ok, finally i finally came up with some motivation for my main character in regards to her social problems, and i've begun looking at the other characters too, and thinking of introducing some new ones. i'm beginning to realize that one of the things that keeps getting me stuck is that the plot is really happening on two levels at once. there is the story that is being told in the forefront, with my major characters and their personal and political struggles, but that is being played out against the backdrop of another, bigger story, in which the characters are cultures and the conflict is the interaction of cultures, politics and war. i've been worrying lately about developing the cultures and figuring out how they affect my characters; but with Briar since her problems were personal as well as cultural, much of the solution is found on a personal level. i have a great story. it is interesting to follow how the actions of the characters affect the larger, cultural story, and how the cultures in turn affect the motivations of my characters. myths are created, religions evolve, new ideas are introduced through exposure to language. wars are fought, political decisions are made that effect half a continent at least, and people rise to power or are oppressed. but i'm not writing a damn social studdies research report. these things have to come alive. what i'm missing, i think is "juiciness". somehow these characters have got to be more than political and cultural figures and really become human - even the non-human ones. i've been paying attention to detail - who lights the lamps in the city? why have one character's parents left their homeland to settle in the city? how does that character feel about that? and this gives them more depth and richness, perhaps, but they still don't seem really alive. i think i need to spend a little more thought on love interests, and the use of humor. my problem is that i'm about as romantic as a pile of laundry and am usually only funny by accident. how do i turn up the juice, without it sounding forced and stupid, or drippy, trite and overdone. this is spice, and i only need a little or the dish is ruined, but unfortunately i seem to have a rather bland palate.