1. rubydragon44

    rubydragon44 New Member

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    Help Establishing Target Audience and Extent of Character Turmoil?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by rubydragon44, Feb 8, 2018.

    Hello. I'm an amateur here-and-there writer who's been juggling story ideas in his head for some time. I would like to advance my skills before fully challenging the scope of my primary inspiration, but aside from that, I also need to decide on some elements before planning ahead. In order to request assistance, I feel it is necessary for me to detail the premise of the story so far, as appropriate specifications require looking at the full context at hand.

    "Paradise" is set in a high-fantasy-meets-loosely-medieval world and explores what lengths one is willing to go to and endure in order to satiate their desires. It follows the experience of Raj, a 31-year-old half bull-rhino who uses his mystical abilities and natural physical prowess in an attempt to earn an honest living devoid of regret and tragedy. He starts off with but a few attributes: The ability to heal his own minor wounds, an innate partial resistance to magic, and a mysterious power informally known as "Magic Protection", the ability to lessen or avoid mortal ailments at the expense of mana. He keeps knowledge of these abilities from most, using them to his advantage while moderating their use to avoid suspicion. His father's wish was for him to carry out the family line of smithing, but came to accept that greater and more direct tasks may befall him in the future, and set him off with crafted gear in his aid.

    The story begins with Raj idly passing time as he travels back to his home region after visiting his parents' once more before they soon pass of old age. The ship he occupies is abruptly met with loud crashes and the weakening screams of dried-out passengers as Raj makes way to the deck. In several directions are black, avian-like individuals with stray, multi-colored feathers who look at him with a disorderly blend of decisiveness and whimsy. While not magically-attuned, he quickly gathers that he too will fall prey to these magically-voracious creatures, and decides his only chance of survival is to dive off into the sea. However, his agility fails him and he is blasted mid-leap by an incredible force of eldritch energy and slowly plummets far into the depths of the water. A turquoise light shines upon him and a massive, serpentine silhouette materializes and bestows him with the means to unconsciously bring himself to surface. Unknown to him, the creature below has chosen him to be its disciple. Looking deep within him, it not only his capacity for kindness, but his appreciation for the land, sea, and sky he is sustained by. It knew little of the "Vale", the creatures responsible for the massacre beyond what the rumors the waves carried, but understood that most who have the strength to endure their onslaught have their presence easily traced, and as such are singled out and overwhelmed, with the rest having either their lives or their sanity deliberately stripped as a means to prevent organized awareness and resistance.
    The Vale reside in a desaturated realm devoid of seasons and variable weather, aside from that of the Crystal Nebula, an emerald array of lights that cross the skies. The denizens of this appropriately-named "Blank Realm" obsessed over the many-hued landscape of the material realm, devoting their religious beliefs around its existence. First, they tore holes between the fabric of the two planes, these areas allowing for color once thought to be naturally nonexistent within. Those who neared these regions would have their feathers revealing magnificent colors among their feathers. The inhabitants with the most extravagant of colors would be given positions of power, and the murder of vibrant folk for political gain was considered sacrilegious. The Vale believed their holy conquest was to overtake the material realm from those who take its higher beauty for granted and saw no spilling of crimson blood as an ultimate detractor in their quest. The universe responded to this surge of magical influence by spiking magical essence of its own and bestowed scattered individuals with protection and power as a mechanism for its own continuation. The sea serpent blessed the sunken warrior with all this in mind, recognizing that Raj is one of many people appointed by the stars to defend the structure of his existence.
    Raj awakens with a gasp of air and swims towards a nearby shore, wary that he should seek assistance and shelter away from his attackers despite the geographic diversion. Is it on this expansive island that he gradually meets others who will join his cause after learning more about the nature and intentions of the Vale, certain that such a potent force will be around again to expand their reach or even potentially to claim their survivor. Initially impartial and politically-uninclined, Raj seeks to maintain secrecy of his group's trials and capabilities while staying uninvolved in affairs within the realm as much as possible. He develops his powers as a water sage and a healer, acting to support and attempt to organize a following of like-minded, capable individuals often with powers of their own while trying his best to avoid staining his own hands too much -- While not opposed to the idea of death, Raj was very squeemish and lacked the selfless, unwavering, dogmatic devotion that others had, and tried again to maintain his sanity and avoid greater trauma and certain death, often assuming the role of a philisophical diplomat unencumbered by the conventions of society. Many had to be silenced or even killed in order to prevent the spread of suspicion and hysteria, which slowly would take a toll on the moral integrity of the otherwise well-intended band. Over time, it is made more and more apparent that with greater numbers, power, and activities, comes suspicion and rejection, leading the group to first start off by accepting task that require them to utilize and admit their prowess, such as culling oppressive forces about.
    With the spread of the universe's essence, beasts began to develop a new hunger; that of raw energy, mixed in with the meddling of the Vale through summoning. Soon, it evolved into the intermixing of racial and political involvement, and further involvement, fighting, and growth only lead to more enemies, less places to go, and more lives to take. When one holds the power of life and death in their own hands, it is a struggle not to become dismissive or heretical, namely in Raj's case as he eventually became able to even revive one from a mortal death, albeit with consequences and complications for him or the subject. It is revealed that the Vale allow the troupe in their dimension and impose fights along with mental and spatial manipulation as a means to raise them into potent elemental masters. Their fruit would be that much sweeter; By allowing those who were given power naturally to harness that force, stealing their essence would allow them to empower their forces enough to strongarm past any material opponent. In controlling who came to their home, they could prevent those from other realms to wage war as a means to weaken the threat. Through breakdowns, willpower, strategy, death, rebirth, and the arcane, the main force behind the detrimental influence of the Vale met its end, with the clashes of bolt and steel still resonating within the troubled warrior's hearts as they began their new trial of returning once again to the mortal realm in both body and mind. In the end, while having experienced many bouts of sadness, joy, and rage, Raj found himself without but one person deserving true hatred, understanding that the state of each being at every given moment has a reason, and gives a tired smile up at the transient emerald ribbons in the sky, being reminded of the being who empowered him to make it to where he did, in the first place.

