Me– Aug ’18 Update

With the onset of the fall semester comes The Wave™, and I’m pretty scared that I’m tackling too much at a time. As I’ve already talked a bit about last week, I’m expecting to count hours of free time in the single digits every week, but I’m thinking of it as setting up for an awesome 2019.

So as always, here’s the Monthly Update Topic Order™: blog, writing plans, video games, reading/listening, school, and other things.

Currently, I’m not planning any blog changes. I expect I’ll be able to churn out blog posts in between classes on Mondays and Wednesdays, so I’m not that worried about my ability to post nonfiction three times a week. It’s the short stories I’m more concerned about. As it is, I’m already posting them six hours late (usually), and I expect my restrictive schedule to make it even harder to post those on time, if at all. So while I don’t want to stop writing fiction for a few months, it might be an inevitability. Especially considering I’m even going to miss a few months of my writer’s group because of scheduling conflicts, and thus won’t have any real reason to write.

I’m also a bit nervous about writing plans. I won’t get into it now, but for the past few months I feel great about my stories whenever I’m away from my computer. In fact, when I’m in the shower thinking about the story I intend to write in the next 20 minutes, I can’t wait to sit down and get going. But as soon as I stare at the screen, suddenly I need to vacuum or do laundry, or check my email. Anything to get me away from the screen. What’s worse, Xelfure’s story is getting bigger and bigger in my head. What was once a more dedicated short story is now threatening to be the prequel spinoff novel to the Nacre Then trilogy I’ve refused to think about for years, and that terrifies me, especially since I’m going to be the busiest I’ve probably ever been in my life very soon, and thus won’t have time to focus on anything big like that. So, stay tuned for what may or may not ever become a thing.

New video game news, for once. I’ve still been playing lots of Heroes of the Storm, and I have plans for reaching level 10 on every hero by October (though that may be a bit optimistic). But when I have larger chunks of free time I’ve been playing NieR: Automata, and I also recently bought Pyre because it was on sale and I’ve been looking at it ever since it was announced. Haven’t touched it yet, but it is downloaded!

I’ve finished all the audiobooks I’ve had backlogged, and have recently been binging Welcome to Nightvale. It’s a bi-weekly radio broadcast of a fictional town called Nightvale, and the podcast is basically just Lovecraftian horror. Imagine a regular news broadcast of Innsmouth if it was actually a comedy. It’s been interesting, and I intend to review it once I’m caught up. Maybe next week.

Oh boy, school. My semester’s going to be pretty busy, but not as busy as I had anticipated. I found out today (yesterday, as of this posting) that a class that would have taken 16 hours a week is redundant on my schedule, so my weeknights are now mine again. My current tentative schedule has me on campus about 24 hours per week, with me actually in a class for most of that time. If all goes well, I might actually also be directing a short play that I wrote, but that’s a bigger thing, so more on that later. So, with that in mind, I’ll be on campus a lot, so who knows what else that might lead to, time commitment wise. That said, I’m hoping this will be my second-to-last semester, so if that’s the case these super busy fall and spring seasons are almost at an end.

As far as other things go, I don’t have much to say. I’m tentatively hyped for the near future for a lot of reasons, but most of those are tenuous or too distant to be relevant for me to mention now.

Eyes on the horizon folks, and hey, maybe we’ll get lucky and it’ll cool down before November.

Me — Working On An Outline…

So, a few weeks ago I wrote a story set in Nacre Then, a universe I haven’t written in in over a year. I hated the story, because it was just so… empty. Unfortunately for me, however, it also had the side effect of demanding that I write the story properly. The whole thing, not just one tiny scene.

And that’s how I ended up working on arguably my first “real” project since I put down Spear Gate indefinitely earlier this year. This isn’t without it’s challenges, of course. I’m seemingly inept at writing a full length novel since the first book I wrote nearly six years ago now. I wouldn’t consider this story I’m working on to be a full novel, but so far it’s looking like it’ll be between 10-20,000 words, which is daunting for the current Kollin.

