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  1. rktho

    rktho Contributor Contributor

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    Developing a central conflict and villain

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by rktho, Oct 22, 2020.

    Some people may remember me on this forum as the dragon guy. Well after shelving my dragon story for a very long time, I made a connection between dragons and disability. Dragons come in all shapes and sizes, and as such, have vastly different needs. People are no different, but society is very much catered to its "typical" members. So I want to write a story with dragon characters where the characters' traits are metaphorical or actual representations of autism, chronic pain, OCD, parapalegia, etc., and send a message about disability, both visible and invisible, mental and physical.

    I think I've finally come up with an idea for a protagonist that fits with the theme I'm trying to establish. My protagonist was born with exceptionally large wings, a metaphor for being "gifted." He was also born with certain limitations which I will flesh out; one of the limitations would be that he can only breathe fire under certain circumstances (but he doesn't know what they are and people don't believe him when he tries to explain.) As he grew up, he was encouraged to reach for his potential despite his condition (his limitations and affinities are closely related) but the rest of his body eventually caught up to his wing size (much like how gifted kids tend to reach a point where they're no longer ahead of their academic peers and even fall behind.)

    Now that I have a protagonist, I need a central conflict for the story. The conflict should be large in scale but also deeply personal for the protagonist. Fleshing out the conflict will inform the kind of big bad my character will be up against, as well as inform the setting and the makeup of the secondary cast. What kind of villain would exacerbate threaten the protagonist and others like him? What resources would he have? What would his rhetoric be, and how many would listen? Figuring out the antagonist and the conflict will help me develop the political atmosphere and societal structure of this world of dragons. So far, I have two ideas I'm interested in for the setting. 1) I already have "civilized dragons" as a concept; I figure I should take it further than simply putting them in a medieval setting and have them develop further, since by nature of having a civilzation in the first place they're already more advanced than your average fantasy dragons. Coal punk seems like a natural step up given dragons' affinity with fire and ores. (Think the Fire Nation from The Last Airbender.) The other idea is the incorporation of magic. I think an interesting way to approach magic would be for the characters to view it as an unnecessary crutch and stigmatize it, the way disability aids are often stigmatized; magic would be used by dragons who "can't do X 'the normal way,'" although some able-bodied dragons might try and use magic resources and claim they need them more than dragons who can't function without them (think able-bodied people parking in handicap parking spaces.) Those two ideas may help inform the agenda of the antagonist.
     
  2. IasminDragon

    IasminDragon Member

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    Speaking from experience, I think not fitting in with any societal expectation is in itself a story of conflict. There doesn't necessarily have to be a bad guy - it's possible to not understand someone's differences and challenges without being a villain. In terms of resolution, I think a natural one is education and acceptance from the part of the antagonist.
     
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  3. rktho

    rktho Contributor Contributor

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    True, but I don't want the protagonist to be the only person misunderstood. The protagonist is not the only character with this issue. The larger the conflict, the more opportunity to explore the world of the story, and I think if I'm going to write about a world of dragons in myriad forms, it would be a waste not to explore it.
     
  4. Selbbin

    Selbbin The Moderating Cat Staff Contributor

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    The protagonist doesn't need to be the only one misunderstood. You can build a series of various characters facing a similar stigma without needing a villain. Larger conflicts are not more interesting. Deeper conflicts are. More battleships did not make Star Wars Ep 9 better than Ep 4. Also, DON'T get distracted by worldbuilding. NO ONE CARES about your world if the story isn't solid and engaging. Again, look at Star Wars. The exploration of the world came later once interest was established.
     
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  5. rktho

    rktho Contributor Contributor

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    Thank you for bringing up the Star Wars sequels. I noticed some similarities between my earlier writing and the garbage Rian and JJ churned out and I am actively trying to avoid it as I rework the story. So how do I make my story more like the original Star Wars and less like the sequels? How do I establish interest? I have my protagonist and that's a start, but I don't feel like a story about a dragon figuring out where his parents went wrong is that interesting, because then the story is just about him. How do I connect his struggle to the rest of the world, to the other characters?
     
  6. hankas

    hankas New Member

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    Sometimes what you need is a handful of interesting and peculiar characters. Imagine how they will react in your world and conflicts will appear by themselves. If you don't have any interesting conflict yet, maybe you need to bring in a different set of characters into your story.
     
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  7. rktho

    rktho Contributor Contributor

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    Well, I do have an idea for the mentor character. She’s a young mother of two who not only shares many of the protagonist’s traits but also has a myriad of other issues. Something along the lines of chronic pain and PTSD.
     
  8. Philousk

    Philousk New Member

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    Your main protagonist seems to be afflicted with flaws that make him specific among the congeners that gravitate around him. So, the central conflict you are trying to reach could originate from there. A criminal organization would need a scapegoat to camouflage their criminal signature following a major abortive crime that endangers their organization. I don't know, it could be a series of large-scale misdeeds that had the collateral aspect (but the real objective being elsewhere) of the work of a deep and incoercible pyromania. Who could be blamed for diverting attention from the direct and compromising involvement of the organization? Well, your curious dragon, by an unfortunate chance, was spotted ...
     
  9. rktho

    rktho Contributor Contributor

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    I think I’ve come up with something. Neurodivergent dragons possess magic. My protagonist is taught that he is cursed and needs to suppress it. Then a mentor teaches him otherwise and he realizes he’s been taught more lies than just about the nature of his magic.

    What if my protagonist grows up as part of a group of dragons who fled to the frozen north after a revolution overthrew their republic, and are amassing resources to overthrow the new regime and restore their own? My protagonist could be the son of this tribe’s leader. What if this group captures a dragon who is a friend of an enemy they’re looking for who is in possession of an atlas which includes territory previously thought uncharted? My protagonist could have a rival— a brother, perhaps— who is given the atlas and sent to search for this enemy instead of my protagonist. My protagonist could kidnap their prisoner and compel them to help him on an unsanctioned quest to find this mysterious enemy. Along the way it could be revealed that the prisoner also has magic, and teaches him how to control and harness his own. As he makes his way across the continent, the protagonist learns that the wider world is not what he’s been told it is. The new regime is also a republic, and it is thriving. Dragons of all shapes and sizzles are accepted and accommodated, even magical ones. The protagonist can then learn a terrible truth that his people are the remnants of a tyrannical regime that was a republic in name only and committed horrible atrocities, which prompts him to go rogue and eventually, over the course of the next two books, help defeat his father and stop him from taking over the world. That seems like it has a lot of potential, and the theme of neurodivergent acceptance and celebrating differences is prominent as the protagonist unlearns all the misinformation he’s been fed about his condition.
     

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