07 May 2012

I've Been Struggling . . .

. . . with my fantasy writing.  

Allow me to explain.

I've been trying to make Sethe's Story go, but it just won't.  I mean, I've pushed and I've prodded, and I've done all I can to try and give it wings, and it just sits there a dumb lump.  I'm getting minor epiphanies on it--occasionally.  I've got a few outline cards done on it, but they're not pushing the ideas.  I've done more work on it in Lazette Gifford's Two Year Novel course and hit walls.  It's just not going.  

So I've given up on it.  I may get back to it later. I'm thinking of trying for an outline push sometime around November/December to prepare it for next year's NaNoWriMo.  I'm going to stop working on the novel course for it, since that's what seems to have killed my enthusiasm for it.  Or, as Zette said, I've been doing too much with it.  I'm more used to throwing myself into the story and worldbuilding on the way.

However . . . 

Since giving up on Sethe's story, I've been playing with other fantasy ideas--discarding most of them as being too undeveloped or not having enough pull to hold my attention.  Not looking for inspiration, precisely.  More trying to catch an idea which just carries me with it.

I think I've found that story.

I threw myself into it on the 19th of last  month, and have since written on it almost every day.  It now has a total of almost 22k words, and it's developing nicely.  I've had to do a few cuts and rewrites as ways to make things difficult for my characters came up, but it's been flowing.  

It's about a young mage who's "sent" to the country's mage school to try and learn if one of its students is a spy.  I've titled it Degrees of Subtlety. So far, I'm having fun with this story, and the ideas are coming at a decent pace--I'm getting about one scene a day down, sometimes two. I'm not sure how long this first draft will be, but I'm shooting for at least 50k. If it makes it to 90k, I'll be surprised.  I don't think I have enough to give it that many words, but it's still pretty early in the story.  The MC, Sweetbriar, is still struggling to figure out the mage name of the student he's supposed to be spying on.  

However, it feels great to be back in the writing flow.  So, so great.  

19 September 2011

Silence . . .

I've been silent here because I haven't been working on my fantasy projects recently (part of the reason is due to mental health difficulties, which I go into detail about on my personal blog). I've been blocked up trying to figure out Peikigi's story, and I think focusing so much on that particular project has blocked my mind from really looking at any other fantasy projects.

So, I've cleared out my Works In Progress box and will refill it after November with whatever project I decide to focus on. Peikigi's story will not be among them. Right now, I'm looking at the possibility of working with one of three stories:

Sethe's story

The Power of Wisdom

Married to the Moons 1

In December, I intend to start working them all into the two-year-novel system to see what I have built up for them and what I need. They all need a lot of worldbuilding, and I have no idea what Sethe's story is precisely about--only that it's going to be dark and grim. I need to figure out the point of The Power of Wisdom, but it has a bit of plot already. I already know most of MttM1 so that may be what I go with, but I won't know until after I've gotten done with plugging it into the 2yn structure.

25 March 2011

Issues With Causing Characters Pain

I'm not talking physical pain here. My stories aren't generally the kind where my characters acquire physical pains of any sort. I'm talking about emotional pain and suffering.

I have trouble with this.

Big time.

It's what's holding me back on pretty much every project in my list. Well, except maybe Married to the Moons. That's just plain old lack of ideas. With the rest, though, it's definitely my squeamishness with emotionally injuring my characters.

The issue is at a particular point with The Obscure Child. I stopped working on it (again) weeks ago because I lacked ideas for what was to happen in the middle third of the story--act two, that is. Now I know what's supposed to happen, and I'm balking at writing it because it's the act where Peikigi is dragged through hell. Even the one seemingly good thing I'm giving her isn't really as good as it seems, and I'm going to rip it away from her. My goal in this act of TOC is to bring Peikigi to the point where she decides to commit suicide, and I know I have everything in place, in my mind, for that.

I just don't want to hurt her like that.

The problem is, I have to hurt her like that. She needs to be muchly depressed and at least spur-of-the-moment suicidal to put her in the place where the person who helps her decide to turn her life around can get to her. I have about 30-40k words to do this in, and I feel that's plenty, and I'd like to write the stuff out.

