Follow TV Tropes
So, my protagonist and antagonist used to be friends, but are at different Power Levels (both FlyingBricks, but protagonist moreso, so to get around the physical disadvantage antagonist is waging psychological war to make protagonist less effective mentally; I had in mind somewhere between Gaslighting and a Paranoia Gambit, ranging from a pickpocket to a mugger with a modded taser to poisoning. Any ideas on how to not only stretch that out over a year and a half in-story, but also balance it with protagonist\'s burgeoning attraction to her totally not love interest?
Bumping; any ideas?
Bumping again; please help? I'm kind of more interested in this one than the one I've already gotten feedback on.
Your links arent working for me. Can you check them?
As for your question, I would need some additional information. What is your hero vulnerable to? What do they care about, what motivations drive them? What kind of emotional supports do they depend on, family, friends, the law, religion, what? Those kind of details will determine what pressures would psychologically undermine someone.
(siiiighhhhhhhh) First things first, I apologize in advance if this sounds snippy, but my crappy internet ate the first iteration of this post, so I'm trying to repeat it from memory and I'm annoyed at that.
I'm not sure what you mean when you say the links aren't working; are they just garbled or gone entirely? I don't post terribly often, I'm afraid, so I made sure to check the markup help while I was potholing and as such I'm fairly sure I formatted it right, but just for clarity's sake I'll list the tropes I was trying to link to and use plain text throughout this post:
"protagonist and antagonist used to be friends" = We Used To Be Friends (probably obvious, although it might be more accurate to say they were Like Brother And Sister)
"get around the physical disadvantage" = Combat Pragmatist
"poisoning" = Tampering With Food And Drink
"totally not love interest" = He Is Not My Boyfriend
(EDIT 2: added extra line breaks to "fix" spacing above)
EDIT: I see what you mean with the links now that I've clicked one, but I don't know how to fix them, since I'm 99.9% sure it didn't come from my markup; I even saw an apostrophe inserted into the url outside the trope name.
(From here on out I'll be referring to protag, antag, and not-boyfriend as Alice, Bob, and Charlie respectively 'cause it's quicker and easier than using coy little descriptions)
On to the meat of your post: As far as vulnerabilities, Alice is, again, a Flying Brick, so she'd have few to none, physically; she does have some self-esteem issues stemming from her Greatest Failure, which is also the reason Bob wants her dead (she was trying to invoke Too Spicy For Yog Sothoth against a fellow telepath, but had the trope inverted on her, and ended up killing Bob's little sister while Brainwashed And Crazy [Death Is Cheap in the setting, but it doesn't erase the act]). Said reason also provides its own explanation for why Bob doesn't simply sneak into Alice's house and knife her in her sleep; it's obviously VERY personal. Between that Failure and her already-gray past (shared with Bob, but he was more Resigned To The Call, where Alice is somewhat of a Blood Knight) as somewhere between a soldier and a mercenary in a quasi-military martial arts school (I mention "mercenary" because the war into which Alice and Bob's joining the school dragged them had nothing to do with them.) she doesn't think of herself as a good person, just as one who tries to do the right thing sometimes in spite of herself.
Her motivation can be boiled down to a Charles Atlas Superpower-ed I Just Want To Be Normal, i.e. "leave me alone and let me live my life and I'll leave you alone and let you live yours". She's a fairly non-demonstrative woman, although not to the point of being The Stoic, so while it takes her some time to let people in/decide they're worth the effort, once she does she's prone to Undying Loyalty (with two Broken Pedestal-exceptions that I can think of off the top of my head). However, I'm not sure how much that'd figure, since due to a mild case of All Of The Other Reindeer (more "avoided and treated with caution" than "actively disparaged and Bullying A Dragon") she basically has three friends: Bob (until the above happens), Charlie (more on him later), and a mutual friend of hers and Bob's whom, if she featured more in this scenario, I would call Denise.
