Monday, March 4, 2013

Writing Process: Warrior's Legacy

Right, so: Warrior's Legacy is the working title for a project that I've been working on since... I don't know. Quite a while. A depressingly long time, in fact. It was originally intended to be a YA Fantasy book, but I found myself including more and more adult elements, so it's not YA anymore. And it's the most complete of my projects, insofar as I actually have a finished first draft. It's just that the first draft needs to be... well, I was going to say "revised", but actually it just needs to be rewritten. Completely. From the ground up.

The rewrite has consistently, persistently defeated me.

And yet, I keep coming back to it. I love the world; I love the characters; I just need a story that will plug those characters into that world.

Which was why, in the course of reading a bit of discussion about Problem Characters - characters who don't seem to want to do what they need to do for your plot - the first thing that leapt to mind was this:
What do you do with a character who's main motivation is not to be involved in the plot?

I have a story - an actual finished first draft, though it suffers from a bad case of Kitchen Sink Syndrome; it doesn't need to be revised so much as rewritten - in which the main character is just finishing up his training as a sort of magically-enhanced warrior. What he wants, basically, is to be left alone in his safe place. (Admittedly, "safe" is a relative term, since after he graduates he'll be living at the school when he's not going out on expeditions with the other mercenaries, but that's what he knows and is comfortable with.)

Now, as the author, I'd like to drag him out into the larger world - there are areas to explore, people to meet, secrets to discover, and just possibly a kingdom to rebuild... and he wants nothing to do with any of it. He just wants to go out, do the job, and come back home. I've experimented with at least a half-dozen ways to pry him out of his shell, but so far I haven't found a dynamic that works for me.
Then, this weekend, I ran across this article over on Making Light. It's about the myth of the True King (or Queen) - the king seen not as ruler, or defender, but as inspiration and catalyst. And that sparked some... interesting possibilities.

Because one of the big difficulties with Cat isn't just that he doesn't want to become a leader; it's that he really isn't any good at it. He's an outsider, an observer, a rogue; he's the guy who goes ahead to scout on his own, not the one who inspires people to follow him into battle. He's never going to be politically adept, and he's not much good at asking for help - even when he desperately needs it. But if I can have him leading almost by accident, if it's more his presence nudging people into doing new things than his (non-existent) bold leadership driving them forward, then Cat being who he is becomes a lot less of a problem for the story structure.

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