Writing an Invasion Storyline

Black Clover

My son and I are watching a series called ‘Black Clover’.  It involves magic and the story arcs have been rather simple.  That is until the underlying story hit the gas and an invasion of the kingdom happened.  One bigger than the previous ones.  Multiple characters were possessed by the spirits of murdered elves and united to tear down the kingdom.  We haven’t reached the end yet, so I don’t know what happens.

This got me thinking about invasion storylines.  Specifically, when a story has it happen in the middle of the adventure.  I don’t mean after the first chapter, so the majority of the story takes place during or afterwards.  This is more about invasions that occur after world-building has been accomplished.  Everything is thrown out of whack and chaos rules until some form of order returns.  Maybe the heroes are part of it or they’re trying to accomplish their quest in spite of the mayhem.  Either way, the mid-story invasion is a plot event that can’t be taken lightly.

An invasion changes a lot of what has already been established:

  1. Safe regions are now dangerous.  An active invasion is really a war, so the heroes will find themselves on battlefields.  These can even be in familiar cities and regions.  So, there is a higher sense of danger and being on edge.  The heroes can’t casually walk around and relax due to what is going on around them.
  2. As I said, the danger has increased.  This means there is more tension.  You need to have the invasion deliver an impact.  Heroes need to stumble into conflict either as combatants or witnesses.  The landscape has to change for the worse and their success/survival needs to come into question.  Otherwise, there’s no reason to have the invasion in the first place.
  3. Pacing can be altered as well.  Prior to the invasion, the heroes might feel like they can take their time.  Once the fighting breaks out, they will feel the need to rush, especially if their quest is connected to the invasion.  Putting in casual, restful scenes that show the characters at ease no longer fits the change in tone.  It makes them come off as not taking the kingdom’s or their own situations seriously.
  4. Tone takes a hit as well.  Invasions are scary, brutal, and violent.  This will inevitably reduce the lightheartedness of a story.  Humor may become darker or be eliminated entirely until the event is over.  With all of the tension and fear, it makes little sense to have them be cracking jokes.  The exception is if they do it to remain calm, but having every character become a punster in the face of danger gets silly.  Not everyone has the same emotional defense mechanism.
  5. On a physical level, the entire world will get changed.  Villages can be wiped out and areas can no longer be accessible.  Forests may burn down while rivers are contaminated or diverted.  Famous landmarks could be targeted by invaders to reduce the locals’ morale.  You have to think like an invader and decide what they would do to beat the locals into submission.

Don’t think I have much else to say about this type of storyline.  It doesn’t have to span the entire book, but it needs to make an impact.  I think it works better in a series, which allows an author to shake up what they’ve already created.  Brings the world building back to an earlier level, which means future adventures can start rebuilding.  That comes with a heightened sense of curiosity as fans discover which locations and characters made it through the event.

So, what do other people think of this plot event?  It isn’t that common, so I might be alone on this one.

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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9 Responses to Writing an Invasion Storyline

  1. All good tips, Charles. This information applies to any upheaval situation.

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  2. V.M.Sang says:

    You make good points here, Charles. I have an invasion in Book 4 of my Wolves of Vimar series (still a WIP). Several duchies are taken by understand, scary tactics very quickly. Then the enemy starts to march on the capital.
    The companions find themselves involved. Some go on a mission to rescue the queen and crown prince who have been captured, and the others find themselves in the army in a battle (which they lose due to a spy and magic).
    I hope I’ve managed to make it threatening enough.

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  3. I’ve been dealing with some of this, but in outer space. It might help me to bring it almost to the small town level for a couple of scenes to demonstrate the impact.

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  4. In the context of your anime, was the invasion being hinted at? Like one or two people possessed, but they think it’s dealt with, and then suddenly lots of people get possessed?

    My other thought is that sometimes you see hidden invasions, a la Pod People, where individuals are slowly replaced until it reaches a critical mass to reveal the invasion to the public. Usually with this it’s a few characters who realize what’s happening and race to stop it or reveal the invasion before it can fully engage.

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    • There was a hint that something was going on. A few possessed characters appeared, but their condition wasn’t explained. So, you knew something big was coming. Then, the big spell went off and other people were possessed including some of the good guys. This opened the door to memories, which revealed what was going on and why.

      Body-snatcher style invasions do tend to focus on the person or small group who notice it’s coming.

      Liked by 1 person

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