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Ganzfeld Pilot Script

By TheCSJones
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tl:dr: Two people go on an awkward date, only to reveal that neither of them is who they seem. Weirdness ensues.

Here's half of my entry for :iconkxhara:'s 'Fat' Female Superhero" contest - [link]

I almost didn't enter because I'm already nose-deep in unfinished concept art, and commission drawings, not to mention the Ms. White's kind of similar to the main character of another project I'm working on, and I don't like doing the same thing twice. Don't want to fall into a rut.

...But, in the end, once I had this idea, I couldn't help but write it out.

If people end up liking it, I've been thinking about how this "pilot" could be expanded into a whole series about a dystopian city home to a community of espers, future-seers, and telekinetics who tried to do good, but were forced into hiding to avoid being "disappeared" by people like the BPA.

I'd rather someone else do the art for this if it works out, because my style doesn't really fit it, but I'll upload some concept art that will at least give an idea of what I imagine the characters looking like. The preview is Ms. White in her mask, in case you were wondering.

BTW: The name comes from an experimental procedure used to test for psychic powers - as well as the effect on the mind the experiment causes - in which the subject is exposed to white noise, has their eyes blacked out, and a red light is shone onto their face.

...And yes, that's a (really obvious) clue to the names of future characters.
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IceFlower365's avatar
IceFlower365Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Wow. That was really interesting. I wasn't really sure what to expect. I thought it was very well written and it kept my attention. :)
TheCSJones's avatar
TheCSJonesProfessional General Artist
Thank you. If you don't mind me asking, how'd you get here? I'm wondering which of the ways I promote my deviations is working.
IceFlower365's avatar
IceFlower365Hobbyist Traditional Artist
The forum in the critique section. :)
Pedigri's avatar
PedigriHobbyist General Artist
I have somewhat mixed feelings about it. On one hand the descriptions are very well written (they're vivid, logical, they don't feel "dry" like a "list of sentences" or report, they're interesting to read and speak to the imagination), on the other the comic - apart from a few parts - lacks of tension and dramatic conflict. You are a good narrator.

You established that she's connected to several deaths, yet the prot. didn't feel (that much) stressed about meeting her and being found out. I know it's because you established him as self-confident, but still...

One one hand you managed to include some plot twists, I felt they're somewhat cliche and predictable and that I've seen them already on TV (yet I can't place where).

I remember feeling some tension when she was identified. I wondered "Will he kill her?" Then I felt the tension later when I wondered if HE will be killed by her (while they were still alone at the table).

I admit, the cut to agents suddently lying on the floor was quite good.

By the end I KNEW she won't kill him, also because he's the prot. (or seems to be). But I still found the ending interesting. Losing important memories in a flash is something that makes the reader really feel that there is much at stake.

On one hand it seems an uneven battle and I fear there will be deus ex machinas in further parts whose purpose is to give a character with only mindcontrol resisting power a chance against a powerful "PSI-mancer" (and if the antagonist will be mercyful towards the prot., it will make her seem less of a threat), on the other hand - it's interesting to see how it will play out, and encourages to read further.

On one hand... if it's supposed to be a more comedic comic, then I get why it's less "thriller'y", but on the other conflict and tension are the heart even of children's books.

I remember being interested when the script mentioned she's connected to these deaths. And the part where they talked about some of them.

One one hand if this comic is directed to younger audiences they might not have a problem with cliche twists as long as there are twists and conflicts, dramatic tension. On the other... it will probably not be the first comic in their life they'll read, so they will compare it to them (so cliche surprises will not be as effective).

The dialogue bears a promise of conflict from the start. It's good there are twists and surprises, but it would be better if they weren't that cliche. For the most part the dialogue sounded believable, it sounded like a real person would talk.

I found barely any logical errors. Only one moment disturbed me when the waitress walked all the way from the kitchen, placed the plate on the table and then took the gun to join the others. I assume it was supposed to have a comedic effect, but it's jarring (silly in a bad way. Such behaviour is actually pointless), since the characters acted believable in other parts of the script.

