you going to wash your hands?
    Flash in Luthor’s body: No, because I’m evil!


    Luthor in Flash’s body: Well at least I can find out his secret identity. *takes off mask* *pause* I have no idea who this is.

  23. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 18 May 2009 at 2:20 am

    Christmas episodes have always annoyed me, except in the case of Doctor Who. A lot of the time Christmas isn’t a huge theme, it’s sort of in the background. I particularly loved The Christmas Invasion.

    Jackie: “I’m gonna get killed by a Christmas tree!”

    Err, yeah. It makes sense in context.

  24. Tomon 18 May 2009 at 3:05 am

    I love how they’ve lampshaded it now. Everyone deserts London on Christmas because they’re so Genre Savvy they know that Christmas=alien invasion. It actually comes dangerously close to breaking the Fourth Wall.

    Yeah, they really need to stop setting every Christmas special at Christmas, or else it’ll seem like aliens are invading because it’s Christmas.

    Actually, that’s not a bad idea. What day of the year is a vast chunk of the Earth’s population not doing anything? Christmas Day! It’s the perfect time to invade!

  25. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 18 May 2009 at 5:39 am

    Haha. Not to mention a lot of them are in large groups and very drunk. Aliens could easily wipe out most of us because almost everyone is in a group.

  26. Stefan the Exploding Manon 18 May 2009 at 6:49 am

    I think that every now and then comic book series should have a special issue without dialogue. Those would be cool to write.

  27. Ragged Boyon 18 May 2009 at 7:35 am

    “I think that every now and then comic book series should have a special issue without dialogue. Those would be cool to write.”

    I agree, Stefan, that sounds pretty fun. Especially if you have really expressive characters. I doubt I will ever do one any time soon, but it’d be a fun project.

  28. Davidon 18 May 2009 at 8:51 am

    I have read a comic like that at the convenion i was at a while back
    it was rather gd.

    Anways i coudnt find the open writen form, but i have found this synipsies thing you get on the back of books what do you guys think?

    He always knew he was different.
    First there were the dreams.
    Then the deaths began.

    When Matt Freeman gets into trouble with the police, he’s sent to be fostered in Yorkshire.

    It’s not long before he senses there’s something wrong with his guardian: with the whole village.

    Then Matt learns about the Old Ones and begins to understand just how different he is.

    But no one will believe him; no one can help.

    There is no proof.
    There is no logic.
    There is just the Gate.

    Also heres the front cover

    So basicly i just want thoughts on the cover titel and the synipisies.

    The reson ask is alot of folk said a titel should tell us something about the book but this titel tells us very littel “what is a Ravens gate why should we care whats it about” my best B.mac inpression there lol anyways plese do tell ur thoughts

  29. B. Macon 18 May 2009 at 8:53 am

    You can get to the writing forum here. Alternately, you can just type Open Writing Forum into our search bar at the top-left side of the page.

  30. Holliequon 18 May 2009 at 9:07 am

    One thing you’re forgetting, David: Raven’s Gate is by Anthony Horowitz. If I were as popular (and as good) a writer as Anthony Horowitz, I probably wouldn’t bother with the perfect title.

    Those books are awesome, by the way.

  31. Ragged Boyon 18 May 2009 at 9:12 am

    “Basically, I just want thoughts on the cover title and the synopsis.”

    I don’t have much a strong opinion on the blurb (synopsis on the back). I presume it will be effective enough to catch a reader, then again, I’m not exactly sure of what a blurb entails. The cover goes well with the theme and feel of the other four covers. I’m guessing it’s a dark fantasy story.

    “Then Matt learns about the Old Ones and begins to understand just how different he is.”
    – I don’t really like this sentence, it feels akward. I recommend somehting like “When Matt learns of The Old Ones, he begins to understand just how different he is.”

  32. Davidon 18 May 2009 at 10:40 am

    Thats fair enough nevermind then.

    I do type in open wrighting form

  33. Asayaon 18 May 2009 at 12:50 pm

    I hate all of them but especially 1, 2, and 5. I hate underwater adventures cause they have a tame feeling, specifically the Batman-Aquaman crossover on Batman:The Brave and the Bold.

  34. B. Macon 18 May 2009 at 3:37 pm

    Yeah. Popular authors can get away with crappy titles because readers will look at their books anyway. I think that’s how Michael Crichton got away with a slew of one-word titles like Disclosure and Next and Prey and Airframe. Definitely not as interesting as Jurassic Park or even the Andromeda Strain…

    I’m not very impressed by the title for Raven’s Gate, but Raven is one of those generically dark-and-brooding words that tends to sell pretty well. In any given week, the fiction best-seller’s list will usually include at least one book with “dead” in the title. In manga, the equivalent codeword is “vampire.”

    The backcover blurb does not seem very intriguing. For one, it starts out by introducing the character as a pronoun. That annoyed me. It all sounds pretty banal. I don’t feel like I know anything about the plot or the characters that would actually make me want to keep reading. Also, the phrase “It’s not long before he senses there’s something wrong with his guardian: with the whole village” is punctuated quite badly. Before this, I don’t think I had ever seen a published work misuse a colon before.

    The blurb doesn’t introduce us at all to what the Raven’s Gate is. I feel like that’s a mistake. Nor does it drop any specific information about what goes on in the plot. For example, compare this to something like City of Thieves. Here’s an excerpt…

    Two young men meeting for the first time in a jail cell [during the Siege of Leningrad] await summary execution for dubious crimes. At seventeen, Lev Beniov considers himself built for deprivation. Small, smart, insecure about his virginity, he’s terrified about the sentence that awaits him and his cellmate, the charismatic and grandiose Kolya, a handsome young soldier charged with desertion. However, instead of a bullet in the back of the head, the pair is given an outrageous assignment: in a besieged city cut off from all supplies, secure a dozen eggs for a powerful colonel to use in his daughter’s wedding cake. In five days.

    City of Thieves has a cooler title and the blurb strikes me as much more effective. It gives us some concrete details about the characters and what they’re trying to accomplish.

  35. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 18 May 2009 at 4:23 pm

    The word “death” crops up a bit in manga too. Death Note is reigning king of awesomeness in my books.

  36. B. Macon 19 May 2009 at 6:03 am

    Hmm. Here’s another potential superhero plot that needs to die: the heroes have to save a Mary Sue utopia. (For example… Wakanda, Atlantis, the city of the apes, Switzerland, Krypton, anywhere else where everyone’s needs are effortlessly provided for, etc).

    This is one aspect of Invincible that worked particularly well. The obnoxiously advanced planet that is the stand-in for Krypton is actually (issue ~10 spoiler) a brutal empire that’s a 5% sympathetic take on the Spartans. That’s far more interesting than “this is how we learned to achieve universal peace and understanding!” Spare me the lecture and pass the ammo.

    Demolition Man also does a really good job playing with the idea of a Mary Sue utopia. Its advancement has come at a major price; the people are more or less helpless when a criminal attacks.

  37. Tomon 19 May 2009 at 6:31 am

    I feel the need to mention that the blurb does not do Raven’s Gate justice, as the book, and the series in general, is very good.

  38. Holliequon 19 May 2009 at 9:01 am

    For me, the highlight of Raven’s Gate has to be the backwards Lord’s Prayer played through the radio. I thought that scene was very creepy. And I liked that police officer!

    In short, what Tom says is true.

  39. Tomon 20 May 2009 at 1:12 pm

    “Second, it is pretty much impossible to do anything fresh with it. The characters get shrunk, deal with some tiny obstacles, and then get their size back. What else could you do with it?”

    B. Mac, what you have done is set me a challenge. I will think of a fresh, interesting idea for the shrinking episode!

  40. B. Macon 20 May 2009 at 1:42 pm

    Here’s a thought, Tom. What if it’s the villain that gets shrunk?

  41. Tomon 20 May 2009 at 2:34 pm

    Wow, I think one of us is psychic, I was thinking the exact same thing. Kinda. I thought maybe an episode where the villain shrinks himself to sneak into somewhere to steal something, then the heroes have to shrink themselves to fight him since they can’t find him because he’s so small.


  42. B. Macon 20 May 2009 at 5:24 pm

    Hmm. I’m not feeling it, Tom. If it were a cartoon show, I think the only notable difference would be the first few minutes (the lead-up to the characters getting shrunken). I don’t think that’s enough to revitalize a concept that’s so cliche.

    In contrast, I think that a concept like a WWII episode to save Hitler from a well-meaning assassin is fundamentally different from the cliche WWII episode where the heroes have to stop a time-traveler from helping Hitler win. A mission to save Hitler will be stealthy, more interesting, and more morally complex. Also, the antagonist (the would-be assassin) would be more likable than the typical guy that time-travels to help Hitler… The ending is harder to predict… It’s obvious that Randal Savage can’t make Hitler win WWII in the end because the writer can’t let the Nazis win.

    But it’s not so clear that the writer has to let the heroes save Hitler. Maybe assassinating Hitler wouldn’t affect the time-stream all that much? Maybe the heroes only manage to cover up Hitler’s assassination. Historical records say that he died in 1945, but maybe it was actually a year or two before that…*

    Also, I think it would be a bit less dramatic if the heroes had their own way of unshrinking themselves. One of the advantages of the typical setup is that the shrunken heroes have no choice but to go after the villain because that’s the only way to unshrink themselves.

    *I could maybe imagine a Taxman Must Die scene like this. Gary enters the room and finds Gain standing soaked in blood over Hitler’s clawed-up body. GARY: “What the hell happened? We were supposed to save him.” GAIN: “Umm, suicide?”

  43. Ragged Boyon 20 May 2009 at 7:57 pm

    *Fires a party missile straight into the awesome-atisphere* 😀 😉 🙂 😛 (partygoers)

    I’m back, babies! Got a (relatively) fresh and (somewhat) new keyboard. Now I can be regular again. Not only can I stay up with what’s going down, can move into steady production of the abridged Showtime. I’m ready to start reviewin’.

  44. Tomon 21 May 2009 at 2:42 am

    Hmm… sounds like fun! But there are a few inherent problems with the whole Earth shrinking that I really don’t want to get into.

  45. Tomon 15 Jun 2009 at 2:49 pm

    I’ve just thought of another one. ‘Trapped in a video game’. This one’s a problem because it’s very gimmicky.

    Off the top of my head I can list quite a few times I’ve seen this:

    -Fairly Odd Parents
    -Danny Phantom (incidentally both made by Butch Hartman)
    -I think Batman The Animated Series but I’m not sure
    -Kim Possible
    -Heck even Alex Rider has fallen victim to this, but in a slightly more sophisticated way

    I think the MAIN problem with this is it’s overused. Yeah, they’re trapped in a video game, they’re probably wearing some sort of virtual reality helmet that (conveniently) can’t be removed until the game is won, they can talk to each other and walk and move normally despite the obvious issues that presents. But so what? It’s not particularly interesting.

  46. NicTon 15 Jun 2009 at 6:00 pm

    the video game idea was also for a teen titans episode and video game

  47. Tomon 16 Jun 2009 at 1:56 am

    Ah, I knew I was forgetting some.

  48. Holliequon 16 Jun 2009 at 3:46 am

    It’s also been used in Red Dwarf. 😉 In two different games. But one of those was just creepy. A game so good that nobody wants to leave it because it creates the perfect life for you – so people have these headsets on and are completely oblivious to the real world and if you remove them, they die. And to get out of it, you have to want to leave. But nobody ever does because it’s a perfect world.

    *shudders* Um, yeah, that particular idea freaked me out a lot.

  49. Tomon 16 Jun 2009 at 4:01 am

    I’d classify that as a Lotus Eater Machine rather than a video game.

    On the subject of Lotus Eater Machines, although overused, they definitely do not fall under ‘plots that need to die’. Lotus Eaters (when done well) are a way to show a character’s innermost desires, and sometimes they can be quite intriguing. For example, in Supernatural, Dean’s Lotus Eater induced dream had him leading a quaint, idyllic life, which is a surprise considering the hard-hitting nature of his character.

    So yeah…

  50. B. Macon 16 Jun 2009 at 6:39 am

    I don’t think the “trapped in a virtual reality/video game” plot needs to die. It’s cliche, but it could be executed well. In contrast, I don’t think there’s any way to do a one-off with shrinking or WWII time-travel story that feels fresh.

    For example, shrinking stories have incredibly tight parameters. As soon as the audience sees the title (something like “The Incredible Shrinking Noun”), they already know 90% of what’s going to happen. First act: the characters fight the villain, lose, get shrunken and escape. Second act: the characters overcome a variety of mundane obstacles that are suddenly serious, almost always including animals. Third act: The characters reach the villain, beat the villain and unshrink themselves. The only question is which animal the heroes face in Act II. Usually it’s a cat.

    In contrast, the video game episode sounds more promising because a there are so many types of video games and some series might have a natural video game tie-in. I’m pretty sure the Simpsons did one with Itchy and Scratchy. My own work has a Pokemon parody, Hegemon, so maybe it wouldn’t feel really much out of place if I did an issue where the characters got stuck in a Hegemon game. Drawing on your universe’s past material will help keep the story feel continuous and coherent. Usually, when a story goes for a shrink-ray episode/issue, it’s out of place. Most stories can’t justify the shrink-ray, so it comes out of nowhere and disappears just as quickly.

  51. Wingson 06 Sep 2009 at 9:30 am

    You know, I always liked the idea of the characters fighting copies of themselves, and I managed to work a scene into book 2.

    Since Maya’s power is to bring memories to life, by digging into the memory of one of the old Specials (Connor, most likely) she could create copies of Meg, Ian, Pierce, Darren, and Jazz as well as Connor himself (Personally, a Meg and Pierce versus Meg and Pierce just…sounds…EPIC. Ditto to Connor versus Connor). The memories react in the exact same ways the characters would (However, they are voiceless) which means the original heroes would have to get creative and improvise while fighting (How do you attack someone who technically created the attack, knows how to use it, and can easily block it?).

    Well, I thought it was fun.

    – Wings

  52. Tomon 06 Sep 2009 at 11:43 am

    The whole ‘fighting clones of self’ has been used a billion times, as has the solution to the problem of switching to fight someone else’s clone. I’m sure there’s a trope for this… Happened in Teen Titans, IIRC.

  53. Lighting Manon 06 Sep 2009 at 1:01 pm

    I first saw it on the original American Power Rangers show, they cloned the various rangers and made new, I think ninja-y versions.

    It’s not really a plot I mind, I think that it has a lot of potential to be entertaining and if used with the appropriate level of coyness, useful character development. I’ve noticed a lot of examples recently, even in relatively mature works,

    T.N.T’s Leverage recently had the leads (a group of criminals that fight injustice by committing crimes.) go up against an evil group with a counterpart for each of them, it played with the expectations that go along with it by giving it several relatively new twists, such as one member having sex with themselves. 24’s most recent season turned Tony Almeda into an evil version of Jack Bauer, and gave him without the character’s knowledge, an evil (more misguided then evil) version of Chloe in Jeanane Garofalo’s character.

    Okay, so maybe not a lot of examples, but still, more then zero.

  54. Wingson 06 Sep 2009 at 5:01 pm

    Actually, going through the scene in my head, the copies ended up fighting the real heroes as a group – enabling them to take down the copy of the other person.

    Hopefully that cleared something up?

    – Wings

  55. B. Macon 07 Sep 2009 at 8:29 am

    Evil Twins are a very similar concept, I think.

  56. Wingson 07 Sep 2009 at 9:32 am

    Yeah, they are pretty similar if the copies are evil. On a different note, what about Good Twins? If you get the polar opposite of a villain, a rather evil person, or me, you get a saintly copy devoted to niceness.

    – Wings

  57. B. Macon 07 Sep 2009 at 10:08 am

    I think Futurama made a good-twin version of Bender. I think it would work better in a comedy than a more serious story.

