1. Slammoth

    Slammoth Member

    Jan 23, 2011
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    Bristol, the UK.

    A jumble of issues - Politics & the little people just trying to survive

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Slammoth, Feb 2, 2011.

    Ohai thar.

    Disclaimer. Sorry for being vague, I'm just trying to operate on a very general level without bringing in any silly details of magic or other nonsense that might detract from the theoretical issues I'd like to address here.

    Good lord that was a long sentence... Deep breath...

    On that note, if people do have a point to make and would like more information, please say so and I'll try to elaborate. The genre is fantasy, however.

    Okay. I have recently developed a setting which, for now, has roughly 5 influential institutions of political power. Don't think nations, think uhh, generic fantasy political institutions. Groups. Like, guilds, or political parties, or cults.

    Now, I intend to build a plot in which a group of friends, the size of which is yet to be determined, are to navigate in a setting that is by definition riddled with tensions between these 5 political institutions. They will have to balance living their personal lives & taking a position in wider, political issues and surviving the repercussions.

    What I'd like are ideas, musings, suggestions regarding the following. I realize this might seem silly not knowing any details, but humor me (or tell me this whole 'keeping it general' idea is stupid and ask for more info). I'd like a preference, what would you like to read about, what's more interesting, instead of 'well it depends on the details' kind of answers (although those are welcome too, I won't say no to any input!). :)

    So, here we go. Issues/Options I have been pondering:

    Do you think I should I focus more on the troubles of the characters, or the conflicts between the 5 institutions? I tend to veer towards the latter, since I am much better when it comes to writing a large setting (ie. conspiracies, what have you) than I am with plot involving the gripes and moans of individual characters... I am thinking of doing both, since I have multiple characters - But where should the emphasis be, the conflict within the system, or the story of the characters?

    How influential should I make the characters compared to the institutions? Think of it like a continuum, on one end of which lies the characters' decisions affecting the fate of the entire system - and with the system largely ignoring their dreams and wishes, and using the characters to their own ends on the other.

    How massive should the conflicts between the 5 escalate to? Open war that leaves everyone devastated, or minor disputes that are solved via debate?

    I may add more. Suggest your own points if you think you have other points for me to consider!
  2. Elgaisma

    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

    Jun 12, 2010
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    In my fantasy I have wriiten how I like to read - The first book is about politics but it was written about how it effects the characters, rather than what the politics is.

    What happens if you make them more powerful? What happens if they are vagrants? What are your people are the same as the various clans? Do they come from the clans originally ?
  3. Islander

    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

    Jul 29, 2008
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    If you haven't decided this, you haven't decided what your story will be about. What interests you? What would you like to read yourself? If it's a story you want to write, chances are better you will do it well, and that it'll be interesting to read.

    All the alternatives you mention can work well if written well, but personally, I'd rather read about less powerful characters doing their best to handle the big conflict around them, who may or may not get a shot at playing an important part in it.
  4. Birmingham

    Birmingham Active Member

    Jan 24, 2011
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    Maybe the group of these people can be over all non-affiliated, and not interested in the battle between the 5 houses, but, at the same time, one of the people in the group will be a member of one of the 5 houses. It's not gonna be in the forefront of his mind, and he'll feel loyalty to his friends, but he'll still be a member of his house. Sort of like in D&D, you have 5 people, a group, a tight group, entering the thief guild, and one of the members of the core group is a thief. Or they run into elves and one of them is an elf.

    I'm not saying you do it as a D&D. I'm using it to give the idea.

    And in real life it's like that. You got 5 American friends, diverse. One of them might be Irish-American, or just Irish.
  5. Lothgar

    Lothgar Contributing Member

    Aug 31, 2010
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    If you wish to make your fantasy world seem "real" you need both. The background should have all the issues faced by the institutions and world in general (drought, war, famine, plagues, taxes, religion, etc.).

    Your characters, being different individuals should be wrapped up and concerned with different issues of the day (Just as real people are).

    The thread that binds them all together are the concerns that the characters have a common interest in (regardless of if they are for or against the issue, they have a common interest in the subject).

    The full spectrum, monarchs and popes, vagrants and farmers, soldiers and craftsman...just make sure the each character has "room" to grow and develop in the course of your story.

