Five Over-Burdened Stories and How to Fix Them

Elsa shooting beams of ice into a tornado around her.

It’s incredibly common for new authors to run into the problem of over-burdening their stories. Their creative minds keep churning out new story elements, and they seem so cool, so why not just include them all? This is how you end up with stories that have little in the way of theming and cohesion. As we’re fond of saying here at Mythcreants: your story can be about anything, but it can’t be about everything.

It’s one thing to talk about unburdening stories in theory, but what does it mean in practice? How can authors take this advice to heart and actually reduce the clutter in their stories? Fortunately, professional storytellers have provided us with plenty of over-burdened tales to practice on. Let’s take a look at why these stories are over-burdened in the first place, what effect that has on quality, and how it can be fixed.

Spoiler Notice: Gideon the Ninth and Skyward

1. The Wheel of Time

A map of Randland

As the poster child of series bloat, The Wheel of Time is over-burdened in just about every respect. It has too many characters, too many plotlines, and too many different types of magic. It also has a multiverse thrown in there for unknown reasons. All of this together is why a relatively simple story about defeating this world’s equivalent of Sauron managed to take fourteen entire novels to complete. Dear lord.

Listing every over-burdened aspect of these books would take ages, so today we’re looking at just one: the various political factions. Most of the story takes place in the Westlands, an area blocked off by some suspiciously square-looking mountains. These lands contain dozens of countries, large and small, and our heroes find time to visit most of them at one time or another.

That’s already quite a few political actors on the stage, but of course there are more. We also have the White Tower, which is Robert Jordan’s take on Dune’s organization of Scary Magic Women. Then there are the Seanchan, a vast empire from across the oceans. But wait, there’s even more! Across the mountains are the Aiel, who are desert badasses in the mold of Dune’s Fremen, except somehow even less realistic. Finally, there are the White Cloaks, an independent army of religious extremists who go around causing mischief. I say “finally,” but there are almost certainly factions I’m missing. These are just the ones I remember from my recent reread of the first five books.

With all these additions, the political stage has gone from crowded to jam packed, standing room only. There are so many factions running around that most of them blur together. Despite our heroes traveling all over the Westlands, most of the countries feel indistinct and passive, as if they aren’t allowed to do anything unless a POV character is leading the action. Since most of the factions aren’t doing anything important, they largely fade into names on a page, easily interchanged for one another. This makes the Westlands feel like a cheap set rather than a living world.

How to Fix It

The main order of the day is to get out those scissors and start cutting factions. Namely, the three factions that are most unnecessary: the Seanchan, the Aiel, and the White Cloaks. These bad boys are responsible for a disproportionate amount of the crowding because they’re so far outside the original setting premise. When first reading WoT, you’re presented with a land of diverse countries and peoples, only for most of that to be shoved aside in favor of three factions that have nothing to do with this map the characters spend so long traveling around.

The White Cloaks and the Aiel can be cut pretty easily. The White Cloaks’ entire purpose for most of the story is to provide some disposable minions for the heroes to fight, a job that can be easily done by one of the many countries the story takes us through or from one of the many warlords that seem to pop up all over the place. This would also help the setting’s believability, since it’s really unclear how the White Cloaks attract recruits in the first place. They act like a military arm of the church, but there is no church in the Westlands, nor do there seem to be any religious leaders or any organized religion at all.

Likewise, the Aiel can be easily cut, as they’re little more than a distraction from the actual story. They make even less sense than the White Cloaks, as they live in a barren desert yet can somehow raise armies more powerful than anyone else’s, and they’re so good at fighting that it borders on the supernatural. There’s no reason for them to even be in the story except to give the main character some unneeded extra candy by swearing loyalty to him.

The Seanchan are a little more complicated, as they actually play an important role in the plot. In the later books, they’ve conquered about half of the Westlands, which requires the protagonist to unite the other half against them. That’s fine, but there’s no reason it couldn’t have been done by one of the countries already present at the start of the books. All Jordan had to do was make one of his many kingdoms powerful and expansionist. There was no reason to bring in an entirely new faction from across the sea.

