I've been doing a lot of thinking lately, about my academic pursuits, about my writing, about my not-writing-because-of-college, about my future and the future of my characters. I've had quite a few thoughts flutter on the surface of my mind these past few months and I just wanted to get out and recorded before I lose them. My literary heart has been full of torment recently. I'll share this conversation/confession I had earlier in April:
"I did want to just throw this thought out there, and you don't have to feel inclined to answer but -- I've learned quite a goodly amount of writing in the last year from school. Some really good stuff, and yet, I've been unable to sit down and write for myself--and that's OK because I'm learning--and I'm to the point where I know what I need to do, I have to ask myself some careful questions about Trials and about what I want to do with the story and IF Fantasy is indeed the best genre for me to do it with. And I tend to believe that, yes, although Fantasy isn't usually the type of fiction you'd use to hide a secret deep message in, it is the one that I cut my teeth on and the world setting in which I have deeply loved all of my life. So the good news is, I get to take all these things I've been learning about literary fiction and smash it together with genre fiction/Fantasy and my characters and whatever story I re-write is going to be so much deeper than it was before, and I CANNOT TELL YOU HOW FUCKING EXCITED THAT MAKES ME. And it's true that I haven't written, but I WILL, soon, and the first step to that is 1: figuring out the heart of my story, what is it trying to do, what do I want my readers to take away from it aside from hurt. I've kind of always known it, but I have to remember to re-focus my chapters on that end-goal, that feeling of "Oh my gosh, poor Allyn, and poor Malisyn, I'm suddenly reminded that life is fleeting and I should probably call my mom right now." I want people to tremble when they put down that first book... and I am beginning to understand how I can do that."
April 21st, 2016
Some things I've considered recently:
I don't want to fall into the fantasy genre trope of “my character's parents are meaningless, therefore they are dead.” No, in actuality, the biological parents of my characters Malisyn and Allyn are alive and well. As well as one can get for where they are. I was told that those characters specifically didn't fall under the “trope” stigma because they were actually housed in an orphanage, making it more legitimate over “we were raised by an aunt and uncle.”
Making Jaq more prevalent in the story and his role more of a “traveling” father than a mysterious one. My own father traveled a lot for work, he would be gone for months on end. This would be more military style and account for his absences. His absence would also strain his relationship with Malisyn and Allyn to the point where there is no relationship and neither, perhaps, will have noticed.
I've thought about re-arranging the books and using The Burning City as the first book, removing Nox and Malisyn from meeting until the second book where they'd meet in the beginning (but be dual main characters in the first book without ever meeting).
I've considered destroying Tor'vic and sending Nox, Malisyn and Allyn (and the other characters) through a BloodGate to modern-day-Tor'vic, now a sprawling urban city built over top of the Glass Plains—effectively turning the genre from fantasy to urban fantasy and taking a more speculative fiction approach to it. I haven't shot that idea down yet. The thought of mixing modern technology with blood magic, demons with cell phones, and a hipster version of Nox and Malisyn still entertains the hell out of me. Fantasy is always my first, true love in literature. But what if I could make a new kind of fantasy?
My interest in yoga has made me try and lean heavily in the direction of Eastern Monasteries instead of this Western Educational system like the Citadel. Blood magic is already pretty obscure, why make it boring with a “traditional” teaching style? I think I can find a nice balance between blood magic, physical poses, an emphasis on the character (and the reader) focusing on the “here” and “now” of their lives and break the trope of “all fantasy stories that take place with a school are too much like Harry Potter.” I've always imagined my blood mages more like an anime than an American cartoon. I want to connect the story more thoughtfully to the world, the environment, life and death—and that means I have to push myself and my story a little further than before. What does that mean for my world or my story? Just that the Citadel would be more a monastery, more of a place for mental and physical training, less emphasis on “classes.” No “teachers” but “mentors” and other blood mages. And it would be more of a punishment than a reward. I've always wanted my blood mages to be feared and disrespected, an allusion to our own justice system and how hard they work and how flawed the system is.
I also want to bring the focus back to “What exactly do the blood mages accomplish?” What function do they perform in the world and for the story? I know what they do, but there hasn't been much of an opportunity to show it on the page. They're more military, line-of-defense against demons and other supernatural interlopers. They are the only thing that stands between the non-magic wielding human and the demons that try to destroy them. It's implied in the story, we witness Nox and the others fighting the demons, and we've seen enough of Transcendence to know there's something slithering beneath the skin of the world—but it needs to be worse. Much, much worse. I really feel like a change of setting or genre could help me amplify the tension in the story.
I've also learned some new writing styles since I've been in my English classes, and the one I like the most is called “free indirect style.” It's closest to my traditional writing style but it also has the liberty of getting deep inside the main character's head (not so much the other character's though). I like how intimate it can get to the character and the plot without having to write in First Person perspective (not going to happen). I really feel like I would enjoy writing more about Malisyn's thoughts and insecurities, and I think I could successfully do it with Nox as well. It's something I'll be considering in the future at least.
I've considered throwing away my first draft of Trials (except I'd be right back in the trash bin, “Just kidding, I need that!”). I know now that it was just out of frustration and a misunderstanding of what, exactly, the revision and editing process looks and feels like. I've learned a bit about that so far and I feel confident that I can approach my manuscript with a critical eye but not one that has given up all hope of salvaging. I need to accept that if I decide to change the genre and remove these characters to a new setting—effectively I'll have thrown away the first/second draft completely. I feel like I know the characters well enough now that I could write them in any setting and still work. And for me, personally, I enjoy writing in a style that's a bit more humorous and snarky than a traditional Fantasy setting allows. So if for no other reason: so I can be more of a smart-ass in an urban fantasy setting.
Then there's the issue with the character Allyn himself. I feel like, although his death is necessary—I don't think it's necessary as soon as the first book. I think I could draw that eventuality out to a second book, to give us more time to bond and empathize with his character. Then maybe I'll have a solution where he doesn't have to die at all. Just kidding. A new, darker theme is going to arise that's something along the lines of “Life isn't fair but you still have to do it.” The disadvantage of being a Transcender is you don't get the comfort of death. You just have to keep living your life and dealing with all the pain and sadness, without a true chance at love—unless you find another Transcender.
A Side Effect of a College education
This last semester I took Creative Writing, Digital Photography and Yoga (as well as Math and Mythology). They've all had interesting, unique influences on myself and my writing. From the Digital Photography aspect, I've gotten outside more often than before. I've made some really nice photographs and learned a lot about a camera that was once really intimidating. Now I can pick it up with confidence. The photographs themselves have inspired me and embedded stories into my brain.
Yoga has taught me to relax a little, to listen to my breath and the world around me. It has been pushing me toward re-aligning my blood magic into something solid and tangible, grounding the concepts a little more in reality and therefore making it more believable. I've been comparing dagger strokes to yoga poses and how the two can be pretty interchangeable. It may all just be an excuse to see Nox without a shirt, eyes closed and relaxed—but whatever it takes!
And of course I've had an excellent time with my Creative Writing class. It wasn't all sunshine and kittens, sure. I read stories I didn't like, critiqued some stories I didn't like, but I also read a lot and critiqued a lot of material that I did like. I read from new authors, and some old and familiar authors.
I've listened to two audio books this semester (“Elvenbane” and “Elvenblood” by Mercedes Lackey and Andre Norton) which reaffirms my place among “writers who read.” Which should be all of us, but it had been years since I could read without falling asleep—which is why I've switched primarily to audio books. Reading makes you a better writer, and I feel better for having read these books this year (and “Sabriel” last year).