About the Author:
Hello, there! I’m StarE! I’m a 20-year-old college student from California, and I’ve been writing ever since I could pick up a pencil. I’m definitely no pro, but still, working with characters and storylines is a big part of my life and I really enjoy it. If I could get something published someday, that would be stellar! My novel isn’t about superheroes per se, but it does involve powers and gadgets and stuff.
What I’m Writing:
My novel “Second Life” is a sci-fi story about a teenage girl named Rem. When she and her cousin Corey are convicted of murder, they’re landed in a futuristic horror prison where the inmates are routinely sent into war against self-evolving species of robots. Rem’s only hope of escaping this technological psycho-show is to join forces with an ex-serial killer named Naveed, and try to steal the gate passwords that will release them to freedom.
My Target Audience
16 – 29 year olds, males and females.
The protagonist is female, but because the story is a bit dark and doesn’t focus too heavily on romance, I think it could work for both genders. The novel is better suited for older teens because all of the main characters are convicted felons, ranging from murderers to shoplifters. They wouldn’t be a good rolemodel for the youngsters…
I guess I’ll say,
“The Shawshank Redemption”, “Mirror Mask”, “Dark City”, “City of Sleeping Children”, “Titan A.E.”, “Maximum Ride”, “Wall-E”, and “9″… That’s all I can think of.
How Thick is My Skin?
As long as nobody is rude or outright malicious, I usually do just fine with critiques and constructive criticism. I shall consider everyone’s input seriously, whether negative or positive, and I appreciate the help.
What Kind of Reviews Are You Looking For?
+Impressions/Opinions on the characters and plot elements
+Suggestions for how to make the novel run more smoothly
+Any sort of “brainstorming” help
+Tips for improving my work
+Even just dropping in and saying, “Hello, nice work!” will be lovely. I would be happy just to know that you came by and browsed/skimmed in here, even if you can’t think of a good critique. Just let me know you’re out there!
Anything Else Before We Start?
Pretty much everything in my novel is tenative right now. I’m actually trying to revamp an old story I wrote, and I’ve already changed so much about the plot that I think I’ll be receptive to new ideas. I really want to write something “futuristic and odd”, so I’m really struggling to make the story inventive. Also, the mood of the novel shouldn’t be entirely dark and depressing. I’m hoping to balance it with lively characters and a degree of humor.
Thank you very, very much for taking the time to visit my review forum!
A few initial thoughts:
- “Second Life” does and for the next twenty years probably will make half the population think of that odd online sim game by the same name.
- I love Rem’s name. So so much. (I’m a name person. Haha!)
- Rem, Corey, and Naveed are such different names. I can understand Naveed being different, but Rem and Corey are related, but their names are… I’m not sure how to describe it. They’re like names from two different genres. Is that on purpose? Is ‘Rem’ short for anything?
- That’s an insane variety of comparable works. I have no idea how you’re gonna connect some of them. ._. Good luck on that.
- Humor in the dark sci-fi prison setting is going to be difficult to pull off without making it seem out of place or forced. I get the feeling you may have to resort to dry or dark humor in some parts, so as not to break the mood.
- I’d love to help you with brainstorming and whatnot, but I do much better with that in one-on-one communication, via e-mail or instant messaging. If that kind of thing interests you, you can reach me at xnihility[at]gmail[dot]com. It’s totally up to you of course, but since that’s on your ‘looking for’ list, I’m just offering it up.
I’ve been working really hard to revise my plot elements, setting, and characters so they’ll be more engaging, but I think I dug myself into a rut. Whoops! The original version of “Second Life” was flat and didn’t explore its world much, but at least it was cohesive. I think my new version has too much going on, and the parts don’t sync up right. Plus, I think all my revisions changed the plot so much that the storyline has become very flimsy.
That must be fixed! But I think I need some help…
Where’s the best place to start with my review forum? Would it be useful if I outlined what the original “Second Life” novel was about, and then outlined the current version, so you guys can see what changed during my revisions? I feel like I changed too much, so now my plot doesn’t work very well.
In the original story, the inmates at the “prison” weren’t really guilty of any crimes – they were people who were on the verge of death (car accidents, nearly successful suicides, badly wounded, teminal illnesses, drowning, etc…) that were offered a chance at a “second life” if they served this “organization” as its loyal soldiers… But the place turned out to be very similar to prison, and wasn’t much of a “second life” at all! Struggling to survive and escape this hell reminds the protagonists why life is worth living or protecting, even just for the little moments of peace.
The whole “inmates as main characters” thing is a new idea. I thought making them into criminals would remove some of the “self pity, my life sucked and now it sucks MORE” aspect of the story. I also thought it would make the characters accountable for their own actions instead of a lot of them sort of “accidentally” ending up in this place. But am I going in the wrong direction with this? Did I revise too much? Should I shift back to the original version, where most of the prisoners are really just misguided souls, and not convicted felons? Which concept seems more compelling/interesting?
Or is it better to start with character development questions? My “heroes and villains”? I’m concerned about how to make good heroes out of a bunch of murderers. Readers are meant to sympathize and route for Rem, Naveed, and the other characters, even though they really are guilty of murder. And if they’re flat-out guilty, I wonder if it’s really justifiable to let them escape from the horror prison in the end…?
Rem was only supposed to “scare” her target, but ended up shooting him in a panic when she thought he killed her cousin, Corey. Naveed was a quirky and meticulous serial killer who enjoyed the intense mental focus that murder required, but after spending several years in the horror-prison, he has changed his mind (for the better) about how he views human life. (Technically, Naveed’s criminal history was the same in the original story. Rem’s original history was accidentally running her car over a cliff when she and Corey were trying to escape from someone)
The main characters are Rem, Naveed, Corey, Kain, and Vanessa, and most of the antagonists are freaky semi-sentient robots or malicious inmates living in the prison. Should I list character bios for these guys…? But which direction should I take my story into? The “convicted felons” version or the “second chance for life worth” version?
Obviously, the title of the novel, “Second Life”, will need to change, depending on which direction I take the story… Um, what are you thoughts and opinions, everybody? Thank you!
The best place to start is wherever you want to start! We at Superhero Nation are pretty good at figuring out what others mean, and we’ll do our best to help no matter where you end up starting.
The original story, and how it used main characters that had been close to death, is a concept that has been done to death. Even going as far back as Disney’s Inspector Gadget, where the man in the accident and on his deathbed was given a second chance at life if he underwent the experimental process. That’s a light-hearted and very very Disney example, but if Disney’s done it, that proves it’s been done. (Not sure I’ve seen a Disney concept yet that’s been fresh and original.) Plus, that does add a lot of angst-fodder.
Your ‘inmates as MCs’ idea is much better. If the characters did something of their own accord to end up there, it also takes out any chance of them falling into the ‘chosen one’ cliche. I think you are most definitely going in the right direction with this change. I’d be much more tempted to read about convicted felons with powers, considering so many books in this genre have ‘hero’ stereptype main characters.
About character development, don’t make their crimes who they are. A man who committed murder, not a murderer. Think about how their crimes would affect them, physically, mental/emotionally. Adjust their personalities accordingly, but don’t make their personalities solely the product of their crime. Does that make sense? A random example from popular culture… Peter Parker, Spiderman. He has his personality, in the first movie. He’s distinctively nerdy, but self-confident at the same time, and he tries his best. (Not gonna analyze Peter, just kinda lining up a few of his traits for the example.) Then he inadvertently causes his uncle to die. That causes a change in Peter. He becomes more responsible, duty-driven. Underneath that, though, he’s still 100% Peter. Make sure your characters have that ‘underneath their crimes’ side of them. If you do, they’ll be easy enough to sympathize with. They could’ve committed cold-blooded murder, and they could feel no remorse about it, but you could still be relatable with a little extra effort.
