Copyright 2010 by Gary L. Pullman
Writers often say that plotting their stories is one of the most daunting challenges they face. In previous posts, I’ve shared a few ideas for generating storylines. In this installment, I share another, which works particularly well for novel-length fantasy, horror, and science fiction stories. For want of a better title, I’m calling it “Alien Androids.” I offer an outline of the method, followed by an example:
- Present a startling claim.
- Provide several possible justifications for the claim.
- Combine as many of these justifications as possible to make the claim seem even more supportable and to widen the story‘s scope.
- Using the claim as the story’s premise, break the plot into the three parts common to horror fiction:
a. Bizarre incidents occur.
b. The protagonist discovers the cause of the incidents.
c. The protagonist uses his or her newfound knowledge to restore order.
- Repeat 2-4 with a different set of justifications, and then select whichever of the results seems to represent the better basis for the story.
- Startling claim: Aliens are actually androids created by the U. S. government.
- Justifications. The aliens are created to unite the world’s nations against a common foe, to create a secular religion to replace other faiths, to unite humanity indoctrinate people according to predetermined “alien” objectives, to occupy bored citizens by enlisting them to in the global fight against the invaders, to reenergize citizens’ interest in space exploration, and to redirect people’s focus from social and political problems
- Combined justifications: all of these justifications can be used. Some of the alien androids can be described as hostile and others as peaceful. The nations unite against the former, whereas the latter are used create a new, worldwide faith as a means of indoctrinating humanity according to the “alien’s” creators’ objectives. Whether people combat or follow the hostile or peaceful aliens, respectively, humans will be engaged, rather than bored, and their attention will be redirected from social and political problems. At the same time, the peaceful aliens can promote humanity’s interest in renewing space exploration, possibly as a means of combating the hostile invaders.
- Break of the story into the three parts common to horror fiction:
a. Bizarre incidents occur: In various places around the globe, people see UFO’s. Some witness alien visitations. Others report having been abducted by aliens who have conducted experiments upon them, including the collection of their semen or ova. News media report increasing cases of dead, mutilated cattle. Important men and women in various fields of endeavor are reported missing. The number of faces on milk cartons increases dramatically. In an age of unprecedented leisure among humans, during which machines do virtually all the work, a clash of titans breaks out between two groups of visiting--or invading--extraterrestrials.
b. The protagonist, former Navy SEAL and present Service Agent Adam Drake, discovers the cause of the incidents. The president of the United States, flanked by British and Japanese heads of state, is broadcast in an address to the United Nations. The many reports of extraterrestrial visitors that have occurred since Roswell are true! Two groups of aliens, Hostiles and Friendlies, are at war with one another, and, now, that war has broadened beyond both groups of Celestials to include the nations of the earth, and every nation must decide with which party, it will align. The U. S., Europe, and Japan, as well as other, lesser states, have aligned with the Frendlies, while China, North Korea, and the Arab states have aligned with the Hostiles. Other countries, for the moment, hoping to remain neutral, have sided with neither of the Celestials. However, the president suggests, neutrality will not remain an option for long.
c. The protagonist uses his or her newfound knowledge to restore order: Recognizing that both alien parties represent a threat to humanity’s welfare, Adam organizes a resistance force to fight the Hostiles while, at the same time, sabotaging the Church of the Friendly Celestials in a two-pronged attack upon the Earth’s invaders. Meanwhile, his army continuously recruits new soldiers, preparing for a long and sustained resistance effort against both the nations’ armies and the Celestials themselves.
- Repeat steps 1-4 and then select whichever of the results seems to represent the better basis for the story: Not included in this example.