Archive for protagonist

Core Story Problems with “StarFire Dragons”

Posted in Sci-Fi Part 1 - Revised 3, The Kavakian Empire with tags , , , , , on March 25, 2017 by Dawn Ross

Book Cover for StarFire Dragons

Last week I discussed the core story problems my content / development editor pointed out. But when I discussed these issues, I discussed them in a general manner. The following applies those issues to my own story, “Starfire Dragons”.

Making the Primary Protagonist Face a Hard Choice

I seemed to have two primary protagonists, J.D. and Jori, neither of which had to face a truly difficult choice. Jori was faced with a choice where he could either please his father by hurting J.D. or not hurting J.D. and suffering the consequences of his father. But he makes his choice too easily. And the idea of consequences from his father is too distant for the reader to grasp. J.D. is faced with a choice where he could either go against his superiors to help the enemy child he’s come to care about or follow orders and betray the child. Again, he makes the choice too easily and he slips out of the consequences.

I admit, making characters I love makes it really difficult to put them in tight spots. But it’s got to be done if they’re going to truly grow, which leads to the next heading.

Helping the Primary Protagonist Grow

Both J.D. and Jori grew as people but not in a profound way and not in such a way where they had to face a final antagonist in order to grow. J.D. became less wishy-washy, but I think he’s still too wishy-washy in the end. At first glance, it would seem Jori made the most growth, but when you consider some of his history and his teachings with Master Jetser, he already had a foundation to build on.

Choosing One Primary Protagonist and One Primary Antagonist

As my editor, Kristen Lamb, pointed out, my story had no primary antagonist for the primary protagonist to fight. I thought my antagonist was more of an intangible one—our human tendency to hate someone because they are different than us. But how can there be a final battle with a human flaw? If I were to keep this human flaw as my primary antagonist, I would have put it into a single human form.

Jori as the Primary Protagonist?

If I choose Jori as the primary protagonist, who will be his primary antagonist? It can’t be J.D. because he would be downgraded to secondary protagonist. It could be the captain, but this would cause me to rethink the entire series I have mapped out. If I made Rear Admiral Zimmer the primary antagonist, I’d have to bring him more into the story. If I make Calloway the primary antagonist, I will need to give him a higher rank. Things to consider.

J.D. as the Primary Protagonist?

My other option is to make J.D. the primary protagonist. His primary antagonist can’t be the captain for the same reason indicated above. It could be Zimmer, maybe even Calloway. In a way, it could be the Alliance itself. After all, he’s struggling with a dilemma of duty versus morality. If the Alliance represents duty, he’d have to make a hard choice regarding morality. But the Alliance itself can’t be a defeated antagonist without a human form. Jori comes across as his antagonist at first, but my future stories won’t allow for him to be the primary antagonist.

Terk as the Primary Antagonist?

Perhaps Terk could be J.D.’s primary antagonist. Terk would have to wake up sooner and his father’s beliefs would have to be stronger than Jori’s. The only thing is, I will need to think of a way to defeat Terk without killing him (as Kristen suggested) because he’s an integral part of book two. I know, I know, Kristen. Having a “little darling” as you call it could be a huge boulder in the path of a successful story. But I will find a way to blow up that darned boulder and still keep my character. Perhaps defeat could mean thwarting Terk’s plans.

Creating a Final Epic Battle

No matter who I choose as my primary protagonist, I need to make sure they defeat my primary antagonist in a battle of some sort. Battles don’t always have to be with actual fighting. But considering Jori and Terk are warriors and J.D. is a strategist, I think this makes the most sense. I see a huge space battle scene forming.

Conclusion

If I really want to improve my writing and make this story great, much of it will have to be changed. A lot will need to be cut out. And some things may not go the way I had originally planned. While this seems harsh or even discouraging, I’m not put off by it. If anything, I’m raring to go. My mind is churning with ideas. “StarFire Dragons” isn’t going to be published when planned, but it will be published. And it will be my best work ever.

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Finding Core Story Problems with a Content / Development Editor

Posted in Sci-Fi Part 1 - Revised 3, The Kavakian Empire, Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 18, 2017 by Dawn Ross

Have you ever heard the saying, “You don’t know what you don’t know”? It is very difficult to critique your own writing skill. My beta readers helped but the feedback they provided just touched the surface of what was wrong with my story. So I hired a professional content / development editor, one that looks at the overall story development. And let me tell you, Kristen Lamb’s feedback was phenomenal.

I knew my story wasn’t perfect, but I didn’t know why. I hoped it was good enough, but knew deep down that it wasn’t. When she discussed her findings with me, it was like a lightbulb came on and I was struck by lightning at the same time.

Lightning Bulb

The lightning strike was because nothing pains the heart more than hearing the story you’ve poured your soul into still needs more work. The lightbulb was because she also provided feedback that encouraged me to move forward. My writing is great. My story is on the right track. And the story problems can be fixed. Here is what she said:

Luke Skywalker Fights His Father

Your Primary Protagonist Has to Face a Hard Choice

You can’t just throw trouble at your character and always have him make easy choices to get out of trouble. You have to really push them to the edge in the final act. You have to force them to do something that goes against their nature. And you have to make the choice a sacrifice no matter which they choose. Think about how Luke in “Star Wars” is forced to kill his own father. His hard choice—sacrifice the galaxy to save his father or sacrifice his father to save the galaxy.

Labyrinth Ludo Sarah Sir Didymus

Your Primary Protagonist Has to Grow

Your character starts out one way at the beginning of the story and learns something so profound from his journey that he changes into someone else. I don’t mean literally, though it could be literal, like in “The Fly”. And I don’t mean their whole persona. I mean something about his or her character changes. Think about Sarah in “The Labyrinth”. She began with the romanticized view that she was a Cinderella-like person forced by a wicked stepmother to care for a spoiled sibling. Then she faced a real adventure and learned to appreciate her life and her brother.

Choose One Protagonist to Focus On

Although you can have multiple protagonists, only one will face the hard choice and truly transform and grow in the end. Consider “Star Wars” again. There are many great protagonists in the story. And they all have grown in their own way. Han Solo isn’t such a scoundrel after all. Neither is Lando. Leia and Han fall in love. But the primary protagonist is Luke. He’s the one who grew the most—from the whiny kid in the beginning to a Jedi master at the end. He’s also the only one who truly faced the heart of the Empire. And he’s the one who sacrificed the most when he made his choice.

You Have to Have One Strong Antagonist

When you just throw trouble after trouble at your character like I did, it’s more difficult for your character to face a hard choice at the end. And as you will see in the next heading, it’s more difficult for them to fight a final battle.

The Departed

Your Primary Protagonist Has to Face the Primary Antagonist in the End

I wanted to add “and Win” because I like my heroes to win. But they don’t have to win in order to make a powerful story. The movie, “The Departed” comes to mind. Although Billy Costigan killed Colin Sullivan in the end, Billy was also killed. Anyway, without one primary protagonist and one primary antagonist, you can’t have the hard choice with the big battle at the end. You simply have a journey from one place to another with no ultimate purpose to keep your reader interested.

What This Means for “StarFire Dragons”

To keep this post from getting too long, I will post my musings on this next Saturday.

Conclusion

As writers, we can either let critiques bring us down and keep us from writing, or we can accept them as learning experiences and work on improving our skill. Because the feedback I received from Kristen Lamb was so spot on and made so much sense (and wasn’t at all contradictory like it was with the beta readers), I’ve chosen the later route. I strongly encourage you all to get your own stories reviewed by a content / development editor. They’re well worth the money. You can’t become a great writer if you don’t learn what you don’t know.