Jul 23 2011

Tempo’s Review Forum

Published by at 3:13 pm under Review Forums

Tempo is writing a novel about two unlikely heroes who team up to defeat the creations of a mad scientist.

5 responses so far

5 Responses to “Tempo’s Review Forum”

  1. Tempoon 30 Jul 2011 at 3:19 pm

    I’m currently writing a serial or novel about two protagonists with superpowers who try to uncover the misdeeds of a mad scientist. It’s still in the planning stages, though.

    My characters are:

    Francis: He lives in the city, and has had a lot of education, but hasn’t been able to find a job he likes with it. As he is running to catch the train to work one day, he panics and accidentally stops time. He eventually learns how to stop time for limited periods and even rewind and fast forward slightly. After a run-in with some criminals, he discovers that his powers are particularly useful for outmaneuvering opponents. He decides to use his power for good, as he feels he would be able to contribute more to society this way than he ever could with his current routine. However, he has no idea how to make this more than a nice idea until he meets…

    Ray: He’s a half-human, half-fox hybrid created by his mad scientist “father.” He grew up as normally as a biological mashup possibly could, but his existence has led to increased scrutiny into his father’s experiments. This led to his recent arrest, and initial reports have revealed much more than anyone, even Ray, knew about what he was up to. He initially wants to be out of the public eye as much as he can, but when Francis sees that Ray’s physical skill and heightened senses complement his own ability, he spots an opportunity to do good with his power, and convinces Ray to team up with him.

    Francis’s Best Friend (to be named): He was Francis’s best friend in college, and he will be there to act as comic relief and advice giver. I want to give him some more history, but I’m undecided on how to go about that just yet. His character development will be tied to his evolution into Francis and Ray’s mission control and other essential, non-actiony parts of the operation.

    Things I want to do over the course of the story:

    1. Explain why Francis has a superpower in the first place.
    2. Explain why Ray’s father became a mad scientist. It won’t be for the clichéd “they called me mad”-type reasons, I can tell you that much.
    3. Incorporate some female characters, as right now I do not have any.
    4. Have the heroes graduate from monster-of-the-week villains to taking on the people who hired Ray’s dad in the first place, as well as involving those with a stake in the outcome of the mad scientist’s trial and possibly also other plot actors.

    Questions I have:

    1. The most important thing for me to figure out at this point is how to make Francis more interesting. I foresee him going through a lot of interesting character development, but when things kick off, his story seems a little blasé compared to Ray’s odd background. Is he worthy of main character placement right off the bat as is?
    2. Am I waiting too long to introduce Ray?
    3. How do I get Francis and Ray to meet in the first place? I get the feeling that, ironically, it would be less contrived for them to meet by chance, as the odds of the two of them already having a prior connection would be astronomical.
    4. Is there a better name than Ray? This isn’t all that important in the grand scheme of things, but I only came up with that name as a lame pun on Reynard. Also, any other naming advice? It’s pretty flexible at this point.

    Note on criticism: I’m somewhat new to this kind of thing, so I don’t exactly have the best grip on what is already overused or not in stories like these. For example, I had already come up with Ray’s backstory before I had ever seen the Mad Scientist’s Beautiful Daughter trope page and realized that others had already written about children of mad scientists. Thankfully I think I’ve come up with a fresh take on that core idea, but I don’t know if there’s any other elements that could use a good tweaking. Thank you so much!

  2. B. Macon 30 Jul 2011 at 4:02 pm

    “He decides to use his powers for good, as he feels he would be able to contribute more to society this way than he ever could with his current routine.” I think this could be fleshed out a bit more. This person doesn’t strike me as a very violent person, nor remarkably brave. Why is his first reaction be to become a superhero? (For example, Spiderman explained this in a pretty interesting way with the death of Uncle Ben, but please do something unique to your story, of course).

    I think “Ray” is an interesting name for this character. Not sure about the concept, though. Talking, bipedal animals can create creepiness concerns. (One possible way to mitigate the damage is to avoid putting the character in any sort of remotely romantic situations–I’m encouraged that no romance is mentioned).

    What’s Ray’s personality like? Besides his species/origin and superpowers, what’s notable about him? (For example, if I could plug my own comic book, The Taxman Must Die, I think the scene that introduces my two main characters does a pretty good job of developing them beyond “alligator” and “human”).

    I feel it would probably help to flesh out the reason Francis decides to team up with Ray. (Especially if Ray has a criminal record and Francis wants to stay out of the public eye as much as possible). For example, maybe something notable happens in their first meeting? (IE: Ray saves Francis? They’re both on the same case and Francis thinks that Ray knows something that might be useful? Ray uses his heightened senses in a way that convinces Francis he really needs him on the team?)