2. Gideon the Ninth

Cover art for Gideon the Ninth

Tamsyn Muir’s Hugo-nominated novel is high on originality, but also high on confusion. You’re thrown into this strange space fantasy world with very little to orient you and then left to sink or swim. To be sure, some of this confusion comes from the wordcraft. Protagonist Gideon can’t stop quipping long enough to explain anything, which makes many plot points and setting elements seem more complicated than they are. But it’s not all confusing prose, since the story is definitely over-burdened as well.

To start, the main plot has around eighteen major characters, depending on how you count them. Each of these characters has at least one nickname, and some have two or three. Then there are a number of background characters who aren’t as present but still get brought up in either exposition or flashbacks. That’s a whole lot to remember.

Perhaps just as bad, the plot doesn’t give us much of a reason to remember who the characters are. The plot is sort of a murder mystery, and normally we would remember the large cast as each member is a suspect or an investigator. But in this novel, there’s never a reason to suspect anyone of being the murderer, since no one has a motive. In fact, it’s made pretty clear that the most likely culprit is some kind of magical monster.*

The other thing happening in the plot is that most of the characters are on a quest to unlock the secrets of powerful necromantic magic. This also could have made the large cast more memorable, as our heroes battle it out to learn the secrets of the undead. Again, however, there’s no real reason for the characters to compete. The rules laid down at the beginning make it clear that all of them can unlock this power, and it’s not just a one-time prize.

The herd does thin out a bit as more characters are murdered, but even then, we’re not out of the woods. Since it’s hard to remember who anyone is, the emotional impact of each death is seriously dampened. Was that one of the characters we liked or one of the assholes? It’s hard to say!

How to Fix It

You might expect the answer to be cutting characters, but if so, prepare for a shock! While there are a few consolidations we could make,* a big cast is actually useful to a story like this, as it means that there are plenty of characters to die as the plot moves forward. Instead, the solution is in changing how the characters are portrayed.

First, there should only be one name for each character. Currently, the characters are sometimes referred to by their first name, their house name, or their nickname. There are even multiple characters who answer to the same house name, so that all has to go. When your cast is nearly large enough to play both sides of a soccer match, you need to be clear with what you call them.

Second, it would be way easier to remember these characters if they were actually murder suspects and if they were actually competing for something only one of them could get. That way, even the friendly characters would have reason to distrust each other, and everyone would be easier to remember since it’s clear why they’re important.

Finally, the book should focus more on the different magics practiced by the spellcaster characters who make up about half the cast. They’re all necromancers, but supposedly they each specialize in a different field of necromancy. This should make them more distinct, but for most of the book, only a couple of characters do anything differently than the protagonist.

3. His Dark Materials

The first book in the His Dark Materials series, The Golden Compass,* isn’t overburdened at all. It’s a mystery-adventure story, with protagonist Lyra trying to track down a group of missing children while also finding hints about a mysterious substance called Dust. There’s a fair amount of setting info to absorb, but it’s all directly relevant to the plot, which makes things easier. Our two antagonists also happen to be Lyra’s parents: Ms. Coulter and Lord Asriel. This both adds drama and streamlines the story, since the big bads have an obvious connection to the hero.

But then books two and three come along, which is where things get messy. First, we introduce a new main character from the real world. His name is Will, and he’s the protagonist now. Lyra even has a scene where her all-knowing truth machine says that it’s her job to support Will on his quest. Not only is Will the new main character, but he also comes with his own parental baggage. Will’s father even has his own subplot about a witch who wants to kill him because he said no to sexy times. Oh boy.

As if getting to know a new main character wasn’t enough, the later books also spring a war against heaven on us. I’ve written before about how weird it is to turn the child-murdering Asriel into a big damn hero fighting against an evil God. However, more importantly for our purposes today, it also adds yet another plot thread to a series that already had plenty going on. Meanwhile, the Dust plot is still happening, but it’s only tangentially about Dust now, instead focusing on the damage caused by portals being opened up between worlds in different dimensions.

So how does the God War storyline link up with the Dust plot? Turns out they never really do. Some bad guys who are at least ostensibly allied with God try to eliminate Lyra because they’re afraid she’s going to be another Eve, though it’s never clear exactly what that means. We’re also told that Dust was responsible for the original Adam and Eve eating the fruit of knowledge, but also that Dust caused human evolution, so… I have no idea what to make of that. As if there weren’t enough plots, Will and Lyra also pop down to hell for a bit to take care of things there, and a side character hangs out with cool motorcycle aliens for most of book three.

