Start over or no?

3 months ago | AdamBolander (Member)

Hey guys, I need some opinions. I had a friend beta read chapter one of my new story, and he had some things to say about it, haha. I want to be objective, but I also don't want to have to rethink how literally everything works if I don't have to. So, here's the basic idea, followed by his opinion and then my opinion. Which one do you agree with more?

Setup: the Chimera Knights have magic bracers grafted to their arms and a bunch of gems. Each gem represents an animal, and putting it into the bracer partially turns them into that animal, giving them that animal's strengths or abilities until they remove it.

His opinion: "No matter how great the burden of creating a Chimera Knight is, you've almost entirely shifted it away from the knights themselves – all they have to worry about is the end product of the marble and bracer. Regardless of how much training is needed for effective combat, you've made chimericality (I hate how readily that set of letters sprang to my mind) a ready-made, externally provided tool, rather than an innate quality[...] Now, imagine things a different way. What if, instead of grabbing squrrel-hood out of a bag, Soli had to actually become a squirrel? Learning to think like an animal, to move like an animal, to know what that animal really is, in order to transform into one outwardly – this is much more meaningful than happening to be in the right branch of the king's forces to be given the right technology.[...] Look at Star Wars: Is Luke Skywalker defined by flying an X-Wing, wielding a lightsaber, or knowing the Force? Becoming a Jedi distinguishes his innate nature, and you can see it change him and grow him over the course of the trilogy from a naïve hothead into an unshakable master of his soul. What is he if you take that away? Still a character, even a good one, but a hell of a lot less of one."

My opinion: "The issue is that I already have the entire plot based off of the marble-bracer thing. We're going into spoiler territory here, but Tanuc isn't human. He's a raccoon (hence his name being a play on the word Tanuki), and he doesn't have any memory before he woke up with his father because that was the exact moment he became sentient. His father has been experimenting with wildings for years trying to create a gem that can turn an animal into a fully fledged human. He needs it because in his own efforts to transcend humanity (which involves dealings with ancient eldritch horrors) he has actually lost his human body and must consume other humans in order to temporarily obtain their form. That's why his face kept changing while he was putting the bracer on Tanuc, his human body was breaking down and he had to replace it with whichever one was next in line. That's why Hedroph took Tanuc away, because the gem that's hidden in Tanuc's bracer (the bubble above the indentation) has the power to give him a permanent human form. So while I like your idea, I'd have to either rethink how all of this works, or come up with a completely different story to tell with it."

Author of The Gray Ranger, The Slayer and The Sphinx, Juryokine, Amber Silverblood, and more! Read for free on http://www.bolanderbooks.com

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Responses

  1. nippoten (Member)

    Posted 3 months ago

    Sounds like your buddy was onto something. Might try going in that direction to see what you come up instead.

  2. LadyAnder (Member)

    Posted 3 months ago

    I'm not going to bother choosing who I agree with. Not enough context in my opinion to answer in that fashion. However, I'm going to repeat what appears to be a very commonality in some of the things you have posted before. The lack of depth.

    Your beta reader is basically asking for the ability to have a little more substance. While giving character cool abilities, it's nice to see how that ability actually shapes them. If their powers are nothing more than just inserting a marble into a gauntlet and they do their thing, then I can see why he said what he said. If that's the case, why would you have to start over to provide depth?

    A cross-genre fantasy stories about elves-->http://brotherhoodarchive.com
  3. TanaNari (Member)

    Posted 3 months ago

    I disagree with your reader's argument. There are plenty of stories where the abilities provided are "external", and it works just fine... although as with everything, there are ways to do it "right", and ways to do it so very wrong.

    Take DC's Green Lantern Corps- phenomenal cosmic power, on a ring that can be stolen, or run out of power, or just decide you're not worthy anymore.

    Any story involving firearms. With some fictional exceptions, guns aren't intrinsic to the character... they're wielded weaponry.

    Giant-Mecha-stories.

    And while Luke may not be known for his lightsaber (though that's debatable)... Thor is *absolutely* known for Mjolnir.

    The list goes on for essentially ever. And it's neither interesting nor not interesting.

    On the other hand, look at how many utter crap stories are out there with plenty of intrinsic power available. Twilight has characters with intrinsic power... doesn't make it good... or insert-generic-OP-shonen-here... this list also goes on essentially forever.

    Of course, with the equipment or magic, you will have to go into detail on the nature of magic in the setting and how it's altered everything for everyone ever.

    These things are the kind of weapons that could allow select individuals to win wars in the *modern* world (become moth, enter enemy leader's bedroom, assassinate)... put them up against medieval technology, and it's all over. If these weapons exist in an otherwise low magic world... they are more valuable than an empire's entire treasury. If magic is powerful enough that there's nothing particularly special about them... then you've gotta explain how this breathtaking level of magical power has shaped society.