    “Explain why Ray’s father became a mad scientist. It won’t be for the cliched ‘they called me mad’-type reasons, I can tell you that much.” For some possible ideas here, I’d recommend checking out this article.

    “Incorporate some female characters, as right now I do not have any.” Francis’ friend or the mad scientist could work.

    “Is he worthy of main character placement right off the bat as is?” Possibly. It depends on how you develop him before he becomes a superhero (and until he meets Ray, definitely). For example, his struggles to land and hold a job could be interesting if they help establish notable details about him. (Why isn’t it working out for him?) However, I have similar concerns about Ray. I’d recommend fleshing out his personality/notable traits as well.

    What’s the relationship between Francis and Ray like?

    “How do I get Francis and Ray to meet in the first place?” That depends on what Ray is trying to do before he meets Francis. For example, maybe the mad scientist has abandoned him and he’s trying to find the scientist again. If Francis is ALSO looking for the mad scientist, it makes sense that they might find each other at a location tied to the mad scientist. Alternately, perhaps Ray’s “home” is one of the scientist’s abandoned labs. Francis might come into the lab either looking for the scientist or because the scientist left something behind that is creating a public health hazard, like a chemical leak. One reason Francis might be looking for the mad scientist: If you wanted, you could tweak his origin story a bit so that his powers somehow came from the mad scientist. He was working a series of odd jobs, right? Maybe he was doing something like transporting chemicals…

    –Alternately, have you considered the possibility that Ray has some reason to seek out Francis? Ray’s powers don’t seem, umm, as clean as Francis’. He might be wondering how Francis got the powers (perhaps from the same scientist that created Ray) without going all freaky. Or perhaps he has some other reason to seek out Francis. Perhaps they’re working on the same case and Ray wants to find out what he knows?

    “Ironically, it would be less contrived for them to meet, as the odds of the two of them already having a prior connection would be astronomical.” While I agree that they probably shouldn’t know each other beforehand, that doesn’t meet that they have to randomly meet. They’re very possibly the only two superpowered non-criminals in town. I think it would not be difficult to come up with an explanation that causes one to seek out the other or the two to unintentionally meet each other while pursuing their individual goals. Alternately, Ray IS sort of a criminal, right? Perhaps Francis responds to a reported crime in progress and finds out that it’s not actually a supervillain but just a decidedly undangerous fox-thing.

    “Is there a better name than Ray?” I like Ray, actually. It feels casual and believable. In contrast, I think a more “super” name like Foxfire would make the character harder to believe/relate to and is just a hell of a lot harder to use in conversation than Ray.

  3. Tempoon 02 Aug 2011 at 7:07 pm

    B. Mac’s concerns, in order:

    His first reaction is far from becoming a superhero – he uses it for selfish reasons at first, dabbling in heroism and liking the sense of accomplishment. I’d guess this fits most closely with motivation #10 on your list?

    On the one hand, I could just give him the powers and leave it at that, but I had the whole he-looks-different thing planned as what started investigation into his father’s practices. His father would be the kind of person to have his operation together enough that it would be airtight otherwise, especially when it’s funded by those with a lot of power. Enrolling your lab experiment in school because it unexpectedly became sentient might not be the best idea for keeping an operation under wraps. I think this also might help to humanize our villain a little and give him a more three-dimensional character – he could have very easily killed Ray in his infancy after running a few tests.

    Woah, big oversight on my part. I forgot that explaining circumstances does not necessarily explain character traits. I envision Ray as kind of a loner because of the constant glare of both the media and those who find his mere existence offensive. He’s an idealist who is more likely to speak of things like justice than Francis and is more horrified when he finds out about the experiments his father didn’t tell him about. Despite his idealism, he tries to be happy with whatever comes his way in life, which also means he’s used to adapting to new experiences. He’s quite impulsive, though, which tends to get him trouble.

    My idea, now that you have me thinking about it a bit harder, is to have Francis work a low-level job at a company that used to deal with the mad scientist before his arrest. She finds out about the connection and points this out to Francis, who then does research and develops a fascination with the case. He seeks out Ray in the naïve expectation that he can get Ray to open up when he hasn’t been willing to talk to any media about the upcoming trial.

    Thank you! I’m not willing to reveal a whole lot right now, but consider the fact that he’s at the beck and call of multinational corporations.

    Francis’s friend plus some other characters I have in mind that will probably become necessary.

