Spawn of Heliodor: Merlin's Bane (arcanepunk fantasy)

Audience: Young adult.
Genre: Arcanepunk fantasy
Length: 42k - working on expanding it.

Title is still WIP - do you like it?

Logline: In an unfortunate accident, Merlin loses his memories and ends up being a suspect in his own missing case. He seeks help from a reclusive boy, but by disturbing his peace, he exposes his protector to the dangers of a bigoted society.

Old Summary - don't read

Merlin, a famous magus inventor who brought an age of prosperity to the city of Glass Gardens, drops a bombshell of an announcement - he is a cambion (a half-demon). No one guessed as he didn’t have visible demonic traits and humans did not think that cambions were capable of skills like his. Before the news could fully sink in, he gets into his brand new time machine with a plan to change the past.

Something goes wrong and Merlin emerges from the time machine as a teenage boy, unable to remember who he is and what he’s doing there. He’s caught by his own apprentice who doesn’t recognize him.

Merlin runs away and encounters a rare winged cambion boy, Seri, who helps him and gives him a name - Ruby. Soon, they both learn that he was caught in Merlin’s house, who was now officially declared as missing - foul play suspected due to his recent controversial announcement. Ruby convinces Seri to trust his innocence and to help hide him. While spending time with Seri, he learns the secrets the boy is harboring. Seri was born in the Nether, the demon realm, and lives in Glass Gardens illegally.

In the meantime, tension builds - human residents of Glass Gardens are prejudiced against cambions, some to the point of violent extremism. The city cambions have taken Merlin’s announcement as a call to action and when he disappears, they band together, forming an organization called The Merlinians, determined to continue a movement he started. Without Merlin there to control them, they diverge from his original message. Ruby and Seri witness their secret meeting and while Seri agrees with their agenda, Ruby worries the direction they’re headed in.

Determined it’s the only way to find clues to Ruby’s past, they break into Merlin’s house where it all began and are caught by Merlin’s apprentice, Tristine and Carnelia - her rebel friend they recognize from Merlinians’ meeting. Ruby’s interrogated at gunpoint, but Tristine knows what they don’t - she read Merlin’s journals and found his plans to go back in time. She figures out what happened to him and that the boy in front of her is her mentor.

As they plan to recalibrate Merlin’s time machine to return him to normal, Seri steps out of the house and his worst fear comes true - he’s discovered by the cops Tristine had called earlier when she thought burglars had broke in.

As luck has it, these cops are the very extremists Seri had been avoiding his whole life. They capture him and bring him to their glass church with a plan to sacrifice him and use his wings as a warning sign to display to demons that might desire to enter their city.

When Ruby/Merlin and the others figure out what happened, they go on a mission to rescue Seri. A fight breaks out in the glass church out of which our cambion heroes come out victorious but not without drama.

While they get away, now they are all fugitives on the run from the law. Seri decides that it is about time he crossed over to the Nether to find his family. The rest decide to go with him. Ruby chooses his new life to the one he doesn’t remember.

Notes or unique things to highlight: This story explores the myth of Merlin, the son of Incubus. It’s a world where magic is used to power technology and where travel between realms is possible. A world where demons are feared by most and angels are revered. Hints of bxb romance. Merlin’s vision-impaired - spends most of the book without glasses (prompt for some hilarity). Possibility of a series - book 2 to take place in the Nether (native to demons), book 3 to take place in the Eather (native to angels).

Not sure how to mention it in the summary or if I should at all: The reason why Merlin wanted to go back in time is never stated in this book, though a few very subtle hints are dropped: Ruby gets flashes of visions of a violent battle (visions are not a normal thing in this world so he doesn’t understand what they are). The book ends without an explanation of the visions.

Background info that’s not revealed (blurred so you can make an initial judgment without knowing this detail):
When you read the summary above, did it bother you that the need for time travel wasn’t explained?
Reasons: Merlin is not an ordinary cambion, and unlike others of his kind, he can see the future. He saw a vision of what would happen now that he made his announcement (that’s he’s half-demon), and saw the creation of the Merlinians who turned against humans in a very violent revolution. Thinking he made a mistake and should never have made that announcement, he gets into his time machine, wanting to stop himself from making that speech and continue pretending that he’s human. But he doesn’t understand that traveling BACK in time is not possible.

Question: since we’ve got delicious irony here (by trying to stop the Merlinians, Merlin disappears, prompting the Merlinians to form - self-fulfilling prophecy at its best), should I let the readers know that this was what happened, what his motivation was?
I don’t think I would want it in the beginning. I’m considering writing an epilogue which would be an expanded version of the first scene (Merlin gets into the time machine) which would answer this question.
If I did that - how do I say this in a summary?

I have a rule around time travel: never incorporate time travel into a plot.