As for family and friends, she was a Doorstop Baby (with a somewhat fantastic bent) and Conveniently An Orphan by age fourteen, so until adulthood her family comprised Bob (Fire-Forged Friend and brother) and her teacher (father-figure); even Denise isn't quite as close as those two. Upon being Conveniently Orphaned she hightailed it out of the Wutai she grew up in to avoid societal pressure to marry and start a family, but the self-sufficiency entailed in the "raising children" part of that expectation remains, so she tries not to "rely on" anyone; even Charlie's contribution to her mental health only comes after a (very mild) Did You Think I Can't Feel? from Alice, and starts out as more "*sigh* can I talk at you for a little while?" than "*swoon* oh, Charlie, you're the only one I can turn to!" (not gonna lie, I kinda snickered a bit even imagining Alice saying something like that second one). After said hightailing from Wutai, she starts her "military" training, but leaves to track down her biological family several years later (itself a way to run from the responsibility of a promotion, since Asskicking Equals Authority). She's also estranged from her biological family (a brother, sister-in-law, and two nephews), although that's more self-imposed due to the sister-in-law and nephews becoming collateral damage in her Failure (again, even though Death Is Cheap; think Vincent's line in Advent Children about how "I haven't tried" for forgiveness), so she couldn't rely on them even if she wanted to; she's essentially alone save for Denise (who isn't in on the Masquerade, so although she would be willing to, she can't give fully-informed support [and who I guess is figuring in this scenario more than I thought!]) and Charlie (who IS in on the Masquerade, and whom Bob isn't accounting for).
Since Police Are Useless in the setting, Alice tries to operate outside or beneath the law by keeping a low profile, both in her everyday life and her occasional bouts of vigilantism, so that's mostly irrelevant to the story.
I'm toying with the idea of Alice being a devotee of The Sacred Darkness, but I'm not sure how far I, or by extension she, would take it; it doesn't help that she's met a few gods and Her Kung-Fu Is Stronger Than Theirs.
The aforementioned "More on Charlie later" that I almost forgot:
Charlie and Alice don't meet (one-on-one at least; they're introduced as part of a small group ten years before, but there's little more than mild interest in each other's respective reputations initially) until a few months after her Failure, when Bob has already left to start planning and enacting his revenge. Charlie treats Alice with overt caution, since her Failure is by no means a secret, she gives him the above Did You Think I Can't Feel? and explains her side of things (mainly her intent to be a Fake Defector), and he gives her a chance (Charlie's a pretty Nice Guy). They go from sparring partners to friends to eventual lovers, but Bob doesn't know about any of that, since he's acting through proxies to keep his identity from Alice.
The trope didn't come to mind when I first posted the topic, but Bob's essentially trying to invoke paranoia -> Heroic Fatigue -> Dented Iron -> Worf Had The Flu, since he knows Alice will react to a target on her back by "over"thinking things and losing sleep, thus becoming less effective in the eventual physical confrontation. In said confrontation he'll also be using a Power Nullifier to invoke Brought Down To Normal (actually more like Brought Down To Badass, since it's a World Of Badass, but you get the idea), thinking that the Heroic Fatigue will produce a large enough gap in skill for him to get in a killing blow.
(My GOD that took a long time to type, BOTH times *grumble grumble crappy internet*!) Anyway, hope this helps.
Edited by shadowrose07 on Aug 23rd 2018 at 8:36:16 AM
Lets try something:
So comparing my links to yours, whatever system you are using seems to be inserting a /' at the end of your link. You might want to explore that.
Anyway, it seems obvious to me that Bob should try to convince Alice that she's blanking out and hurting people while unaware of it. I assume that she isnt immune to drugs and their effects? If he can access her supply of food or drink, he can knock her out, or maybe simply wait until she is asleep, and then plant false evidence implicating her in activities targeting innocent people. Real subtle at first, like holes punched in residential walls, and a nearby security cam captures someone who looks vaguely like her. Maybe intersperse this with clues hinting at an eldritch connection. As the activities ramp up in dangerousness, not only Alice but half the city should begin suspecting her sanity is slipping.
Edited by DeMarquis on Aug 11th 2018 at 7:51:05 AM
I honestly have no idea why my links got borked. I've never had a problem before, and I'm using Chrome, if that helps, but I lack the know-how to "explore" anything of that nature, sorry; I wouldn't have any idea where to start.