    I think this would be a good point to explain Francis’s traits. He’s nicer, friendlier, and more naïve than Ray, and this naivete extends to his expectations of his career, which is why he’s been unhappy with the jobs he’s had. He has an excellent work ethic and a flair for planning, although he can freak out if his plans get derailed. He’s very good at making friends, although he prefers to keep a few close ones.

    Their relationship will start out as an odd couple united by their mutual goal and evolve into more of a working partnership as they learn more about what they have in common and what they could learn from each other. Hopefully I can do this in a way that doesn’t feel like the last million times a by-the-book cop got paired with a wild card.

    The idea about Francis entering the lab is something I’ve already worked into the plot I have in mind, but after Ray tells him where it is. I somehow managed to overlook your last suggestion, and I think the revelation that his powers came from the mad scientist might just be what finally compels him to start taking action.

    Ray’s interest in what Francis knows will most likely be what first gets him in the mood to start answering his questions.

    Already covered most of this, but I think it would be interesting if Ray had a bit of a criminal record due to his short temper. He’d be even more evasive at first if that happened – and have another motivation: to try to redeem himself.

    Yay!

    Now to start writing the thing…

  4. B. Macon 02 Aug 2011 at 10:17 pm

    “I think this also might help to humanize our villain a little and give him a more three-dimensional character – he could have very easily killed Ray in his infancy after running a few tests.” I agree. I like that touch.

    “My idea, now that you have me thinking about it a bit harder, is to have Francis work a low-level job at a company that used to deal with the mad scientist before his arrest. She finds out about the connection and points this out to Francis, who then does research and develops a fascination with the case.” Who is she?

    “I’m not willing to reveal a whole lot right now, but consider the fact that he’s at the beck and call of multinational corporations.” Who, the mad scientist? A lot of villains have corporate connections… It might be more interesting if the corporations have Francis’ number. Perhaps Francis is in financial trouble because he hasn’t been able to hold down a job and he’s working off shady loans. Or perhaps corporations have Ray’s number. (Monsanto and Conagra already sue farmers when seeds bearing proprietary DNA sequences float onto their farmland. How much of a stretch would it be to claim that they own an animal’s DNA and/or superpowers? I wouldn’t blame him for not wanting to work out the legal process to figure out whether the 13th Amendment protects nonhumans).

    “[Francis is] nicer, friendlier… than Ray.” Is he just generically nice?

    I like the naivete angle, but I think there’s a discrepancy between Ray being the idealistic one thinking about justice and Francis somehow being more naive. Also, Francis is a strong planner, which suggests he’s practical. Practicality isn’t something I’d usually associate with someone naive. Do you think you could come up with a good explanation to cover the apparent discrepancy? (For example, maybe he’s really committed to planning things out, but his plans tend to shatter upon first contact with reality because of his lack of life experience or something).



    Speaking of generic niceness, I’d sort of like more edge to their relationship. Maybe a bit more conflict–maybe they’re not excited to work together (initially), but it’s just the least bad option available to either*. If the relationship is testy at the start, I think it’ll give you more room to show them becoming closer as the story progresses. (*For example, maybe one knows important information the other wants, the other needs help to deal with corporate problems or some other sort of eminent disaster, etc. Also, perhaps Francis is developing some unfortunate side-effects as a result of the superpowers and he’s worried that it’s getting worse. So he might have a personal drive to find the scientist and/or his research to make sure that the situation doesn’t get worse).

    “He’d be even more evasive at first if that happened and have another motivation: to redeem himself.” Okay, but why would he care about redeeming himself? He seems pretty cut off from the rest of society (he didn’t do school, a lot of people seem to hate him and/or find him disgusting, he’s been in trouble with the law, and before he met Francis, it doesn’t sound like he had any meaningful relationships except with his creator). So why would he care about redeeming himself in their eyes? One possibility is that he’s doing it for himself. He may feel like a failure thus far and wants to turn it around. Alternately, perhaps something happens that convinces him that what he has been doing up to this point is really wrong. (I don’t know–it doesn’t sound like he has anything significant to atone for, but maybe there’s something). Maybe something about his relationship with Francis and/or the mad scientist lead him to turn course?

    “Now to start writing the thing…” I like your thinking!

  5. Tempoon 04 Aug 2011 at 1:23 am

    As per your second comment, that was a poorly edited sentence. “She” is Francis’s friend who was cut from that sentence.

    A lot of your thoughts are stuff I’ve considered but have had a hard time conveying in previous posts. Next post’s a chapter, I’ll make sure of it!

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply