1. LastMindToSanity

    LastMindToSanity Contributor Contributor

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    Main Character With An Unresolved Character Arc?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by LastMindToSanity, Aug 28, 2018.

    Okay, so I've got this character whose arc is about her learning to deal with ostrasization and loss. It starts when the other characters learn that this girl, M, is dangerous. Basically, when her emotions run high, she loses control of herself and starts acting on one single thought (run away, protect, kill, hide, etc.). This isn't unique to her, and the characters eventually learn what causes it. But, to the point, this happens when she's face-to-face with the main antagonist and, instead of running away, she fights, which causes another mc to help and then get killed. She then ostracizes herself from the mc crew.

    Two years later, another mc is going to be executed, she tries to get the others to help, but they can't abandon their individual goals. Undeterred, she goes to save her friend, reasoning that, once they team up, they could easily escape. She successfully infiltrates the execution, only to not have the other mc help, accepting death. This directly causes M to get seriously wounded and almost killed. They both manage to escape after the friend finally gets her act together, but M sees this as a huge betrayal, and runs away from the friend as well as the other mcs, as none of them would help her. Later, the mc crew goes to save M when her life is in danger again. She can't accept this, however, because everytime she feels the pain from that serious wound, it reminds her of the betrayal.

    Fast-forward to the end of the book and, despite M coming back to help the mc crew defeat the main antagonist, she still can't forgive the mc crew. She walks away from them one last time, and that's where her arc ends.

    M's arc is, at first, about the world around her shunning her because she's dangerous, then it transitions into her ostracizing herself from her friends because she just can't forgive them. She spends the story trying to escape from her isolation and loneliness, but never realising that she could solve her problem at any time by just going back to her friends. The big decision to end her arc comes after the final battle, where she chooses to either walk away or join the others and celebrate. She walks away, not realising that she's actively rejecting the solution to her problem.

    My question: Is this an acceptable ending? I mean, it's a huge decision that has buildup starting at the ending of the second act, but she chooses to continue her isolation because she just doesn't understand that her feelings of anger and betrayal aren't absolute, and that they can be worked through. Will readers consider this to be a bad resolution (I mean, like, an objectively terrible writing decision)? I think it fits and that it's the logical conclusion to her arc, so I go with it to faithfully follow the logic of the character, or should I change it for a more satisfying conclusion?
     
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  2. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    I think it is called a "flat arc" or "iconic hero," and yeah, I think it is acceptable.

    The issue for me is when I decide that the flat arc is the main point of the book.

    Take Die Hard for example. Die Hard is about the hero doing what he has to in order to reunite with his wife. If the movie ended with the bad guys escaping with the money, it would have been acceptable, because I kinda like the bad guys and the point (reunion) was paid off. Flip it--the hero stops the bad guys but his wife dies in the process, say in the last ten minutes of the movie--that would be a terrible movie.

    So, if you know you have a flat arc with this character, do you know if there is another conflict that actually has center stage, and comes to a satisfying end?

    Does your MC's walk off into the sunset leave a feeling of further adventure and hope, or is it just depressing?
     
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  3. LastMindToSanity

    LastMindToSanity Contributor Contributor

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    First, I'll address the last question. Yeah, it's supposed to be sad. She's a main character that the readers follow throughout her whole journey, and they'll hopefully root for her to finally get over her problems and rejoin with her friends. Only to have her fail at the end and not be able to resolve her feelings? I want this to be a punch in the gut.

    She's not the entire story, though, she's only about a fifth of it. There's five characters who're followed throughout the story. I don't think this is too much to write, either, because one of them (mentioned above) dies at the end of the first act, and the other three spend the second act separated, but the entire third act together. M's the only character who's "alone" (Like, without another MC) almost always from the second act to the ending. The other MCs have their own hangups that do get solved. One of them doesn't understand the value of her own life, so she's more willing to put herself in danger for others and more likely to accept death. Another tries to balance the person she wants to be and the person she needs to be. And the last one isn't willing to take chances, which causes problems throughout the story. The one who dies even has his own arc, though it goes unresolved due to the whole death thing, he wants to beat the main antagonist because he wants to take over his position and do some good with it. So, M's not the main focus of the story, she's only about a fifth of it.

    So, yeah. Aside from M and the one who died, the other three character arcs get resolved in a positive way. The overall tone of the book is positive, but there's still the two that don't get that. Hope this answers your questions and thanks for the advice!

    Edit: I read about the types of arcs, and I don't think this is a flat arc. I think the one I'm going for is the negative arc, where her choices/false truths actively lead to her failure.
     
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  4. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    Sounds awesome. Good luck!
     
  5. GrJs

    GrJs Active Member

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    Honestly, I think that her reaction is a given. Her friends are assholes to her just cause she lost control. A good friend, one worth keeping, would stand by her and help her, support her. Not act like she's the devil incarnate cause she killed someone or hurt them severely. I'd be disappointed to find she just forgives them without them doing anything to earn her forgiveness. What she needs to find, in my opinion, is new friends who will stick by her regardless of what she does involuntarily.
     
  6. LastMindToSanity

    LastMindToSanity Contributor Contributor

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    That's the tragic part. You see, the friends actually do care about her a lot. They're perfectly willing to stand by her and help her work through it, but that isn't the main issue. The issue is that M doesn't let them get emotionally close to her again, due to the "betrayals." By the way, those aren't really betrayals. At least, they don't have to be seen as such.

    The first character can't help M because she's busy trying to protect a city from the main antagonists followers. The second character is pretty sure that they can't win (he's right, by the way), and that it would be better if they can get strong enough to actually win. They stand the best chance of defeating the main antagonist that it would be devastating if they all died just to save another character. The third one just kind of gave up on living. She's been spending the last couple of years a captive and being constantly beaten down (mostly emotionally, she's actually been getting physically stronger) and she just can't take it anymore.

    Each character has a legitimate reason to not help M at this point, be it internal or external. The tragedy doesn't come from them rejecting M, because they never do. They want nothing more than to help M throughout the story. The tragedy comes from M actively refusing them because she just can't let go of the "betrayals," despite being giving several good reasons, after all of that happens, to let go of it. The point isn't that the friends pushing her away are causing her problems, because they aren't, they'd take her back at any moment. The point is that her pushing her friends away is causing her problems, and she can't see that she can easily solve those problems by just going back to her friends and trying to fix it.
     
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  7. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    That's good stuff. I've been thinking about this kind of narrative a lot lately, because I tend to run on the simpler side. Did you plot this out ahead of time or did it just grow?
     
  8. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I find myself wanting to argue that that’s where her arc disappears from the reader’s view. She’s not dead. These are not the only friends she can ever make. Sometimes a relationship just can’t heal. Making a fresh start may well be her best solution.
     
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  9. Mckk

    Mckk Member Supporter Contributor

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    I confess I haven't read everything, so perhaps my advice won't be relevant. My first feeling would be: is the sad ending meaningful? Has the MC changed or learnt something new and, preferably, valuable?

    Sad endings are fine, but usually readers will forgive a sad ending, or even find a sad ending satisfying, if there's meaning behind it.

    But if it's just pure and simple defeat, after having journeyed with the MC all this way and she's learnt nothing, she's not changed, and she's still making exactly the same mistakes as before, then yes, that's a terrible, horrible ending that will probably make your readers throw your book to the walls. Some may never read your stuff again due to the massive dose of disappointment.

    As an example, I'm never ever reading anything by the author of the Kite Runner again, and yes, it is in large part due to his, in my opinion, horrible ending. It felt like the author was trying to be a tearjerker just for the sake of adding a few tragedies - it was a massive build up of tragedy after tragedy after tragedy, and then right at the end when everything was looking up, another tragedy - in the final 20 pages of the damn book. The ending was bittersweet with a note of hope in the end, but it wasn't enough for me. I just thought: Enough. You don't get to make such a whooping blow and then leave us with a mere note of hope and get away with it. I don't really care how insightful his writing is or how good he is - I don't care for such emotional upheaval for apparently no reason. (That said, he's a highly successful author, so make of it what you will)

    It all depends on the tone of your book too. If the style and tone has always been realistic, depressing, and perhaps the main message/theme is that "people never change" or "people suffer the consequences of their choices and some things can't be reversed" - then it might still work. But you've got to have built that expectation for the reader from the beginning. You know what I mean?

    The ending shouldn't be a curveball. Twists are great but they need to be foreshadowed. If the ending doesn't fit with the trajectory of the entire novel, then it's not a good ending. It isn't so much about what's the logical sequence of events as it is about expectations of the sort of story you're trying to tell.
     
  10. Lew

    Lew Contributor Contributor

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    Didn't seem flat to me, actually kind of a poignant ending, go for it
     
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  11. LastMindToSanity

    LastMindToSanity Contributor Contributor

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    Actually, she has. Alongside the arc talked about here, M has a secondary arc that revolves around her wanting to avoid conflict, but realizing that, if she actively runs from that conflict, people around her will get hurt. The resolution of this secondary arc is the reason that she does go back to help take down the main antagonist. She's changed withing the context of the primary arc as well, as she's grown from a naive kid into a jaded wanderer. Not the most positive change, but it's not like she stays static throughout the whole story, or just reverts to how she initially was.

    The overall tone of the book is a hopeful one, with most of the main protagonists resolving their emotional issues and coming out stronger for it, and, at first, I had M be the same way. Until I took another look at her character, as well as the events of the story, and realized that there's no way that she's just fine by the end of it. She's too emotionally unstable and on her own too long for that to happen. I realized that the only logical ending to her story is a tragic one. I think that, if I had to put it into words, the overall message/theme of the story would be: "No matter how bad things get, there's always a way out; but some people never find it."

    The ending isn't one. There're a couple of ways that help prepare the reader for a.. less than happy ending. For example, there's the MC that dies before completing his goals, but there's another one. Throughout the second round of her solo arc, M is fighting internally with the thought of the betrayal and what she'll do. She bounces between forgiving her friends and running away. It's pretty even for a while, it even tilts towards forgiveness after they save her, but she just can't ignore her injury, which won't stop hurting. It's a constant reminder that she was betrayed by the people who she considered friends. Finally, after they finally meet up again, M sees how close the other three have gotten without her, and her mind's made up. She feels like she doesn't belong, and the readers get to see her thought process as she slowly spirals into "I guess they don't need me anymore." She has one last chance to go back after the main antagonist is defeated, but she just can't let go of everything, and that's it.

    I don't know if that helps add context, but I think that's the best I can do to explain it. Thanks for the insight, though! It's given me a lot to think about.
     
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  12. GrJs

    GrJs Active Member

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    In M's eyes, however, they are betrayals. Her friends weren't there when she needed them to be. After the fact is too late. Regardless of what any friend is doing they can still take the time to support and help her. Nobody is ever too busy, they justify not helping by saying they were doing something with a greater purpose or something like that.

    Fact is they weren't there. They didn't appear to try to be there for M. So M sees it as a betrayal and is thus reluctant to even appear vulnerable before them again. Getting given reasons to let go later on doesn't erase the fact that they were not there in the beginning.

    If your characters are actively, overtly apologising for not being there to support her then it's a different story. But remember that there's a difference between giving an apology and giving a reason or an excuse for not paying attention.

    "I'm sorry I failed you." is an apology, an acceptable apology that will lessen the hurt.
    "I'm sorry I wasn't there for you." Is also and acceptable apology.
    But watch..
    "I'm sorry I failed you. I got so caught up in fighting Antag that I couldn't be there for you."

    That is a shitty apology most will take to mean that you aren't as important when you're going through shit as other people are. That kind of apology will bolster the negative feelings rather than diminish them.

    Legitimate reason or no, if a friend is hurting, you make time for them regardless.

    Imagine if M was the sister of 'first character'. First Character is likely to drop everything to make sure they're alright. Or at least balance things out. Would you want friends that don't help you out when you're hurting because they were 'busy'? A decent friend makes time.
     
  13. LastMindToSanity

    LastMindToSanity Contributor Contributor

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    Yeah, that's basically the reason that M's pissed. I know earlier that I tried to justify each other character's actions, but, the way I see it, only the first character has a legitimate reason for not helping, that being protecting a city of innocents, rather than one rebel who knew that her actions could lead to her death. The other two don't have a good reason to not help.

    But, yeah, there's not really much of an excuse for the other two, as much as I don't want to acknowledge that they straight up abandoned another character.

    They actually have apologized, they've put their necks on the line for her, they've tried to make it up to M, but she just won't accept it. Yeah, the other characters caused the initial problem, but, even after they try to fix it, M just can't let it go so that she can solve the problem.

    Thanks for the advice though. It's always welcome.
     
  14. CAROLINE J. THIBEAUX

    CAROLINE J. THIBEAUX Member

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    Seems like your main character is a loner. That can be a good ending, - her refusal to change. Like a gunfighter walking off into the sunset.
    That can be a good ending with a set up for a sequel. It is not a rule for the MC to evolve. Follow your instincts. A flawed MC can be much more interesting read. The point is to tug at the reader's heart. You can do that here very well. Good luck
     
  15. LastMindToSanity

    LastMindToSanity Contributor Contributor

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    Realized that I never addressed this. Actually, the entire story was completely different when I started. It starred all different characters with a totally different plot. In the next iteration, all of the current MCs were in it, minus M. Finally, she was added, but the story itself was totally different. I kept fiddling with things, changing major parts of the story to change it into the current one, which I like the best. Hell, there's even a past version of the ending that sees M get set up to be the main antagonist in a sequel series (It was really dark, and I ended up not wanting to be that grim in this one). So, yeah, I never meant this story to be the way it is, but it kind of just morphed into what it is now. The funny thing is, the very first version of this story--the one that I initially planned to write--is so completely different from the current one, I could just write the original and set it in the same world, and the similarities would be, like, two character's powers, one character's name, and three places in the story. I never intended for the story to go this way, but I like how it's going now.

    Now I just have to write the damn thing.
     
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  16. Irina Samarskaya

    Irina Samarskaya Senior Member

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    The ending makes sense--but I think it's potentially a happy one as M could be the only hero amongst cowards. However M could also be a lunatic among the sane--that can be a tricky thing to tackle as being the only sane person in an insane situation can make the sane person feel insane as well as alone and isolated. But I'm sure you can conceive of at least isolated situations where this happens (and perhaps the "insane" are actually perfectly sane but gaslighting the sane person for some reason).

    If I were writing this M would end the story with new friends, basically. Perhaps a heroic love-interest who compliments her by being more grounded (it seems like she actually is a bit nuts--although that could be the result of ostracism and isolation, thus muddying her mental waters rather than making her irreparably nuts) and cool-headed. M seems to hate cowards and seeks to be heroic; therefore M best fits with a heroic crowd (they don't have to all be fighters; they can be advocates, helpers, thinkers, etc.) and it makes sense (and is satisfying) that she collects people for this heroic crowd so that she has real friends by the end.

    This way the ending is much more satisfying as it is otherwise only half-written.
     
  17. Irina Samarskaya

    Irina Samarskaya Senior Member

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    I've heard it is a sign of creative genius that, when creating a story, you do not know exactly what it is or how it's going to end yet you're making it and makes sense and is actually enjoyable.

    Of course you must finalize your work (otherwise it'll never be done), but having it radically morph as you create it makes perfect sense as you're not only coming up with ideas but also discarding bad ones (or at least ones that aren't "good" when you do it; we all have our elements and sometimes it's best we focus on what we're good at rather than what we're bad at. Like writing a sad ending and following it up with a dark anti-hero would be a struggle for someone easily depressed or moody, however it might also make it better. There's pros and cons. I suggest you do what you know best though and venture forth into untrodden territory from there.
     
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  18. LastMindToSanity

    LastMindToSanity Contributor Contributor

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    I don't think I mentioned this in this post, but M actually is a main character in a direct sequel to this story, following her and another group of people as they fight a demonstrably weaker, but much more dangerous, threat. I'm hesitant to give May a new, more heroic, circle of close friends in her original story. Her character arc is supposed to be a caution against holding onto destructive emotions, and emphasize letting go of the past and moving forward. Her arc in the sequel book is about her growing closer to this new group (not intentionally), and she's eventually able to move on. While the original group was much more pragmatic and cautious (They essentially needed to be, because, if they weren't, there was no way they would be able to defeat the main antagonist, as overpowering him is never an option for the MCs), the second one is a group that was actually put together by a third party; and it was set up in a way that compliments M's reckless personality, where the leader is the one who keeps her grounded.

    I think that M's definitely "a lunatic among the sane," as you put it. Throughout the book, I'm making it perfectly clear that, if they ever went at the antagonist like M wants to, they would all die. He's just way too strong for reckless to work. Everyone else understands this, but M actively refuses to acknowledge it, actually making her more dangerous as an ally than an enemy at some points (see the points above where I mention a dead character).

    Okay, back on track. The second group is the one that actually helps M, and not the original group. Here's why. You see, the original group is super gung-ho about personal freedom. Due to this attitude, when M walks away from them, they think "It's her choice, we have no right to get in the way of it" and move on. The second group, however, does not let M walk away. They recognize that it would only end up hurting her in the end, and decide it's best to force M to own up to her self-destructive attitude, and help her work through it.

    Okay, my turn to ask a question. Why do you think this ending is "half-written"? I don't want to miss anything when I get there.
     
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  19. Irina Samarskaya

    Irina Samarskaya Senior Member

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    This changes things considerably from how I understood it.

    I'm not sure what "destructive emotions" are, considering they exist for a practical reason. However it sounds like we have a suicidal nutjob instead of someone who could be sympathetic and understandable--which I think is a bad idea since if she's obviously wrong and her original party is obviously right, then she's essentially a slow moving train crash (or at least predictably an eventual loser). Does she have positive character traits?
    Courage and foolhardiness are definitely not the same thing; I guess this means she's the latter. In which case, why does her group care? Isn't she basically just an overgrown and suicidal teenager throwing temper tantrums? What's her positive? Is she hot and the group entirely young and dumb and full of cum?
    Sounds like the first group was cowardly; the best test of "friends" is whether or not they'll stop you from walking off a cliff. The second group is actually more friend-like because... they're presumably holding her accountable and treating her like an adult instead of an unwanted child. "Personal freedom" does not equal "apathy and passivity", which is a better description of the first group's culture.
    I mean if it ends with her leaving her first group then it's obviously sequel-baiting. The story in itself is clearly unfinished. Cliffhangers can be good, but I think they ought to be reserved for established series' that can plausibly deliver on their promise of a good sequel (which could be you--do you have a fan base and some reason to believe your sequels would garner their interests?). Otherwise the approach Bioware took with Mass Effect 1 was best: leave room for a sequel, but resolve the main story (which Bioware thought since they feared they might not be able to make their intended trilogy, therefore they made the first game acceptable story-wise as a standalone title while also being able to lay the foundation for the next two titles).

    Like a "real ending" would be either May (an interesting name for a "tough chick", definitely sounds like a very girly name so I'm imagining more and more the 20-year-old child type) realizing the negative consequences of her actions, repenting, attempting to make restitution and then the first group welcoming or rejecting her. Or, her leaving and finding the second group by the book's end (which does all that accountability you mention).

    Personally I think she should be given more credibility (i.e. plausibility as right rather than totally/obviously wrong) as otherwise she seems extremely unlikable even though she's (presumably) the main character and view point. You could make a mentally/emotionally underage character likable but, as I understand from the brief of her, she's got only negative traits and if-a-man would be considered mentally unstable and dangerous to everyone around her (and thus, in a life-or-death scenario, someone to exile if not kill). It's hard to care for the future existence of such a person, therefore I have to ask for her positive traits since if she's got some likable character traits then desires for her to survive the plot and actually grow up mix with the desires to simply abandon her story or wish death upon her.

    Overall I am suspecting her story is an analogy for a bad girl living a very self-destructive life and Party 1 being her passive and cowardly family with Party 2 being the Police and an army of Therapists. And maybe the Big Bad is actually President Trump and the main character is a maniacal anti-Trump Jihadi-wannabe. That's the analogy I've gotten to summarize her story, anyway.
     
  20. LastMindToSanity

    LastMindToSanity Contributor Contributor

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    Yeah, I get what you mean, but I don't think that her story necessitates a sequel. The sequel is possible, but I could also just have her end up in a terrible place. Not everyone gets a happy ending, and she's one of the characters that's most likely to lose it.

    She does have positive traits. In fact, she's one of the only two main characters that I would call a "hero". She defends the people that need it; she doesn't even like fighting and does whatever she can to avoid it; she even has someone on the antagonist side that she heavily sympathizes with (He's spent most of his life ostracized, just like she is now, but he tries to put others down to gain power so that he can force the world to treat everyone equally), but she realizes that what he's doing hurts people who don't deserve to be hurt so she fights him. She's also willing to put her life on the line, but she always tries to stay alive. She has positive traits, it's just that her more negative ones are drawn out over the course of the story (like her recklessness, or her rather stunted emotional state).

    I mentioned this earlier, but she isn't the main view point of the story. Only about a fifth of the story actually focuses on her. She does have credibility, though. After that one character dies and she leaves the others, she spends the next couple of years training in order to get strong enough to actually stand a chance against the main antagonist. She doesn't just keep throwing herself into the fight over and over; she tries to tip the scales in her favor so she has a better chance at winning. It's just that, among every other character, she's the only one that puts avenging a friend's death as soon as possible over making sure to save as many people as possible.

    I do agree that the original group aren't very good friends for May, but only specifically for her. They're pragmatic and can push their emotions aside when they need to. May's almost entirely driven by her emotions, only relying on pragmatic thought when she has no other options. One of the points of her part of the story is that she's an emotional kid who took part in a war that was too much for her. The original group don't understand how M thinks, so they can't understand how to get M to want to forgive them. Yes, they apologize, but M has become too jaded to accept those apologies.

    Like a "real ending" would be either May (an interesting name for a "tough chick", definitely sounds like a very girly name so I'm imagining more and more the 20-year-old child type) realizing the negative consequences of her actions, repenting, attempting to make restitution and then the first group welcoming or rejecting her. Or, her leaving and finding the second group by the book's end (which does all that accountability you mention).


    Although I disagree that a "real ending" requires the character to resolve their issues (I've come to believe that some characters just don't end up resolved.), that's pretty much her character arc in the sequel.

    main character is a maniacal


    Yes, she's got mania for a good portion of the story, but there's a reason. She's young, and, among the main characters, she's experienced the least amount of death (pretty close to none). On top of that, one of her friends died as a direct result of her actions. I think that's a pretty solid reason to be a bit, unstable, for a good portion of the story. Not to mention that she immediately isolated herself from her other friends and, because of that, she had no one to help her comes to terms with what happened, so those emotions festered with no real outlet besides the drive to kill the person who killed her friend.

    I mean if it ends with her leaving her first group then it's obviously sequel-baiting. The story in itself is clearly unfinished.


    She rejects the group and leaves them for an uncertain future. I don't see a problem with that type of ending (As a sort of supplement for this statement, I look for books with ambiguous endings, and found way more than I thought I would; some were even written by famous authors, and some were famous books in their own right.) It's uncertain, with nothing solid to stand on, which is what I want it to be. I want this uncertainty at the end of M's part of the story to be, in itself, a caution against rejecting the few people who want to help, but are willing to let you go. But, it's not really inherently sequel-baiting. In fact, the idea of the sequel was a thing while I was fleshing out a version of the story where M's problems are resolved, and she gets a happy ending. The sequel didn't come from this ending, the ending came from the continued story I wanted to tell.

    Now, I think I'll address a misconception I think you might have. M isn't some raving lunatic out for blood. She's a mourning young woman who never learned how to properly mourn. Because of this, she holds onto her anger and desire for revenge because it drives her forward, but, all the while, desperately trying to find a way to escape from her loneliness, but never realizing that she's actively keeping herself away from multiple people that want to help her. I think this misconception might stem from when I said, in the original post, that: Basically, when her emotions run high, she loses control of herself and starts acting on one single thought (run away, protect, kill, hide, etc.). This isn't unique to her, and the characters eventually learn what causes it. That doesn't mean, like, "when she gets pissed off she can't control herself", that means "when her mind can't keep up with her emotions, she literally loses control of of her mind and only acts on one thought".

    Thanks for the feedback! I certainly have a lot more to think about now, mostly centering how explaining things better so that everyone can understand what I'm trying to say.
     
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  21. Irina Samarskaya

    Irina Samarskaya Senior Member

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    Given she's not the main character (which I did not see written in the opening post, but I might have missed it there or in a reply) her ending is nowhere near as important as I thought it would be (after all the "important endings" are the ones directly involved with the central conflict, OR those with the most screen time).
    That's a dilemma a millennial could get around and thematically the idea of "equality of opportunity" versus "equality of outcome" is a very old one that has been debated and practiced almost infinitely. Although in this case it's more like "equality by force"(the villain) versus "equality by independent will" (the heroes) and obviously one cannot be moral if compelled, not to mention "equality by force" always involves robbery and shooting the legs of the fastest runners, therefore from a moral standpoint it's pretty easy to empathize with the hero's party over the villain's. Not to mention the theme is topical in modern times, especially among Western Europeans.
    I did not notice this, therefore my opinions have changed. Her ending isn't all that important because whether she actually gets one or not doesn't matter too much if she's not the Main-Main Character.
    I empathize with May because it's very difficult to forgive those that forsake their so-called friends. However one must be discriminatory when making friends, therefore May could never be a friend of this group simply because she's too foolhardy and they're too cautious. Their personalities and ethics are at odds. However, context is everything. If I recall rightly, the problem May has with the party is that they didn't support her breaking somebody out of an execution. I'm not sure if that's something to hold against them as I need more context to understand the would-be decapitee's relationship with May and the Party. If the prisoner was/is a friend of May only but not the Party, then the Party owes little to the prisoner and only something to May if May did something big for them. Otherwise it's like asking strangers to join a war they're not directly involved in (its a very big ask).

    Of course what's objectively true and what May thinks is true may be miles apart from one another.

    When I say "real ending", I mean a "conclusion". Like May either finding a new group, being rejected after trying to make amends, being accepted, or simply not changing one way or another. I guess your depicted ending is technically an ending, but it's not conclusive--who knows what would happen if there were 40 more pages? I guess "life" is kind of like that in the sense that we're currently mid-story yet if we were to write a book series about our lives, there'd be many cliffhangers before our deaths.

    Yet, as a side character, she doesn't matter that much. Therefore she doesn't need a conclusive ending.
    I think what matters is how you handle it (the Devil is in the details) and end it as the arc could be either interesting/enjoyable or dry/exhausting. I mentioned giving her some kind of conclusive ending where she actually evolve as a person because that's a way or rewarding the reader for their time. However she's not the main character, so it's not as important. However still, her story could still be a good one if you're capable of making a maniacal crazy a sympathetic character. I doubt it (as even the best writers have characters individual readers do not like--and I emphasize individual because while I may not like her, others might. You cannot please everyone, therefore you shouldn't worry too much about my criticism of her since I'm sure there's an audience for this type of character. Probably of the Late Teen/Young Adult range, as I'm a bit too old to have the patience for underaged adults--unless they have a special something, like humor, charm, or benevolent character, to compensate).
    Alternatively, it could be said it's better for May to leave because ostracism is the peaceful way people sort out who is compatible from those who are not. I think May could grow as a woman by going off on her own and learning things the hard way and finding the right kind of company for her temperament (like Party 2). It's not good to have false friends, and for someone like May, Party 1 just isn't her's.

    That's a raving lunatic, even if only then. However the part I didn't embolden ("She's a mourning young woman...") is quite humane and potentially sympathetic. If I were you, I'd emphasize her mourning over loved ones and desire for revenge as most people can relate at least conceptually since family and friends (or at least the desire for these things) are common human desires and people generally want to protect and preserve these things (especially when they're true) as that gives reason to the madness I emboldened (although even then, the madness shouldn't be too intrusive as otherwise the character becomes merely a nutcase rather than a mourner).
    You're welcome! And I know what you mean! What seems simple, obvious, and straightforward in Your Head can be strange, confusing, and complicated in someone else's!

    This might help you since as a writer you have to be clear (except of course in cases where you're being deliberately cryptic, etc.) and eloquent so the reader can follow effortlessly--while also being short and sweet, so not to slow-motion the pacing!

    I'm curious: how's the main story? Who's the real main character(s)?
     
  22. LastMindToSanity

    LastMindToSanity Contributor Contributor

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    This is actually one of points I think will divide most readers' opinions. The thing is, the soon-to-be executed is one of the protagonists. The context for this is, after M's actions cause the death of one of the MCs (the other point I think will divide opinions), this character, Jack, is captured and forced to fight in an arena for a couple of years in an attempt by the main antagonist to draw in the other MCs, who've left the antagonist's reach. Initially, this character had the same conviction M did, get stronger to avenge the dead friend. After a couple of years of non-stop fighting I'd like to mention that a lot of these people are there just for being opposed to the antagonist, and the only way for them both to not be killed by the antagonist is for one to kill the other. The antagonist actually did a pretty clever thing, he started it all off by having Jack fight terrible people, like murders and stuff. He gradually worked her down to petty thieves, and then finally to people who didn't do anything wrong. This took place over a long time, so she adapted to it. This also served to break her down, as she was actively betraying her morals just to stay alive to kill the antagonist. Eventually, she fights the antagonist directly, only to find that she still isn't anywhere near as strong as he is. This is the last straw, she's been spending her time killing people and getting stronger, eventually killing innocents, only to find that it still wasn't enough? She can't take it, and gives up, having been thoroughly convinced that she'll never be able to do anything against him, and accepts death. M was there when she did this, and then M rushes in and tries to save her, but Jack won't help, she can't muster the willpower to stand. This causes M's injury, which rouses Jack into action, and they manage to get away.

    I expect this to be controversial, because it highlights how the other characters think, and that the others, Jack included, believe that letting an ally die so they can keep working towards the ultimate goal is a necessary evil. They rationalize this by reasoning that, as a rebel, Jack actively decided to risk her life for their goal. It's a big moment where May realizes exactly how they think, and is disgusted by it. She also has problems with Jack, because she's more willing to give up and die than at least try and survive. This is the main reason why May splits herself from the group.

    The original group doesn't want anyone to die, but they accept that, as some of the most powerful people in the story, they have the best shot at killing the main antagonist, so they have to be smart and take the most cautious paths. This caution eventually does lead to the antagonist's ultimate defeat and death, but they make very grim decisions for a good part of the story.

    Okay, I see that I just made the original group look like soulless monsters, so I'm going to try and humanize them real quick.

    Jack, the captured one, did everything in her power to avoid killing her first innocent person, even trying to kill the antagonist. She reacts when the innocent person tries to kill her, and kills them in self-defense. May's reaction to the whole execution thing really shakes Jack, convincing her to take the individual into account more. After that whole event, she actively tries to hold herself, as well as the other characters, to the same standard as the people they're trying to protect, even rallying the other protagonists to protect May, as well as a town, against an army that they would normally not even try to fight. They win, and the protagonists realize that they're strong enough to fight back, they just lacked to conviction.

    The daughter of the antagonist retreats to another area, wanting to protect it against the antagonist's forces. She manages to handle it for a while, taking political power from one of the antagonist's spies and defending the area. However, once a large force that she's sure she can't defeat shows up, she's torn between running and defending these people. She stays, but finds her resolve break down over time. She then turns May away, but the encounter leads her to stay longer. Eventually, she goes to confront the whole force by herself, spurred on by hearing about May's attempt to save Jack, and proceeds to destroy almost all of it before getting captured.

    The final character is an actual coward. If he believes that he can't win in a serious situation, he will almost always try to escape it. He spends most of his time away from the group either running from the antagonist's forces, or killing them if they aren't very tough. Further, he's developed feelings for the daughter and, when he learns that she's been captured, he's torn. He's pretty sure that, if he goes after her, he'll run into the antagonist, so he wants to stay away. On the other hand, the idea of leaving her behind makes him hate himself. Eventually, after having to fight through his own large force of enemies, where he makes his decision to finally start risking his life with everyone else and almost dies in the process. He goes and saves the daughter, the then team up to take down the force that caught the daughter.

    Okay, I don't want to give the impression that all of May's interactions with this original group. They actually help her in a couple of ways. At the time the story starts, May lives her life with rose-tinted glasses. If she kept living that way, she would eventually be killed. The group helps to show her the true nature of the world, the good and the bad. Right after the execution event, the entire group comes together, May included. They talk, and eventually get May to understand the point behind their actions. She still can't accept this, however, but this understanding is something that stays with May for the rest of her life. She ends up unconsciously learning to be more cautious and pragmatic (probably also due to the big injury she got). This even carries over to the (possible) sequel, where she puts an emphasis on ensuring victory, rather than just throwing what you got at the enemy and hoping they fall over.

    If I had to name the true main character, it's Jack. She leads the team, and is the strongest. Further, the story is most-focused on her. She's also the one who ends up defeating the antagonist and killing him. Her character arc is the one that's most-focused on. She teaches May how to fight. She has the most interaction with the antagonist. She understands every other character better than everyone else (There are a couple of exceptions, like May and that sub-antagonist I mentioned). So, yeah, I think that Jack would be the true main character.

    With regards to how the story is coming along, I have the entire thing planned, I just need to write the damn thing.
     
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  23. Irina Samarskaya

    Irina Samarskaya Senior Member

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    I don't know if "controversial" is the right word; it'll surely arouse different reactions, but it's not exactly... unpredictable or far-out. Anyone with a conscience, after doing evil things, will feel very guilty. Something as evil as slaughtering good people? That would arouse suicidal thoughts without a doubt.

    "Jack" sounds a bit strange though, since she's a she (and for some reason every hero mentioned is a woman and every villain a male; a bit strange, I'd say) and I have a hard time imagining a woman being strong enough to kill men with weapons. I suppose "magic" is a cop-out for biological differences, but I'd either genderbend Jack into a male (as he sounds like Hercules more than Juno) OR make it clear that Jack is highly unusual (like a seven-foot giantess or something) as there is a lot of unrealism about a woman being even a remotely decent fighter let alone a grand champion. May at least sounds like she could be a stealth-based character, and while being stealthy and murderous is still something males have a natural advantage over females at, at least it isn't a 5 foot girl lifting a 10 foot knight with just a pinky. Only Akira Toriyama can pull off the kind of that kind of comical nonesense! Key reason being he's comedy and light-humor focused. The Red Ribbon Army being the most scary and realistic of any of his villains, and even then they weren't that scary by the end.

    Motivation is a question: why does the villain be villainous? If forced equality is the goal, why host murder-pits and target lone individuals that are more focused on escaping than heroism? Jack and May sound like the only real threats (and why not simply kill Jack? May's just a girl by comparison, and Party 1 sounds ineffectual compared to its stars).
    And thus I believe May ought to separate herself because Party 1 would undoubtedly be just as bad as who they are fighting should they win the war (at least in real life). Although it's bad to hold higher standards than the opponent in terms of tactics, it's also bad to lower one's morals to the point where only the criminals and vagrants would fight for Party 1.

    I'm not saying bullishly targeting an overwhelming power head-on is a good idea; but neither is nipping at the legs while sacrificing every reason for fighting in the first place (disillusionment can be a huge killer for an army's morale).
    I wouldn't go that far; just not worth sticking with since they're no better than the Big Bad. Stalin is preferable to Hitler mainly because Hitler allowed his men to slaughter large numbers of Slavs. If Hitler wasn't so vicious, he could have rallied the Ukrainians in particular against Stalin. Being Evil doesn't pay off...

