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Story idea, memorialized
blaisepascal
I have in mind a nascent story idea which I want to get down before I forget it.

The protagonist is a teenager/young adult, living in a world with superheroes and supervillains. For simplicity sake, let's put zie in the Marvel Universe, but anything similar will do. Let's call zir "Chris" (a nice, gender-neutral name) for now.

Chris has discovered that nearby death empowers zir, triggering some sort of latent superability. Chris doesn't know what the ability is, just that zie burns (in a good way) with energy when a death occurs nearby. And Chris is scared: zie doesn't want to be a supervillain, zie doesn't want to become a killer, but zie can't see any good coming from this ability. So zie has sought out Professor X's school (or in-universe equivalent) to put zirself in the hands of experts who know what to do with good kids with "gifts".

I have a few set-pieces in mind. When Chris was young, zie first noticed that zie felt a warm tingling around bug zappers. Zie first noticed the clear association with death when zie witnessed a cat getting run over and felt a zap. Chris has done some experiments: Eating a live oyster was exhilirating, but zie didn't know if it was the proximity to the death, or that zie was the cause of it. Having Riley, zirs MOTASfriend eat a live oyster during sex was mindblowing, and proved that it was proximity, not causation, that was the key to intensity.

A classmate of Chris' had a heart attack in school, and collapsed and died in the same classroom as zir. It was sudden, but not unexpected; the classmate had a history of congenital health problems and already had a DNR on file with the school. However, Chris was flooded with energy, and felt like zie was burning up. Zie felt like this wave had overcome zir, enveloped zir, infused zir, and was searching for release. It took hours for it all to dissipate and fade away. Long, uncomfortable, hours, coming down from a high zie didn't want, upset that zir friend had died, trying to act normal (or at least, normally grieving) while feeling jittery, excited, tingling. Going to Riley for comfort (as is normal when one experiences an emotional trauma: go to a loved one) was ultimately a good thing: Riley immediately had the same sort of contact-high as with the oyster-experiment, only bigger (it made just a small change in Chris's power-up), and was able to caution Chris against touching anyone else until it faded.

So now it's a week later, and across the country. Chris (and Riley, zie stuck with Chris) are here, in the admissions office of the superhero school, scared of being evil, wanting to be channelled towards good, and not knowing what to do. The next move is on the admissions officer.

I don't know where to go with this. This isn't quite a story idea, as I have no conflict or resolution in mind. I have a very clear idea of "what the protagonist wants", or more accurately "what the protagonist doesn't want/is fleeing from", however. I think this has promise, and tries to break away from the "have nasty powers, must be evil" trope of standard superpowered literature.

ETAI added the "what's next" in the form of a story in the comments below. If I have revealed Chris and/or Riley's gender, let me know, and I'll fix it.

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Shirley Jones looked at the two twenty-year-olds sitting across her desk from her. "Your situation is unique, Chris, but that's not unusual here. Most of our applicants are unique in their own way. You just present a more interesting challenge than most. I believe we can begin the admissions process. It will take some time; we have to test you and your powers -- and I don't envy the ones who have to devise the tests -- and we have to get your records from your old school."

She took a stack of papers off the printer and handed them to Chris. "If you'll read over these forms and sign them, we can begin the process." She then turned to Riley. "You are a bit more of a challenge. We do accept partners of our 'special' students, but not all want to stay. What are your plans? Are you here to drop Chris off, or are you two coming together?"

Riley looked stunned. "I...I don't know. I hadn't thought that far ahead..."

"Do you love Chris? Would you two have remained a couple if this hadn't come up?"

"Y...Yes, I guess...I mean, I brought Chris here because it was the only, the best, thing I could think to help...I didn't think of what it would mean for me."

She looked at Riley for a minute. "What is your major?"

"Architectural Engineering"

"Do you love it?"

"Yes. I've been designing buildings since I was a kid. It's the only career I've wanted. I worked hard to get into the best architecture school I could afford. It's my life."

"We are accredited in many subjects, and leaders in a few. Unfortunately we don't have an architecture department. If you transfer here, you'll have to--"

A loud crackle came from Chris. "Oh shit...". Riley and Ms. Jones looked at Chris, whose hair was virtually standing on end. Chris was suffused with a slight glow.

Ms. Jones looked at Chris for a few seconds, then picked up the phone and punched three buttons, then the speakerphone. "Liftoff here, what's going on."

A mans voice replied, over the sounds of muted chaos in the background "There was an accident in Chem Lab 3. It's on fire and collapsed. Almost everyone got out, but 10 students are unaccounted for and are trapped. We are trying to get them out now."

"I've reason to believe that one is dead--"
"Three" interrupted Chris
"--three are dead. I'll let you get back to work."
She hung up the phone.

Liftoff looked at the two before her. "Riley, when you ate that oyster, did you feel Chris's power, too?" "Yeah, it was--" "And when Chris hugged you after your classmate died?" "Yeah..."

Liftoff came around the desk. "Chris, give me your hand". When she took it, her eyes turned a solid lavender -- no pupil, no iris, no whites, just solid lavender. She quickly pulled away.

She strode to the door and opened it. "Follow me". Trailing the two, she quickly hurried down the halls.

Chris asked "How far are we going?"

Liftoff replied "Three buildings over, about a quarter of a mile. How did you know it was three?"

Chris struggled to keep up with the fast-moving administrator. "I felt each one, like three successive waves battering me into the sand. This is worse than when Jim died next to me. Each one was worse than when Jim died next to me. I feel like I'm going to explode."

