villain: sorche du remerdii: introduction

Sorche du Remerdii
“Common sense really isn’t that common.”

Sorche du Remerdii

(Ideally read to the tune of Don’t Fear the Reaper, by Blue Oyster Cult.)

Sorche is my favorite villain in this story– I’ve touched on him before in my Kione excerpt, and have been working on him in the background since June began and I figured out what a smart-ass he was.

“Apologies, du Jadis.” One of the men in black bowed slightly. Rylan decided (for now) that he was the leader, and noted his unusually dark skin showing between his cap and scarf. “This is a rescue, despite appearances. We’d appreciate it if you would move quickly. We’re not to hurt anyone.”

Another man appeared with bandages while a third pulled out Rylan’s coat that he’d left in the other room, along with his hat, muffler, gloves, but not his swords. Rylan allowed them access to his wounded arm, and they bandaged it (sloppily– Rylan thought he could have done better, even with one hand). “Who do you serve?” Rylan asked.

“Now?” The leader glanced back to the men who were keeping the doors. No one had intruded on them yet. “Very well. On behalf of my lord, Rylan du Jadis, I commend you for your bravery, congratulate you for your victory, and condemn you for your idiocy.” He offered Rylan an exaggerated bow, and pulled back his left sleeve to show a golden bracer, celestite set into the ring on his middle finger instead of a sigil. “You can call me Sorche du Remerdii.”

Sorche is the adopted son of Remerdii, a landed gentleman who has managed to achieve great wealth, and foster brother to Kione Remerdii. Sorche was taken as a small child and given the name of the Remerdii’s dead son and brother. Sorche has always been considered a gentleman as long as he could remember, given good rooms and private tutors, encouraged to compete with his brother Kione. He’s better than Kione at the Mordache Art, fighting and other physical activities, but falls short at tact and diplomacy. Sorche just can’t help but take jabs when he sees the opportunity.

I’ve put another Sorche excerpt, longer this time, under the cut.
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good villains don’t pull punches

Easy to say. Much, much harder to pull off in writing. Why? Because realistically, there’s only so much that can be done to a character before they break. The more realistic the story, the more the reader identifies with the protagonist. The more the reader identifies with the protagonist, the more the events in the story don’t just happen to the characters– they happen to the reader, too.

I’ve toted my love of George Martin’s ‘Song of Ice and Fire’ series before. Why? Because a very well developed character, a beast of a fighter that had been developed painstakingly for three (long) books can win a fight, take an injury in the process, and die of tetanus. There are so many characters in his books that he can realistically kill a huge portion of his cast like that. It heightens your sense of danger for the favorite characters, it takes away the safety net, and the knowledge that some of these characters are not going to survive the next few hundred pages makes the material gripping. Good villains don’t pull punches.

The problem with imitating this style, however, is that stories that aren’t a series of 200k novels have a much smaller cast. You can hurt them, you can kill them, but know that whatever pain and torment they go through… it’s not just going to magically go away. These characters are going to have to last you till the end of the story. And a good villain, a good danger, is going to hurt what it comes across.

I’m about sixty percent of the way through my book. My heroine has already broken her arm twice, and during plotting for future chapters I’ve very nearly decided that I’m going to shatter her knee and kill a side-character that I’m rather fond of. There is no healing magic. She’ll never run again, or walk without her staff. Why? Because there’s a villain with the advantage who is clever enough to find her. Take away his advantage, let her win the struggle immediately, and he’s not much of a villain. On the other hand, give my antagonist what he seeks (answers for her possession of a dead friend’s mask) and he will kill her. Good villains don’t pull punches. There is no ‘before I kill you’ monologue. No last requests. No ‘by the power of sheer will’ victories. No drastic change in skill when it’s convenient for him to lose a fight.

Why do people love a good villain? Because that struggle between the characters, the wavering balance of power, the trade of victories and defeats is what makes the adventure. Without tension, conflict, that sense of danger and concern for losing something precious… there is no story.

trudge trudge (logistics and fantasy)

When asked to describe ‘Lord of the Rings’, my mother replies with a series of sound effects: cling clang!, trudge tromp trudge, clang! cling, cling!. As she is a landscape and still life painter and not enamored of fiction (much less fantasy– she prefers very historical fiction, biographies, theology), I will forgive her for that.

One thing I remember from reading the Hobbit is that the trial through Murkwood forest took absolutely forever. For Bilbo, for the dwarves, especially the poor saps that had to carry Bombur, and for me. The chapter and descriptions were so long that one really did start to despair and get hungry before they finally are attacked by spiders. Like the company’s view, no end seemed to be in sight.

