I’m reading a book called Write Like a Beast by Adam Lane Smith, and the first part covers character creation, with emphasis on creating the antagonist first and then the protagonist, as the antagonist drives the plot while the protagonist first reacts to trouble before getting proactive about it.
And therein lies the problem for Sheyla in book 1, probably for half the book she has no direct antagonist, no direct conflict. Before the war there is only some tension, unease, and sadness about future changes, but there’s no direct, decisive conflict the way there is for the rest of the series where she always is fighting against something in some way.
But what kind of real, concrete antagonist can I give an 11-year-old girl that fits with a peacetime to wartime switch? I can’t do something boring like a school bully, it would be dumb and out of place for the type of story it is (not to mention a mage bully would not be tolerated in their society).
I guess this is why dystopian stories usually start inside the dystopia, rather than before it’s taken over.
The only direct antagonist I can think of is a mage hunter, but again, that only works once it’s in the war part of the story, and at that point it doesn’t matter because there’s already trouble in her face. But before? I legit have no idea right now. Maybe I could give her paranoia about aliens, or something a bit supernatural, but those seem too close to abstractions, which there are enough of already. I can’t really have a dangerous antagonist, but it can’t be too normal…It still needs to point to danger.