Rem sounds like she’ll be easy enough to make relatable. Hers was a snap decision, a moment’s panic. Every human being on Earth has those. Naveed sounds like he’s gonna steal the show early on; he’s the badass. I don’t object to badassery, but make sure Rem and the others are strong enough to hold their own against Naveed. Not strong enough as in they should fight in your story, but strong enough characters as in how characters always compete for attention in the reader’s mind.
Hello, Marissa! I would be happily interested in some one-on-one brainstorming. It sounds like it could be very productive, as long as I come to the table prepared with specific questions to mull over. I don’t want to end up wasting your time, so I’ll make sure I’m prepared. I’ll have to e-mail you once I’ve got my act together. Thank you!
Umm, perhaps I misunderstood “comparable works”? I just threw in anything that ran along the same vein as my novel. Those were all “futuristic” or “surreal sci-fi” movies that have similar qualities to the ones I’d like to include in my novel. I thought I was supposed to list a lot… Eek! If I was only supposed to list a couple, then it would be “The Shawshank Redemption”, “Titan A.E.”, and “9″. (Prison/Futuristic/Post Apocalyptic).
I’m happy to hear that I’m going in the right direction with the “convicted felons as protagonists” revision. Your thoughts mirror my own about my old concept, but ever since I started building on the changes, my storyline fell apart. Haha, I guess my first version didn’t have a very unique plot anyways. Maybe it’s good that I have to rebuild the whole darn thing? I’m trying to make it more inventive than just “go to jail, train with powers, fight in robot wars, deal with traitors, and psychically steal system passwords”. Nothing really innovative happened in the original version. It was very linear without many “twists and turns”.
However, since the revision, I’ve been thinking more about the dynamics of the world setting. Like how the prisoners spend their day-to-day life, how they interact with each other, etc. It could be interesting if I make sure I don’t travel the path of “cliche prison movie”. I’m not sure how to make it innovative yet, though. There are only so many things you can do with your time when you’re locked up for life…
Um, I’m… not sure when I should go into specifics about anything. I’m really worried about overwhelming people with information. I feel like I should focus on one aspect of the novel to ask for help with, instead of trying to do everything all at once. I don’t want to scare away potential reviewers!
I need to change the title from “Second Life” into something more resonant of a sci-fi prison story with powers. Actually, the working title was “Second Life in Hell”, but I shortened it because I thought the long version sounded more like an Angels-vs.-Demons novel. I’m notoriously bad with titles, though… Any suggestions? Maybe a good one will come along once I flesh out the story more?
Rem’s name isn’t short for anything, I’m afraid. Not right now, anyway. I can change Kain and Vanessa’s names if necessary, but I would love to keep Rem, Corey, and Naveed’s. I love those names, haha. But Rem is a female character, and the only “full names” I can think of are male. Rembrandt… Remmington… Pretty smug names for poor middle-class family, too, haha. Maybe her father’s name was Remmington and she was named after him, at the lack of having a son? Her full name could be “Remmington Jr”, lol. Or maybe her full name is Emily (Rem instead of “Emma”), Renee, Rebecca, or Ramona? Maybe she just changed it because she didn’t like the name, or she wanted to sound like somebody “extraordinary”? It seems like I’m putting too much backstory in her name, though… Are these ideas too convoluted?
And yes, it makes sense to NOT define the characters solely by their crimes. I’ve been doing some personality work with the heroes lately, but I think I’ve been leaning dangerously close to character cliches, and I reeeally don’t want that.
I would like Naveed to be badass, but I’m worried that he’ll become “stereotypically badass”. I’m trying to think of a “counter-intuitive” trait for a highly focused intellectual. He probably gets focused to the point of fixation, to where something drives him nuts until he can get to the root of it? This can be something minor, like trying to remember someone’s name, or something major like getting the passwords to escape from prison. He listens and observes twice as often as he speaks, so maybe people think he’s a good person to talk about their problems with… except after all that listening and mulling over, he’ll finally respond with something blunt, insensitive, and insulting when he actually meant to cheer the person up? I wanted Naveed to be a bit of an oddball, but still known for ass-kickery.
Again, that brings up the problem of Naveed overshadowing the other characters. I’m anxious to work on character development so I can come up with a very strong cast for this story… There used to be seven main characters, but I cut it down to five in hopes of improving my focus on them.
…Darn it, I had it all written out and Firefox crashed and erased my reply. =/ Expect one tomorrow, I’m beat.
Quick note first: No such thing as wasting my time, as long as we’re talking about writing. It can be your writing, my writing, writing in general, published writing… So you don’t have to charge your questioning battery first. Just shoot me an e-mail.
Okay, maybe I WILL post tonight instead of morning. But it won’t be as detailed as it was going to be, so please forgive me.
COMPARABLE WORKS: I think you understood okay, but some of the comparable works made me wonder how you view your story. For example, WALL-E. Light-hearted, Pixar… The only thing I can see that it has in common with your work is that both are sci-fi. It’s no big deal, though, I was just confused.
NEW VERSION: Every author has this hump they have to go over, in which the plot goes from highly self-indulgent but ultimately uninteresting to a real work of fiction. The common symptoms include feeling lost, having no idea where to take things even if you otherwise knew, and having to throw out massive chunks of your old story. In short: Again, you’re on the right track. Don’t give up.
DYNAMICS & THE PRISON: I can try and help. Tell me about this prison. What makes it different from other prisons? Do you have to do something a certain level of bad to get stuck there? Is it just for people with powers? (I know nothing about it, forgive me if they were stupid questions.)
TITLE: With a few exceptions (I’ve had my title from way back at the start), we generally recommend that an author not worry about the title until they’re nearly done with the first draft, at least. Until then, they’ve got much much more important things to address, such as characters and plot. Plus, there’s a very high chance that a title chosen early on will be stubbornly clung to, even if it doesn’t fit.
REM: I like the initials idea. It doesn’t have to be convoluted or complex… Her name’s just odd, and it needs some sort of reason why so it doesn’t jar the readers.
NAVEED: We can work on him when we one-on-one, since characters are a complex subject, but a few tips off the top of my head… Give him a vice. A phobia. Some sort of weakness. Stereotypical badasses usually have no fear, or are afraid of something ridiculous like… I don’t know, water. (Though the latter is usually BECAUSE they know the ‘no fear’ stereotype, and are trying to counter it.) Something realistic. Also, bring out his intelligent side. He HAS to be badass, to get along well enough in prison, so his braininess would be a distinctive feature. However, if he acted too smart in prison, it’d get him a swift knife in the gut from an annoyed cellmate or something, so… You’re basically walking an interesting but fine line.
OVERSHADOWING: Yeah, I’m sure you’ll find ways to make the others intriguing like Naveed. (Side note, what is it with seven? It seems so popular… I’ve got seven MCs, but that’s more an in-character choice by one of them than just me choosing a number.)
Thank you, Ean and Marissa! I’ll mull over some full name/nickname possibilities for Rem. I wish I could find a full name where it’d be intuitive to call her “Rem” as a nickname, but I’m not having much luck. I’ll think about using the initials idea, though. Thanks, Ean!
And Marissa, thank you for the encouragement! It’s nice to know that a lot of people have the same problems, and we can all help each other get passed them.
About the comparable works, some of them were loose, haha. I’ll just reference “The Shawshank Redemption”, “Titan A.E.”, and “9″ at this point, because those ones really are related to my work in terms of feel and theme and plot, etc. (Wall-E only had some loose setting similarities, heh-heh)
I’ll leave the title alone for now, then.