  58. Danon 20 Sep 2009 at 4:44 pm

    I read this article, and as much as some of the 5 storylines are used, I do have to add a few comments to each of them.

    1: Shrinking: It would be tough bringing about a good shrinking story without it sounding like “Honey I shrunk the kids”. Only once has it really been done right. and honestly… it wasnt an action series. Magic School bus is meant to be educational.

    Not to say having the power of Shrinking for the hero, to focus more on espionnage. but it is often coupled with a superpower that follows a certain theme. (Wasp with her stinger blasters, Giant Man with the ability to do the opposite, etc)

    2:Mind Swap: yeah, these episodes tend to be more humourous… and we have seen the villain and hero swap already. But there is a storyline still open. If we have the super genius supervillain who is really irritated with the hero foiling their plans, then to really hurt the hero, if the villain decides to put his mind in the hero’s body, and even if this option is coupled over with number 3, you have the hero in a now helpless kid body, having to see the villain terrorise the world and ruin the hero’s life… and nothing stops the writer from making this change permanent…

    3: Age Change: Yeah, most of these episodes are cute yes. But there is one anime series that has done it well, and focuses on the drama of the change: Detective Conan/Case Closed. The main character is shrunk for the duration of the series… and yes, it does have its comedic moments… but it also shows that the main character has to see his girlfriend cry herself to sleep every night. It’s rare to see this as a permenant change… and it doesnt have to be a baby.

    4:WWII time travel: I agree… we know the result most of the time. Justice League approached this, but I liked what they did with Green Lantern. John Steward ran out of juice for his powers… so he has to do things in a guerrilla warfare situation. The only ways I can see this happen, is to make the hero fight with the Nazis for survival, or to show a young idealist sarcastic hero the horrors of wars, which can be very traumatic. They have seen a couple of bank robbers with guns… but have they seen someone help them and befriend them get their head blown off? Other than that… I have to agree with you

    5: Underwater adventures (Atlantis): We havent seen a real storyline recently with Atlantis and underwater adventures. Sure it sounds interesting to have heroes dropped out of their elements… But in most parts, I agree with your argument here.

  59. B. Macon 20 Sep 2009 at 6:45 pm

    Regarding age-changing… far too often, the characters are turned into babies or bratty children. Very little dramatic potential there. However, I think there is more potential with a teen–>adult or adult–>teen transformation. However, this sort of episode or issue is still fairly cliche… if you’ve seen one version of this, I think you pretty much know how any other version would turn out.

    Regarding shrinking… Mirage’s TMNT series took this in another direction and had the shrinking last quite a bit longer than usual. (As of ~4 issues later, I think Donatello is still shrunken). I suppose it’s a bit less cheesy if it’s not just an obvious filler issue/episode.

  60. StarEon 20 Sep 2009 at 8:17 pm

    LOL, between the ages of 10 and 13, I was working on a story series called “The Silver War”. Believe it or not, I think I had every single one of those “Plots That Need to Die” in there, haha. They didn’t literally go to World War II, though. In the “time travelling” installment, the main characters went to different influential points in history to stop people like past presidents from getting their brains sucked out by aliens. Otherwise, yes, they did get shrunk to lego-man size, they went to Atlantis, they were turned into children, and did a seven-character-body-swap.

    Ah, childhood. 🙂

  61. Danon 21 Sep 2009 at 3:56 pm

    the teen to adult and adult to teen is too cliche in superhero titles… and far too cheezy. its the typical argument between the hero and the sidekick about who has it rougher… Been there. Done that.

    Now… the child aspect has a few things someone could do that has been rarely done in the dramatics. If you have a thirty year old hero, with a fiancee and with a life that nothing goes wrong… he turns into a kid, loses 20 years off his life, and welll… If he takes up his same old name, he is in his own shadow, and not to mention his personal life would take the biggest blow. If he stays with his lady love, well… she would be robbing the cradle. And that would put some psychological pressure on the character. If he sees her from afar, he will see her broken hearted from a distance. it would be almost like the character is dead…

    There are a few cards left to play that has a lot of potential…

    And then there is the fact that if he was the big hero in the world, the villains would think he would be dead… And well… they would go out of control.

    And lets not forget the limits of being a kid… pain going to the brain faster, tripping over their own two feet…

    There is tons of drama one can pull. Just read Detective Conan/Case Closed, and you will see that there is potential in the drama. first time you see the permanent regression for more than the cheery episode. you notice in the series that the characters are seriously affected by the dissapearance.

  62. zoe89on 10 Oct 2009 at 5:41 pm

    Yeah, I agree. That’s why some cartoons are so boring now– they use the same plots every year…

    But I hope my plot isn’t played out yet– it’s a guy retrieving a powerful item to impress a girl. But it’s tougher than he thinks. (I won’t say too much yet).

  63. Kosineon 13 Oct 2009 at 3:22 pm

    Just a note on the whole “cloning heroes is a cliche” thing…

    Kamen Rider Kabuto, a tokusatsu series that aired a few years back in Japan, basically took the concept of cloning and made it the basis for the first 75% of their story. There are several moments where heroes discover that they are not human, but instead, are the enemy taken human form and completely convinced of their false identity. It is actually fairly well done.

    And yes, these guys are superheroes. XD

  64. B. Macon 13 Oct 2009 at 3:30 pm

    I think that most of these “must be killed” plots could work in stories that were built around them. For example, clones in Kamen Rider Kabuto or time travel in Back to the Future or Doctor Who. I think it’s most bothersome when a series tries using one of these cliches as a throwaway episode/issue. Did the writers really bring a shrink-ray into this particular story because it really fit the story’s universe or because they needed a one-off and couldn’t think of anything better?

    Incidentally, I may set up readers for a cliche plotline in SN and use it as a red herring to play them silly. Maybe introduce a MacGuffin device like a bodyswapping device, but it’s so goofy I’d never actually be able to bring myself to use it. (In your FACE, Chekhov).

  65. Toastyon 13 Dec 2009 at 7:57 pm

    Hello again, B. Mac.

    I was curious about the age change and parallel universes clauses….
    What if they’re a part of a specific character’s nature but used in a more creative way?

    I’m asking because I have two villians that result from a time manipulation experiment that get hit with that kind of effect… with the powers that come about having that as one of their abilities. And one villian whose whole ability is set around parallel worlds in a sense.

    Both time manipulators were older scientists, but one was changed into a kid while the other was altered back into his twenties. They do more than age change people though; it’s just an application of their own time manipulation abilities.

    The older of the two ends up becoming the worst of the two because he’s realized how much of his life he’s spent worried about doing the right thing. He ends up forming his own company that develops technology used to empower other people into villains, uses his powers more lethally (turning people to dust, aging their internal organs to such a degree they can’t sustain the body, etc) though he tends to use them less frequently than the other and is far more willing to let minions take care of things. That makes it easier to deny he has any abilities…

    The younger is focusing more on what went wrong. He’s still breaking laws, but he’s much more likely to give you asthma through the aging of internal organs or the obvious age change. He has his own secret lab and tends to still be dangerous because of his creative applications of time manipulation on the environment, like generating poisonous gas by reverting the air, etc. If anything, his more open use of his powers and ‘visual’ presence as a ‘villain’ tends to lead people to mistake the elder’s doings for his.

    The parallel Earth guy is kind of a reverse of the spectrum to the main character. He’s this punk-ass kid that worships the supervillians of the world because they can take what they want and he thinks they have much more control over their own lives than most people. After several attempts to gain his own superpowers, he develops this ability to summon forth ‘quantum divergences’ of himself as well as an immunity to any of these attempts. In a way, they’re all alternate world equivalents of himself, like… everytime he tries to give himself superpowers, he just adds to the roster of powered folks he can pull from. I figured it was enough of a divergence because he’s not really putting people in parallel Earths, it’s more like he’s summoning equivalents of himself.

  66. B. Macon 14 Dec 2009 at 9:45 am

    I think that turning people older rather than younger isn’t nearly as much of a problem. The problem with turning characters into kids or (worse) babies is that kids/babies rarely have much of a personality and have trouble affecting the plot in any way other than being a MacGuffin that gets kidnapped. In contrast, getting aged might present a protagonist with an interesting challenge: how does he beat the villain without his youthly energy and strength?

    As long as the younger one doesn’t get his romance on (I’m looking at YOU, Monster Girl!), I don’t think that the age-change stuff will raise any problems.

    I’m having more trouble with the parallel Earth guy. After doing a quick read-through (20 seconds), I still don’t clearly understand what his powers are. If the editor evaluating your submission has a similar reaction (“huh?”), I think that it could make him a bit less receptive to the submission as a whole. When you explain this in your submission, I’d recommend trying to get it down to 1-2 sentences, something like “he can summon versions of himself with different superpowers from alternate dimensions.” I’d recommend keeping the mumbo-jumbo (like “quantum divergences”) to a minimum in the submission. You can use that lingo in-story to make the story sound more scientifically plausible, but I don’t think it would help the editor figure out whether the submission is worth publishing.

  67. Toastyon 14 Dec 2009 at 3:39 pm

    Ahh, thanks B. Mac! 🙂 Yeah, basically that sentence hits exactly what he does really. He summons versions of himself with different super powers from alternate dimensions he creates by purposely trying to get super powers himself.

    And nah, the younger one doesn’t get his romance groove on… lol. There was consideration of a ‘sidekick’/’mother’/resources needing an adult like home he smuggled out of a retirement home with a deal, but he’s not exactly the romancing type. It’s funny because Ally considers him his greatest villian because he doesn’t know about the elder of the two having powers.

  68. Laura Esson 19 Feb 2010 at 3:58 am

    So much for Sea Devils! 😉

  69. Mike Alexanderon 06 Apr 2010 at 11:38 am

    I can’t stand time travel because of the paradoxes it creates, but I do have a few characters that go on one way trips, and some God-level interference with the time stream. I know, it’s an hypocrisy i’m working on. But I think it is also an integral part of making your own comic book universe, unfortunate as it may be.

    I do think time-travel stories work when it takes place on a small scale or on the edges of a large event, with effects that scale up or effect things much much later. If you avoid a mistake like Hawkman being 60 years old when he joins the JLA, it should be possible.

    As for parallel universes, wouldn’t it be better to have universes that are 90 degrees away from your main storyline? For example, my superhero universe (that has almost zero magic) butts up against a world where magic is an everyday thing. Only a few characters are duplicated. Most superheroes are nobodies in the magic world, and vice versa. Tempest, a lightning storm wielding superhero, meets his alter ego Marc Embers, a high level mage who associates with deities on a regular basis. There is a 10 year age difference, and they bicker about life choices the other one made/didn’t make.

    Shrinking? Once in a while you need a guy to get in there and fix the circuits by hand. Plus, if he can get small enough, have him push some atoms around and blow some crap up!

  70. ShardReaperon 06 Apr 2010 at 1:50 pm

    And then someone mistakes him for a bug and squashes him.

  71. Mike Alexanderon 06 Apr 2010 at 4:13 pm

    hehee! for some reason, I like bugs, so there are a number of bug themed characters in my universe. I even have a cross-over miniseries style event outlined, with just those characters.

    my miniaturizing character was inspired (stolen?) from that Tarzan & the Super 7 show

    His name was, when I was 14 and thought it was totally awesome at the time, “Mikeroid Mikerochip”. Now, it’s simply Micron. As I typed that, I realized (20 years later) the alliterative association with my name. Duh.

    He’s still part of a teen supergroup in the mid 22c, but he cares more about looking for subatomic life than being a hero.

  72. gollon 16 Apr 2010 at 9:07 am

    ok, I know the chaotic tv show doesn’t invole mind swapping, but that show has some good gender swapping and species and so does h.e.r.o ( 2003 revamp of dial h for h.e.r.o) in this last few issues.

  73. Mr. Crowleyon 03 Nov 2010 at 3:18 pm

    I think one way of using a shrinking story is if the shrunk person is small enough to be a cell. Person meets germ which basically overwrites they’re genetic code, this could lead to treatments and attempts to cures while he is a literal walking germ in a sanitary room with people in hazmat suits.

  74. Heatheron 19 Jan 2011 at 11:38 am

    Saving helpless women.

  75. MikeA.on 19 Jan 2011 at 5:21 pm

    I think Supernatural has done some of these effectively.

    Age Change: In Supernatural, a witch plays pokers with humans. Instead of money, the chips represent human years. You get 25 years worth of chips to start. When Dean loses, he is aged to an old man, providing funny times, but Sam is still young and can take over the investigation. So if your character does turn into a baby, just make sure you have someone they call call before full regression to resolve the conflict.

    Supernatural also did body-swapping. A young guy casts as spell to switch bodies with Sam. It works mainly because it reveals a lot about the characters. Sam finally lives the “normal” life but has been so changed by his life of hunting monsters that he finds it very odd and has trouble conforming to the norms. Meanwhile, Gary lives it up at Sam, loving the freedom. Only Dean has enough sense to envy (a little) Gary’s apple-pie life.

  76. B. Macon 19 Jan 2011 at 6:56 pm

    Haha, yes! I like your style, Heather. I’ve updated the article accordingly. 🙂

  77. ekimmakon 20 Jan 2011 at 1:21 am

    I’m trying to decide about what I’m doing with my sequel, but I sort of want to use cliche #6 in the first part of the book. Except the girl is anything but helpless.

    Stagecast, in an effort to prove how evil he is, kidnaps a random girl from the audience (Who happens to be a friend of the main character. She interrupts him multiple times violently, forcing him to hand her off to two henchmen so he can complete his speech, with her beating them senseless in the background.

  78. B. Macon 20 Jan 2011 at 9:00 am

    “I sort of want to use cliche #6 in the first part of the book. Except the girl is anything but helpless.” If the character is active, I don’t think it would be a problem. If a character is active–doing things, making plays, advancing goals (especially goals against the villain)–then the character SHOULD be in danger*, regardless of gender.

    One minor issue that you might want to flesh out is why the villain picks her, though. It may seem a bit contrived that the villain just randomly picks out someone from the auditorium and it happens to be someone close to the hero. One possibility is that she gets picked because she does something (perhaps she is the least obedient of the prisoners or she jeers them during the villain’s speech or whatever).

    *The “danger” might not be physical, though. For example, in a story like Mean Girls, the characters aren’t at risk of death or dismemberment so much as social woes (utter humiliation, ostracism, etc).

  79. Mr. Rosson 20 Jan 2011 at 12:01 pm

    Nice list, it could deffinately be longer. I’m sure previous posts have said as much though.

    Just throwing it out there, but perhaps it would be interesting to do a list on “plots that need to be done more often”.

  80. Nicholas Caseon 20 Jan 2011 at 3:52 pm

    I think one cliche is this,

    Some kid(s) are a part of some big prophecy to save the world.

    Ways I think to make them less cliche
    The villian has already taken over the world and the protagonists have to free it rather than save it,


    You tell it from the villian’s point of view- it’s unusual for a story to be told mainly from the antagonist’s point of view.

    Also, a cliche way to end a superhero fight is to,
    Have the protagonist use some ‘hidden power’ that wasn’t even hinted in the story. This tends to be annoying and negatively unexpected because they wouldn’t even know they could do it and it seems like the author rab out of ideas and just threw that in.

  81. Contra Gloveon 20 Apr 2011 at 12:10 am

    Regarding “saving helpless women,” I made a similar comment in the which female characters are awful” thread. I said that if you can replace the screaming girlfriend with a valuable object, you didn’t write her well enough.

  82. Wingson 20 Apr 2011 at 10:00 am

    Personally, I’d like to write a “save the girl” story which ends with the hero arriving at the villain’s decimated fortress to find the perfectly unscathed girl tapping her foot and saying “You’re late.”