I retired Nacre Then a while ago because it’s too full. I have every rule of magic, every cultural custom, every major event either written down or locked away in my head, because it was my first universe. I thought about it every day for years, and now it’s so full it has no room to grow. I can’t invent new characters because if I put them in a world with the others, the others will inevitably be more important. And I can’t write the stories in this universe because I’ve told myself them so many times I’m bored of them.

But this new story is something of a spin-off. The tragic backstory of a character that toes the line between minor and major. I’ve been exploring her past since I wrote that one little story, and it honestly intrigues me. The only problem is now I have to weave all these snippets into a cohesive story without stepping on my own toes anywhere else.

Now, I know what you’re probably thinking. I’ve published very little in the Nacre Then universe, so just tossing away what I don’t like would make the most sense, and that way I can work in the space I want to. As I always say, though, creativity is the ability to justify through constraints. If I just threw away everything Nacre Then has been, I’ll be left with nothing and not know where to go. And I can’t just ignore some things because I won’t know what to let go of. In fact, the only reason I can even explore this story is because it takes place in somewhat uncharted territory, so I’m already as free as I could be when working in this universe.

I’ll be honest. I’m scared. I don’t want to get bored of this story like all the others. I’m getting pretty frustrated with my inability to maintain interest. I just write something and then I start seeing plot holes and I ignore them until they get too big to ignore, and then I find something else to work on. It’s the same thing every time.

I know that part of it is just that I’m busy and I don’t have the energy to devote myself to a full story, but I can’t let that be my excuse because that’s just the way life is always going to be. It isn’t like grade school where every trouble and responsibility is gone when school is over.

They say nothing worth doing is easy, and I hate how right that is.

Prompt — The Return of the Silence

“I’m not paying two odes for this,” I said. These merchants were getting bolder and bolder by the day.

“Two odes or you put it all back,” he shrugged, not batting an eye.

“Two months ago I could buy all this for half that!”

“Two months ago there was no tariff on raftheads. You want your damn Kitsuyan vegetables you can get on the next boat headed there.”

Ruder by the day, too. I forked over the two gold coins and stalked off, groceries in one hand and staff in the other.

The causeway through the main streets of Kalisport was as busy as it always was this time of day, and even with the oceanic breeze it was still hot out. People were amply coated in sweat as they heaved carts and goods through the market, going about their day with a smile on their face.

I never understood how people could be so… happy.

Feeling the warmth on my pale skin, I remembered why I was in such a hurry. Being in the sun too long always gave me horrendous burns. I learned very quickly why Kitsuyans don’t often leave the isles: we melt.

I stepped into a shady alleyway to catch my breath and cool off a bit. I set my things down to examine the damage. “By the Mist and Tides,” I cursed. “I’m already burnt. I’ve barely been out twenty minutes!”

Glancing down the alley, I was hit with a sudden sense of…

Quiet.

All the commotion of the thoroughfare nearby was suddenly gone. It was just me. Here. Alone.

An impossible gale of wind flooded through the narrow path, tossing up papers and refuse and anything else. As it rushed towards me, I thrust my hand out to combat it, but no magic came. What could I do against wind? Against the Silence, my old enemy?

It crashed into me, pushing me against the wall with the force of a freight golem. Before I knew it, the Silence had passed, the sound of the nearby street was back, and I was huddled right where I had stopped, weeping speechless tears.

It had been years since I had had one of these attacks. I still lived with my aunt back then. I thought it was gone for good. This one, as minor as it had been, was an ill omen.

Well, I wasn’t the powerless little girl anymore.

With a huff to gather my composure, I stood and grabbed my staff. I wasn’t about to let the Silence once again wreak havoc over my life.

 

After a conspicuous but determined jog back to my little apartment, I threw all the windows and doors open and stepped out onto the balcony. Heat and burning be damned, I couldn’t risk another attack, I needed noise.

I was met with the full view of Kalisport, rows upon rows of buildings, the floating spires in the distance one direction, the tranquil Xal Deer Sea the other. I focused on the sound of the people below as I watched, picking out as many strings of words as I could.

Then, two quick knocks on my front door, and my heart skipped a beat. Had I been followed? I recalled every footstep I made between going to buy groceries and coming home. I hadn’t noticed anyone tailing me, but then, I hadn’t been in the most stable of mindsets. I didn’t have any friends here, and the people I worked with wouldn’t knock. I clenched my staff tighter. Whoever it was, they knew I was here.

