Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Five Facts About My Story

Well, I just finished reading a post on Deborah Kelty's blog, in which she listed five facts about her writing project, then challenged others to do the same. So here I am, because I relish challenges, and having a million posts lined up for my blog.
For those who have kept up with my blog, you probably know bits and pieces of information about my story, along with exaggerated puns about the writing process. And now, I'm going to explore the fabulous fantasy setting, and the story that started it, in greater depth.

1. It began with rewriting a short story, and a desperation to escape writer's block.

Once upon a time, I was struggling to write a different fantasy series. All these things were in my head, but when I tried to write it, suddenly I didn't know what to write next, and there were plot holes, lots of different sub-plots I was trying unsuccessfully to juggle, and filler that contributes little or nothing. I think I was so determined for it to be a certain way, I was forcing the writing in the process. As time wore on, I kept trying to make progress, to push my way through, but the more I tried, the bigger the dreaded writer's block became. Then, as the pain worsened, doubt crept in. "Is this really what I should be doing? Am I destined to be a writer at all? Will I ever get out of this?"

'Excuse me, do you know the way to inspiration?' 'Oh yeah, you just go a few blocks that way.' People look at huge blocks labelled 'writer's block' and 'artist's block'.

Anyway, it was finally getting to the point where I started to think that perhaps I needed a break from writing that project. At some point, I began reading a story I wrote a few years back, when I was a freshman in high school. It involved an orphaned boy who steals an egg from a store, then discovers when it hatches that it's a dragon egg. I found myself thinking, "If I changed a few things about this story, and added to it..."
So I began writing my tale. Granted, I may have been a bit distracted by obsessing over details like how large the egg should be, but the writing got done. The story seemed to be going well, and it was flowing in a way that writing hadn't often done for me in a long while. As time went on, it became my current project, and the fantasy story I was working on before ended up being put on hold. And guess what, I got out of writer's block, hooray! (throws confetti into the air)

2. I've been working on it for two years, and I still have no idea what I'm doing.

I started this project in the summer of 2015, in the hope of finding something which got me writing again the way I wanted to be. As I got into the story, I began focusing on different aspects of it.
I decided to develop details about dragons. That somehow led to me researching reptiles, birds, pterosaurs, and dinosaurs for inspiration. And then I had some ideas about what the setting would be like, which led to more complexity. Let's just say I made many errors and inconsistencies in the process. And as I did more world-building, something as I'm terribly behind on because I was writing the story without developing the setting much first, I realized that the place my characters had traveled to demanded a new stage of research and development. And because that's not enough, let's add pterosaurs, Irish giant deer, and shape-shifters!
Just as I start getting one thing worked out, another one pops up. There's no end to it. I keep adding more stuff, which means more things to develop. Or I discover that what I decided to do is more complicated than I thought, either because I ended up making it that way over time, or because I chose something I know little about.

'Don't complain about your research project. This was my Google.' Huge file cabinets.

And that isn't even the whole picture. There's also the fact that the story keeps growing, or new stories sprout from it. Part of this is due to characters. They keep throwing giant back-stories at me, and I have no choice but to comply. Or my brain sees something and says, "What if..." and that 'what if' winds up in my current fantasy setting. By the end of it, I have so many story ideas for this region, I'll probably be here for a long, long while.

Man looking at woman captioned 'trilogy I cannot and should not write right now'. Girlfriend beside him captioned 'every other story idea I have' glaring at him

But just remember one thing: it's Xander's fault. He was the character who brought me here. He started this insanity. Everything, from story complexities to new obsessions to nerdiness, is because of Xander.

3. My setting inadvertently became sort of an upside-down version of its Earth equivalent.

Well, not exactly, as the land masses on my map certainly don't resemble the real shapes and sizes of actual places. But the general orientation of certain things has some curious similarities.
So I'm sitting here in my fantasy world, assigning everything to their specific places. This dragon species goes here, this group of people goes here... So I have my elves grumbling, because unfortunately it's a human-dominated place and they have the smaller cuts of land. Animals extinct on Earth are alive and well on my fantasy realm because it seemed like a fun and interesting idea, or because large fauna is useful for feeding huge dragons.
Then there's which region of Earth corresponds with which region of the fantasy setting. And that's where everything took a 180° (or maybe more like a 135°, as I study it more). Sit down, and allow me to spin a yarn about the classic European-based fantasy.
Let's use the island where my character begins his journey as an example. It consists of the northern region and the southern region, which are divided by an isthmus, a narrowing of the land. The north is primarily English-speaking. The southwest resembles Scotland, while the southeast resembles Ireland. And the way my world-building is going, I have a feeling some Manx speakers are going to make themselves at home right next to those two, or perhaps sandwiched between the two places.