    And at the same time, you gotta keep your main character interesting enough to be worth reading about. Put too much emphasis on the gimmick rather than the people... and your work will be boring no matter how cool the gimmick might be.

    That is the real question of how you make a story interesting... if these magic transformation devices are a thing, then you'll have to distinguish your character by other means.

    Yes, Luke did have the force, but the force alone didn't make him interesting (citation: the new Star Wars movies... *shudder*...) what made him interesting was his earnest, naive farm-boy personality that was intrinsically likable, and the world he got dragged into, and then his growth from a nobody to a hero. That character development, not his various powers and/or equipment, was what made him a good character.

    Author of Price.
  4. AdamBolander (Member)

    Posted 3 months ago

    Okay, so a little more backstory. The bracers and the gems work like this: to be honest, I'm stealing a tiny bit from Brandon Sanderson's "The Emperor's Soul" because the rune etched in each gem is a symbol that perfectly represents a certain animal. Not a species, one specific animal. The Knight will study that animal for months, maybe even years, and record every single thing they observe about it, both physical and mental. Everything about that animal makes it's way onto the rune somehow, and only when that runs is absolutely 100% perfect will it be able to turn the Knight into that chimera form. Theres even been some debate about whether the gem actually does anything at all, or if 8ts the Knight's intimate knowledge of that animal that gives them that power. For instance, if a Knight were to give one of their gems to another Knight, that Knight wouldn't be able to use it because they don't know the animal like the other does. The bracer is what makes their body able to change, but it also keeps them from changing too much.

    It is almost unanimously agreed upon that its impossible to make gems of humans, because humans are infinitely more complex than animals. Any rune that could accurately depict a human would be unfathomable to the human mind.

    That's why Tanuc is special. He doesn't know it, but he is a raccoon that has been chimeranized (?) into a human. His father somehow managed to not only make a human gem, but to make one that has essentially twice the power of a regular gem because it turned him fully into a human and not a raccoon/human hybrid like a normal gem would have. His bracer is also different because it has a second slot for another gem, which would allow him to become a three-part chimera if he wanted: a raccoon in the form of a human, half way transformed into whatever other gem he used.

    What do you think? Interesting enough?

    Author of The Gray Ranger, The Slayer and The Sphinx, Juryokine, Amber Silverblood, and more! Read for free on http://www.bolanderbooks.com
  5. TanaNari (Member)

    Posted 3 months ago

    No, that's not interesting at all. That's just your gimmicks.

    Tell me about the character. Who is he, what is he about, and summarize it in a single sentence. Two if absolutely necessary.

    Because you'll find that every iconic character in history can be summed up in one or two sentences.

    After that, maybe a short paragraph describing what separates him from other characters following the same general archetype, but you need to have a summary.

    And then you need concrete goals for said character so they have something to actually do in the story.

    ... Everything else is just gimmicks.

    Author of Price.
  6. Sharkerbob (Member)

    Posted 3 months ago

    Cool powers and lore can be interesting, and it is important to flesh out your world to make it feel more robust, but if that's all you got, I'd much rather just read a wiki article that summarizes your concept than have to slog through a whole book where the main character is mainly a display piece for how cool the powers are, and a tour guide to show off you world. I think what your friend is trying to get at is that he wants to see how the powers psychologically effect and change Tanuc himself. What emotions and struggles and drives and social connections does Tanuc have to get us invested in him as a person?

    It sounds like you already have the seeds for several key conflicts with Tanuc that you can explore. Consider the following character developments:

    1) His father figure, the one who created him, is a monster of his own making, a body-warped cannibal who must commit terrible deeds to maintain himself. Is Tanuc horrified of this? Does he not care? Does he sympathize with his father, or think him a fool who deserves his fate for going too far? Does he perhaps admire his father for trying to transcend his limits?

    How do these reactions define Tanuc's outlook on life? Will he attempt to follow his father's footsteps or reject him? In either case, how does this emotional impact cause him to react when he discovers similar situations on his adventures? (Does he have a disdain for scientists because of his discomfort with his father, or does he admire them as he admires his father?)

    2) Tanuc does not know he is an animal turned human. Yet, how does the fact that he is an animal effect his psyche and ability to relate to people? Does he perhaps get along better or feel more comfortable with animals, or at least other racoons/tanuki? Do other humans make him uncomfortable or skittish? Does he not like even being touched by humans because of this? Does he ever wonder WHY he has these feelings, and does this wondering bring him closer to the revelation of his true nature? Does he maybe have a disdain for animals that a racoon would naturally fear or prey upon?