Let me open by saying what I said to Millership in the other thread: sorry if I sound finicky or like I'm moving the goalposts; I'm not trying to, but your ideas (welcome as they are) are making me think of more aspects of Alice's personality than would ordinarily be at the forefront of my mind, so I'm having to adjust my view of the situation as I'm asked more. I do appreciate you doing so, though. /sincerity
She's not immune to drugs, not completely, but she does have a very high resistance. (However, the poisoning incident I mentioned takes place in a restaurant while she and Charlie are on a double-date with friends of his.) I was about to say that Bob wouldn't run the risk of going into her house, but while I was typing it I remembered that he's done exactly that—again, through a proxy and not personally, but he has her house broken into, ransacked, and drenched with (animal) blood to the point that it's unlivable and she conveniently has to room with Charlie while repairs and cleaning are going on. On the other hand, he definitely wouldn't do so, by proxy or otherwise, while she was there, because she's a light sleeper and he knows it. As for further (or prior, I guess, since the poisoning is near the last of his ploys) food tampering, it wouldn't be likely that he could pull it off without suspicion, since Alice is a bit of a neat freak (while also being a Blood Knight; Charlie lampshades it when he finds out) and would most likely notice if something were out of place.
The biggest problem with forging blackout episodes, though, is Charlie; Bob may not be accounting for him, but I have to. Alice has been confiding in him for months by the time anything like that would start to wear at her sanity, whether in reality or in her imagination, and he'll be there to calm her down with things like "you would remember if you'd gone out and wrecked some building, and even if you didn't, I would," so that may not work as well, not to mention she's an Almighty Janitor who counts on being such a nobody that "half the city" couldn't pick her out of a police lineup, much less know to avoid her on the streets, although when you mentioned "eldritch connection" you gave me an absolutely wicked idea for Bob to leave the calling card of the (Killed Off For Real) dude who brainwashed Alice. Especially considering she experienced memory loss when he first got hold of her mind....
Part of Bob's plan will definately include getting rid of Charlie, since he seems to be her primary source of emotional support. Maybe not killed off—better by far if B can sow some discord between, such that A comes to confide in him, if thats even possible. In any case, for B's plan to work, C has got to go.
You know who your model for this is? Its the character of Iago in Shakespeare's Othello. You should go read that play, it will give you some ideas. It would be very clever of you to include some shoutouts to a Shakespearean tragedy within your own work.
The thing about Bob and Charlie (which I forgot from the post that my internet ate; I figured I was missing something important!) is that Bob isn't aware Charlie and Alice are even acquainted beyond the hour or so they spoke stretched out over several days that took place ten years ago, let alone friends; to him they'd be Ships That Pass In The Night, if not a full-blown Crack Pairing. I could see the gaslighting sowing some (if the phrase makes sense) "benign" discord, in that Alice tries to distance herself from Charlie fearing what's going on in her mind, as a happy accident on Bob's part. But Alice would never confide in Bob, since a) part one of his plan was to disappear so she couldn't find him even if she wanted to, but out of guilt she'd never seek him out anyway, b) she knows he hates her for what she's done, she just doesn't know how far he'll go over it, and c) the less he's on her mind until they fight, the better for him, since he wants to deal as much mental and emotional damage as possible before he starts going for the physical, and he figures the shock of seeing someone she's known and cared for (in terms of The Four Loves, she holds Storge, Phileos, and Agape for Bob, and all four for Charlie) for almost thirty-five years after her head would have a massive impact.
It probably wouldn't hurt me to reread Othello, since it's been awhile since we read it in high school, and since I was somewhat "meh" toward it I've probably forgotten a good bit of it, but I don't know that it'd apply to someone who's using proxies (and mostly non-sentient robotic ones at that, to reduce the chances of detection). From what I do remember, Iago's shtick was buddying up to everyone, which I really don't think Bob could sell (in fact, when he does finally forgive Alice and try to bury the hatchet, Charlie doesn't trust him).
So Bob's plan isnt going to work in the end? Then the fact that he doesnt know who Charlie is will practically guarantee that it fails, which is what you want.
Well, Bob and Charlie are acquainted, they just haven't spoken any more than Bob thinks Charlie and Alice have (i.e., a couple of hours ten years ago). But no, Bob isn't going to actually be able to kill Alice (albeit only thanks to Heroic Willpower and a dose of After-Action Healing Drama on her end); if he did Charlie would kill him dead (and if he targeted Charlie with anything even approaching lethal force Alice would never forgive him, and she would kill him dead), plus he has no quarrel with Charlie anyway. I hadn't intended for him (Bob) to have a full-blown Face–Heel Turn, just act as a Knight Templar Big Brother, more or less. That said, I don't want to really telegraph that Bob's guaranteed to fail, I'd rather have it at least a little up in the air for a while to maintain some tension; can you think of anything I'm overlooking that might add to that?