I thought about the soft thumps of my boots as I walked across the floor to the door. The Silence could still come back if I wasn’t careful. I had to focus on the sound.

“Who is it?” I called through.

“An old friend,” a male voice responded. I recognized it, but the memory was faint. Old.

“How old?”

“Older than I’d like to admit.”

I opened the door to see Khuros. The imaginary friend that saved me from the Silence.

“You left these in the alleyway,” he said, holding up my basket of groceries.

I wasn’t sure what to say. Everyone has imaginary friends when they’re kids, don’t they? I struggled to come up with a greeting but instead…

“You’re not real,” I muttered, out loud I realized too late.

He shrugged. “Neither is the Silence, and yet here we are. We need to talk.”

 

Prompt: https://www.deviantart.com/totorrl/art/Loc-Ppj-V50-Fin-582309207

Me — Losing Interest in Bigger Projects

For the last two years I’ve noticed I have a problem with staying interested in longer projects. I tried writing a shorter work, Dreamscape, intended to be about 40k words. I liked the idea, but wasn’t satisfied with how it turned out, so as I stopped enjoying it, I would skip chapters I didn’t want to write. I got through pretty much all of it, but missing about 8 chapters it ended up being about 25k words long.

So I rethought my approach. I noticed that I started getting bored 10k words in. So I tried writing an anthology that takes place in Nacre Then: Rise of the Riftguard. A series of seven 10k word novelettes, each tied loosely around the impact of one major event but ultimately unrelated to one another. I ran into a very specific problem on that one, because I didn’t like how the third novelette was going. So 25k words in, I pretty much stopped that one, too. (I do intend to come back to it, though… Eventually. Unlike Dreamscape for which I have almost zero interest in at this point.)

A few muddled attempts at other, lesser projects in between, and eventually we come to Spear Gate. For this, I set out to do something entirely different. Originally, it would simply be a web series. No obligation to turn it into a novel, and no forward planning, either. I didn’t — and still don’t — have an outline for the story. But then I ran into the same problem I had with my original attempt at Lisa Stenton: I didn’t have an answer for the conflict I was foreshadowing. It hasn’t stopped me from writing Spear Gate, but it has led me to be a little wary, and though I resolved to finish it until I finished this “story” (however long it happened to be), it got tough.

So, Spear Gate is in an unprecedented situation as far as my writing projects go. I’m still interested in this story. I have lots more things that I want to explore, and several more that I’ve only touched on. But this current story has gotten too slow for my liking. So I’ve devised a plan. I’m going to write three 25k word “books” (which will really just be parts 1-3), and then squish them together into one genuine novel. Basically, imagine the three act structure only it’s considered to be standalone novels rather than the parts of a single book. (That’s pretty much how the Stormlight Archive works, anyway.) So that’s the explanation for the ending of yesterday’s post. The end of Part/Book One.

But Part One needs a lot of work. Esmina isn’t where I want her to be, for one. I have a plan, she just hasn’t had enough screen time to get that far. I want to rework Rozire a little bit. He’s not changing, really, but I want to do a better job establishing his relationship to Maelys. The fact that he’s a major character until Chapter 3 and then is never seen again seems odd, and I know that. And Xan is also referenced a lot, but the only time you see them is in one chapter. So I need to make Xan more important.

So, as daunting as it is, I’m going to keep working on Book One before I jump into Book Two. Things just need to be set up more clearly. This means an outline. I don’t know if this means I’ll have to write it from scratch or if I can get away with heavily editing the first draft. I suppose it depends on how different the outline looks by the time I’m done with it.

I’ll be honest. I’m a little scared. I don’t want to start over, see how much work it is, then lose steam because I’ll decide to put my focus on schoolwork or other projects. I don’t know how well it will work. But this is the best solution I’ve come up with.

Story — This is Ketha

You there! Yes, you! What, you think I’m talking to these vagabonds? No, just look at the way they’re dressed! You’re obviously not from around here, judging by the, well, everything about you. Care for a song? I’ll only charge three taps.