    How massive should the conflicts between the 5 be? Well, since you're basically asking for us to come up with a summary of your unwritten story for you, here goes:

    2 of our characters should escalate into self righteous holy war, resulting in one of them meeting a horrible, bloody fate. The victor, after the fact, should have second thoughts, self doubts about the justification and cost of the war and his victory should ring hollow.

    1 should secretly be in love with whomever died in the war mentioned above and plot his assassination...only to have a plot twist, revealing that the victor was secretly her real father, who put her into hiding at birth, because he feared for her life at the hands of the loser of the war, who may or may not be what he seemed.

    1 should be nobody, a vagrant, nomad, vagabond, selling his sword as a mercenary, to which ever nobleman needs a few extra warriors. Although, he himself is of no consequence, he inexplicably ends up the middle of the most horrific battles, that eventually end up being of historical significance in shaping the future. Towards the latter part of your story, he should be revealed to be a "Man with a destiny", by the spiritual advisers to the winner of the war mentioned above. His destiny should be linked to both ancient prophecy and a mystery that appears to "not end well" for the victor of the war, thus creating sub plots and dramatic tension.

    The last should be an old gypsy woman, who is always willing to read the bones or crystal gaze for a few coins. Her fortunes rarely make sense, seem far fetched and outlandish...yet...there is always a grain of familiarity in them. In the end, her predictions are shockingly accurate and she may even end up being some supernatural entity in disguise, who, as it turns out, was the mother of the daughter character above, who now is plotting to kill the victor of the war that killed her true love. Amazingly enough, she also turns out to be the mother of freelance mercenary above and a distant relative of the loser of the war mentioned above...which in a stunning plot twist ties all 5 characters together as a family dynasty, whose infighting and slaughter has altered the world, for good or ill, forevermore.

    As the family ties are revealed in the later chapters, attempts are reconciliation should be made, with emissaries arranging a conference where they attempt to sort out their differences, but fail miserably, resulting in supernatural plots that destroy not only the palace, but leave all 5 characters dead...

    ...except for the swirling, multi-colored mists that boil up from the corpse of the gypsy woman, forming into the supernatural entity, who laughs manically, revealing that all of this destruction and carnage was actually pertinent to him fulfilling his own diabolical plans, which ultimately have nothing to do with the dead here, but the seeds sown in this world will escalate over the coming centuries to fulfill his own cosmic destiny.

    ...and of course, if you don't like this summary, feel free to invent your own.
  6. Heather Munn

    Heather Munn Member

    Jan 25, 2011
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    Tiskilwa, Illinois
    The point where the political conflicts intersect with the personal troubles of the characters is the sweet spot. The political struggle causes the personal troubles. (Whether death, danger, loss of livelihood, frustrated love, or betrayal and the separation of friends. Divided loyalties are always interesting, too.) Then, with a lot more difficulty, individuals trying to work out their personal troubles sometimes affect the political struggle. At least, that's what I'[d go for if it was me.

    And I'd go for having a disparity between the characters--some more powerful, some less. But whether that's really an option for you or not, I'd aim for the middle in terms of power and influence. There should be things they can't affect or change however much they want to, that cause them trouble and pain. There should be things they may be able to affect if they play their cards just right, though they're not truly in control of them; they may spin out and cause unintended consequences anytime.

    How sweeping should it be? Eh, I don't know. Only you can decide that.
  7. JeffS65

    JeffS65 Contributing Member

    Nov 17, 2009
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    Choosing one or the other is ensuring that the fewest number of people will be interested. Understanding that characters will exist in the story, mine is a stronger statement than is likely the truth.

    Nonetheless, without character carrying the story and even the political conflicts, you have what will feel like pontifications (note....I think I've used that word a time or two lately....hmmmm, odd :) )

    If you look at real world politics and conflicts, you see it littered with personalities. Examples:

    Cuban Missle Crisis: Kennedy, Kruschev
    WWII - FDR, Churchill, Hitler
    Cold War Culmination - Thatcher, Gorbechev, Reagan

    You can apply that to parties too. In the UK, look how the House is a battlefield of personalities. While related to parties, it is still the personalities that are the living means by which the function and also the means by which any party is currently defined. Political parties evolve over time and this is not because of time but because people have come along and driven the change.

    You may want to think in terms of the persons who are the 'drivers' of your political entities. Figure out how they are the key persons to drive 'policy' etc.

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