How to Fix It

The main issue with books two and three is that they don’t work with what the first book set up for them. Instead, they invent a bunch of new material, which then has to compete with the existing content for space, which is why the story is so crowded. This leaves us with two repair options.

Option one: we stick with the first book as is and revise books two and three. In this scenario, the war against heaven should be dropped, since Lyra is our main character and there’s no way she’s in a position to lead that kind of plot. Likewise, if Will stays in the story at all, it should be based on how he relates to Lyra. From there, we can focus on the Dust plot, continuing from where The Golden Compass left off. Lyra’s parents would remain our main antagonists, with Ms. Coulter wanting to control Dust and Lord Asriel wanting to destroy it as he claims at the end of book one. That way, Lyra can discover some third option that both preserves Dust and keeps it out of a villain’s control.

Option two: it’s also possible to go back and revise book one so that it serves as a better setup for the stories that come later. In this scenario, Lyra should probably be older, since she needs to lead a war against heaven. The bad guys should also be more motivated by religion. In the published version, the villains are associated with the church, but their motivations are fairly secular. It should also be clear by the end of book one that God actually exists in this setting. One of the major failings of the current series is that Lyra’s world has exactly as much evidence of divinity as the real world does, so it’s jarring that even anti-church characters take it as a given that heaven is real.

4. Skyward

A pilot watching a ship blast into space.

The first novel of Brandon Sanderson’s latest series has two difficult conceits to explain. First, Sanderson really wants his World War II In Space aesthetic to make logical sense, whereas most authors would simply deploy some handwavium. That means a lot of time is spent explaining why space-age warships maneuver like propeller-driven airplanes and only engage the enemy at close range with direct-fire weapons. Most of these explanations are given as answers to questions asked by the characters.

The second difficult conceit is why the big enemy acts like a video game antagonist. The other side always sends just enough ships to be a major challenge, but never enough to completely overwhelm the heroes, even though the bad guys seem to have effectively unlimited resources. For this, Sanderson deploys a host of technical explanations plus information about how weird the planet they live on is, which apparently limits how the enemy can attack them. Finally, he does what we call sanctioning uncertainty: making it clear that to some extent, the enemy’s behavior is a mystery to be solved.

This is all exactly what I’d recommend to an author with a complicated setting to explain, but it has a couple of problems. For one thing, the sheer volume of time spent explaining the setting’s basic premises starts to get tiring after a while. Especially in the early chapters, it seems like we spend at least as much time explaining unintuitive elements of the setting as we do on the actual plot. The other problem is that explaining the villain’s behavior puts a lot of pressure on the final reveal. What new information could we learn that could possibly explain such unusual behavior?

Predictably, the big reveal isn’t able to deliver on the book’s earlier promises. It turns out that the characters are living on a prison planet, and the enemies they’ve been fighting are just drones sent down to make sure humans don’t develop advanced space travel. If that’s the case, then the drones are doing a very bad job. The human situation is desperate, but their space program is clearly still advancing. We’re told that a wave of drones can’t be bigger than 100 ships, but why not send a second wave, or even a third? That could wipe out the human space program entirely.

It’s always possible that this prison planet is having budget issues, but the book actually gives the opposite impression, and the whole operation is apparently run by a galaxy-wide coalition, so another hundred drone ships sounds like pocket change. Plus, if this is a prison, why have the wardens never tried explaining the rules to the humans? Maybe the humans wouldn’t listen, but it seems at least worth a try.

How to Fix It

Even though the WWII aesthetic requires a lot of explanation, I’m going to leave it alone today. It’s pretty vital for the story, and it wouldn’t be so much of a problem if the story wasn’t also trying to explain the enemy’s strange behavior. The story can handle one of those conceits, but both is pushing things.

Instead, the simplest solution is to change the bad guys into a more conventional enemy, one that suffers from the same resource and supply problems as the humans. That way, it doesn’t require a lot of explanation for the reader to understand why both sides generally have comparable numbers of ships.

