Lunatic Space Pirates Falling in Love During Free Fall.
Okay, so the first thing I do is stare at those words for a few... minutes. In that time, phrases start to separate.
Space Pirates, for example tell me the genre. We're talking scifi. And pirate means thief to me, so we know the character's motivation is to steal something so rare they had to go to space to find it.
The free fall is interesting to me. I don't think it's falling if there isn't something to crash into, so the location of my story will be far above a planet. A dangerous not earth planet, so if they survive the fall, there's still a story there. And since they are in space to steal something, it could be the planet that houses the thing they are trying to steal, because the very thing a thief fears more than death, is getting caught.
So a story is starting to emerge. High above a red swirling planet, something bad happens to the ship, and brings the notice, (and weapon fire) of the people on the planet below, so these thieves silently escape their ship, and then something else bad happens, and they are cut off from control, so they are free falling to certain death on this red swirling planet below them, and even if they survive the crash, (and the fall) they might be caught, but still they are hopeful that there's a chance for them to steal this thing they really need, and getting away.
Okay so now I have to figure out what this thing is, and why they really need it... but I got nothing.
Maybe to do that I should go back to the prompt.
Falling in love reflects a story arc. It's a process with a beginning, middle and end. It also reflects the action of the story which is falling to their deaths.
And then there is the word lunatic.
To be honest, lunatic was the word that made my creative side perk up on the very first reading, so I saved it for last, so I can savor it. I love stories where the POV character is slightly crazy. I love exploring madness in all its forms.
And falling towards one's death is a high stress environment. Anyone could go crazy in the vacuum of space.
So this is where my twist happens.
POV Character is all alone, trying to retrieve something...a medicine, a get out of jail free card, something necessary to save the person they will be falling in love with. Because the story arc needs a beginning, it's a person who the POV character finds slightly annoying, but still is attached to. They aren't in love yet, or at least they don't know yet that they are in love. Something goes wrong, and draws attention of the antagonist, and POV character could run away, but must sacrifice their own safety in order to try to get this thing for this annoying person who they are probably cursing out right about now.
New plan. New disaster, and again the character chooses to keep going instead of finding their own safety, and disaster number three happens, and POV person is falling uncontrollably in space towards certain death. Attempt after attempt to save themselves fail, but eventually the hero get the spinning under control, right when cracks appear across the visor. And the stress sends POV character into a descent of madness. They see this annoying person they are trying to save falling with them, which is impossible since they are on their deathbed, or imprisoned somewhere, and after telling them all the ways they are stupid, their hands meet, and the person falling realizes that they can't live without this person. There a joke or a moment of beauty, trying to distract from the danger, and the POV wishes the person could be there for real. Then right before an insane delusion of a kissing scene, or an almost kiss, there's an interruption. Shrapnel, or a bullet, or pain, and the person wakes up from their insanity, tries one last Hail Mary attempt to save themselves, which doesn't work, and they realize they are about to die, and then one of the early attempts finally works, and last second they are able to save themselves...or maybe they won't. I love tragic endings too.
And now the last thing I decide. The character. I always choose the character last, because I need to know what they will lose before I decide who gets to lose it. Because falling in love, for someone who wants to fall in love, isn't a sacrifice, so it's not something to lose. Falling towards death is really bad for someone with a fear of heights.
So this is a person with a history. Someone broke this person's heart, or trust, and they don't want to trust anyone ever again. This is a person who has cut ties with their history, maybe even with their former name and planet, and left on a space ship, so that because of relative time, everyone they know is dead by now. So this person is seriously prickly... Or maybe they aren't. Maybe this is a person who faced heartbreak, but didn't let it break them. Maybe they are nice to everyone, except this one person who reminds them of the person who broke them. Or maybe they were friends, and this person thought it meant something more.
Time to make some decisions.
My first instinct is to make this person a girl. I love the dichotomy of a girl saving a boy, and then realizing she's fallen for him, but... I don't know, it feels done, like that is a story I've told before, so...yup. I'm making this POV character a dude. And yes, I know a boy saving a girl has also been told a thousand times, but not by me, so I'd rather surprise myself.
So it's a guy... A guy who has lost everything, and still chooses to smile. He's smart, and resourceful, and not afraid to steal, so that means he thinks everything sort of belongs to him. He's confident, but afraid of heights, and afraid of attachments. Now he sounds like Captain Kirk, so I've got to change something.
He doesn't have any legs. No, he's covered in acid burns, from the thing that made him not trust people. No that might make it too dark. He needs more flaws, and more humanity.
Got it. He has a tangled family history, and HE made a mistake that made him lose everything. HE hurt someone who trusted him, and HE is carrying so much guilt he doesn't feel lovable.
