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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Books » Protocol summary

   
Author Topic: Protocol summary
Brooke18
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Hey, guys! Somehow, I got started on another book (even though I have yet to publish my first). Anyway, I wanted opinions on how interesting it might be to you. I just started it this week so, I haven't gotten much.

Rachel Stanson has just finished another dull day of school when she meets a mysterious stranger with...superpowers? The stranger convinces Rachel to hide him for a month from dangerous people who are after him. However, things take a turn for the worst when both Rachel and the stranger, she now calls Angel, are captured by scientists working for Protocol-a research department that focuses on harnessing and enhancing a specific chemical within the human body. Now, Rachel, Angel, and a few other Subjects have decided to disobey Protocol. They must escape and destroy the program before the scientists can capture them again. Everything is not as it seems when Rachel experiences deja vu sensations that may help them escape. Is there something more she doesn't know about this sketchy program or could everything be nothing more than a dream?

This is a ROUGH summary. Still working out which direction I want the story to take. Thanks!

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extrinsic
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A strength of this summary comes from the power dynamic in play. Protocol wants power; Angel and them want to keep their power. Where does Rachel fit in? She starts off powerless.

Rachel's powerlessness, though, is where I see a major shortcoming. She's a bystander passenger to the drama. The outcome I'd expect and see telegraphed then is she gradually, through trial and error, becomes powerful. Powerless, nonproactive protagonists who events happen to and they then depend on others for direction don't work for me. People who cause their own problems and then work their way out of them are involved, dynamic, and appealing characters. Characters who have events happen to them are adrift and blown on the wind, unappealing from the get-go.

Instead, from what's given, if Rachel were proactive from the beginning, that would work for me.

Let's explore how: A personal want and problem of Rachel's exposes her to Angel, instead of him coincidentally coming to her. Rachel's antagonizing want with problem attachments or problem with want attachments causes her to become known to Protocol, through which she becomes known to Angel.

Frankly, though, this and the "Alex Cooper" Character Interviews thread read to me too much like Stephenie Meyer's Twilight saga. Contemporary fantasy superbeing beasts tap a shrinking violet, ugly duckling wall flower for inclusion in their elitist culture group.

Instead, I feel Rachel and her dramatic complication would be more appealing if she sought inclusion on her own, was rebuffed, and tried, tried, tried again, and each time increased her problems.

From her want for inclusion, she escalates her problems. At great personal cost, she succeeds in an unintended way to achieve her want for inclusion in a more interesting and adventurous life. Be careful what you want for; you just might get it. Chinese curse: May you live in interesting times; meaning, times that are too interesting to bear.

[ April 04, 2014, 06:15 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Brooke18
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Well, I'm now 24 pages in and already, Rachel has discovered her own power. I can see where you come from though and yes, I guess it does seem a little like the Twilight saga. I didn't realize that. My inspiration(outside of my own mind) stems from movies and tv shows that I've seen, music I've heard, and so on.

So far, Rachel has developed the ability to see a few minutes into the future. On top of that, she can physically lend her strength to others, which can lead to other supernatural aspects. For example, Angel can heal others by relying on Rachel's ability. (He has sort of a one-sided healing power. Having to use other people is his drawback...if that makes any sense.)

I'm currently considering whether to introduce Rachel's power at the beginning of the story, rather than have it progress, and incorporate it into her daily life or possibly having it become fully awakened as Rachel arrives at Protocol. I also considered the possibility of Rachel always having that ability, but never fully realizing it was there.

I'm trying to take a different approach from any writing I've previously done. I want something unique yet common. In other words, I want it to have common elements and still throw readers for a loop with something they might not have read before.

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extrinsic
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What I envisioned for Rachel is that her power is causal from the beginning. For example, in school, bored to tears, she notices an invisible sizzle from her fingertips. Massaging her fingers draws attention from a bully. The bully harrasses her. Rachel overreacts but no one notices much untoward. Protocol finds out about Rachel's emerging power and goes to the school to investigate. Rachel timely ducks out, runs into Angel looking to warn her, who fills her in on the scoop. However, Angel has his own agenda for Rachel. And so on. Escalating complication ensues.

That's a boilerplate template of pattern and sequence. Adjust the recipe however to best effect.

What makes for unique but conventional is the particular moral insights and temptations of a viewpoint character. Say Rachel wants to be popular, but not so much she will compromise her moral values. However, a power emergence gives her an opportunity to readjust her self-worth and slightly rearrange her circumstances, though she questions the power as a corruption of her values. Exigent circumstances of the bully, of Protocol looking for her, of Angel looking to use her, force her to use the power to save herself from harm. Self-preservation, though, at one extreme is ignoble; at the other extreme, you can't nobly care for others if you don't take care of yourself.