    Or in a comedic setting, the villain makes the hero take her back simply because she’s too much trouble/too annoying.

    Or maybe, the kidnapping thing is just a bluff, and the hero’s girlfriend has been working for the villains all along, so she’s in on the plan and acts helpless to lure the hero into a trap! That could be awesome! Has it been done yet?

    “The villain has already taken over the world and the protagonists have to free it rather than save it,”

    Now with a little polishing, this could be really interesting. Maybe the villain not only beat the heroes, but killed them off as well, becoming supreme ruler of the world. So there’s no heroes left to oppose him…

    Wait…wait…if I combine this idea with that one I had the other day…with the chess pieces motif for the heroes…and if the villain created them to oppose him so that he could finally be defeated…so what if the villain had acquired a power that made him literally undefeatable, something with probability maybe…dunno if it’s magic or not, should probably figure that out…and if the heroes he created can bypass this because of something or other…so all he wants is to be defeated so that his life will end…since his invincibility covers him hurting himself, too…so a suicide-by-proxy…Rook, Pawn, Bishop, Knight, King, and Queen…YES! Excellent!

    Ladies and gents, I think I just got a new novel idea.

    – Wings

  83. Awale Abdion 18 May 2011 at 7:39 am

    Seriously? Those don’t work? I mean they’re classics, they’ve been used at least once by every animated series or comic book or is that why they need to go (they’ve been overused?).

    Here’s one more: *The it’s a trap scenario, it’s been used so friggin much I get headaches whenever it happens. They use the whole hero showing up at the last second act a lot but at least it still feels cool after all these decades but the trap scenario is so lame and childish to me now.

  84. B. Macon 18 May 2011 at 8:15 am

    “They’ve been used at least once by every animated series or comic book or is that why they need to go (they’ve been overused?).” I can sort of see why you might use one in a long-running series–if you’ve run out of ideas, maybe one of these cliches is the only way you can get the issue/episode out on time. However, when you’re pitching a series, I certainly would not lead with something so cliched unless you’ve somehow made it extraordinarily interesting. Don’t lead with the equivalent of a filler episode.

  85. Freshon 30 May 2011 at 1:49 pm

    What upp!

    I had a question about one of these shrinking, I read this one graphic novel In the Small where everyone on the entire planet got shrunk, and they showed what happened? If a plot like that was done, would that be interesting?

    Anyway my real question was what if the antagonist shrinks the protagonist, and is trying to kill them, or what if the miniature protagonists work together to beat the villain?

  86. Mynaon 30 May 2011 at 2:00 pm

    I think the first idea would be interesting because its concept is not SURVIVING in a tiny world persay, but having society adapt to the sudden change, etc. Scientists would be trying to find a cure, transportation would be one heck of an issue, communications are for the most part useless, etc. (I also imagine bedbugs would be much more of a problem. xP)

    The second one I think is a bit more cheesey? Because it’s the same idea as the protagonists being shrunken and trying to survive, only now they’re trying to survive a crazy antagonist who could crush ’em with his sneaker. It could work but one would have to be very careful writing it to keep it from being cheesey or ridiculous.

  87. Freshon 30 May 2011 at 2:55 pm

    Mhmm well the first idea has already been done lol, I just wanted everyone’s opinion on that type of story.

    As for the second one, I might have a battle/or scene like that in my own story I’m writing. What if during the scene, my story is kind of graphic. What if the character managed to kill some of the protagonists or one of em. So it was serious,and the heroes hated this guy.

  88. B. Macon 30 May 2011 at 5:44 pm

    “I read this one graphic novel In the Small where everyone on the entire planet got shrunk, and they showed what happened? If a plot like that was done, would that be interesting?” Fresh, I haven’t read In the Small, but it sounds like an interesting premise–much better and harder to predict than a brief tangent where the protagonists get shrunk and have to undo it quickly.

    That said, In the Small is averaging 2.8 stars (out of 5) in its 11 Amazon reviews, which suggests to me that it didn’t turn out all that well or sell many copies. I noticed many of the reviews knocked on the plot and writing (while most praised the concept and art), which suggests to me that the writer could have executed the premise better than he did.

    “Anyway my real question was what if the antagonist shrinks the protagonist, and is trying to kill them, or what if the miniature protagonists work together to beat the villain?” My initial impression is that this premise sounds like a brief tangent where the protagonists get shrunk and have to undo it quickly. Unless you have something really unusual in mind, I feel like I’d be able to predict 90%+ of what happens as soon as the characters get shrunken. How would it be different than most shrinking filler episodes/issues?

  89. Freshon 13 Jun 2011 at 4:33 am

    Can you tell me what might be done with the shrunken characters? Can you predict Im mean? I just wanna know your prediction, and two it’s sort of a brief tangent, but there’s over lapping consequences one or two of the protagonists probably one might actually be killed by the antagonist.

    I guess it would be more of a hunt and kill while they try to regain their size, and deal with the antagonist. most of the time they just deal with a few animals, get back their size, and it’s done, but there’d be consequences, and I don’t remember shrunken heroes ever fighting a villain.

  90. B. Macon 13 Jun 2011 at 10:25 am

    Hmm, okay. My main predictions for a shrinking episode/issue would be:
    ACT I:
    A. The characters fight the villain and are shrunken OR are voluntarily shrunken to fight off an infection/invasion of another character’s body.
    B. The shrunken characters then have to escape from the villain.
    ACT II:
    C. The characters have to overcome a series of small obstacles that are suddenly much more dangerous, like a cat or rat.
    C-2: They make contact with a microscopic civilization.
    ACT III:
    D. The characters best the villain while shrunken. (This might be beating him in combat or it might just be using stealth/trickery to get to the shrink ray to reverse the process.
    E. The characters are unshrunken.
    F. Nothing about the episode is ever mentioned again, no matter how helpful a shrink ray might be later on. (When Godzilla’s attacking 10 issues later, shrinking him would be really handy!)

    The longer the arc continues, the more chance I think you have of doing happening that the reader hasn’t already seen before in the bajillions of stories that have already used this sort of filler episode/issue.

  91. E.Walon 25 Jul 2011 at 5:17 am

    Thankyou sooooo much for creating this website!!! I’ve been trying to create a comic and have had total blanks on the plot for ages! It’s driven me up the wall a kazillion times..ARK
    Anyway I decided to do the shrinking idea…
    Could an inspiration type page be added to the site? I dunno if that’s what is already on, but I have been having trouble finding to much of it.

  92. B. Macon 25 Jul 2011 at 9:21 am

    Hmm, what do you mean by an inspiration-type page? (Like a list of stock plots or something?)

  93. E.Walon 26 Jul 2011 at 1:57 am

    Yes, I think so, a bit more plots or ideas and problems that we could use for inspirations to create a better comic. Like a building on fire…

  94. E.Walon 26 Jul 2011 at 1:58 am


  95. B. Macon 26 Jul 2011 at 8:22 am

    I’ve done a list of stock plots here.

  96. Anonymouson 20 Aug 2011 at 1:34 pm

    Hey, is it okay if I run a plot idea past you fine people? Unfortunately, I haven’t really written superhero fiction since I was a kid and just starting out on writing, so I have no idea if it’s cliched or overdone.

  97. B. Macon 20 Aug 2011 at 5:20 pm

    “Is it okay if I run a plot idea past you?” Sure.

  98. Anonymouson 21 Aug 2011 at 2:47 pm

    Thanks. ^_^ So, first thing: yes, this is based on a dream, but no, I have not planned it out verbatim from said dream. That would be odd, and would involve a lot of the main character being at Waterworld for some reason. It’s just the seed that came from it.
    So, it starts off with a group of superheroes (still vague on some of the details) coming out into the open about who they are. Off with the capes, off with the masks, abandoning the concept of a secret identity. For a while, the public treats them like celebrities, and they’re universally loved. The government even panders to this, making them honorary police officers, and giving them a budget to help them fight crime.
    However, the two central figures of the ‘team’ (or whatever they are) are two brothers, and one of them’s utterly paranoid about all this. He’s convinced it can’t end well, and the public’s bound to turn against them sooner or later, so he leaves and goes on the run, possibly taking a couple of other supers with him.
    Ultimately, it turns out he was right, as his brother is ‘accidentally’ killed in a fight that he knows couldn’t possibly have killed him (or something of the like: you can tell this is vague, can’t you? ;).) I’m not sure where it would go from there.
    Basically, I’m just wondering if this idea is worth pursuing, or if it’s hopelessly cliched, has issues with the plot or whatever, and I was just hoping for some feedback.
    Thanks muchly! ^_^

  99. B. Mac (Brian McKenzie)on 21 Aug 2011 at 4:07 pm

    “However, the two central figures of the ‘team’ (or whatever they are) are two brothers, and one of them’s utterly paranoid about all this. He’s convinced it can’t end well, and the public’s bound to turn against them sooner or later, so he leaves and goes on the run, possibly taking a couple of other supers with him.” Hmm. If he’s so paranoid about this, why does he choose to let them reveal his identity? (Does he consider leaving the team and going solo rather than revealing his identity? Maybe he considers it, but does not because his brother convinces him to stick with it. Then it might be somewhat ironic that the brother that thought it was safe is the one that gets killed).

    It sounds like a pretty fresh take on secret identities, although a few other stories have done the secret-heroes-going-public angle. (For example, that was one of the key elements of Marvel’s Civil War).

  100. Anonymouson 22 Aug 2011 at 2:53 am

    Hey again!
    “If he’s so paranoid about this, why does he choose to let them reveal his identity?” I think I was going with the assumption that it was an accident- something like there was an emergency and they responded without thinking. They’ve only received their abilities recently, and I think they’re still quite inexperienced in taking care of themselves/dealing with the public, etc, etc. That said, I do like the idea of his brother convincing him to trust him.
    My main concern is that a friend of mine has mentioned that it sounds very similiar to the plotline of Heroes- is this something to be overly concerned about? She mentions the fighting brothers and the government pursuing the supers as examples, but I think this is relatively superficial.

  101. Anonymouson 22 Aug 2011 at 2:58 am

    Gah! Just occurs to me I’ve dramatically failed to mention the antagonist of the story and the reason the younger brother was killed. That was intelligent… in short, he wasn’t killed at all, but has been taken away by the government for experiments. They’re quite curious as to how he can do what he does. That was why they treated the heroes so well, because they didn’t want them running off, a la paranoid brother.

  102. B. Mac (Brian McKenzie)on 22 Aug 2011 at 3:20 am

    The government pursuing supernatural people is pretty generic. It’s much less likely to evoke Heroes than, say, someone that can paint prophetic futures. As for the fighting brothers, that’s another generic element that would probably not scream “Heroes.” For example, please see Professor X and Juggernaut, Cyclops and Havok (in the comics, at least), etc. I think you’ll have room to build the relationship in a unique way.

  103. Anonymouson 22 Aug 2011 at 4:07 am

    Yay! So they’re tropes, rather than copyrightable plot lines liable to get me sued. 🙂 This is good.
    Thanks a lot for all your help- I may drop in again when I have more ideas.

  104. Damzoon 22 Aug 2011 at 4:21 am

    You could use a name so we know who you are when you come back. Also B.Mac you edited your name?

  105. B. Mac (Brian McKenzie)on 22 Aug 2011 at 4:45 am

    Yeah, I added my given name to make it easier on people that wanted to quote me in a relatively serious context (like an article aimed at ESL instructors or English teachers).

  106. Anonymouson 22 Aug 2011 at 10:26 am

    Damzo, that’s prolly a good point. I imagine I’ll be wandering about this website a fair bit, given my woeful knowledge of superhero fiction. From now on, I will be… Nibbles?

  107. HatiChantheWolfHogon 04 Sep 2011 at 11:45 pm

    Now that you have told me about these plots I have the strangest urge to write a superhero origin story featuring all of the above.

  108. Writeron 02 Oct 2011 at 2:32 pm

    I’m questioning the first plot. About nothing interested about shinkring. I think there could be plenty danger. One of my problems with Honey I shrunk the kids it wasn’t interesting enough. It was them running around a garden fighting bigs, a giant baby, and the third one some stupid party. I think it could be done interesting but I need some ideas what are some dangers people would face being an inch or half an inch tall aside from being stepped on and bugs.

  109. B. McKenzieon 02 Oct 2011 at 4:31 pm

    I don’t know. There have been so many shrinking stories (throwaway episodes, mostly) that I feel like it’s been mined to death. The only positive about a one-shot shrinking story I can think of is that it’s an easy way for a writer to crank out a story on a deadline. Making the shrinking a more central aspect of the story as a whole would probably help but I think it’d still be pretty predictable/forgettable.

  110. Anonymouson 04 Oct 2011 at 3:47 pm

    I see what you mean. But I’m gonna make the shrinking a central aspect in the story sort of. I was just asking what are some dangers the characters might face while miniturized. Think sizes from Honey I shrunk the kid aside from people, and bugs. What else I thought of vacuums, or something. Any ideas? And some dangerous enviorments, so far I thought party.

  111. Rexon 04 Oct 2011 at 10:33 pm

    Hey there. I’m considering writing a story about a group of heroes, and I have some plot ideas that I would like some feedback on.

    1. The leader of the group, Franz. He is extremely faithful to God, and is an all around good leader. But as the story’s events transpire, he comes to think that God no longer cares for him. So he basically decides to cut all ties to God and throws his Bible off of a building. This, coupled with a few arguments, causes him to leave the team.

    2. Lucy (Actually a guy, it’s a funny play on his real name, Luke). He is romantically involved with another member of the group, Zero. During one of the fights, Lucy fails to stop the villain from killing several innocent bystanders, which he takes hard. Afterwards, a demon named Andras confronts him, and says that he can give him enough power to stop the villain, to which Lucy agrees. While he is possessed, Zero becomes pregnant with his child (Which could have some sort of consequences). However, as Andras becomes more powerful, Lucy becomes more violent, which culminates in a fight where he ruthlessly kills several people. At this point, he would realize what is going on, and somehow manage to exorcise Andras, but he would be left in a coma. And Andras would move on to possess Franz, who would be in a severely weakened state.

    What do you think?

  112. Bad-Peopleon 09 Mar 2012 at 10:23 pm

    I remember every cartoon show I ever saw as a kid had a body-swap episode, and that didn’t bother me. I actually enjoyed the change in the statue quo most of the time. What did bother me in almost every instance was they would somehow switch bodies, but keep their original vocal cords. What was worse was half the time nobody noticed that Frank was now walking around with Sue’s voice! It was maddening.

  113. B. McKenzieon 10 Mar 2012 at 6:05 am

    “Nobody noticed that Frank was now walking around with Sue’s voice!” Kids–especially those that missed the first few minutes of the show–would probably have trouble understanding what was happening if the voices didn’t swap as well. It sounds like a case of clarity taking precedence over realism. As for nobody else noticing, most casts will get massively stupid whenever the plot calls for it. For example, ANY disguise–no matter how weak–will fool everybody.

    TV Tropes mentions a few examples of body-swapping episodes, but it is definitely not ubiquitous. In contrast, I think shrinking episodes are probably the most common of these throwaway plots because they’re a one-and-done episode that can be inserted into pretty much any cartoon and more than a few live-action series (including Family Matters–what the hell!). My impression of these one-and-done episodes is that they’re driven mainly by intense deadlines and the need to keep churning out episodes. However, I will note that it does not come up in novels nearly as much and I don’t think there’s much of a market for it in novels. If you go down that path, I’d recommend writing in some dynamite characterization to make up for a plot that’s likely more formulaic than most submissions.

  114. Creedon 26 Mar 2012 at 8:09 am

    Dude, I need some advice!