You just have to make it plausible that Bob's efforts to psychologically isolate Alice could plausibly ignore Charlie, or Bob's defeat will seem inevitable and lack dramatic tension. Somewhere along the line, Bob has to get a clue about Charlie and appear to successfully remove him from the equation (although you may be planning on having him return). Maybe he gets called away on a fake mission of some kind? Some sort of wild goose chase that keeps him occupied while Bob works on Alice? Something like that, anyway, just so that there is enough uncertainty that the readers cant guess how Alice will extricate herself from the situation Bob has put her in.
I think I can accomplish the first part, at least early on and to a degree, simply by not having Alice and Charlie's lives revolve around each other; he will, of course, have his own life and obligations, and she's very much the type to keep her broken arm inside her sleeve until pushed, so she won't be vocal about her misgivings without copious reassurance that speaking up won't piss Charlie off and drive him away, since he's (temporarily) her Only Friend (again, Denise isn't in on The Masquerade, so Alice couldn't confide in her even if she wasn't too busy trolling Alice over her growing attraction to Charlie). That does become a bit problematic after their Relationship Upgrade, though, since I can't justify not letting her confide in him more freely at that point.
As for Bob finding out about Charlie's...involvement, in the plot if not with Alice, I suppose I can use her non-demonstrativeness to my advantage by not having her act overtly like a lover (read: actually remembering that I had her ask Charlie to keep things on the DL at first so as not to drag his name through the mud via association with hers [remember, fairly public Greatest Failure]) and letting Bob misread their relationship (it helps that his own relationship with Alice has been Mistaken for Romance in the past).
('Course, I'm still a bit worried about falling into a Romantic Plot Tumor; I can write Alice navel-gazing over a single incident for pages on end, but I'm not that confident with my transitions or therefore a continuous series of events....)
I think we've reached the point where further analysis isnt the most effective way forward for you—ie, its time to start writing stuff and see how it turns out. I recommend you write a chapter or two and link us to it over at the Constructive Criticism thread.
You're probably right, but I'm leery of publicizing it, partly because I'm still fairly firmly in the nerd-closet of "29-year-old woman writing fanfic" and partly because of "Alice"'s premise (i.e., sibling of canon character)....
There's only one solution to both of those problems... you have to write and share it. Either here, or in a writers forum like Absolute Write (they have an entire section just for fanfic authors). Come on, it can't be worse than Twilight, and look where that went.
No, it's definitely not worse than Twilight (I don't think it'd be egotistical or even subjective to say I'm a much better writer than Stephenie Meyer; then again, some people might say a dead wombat is a better writer than Stephenie Meyer), I'm just very aware of the knee-jerk reaction a lot of fandoms have toward OCs in general and especially those related to canon characters; it doesn't help that I created Alice when I was twelve, based almost purely on The Smurfette Principle, and she was a total Mary Sue then (tragic past, which she actually shed a tear over in front of canon characters, inexplicably as powerful as canon characters despite NO shared background, "nobly" tags along with the hero's Heroic Sacrifice, blah blah blah), and while the vast majority of that incarnation of her never saw the light of day (I did manage to get a few chapters out on fanfiction.net before I realized what I'd done) I'm nervous of seeing her misconstrued as still a Sue when she's categorically not (despite the "related to canon character" and "romances a [long-since Demoted to Extra] canon character" bits. She does definitely work hard for what she gets, but while she does get a lot of screentime, it's because she's a viewpoint character; her impact on the plot is largely In Spite of a Nail while I take her through The Stations of the Canon before she catches up enough to make an impact). That said, you make a good point, and if I can ever get motivated to sit down and type it out (writing in a spiral notebook during my spare time is one thing, sitting down at my laptop is an inexplicably different beast) and figure out where to start and end a chapter I'll try to head to that forum and brace myself....
(Also, I love the little flavor texts that show up before you start typing)
Community Showcase More