"Well, don't. We're almost there"

They turned a corner and walked into chaos. halfway down the hall the left side wall had collapsed, and half a dozen students, staff, and faculty were lifting pieces out of the way with their bare hands, pieces bigger than Riley would have thought possible.

"Chris, see the man in the yellow shirt? The one who looks like he's straining and tiring? Go up and lay your hands on him."

Chris, looking dubious, went to him, and touched him. A flash of glow suffused over both of them. The rubble he was lifting jumped as his strength increased. "Thanks kid, I think Triage needs your help now".



Edited at 2013-07-16 12:56 am (UTC)

Chris looked over at the far wall, where four injured students were slumped. A man wearing nursing scrubs was working on them, touching their injuries with a slight glow. Chris went to him and put his hand on his back. The glow brightened, and the girl he was healing opened her eyes. The two of them moved to the next injured boy. By the time they had finished working on the first three, a pair of rescuers were carrying out a fifth injured student. Chris briefly touched them with his glow, and they ran back to the chaos reinvigorated.

Riley watched from the side for 15 minutes as everyone at hand helped clear rubble, put out fires, and rescued the trapped students. Chris spent the time with Triage, and soon everyone was coming to him when they felt worn down. Liftoff had moved into the role of directing people and apparently moving some of the rubble with her mind. By the time things slowed down, even the people injured in the accident were up and helping out -- except for the three laid out under sheets on the floor.

After everything was over, Liftoff went over to Chris. "How do you feel? Are you doing OK?"

"Yeah, a little tired, a little drained, but OK. What happened?"

"We don't know yet, they are just starting the investigation into the accident now. Something blew up in class, three students were killed, and you helped save 10 others. Congratulations, you are a hero."

Liftoff stood up, looked at Riley and Chris. "Let's get back to my office. Chris still has some paperwork to fill out, and Riley, you need to make some decisions about what you are going to do."

Riley looked at Chris, then back at Shirley. "About that. I think I want to stay. I know it means giving up architecture, but I saw what Chris did, and what all of you did, and I want to be a part of it. I love Chris even more now."

Liftoff said "Good. I was hoping you might. You have paperwork to fill out, too. We'll get you transferred to Purdue University's Architectural Engineering program; it's only an hour's commute from here. You'll be covered by our scholarship funds. Will that work for you?"

Riley was stunned. "But you said you didn't have an archi...I mean, Yes! Yes! That will work for me!".

Liftoff smiled. "We don't have an architecture department, but we know who does. Besides, we wanted to be sure you weren't staying because it was the easy thing to do, we wanted to be sure you were staying despite it being a hard thing to do."

You start referring to Chris with "his" and "he" at the moment Chris senses the nearby deaths.

"You cannot edit this comment because someone has replied to it".

I think I fixed the first part, and only screwed up once in the second part.

Tell me if there's any more problems.

"Chris went to him and put his hand on his back."
"Chris briefly touched them with his glow, and they ran back to the chaos reinvigorated."
"Chris spent the time with Triage, and soon everyone was coming to him when they felt worn down."


It's fairly obvious that the larger and more complex the organism is, the more energy Chris gets from its death. Am I correct in deducing that sudden violent death (such as in an explosion) gives Chris more energy than even sudden natural death (such as a heart attack)? And how do those two elements of scale combine?


Blagh. I can't correct it now. It's easier fix it in post, I mean, on re-post.

It's easy for me to not screw up with Riley because while Chris's gender it fixed in my head, Riley's isn't. Which, intriguingly, means I don't know if Chris is straight or not.

The two variables I'm working with are complexity of the organism, and proximity. Bugs aren't very complex (on this scale), but a lot of them at a bug-zapper next to Chris have a detectable tingle. Deaths usually have to be close, but he can feel a human death farther than a dog's death, or an oyster's. On the complexity scale, supers are much higher, so he was able to feel the death of another student a quarter mile away more powerfully than a classmate in the same room.

Funny, Chris seems slightly more male than female to me, but Riley seems definitely male, though he's the kind of person who's perfectly content to be the "bottom", at least emotionally.

You have made an excellent start! The characters behave realistically, the internal conflicts are clear, the dialog flows smoothly.

I'm guessing this is basically X-men fanfic (essentially). I don't know much about the X-men mythos myself, but I saw the first movie.

The typical story progression is Conflict, Tension, Crisis, Resolution. You've got the first two down. Where it goes from there is really up to you. I have some ideas, which I'd rather send by email if you want to hear them.

I suggest you get involved with a local writer's group. That's what I've been doing, and it has improved my writing greatly. For the first time, I really enjoy reading my own stories!

It's not X-Men fanfic, or at least, it's not explicitly X-Men fanfic. I'm trying hard to avoid making it X-Men fan-fic.

Things which are clearly the same: Superheroes who are randomly that way from birth (even if they don't come into their own until later). A school that caters to superheroes and/or hosts a superhero team. Superheros who have both real and code names, at least some of whom are publically open about it.

Things which are clearly different: No use of the term "mutant". The school here is collegiate, not secondary. The school here is set in the midwest, not coastal. None of the characters are intentionally based on X-Men (but with the sheer number of X-Men historically, it's hard to tell if I'm hitting any accidentally).


I'm very impressed. I've read a lot of sf and can't recall anything like this. It could go quite dark, in fact, I think it will be something of a struggle to keep it from that. I want to know more!

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