Study the way the FBI agent, ex-sniper in "Bones". He's confident, he thrives on crime, he's good at what he does, yet the tension comes from the fact that in some episodes he was on the brink of being killed. His enemies were a match for him, or even more powerful than him. Here... she's established as someone who isn't unpredictable, ruthless, can't or won't kill him on the spot. She seems so unthreatening (couple that with the constant thought the prot. can't die).

Writer's avoid raising tension by killing the prot. by killing off their sidekicks, or people around them. It's a clear sign for him "it could be you". If you don't want to kill characters, make them fall into coma or something and show the tragedy of it - how broken the prot. is (because it was his friend) or his family (for example, show them struggle financially without him, show the kids becoming disturbed etc.) Perhaps they know she thinks their friend is secretly a killer, but find it unbelievable. Perhaps it's someone powerful. Perhaps it will turn out to be true later on.

There are tons of ways to raise tension: someone important to the plan doesn't show up and no one knows where he is, they think he might got killed; they want to record their conversation, or transmit it to other team members, but they lose contact. The tension comes from failures and the need to improvise without being caught. He could call support before going after her, but their car could get stuck in traffic. Perhaps there's a time limit. Perhaps they need to finish the mission within a small time limit, because they're (suddenly) needed elsewhere. Perhaps she is so powerful that he has to actually STRUGGLE against her powers - he wants to grab the gun, but he has trouble controlling his hand or voice in a decisive moment. These are only ideas. The more things go wrong, the bigger the tension, the better.

OBSTACLES. Don't make it too easy either for the villain or the prot.

Or you could think of some conflicts: perhaps the prot. secretly supports killing of bad guys, perhaps he is opposed to violence against women, but has to act tough. Perhaps his family member was a victim of one of the bad guys. Perhaps she wants to kill his boss and friend and he doesn't believe he's a killer. Perhaps he has a soft spot for her because she reminds him of his dead sister, etc. Anything believable, serious and hard to solve.

Despit all this I think you should write. I see potential in it. I'm sure you can learn from mistakes and with some more experience you will be great at writing such scripts.
TheCSJones's avatar
TheCSJonesProfessional General Artist
Thank you very much. I'll come up with a more detailed response later.
Pedigri's avatar
PedigriHobbyist General Artist
I'll be waiting:)
TheCSJones's avatar
TheCSJonesProfessional General Artist
A bunch of responses to random things in your critique:

First, this is just a pilot chapter - 1 out of 10 for a series that will probably end up being at least 150 pages long - so most of the real conflicts haven't been introduced yet. This is just supposed to be an interesting scene about two of the characters having a dinner that turns out to be something totally different. However, I thought there was tension, in that, as you said, you don't know if either of them will kill the other until the end.

Secondly, Holder isn't the protagonist. There is no one protagonist, several characters with equal screen time split that duty, partially so. Holder and Ms. White are just two of them. White actually plays a larger role in driving the story than him, too.

Fourth, he's not the one in danger, she is. If the BPA catches her, chances are they'll send her overseas to be used in human experiments - like they have with a lot of psychics - or lock her up indefinitely, since they can't have a rogue telepath that powerful running around. Yes, she may have temporarily gotten a laugh by knocking a few of their agents out, but they still know about her, and there's nothing she can do to keep them from hunting her - and others like her, more of who will be introduced later - down until they either catch or kill her.

I'll go into that more later in the story, too.

And thank you again.
Pedigri's avatar
PedigriHobbyist General Artist
Hmm, for some reason I thought this is a script for a small, stand-alone comic. If a whole comic should have only this dinner scene, it's a no-no.

Unless you hook the reader from the very start with a brilliant opening line, good writing, raised questions, a mystery to be solved, I'm afraid many will have problems waiting around to see the conflicts starting to arise. Conflict (psychological, motivational, interpersonal, convictional etc.) is the heart of the story. If you really, really want to introduce the conflict later, at least foreshadow it, show that two things are in conflict, but don't show the implications yet, don't show how this conflict plays out.

