Is this concept interesting / cliche and how do I start it?

by Heather

Question: I've been a fan of novels and shows similar to Game of Thrones, Red Queen, and Throne of Glass. I've also enjoyed writing short stories in the past, but have never given a novel a try - although I've always wanted to. Anyways, I have this story idea that is derived from common elements in other stories I've read with it's own small twist. I was wondering if this is interesting, and how cliche it appears to be.

When Ravaelyn Ambrose, heir to Akeros, was only 9 years old, her mother was murdered by an assassin in her chambers. Ravaelyn, searching for her mother for a bedtime story, was the first to come across the horrid scene. Deon, Ravaelyn's father, was traumatized by the incident and became obsessed with the idea of finding the assassin that murdered his wife and protecting Ravaelyn. Because he is worried for her safety, he sends his only child to a small village on the outskirt of their territory to live and thrive. However, Deon told everyone that Ravaelyn was killed alongside her mother so that no one would go looking for her. At the age of 21, 12 years later, Ravaelyn returns to the castle on the order of her father, as he had come down with a life-threatening illness that progresses at a rapid pace. Within weeks, Deon has already begun to suffer from speech impairment and loss of movement in his legs. Other kingdoms nearby hear of Deon's illness and immediately, having thought that Ravaelyn died with her mother 12 years ago, resort to a tradition that takes place when there is no heir. The tradition is that any heir of another kingdom and nobles have the right to join a competition of sorts to go against each other to see who is most worthy of the throne. Although Ravaelyn is the true heir, her claim on it was denied by other kingdoms and the nobles due to the fact she has lived isolated from royal life for the past 12 years, but she is granted permission to join the competition and attempt to prove her worth that way. While the competition is going on, Kedan (undead revenant that use dark magic to control beasts) and Rai Kings (Controllers of the Kedan. They are undead kings that once strived for eternal life and their soul is tethered to an object) ambush villages on the outside of Akeros and their growing forces begin to pose a threat. In the end, it is planned for Ravaelyn to not win the final battle, but the nobles grant her most worthy for the throne anyways.

The summary is a bit long and might have some unnecessary details, I know, but I wasn't sure what to include and what to leave out. As I've always been captivated by these fantasy series, I hope to make this into a series itself, and I know I might be getting
ahead of myself with that thought. The rest of the story, for the other books, would explore the nature of magic and how they face the rising threat of the Kedan and Rai kings. But, the summary listed above is only the plan for the first novel.

To recap, I'm asking if this would be an interesting story and how cliche does it seem?

If it isn't too much trouble, I would also love to have your suggestion on where to begin. I've started a story outline and have begun in that way, but I was wondering - where do I start writing? How would I open the story up?

Thank you so much!

Answer: What you must bear in mind is that there are very few wholly original stories.

Your idea fits within an established tradition for fantasy adventure stories, especially the idea of the innocent hero/heir who travels to a bigger world, faces challenges, and discovers their true worth in the process.

There are hundreds such stories. But so what? There are millions of readers who like these stories, and new readers coming of age all the time.

I would suggest you look at the monomyth model, as a template for your plot...

What will make your story different from all the others is...

1. Your main character. If you can give her a unique and strong voice, and make her someone your typical reader can relate to, that is what will sell the book.

2. Your setting. Even if you are setting the story in a medieval-type world, try to make your world unique in an interesting way.

3. Look for opportunities to do a twist on conventions within the genre. If an idea seems cliched, try to find a new variation or deliberately do the opposite. You'll know you have a good twist if it gets a strong emotional response in you or your trusted readers.

As for where to begin, I would suggest you begin with the main character, since it is her voice that will hook the reader.

You could begin with the initial driver (the murder), but this can be challenging if we really don't get to know the main character until she is much older. Sometimes it's best to tell this event in flashback or summary later on.

Often it is better to begin at the point the main character enters the story at the age she will be for most of the plot. Introduce her by showing her coping with a problem, so the reader can see who she is before the plot gets going.

Don't just have her thinking and feeling or doing mundane activities. Start with her doing something to cope with a significant problem. Make it an event that changes everything.

E.g. We meet Harry Potter on the day he copes with his bullying cousin by accidentally using magic.

We meet Katniss Everdeen when she's poaching game.

Best of luck.

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