It’s even possible to keep the prison planet reveal in this scenario. All we need is a few lines about how any spacecraft that flies too high ends up disappearing, presumably shot down by the enemy. Then the main character can discover that the other side has the same problem, and they assume it’s the humans who are responsible. Cue the reveal that both sides have been exiled here because they just wouldn’t stop fighting so the rest of the galaxy could live in peace.

5. Frozen II

the main characters of Frozen II

This is going to be a tough one. The first Frozen film has a relatively straightforward plot, other than weird troll sidequests, and it also has an obvious emotional throughline of the sisters bonding. By comparison, Frozen II is a complete mess. That’s not a huge surprise considering the previous film was definitely not designed with sequels in mind, but it does provide an interesting challenge.

This film is a perfect example of storytellers struggling to choose what to focus on and then trying to make their story about everything. Right off the bat, we introduce a classical four-elements system, which is awkward because Elsa’s ice powers don’t really fit any of them, but they’re also clearly closest to water. This sabotages the idea of Elsa being the “bridge” between the four, which is brought up later in the movie.

We also have these four elemental spirit powers that put the Northuldra people under a curse for… being betrayed by the king of Arendelle? That’s pretty harsh. And then even though the curse seems to have originated from a fight the Northuldra had with Arendelle, it can only be lifted by destroying a dam, which the spirits could clearly have done themselves but apparently chose not to. Then I’m guessing someone on the team realized that they were doing an imperialism story focused entirely on the privileged party, so they added in a bizarre backstory where Elsa and Anna’s mother was secretly Northuldra, even though she doesn’t look like any of the other Northuldra.

Oh, and there’s also a plot about finding the ship that the sisters’ parents died on, for some reason. And also Kristoff has a handful of painful scenes about being bad at proposing to Anna. And for some reason they leave the trolls in charge of Arendelle? Just about the only consistent plot thread is that Anna struggles to be relevant when traveling with someone of Elsa’s incredible power.

How to Fix It

With this one we must go all the way back to the drawing board. Frozen II is such a mess that we’re going to have to focus on ideas rather than actual plot elements. Specifically, the two most interesting ideas currently presented: Anna stepping out of her sister’s shadow and Elsa finding some kind of counterpart to her powers. The simplest way to do this would be a story where Anna also gets powers, but a big part of Anna’s appeal is specifically that she doesn’t have powers, so we’re going on hard mode.

For a general plot, we can start with the two sisters being called away from their castle to some border region of Arendelle to negotiate with a potentially hostile neighbor. We’ll leave Kristoff to run things at home since that actually makes sense and he has nothing to do in this movie otherwise. We’re cutting the four elements, the curse, and we’re especially cutting the imperialism thread. There’s just no way this film is going to deal with imperialism in a satisfactory manner, so better not to include it.

When the sisters reach their destination, they find that their neighbor is claiming lands that traditionally belong to Arandelle, but that’s not all! The other kingdom’s leader has powers similar to Elsa’s, except with fire. Fire works fairly well as a counterpoint to ice, and this way we aren’t trying to fit in an awkward four-elements system.

From there, the story is about Elsa and her counterpart continually clashing, both in personality and in politics. The conflict keeps building until it looks like open war is inevitable, war that would be devastating because of Elsa and her counterpart’s magic powers. This is where Anna has her time to shine. She serves as peacemaker, probably working with a counterpart of her own on the other side, possibly Fire-Person’s sibling or spouse. The big climax would come when the two unpowered heroes force Elsa and Fire-Person to stop fighting and come to terms. This could even end with Elsa recognizing that Anna would make a better queen.

If it’s important to have an antagonist, then we can have a villain who’s trying to play Arendelle and its neighbor off against each other for their own gain. Maybe they have some magic ritual they want to do that can only be powered by the energy of fire-magic and ice-magic battling each other. I’d like to keep the Northuldra, too, but I’m honestly not sure how. Making them the opposing kingdom feels a little too much like it’s echoing Pocahontas’s problematic tropes, since the Northuldra are heavily coded as an indigenous people. Maybe they could be allies of Arendelle, and it’s their land that the other kingdom wants, but also their land that will be devastated if war breaks out. We’d need at least one major Northuldra character in that scenario, so perhaps that could be Anna’s peacemaking counterpart.