    As cliche as this might all sound, it's not the centralized plot, but the events in between that define Paradise, focusing especially on character interaction, careful consideration, and world building. My inspiration is that of turn-based roleplaying games and tabletop roleplays, along with certain shows like the anime InuYasha, as I found that beyond the redundancy and pacing, it had a certain charm that I didn't find in many others, namely the war of attrition, tracking along the countryside, and the unending struggle of seeing so many ways a person's hopes and efforts can be stunted in the hands of the cunning.

    Now, with all that out of the way, well, I suppose it's time for me to get to the point of this post.

    First off is the target audience.
    To generalize, I tend to see readers and gamers prefer shorter, metaphorical stories that are condensed and follow a "Show, don't tell" philosophy shrouded in moderate ambiguity. Characters are given only as much development as needed and then the story moves on. Things like realism and dread are often intentionally brushed off, and 'good for them: "Who cares? It's entertaining. I read/play things to escape reality and sadness, not to indulge in it". Young greenhorns are thrown into conflict and maintain composure and excitement despite endlessly killing sentient or non-sentient lives. Characters survive because the writers favorite them even though they'd likely succumb to chance in circumstance, in actuality. However, this isn't how I prefer to write. And then there's the problem of the cast itself: The main character, while accepting and having a healthy balance between humility and confidence and self-interest versus altruism, can come off as a bit strong. He is someone you either relate to or you don't. He is good-natured and doesn't aim to deconstruct society, yet can be decisive and chaotic (in a roleplay alignment, sense), having both strong opinions yet at times showing cowardice or reluctance. He follows no god or spirituality and is in a homosexual, interspecies relationship. He follows a strong philosophy that there is no such things as a true good or evil; there are only those who impose on others in one way or another. He will be apologetic for even the most depraved of individuals so long as they don't infringe, and believes no person deserves eternal punishment for a finite amount of bad deeds. At times he will resort to unorthodox methods of securing the advancement of his team yet will try and make up for it with actions that contribute to the overall peace and happiness of others. I feel that these aspects, combined with the intended style of my writing, might make for a very niche range of appeal. It's not like I'm looking to make money off of my writing, so that doesn't inherently mean too much, but I just want to make sure that it's worth my effort.
    Should I write for myself, or should I try to grasp an intended audience, as well? What sort of audience might I appeal to, in the first place?