Alrighty, I’ll e-mail you about Naveed and we can tinker with his character to get some ideas going. Giving him a realistic fear is the right way to go – I just have to think of one that makes sense with my setting, haha. No sense in making him afraid of clowns or something, because there probably won’t be a circus in a post-apocalyptic prison compound. The fear needs to interact well with the plot…
Discussing the psycho-show futuristic battle-prison might be a good place to start, actually. I want to make it very interesting and innovative, but it’s tough to think of how. Obviously it’s different than “The Shawshank Redemption” because it’s a creepy “psycho-show” prison full of superpowered criminals… This is what I have so far, though!
Any thoughts, suggestions, opinions, and impressions will be much appreciated! It’s going to be a little bit lengthy, so if you aren’t able to read the whole thing, I would still majorly appreciate it if you read ONE of these paragraphs and offered your two cents on a single idea. Thank you!
*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~* About the prison, “Five Star Defense”
All sorts of criminals are admitted to the prison, Five Star Defense. Instead of being a minimum or maximum security prison keeping the violent felons separated, this prison throws murderers, bank robbers, arsenists, shoplifters, income tax dodgers etc. all into one compound. One of the main “public service” obligations these prisoners have is being thrown into violent life-or-death brawls against self-evolving mechanical menaces. You’ve got to be strong and healthy to survive here, and it’s good to move in packs.
In order to power-up these criminals for use in “mechanical warfare and mayhem”, they go through orientation after the weaker criminals are violently weeded out. Micro-chips are surgically inplanted in the inmates’ brains, wrists, and other places to enable them to use super powers. This can include fire, wind, water, earth, or ice manipulation, and other sorts of abilities like healing, phasing though walls, shapeshifting, or creating illusions. I was thinking of calling these powers “Pyro-technic”, “Frost-technic”, “Illusion-technic”, etc. The micro-chips lend the prisoners great powers, but they also keep them in-line. They are like tracking devices that let the warden know where the prisoners are at all times, and they enable to warden to possess and control prisoners from afar, when necessary. Like a “remote controlled prisoner”…
A brief question… I was wondering if these characters should’ve started out with super powers before being arrested, or if I should stick with the idea of giving them powers afterwards as a means of being useful against disasterously violent robot enemies? Maybe the reason they were sent to such a cruel prison for their crimes (instead of going somewhere reasonable and humane) was because they had superpowers? Or maybe this world has incredibly low tolerance for crime, so even the income tax dodgers are sent off to this prison to probably end up killed? What’s a good angle for this?
During orientation, after the prisoners survive the “weeding out” of weaker inmates and getting power chips surgically “installed” throughout their bodies, they go to a long-armed machine called “the Weaver” that actually takes a needle and thread to sew their prisoner number and crime badge directly into the skin of their shoulder blade.. This is very painful, because it’s basically like getting your skin embroidered. But this makes a permanent mark on the criminals, as well as defining what their crime is. The wardens probably refer to each inmate by their prisoner number, and the badge classifies what sort of crime they’re in for. All sewn straight into their skin, like patchwork on a pair of pants.
The wardens of this prison are actually artificially intelligent super-computers called the “COMs”. Their primary directive is to use the human prisoners as brute force against different species of self-rebuilding, self-evolving robots. They were designed to adapt to battle against the robot menaces, and they view the whole situation as a “game of chess and strategy” where it’s good to keep your pieces (prisoners) on the board, but they are expendable if necessary. The COMs are the only ones who have contact with the outside world, but they generally don’t take orders from mankind. They relentlessly pursue their primary directive, which is to keep the enemy robots from spreading beyond the forcefield gate and into the outside world.
The prisoners have no physical contact with the COMs unless they’re being admitted to “Discplinary”. When taking a physical form to communicate with humans, the COMs resemble simply enormous Venetian masquerade masks attached at the end of a snake-like pillar of wires and cables. The masks are very colorful and energetic, some of them smiling, some of them with multiple faces… And the masks themselves are nearly five feet tall. They take this form when conducting “Disciplinary”.
Prisoners here are disciplined by entering a room with the COMs, and being medically wired into a darkly futuristic electric chair. The process is a form of mental torture that results in dissolving at least one of the inmates’ memories. It’s an excruciatingly painful experience conducted through the power-chips ingrained in the prisoner’s brain. They come out of it freaked out and disoriented, and though they can recover psychologically, they’ll never remember the destroyed memory. It’s their punishment for disobeying the COMs – you might forget what your mother’s face looked like, or your first-born son’s name, or what syrup tastes like. And no matter how many times somebody reminds you of the memory, it’ll never feel real again. It feels like something you simply read about once. If a prisoner goes through Disciplinary too many times and loses too many memories, he may become a near soulless zombie who can’t remember what being human is really like.
Subsequently, this mental torture is how the main characters begin stealing passwords from the COMs, in the hopes of using those passwords to escape the energy gate keeping them locked in. Due to having glitched power-chips ingrained in their brains, the main characters have “psychic machine” abilities. They’re able to process and store data in their minds like a computer, and psychically link to other humans and robots.
Because Disciplinary is the only time when the humans have contact with their wardens, the COMs, this is how Rem, Naveed, and the others begin stealing passwords. They can either suffer through Disciplinary personally and steal larger amounts of data while being tortured, or they can make a secret mental link to some other poor victim of disciplinary, and steal smaller amounts of data. Either way, the main characters’ memories are effected, but it’s lesser if they steal codes through someone else instead of being tortured themselves.
I’m still working on the “daily life” of these prisoners. I’m actually not sure whether they’re “in for life” (even the shoplifters), or if some of them are actually available for parole or release if they survive their prison term. I don’t want the novel to consist merely of “hanging out” in the prison, and then going off to fight the enemy robots. So I really need to work on what the characters are doing when they’re not fighting the war or stealing data codes.
Because they spend the majority of their time hanging out with psychos and murderers, or going into battle against violent machines-gone-haywire, the prisoners probably try to align themselves into gangs. There’s strength in numbers both in the prison and on the battlefield. So there’s probably a heirachy of power and rival gangs going on here…
Meals in the cafeteria consist of a cup full of pills. The pills are filled with the right amount of nutrients and fibers to keep the prisoners healthy (including water pills), but it doesn’t exactly make for a fulfilling “dining experience” in the cafeteria. Many prisoners crave real food, but have no access to it. Inmates probably volunteer to work in the cafeteria, infirmary, etc. and do extra chores to earn more rations. Also, repairing battle vehicles in the prison garage or repairing weaponry/gear is common. Also training with your powers so you don’t get killed in the next fight… But I’m not sure how to make the gang conflicts and “daily grind” activities play into the plot.
Because of their glitched micro-chips, Rem, Naveed, and the other main characters are able to do extra things with their time. Their chips are messed up, so the COMs can’t track them as easily, and they can’t possess/control them. The group is able to sneak out of the actual prison compound and explore the ruins of the old cities in this world. The majority of the planet’s southern hemisphere has been destroyed by the violent onslaught of the enemy machines, so it’s like a post apocalyptic world covered in a layer of snow. The main characters explore the ruins of the cities and dig up the old books, trinkets, toys, jewelry, photos, and belongings of the humans who were killed or evacuated before the area was sealed off.
It’s actually incredibly dangerous for a small group of five people to be alone out there. The enemy machines prey upon the humans, and Rem’s group could easily be killed if they were found. So the group has to be very cautious and aware of their surroundings, and try to escape being seen by the machines. But they risk it because this is the only little portion of the “outside world” that they have access to. (Plus, I hope to make the “city explorations” directly involved with the plot somehow…)
These destroyed cities are the same places where the human prisoners fight the enemy machines in their epic, super-powered brawls. This means I can use the environment by having them fight in abandonned libraries, get thrown through old diner windows, hide themselves in the back of old banks or in freezers, etc.
