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Trawling the Tang: searching for random brainstorming assistance:

 1 Op Megs, Tue, 17th May '11 8:48:01 PM from Between The Panels
Genre Packrat
So, new here, but longtime active troper on the wiki. Anyway, recently, an original flavor story has been stewing in my head (a first for me. I gravitate more towards fanfic based on existing settings), but I find that while I have enough details in mind to tantalize me with the concept this could be really interesting (to the point that I have paragraphs of first person narration from the protagonist and an entire first chapter), I've also got fairly large gaps in unfortunately placed locations (like the *plot*)

For reference, the first chapter is here: [1]

So, for lack of a better sounding board, I've decided to throw out a net to folks that spend about as much time as I do contemplating story genres, tropes, and the like, and figuring that someone's going to hit that magical 1% chance of saying something that just fits into what I've got so far...or will after sufficient literary dremel tooling.

So, the basic setting is modern-day fantasy/sci-fi of a sort. The premise being that psychic powers are real (if you've seen Push, this is definitely an inspiration). A brief writeup of the "system" as it were is here: [2]

The protagonist, Zack, is something of a reverse of the average crime story CSI type. Whereas shows like CSI and Criminal Minds have their profilers show almost psychic ability to determine what a scene meant to a suspect, Zack literally *is* psychic, and is essentially playing profiler because people accept that sort of hunch from them. He's formerly of an investigative branch (current outline posits FBI, but other than being a legal "cop" profession that deals with serial killers and the like, I don't have a particular branch nailed down), but is now doing civilian work (therapist, basically) after retiring due to sheer stress of a psychic working that profession). Naturally, this is a sort of stasis that won't last long.

The plot of the first story is your typical noir setup. A lady in distress walks in the door, needs help, and the guy volunteers to do so. In Zack's case, "help" means "look into talking to some old FBI contacts and get sucked into the whole mess by accident" rather than actively investigating, but it's sort of an origin story for how he gets back in the game anyway.

For primary power players, we have the following: - An unnamed government agency, fairly new to the field, dealing with the fact that all those old Cold War CIA and KGB psychic mindgames may have been less science fiction than expected. General intent is to be, essentially, a less villainous Psi-Corps, without the race segregation undertones. All volunteers, all vetted like a government agency would be, and fighting with the fact that A. most of the other agencies barely take them seriously and B. they can't exactly operate openly yet, because government folks are trying to avoid causing a panic. There's a guy in there that wants to recruit our given protagonist, but Zack's not much of a joiner anymore, so this'll be an ongoing thing. But they vet him out when the local force asks if he's free to consult with their profilers, so it's not antagonistic.

- The criminal underworld, which puts high dollar values on people with appropriate skills. A mob hitman who can pull a trigger without leaving forensic evidence of himself on the gun (or fake it, like having someone shoot themselves via telepathic coercion) would be invaluable, and those with the double whammy of great power and loose morals would find lots of work.

- The Gestalt. Originally seen as just another mob group with cult-like overtones, these guys are a lot scarier than they really appear at first, and probably the closest the series has to a Big Bad. The upper tiers of the organization take cues from the name, as they're all about "gestalting" their powers, allowing any one member to wield the combined might of the whole. This is, of course, a stepping stone to their real goal: developing the first Psion, a psychic that possesses all of the known powers, and akin to a physical god, who they believe will be the gateway to awakening humanity's latent potential (essentially, they're Utopia Justifies The Means Knight Templars). They *also* would like to recruit Zack, if only because he's very good at his job and they headhunt any particularly capable psi they can get.

Characterwise, I've got Zack pretty well in mind, as well as the 1st Damsel in Distress, Chloe (who's naturally a part of the recurring cast from then on out), but almost no other secondary characters.

Plotwise, the first story basically has a simple layout. Zack is asked by Chloe to help with finding out who kidnapped her daughter, saying she was recommended by another character that Zack knows (this being Clue #1 that Things Are Not Right. Why do you hire a psychiatrist to do a PI's job?) The trail will eventually lead through the criminal underworld, to hints of the Gestalt's involvement at the climax (though, being the first story, they aren't revealed except for an epilogue stinger), leading to Zack getting back into his groove and getting Chloe's daughter back, with a setup for future adventures.

Which is basically where I find myself really lacking in plot, aside from the underlying myth arc elements, and thus am looking for random "cases" if you will, to solve while weaving the Gestalt's agenda through them, along with potential hooks regarding the Agency (which needs a better name) and possibly other Agencies being developed by other countries (or military, depending).

So, with that in mind, I open the doors to random suggestions and feedback.

 2 Endark Culi, Wed, 18th May '11 9:23:28 PM from Ontario, Canada Relationship Status: In Spades with myself
Welcome to Purgatory!
Zack seems to be a sarcastic son-of-a-gun that's gotten used to seeing the world as a half-full glass...of posion. I've always liked this character, if for no other reason than I'd like to believe that my own thought process is similar.

I suppose that the cases Zack would undertake in this little adventure of his would reflect the true state of your world (not just his pessimistic corner of it), and how much you want to focus on the mystical elements of your setting over the realistic ones. A few sample cases I could think of off the top of my head are:

  • Helping a likable (though you don't have to make him/her 'nice' or 'sympathetic') member of one of those organizations out of a tough jam. Has the benefits of showing that the world might not be all that miserable a place, and gives Zack a possible ally with access to necessary resources.
  • You already mentioned that Zack has a friend of some sort, so putting said friend in danger would probably be good motivation for your protagonist to expand his characterization from 'guy who snarks at every factet of life' and do whatever rash action it would take to fix the problem. For bonus points, have these actions be the direct cause of another problem, akin to how many comic book supervillains are just minor threats until accidentally knocked into a vat of acid, or what have you.
  • Lost dog, answers to 'Rover', likes kibble. He could be subjected to experiments in order to determine psychic abilities of non-human organisms...or he already has Psy capabilities and is using them to wreak havoc without even realising it...or, y'know, he's just some bratty ten-year-old's best friend in the world that needs to be located before a temper tantrum starts. Depending on how cheerful or depressing the story becomes as it progresses, you might even get all three in.

As for Agency names, try going for something that is as symbolic as it is obscure. Latin words and phrases work, too, but make sure it makes sense. For example, 'Zanthoxylum' sounds imposing, but is a genus of shrubs, and common names are 'Prickly-ash' and 'Hercules' Club'...which, come to think of it, don't sound all that nice either.

And that's all I can think of at 12 in the morning. Hope that helps!
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