I'm about a third of the way through writing The Warlord and I've hit a small wall: not much has actually happened. Act One is over and we've got the set-up, viz: my hero, Kael, has found this starving slave--my heroine, Ishtaer--with the marks of the Chosen, and has taken her back to civilisation to be trained as a healer, warrior, and seer. Live is going to be all cosy and safe and, like, strong and empowered and stuff for her from now on. Cue the training montage.
Only...you can't have a training montage in a book. I've tried, and it pretty much ended up as a boring old paragraph of "then she did this, and after while she got really good at it." Yawn. Also, there wasn't much going on with my hero. He's gone home for the winter and he won't be back for months. What's he doing? Hibernating?
So here are my problems:
- My heroine is physically and emotionally weak, but showing her gaining in confidence is not very interesting.
- She has a best friend, Eirenn, and a bully, Marcus, but I've no idea why one likes her and the other doesn't.
- My hero has vanished from the scene, having not done much but establish his reputation as a fearsome killer.
- The next time they meet, she's going to give him what-for, but I don't really have any reason why. She's still a frightened mouse and every taunt she receives (see above re: bully) makes her worse.
He also hears reports of Ishtaer's fragile emotional state, which hadn't really concerned him before--he's of the 'pull yourself together' school. He thinks that because she can fight back, she automatically will. So he needs to learn why she won't fight back, and why she thinks her detractors are in the right. As Julie Cohen is always telling me, it's all about the why. Now, in the case of my heroine, I know why, but nobody else, including the reader, does. I also have Eirenn who's befriended her--why, when everyone else either pities or is a little frightened of her? And Marcus who bullies her--ditto. Why are they doing this?
And then I listened to Taylor Swift's "Mean" and thought, Ohhh, now I get it! The book has themes of identity and strength, but what it also has on every page is bullying. Kael tries to bully Ishtaer into being stronger, but it doesn't work. Eirenn has been bullied all his life for a physical disability. Even Marcus has been bullied, by his rich and powerful father who sees his son as a way to live vicariously. Kael is about the only one who hasn't been bullied, but that's going to change...