Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Evil Overlord Devises a Plot

evilsiblings.jpgNeed some plotting help for your NaNo or other project?

Teresa Nielsen Hayden, editor at Tor Books, gave a lecture on "Stupid Plotting Tricks" at the Viable Paradise Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers' Workshop. Part of the lecture was way to use the cliches from the evil overlord lists: The Evil Overlord Devises a Plot From her lecture:
Start with some principles:
  • A plot doesn't have to be new. It just has to be new to the reader.
  • In fact, it doesn't even have to be new to the reader. It just has to get past him. (It helps if the story's moving fast and there's lots of other interesting stuff going on.)
  • A plot device that's been used a thousand times may be a cliche, but it's also a trick that works. That's why it keeps getting used.
  • Several half-baked ideas can often be combined into one fully-cooked one.
  • If you have one plot presented three ways, you have three plots. If you have three plots presented one way, you have one plot. (I stole this principle from Jim Macdonald's lecture on how to really generate plots, which is much better than my lecture on stupid plot tricks.)
  • Steal from the best.
  • Looked at from this angle, the Internet's various lovingly-compiled cliche lists are a treasury of useful plot devices. The instructions that follow are one way to use them.
And she goes on to describe generating numbers to pick ideas from the list but in the paragraph below that is a little tiny "here" that will generate some for you. Here's some generated ones:

Advice for the Evil Overlord:
If my Legions of Terror are defeated in a battle, I will quietly withdraw and regroup instead of launching a haphazard mission to assassinate the hero.
Advice for the Hero:
I will never allow fashion sense to prevent me from carrying whatever is useful or needful for the Heroic Struggle.
Advice for the Bad Auxiliary Character (Evil Overlord's Wicked but Beautiful Daughter):
If you have siblings, do not trust them. They'll only use you shamelessly. Of course if they're stupid enough to trust you, use them shamelessly.
Advice for the Good Auxiliary Character (Innocent Bystander):
Do not split up to search for the monster.
Further Evil (Advice on Ultimate Weapons/Spells):
I will also refrain from using the Ultimate Weapon for simply offing the Hero. If it's really the UW, the Hero's efforts will come to naught anyway.
Murphy's Laws of Combat:
  • The most delicate component will be dropped.
  • Success occurs when no one is looking; failure occurs when the General is watching.
  • Everything goes wrong at once.

Also funny, but not included in her generator are "Things We Learned at the Movies". Here's the full list that's she's drawing from Evil Overlord Lists (including Murphy's Laws of Combat and Things We Learned at the Movies).

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