sometimes i get really really tempted to finally just bang out an essay on virtual economies because i want an excuse to talk about how backwards, restrictive, unintuitive, inconvenient, and twisted the current premium item system on neopets is because its one of the worst things ive ever seen in my life and is likely one of the main reasons the site has stagnated so much
Any advice on how to write a heist story something like oceans Eleven?
Well, you can start by watching Ocean’s Eleven, and Ocean’s Eleven, and then Leverage, and then Burn Notice, and then The A-Team, and then Mission: Impossible, and then all the other heist stories like The Italian Job or Heat. Watch, read, uncover as many stories about criminals as you can from fiction to nonfiction to reading security analyst blogs. Read the spy memoirs, the thief memoirs, the fake ones and the real ones. Check out magicians, hypnotists, card tricks, and sleight of hand. Watch the making ofs and director’s commentaries looking for clues behind the thought process of these stories. The hows and the whys as you look into the research they did. Burn Notice, for example, is famous for using stunt props and technological rigs that work in real life. Like using cell phones to create cheap bugs on the go.
The worlds of criminal fiction and spy fiction rely on being able to present (or convincingly fake) a world which feels real. A heist is all about exploitation. So, you need a world with security structures to exploit. You’ve got to know how things work before you can craft a way to break them. Social engineering, hacking, and every other criminal skill is about breaking the systems in place. So, you’ve got to get a baseline for how law enforcement and security analysts work. What security systems are set up to look like. The ways we go about discouraging thieves. Better yet how people behave. Real, honest to god human behavior.
So, you know, pick somewhere in order to start your research. Get an idea of what you want write about stealing, then learn everything about the object, the museum, the city, the country, and its customs as you can.
If you’re setting a heist in a futuristic or fantasy setting then luck you, you get to make all of it up.
Learning the plot structure and conventions of the heist genre is the first step. This means watching lots and lots of heist movies, shows, and reading books. Over time, as you become better at critical analysis, you’ll begin to see specific story structures and character archetypes emerge.
The Heist Story is a genre. Like every other genre, it comes with its own structure, cliches, archetypes, plots, and genre conventions which necessitate the narrative. The better grasp you have of those, the better you’ll be at writing a heist.
For example, a heist story like Ocean’s Eleven relies on a collection of thieves rather than a single individual. The character types are as follows:
The Pointman- Your planner, strategist, team leader, and the Jack of All Trades. Can also be called the Mastermind. They’re the one who can take the place of anyone on the team should they fall through. They’re not as good as a specialist, but they’re very flexible. Narratively, he plans the cons and subs in where he’s needed.
The Faceman- Your experienced Grifter, here for all your social engineering needs. These guys talk their way in.
The Infiltrator - Your cat burglar or break-in artist. Basically, the conventional genre thief.Your Parker, Catwoman, Sam Fisher, or Solid Snake. The stealth bastards, they’re all about silent in, out, and playing acrobatic games with the lasers.
The Hacker - The electronics and demolitions specialist. Usually this is the guy in the van overseeing stuff remotely. Your Eye in the Sky. Their skill set can be split up and swapped around as necessary.
The Muscle - The one who is good at fighting. They’re combat focused characters, usually with mercenary and special forces backgrounds. Though, that’s optional.
The Wheelman - The one who handles the getaway. They’re your often overlooked transport specialists. It’s not just that they can drive, they’re skilled at getting lots of people around, figuring out how to move your valuables, and exiting hostile cities or countries undetected. They get the team in and they get them out.
For an example of these archetypes, I’m going to use Leverage. Nathan Ford, The Pointman (technically, he’s written like a Faceman). Sophie Devereaux , The Faceman. Parker, the Infiltrator. Hardison, the Hacker. Eliot, the Muscle. They all take turns being the Wheelman.
Other examples like Burn Notice: Michael Westen, the Pointman. Sam Axe, the Faceman. Fiona, the Muscle. They all take turns with explosives, Michael will invariably take all the roles during the course of the show.
Ocean’s Eleven has multiple variants of these archetypes, all broken down and mixed up.
You can mix and match these qualities into different individuals or break them apart like in Ocean’s Eleven, and more than one character can fill more than one role, but that’s the basic breakdown. For example, your hacker doesn’t need to be a guy in a van overlooking the whole security grid. One guy or girl with a cell phone can sit in the lobby of a building with an unsecured wireless network and crack the security. Welcome to the 21st century. The skills don’t necessarily need to take the specific expected shape.
What you do need is the basic breakdown: You need someone to plan the con, you need someone to be your face or grifter, you need someone to break in, you need someone to watch the security/electronics, you need muscle to back you up, and someone’s got to cover the getaway.
