1. Fervidor

    Fervidor Senior Member

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    Getting my protagonist to join the party.

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Fervidor, Mar 7, 2020.

    So my main character has ended up in a fantasy world with a magitechnological society that is heavily geared towards reverse-engineering old magical artifacts found in ancient ruins. I need her to join up with a party heading into one of these dungeons relatively early in the story despite not being trained for it or having much personal motivation to do so.

    Here's what I have so far:

    After wandering around for a while, the MC runs into this wizard lady. Realizing she's dealing with a person from our world (it's a known phenomenon in the setting) Wizard Lady explains the basic gist of everything and becomes a sort of initial mentor to the MC. Think sorta sassy female Dumbledore. They head back to the city where my heroes are supposed to be based and the Wizard Lady determines that the MC is extremely powerful in terms of magic potential but also completely lacking in talent for spellcasting.

    Meanwhile a down-on-his luck young nobleman with a bad reputation wants to be the first to explore a newly discovered ruin. For personal reasons he doesn't want to bring any companions unless they are vital for the success of the expedition. Wizard Lady basically asks him to bring the MC along as a favor, despite the fact that she barely has any useful skills and doesn't know how to use her magic effectively, so it takes a bit of convincing.

    Notably, my MC is not really against any of this, but she's also well aware that she's in over her head and sorta agrees with the nobleman that bringing her along doesn't really make sense.

    Now, my current justification for all of this is that Wizard Lady is concerned that the MC will draw the attention of the military due to being unusually powerful, and essentially get drafted or "seized" as an important military asset. Wizard Lady is fairly influential and can pull a few strings, and she's friends with the local ruler and at least one of the gods. However, said ruler is out of town and the gods have a policy against interfering with mortal affairs. So, the MC needs to leave the city and remain out of reach of the military long enough for the ruler to return so she and Wizard Lady can ensure this won't be an issue.

    What I'm wondering is, does all of this make sense? Or does it seem too contrived? Writing political maneuvers have never been my strong suit.
     
  2. Rzero

    Rzero Reluctant voice of his generation Contributor

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    It more or less made sense to me. Does the wizard lady also know anything about whether or not the MC will be of value later or need her help at some point? In other words, is there anything special about the MC we don't know yet, but the wizard lady does?
     
  3. Fervidor

    Fervidor Senior Member

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    Well, sort of. The initial main bad guy of the setting is this extremely overpowered lose cannon sorcerer terrorist type of person, and the MC is one of the handful of individuals in the known world with the potential to possibly stand up to him. That's sorta why the military would take interest in her in the first place - they'd want to collect any such people as aces against the Big Bad. Wizard Lady probably agrees that guy needs to be stopped but also thinks the MC should be free to decide her own fate.

    That, and there are a lot of power struggles in general - the city is part of an empire or hegemony, and Wizard Lady would probably be more interested in keeping the MC aligned with that particular city state rather than being absorbed by the the more centralized power that the main military serves.

    I'm also playing with the idea of there being prophesies that may involve the MC, but I haven't really decided how heavily this will factor into it all. (I think prophesies tend towards lazy writing in Fantasy.) For the time being, I assume Wizard Lady simply thinks the MC may turn out to be important, though not "decides the fate of the world" important.
     
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2020
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  4. Rzero

    Rzero Reluctant voice of his generation Contributor

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    I think that all adds up to decent reasoning without a prophesy, sure.
     
  5. Not the Territory

    Not the Territory Senior Member

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    It makes enough sense. If you deliver it skillfully readers won't notice. Possible gripes:

    What are the noble's personal reasons for not wanting to bring anyone non-vital? I think that could be important. As it is, it sounds like he's agreeing to take a hand grenade into a china shop while his rep is on last legs. It can be believable, but it would be better if sassy female dumbledore were to provide a really good reason/bargaining chip for taking the MC along. Or maybe she got him the gig in the first place?

    Is sending the protege on an expedition really more effective than stuffing her in a storeroom for three days? Does the military have some means of detecting people with lots of power (magicdar)? Could she not just dress as a peasant and abstain from magic for a bit?

    It will seem contrived if there are blatantly simpler solutions. It seems most plausible when the actors are forced into a corner.

    Edited to add a word.
     
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2020
  6. Spellbreaker

    Spellbreaker New Member

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    My question, if I'm understanding the brief plot points correctly, is why does all of this matter to the MC? I don't know how old your MC is, or how her character is, but if I were her, I wouldn't care about any of this. Not for a few chapters, anyway. She literally found herself in another world, and there doesn't seem to be a strong reaction to that on her part. She just "wanders around" before meeting Wizard Lady.