    On the other hand, the Jin Empire of ancient China conquered the Wu Empire by simply being better morally than the Wu (although the Jin Emperor was a pragmatist, his Commander-in-Chief Yang Hu pursued a policy of benevolence and mercy which contrasted massively with the Wu State's policy of strict martial obedience and mercilessness. Once Lu Kang, the last hero of Wu, died of old age, the Wu generals deserted their country very quickly as Yang Hu was merciful to those that surrendered and just to those his army passed by. Through benevolence, not martial might, the Jin Empire was able to end the bloodiest and longest war in human history). Therefore it's worth baring this in mind as you write, since it's totally realistic for good guys to win simply because they're more attractive (thus attracting soldiers) than the one-sidedly evil bad guys (who loses soldiers and generals).
    That's a good turning point, a "Great Revival" after a terrible slump. I like this general plot point (and it has a lot of historical precedence too).

    I'm guessing there's magic involved because IRL the princess of the bad warlord would most likely either kill herself, desert, or die with her father. I'm quite curious about the Big Bad since he's apparently balanced enough to have a family at this point.

    Speaking of families, how old are the main characters? Hopefully 20 or younger, otherwise you've got Mary Sues bleeding out of your ears! I ask because too many newbie writers seem to have a thing for infertile spinsters and middle-aged Geralt-wannabes.

    I suppose he redeems himself by trying to save the villain's daughter from the hero's army. Not a bad plot twist, a somewhat realistic one as well. It's strange the good guys are female and the bad guys are male though. I know it's a small sample size, but it's still a bit off-putting. It's not a big deal (they could all be male or all female for all I care), but something I've noticed that strikes me as odd and unrealistic.


    So far I probably like May's character the most since she's the one most likely to actually do good post-war rather than be the (historically) typical "revolutionary who establishes a dictatorship" type. I think I'd rather see her story more and see her with Party 2 over Party 1 as I find myself caring more for May and the more heroic types she meets over the cynical bores of Party 1.
    I think May actually makes a better main character. Perhaps she could see Jack through May's own eyes, and thus give Jack more mystery in terms of her true nature and ideals (after all, from May's perspective, she has no reason to believe Jack is any more heroic than the Big Bad).
    What progress have you already made? Knowing how writing works, I honestly wouldn't be surprised if 80% of the story is revised simply because new and better ideas are born when actually trying to breathe life into characters and trying to have them organically do things. I'm sure the basic plot structure will remain the same, but I suspect most of the details, the side characters, the personalities, and all those little details that add up will evolve as you near completion.

    I think you've got serious potential for success; however the reverse is also true. In spite of this, I suggest you take my opinions with salt since there are many different audiences based on mindset, values, and preferences (as well as simply taste and mood).

    I think the basic story needs work towards the end as I don't see how egalitarianism and excessive cruelty go hand-in-hand unless you're writing an analogy for the growth of Socialism and Communism in the 20th century (and even then it's not all that simple--like Stalin had a lot of crap made up about him during the Hrushchev years. However it'd be equally single-minded to characterize him as merely a sheriff who cleaned up the place after Lenin messed it up. The truth is both complicated and elusive). However I think the "humanization" and "depth" will come as you go, so don't worry about it too much. If you have talent, your brain will naturally simmer the ingredients as you try to get the right flavors together.

    I think the parts that need the most work (based on my preferences) is the motivation of the Big Bad (because I don't really understand it--and the reader need not understand for a while, but still the reader ought to be able to deduce it) nor what exactly is the cause of the conflict (again I'm sure you already have a cause for it, but I don't know it) and I think you ought to consider carefully having all the heroic badasses be women as that's only conceivable under highly unusual circumstances and/or when splicing magic (madness) into the mix.

    Having said that, you could keep the characters as they are but make their means of heroism different (as women are not natural fighters, so instead of writing male characters who happen to look like women, perhaps think about the story from a woman's perspective and how she would approach it if she were involved in it based on her own natural imitations and strengths). I think May and the Coward are the most interesting characters since May is heroic but naive while the Coward is cowardly but capable of becoming heroic, especially when the woman he loves (the Big Bad's daughter of all people!) is in danger. I think they make good rivals as well, since by supporting the Big Bad's daughter the Coward is essentially an enemy of Jack's team.

    They also compliment each other. May is brave but foolhardy and naive while the Coward is cowardly but more sensible and flexible. They foil well, and have the potential to make each other better people even if indirect and unintended.
     
  24. LastMindToSanity

    LastMindToSanity Contributor Contributor

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    Damn, I've miscommunicated another thing. The daughter is one of the protagonists, and she's fighting the villain's army there, not the hero's. As well as the guy
    who died, who is her brother. Basically, they started the whole story, because they realized that their dad was doing some terrible things, so they rebelled against him.

    Yeah, that's cause I didn't mention some other characters that don't involve May's arc. There're two sub-antagonists that are women. One is the one who leads the large force against the daughter (not really an army, more like a mob), and the other is the spy that I mentioned earlier, that the daughter overthrew. The one that lead the mob also antagonizes the coward.

    Oh, right, the coward is also a protagonist. Him, as well as the guy who died.

    Also, you mentioned it in your post, but there is a magic-like superpower in this story. Basically, every person gets their own unique ability, but they have to train to unlock it. Not a lot of people can do it, so it creates a big power gap. But, more to the point of the women being great fighters. Aside from May, the other characters use their heads to win fights, the coward included, just in different ways. So, a lot of fights come down to exploiting your opponent's weakness and trying to cover your own. For example, the coward defeats a mob of his own by setting up relays to amplify his ability and entrapping his opponents until they die. The daughter wins a big fight by feigning weakness to lead her opponent into a trap which sets off an onslaught of other traps. Jack wins most of her late-game fights by switching her fighting style after every attack, keeping her opponents off-balance and unable to properly counter. May, along with the guy who died, is really the only protagonist that wins fights by hitting the opponent harder than they can hit her.

    At the start, May's 17, but the others are about 20. There's a two year timeskip, so she'd be 19 by the end, with the others around 22, 23, or 24.

    This is another miscommunication on my part. While there is an army that comes into play in the late-game of the story, most of it just has the Big Bad hunting this group of 4 people because they want to kill him. The army is from an area that the Big Bad is trying to control, but he's more focused on these rebels from inside his own area to seriously pursue it right now. So, the protagonists really don't have any other options than to chip away at the defenses until that other army comes in, and they now have a solid shot at winning a head-on assault.