The reason the main characters don’t just “make a run for it” when they’re exploring or fighting in the cities is because even if they survived the enemy machines running around, they can’t get beyond the forcefield gate. The whole massive area was sealed away by an energy shield strong enough to contain all the horrific enemy machines. It traps everyone inside so this post-apocalyptic world cannot spread to the rest of the planet. The main characters would probably be killed by enemy machines before reaching the energy shield boundaries, and even if they survived, they can’t pass through unless they possess sheer thousands of passwords to break the shield open.
They’re psychically hacking these passwords from the COMs, but it’s a long process. Naveed, Kain, and Vanessa have been doing this for years, though they’re on the verge of completing their long mission. They hope to collect all the necessary codes to break the boundary shield just long enough to escape to the outside world again.
Well, that’s pretty much all I know about the prison, novel setting, and basic-basic plot elements. What are your thoughts? (I’m so sorry it was long…)
One thing that confuses me is in your earlier posts, you made a point out of the moral issues that come with the indirect method of getting the passwords, but if the prisoner is going to be tortured anyway, how is there an issue? Does it perhaps increase the pain for the prisoner or increase the memory damage?
I’m not sure how I feel about the pills as food idea. On the one hand, prisoners are typically offered better medical treatment and food then the poorer citizens in the majority of countries, and if they are being used to contain the robot threat, then it is in the government’s best interest to keep them as healthy as possible, but the process of producing them might seem a bit lavish compared with everything else. I’d suggest you consider researching a modern prison food similar in concept, Nutraloaf.
Nutraloaf, in the majority of recipes is a foodstuff that contains all the necessary stuff for a healthy life, but can be made in massive quantities without issue, has little or bad flavor, and requires no eating utensils.
I forgot to add this initially, part of my objection to pill food is simply the connotations it carries with it, it’s always been a very popular science fiction idea due to its handiness, but it has been used very often, to the point of excess, and reduced to bringing to mind either Charlie and The Chocolate Factory or any number of B Science Fiction movies. There’s also the fact that there is not really any clamoring for the development of it, outside of dieting, nobody really hates the process of eating, it has no widespread use in warfare, since much of the focus during development of MREs is the flavor.
I think there are a few reasons people might develop/demand food pills.
1– The military, particularly special forces and patrol teams, need lightweight food. By 2003, a day’s worth of K Rations weighed 2.3 pounds. When troops are carrying 70-120 pounds of equipment, every pound counts.
2– People that are so extremely strapped for time might just give up on eating because it takes too much time. This takes McDonald’s to its logical extreme, I think. I know a few people that abhor cooking…
3– Cost. Perhaps food pills would drastically reduce the amount of money it takes to feed someone a nutritious meal. Inner-city restaurants suck and it’s hard to find grocery stores in inner cities for a variety of reasons.
4– Dystopian government concerns about healthcare costs. “You all are breaking our bottom line by overeating tasty foods. But I know you won’t gorge yourselves on food pills…”
Hello, B. Mac and Lightingman! Thank you about the cafeteria food suggestions. The prisoners don’t necessarily need light-weight food because they don’t really carry it anywhere… But I would love to use something like Nutraloaf, and I agree with the idea that the government wants to keep their “prisoner soldiers” healthy, so their fighting numbers don’t deplete too quickly. Perhaps the reason shoplifters and income tax dodgers are being sent to this prison these days are because of a lack of man-power?
“Damn it! We need more murderers!”
“Either that or more laws to break, sir.”
Then again, I was wondering if my prisoner heroes should have super powers before going to prison, or if they should get them “installed” afterwards?
Referring again to the prison food issue, maybe some actual food should be used, but it’s the same, tasteless, health-nut food as usual? Who wants to volunteer to do chores for extra rations of food pills? Nutraloaf ain’t much better, but at least it’s real food…
I’m wondering how I should have food imported to the prison? The entire war-torn area that the prisoners inhabit is sealed off from the rest of the world for safety reasons… I assume food will be sent in the same way the prisoners are, but I don’t know how that’s done, either. In the original story, I never addressed how the prisoners were actually shipped beyond the energy shield gate and into the prison…
Lighting, about the moral dilemma of stealing codes through other prisoners… I’m still trying to make it work. Most prisoners are savvy enough not to go to Disciplinary often, because if you go once or somebody you know goes, you know it’s gonna mess you up. I think the issue is that the main characters have to get people into trouble or frame them for “prison crimes” so more people will go to Disciplinary. If the main characters go to be tortured personally, they can get more codes because it’s “first person”. If they work through some other poor sap, they can’t get nearly as many codes because it’s “second person”. In order to be efficient, they gotta get more people coming through Disciplinary, by fair means or foul.
Also, yes, I was hoping to make it extra damaging to the victim. Like you were thinking, I wanted to increase the pain and/or memory damage, and the main characters are completely aware of the horrors they’re inflicting. Like they can sense that they’re torturing this person as much as the COMs are, and sometimes that person is only in Disciplinary because Naveed and the others put him there.
But eek, I’m gonna have to play out the “moral dilemma” with good balance. My convict heroes have to feel guilty about doing this to people, and still not be emo about it. Naveed and the others only cheat violent or “evil” inmates into Disciplinary, but what happens when a regular, kind-soul ends up being tortured without Naveed’s involvement? Then they’re still gonna torture this innocent person because they can’t pass up the opportunity. They would cause extra physical and mental damage to someone who wasn’t necessarily a “bad guy”. Should I try to have my convict heroes make up for these wrong-doings by trying extra hard to defend complete strangers in the prison, because they never know who they’re gonna end up torturing tomorrow? Or maybe they visit these “innocent victims” and help rehabilitate them in the infirmary after adding to their torture?
This is going to be disorganized, it’s late and I’m replying as it comes to me, not in order of relevance. Forgive me if I repeat something that has already been said.
A quick note, if you’re using ‘pyrotechnic’, the ice version would be ‘cryotechnic’, and so on.
Also, do the powers function inside the prison? If so, that’s a bad bad strategy from the guys in charge. Sure, they could remotely control any prisoners that got out of hand, but with powers like that, another prisoner could be dead before the remote-controlling kicks in.
About your ‘before or after’ question, that really depends on the mood of the story. Giving them powers after they get there, artificial power, will feel much more tech-sci-fi, as opposed to the raw biological ‘mutants’ of X-Men. It’s your choice, and can be played either way.
Why do the COMs take the form of masks on wires, when in Disciplinary? If it’s for no reason beyond ‘I think it’s neat’, try for something more practical.
Instead of becoming a soulless zombie after too much Disciplinary, why not something that seems less dramatic and more a result of the torture itself? Like… Naturally, after losing enough memories, a person’s going to be driven mad. But it’s going to vary with each person, just like how everyone responds differently to stress. Some might be raving mad, some might become your soulless zombies… It just feels really generic to say they ALL do.
So let me get this straight: The MCs all have the same glitched chip? Is this why they meet/team up, or is it an ‘oh hey, what a coincidence’ side effect? Or did they cause the glitch themselves?
As for the ‘life sentence’, I think you could get away with the shoplifters and such having a whole ‘you’ll get out of here someday… Just not today. Or tomorrow,’ sort of deal. A promise of freedom, but no set date, and the ones sentenced to life like to drag them down sometimes by telling them the obvious truth: Odds are, they’re just as stuck as the life-sentence guys. Also, what if they’re promised freedom after a certain number of defeated robots? The higher your sentence, the higher the number. Even for the shoplifters, it’d be some outrageous and unlikely number, but still something to work toward.