I just don't want to hurt her like that.

I periodically read over what I've written of her story to refresh my memory about what's gone on before. I can see that I've set things up just how they need to be. I've taken her from her true friends, placed her in a school where she's already realizing she'll be scorned, and gotten her in trouble with some authority figures by having her have a knock-down drag-out fight with an established student who is the favorite of at least one instructor. I know all the background workings, what that instructor is going to do in order to get back at Peikigi for beating up her favorite student, what the other instructors, particularly the Sabi'Oji instructors, are going to do in response to what that teacher does (which in turn will make Peikigi further despair). I know all this.

I just don't want to hurt her like that.

Part of the problem may be just tha the story's not a primary focus of mine at the moment. But this has been a long-standing issue with me. I've always shied away from seriously hurting my characters, even if the plot demands it.

I know this will make the story much better than originally conceived. I know it'll make Peikigi a stronger character in the long run, and she needs to be a strong character, or she won't be able to do what she'll have to do in the third book. I know this will improve my writing skills, make me a better writer, and teach me new things about myself and my writing.

I just don't want to hurt Peikigi like that.

But I laugh, too. This tells me that my characters are real to me, and that's the biggest step to making them real to someone else. Now I just have to accept the fact that I've got to emotionally rip them to shreds to make their stories work.

I'm kind of dreading this.

25 January 2011

Progress . . . Of A Sort

Well, I haven't been actively working on any of my fantasy projects. Part of that's because my laptop died and I'm working on converting all my writing files to a new writing program's format because my new laptop doesn't have Microsoft Works. I've chosen Liquid Story Binder, and thus far it's working out great. I like the organization it gives my work and notes. I haven't yet managed to convert all my files, mostly because doing so bores me half to death, so it's taking a while.

As for progress on writing that I have made, I've had a couple big epiphanies about Zaashen's story, which means that I'll be able to make progress on it again. These epiphanies are such that I'll have to pretty much scrap every bit of work after the first chapter, but the story will be much better for it. He has it too easy in the story I've got now, and I figure he should be suffering some sort of conflict over his faith since his spouse leaves him.

Peikigi's story is still stalled at the day she arrives, and I'm a bit frustrated with myself because it's reached the portion of the plot that's already been written. I think I'm still trying to figure out exactly what to change and what needs to be written from scratch. Once I have that done, I'll be able to make more progress, but it's not a priority right now.

18 January 2011

On A Lark

I entered a contest on The Sharp Angle on a lark. For the contest, I had to send in approximately 500 words of the beginning of a project for critique and possible prize. Since the contest was free and I really don't expect to win (winner isn't announced as of this post), I figured it would be a fun thing to do. Below is what I sent in with the critique I received, and I must say that it amazed me.

I will add that this is first draft, if highly edited with a focus on technical issues. I did not expect it to read as well as it apparently did to Lydia, who ran the contest. I've left her crit bits in it and bolded them to help differentiate them from my text. These are the first approximately 500 words of Baheen.

-----

Thanks so much for entering the contest!


Zaashen wasn't in the Oasis when the Child appeared at the Fountain during the last gloaming moments of dawn, so he was not the first to see it. He lay prostrate on the night-cool sand, praying, his shesees spread around him, as he did every morning and evening. His spouse objected to this habit, but he would not abandon it.

With a deep sigh as the last of his murmured prayers faded, he pushed himself up to sit back on his feet and looked at the desert, patting his chest twice with his left hand. He could have turned around and seen much the same view--the deep shadows dipping between the still dunes, the few clouds streaking gold across the cerulean sky. The sun sat just at the edge of the horizon, still deeply red from its rise. He sat there for a time, not thinking anything, just letting his mind drift before he pulled it back into focus.

Zaashen rose and gathered the front of his shesees shut. He didn't bother fastening it but instead turned around and walked back to the Oasis. Just over two dunes, and he was home. Well, as close to home as he would ever come again; {period} he wended his way between the thick-walled, multicolored glass homes to his own and entered. {this is a slow-paced beginning, but I like the tone you're setting here, and I'm intrigued by this character.}

"Noova?" he asked as he entered, stepping just inside and easing the heavy door shut. He shivered, heard only silence. "He's probably at the Fountain," Zaashen murmured, entering deeper into the house. That meant that Noova had left breakfast up to him.