My real dad (biological father, lives across the state) once commented that Tolkien could take three pages just to describe the wind. When mentioned to a Tolkien fan, she immediately shot back ‘Yes, but he does a damned good job of it.’ Which makes me wonder. How does Tolkien do that?

Logistics and travel has always been a weakness in my work. I can’t stand traveling. My philosophy tends to be ‘If nothing is going to happen, then fast forward and get to the interesting bits,’. This can be good and can be bad, depending on how it’s used. I know that in my 0-draft for NaNoWriMo I skimped on descriptions and most of the scenery. It bored me, and I knew what things looked like, so like exposition, I’d write it when it was needed. This was something that my test reader commented on, along with, ‘it feels like it should be twice as long’ and ‘some parts are awesome, some parts need work’.

The reason my meter’s slowed down is because I’m working on a Wyrren chapter. The end is particularly climactic, but to get there… well, there are logistics. I have a character walking around in a series of dark tunnels with a company, and since she has a speech disability she’s not inclined to conversation. It’s gotten me thinking about how to detail this without just going to a summery or an internal dialog. So far I’ve mostly struggled through, sentence by agonizing sentence, partly with what descriptions available– the way an armed company makes people scatter like frightened birds, the sound of a waterfall in the distance, and the request to change paths so that she can see the water.

Are there any tricks to this? Does the richness of the prose make travel interesting? The characteristics of the places passed by? The thoughts and emotions these details evoke? What would Tolkien do? Is anyone any good at making these transitions interesting?

weekly goal (back to earth)

Last week’s goal: 52,000
Last week’s wordcount: 52,167
This week’s goal: 56,000

Last week’s goal: To spend the week examining Kione Remerdii for villain month. (Done!)
This week’s goal: The most difficult villain. King Tarren II Kanichende, the uncle of my protagonist.

… After doing some further research on the writer’s conference in Seattle, I’ve decided that it’s just too expensive. Never mind the drive there and back, room and food– I don’t think I can spend the five-hundred-dollar entry free. I mean, I’d rather fly across the country and visit a friend of mine who lives in Indiana, to be honest. So… not yet. I’ll keep it in mind for when I’ve got my book written and polished.

I have, however, gotten what I think is the best CD I’ve ever heard (The Silent Force, by Within Temptation), wherein all of the CD tracks remind me of my book. I’ve yet to discover if this is a help or hindrance, but either way it’s made me very happy. Cheers!

the role of a villain

A post partially inspired by listening to Tarja (formally of the band ‘Nightwish’– I adore gothic/classical crossovers in music) on the drive home from work yesterday. This month so far has done exactly what I intended it to do, completely re-examining my plot from the antagonist’s perspective. Sometime between the tracks ‘Poison’ and ‘Damned and Divine’ it occurred to me that everything would be better if the ‘romance’ between the villain and the heroine was genuine, not a set up at all, on both sides.

First off, if I do this it would mean that I’m missing a good part of the story focusing on the heroine. I would have to display their relationship as aside while dealing with a bigger problem. I’d have to come up with another plot to thread in with the two I’ve already got going. But it makes the story stronger, it makes the ending even more powerful, and it gives me the chance to really focus on some of the important characters that I’ve neglected.

Villains, I’ve discovered, subscribe to the principal that hate is not the opposite of love; that’s indifference. Give the audience good reason to love your villain, and it’s easier to twist. His betrayal of the protagonists is also his betrayal of the audience.

..

Also, I’ll be starting my first weekly ‘Villain Month’ showcase on Saturday, linking to everyone’s projects!

villian: kione remerdii: scene

“Goodness is, so to speak, itself: badness is only spoiled goodness. And there must be something good first before it can be spoiled. We called sadism a sexual perversion; but you must first have the idea of a normal sexuality before you can talk of its being perverted; and you can see which is the perversion, because you can explain the perverted from the normal, and cannot explain the normal from the perverted.” -C.S. Lewis, ‘Mere Christianity’

((A sample of Kione’s POV, to practice the details of my villain. We’ll call it free-writing, and I make no promises as to the quality of the prose.))

Kione had sat with his usual glass of firewine through breakfast, swirling the liquid and picking at his food though his stomach protested with every bite that he forced down his throat. He had imagined himself presenting a front of high spirits on this anticipated day, and though he had thought that he had better control over himself than this, had relied several times on his nerves, he found them failing him. The sensation worsened when young Prince Davyer Kanichende looked at him and asked, “You’re not sad, are you?”

“Sad, my prince?” Kione smiled and shook his head. “I can rarely eat before an event of importance. The coronation certainly counts, if nothing else in the world would. You must be very excited.”

“Don’t forget, we’re taking off the traitor’s head today.”
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weekly goal, and a short hiatus

I both did and did not make my word count goal last week. I wrote enough to satisfy the 3,000 words. I also had to erase most of them. So my word count didn’t change much by last Friday.

