So, this week I have gone from nothing to a rough plot plan of the next book I’m going to write. I say nothing, but I knew I wanted to write a Fantasy with queer heroes, so that was somewhere to start.
I do like to have a little bit of m/m romance in there no matter how mainstream I’m aiming to be, so I knew I was going to need two male heroes to pair up, and I fully endorse the idea that there ought to be more female characters in books, so I needed at least one heroine.
I know better than to go with pseudo-medieval as a setting. So I was going to go with a pseudo-Roman soldier, a pseudo-Celtic mage and a pseudo-New Agey, hedge witchy priestess.
But then I stopped myself and thought again. It’s a fantasy world, so there’s nothing tying me to having to get specific cultures right in a world where their members know more than I do and more than I could ever decently learn. I get to decide what the cultures look like, dress like, think like and believe in. Therefore I don’t need to worry quite so much about appropriating real life cultures or inadvertently being insulting. Which means – why am I making all my characters white?
So maybe I want a pseudo-Roman white soldier, a pseudo-Aztec mage and a pseudo-Egyptian black priestess? Do I? They’re all still a little common. Let’s try again. My white guy will be a pseudo-Etruscan soldier, who grew up in the Ancient world’s system of sexuality, so he’s been an eromenos, grown out of that, been an erastes and had to say goodbye to his own eromenos when the young man got too old, has been married to a woman and had children, and is now divorced. In modern terms he’s bisexual.
I’m going to use the Etruscans just as a leaping off point, but they seem generally to have had a less strait-laced culture than the Romans, so that makes him a bit less of a potential jerk, and also (as the above fresco suggests) gives him an amusing tendency to wander around in nothing more than a cloak.
Equally, the Aztecs have rather been done to death and were also quite a po-faced culture. I’ll have to mix them up a little, particularly as I want this character to be two-spirited and probably on reflection more of a shaman, leaving my priestess to do the flashy high magic stuff. But perhaps he’s something of an exile in his culture who has a wary but respectful relationship with the priests who do the hard work of keeping the gods under control?
And Egypt has been done often too, so how about I use Kush as the starting off point for my priestess’ culture? I have difficulties enough identifying with female characters enough to write them, so how about I give her asexuality as a form of commonality that helps me get into her mind? Makes sense.
So, I now have lots of stuff to research and make up about these three cultures, but an idea of where to start. Each of my characters has a problem in their life which they will not be able to solve without each others’ help, so the rough plot goes Character A’s Problem – Character B’s Problem – Character C’s Problem – They all get together – they don’t like each other – The Whole World Has a Problem! – They learn to like each other fast. They solve the problems and deal with the fallout of the conclusions. The End.
It’s actually considerably more developed than that, but that’s the gist of it I’m quite pleased. This is always the hardest part for me. I started out with nothing and now I have something. A week of fine tuning and research and I should be ready to start writing.