Henchmen can be heroes too

by | Aug 20, 2020 | My Author Scrapheap | 0 comments

Not sure what my Author Scrapheap is? I introduce the idea on the Author Scrapheap archive page.

This edition hearkens back to some of my earliest fantasy reading back in junior high school.

Idea: Henchmen

Start with a band of villain’s henchmen as the main characters, take the tropes and themes from Dragonlance Chronicles, and subvert them.

Write something about a group of elite henchmen for an “evil overlord”-type villain and their efforts to stop a heroic band from bringing back an ancient weapon against evil.

Portray them as men and women with homes and families that are getting by under the status quo, and don’t want the chaos that an uprising would bring.

Question the heroes’ motives, having the henchmen paint them as glory-seeking idealists with no idea how to run a country once they overthrow it, and the ruin they’d expect.

Maybe even have the henchmen laud the heroes’ goals, but disagree that they’d do better than the villain at making life safe and happy for the common folk. It would be just the opposite of a band-of-heroes-saves-the-world tale like Chronicles.

Beginning with Dragons of Autumn Twilight, Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman is a classic heroic tale featuring a number of iconic characters. While even in its own pages, Chronicles subverted a number of tropes (with the main villain of the following series being one of the original heroes gone bad), it still relied on a framework of “defeat evil baddie, everything after will work itself out.”

My concept was to untangle that whole notion that toppling an evil regime was going to be popular with everyone. Especially for people who’ve carved out a life under a given system, the thought of something potentially worse coming along could be terrifying.

Imagine a war that ravages the land. One side emerges victorious, puts the pieces back together. It’s an imperfect system, but they’ve avoided mass starvation and begun to rebuild.

Now, you see a band of heroes, maybe not even all natives to this land (bonus points if one came through a magical portal from Earth), who think they can swoop in, tear down the new system, and replace it with *waves hands vaguely*.

I think the main reason I’ve never done anything further with this concept is because in smaller ways, I’m constantly undoing tropes like this.

Anyone who’s read Project Transhuman (formerly Robot Geneticists) might note that Charlie7 is a tyrant that programmed robotic society to his advantage. Twinborn Chronicles: Awakening, is told from within the borders of the evil, conquering empire.

I don’t think I ever felt a need to make this sort of inversion so front and center of its own narrative.

I also never came up with fun characters to inhabit the story. It was just a nebulous concept. When stories earn themselves a place in a text editor every morning after coffee is when I start seeing characters interact in my head, playing out scenes I want to explore, and I begin to get a feel for who I’d be spending potentially half a million words or more talking about.

Short of that, they live only in the story garden until they eventually wither on the vine. But just as this idea ultimately impacted other stories like the Twinborn Chronicles, dead story concepts join the compost pile and fertilize new stories with some of the core ideas.

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