Tag Archives: realism

The Idea Mill #35

We haven’t been down to the Idea Mill for about seven months. To be honest, I’ve been to busy in other areas to do the research. I still have my feeds, but there hasn’t been a lot to get excited about. There was the vampire burial of a baby, but we’ve had vampire burials on here before.

For those who are new to the Idea Mill, I believe speculative fiction needs a strong dose of reality behind it. We’re going to ask for a leap of faith, but we don’t want to ask for too many. These items are creepy on their own, and can add an air of realism to the stories we might write.

Let’s jump into our first topic. I won’t call it an article, because I never found a specific one. I’ve been researching what is called the Third Man Factor, or Syndrome. In a nutshell, there are many stories of someone being near death describing someone who helped them out. Later it was revealed that nobody was ever there.

These tales date all through history, from Arctic exploration to the Twin Towers. It’s actually kind of a stupid name, because human plus apparition equals two, but there it is. Here is the Wikipedia Entry for Third Man Syndrome.

This works really well for our paranormal tales. If I were to write it, I’d probably write it from the apparition’s point of view, only revealing that fact as my twist ending. How about a werewolf who is tormented by his human self while in lycanthrope form? You could play it for laughs almost like Play It Again Sam. What would you do with Third Man Syndrome?

Our next article is about Giant Hogweed. This is an invasive species that makes a few stinging nettles or even poison ivy look like amateurs. It causes “painful burns, permanent scarring, and even blindness.” It removes something from your skin that allows the sun to cook you like bacon. There are some graphic photos in the article, so I know you’ll want to look. Read the article here. This stuff even destroys the soil where it grows.

I see this as hazardous background to a story, any kind of story actually. Stress, tension, and pressure add something to every story. Why not have your detectives recover a body from a grove of this stuff. Even a temporary loss of vision could put your cop in a bad position when the bad guy comes looking for him.

Moving into the speculative arena, how about planting this stuff outside the treasure cave? Weapons tipped with Giant Hogweed sap, etc. Like I said, maybe not a main player, but useful just the same. Maybe you want to rub it all over someone’s jockstrap. What ideas do you have?

Finally, we have wifi being used to see behind closed doors. Let’s face it, wifi is everywhere now. Apparently, it can be used to spy on people, but not like you might think. This isn’t about your computer camera. It involves observing the radio waves and seeing how they distort around movement.

The article gives a neat depiction about a glass house with a wifi lightbulb inside. It seems as though they need to read the wifi signal from several different angles, kind of like triangulation. After that, they can map your house and determine if you are inside. Read the article here.

Obviously, in speculative fiction we can ramp this up. I have an idea of some kind of infrared vision with more detail. Imagine using drones to take a reading on the building, then the stalker can watch what happens inside. Maybe he sells the fact that you aren’t home to thieves. Maybe he has more nefarious things in mind. Maybe your private moments become the next internet viral video.

What kind of science fiction based horror can you make out of this one?

We usually end these with some kind of corny story outline based upon all of the elements I’ve presented. Here goes nothing.

Our main character is the number one suspect in the disappearance of an underage girl. His workplace told him to stop coming in until further notice. He spots a sequence of drones circling his house. When he looks outside, the police are taking up positions based upon what they learn from wifi spying.

He slips into the cellar and out into the dark before they bash down the door. If he can only find the girl it will clear his name. He wanders into the woods, where he gets tangled up with a patch of Giant Hogweed.

Burning from the sap, and in danger of losing his vision, he wanders deeper while calling out the girl’s name. His skin blisters and bleeds in the sunlight of the following day. His vision is nearly gone, and he’s near death.

The girl shows up and leads him out of the woods to a medical facility. It turns out the girl was never there and he imagined her the whole time.

At this point, I could turn this into an arrest and struggle tale, or have him return to the Giant Pigweed, rewounding himself so he can ask the girl where she is. This would be a tale of madness and mental anguish.

Think you can come up with something better? Be my guest. Use one, or all of them. Tell me about it in the comments. The more the merrier.

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Just shoot him

I’m screaming inside right now. I just finished watching the season premier of The Walking Dead. If you’re a fan, and haven’t seen the episode, you don’t have to read any further. If you’re a writer, you may want to read on.

See, I write speculative fiction. The aftermath of a zombie apocalypse is right in my wheelhouse, even though I haven’t gone there yet.