The gangs/daily grind could connect… I’m just not sure the best way how to advise you connect it, at this ridiculous hour. There could be a sort of prison rank system that the COMs turn a blind eye to, and the higher up you are on the list, the better jobs you get or the easier fights you have to fight (or adversely, the more challenging fights, for an ego boost).
Wait, so they’re all stuck in prison, but somehow your MCs can wander off and explore? That seems… Very unrealistic. In a way that the reader will not be able to ignore. =/
Hello, Marissa! I shall respond to this properly later. At the moment, I’ve got you on YIM. Mwahaha! Thank you very much, your points are quite valid. I shall consider good answers to them.
(Your system about unclear “promises of freedom” and number of robots destroyed sounds interesting. I’ll see if I can make that work)
Okay! I was doing homework all darn day, but I’m finally ready to give proper response to your comments, Marissa.
Is there a way I can research the prefixes for the “technic” powers? The only one I actually know off the top of my head is “Pyrotechnic”, and now that you told me, “Cryotechnic”. I would like to keep these kinds of names (instead of saying they have “fire magic” or “ice magic” or something), but I’m not sure where the proper prefixes come from. Are they latin or something? Is this an okay naming system for the powers without sounding too “fantasy”?
Hmm, good point about it being an “error in judgement” to enable the prisoners’ powers when they’re inside the prison compound… I’ll have to think about that one. It seems off-setting to me for the characters to only have powers half of the time. Only when they’re sent off into battle and the powers are enabled. But then the other half of the time, they’re just regular average joes? I suppose that would keep them all from killing each other at night… Actually, having the COMs shut off their powers inside the jail is workable. Rem’s group’s psychic powers would not get shut down, so we’ll be able to focus on their psychic skills within the prison, and not get too cluttered up with their abilities. Plus, it makes dealing with the other prisoners and bit more even-keel. It’s all about muscle and “safety in numbers” between prison gangs, then.
About the power origins, I think I’ll have the convicted felons recieve their powers after they go Five Star Defense. I think the idea of having these abilities “installed” along with the control/power chips sounds more interesting to write about.
On that note, about the glitch in Rem, Naveed, Kain, and Vanessa’s computer-chips… We talked about this on instant messager last night, haha. Naveed put the team together because he found people with the glitches. He didn’t meet them coincidentally, but observed their behavior to see if they had the glitch. It’s a glitch in the chip’s programming that allows it to be mentally hacked… if you know how.
So after Naveed weighs the pro’s and con’s of recruiting this person, he teaches them how to hack through the glitch and get the extra psychic skills. If he handles this properly, Naveed will have gained a new ally to help him bust out of prison. I’m sure this hasn’t always worked out in the past between people who just couldn’t handle it (and had to be swiftly “dealt with”) and those who just got creamed in battle… But Naveed has to actively search for people with a microchip glitch and then help them hack it if he thinks he can trust them.
The skills unlocked by Naveed’s hack include anti-possession/”free-will”, anti-tracking, the ability to see through someone else’s eyes (mentally), and being able to store massive amounts of information/data in the back of their minds like a computer. All of these abilities help Naveed’s group steal data codes so they might escape from prison.
I might drop the “anti-tracking” idea, though, depending on how the story develops…
About the main characters kind of wandering out of jail and exploring places, I’m starting to rethink that idea… In the original version of the novel, I was disappointed that I never had the characters bring out the qualities of the world I build for them. Anything outside the prison was boringly glazed over, even though they were out there brawling with robots. But I think I can just have the convict heroes “explore” the abandonned cities when they’re in the middle of fighting to the death there – that way, it won’t seem like the storyline is “wasting time”, and it would be more realistic for the heroes to be stuck inside the prison compound when they’re not “released to go fight and die”.
About losing memories and becoming a “zombie” afterwards, the idea actually was that it would effect people on an individual basis. I generalized too much while writing the description, but yes, losing all their memories would effect the prisoners differently. I imagine somebody who forgot everything about themselves would seem a bit “soulless”, but that doesn’t mean they would all behave the same.
And lastly, about the COMs being represented by Venetian masks… Erm, I overdid it, huh? Haha, the reason the COMs were so “decorative” and strange looking is because I wanted to make all the robots outlandish and unnatural in this novel. The self-evolving maniac robots that Five Star Defense fights against are all supposed to be kind of weird looking. Do you think I should leave the strangeness to the rebel robots, and keep the “military employed” COMs more practical looking? I guess the rebel robots would have an excuse for looking weird, because they’re semi-sentient and build themselves. The COMs are probably military issue… Should I change them to simply being artificial intelligence programs within a well-protected super-computer and not give them a physical form at all?
Perhaps if they have to take a “physical form”, they’ll just possess the bodies of whatever prisoner happens to be nearby, and use him to represent themselves in a situation? So they talk through the human prisoners using the control/power chips? This would explain why having “anti-possession” would be helpful for the main characters to have…
I keep writing too much… I’m gonna scare off reviewers…
You could research them, sure, but I know a whole bunch of them, so you could also get away with just asking me. ;D For example, Naveed’s is aerotechnic, referring to the wind and not the mental powers.
About the not having powers in prison, you could give them a training session each day where they can work with their powers without destroying anything, just so they can fight when the time comes.
All the powers Naveed’s hack lets them use seem kinda… Well, there are a bunch of them, when it’s listed out like that. Be sure not to introduce them all at once, or the reader will get overwhelmed, okay?
About the exploring, as long as their focus is 90% on the fight, you can get away with it. Maybe some fights are more strategic than brawl-esque, and they have to make use of their environment, observe, be resourceful… That would give you a chance to show what the world is like.
I agree with what you said last night, that the fact that they’re just computers isn’t very threatening. However, I don’t think just possession is a strong enough physical presence. Is there a happy medium between the masks of bright colors and just using other people’s bodies?
Hello, Marissa! I spent a lot of time coming up with plot-relevant scenes today, and I think I came up with some pretty good stuff… I would love to bounce my ideas off you on YIM when the weekend comes around again, if you’re up to it. They’re really rough ideas right now, but with some polishing, I think they’re useable. I would majorly appreciate your input!
Oooh, please tell me some more “technic” words! Haha, I don’t know how to research them for myself… “Aerotechnic” sounds so cool… The elements that the main characters use in the novel are Water, Air, Fire, Electricity, and probably the Ice one… But I might change it up a little. If some prisoners can use illusions or phase through walls and stuff, it seems boring that all my MC’s have simple elemental powers. (Maybe Corey can have something more complicated that makes him a team asset, but I figure I should make Rem, Naveed, Kain, and Vanessa’s powers relatively simply because their “hack powers” are more complicated)
I’m officially cutting the fourth “hack power” because it’s extranneous. Instead of giving the MC’s anti-tracking, I’m gonna just let the COMs be able to keep track of them like regular prisoners. It wouldn’t be as dramatic if Rem, Naveed, and the others could just go anywhere they want without being traced by the COMs. There’s more suspense if they could be “being watched” at all times, just like everybody else. You never know when the COMs might be checking in on you…
That brings the hack powers to three – mentally seeing through the eyes of another person, not being able to be possessed by the COMs, and being able to store large amounts of data/information in their minds like a computer. The “mentally seeing” and “computer storage” powers go hand-in-hand, and the anti-possession thing is shown separately. Does that seem okay?
