Skip to content

Plot Discovery – A Day’s Work

  • by

I’ve mentioned before that finding a plot is never a problem for me, only putting it into practice. Here’s an example.

I was watching a special on James Brown, and there was some comment on the traumas of his early life. It made me wonder about extraordinary people, and how trauma may drive them to achieve. My greatest fear is the loss of my daughter. From this, I wondered about a man of great potential who wastes that potential until he loses his daughter.

From that came an idea about a run-of-the-mill sorcerer who could be supreme, but only the motivation to find his lost daughter provides the discipline to learn how to master his gifts.

I had the idea that it would be in a faux-Roman setting around the fall of the Republic. This is likely predicated (as were my Brude and Drust short stories) on the series Rome from HBO. At first, I toyed with the idea of setting it in an Oriental setting, but what actually drew me off from that was the names. I don’t like most fantasy names, and using Chinese or Korean names would be as alien. Roman names are different, but there is a connection with most North American readers that make them more familiar.

By this time, I was on my way home. I had a 6 hour drive, so lots of time to think about the setting in between conversations with my wife and providing entertainment for my daughter. This was the time when the setting became much more fully fleshed out. It was during the drive that I decided to go with a Roman rather than Oriental setting.

I considered setting the story in our world, but slightly altered. I was considering having it set in the 10th century, but with an existent Eastern and Western Empires–Rome and Byzantium still under the pretence of being one Empire but with two competing Emperors. I was going to remove both Christianity and Islam, making the competing religions based on mystery cults, like the the Mithras cult and the cult of Isis. As usual, my desire to render historical details accurately made that a daunting task, so I decided to use a false Rome and Byzantium.

The Brude and Drust short stories are set in the Aeolean Empire, and I thought of reusing that. The major problem would be the levels of magic–the Aeolean Empire has magic, but it is subtle and much less prevalent than I envisioned for this new story.

I already had another short story and a novel outline for a further faux-Roman story (maybe I need to examine my fondness for faux-Rome as a setting), centred on a female centurion and a mad Emperor’s quest for the secret to eternal life. I decided that this would work in that setting as well. While the female centurion idea was Roman Empire by way of Mali, I wanted this one to be much closer to the actual Rome.

That led to an amalgam of the female centurion’s setting and a new one. This Empire was based on Alba Longa, the Etruscan city founded by Julus, a son of Aeneas, rather than Rome. I had discovered Alba Longa and Julus earlier while doing unrelated research, and it fit rather nicely into this.

From the Oriental setting, I kept an idea regarding a group of master wizards who acted as the legates of the emperor. These are the Celestial Generals, and each is based on one of the 12 zodiac animals, except the Dragon, which is embodied in the Imperator (the emperor of Alba). These Celestial Generals have access to the Dragon’s Breath (a nod to Excalibur there) through the Imperator, and this sets them above any other wizard.

I decided on the name of Lucius Agrippa for my protagonist. Lucius comes from Lucius Vorenus on HBO’s Rome, and Agrippa was Caesar Augustus’ great general and friend (who also appears in Rome). Lucius was a magus with exceptional raw talent but no training or control. The death of his wife and loss of his daughter drove him to become The Hound, one of the 11 Celestial Generals.

The plot would be around Lucius finally unravelling the death of his wife and the disappearance of his daughter. It is seen through the eyes of the female centurion–”Grief”–and her legionnaires, all identified by nicknames such as Quill, Scab, and Bleeder. Lucius will find a way to circumvent the Imperator and directly access the Dragon’s Breath, leading to a showdown with the individual responsible for Lucius’ trauma–an individual being protected by the Imperator.

I had thought the first chapter would recount Lucius’ discovery of the tragedy. I then realized that wouldn’t work. It would have ended up as two, maybe three chapters to tell as I envisioned it. I realized that’s not where the story begins, it begins when Lucius puts his machinations in motion, when he is finally certain the Imperator lied to him about his wife and daughter. That’s where the story starts, so that’s where the novel needs to start. The background would be dispersed through the story in small bites, discovered as the point-of-view characters discover it–those being primarily Grief and Quill.

A lot of the thinking was about the setting, because the plot pretty much came to me in about an hour. The character’s name took some time to decide upon, but the character himself–his trauma and what it has led to–came almost fully formed to mind. Now I don’t have a full fledged outline, but I have a strong set of ideas and a general direction in mind. It wouldn’t take long to flesh out.

The writing of it, though, there’s the rub!

Anyone willing to give me an advance to get this thing on paper?