If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you know how I feel about speculative fiction. It involves at lease one impossible element, (Zombie apocalypse). I try to make the rest of my story pretty realistic. I know I’m going to ask for a leap of faith, so I try to make everything else fairly well researched and realistic.

This is where my problem lies, and I admit, it’s my problem. Maybe other authors and readers don’t think this is a hard and fast rule. Maybe it’s more of a guideline. I’ve used the Pirate quote before myself when it comes to writing rules.

It doesn’t mean I’m not going to bitch about something. To set this up, you have to understand The Walking Dead to a degree; otherwise, you might still get my point but you won’t get the context.

See TWD has put the survivors through hell. They’ve dealt with the Governor, the cannibals, and now Neagan. Tonight was all about Neagan –– as it should be. Neagan has done terrible things. He killed Glen, a main character, in front of all the other survivors – in front of his pregnant wife – by beating his brains out with a baseball bat and forcing the others to watch. He killed Abraham on the same stage, in front of his pseudo girlfriend. Abraham was one of the best soldiers the survivors had.

Okay, you’ve got the dirt on Neagan. At this point, various gyrations happened to give the survivors a chance to get even. Tonight, they had their chance and took it.

Here is the scene: Rick led the survivors to Neagan’s camp, and brought some serious firepower. They armored their cars with corrugated tin, which won’t do a damned thing when it comes to offering cover. Don’t believe me, fire an anemic round like a .38 Special at a piece of it. You wouldn’t want to use it for cover.

They (Rick) call out Neagan. Neagan walks out and answers the call. This is in character for Neagan, because he is an alpha male and a psycho. He steps onto a loading dock along with five of his henchmen. Rick calls them Lieutenants, fine by me.

Here is the thing, Neagan and friends were right out-in-the-open.

Rick and the survivors were fifty feet away. Let that sink in for a second, fifty-feet.

Remember, Neagan killed one of Rick’s best friends and forced Rick and the others to watch.

Beyond that, Neagan has proven that he has zero respect for human life.

Just shoot him.

There must be thirty to fifty of the survivors with Rick, and they’re all armed. They all have a reason to kill Neagan, but they all hold their fire.

Just shoot him.

Rick engages in a dialog; whereby , he offers to allow Neagan’s lieutenants the chance to surrender. They’ve all proven themselves to be dangerous and one of them I would like to shoot myself.

Of course they don’t surrender.

Neagan makes a small penis comment to Rick.

Just shoot him.

I’m here to tell you that if I were in Rick’s position, you could give me an ordinary deer rifle and Neagan would be no more.  A deer rifle holds between three and five rounds depending upon calibre. I don’t want to brag, but I’m pretty reliable out to about 400 yards. Admittedly, this would take some quality time, but Rick was fifty feet away.

But Rick didn’t have a deer rifle, he had a sub-machine gun. I promise you, that with a slow, bolt-action, deer rifle, Neagan and at least two lieutenants would have never made it off the platform. But Rick had a sub-machine gun.

For plot reasons, I know Neagan can’t die yet. In that case, I think the whole confrontation should not have made it into the show. Here is why.

Rick gives the lieutenants time to surrender, and starts a countdown. Props to Rick for opening fire at seven instead of zero. It was a great character moment. Except for the fact that Rick missed. At fifty feet, with a sub machine gun, Rick missed. Not only that, but all of the muscle Rick brought with him missed too.

Rick with a sub-machine gun, plus around thirty friends opened fire, and all the bad guys walked away without a scratch.

Meanwhile; Daryl was cruising around on a moving motorcycle shooting explosives with a snub-nosed revolver and never missed a shot. I’ve fired a lot of handguns, and this isn’t realistic either. Neither is setting off explosives by shooting them.

Come on! I could have done more damage by throwing a rock. A little bit of reality really helps sell the rest of the story. Send your writers out to actually fire a weapon. Make them fire an SMG at some water barrels or something. At least cripple some people. Thirty survivors firing a single round each at a platform that’s about twelve feet wide are going to hit something. Note: the survivors fired many more than one round each. Oh, and Rick had an SMG.

There was a great character moment where Rick had the drop on Neagan later, and he decided it wasn’t all about Rick. Of course, I had no faith that Rick could actually hit the SOB anyway if given a second chance.

How do you guys feel about this kind of thing? Do I worry too much about this kind of thing? Rick would have shot the SOB. The Rick character would have shot him. He wouldn’t have missed, and neither would the other survivors.

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