I’ll try to brainstorm on what to do with the COMs’s physical presence… Hey, actually, have I mentioned the “jail guards” yet? The COMs are like an omniscient warden, but there are big, scary (practical looking…) robots called ServiceBots that pose as guards at Five Star Defense. They’re actually the “brute force” that keeps the prisoners in line, and most prisoners know to behave themselves or conduct “bad-business” out of the ServiceBots’ sights. I intend for the ServiceBots to be silent – they don’t speak – but maybe the COMs possess humans to speak through them or something, and the imposing part is having all those ServiceBots at their disposal? And if the prisoners can’t use their powers INSIDE the prison, ServiceBots would be a great deal stronger than the average, powerless human? Hence… a real threat. Does that sound okay so far?
I’ll keep on brainstorming and stuff! Thanks, Marissa!
Hi, time for my two cents (not adjusted for inflation):
I think it’s good that you decided to have Naveed & Co. be tracked by the COMs. It’d be pretty sloppy of the COMs not to notice these guys running around and wonder what’s up with them.
ServiceBots need a better name (the ‘bot abbreviation sounds too cutesy and diminutive IMO), but it’d be cool if one of your characters could hack a couple and thus appear as a COM to the other prisoners.
I think you’ve got most of the suffixes already, but water = hydro- or aqua-technic, and electricity could just be…electrotechnic. That might have too many hard ‘c’ sounds, but then again, maybe not.
I’m up for bouncing anytime, anywhere. Hence talking to you ’till six AM last night.
As for ‘technic’ words, the only ones I think you’re missing are hydrotechnic (water) and electrotechnic (electricity). You’ll have to make up your own words for most non-elemental powers, though. (I personally like ‘psychotechnic’ for mental powers, it sounds kinda rad.)
As for the rest, I approve 100%. (Meaning the hack powers.)
Never heard of your ServiceBots before, but they sound solid enough so far.
quick question. I thought that mental manipulation of things ended in kinesis. For example, I have always heard someone who could manipulate fire with their mind refered to as pyrokinetic or having pyrokinesis. So my question is, is that what you are referring to in the earlier post when you said “Is there a way I can research the prefixes for the “technic” powers?”, or are you referring to something that applies specifically to your book? Also, I spent the last six years in the military, have a black belt, and a wide variety of other semi-useless expertises that are really only helpful to writers and criminals. So, since your book sounds like it may wondering into those areas I would be glad to offer you some advice if you would like it.
It’s a matter of preference, Ghost. You can use -kinesis, -pathic, -technic… Pyrokinesis, pyrotechnic, pyropathic. Here, I think ‘technic’ fits best thanks to the environment.
Also, there’s no need to start whipping out brag-fodder. I’m positive you aren’t the only one here with a black belt, or from the military, so if she has questions on those matters she might as well just ask publicly.
-Kinesis means “movement” or “motion” Without the “psycho” it doesn’t specifically apply to mental powers only.
-Pathy means “suffering” or “feeling” It’s a suffix attached to a wide range of diseases because of that.
-Technic is from what I know, just a suffix meaning “art” and a random naming convention adopted by genuine science and science fiction authors, it is usually applied to powers created by technology, so appropriately here.
I just thought I’d pop in and give definitions to the three as best I could. I’m not promising that they’re right or that this post serves any point.
I wasn’t trying to brag. I was, however, simply trying to offer my services, such as they are. If I did come off as a blowheart then I apologize to both you and StarE. I was justed wanted to offer my help to StarE because I thought my experience and training in some rather esoteric areas. Once again, my apologies.
Ean and Marissa, I’m glad you guys approve of the change I made to the psychic powers. Yay! About the ServiceBots, I’m considering naming them something else, but I don’t have any ideas yet. Does calling the guards “ServiceBots” and the wardens “COMs” sound cliche, or do you think they actually work okay because these robots need functional government names? Maybe I can brainstorm something more “military” sounding… COM is supposed to reference “Commander”, but maybe I should be more creative?
And by the way, what do you guys think of “Five Star Defense” being the name of the prison force that fights the maniac machines? They are public defenders trying to reclaim contaminated cities, but does Five Star Defense sound cheesy?
Thanks for the offer to help with military fighting techniques and stuff, Ghost! I really appreciate it. I’m actually not well-tested in writing my fight scenes (I’m out of practice), so if I’ve got some questions about it, I’ll post ‘em here so you and everybody can offer advice, if anyone can think of something. Haha, thanks!
LightingMan, I think you’re right about what the suffixes mean. Makes sense to me! And yeah, I thought the “-technic” ending was most appropriate for my novel because it feels like it fits the futuristic/sci-fi setting better.
“Hydrotechnic”, “Aerotechnic”, “Pyrotechnic”, “Electrotechnic”, and “Cryotechnic” sound really cool, haha. Do you guys think I should limit the prisoners to having elemental-based powers instead of trying to give them all manner of superpowers? The prisoners are viewed more as a collective force rather than individuals… You’d think their powers would be very similar to each other, instead of the government spending extra funds to give them all various powers. So mostly, people would use water, air, fire, electricity, ice, earth/rock, light, dark, metal, etc…? Or should I work on giving the prisoners a big variety of different powers?
I think limiting it to elemental powers would make the most sense. It would encourage team work since combinations would make destroying bots easier, and they would be easier to learn how to use efficiently, since most people already know a few uses for ice, electricity or the like, and the harsh environment of the planet would increase the usefulness.
In the original version of the story, the prisoners only had elemental-based powers. The most exotic thing anyone had was a “mimic” power which allowed the character to copy and use another person’s power. He could only use one power at a time, depending on the last person he touched, but if he wore special gloves he was able to retain more powers at once.
But other than that, I did have the main characters rely on elemental combinations to fight. The water and lightning characters were able to combo their powers for conducted electricity (a much bigger zap!). Wind/Lightning/Water could cause a storm-like blast, and wind-energy could help spread fire-powers further and faster. This is the sort of thing I was doing in the original, and I think it might be a good idea for the revision of “Second Life” as well.
I’m thinking their powers should just be “offensive skills” for the most part, since they’re supposed to use these powers exclusively for fighting. They technic skills are supposed to be weapons.
Agreed that limiting the powers to elemental ones would be best. You could maybe have people that can manifest multiple powers (another glitch?) or people with symbiotic powers, just to shake things up a bit. Having oodles of powers is a bit of a deus ex machina in my opinion.
As names go, I think Five Star Defense and COMs are pretty good names. For the ServiceBots…well, service is part of their job, but not their main one. So something related to wardening or guarding, maybe. Check other languages. Defensor sounds cool.
Prefixes for earth/rock and light (dark should be part of this since it is the absence of light, after all) could be terratechnic and luxotechnic.
Alrighty then, I will continue to consider using purely elemental powers for the prisoner-soldiers. I figure it makes the most sense, and it wouldn’t be too bad if I continuously invented creative ways to use the powers solo and in combinations.
The only thing I could think of for light powers was “Phototechnic”, but it reminds me of photosynthesis, lol. As for the ServiceBots, I’ll start thinking of alternative names for them.
By the way, just in case anybody wants to know, I joined the NaNoWriMo today. National Novel Writing Month. It’s this thing in November that you sign up for, and you and like, 10,000 other people try to go gung-ho and write a novel in exactly 30 days. I foresee that I shall end up writing a lot of crap in order to write the required 175 page/50,000 word novel in only 30 days, but it’s a great way to force myself to do a rough draft of my novel. I’ll still have the entire month of October to plan out scenes and things, and when November rolls around, I’m just gonna dive straight in and see if I can accomplish something!
I heard about NaNoWriMo from Marissa. Everybody should join up and try to do some writing! Is it okay if I post the link to the NaNoWriMo website? Join up and let’s put all our novel-planning Superhero Nation writing advice to the test!