When a story is over-burdened, the solution will almost always involve cutting something. The trick is to know what to cut and when. If you can make certain aspects of the story run more efficiently, then that’s fewer of your precious darlings that will have to go. Even so, no story is so efficient that it can accommodate every single thing you might want to include, so the best practice is to only add what you absolutely need. The revision process will be a lot less painful that way.

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  1. Circe

    I agree with the thing about elements in Frozen ll, but I not sure alternate story you offered is so good. I don’t think Elsa, after what she went through in the first movie, would be so stupid as to start a war.

    • Innocent Bystander

      I interpreted the part about the elements not so much as Elsa’s powers being related to them, but as her balancing them out. Throughout the story she encounters each elemental and, with the exception of the stone giants, stops their rampage with her powers.

      • Mona

        Hi! About Skyward: it’s explained more in Starsight, the sequel (although I agree they probably should have made it clearer). You see, the “Krell“ or Superiority are very non aggressive, due to the humans fighting them multiple times and almost destroying them, and they don’t exactly have lots of pilots to man the drones, and they don’t use AI because those summon delvers, which are kind of like eldritch horrors.

        • Mona

          Whoops! Sorry, meant to write my own comment.

  2. Circe

    Besides, Elsa already HAS a personality-clash—Anna.

  3. Sarah

    There’s an outtake song on the soundtrack of Frozen 2 that suggests the story was originally more about the girls’ relationship to their mother and dealing with the bad but well-intentioned choices their parents made. I think that would’ve made a much better story. The story also definitely didn’t need to focus on character arcs for Kristoff and Olaf.

  4. Bwgustaf

    What would you suggest for de-burdening Narnia? My first thought was using the Dark Material’s Fix and foreshadowing another (non-minority) religion.

    • Sam Victors

      Not related, but I was thinking of creating a fantasy series and a world similar to Narnia, but much more expanded with many gods from the real world religions, from Classical to Indigenous. The pantheon have a Chief God is also the Messiah-figure and son of a powerful but uninvolved (for cosmic/personal reasons) Greater God, ruling alongside with his Mother, a celestial queen (who is an incarnation of the Greater God’s Wife/Feminine Side).

      I guess its sort of in between Narnia and His Dark Materials, with one god (and his pantheon of lesser gods) serving as both the Satanic Archetype and the Fundie version of the Abrahamic God (angry, vengeful, controlling), worshiped in a country that is a blend of both modern America and Ancient Rome.

    • Oren Ashkenazi

      So I wouldn’t say that Narnia’s problem is being overburdened. Maybe the later books bring in a few too many multiverse elements, but most of that series’ problems lie in other areas.

      • bwgustaf

        I like your critiques of Narnia, but would you be willing to do another article on ways to change the setting? I loved the lord of the rings hopepunk article, and would really appreciate a way of rewriting it that allows for a more diverse grouping of humans & talking animal (I’m an animal lover at heart).

  5. Elda King

    In “His Dark Materials”, I wouldn’t say the plots are that nonsensical – it is just a bit forced, in large part because the author is just proselytizing against christianity (in a ludicrously naive way). It isn’t that it doesn’t make sense… it is just that the meaning is unsatisfying. SPOILERS ahead.
    Dust is knowledge/consciousness/free will, which is the original sin because god (which is fake) wanted people to be ignorant. The church is simply over the top evil (and a fair bit stupid); they wants to hide what they know about dust because it goes against dogma, and wants to destroy dust because doctrine says it is sinful.
    Asriel is an anti-hero; there are scenes put in specifically to make him un-heroic (ruthless and amoral), but he is also a charismatic leader and very manipulative. It is distasteful (specially because there is a very half-baked redemption arc), but… there are plenty of people that believe those qualities make a good leader and still idolize tyrants like Caesar and Napoleon. In the background he wages his big war, which is very much pointless because what kills god are the protagonists pursuing the main plot, and a bit dangerous.

    I wouldn’t say the story is overburdened; some arcs are bad, in particular the big epic metaphysical stuff. The scope increases gradually (ever more worlds) without loosing too much focus; I actually think the inclusion of Will and de-centering of Lyra are a good thing, and just focusing everything on her alone would be boring.

