Okay, after finding four other things to do--two old novellas, a new short story, and even reading through the first novel again (I mean, I can practically quote the thing from memory by now)--it's time to admit that I am stuck on Dreamer's Rose. Not blocked. I can write it. I just don't want to. And I think I know the reason why.
The original plan for Dreamer's Rose was for it to be in two parts--the first from the POV of the male MC, the second from the POV of the female MC. The problem is, the first part of the male MC's story is boring. And if it's boring to me . . .
The first part of the story runs like this:
The male MC is the son of the earth (fertility) goddess and the year-king. He can't really be hurt, because Mom is usually around to take care of him. And, being the son of a goddess and a fairly spectacular male specimen, he succeeds at everything he tries. This is important to the story. He has never learned how to handle failure.
When he succeeds at the really big task and transforms himself from a demi-god into a god, that's when the Peter Principle kicks in (he rises to the level of his incompetence). He has no idea how to do this and he makes some spectacular mistakes. Not knowing how to deal with failure, he retreats back to the things he knows how to do, thereby causing even more failures simply because he doesn't even try to do some things. Until he finally breaks down and retreats altogether and goes into hiding.
The second part of the book, of course, is how he is brought back and finally learns how to cope by helping the female MC.
Well, the first part where he never fails is just boring. So, I need to rethink that. I'm thinking right now of redoing it from the POV of his father who is facing the sometimes daunting challenges of trying to raise this kid and shape him into a good man, where he could easily turn out cocky or cruel.
Of course, that almost divides the book into three parts--at least three main povs.
If you don't mind me saying why I think I find the first section boring, perhaps it'll be of benefit to you? The first part holds little interest to me because of the character's impotence and what I perceive is a lack of tension.
"He can't really be hurt" - red flag for me, signalling that since nothing can hurt him there's no conflict that could do anything but make him more arrogant and less interesting to read about.
"Mom is usually around to take care of him" ... "he retreats" ... "Until he finally breaks down and retreats altogether and goes into hiding" - the character seems passive, retreating, and uninteresting.
It could very well be that, given "The second part of the book, of course, is how he is brought back and finally learns how to cope by helping the female MC", that this is where your story is really beginning, and all the rest is background material.
I would hope you don't get too disheartened about it - I'm sure I've read of a number of authors who say they'll write the first 140 pages, figure out what book it is they're actually writing, scrap it all and start the real story.
Funny you should say that. The second half of the book is where this started, as a novella. But I think it does need the description of how the male MC got the way he is at the beginning of that part.
But I really think the problem is more the way I described it. The male MC is not passive at all. If anything, he takes more risks than most. Except, of course, that for him it's not very risky. Even if he falls off the roof, he's falling onto the earth, which is his mother. He won't get hurt. He just really doesn't have anything at stake until after the transformation. I've tried giving him rivals and introducing jealousies, but it's not enough.
And, without what happens to him after his transformation, the antagonist is just a cardboard bad guy. The story really does need the growth of that enmity and how it affects both MCs. The female MC really doesn't understand what's going on there until the climax, so, to her, the antagonist is just evil.
Maybe I could start with the transformation, or just before. That might work. Except I think it'd be hard to make him a sympathetic character at that point, when he's at the top.
But I think there could be lots of conflict for a man trying to raise this demi-god. His father knows that he could become a god someday. He also knows that the kid will have to actually risk death to do that. The goddess has told him that no other demi-god has succeeded, yet. Those who tried all died.
Dad wants to make sure he raises the kid right so he'll be worthy and strong enough to succeed. But how do you impress caring about others on somebody who's never been hurt? How do you punish a demi-god when he's bad? What do you do when the son of the fertility goddess discovers girls?
Opinions are welcome. I'm trying to get this worked out in my head.
[This message has been edited by Meredith (edited July 09, 2009).]
Having not read the story, my suggestions may not apply, but I'm gonna give them anyway, because I'm cool like that.
The problem to me is that your hero is to darn perfect. You need a little cryptonite. Indiana Jones can escape from anything, but he is afraid of snakes so we still love him.
What if this son of the fertility goddess always strikes out with the ladies? What if although he can't be hurt physically, he is quick to fall in love with a pretty face, and constantly refused. Misplaced arrogance is hilarious, and endearing.
