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Need Help/Gauging Reaction: My (Potential) First Story

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by momo, Feb 3, 2018.

  1. momo

    momo Sixth Year

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    Hey guys, just want to see what y'all think Here is an idea to a story I am considering writing. Please read it and the message at the end.

    1. Hogwarts is not a school. It does however, serve as the center of the wizarding world. Every year on September 1st, the sorting hat judges students based on their potential and uses its mouth to spit out a file containing this information. This is NOT a magical core. This potential is based on physical capabilities, personality (approach to work), any special magical abilities (potential to become animagus, metamorphmagus, parseltounge) most importantly, the way they perceive magic. Every year, masters of magic from all around the world looking for an apprentice gather at Hogwarts and spend a week offering positions of apprenticeship the best candidates. The rest are considered squibs, and never taught magic (though due to supply and demand, this happens to very few people).
    2. Every Fall and Spring Equinox, tournaments of magic are held among people who have completed their apprenticeship (masters). Note: Being a master does not mean that you are an exceptional wizard, it just means that you are no longer an apprentice. Due to the 1-1 approach towards magic, many different styles have developed. Some fights are brutal and other glorious. However, this is the most brilliant showcase of magic in the world. Apprenticeships last until September 21, 10 years after they began, when the new masters participate in a tournament.
    3. Hogwarts also serves as an orphanage for children until they receive their apprenticeship. Children are expected to be taught the basics of magic from their parents from 6 until 11 (common spells that everyone uses no matter their style) until they get an apprenticeship. Hogwarts does this for orphans.
    4. The Order of the Phoenix is not led by anyone. Albus Dumbledore is a member (considered one of the most powerful wizards in the world) but he is not the leader. The Order has existed for centuries to fight Dark Lords and consists of masters and their apprentices and their apprentices over and over again. There is a semi-fixed number of seats in the order. (Number of Masters + their apprentices if they have any). However, a graduated apprentices, apprentice is still welcome in the order. However, all members can be traced back to a set of original masters.
    5. James and Lily Potter are members of the order under their respective masters. This is how they met and got married. They do have a son named Harry Potter. The events leading up to and including October 31, 1981 occur similar to cannon. The order is betrayed by Severus Snape, but not his master. When Harry is orphaned, it is both and James and Lily's former masters that come and take him to Hogwarts (because of its status as a orphanage).
    6. Here he learns the basics of magic but he also gets a semi-unique opportunity; watching the tournaments. Normally, one attends their first tournament with their master on September 21, the year they receive their apprenticeships. Harry sneaks around and watches the tournaments, even though he is not supposed to. His curiosity leads him to take notes and analyze styles once the tournament is over, leading to a wider picture approach to magic.
    7. Its September 1, 1991 and Albus Dumbledore is looking for an apprentice. He comes because it is the boy-who-lived's year, but he is not set if he should take Harry. He is interested in him however but will be waiting for the results. Albus Dumbledore has been a member of the Order for nearly a century and started out under his master, Nicholas Flamel. He was the one who defeated Grindlewald. He ends up impressed by Harry's wider picture approach to magic as determined by the sorting hat, and takes him as his apprentice. Harry has received many offers due to his status but this is the one he accepts because he has heard the legends about Albus Dumbldore.
    8. As mentioned earlier, everyone has specialties. Dumbledore's is elemental transfiguration. (This won't be OP, all abilities have their strengths and weaknesses). Transfiguration is of course more bigger picture based and thinking based instead of power. This is why Harry stood out to him. (I always liked the idea that a wizard of Dumbledore's caliber achieved his status due to being able to out-analyze his opponents, instead of just knowing op spells or having a bigger "core".
    9. Cue 10 years of training, fighting a returning Voldemort, and world building.
    Thank you all for taking the time to read this. Please tell me if you are interested in this idea or if (in a true DLP manner) it is completely stupid. If people are willing to give it a try, I will write the first couple chapters and post them in WBA.

