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I'm a writer, a librarian, a reader, and a teacher. Look for me on Watt Pad and check out my current series in progress: Fragments of Alchemy.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Tales of Elda'ri: Chapter One

Tales of Elda’ri

Chapter One: The Shadow Melder



“Shadow Melders are easier to see in the fog,” Uncle Drakan’ay reminds them, for the second time since they left their home at Foxhole a short while ago. “Without the fog, we’d be fighting blind.”
That’s easy for him to say, Elda thinks. He’s the one with the living staff covered in bioluminescent Foxfire shrooms, which give off a green light bright enough to illuminate several paces in all directions. And her brother Arro’ay follows behind her, carrying a small flame in a lantern hanging on the end of his spear. Even with the fog, she is the only one of their trio who will be fighting blind if the Shadow Melders attack. Despite walking between the two Sylvan, Elda’ri still stumbles as she crosses the Fox Clan’s wheat fields with her brother and uncle.
Traveling across Sylva at night is like exploring a mossy cave, thanks to the cloud city Nebula, which floats above the Rainforest Sylvan Realm and blocks all light from the moon and stars. Elda squints up at the giant gray cloud, silently cursing the darkness while rain patters on her nose. She stumbles on after her uncle, her bo staff at the ready just in case.
“How much further to the Fringes, uncle?” Arro’ay asks in a soft voice that barely travels to Elda’s fox-ears.
When their uncle doesn’t answer Arro’s question, Elda pipes up. “We’ve been walking forever. Did we accidentally pass the Fringes already?”
“Patience, Pup,” Uncle Drake says. “The Fringes are well guarded, even in the wee hours of the morning. We couldn’t possibly miss it.”
Uncle Drake has called Elda’ri Pup for as long as she can remember. They are all members of the Fox Clan, but somehow, out of the many cousins and siblings she said goodbye to this morning, Elda is the only one Uncle Drake ever calls Pup. And maybe it’s an apt nickname. Her whole short life, Elda only left her Smallclan one other time, so she fits the visual of a young fox kit bravely venturing forth from her den for the first time. She’s glad to have her uncle guide the way to Foxden, but as she thinks back on all the goodbyes from this morning, tears prickle at her eyes. She wishes her parents could have come along, even though she knows that it would have been impossible. But now is not the time to dwell on long goodbyes.
Elda focuses instead on the journey ahead and the chances it will bring. She will finally meet members of the other Sylvan clans. Despite being human, the Clans of Sylva all have distinct animal features thanks to their magic and their Clan Animals. So Uncle Drake, Elda, and her brother Arro all have pointed fox-like ears, fiery-red hair braided down their backs, and sharp fox-canines. Elda hopes to meet a fellow Duellator of the Wolf Clan. She’d love to win a duel and prove once and for all that a fox’s craftiness in a fight matters more than strength.
Uncle Drake stops walking, and Elda comes to a sudden halt and shifts uncomfortably when she recognizes the Fringes. The mist ebbs and flows over the man-made clearing. Off in the distance, the first signs of the sun’s light bend over the horizon. The far-off thin line of blue, orange, and red light only reminds Elda that she cannot see a thing more than a few feet beyond the range of the viridian Foxfire. But dawn is upon them; they timed their departure perfectly. And the foggy morning will give them a distinct advantage over any Shadow Melders that lurk in the forest ahead.
Even with everything aligned to work in their favor, Elda can’t stop her insides from quivering. She looks about the Fringes, which at first sight appear to be a natural clearing dotted with knobby bark-like growths protruding from the moss. On closer inspection, anyone would notice that the bark barricades have been set up in a formation that completely encircles Foxhole and allows the Duellators to protect the Smallclan dwelling from any outsiders—Flitters and Melders alike. Uncle Drake just stopped beside one such barricade, and Elda finally notices the Sylvan Duellator kneeling behind the barricade, keeping watch.