    Okay, this is something I didn't mention earlier, but this Big Bad is the king of a country, and his son and daughter create a small rebel group, with the intention of assassinating him, so that the son can take control and steer the country in a positive direction, as the Big Bad has started to move towards being a tyrant. So, it'd just be swapping rulers, rather than doing anything revolutionary.

    Okay, some more explanations. The Big Bad, who does the arena fights, is a separate person from the one who May identifies with, who just wants everyone to be equal (He's a sub-antagonist whose more involved in May's part of the story than the others, though he does have a part in each one). The Big Bad is a villain because he wants to establish a "superpower" (superpower: as in, like how certain countries are world superpowers) that would raise him up to a position of influence over the rest of the world. The main characters, aside from maybe Jack and the son, never really find out why he wants this, but he believes that he's destined for greatness, as is just fulfilling his destiny (There's some weight for this, as he was born with an unnaturally strong ability).

    With regards to not killing Jack, she's being used as a type of lure to draw the rest of the protagonists in. Yeah, the others aren't doing too much, but the Big Bad doesn't take chances that he doesn't have to take, which is why he wants to fight them on his own turd, rather then in an unfamiliar area.

    I don't get where you got this from. They're nowhere near as bad as the Big Bad. They try their hardest to save as many people as they can, they just can't save a lot of people. Yes, they make dark decisions such as not trying to save some people, but they know that, if they were to die, than the Big Bad would be closer to wiping out the people actually trying to change things for the better. Like, they don't go out of their way to kill innocent people. Even Jack only killed people so she could stay alive. Yeah, not a great decision, but it was that, or death for both her and her opponent.

    The family actually happened as a way to keep growing his power and influence. He had a strong ability, and so he married a woman with a strong ability as well in order to have strong kids that could help him. (The wife died a while before the story starts, I'm tossing around ideas for how it happened because she has no place in the story) This worked, but only served to hurt him, as those kids go on to try and bring him down.

    I think I've got a stronger idea of where this story stands than when I started. I've already started the writing process.
     
  25. Irina Samarskaya

    Irina Samarskaya Senior Member

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    Now that's disappointing. Sounds like a cliche in the making. At least if there were two sides to the story, there could be empathy/depth. But if it's basically a Star Wars rip-off (i.e. evil dad good son, or rebelling against an absentee father in general) then my interest is gone with the wind. I'd keep Daughter loyal to King Dad just because that makes it much more interesting. And realistic. Two evil parents (I edited this line in since I felt I ought to add it here) sensibly spawn evil or moderately evil children. It's extremely unusual for heroes to be born out of a Machiavellian environment (although not impossible and that could be what makes them "special"). Not to mention it makes the Coward more interesting because he'd be an antagonist AS WELL as a Point of View (is this First Person, Past Tense or Third Person something or other?)
    I guess I like my stories too grounded and less magical; it just sounds like a lot of cheating to me. I cannot really advise you since I prefer magic in video games over literature.
    Might want to make them a little younger since most 20-something year old girls (especially past 25) think about marriage and children, even if they were supposedly very against it at first. This is mostly relevant towards the very end as 24 is right at the base of the hill so-to-speak.
    Where's the Other Army from? I suppose the Party isn't as important as I might have imagined (what kind of country, size and geographically speaking, does the story take place in?).
    Now that's a massive plot hole! What's the point of rebelling against Dad when he's only got one son and that son is pretty much guaranteed to succeed him no matter what? Assuming Dad's around 50, he doesn't have much time left to live (assuming historical lifespans). King Dad's part of the plot could be easily solved by his Son simply having a conversation with him. After all, the Son is going to succeed King Dad so King Dad's options are pretty limited even if he's supposed to be super Machiavellian. Perhaps if you added in a half-dozen more siblings there could be more conflict since otherwise it's pretty much a guarantee that King Dad's gonna lose just because he's not long from death and the successor can only be the Son.

    Also, even if Son has to fight because his Dad lacks common sense and biological drive, he could easily just rally the country nobles and force his dad to abdicate. Historically, if father and son rulers ever seriously had conflicts like this, the Son wins 9/10 just because the nobles prefer a young guy who's probably going to be around for at least another 20 years versus some old guy who can't even get his son to respect him enough to wait until he (Dad) dies of old age...
    Is this a separate country? Or, if the main country is really big, practically a different country? Maybe you should name these guys for me since monikers for multiple distinct antagonists doesn't work in times like these.

    But i get the analogy; a literal magic superpower to forge a metaphorical political superpower. What's this guy like? Got a family or confirmed bachelor?
    That's actually much riskier than simply killing her while he has her. To use an saying: chasing after two hares rather than killing the one.
    You described them as cold and pragmatic and inclined to do whatever it takes to secure their victory. That's the kind of mind set war criminals have when waging war, and since they're plotting a regime change as well as apparently fighting off a foreign warlord, I would assume you meant this on a grander scale (like in leading actual armies against invading/defending armies). Failure to save someone is nowhere near on the same scale as, say, destroying a village under the enemy's flag in order to incite hatred against the enemy.

    However given regime-change is a stated goal, the Son ought to weigh very heavily his actions since it'll set the tone and precedent for his own rulership. After all, a man who deposes his own father is by itself not someone most would trust; follow this up with the potential of raising his own children to believe this practice can be justified, there's a potential risk of the Son being overthrown by his own future children.

    Much like the barely-there Angevin Dynasty.
    Realistically families happen because people want them to happen. Sure, picking the right man or woman can be a political step forward, but making babies is so biologically hard-wired that not doing so is extremely unusual and a sign of... evolutionary distance, I guess you could say.

    Assuming you mean King Dad, I think it'd be fine to keep his family intact since there's no reason I can think off to kill off Queen Mom, especially if she's a supporter of her husband. Even if that support is just emotional or personal, it's still a touch of human realism.
    How far-in? 100 pages? 200? 400? 800? First draft? Second draft?
     

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