    I’ve started my idea for a story sort-of like a batman meets spiderman mix, BUT it needs to be drastically different and just as gritty. The basic plot is that this guy’s family was murded in a house fire. He grew up adopted by his fathers co-worker and learned to defend himself on the streets of this city ( I made the city kind of like a New York relative almost) eventually he goes to kill his families murderer AND…fails. He joins the police force and finally the SWAT agents. He then resigns becuase of criminal connections in the force and is alone. His family’s murderer is back in town, a criminal justice attorney is tracking him down, and the ex-cop decides to destroy his connections by becoming a stealth-vigilante. As you can imagine the villains pile on.


  115. B. McKenzieon 26 Mar 2012 at 1:12 pm

    Hello, Creed. I’m not sure what you’re looking for, but here are some thoughts and suggestions:

    –When you’re pitching this to publishers, I’d recommend not mentioning it’s similar to Spider-Man unless there’s something here I’m not seeing. Batman and perhaps the Punisher sound closer to the gritty tone you’re going for.

    –What’s the main character’s personality like? I think that’s probably the best place to distinguish the story from Batman or Spider-Man. My standard example here is that my comic series (The Taxman Must Die) has a character whose origin is extremely similar to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (he’s a crime-fighting mutant reptile), but his personality is different enough that he probably won’t feel like a rip-off. His goals/motivation and voice could also help distinguish him from Batman and Spidey. (For example, Spidey quips in combat, whereas Batman is almost always all-business).

    –One possibility that would help distinguish the plot would be to play up the mystery/investigation angle. He is a SWAT officer, so presumably he’d have the investigative skills to handle a more complicated case than, say, Spidey would. In contrast, the most the Punisher usually does in the way of an investigation is threatening and/or torturing criminals until they tell him who to go after next.

  116. Creedon 26 Mar 2012 at 1:23 pm

    Thanks, gives me some thoughts.

    His personality without the mask is pretty narrow. He’s angry, filled with rage that he hides pretty well, even though his character leans out as the story progresses. With the mask on, usually he’s sarcastic or arragant but most of the time he’s focused and silent.

    I like the idea of him being able to break down harder to solve cases. As to his goal, it’s to show the criminals how close they came to dying. He’s sometimes referred to as “Death’s advocate” but he dosen’t kill criminals unless they’ve gone mad and tried to skewer him. This seems to be pretty much his status, any other suggestions?

  117. YoungAuthoron 27 Mar 2012 at 7:27 pm

    @Creed- is he angry all the time? Whats he like with other people? Does he have and close friends or relationships? I like you background story but what are his powers, if any. what is it that he does?

    @B. Mckenzie- “(For example, Spidey quips in combat, whereas Batman is almost always all-business).” I have a character that I feel combines Spidey’s wit and Batman’s seriousness. Kind of like threating trash talk, for lack of a batter example.
    Do you think I should keep this or go one way or the other?? :S

  118. B. McKenzieon 27 Mar 2012 at 8:20 pm

    “I have a character that I feel combines Spidey’s wit and Batman’s seriousness. Kind of like threatening trash talk, for lack of a batter example.” My guess is that it’ll probably feel more like (a particularly unfriendly) Spider-Man than Batman, unless he has a really good reason to be talking in combat. Batman does a lot with stealth, and talking makes it much harder to surprise people. If he’s giving away that advantage, is he doing it for a reason? (For example, in a hostage standoff, convincing a criminal to release a hostage might be more important than maintaining stealth).

    My two main considerations on this front are:
    1) Unless the character has a good reason to talk, bantering with enemies may make the combat seem less serious. (In the Spider-Man movies, I think they pretty much cut out the quipping for Spidey).

    2) When Spider-Man quips, it’s usually pretty light-hearted and gently immature. I think it would take a defter touch to handle combat dialogue that’s more like trash-talk. I think the main potential problem for your main characters so far has been that their lack of empathy and maturity compromises their likability. I could envision scenarios where trash-talking exacerbates this problem. I would recommend doing whatever it takes to keep your main characters at least vaguely likable, or all is lost.

    Fortunately, I think there are alternatives way to more smoothly show a character’s personality in interactions with villains. I don’t know if this is applicable to your series, but two of my opposed characters know each other well, and one sends the other ominous clues to fluster the other into making a mistake. (E.g. they had once discussed a particular chess game, so Antihero 1 bites off the head of the white king used in that game and sends it to Villain 1, perhaps with a message like “Garry Kasparov sends his regards”*).

    *Kasparov is best-known for getting ground down by a machine.

  119. Creedon 28 Mar 2012 at 8:10 am

    I see what you guys mean.

    The protagonist has no superpowers; he carries firearms instead, however, he doesn’t kill people (usually hits them in the leg or their own firearm to scare them.) He’s not always angry, more…paranoid than anything else. He’s seen the bad in people and never let it go, i guess.

    I was kind of apprehensive on the talking thing too. You’re right, both of you. Shadow (which is the name of the character) doesn’t say much when fightng or stealth manuvering. The only time he does is when he’s one on one with the big baddy’s or one in particular. Their not quibbs or trash talk, more like Death threats. He scares them with both silence and a slow pased sentence. Shadow ends up in a team (one assassin who tried to kill him, his girlfriend, and a mentally disturbed scythe lover) so he’s not alone in that sense, and he changes drastically to becoming more open. But he’s seen death and misery so it drives him through rage and potential madness.

    The story is literally a mister of who controls power, while the hero tries to keep himself alive and others too. Does that make any sense? I apologize, I may need some more help.

  120. YoungAuthoron 28 Mar 2012 at 4:56 pm

    @B. Mckenzie- Thank you, and yeah i agree, i guess the banter during the comabt does make it seem less serious. Would you mind stopping by on my review forum and giving me some feedback? thank you!

  121. Dr. Vo Spaderon 21 Sep 2012 at 5:17 pm

    Hey, my story involves quite a few heroes (although it focuses on two in particular), who are formed into a coalition. Along the way to becoming a strong organization, they encounter various problems and enemies, some with powers as well.
    …is this a good idea? I realize I didn’t delve too deep into my plot or storyline, but that’s because I really think I have some interesting characters. This story is more about the people they are, their relationships with one another, and the heroic (or ignoble) choices they make.
    I would really appreciate feedback, criticisms, and advice. Thanks!

  122. B. McKenzieon 21 Sep 2012 at 6:40 pm

    “Hey, my story involves quite a few heroes (although it focuses on two in particular), who are formed into a coalition. Along the way to becoming a strong organization, they encounter various problems and enemies, some with powers as well… This story is more about the people they are, their relationships with one another, and the heroic (or ignoble) choices they make.” Depending on execution, this could work, but it currently sounds really generic/vague.

  123. Dr. Vo Spaderon 21 Sep 2012 at 10:06 pm

    Ah. Alright, I’ll work some more on the plot, make some changes. Thanks though!

  124. Dr. Vo Spaderon 22 Sep 2012 at 7:43 pm

    Okay, if I could just post a few more quick questions:

    My heroes need a base camp of sorts. I thought of a space station, tower in the city, and a sub-terranian area, but (obviously) these have all been used. Any ideas on something else I could do? And If not, how could I make these places more interesting or appealing?

    Second, what are your thoughts on:
    >Chapters for the bad guys
    >Extraterrestrial problems

  125. B. McKenzieon 22 Sep 2012 at 8:14 pm

    “My heroes need a base camp of sorts. I thought of a space station, tower in the city, and a subterranean area, but (obviously) these have all been used. Any ideas on something else I could do? And If not, how could I make these places more interesting or appealing?” What’s the team like? Any notable/unusual characteristics? Is there anything (or any place) that they’d have access to/interest in that most other teams wouldn’t?

    For example, in The Taxman Must Die, one federal agency maintains ~15 life-size models of high-profile terrorist targets at a training ground. (SPOILER) One villain uses the since-abandoned training model of the World Trade Centers as his base, correctly figuring that federal agents wouldn’t have any reason to train for counterterrorist operations in a building which has already been destroyed. The police successfully identify and seize his other bases, but the one with absolutely no paper trail presents the most challenge. I thought that his choice of base did a pretty good job showing that he’s unusually calculating in a very nefarious/profane/creepy way and is fearless/unrestrained. (If the publisher feels very uncomfortable about this, I’d probably use the training ground’s White House gift shop–I’m guessing that the gift shop doesn’t come up very often in counterterrorist training exercises).

  126. Dr. Vo Spaderon 22 Sep 2012 at 8:39 pm

    I suppose the most notable thing about them would be their strong want of staying separate from the world they save (which was why I was leaning towards the space station).
    Another thing, perhaps, would be their separation among themselves. Various opinions and takes on situations differ wildly, causing much division.
    As to the interest, there is a sentient being that is watching and occasionally interfering with the natural events of the earth (Thus their powers). This being came from Polaris, the North star, and tends to hang around it . Only one character knows of this, however, but he’s the leader and perhaps he could have influenced them to a watchful position in some subtle way? (Run-on, yeah.)

  127. B. McKenzieon 22 Sep 2012 at 8:59 pm

    “I suppose the most notable thing about them would be their strong want of staying separate from the world they save (which was why I was leaning towards the space station).” Maybe the wilderness*, the sewers, or an abandoned site on the wrong side of town?

    *Perhaps a site with an unobstructed view of the North Star most of the year? Perhaps a mountain with the remains of an observatory?

  128. Dr. Vo Spaderon 22 Sep 2012 at 9:06 pm

    YES! A mountain with the remains of an observatory is perfect! Again, thank-you!

  129. Equinoxon 21 Nov 2012 at 10:38 pm

    Would there be a decent way to make a story where kids get trapped in a game?

  130. Dr. Vo Spaderon 21 Nov 2012 at 11:29 pm

    Only if it was the upcoming Far Cry 3. I kid, someone will give you REAL advice soon.

    P.S. – I think Tron was alright. A game about games (tournament style) seems like the best approach. Original characters, complete control over the world, etc. (My opinion.)

  131. Equinoxon 21 Nov 2012 at 11:49 pm

    I want it to be more fantasy based than anything. But there are titles like .hack and Sword Art Online. They’re really good shows (.hack is also a book) But I want to differentiate my story from their sagas. Any idea’s would help.

    Is far cry any good? I’ve never played it.

  132. Dr. Vo Spaderon 22 Nov 2012 at 9:16 am

    Just googled the Sword Art Online. Looks pretty interesting! Did you have any basic preferences for your story, or were you open to anything?

    I didn’t play the first two Far Cry games, so I don’t know about them. I saw a trailer for the third one though, and was immediately hooked.

  133. Equinoxon 22 Nov 2012 at 5:17 pm

    Im open to anything, I just want it to be unique-ish and workable.

  134. B. McKenzieon 22 Nov 2012 at 6:33 pm

    Hmm, sorry I can’t be very helpful here–I haven’t seen/read the series in question. One possibility which comes to mind would be trapping them in a game which isn’t mainly fantasy or is a different type of fantasy than another swords-and-sorcery medieval Dungeons and Dragons (e.g. Shadowrun, Bleach, Bitter Seeds, a supernatural/fantasy detective story like Dresden Files, Harry Potter, Full-Metal Alchemist, etc). Executing the characters and/or their main conflicts uniquely would probably help, too. For example, in the original Final Fantasy Tactics, one of the main conflicts is that most of the characters trapped in the game do not actually want to return to reality at first–the main character has to convince them over time. (I would recommend giving the characters helluva more personality than you’d see from most video game leads, though).

  135. Dr. Vo Spaderon 22 Nov 2012 at 7:05 pm

    Here’s a couple of ideas…

    >The characters don’t know that they’re in the game, but the reader does.
    >I didn’t see the movie, but “Gamer” had a younger guy using a real adult as his avatar. A nice twist on this may be having an adult have to coordinate with an adolescent for his game sessions somehow.
    >A master cyberpunk/hacker drags several people into your game, in order to exact revenge(?). Or maybe he’s just a jerk. The characters could also go in voluntarily to go after the bad guy.
    >Somebody has been in virtual reality for years, and doesn’t want to come out. The character(s) try to save him. He could end up being the bad guy maybe, and traps the protagonist in with him. Then the character could have to rely on virtual characters to help him get out. (This could lead to internal struggle – wondering if he wants to leave them, having to remind himself that they aren’t real, telling them that they aren’t real, etc.)

    You may want to check out how the Assassin’s Creed franchise uses the “animus”. Hope these sound likeable or at least provide inspiration.

  136. Dr. Vo Spaderon 22 Nov 2012 at 7:29 pm

    By the way, I hate New England.

  137. B. McKenzieon 22 Nov 2012 at 7:56 pm

    I like the idea of villainous intent behind the characters getting trapped in the game world. That said, I think it’d really help to give the villain some motive beyond the ordinary (e.g. “I was a loser in real life and you all either looked down on me and/or were successful” may annoy readers that don’t want to ride in the villain’s wah-mbulance).

    As for the characters voluntarily going in after the bad guy… I think it’d be crucial to motivate that decision well. One slight variation: maybe they’re going in after someone who’s not a villain (e.g. someone who fled into the game world for whatever reason). The fleeing character is probably unhappy about something (or perhaps scared of something), but will probably come across as less whiny/petty than the aforementioned villain would.

    One idea: corporate intrigue. A super-successful video game creator is targeted for capture and/or assassination by a large rival. He decides to flee into the virtual world, the one place he’s certain he knows better than anyone else. Enter the protagonists. (Or perhaps he is the main protagonist).

  138. Equinoxon 29 Nov 2012 at 12:55 pm

    I like these ideas but I cant seem to make them work with my ideas as well. I think I’ll just scrap the gaming idea. Maybe i’ll just come up with a superhero story. I’ll come here if I need so advice (Most likely I will) Hope you Guys Can help.

  139. Amberon 12 Feb 2013 at 6:11 am

    A plot that needs to die are evil alternate personalities. I’m an actual real life alternate personality and I find it so insulting when people always have us down as the bad guys.
    We’re here because the base personality suffered a trauma that made them split (e.g mine was a death of a family member). We’re not evil: we’re protectors and we’re more like super heroes than villains. I also have kids in my system and a dog, there’ nothing evil about them.
    It’s another version of inequality – like making the black guy a slave because he’s black, even though the story is set in modern day society. It’s an insulting, unresearched, cliché and needs to die.

  140. Jacob Strainon 14 Feb 2013 at 1:30 pm

    Hello, SN. I’ve been kicking around some plot ideas, and I need some opinions on which one to write first. Without further ado, let me introduce them all.

    This is set in a crime-ridden city in which heroes, both powered and not, are known to exist. The novel follows Brian Delleron, a detective with no powers of his own. He also believes metahumans are a threat and refuses to take jobs from them. When his partner is murdered by a hired gun with flame manipulation, he is forced to avenge her death and enter the world he has tried to avoid for so long.

    This is set on another planet in the Taurus star system. It follows Zarmian, a teenaged alien who is among the most impovershed of the cities’ residents. He starts to steal and commit crimes in order to make money, but his honest parents will not stand for it. In order to stomp the rebelliousness out of him, they force him to enlist in the Galactic Army. Due to the war brewing between galaxies and the fact that the commander is desprate, he is taken on. But he is scrawny and hopeless in combat, so he is demoted to Damage Control. But what he lacks in combat prowess he makes up for in his sneaky, observent nature. He overhears the commander discussing plans for super suits to give to the soliders. He steals one and stows away on the transport ship to a training room. He ends up fooling the instuctors and is enrolled in the Omega Program.

    This novel follows Alex Stevenson, an aspiring actor with an optimisic attitude and a low-paying job. When his daughter is diagnosed with cancer, he subjects himself to scientific testing for pay, which grants him superpowers. The doctor wants to turn him into a weapon, so he escapes and must avoid being hunted down.
    Obviously, there is more to all of these plots, but I wanted to know which one you liked best.

  141. Dr. Vo Spaderon 14 Feb 2013 at 4:04 pm

    Jacob Strain, (Nice name.)

