Vee [Contemporary Fantasy]

Summary

Non-binary university student LEVI is attacked in a queerphobic hate crime. Unable to fight back, they are saved by the quiet and intelligent VEE who shelters Levi in his family’s home until the next day. Levi learns a war has broken out between the Astraliser Democratic Party (ADP), an Isadonian nationalist group, and the People’s Republican Party, who represent all Isadonian citizens.

MATS, a mutual friend of Vee and Levi and son of a prominent politician, holds a party to celebrate the start of a new term at university, which Levi attends due to an unrequited crush on Mats. During the party, nationalist forces bombard the town with shelling and artillery fire. Levi’s magic gives them a premonition of the attack but too late to prevent it. Vee, Mats and Levi all return to Levi’s house, where they realise the city may be besieged indefinitely.

Levi documents their life online, sharing the reality of daily shelling and food rationing. Levi also starts to get frequent visions, something that’s never happened before. Vee and Mats both attempt to join the Staritref Liberation Battalion (SLB), a paramilitary unit defending Staritref. Mats is accepted, Vee is not.

The three continue to try to live their lives but as the siege continues, they realise life can’t continue as they knew it. Levi clings onto Mats for emotional support, but is rejected. Levi continues documenting their life on the internet, and accepts Vee’s awkward friendship as a way to escape the horror of their daily life.

As Levi and Vee become closer, the war intensifies. When a friend steps on a landmine, the two work together to try to disarm it and save their friend –but fail. Distraught, Levi posts a vicious and heartfelt video online about his friend’s death that goes viral.

Vee and Levi finally confess their attraction to one another and learn that Levi’s magic is amplified by a latent ability of Vee’s.

In response to Levi’s video, the ADP cut all internet in Staritref. Levi is now a target of the nationalist forces, who want them dead. They remain trapped in the house, under constant watch from the SLB until Mats is put on guard and lets them leave the house. Unfortunately, it is at that moment that Nationalist forces attack the city.

Leveraging his father’s power, Mats calls in airstrikes to slow the Nationalist’s advance. Levi and Vee put together a plan of defence and booby-trap key locations in Staritref and buy them time to escape. Vee is captured but Levi activates their magic, saving them both.

When no airstrikes happen, the ADP sweep into the city. Vee ensures his family and Levi escape the city, but is unable to find Mats before the group is split up in the surge of people fleeing to safety.

Years later, the war is over. Levi finishes their degree abroad, and returns to Staritref to reclaim their house. They meet Mats at the hotel, who tries to convince Levi to abandon Staritref for good. Instead, Levi decides to visit his destroyed home. Vee finds Levi there and the pair reunite.

Audience: New Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy
Length: 90,000 - 120,000

Major Plotline: The major story arc follows the characters of Levi, Vee and Mats, as they live in the besieged city and attempt to disrupt the nationalist forces surrounding Staritref. It is resolved when the nationalist forces take over the town, with the three characters fleeing only to return years later to be reunited.

Minor Plotlines: There are three plot lines surrounding the three main characters. Levi’s follows his growing confidence in who he is and his own skillset, from being a character who thinks of himself as too stupid to take part in politics, to being the main videographer of the war’s effects in the city. Vee’s follows his growing acceptance in reconciling his cultural background (muslim), his political beliefs (leftist) and his sexuality (wibbly-wobbly). Vee’s rediscovery of a hobby from before the war - ballet - that he had given up to project a ‘tougher’ image is the culmination of his arc. Mats’ plotline follows the higher levels of the politics of the story, with Mats having access to information from politicians and the military, and him learning to abandon high-handed idealism and arrogance and instead begin to focus on the humanity of survivors. It is Mats who takes on the Astralisers in the military towards the end, and his arc ends with him considering self-sacrifice to save the others - only for that noble act to be taken from him by Vee.

Unique Aspects: I wanted to show a cast that looked more like my friendship group and my city. There’s strong LGBTQ presence within the main cast, and the work has Own Voices non-binary rep with Levi. I also wanted to show the endpoint of the rise of extreme right-wing rhetoric and what that may look like in a pan-European setting that didn’t shy away from examining what the effects are on marginalised people. I’d describe it as a niche work, with wide appeal with how it looks at the issues of war, refugees and propaganda.