What, haven’t you got any money? You weren’t robbed once you got off the boat, were you? I’d imagine somebody would have warned you about that. Well, you don’t have to stare so blankly at me. I’m a bard, not a servant. You think I’m carrying this lyre around to floss? Now, run along, and mind your shoes. The truly desperate will wrestle them off you if you aren’t wary.

Well? What are you staring at me for? I can’t help you if you haven’t got any money. If I didn’t charge per song I’d be out of business within a week. No, I don’t get a lot of business around these parts, as you’d imagine. Mostly your sort: travelers that can actually afford the leisure. Speaking of, were there others on the boat you came on? Perhaps a song could attract some attention. Just don’t tell anyone you got this one for free, got it?


 

A man may see here beggars

Strewn all about the street

But I, no– I see treasure

Who have no coin to eat

It wasn’t always like this

This conclave of the poor

But often luck can run amiss

And it’s gone dry along this shore

But this is no song of poverty

This land to one attunes

This is an Archon’s property:

The Spirit of the Dunes

 


That shadow there, up in the sky

It leaves the wind in short supply

That half-dome shelters everyone

And under it, there is no sun!

Outside the cities there is sand

And in that sand you’ll find no man

The cities are your safest bet

The beggars here, they are no threat

This, oh guest, is Ketha

The land of burning gold


 

There’s magic here, yes that is true

But Kethan’s cannot craft anew

They need fire, water, earth, and such

Without these things, they can’t do much!

But with those tools they should be feared

One candle flame and a field is cleared

The Archon, Keht, he could do more!

Entire kingdoms he did floor!

This, good sir, is Ketha

The land of strength untold

 


You may wonder, why not leave?

What could we possibly receive?

But to us, this is our home

If not this place, where would we roam?

The lucky few can flourish here

Otherwise cities would disappear

Struggle breeds greatness, as they say

So we’re all strong in our own way

This, dear friend, is Ketha

The land where dreams unfold


We’re not all beggars, not all thieves

Is a man not anything he believes?

Nobody is a giver here

There isn’t even a river near!

We’re not all thieves, but I sure am

This humble song is just a scam

I’ve got your purse–you are too kind!

Maybe next time you won’t be so blind

This, poor fool, is Ketha

The land where lies are told

Me — Being a Creator

(This week’s audio recording: “Warstorm“, is one of my earliest Nacre Then successes. Despite it being nearly two years old, it’s evolved very little!)

 

One of the most difficult things about forcing myself to write a minimum of a thousand words a week is that sometimes I just have nothing to write. I realize that many established authors write over two thousand a day (most notably in my line of experience is Brandon Sanderson, who does more than that even) but I can’t hold myself to the level of incredibly wealthy and famous people. Sanderson himself explained that five hundred to a thousand per day five days a week is still a novel a year, and though most of my words are spent on this blog and not fiction, it’s still an accomplishment.

Right now specifically, I’m running into a multifaceted problem. Obviously, a writer should write something they enjoy. If you’re not excited to write it, you probably shouldn’t be. My head is currently filled with half-fleshed ideas that are either not ready to be written or are too large-scale for me to tackle, and the small stuff I can write quickly as a weekend story doesn’t really interest me. Here are the things that have my attention right now.

My primary focus is the third novelette in The Aftermath of the Rupture. I’ve got one major contradiction in it that I’ve yet to figure out, and until I know exactly how things will work I can’t even get started. On top of that, a moderate to severe change in the current canon of the society of Torreth is having me slow down a bit, even if those changes won’t see prevalence until the fourth novelette at the earliest.

My second larger project, and the most likely candidate for receiving the next longer story of ten thousand words, is another Spark story. My brothers and I have been giving it a considerable amount of attention these past few weeks, and there’s a story I can’t wait to get rolling. Since we don’t want to solidify anything in the actual plot of the game just yet, this will be another prequel, but it will have a considerable amount of worldbuilding in it. I hope to get it started some time during February.