Map of British Isles

If I add some of the island's surrounding regions to this blog post, I could go on. The freaky thing about this is that I didn't actually intend to do it. Things just turned out that way, and I didn't realize the similarities until later.
(looks at real map and fantasy map) "You know, this kind of looks like..." (turns head, studies it a long moment)
Somebody up there has a sense of humor.

4. Look at all the pretty hidden references!

Yep, I decided it was necessary to add vague references, allusions to things about the world, and 'Easter eggs' to the story. Technically, some of them haven't appeared in the manuscripts yet, but they will, heh heh...

For example, that scene where one of the characters returns way later than his sister anticipated. Her worry is expressed by becoming short-tempered. When he explains a rather unusual story about something that happened while he was gone, she's exasperated, and asks him something along the lines of, "Did you also see a man walking down the street with a ginger tabby perched on his shoulder? Or perhaps it was following him around on a leash, like a dog." *cough, Bob the Street Cat, cough cough*
Some other memorable examples include a scene I'll later add, in which a boy makes a joke that's an obscure reference to an online game. Or instances where characters are contemplating something, alluding to a connection between Earth and the fantasy world in the process. There will be plenty of those, I'm sure.
And moving outside my main project for a moment, one of the characters wrote a letter to his friend, and there's a sentence in it which bears resemblance to a line in a certain Owl City song. Or when someone told a story about forget-me-nots, which is actually a German legend.

Then there's name origins. It's a kingdom by the sea, right? So it should have a name that means 'sea-bird', and the royals should have names that mean something relating to the ocean or birds. Likewise, a place where my character gets arrested, injured in various ways, and spends a lot of time running for his life, should have a name derived from a Celtic word meaning 'good fortune'.
And those instances where I can't think of a name, so it becomes a random word or name I see. That river I named? The last name of a music artist that was playing on Pandora. The character Xander meets in a port city? Her name is a word from a song title.

And of course, the Easter eggs and the stuff that's not actually mentioned. In example, one of my characters has a wind-up roundabout which plays a tune. Though I never get into specifics about it, I know exactly what song they're hearing. Also, there's plenty of instances when characters are speaking in another language. In a few places, they might be saying something humorous, and only those who understand that specific tongue will get the joke. I look forward to incorporating more of that, heh heh...

The best part of this? Imagining future readers beginning to decode these things, announcing to everyone, "Hey! I think I discovered something!" Sharing their theories on how a snippet of dialogue might mean more than what was initially thought. And then they create theories about those vague references to Earth. What could it mean? Is this actually an alternate version of Earth? Are there portals? Is space travel involved? And then the readers go into a frenzy trying to figure everything out.

5. Oh when the elves, oh when the elves came marching in...

The concept of elves is not a new one; in fact, it came into being three or four years ago. In fact, you could say that Favonix was the start of the elves, because he was the first elfin character I came up with. He was in a fairly unspecific forested region which vaguely resembles North America, and he seemed to start a theme of trail-blazing elves. Granted, I haven't written his story, but forming the plot idea in my head began forming the concept of elves.

So what is an elf? Well, over time, this term became one with multiple meanings, some of which are technical and nerdy. An elf refers to a people who possess telepathic and empathic abilities, and the iconic pointed ears. It can also refer to races which have this trait. But where does the nerdiness come in? Well, I was noticing a theme with people who are part-elf, part-human. I tried to figure out a logical explanation for this, and then... there were Punnett squares.

Punnett square for determining inherited genes

But don't think that human-elf intermarriage is a regular thing. Hence my earlier comment on trail-blazers. In fact, elves and humans live apart from each other. Humans have many misconceptions about elves, a lot of them themed around exaggerated tales of mind-reading due to elves' telepathic abilities. Meanwhile, many elves view humans as inferior because they lack the telepathic and empathic abilities which elves have. I imagine some of them disagree because of cultural reasons, as well. Elves have a tendency not to show their emotions as freely as many humans, and so are comparatively stoic at times.
As though that isn't enough, let's also look at history, which involves war, murder, and excessive blood. It would be nice if everyone got along, if they all understood and respected each other, but alas, this was not to be. Come to think of it, there are similar problems with people and dragons, too.

Silver dagger

So as you can imagine, humans and elves living among each other, or becoming friends, or marrying each other, is a rare occurrence. But of course, I live for seeing the exceptions to the norm, the trail-blazers who stomp on the commonly held prejudices in favor of what is right. I could go on about all the ways different characters boldly follow their own paths, but I've used up my five facts.

And there you have it. Five pieces of information about my main project, written in the classic fantasy writers' brevity. And in case you were wondering, yes, my novel is longer than this blog post. Muahaha...

'This is going to take a while. I'm a fantasy author. We have trouble with the concept of brevity.' -Brandon Sanderson

1 comment:

  1. Nice! I like your idea of setting in modern times and near my place.
    That is pretty cool. Your book's on my list of future reads! Keep going! :D