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  1. Megs33

    Megs33 Active Member

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    Help avoiding another fantasy cliche...

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Megs33, Oct 31, 2016.

    All right, I need advice.

    I love me a good fantasy book. I go bonkers when i turn on Kindle Unlimited and read as many self-published works as i can get my hands on. I scour Amazon for anything new and fun, and I feel like I have a pretty decent handle on what is "overdone" and what has a fresher appeal in the plot lines of the fantasy world.

    I've been rolling a story idea around in my head for a while, and I've put tons of thoughts on paper. I know who my characters are, I have a good idea what their arcs look like, and I know how I want to weave in a plot twist or two. I even have what could be (generously) considered to be rough outline for a trilogy.

    But I can't, for the LIFE OF ME, come up with the main plot arc. Or at least, I can't come up with something that doesn't make my toes curl because it seems so overused.

    Here's the general gist:

    I want to turn a typical coming-of-age story on its ear. One of my MCs is a guy who discovers that he's more than he seems, and he's sucked in to a new and unbelievable world where he has to learn to become a hero. However, the story is told from the perspective of his very normal best friend who got dragged along for the ride (my main MC). I want to tell this story through his friend's eyes as she grows stronger and becomes a hero in her own right (rather than acting as a cardboard best friend who acts as little more than a hostage who props up his "destiny", as is so prevalent in other books).

    Here's the part where I could use some advice.

    In my initial scribblings, my guy MC is some kind of prince (I'm not entirely sold on this because, y'know, cliche). He is supposed to be a keeper of some kind, one of the last of a race of powerful spirits of nature who maintain balance (a concept I need to flesh out). The "bad guys" want him out of the way so they can grow more powerful without him in the way. The whole series would be predicated on defeating the bad guys, saving the world, yadda yadda yadda.

    Building my plot's foundation around the above paragraph is niggling at me. I feel like this is just so god-awful cookie-cutter, and I'm looking for opinions.

    On some level I feel like this is a solid plot in a strictly skeletal sense, and that I could build up other ideas and subplots around it to give things a new and creative flair. I have a budding interest in using the plot's cliche nature to poke fun in a self deprecating way. I also think my female protagonist's point of view will allow it to be construed in a way that is fresh. BUT, I want to hear what you think before I dive down the rabbit hole needlessly.

    I suppose I've kind of answered my own question, but I still would love opinions. I am having the hardest time coming up with alternate ideas, and i welcome any thoughts, suggestions, personal opinions, etc. And I can offer additional clarification on my ideas if needed. I just didn't want to bog this post down any more than strictly necessary.
     
  2. Unripe Plum

    Unripe Plum Member

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    First of all, I think you need to make a firm decision on what sort of book this will be. Are you going for humour, YA, literary (a la Tolkien), allegory, parody, what? That will be a big influencer. For humour/allegory/parody,what you have is fine, and provides a good platform. But otherwise, you need a serious rethink of the plot.

    How about the twist being that the narrator discovers over time that the good MC's victory would actually doom the world, and the bad guys need to win in order for the planet to survive? She can then work to undermine the MC but ensure he survives, while also finding ways to ensure the bad guys are eliminated after they achieve their goal, to minimize the damage they do. This would actually make her your real MC, but you can write it in way that it evolves from being all about the Prince, and eventually ends up being more about her.

    Just a thought.
     
  3. EnginEsq

    EnginEsq Member

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    You're telling a story about a female who accompanies a male, where the male is a fantasy hero. Turns out the female is a hero too.
    Whose the real Main Character? Or are they both MC's? Both being MCs sounds difficult to do correctly.

    Story is often (IIRC) defined as a character facing a conflict (often an internal conflict) and overcoming it to obtain a desire. What does each of your characters want? What's in the way of them obtaining it? Does the female want to be a hero? Does she want to be acknowledged as a hero? Or is her desire something different, and the hero thing is either a means to it, an obstacle to it, or a side effect?

    If you are going to tell the story from her perspective, is she just Watson to the male's Holmes?
    Or is she the real MC, and the male is just a secondary character that everyone else in the story (except the male himself perhaps) treats like the MC of a fantasy adventure? If this is the case, maybe the male's subplot (he's been demoted) should be cookie cutter, and the fun is in how the female's main plot interacts with it, acting to either warp or to maintain the cookie-cutter-esqueness of it, and how the two character's interact. ("Sheila, why don't you go rescue the merchant's daughter? That demons more up your ally than mine." "No way Bruce, I do that, and every gutter-minded patron of this bar - and that's all of them - will think I'm a lesbian, and that you're a wuss. I don't want to have to deal with that." "I thought you were a lesbian, Sheila." "That's none of your damn business, Bruce! And it's none of their damn business either!")

    Last, don't worry too much about cliche'd plots. The plot can be cliche, the setting can be cliche, but if the characters are fresh it can still be a good read. At some level, there's a very small number of unique plots. And yet new books keep getting written and read.
     
    U.G. Ridley, xanadu and Megs33 like this.
  4. Megs33

    Megs33 Active Member

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    That's a really good point. I will definitely put more effort in to hashing out the roles of my characters more. I had planned on switching perspectives back and forth, but it looks like I'll need to be careful with that so I don't muddle the purpose of each person.

    I hope to make my female MC the "main" MC, although I want to tell his story, too. I definitely need to solidify the plot more before I make that decision, though.
     