8 Likes

I am pro utilizing non-contemporary settings to explore interpersonal character conflicts or the lives of people, particularly when those people aren’t in a regular position in life or live in a fringe.

I suspect this story is trying to go in a few too many directions. Each of the first four paragraphs is the opening paragraph to a different plotline and each one sort of paints a bit of a picture but doesn’t really connect to much or necessarily pay off. Levi is attacked as a function of a hate crime, but that hate crime doesn’t really go anywhere. It doesn’t seem to affect Levi in the long term (they aren’t trying to live with what the crime means, they aren’t trying to seek justice, they aren’t depressed and disillusioned by the lack of support, they don’t become the major flashpoint for the war).

They have a politician friend throwing a university kick-off party and again, it doesn’t really go anywhere, it just kind of fades away and the war takes over.

I think, from one specific line, there’s something you’re going for:

My understanding of this in the middle of the story is to show the transition from a sort of three friends slice-of-life to radicalization tearing apart their lives. It will likely end with them alive and escaped but forever scarred and different people who can never return to being three happy-go-lucky people.

The issue comes from the fact that there is no life they lead before the full-scale war situation that tears them apart. If anything, the war is what ends up bringing them together, which is a bit of a mixed message. It’s hard to know that they’ve lost the life they once had when I’ve never seen it. A life under war is different from a normal one, even if you’re making the best of it.

I do think opening with the hate crime is great. Having Levi meet Vee around the same time (maybe because of the crime, maybe just via coincidental timing) and become friends over time, while in the background they’re encountering more hate crimes in the news, escalating political discussions, so on. I know you’re an expert in the field so you would know how to portray the descent into Fascism in that regard.

Otherwise, you’re going to need some sort of specific character journey. When Levi posts their heartfelt video, why is it that way? Is this their lowest point? Their highest? Have they always been an advocate for fighting back and protest or were they shy and quiet and just trying to stay low and the hate crime kicked off this journey to full protest and not caring what others think? That sort of character line is missing for me and it limits the impact of that sort of climax. I think it as a climax, so long as it’s what Levi’s character was building up to, works really well as sort of the final moment before everyone ends up going their separate ways and ending in the sort of dark, scarred place by the end.

If you add in more of them living their lives pre-war so that you can show just how much they lose and how much they’re affected, it would make that line more powerful, and if Levi has a particular character journey that leads to this climatic viral protest video then it would make that pay-off more significant and would give the audience at least something to celebrate in an otherwise bleak cautionary tale. A personal victory for the main character in a losing effort is still a victory.

3 Likes

Thanks for this! I’m going to give this pitch a good going over!

1 Like

@nick kay so I reworked it from the ground up to give a better idea what the book is actually about this time, rather than it’s inspirations which I think were a bit of a red herring. Does this work better?

Summary

Non-binary magic student LEVI is attacked by nationalist paramilitaries and saved by antifascist student, VEE. Vee shelters Levi from the gunfire then takes them home. A ceasefire begins. MATS, a politician’s son, organises a party that Levi and Vee attend. It is attacked and the ceasefire ends. Mats and Levi seek comfort from one another.

Vee helps Levi’s family and Levi feels uncomfortable. Mats and Levi discuss their future, but Mats discourages Levi from making videos about the conditions in Staritref. Mats and Vee apply for the paramilitary defence of Staritref, but Vee is rejected.

Vee tells Mats that he likes Levi. Vee encourages Levi to post their videos. Mats rejects Levi. Levi decides to start reporting on the war online.

Mats tries to get Levi to use magic but Levi fails. The university reopens and people start to go to work again. Levi and Vee attend the local market to barter for food. It is shelled resulting in many deaths. Levi livestreams the incident. Vee and Levi grow closer.

