Thank you, all, for your feedback. I know everyone's free time is valuable and I really appreciate it.
Springfield wrote: we’re talking about literary fantasy, not commercial, no? You really need to figure out what this is.
I found this over the weekend: There are commercial books that borrow literary techniques, literary books that stay within commercial plots, commercial books written in literary styles, and even literary books disguised as commercial books. It’s all possible.
In commercial fiction, the writing style is clean and pared-down.
In literary fiction, the writing style takes more risks.
Commercial example:The Shining, Stephen King”
If this example were King’s The Dark Tower (fantasy), then yes. This would be literary fantasy (low, I believe).
And it’s not YA. I said ‘written for women ages YA and up’ for content and language concerns.
It was interesting to come across Stephen King because a woman, an avid reader, told me after reading my manuscript: it's like Jane Austen and Stephen King wrote a love story.
I think of it as an adult fairy tale, that in terms of tone and feeling has far more in common with Game of Thrones, than it does The Princess Bride.
As you've pointed out, I need to get to: who is my character, what does she want, and what's in her way.
I think my problem getting to these questions is this. It's a story within a story and the backstory IS the story. The two stories come together in the end as one story that casts the mc in a completely different light.
The inner story is that of the mc, Erinn. The outer story, filled in through flashbacks of the life of another woman, fleshes in the distant past, the ‘it makes no sense’ history of the planet Taurus, and slowly ties Erinn’s life to the other woman’s -- and just as importantly, ties the other woman (and Erinn) to what the story is really about, the inciting incident.
The inciting incident is contained within a prologue (that is not resolved or returned to until the final pages), and is where the entire story is driving to, where it begins and ends. And here is where the questions I have to answer about my main character lie:
Who is the protagonist? Popular iconic figure and legendary marine (cliché) Erinn? Or Alexandra? The unnamed young woman in the prologue. In the end they’re one in the same, and it’s her story. (And I can’t use Alexandra because that gives the whole story away)
What does she want? She wants to go home. She’s tired. She wants to be reunited with the one she'd loved and lost. She wants the gods (cliché again) to keep their promise and send her back to Earth, back in time, to be reunited with the one she'd loved and lost.
What's keeping her from what she wants? She made a deal with the goddesses (Artemis and Athena). She'd pay a price in exchange for getting what she wants. And she's paid the price a hundred times over and the gods keep pulling her back, telling her one more time. Protect, save the humans, one last time.
(Midway through the inner story, it's revealed that the humans (the last of the humans) have been betrayed and that a massive force is on its way to Taurus to eliminate them.)
The story is based on, begins from, two areas of Ancient Greek history where doubt remains about actual people and events. I introduce my own versions in these areas to introduce a character, Alexandra, who is the mc in the end.
The inciting incident
Alexandra, the daughter of a Spartan King, is going to marry a young warrior.
He falls in battle.
She begs the gods to bring him back. They are unmoved.
She sets out on a journey to prove herself to the gods, returning home when war is again on the horizon.
She finds the Spartans at Plataea (479 B.C.), where they are in the 11th day of a stalemate with the Persians. She chastises them for being cowards and then confronts the entire Persian army on her own. She kills a Persian and then she is killed, breaking the stalemate.
The gods were moved by her courage but the Spartans were shamed and disgraced by what she had done. They bury her in an unmarked grave and strike her name from history.
Artemis and Athena raise her from her grave and give her gifts of strength and ability superior to that of Spartan men. In exchange for what she wants, love, they bind her to a duty. They send her into the stars (along with ten Spartans), to another planet, to prepare a future home for humanity.
The prologue as written, is limited to Alexandra (not named in the prologue) dying in battle and then Artemis and Athena raising her and sending her into the stars. (The rest of the prologue backstory is revealed at the end of the story)
BACKSTORY THAT IS FILLED IN AS THE STORY PROGRESSES (Murky History)
A thousand years after the inciting incident, Earth has fallen and the humans that escape land on Taurus, in the middle of a war between the witches and the lords. They are rescued by red caped warriors, led by a woman with the light of the stars in her eyes. The woman, Aldan, organizes the humans and they destroy the witches and decimate the lords. The warriors disappear and Aldan remains. She builds the City of Athens and then with the humans, shapes a world around it.
Before Aldan dies, she promises to send someone to the future (to save the humans yet again).
The Story (through the first act)
Erinn is born in a time and place much like our own. A woman sent to visit her confirms that Aldan has kept her promise. She gives Erinn’s father an old talisman that he is to give to Erinn when she returns. Returns from where he asks. She doesn’t answer.
80 years later:
Erinn has reached her end. Living in exile after avenging her sister’s death (in grisly fashion) she has been hunted down and contemplates taking her own life. But she’d learned in fleeing Taurus, that she was not blazing a new trail but following an old one, and that Aldan, who shadowed every aspect of her life, lived on, on the planet that she was on, but in the past. A past that was beginning to overlap with the present.
Then her father appears to her in a dream and tells her it’s time to come home. Taurus has been betrayed and she is needed. She wakes with a gold coin in her hand and plans on how to save herself and return home.
Obviously there’s a lot more to this.
Erinn has a complicated and challenging love life (Athena) and the one she really want’s she can’t have because she needs him by her side. He’s her right hand, and watches her back.
She has a dark side (Artemis). Taurus is often invaded by alien cultures and the fate of Earth remains fresh in their minds every time the alarm sounds. There are aliens on Taurus, but any outsider who poses a threat short or long term to their world, their culture, and their way of life is told to leave, diplomatically. And when that fails, the marines are sent in. Leave or die the outsiders are told. No mercy, no quarter. Decide.
Like Aldan, Erinn is a stone cold killer when she has to be. And no one is better at it than she is. She’s flesh and blood, she bleeds, but never falls because Artemis and Athena watch over her. Over time she grows to loathe this side of herself. She’s tired of dealing death, and watching the brave ones around her die.
Skip to the end of the story
The massive armada travelling from Earth to Taurus cannot be stopped and Taurus, as capable as it is, will fall in the onslaught. Erinn knows this. Artemis and Athena know this. And Erinn feels betrayed. She’s done enough. She’d risked her life over and over and knows that Artemis and Athena’s protection has its limits. That this time she’ll die OR, Artemis and Athena can send her home, back to Earth, to the one she loves. But it’s her choice. Leave the humans, leave her home to perish without a fight, or die trying to save it. That’s the decision she has to make.
Any ideas how to phrase a query, I’d love to hear