These shift depending on your plan, but this is the expected lineup for a heist narrative. The first step of a heist narrative is not the plan because we don’t have one yet. We’ve got an idea. Pick your target. Maybe it’s a famous painting. Maybe it’s a casino. Maybe it’s a rare artifact from a private investor’s collection loaned to a museum for a short period of time. Maybe it’s art stolen by the Nazis during WWII. Whatever it is, figure it out.
The next step is simple. If you want the thing, you’ve got to find a way to get it. This is a big job, your standard thief won’t be able to pull it off alone. So, you gotta go recruiting. Get your team together. Make sure to establish the goals of the different members for joining. Who they are. Their pedigree. One might be an old flame or an old enemy. This is where we lay out some character driven subplots.
When everyone’s together, we’ve got to lay out the plan. Before we have a plan though, we need to establish where the object is and the issues in getting it. Why this has never been done before. So, what are the challenges? Invariably, an object worth a great deal of money will have a lot of security protecting it. Figure out what that security is, who the item belongs to, what sort of retribution do the thieves face beyond what they might expect. Lasers, pressure plates, cameras, security, other career criminals, mob bosses, the rich and powerful, whatever.
After that: How do you get it? Then you’ve got to plan the con, while taking everything into account.
Then, We prep the Con. There will be steps to take before the con can be put into place, your characters taking their positions in plain sight. Stealing whatever pieces you need to make it work. Casing the joint. Etc.
Then: Run the Con. This is the part with the actual stealing. Better known as the first attempt. Things go well, there may be a few mistakes, but things are going well and then we…
Encounter Resistance. While running the con, something goes wrong, pieces fall apart, the thieves come close to success but the object gets moved and they suddenly need a new plan. New information may pop up, it may be one of your artists was running a con of their own separate from the rest.
If there’s a double cross in the works then this may be when and where it lands.
We’re ready now, so it’s time hit up: Steal the Thing, Round Two. Your characters put their new plan into play and get about thieving the object of their desire.
Lastly: The Get Away. This is the part where your thieves make for the hills with their stolen treasure. This can be short or long depending on the kind of story you’re telling and other double crosses may occur here. It could be the end of the story or the beginning of a new heist.
Heist stories are like mystery novels. They’re all about sleight of hand and misdirection. You’ve got to keep just enough information on the table to keep your audience on the hook, and just enough information off the table to surprise them later on the twist. Yet, when they go back to re-read the novel again, they’ll find the answer was there all along. They just didn’t see it coming.
If anything, learning how to write a well-done heist or a mystery or any kind of novel in this genre will teach you a lot about how to manage your foreshadowing and create superb plot twists. Like any good con, you need to lay out all the conflicting pieces where people can see them, let them draw their own conclusions, withhold the critical context, and then hit them with the whammy.
Like lots of audiences, new writers (and even some old ones) can get distracted by the shock and awe. They see they’re impressed by the conclusion, not the lay-up. If you want to write any kind of fiction, you need to learn to see past the curtain and pay attention to the critical pieces leading into an important moment rather than the moment itself.
Good writing isn’t modular, you can’t just strip out pieces and run with them because you’ll end up missing the crucial, sometimes innocuous pieces that ensured the scene worked. Like the Victorian Hand Touch, every moment between the two leads and most of their scenes with secondary players are working for that singular instance of eventual, gleeful catharsis.
If you’ve got a plot twist coming in your novel, every sentence from the second you start writing is working towards it. You start laying out your pieces, funneling in your tricks, and playing with misdirection. You may have multiple twists, to cover yourself, divert your audience, congratulate them for successfully guessing your ploy, and reassure their initial suspicions before catching them again on the upswing.
The clever writer is as much a con artist as their characters. The only difference is the target of their con is their audience. The tricks in their bag are narrative ones, and they work with the understanding that it doesn’t matter if someone guesses the end so long as they’re entertained by the journey. A great story stays entertaining long after the audience has figured out all the twists.
So, don’t get caught up in Red Herrings and frightened about not being able to outsmart other people. Tell a good story with conviction and heart about a bunch of crooks out to steal their heart’s desire.
before people sneer out their butts when john green’s new book “turtles all the way down” comes out, allow me to remind u 1.john’s work has always been written for teens. don’t rip into teens for reading fiction that was written for them and not necessarily u, also tatwd centers on a young girl living with ocd (a protagonist i kno my ocd ass would’ve benefited from a lot as a teen). 2. before u jump on john for romanticizing ocd, keep in mind he has always been open about his struggles with severe ocd and 3. his work has always centered on the idea of dismantling the way society romanticizes the suffering of young people vs. the way their suffering is actually treated by those around them and how this suffering twists the lives of those around us whether we like it or not. maybe that’s not your interpretation and that’s okay but if ur not a fan of john green’s work, don’t be an ass to the people who are
hello friends it’s midnight and i have had a drink so let me throw something out there at you
i bet harry and louis are like. the most tactile humans on earth together. like to the point of it being annoying if it was anyone else but it’s them so it’s not
because!!! they’ve spent their formative years being told not to touch/look/interact too much with each other, so i bet they come home at the end of a long day and sit pressed right up against each other, ankles all the way up to shoulders, harry’s head on louis’ shoulder. maybe in total silence, or just watching something stupid on tv, or fucking around on their phones, doesn’t really matter what they’re doing as long as they’re just able to be together
At first, Lance had thought they were beautiful. He wasn’t exactly sure when they got there or even how they got there, all he knew was that they were lovely.
