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Really need some opinions, please?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Darkfantasy, Mar 21, 2020.

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  1. Darkfantasy

    Darkfantasy Inkling

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    New to writing novels and have been brain storming ideas. I have two ideas I like, but wasn't sure if either were any good. So maybe you could let me know which you'd rather read. And I have a question for each of the ideas.

    First idea:
    Hope is a “Kumana”, the spirit of a child waiting to be born into the physical world. She discovered her spiritual connection to a woman destined to be her birth mother, and has been waiting for her time to be born. Finally that time arrives and she passes through the door from the subconscious world into the conscious – that is her last memory. She wakes back up in the spirit world where a terrible explanation awaits her. All rejected spirits must accept their failed match and go through a purging process to disconnect from the woman in order to bond with a new potential mother – only Hope knows she wasn't wrong. Her guides have blocked her from her chosen mother, she can't watch her any more, they say its to help the purging process but Hope isn't so sure.

    Then a Shaman contacts Hope in the spirit world begging for her help to save his daughter (her chosen mother) from a Witch-doctor who has indoctrinated her into his cult. The only way Hope can help is to come to earth. But the only way that can happen is if the shaman performs a dangerous ritual where he will exchange another person's soul for Hope's temporarily. She will have to live in a physical body that is not hers. Not only is it dangerous as once freed from the body, Hope's spirit may struggle to detach itself, but it's consider against the Laws in the spirit world. A spirit can be shunned for taking part in such a ritual. This could be her only chance to get her destiny back on track but if she fails it could cost her everything.

    Question: Hope's goal is to make her chosen mother see following this witch-doctor is not what her life is meant to be like. Getting her emotionally back to a place where she can accept motherhood. But if she's doing back things will anyone who reads this support that goal if Hope's mother isn't a good person? At what point does a person not deserve redemption?

    Second idea:
    Emma is just one of many children who has grown up in this new world. She has lived in the slums all her life, struggling for survival and dreading the selection days when she, her family or any of her friends could be selected for hard labour camps or experiments. Things have always been hard, but they are getting worse. There is barely any food, disease seems to be a constant threat and now babies and children are being collected and taken away to become part of the “Starlight Project”. Emma and her family are desperate to save the newest arrival to the family, baby James, so fall to follow the Law and keep his existence a secret. People are getting desperate and with the promises of a better life to anyone who reports any criminal activity it's only a matter of time before someone caves and reports them. But Emma never expected the betrayal to come from so close to home. Her best friend Alice, is selected for experiments, along with her twin sister. Desperate to survive she reports Emma and her family in return for her families immunity and to be moved to a better camp. Emma and her family are arrested and taken away to a place even worse than their greatest fears.

    I'm trying to avoid any type of rebellion as it's quite cliche in Dystopian novels. I wanted the characters to make a stand rather than fight back, or do you think from a idea like this readers would expect more? The last thing I want any readers to think is: “well, you didn't do a lot.” Extreme circumstances require extreme reactions for improvement.

    Which idea do you think has the most potential to be something interesting? Thanks so much for taking the time to read and answer.
     
    Avery Moore likes this.
  2. The Dark One

    The Dark One Archmage

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    The first idea (from my perspective) seems the most original, but would be very hard to plot and write without heaps more ideas.

    The second one is a little cliché but that's not necessarily a bad thing. You could bring your own original takes to it and it would be a lot easier to plot and write.
     
  3. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    I think you're overthinking things to the point where you're kind of talking yourself out of writing an idea out. Anyone can be redeemed. The more you explore a character's motivations, and have them be understandable, the more opportunities you'll discover and have to redeem a character. There can be many reasons to hate a character, but IMHO, all you need is one reason to like them. And that will open up an opportunity for redemption.

    For the second story, be true to your story and the message you're trying to deliver with it. If it needs to be cliche, then let it be cliche. If its not cliche, then follow it to it's logical end in your eyes. A lot of it has to do with setting up expectations in the reader. If it's a rebellion story, then you set up the expectations that it will be a rebellion story. If it's not, you set up expectations that no this is not going to be a rebellion story at the beginning. You can also subvert expectations, but that has its pros and cons, and requires a more delicate touch and needs to be done with purposeful hand.