    Maybe your issue is the MC doesn't seem to have agency in her decisions, as in she cares more about the problems of this world because the plot requires it; e.g. she straight-up follows the Wizard Lady for contrived reasons, rather than just have her be humanly selfish and care more about how to return back to her world (if she wants that, that detail is up to you). I think you should flesh out the MC's initial reaction to being transported to another world and base her actions on that. You could do a lot with that personal conflict, and it could influence her later decisions, which in turn would influence the story.

    For example, say your MC wants to return home, but she can't do so on her own. So, she decides to follow the Wizard Lady (as the Wizard Lady essentially acts as a mentor figure here and helps the MC to become familiar with the new world), meets the team, explains her situation, and go on from there. It gives the MC agency in her decisions rather than push her along for plot's sake---and where one of your issues, I think, stems from. Also, this improved agency could pit the MC against her mentor Wizard Lady and could create some interesting drama, as you mention that Wizard Lady would like the MC to remain aligned with her preferred city-state---but who's to say the MC would want that?

    The other posters have given excellent thoughts towards your other concerns, as I'm not experienced in writing political/military intrigue, but I hope my two cents help concerning the MC in joining the party. I hope I haven't rambled too much.
     
  7. Fervidor

    Fervidor Senior Member

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    Basically, the guy is the only survivor of a previous expedition that got a bunch of his noble friends killed, and he's a bit traumatized by that. It also got him trapped inside a magic suit of armor that keeps him alive but makes him look kinda scary. He ended up taking the blame for the whole thing, hence his bad reputation: He's nicknamed "the Undead" and most people think he's essentially a Nazg├╗l or something. He doesn't really mind since he feels he deserves it, but it does make it difficult for him to find people who want to work with him.

    Another reason the expedition is personal to him is because the ruin is believed to be an old armory or weapon factory that belonged to a dead warrior god whom the armor is associated with, and the noble guy wants to see if he can dig up any useful information about it. He doesn't want anyone to risk their lives over his problems, though, and he'd go alone if he wasn't required to bring a minimum of two companions. As such he'd prefer experienced people who know what they're doing. At this point in the story he's recruited a kinda shady older guy and is trying to find a third party member just so he can leave for the ruin before anyone else raids it.

    So, Sassy Femaledore is actually offering him a handy solution to his problem, but having to bring an inexperienced teenage girl along doesn't do wonders for his survivor's guilt. (Made worse when that other party member gets unexpectedly replaced by another teen girl.) He's a nice guy, though, and just doesn't want her to end up in trouble.

    It's also very possible that he got access to this quest earlier than other parties as a favor from Wizard Lady, and now she's calling it in.

    Yeah, that's pretty much what I was concerned about. In this setting it actually isn't that unlikely they'd have some way of detecting her, but more probably they'd find out via official channels or perhaps even spies/informants.

    I'm thinking this may all be some kind of loophole: Like, Wizard Lady doesn't have the authority to refuse turning the MC over if the military brass requests that she does, but she is within her right to send the MC on the expedition and at that point she technically isn't refusing, the girl just isn't available. There may also be other bureaucratic reasons this would delay the military from laying claim to her, not sure.

    I'm thinking she's around 16 or 17. And, well, obviously she's not totally indifferent to it all, but there also isn't much independent action she can take at that point since she doesn't know anything about the world, lacks citizenship, has no money, doesn't know how to use magic, and doesn't know who it is safe to trust. This is basically why she's vulnerable to getting snatched up into some secret military program. Also, due to something that happened to her immediately after arriving to that world, she is a little bit confused identity-wise.

    If anything, her lack of agency is kinda intentional: She's meant to start off as very unsure of what to do with herself, and then grow more confident and self-reliant over the course of her adventures. This goes on to a point where she effectively can't be told what to do by nearly anyone and she's free to choose whatever allegiances she favors. That's pretty much the character arc I have in mind for her.

    As for returning home, that pretty much isn't going to be possible due to the way the cosmology is set up. Essentially, she has "fallen" into this world, which can be imagined as a lower plane of reality. Consequently, going back is way more difficult: Think of it as the difference between going down a waterfall and then trying to swim back up - it's possible in theory but nobody has pulled it off in practice. That's sorta the reason our world doesn't get a lot of visits from extra-dimensional magicians, and why we don't have literal gods walking around.

    Fortunately, she doesn't have any particular reason to want to go back, once she gets over minor issues like "no internet" and starts appreciating her new friends, the fact that she has magic powers, etc. It's really not a bad place to live, and her old life kinda sucked.
     

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