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20 March 2017 @ 11:02 am
Susan's gift story, take 3  
Okay, regrouping and trying again with Susan's super-belated gift story. As before, constructive feedback is adored. :)

Here is what Susan and I have discussed since I scrapped my previous ideas:

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In response to your message, since this would take far too long to type on my phone:

I think maybe we should skip Ekanu and Ain, since that story's heart is more about two people who feel caught between cultures making a connection on a road trip than it is about a secret and a reveal (though that is an important secondary plot). Instead, we'll probably be better off if I create entirely new characters to fit the trope.

The thing I find tricky about reveals as a trope is that unless they're reveals-to-random-strangers, I think they work best after a long build-up. The audience needs time to REALLY WANT Person B to be in on Person A's secret, however that secret is eventually blown open. So in order to make a reveal make sense, I need 1) a secret, 2) a reason to keep that secret, 3) a reason to spill that secret (because tension), 4) an emotionally intense relationship between the secret-keeper and the other person or people in question (again, because tension), and 5) a trigger event to break the secret open. That is hard to do in a short story!

...This doesn't mean I'm not going to try my damndest, of course. *wry*

Let me ask you a few questions to narrow the scope.

1. Do you want Person A (secret-keeper) and Person B (the person to whom the secret is revealed) to be romantically interested in each other or not? If so, do you want them to get together at the end (all is happy) or end with them both still interested but Person B needs some time to process the secret and the fact that their love interest was lying to them (even though they think the secret itself is extremely cool)?

2. Do you prefer a reveal where Person A decides to tell Person B their secret (because of some event), a reveal where Person B discovers the secret on their own (because of some event), or a reveal where Person A is forced to do cool stuff in front of Person B (because of some event) and can't explain it away? The emotional weight in these scenarios is very different!

3. Do you prefer the danger related to the secret to be extrinsic (e.g., people might go after you if they think you know/you try to help me) or intrinsic (e.g., my powers are inherently dangerous and I'm afraid to get close to you in case I lose control and hurt you)? Again, very different emotional weights.

4. Do you want Person B to have reasons to react badly (aside from the whole 'you've been lying to me' thing) but overcome them because the secret IS also cool and they care about Person A? If so, is that part of why Person A has kept the secret? (e.g., Person A is a superhero. Person B thinks superheroes arrogantly and illegally endanger the people they claim to protect. Oh no, what will Person B think if they learn the truth about Person A!) Or is the secret-keeping unrelated to that? (e.g., Person A is a superhero. Person B thinks superheroes are awesome. Person A keeps their secret for some other reason.)

4. Do you want other people to already be in on the secret, or is Person B the first one who knows the truth? If other people know, did that go badly? If it went well, why is Person A resistant to letting Person B in on the secret as well?

Basically, please help me design a story that hits the parts of this trope that you like the most, while avoiding variations that aren't quite what you're looking for. I want this to be a present you will like!

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Clarifications answered according to number

1. Person A secret keeper, person B secret observer is either best friend or new person that will become a friend/ally, person C love interest. The overall arc of this person's story could be about learning how to use powers or a love story, but the short story is about the reveal to one person.

2.Person A saves either person B or person C. Person B finds out and C doesn't.

3. Extrinsic because more of a choice to go against society in order to help and not turn someone in. Also I think we've talked about my feelings about telling everyone except the love interest for no good reason.

4. No extra reason to react badly. I offered that to up the stakes in the other story because I think you could be reasonably sure that someone who knows you well would be able to disagree with a different culture's prejudice.

Other number 4. Person B is the only other person that knows in the context of the story. Open to interpretation whether or not someone knew before.

Things I particularly like about secrets:

- The tension between doing the right thing and having a loss of respect or love because of missed social obligations. Things that could be fixed by explanations that can't be given.

- The irony of scenes where you know something that other characters don't.

- The emotional weakness of someone with great physical strength or ability. The loneliness and stress of having to lie.