“Any sightings tonight?” Uncle Drake asks.
“More than most, I’m afraid,” the Duellator—a distant cousin on Elda’s mother’s side—answers. “They seem to be gathering in a group at the forest’s edge just to the east of here. Would it be safer to head west before making your way south to Foxden?”
“The Root is closest to us here,” Uncle Drake replies. “Ready yourselves, Arro and Elda. We will make a dash for the safety of the Root soon.”
Arro kneels down near the bark barricade to adjust his pack. Elda kneels down beside her brother and tries to ignore her shaky knees. Now is the time to tap into the primal force of the rainforest and activate her elemental staff. Elda folds down into half-lotus position on the mossy ground and focuses on her breath. Beside her, she senses her brother doing the same.
After meditating upon her mossy pillow for a long still moment, the power of her Root Chakra begins to stir. She mentally catches hold of the energy and draws it up and out of herself by visualizing a lotus in bloom. Elda tugs on the flask hanging around her neck and pours a small amount of the precious water into the palm of her hand.
She inhales as the water seemingly grows in her hand and forms a giant globe of ebbing water. Then she exhales loudly as she waves her hand over the staff at her side; the water ripples over the wood and intermingles with the weapon. Her staff might not be alive like her uncle’s, but Elda knows how to wield the powerful water staff in combat. She knows it will protect her, should they come across a Shadow Melder.
She returns to her feet and watches Arro infuse his spear with the fire he keeps in his lantern—which he already moved to a hook on the back of his pack. Arro is one of the fortunate Duellators whose Smallclan could afford to trade for a glass lantern. Without the Terran glass from the Mountain People to the north, his fire would be snuffed out by the constant rains of their Rainforest Realm. Fire is not a common element of her people, and Arro knows how to use the element to his advantage. Elda knows she is safe beside him.
While Elda and her brother infused their weapons, their uncle also prepared himself for combat. He already bound his living staff to his back and brought out his round shield instead. Uncle Drake is a Cultivator, which means he can manipulate anything plant-based with his powers. The round shield can grow to be five times its current size if needed; it also provides light by way of the same bioluminescent Foxfire shrooms, which grow all along the inside of the shield.
With his Changeling magic, Drake can take on any of the characteristics of their Clan Animal. He now resembles a fox more than ever. Where he once only sported the subtle pointy canines of the Fox Clan, he now has a full mouth of pointy fox teeth. He has no need for a weapon, because those teeth, along with his newly grown fox claws, make naturally sharp weapons. His pointed ears now appear more foxlike than ever. Finally, his fox Companion Auma has returned to his side from wherever she tends to wander off to when he doesn’t need her. While small and seemingly useless in a fight, Auma can easily move into enemy range, where she is very meddlesome and distracting, and then easily slip out of danger due to her small size and craftiness.
But the hope is that there won’t be a fight. If everything goes according to plan, the three travelers will make it to the nearest Life Root before a Shadow Melder can reach them. For whatever reason, Shadow Melders tend to avoid the Roots of the Life Tree. Elda thinks it’s because the Life-force Leylines are sacred to her people, and their power turns away any who are not worthy of treading upon them. Other Sylvan speculate that the Life Roots are the only landforms which aren’t shrouded in shadows during the day, so the Shadow Melders feel exposed when they stand on them. Whatever the reason, when they reach the Life Root at the exact moment of sunrise, and the sun’s rays spread over the Realm, they will be safe.
“Arro, you will go first. Your sister will follow close behind, and I will bring up the rear.” Uncle Drake moves to take his position; his keen eyes and fox-ears search the area ahead, which measures several hundred spans to the rainforest, and a short distance beyond that to the sanctuary of the Life Root. “Don’t go too fast, Arro. We need to stay together. Run at your sister’s pace.”
Arro nods while Elda scoffs. “I’m just as fast as Arro,” she insists. “Watch me!” and she breaks out into a run before her brother and uncle are ready.
