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Mâvarin and Other Inspirations

A Fantasy Writer's Journal

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Clarion Write-a-thon Week One Questionnaire
Fried Brain
From the Clarion Blog comes this Week 1 Writing Challenge for the Clarion Write-a-Thon. Off we go!

For those who do not yet have concrete writing goals of your own, we at the blog would like to offer you up a series of goals to focus you over the summer. Next week Monday through Friday, we’d like you to turn your attention to that novel you’re writing. Not writing one? Well, now you are. As memorable as short stories can be, the economic lifeblood of science fiction, horror and fantasy is the fans’ continuing love affair with novel-length fiction. Whether you do or do not have a novel in the works at this point, this challenge applies to you! Please answer the following questions regarding your novel, and if you’re not too shy or territorial, why not share them with other writers in the comments section? This questionnaire is meant to focus your writing and give you the basic structure that even the most outline-phobic needs to shorten the time between first draft and finished manuscript.
  1. Who is the character whose actions and decisions most drive your novel? (We will call this person the hero.)  This is the tricky thing about Heirs of Mâvarin: I have two protagonists, Del and Crel Merden, who share the novel-driving duties more or less equally. They're twins, so it seems like a fair distribution of labor.
  2. Describe your hero in five words or less. Teenage hidden royalty, revealed.
  3. What has to happen for your audience to know that the novel is over? (We will call this the goal.) The twins must reclaim their royal status.
  4. Describe this goal in ten words or less. Survive poisoning and imprisonment, find the King and overcome usurpers.
  5. What is the one most profound or pervasive reason that your hero cannot accomplish the goal right away? (We will call this the primary obstacle.)  Most people don't know that the current royal family are impostors.
  6. Describe the primary obstacle in ten words or less. The usurping regime is entrenched; the twins are powerless unknowns.
  7. What person most clearly drives, creates, or causes the primary obstacle? (We will call this person the antagonist.)  Archmage Sunestri of Mâton.
  8. Describe your antagonist in five words or less. The power behind two thrones.
  9. Look at the answer to question 2, and find three other sf&f novels whose hero could also be described in these exact or very similar words.*  The Secret Country by Pamela Dean, The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis, and Talking to Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede.
  10. Look at the answer to question 4, and find three other sf&f novels whose conflict could be described thus. The Return of the King (sort of) by J.R.R. Tolkien, The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis, and Talking to Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede. Well, they're in the neighborhood, anyway.
  11. Look at the answer to question 6, and find three other sf&f novels with the same basic primary obstacle.  Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis, The Little Lame Prince by Miss Mulock, and The Hobbit (sort of) by J.R.R. Tolkien.
  12. Look at the answer to question 8, and find three other sf&f novels whose antagonist meets this description. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling, The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien, and A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle.
  13. Which novels appear more than once in your answers to questions 9-12? List them here by name. The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis, and Talking to Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede. Honorable mention to LotR.
  14. List the ways in which your novel stands in stark contrast to each of the novels listed in question 13. The twins are not known to be hidden or missing because of the impostors who replaced them, and they learn their royal identities early in the book and spend the novel incorporating this change into their lives and personalities, rather than having royalty thrust upon them at the end of the book. And did I mention there are two of them? And that their best friend is a newly-transformed monster? 
I see what the thrust of this questionnaire is. The novel is expected to incorporate classic storytelling elements (c.f. the work of Joseph Campbell) and yet not be a knockoff of something else. Yes, I know that. Onward!