Or, you could give him an irrational fear. What if he is afraid of the dark, or of spells in books, or perhaps he is afraid of women. I don't know. He seems like too much of a grown up, maybe you can make him younger. You need to have something that makes him human, or it will be boring. Rogue him up a bit, or weaken him. Give him a goal, and have him actively seek for something. Perhaps his fathers approval. Or the transformation.
If there is no risk, there is no tension. No tension, no page turning. ~Sheena
[This message has been edited by shimiqua (edited July 09, 2009).]
Hmm. Good thoughts. He could be afraid of the ocean--away from the breast of Mother Earth. I've already got a character who's afraid of water in The Shaman's Curse, so I'd have to make sure this was different. But it's a thought. And a good way for Dad to punish him, when necessary. The city he starts out in is on the coast. Ooh, and there's an island just off the coast, too. Hmm.
His problem is more that he's too successful with the ladies, so your suggestion to "rogue him up" might work, too.
I could make him aware of the possibility of his transformation, and it's cost, earlier. See, he does have to die, by burning, if he wants to become a god. Then the question is whether or not he can succeed in coming back. If so, he's a god. If not . . . He could be dreaming and thinking about that--part anticipation, part fear.
He does have a cat he's pretty fond of, a gift from his mother.
Right now, I'm thinking of switching off the POV, at least in the early chapters, between the MC and his father.
The father is trying to raise this exceptional son, plus his more ordinary ones, and manage some jealousies among them and the fact that his human wife hates the MC. He's the only one who dares to discipline the MC. He's also fighting (literally) to maintain his position as year-king. Because, without him, the MC would have no guidance or discipline and things could get very messy. And Dad's really scared of the whole "he has to burn to event try to become a god thing". He's trying to find an alternative, something else for the MC to do and just remain a mortal (sort of).
There just seems to be more conflict in the father at the beginning. Gradually shifting to the MC as he nears the transformation.
Another staple for immortals is, even though they can't technically be hurt, if they piss off the other gods they can end up buried in the earth for several millennia. Maybe daddy disapproves of some of his antics and says if he keeps them up he's going to end up banished to the middle of the sun for the rest of eternity. He keeps them up anyway, but he's a bit more careful to make sure he doesn't get found out.
Thought the constantly striking out in relationships idea was funny too 8D.
quote:Maybe I could start with the transformation, or just before. That might work. Except I think it'd be hard to make him a sympathetic character at that point, when he's at the top.
I think this is the right approach. Pick one cool thing that he does perfectly, as representative of his life until now. Show him saving the day and being cocky about it, but include some human element to make him sympathetic (he saves a group of people and then has a sweet moment with a little girl in the group).
Or perhaps, show him saving the day but tell it from someone else's perspective. The risk is that the reader might expect that character to be important to the story even though he likely doesn't show up again, so you would need to not get too deeply into the minor character--which sounds shallow, but if the action is good and the rescued character gets to --oh-my-gosh-- interact with the hero, I bet it'll do. In fact that minor character could pop up again later in the book, perhaps to scorn the fallen hero.
Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn starts with a pair of bad guys in a short scene, and then you don't see them again for a long time. They are well developed, but I didn't miss them not showing up again. So maybe the initial POV character could be the bad guy who created the problem, and he observes the hero foiling his badness. That sets up your MC to be sympathetic, and we happily switch into his POV as he feels good about yet another victory, isn't it nice to be perfect. Then the transformation...
I see why the father's POV might be a good approach, but then I would expect him to be important to the story and appear throughout it.
I agree with BenM, it seems the story starts when the MC gets out of hiding. I agree also that before you have no conflict, no matter how many risks your MC takes, they aren't risks if by doing X action he won't face Y negative consequence.
You could still use the first part, you don't necessarily have to send it to the trash. Like BenM said, the first part seems like it's backstory and maybe I'm the only one that thinks this way but I prefer backstory mixed with story, not one before the other.
In movies for example (sorry, only example I can think of right now), most of the time you start with an outcast MC or one with a mysterious past but you almost never know everything about the MC's past before the story starts, viewers find out as the story progresses. The story always brings back what the MC is most afraid of, be it spiders, balloons or failure.
[This message has been edited by Nicole (edited July 09, 2009).]
Your main conflict doesn't seem to start until after his transformation, so maybe your story needs to start with that.
