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Old 05-19-2017, 05:54 AM   #1
CheddarTrek
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Brainstorming Details in Original Fiction

I swear there is already a thread like this. But I'll be damned if I can find it. If you know where it is let me know so I can combine them.

The purpose of this thread is to ask a brainstorming question for your original fiction and get an answer or two.

Be as specific as you can about what you are trying to brainstorm.

Bad Question: What should the plot be for my new story about dinosaur ghosts that scream at people from under their beds?

Good Question: I have a story about dinosaur ghosts that scream at people from under their beds because they feed off the visceral reaction it produces. Assuming that the dinosaur in question must be small enough to fit under an average bed, what dinosaur do you think would be the most terrifying in a visual/auditory sense for this role?
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Old 05-19-2017, 05:54 AM   #2
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BLACKMAIL

A character, let's call him/her CASEY, is being blackmailed. I am trying to come up with more ways in which someone can be blackmailed while it is still understandable to the reader that (1) CASEY isn't really in the wrong, and (2) CASEY isn't going to call the blackmailer out.

Example 1: Casey was in abusive relationship with a politically powerful man in the 1950s and ran off with the baby. She left with the baby and got a job as a schoolteacher, pretending that her husband died in the war. She is being blackmailed with this information knowing that (1) she'll lose her job if it comes out and (2) her abusive ex-husband will get the baby. Assuming that 1&2 WILL happen, and it makes sense she'd try to keep that information under wraps.

Example 2: Casey was a conductor on a futuristic underground railroad helping to smuggle children out of a war zone. One of the children he smuggled out grew up to become one of the worst terrorists with the highest civilian kill count in this fictional war, and they couldn't have done it without his unwitting help. Assuming that the reader agrees that rescuing children from a warzone is good, he could be blackmailed with this information assuming that the public sentiment is that he helped the worst terrorist in living memory. His life's work is on the line and would not be accomplished if discovered.

More examples?

Normally when you see blackmail in fiction it's because the individual being blackmailed did something that most might agree with as 'wrong.' Pictures were taken of them in a compromising position with women. They were embezzling. They committed some crime that they want to stay quiet and the reader/viewer generally agrees that they shouldn't have done whatever it was even if they are also on this characters side in hating the one doing the blackmailing.

Understanding and sympathizing with the situation isn't the same thing as agreeing that the character never really did anything wrong to begin with, yet they're being blackmailed anyway. I'm looking for more examples of the latter.

TVTropes is usually helpful here, but in this case it doesn't seem to have a specific trope for such a specific subset of blackmail (though it has plenty on blackmail in general).
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Someone once told me that time was a predator that stalked us all our lives. But I rather believe than time is a companion who goes with us on the journey, and reminds us to cherish every moment because they'll never come again. What we leave behind is not as important how we lived. After all, Number One, we're only mortal.
~Jean-Luc Picard


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Old 05-19-2017, 06:07 AM   #3
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@ChaosGuy

Posting this here because he read my thread and discussed it with me on IRC, and I wanted a record of it here in case I come looking for it later...

Quote:
Casey had a political career during war time in which he tried to do the right thing but was on the wrong side. This put him on the outs with everyone when the war ended (he acted counter to what his losing side wanted, but he was still affiliated with them so the winning side hated him too). But he was trying to do the right thing and rescue children or puppies or something. He faked his death when things died down and has been hiding for a few decades, but now someone has identified him.
More ideas welcome!
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Someone once told me that time was a predator that stalked us all our lives. But I rather believe than time is a companion who goes with us on the journey, and reminds us to cherish every moment because they'll never come again. What we leave behind is not as important how we lived. After all, Number One, we're only mortal.
~Jean-Luc Picard


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Old 05-20-2017, 10:40 AM   #4
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Maybe Casey was a courier or delivery person, and they dropped off a package to a popular or powerful person. The contents of the package were destructive in some way - a bomb, a virus, or maybe even blackmail material that caused this other person the commit suicide - but Casey was completely ignorant of this. However, because they were the last one to see this person alive, there would be a public condemnation if anyone knew who Casey was.
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Old 05-22-2017, 08:18 AM   #5
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@CheddarTrek, from the examples here, there are two general patterns I'm seeing (which are not strictly exclusive of each other, mind).