    I’m personally a fan of the choices made by the character in the second option. They hit a little closer to (my version of) reality. And I’ve found military angles in books usually interest me. But detective vigantles are obviously incredibly successful and his prejudices, I think, would make for interesting conflicts. Lastly – I like the idea of an actor with a soul. I’d assume he’s down on his luck. 🙂

    [P.S. – Keep in mind that I am not a professional critic or advisor, and B. Mac can give you much better advice.]

    B. Mac,

    Lets say someone was going to use ALL THREE of the above stories in one book (I’m not, just to be clear.). Or maybe just two, even though they are incredibly different. How well do you think it would go over with the reader to be reading about a city vigilante in one chapter, then an alien in a galactic war in the next? Too much confusion or too many differences? I’m curious.

  142. Jacob Strainon 14 Feb 2013 at 4:16 pm

    Cool. I might find a way to combine the first and second ones. Thanks for your help. To the Taurus star system I go!

  143. B. McKenzieon 14 Feb 2013 at 9:38 pm

    “The novel follows Brian Delleron, a detective with no powers of his own. He also believes metahumans are a threat and refuses to take jobs from them.” I think the idea of telling a superhero story through the perspective someone that’s not a superhero (or a superhero’s love interest) is refreshing. That said, the execution on why this private investigator* hates superhumans could probably be fleshed out more.

    I’ve seen some explanations for grudges that are really three-dimensional and some that are highly boring. Relatively boring: something one-dimensional like him randomly hating mutants or something really predictable like a mutant killing a family member. More interesting: for example, something which showed character development over time. For example, maybe he was once open to working with mutants, but he got burned really badly on a case by one or more of them (e.g. a mutant partner or associate betrayed him in some way to protect another mutant) and now he suspects that most mutants are clannish and untrustworthy. For example, I don’t think someone at the CIA in X-Men: First Class would have to be a disgruntled mutant-hater to be angry at Magneto and/or Xavier for torpedoing his career and going rogue, and it’s gotta look pretty strange that even a Xavier that is allegedly enthusiastic about human-mutant cooperation apparently educates and hires only mutants at his academy.

    *I’m assuming we’re talking about a private investigator and not a police detective–it’d be notably strange (and probably illegal) for a police detective to turn down cases because he didn’t like the people involved.

    “But he is scrawny and hopeless in combat, so he is demoted to Damage Control. But what he lacks in combat prowess he makes up for in his sneaky, observant nature.” I’m really liking this unusual setup for a military protagonist. However, I fear whether the drama here will survive once he gets the powersuit and presumably becomes a more or less invulnerable combatant.

    Since his sneaking into the Omega Program is critically important to the plot, I’d recommend putting a lot of thought into how he fools the instructors in a presumably elite program. For example, maybe he gets really good with computers as part of his Damage Control work and he ends up hacking something like a military order to transfer himself into the program. One dramatic possibility: one of the instructors hardest on him quickly figures out that Zarmian isn’t actually in the program, but is secretly hoping that Zarmian survives the training because the instructor really appreciates his sense of initiative and bravery/stupidity.

    “When his daughter is diagnosed with cancer, he subjects himself to scientific testing for pay, which grants him superpowers. The doctor wants to turn him into a weapon, so he escapes and must avoid being hunted down.” I feel like there’s something missing from the premise. There must be some element of deception between the scientist and Alex (probably the scientist not telling Alex about his plan to use Alex as a weapon, or maybe Alex falsely agreeing to be used as a weapon), but I don’t understand what the scientist’s motive would be. He gives a guy superpowers in the hopes that he might be able to shanghai/coerce him into using those superpowers to help him? There are some VERY large holes in this plan.

    One alternate possibility: an actor really down on his luck starts signing up for every $50 lab test he can get his hands on. One of them is a super low-grade experiment done by a military research contractor or a contractor for a super-agency like SHIELD (maybe something like testing Iraq-grade sunscreen or sound-based riot control). A shady person comes up to him that has obviously done some research (e.g. he knows Alex’s name, that he’s working as a test-subject for some low-grade military project, and maybe about the situation with his daughter). This shady person offers Alex all of the money he’ll need to care for his daughter, IF he’s willing to sneak into a secure section of the defense research lab where he does his testing and steal a valuable MacGuffin (like a mutagen or super-serum or something). He reluctantly agrees, BUT something goes wrong during the attempted heist and he ends up either spilling it on himself or otherwise exposing himself (e.g. to fumes). The head researcher catches him and FLIPS — maybe the project was badly behind schedule already, and now they had this MASSIVE security breach and Alex set them back further by spilling the serum. The scientist figures that he can either choose to admit to everybody what happened (and probably destroy his career) OR he can coerce Alex into putting on a show to make it look to the military like the project is on-track until the scientist can recreate the serum and replace Alex with a military subject. Unfortunately, there’s some sort of emergency (probably tied to the criminal that contacted Alex early on), and the military or SHIELD analogue pushes Alex to make the test subject available for immediate duty. Moving forward, you have several plot threads:
    –Alex tries to survive his missions without blowing his cover. His long-term goal may be to figure out how to get out of the service without getting himself thrown in prison (e.g. Catch-22: faking a mental illness or psychotic side-effects to the serum so that he can safely walk away from a really dangerous job).
    –The scientist tries to cover up what happened from SHIELD and the military.
    –The criminal is likely pretty pissed that Alex apparently betrayed him and may take it out on his daughter.
    –The military may already know that the test subject is a civilian, BUT everything else it has been told by the scientist is probably a lie. It’s very possible that someone at the military will suspect something is amiss as the criminal organization carries out a very personal campaign of revenge against Alex. It’s up to Alex the actor to pull off the performance of his career.

  144. B. McKenzieon 14 Feb 2013 at 10:00 pm

    “Lets say someone was going to use ALL THREE of the above stories in one book (I’m not, just to be clear.). Or maybe just two, even though they are incredibly different. How well do you think it would go over with the reader to be reading about a city vigilante in one chapter, then an alien in a galactic war in the next? Too much confusion or too many differences? I’m curious.”

    SETUP WHICH WOULD PROBABLY NOT WORK: The story rotates between a private investigator in Chicago and a soldier fighting aliens in (say) the Koprulu Sector and there isn’t much connection between the two arcs (or the connection comes too slowly). This would raise huge issues about plot coherence–the two arcs probably wouldn’t feel like they were part of the same story.

    A MORE PROMISING SETUP: The story rotates between a private investigator somewhere on a futuristic Earth and a war in a far-off sector, BUT the private investigator’s work is obviously highly relevant to the war. For example, if he uncovers an alien shapeshifter early, it might set him on a path to save Earth’s most important research project from alien espionage and/or sabotage (or accomplishing some other goal which will have a major impact on the war effort). The two plot threads are much better-connected.

    AN IMPORTANT ELEMENT: I think it would be really helpful if the main character(s) of each arc interacted fairly quickly. For example, maybe the investigator first contacts one of the soldiers in the first 75 pages or sees one of the other main characters in a news broadcast from the front lines. It doesn’t need to be anything particularly major, but give us something to remind us that the characters/arcs are part of the same story.

    ANOTHER RECOMMENDATION: Use more than one character to bridge the plot arcs. I think Green Lantern suffered from plot coherence problems because there was so little connection between major plot threads. For example, there was very little connection between Hal’s work as a GL and his problems on Earth (e.g. his problems at work, his romance with Carol, and his family issues). You can make the story more coherent by having characters from one arc interact with characters and affect plot points in the other. For example, maybe an alien’s involvement somehow creates a major problem in the Hal-Carol romance. Maybe an alien(s) accomplishes some sort of goal with Carol or somebody else at her company. Maybe Hal’s life as GL somehow complicates his job or romance (see Spider-Man 2 and The Incredibles for two great examples here).

    [Major geekery] Speaking of the Koprulu Sector, I once wrote a proposal for a Starcraft comedy about a human special forces operative attempting to stop two wildly incompetent alien assassins from killing off a researcher developing a mining robot that can last longer than 30 seconds.

  145. Zachon 31 Mar 2013 at 12:22 pm

    Hey all!
    I recently saw Skyfall, the new James Bond movie. I thought it was overall okay, but it struck me as odd that at every turn, Bond was calm, cool, and collected. So I have taken it upon myself to write a novel about Harry Fortune, a man who, over twenty yars ago, was the world’s top secret agent. His main claim to fame was that he destroyed the Hellhounds, a terrorist group. He was awarded a medal, but then discharged due to his age. Now, the Hounds have resurfaced. Harry leaps into action once more, much to the chagrin of Richard Meyers, the Agency’s new director. Aided by a cold and calculating android known as Saber, he must save the world.. without the Agency’s help. I wanted to title the book A Young Man’s Game. Is this an at all workable concept?
    P.S. This series will probably be a comedy, considering that Fortune is the opposite of Bond in nearly every way.

  146. War Clownon 31 Mar 2013 at 2:33 pm

    As of right now, I don’t have a plot. Creating the plot is the hardest part to me.

  147. B. McKenzieon 31 Mar 2013 at 8:36 pm

    Hello, Zach.

    1. I really like your premise and title, but I’m not yet seeing how they’d work as a comedy. If the comedy is so central to the story that you need readers to laugh on every page, I think it’d be worth revisiting “A Young Man’s Game,” but it’s a great title for a serious action-thriller.

    2. “Harry leaps into action once more, much to the chagrin of the Agency’s new director…” I think this is a good opportunity for character development — why does the director get annoyed by an offer of help from an acclaimed figure with a very successful history against the enemy in question? One possibility: Fortune succeeded through means that many of his peers found objectionable, and they retired him as soon as he was (apparently) no longer required.

    3) Saber sounds like an interesting and unexpected touch. I’m not sure how he’d fit into a comedy, though.

  148. Zacharyon 01 Apr 2013 at 7:49 am

    Hey, my computer randomly changed my name. I think I will tone down the comedy. There will be a few laugh lines, but it will no longer be a central plot point. I was going to start the novel with Harry on a mission to show how good he is at his job, then have him get called into the director’s office and subsequently discharged. Now, I am thinking of having him be supposedly KIA, but really he survives. He lives quietly for a few years, then becomes restless. He begins pulling increasingly reckless stunts, akin to the moves he used to stop the Hellhounds. The terrorist leader catches wind of him, and recognizes who he is. He launches an attack, so Harry alerts the Agency. which do you like better?

  149. Zachon 01 Apr 2013 at 3:55 pm

    Also, I was thinking that Meyers could be the one to moderize the agency, and Fortune’s methods are old-school.

  150. Zachon 03 Apr 2013 at 9:10 am

    I mean, I think the KIA one offers better development opportunities, but I would really like to hear what I consider to be your expert opionion, B. Mac

  151. B. McKenzieon 03 Apr 2013 at 9:34 pm

    “Now, I am thinking of having him be supposedly KIA, but really he survives. He lives quietly for a few years, then becomes restless. He begins pulling increasingly reckless stunts, akin to the moves he used to stop the Hellhounds.” Hmm. I think it would help to differentiate this from Bond’s “death” in Skyfall. Also, I think it’d help to come up with a different conflict (or perhaps a different angle to the conflict) between the spy and bureaucrat than the spy being reckless and the bureaucrat being really risk-averse and/or a hardass.

  152. WinslowMudDon 04 Apr 2013 at 7:16 pm

    Hello, this is my first time posting (though I have followed threads on this website for a while) and I was wondering where it would be appropriate to post up, well, I guess I would call it my Universe… Basically, I just want to put up different histories and cultures I have created, as well as characters, for critique. Ultimately, I am trying to get feedback so I can make my universe “better” and more believable. Any critique is welcomed and highly encouraged.

    Thanks in advance?!

  153. Kirbyon 04 Apr 2013 at 7:24 pm

    Nice to meet you, Windows! You’ve come to the right place for friendly and informal constructive criticism. I should know. I’ve gotten quite a bit myself. I’d love to hear about what you’ve come up with. Perhaps B. Mac could set up a review forum for you (though you have to explain a bit about your fantasy world first).

    …And, uh, maybe set one up for me, maybe?

  154. Kirbyon 04 Apr 2013 at 7:28 pm

    …Aaand right after I post that, I notice about three things wrong with my post. I really ought to read these things before I post them. Let me fix that:

    1. Hi, Winslow! Please forgive me calling you Windows.
    2. You might have to explain your world. You won’t be forced to.
    3. Two maybes in one sentence. Painful.

    Anyway, nice to meet you again!

  155. WinslowMudDon 04 Apr 2013 at 7:55 pm

    Well, heh. Don’t know where to start.

    Macro to Micro I guess. I have my uni…reality as an almost endless numbering of universes, microverses, and voids. This faux reality is set within a certain device being maintained by a certain being in the reality that our own is, or was fabricated in.

    One dominating theme in a future series that i probably won’t actually write, every choice everyone has ever faced creates multiple sets of universes where each possible choice was made, and-to keep from clogging a reality or universal collision (which I am sure would be very catastrophic)- the universe that the choice originated from is assimilated into all new ones equally.

    Now, the majority of my planned novels take place in either our universe or a universe very similar to ours, where the history skewed at a point just after world war 2 and just at the beginning of the cold war.

    Inside the pseudo universe similar to our own, there are only two life sustaining planets left before the rise of mankind. By the time our species had developed, we were the last in our galaxy. The other specie that live around the star Betelgeuse nearly died off when their planet supernova(ed?), much ahead of our own version of the star (mostly due to a war between several other specie in that star system). Not all died off, but the survivors relied on, well, I’ll post that part next.

    But on my version of Earth, certain things happened, and one small group of survivors from that conflict happened upon us, and bestowed all of their knowledge into one man in New Mexico in 1947.

    Fast forward to 1984-the year of Reagan’s second run for the presidency- and in Louisville KY- on the night of the first pres. debate- a bomb goes off that completely destroys any living tissue withing about 600 meters of it using what i am calling Alphonse Radiation. The people outside of that range either die from radiation poisoning, or if the are far enough away but close enough to still be affected by it, get certain abilities.

    Also, just a side note, there are very few ways to gain actual abilities in my universe. One is mentioned above, which is direct exposure to small doses of AR. This would also include Projects Alpha and Theta-to be explained-and discovering the next step of evolution for all living beings-which i stole from a website deemed to be a fraudulent cult- Wingmakers.

    People that are directly exposed to AR (not Projects A & T) give off radiation at about the same rate that X-Ray machines do, which is actually surprisingly low. That is only if they are not using their abilities. When they do so, their body emits much higher amounts of radiation-which acts as it does in real life, causing debilitating death over time-depending on certain physics aspects of their usage.
    Wingmakers function by absorbing energy from the universe itself-Cosmic Energy- and channeling it through their chakras to perform amazing feats. They do however, have a Burn Point, which is the maximum amount of cosmic energy they can channel through themselves at once. Unfortunately, humans are relatively new to this concept, and have fairly low burn points. Through very rigorous and dangerous training, Wingmakers can raise their BP, but it never raises very much.

  156. WinslowMudDon 04 Apr 2013 at 7:58 pm

    Wow, didn’t know I went on like that…

  157. WinslowMudDon 04 Apr 2013 at 8:02 pm

    Hah, no problem Kirby. I’m not sure, though I’d love to help. Two things that would hinder my help. First, I created this universe over a long time by thinking of just random stories that I though went well with whatever music I was listening to And second, I just feel like if I tried to help, I would try to mold it in what I would deem “my image”. Basically just trying to make it similar to mine…

    But, if you wish, I will try to help if you still want. 😀

  158. WinslowMudDon 04 Apr 2013 at 8:04 pm

    They were facing a calamity, the explosion of their star. They created a sentient artificial device they called “Mother” that they allowed to burrow into their planets core, where they had programmed it to use the life energy of almost every being on their home world to create a “shell” that would surround the planet and deflect most, if not all of the heat and radiation created by the blast. They also made it so that the device would be capable of turning the planets nearest satellite into an extremely small, comparatively, star that would bathe the planet in light and possibly life far after their star had died.

