The Dead Robots' Society

Writers on Writing


  1. Hey Guys,

    Wanted to give my take on the story idea. Hopefully it will inspire some new thoughts.

    If this were my story, the first thing I would do is make the primary threat the creatures from the other dimension. Rather than an alien invasion type of story, they could be reaching into our dimension in order to gather some resource. They’d be indifferent to the destructive effect it had. I’d have the wilds actually be suction points, and they would have appeared before the fire. The magic could be a side effect and, inadvertently, the only method of fighting back. It could be that the burning was a result of a sacrificial act by another who was like Skyler, but the world took that person to be the cause of the fallout rather than realizing that they had prevented it from being worse. Maybe those who are most strongly affected by the magic can see the aliens (though I would never have them actually communicating….the mystery is stronger without that conversation). The girl in your story could be on the run simply because she is powerful, though I would make her dangerous in that she can’t really control it. I would NOT have an Obi Wan, since that person should be your protagonist if they have the means to save the world. I would have the other prisoner be a child who has much less power, but has figured out some way to control it, and could teach her something vital without being all knowing.

    The older sister would need to keep her morality in check, since (as we saw in Scott Sigler’s Contagious) give too much power to a child and they will use it to dire effect without comprehension of any consequences.

    I’m sure I had more ideas, but that’s what springs to mind. Hope it helps.

  2. I guess this isn’t a huge surprise, but this is reminding me quite a bit of Season 2 Supernatural. The central conflict in that season is that Sam has developed psychic powers and that makes the hunters see Sam as a threat and as one hunter put it to Dean, “fair game.” This seems quite a bit like what Skyler’s problem is. Particularly with a sibling duo running around the United States together, I can’t help but draw the comparison. Was that intentional? Were you thinking about Supernatural?

  3. Love the show guys! I’m glad you guys did another brainstorm podcast. I’m working on a starting a podcast on writing, and have thought of recording brainstorming sessions also. I’d like to see you guys follow up on this after you flush out these ideas. I would assume there is a balance between too many podcasts on brainstorming one story, but it might be helpful to listeners like me to see how you deal with the process.

    Maybe that is best served for the forums, but maybe just updates and what you learned that week would be good at the beginning of the show. Over the years I have wanted more updates on your guys’ work. I was glad you updated us recently on Harbinger and why you thought it didn’t work ultimately. What did you learn in the making of Digital Decay that you plan to implement into your next book? What struggles did you overcome or not overcome that you will be on the lookout for?

    I’d be curious how you outline character growth, if you do, but I also understand you don’t want to give away all the secrets of your book. Outlining is not natural for me, but I hear of authors getting book deals that request an outline, so I wonder if that means I need to learn. I know Terry is not an outliner, but I would be curious how much planning he puts into stages of character growth.

    I liked Bryan’s comments, btw. I think the ultimate antagonist would be the beings from the other dimension, but maybe they are manipulating people on this side and this girl has a special ability to see who they are. That could be part of both her magic and why she is crucial. If you plan a series, this first book could be about defeating the bad guy you were talking about, and then at the end finding out he is only one of many.

  4. Just got a chance to listen. Thanks for the shout out by the way!

    When I was listening to your story idea, I thought it was a great idea. With the characters being as young as they are, it does have the potential for an adolescent novel. The only change you would probably have to do is have the older sibling be a boy and not a girl. It is a preference in kids books to get the young male audience.

    Some things that came to mind when listening to the ideas:

    1) Obi-Wan – If he is to have powers this may conflict the idea of how Skylar got her powers. I love the idea of Skylar getting her ideas at conception or birth – at the moment of zero hour. It could lead to all other children of that exact age gaining abilities and thus making them quite the target and yet limited numbers as well. Which could lead to a mass extermination of the children that age to protect the world..or protection. Saviours rather than sinners.
    But how does Obi-wan get his powers? The idea of making him important to the Preacher (brother, father, whatever) is a great idea. Maybe a sympathizer who had a child Skylar’s age and who was blessed as well, but lost her due to the extermination. He can be the mentor but without the powers, just patience, kindness and love…which may lead to his demise.

    Also what power does Skylar have? What does she show? How is it revealed I am very curious.

    I love this idea of yours. It is almost as if the struggle with the higher powers/inter dimensional beings can be used for the second book. the first book is about the child and her growth. “Neo learns the truth. That he is the one” Definite Hero’s journey stuff.

    Take it for what it is worth. Keep up the great work.

    Rob Williams
    aka Quixote

  5. I’ve just started listening to the podcast (I think this was my third episode) and while you were brainstorming, I just wanted to reach through the computer and share my thoughts with you.
    So –
    Graceland – I’ve never been there, but I’ve heard you describe the location. I understand that you find it to be an inspiring location. I just wanted to remind you that when you pick a real place, there are going to be expectations on the part of the reader. If you name plants and animals – they should be plants and animals that are native to the area (or out of the wilds). If the girls travel, they should encounter plausible landmarks within plausible distances.

    You’re mentor character don’t need to have magic. It could be anyone that teaches her self control – a fighter, a monk, a thief – or anyone that has a skill where a still calm would be useful.

    To develop your story, you’re characters need a goal. Survival is good – but if that’s all they want, you’re going to have a hard time moving the story. It could be acceptance, love, revenge, or just the chance to grow up in a “normal” society. (with your main character being 10 – 12, this could also be in part a coming of age story.)

    The idea of making Skyler the main character but telling the story from the point of view of the older sister is going to be very difficult – unless the story is the older sibling recording the events for posterity. If it were me, I’d want tell the story from the point of view of the main character. Not only is it easier – but it gives you the leverage to put the older sibling in peril and show the inner turmoil of the younger sibling.

    Also – the idea of traveling: You might consider an underground rail road of sorts. Perhaps not everyone hate’s all mages… just those people who don’t hate them keep their opinions to themselves least they be added to the “witch hunt.”

    Finally – the other dimension: I’m curious how you’re going to handle this. Are you going to have two concurrent stories that eventually merge? And if Skyler is the only person who has magic – what kinds of places is she going to need to go to find that information? (who would know?)

    Your story has lots of potential, and I look forward to seeing how you work out the details. Thanks for sharing!

  6. I love these brainstorming sessions, they get me all revved up.

    In keeping with the YA UF feeling, I would suggest that the peoples of the world refer to the forces from another dimension as Angels and as Demons. Maybe they are incurring so infrequently that they are thought of as myths, but maybe they appear in dreams as enchanting or terrifying.

    I really liked Terry’s idea to have Skylar be carrying a connection to both sides of the conflict. That allows you to have not only the Preacher trying to hunt her down, but so can both the Demons and the Angels. That way you can have layers of pursuit and interference from each of the pursuers.

    And finally, I’d suggest that the Preacher survive. Somewhere near the final resolution have him realize that without Skylar, the world will be destroyed. His obsession will destroy everything, so he aids her in the end. Basically, redeem the villain.

    Now, get writing. I want to know what happens next! =D


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