    Anyway, overall, the first idea seems more interesting to me. But like anything else, the idea is only as good as the execution of it. I say just have at it. You need to make mistakes to learn, so you might as well get going to making those mistakes ASAP and learning from them.
     
    Avery Moore and Firefly like this.
  4. Night Gardener

    Night Gardener Inkling

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    Ok, maybe this is a little too modern feminism for fantasy fiction, but you're asking for opinions.... I'm going to tread as lightly as possible, but there are some issues to slowly unpack here... I want to make myself perfectly clear that I am trying to be helpful and offer up critique talking points for your consideration DarkfantasyDarkfantasy .

    My initial reactions as a reader: Nope.

    Motherhood, specifically being "destined for birthing X entity" is a slippery slope premise. Now, to be fair, I personally reject 'destiny' and most notions of fatalism, but especially reject it when interwoven with reproductive issues. I live in *this* century, in this political era, my opinions are colored by a host of societal influences and my own experiences. Reality is hard enough to read in the current events.

    The idea that there is now a whole other spirit realm's beuracracy, and match-making spirits circling for a chance to barge into my uterus from some otherwordly waiting room is... awkward. It's my opinion, my problem. I freely admit it. But I am pretty sure I will not be the only person to feel like there's some uncomfortable subtext worth some constructive criticism.

    If that is the vibe you're going for, like a subverted undercurrent akin to A Handmaid's Tale, you're on the right track. Don't get me wrong: I want to like the idea, but I could also feel myself cringing a bit as I read it. And there is room in fiction for some thought-provoking, albeit cringeworthy subject matter. Is that what you're intending to write? Because you will have a hard time trying to make these bright flashing neon-sign issues fade into the background without glares and casting long shadows.

    If not, a slight tweak to the premise is to strongly emphasize the wording of "being very compatible" with the potential mother. Having destiny involved just seems... well... Why? It's not like a rejected kumana is automatically destroyed, right? It goes back to the lobby and has to wait. If destiny was such a critical factor, rejection shouldn't even be an option? *sigh*. Awkward.

    And, my BIG question is...

    The "destiny" of... What? That specific kumana? That specific woman? The world? The Universe? The Multiverse? When you use a word like "destiny", what's at stake? There's immediate implications. What happens if 'the destined' gets derailed? Destiny and fate are weighted words, and suggests that there are consequences to not being fulfilled as intended... and, WHO'S Intentions? It can all go snowballing downhill pretty quick. Slahaom and snowshoes on that slippery slope.

    But, here is my main problem/criticism with your premise: As I am reading it, for whatever reason Hope's should-be mother, DOESN'T want to be a mother at all? That makes your whole narrative about "consenting", or not consenting, to motherhood. ::Cringe:: Awkward.

    So... the should-be mother's FATHER (the shaman) is going behind his daughter's back to get the should-be mother to leave a cult /witchdoctor so she can 'fulfill her destiny' ...and birth Hope? Did I get that right? Because all I can think is... this woman does not want to be a mother. At all. And there are now TWO entities, her father and a kumana spirit, conspiring to "make her" ...a mother? Um, yeh. Hardpass. Unless that is the specific tone you are going for.

    But, you have to acknowledge that the themes and subject matter are going to make some static and blips on some people's radars. If that IS the point of this narrative, then own it and write it. But I do think that it would be a mistake to try and downplay or totally ignore the 'mechanics and logistics' of your proposed spirit-to-birthing devices. It's basically the whole plot based on your quick pitch and there's some substantive conversation in the undercurrents.

    Now, perhaps something that might work is, yeh she really wants to be a mother BUT does not want to birth the kumana Hope. That immediately suggests awareness of this spiritual biological process, and consent. The consent box is checked, I can continue.

    Now, for what might hopefully be thoughts worth extrapolating from: These kumana can have strong attractions and preferences to the spirit of what feels like a good match to be their mother, which circles back to the matchmaking vibe... but unless there is some mechanism of reciprocity this still reads slightly like kumana cyberstalking on a uterus-app: swipe left, swipe right.