“El!” Arro calls, breaking the stillness of the early morning. He races to catch up to her, and Uncle Drake follows closely behind.
“Be safe on your journey!” the Duellator calls out as the travelers leave the safety of the bark barricades and disappear into the fog.
Running in the thick fog is like playing a chasing game while wearing a blindfold. Elda’s brother quickly pulls up alongside her, and she fights to move at her top speed despite the low visibility. “Now’s not the time for games. Get behind me, El!” Arro’s fire spear illuminates his pinched face.
Elda obliges as her legs falter briefly on a slippery patch of moss. She grips her staff even tighter and with a slow intake of breath, she strengthens her link to the water infused into the weapon.
Then suddenly, the trio plunges into the forest. Arro slows considerably as he is forced to weave in and out of the spindly vines and thick flat fronds of the walking palm trees. Elda glimpses a trail below her feet, but even with the constant ware from travelers to and from Foxden, the untamed plants of the forest constantly shroud the trail in new growth.
The worst part is the noise they make as they scramble through the underbrush. Any Melders close by have undoubtedly heard them already, but they are more than half way to the Root. Any Melders who come after them will also make quite a ruckus and alert them that they are not alone as they race to the Life Root. Elda squints through the thick fog that seems to billow off the lush vegetation. Even with Arro’s fire and Drake’s glowing shield, she can only see a few hand’s-breadths to either side of her, where the towering undergrowth mingles with the fog.
Over the tops of the kapok and palm trees Elda spots an immense shadow, which must be the silhouette of the Life Root. With renewed vigor, she presses onward, gaining confidence as the patterns of the narrow trail and slight incline become more and more familiar to her. That incline means the Root grows ever nearer. They are almost there!
In her eagerness to reach safety, she forgets to pay attention to the runner right in front of her. Her knee suddenly connects with the heel of Arro’s boot. They both stumble, and with the next step, Arro’s heel hits her shin, and she lets out a cry as the pain and the force of the sudden contact send her reeling into the shrubbery with the solid crack of breaking undergrowth. “Sap!” she curses as she skids to a painful stop in the darkness.
“El!” Arro calls. “You alright?”
“Just twiggy!” Elda calls back. She winces from the sharp pricks of the many thorns that tear at her arms and legs. The leaves in her eyes make it impossible to see a thing. She struggles to climb out of the bush with a cacophony of rustling leaves. “Ow! Stupid bush! Let me go!” She reaches up behind her and realizes her pack is caught in the shrubbery. “Perfect,” she mutters as she slides her arms free of the rucksack’s thick straps. She manages to crawl out of the bush while she drags her staff in the dirt and blackens her knuckles and knees with the rich soil. “My pack’s—stuck!” she says as she tries to pull it free, but without any luck.
“Stand back,” Uncle Drake says, and Elda stands up and gives him some room. Drake closes his eyes and reaches out to the bush with his free hand. Slowly, the branches start to shiver, though it’s not the wind that touches them. Then the leaves begin to recede, almost as if the bush is backing away from the trail. Drake takes a step to maintain contact with the bush as it continues to shrink away, and then Elda’s bag emerges from the undergrowth. She snatches it up and turns to continue after Arro, who quickly takes up the lead again.
“Come on, we’re almost there,” Arro says.
Elda takes a few more running bounds, and then she blinks as the sunlight shines through a gap in the canopy, pierces the fog, and shines into her left eye. “We made it!” she says with a laugh, her pace naturally slowing as the tension in her muscles melts away.
“Almost,” Arro interjects as he slows way down and climbs up a few step-like ridges in the path; swimming in the fog beyond that, Elda glimpses a towering hill of mossy bark that must be the Root. “Keep moving.”
Elda slows down even more to replace her pack on her back. First one arm, then switching hands on her staff, she slides the other arm through the thick straps of her rucksack. Behind her, Uncle Drake slows to a walk.