    That being said, I am looking for a couple of betas/people to bounce ideas off. I am extremely grateful towards anyone willing to accept this position.

    Thanks,
    momo
    A (hopefully) excellent (future) author.
     
  2. Sorrows

    Sorrows Unspeakable Prestige DLP Gold Supporter

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    I am of the opinion that any idea can be written well. This is a very major AU you are talking about and its obvious you have been thinking on it for a while.

    A reformatted Hogwarts with a Master/Apprentice system is an ambitious idea and I can picture a number of ways it could be made an engaging setting. It would be a challenge to nail for a first time author, one of the perks of fanfiction is getting to practice in someone else's defined and familiar world, but thats no reason not to give it a go.

    My main concern is the Sorting Hat which seems to be a key part of your story. It is rare that getting given a laundry list of a characters traits and abilities is anything but a terrible idea. It is the height of tell not show for all you in-universe explanation. You end up over-sharing and bluntly defining your characters instead of letting the reader or the protagonist discover them in a more interesting and dynamic fashion.

    If you really want this mechanic then one solution could be that the Sorting Hats answer is far more esoteric or vague. It could be in the form of one of its strange songs or a series of images that are always correct but not necessarily in the way people think, sort of like the alethiometer from the dark materials trilogy. Give them something to agonize over and let the traits to appear in unexpected or interesting ways. The masters could still base their choices on the hats answer but not always be right in their assessment of its results.
     
  3. Halt

    Halt 1/3 of the Note Bros.

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    Well Sorrows beat me to it, but he is essentially correct. Execution, not premise, dictates the quality of a story. That said, not all premises are equally easy to execute.

    Sorrows covered this pretty well. The problem with magical cores isn't so much "magical cores are stupid and contradict canon" so much as magical cores, in essence, dictate potential. Which is exactly what you're doing here, and so isn't interesting unless to serve as an underdog story trying to show that such simple lumping people into boxes is actually ineffective as a system.

    Second, and yeah, it's all tell no show approach wise. Pretty boring stuff. If you wanted to start with this, I'd have the Hat not reveal to the students his list, (or shown in story at all), instead just leave characters in suspense until they find out roughly how well they did without going into the details of their "potential".

    There's also the issue that I dislike trying to measure potential of magical abilities. With enough hard work and assuming you aren't entirely dull, anyone can become an animagus, or an occlumens. (Metamorphmagus and parseltongue are hereditary though).

    Finally, having a supply/demand system that means that there are very few losers in this kind of undercuts the innate tension in your own setup (assuming that's the main point of your story, if it isn't ignore this).

    This is my second issue. Do you actually have a plot beyond "cue 10 years of training"? Like specifics? Or do you intend for this to be a timeskip? Or are they fighting voldemort while he's training? Because this sounds essentially like "the summer of training" arcs in the post OOTP fics of 2006 onwards (if I'm remembering my dates right). Lots of "getting strong" and no actual conflict in the story.

    See, here's the thing. You've given us so much background info to set up your world, but no real story. It's understandable you might not want to reveal your plot points, so a simple yes/no for this will suffice.

    Worldbuilding by itself is not a story. You need to integrate it into a greater narrative for worldbuilding to shine, focusing on it will bore your readers sooner rather than later.

    Having interesting characters will also be important. I get the feel this will be very Harry/Dumbledore centric so you're going to have to just nail those characters or this story will fail to keep people interested. Dumbledore, in particular, is difficult to write.
     
  4. momo

    momo Sixth Year

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    Thank you all for your suggestions.

    On the sorting hat, the readers and the students are not told their results. Changing it up now so that its not abilities but sort of a psych eval. Purely personality based.

    On the training/plot: They are definitely fight Voldemort during the training. And I do have a plan...I just chose not to share the whole thing so that some of the suspense is preserved. I will share it with anyone who agrees to beta (HINT, HINT!)

    On Dumbledore: I really want to keep the whole mysterious and knowledgeable aspect while still allowing a gradual bond with Harry.
     