Levi sees Mats and Vee in a compromising situation. Levi confronts Mats about Vee. Levi’s video on the market goes viral leading to a journalist wanting to interview them. The journalist gives them cigarettes in payment.

Levi decides to use some of their cigarettes to pay Vee back by buying food. Vee accidentally ignites Levi’s magic. Mats shows Levi Vee’s secret hobby, ballet. Levi barters for ballet shoes. Levi gives Vee the shoes and agree to date.

The nationalists completely cut off aid to Staritref. Levi trades his cigarettes for food. Levi finds out about Vee’s past. Levi finds out that his mother died before the war for standing up to the nationalists.

The university is closed after shelling damage. Levi to practices his powers with Vee’s help. Vee’s little sister gets sick. They try to get to an airdrop but fail. Vee and Levi are caught together by Vee’s stepfather.

They go on a raid to get an airdrop that went adrift. A friend steps on a landmine. They can’t save them. Food becomes even scarcer as disease spreads. Levi’s father gets pneumonia. Vee tries to arrange for Levi’s father to leave but Levi’s father dies before help comes.

Mats negotiates with the nationalists. Vee and Levi prepare to fight for their freedom. The three arrange for the remaining astralisers to protect the populace. Levi uploads a video that documents the situation. Vee gathers all the able-bodied who don’t want to flee. Negotiations fail. The promised airstrikes from the international community don’t come.

The nationalists take the town. Vee convinces Levi to leave without him. Levi gets Vee’s family to the deportation buses. The bus is stopped. Levi stands up to the nationalists to get them to leave the bus using their astraliser powers. Levi searches for Vee in the refugee camp but can’t find him. They arrange for Vee’s family to get to safety.

Levi arrives safely alone in a new country. They graduate university and return back to Staritref once the war is over. Levi meets Mats at a hotel and Mats suggests that they leave Staritref for good and continue a new life elsewhere. Levi returns to their house and finds Vee there. The two are reunited.

Years later, Vee and Levi come across a transkid being harassed and this time it is Levi who stands up to the attacker.

1 Like

This is a lot of events in a list, sometimes a bit tricky because some parallel events are in the same paragraph so it can make it harder to follow. That said, it’s still missing the core arc for the major characters throughout the process. I don’t understand what their personal motivations are or their stakes in any of this.

This makes the final line particularly interesting and hard to interpret. When Levi stands up to the attacker, is this because they’ve learned something throughout the prior journey in relation to standing up against bullies or for marginalized people? Is this because they started out not wanting to do that?

In the beginning, Levi was the victim of a hate crime, not a bystander, and was helped by Vee. In the end, they are a bystander and choose to intervene. But it’s not clear how they make that decision based on the events above. It’s mostly that Mats-Levi-Vee cycle between liking each other for unclear reasons and don’t have any personal stakes or things they’re trying to pursue, they otherwise survive a war, and Levi comes away standing up to bullies. But since I didn’t see something at the start where they have that chance and then doesn’t at the start, or their response to being attacked isn’t “that’s why I’ll never go outside again” it’s unclear what the lesson was.

Levi pushing to make videos almost immediately makes it confusing. Is this because of the attack at the start? Were they always going to do that?

Generally, I would say focus less on the play by play and more on the emotional impact or reasoning around each play. When you say that “Levi feels uncomfortable” why? When Mats discourages Levi from making videos, why? When Vee encourages the posting of the videos, why? What is each one of them trying to get in doing these actions?

Most of the wartime stuff is backdrop and is barely relevant to any of their lives. It causes some actions here or there, or causes some debates, like whether to share video of the conditions or not, but it doesn’t have emotional stakes for any of the main characters, only survival stakes. The emotional stakes appear to be between them. So learning that a house was shelled or they now have to barter cigarettes isn’t nearly as interesting as why Vee is keeping ballet secret as a hobby, for example.

It looks like there’s some pieces of personalities here and there for these three but they’re really not shining through in the summary via actions or reasons. Mats discouraging videos and suggesting leaving implies a possible personality archetype but I don’t have any other info to work with and I’m not sure how that interplays with the other characters.

2 Likes