Except maybe by this girl. There's this girl he met somewhere who makes him laugh, who makes him into someone kinder. When he's with her, he's someone he can like. He knows he could pursue things with her, except that he doesn't want to put her in the position where he could hurt her. Although he trusts her, he still doesn't trust himself. So he walked away, even though he knew it meant hurting her, it was the lesser kind of hurt, the kind she could survive.
But when he left, something bad happened, and she got caught up into something, a scheme I think to earn enough money to start a different life. She was caught by the same people who own said treasure, who live on this planet. I.E. The antagonist.
Oh, a love triangle. The girl is caught, and the guy who owns the treasure is super handsome.
That's been done. The girl is caught, and the LADY who owns the treasure is surprisingly kind.
Erm. The antagonist (no gender yet) needs the treasure for a reason. It's medicine? No, that's too easy. It's something terribly important, like the last peg to an engine, or the last chance to go to this planet where the Antagonist's family is. Erm. It's a valuable piece of art painted over a sheet of unobtainium. It's a thing of tremendous value, but is sentimental value to the antagonist. It's a person, the child of the antagonist, who was born with amazing abilities. It's an animal, the last of its kind, and its bones when ground become a drug that is so rare and worshiped, because it gives the user magical abilities.
Oh. I like that.
So the Antagonist, (no gender, because it's an alien who has a different kind of gender than humans recognize), is a protector of this really rare swimming animal. It breeds them, and then sells the bones, but a strange disease caused most of the animals to die, so there's only a few left. The antagonist owns the entire planet, and has enough resources for major weapons, and security to protect the animals. When the girl was caught, she was going to be given to the animal as food, but the animal protected her. Once bonded with this strange swimming creature, she was given the job to start taking care of this animal.
So she doesn't want to be rescued.
Okay, so now we have a story that is complicated enough to start to plot.
My next step would be to create and plot out secondary characters. And since this story just moved beyond the free fall, the hero will survive, and will need help. so maybe the pilot of the ship, other Animal caretakers, Allies on the planet that can help hero reach the girl-- maybe an ally who's purposes run cross-ways from the hero. Then I'd figure out the rules of the world, the way the science and technology of the world work, aspects of drug culture that have shifted society, figure out the moral line of the characters, and then I'd figure out what a happy ever after would look like. Oh, and figure out how long the hero's insanity will last, hopefully a good long time. Because...yummy.
Then I'd plot out archetypes.
Hero- Dude McDudehead (Goal to save the girl, and steal the bones in order to release the girl)
Antagonist- Alien Druglord (Goal to protect its creatures, and its bottom line)
Sidekick- Pilot of Ship, friendly but at a distance. (Goal to help friend, and get the payday)
Skeptic - Ally on planet. (Only in it for the payday)
Guardian- GIRL McLoveinterest (Moral line, Goal to protect Dude McDudehead and Protect the Creatures)
Contagionist- Ally on Planet who wants to take down the Antagonist, by any means necessary, and will betray hero
Emotion- The Animal itself. Strong emotional telepathy.
Reason- Girl McLoveInterest's friend and fellow caretaker. (Possible love triangle. Does she choose to stay with logical dude and take care of this Animal she loves?)
Then I go through and assign gender to the archetypes.
Sidekick, Skeptic, and Contagionist all need genders and ages. Let's make them all girls, because we can.
Sidekick is an older lady, like Mags. She's the touchstone of the story. Common, kind, loyal.
Skeptic, is a sassy alien type. Short. Fierce. Lots of guns, bombs and knives. Swears in her native tongue.
Contagionist. She's the Mrs. Brown of the story. Human. Ambitious. Knits. She's a plotter. Widowed with a significant fortune. Former buyer of Whatever Dude McDude was selling.
Then I do some character analysis, and figure out all the specific details about these characters. They need a name, age, a nationality, a backstory, character quirks, catchphrases, personal style, fears, inside jokes, attachments.
Then I'd plot the full story from the Dude's POV, The Girl's POV, the Antagonist's POV, and the Contagionist's POV. And possibly Reason's if I choose to go the love triangle route. Which I will.
There's a good chance you've started skimming by this point, if not stopped reading altogether. I'm betting plotting isn't as interesting to read as it is to write.
But in case you are reading these words, I thank you. This is how I plot. I take an idea and twist it, until I find something that has been done before, and then I twist it again, and again, and then again. I find one failure after another, and choose my hero based on what they have to lose, because the common theme of all my stories is making the absolute worst thing happen to the character so that they can survive it. The hero must be someone who fails, and sacrifices, and keeps going.
For more Space Pirate plots, check out these by...