Lastly, Lisa Stenton is always in the back of my mind. I really like the character and the mysteries she’s finding for herself, but I’m hesitant to jump into anything too quickly. For example, I want her parents to come home soon, but I don’t want to give the reader all the answers to everything immediately, and I’m unsure how to do that just yet. I like opening this box (world) slowly. One big question at a time. So, while I figure out how to introduce her parents, Lisa will be getting more and more lost as to what’s actually going on. (As a side note, when I wrote “Spiritwalkers” and “Suicide Note”, a lot of the big questions didn’t have answers at the time of writing them, but writing this next story, I am now equipped with pretty much all the answers. Even the ones to the questions I’m raising in it, and I’m actually pretty happy with where I’m taking it).

All that said, even when I can put myself into “writing mode”, its never easy. In all honesty I nearly gave up writing a full story yesterday, (and, if we’re going on technicalities, I still only wrote the first half), but a big part of being a writer is to do it even when it sucks, which is far too often. The whole point of the blog is to force me to write. If I give up, it means I’ve failed myself, and I can’t let that happen.

So rest assured that, even if I don’t publish as much fiction as I’d often like to, I do consider it the most important part of my blog, and I do have plans!

 

Learning! — Character Building (285)

In line with last week’s Learning! post where I constructed an example of a fantasy world’s fauna, today I’m going to talk about how I build characters specifically. I feel as though building an animal species is almost more similar to building a culture or country than it is to make a specific three dimensional character, simply because when one is building large things like a species or nation you deal with a lot of abstract conjecture rather than specific events and characteristics. In fact I find building characters the single most difficult thing when it comes to creating things from scratch, but obviously I’ve had to have made some headway over the years.

As with everything that involves creativity, I always use the foundation of a single good idea. Just like last week’s “crocodile bird” description, I always have something I want this character to do. For example, when making one of my most prevalent characters in Nacre Then’s lore and events, my starting point was “I want this guy to be single-handedly responsible for jeopardizing the safety of the entire planet.” No spoilers right now (though most people reading this would already know who that is), but that was actually the starting point for my entire universe itself.

But there are less dramatic starting points one can use. For example, another one of my character’s identity and background was centered around the fact that I never want the reader to know whether or not he’s a good guy or a bad guy. Or, even less dramatic, I wanted one female character to be the spitting image of her grandmother, and to aspire to follow in her footsteps.

So, once you have that idea, all you have to do is expand on it. Looking like a relative is probably due to chance, but aspiring to be like them? Why? You have to look at the elements of two things: both what makes sense for a character, and what you want in a book/story. A guy responsible for endangering this planet could immediately lead you to think its a dumb character, but that isn’t what I wanted. I wanted it to be an honest mistake.

The idea here is that you want to establish things that make sense and continuously expand on those ideas. Why would somebody want to be like their grandmother? Was she a hero? Did she invent something? Was she indoctrinated to think a certain way by the people around them (family or otherwise?)

These questions should bring you to other ideas like “is this grandmother a character in the story?” If not, why not? Death is obviously an easy choice, but if you go with that, then you have to ask yourself why her grandmother died. Did she ever know her grandmother? If she did know her grandmother, the answer to why she died is very important. After that, you can ask yourself what effect her death had on this girl.

If you ever run out of follow-up questions, ask yourself a list of things just to make sure you have character nailed down. The list can be as extensive as you want it to be (I’ve written character sheets nearly a dozen pages long), but it certainly doesn’t have to be. I myself don’t ever write any character sheets anymore because I absolutely hate them. But you should know things like “occupation, living conditions, family relationships and the character’s relationships to them, and especially their goals, both short term and long term.”

As far as naming characters go, its important to have a system down. For the characters in my universe, I have rules. Most people in Torreth have one name, and the last three or four letters in their name are considered their surname. For example, that character’s grandmother is named Allia, and her daughter’s name Amelia, and her daughter’s name is Caylia. Aside from having rules on how characters are named, name generators work really well, and google translate can also help. One of the most important characters, Senture, was named based off a google translation of “belt”. I think the actual word was something along the lines of “cincture”. Mostly though, naming is almost always least important of all of character building, but if that’s your starting point, it can still work. If the name is that important to you, ask yourself how they got their name and work from there.