1) Casey has a secret s/he wants kept (which I suppose is a requirement for any blackmail situation to arise in the first place)
2) Casey's action had unintended negative consequences which couldn't have been reasonably predicted but still paints him in a bad light (i.e. an optics problem).

1 seems to always happen. 2 is optional.

Delving into a more supernatural setting, maybe Casey has superpowers, and someone finds out, but he doesn't want it out because the government/insert organization of preference will be after him if it becomes widely known.

A variation I can think of: maybe in this world there's a societal expectation that all people with powers become either heroes or villains, whereas Casey isn't interested in becoming involved (maybe because he's a pacifist). While no one will be out to get him, if it becomes widely known it would be really disruptive to his normal life. Of course, in this variation the stakes aren't as high when the information is revealed so the "breakpoint" -the point where Casey decides he's had enough of this shit and tells the blackmailer to go ahead or go away- will be much easier to hit.
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Old 05-22-2017, 09:09 AM   #6
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Casey is a de-frocked priest. Not exactly horrible- I mean, hey, the pious life isn't for everyone. But the reason why Casey was de-frocked; he heard something in confessional, and was so disturbed that he gave an anonymous tip to the police about it, which then led to the confessor being caught and killed in the act. Since the confessor was a member of organized crime, there may be significant threat to Casey's life should this become well-known. There is also the ethical threat, of being known as a person who broke a trust that ended a life.

Bonus points if the confessor wasn't a hardened criminal. Extra special bonus: the Confessor was killed by the mob because they thought he was the stoolie.
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Old 05-24-2017, 02:19 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wordhammer View Post
Casey is a de-frocked priest. Not exactly horrible- I mean, hey, the pious life isn't for everyone. But the reason why Casey was de-frocked; he heard something in confessional, and was so disturbed that he gave an anonymous tip to the police about it, which then led to the confessor being caught and killed in the act. Since the confessor was a member of organized crime, there may be significant threat to Casey's life should this become well-known. There is also the ethical threat, of being known as a person who broke a trust that ended a life.

Bonus points if the confessor wasn't a hardened criminal. Extra special bonus: the Confessor was killed by the mob because they thought he was the stoolie.
Thanks for the idea! Though this one doesn't quite fit the criteria I was looking for. In my case there need to be two 'sides' to the equation that would be against Casey should things come out. He needs to be in danger from two/both sides.

In your example, the police would have to also say "Casey is bad/wrong" when he comes forward with the information, but that doesn't seem to be the case here.

What I'm shooting for is that Casey ends up doing something that two sides would hate him for, while the reader agrees with Casey.

In @Halt's example this could sort of work because everyone with a superpower is supposed to be either a hero or a villian... so if Casey decides to be neither, both sides would be pissed but the reader would understand.

With @LittleChicago's example it can work if I tweak it a bit. Casey delivers a package but realizes it's a bomb at the last minute, so he throws it into the trash and goes into hiding. Years later his employer might be pissed that he had betrayed them while he would be under investigation from the police simply because he had been a member of the organization.

In my specific story there was a war and "Casey" (not his real name) ends up changing his name and then decades later someone discovers his identity. And it needs to work out that both sides in the war would view him unfavorably for something he did that the reader would consider the right choice.

Thanks for the great thoughts so far all!
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Someone once told me that time was a predator that stalked us all our lives. But I rather believe than time is a companion who goes with us on the journey, and reminds us to cherish every moment because they'll never come again. What we leave behind is not as important how we lived. After all, Number One, we're only mortal.
~Jean-Luc Picard

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