Tag Archives: Fiction

Time Travel as a Plot Device

I’ve had a really bad day or so, and it’s mucked with my creative writing muse.  However, I have been exploring possibilities with Witchfire as I mentioned before.  I bounced the ideas off of Deanna Troi, who I was collaborating with for a while.  It came up in the conversation that time travel is seen by some as a weak plot device that’s used when an author is out of ideas and wants an easy fix.  Given as this is supposed to be a writing blog, I thought we could explore the idea here.

Bruce Lee once said there’s no such thing as a bad technique, only a bad time to use it.  This is true of any tool.  Some are specialty items that will get used on rare occasion, some get used constantly.  I view time travel as one of those rarely used specialty tools.

Time travel as a plot device gets a bad rep because it’s been abused by writers, with some specific stories getting used over and over until they’ve become cliche.  I can even tell my readers where this all first started; X-Men #142 in February of 1980:

X-Men-Uncanny-142-Brooklyn-Comic-Shop

This issue was the start of the ubiquitous time traveler from the future coming back to the present to prevent their future from occurring.  In this issue, we find out Senator Robert Kelly had been assassinated by Mutants, leading to mutants being declared a public danger, hunted by the government and either killed or put into concentration camps.  Sound familiar, movie fans?

This is also where the cliche of the time traveler being the child of two current protagonists comes from.  The X-Man sent back in time was Rachel Summers; daughter of Cyclops and Jean Grey.  And for once, a comic book cover didn’t lie about everybody dying also.  The time traveling child gimmick was even used in the most recent season of CW Network’s “The Flash”, with Barry and Iris’s daughter coming to the past to try to prevent Barry from disappearing in the (upcoming) Crisis on Infinite Earths.

nora-west-allen-xs-flash-season-5-jessica-parker-kennedy

History lesson aside, what’s the right way to use time travel?  First, it has to fit the genre.  If you’re writing a regular romance story (vs a paranormal or fantasy setting one), the only way “time travel” would likely work is as a dream sequence.  Something along the lines of the movie Peggy Sue Got Married.  If you’re dealing with a world with powerful magic, advanced science, or metahuman powers, time travel becomes more feasible.  It can work in other genres, but you need something very creative to establish suspension of disbelief in your readers.

Suspension of disbelief is key to ANY plot device.  Does what’s happening feel real within the context of the story and it’s reality?

Using time travel too cheaply does weaken that suspension of disbelief also.  Remember  what I said about it properly being a rarely used tool?  I think sometimes authors are afraid to make their characters work their way out of a situation or deal with consequences of actions that the author didn’t think out.  Other times, an author wants to create an “epic” storyline and tries to come up with the most dramatic situation possible.  I’ve written before about the failings of the constantly bigger villain or disaster as ongoing stories.  It’s caused Marvel and DC to reboot their universes more than once.

Long story short, think about the likely long term consequences in your story’s world for anything you write, even if you’re a wing it kind of writer.  Also, make sure you’ve got a good reason for your characters to muck with the time stream beyond “I want an epic cool story”.  If that’s your only reason, what will you do for an encore?

Use time travel as a last resort or for a well thought out story.  Readers will appreciate a well thought out solution where characters fight through a problem more than another time jump to fix this week’s mess.  The 80s cartoon Silverhawks literally got that bad too.  They introduced a team member named ‘Flashback‘ whose cybernetics let him time jump.  Every time the Silverhawks got in over their head after that…  *poof*  Mistakes corrected.

Also, if you want to add a bit of “realism” to it, consider some unintended consequences to the characters’ actions too; fallout and secondary unintended changes.  Aside from the old problem of parallel universes, there’s a Taoist theory that the universe seeks balance.  Heroes rise to challenge villains, and attempts to change the time stream may result it the universe seeking to rebalance itself in interesting ways.

The last problem with time travel is the cliche factor.  You want your readers to be on the edge of their seat.  If they yawn and say been there, done that… you’re doing it wrong.  Star Trek, for example, has done a pretty good job with it’s time travel stories over the decades.  The only ones I found grating were the trapped in a time loop episodes.  Don’t do the time traveling child trying to change the future thing unless you can put such a unique spin on it that it’s barely recognized as copying the X-Men template.  Instead, think more along the lines of Star Trek 4 or Star Trek: First Contact.