    Alternately, does he like being human, and would the revelation that he is an animal send him into an existential crisis? Does he have a human love interest whom he fears losing if his true nature is revealed? Is he uncomfortable around animals due to some subconscious feelings that conflicts with his human wants?

    3) Tanuc has no memories of his time before awakening as a human. Does this bother him in any way? Is he haunted by the lack of memory, of wondering who he was? Does he wonder about his parents (if he knows his father isn't his biological father)? Not knowing he is an animal, does he fantasize about an idealic childhood in a human village that he believes he has forgotten?

    Or does he not care about the past, and thinks mainly about the future? Perhaps a core belief of his is that one's origins do not define a person, its their actions. That could even be a theme of the book, if he encounters people from different walks of life who have a lot of baggage, and maybe he can be the one who shows them that the past doesn't have to be a shackle. And if this is his belief, does the revelation of his origins shake this belief, or does it strengthen it?

    4) What does Tanuc think about the Chimera Bracer? Does he realize how special he is? If so, does this make him worry about potential dangers associated? Or does it go to his head, leading to an overall prideful attitude?

    These are all possible avenues of character development just going off what you've given us, but the thing is, you haven't even described his baseline personality enough for me to even guess what Tanuc's reaction to such things would be. That's what I think your friend is trying to suggest, that beyond the powers, you should focus on how those powers, and his life circumstances, affect him.

  7. smatthews65 (Member)

    Posted 3 months ago

    I think TanaNari and SharkerBob are right in leading you to think further down the rabbit hole.

    You've introduced the premise behind the story...but what's the actual story? Sharker gave you good places to start in thinking of your character arc and what that internal growth would look like.

    The story will only be interesting if people can invest in and root for (or hate) the characters, not because of any special abilities they may possess. I think you've done a good job in explaining the idea behind the bracers and how they'll affect the story......but sounds like maybe you need to spend some time on the story itself?

    But then again, you may know more than you've told us...just my two cents based on what I've read so far.

    Mists of Kel Doran Online Novel
    http://www.mistsofkeldoran.com/novel
  8. Rhodeworks (Member)

    Posted 3 months ago

    A lot of web serial authors get stuck on worldbuilding and lore when, really, it's the least important part of the work (but the one fans will say is the most important). It's great that you have a concept you like, but that's just a concept. The worldbuilding should service the story and the trials that the protagonist goes through. Anything else is doing it backwards, IMO. What is Tanuc's story? What's his struggle? What does he want? And how will the Chimera Bracer help explore all that, as well as any deeper themes?

  9. AdamBolander (Member)

    Posted 3 months ago

    Well, obviously I'm not going to just stop a tworldbuilding lol. But since my friend was so concerned about where and how the powers worked that's what I've been focusing on in this thread.

    Author of The Gray Ranger, The Slayer and The Sphinx, Juryokine, Amber Silverblood, and more! Read for free on http://www.bolanderbooks.com
  10. Dary (Member)

    Posted 3 months ago

    I'd ditch the bracelet/gem thing and just make them shapeshifting Animists who, through study and meditation, learn to take other forms - with the danger that, if they identify too much with said form, they lose all concept of their humanity and become trapped, convinced they are what they have become.

    Right there you already have a theme emerging: what it means to be human. And hey, you have a protagonist who *appears* human, but wasn't born one. See where this is going? You have your internal conflict, now throw in the father figure forcing others to take alternative forms and you have an external conflict, both of which tie into the overarching theme.

    The magic artefact stuff just complicates things - and the more you complicate things, the more rules you layer, the harder it will be to adapt when someone spots a flaw. It's like a house of cards, impressive at first glace, but ultimately fragile to the touch. Keep it simple.

  11. Sharkerbob (Member)

    Posted 3 months ago

    Alright, well, if the above advice was missing the point, and you've already got a lid on your character and plot stuff, I apologize for misreading the problem. Still, generally speaking, whatever power set you decide, the impact on the character is important.

    Personally, I like the idea of the Chimera Bracers. You could still use that, and do as your friend suggests, where the chimerification causes psychological effects that the user has to deal with. I've been reading Animorphs recently, and that's one of the most interesting challenges the characters in that series face, is having to deal with the animal instincts when they first morph, and balancing their human intellect against the animals intuition. You could do something similar with the Bracers.

  12. Walter (Member)

    Posted 3 months ago

    There's always gonna be someone who is like "nice story you have there, what if, instead, you told the story I'd like to read". The only reason to listen to folks like that is if you are selling your story, and you think they represent moneyed interests. Otherwise, just tell him that his ideas sound great, and you can't wait to read what he does with them.

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