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Plotting: The Journey

Originally published at Joely Sue Burkhart. You can comment here or there.

Once again, May is discussing plotting, the journey, etc. on her blog, and it’s perfect timing for my next stage of plotting.

A Story is all about the Journey, the hero’s journey. As a reader, I want to take that journey with the character, climb that peak, wallow in the Inner Cave, and return triumphant with the Elixer. Any hero’s journey involves death of some sort–whether physical, death of a dream, loss of innocence…and then the resurrection. Always, the resurrection, hope springs eternal, and the final victory is won. That doesn’t mean I want a “happy ending” — far from it. I love endings that haunt me. I simply want a satisfying ending. I want all the suffering and tribulations on that journey to mean something.

The single-most useful tool I’ve found for plotting/character development intertwined with the hero’s journey is: The Emotional Toolbox. I *always* come to this site and walk through the six questions, usually several times for both the hero and the heroine. Once I’ve got a clear character map for both the hero and heroine, I can usually plot out the rest of the story fairly easily.

Don’t be afraid to answer the questions, change your mind, and start again. Sometimes I think I’m doing fine, I get to Question Six, and realize I’ve missed the whole point. Or I map the hero, and then move to the heroine, and realize I need to do him all over again. *that sounds dirty but you know what I mean* This phase is highly iterative too. I just keep answering the questions, thinking about the fear, the mask, the fear…The Dark Side…until it all sings.

Previous posts: Raw Data, Ask the Questions

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I decided that Koray, the heroine of the new novella, is suffering a crisis of faith. She’s a member of a very secret, holy sect dedicated to Agni, He Who Burns. He chose her instead of killing her. She must have some great purpose then, right? But she sees the violence and killing happening all through the desert and she’s…weary. Keldar is a hard land, a hard life, and only a remnant will be saved after Agni’s retribution. She’s weary of the killing, the suffering, the endless thirst, the eternal punishment for their devalki. Is there no forgiveness? Is there no Water? If they’re all going to die in flames anyway…why even bother?

The worst thing I could do to her is make her choose, then. Does she believe in Agni or not? Does she believe she’s qara (Daughter of the Rock) or not? What if it all means nothing? What if her sacrifice means nothing?

So I begin the character map outlined on The Emotional Toolbox.

  1. Koray’s Mask is pride in her blood. She’s a White, prized across Keldar for their holy blood. In this question, I ended up changing her backstory to reflect this pride better. (I’m sure that will all come out in her character letter, which I’ll be doing later in this process.) She was sacrificed to He Who Burns and was found so worthy that He spared her. That’s her pride she wears at Sakhr, the Rock of Agni. There’s just one little problem she doesn’t want you to know about…
  2. Koray’s Fear is that without her White blood, she’s nothing. Her sacrifice means nothing. Nothing she can do will make a difference in the fate of her people. They’re all doomed anyway.
  3. Koray’s Strongest Trait is her pride. She’s White by blood, holy and prized across the desert. She’s qara by her sacrifice, chosen Daughter of Agni, who is a fierce and vengeful God. He has no mercy, no forgiveness, so why should she? I like how her pride and her fear are tied together. It’s both a strength–and a weakness. She’s proud of her blood–she fears she’s nothing without it.
  4. Koray’s Admired Trait is ferocity for love. Now this sort of came out of left field, but I think it ties the novellas together very nicely. As qara, sacrificed to Agni, she would hold up Chanda from Survive My Fire, as the ultimate example of what qara means and what she can accomplish with her sacrifice. Chanda loved so ferociously that she cursed herself. She declared her heart Riven, torn assunder, and cursed the Gods. When They transformed her into a dragon, she slaughtered the man she loved, his tribe, and her own tribe. In the end, the only thing that broke her curse and saved her, again, was the ferocity of her love. Naturally, Koray wants to love so fiercely. A love to burn…or save…the world.
  5. Koray’s Trouble Traits, her inner demon, is doubt. Deep down, she believes she’s nothing without her White blood. Nothing has changed. Death and suffering still abound, Agni still punishes their people, and He’s going to use her in some way to increase that suffering and death. Maybe He will destroy them all. Maybe no one will be saved.
  6. Koray’s Dark Side goes back to Chanda, who was Riven for her pride. Blind, hateful Chanda cursed the Gods and slaughtered two tribes, all for love of a man who didn’t love her. Will Koray follow in Chanda’s footsteps? Would she ever curse the Gods and declare herself Riven? If she did…how could she ever be saved from the Dark Side? And here’s where the little secret came up that Koray doesn’t really want you to know. The opposite of Riven is Given, and that plays a very important role at Sakhr.

Aha. So I’m getting all sorts of ideas for plot points now. I will jot some of them down, but I’m not going to set anything in concrete yet. I still need to do the character map for Ranulf, and then examine the two maps together. Always asking the question:

How can I make this WORSE?

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