    Next, I want to consider character turmoil and the level of realism in terms of emotional reaction.
    Unless bestowed with special mental fortitude, being well-trained, or having a specific outlook that leads to indifference and desensitization, people tend to crack under pressure. After seeing, causing, and personally experiencing many instances of death, injury, and emotional suffering, characters tend to change, at times for the worse. Too much hardship can break a character, leaving them to potentially never be able to participate in the story as they did before no matter how important they were to the overall vibe and entertainment value of the story or how important they were as a means for success.
    Main character death can really make or break a story. If you play with it too carelessly, readers will lose interest or will come to expect it or the story will change flavor entirely, yet avoiding harming your beloved characters will become dull as it becomes apparent that you're unwilling to shake things up for the sake of realism or character development. And once a character dies or changes too dynamically, one also has to be careful with things like rehabilitation, healing, and flat-out resurrection, as it can stunt all of the build-up or emotional response caused by the conflict in the first place. This especially is the case for stories with a lot of action, warfare, corruption, and a large cast of protagonists. I considered making it so that the "magic protection" element of my story also helps the individual maintain mental stability (while of course not outright being an immunity and not using it to cheat characters out of consequences), but I dunno.
    How much death and negative affliction is "expected" or "appropriate" for a story of my type? I really want to get that balance between not breaking the cast but not coddling them, as well. I want to ensure that the story is dark enough for me to feel comfortable writing it without having to feel compelled to leave out details that would obviously be there, but I also don't want to make it so depressing and "edgy" that it becomes a turn-off. For example, there are going to be situations where the events thus far put the characters in a situation where someone will likely die (unless I'm really generous and favoriting with my writing), yet having the character die only to get resurrected by the main character (it's noteworthy to mention that when he works up to this power, it's so inefficient that they'll sometimes come back much weaker if not being stuck in a coma, and the process takes a toll on him, as well) or the primary, hard-to-reach-and-hard-to-afford cleric could be seen as a cop-out. I suppose that it's not always whether or not the characters will be alive in the end, but how they respond to near-death, resurrection, or the death of others.
    You see, the concept I have is that those with magic protection will only generally only take non-lethal damage so long as they have the remaining mana to sacrifice for it, to where you when they run out of mana, if you truly want to kill them rather than incapacitate them, you'll have to actually lethally damage them. If an individual dies a non-lethal death, they will merely enter a coma and must be revived through specific means. As a downside, however, it takes a lot of mana to reduce damage and is the very same resource that casters use for their spells. So it becomes a struggle to balance one's mortal capacity with their magical resource.
    Is there any advice that can be given on this?
     
  2. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Stop planning, start writing. Then find people to critique your work. If you stick around here, read other peoples' critiques, offer your own, and after contributing to the community post segments of your work.

    Or, find a critique group near where you live and join them.

    Critiquing ideas is meaningless at this point in your planning. You just spent a considerable amount of time telling us about the story you want to write. You don't need to know what story someone else would write.

    You can't create the story without getting in there and writing it.

    Just my opinion.
     
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  3. rubydragon44

    rubydragon44 New Member

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    Hmm. The thing is, if I write it without considering these aspects before deciding on such things and get critiqued on it, what would happen if I decided to change things? Revising parts of the story could mean re-writing the entire thing even though I decided that if I were to write it, it'd be rather lengthy. I could upload it chapters and have it critiqued as I go, but the problem is that I like to write in pieces -- I don't go from start to finish, I write or plan different segments, use placeholder names/info/specifics, and then fill in the blanks and connect the segments as I go along. So my drafts would be very fractured and hard to properly critique.
     
  4. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Then you'll be a writer.

    Some people churn things out, sometimes it just comes out OK, sometimes it doesn't.

    But the rest of us write it, edit, get feedback, change major aspects, leave other things as is, edit some more, come up with great fixes for that nagging plot hole while raking the leaves, love something but then later don't, but that's because we figured out something ten times better ...

    You have a decent story, start writing the damn thing and develop it as you go. It's going to change anyway, and that's OK.
     
