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I'm outlining the plot for a scifi screenplay. I have the main characters, premise, the first half of the story, and the climax thought out. I don't want to bore you with details, but the story involves an enemy who can perfectly anticipate your moves. The main character needs to figure out how to defeat this enemy.

The problem is that I don't know the solution to the logical problem I've created here. I don't know how this enemy might be defeated (I have ideas for the climax, but I'm not sure how to resolve the mini conflicts that lead up to that climax). I'm sure if I keep writing something will come to me; it's happened in the past when continuing to churn out words generates ideas and connections and solutions. But I seem to be at a point where I really do need to resolve this to connect the midpoint of my story and the ending.

Do you have any ideas for how I can keep writing when I don't yet know the logical solution to a problem the main character is facing? Any ideas for what I could focus on writing, till the idea presents itself?

Thanks!

Details if they're useful: I'm aiming to write a screenplay. Right now I'm writing the treatment, so I'm trying to have every major scene and event down on paper (based on what I have I think this will come out to 10-15 pages).

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    Go to worldbuilding SE, I actually think there already was a question asking this. (But it was some time ago, so could be wrong, and I don't have time to look.) – Ville Niemi Nov 25 '15 at 4:26
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    If I wrote your story, the enemy would let the protagonist win. Because knowing that you always win is boring. – user5645 Nov 25 '15 at 17:21
  • @VilleNiemi you're right, there is a relevant question here: worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/10939/… Some of the specific suggestions may not work for my villain (mine uses time travel, for example), but I think they are definitely giving me some good ideas to start working with. Thanks a lot! – Kannan Chandrasegaran Nov 27 '15 at 3:06
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Here's the most simple answer to your solution. Plus, I believe it will make your story better over all. More interesting and add facets that you will be able to explore that will surely make your story much better. The simple answer is: Give your antagonist a weakness.

Design the Perfect Weakness For Antagonist

Think about Superman. A difficult character to write conflict for, since he is almost entirely invulnerable. However, the people who created him knew he must have a weakness so they created kryptonite.

Kryptonite Must Be Prevalent In early stories of Superman, they didn't focus enough on his weakness and many readers became bored since he would always triumph.

Flash forward to the Lois & Clark (TV Series) and you'll see that Kryptonite became a prevalent substance found everywhere and used by numerous enemies. It made the Superman story far more compelling.

Every Character Must Have A Weakness

You need to do the same thing with your antagonist. Create some physics of some type where his powers are disabled. How can you weaken his powers? Maybe there is some element the protagonist can imploy to weaken the antagonist. Or, maybe there are certain places the protagonist can go so that the antagonist cannot see the plans your protagonist is making.

I believe this is the simplest solution and yet the best one -- if you create a compelling weakness for your antagonist.
Good luck.

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    I'd add that the weakness should be logically related to his powers. Like if you say that the villain can hurl energy beams with incredible power that destroy anything in their path, a logical weakness is that his energy source is limited so after three shots he has to recharge. If you make his weakness that the energy beams don't work if the villain eats a ham sandwich for lunch, with no explanation of why that should be so, and then the hero sneaks some ham into the villain's roast beef sandwich, the reader will likely quickly realize that you just stuck this in to enable the hero to win. – Jay Nov 25 '15 at 16:52
  • Better yet, find the weakness that's already there and reveal it. Just because they can predict you doesn't mean they can stop you. Figure out the limits and use them. – Tanath Nov 25 '15 at 23:16
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    @SaberWriter Great idea. I'd come up with character weaknesses (ego, obsessiveness, etc), but hadn't thought of giving them a physical/logical weakness. I'll think along these lines and see what I can come up with. Thanks! – Kannan Chandrasegaran Nov 27 '15 at 3:16
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    @Tanath Wow never thought about that. "Just because they can predict you doesn't mean they can stop you." I think that might be the key to the solution. Thanks for the great idea! – Kannan Chandrasegaran Nov 27 '15 at 3:17
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    Related to this suggestion, I came across Sanderson's Second Law yesterday: brandonsanderson.com/sandersons-second-law. The breakdown of three possible kinds of limitations seems pretty useful for my situation. – Kannan Chandrasegaran Nov 28 '15 at 4:58
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"Do you have any ideas for how I can keep writing when I don't yet know the logical solution to a problem the main character is facing? Any ideas for what I could focus on writing, till the idea presents itself?"

Your problem has two aspects, a difficulty specific to your plot and what one might call a motivational aspect.

Regarding the first, I can do more than offer a vague suggestion. If the enemy can perfectly anticipate the hero's choice of what move to make, then the hero must stop choosing what moves to make. Perhaps he could throw a dice or toss a coin or ask random strangers what to do next.

Regarding how to keep writing - don't. Take a break. Clean the house, walk the dog, even talk to your friends and family (desperate times require desperate measures) - but get away from the keyboard. Give your subconscious a chance to work.

  • Lostinfrance - What a great answer! – user16059 Dec 2 '15 at 15:12
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    @YvonneRavenwood don't hesitate to upvote the answers you like :) – noncom Dec 18 '15 at 17:58
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but the story involves an enemy who can perfectly anticipate your moves.