    That is when their star began the final process of its life. It began receding back into itself, and quickly formed a black hole. Their artificial savior managed to keep the planet and its people safe from the radiation emanating from it, but they were slowly drifting towards the core of the solar system, even as their artificial star died. They knew they had less than a few centuries until their species was doomed, so they began searching for a way to bring themselves to another world- the only way they saw to survive. The research was deemed fruitless, and as the eminent demise of their civilization loomed, they began to destroy themselves out of fear.

    They quickly began losing any passion for life, as they had almost nothing left on the planet, and had no need to consume, nor a means. They lived up to hundreds of years with the only thing to look forward to being the five times every day that “Mother” refreshed their cells life force with energy converted from their dead star. Eventually, what with the constant degradation of their states of mind due to exceedingly long lives for bodies that should have been dead, they began to completely lose any will to live. Several entire clans all over the planet made agreements to themselves that they would rather die in peace than live in hell. So started the mass dying.

    “Mother” saw her parent species dying off, and realized that it was because of “her” that they were both alive and dead. “She” knew she had to do something to keep their interest in life alive, so she began peeling back on the amount of time she gave each person to live, began lessening the amount of life energy that was rationed. They immediately responded by falling even deeper into sadness and woe, fearing that their great Mother was soon going to abandon them. They quickly began blaming each other though, and soon immersed themselves into a violent, everlasting war. Distraught at this, “Mother” made a plan to save her children from themselves.

    “She” began by choosing the most infectiously happy person she could, and revealed “herself” to him. She quickly told him that she had found a way to broadcast herself further than even the dimmest lights in the sky, but that it would require an unfortunate number of sacrifices to locate a new home, and even more to be able to get them all there. She said it would require much faith and loyalty to her, and that if they did things correctly, then the sacrifices would be minimal to the gains. She told him that all he needed to do was spread her word across the land and get enough people to have faith that they would agree to it.

    The Great Enlightenment swept across the planet like the Great Skies ripped across the north and south lands. The Church was quickly founded, and a new political hierarchy was formed by the people and the Church. The Church would have one Grand Priestess and twelve Acolytes, followed by twelve forums and twelve courums for each family. Men could serve in the courum level, but anything above that was restricted to women, who were believed to be divine vessels for “Mother’s” love and life.

    The government itself was set up with an Aesir as the supreme voice of man, while that of the women was his wife, the Grand Priestess. Underneath him was a Vice- Council of twelve individuals who-during a time of war-would act as generals of their separate tribes. There was one member per tribe, and that person was elected by family leaders from one of three nominees submitted by the Acolyte from that tribe. Below them were the Family leaders. Each tribe has a set number of “families”, who all have their own leaders, spiritual and physical.

    The first great Aesir was the same man spoken to by “Mother” in the years before their new civilization was formed. He began his reign by telling the people that in order to survive the coming calamity, they would need a new home, and that their great “Mother” was capable of giving that to them. He told them that he had found a very easy way to choose who would sacrifice what and when. He and the Grand Priestess and both the Forum and the Council had agreed to have it be the choice of those who would do so, but the first people to be accepted would be the sick and dying. The last to be accepted would be healthy women and children.

    At first, for about fifty years or so, the system continued to work perfectly, and Mother had word spread that soon they would be able to leave. Then, the Aesir became sick, and slowly began to die. He willingly offered himself up, and the new civilization was forced to find a way to choose a new Aesir. Thus the people and The Church suggested and created the Trial of Thorns. During the trial, all of the Candidates, those chosen out of the Council to be most likely to become the Aesir, would compete in a series of tournaments culminating in a harsh three month exile out into the wilderness, where they were cut off from “Mother’s” supply of life energy, and forced to find a way to survive on their own.

    The new Aesir was just as well with the people as the previous one, but more ferocious as well. He decreed that the Sacrificial Rate would need to increase if they intended to leave the dead planet in time. And so every tribe and family did. During a visit to his own family, he assured them that none of the others would notice if they stopped their own sacrifices now, as everyone was doing more. When he returned to the Capitol, he was publicly executed by a member of the Council hoping for a chance at the Aesir’s throne, hating that one for what he had done, but planning to do the same.

    And so the cycle began, one Aesir after another, tricking the rest of the people into giving more so that their families could survive without a loss. This changed after the fourth or fifth Aesir, when “Mother” appeared before the family that had been sacrificing the most throughout the cycle of hypocrisy. She told them that they needed to find a way to strike into the hearts of the other families and tribes that they needed to reevaluate what they had been working for the past two centuries to achieve. From that tribe, there arose two very young leaders that had very different views on how to complete the task.

    Young Vixis Judas Oroboi favored a more peaceful approach. He wanted to have people of his family go to the other families within the tribe and convince them of the Aesir’s tyranny, eventually working his way up to the tribe leaders themselves, who would protest to the Vice-Council and to the Acolytes. Nixial Judas Maliki wanted to start off on a similar basis, but before it got to the Vice-Council, they would propose a conference to speak to the Aesir himself, whereupon they would kill him, and replace him with whomever they saw fit.

    Mother had Nixial and Vixis, as well as a few other pronounced names, compete in a smaller version of The Trial of Thorns. In the final stage of the competition, Vixis beat out Nixial with sheer will to live and win. By the fortieth day in the wilderness, Nixial had given up, while Vixis stayed until he was told that he was the last one remaining. Thus Vixis won the competition and began his peaceful campaign against the Aesir.

    All went well up until the point when Vixis, Nixial, and the Family Heads went before their tribe leader to propose the conference with the Vice-Council. They gained the support of seven of the twelve, but the others quickly changed their mind when the Tribe leader for the Anumati Tribe spoke, effectively saying that even if it was true, the Vice-Council had more to worry about than a few people being spared, or the “unfairness” of it. They did, however, agree that the leadership needed to change, because at the rate the current Aesir was going, there was going to be civil war between his Tribe and the Aesir’s.

    The Anumati Tribe Leader agreed with Nixial’s quick monologue about needing to put to an end the tyranny of the current Aesir. Soon, they had set up the conference with the Aesir, under the guise of setting up an agreement between his home tribe and the Anumati. Once there, the representatives from the Amunati tribe made a diversion as Nixial climbed to the top of the structure where the Aesir spoke from. There, he made a plea with the other citizens to forgive him, but that “this man must fall, it is by the word of the great ‘Mother’.”

    After the Aesir was dead, and without any clear leadership, the civilization was quickly thrown into civil war as the Aesirs tribe, the largest by far, seceded from their government and began staging assaults against them. The Indra willingly cut themselves off from “Mother”, and moved out into the wilderness, and began to live off of the land as they sent troops back inland to keep the rest of the tribes from following them. The other tribes quickly set up their military, and decided that because he had been in second in a Trial of Thorns-as there was no time to conduct one now-and the winner had been disgraced, that Nixial would be their temporary Aesir. They would determine his ability to keep the billet once the war was over.

    Nixial began staging defensives and counter-attacks, and also knew that he needed to fill the spot that the Indran’s had left in the chain of command. He asked Vixis to take the spot, knowing that the motivation to save his country would overwhelm his hatred for genocide. To his surprise, Vixis said no, and quickly decided to help the Indran’s in their fight for independence. Vixis was immediately declared a war criminal, and members of his family were interned for belief that they would share the same views.

    Both men led armies against each other, and Vixis’ knowledge of the wilderness gave him the advantage. He never had his men go out of the bush, and for a while, it seemed like they could have won. But as they had nearly forgotten, their planet was nearing ever closer to the dead star. Mother, seeing the war as a way to finish the charge she would need to transport herself to the planet she had located. The death of everyone in the Tribe of Indra would suffice, and those who were too close.

    Mother had Nixial give a speech to the people in the Capitol, telling them that the war had escalated to a point of no return, that Mother had told him that the Indran’s had damned themselves. She also had him say that the sacrifice of the Tribe would save the rest of their species from imminent destruction. She ensured that everyone else would be spared.

    The day came of Mothers intended destruction, and Vixis was curious as to why the Cabal hadn’t attacked. He had sent out a scout team weeks ago, and hadn’t heard back, so he felt it best to investigate himself. He left days before the destruction. When he had nearly found the team, he heard a crack in the sky, and turned to see that the sky behind him had funneled down to touch the earth, and was ripping it apart, right where the Indran city had been. Moments later, they sky closed back up, and Vixis was infuriated. He immediately left to the Capitol, knowing that Nixial had orchestrated it all.

    Vixis traveled throughout the habitable land, seeing that it was completely empty. He was completely lost as to what he could or would do. He was going to give up hope when he felt Mother feeding him energy, and began speaking to him. She told him where he needed to go. He asked why she was helping him, and she said that he was still her child, just somewhat misguided. She told him that she still saw his approach as having been the better one, but caused things to sway for Nixial because his ferocity would be needed to take the world that they would be going to. He tried to argue against her, but she left quickly.

    Vixis traveled towards the wilderness on the other side of the habitable zone, near where the Great Ones had lived prior to the Great Dying. After weeks of travel, he could see where he had been directed. There, at the heart of the Lispor peninsula, he could see four tendril-like shapes protruding from the depths and reaching for the sky. He approached, and days later, he was riding a storm towards the center of the organic structure. He felt the earth and the water tremble underneath him as it began to rise from the water.
    At first, the water shoved him away from the structure, but when it receded inward, he was nearly drawn underneath it. Vixis climbed aboard, and followed a physical manifestation of Mother to a place where he could take shelter. After he was asleep, and the rest of the others on board were, Mother transformed herself and her passengers into a signal, whereupon she cast herself into space and, after several years of travel, finally came to the place where the frequency she had picked up was coming from. There, she waited for whatever alien device was allowing her to access their planet so easily.

  159. WinslowMudDon 04 Apr 2013 at 8:07 pm

    … Holy $&!^, didnt know it was going to be that long…sorry if it seems to be spamming…

    Also, this is not nessecarily a book I plan to write…at all…it is just backstory
    Aaaaannnnd. The beings from that planet are also now just converted into life forces, not really beings anymore, though they can take control of other species’ bodies if given the chance.

  160. B. McKenzieon 04 Apr 2013 at 9:01 pm

    Kirby, I’ve set it up for you here.

  161. WinslowMudDon 05 Apr 2013 at 9:45 am

    I guess I should probably ask for a review forumn as I have fairly long descriptions and haven’t gotten to the plot yet…

    Also, on a very unrelated note…I was reading through some fairly old threads, and saw something. I was just curious if…well if you were in the military.

  162. WinslowMudDon 05 Apr 2013 at 9:49 am

    …I meant forum.

  163. WinslowMudDon 05 Apr 2013 at 9:51 am

    Note, the second comment was directed at B McKenzie.

  164. B. McKenzieon 05 Apr 2013 at 9:09 pm

    Winslow, I’ve set up your review forum here. I’m interested to learn more about your characters and how they tie into your story.

    “I was reading through some fairly old threads, and saw something. I was just curious if…well if you were in the military.” I was enrolled in AFROTC for a semester. The first warning sign that I was not cut out for the military was that a USN recruiter asked me if I was some sort of hippie trying to sabotage his recruiting numbers. It was a very interesting experience, but I would have been the worst 2LT in the world.

  165. WinslowMudDon 06 Apr 2013 at 11:35 am

    Hah, cool. Thanks btw. I was just curious b/c i am. Not an officer though. 😉

  166. B. McKenzieon 06 Apr 2013 at 12:07 pm

    Yeah, I figured you were probably in the military or a veteran.

  167. War Clownon 08 Apr 2013 at 6:56 pm

    The Coldsmith/Dixon Durant has been the guardian for Zion City for about six years. Everybody in the city loves him except a woman named Myra Burbanks. She’s a very powerful woman in Zion City, she’s like a cross between Lex Luthor and Charles Foster Kane from Citizen Kane. Myra has the ability to modify and control the thoughts, mindsets and upper brain function of others. Which explains the influence that she has on the people of the city.

    Plot: The Coldsmith is in a situation where he has to rescue either police officers & doctors or children. A terrorist group known as The Red Angels had both parties hostage in different places: The children were in a church while the cops and doctors were in some abandon warehouse. Coldsmith didn’t make a choice fast enough so both groups end up being shot in cold blood. But the twist is that The Coldsmith was NOT in Zion City that day, he was with his girlfriend taking a break from his superhero duties. So by using her powers Myra convinced the citizens of Zion City that The Coldsmith turned his back on the city when he didn’t save those helpless doctors and kids. Myra basically used her powers to make the people turn against the once lovable hero of Zion City. So now he’s like a public enemy around the world. It’s not safe for him anywhere. Myra has called for his arrest. So the government is after him, fellow superheroes are after him. He has to clear his name before things get worst.

    Is this good enough for a plot? Because i thought very long and hard about this.

  168. B. McKenzieon 09 Apr 2013 at 3:06 am

    War Clown, right now it feels like the conflict between the protagonist and the public/government/other superheroes is purely fabricated by mind-control rather than, say, any decision or choice the character made. I think it’d be more interesting if the conflict were more ambiguous and/or the hero plays a larger role. For example, replacing the mind-control with a setup/framing might at least make the hero’s actions more prominent and interesting. For instance, in Point of Impact, a master marksman gets asked by (a group posing as) the Secret Service to test whether a sniper could assassinate a target at a given location, but when the group actually assassinates the target there, they’ve gathered enough evidence to frame the marksman for the killing. (E.g. witnesses saw him scoping the area with a rangefinder and the villains made sure to pick a hero whose personality raised some red flags for crazy and/or hostile behavior). So… is there anything about your character that a villain could use/exploit to accomplish her main goal? Is there anything about your character which might make it easier for the villain to turn others against him?

  169. Atomic Gumshoeon 18 Apr 2013 at 11:18 pm

    Do you have any articles or advice on creating a post apocalyptic story?

  170. B. McKenzieon 19 Apr 2013 at 12:01 am

    Atomic Gumshoe, I’d recommend checking out this outside article and any SN articles which apply to all genres (e.g. the ones on characterization, plotting, and setting).

    As for post-apocalyptic stories specifically, I don’t know enough about them to offer much genre-specific advice. Post-apocalyptic settings haven’t cropped up much in the genres/subgenres I follow most closely (superhero, military action, and mystery).

  171. WinslowMudDon 22 Apr 2013 at 9:46 am

    Okay, so for now I think I am going to put aside the massive crossover event I was originally going to try to publish, and instead focus on a more singular story with more specific characters. Not sure what it is going to be called yet, but maybe something along the lines of Eye of the Storm, or maybe Maelstrom.

    There are two main characters, Kara Cross, and her soon to be wed fiancé, Nedworth Benson. Nedworth Benson was a partner in a prestigious law firm in their town until the owner, his father, died. Being a fairly good lawyer already, and due to his lineage, he was promoted to his father’s position in the firm. He also, in the night, crusades through the city as Gigawatt Benson, fighting crime using his electricity based abilities. (it is never actually explained how he gets/got them, and it isn’t really a plot point anyway) He is not afraid of killing the criminals he stops, because he sees that there is no point in sending them through the revolving door of the law.

    She is a scientist at a top medical science department based in their town, (let’s call it Gothopolis hah) and her teams current project is fixing the very new breakthrough in nanotechnology so as to apply it to cellular regeneration, most hopefully to find a way to make blood transfusions easy, efficient, and cheap. Ned and Kara are happily engaged, but Ned has never told Kara, nor does she suspect that he is Gigawatt Benson. She also highly detests his style of vigilantism, being somewhat naïve about the bad people of the world, hoping and believing they can all change and reform.