In order for a scene to be interesting it has to have the following elements in any combination you like: it raises questions (did she really kill them? Will he kill her? How will she escape when there's clearly no escape route and there's too many for her to handle?, etc.), conflict, tension (for example, escape routes and opportunities being gradually cut off, more and more agents appearing, also around the building), a mystery (if not she, who killed them? Who is under that mask? [impossible since you show her with her face uncovered] What is she up to? If she wasn't born with these skills, is she a result of an experiment? Who did this to her? etc.), an interesting, unusual perspective/colourful language, gripping action scenes, very tense dialogue where the stakes are very high, where one false word can ruin the operation [for him] and blow her cover [for her]. The trick is to SHOW the tension, make the reader feel like they're in their shoes. Explain why they want it so bad, show the readers in vivid detail their racing hearts, cold sweat. Make them ask eachother uncomfoftable questions that will force them to make up an answer on the spot without giving themselves off, etc. make the reader constantly wonder "how will he/she get out of this one?". It can also be great humour, an unusual setting, situation, unusual characters, not typically explored in fiction.

It's been said that having multiple viewpoint characters is most likely to cause the reader not to root for any of them strongly. For whom should he root here? For White? You can't have the readers root for a murderess, unless you find a good way to redeem her, give her a believable, understandable motivation, make her sympathetic etc. If the reader doesn't root for her, he won't care if she escapes or not (that much). If he won't root for Holder, if he won't understand why it matters to him and that he has a goal he can identify with (perhaps he hates his work, but works to pay for her daughter's treatment), then he won't care if he catches her or not - not if the lives of cardboard character are at stake.

It wasn't made clear that she can't do the knock out trick again, so the reader doesn't fear for her that much. The reader expects she can read minds, so she'll know when someone is going to ambush her, snipe her, etc. You may have to establish rules for her powers, or make the powers come at a price. As someone who dabbles in mediumic stuff and the paranormal, I suggest giving her some kind of mana/psi-power - the bigger the task, the longer the distance between her and the target, the more energy it uses up. And makes catching her easier, makes her defenseless.

You may have mentioned that in the script, but the experiment thing was summarized, brushed off, said with not sufficient emotions as if she really didn't care what happened to the psychics she spoke about. SHOW, don't tell. Make her tell holder in vivid detail the torture they underwent. Make her tell him that she has a psychic connection to them and felt their physical pain. For example you can make her re-tell the story how they studied the effect of sleep deprivation on their powers. Make the reader feel the ice cold water being dumped on a lightly clothed, forcefully sleep deprived psychic, the contractions, the trembling, the losing of touch with reality etc.

Summarized traumas are a tell sign of Mary Sues. Amateur writers write rape into their backstories if they want the readers to sympathize with them. It doesn't work (unless the reader has been raped himself/herself). Same here: just telling "you guys did horrible experiments on our kind!"

The reader doesn't know anything about these anonymous carboard characters, has no reason to sympathize with them, they don't feel real, and therefore he doesn't care. At all. In order to care he must feel as if it happened to himself or someone close to him.
TheCSJones's avatar
TheCSJonesProfessional General Artist
I've been inactive on DA for a long time, but I've been thinking a lot about this project recently.  As I mentioned a year and a half ago, most of the problems that you brought up would have been addressed had this been made into a serial like I'd intended.  (And still intend on, at some point in the future.)  

There are a lot of potential solutions to the problems you mentioned.  For example, if I get around to rewriting this as a full-length series, I'll either fix or explain them.  For example, White won't take off the mask until about halfway through, and the inherent limits of most psychics' powers, as well as how they came to get them (it's a mixture of genetics and training) will be explained in more detail towards the beginning.

