This was originally a supporter-only post, first posted to patreon and ko-fi in June 2020.
If you were to look at my plotting notes for NON PLAYER CHARACTER you would notice that there’s not much of a villain. The characters each have their own arc, but what they are overcoming is less a great evil and more their own inner-demons and insecurities.
This is especially true of the main character, Tar, who must find a way to live with their overwhelming anxiety in order to help their friends. And to return the favour to someone they love who helped them manage their anxiety on Earth.
This has been my approach to a low conflict fantasy story. It’s my first attempt at something like it. My stories have always had very internal journies but they are normally catalysed by much more external conflicts, like in BOOKS & BONE where Ree is choosing her own path but to do so must keep Smythe safe from those who would kill him.
There’s just … not very much of that in NPC. There’s some, for sure, but not a lot. The pressures driving the characters are smaller, more personal. The resolutions are about an internal change, not defeating an external foe.
I have always wanted more fiction like this but honestly I haven’t read much. I don’t know whether I’m striking the right balance. After all, in a normal fantasy the characters are facing both internal AND external challenges. What does it mean when I shift the focus so heavily to the internal? What does it mean when a story like this walks the edge of slice-of-life?
It’s a source of anxiety (funnily enough). It’s something I’m thinking a lot about while I write, and it’s not the only thing either. NPC is in many ways an entirely new kind of story for me, and it’s making me think in new ways. Actually, the amount of mental stretching I am doing to write this would surely not be considered worth it for a story that is not going to shake the world. It’s fluffy and sweet, and it’s meant to be.
I guess what I’m saying is: I hope I’m getting this right. I hope this is a good balance. I hope a story where anxiety is not a side-concern but actually the main challenge to overcome still makes good fantasy.
I guess I won’t know for sure until I finish this and start looking for early readers.
… Anyway! If you have any thoughts, I’d love to hear them. Different perspectives are always so helpful when trying to navigate the bizarre and subjective world of fiction writing.
And thanks for listening.
Image by Torulus from Pixabay