The first time he noticed them was when he was changing out of his pajamas and saw a sprinkle of blue gracing his stomach in the mirror. Amazed, he had glanced down and stare at the light blue freckles that dusted his stomach, like a sky full of stars. He remembered how they seemed to glint under the soft lighting in his room like jewels.
He also remembered the pain that came soon afterwards.
As soon as his fingertips touched the marks, they began to glow harshly and that was when the stinging began. It felt as if someone was stabbing him with a million thumbtacks, which was not a fun feeling. Yelping, Lance immediately stopped touching his stomach, dulling the sting of the marks. For a second Lance thought he was still asleep because when did freckles stab you? He was pretty sure that was not normal.
“Paladins! You are needed in the control room, immediately! I repeat, you are needed in the control room immediately!”
Sparing one last look at the blue marks on his skin, Lance quickly pushed away thoughts on the freckles and focused on the task at hand, getting his paladin gear on in two seconds. After all, it was just a little pain right? And it wasn’t like his hand was going to be on his stomach anyway, so what’s the problem?
It only took a week for the freckles to span across his entire abdomen. Which presented a problem as they team didn’t exactly have time to deal with the marks, especially with the big diplomatic mission they were embarking on soon. Not like the marks cared, they just seemed to cause more trouble.
Ever since he first noticed them, there’s always been this dull sting in the back of his mind, just barely noticeable but always there. Not only that, Lance seemed to be… freezing things now? Of course he wasn’t turning anything to solid ice but if his hand lingered to long in a certain area, tendrils of frost would begin to dance across the surface (The first time that happened freaked him out just a tad). The freckles also began to glow more often, mostly at random times. He would just be chilling on the couch and BAM, his chest was now a light up display (yet another thing that freaked him out).
The logical decision would be to tell the team, but how could he? Sure the diplomatic mission was a huge deal, but that wasn’t the only reason Lance wasn’t coming clean about the strange things that were happening. This was his chance to prove his worth to his team, that he was more than just Lance-the-jokester or Lance-the-screwup. That he was worthy of being the Blue Paladin and of Blue herself.
He could live with a little pain and some weird ice magic if it meant he finally had a thing.
It took a matter of days before the freckles spread to his arms, stopping a few inches short of his wrists. They were currently on the planet Eyena, a relatively peaceful planet that were known for their mines and the valuable ores within them. Lance couldn’t mess up this meeting, this alliance with a species that could help the team immensely. He wasn’t that selfish.
It wasn’t like the marks would listen to him though. The pain only worsened and suddenly everything he touched with his hands froze. He was forced to wear gloves constantly to hide the power he now had, the delicate loops of blue that now covered them. The pain was constant and even Blue began to worry at this point. However, Lance put up his brave face and pushed through it all, the pain, the ache, the emptiness…
It felt like only hours before Lance could feel the chill of ice spreading across his body, practically crawling up his throat. There was a ringing in his ears now and he somehow managed to freeze the gloves he wore as well. The only good thing was that the meetings were almost over and soon Lance could be back on the castle, away from prying eyes to finally fix whatever was happening.
Until then, he nodded along with whatever one of the Eyenians were saying, playing his part as the Blue Paladin and knowing he was slowly, finally becoming worthy of actually being the Blue Paladin.
How minutes had flown by? Lance couldn’t recall what had happened in the past few moments, as he was now in his room back at the castle. It had only been a few minutes right? Lance could feel his breath quickening as he glanced wildly around, how did he get here in just a few minutes? The room seemed to grow colder with each sharp intake he took, the bed beginning to freeze beneath him. Had it been more than just a few minutes? The ringing was now a roaring storm in his ears. It couldn’t have been than just a few? Lance could feel his hands shaking, the marks glowing a bright blue as the ice spread farther, faster around the room. It had been just a few minutes. Maybe two or three? Lance felt like tearing his hair out, he felt so confused at the moment, so out of place, out of time.
Was it only seconds now? How many seconds had flown by? He knew his room wasn’t always this cold and shiny, and it certainly hadn’t been a second ago. The marks burned harshly, and was that someone calling his name? It couldn’t have been. Because only a second ago he had been fine, he is fine, is he fine?