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Story idea: Paranoia

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Demographic age: 12 - 150 (some of us may live a long time)

!You should attribute this story idea, to Dorian Scott Cole.

Concept: A skeptical sailor studies psychology and believes paranoia isn't real. He designs an experiment with himself as the subject, and enlists the help of two others. He can't make it stop. Paranoia and threats become real and he is in danger for his life.

John has recently returned from a tour in the Merchant Marines (worked on civilian cargo and passenger ships) and enters college again. He has to take more psychology courses for his major, and it's a Junior level course in psychology. He doesn't believe that people get psychologically ill. It's "All in their head." If you are strong, you don't get sick. He saw way too many ship passengers who appeared to pamper themselves and worry way too much about trivial things.

Bolstering John's thinking is that recent attempts to repeat psychological experiments has found that 50% of studies can't be replicated. (This is true.) Their findings are questionable, if not bunk. He calls them, "Conspiracy theories" and just as credible.

John has to do a lab in psychology, which is an experimental study on something using his classmates. He decides to do one on paranoia, and he creates the study, and it is immediately rejected by his professor. But by this time he is infatuated with the idea, and decides to do the experiment himself. He will write a magazine article debunking psychological mythology... maybe even write a book about it. He enlists his new girlfriend, who he doesn't know well to "do things" that he doesn't know about. She shrugs and says, OK. Privately she thinks he's a goofball, but he's cute.

What, he asks himself, would make someone paranoid? The person believes someone from his past is out for revenge, and he is the target. The person is a little psycho. He lives in the same relative area so that he can track his movements with ease. Once he knows the pattern, he can spring and kill him. Yes, he does know someone like that.

Ships are full of nutcases. Conspiracy theorists abound. They get angry when you try to debunk their theories. He has seen fights. He remembers some of those theories. He coughs up a couple of examples, and a couple of people who might want to kill him because he laughed at them for an entire voyage. Called them crackpots and nuts. They threatened to have someone in one of the ports take him out and drown him. He definitely has a talent for making enemies.

John has his girlfriend begin to do things that are unexpected. He begins to live the paranoid life, sinking deeply into it to investigate it.

Part 2: By the end of part 2, John seriously believes someone is out to kill him. Threatening incidents have become more numerous. Two attempts have been made on his life. He is looking over his shoulder everywhere he goes. He has started carrying a gun. He takes routes to shake people off his trail, and checks back to see if anyone was following. He believes there is, and he sees the same color and make of car often. He fears going to class and starts skipping. He stops going to work.

His girlfriend has been gone back to college in another state, for over a month, so she can't be responsible. He knows this for sure because he calls her there and can here her sororiety friends in the background. He comes up with all kinds of theories about how she could be doing this. He gets so paranoid that he actually drives to her campus and finds her there.

He thinks his psychology professor is aware of the experiment, and may be somehow colluding for money with whoever is trying to kill him. His paranoid delusion begins to see everyone as suspects in this plot to get him.

Your part: Use the parts of this you like, and change it as you wish. Start outlining some incidents that make John more paranoid, people he suspects, and the things he does. Who does he talk about all of this to? Does he suspect that person of leaking information, or even contacting some of those people who might want to do him harm? This should become a very tangled web in which the audience has no idea who is doing what. Keep the tension growing. Remember the stabbing scene in Hitchcock's Psycho movie. Work up to this kind of scene where he thinks he is really going to be killed, and make the audience believe it.

Use some misdirection. Whoever could be involved, give the audience a suggestive scene. Use several of them, plus the real culprit, so that it isn't unbelievable at the end.

Part 3: How does this end? Come up with your own solution. Make the story consistent with the ending. Maybe some of these ideas will help:

  • His girlfriend has found him challenging. She arranges to have him watched, and does all of this herself.
  • He had more to be afraid of than what he thought. Two of his old shipmates were back in town, and revenge was at the top of their list.
  • The FBI heard of something that happened, and they have been watching and following him.
  • His girlfriend is wealthy, hired some people to do all of this, and plans to write a book about it.
  • There was never anyone after him, and in the last scenes he is in a hospital, being treated by his psychology professor.

Ideas can't be copyrighted, but if you use a fully developed idea (outline or storyline) from these pages it is customary to give credit - you won't get sued if you don't, or charged if you do. In this case it is just professional courtesy. Ideally the idea presented here will spark some idea within yourself, and no credit is due. This page is copyrighted - that means you can't copy the text from this page and post it anonymously or give authoring credit to another person. Fully developed ideas are marked with a !. Credit for an idea is usually in the form: From an idea by (name).

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