Here we are again, looking at the ending to this novel I'm trying to write, and I think I've figured it out (with a lot of help from that really smart friend I mentioned last time).
So, here's the skinny. I was trying to keep the plot as simple, as focused, and as tight as I could. I didn't want it to turn into a sprawling narrative too big for one book, or so big as to be confusingly complex for the audience. So I cut out a lot of things from the original draft, such as the main character's elven friend, the war with the elves, the trip to the dragon island, and the dragon plague that was wiping out chunks of the royal family.
When I took those elements out, I sort of discarded them as potential parts of the story, because they were part of the "too big" problem I was trying to avoid.
That was part of my mistake, because as we all know, no man is an island, and no story happens in a vacuum. That was the point of all that worldbuilding last summer.
- So if the dragons have been kicked out of the city where the majority of the Riders have lived until recently, where do they go?
- If I want the main character to make contact with them later in the book, they need to be nearby. But why would they stay close to a place where a bunch of people want to kill them?
- No healthy, free dragon in their right mind would go into a city to find a Rider, not after what happens at the beginning of the book. So where does the main character's dragon come from?
- The main character doesn't like making his own choices without input from people in authority, so why would he Challenge the king without first talking to the girl he wanted to make queen?
- There's an entire political system already in place, and it's not going to reform overnight without some serious muscle behind it. Who has power in the city that would be willing to help the main character, and if there are none, who on the outside has enough military power to make a difference?
Once I started on this line of questions, everything started to fall into place. Obviously, the main character talks to his friend, who is much better with politics than he is, and she says they need to make allies. With whom? Obviously, with the exiled dragons.
And who would the exiled dragons turn to in order to deal with this problem (which is very clearly a problem, because the humans are out of control)? The elves, without a doubt.
So we're back to that war with the elves that I discarded earlier. (Think of it like the Hundred Years' War between France and England. It wasn't one long fight so much as many small or not-so-small conflicts between bouts of peace or running out of money.)
The finer details are still in the works, and though this is more complex a conclusion to the story, it makes more sense in the world and with the characters I'm working with. I just have to keep in mind that this isn't a story about the world. This is a story about the main character, so the focus will always be on him.
If I let the story zoom out too much, I'll get overwhelmed with politics and ecology instead of keeping the story focused on one boy's struggle with the concept of independence.