Right now I’m in the process of planning two connected stories for National Novel Writing Month. Both are fantasy concepts, one high and one dark. And with the limited time I have to map out a setting, characters, magic systems, and other intricacies, I find myself falling back on archetypes and old, familiar ideas.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Making a setting recognizably medieval means that the reader can get into the story faster without having to do extensive research. But I still need to make sure that this is my story, and not everyone else’s.
Here’s the problem I’ve run into: My protagonist is from a noble house represented by a lion. She’s secretly illegitimate, and her parents take great care in concealing this fact. The lord of the house has strong armies and strategically adept when it comes to war. The house goes to war with another house represented by a wolf.
If you follow the events in A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones, you’ll find this strangely familiar. And George R. R. Martin’s writing didn’t even inspire the plot of this story. (The scale of it, maybe.) But because I’ve been so absorbed in ASOIAF so far, ideas from those books transferred over into mine.
Maybe these ideas would be fine ten years or so from now, but with Martin’s popularity in recent times I know this won’t fly. So I’ll be making some significant changes to the characters now before I’m waist-deep in the story.