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  5. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Potatoes again? Supporter Contributor

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    First, just stop and slow down. Your original post is almost 2500 words long, and I stopped reading it when it got to the italicized portion. That's something like ten pages of 12 point, double-spaced, Times New Roman worth of question, and I doubt anyone here is going to have the time to answer a question that's that detailed. Break your issues up into chunks and people will be very happy to help you with them.

    1) Help Establishing a Target Market: You started in with a bunch of details of the magic system of your story, but you didn't really give us much to go on to help with the target market question. When thinking of the reader, I like to look at it from the Amazon viewpoint of "People who bought this also bought..." If someone enjoys your story, what else will they enjoy? Is this a coming-of-age book primarily about dealing with parental expectations? Is it an adventure book with lots of magical battles and a princess to be won at the end? Is it a philosophical musing on the (in)human condition and the compromises we're forced to make in life? If you can tell us, simply and briefly, what the theme of the story is, and give a hint as to something similar, we'll be able to help you sort through your problems one by one, but ten page dumps are for your beta readers, when you get to that point.
     
  6. David Lee

    David Lee Member

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    I was waiting for someone else to say it first. :p

    To the OP: After I almost fell out of my chair (wall of text), I read (most) of it. I think you have something going on here that could turn out to be a really good story. That said, this one of your first posts. Welcome to the forum :)

    Your questions have merit. We as authors struggle with these questions regardless of genre. While I empathize with your moment, my only real-world advice is to take some time and get involved here. I know that's not really an answer, but it is. ;)
     
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  7. rubydragon44

    rubydragon44 New Member

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    I know I should've condensed, but I just felt that by only a brief insight, it'd be difficult to really address how audience and negativity would apply in this specific instance.
    The story's main basis will be about the struggles of what it really means to bring wholly-different individuals together solely on the basis of what they can contribute and how morally-sound and unified they are when their regular structure of safety, daily monotony, and notions of "willpower survives all" are challenged.
    I actually had the idea of making a top-down RPG with visual-novel-style gameplay with mostly-predetermined, turn-based battles with preparation phases put in the mix, but decided it'd be best to start by typing it as normal before getting ahead of myself.
    The cast will traverse an expansive area, their primary-but-not-sole task being tracking down links between their world and that of the antagonists' and clearing elemental dungeons and imitation landscapes of the material realm as a means to take back the essence stolen from their realm. Battles are strategic and high-risk, the goal not just being to win, but to ensure that everyone gets through it alive and well. However, a lot of the scene work consists of characters conversing in and interacting with areas for longer periods of time, to where the focus is less on a sightseeing adventure and more so familiarity and development of characters and regions.
    The cast is an even mixture of good and neutral and methodical and hasty, so there's often a lot of bickering and problems with proper teamwork, with the team ranging from a nihilist seer middle eastern woman who was cursed into swapping bodies with her own horse with a tendency to kill those who learn too much and become a threat, to an easygoing celestial being who 'fell' to the material realm for sexually-indulging with a priestess love interest, to a self-sacrificial, thunder sage boar with an innocent mind who has a fascination for wizardry despite his power coming to him innately and who has the greatest raw arcane power out of the team yet is extremely volatile with poor heart health.
    Yet all the characters are developed naturally rather for the sake of diversity or being "quirky". While there is some comedy and romance involved, the story actually takes itself rather seriously, at times (I'm speaking from the fact that I've run this as a tabletop with my own system, before, although we didn't get to finish it).
    So, err, I can't quite pinpoint who it might appeal to.
    I'm leaning towards tabletop fans, yet the ones I see tend to either expect something very 'sexy' and rich in fantasy and drama, they want something casual and troll-y with wacky characters being introduced left and right and new areas always being discovered, or they want something fast-paced with lots of cinematic, smashy-smashy action and most verbal interactions being "say the right thing or I'll kill you".
     
  8. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Potatoes again? Supporter Contributor

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    Still a little more detail than I would put in, but this is something we can work with.