  172. WinslowMudDon 22 Apr 2013 at 2:12 pm

    The story starts with the newlywed couple returning from their honeymoon (maybe a flashback to the “perfect” wedding) to find that one of his enemies that he did not kill (Aiden Andrews , his father’s best friend and practically Ned’s uncle) had taken over his father’s firm while he and Kara had been on their unannounced honeymoon. (They left without telling anyone, this may also be a time to do a flashback to a fight between Ned and Aiden, when they discover each other’s identities) He quickly comes to suspect that Aiden has nefarious underlying plans, and uses a few meals between himself, Kara, and Aiden to try to discover what that was.
    After finding what he believed to be sufficient evidence to take him down (to the police station) and attempts to apprehend him. After a struggle, Aiden manages to call the police. He barely manages to hold Gigawatt Benson off until his personal security arrives, (he ends up being hospitalized, and falls into a comatose-like state) and holds Benson at gunpoint. As Benson is being transported in a non-conductive vehicle, Kara is at her friends/co-workers house, and begins showing a few signs. Later on that night, she finds that she is pregnant. She and her friend, Meghan Shelby, plan on breaking the news to Ned when he arrived at their home. On the way to her house, they hear over the radio that the vigilante Gigawatt Benson had attempted to murder Aiden Andrews.
    Act one (the only one I have actually planned out to this point) ends a few hours later. Ned/Gigawatt broke out of custody during transition between the NCPV (non conductive police vehicle) and the actual precinct. He fled home, assuming that Kara would probably still be at work. There, he planned to go inside to clean up and go to bed, but when he found Kara home, as well as Meghan, that changed. They both reacted as a good citizen would, they tried to apprehend him. When Meghan pulled out a gun and tried to shoot Ned, he reactively shot her with a lightning bolt, killing her and causing her aim to skew towards Kara, more specifically towards her stomach. Kara freaked out in horror for a few moments as Ned tried to ease his way towards her (to knock her out with an electricity based ability used for resuscitation, think defibrillators) before realizing that she would need to protect herself and her baby from the vigilante she did not know was her husband. As she picked up the gun and cocked it, Ned attempted to defibrillate her, but over did it to the point that he felt no pulse. Ned quickly reacted by changing into his civilian clothes and “flying” her to the hospital. (Of course he stopped a bit away to not be noticed)
    Kara ended up losing the baby, and quite a lot of blood. Through some strange means I haven’t thought of yet, she comes to be a user of the Nano-Blood solution that her team was working on. (Probably due to need for human testing [after much animal testing, leading to a start of primate testing as of the year prior?]and her loss of blood, looking for creative ideas on this one) After a few weeks of feeling off and discovering one by one new abilities, she decides to try to use her newfound strength to try to figure out who Gigawatt Benson really is. (increased healing abilities, slightly more strength, speed, and stamina, and a strange new affinity for machines, all while getting tired or hyperactive very easily around her husband)
    Kara begins investigating into Gigawatt Benson and ends up finding that she will need to elicit the aid of some of her cities criminal underground to find out who he is. She does not hide her quest from Ned, and as she goes down her path, he questions whether he had needed to lie to her all that time in the first place, and how things would be if he hadn’t. Tensions continue to rise as Kara delves deeper into the cities under workings, and is made evident by their constant fighting about certain moral choices and ideologies. After one fight in particular, Kara proved her point well enough to Ned that he decided to hang up his cape. (Metaphor, Benson does NOT wear an outfit that cliché/tacky)
    Kara got renewed determination from the apparent disappearance of Gigawatt Benson, believing he was starting to fear that someone was on to who he was. After a few incidents (no idea what they could be) she began to suspect that it was Adrian, which would have explained a few discrepancies. After another day or so, Ned hears from the hospital that Adrian is awake, and that he is up for a visit. Ned goes to visit him without Kara, so he can talk to Adrian alone. Later on, Kara sees that Adrian is making a fast recovery on the news, and wonders why Ned would hide something so important from her. She calls him, and ends up leaving a message before going to the hospital. There, she questions Adrian as to what had driven him. They have a short battle of wits and morals before he reveals to her that he was not the cities hero, it was Ned. She doubts him, but he gives her valid evidence, and points her to a certain room in their house.
    Kara goes home, not noticing Ned going in the opposite direction. As she explores the house for the irrefutable proof of her husband’s actions, Ned himself pays a visit to Adrian one final time. As they are talking, Adrian leads Ned on to the fact that now his wife knows his secret, and will surely cause more hatred and destruction to the hero than he ever could have. After kindly killing Adrian, Ned heads home, where Kara has discovered his secret. When she senses him, the two begin a battle of mental fortitude, each trying to get the other to see it all from their point of view. When police begin arriving outside, the tension escalates, and finally, Ned states his final point. When he cannot get Kara to agree that his way of being a “savior” is the only way that will functionally work best, he begins to kill her.(electrocuting her, but has slightly less effect now that she has control over nanobots) She fights back, letting her body absorb as much of the energy as possible. Ned falls over, dead (from radiation related death, as well as using own bioelectricity to fuel final attacks) Kara survives, but the nanobots in her body have all overloaded, and she falls unconscious.
    So, first of all, would a story such as this justify having multiple POV’s? (2) I am not sure, other than the final battle really, why she really needs abilities. And for a final note, I was thinking of having an epilogue of her waking up strapped to a table in a dark, strange room. (clearly similar to a deranged Canadian hospital)

  173. Austen Bushon 12 Jul 2014 at 11:50 pm

    Ok. I didn’t read every single comment but I don’t think all WWII era comic stories are that bad. If time travel storylines are the main focus then I agree but what about ones set in WWII to begin with? I mean, look at Captain America. The Red Skull was an awesome villain for that time period. Going from the Avengers movie perspective, The Tesseract was an extraordinary theme for the story.

  174. B. McKenzieon 13 Jul 2014 at 8:13 am

    “I didn’t read every single comment but I don’t think all WWII era comic stories are that bad. If time travel storylines are the main focus then I agree but what about ones set in WWII to begin with?” I am not necessarily opposed to WWII period pieces (although again I think it’s sort of a cliche that as far as comic books are concerned, history started in 1941* and ended in 1945). The above article only mentioned WWII time travel, not period pieces.

    *U.S. entry into the war — I don’t think I’ve seen any comic books covering any WWII events before then.

  175. Carloson 26 Jan 2015 at 1:11 pm

    you guys seen prisoner of benda? Generally a well loved futurama episode (though a few may not like for various reasons such as the gross out humour or the way Leela in the professor’s body harasses fry)but I think it is so hilarious and over the top, do a body swap story like that. They parodied prisoner of zenda at the same time, so think of classics that you could add body swapping to.

  176. Leson 29 Jan 2015 at 8:57 pm

    I could not think of plots that my characters, the Vanquishers, must die. But, I have some few possibilities for them.

    Vanquishers consist of: #1 Green Ranger, #2 Windman, #3 Hydrowoman, #4 Flamedraman, #5 Heavy Mace, #6 Doomfrost, #7 Steeler, and #8 Charger

    1. The archvillains Dire (a Cable-like baldie, wearing a dragon helm, using only brute strength) and Retch (a Lobo-like character with a shaven mohawk), have an ingenious idea to counter the Vanquishers from stopping his terror reign- by shrinking them, making much more difficult for them to fight them.

    2. Retch opens the dimension portal to ship the Vanquishers to the Netherworld (in other words, Hell) as a weapon of torture.

    3. Having to start their underwater missions to stop aquatic enemies and supervillains, from harming earth.

    4. Having to go inside the near-active volcano to rescue their fellow Vanquisher (Doomfrost) who was being kidnapped by the fire-breathing, human torch-like villain at Retch’s behalf trying to retrieve the lost treasure here in order for them to be more powerful.

    I can’t think of any others for now because I am still dreaming of many plots for my characters. Otherwise, any other suggestions for me?

  177. B. McKenzieon 30 Jan 2015 at 7:41 pm

    “The archvillains Dire (a Cable-like baldie, wearing a dragon helm, using only brute strength) and Retch (a Lobo-like character with a shaven mohawk), have an ingenious idea to counter the Vanquishers from stopping his terror reign- by shrinking them, making much more difficult for them to fight them.”

    How would you avoid the issue that shrinking stories tend to be extremely predictable because they’re heavily formulaic?

    Shrinking stories have incredibly tight parameters. As soon as the audience sees the title (something like “The Incredible Shrinking Noun”), they already know 90% of what’s going to happen. First act: the characters fight the villain, lose, get shrunken and escape. Second act: the characters overcome a variety of mundane obstacles that are suddenly serious, usually including animals. Third act: The characters reach the villain, beat the villain and unshrink themselves. The only question is which animal the heroes face in Act II. Usually it’s a cat.”

    If the story sounds anything like that, I think it’s easily an instant rejection except as a filler episode/issue for an already established series (especially one having trouble with production deadlines).

  178. Carloson 13 Feb 2015 at 11:37 am

    I think some of these plots you’ve suggested don’t need to die, if you’re going for a different style . Freedom force vs the third rich was a great game, and it was a World War II Time travel superhero story. Then again, freedom force went for a silver age, campy approach. See what I mean?

  179. B. McKenzieon 15 Feb 2015 at 10:36 am

    I think writing for video games is completely different than writing novels or comic books. With novels or comic books, I think a campy approach would generally be a hard sell for audiences and publishers. I have no idea about video games.

  180. guson 23 Jul 2015 at 2:32 am

    I think you misunderstand the Mirror Universe situation and why it turns out wrong these days. What most people forget is that the successful Mirror Universes reflect a key theme of either the characters involved or the series.

    The classic Mirror Universe takes place in the original Star Trek series. But that Mirror Universe was not simply “bad instead good”; it reflected the series’ ongoing themes of reason versus ungoverned passion, cooperation versus ruthless competition or acquisition, and purposeful optimism versus obedient cynicism. The Mirror Universe Kirk and company all fail for the same reason the Kirk created by the transporter accident failed: passion needed reason to guide it. The Mirror Universe characters could not compete with our heroes because our heroes knew how to work together as a team (albeit one with an overt leader). Kirk’s words to Spock appeared to be visionary because what he was really advocating was a refusal to give up, in contrast to the Mirror Spock’s passive obedience even when he considered the Empire ultimately illogical and doomed.

  181. catswoodsriveron 26 Oct 2015 at 5:14 pm

    “8. By extension, parallel universes. Like the kind where the bad guy won. Similar problems to negative universes, but with MORE. Firstly, fridge logic. If there’s a parallel universe, no one can die since there will always be a universe where they didn’t die. Also there’s the inherent issues with how the system works.”

    What if you do it like yours, but someone died that didn’t die in your universe and everything turned out very differently? I think parallels based on choices being changed CAN be done well.

  182. Carlyon 24 May 2016 at 6:03 am

    To be honest, I don’t think anyone would like it if a superhero lost to a villain, and the villain one, so that cliche needs to stay since I think it’d be a terrible movie if a superhero lost.

  183. B. McKenzieon 24 May 2016 at 7:10 am

    “I don’t think anyone would like it if a superhero lost to a villain, and the villain won…” That’s a pretty bold claim. Could I recommend checking out Watchmen (probably the best-written superhero graphic novel), Wild Cards (almost certainly the best-written superhero prose), Jessica Jones (an unusually well-written superhero TV show)*, and outside of superheroes, the Game of Thrones novels, Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, The Wire, Terminator, No Country for Old Men, Chinatown, and Infernal Affairs/Departed? They’re serious contenders for best in their class, and generally crazy best-sellers.

    I’ll spare you most of the absolutely gushing reviews surrounding most of these works, but here’s a taste from Watchmen’s Wikipedia page:

    “A commercial success, Watchmen has received critical acclaim both in the comics and mainstream press, and is considered by several critics and reviewers to be one of the most significant works of 20th-century literature. Watchmen was recognized in Time’s List of the 100 Best Novels… highly regarded in the comics industry and is frequently considered by several critics and reviewers as comics’ greatest series and graphic novel. In time, the series has also become one of the best-selling graphic novels ever published… Lev Grossman described the story as “a heart-pounding, heartbreaking read and a watershed in the evolution of a young medium…. It’s way beyond cliché at this point to call Watchmen the greatest superhero comic ever written-slash-drawn. But it’s true.”

    Don’t let your superheroes lose! Nobody would like it. 😉

    See also: Braveheart, maybe Children of Men, Nightmare on Elm Street, maybe Inception, Great Gatsby (the novel), The Prestige, The Talented Mr. Ripley, maybe Pan’s Labyrinth, Cool Hand Luke, Wicker Man (1973), Wanted (the comics), maybe Manchurian Candidate, And So My World Ends, Usual Suspects, etc.

    *While the main character defeats the villain, her compassion botches the case repeatedly, leading to the murders of most of the civilians she set out to save.

  184. Carlyon 29 May 2016 at 7:18 pm

    @B. McKenzie, I’ve seen later episodes of Jessica Jones, and I wonder if she’s ever going to be in The Defenders, since she is, after all, a Marvel character, as well as Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and Daredevil. I’ve heard of Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad, but I don’t know about the others, but I might’ve heard of Watchmen.

  185. B. McKenzieon 29 May 2016 at 7:47 pm

    Uhh, you’re writing a superhero story, right? I’d suggest reading Watchmen, Killing Joke, The Dark Knight Returns, and at least the first Wild Cards book for basic experience. In particular, I’d recommend getting more familiar with Watchmen than “might have heard of it.”

    In general, I think a lack of genre experience will create problems for a submission immediately obvious to editors, so I’d definitely recommend reading more widely. If you haven’t already read 20+ superhero stories, I’d recommend getting on that ASAP.

    For superhero novelists, thinking more broadly about main characters with extraordinary capabilities, I’d also throw in any of the following that might be genre relevant: Flowers for Algernon, Ender’s Game, maybe Starship Troopers, Wheel of Time, Bitter Seeds, Carrie, and maybe the original Holmes novels.

  186. Carlyon 18 Sep 2016 at 5:54 pm

    I have some knowledge on superheroes due to the fact that I am a bit of a movie goer, and my dad knows a thing or two about superheroes, and I have watched Supergirl and The Flash. I’ve even heard of Arrow and I might watch it, though according to her it’s pretty flat. I know about Deadpool, but heard the movie stunk according to both parents.

  187. B. McKenzieon 18 Sep 2016 at 6:44 pm

    “I know about Deadpool, but heard the movie stunk according to both parents.” 85% on Rotten Tomatoes, top-grossing R-rated movie of all time, wildly profitable, etc. I can’t speak for your parents, but everybody involved is thrilled with how it turned out.

    The movie was extremely profane and I wouldn’t recommend it for viewers younger than 18, but I’d recommend putting it on the research list for almost anybody writing an adult superhero comedy. It won’t work for everybody — comedy hinges more on individual taste than almost any other genre does — but as far as superhero comedy goes, it’s one of the most critically acclaimed examples. Also, the writing quality is a huge step up from most rated-R superhero movies (e.g. Punisher, Blade, Spawn, Wanted, Kick-Ass 2, Judge Dredd, etc).

  188. Carlyon 07 Oct 2016 at 1:06 pm

    I probably shouldn’t have said that. Even though most people liked it, it wasn’t my parents cup of tea, per say. Also, even though I’m old enough to see it and mature enough, I don’t think that I’d like to see an R-rated superhero movie that’s supposed to be serious. Also, my dad knows about superheroes so I did get sone of my knowledge about that genre from him.

