One reason I’m finding it hard to continue past the prologue to my epic story is that I’m not sure how to get the rest of the action started. The main part of Prince Romm’s story involves him leaving home at age 17 and having some adventures, but I feel like some things need to be accomplished before he can leave:
- We need to see how the trauma of watching his father behead a girl has affected Romm. I feel like the best way to handle this is to cherry pick symptoms from the Wikipedia page on PTSD that I think are interesting. I don’t want to be too gritty with this, but he should definitely be haunted by it. I think he probably has dreams about it, avoids the council room (or perhaps chairs!), and finds it hard to trust his father or Cardinal Alabaster at all. They would have explained to Romm that the girl had to die because she was evil and wanted to kill the king, but Romm believes there’s more to the story than that.
- We need a proper introduction to Romm’s family. I think the Queen probably dies before he turns 17, because her absence makes Romm’s flight from his home more plausible. I deliberately left the King unnamed, mostly because children don’t think of their parents by their names, even if they know them. The fact that I haven’t thought of a good name yet is incidental. For most characters, I like names that are short and sound kind of like real names, but aren’t. But in this particular case, I think I’d like something vaguely Egyptian sounding. The best I can come up with at the moment is King Thobis. Seven-year-old Romm wouldn’t see this, but King Thobis is of mediocre intelligence, weak-willed, and largely in the pocket of Cardinal Alabaster and the Magnolium Order. On the other hand, he happens to be a great public speaker and he cares deeply about his family. Romm’s brother, Prince Gared, is 5 years younger than Romm. Gared basically takes after his father, except he’s a bit more intelligent (but still weak-willed).
- We need to explain a few ground rules about magic in this setting. Magic follows Harry Potter rules in terms of who is a wizard and who is not. That is, if either parent is a wizard, the child will be a wizard, except in rare cases where a wizard is born with two non-wizard parents, and even rarer cases where a wizard has a non-magical child. The spells that wizards can cast look a lot more like low-level D&D magic than Harry Potter magic, though; in particular, no wand or implement is necessary to cast spells.
- We need to know what the Magnolium Order is. It’s a multi-national religious organization that looks like a combination of all the worst parts of the medieval Roman Catholic Church and the Jedi Order. The details can wait, but the important thing to know at the beginning is that all children born with magical power are forcibly inducted into the order at the age of 4, and never permitted to leave. The upper echelons of the order, who are not wizards, thereby control all magic in the land by preaching asceticism, chastity, and obedience.
- We need to know Romm’s two secrets. One is that he still retains the strange coin-like charm he found on that fateful day, and has never told anyone about it. The other is that Romm has magical power, himself. He developed this at the unusually late age of 8. Romm doesn’t know what the Magnolium Order would do if they ever found out, but assumes it wouldn’t be good.
Once all this is done, the action of the story can begin. I think I could write the chapter where Romm is exposed as a wizard and decides to flee, but I’m not sure I could do it without conveying all of the above information first. I suppose I could expand the above and make it a preface, like J.R.R. Tolkien did with Lord of the Rings. This seems inartful, though. I think I could work most of this into the first chapter if I were a more patient writer. Unfortunately, I’m not. So I’ll probably write that chapter assuming you just read this post, or more likely a summary of it, and put it here.