Halfway through preparation, the door grated open. Zaashen glanced over his shoulder, saw his spouse, and froze.

"Noova, what's wrong?" he asked.

Noova shifted, glancing away as his expression jerked out of shock and fear into too-innocent. "Just an argument at the Fountain," he said, then added, "I brought us water." He raised the amphora, the tip of which had been propped on the ground, for a moment, then set it in its stand. {this is a m/m couple? I think I love you. You're the first person to give me something with any kind of lgbt element. Is there a reason you can't say husband though? Spouse implies that they are married (or bound in some way), so I would think the term husband, for each of them, is appropriate. But that's entirely up to you and what you've set up in your story world.}

"An argument about what?" Zaashen asked, turning back to the desheepan he was cubing.

"N-nothing important. Just tempers."

Zaashen raised his head a little, uncertain that he'd actually heard the stutter. "It sounds like it's upset you quite a bit," he said, carefully, in an effort to evade what could become an argument. As soon as the statement was free, he wished to withdraw it, certain that Noova would misinterpret his concern as insult or something similar.

"I said, nothing important," Noova said, more firmly.

Zaashen stiffened briefly in surprise as Noova's arms came around his waist in a loose embrace.

"Why are you still wearing this ratty thing?" Noova asked, tugging one of the edges of the shesees.

Zaashen shrugged. "I just didn't take it off."

"You need to get a new one. One that isn't so drab."

"What color would you pick for me?"

"Blue."

Zaashen chuckled, wiggling a little. "I like this one; {period} it's still good enough for its purpose."

Noova stepped away, muttering. Zaashen shook his head once, catching the familiar words, "Which purpose?" and ignored them. They were old words and no longer had the power they'd once had when they'd first joined, when Zaashen was still defensive about his excommunication and Noova insecure about Zaashen's loyalties.


Wow. You've totally hooked me with this, and I can't even pinpoint exactly why. I think it's the intrigue about the fountain in combination with this unsettling situation between these two men who were likely best of friends at one point. What's the word I'm looking for… they're… jaded? They've fallen into a routine of disinterest, and you've made me wonder why. And for you to be able to convey that so clearly in so few words, while at the same time portraying multiple elements of intrigue-- the fountain, the child, the supposed hiding of something, the religious devotion despite being ousted-- it's all very well done. I would definitely keep reading.

Thanks again, and good luck with this!


-----

And as to why I use the word spouse--I'm writing this as though translating it from Zaashen's language, and in Meeyaharan, they don't have gender-specific words for spouse. Then again, they don't have the strict sex/gender assignment that we do (which is: you are either this or that, and if you are this, you are expected to behave this way and dress this way, and if you are that, you are expected to behave that way and dress that way), their sexes number three, not two, and they tend to view gender as something rather fluid over the populace.

I should also probably note that the day after sending this entry in, I had a major epiphany about Zaashen's conflicts, which means that every chapter I've already written following the first chapter no longer fits. Times like this I really wish I could bring all my subconscious reasoning to my conscious mind when I really need it. It would prevent a lot of the rewriting and backtracking I've found to be necessary in writing my fantasy projects.

04 January 2011

Issues with Worldbuilding Ferodoxis

There is an issue concerning the people of Ferodoxis, and I've been struggling with it for several years. I have more than one project set in this world, and since about 2003 I've been "accidentally" writing the characters as though they're not quite human. I've actually experimented and gone far afield with this, and I've withdrawn to a great extent. All my Ferodoxans have left are really tails and certain reproductive issues, notably with the females of the race.

I've been fighting this because there is really no way for me to do a human-to-Ferodoxan comparison. Though they are very similar to us, and I've determined that they'd be able to eat our foods and contract our illnesses, and us theirs, I've been uncomfortable with this.

I feel that accepting that my Ferodoxans aren't human will take me into the realm of science fiction. It would of necessity be very soft, more along the lines of science fantasy, as Lucas claims his Star Wars saga to be. I, however, am not Lucas, and I have difficulty believing readers would suspend disbelief enough to read my stories, yet the aspects which make the Ferodoxans markedly different from us continue to rear their heads.