    • Elda King

      To make my point more clear: I don’t think the series fails to reach a satisfying conclusion because it has too many plot lines or characters. Quite the opposite – it could have more plot lines relating to the different worlds.

      It is just that the premise is bad, some arcs are bad, and the author is more worried about making the antagonists look evil than making them good antagonists.

      There are some great parts in between the bad, but the ending kind of ruins it.

  6. Slayd

    I really like the idea of the Frozen 2 reboot, I think that would be a good story.

  7. Jeppsson

    I’m thinking of whether my current story has too much going on, because there IS a lot of stuff happening. But then again, the throughline is actually pretty simple, there’s just one PoV, and everything feeds into the throughline.

    Guess I have to wait and see what the beta readers think once I’ve managed to finish what now looks to be a pretty thick book…

  8. Silverware

    One of the greatest praises i give to a piece of media is that it’s very focused. I feel like lately there were too many overburdened tv shows, movies, and such

  9. Jeppsson

    Btw, regarding the Northuldra being “heavily coded as inigenous” – they’re based on Sami.

    Kristoff’s people in the first movie are basically fantasy Sami – they’ve got Sami-inspired clothes and keep reindeer. Real Sami understandably thought this was some lazy cultural appropriation. But Disney actually listened to this with the sequel. They decided to create the Northuldra as more proper and respectful representation, even thought they’re still a fantasy group. They did so in cooperation with this Norwegian Sami theatre group: Seems like most Sami are happy with the Northuldra.

    I haven’t seen Frozen 2, but our local newspaper wrote about this and I saw a piece about it on the Sami news channel.

  10. V

    Totally disagree with the suggestion for the wheel of Time. Have not actually followed any of the other 4 stories, so I can’t say anything about those.

    Whitecloaks- the entire world setting includes the religious aspect of the Light versus the Shadow. There’s no central church, it’s just absolutely ubiquitous. Comparatively it’s not a war against Sauron, Sauron is just one of the 13 Forsaken. The whitecloaks are basically the group attempting to take a central church role, but their extremist interpretation leaves the previously existing powers uncomfortable and the religion is so universal no one cares about forming a more formal religious structure. They’re removable and replaceable, I just think missing how they get recruits and missing the entire religion of the world is strange.

    Aiel- aspects of the Aiel’s importance to the plot are in the very first book. Along with the Ogier, and Sea Folk, and the Seanchan they give scale to the story’s conflict. They’re part of the backstory for why Rand is the chosen one.
    Additionally the Aiel are a major part of how Rand gets to learn how to even do his magic.
    They have a massive army because they are constantly warring with each other over the sparse resources so a large percentage of the population is capable of being a warrior.

    Seanchan- again it shows the scale, and the attack of an external force is far flashier. Getting caught up in it is how Rand is even forced to reveal himself. It could not have happened with an expected issue like a known quality just getting more aggressive.

    Lord of the Rings focused on the hobbits and the world of man. Aside from Rivendell the only real elven presence is Legolas and a pit stop in lothlorian. The dwarves are essentially ignored except for Gimli unless you count the dead in the halls of Moria. Both their people had other fights going on that weren’t really covered.
    Wheel of Time takes efforts to show that the conflict is truly world spanning.

    What could have been cut? – a huge chunk of the Aes Sedai civil war, most of the andoran succession civil war, faile being kidnapped, parts of the Aiel civil war, and a number of times Rand just seems to be hiding and waiting for the plot to move forward. Could probably cut the entire Far Madding arc and replace it with something else for Rand’s character development.
    Personally I think it’d be a loss to lose the War of the Two Rivers, and the Ghulam, but it’s technically doable.
    Several of the countries are the nation form of Red Shirts, they are there to fall apart in chaos as the tensions rise. We learned about them piecemeal from the refugees and such.
    The parallel worlds were fun but aside from the one travel segment I can’t think of anything they DID besides be a weird lesser version of 3 things already in the world. No major loss.

