Genre Help: Demigod Cultivation?
My question #2 would be to what extent might the cultivation audience enjoy my story if rewritten to emphasize these elements.
- Ichor is used as the source to produce and manifest aura for the protagonist (also deuteragonist). To what extent is this a reskinned qi cultivation?
- Some simple ranks exist mortal -> demigod -> god marked by significant training and achievements, only when the highest power chooses to acknowledge. There's also focus on the ranked Pantheon, like gods get a label such as 9th strongest god in the world. Powers get a lot of technical detail.
- The story is about the demigoddess MC ascending to godhood and then 1st strongest god in the world.
- The gods impose trials on the demigods often.
- There's the mortal world, nether world, and heavenly world ruled by the arbiter of fate.
- The world is deterministic, and challenging / manipulating destiny is basically the whole entire plot for all multimillion words or however long this ends up.
- Magical beasts abound (so far I only plan on giving dragons and drakes a core, but could easily give all divine beasts cores.)
I've read relatively few cultivation novels compared to the broader fantasy genre, so I would definitely read a lot more before undertaking the rewrite. Anything crucial missing? Anything that would need to be done in a particular way / particular vocabulary used to make it feel like cultivation?
Thanks in advance for any thoughts!
That being said, I've read a lot of stories with fairly extreme variations in what those stages are or how the systems work - even from the same author. If you want to see what sort of craziness that ends up looking like, check out this fan-made spreadsheet which attempts to correlate all the different cultivation systems Er Gen has used across his novels.
Suffice to say: you're welcome to make up your own realms/stages and call it 'cultivation'. No-one should quibble over the names or mechanisms, because even the 'big name' Chinese authors (Er Gen's work is about as xianxia as it gets) just make up whatever they want and run with it. It's all good.
Here's my hot take on what makes a story 'cultivation'.
One: power comes in tiers. It's not just that Alice is more powerful than Bob; Alice is quantifiably more powerful than Bob. If it's not quantifiable, it's probably not xianxia; although it might be wuxia, since that has fairly different tropes and is usually less about being super powerful.
Two: power is gained through systematic means. There's a rationale behind where the power-ups come from, and it's understood and practiced over a period of time. People don't accidentally get powers like in a superhero story, and they don't power up on-the-spot through emotions like a high-fantasy protagonist (although they might breakthrough in the heat of the moment - but that's a bit different) they have an orthodox method to gain power, and they follow it. Trying a different path usually has drastic consequences (Qi deviation cripples or kills; demonic cultivation is faster in the short term, but makes things harder down the line) although sometimes the MC makes it work anyways if they're just that special.
Three: There are wide separations of power at certain points. If Alice is Rank 1 Tier 1, and Bob is Rank 1 Tier 2, Bob is somewhat more powerful than Alice, but they can still fight; However, if Alice is Rank 1 Tier 1, and Bob is Rank 2 Tier 2, Alice stands no chance against Bob; he's a rank above her, so his power-up creates a very wide separation of power. (This is one of the big things that separates xianxia from LitRPG in my mind; most game-like power systems have smooth curves, most xianxia ones have significant spikes at certain points.)
Four: There are gates and difficulty spikes to go along with the power spikes. Want to reach a higher level? Step into the tribulation. Get too powerful? Ascend to another realm to equalize again. Without that, it'll feel more litrpg to me. Spikes and gates don't necessarily need to be hard to pass, I guess, as long as there's a change. (Some MC's breeze through the tribulations, but they're still there.)
If it has all of that, it will 'feel' like xianxia to me. If it has the trappings of that, I'll probably still buy it, although it might feel more like just fantasy with a coat of paint or something.
As a bonus, some mysticism in the cultivation system helps too. Xianxia usually bastardizes taoism or buddhism; I haven't read Virtuous Sons. There's usually a concept of 'facing down heaven', or 'stealing fortune from the earth', where cultivation is about setting yourself above/beside the current order or absorbing energy from nature. Er Gen's plotting is big on overthrowing whoever's in charge of the current system. I don't think that's super important, although if someone's story is trying hard to sound cultivation-y, that's usually part of it.
I could probably buy a totally technological system, though. I've actually toyed with the idea of a world saturated with nanobots from an out-of-control replication event, and 'cultivation' is about slowly replacing your body with nano-machine systems, then transferring your consciousness to the computers you've created to attain immortality... I'll probably never get around to actually writing it, though.
Anyways, I feel like you've got a lot of similar elements in there. If you want it to be more cultivation-ish, you can probably readjust some of what you've written to feel more like that. Often 'cultivation stories' also invoke a fairly... murder-hobo protagonist, too, though, so be careful you don't end up giving readers the wrong idea about what they're getting in to. I haven't read your book, so I don't know what your MC is like, if they'd fit in with most cultivation MC's or not; and it's not that you can't write it one way or the other, just be careful with signposting, I guess.
Hopefully something there's helpful.