The Grand Reveal

A few weeks back, I chickened out of revealing the plot for my first planned novel.  I’m going to partially reverse that decision now.  The story will be a revamped version of a hugely popular piece I wrote for my Champions Online gaming group years ago.

The story centers around my character Liberty Gold.  Libby (nickname) was the third incarnation of that character.  The first version was in City of Heroes, the second in DC Universe Online, and then Champions.  A more detailed description is on the story page, but suffice it to say here, that the current one discovers she’s descended from Greek myth, and that a prophecy surrounding her birth threatens the entire world.  It was a Halloween challenge story, so things got dark, and it took three Liberty Golds to set everything right.

Here’s a peek at the first three chapters of the original version that the book will be based on:

The Dark Prophecy

Beyond that, I’m going to give the rest of you a treat that only ComixFana has gotten thus far; access to all my City of Heroes characters and all my surviving stories.  Maybe some of you will read them where he wouldn’t, LOL.  My best story was as epic as the Liberty Gold story but destroyed by a jealous guild mate who had access to the guild website.

City of Heroes

That’s an OLD OLD blog that I used strictly to have an archive on the cloud.  Keep in mind also that this is 20 year old work in some cases.  The stories and biographies aren’t as polished.  Miss Thornbird in particular screams Mary Sue, but was a fun character to play.  The stories were also influenced strongly by people that trolled me.  Miss Deadshot’s stories you’ll notice go from nice, to me constantly trying to work around drama and BS from other players.  At one point I literally pulled a Dallas on one and made them nothing but a bad dream.

It’s amazing how interacting with other players and their characters can have some strange impacts on a character though.  Oh well, I was young.  Enjoy.

giphy

A Few More Creations

So since I’m officially post whoring now…  Here’s a few more pictures of characters put together from the Champions character creator:

 

First…  An OLD character that was actually part of the inspiration for Witchfire.  Her name is Eldrictch, AKA Becky Carsen.  She’s a half elf mage and used to tend bar at Club Caprice in Champions Online.  It was a fun way to get to talk to other players without committing to major projects.

Eldritch

Her costume displays some of my dislike for the costume creator.  Pieces like her magical bracers were sized to fit male characters and never scaled down for women.  The belt and necklace are huge also.

 

Next up is a failed attempt at recreating Witchfire herself.  I much prefer the Morrigan statue that I have pictured in her story section.  It’s a near perfect representation.  This…  Well I thought people would find it interesting if nothing else:

Witchfire

 

Next, I actually did get a good representation of my tongue in cheek Dr Strange clone in the Witchfire stories.  I give you the infamous Dr Steven Weird:

Dr Weird Front

 

Last but hardly least, a special treat.  Jennifer Saunders, AKA Liberty Gold in the game.  She will actually be the star of the first non-erotica book I’m writing.  Probably with a hero name change though.

Liberty Gold

 

Curse You Red Baron!

4 views away from breaking my daily views record with 10 minutes to go.  Y’all are forcing me to resort to click bait!!!  O_O

So, here’s a picture of the aforementioned Paladin from Champions Online and my Mary Sue post:

 

Paladin Armor

MY Sharp & Edgy Humor…

Gawd, so many bad jokes from using Lilarcor in Baldur’s Gate 2 now coming back to me, LOL…

Anyhoo, I got the honor to guest author a piece for LittleFears on his blog.  Here is the original at his site:

Knife Skills

And here it is reproduced, minus LittleFears’ great video work (give his blog a look for that).

Knife Skills Large

knife Skills story

 

And there you have it…  My cutting edge humor.  😀

Thanks again to LittleFears for letting me guest author.. 🙂

Character Inspiration

I decided to show once again that you can find inspiration for characters (or stories) almost anywhere.  I constantly run through things I’ve read and watched for ideas…  How can I put a unique twist on something and change it enough to make it original?

Often times, it just ends up being the general idea.  My most well received City of Heroes story was based on a cartoon where one character went undercover in the villain organization but only one other person knew and they got put into a coma by an attack from the villains.