I’m going to call it good and keep my word-count goal the same. 41k, by this Friday. It’s not as far as I thought I’d be at, but since my role-play internet-writing friend is going to be gone for two weeks after this week I expect I’ll be getting a lot more done. (Incidentally, I’ve also planted lots of strawberries and am studying Spanish every day again. I lose one distraction, I gain five more. Alas…)

I’m also going to be busy with my real-life job all week; a bunch of project-stuff all came up at once. I’ll still be able to respond to comments, email, but I’m not going to be posting much or browsing the sites on my blog list so faithfully.

Cheers, and see you guys next week!

pondering pov

So! Now that the cover art is mostly out of the way (and I’m bouncing in anticipation of the coming sketches) I’ve turned my attention back to the book, the chapter, and the partial rewrite that I want to finish.

And I’ve run into another problem, and another answer that’s going to force me to rework much more than I’d anticipated: Rylan is not that effective of a POV character for what I want to do next. My heroine would be much better. She’s the one making the decisions, and later she’s the one who’s going to be in danger, and there are things she will say without Rylan being present.

I take a lot of care with POV. So far, it’s all been a third-person fixed and limited perspective, meaning the camera is on Rylan, and always on Rylan and has been for the last nearly 40k words. I prefer it that way; I like to keep things as simple as possible to avoid shifting needlessly. Except now? It’s not so needless.

Changing over to another character this late in the book, even using chapter breaks, is a jarring practice. I hate rules, but I’ll agree with this one: don’t switch cameras to a secondary character for one chapter halfway through the book, then never again.

With that in mind I’m changing chapter two (which I was never satisfied with) to Wyrren’s position. I’m probably also going to add another chapter somewhere between four and seven with her as the point of view character. And there’s a very important scene I’ll do the same. That puts her as the narrator for about 25% of the book.

It also changes the feel of the book, the lighting and mood, if you will. POV is important. It colors the pages with your character. In this case it’s steel and stone, oil lamps in the cold, blood and sweat, then to golden light, marble arches, velvet gowns and implication, implication everywhere, murmuring and gossiping, kind words one minute than slander the next; a fairy-tale ball of junior high girls who will never grow up.

It’s also going to be harder, longer, and double my work, especially handling the exposition and the secondary characters. I’ll do it, of course. I’ll do anything to make my book better. Even so, it’s hard, and I don’t want to. Consider the dilemma ranted and struggled with.

writing by the seat of your pants

… a tragic tale of a plot that went one way, an author who tried to steer elsewhere, and the resulting botched set-up.

I think I’m going to have to rewrite much of last Saturday’s progress. I’m keeping the line I liked so much, I’m keeping the new character, and I won’t change the situation… but the pacing and setting was meant for another encounter, and it just doesn’t work.

The good news is, the changes will eventually lead back to my outline. Also good news… I complicated the plot even further by damaging a devoted servant of a character my protagonist really needs. Bad news? I don’t want to be less than forty percent completed. 😦

on rewriting

David Gerrold wrote a book called ‘Worlds of Wonder’, focused on fantasy and science fiction writing. I enjoyed reading it– he had a very friendly style, and it was easy to empathize with him… especially once he started out by telling a story about how a terrible writing professor told him he wouldn’t amount to anything in the field, and his first published works were inspired out of rage. This isn’t of course to say that I agreed with everything in his book, but two of the points he made stuck with me, which is fairly good considering I’m an overly critical skeptic.

I’ll paraphrase his sentiment.

The first million words are for practice. Don’t worry. It doesn’t count. Practice writing your book. Practice editing it. Practice sending it out. Don’t worry. You’re just practicing. Practice receiving rejection letters. And if someone is foolish enough to publish one of your practice novels, that doesn’t mean anything either. Practice cashing that check. After those first million words, then you can start taking yourself seriously.

Perhaps this is something personal, perhaps not. I found this passage extraordinarily liberating, probably because I get anxious before I start writing or drawing. Am I starting in the right place? Is this really the way I want to present this? I have such a hard time shutting my inner editor up. NaNoWriMo was one of the best things I’ve done– it let me finish the 0-draft of my book, with the knowledge that I would be going back and rewriting everything. Like doing small thumbnail sketches in art, the terrible, rushed version still told me where I was going, what elements I would be using. I got out a blank sheet of paper for the second version and rewrote it more concisely, longer, emphasizing some of the right details. And I’m planning on starting almost entirely from scratch a second time before I get into editing the prose itself. I need to get all the elements correct first before I start polishing my piece. And I might be overly optimistic, but I think my writing is getting stronger with each pass.

Don’t worry. It doesn’t count. It’s just for practice.

I’m going to make this book shine.