I call it "The Unlimiter"

I'm still alive and have returned from an epic two-week road trip with my family. I have also replaced the starter in my other car, but I only mention that because I'm so proud I actually did it.

So, I'm starting work on a new novel. Except that it's not really new. I've gone back to the original concept for my second novel (called at various times Charism, The Qualia of Magic, The Sense, and In Memory) and am working on constructing a new story around the same characters and premise. This stirs up a lot of mixed feelings for me.

Mostly, what makes me think I can pull something better from my original idea?

I know what to ask. I know whose story it is. I got the other story I wanted to tell out of my system in a different novel, Drivers.

And now everyone has clear and compelling motivations. Let's see if I can sum them up:

Brian makes superheroes. Occasionally a supervillain. He removes the natural limits from the talents that people already have.

For example, Esha was born with a gift for empathy. With Brian's unique sort of help, she can now read and control other people's emotions. She can make you feel whatever she wants you to feel. This really helps in her summer job as a fundraiser for a local non-profit.

But Esha doesn't believe Brian has anything to do with her success. To prove it to her, he removes the limits from another fundraiser, Peter, who has a gift for speaking.

Then Brian meets Leah, a girl he knew in middle school but hasn't seen for years. He unknowingly removed the limits from her memory, and now she blames him for ruining her life. But Esha's new ability to manipulate emotions also allows her to undo what Brian did, reigning in Leah's memory to something more manageable.

In other words, she can unmake Brian's superheroes.

And that's a good thing, because Peter's abusing his new power. When his fundraising tactics turn dirty, he frames Esha and discredits the whole organization. Then he sets his sights on local government.

No one can win an argument against Peter—except Esha. And she's not about to let him get away with what he did to her.

Leah recognizes what's happening to Peter and Esha. They're losing control of their talents and their mental health. The best thing for everyone is for Esha to undo Peter's unlimiting and then try to undo her own.

The problem is that Peter's too dangerous for Esha to go near him. He knows she's the only thing standing between him and eventual world domination, and he'd just as soon see her dead.

Brian can only watch as Peter gets scarier and Esha changes into someone else.

The solution seems clear. Brian must accept responsibility and eliminate Peter—even if that means spending life in prison and eternity in hell.

The only other way is too risky. Leah would have to risk insanity and Esha would have to risk dying. What would Brian risk? Living with himself if it all went wrong, knowing he'd be more at fault than ever as Peter took over the world, Esha was buried, and Leah got locked away.

For Brian, that's far worse than death or prison, and probably worse than hell.

So that's the story. If you happen to know of a song that sort of fits with this plot, please tell me what it is! I'm having a hard time making a playlist.


  1. Intense.
    You've talked about this story before and I wondered where you were with it.
    I'm NO help for a playlist, but I'll keep it in mind.

    I'm using half of YOUR playlist for my latest one, so maybe I'll be able to return the favor :D

    YAY on the starter. I totally would have shared that, too.

  2. Wow! Lots of twists and turns. Funhouse like. I listen to whatever happens to be on the radio at the time. Sorry.

  3. This is better because Brian is active and aware. Well not necessarily better, but easier to grasp as a concept. So, more accessible.

    I don't really understand how Esha can undo what Brian did. She just controls emotions whereas he amplifies talents? Maybe she can make it so people have negative feelings about their talents and no longer want to use them? But undo, I don't grok that. Physical/mental actions and emotions are two very different things.

    I like how there's a war between the two, somehow. As a theme in this story. (Logic vs. emotion.) Like the idea that Esha can beat Peter in an argument seems to imply that pathos is superior to ethos/logos, a debate which obviously dates back centuries. I think Aristotle said that pathos was more immediately effective but ethos won the long game.

    And that's what you get when you major in communication.

  4. Doubt (or fear) goes a long way for an emotion, especially as it relates to a person's actions. It can change your entire world.

    And yeah, I haven't thought about the pathos/ethos thing between Esha and Peter recently, but it is interesting that pathos always comes out on top for me. Ten years ago it would have been the reverse.

  5. "Doubt (or fear) goes a long way for an emotion, especially as it relates to a person's actions. It can change your entire world."

    But some people are really, really brave?

    It's an interesting concept, but ultimately it's a psychological theory which isn't quite as strong a foundation as someone amplifying an ability. The latter could work with anyone. The former, it depends on the person. Everyone is different psychologically.

    Let me re-say it like this: She's working with what's already in someone's head, right? Just like Brian is doing. With Brian, that means he can only amplify one thing. With her, she can go all god-like re-creative on their brain chemistry? Tweak emotions that might not have even been there before? It's just not as finely-honed an ability, or at least it doesn't seem that way to me. It's like, too good, too all-encompassing, and it doesn't make sense since Brian was the originator of it. I get that the creator can create something more powerful than himself, but it's usually within the same framework. Her abilities are all over the place.

    Thought: Maybe she can only work with a person's existing emotional weakness, which could be why it's so hard to stop Peter. He's a Type A personality. But then you're really getting psychological.

    ... yeah, I do this same thing with X-Men. It's not you, it's me. I really like this concept. It's very Japanese.

    Also, I'm sure I probably botched your characters right and left. Just think of this as a theoretical essay. Or a blog comment.

  6. Okay, so I'll give you this, it's sleeker. It's definitely more accessible. But if we don't see other novels with the dude stopping bullets I'm gonna sue. For, uh, withholding awesomeness... or something.

    As for the song... the soundtrack from "A Beautiful Mind" comes to, uh, mind. It's sorta related, and besides, James Horner is good for the soul.

  7. Hey Ben- this is much clearer than the last description of this book that I read. I'd love to read it... I'm lost in the pathos/ethos stuff, but it sounds like the kind of thing that I like...
    good job on surviving the road trip/replacing starter too!
    And thanks for your comment on the ol' blog:)

  8. Hey, I like it. It could be better than the original even. I look forward to reading it!


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