And not all Ferodoxans have tails. Only the people of one society really have tails consistently. In other societies they appear intermittently and mark the bearer of the tail as a "throwback." Part of my explanation is that the presence of a tail indicates the person with it is especially chosen of deity for some reason, but that doesn't fit across the board, so I've decided to leave that explanation out.

The other primary issue is that the females have an estrous period that is markedly different from human females' estrous. I haven't decided when during the year this is, or if it occurs more than once. It does explain why I gave the world a 651-day year, however, and I have determined that pregnancy for a Ferodoxan takes about 320 days, give or take a few, from conception to birth. I do know that estrous occurs over a period of ten days, and is frequently quite uncomfortable experiencing it, and that Ferodoxans as a race aren't very fertile to begin with.

I do also know that they used to be much more fecund than they are in the era Peikigi lives in, and I know what caused the infertility. I think it might be tied into the female estrous period--the reason why its very uncomfortable for them. I think it may even have altered the estrous period to some extent, but I don't know in what ways yet. I have a feeling that if I fully accept that Ferodoxans aren't human I'll figure this information out; thus far that has proven true in that the more comfortable I've come to be with the idea that they aren't human the more I've learned about them.

I need to figure this out in part because Peikigi will have issues with it once her estrous periods begin. Even in Secondary School, she'll be receiving training as a Sabi'Oji from Sabi'Oji, and it's not an easy process. Unlike other females who will permitted to skip certain classes--notably the self-defense class because of the physical requirements--Peikigi will not be permitted to do this.

Most of my progress on accepting the fact of this issue has occurred in the past few months with my rereadings of Peikigi's story that I already have written and with the commencement of the rewrite from that partial manuscript. I've discovered that I can't ignore these issues now with the way Peikigi's life is going to change.

Complete acceptance of this fact will enable me to more fully work out growth periods and at what ages their youth and adulthood are considered to begin. I'll also be able to start counting their ages solely by their year and determine their lifespan, another thing I've ignored because of the issue of their precise race.

The longer I struggle with this issue, the more frustrated I get with myself for balking at this. I'm close to reaching the point where I'll give up on what I expect the reader to go along with and just go the way the worldbuilding is pointing me.

I am not looking forward to this.

23 December 2010

Progress on TOC

I've reached the point where Peikigi has arrived at school. I've redone the scene where she injures the other student and kind of stopped there. I spent a very intense two weeks writing up to that point, putting in all kinds of new scenes. I feel what I have is much improved over what I had before, and I'm very pleased with my progress and the scenes I've written. I have a more complete picture of Peikigi than I had before, and I've given her an almost-sweetheart that will goad her into a situation that will both hurt her deeply and make her stronger.

I'll be spending Christmas through Sunday with my mom, so I intend to write a lot on Peikigi's story. I've been working on a different, project for the past several days, and I think my mind needed the break because the project is already done and spawned a sequel. I'm hoping I'll be able to balance this a bit, kind of see saw between Peikigi's story and non-fantasy projects for the duration. This break from her story has been good for me. I can feel ideas hovering in the background. It's a very nice feeling.

Part of the reason why I stopped is because I've been trying to figure out how to continue her journal entries while at the same time skimming over sometimes full weeks of time. The best I've been able to come up with is relying upon the introductory entry I wrote on the 29th of last month to cover for the lapses of entries over time. Peikigi's days are going to develop a kind of sameness as she becomes accustomed to her school schedule.

I've changed the division of the book somewhat. Each section that begins with another major occurrence (for instance, her arriving at school) starts a large chapter, but I've kept her journal entries as separate chapters within that. So far, she's got two sections; the initial one, and her arrival and first day at school. I'm titling these large sections and including proverbs relating to what I see as either the theme or major point made in each journal-entry chapter. It's proving to be a fairly interesting process, as I write each journal entry before deciding on the proverb, which I often just pull out of thin air. It would take too much time for me to research appropriate aphorisms and, in any case, I wouldn't be able to find enough to fit Peikigi's story since it's set on a fantasy world in a society very different from ours.