  189. B. McKenzieon 08 Oct 2016 at 8:55 am

    “I probably shouldn’t have said that. Even though most people liked it, it wasn’t my parents cup of tea, per se.” Understood. However, when you’re researching a genre, I meant firsthand research. Unless your parents are doing the writing…

    “even though I’m old enough to see it and mature enough, I don’t think that I’d like to see an R-rated superhero movie that’s supposed to be serious.” Deadpool isn’t serious, nor was it intended to be. E.g. the main character kills somebody with a zamboni, and the movie is far more committed to comedy (and wacky comedy, at that) than almost any other superhero movie so far. I still suspect you probably wouldn’t like Deadpool (e.g. on intensity of violence/adult content or because it’s too juvenile), but not because the movie is serious.

    Some superhero movies that I think are significantly more serious: Incredibles, Dark Knight, First Class, Man of Steel, Chronicle, the most recent Fantastic Four movie, and possibly Civil War.

  190. Carlyon 09 Oct 2016 at 5:55 pm

    True, though I don’t think that R-rated superhero movies are for me and I usually look up superhero stuff.

  191. B. McKenzieon 09 Oct 2016 at 6:14 pm

    “I don’t think that R-rated superhero movies are for me…” Understood. However, for anyone writing a superhero comedy, I would highly recommend watching it anyway, even anticipating that you might not personally enjoy it*. Not a lot of other successful examples there, either in terms of critical acclaim or sales results.

    *Personally, I find works that I don’t enjoy more useful for training/learning.

  192. Carlyon 11 Oct 2016 at 11:10 am

    I see your point, though I’m not used to watching R-rated superhero movies, though I think Kick-Ass was R, and I’m not sure if that did well.

  193. Greyon 13 Oct 2016 at 11:48 am

    Twist on the age change that also uses another cliche: The hero thinks he was aged down, but in reality he was cloned, and the younger body has a copy of the older mind, and he doesn’t realize this until he sees his older self acting exactly as he would be.

  194. Carlyon 15 Oct 2016 at 1:21 pm

    What do you guys think of two equally competent characters that are both targeted but it’s usually the main character that’s targeted but not emotionally but physically targeted, like someone’s trying to kill them? What should the others do? Back out and let the main character get hurt or step in and help? I’d say step in and help no matter what the risks are. Does this sound workable?

  195. B. McKenzieon 15 Oct 2016 at 1:43 pm

    “What do you guys think of two equally competent characters that are both targeted but it’s usually the main character that’s targeted but not emotionally but physically targeted, like someone’s trying to kill them? What should the others do? Back out and let the main character get hurt or step in and help? I’d say step in and help no matter what the risks are. Does this sound workable?” This sounds like a pretty generic option. Unless there’s something unusual going on, I’m guessing 99% of characters would make the same choice to help their friends in this situation?

    Would suggest adding or modifying parameters to make the decision a bit more interesting. For example…
    –An unusual capability or skill (preferably not a superpower) tips off the character that something is amiss; most characters wouldn’t have known that the friend was in trouble.
    –There’s a conflicting priority. Most other characters would have opted to do X first before rescuing their friend. E.g. if hundreds of civilians are at risk in Chicago and a superhero’s being attacked in Miami, I think most superheroes would want you helping in Chicago first, and the target will probably be pissed if you let hundreds of people die by racing off to help him without coming up with a workable Chicago plan first.
    –The person that needs help has previously asked them not to get involved in this. Bonus points if there’s some reason for this request besides personal pride or a vague desire not to see anybody else get hurt over this.
    –The person that would be offering help is an unusually poor fit for the situation. E.g. if a fear-based villain attacks a psychic hero, a flying brick like Superman might not be able to help much, or would at least have to get a lot more creative than normal.
    –The person that would be offering help knows that his/her assistance would come at a great cost to somebody/something (e.g. Banner could turn into the Hulk to help another Avenger in trouble, but flipping that switch is always a dangerous option, so he might hold off until he is certain that it’s necessary and/or look into safer forms of assistance first).
    –There’s some sort of misinformation out there, possibly from the assailants and/or possibly from the person that needs help, such that most characters wouldn’t know what the actual threat is or how they might be able to help.
    –Aiding the friend will create major problems for another friend. E.g. if a superhero has information from an undercover operative that a friend is about to be assassinated, the superhero could intervene to save the friend, but what’s his plan for making sure that using insider information won’t lead to the undercover operative being found and murdered? (Also, even if the operative doesn’t get murdered, he and/or his group might get pissed that the hero has compromised a major investigation to save a minor target).

  196. Carlyon 16 Oct 2016 at 5:22 am

    True, and StarGirl often doesn’t want Vance or anyone helping her risk their lives for her if she’s in trouble, so she probably would try to tell them NOT to help her when she’s in in need of it, and more than likely, Vance would tell StarGirl not to risk HER life for him, since she’s supposedly making a difference in the world and doesn’t think the Metro-Atlanta area could stand a chance with out her, and, since StarGirl and Vance are friends, they’d probably help out each other no matter what kind of situation they were in. Also, in Star Trek: Into Darkness, when it looked like Kirk was dead, the rest of the crew helped save Kirk according to my dad, though I’m sure Bones injected the blood into Kirk, and it was Uhura who talked Spock down, since he almost killed Khan in retaliation to what happened to Kirk.

  197. B. McKenzieon 17 Oct 2016 at 6:01 am

    “Also, in Star Trek: Into Darkness, when it looked like Kirk was dead, the rest of the crew helped save Kirk according to my dad…” Uhh, if you haven’t seen the movie, I’d recommend doing so rather than relying on what other people have told you about the plot. It’s a better opportunity to see the details of how the scene is set up and executed, how the scene fits into the larger plot, etc.

    Also, I would suggest against using a work as a reference that you aren’t actually personally familiar with (to avoid raising competence issues).

    *You’re writing a superhero story. You’ve read and/or seen 20+ superhero stories, right? If yes, it should be pretty trivial to think of examples of scenes where superheroes help somebody (or decide not to) that you, not your parents, are personally familiar with. If not, your submission has much bigger problems.

    There’s probably 100+ examples of these, but here are a few that come to mind.
    –Xavier backs Magneto in a dispute with the CIA in First Class. They both want the operation mutant-run.
    –The scene in which Iron Man convinces Spider-Man to join the Avengers in Civil War.
    –Lucius uneasily agreeing to help Batman in TDK, and later resigning over ideological concerns. (An unusual “cost” to using advanced surveillance equipment).
    –Peter Parker NOT intervening to stop the robber, eventually resulting in the death of Uncle Ben. (He had a conflicting priority — revenge against the robber’s victim, who had previously screwed Peter Parker — and didn’t know that the robber might kill somebody, let alone his uncle).
    –Dr. Manhattan NOT intervening to help Rorschach in the climax of Watchmen (understatement). It’s hard to summarize this without major spoilers, but let’s go with “conflicting priorities” here.
    –Kick-Ass breaking into a federal prison to help Hit Girl in the KA comic series. Also, KA relies on the support of reluctant allies not very eager to do something that dangerous/illegal.

  198. Carlyon 18 Oct 2016 at 1:18 pm

    I did see the movie, but it has been a while since I’ve seen it and that’s what my dad said. I remember when Spock LITERALLY lost it and almost killed Khan in response to what happened to Kirk. Also, I am writing a superhero story.

  199. B. McKenzieon 18 Oct 2016 at 5:24 pm

    “I did see the movie, but it has been a while since I’ve seen it and that’s what my dad said.” Previously, you’ve also mentioned that you weren’t sure if you had read Watchmen before. Taking notes or paying more attention might help.

    Personally, I focus notes on anything that feels like it might be useful for later writing — e.g. unusual writing decisions, major plot events (particularly unexpected ones or ones handled in an unusual way), surprises and/or disappointments, unusual character development, etc.

  200. Vixis Shiar'Deluson 19 Oct 2016 at 8:18 am

    Ultimately, the biggest thing to note about Kirk surviving the end of Into Darkness was that it cheapened the previous scenes during and after his death. Felt like that didn’t matter. And also calls into question how anyone in the universe will ever die again, since the resurrection process just relies on the villain’s blood (which should be easy to replicate in this universe) to work. His resurrection is really one of the weakest points in the film.

  201. B. McKenzieon 19 Oct 2016 at 10:41 am

    VSD, do any more effective resurrection scenes come to mind? How did they execute it differently? (Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any outside of time travel).

  202. Vixis Shiar'Deluson 19 Oct 2016 at 3:20 pm

    Some of the better resurrections that I think work fairly well were in the “A Song of Fire and Ice” series. That mostly works because the characters that are resurrected have some major or minor (but cumulative) changes to their psyche or personality:

    Baeric Dondarian has constantly been revived, but remembers very little of his past lives, with only a small figment of himself still being there.

    Catelyn Stark died having just seen most of her family die, and believed that the rest were dead or near death. So when she was brought back (weeks later and with lots of unhealable physical damage), the only thing she had left in her mind was vengeance and/or cruelty.

    We haven’t seen anything for Jon except in the show, but so far he seems much less motivated to try and fight off the bad guys. Having seen death and the afterlife, he just wants to go somewhere and be happy, or alone.

    In Naruto Shippuden, there is a point where one of the main characters dies. In order to bring him back, the only person (known of) that can use a form of resurrection dies using it (it essentially trades the users life for the targets). Sort of similar thing in Full Metal Alchemist in that you have to sacrifice humans to be able to make a rock that can create functioning people.

    In Attack on Titan, near the end of the recent chapters, two of the main characters die (though one could be disputed as being a primary secondary instead of a main). The other characters have a choice on who they can save, and actually almost come to a point where they are ready to fight or kill each other to save one or the other. Oh…and part of the resurrection kinda involves the one who was resurrected eating one of the villains to fully revive…and get his powers.

    If you want bad examples of resurrection, look at Dragonball Z.

    TLDR: Make sure that if you use resurrection, it is either very limited in it’s usability or has some major impact on characters and/or their interactions.

  203. B. McKenzieon 19 Oct 2016 at 11:28 pm

    I like the idea of there being a permanent cost to death, even in the case of resurrection. Also, the deaths that were undone in GOT have mostly been relatively minor (e.g. Beric and Lady Stark, and possibly the Mountain. I don’t know about Jon Snow — personally, I suspect he’s more of a red herring like Ned and Rob Stark than a critically important character).

    In contrast, the resurrections I’ve seen that tend to undo deaths of main characters tend to seriously undermine the plot. I think Superman is one of the bottom-feeders there. His writers seem to really love fake deaths and generically sad funeral scenes. But it’s hard to get worked up over a fake death that obviously won’t stick and probably won’t even last 20-30 minutes of screen-time. In contrast, when George R. R. Martin kills someone, I think it’s usually a lot more emotionally effective because almost all of his major characters that die stay dead.

    Also, George R.R. Martin’s deaths are usually unexpected. E.g. the Red Wedding betrayal had been brewing for 100+ pages, but most readers (including myself) didn’t connect the dots until it happened. In contrast, Superman’s fake deaths are extremely predictable, especially in stories where there aren’t many other major characters established. Game of Thrones has enough characters that it can easily kill off characters without derailing the plot, whereas actually killing Superman would probably end a Superman story.

  204. Veeon 17 Dec 2016 at 11:09 pm

    And old comment I’m replying to here but, This really amused me:

    “8. By extension, parallel universes. Like the kind where the bad guy won. Similar problems to negative universes, but with MORE. Firstly, fridge logic. If there’s a parallel universe, no one can die since there will always be a universe where they didn’t die. Also there’s the inherent issues with how the system works.”

    Well, no, because the main universe is the one people care about 😛 because that’s where most of the stories happen!

    Also, in terms of “always be a universe where…” this is not true in systems that don’t have an *infinite* multiverse. For instance, the DCU at current only has 52 worlds because many of them were merged in a great cataclysmic event (or…several? I don’t know, I can’t keep track lol). And out of those worlds close to half or more are already designated worlds where stories have happened, whether it’s the “Darkest Knight” Elseworld story or the vintage-inspired Earth-2 or Bombshells universes. Some of these aren’t even “for want of a nail” stories like Darkest Knight, so much as completely weird worlds or worlds with a concept complete unto themselves. “Bombshells” is very much an alternate universe for instance (inspired by WWII pinups and yet weirdly feminist by design) but there’s also one (Earth-33) that is supposed to be our good old mundane world more or less, one is even a universe parodying superhero comics, where something pretty much almost destroys the world every single day, while another is set in a world where the DC superheroes were so good at destroying crime that the new generation has nothing to do and basically behaves like ordinary spoiled celebrities until they get an actual supervillain up in there (and it’s all their kids, like “Alexis Luthor” etc, not the original DC heroes).

    Again, I think over half of the 52 worlds have already been designated. That does NOT leave much room for “in this universe, they survived!” stories to be terribly common. 😉 (Though, resurrections are dime a dozen in DCU, in fairness, so there’s not as much call for it)

    Also I think it’s funny they brought that up as a particular point because I actually have a story I’m working on that uses a multiverse at one point but does the exact opposite: the alternate version of my heroine is actually DEAD in that universe, and her mother and best friend wind up in the main story universe because they’re pursuing her counterpart’s murderer! So it’s like an inversion of that idea, heh.

    (And they’re pursuing him there with very different aims, to boot: her mother’s counterpart, being a borderline Lawful Good-style cop, simply wants him Brought To Justice, wants to bring him in to stand trial for his crimes; her best friend’s counterpart? Just wants to kill him out of vengeance! So they’re actually at cross-purposes, even as they both pursue the same guy for the same basic reason, pft. Oh, to make matters more of a cluster-eff? This murderer? Is the counterpart of a guy who’s by this point reformed and on a redemption arc in the main story universe…and he looks EXACTLY like him, leading to the wrong guy getting attacked at least once, of course).

  205. (o_n')on 18 Dec 2016 at 1:13 am

    I think mutible universes is annoying, mainly because the lack of continutity. It is like it was just a dream, let things unhappen. It is not optimal. In contrast Disney comic duck universe is a single universe with a plastic status quo, but most stories(except from a few like My life in a eggshell(unaviable in English) by Marco Rota & life and times of Scrooge Mcduck by Don Rosa) are short stories. The status quo is not optimal either, but these are marketed against kids, so long storylines is not option.

  206. ginganinjaon 05 Dec 2017 at 5:03 am

    What if I combined number 1 and number 2 on the list (shrinking & body-swapping), like The Fly movie? Would that work?

  207. B. McKenzieon 05 Dec 2017 at 4:26 pm

    “What if I combined number 1 and number 2 on the list (shrinking & body-swapping), like The Fly movie? Would that work?” It doesn’t feel very promising to me. If you had 10 episode concepts (or issue concepts or whatever), is there any chance you’d want to lead with this one?

  208. Danielleon 28 Sep 2018 at 8:17 am

    As soon as I read the first one, I thought Fantastic Voyage. Or, as another put it here, “are voluntarily shrunken to fight off an infection/invasion of another character’s body.” And then I immediately thought of Hawkeye. The Iron Man cartoon of the 90s did an episode where Iron Man shrunk to go inside Hawkeye and fix his injured spine. I only liked the episode due to the scene where Hawkeye gets his spine injured. He gets crushed by a falling beam, Iron picks it up off and sees Hawkeye lying almost unconscious. “DID…” Hawkeye says in pain, Iron lifts Hawkeye’s head so he can speak to him. “…we get him?” Hawkeye finishes in a weak voice which sounds like a smoking Miss Piggy. I absolutely lost it! I’m not a Marvel fan anymore as I know DC better and Marvel is heresy in the DC fandom. However, Hawkeye is apparently also a Justice League member, and I always think him as a wimp who keeps getting injured and has a voice like a smoker Miss Piggy!

  209. Chatonon 19 Oct 2018 at 6:37 am

    *sighs in relief* Good, none of my superhero novels are like this.

  210. JolanHon 15 Dec 2019 at 8:36 pm

    Clones….frigging clones enough of those

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