  5. Sey

    Sey Unspeakable DLP Supporter

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    I kind of liked the ability part. We all have inherit limits. I'm not 6'8" with the physique of a Greek God like LeBron James. There's a reaon why he's the best basketball player in the world and I sit on my couch watching.

    Why is it so bad to say that there is some inherent specialities to wizards which make one better than another? Even if there is none and we go along with the idea that magical expertise = knowledge, then people who are smarter are better wizards. Intelligence is mostly genetic, so this doesn't really change anything.
     
  6. momo

    momo Sixth Year

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    This is true. That being said, I understand the issue that giving out a list of the characters potentials takes away some of the fun. I think that the sorting hat does stuff but it will remain confidential. This can also allow me to create rejects in the magical world which could lead to an interesting plot point (mass army w/ extreme loyalty sort of stuff for the villain).
     
  7. Halt

    Halt 1/3 of the Note Bros.

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    Because it's boring to have to read about how you (the author) have decided who is more powerful than who on a linear scale. I have no issue with the idea (because we all kind of do that whenever we write action), I have issue with telling the reader that information because it makes for a story-killing experience in terms of dryness.

    There's also this:

    The thing with saying that magical skill is based only on intelligence (and genetics) isn't entirely correct either, because we know that that's not the case. Goyle, despite not being particularly bright, was able to case a Fiendfyre (granted, he was unable to control it). Ron and Harry are more instinctive than academic. Emotions are shown to play an important role in casting magic.

    And perhaps most of all, the underlying theme of HP is that it's our choices, not our genetics or birth, that determine us. I don't see why that doesn't also apply to magical skill to a degree - otherwise there'd be no sense to practicing magic at all.

    Having a Sorting Hat that can accurately predict who you will become 10 or 20 years down the road, even magic wise, robs characters of agency of choice, because obviously they'd have ended up those they were. It was fate, it was inevitable. That's what readers hate to be told. Sure, that's what actually happens anyway since an author basically plays god in their story, but not stating it outright helps maintain suspension of disbelief.

    Pull back that veil and people will feel its not organic.

    This is what Work by Author (WBA) subforums are for.
     
  8. Joe's Nemesis

    Joe's Nemesis High Score: 2,058 Prestige

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    I, too, am of the opinion that any "idea" can work if it is written well enough and thought through well enough. That said, there are some things that may or may not work within an idea simply because of cliches or the way a fandom expects the story to go.
    Be aware of your thinking here. You say it's not a school, and then turn right around and call the people there "students." Although it may look as though I'm being pedantic here, I'm not. Without clarity in thought, you'll write as though the people at Hogwarts are students, which will confuse your readers. Have a very specific idea in mind who they are before you begin writing it.

    Also, who, specifically, is the hat judging? If it's the orphans, then you have a problem with the hat judging the future of eleven year olds who often haven't created a work ethic yet. Way too much can change in the intervening years to establish ability, work ethic, and especially personality for the specificity you're looking for. Then you have to explain why they come to Hogwarts from around the world. Is it tradition? Is it based on the old Commonwealth? What is the reasoning for it?

    Where you could go, however, is matching magic. Thus, they get rated on potentiality, ability, and type of magic, which then enables them to be better matched to Masters.
    There's a lot of backstory here. You don't need it in the story itself, but you definitely need to have the backstory outlined for your own thoughts so you can see plotholes and other such issues. So, my first thought is, where does the story itself begin? Are we going to follow the apprentices? Will we follow the masters? If it's the apprentices, how long will we have to follow them before we get to the tournament, which looks like it's the main plot device upon which the story is built around.
    This doesn't follow from what you said earlier. If it's the center for the "wizarding world" why would they stick an orphanage in it? You're putting a babysitting facility inside a vast government facility, but it doesn't benefit the latter in any way. Furthermore, Hogwarts wouldn't be big enough for both as it is the center of the "Wizarding world." That means the center for wizards on every continent. I then assume wizarding orphans from the entire world attend Hogwarts as well, correct?

