As the title suggests, I've got two alternate prompts/backstories for a story that I plan to write. Before anyone asks; neither prompt really works for another story despite my numerous attempts to reconfigure them. So, this isn't a matter of 'hang onto it until later', this is more of a 'which idea is actually more interesting/attention-catching to a possible target audience' sort of deal.
The story takes place in an original fantasy world where the source of all magic was destroyed long ago. Currently in a renaissance period, the people of the world have minor technology like flintlock pistols and airships (not quite steampunk, but it's the closest comparison I can make). There are two primary realms; the realm of light, and the realm of shadow, which exist parallel to one another and can only be crossed by a series of ancient portals. The main plot revolves around a character who is the reincarnation of an immortal spirit (demi-god) who, long ago, swore an oath to the gods to fight the greatest evil in the world in a sort of ying-yang situation (every time to villain is reborn, so is the hero to fight him). The hero doesn't remember everything from his past-lives, but the villain does. They hate each other, but essentially, both play a key role in the development and further continuation of this world.
Now here's where the point of this thread comes in; there's two different types of stories I can take this prompt down. For your consideration:
1.) The latest incarnation of the hero discovers that not everything is as black and white as he once thought when the eternal evil villain comes to rescue him. The villain explains that the Gods have essentially been toying with both of them for decades (since their actions prompted the villain's actions, then coerced the hero into the eternal cycle of reincarnation through misinformation and lies to cover their asses) and now, they're preparing to wipe the slate clean and bring ruin onto their creation. Essentially; the leader of the Gods has slowly descended into a power-fueled madness and wants to remind the 'inferior' mortals of their power. The plot would involve the hero and villain working together to defeat the Gods before the world can come to an end, while also battling their instincts to fight one another based on their centuries-old rivalry.
(Note that not all the Gods are psychos and some who wish to avoid repeating their past mistakes try to help the protagonists or simply out of a desire for self-preservation, but the story plays around with grey moralities a lot especially in regards to the 'insane' Gods. To the uninformed, that's what they may be; but their decisions have more thought behind them then one might initially think.)
2.) Long before the story begins, the tables were flipped. The reincarnated hero had defeated the great evil, but a piece of it's influence had corrupted him from within and he turned into a mad king. The Gods tried to stop the hero by destroying the world, but the great evil, now reincarnated as a good guy, stopped them. The villain led the people of the world in a charge against the Gods, overthrowing them and destroying the mystic maguffin that gave the world it's magic. The villain then reshaped the destroyed world so the people could live their lives without the Gods influence. Centuries later, the spirit of the hero is reborn during a time when the shadow realm has launched a full-scale invasion of the light realm. The hero sets off on a personal quest to stop the Shadow King, but along the way, the reformed-villain learns of his resurrection (something she thought she could prevent), thus complicating the plot.
Here, the reformed-villain would either become the much larger threat that the hero must face, or she would join him as an unlikely ally for a majority of the story, only to betray him towards the end as she reveals that she was behind everything to begin with (ex. the hero's previous incarnation going rogue and causing the downfall of the old kingdom) so that she could finally achieve her goals. Then, it'd basically be the final showdown between hero and villain in a fight to the death; no resurrections.
I'd love to hear any criticisms/suggestions you have for either prompt, possibly on how to make them better or how to approach them from a different angle. Feel free to ask questions if you think they'd help, but also know that this is just the beginnings of a new draft for my story, so I may not have all of the answers just yet. But thank you for reading this and lending a hand!