what i’ve been working on

Hey!

So you’ve probably noticed that posts have become few and far between. Mostly, this is because I’ve spent the last year or two feeling as though I have everything to learn and nothing to teach.

In lieu of my once-common craft essays, I thought I’d post the first scene of my latest novella, Painted, which I hope to completely finish before November.

Chapter 1

Wyrren had wondered, from time to time, if things would have turned out differently if she’d been able to smile at Sebastian. But she couldn’t, and they hadn’t, and now Wyrren stood at her stepsister’s bedroom window to watch the man she loved offer another woman his arm.

The formal greetings took place on the front steps of Sebastian’s home, the Palacia del Torlo, on a cool, sunny spring afternoon. Trees laden with violet and pink buds swayed in the wind, casting lacy shadows on the drive. Lady Kartania Reise dressed in white and wore her dark hair loose. Her people, a host of women in armor stood to one side, his elite bodyguard the other. Carriages pulled away to unload the guest’s luggage. Sebastian leaned close to Kartania, a kiss or a quiet word, Wyrren couldn’t tell which.

They filtered into the palacia; two of Sebastian’s bodyguard, then Sebastian and Kartania, splendid and regal walking arm in arm. The rest followed after, finishing with a man in a long green coat. The tall palacia doors closed slowly, but with a sense of finality.

Wyrren stared at the empty front steps for several minutes more, leaned on the wall with her forehead against the window frame. She shut her eyes, listened to the sound of her breathing and the trees below shifting with the wind.

It didn’t matter anymore.

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winning by losing (row80)

Just a quick update on my novel, and ROW80.

My goal: 250 words/day, 5 days/week.

Thus far,
Monday: 742/250
Tuesday: 389/250
Wednesday: 416/250

It’s a tiny goal, yes, but it makes what I actually do look impressive.

I’ve noticed something about one of my characters. He’s perhaps the most brilliant badass character I’ve ever written. Huge, strong, smart, skilled, good coordination, good reflexes. … And he’s never yet won a fight in this story. I’m starting to think that he’s not going to. (For those of you who’ve seen pieces of my book, yes, I’m talking about Uriel.)

And yet, in each case he comes out ahead. I’m not sure why, or how, or what it is he does to manage this. He escapes at opportune times while pulling switches, lets himself get hit where he’s protected… he even lets himself get gunned down once.

How is it that his escapes, his deflections, his clever tricks and his patient ‘play dead’ schemes earn him more– and more reader admiration– than if he simply was a fighter to match his build? Why is this more effective?

We’ve seen this before. This is the story of the clever tailor who sewed ‘seven in one blow’ on his clothes and began ridding the land of giants. It’s purely a traditional protagonist trait… but my character being something of a noble trickster-villain, it’s taking a very odd turn.

the artificer’s angels– chapter fourteen sample

A short sample I thought amusing enough to share. The composition is a bit awkward, but despite its flaws, it still makes me laugh.

Mister Abraham Gennyson sent several letters.

One letter he sent to Mister Pennyrose in Height’s Falls, a rather rich city that two old artificers had retired in (while they still had the chance).

The first of these was Master Artificer Albert Sickle. Mister Sickle was more metal than flesh after being blown apart, melted in acid, gnawed on by his pet goat-wolf, and finally subjected to his own granddaughter’s attempts at poetry. Her mother– his daughter– had watched him with a shark’s smile that forbid him from giving anything but the highest praise.

Despite all this, Mister Sickle had taken less damage than his retired counterpart, who had to cart pieces of his own anatomy behind him in attractive-yet-cumbersome glass jars. His name was Mister Eustace Violet, and though he and Mister Sickle had long been the greatest of enemies, their rivalry had simmered down over the years to grandiose monologues over a weekly chess match, all under the stern gazes of Mister Sickle’s daughter and Mister Violet’s nurse.

Unbeknownst to the other, Mister Violet also had an ambitious scheme to seize control over the surrounding thousand miles, pinning blame on Mister Sickle in the process, and setting all who opposed him on fire, but that is another story entirely and shall be told on another occasion. Mister Gennyson’s letter to Mister Pennyrose, who was only a banker, may have been the catalyst that doomed the region, but it did not help Mister Gennyson find his nephew, and so is of little consequence to this story.

smug writer pride

Last September, I told a man I worked with about NaNoWriMo (national novel writing month). This is normal. I am easily provoked into gushing about my writing projects. This man’s wife heard about it from him. She’d always wanted to write a book. So she joined up. And she wrote her 50k. And then she wrote another thirty-thousand after November, and started revisions.

My co-worker came to me yesterday, and announced that I’d created a monster. His wife has spent the last four months working tirelessly on her book, reading things aloud to him, making him listen to ideas, incarnations, drafts. She now has a near-polished complete novel, and is working on her query letter.

Smug writer pride. I has it.

the hero’s journey – the call to adventure

Onto the second ‘step’ of the anatomy of plot– what Joseph Campbell called ‘the call to adventure’.