I’m already a member! And two time winner. ^_^ It’s great to know that NaNo is getting about the internet more. It’s great fun, and incredibly useful for people (like me) who aren’t so good at finishing things. Also, a lot easier than it sounds!
Good luck with your WriMoing, and this novel! It sounds like it could be a good read. An idea to tie the gang fights into the plot (I think to mentioned this earlier, sorry if it’s been resolved): Naveed and co. try to start fights like this in order to get gang members disciplined and sent to the COMs. Of course, the difficulty comes when they try not to get caught themselves.
Also, would it be possible for Naveed to discover Rem and Corey’s glitched chips in a fight? If they’re new, it would make sense that they would have to be established in some sort of “pecking order” within the prison system, right? Maybe somehow during that fight the glitches become apparent to Naveed?
I’m sorry I didn’t comment before, but I couldn’t think of anything very productive to say. Plus, school has kept me busy recently. ^^; I’m going to keep track of this story, though. Maybe we could be writing buddies when November rolls around?
Writing Buddies on WriMo!? I would love that, Hollie! It would be cool if we could get a lot of us on Superhero Nation to join NaNoWriMo, so we can all at least try to write our stories after getting so much help planning them, heehee. I’m really excited. I hope I can hit the 50,000 word marker!
Yay, thank you for the suggestions! Actually, about the gang fights, that’s what I’ve got planned so far. Since Naveed’s gang needs to get more “traffic” coming through Disciplinary, they devise plans to get “bad guy” criminals busted and sent to Disciplinary. The Five Star gangs are always competing to be “top dog” and it’s necessary to make alliances and enemies in this place.
Ooh, but that’s interesting about Naveed discovering Rem’s glitched microchip because he was trying to get her busted. Hmm… I’ll have to think of a way to use the that! I think when the novel begins, though, Naveed is already keeping tabs on Rem because he suspects that she’s got the glitch. Maybe picking a fight with her is one of the ways he finally determines whether she’s “got the gift” or not?
I’ll be mulling that over! Thank you for the comments, Hollie!
Hooray! I’m trying to get my sister to try the NaNoWriMo so when I go home to visit my family during Christmas, she and I can read our crap stories to each other, lol. I’m not expecting to write something stupendous, so I’m just gonna have a ton of fun getting my story written by all means possible. Heehee, it’s gonna be so fun!
Nice to hear that you and Hollie are both doing NaNoWriMo too, Ean! We should all do the writing buddies thing! Do you have an account there, yet?
Yeah, I’ve always thought ‘Five Star Defense’ sounded corny. It sounds way too light for the environment. Think of other dark prisons, even in the present: Alcatraz, Guantanamo… Five Star Defense sounds kinda bronze-age cheesy.
Yeah, I’d recommend limiting the powers to just the elements. The less variety, the less the COMs are stuck keeping track of.
I seem to be the common denominator, for NaNoWriMo around here. I pulled Ean here, I pulled StarE to NaNo… I feel so accomplished. And for the record, guys, NaNoWriMo is not that hard. I promise you. I finished it in five and a half days, and in that time I also had Youth Group, school, and a dinner date. So if you’re worried about not being able to finish, don’t, alright?
I’ve always written beastly outlines for my novels and scripts. I’m usually able to generate enough ideas to guide me through the major scenes, but it can be tough figuring out what happenes inbetween. I usually do okay, though.
I don’t have a proper outline for “Second Life” though. Not yet. But I’m sure to have something put together by the end of October. I’m making pretty good progress, especially with everybody helping me out! Thanks, guys!
About the name “Five Star Defense”, I never felt it was suitable for a prison, but that’s the name I gave it in the original version. I don’t even know what the “Five Star” part is a reference to, haha.
Kain: “Five Star” Hotel? You wish…
I think the prison’s name should be more “uplifting” than Alcatraz or Guantanamo, though. The prison’s mission is to eliminate the wild robots and reclaim the evacuated/half-destroyed cities. Technically, it’s an extremely violent form of public service. So the name would probably be something closer to “National Security Restoration Prison”, except… not such a mouthful. It’s probably the subject of political debates “on the outside”, between politicians who have never even stepped foot inside a jail before… So the people funding the prison would’ve wanted to call it something humane and proactive sounding. I’ll have to think of more naming options… *ponders*
Something with “reclamation” in the name, perhaps? That’s a good word to describe what they’re doing. Give it an actual place name (like Marissa said, prisons have names, like Guantanamo, etc.), like The Canberra Reclamation Centre. I don’t know where in the Southern hemisphere you’re setting this, but Australia would be cool, though its islandness might mean that the robots haven’t got there.
The Botswana (just an example of a place) Organic Restoration and Reclamation Internment Camp – It is longer then what you’ve already described as a mouthful but it starts out sounding hopeful and dignified, then ends up referencing horrific acts perpetrated by governments, without shame.
Lakes Entrance Organic Restoration Reformatory
How about something like Franklin Ive’s Multinational Defense Reformatory? Five Defense could be derived from that, with the “star” added for effect, perhaps it’s gang slang for the prison?
I think I failed my math exam in spite of all the studying. Whoops.
Anyways, hey there everybody! I’m back, and I’ve been trying to work on ideas for my “Second Life” novel between study sessions. For renaming the ServiceBots (the robotic, non-speaking prison guards), what do you guys think of calling them “Enforcers”? Does that sound like a good name? Ean suggested “Defensor”. Is that one better? Enforcers was sort of the best thing I could come up with so far…
About changing the prison’s name from “Five Star Defense” to something more mature sounding, I’m having a really hard time with it. I haven’t been able to invent anything that fits these requirements:
1) Dark and Gritty setting (Serious name)
2) Prisoners/Soldiers are a “multinational defense force”
3) The prison is rehabilitating criminals
It’s a prison, but it’s using hard-criminals as a super-powered fighting force to destroy maniac machines and reclaim the cities that were taken over… Considering my dark setting, I guess the best thing to do would be to “go simple” with the name instead of trying to be too clever with it, but something like “Cobrenna Prison” doesn’t strike me as “getting the point across”… I did like Lightingman’s suggestion of “Franklin Ive’s Multinational Defense Reformatory”, though…
I’ve been brainstorming a lot of “storyline relevant” scenes to include in this novel, but it might be too much to post here… I’m also trying to work on the characters, too, because most of them aren’t developed very well, yet. Umm, umm… I’m not sure how to start asking the right questions. Should I try to post some “current version” character bios or something…?
OH! And also!
Everyone, could you please help me avoid “prison/army/superhero” cliches…? I want this novel to be relatively fresh… Do you know of any “done-to-death” concepts about prisons, armies, or superheroes that I should majorly avoid with this story? Right now, I’m considering having one of the main characters (Vanessa) turn traitor on the rest of the team, and she uses clever “divide-and-conquer” tactics to take them out all at once. Are there “team traitor” cliches I ought to avoid while I’m brainstorming for this?
I like Enforcers, and Defensors too, but I get the feeling the prisoners would give them a nickname. Like the EFs, or DFs, or the E-force… I dunno, something.
I’ve got no ideas for the prison name quite yet, I’ll think on that.
Post new bios if you like, and if they’ve changed too much since what you posted before. I’m up for character work anytime, though.
Done-to-death, hmm… Make sure even the non-MC prisoners are unique. There’s nothing more lame than a bunch of generic smelly men behind bars. =/ Okay, there is, but you know what I mean. I’ll be more useful after I think about it a bit, sorry. College aaall weeeek. o.o
Right-o! I shall concentrate on making my minor side-characters into interesting characters as well. It’s more fun that way anyways!