Though many readers and writers believe a story is about what happens in an external life, a mechanical, physical movement from point A to point B, a story is actually about what the story says about a human condition, a moral condition and its noble-ignoble dilemma clash. That unique insight is what makes for an engaging story, and has potentially high appeals.

Twilight says social elitism is okay. Is it? That's why so many social critics objected to the novel, which in turn made the novel popular among its target audience, who wanted popularity but had been taught all their young lives elitism was ignoble: ugly. A scandalous controversy which generates buzz, Buzz, BUZZ sells. In opposition, as a response to Twilight, uniquely different, a narrative might say social elitism is ignoble, wicked, selfish, not okay. Making such a novel controversial and scandalous and appealing to its target audience are challenges there. Nice social nobleness, while inspirational, is too undramatic for today's controversy-eager audiences.

How? Seems a young adult audience to me. Hence, for example, teenage self-involved acts--selfish, self-serving acts--lead to more and more of them and, in this case, rejection, further and further social alienation, away from Rachel's true want for acceptance. Until, at the peak of social isolation, ultimate corruption, a random act of kindness redeems Rachel, either hers or someone's for her. The edgy acts and corruptions would make such a novel controversial and scandalous, for example. A dramatic conflict, stakes and outcomes in opposition, then might be salvation or damnation.

[ April 05, 2014, 02:45 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Denevius
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For the YA, probably teen girl, audience you're going for, this seems fine. The name, Angel, seems a bit familiar, and I would change that.

Other than that, I do feel that this summary is going by the Hollywood numbers. It feels very familiar, like something that's been done a lot of times on television. There was just this movie that came out, "I Am 19", or something like that, about a bunch of teens with superpowers running from an evil organization.

Strife and conflict is so much more complicated, but again, for the age group, this is probably sufficient.

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Lee Rurik
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I like "the possibility of Rachel always having that ability, but never fully realizing it was there". Robert Heinlein pulled this off in "Time for the Stars" and Brandon Sanderson in "The Final Empire", but in both those cases it was a benevolent party who helped the protagonists learn more about their power.

It sounds like in your novel it might be the villains who let Rachel's power loose, which I like as a nice twist (which is also a reversal on the trope of the good guys accidentally unleashing evil).

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Denevius
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quote:
I'm trying to take a different approach from any writing I've previously done. I want something unique yet common. In other words, I want it to have common elements and still throw readers for a loop with something they might not have read before.
I think to accomplish this, you need to deconstruct the genre and move its many parts around. Everything you've written in the summary so far seems to go by the numbers.

quote:
Rachel Stanson has just finished another dull day of school when she meets a mysterious stranger with...superpowers?
Ordinary teen meets the preternatural.

quote:
The stranger convinces Rachel to hide him for a month from dangerous people who are after him.
The preternatural inexplicably needs help from the ordinary.

quote:
However, things take a turn for the worst when both Rachel and the stranger, she now calls Angel, are captured by scientists working for Protocol-a research department that focuses on harnessing and enhancing a specific chemical within the human body.
The evil organization steps into the narrative and becomes a threat.

quote:
Now, Rachel, Angel, and a few other Subjects have decided to disobey Protoco
The protagonists form a team to fight the evil organization.

quote:
Everything is not as it seems when Rachel experiences deja vu sensations that may help them escape. Is there something more she doesn't know about this sketchy program or could everything be nothing more than a dream?
Here is where you're going for the paradigm shift, where everything the reader thought they knew about the world promises to be turned upside down. I would suggest starting the summary/novel here. I also think it's not worth it to withhold information in order to create a twist ending. Let the readers know from the beginning the true purpose of Protocol, and then have as dramatic tension Rachel's reaction to the purpose. Does she agree with them or not? It's more interesting if she doesn't, but perhaps she does and Angel doesn't. Can they resolve this? Probably more interesting if they can't, but if they can't, do they become enemies? Probably more engaging if they do so that readers are left wondering who triumphs and who falls.
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Brooke18
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Okay, I've taken another path with the story. I haven't quite worked out all the details yet but, I have introduced a new character who seemingly dreams about Rachel and Angel. Somehow, the new character (Shawn Cleary) meets them and they go back to his place. That's all I've gotten so far but I was thinking about trying to write some more tonight. So far, what happens to Rachel and Angel and what Shawn dreams don't quite line up, which is where I intend on adding an air of mystery.

Let me know if that adds a little more interest to the story. I will write tonight or tomorrow and see where that goes.

As for Protocol, the head scientist, Dr. Ruick, is twisted mentally. His daughter was involved in a previous experiment that caused the destruction of a small city. I haven't decided if it was his doing, hers, or someone above him.

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Brooke18
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Oh, and I changed Angel's name. He is now Michael. [Smile]
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