- The knowledge that someone is actually special even though they are put down or underestimated.

So as you can see, I like a love story, but that's not necessarily what drives the interest in the reveal for me. Person A has kept the secret for so long but has to break it in the heat of the moment to prevent something much worse from happening.

Does that help? Sorry to be a pain.

(I also happen to like characters names that start with a K for what that's worth.)


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You are not being a pain! I greatly appreciate getting clear guidelines, both because they help me channel my imagination instead of flailing all over the map, and because they mean you're more likely to enjoy the end product. :)

Can you clarify one more thing for me, though?

I read your answers to mean that you are looking for a three-person story, with Person A (secret-keeper), Person B (secret-discoverer), and Person C (Person A's love interest). You DON'T want the love interest to learn the secret during the story, and you DON'T want the love interest to have discovered the secret prior to the story. Is that correct?

Are you okay if that results in an argument where Person B is ticked off at Person A and wants them to either reveal the truth to Person C (so Person C can decide whether the relationship is worth the danger) or make a clean break so Person C isn't stuck hanging in limbo while Person A dithers over ethics and emotions? Or would you rather have me end the story before that point, with Person B still going, "Wow, this is so cool, you're actually [Heroic Vigilante], oh my god you need a vacation SO BADLY, I am going to become your new right hand so you don't snap from the pressure of your secrets and responsibilities," and Person A being all, "Someone found out and the sky didn't fall? I think I need about a month to process that, but seriously, THANK YOU (and also we really need to talk about safety precautions, like, A LOT)"?

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First paragraph question: yes.

Second question re ending: maybe something in between. That's amazing but I'm also processing. I would rather end in a happy note, but it doesn't need to be like super sunshine.


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Okay, got it! :)

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So in summary, I'm aiming for a story about a person whose secret involves doing stuff rather than just being something -- and preferably doing something socially responsible but which for [fill in reason] can't be done openly and must be kept secret from the general public. Which would tend to argue for either superheroes or an urban fantasy type thing where either there's a semi-functional Masquerade and anyone who breaks it gets targeted personally rather than just being at risk through random chance, or where anyone with supernatural powers gets considered a potential threat even if they're fighting on humanity's side (maybe there is a reason for that or maybe it's just prejudice, whatever).

I tend to think that superheroes are fundamentally kind of implausible? In that unless you have powers that specifically relate to finding crime (or reaching it really quickly, I suppose), or you have the money and organization to build up a team and a good communication system, you're mostly going to flail around being useless. Also I think the lone fighter thing works better if there really is some kind of societal prejudice preventing people from organizing, and Susan's request assumes a lone fighter without a support team.

So let's go with an urban fantasy thing where humanity is under siege from... I dunno, some magical threat, and there are a few people here and there who accidentally acquire powers from close contact with that threat and sometimes use them to fight back. But because their powers are tied to the threat, they are viewed with great suspicion by a lot of other people, which leads them to mostly fight anonymously.

Character A (secret-keeper) is one of those people. Her day job is... probably something with flexible hours, so, maybe consulting? Or some kind of remote work where she gets a project that needs to be done by Day X but so long as she meets the deadline she can work whenever is convenient for her. Character B (secret-learner) is new to town and meets Character C (love interest) at work. B discovers that C has been locked in this weird dance of "I like you but we never seem to get past a first date" with A and decides to get to know A to determine what the hell is going on because this holding pattern is not emotionally great for C.

B actually ends up liking A on a personal level, but is pissed off at A's persistent unreliability and emotional stonewalling. And then we have the dramatic reveal, where A has to save B's (and maybe C's?) life during an attack.

So. Scene breakdown as follows?

1. B is at work and overhears C talking on the phone with A, who apologizes for missing a date. They reschedule, and C seems upset, so B inquires and C pours out the whole story. B is pissed off on C's behalf, but C swears that A is an amazing person who just has terrible luck with schedules.