I spent a lot of time today trying to “fill in the gaps” of my storyline, but I got worn out/frustrated and ended up sleeping on the couch for an hour and a half. Whoops! I’m having trouble with the beginning scenes before Rem and Corey join up with Naveed. Plus, I’m really hoping my opening scene “packs the punch” that it needs… I wanna interest readers right away, introduce the protagonist (Rem), and reveal the “memory-torture” aspect of disciplinary right away.
How does this opening scene sound? Any suggestions or first impressions? Would you be interested in reading something like this? Is the crime scene too cliche?
The novel opens with our protagonist, Rem, being memory-tortured in Disciplinary. I’m hoping to establish a creepy/gritty/intense feeling without being too “cryptic”. Rem is shown to be wired up to some huge machine while her memories are tearing through her mind. The COMs are looking for something to “take away” because she hasn’t been “behaving” lately. So they rip through childhood memories – happy ones, sad ones, useless ones, meaningful ones… (Should I briefly describe the details of these passing memories? Like, dedicate a single sentence to about four different memories that are flashing by?) The memories are tainted by an undertone of someone screaming in the distance.
A very different memory comes into play, showing Rem with her easily-recognizeable freckled face disguised in a black ski-mask. She’s trying to keep herself from trembling, and instead of being overcome by panic, she converts it to rage. She’s aiming a handgun straight at a shopkeeper, who is also armed, and the two of them are shouting over each other. The shopkeeper is wildly defensive, determined not to “let this happen to him again”. He’s been terrorized by Rem and Corey before, apparently, but this time he’s prepared. But Rem is shouting at him to shut up, and they’re both prepared to blow each other apart. Rem’s cousin, Corey, also has a handgun up, but he’s the one shouting at the others to “CALM DOWN”. He’s seen this movie before, and it ends with everybody getting their brains blown out. Now, if anyone wants to live through this, somebody’s gotta put their gun down first. It’s a tense moment as Rem and the shopkeeper watch Corey slowly, slowly begin to lower his gun. Corey tosses it onto the ground with a loud clatter… The only sound is the police sirens coming up fast in the distance…
But the frantic shopkeeper believes this may be his only chance to save himself, so he reacts by suddenly smashing Corey straight in the face with his handgun.
Corey goes down so hard that he crashes through a magazine rack and crumples to the floor.
Seeing Corey’s face covered in blood and his body on the floor like that, Rem finally loses it. She goes into an enraged panic and shoots the shopkeeper multiple times until he goes down for killing her cousin. It’s only after the merchant crumples to the ground that Rem realizes what she’s done. Horrified, drops her gun on the floor and becomes terribly aware of the scene. The sirens, the blood, the bodies… Her heart pounding, panic settling in, Rem draws back until she’s kneeling next to her cousin on the floor. She pulls him up a bit, trying to wake him up. She doesn’t even know if he’s alive, and then the police come storming through the doors of the shop.
Rem doesn’t want to focus on that memory. She wants to think of something else. But she has to relive the entire nightmare before the COMs settle on some other important memory of hers, like when she first learned to paint or something (she’s a bit of an artist, maybe…). When that memory is taken away, we discover that the overtone of screaming in the distance is Rem, sitting there being tortured. The world whites out for her like a camera flash, and we move into the next chapter, where Rem is shown recovering in the infirmary.
Umm… How does that sound? I can mention the next scene later, but this is how the novel starts…
…It ate my reply. So this is gonna be confusing and quick so I can focus on our Y!IM convo.
Cryptic is the opposite of what you’re going for right now. You want your reader to FEEL her suffering, and leaving off anything for the sake of mystery is going to detach them. However, don’t include things she wouldn’t be thinking about at the time. Her thought process would be understandably disjointed, and it would add to the mood if you don’t interrupt that. They don’t need to know Corey is her brother, just that he’s important to her, which is clearly illustrated in the flashback. They don’t need to know why they’ve all got guns pointed at one another beyond the immediate self-defense and confrontation. If this is well-executed, the reader will find out about Corey later, and the memory of her crime will be just enough before she loses it that they WANT to know why she did it, what led to that scene, etc, but she won’t remember until way later in the story, so that adds suspense to eventually be revealed.
Also, about the memory: Don’t give any more detail than necessary. If memory!Rem didn’t notice it at the time, your reader shouldn’t be told about it. If they are, it loses immediacy, and this scene will ONLY be successful if it’s immediate. Also, keep it short. Like, use vivid details that Rem would reasonably remember rather than using a TON of them. It would have happened very fast in Rem’s mind, and with the COMs interfering like this, it should seem even faster now, what with everything else scrambling her brain too.
Just a thought: It would make sense if Rem is watching this memory but half thinking that even though the script is correct, that wasn’t how it went. It didn’t FEEL right. (That would be due to the constant background screaming and the violent mindprobing by the COMs.) Does that even make sense?
Wait, I thought you were taking the memory of her murder from her? Then Naveed (who secretly kept it, due to his hacking, and tells her later that he has it) gives it back way later, fulfilling a sort of incompleteness she felt as far as why she was in prison? Or something like that.
If you keep in mind the above, this scene is going to be powerful and downright amazing. I’m so so so looking forward to it.
Ahhh, we brainstormed so much the other day! I’m having trouble remembering everything. Yes, I was thinking of having Naveed keep the memory of the murder after mind-linking with her. I forgot… But I think I was a bit concerned about the idea, because if she forgot the murder, wouldn’t Corey explain it to her? He was there, too… But he got beat in the— OHHH!!! For some reason, it didn’t click that he was unconscious when she actually killed the guy, heh… But you’d think she’d have told him about it? But then again, maybe she didn’t want to talk about the details, so Corey knows she killed a guy, but he didn’t see that happen. Naveed did, though, and keeps the memory for her until later. So then neither her nor Corey really realize the full details of why they’re in prison until Naveed gives Rem the part of the story that she lost?
Yes, I understand your critique on the rest. I think that’ll help a lot, to make it feel disjointed and the memory she loses is the actual murder. I like the thought that Rem feels like the memory isn’t quite right. “That’s not right… That’s not how it happened…”
And keep it fast paced, suddenly, very “in-the-moment”…
Should I still show very quick snippets of OTHER memories beforehand, so readers will get the idea the COMs were digging around to find a good memory to delete?
And random question, haha. Should I go with Rem and Corey being cousins? Or should I do the brother/sister/twin thing? I think I’m fine with them being cousins, but they look a lot alike, like, immediately related. And they were developed as NOT twins, so hopefully that will help me not do the twin cliches?
Even if Corey explained it, would it be quite the same? He only heard it secondhand, himself. He’d try to relate back what she’d told him (which third-hand like this would vary from the memory the reader clearly just saw), but he couldn’t do nearly well enough to call it an info-dump. She wouldn’t have been too descriptive herself.
And it wasn’t critique, it was suggestion.
And I think quick snippets (one sentence, sometimes even a fraction of a sentence, as long as it’s clearly out of place), even in the middle of the memory of her murder (to make it feel disjointed) aside from before and after, would work. As if the COMs are scanning her brain until pressing PLAY on this particular memory, and even then they’re scanning a bit in the meanwhile.
Cousins works, as long as they’re CLOSE cousins, I’d say. If you did twins, I’d say you should have them raised like cousins. Like, one lives with the aunt. Maybe the mom couldn’t handle two? It would differentiate them from every other pair of fiction twins we know.
Under what circumstances (if any) would it be possible to make a grossly incompetent main character likable and engaging? Are there any cases where making the main character consistently incompetent would make a story more interesting?
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