Or what about interweaving the first and second halves? Perhaps details can be revealed in the chapters telling the first half that shed light on events in the second half. Then both halves would actually be about the character transformation. The reader would see kind of broken character in the present who was an invincible demi-god in the past, and would wonder what had happened to break him like that. (Check out The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell)
[This message has been edited by keithjgrant (edited July 09, 2009).]
Of course, the cat could be the real problem. He wants or need to take care of it, and it is disappearing, or messing up what he is up to. He could be saving the universe and find that he has to save the cat, which messes things up.
On that idea, he might be coming onto a pretty woman and the cat gets into a fight with a bit dog. He has to abandon the woman to save the cat. He is winning a running race and the cat appears. He has to leap over it and messes up his pace. He loses.
He is going to be in a big event against many of the best, and the cat disappears. he has to search all over the place to find it, and by then, the event has already started and he is unable to compete.
Being a gift of a god, it could make his life mizerable.
Okay, going back to basics and the MICE quotient:
If it's a character story, then it starts when the MC can't take any more. That's well after his transformation and too far into the story. From that point, it's very hard to show why the antagonist is antagonizing.
If it's an event story, then it starts when the world goes out of balance or when the MC knows that it's out of balance. That's the transformation.
But maybe either type of story could start when the MC learns about the possibility of becoming a god--and what he would have to do. If, from that point on, he's not content with what he can do as a mortal, but he's naturally afraid of burning. I can picture a, say, ten-year-old boy, having learned about this. He has this great destiny, if he's brave enough to take it. He has no fear, at this point, since he's never been hurt. He puts his hand in a candle flame to see what burning feels like. It hurts! As soon as he takes his hand out, the burn heals. But it hurt. He's afraid of being burnt, now, but he wants what's on the other side--he thinks. Every so often, maybe once a year, he tests what burning feels like, still afraid to go all the way. Until one day . . .
That way I could build up anticipation for the transformation--and then the terrible disappointment.
rstegman: I love the ideas about the cat. But Cat (yes, that's her name) is actually the way his mother keeps tabs on him. Cat does get him into trouble at least once, though.
[This message has been edited by Meredith (edited July 09, 2009).]
I do agree with others that if your story is boring you are probably starting too soon and a lot of this info can be given in back story, but only you can know where your story needs to start.
If you feel it needs to start before the transformation, perhaps you should start with internal conflict since external problems are easily overcome for your MC and don't provide tension.
Maybe his father is scared of him since there is no way for him to control the behavior of a demigod. The MC may pick up on this, but not really understand why the father is standoffish, and believes himself to be unlovable or maybe even a monster since his own father fears him.
Maybe he has a hard time understanding or relating to others because they can get hurt and he cannot. Maybe he thinks his friends and girlfriends are attracted to his power and do not really like or even know him.
Maybe he pushes people away not wanting to become close to anyone because he knows that everyone he loves will eventually die and leave him, and he will be all alone. So he doesn't want to connect with anyone.
These are just some examples off the top of my head, but I think this character would have a lot of internal issues to deal with being a demigod raised in a human world. Perhaps those can provide the tension needed in the first part of your novel.
[This message has been edited by MAP (edited July 09, 2009).]
Thanks everyone. Your input helped me figure out where I want to go with this.
I took the former first chapter (MC's conception and birth) and turned it into a prologue. I'll either cut it way down or delete it altogether. Not sure yet.
I wrote a new first chapter, with the MC finding out about his possible future, being very confident that he could actually do it, testing what burning feels like. Now he's afraid of something for the first time in his life. And he doesn't like it. That, and the cat, I think give him enough humanity to keep him likeable, despite being just a bit cocky. His attempts to deny and overcome his fear, because he very much wants to become a god, should provide enough conflict for a couple of chapters. He's also going to have an experience with loneliness, when he gets cut off from Mom for a while, that's going to rock his world and give him a better understanding of other people.
I'm planning to just hit the highlights of his life before the transformation, with escalating and abortive attempts to face fire until he finally succeeds. There are some other things that happen during this time that will have an effect later in the story.
I only read the first post on this thread so if this is useless or redundant... feel free to ignore. I won't be offended.
If you are having trouble offering challenges to nearly invulnerable characters, I suggest you give Dave Farland's (Wolverton), Runelords books a read... You don't need to read them all but the characters in this series all have been buffed up by magic and are not really challenged by the mundane everyday problems that normal heroes face.
There is also a very interested magic system here for you to look at. It's pretty neat.