The Journey of Your First SCP: Part II - Narratives & Originality
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PART I:
Introduction & Ideation
PART II:
Narrative & Originality
PART III:
Drafting & Critique

Fleshing Out Your Idea: The Anomalous As Tools

Man is a tool-using animal. Without tools he is nothing, with tools he is all.

— Thomas Carlyle

There is nothing on Earth more interesting than people. The connections people make to one another, the motivations that lead a people to act in certain ways, tales of love and loss. Stories like these have been told for generations, and it's no coincidence that the ancient stories that are still around today almost exclusively focus on people. Your anomaly should be the catalyst for human interaction, a tool that leads to a greater story. In short:

Don't tell me what your object does. Show me what your object means.

Authors have given various names to the various expressions of the same problem: Generic Magical Item, Monster Manual Entry, Thing That Kills You, etc. None of them provide a way for the reader to engage with mentally or emotionally, making them less than interesting. How can this be fixed? By attaching a story to your anomaly.

Answering the implicit questions that you raise when developing your anomaly allows us to dig a little deeper into making an engaging narrative piece for the reader. Here are some questions you may want to ask yourself:

Why does this exist?

Most things don't simply just exist. The reasons why someone would expend effort into making something are limitless, and usually a great jumping-off point for a narrative. Was it made to solve a problem, only to backfire? Was it made to hurt someone? Answering why an anomaly exists provides a strong resolution to a story and acts as a good conclusion.

How is it used?

Even if something exists for no reason, humans have a knack for figuring out ways to use things for their own benefit (even if it isn't the best use). Things can be used selfishly, selflessly and with good or bad intentions. If this thing exists: what does it open the door to?

What does it do?

This is more than just the anomaly, it's the interactions that it provokes. How do the actions of the anomaly affect those around it? If the object is sentient, maybe it has its own desires and creature comforts, or people that it prefers to talk to more than others. Who looks after the object and are they kind or cruel? Small glimpses of character can add more to an anomaly than you may think.

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The above questions are the magic bullets to solving issues with good ideas with no substance. Adding a "why this exists" backstory can turn a Monster Manual Entry into a heart-wrenching tale of betrayal. Adding a "how it is used" narrative can turn a Generic Magical Item into a wholesome story of a broken family reuniting. Adding a "what does it do" sub-plot to a Thing That Kills You can weave it into a thrilling character study.

Section Summary

  • Your anomaly is a tool. Your anomaly can provide unique moments of character expression, or solve a problem. Find the nail for your hammer.

  • Think about how your anomaly affects those around it. Even the most mundane people affect their peers (both positively and negatively!) every day. It's human connections we find most interesting, after all.


Scrutinising Your Concept: Final Checks Before Liftoff

It's the execution of ideas that separates the sheep from the goats.

— Sue Grafton


It doesn't matter if your anomaly has been done before. It doesn't matter if another SCP, GOI format or tale revolves around a similar premise.

I've seen dozens upon dozens of fledgeling authors lamenting in various side chats that "all the good ideas are already gone" and "I can't think of anything original", despite these being the same people that constantly come up with great ideas but never capitalise on them. This is because they are too overly concerned about the uniqueness of their anomaly. Consider the following table:

Item # Rating Date Created
SCP-093 +1880 26 July, 2008
SCP-2317 +1388 8 February, 2014
SCP-2935 +924 18 July, 2016

All of these SCP objects have the main core story: A group of people go into another world and find strange things there.

When djkaktusdjkaktus was writing SCP-2935, he knew that he was writing a doorway to another world, and he knew that he was going to have to contend with the #7 and #15 top rated articles of all time due to the similarities of the concept. I'm positive that when the connection came into his mind he smirked and wrote it anyway without any further hesitation. Why? Because it doesn't matter if your concept is the same if you take it in a unique direction. I'll say it again.

It doesn't matter if your concept is the same if you take it in a unique direction.

So often I see people ask people in chat if "x concept has been done before" only to be spammed with a barrage of links and consequently moan about how hard it is to write for the site. If you've got an idea for a narrative in your mind (which, if you've followed the guide so far, you should), please consider the following writing tip that I often see attributed to Doctor CimmerianDoctor Cimmerian.

Tell me your whole SCP idea (not just the anomaly, the whole thing. Story and all.) in one sentence with the only punctuation being a comma and a period.

This is an incredible piece of advice. Remember earlier the exercise about defining anomalies in a few words? This is the next logical step of the advice: define the whole thing in a sentence. If you can't, you may have over-complicated your design idea. If you can, congratulations, you just might have a great idea on your hands.

If no other work on-site matches the sentence description of your article, you're in luck. I said earlier that 093, 2317 and 2935 are similar in concept, but the execution of that concept is all that matters. If I were to do the sentence summary of these articles, it would look something like this:

SCP-093 — Mirror anomaly leads to an exploration-based thriller of strange worlds.
SCP-2317 — The world is going to end, so we might as well carry on as usual.
SCP-2935 — Everything is dead, even things that shouldn't be.

This is, of course, a highly reductionist take on the articles but I think it proves my point. Different things can arise from the same starting point, which makes each of the articles valid even if they have
superficial similarities.

Section Summary

  • If your idea is similar to another idea don't scrap it. Instead, take it someplace unique.

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