    Now, that said, I think there's some easy fixes. First, make Hogwarts the center of the British wizarding world. You can even keep it the center of the wizarding world of Commonwealth. Second, give the reader a reason why the government (or whatever it is, again, the "center") must include an orphanage. Perhaps, the orphanage was at a different location and Tom Riddle grew up there. He returned and destroyed the orphanage, killing several of the teachers as well as most of the children. As a response, they moved the orphanage to the castle because they had extra room, and it just never left due to institutional inertia. This would have happened far enough in the background that you don't need to go too far into it, but it provides the reader with a piece of logic that he or she can then say "Fine, I accept they would have combined the two."
    .

    Okay, at first I thought "why call it the Order of the Phoenix?" But I get why you're using it; you're playing off the idea of the Order fighting dark wizards. Still, I would avoid calling it the Order of the Phoenix for no other reason than the idiot reviewers who think you don't know Dumbledore founded it and how stupid are you to say he didn't. IMO, avoid that entire mess and come up with a fresh name, something that won't be associated with Dumbledore starting it. Often, I've found you can get really great names by thinking of a couple of words that might describe whatever you want to name, and then checking ancient languages that might have a connection (such as Old English; Old German; Latin; and Ionic, Attic, or Koine Greek).
    okay.

    You lost me here. Why would he do so? You have to give him motive and make it something within his character. Establish his character first before sending him sneaking around. Since you're creating such an AU story, you can't rely on cannon characteristics, although you readers will assume them to a point. Confirm for them those characteristics. Tell them why (or better yet, show them) Harry would be doing that.

    Second, You said they went to the orphanage at six, and stayed until they were eleven. What would induce a child, and moreover, give him the ability to analyze styles of magic in a tournament? Even at eleven years old, that's a far stretch. It doesn't really make sense. ​

    Fair enough. However, make sure you build that up in the story before Dumbledore arrives. Otherwise, there's no reason for Harry to care about him, or for the reader to care about Dumbledore choosing Harry. Also, why would he care about Harry? What would draw him there? Is it because he was the master of James or Lily and he feels a responsibility to their son? If that isn't it, then you'll have to find a good reason for Dumbledore to show any interest. You might be able to argue that he's interested in how the magic of Lily's love (blood magic) interacts with Harry's magic. But that's pretty esoteric.
    .

    So, you're going with an "intelligent Harry" model? Also, why must it be elemental transfiguration? That seems needlessly specific and somewhat cliche (elementals). Also note, the charm of the HP universe is magic, not intellect. It doesn't mean Harry can't be smart, but if it is overly focused on big-picture and intellect, it'll lose the charm of the universe, IMO.

    To be honest, this concerns me the most and why, even if I had the time, I probably wouldn't be your beta (as it stands). You've given a ton of backstory (some of which needs more backstory to fill plot holes). However, you haven't yet provided a plot. What is the hook in the story? Why should the reader care about all of this? Or even any of this? Everything you have written is great as an idea, but "ten years of training, fighting Voldemort, and world building" is exactly the story of the original books (except it was six years of training).

    Personally, I would say go back to the drawing board. Take everything you written now, and lay it to the side (but keep it mind). Sketch out the story itself. What are the major story arcs within the story? How many characters do you want explore? How do they grow? What are the main events that drive the plot? What is the plot? What central thing is Harry trying to achieve, fix, change, etc.? What are some of the secondary hurdles he has to get over? Are there any plot twists? If so, where? Once you have that done, where are you going to put foreshadowing so that the reader isn't left wondering "Where did that come from?"
    As I said, any idea can be written well. I think you did a good job with backstory here. The issue is that is all you have, backstory. Give us the story that sits on this backstory.
     
  9. momo

    momo Sixth Year

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    Thanks Joe,
    I'm going to work on a detailed outline when I get home.
     
  10. Republic

    Republic The Snow Queen Prestige DLP Supporter

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    My suggestion, and I say this with the best intentions of helping you, is to not attempt a hundreds of thousands-long epic. You're going to get swamped, overwelmed, write yourself into corners that force you to use crude devices, have terrible pacing and most probably never finish the first act, never mind the whole thing.