One of my most quirky characters was actually a near complete borrowing of a cartoon character.  She was a video game character in Champions Online.  Meet C.S.I. Gadget:

Penny Flying

For those who didn’t guess…  She’s a tribute character based on Inspector Gadget’s niece Penny.  I made her origin vague enough so that neither I nor the game got in trouble for copyright violation.  The origin being that she was the neice of the city’s now retired most famous cyborg detective.  A natural genius, she covertly helped her uncle, and when she graduated school a few years early, she went on to college and got dual degrees in engineering and criminology, then became a CSI for the Department.  She carries several devices and a portable crime lab, and has a small army of robotic pets that help her fight crime.  And yes, as the picture indicates, she rides around on a small circular flying platform.

I got several compliments on her look, with people saying the look was perfect for an adult Penny.  Here’s her street clothes “costume”.  The shirt is supposed to be a Millennium City PD T-Shirt.  Being an older game, Champions Online didn’t allow for a super high level of detail.

Penny Off Duty

So, I hope that help you writers see that an open eye and a little imagination can find creative inspiration anywhere.

She had a virtual army of pets in the game and it was a joke among my friends that turning her loose, the bad guy would scream in terror as a sea of pets washed over them, LOL.  That was before the game nerfed the pet summoning powers though.  *grumble*

She’s Baaaaaaaaaaaaaack!

Yes, I *FINALLY* got more of Witchfire’s story written.  Like last week, it’s a little less than I wanted, but I have a deadline to meet with DBC, and I’m also out of gas physically and creatively.

This week we did get a little smut as Ms. Americana gets in a catfight with her doppelganger from Sully’s (Comixfana’s) Earth.  Special guest appearance by Deanna Troi’s character Nancy Peye as we advance the plot and try to coordinate stories a little more.

Witchfire, Pt 10 – Training Day 2

Follow Your Passion

This is something I’ve been pondering for a while; one of the many ways my self-doubt has tried to mess with me lately.  We’ve ALL heard the advice.  It’s almost taken on some mythical status anymore.  Follow Your Passion!  It’s the key to the universe!

There’s a few issues that never seem to get addressed though.  The OBVIOUS first question is “What if you suck at what you’re passionate about?”   Let’s be honest, IF it’s something you’re TRULY passionate about, you’re going to work at it till you get not just good but great at it (even if you need training to grow).  95% of the time that’s true anyway.  There’s that other 5% or so that just doesn’t have the aptitude for something they’re passionate about.

Then there’s is your passion viable for supporting yourself and a family?  The financial guy I listen to on the radio rails against following your passion for that reason.  “Spending 10s of thousands of dollars to get a degree in left handed puppetry is idiotic”.  OK, extreme example, but he makes a point.  Some things are going to take more effort and have lower payoff than others.  The average engineer is going to make more than the average writer or artist.  You have to take a hard look at earning potential and decide if you’re OK with it.  Don’t blame others for the choice you make here either.

The good thing is that people can find multiple things they’re passionate about.  If one doesn’t work, look at another one.  Expose yourself to as many ideas and careers as possible.  You may be surprised what you find you’re drawn to.  There’s always the option of saving your passion as a “side hussle” also.  If it really pays off, you can always discard that job as an engineer to paint or write poetry.

Then there’s discerning a passion from something you enjoy…  This is one I’ve struggled with for ages and a couple of attempted careers.  The simple answer is that a passion is something you’re willing to endure the hardships to pursue.  It’s NOT I want to be a rock star because it’s cool and I’ll be famous.  I hate you all for not buying my music and making me live over mom’s garage.  It’s I’m willing to practice 10 hours a day, play that guitar till my fingers bleed, get singing and playing lessons because I’m only so-so right now, and treat it all as the price to pay and part of the journey.  You not just accept but embrace that there are no shortcuts.  THEN it’s a passion, and worth pursuing.

And yes, after struggling through alot of self doubt, that’s where I’m at now with my writing.

A Vader Update

I talked to the friend that first linked me to the Vader fan film that I shared a few blog posts ago.  I was curious to find out if there were any other chapters released yet, and what news he’d heard in that regard (he has a remarkable knack for finding such things out).

At this point, there won’t be any future chapters.  Disney went after the producer with everything they had and even took the first chapter away from him.  LucasArts (presumably Lucas himself) apparently still has some pull though, and get the first chapter returned to the producer.  Not before Disney’s legal bullying wiped out the producer financially though.  They’re also blocking all attempts to crowdfund future chapters of the story.

I hear stories like this all the time.  I’ve watched them gobble up more and more of the entertainment world too the last decade or so.  Walt Disney would doubtless spin in his grave if he saw how his company is being run nowadays.