This happened more than once on Leverage (a totally fun Robin Hood heist-of-the-week show; I highly recommend it). The Leverage crew is made of five bad guys who have gone good and run cons to benefit people. Unfortunately, after a while, each person's reputation becomes known, and others can predict their moves.

The episode which might help you is "The Last Dam Job." Nate, the mastermind, hires five other people to do the jobs of his crew. The idea is that the crew has a mastermind, a grifter, a hacker, a hitter, and a thief, but the replacement crew has entirely different patterns and methods than the standard crew, and the bad guys can't anticipate what they don't know.

If your antagonist can predict your protagonist, have your protagonist present as a decoy, while someone else is running the actual operation in the background.

For a simpler example, in Lord of the Rings, Sauron knew who Aragorn was and what he was capable of, and could anticipate and counter the army of Men and allies who battled him at the Black Gate. He didn't know about hobbits, and nobody suspected that any individual hobbit was capable of such strength and sacrifice. The hobbits were the real key to defeating him.

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    Just checked out Leverage on wikipedia then searched for it on Netflix. It's on there. I watched first 10 minutes of first episode. Looks like a great show. Thanks. – raddevus Nov 26 '15 at 3:33
  • I've seen a few episodes of The Librarians, another John Rogers show, but haven't seen Leverage. Will definitely check it out, thanks! – Kannan Chandrasegaran Nov 27 '15 at 3:09
  • @KannanChandrasegaran The Librarians is Leverage's brilliant younger cousin. Definite resemblance in tone, structure, and banter; not the same aims. Christian Kane is on both as well. – Lauren Ipsum Nov 27 '15 at 12:24
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We could discuss specific solutions to your problem, but I think the general answer is: The ending of a story should be a surprise to the reader ... but not to the writer.

I wouldn't spend a lot of time on a story where I have no idea how to make it end. If you come up with an interesting problem for the hero to solve, that's great. That can be a good start to a story. But you need to know the solution before you start serious writing. Otherwise, you have no idea where you're going. If you write half the story before you know how it's going to end, then when you finally do think of an ending, it's quite possible that you'll find that much of what you've written doesn't work and has to be thrown out.

A sufficiently long story can have side plots and character development, but if you don't know where you're going, how do you know what direction to head in?

I'd step back and think of a solution before proceeding. If you can't think of one, throw out the idea and come up with a different problem.

  • That's great advice. I have an idea of how to end the story (something similar to Lauren Ipsum's idea of using a decoy), but I'm having trouble building up some conflicts in the middle. I'd like the hero and villain to clash a couple times before the final battle. The hero tries some things out, has some small successes, but she also fails and the villain gains the upper hand, leading into the climax. It's those conflicts I'm trying to figure out. – Kannan Chandrasegaran Nov 27 '15 at 3:36
  • Mainly, I don't want the ending be the first time the two characters meet. I want them to spar (physically or mentally) leading up to that final fight, to build up their relationship. I'm having trouble keeping my hero alive through those conflicts, since she's facing a prescient villain. – Kannan Chandrasegaran Nov 27 '15 at 3:37
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Worldbuilding SE can help you with a specific solution to your logic problem, but in terms of writing I'll offer a general solution to how to solve such a problem.

If you're not sure how to move the plot from point A to point C via point B, then don't focus primarily on the plot for the solution. You can try to focus on how you will develop your characters, relationships, or even just the setting through that time.

If your protagonist is cowardly at point A, and brave at point C, then think about what happens at point B to make this character overcome their fears and start to develop their character.

If a couple is married at point A and divorced at point C, think about what might have happened at point B to cause their marriage to break down.

Allow the development of the plot to come from the development of the characters, rather than the other way round.

This doesn't need to happen all of the time, but I find that when I am stuck for something interesting that should happen to move my story along, I think about how my characters will move along, and this helps me to think about what should happen plot-wise in order for the characters to move along in that direction.

  • I think that's a great idea. I'm going to try and work on the character arcs of the main characters, and maybe that'll give me some ideas for the conflicts and solutions that can take them in that direction. Thanks! – Kannan Chandrasegaran Nov 27 '15 at 3:26
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If you're only doing the treatment right now, then why not spend some time writing a bit of the actual screenplay? Even if you end up not using it, you might learn more about your characters and/or setting that could solve your problem. According to legend, the screenwriters of Casablanca were unsure of how the central love triangle would resolve until right before shooting was scheduled to start.

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Sometimes I find that it helps to move onto a different project. Once the pressure is off, you may find ideas come more easily and you can return to this story later.

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Make your protagonist work hard himself to solve the problem of winning! Readers will love that, better than if the solution is easy. In your particular case, the enemy can predict the protagonist's actions. The protagonist should try hard to discover how the enemy can do that. If the predictions are based on a telepathy ability, then the protagonist could try hard to think of false actions (actions not really intended) in order to fool the enemy with wrong information. Then, the enemy will be misled, and take wrong actions or go to wrong places!

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