    And, because pregnancy is a biological process, how does biology work with your proposed spirit world mechanisms? Where do miscarriages (and abortions) fit into this? What if the mother dies with the kumana spirit in utero? For instances of loss of pregnancy, can the kumana try to pair up with the same mother again?

    I ask that question specifically because the answer drives the conflict: if you are a "rejected" kumana (I'm assuming this is more biological process than a spiritual one?) but can just wait a while and try again to pair up with the same mother, then all Hope and the shaman have to do is chill the F out and just wait for the daughter to get pregnant again at some later time. What that woman does in the meanwhile feels like little consequence in the greater scheme, because it's essentially a story about Hope waiting for her should-be mother to throw out a 'vacancy kumana wanted' sign.

    The shaman trying to chose the specific kumana for his daughter seems.... awkward. Again. Even if the woman wants to birth something not great, it's still *her* freewill, right?

    Is the daughter sexually involved with the Witch Doctor, and the father disapproves? Is there a threat that the Witch Doctor wants to summon a.. bad or evil kumana to occupy the fetus so it can be born? Maybe that could be a source of conflict: whoever this Witch Doctor is inviting is bad news for everybody. There's your "what is at stake" box checked.

    And, this system makes me wonder about tbe spiritual mechanism some more... is there reincarnation? Because you speak of kumana as spirits shuffling around in a lobby waiting to be born, with some middle-management guides. What about adults? Do they have spirits or souls? How do they factor in to this system? Is there upper management? Who's in charge?

    The idea of giving Hope a body is fine, but... so she can get her should-be mom to... notice her? Decide to have her at all, or instead of some other Kumana? To get her to leave a cult and... do what instead?

    Also, can the kumana actively fight other kumana to get their first choice of mother? Could they be twins? Do they draw straws?

    So, that was some of my thought exercises and opinions on Idea One. Hopefully, I offered some constructive insight and a critique on things that might merit further exploration... again, if you are going for cringe worthy and thought provoking, great! I've read plenty of both!

    Stay tuned for *solicited opinions* on Story idea Number Two.
     
    Darkfantasy likes this.
  5. Darkfantasy

    Darkfantasy Inkling

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    Night Gardener - thanks for this feedback it exactly what I wanted. A lot of the questions you ask I do have an answer for I just didn't put them all into the basic synopsis. But I like it's making you ask questions. Oddly no one else who has read that synopsis thought of it as cringe-worthy so adding that helped me consider the feelings of others, even if it seems in the minority. I'm thick-skinned so say what you want to say. And thank you for putting in so much time and effort to give critique.

    Penpilot - Maybe you're right. This idea came from hours of brain-storming ideas and I wasn't sure how much I liked it (the first one) because I don't believe in destiny, the afterlife, or anything. But it's based on another planet so maybe things like that do exist there and I am interested in exploring freewill vs fate.

    The Dark One - maybe I should write the second one first as it would be easier. Mean while work on the second one as well.

    Thanks again to all three of you. x
     
    Night Gardener likes this.
  6. Firefly

    Firefly Troubadour

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    Nightgardener has a point with the consent thing—That didn’t throw me off the first time I read it because the system is sooort of similar to my religious beliefs and I sort of filled in the blanks a little bit, but if you don’t make it clear that the mother had a choice in this somewhere in the process that’s definitely going to be a turnoff for many people.
     
    Night Gardener likes this.
  7. Avery Moore

    Avery Moore Dreamer

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    The first idea really intrigued me, though I think they both have potential. For the first question, I'd say it depends entirely on what the potential mother did. Pretty much any non-violent crime, you can probably get away with. Also, what she's done isn't quite so important as why she did it. Is she doing bad things out of fear or desperation? Or is she doing them because she's just generally a bad person? Also, showing the character's redeeming qualities can dramatically change the reader's opinion of her. I mean, Jaime Lannister pushed a ten year old boy out of a window, and yet Game of Thrones fans unanimously seem to love him. I think the main thing you have to consider is how much the character develops throughout the story. If, by the end of the story, the readers believe that the woman is going to be a good mother to Hope, then that's what's important. ^_^
     
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