How do I write a HG like trial between royals without killing? I know most of it but without the shock of different deaths, is a battle royal even interesting? It’s only a few chapters long.
What did you hate about the battles in the Hunger Games and what did you like? Was it repetitive? Boring?
I’m afraid the constant attacks from other royals are going to get boring even with the fantasy creatures and non fight related obstacles they have to face. Maybe it’s just because writing it feels that way and as a writer, I’m feeling insecure.
For this to work, it has to have high stakes. Really Hunger Games was a bit surreal, which means you had to suspend a ton of disbelief to see it as working well.
If you don’t want them all dead:
Dishonor is for a true killing. Banishment/loss of status for going too far. Maybe a mark on their forehead to make it unlawful to kill them once they leave.
Either dishonor for some forms of injuries or the injuries are designed to eliminate people from the prize. Basically, this would be ideal if it was seen as “fitness of a battle-king/warior-king”.
If you really want to sell it but don’t mind having a couple die, having the first 2 contestants in a situation where one had bullied the other for years, and so the other kills them outright and proudly walks out with a mark of dishonor on them, so you can show how it works without having to tell how it works.
What are they fighting for and what do they do if/after they lose? Basically, like JLO pointed out, what are the stakes? Why must this trial happen, and not something else? The Hunger Games was exciting because the consequences were clear, inevitable, and severe – you win or you die.
It’s a yearly test for the siblings but this time is the last time before the next King or Queen is chosen. Killing another sibling results in losing your royal status. The whole book isn’t based off this it’s just a part. The main plot is a royal is murdered and it’s a murder mystery.
They’re allowed to injure each other during the trial on the island and one winner gets taken back and is given an incredible amount of points in the judgement that could sent them multiple ranks up, making them the next ruler. However the rest have to climb out and could possibly die (rock climbing freehanded).
So I want it to be interesting but it’s not the main plot. It’s at most three chapters long. The stakes are high for these kids as it’s the thing they’ve been fighting for their whole lives.
Okay then maybe you need a reference point that’s less like the Hunger Games and more like Glass Onion. That one’s got a couple of deaths as it’s a murder mystery, but what keeps the intrigue going are the different relationships between the characters, what they’re projecting in order to reach a goal vs what they really are. So you never know who’s a true ally or who’s faking and everyone seems like a possible culprit.
It all depends on the characters you’ve built up to that point (what are they gonna do when faced with a certain situation?), what you’re trying to achieve in terms of plot/character development (are you choosing the next ruler, zeroing in on a suspect or building a romantic relationship?), and the overall tone of your story (is it serious and tragic like the Hunger Games, or ridiculous and amusing like Glass Onion?).
So here’s a question: was the strongest contestant killed off or did someone take out the baby of the family for no apparent reason?
That decides a lot of the general reactions: too strong a character dies and weaker candidates are passed by as culprits while everyone of strength has their integrity doubted, but if it was going after a weak one, then you have people trying to figure out which character is a malignant psychopath, leaving everyone uneasy because a madman is gunning for the throne