But I agree that I probably didn't do enough to show tension.  Although I don't agree that having multiple viewpoint characters is a detriment to the likability of each one.  In fact, I was hoping that part of the interest in the story would come from the reader having to figure out for themselves which side is right and which is wrong.

Pedigri's avatar
PedigriHobbyist General Artist
I mean, it's not a problem if you devote enough time to explore each character. But if you try to cram too many characters in a short work, each has a limited space in which they can be presented and even less space for character growth. It could, however, work in a longer series.

I always said when someone asked me to summarize my work: if I could write the story in one sentence, I would. If it takes a whole series to explore the themes of your work, then by all means write a series. Dexter's pilot episode is so friggin' long because they had to establish so many things. The mystery in Bones' first episode is so simple it's off-putting, but that's because they had to divide the length of the episode between the mystery and lots of establishing scenes.

As for the mask, you have to ask yourself what it's purpose is. It would make sense if a character the readers know hid under it and the point was to find out which one of them it is. Or perhaps she hides something that's good plot twist material - for example a birth mark she shares with the one who hunts her (suggesting they're siblings). Or perhaps there's a captivating story/reason behind wearing the mask. I mean... if you want to make the reveal a part of the story, make sure it makes sense, that it changes something. The readers won't gasp at the reveal if the character under the mask will turn out to be one they see for the very first time and who hasn't been even mentioned yet or wasn't behind some big event earlier in the story, etc.

As for figuring out right or wrong, it's a good idea, as long as you balance out the motivations of the characters, don't make pure black and white characters, etc.

As for explaining how they get the powers in detail at the beginning, it's always tempting to cram exposition into the part that is supposed to get the reader hooked. But ask yourself: do they REALLY need to know it RIGHT now to understand the story? Do they need all the details? Or do they need to know only about the training and genetics and the details can wait until a scene comes up that perfectly "triggers" a conversation about it or will naturally lend itself to explaining it, for example a scene where they find themselves in a lab where, say, experiments on them were taking place. I know what I'm talking about, because I have this problem right now, but I know that I'll cut half of the first chapter once I get to scenes that will show what I "told"/explained in this first chapter.
I made a habit of hinting at summarizing some things and gradually adding new, more and more specific, plot twisting info to it instead of dumping all the info in one long paragraph and breaking the flow of the narration. For example I might mention one's a translator. Then that she's a translator at a clinic. Then that she worked on a secret project. Then that this clinic is involved in some shady business, then mention what kind of thing they worked on etc.

In your case it might look like that: she's a psychic, she wasn't always like that, she got it through genetic engineering and training, company X was responsible for it, etc. Just dose revealing information.
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TheCSJonesProfessional General Artist
Most of the characters who will eventually be revealed as psychics (five of them) will be introduced as minor characters, pretending to be normal people, until their reveal.  White's subplot - and yes, her story is just a subplot to the whole I have planned - will begin as a murder mystery, with the BPA (whose names will also be changed to something more realistic) trying to investigate a string of mysterious deaths.

Also, by "genetics," I meant birth, not engineering.  Basically, due to some obscure gene, about 5% of the population is born with the ability to develop some kind of ESP .  It's so faint that most people would never even guess they have it, they just have the ability to "feel when someone's looking at them from across a room" (telepaths), unknowingly cause objects to fall off shelves (telekinetics) or get a bad feeling that something's going to happen to their aunt soon (future seers).

Basically, in order to awaken them, it takes a level of study and practice comparable to earning an advanced degree (which is what White alluded to in saying she'd spent 20 years studying).

Also, tying that in to the former paragraph, the basics of the story are very simple, and I like to explain them via flashbacks instead of just having characters tell them to each other.  It's the characters' histories and each one's individual abilities that gets complex.
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TheCSJonesProfessional General Artist
Also, I'll add that a lot of the story will revolve around that conflict. (The psychics' inability to stop themselves from being chased down and forced into hiding, despite all their power.)
RobynRose's avatar
entry recieved!
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