2. Some kind of scene to reveal the urban fantasy nature of this world, and A's secret vigilante persona fighting against it. Maybe B is talking to family in another town about stuff going on in their new home? Family is worried because new city is a hotbed of supernatural menace. B assures them that Vigilante is totally on top of things.

3. B, having learned from C that A likes to do [thing] on Saturdays (which B also likes), goes to meet them. B is prepared to dislike A, but discovers that A is actually pretty cool. (Maybe A offers to get B hooked up with a group that does some activity B likes?) B is therefore even more confused by the way A seems to be jerking C around.

4. Another scene of urban fantasy trouble. B gets caught in the outskirts and sees Vigilante in person. Vigilante reacts oddly upon noticing B, particularly when B offers to create a distraction so Vigilante can flee before police arrive on the scene. (Work out more details later). For maximum later irony, possibly B thinks Vigilante was flirting? *wry*

5. While waiting for A to pick C up from work for a dinner date, B and C discuss C's romantic woes and also B's frustration at A ditching a friend-date to do their Saturday thing. A shows up an hour late, clothes somewhat disheveled, spouting apologies. C forgives her. B is even more determined to figure out what is going on. (Starts to suspect A may be two-timing C, or else maybe involved in some kind of crime.)

6. B runs into Vigilante yet again. More awkward weirdness. B tries to assure Vigilante that they support her in her fight against Magical Threat. Vigilante gets even twitchier and basically runs away as a deflection tactic when B offers to help on a more organized basis. B is annoyed. (B also then has to talk fast to get past the police cordon.)

7. B talks C into dialing it back a little with A, maybe try just being friends for a while and see if that works out better without the pressure of romance? C is doubtful -- attraction is attraction -- but agrees that it might be less stressful. They plan a mutual friend-date with A that weekend, on the theory that even if A ditches (as is sadly likely) they will be able to have fun together doing whatever.

8. B, C, and A are collectively out on the planned friend-date (A was even on time, and seemed tentatively into dialing it back if that's what will make C happy) and oh no, a Magical Threat incident! Something happens to C, and B is struggling to get them out of the danger zone while assuring A that Vigilante will show up any minute now, she's very reliable, B has met her a few times now... and finally A says, fuck it, I'm Vigilante. Stay behind this random sheltering object while I go deal with this and I'll explain everything later. Dramatic battle scene ensues. B is experiencing ALL THE EMOTIONS AT ONCE.

9. A shows up at the hospital where B has accompanied C, and explains to C that she got separated from them during the Magical Threat incident and is very sorry she wasn't there when C first woke up. B is intensely frustrated because they want to tell C the full truth -- if A is Vigilante, this explains everything and is also the coolest thing ever!!! -- but A keeps shaking her head outside of C's field of vision so B bites their tongue for now.

10. B drags A home and gets her to spill everything. (There should probably be some tragic backstory here involving A's first support crew.) Eventually they reach a tentative agreement that B will act as support for A (providing alibis, providing a safe place to crash, providing the emotional support of a person who knows that A isn't a deadbeat) and A will think about bringing C in on the secret sometime in the future. But for now, A will give this 'just friends' thing a try and see if that makes C's life easier, because she really just wants C to be safe and happy.

The End.

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I kind of want to make B female and C male, just because the standard codified version of this trope has two men conspiring to keep the truth from a woman and I enjoy flipping unnecessarily-gendered tropes. Also, that would allow for a genuinely platonic and mutually-supportive friendship between a woman and a man (B and C) which is sadly rare in fiction. So yeah. Let's go with that.

Now I just need to figure out the specific nature of this Magical Threat, what A's powers are and how they're connected to Magical Threat, what the hell B and C's job is, what activity B and A mutually like to do on Saturdays, and other details I skimmed over in the breakdown.

But that is for another day. :)

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ETA, 3/21/17: Susan requests that I switch scenes 1 and 2, and make two other minor tweaks, but I think we are finally in business! \o/

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