The Hero with a Thousand Faces

  1. The Ordinary World
  2. Call to Adventure
  3. Refusal of the Call
  4. Meeting the Mentor
  5. Crossing the First Threshold
  6. Tests, Allies, and Enemies
  7. Approach
  8. The Supreme Ordeal
  9. Reward
  10. The Road Back
  11. Resurrection
  12. Return with the ‘Elixir’

Once we have a good feel for the character, the character’s circumstances, the way the world works, it’s time to break it a little.

Cue the eccentric billionaire with a suicide mission to the man with the brain tumor: “Live like a king! Die like a man! You’re on your way out anyway. You know that!”

Cue the cliche reveal of ‘The Chosen One’. Cue the call to explore the south pole– bad living, bad pay, bad food, horrid weather, honor and glory on return. Cue the messenger with news of unknown connections to royal blood. The twins’ dream that calls them to vigilantism. We know these forms. The rise of something new and looming on the horizon, the approach of something that cracks open the life the characters previously had known.

This can be the sudden crash of something new into a character’s life. Or perhaps it’s the straw that broke the camel’s back. The run-down sister whose abusive boyfriend has hit her one too many times, for instance. Or maybe it’s even a temptation, or an escape from the ordinary world, a flight from life as it’s previously known.

The difference, though, between “The Ordinary World” and “The Call to Adventure” isn’t the magnitude of the event, by any means. The Ordinary World certainly builds events up, provides motive and setting, leading on to the Call in one way or the other, whether the Call unexpectedly smacks the character in the face or appears well in the distance. The trick to identifying the Call is simply the effect on the protagonist, a turning point that clearly stands out from the rest.

I think The Call to Adventure is probably one of the more obvious points of The Hero with a Thousand Faces’, so I’ll leave my thoughts there. The next point is something that I’ve had to study more thoroughly, because at first glance, it’s one I didn’t like: The Refusal of the Call.

More soon!

back on my feet

Hello Internet! … Yep. It’s been a while. What have I been up to?

Well, I fell behind NaNoWriMo, crashed and burned for the first time. It seems that writing a seven main character novel, starting at the twisted middle without a firm outline, and pressing yourself to a sprint and a marathon at the same time is stupid. Limits, I have found them.

Ever since then, I’ve not been able to write on my novel. Not one pained word, no matter how I talked myself up.

So in the three months I’ve been gone, here’s what’s happened instead:

  • My contract job didn’t call me back, and I’ve been living on carefully counted pennies and applying to work since. The silence I’ve been getting in response is really depressing.
  • I’ve been working on my chat/roleplay epic saga daily with a good writing buddy of mine. As if it were a full time job. It’s not real writing in that the prose is horrible, the viewpoint unsteady, the plot without classic novel structure, but my partner has a very different style than mine, and he’s naturally very good at action, moving plot forward, hurting the characters, and introducing new elements to a story. The story itself will never see the light of day, really, but I like to think it is teaching me something.
  • I’ve begun modeling in 3d again, earnestly working on a character from said roleplay saga. (Facial analysis, body reference sheet, modeling turn-around). I mean to complete him– texture maps of all kinds, and then rigged for animation.
  • I watched a few movies. I re-read Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing and Twelfth Night. I noticed that Shakespeare always has at least two witty ‘banter’ characters as crowd-pleasers in each play, or at least, he does in his comedies.

And then today I was reading a book called ‘The Writer’s Journey: mythic structure for storytellers & screenwriters’, and something clicked on in my head. A flip of a switch, the music in the background, the rhythm of a galloping horse whilst I drove home through the rain. The whole of my steampunk novel, as a series of structured elements. The ‘journey formula’ this book describes appears, naturally, unintentionally, in my novel. And I can identify where I’m stuck, and what it must lead to to get to the next step.

I’m about ready to start writing again. I think that I know what needs to be done.

one thing to another

So, how is NaNo going for everyone?

I’m behind– probably as far behind as I’ve ever been at 14k/18.3k par– but I’m also taking some time off of work to rest and not get sick. I’m hoping that I can catch up.

Also, while I love this book, sometimes it takes me to very strange places. Has this ever happened to anyone?

My paladin and my amateur inventor (both young ladies) need to get to a city down south. They took a train, so I began my scene in the train. To show them heading off.

The weapon that they brought wasn’t hidden well enough. It was confiscated. The paladin worried for the train worker’s safety, as that weapon is dangerous in a wholly unusual way (an electric spear). She decided that they needed to break into the luggage car and reclaim it. So now I’m not writing a travel scene. It’s now a steampunk train robbery.

Then the attendant who’d taken the spear in the first place showed up with a buddy in the back and started going through the passengers’ bags, looking for things to take. I hear so many stories of people losing things on airlines that I have it in my head that everyone in the luggage rooms must be a thief. The sliding luggage with the momentum of the train pressed against the paladin’s injury, she got caught by the fellow who lingered… he had a pistol…

Long story short, she has a pair of thieves to turn in, an embalmed body she found stuffed into a trunk (being smuggled to the remote country), and all they really want is that spear.

How on earth did I get here?

I love it when the middle writes itself, but… I’m bewildered.