Anyways, this isn’t a plot or story I can really parse out. It is, as far as I can tell, a bunch of mostly random, somewhat related events in some cases, and otherwise completely random events in other cases.

There’s a ton of missing information. Nothing about Merlin showing up and revealing his identity makes much sense since I don’t know any of his motivations for doing so or who he is as a character. Him deciding to travel back in time is also, equally, useless to me. Why would he do any of those things? The answers to those questions shouldn’t come buried at the end or in a spoiler note afterwards. That’s critical to story flow.

Character A encounters Problem A and learns they must endure Quest A to solve it. They decide to embark on Quest A because Character A is a blank type of person who feels they can resolve Problem A.

This plotline is so random that I can’t really follow any flow throughout it. Most of the events cause things to happen but for seemingly pointless reasons. Why does Merlin get de-aged? Just to partially hide his identity and cause some irony for the audience? It doesn’t seem to play into the plotline in any meaningful way. Also Merlin is in the entire plot and the catalyst for all events and in nearly every scene but somehow the plot isn’t actually about him, it’s about random side characters who also are lacking in any sort of motivation or reasoning.

All of this needs to be intensely stripped down into just the pure logic flow, and I need the information that helps guide that flow along. Someone needs something to achieve such and such. Without that information, I can’t make sense of this plot.

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Ouch. Thank you for reading.
I’m going to have to think it over how to add everyone’s motivations without making this long. And here I thought it was a simple plot…

What is the best way to handle the summary when there are two MCs?
I tried to focus on just one to simplify the summary but yes, the other has a story of his own. Do I need to squeeze both in?

One of them is the true MC and the true storyline or the core one to focus on. The other is just the background and isn’t the core thing

2 Likes

First of all, thank you @nick for forcing me to seriously rethink what the main story really is. Below summary will also help me improve the draft of this story, so it was a great exercise. Here we go again, stripped down to explain only the MC’s plot.

NEW AND IMPROVED Summary

Merlin, a brilliant magitech inventor, has been living a lie in order to gain his fame and riches. For decades, he hid his demonic features, trying to pass for human. When one of his inventions malfunctions, turns him into a teen and strips his memories, he looks like a half-demon again.

Even his apprentice doesn’t recognize him when she catches him in his own house. After seeing blood on his hands, she calls the cops. Disoriented and scared, Merlin runs away.

He encounters another half-demon, Seri, and asks for help.

Seri was never legally registered with the city. To avoid detection, Seri leads a secluded and lonely life but is content in his cautious routine. Though he fears it would disrupt his peaceful life and doesn’t completely believe the amnesia story, he sympathizes with a fellow outlaw and helps Merlin hide.

Merlin grows frustrated when days pass and his memories don’t come back. Seri grows closer to him, drops his earlier suspicions and worries if Merlin would still want to be friends with an outcast like him once he had his life back. It would be better if Merlin’s memories never came back.

When the elderly Merlin is declared missing, authorities search for the teen Merlin, suspecting foul play. Despite Seri’s protests that they shouldn’t wander around an area that is swarming with cops, Merlin convinces him to take the risk and go back to where his journey began to search for clues of his past.

When they get to Merlin’s house, he encounters the apprentice again, who finally figures out who he is. As Merlin discusses with her how to undo what happened to him, Seri realizes that he is about to lose his new friend and tries to convince them to not risk using the machine again. Upset when they don’t listen to him, Seri leaves and is caught by the cops that were looking for teen Merlin but gladly capture an illegal half-demon instead.

Merlin abandons the attempt to regain his memories to rescue Seri, worried what the cops would do to him and feeling guilty for forcing him out of hiding. Though he succeeds, they have to flee the city and Merlin loses the chance to go back to his proper age or regain his memories. He accepts his fate when he realizes that he can’t miss a life he doesn’t remember and would rather create new memories with a friend.

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Yes, this has a much better and clearer flow, and is very specifically focused on a major plotline. It’s a lot easier to follow along to the major beats and see the progression and growth.

I had some concerns with an opening premise that effectively eliminates the potential character development (living a lie) but I think the rest of the plot pays it off very well in the end and helps reframe it more as the motivation in the beginning.

Otherwise, your original pitch, while wildly all over the place, seemed to come from a place of fun to try and create something pretty bonkers that had a lot going on. I don’t necessarily think fun scenes or fun tone will totally come through in a summary like this since the point is to strip it to its essentialism, and it definitely helped, just make sure when you’re writing it you don’t lose the original spirit of a fun adventure or fun moments and to help differentiate it with your style (so long as it doesn’t deviate the core storyline).

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Keep it fun, you say? :sweat_smile:

I may or may not have been tipsy when I got the brilliant idea to pitch the story to you. Not the best decision…
I’m glad that I was able to sober it up.