    I prefer longer series and the wheel of Time definitely has bloating, but I think your choice of cuts is bad. The other 4 stories have commentary on confusing naming, later stories adding conflicting mechanics, and bizarre things that don’t work well. Your commentary for wheel of Time is too many groups and some weird tangential magic, but your solution is to cut off the world outside the West lands and instead of reducing the dozens of groups there just nix the 2 big foreign ones that have roles.
    If it wasn’t a favorite I’d probably not bother with the length of this comment, but basically it seems like the others got a good breakdown and wheel of Time got “too big, trim it”.
    The whitecloaks are related to the aspect of the war between the light and the shadow, more specifically as a form of even supposed good side having bad people in it.
    The Aiel are part of the story from the beginning of the series, before Rand even leaves the Two Rivers he learns that he has Aiel heritage.
    The Seanchan cement this as a conflict that concerns the entire world, and they and the various civil wars display the breaking of the world. A key fear of the story, the world within the story, and the hero of the story is that the Dragon Reborn will break the world even if he saves it.
    The 3 biggest themes are the breaking of the world, the moving from one age to another, and the conflict between the light and the shadow.
    The Whitecloaks are not essential but the other two groups are, and even the civil wars I suggested as reducible can’t be outright cut because they are part of the theme of the story. The Dragon Reborn will break the world, the entire world, not just the West lands. The Westland is simply where the battlefield is. Seanchan, Sea Folk, Aiel, West lander, Sharan, they all come to the Final Battle.

  11. Dinwar

    I somewhat disagree with the discussion of Frozen II. My son loves the movie, so I’ve gotten to watch it a few times….Frozen II has a strong through line, they just don’t use it well.

    Frozen II is supposed to be the opposite of Frozen. Frozen’s through-line is about two sisters bonding. Frozen II is about the sisters handling the inevitable drifting apart as their duties and love lives pull them in separate directions. Take Anna and Kristoff. Elsa can’t be part of that relationship–she can’t share that part of Anna’s life. On the other side, Elsa is called by her power–something Anna can’t share. The climax is Anna realizing she’ll have to continue on alone. Once she realizes she can do that, the two sisters can build lives for themselves that include love for one another, but also are independent of one another.

    Frozen II is very much a Stoic story. Once they stop depending on each other, once they stop living for each other, they are able to have a more fulfilling relationship–one where they enjoy one another’s company, but are able to function independently.

    A story could be built focused on that fairly easily from what Frozen II has. They can drop the history aspect of it–simply having a disaster that Elsa needs to handle without Anna is sufficient. The relationship with Kristoff can be a bigger part of the movie, as can Elsa’s relationship (I forget the other person’s name off hand). You can drop the “bridge between worlds” idea; it works against the idea of independence. Focus the story on the relationships and the disaster, emphasizing the sisters maturing from codependence to mature independence.

    Basically, to make Frozen II work they need to drop the history aspect and the “bridge” aspect, and focus on the people.

  12. Mona

    Hi! About Skyward: it’s explained more in Starsight, the sequel (although I agree they probably should have made it clearer). You see, the “Krell“ or Superiority are very non aggressive, due to the humans fighting them multiple times and almost destroying them, so they don’t exactly have lots of pilots to man the drones, and they don’t use AI because those summon delvers, which are kind of like eldritch horrors.

  13. A.R.

    I watched Frozen 2 recently, and I like your version much better. My one (tiny) quibble with your critique is that young Iduna (I’ve heard that’s her name, can’t remember where) does look Northuldra– but nothing like the adult version. They had to say “GUESS WHAT, THESE TWO ARE THE SAME LADY” before I got it. Until then, I thought they colleen couldn’tbe the same person because they had different face shapes, skin tones, hair colors, body types, etc. After….I guess she used magic? She found the Mother of Faces from the Avatarverse?

  14. Natew

    There were at least three times in Frozen 2 when I realized I had no idea what the characters wanted or what they were trying to do. A kids movie shouldn’t be that confusing.

    The four elementals felt super underdeveloped and only existed to serve a very specific purpose. They disappeared after their scenes.

    The water horse was just so Elsa could ride across the sea.

    The air lead them into the forest. (I think, can’t remember.)

    The earth giants just existed to break the dam.

    And the fire salamander just existed so Disney could sell a toy.

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