So I've been working on this long term project that's been in my mind for a while now. I stopped a few weeks ago when I was having similar thoughts and went back to work on something else, before coming back to the original project with a new project. After hammering out more than five-thousand words, I've come to the realization my plot has no real structure and my protagonist has no real reason to do what she's been doing.
I was listening to a Brandon Sanderson lecture on Youtube (which I highly recommend, just type his name in with lecture and you'll find a bunch of them) and the topic of the video I was watching was about conflict as it relates to the plot. One of the points he hit was about how most plots can be summed up into one sentence, he used Lord of the Rings as an example. Obviously there are many details to consider over the entire series, but it can be boiled down to a single sentence. I was thinking about the project I've been working on, and I realized I could not do it, as opposed to another project of mine which is almost as fleshed out (Magic student goes on a journey to holy lands to rescue her best friend from the possession of a demon goddess).
I took a closer look at my plot and realized I couldn't sum it up so simply. Sure, there's conflict, romance, character growth, the general elements you'd find in any plot. But my main issue was that the sub plot (which I had no idea how to resolve) was serving as the main point of conflict, outside of internal character struggle. The conflict and romance was contrived, and at the end of the day, the MC had no reason to be where she was in the first place outside of me playing god.
Because I love the characters I've built (the four, five-ish, that I'm keeping) I'm trying to work something out. The original plot is as follows:
A young noble girl flees her home due to the responsibilities she wishes to avoid, and finds herself committing herself to a guild of assassins. She receives a contract to kill the Crown Prince because of her background, and can't find herself to do it because she thinks she caught feelings.
A couple things are horribly wrong with this:
- Why does she join the assassin guild? She has absolutely no reason to, except for "hey this looks kinda neat." Anyone raised in a wealthy household with a family name in the time period would never risk the public shame
- Running away from her life is just so… bland?
- She has no reason to join the guild!!!!!! Why did I think this was a good idea?"
- The subplot was also her assassin friends taking down ring leaders who bought and sold sex slaves from a neighboring country. Every conversation about this subplot felt so uninspiring, I suppose this brand of blatant accidental commentary isn't my thing.
- there was also this weird initiation thing in the beginning where she had to fight an existing member to join, which she was obviously fine with because she's a mary sue and her brother taught her how to use a sword. If one of your employees was beaten by some newcomer who is much less experienced, you'd probably fire your employee. Not a great business model.
As I'm looking at potential options, I was thinking some sort of new plot could be:
A young girl (same name and general personality) is apart of a guild of assassins because her parents were apart of the trade, and it's all she knows (so moral compass isn't as much as an issue in terms of her participating in the first place). She's relatively experienced and receives a contract to kill the Crown Prince, which she's elated to do because his campaigns against traitors from the neighboring country burned down her home town. When she meets him, she's not nearly as bad as she thought he was because the campaigns were mostly his father's fault, though the burning hatred is still there. The hit orders her to kill him after his coronation on his twenty-first birthday, meaning she must stick around until then. (I was thinking she could witness some sort of political incompetence, inspiring her to come into some sort of position, like marriage, where she can usurp the throne, or an accomplice can, coup style)
I think in this version she'll kill the prince because love triangles are generally bullshit, and after developing her relationship with her primary love interest I don't want to do that to them. My only issue with this revision is that there's still no real source of conflict, and I'm totally stumped. I'm thinking there could be some sort of impending magical awakening that threatens the world, meaning rocky political foundations are bad for the country? This is where I think I mostly need help.
If you read this far, any sort of feedback, criticism, etc., is greatly appreciated. I've received a lot of great advice for plots in the past on this sub, hopefully I can get some with this as well.