This is the companion series to the Brandson Sanderson lectures, all about the story I’m writing.
Given this is a skill-learning exercise, I decided to focus on some the mechanics of the challenge before I started writing. Hopefully, this will help me keep the project tight and give me a framework to evaluate new ideas through.
The piece must be new:
I love making new worlds and meeting new characters, so this shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
The word-count goal is 35k:
This is important. It means that while the central conflict must be meaningful, I’ll be honest and say I don’t fancy tackling an empire-changing story in so few words. I decided to focus on personal conflict. After some consideration, I picked Love and Safety as my themes. These two give me a lot of room to explore, and often cause conflict between each other.
What I am trying to learn:
By nature, I am a discovery writer. Brandon Sanderson is a planner, and then some. Which means part of this project is learning how to plan. The external conflict needs to be something I can plan, and layer into the chapters around internal conflicts of Love and Safety. At the most overarching, the external world needs to make the characters decide between Love and Safety. This will utilise the small, personal conflicts, and give them bigger consequences. To set it up so planning is the easy option, my antagonists have planned something. My characters are unwilling parts of said plan. The details I’m happy to work through later, this just somewhere to start.
And thus Kessa appeared with her caravan, and those criteria made it easy.
She needed to want Safety and Love. Since there has to be internal conflict with external consequences, she is secretly a mage and she has to keep that from everyone to stay Safe. Which means that while she has a Love, she can’t pursue it.
Since this is med-fantasy, and she’s a little older than most heroines, she is always risking her Love marrying someone else. That’s a good amount of internal conflict, which will bleed over into the character interactions.
She travels trade routes her father set up, on her own save for her shape-shifting familiar Asher. Cute character discovered so I can have dialogue without Kessa talking to herself, check! He’s a secret from everyone too, but a really handy one for me as a writer.
I was wondering what the Plot was going to be, when out of a thunderstorm appeared her brother, Felix, who just needed her to do him a small favour. So small it’s really of no consequence. Just let him come with her to Westfort, where she was stopping for Festival to sell her goods.
I’m not going to look too hard a walking plot-hook right now, but I can feel the antagonists’ hands in that. Which I will definitely keep in mind as I plan and write.
The other part of this challenge is producing work that is solid enough to present to the Writer’s Group. Since I am aiming to learn about my story-crafting weaknesses, I am utilising my loyal beta-reader to get the piece up to scratch. That way, there aren’t smaller, easier fixes for the Writer Group to worry about, just story-craft. Hopefully, this will mean that while I might not like the feedback initially, when I’ve had time to consider it in context it will be invaluable.
Let’s see where the messenger’s favour leads us.