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?