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Never the Heroes: Developing the Premise

The following is from my personal files as I use John Truby's The Anatomy of Story to develop the story of Never the Heroes.

The following is pre-writing for Never the Heroes: a new Starbreaker novel that will reboot the saga by retelling the central story of Without Bloodshed in a more disciplined and accessible manner.

1 Premise Development

1.1 Premise

A closeted cop who murders suspects to protect his secret must take down an outspoken suspect without violence and protect him from higher-ups who want him dead to fight allegations that he's just a murderer with a badge.

1.2 Possibilities

I can show the soft black underbelly of a near-utopian post-collapse Renaissance, while also showing how the lies we tell ourselves come to define us and attacking the fundamental principle of our Machiavellian culture, which is that the end justifies the means.

1.3 Story Challenges

This could get complicated.

  • How do I earn the reader's sympathy for a character who has the attributes of a superhero but refuses to use them to their fullest extent?
  • How can I make my protagonist's fear of rejection credible when he's a grown-ass man?
  • How can I show a man's realization that he has spent his entire adult life betraying his own ideals instead of upholding them?
  • How can I show his effort to do better as a first step toward being a better person and not the karmic equivalent of a Houdini escape?
  • How do I keep the focus on Morgan from reducing the characters around him to mere satellites?

1.4 Problems

I have to show that Morgan's moral flaws stem from both his psychological flaws and the culture around him. That means showing the wider society, with subplots showing other characters being thrown under the bus as they cease to be of value. I need to make these characters interesting and their subplots compelling without any of them overshadowing the main story.

1.5 Designing Principle

Force a closeted superhero to come out and step out for his friend's sake and for the greater good.

Force a killer feared for his ruthlessness and bloodlust to carry out his mission without recourse to violence.

1.6 Best Character

Morgan's willingness to kill suspects who fight back, wound him, and see him heal shows his determination to hide his true nature, his willingness to harm others to preserve his own sense of security, and the wider society's willingness to ignore abuses of power when the victims "have it coming".

1.7 Conflict

  • Morgan fights Munakata Tetsuo to get at Alexander Liebenthal.
  • Morgan fights Alexander Liebenthal to arrest him.
  • Morgan fights Isaac Magnin to ensure Liebenthal and Munakata live to stand trial.
  • Morgan fights Christabel Crowley over whether he should choose between being an Adversary and a rock musician or give up one of these roles.
  • Morgan fights Naomi Bradleigh over whether he should be open about his true nature.

1.8 Basic Action

Morgan works to prove himself.

1.9 Character Change

Morgan is afraid to be the asura emulator he is, insists he is only human, and is willing to kill suspects who learn his secret by wounding him while resisting arrest.
By carrying out a mission without bloodshed and protecting a witness against a corrupt official with preternatural abilities of his own, Morgan learns to accept himself, trust his friends, and live up to his ideals.

1.10 Moral Choice

Morgan resigns his commission as a UN HRDC officer after successfully carrying out his mission to arrest Alexander Liebenthal and bring him in for trial. He has decided that he will renounce the sword and use his skills as a rock musician to highlight the UN's corruption and inspire the people to demand reforms. However, his secret is out and he has made a powerful enemy.