    This does sound like a tabletop, D&D style adventure as a novel. The thing is, I think that tabletop gaming is pretty dead these days with the advent of things like WoW, so if you're writing/pitching your story to that audience exclusively, you're not going to end up with a whole lot of readers beyond whatever remains of the Dragonlance set. However, you don't need to write to a specific demographic, look at it as a Venn diagram. What else are tabletop gamers into? Then look at who is into those things. My first impression on reading your shorter synopsis is that it sounded like something that a fan of Guardians of the Galaxy might enjoy. Could be wrong about that, but imagine that one guy/girl who is going to love your story, then mentally look in their bookshelf. What else is in there, and who's reading those books? If you're writing for a market, this might force you to make changes in your story/characters etc, but it might also give you some unforced ideas to improve your work.
     
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  9. rubydragon44

    rubydragon44 New Member

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    So would my next step be to detail some of my characters?
    Would I do it on this thread?
    See, cause if I just started threads dedicated to individual or groups of characters, no one would know whether or not they would appeal to my "audience" unless they read in a different post what I was going for in the first place.
    It's funny, because I actually found GotG to be just "okay". The movie, at least. The characters weren't particularly in-depth, it was chalk full of one-liners, and it didn't take itself seriously, and that's perfectly fine. But then I think that kinda plays into the whole "Whacky, troll-y misadventures" that people look for. And then you have something like Game of Thrones which is filled with constant death, mutilation, and mistrust, playing into the "say the right thing or I'll kill you" aspect I mentioned. Coincidentally, as much as I love the character development and world-building, I felt like the writer was causing torment to his characters for the sake of shock value, as if to say "Look at how much I'm willing to kill off these characters even though I spent a lot of time on them! Suspenseful, huh?" I remember laughing alongside my friend at how there was this scene where this girl was getting chased by assassins or something in some town and all the background characters just sort of minded their own business rather than investigating. I get that warfare is cruel, but felt that the characters were almost so distant that it was hard to believe it. Many considered themselves religious yet the story was filled with neutral, cruel, heretical, and indifferent folks.
    In essence, I feel that people either want a very rich romance story with characters they'd find attractive, they want an easygoing action comedy, or they want a really on-edge, dark story filled with death and warfare. And then you've got the YA fantasy-adventure stories where the characters are tested, but where real factors like death (rather than just enemies vanishing into dust), mutilation, and bloodshed are hardly even factors. Being limited to such specific types are not necessarily the way I prefer to write, which again brings me back to the conundrum: I clearly have a niche thing going on that might not resonate with most, to where it'd be weird to spend my time on a long story just to show it to my friends and have a few people online go "It was alright". Yet at the same time, it'd be best to know what changes to make beforehand and how to properly balance creative freedom with viewer appeal.
     
  10. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Potatoes again? Supporter Contributor

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    First, please don't let me discourage you from posting here, it's a friendly place and people are more than willing to help, but I'd suggest that you spend a while reading the questions that others have posted in these threads, and see the help they've gotten. I'm not saying that there's a "right" way to ask a question, but every online community has its own culture of How Things Are Done Here, and in the past six hours or so, you've written nearly a thousand words in response to two of my posts, and nearly 3500 since you joined yesterday (by my time zone). That's a lot more than most people are willing to pick up and critique on spec, which will mean that your questions will never be answered. Second, once you get to know some people around here, you'll find the ones that are on your wavelength as writers. Those are the ones that will be able to help answer your questions best, because they've got the same general target and style as you do. Those are the ones who will be able to give you the best advice, but your writing just needs to be worked through as it goes, no one's going to read a twenty page synopsis and try to answer a dozen questions all at once.

    Again, please don't let me discourage you from participating here, but take a look at the way this forum works, spend some time writing your story, and ask concise questions when you're stuck.
     
  11. rubydragon44

    rubydragon44 New Member

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    Yeah. I looked at some of the development threads, but they didn't quite pertain to me.
    I'm one of those people that likes to plan in advance. I'll write character sheets for each and different lore tidbits and jot down different if-scenarios and dialogue exchanges.
    I don't want to put my characters in a world until I've developed it, more, and I don't want to set characters in stone until I know 'good' they are in the first place, if that makes sense. It's a lot easier to write about something when you already have a good chunk of source material to work with.
     

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