  5. EnginEsq

    EnginEsq Member

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    Having the female be the MC sounds more interesting. A lot depends on the roles of men and women in culture they are thrown into, the male character's character, and the path his heroism is 'supposed' to take.
     
    Simpson17866 likes this.
  6. xanadu

    xanadu Contributor Contributor

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    This is a really important point. Trying to create a plot without thinking about who your characters are or why they're important players in the story--just dropping them into events created outside their existence--is going to give you these shallow tropes. Tropes aren't bad, of course. But it sounds like you're segregating plot and character when they really should be building off each other.

    As @EnginEsq says, a story is a character overcoming conflict to obtain a desire. That's your starting point. What do your characters want, why can't they have it, and what are they going to do about it? Everything else is a reaction to that--attempts to attain their goals lead to adventure, then they fail due to some antagonistic force, so they have to regroup and re-strategize...that's where your events come from.
     
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  7. EnginEsq

    EnginEsq Member

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    To elaborate on that, that's where you may want to start when writing a story, but doesn't have to be where the story starts for the reader.
    For example, in "Star Wars - The Good One," Luke isn't the MC, really, until his aunt and uncle are killed. Before then he's a whiney unmotivated farm boy. Changes like that are pretty common in stories.
     
  8. Megs33

    Megs33 Active Member

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    I definitely needed to hear this. I'm going to put more effort in to building up my characters before I start playing around with the plot; I have a nasty tendency to jump the gun when I get excited about something, and I really don't want to let that happen here.
     
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  9. EnginEsq

    EnginEsq Member

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    Just keep in mind, as you are building up your characters, that once you start writing, they'll start being who they want to be, and not who you thought they should. So don't put too much effort into building a complete character. Create their core personality, but remember that it's a personality, not a program. A living thing, that will adapt and grow as the character comes to life on the pages.

    Who your character is at the start of the story you may have pretty good control over.
    But who they wind up at the end may not be who you first intended, and instead may be much better.

    And always, always, remember what Sean Connery's character said in Finding Forester -- "A writer writes!"
     
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  10. Megs33

    Megs33 Active Member

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    This is so good for me. I'm too "Type A". Gotta plan everything out, fall in line, follow the set path, etc. It's been a cautiously fun experience to catch myself thinking that something has to be "this way," and then come back with "no, it doesn't".
     
  11. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    There's a risk in comparing movies to novels, I think - in a movie, especially one that introduces a new world, there's enough visual interest to carry things for quite a while - viewers can be entertained by the visuals, the music, etc. while waiting for the story to start. So "day in the life" openings are fairly common and fairly successful in movies. I think they're significantly more challenging in novels.
     
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  12. JJagain

    JJagain New Member

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    I'm the opposite. I planned out a whole novel, built the character arcs, fleshed out the plot, tried to understand the 'message', and gave up on it two months later. I just felt too constrained, and the writing felt like a chore. Still, I guess everyone is different.

    If the above is the problem, then perhaps have him fight his character arc. Maybe he doesn't want to become heroic and never wanted to be a keeper. Perhaps he envies normal people and their normal, quiet lives, and the only way he can achieve that is by beating the baddies. The reluctant hero, sort of thing. It's undoubtedly been done before, but everything has. It's how you retell it that matters.
     
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  13. Lifeline

    Lifeline South. Staff Contributor

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    My five cent: it sounds like you have hit a block. When something like that happens to me - and it does, more often than not - the solution lies in shifting the perspective. There is something there which you have not paying appropriate attention. Maybe a sidekick, maybe a whole storyline lying dormant. Find that angle, and I promise, it will fall into its place. I am a planner too, by preference, but my narrator is a pantser so I can't plan everything out in advance. Let your narrator run free, maybe do some freewriting in response to a problem.. Sorry to not be more help but this is your WIP, not mine ;)
     
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  14. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    I've got the same problem: in the "Mortal World" half of my planned UrFan series, I have characters and plots that fit together perfectly, but for my "Supernatural World" half, I'm finding out that my other characters and my other plots don't fit into each other as well as I'd thought.

    I like my "Supernatural World" characters as people, but apparently, I need to flesh them out better as characters before I'll be able to tell any of my story ideas about them. Fortunately, I still have to finish the first book about my "Mortal World" characters, this should give me enough time to work out the kinks in my "Supernatural World" ideas.

    Would you like me to send you one of my favorite character-building systems? It hasn't worked as well for my "Supernatural World" characters as I'd originally thought, but the system has worked fantastically for my "Mortal World" characters.
     
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  15. Dominique Parker

    Dominique Parker Member

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    I think that nine times out of ten once you boil a plot down to its most basic tenants you're bound to run into cliches. I think that the real sense of originality comes from the details. "The whole series would be predicated on defeating the bad guys, saving the world, yadda yadda yadda." Sure this on its own sounds very cliche but, I find that once you hash out the details things tend to feel more unique. Once you figure out how your world looks, what tone you're going for, how you plan to tell your story, what time period your story is set in, what region your story is set in etc. I'd say try to build with what you've got, then if it still feels cliche try to find inspiration outside of the go to fantasy tribes, peoples and tropes . For example I wanted to include a Viking like people in a short story I was writing but, I absolutely hated the idea of just using Vikings as inspiration because Vikings inspired peoples, in media and entertainment of all kinds, are just so over done. Instead I took Ancient Hawaiians, Aztecs and Ainu peoples and just sort of mixed them with a little Viking culture.
     
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  16. Megs33

    Megs33 Active Member

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    Heck yes! That would be awesome.
     

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