    Try your hand at a few one-shots first. Explore interesting ideas and test out your writing in a controlled setting, beginning middle and end. Don't go for a huge story right off the bat. It will not go well.
     
  11. Dicra

    Dicra Groundskeeper

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    The thing is, this is pretty much how you learn how to write actually good hundres of thousands-long epics. By failing at writing them numerous times - and especially the "writing into corners thing" is something that just doesn't happen with one-shots, so they aren't really the best practice for things like that.
     
  12. Republic

    Republic The Snow Queen Prestige DLP Supporter

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    It's not a bad idea to get a grasp of the basics before testing out intricate plots and massive AUs. That can come later. Hopefully one's writing will be decent enough by that point to at least not be physically painful, regardless of how contrived it might be or how inevitable its abandonment is.
     
    Sey
  13. Dicra

    Dicra Groundskeeper

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    I know what you mean, however, oneshots and short stories in general have fundamentally different mechanics from long stories. "Cauterize" is a good example for that; 100k words of that would be unbearable, but as it is, it's brilliant.
    What I want to say is: If you want to be a good oneshot writer, then you should be writing oneshots. If you want to be a good long story writer, it can't harm to try one's hand at a long story.
    Getting a grasp of the absolute basics is something you also do while failing at writing a good 300k+ story, you don't need oneshots for that (especially if you, like me, generally aren't interested in oneshots).

    The only thing oneshots and short stories can really teach you is to not bloat everything that much, and what parts you can skip while not harming the story.

    Imo the only one that profits from an inexperienced writer only writing oneshots is the reader, because the early bad things aren't as long.

    I for one, started with a story that was always meant to be big, around 700k when it was finished. Around Ch. 64 I noticed that I wasn't really going anywhere because the beginning was a catastrophe and the middle was contrived as hell, so I rewrote it, and a year later, I noticed it was better than the first attempt, but still shit in some pretty fundamental ways.

    So, I now try my hands at a different story and that one isn't that bad. It's got faults, absolutely, but it'd be much worse if I hadn't had the previous experience of actually sitting down and writing what I wanted to write - a long story with intricate plots, not oneshots.
     
  14. Halt

    Halt 1/3 of the Note Bros.

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    I'd suggest trying novel length (50-100k words) instead of one shots if you want to write epic length stories. Novels tend to have a lot more similarities and greater carry over of skills, one shots are better practice for technical writing and scene setting, but things like pacing it are entirely different with long stories.
     
  15. Seratin

    Seratin Proudmander Prestige DLP Supporter

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    The merit of the idea itself is solid but hneatly if you're going the fanfiction route do what the others suggested and try smaller pieces first. Pieces that are closer to Canon.

    This idea works better as an OF anyway so I don't think there's any point sticking Harry Potter labels on it. Work on this as an original story and also work on smaller, more grounded bits of fanfiction.
     
  16. Chengar Qordath

    Chengar Qordath The Final Pony Prestige

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    I'd say a couple one-offs might not hurt, just to make sure you have the fundamentals down and actually like the writing and editing process. My experience is that a lot of people love the idea of writing a lot more than the reality of pounding out scene after scene, and then going back for multiple editing passes and revisions. Let alone the first time you come to the slowly dawning realization that the several thousand word chapter you just spent last week hammering out isn't just in need of some editing, but is so fundamentally flawed it needs to be completely erased and re-done.
     
  17. Sataniel

    Sataniel Groundskeeper

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    I want to shoot you both.

    Anyway, contrary to what others said I don't think that Hat telling people their skills is such a bad idea in itself. It just needs to be played well. Think about it, one moment in life, one judgement largely defining your future possibilities. There is a clear dystopian vibe to it, and that's how it can be framed. Kids scared out of their lives of Hat's judgement. Bitter people who were denied opportunities and have an axe to grind with a system. There are possibilities in this.
     
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