At that precise moment, something yanks Elda off her feet and wrenches her through the underbrush. In a moment of panic, Elda screams as a dark shape pulls her along the forest floor, dragging her through bushes and over rocks. She scrambles for a foot hold, without any luck. Finally, she attempts to swing at the Melder with her staff, but it’s all she can do to hold it in her grip as the underbrush threatens to pull it from her hands. Her pack pulls at her shoulders, and the forest floor jolts her whole body.
That’s when she realizes the Shadow Melder grabbed her pack, not her body, and she makes a split second decision.
Elda twists out of her pack, scrambles to catch her staff as it rolls out of her grasp. She bounds away from the dark flitting form in the fog. As she sprints for her life, she hopes that the Shadow Melder only wanted her bag, but she doesn’t wait around to find out.
She quickly slows to a clumsy lope through the thicket of vines and bushes while the plants slap her face. “Sapping weeds! I hate you!” she declares as she breaks through the solid mass of growth and finds herself back on the trail. But she’s completely turned herself around, and with the tall kapok trees and acai palms blocking her view, she stands still for far too long as she determines the direction of the sun and finally bolts south toward the Root.
That’s when she recognizes the terrified voices of her brother and uncle, who followed her into the foliage and are now behind her. “I’m back on the trail!” she shouts, her voice cracking. She turns back the way she just came, but she hesitates to re-enter the wall of hedges. Her brother’s shouts and uncle’s calls are too much for her, though, and she dives back in, her hand up to guard her eyes from the cuff of leaves and branches. “Here, follow my voice!” she calls out.
She breaks out of the bush and finds herself in an open area not unlike a clearing, though it’s still so densely overgrown with plant life that it would be a joke to call it a clearing. But finally, with the ability to move about more freely, she is able to jog in the direction of her brother’s voice.
Arro breaks out of a wall of green directly in front of her, and he sighs audibly when he sees his sister. “Saint Sylvana, you scared me to death,” he says.
“Don’t take the Saint’s name in vane over me,” Elda chides playfully. “I’m okay.”
“You lost your pack.” Arro grabs her shoulder and pulls her into a half hug as he turns and heads back to the path, toward the Life Root that looms over them, about twenty paces away.
“I think that’s all the Melder wanted,” Elda explains as she returns the hug. Arro’s arm is warm to the touch, making her shiver. She returns her brother’s embrace with her off-hand. “At least I still have my staff,” she says, waving the weapon in her other hand. The water infusion has all but dried up, and now she doesn’t have time to recharge it.
“Lucky you,” he says with a wry smile as he glances over at her. “You don’t have to carry any supplies to Foxden now.”
“I’ll take turns carrying—” Elda spots a blurred image just beyond her brother. She gasps as a jaguar prowls toward them. “—Shadow beast!” she manages to get out as she pulls her brother the other way, but it’s too late. The giant feline closes in on them before they take more than a few strides.
The Shadow Melder’s beastly companion growls at them, a low rumble that makes Elda back away. Arro pushes Elda behind him, drops his pack to the ground, and takes a fighting stance to block the feline’s path to his sister. But the Melder’s jaguar doesn’t hesitate when faced with a fighting Sylvan. Instead, it pounces, so quickly Arro only barely manages to swipe at it with his spear. Arro backs away, and Elda scrambles to give her brother more room to maneuver, as the jaguar pounces again.
Arro thwacks the feline over the head with a downward swing of his spear. But the jaguar reaches him with its powerful claws and thrashes his spear arm. Arro cries out in pain as his spear drops out of his grasp.
“Arro!” Elda calls.
The jaguar attacks the now-defenseless Sylvan; it closes its powerful jaws around his forearm and tears him to the ground. Arro punches the beast’s head, but it refuses to let him go.
Elda readies her staff and whacks the beast in the head. Unfazed, it drags Arro away through the underbrush. “Arro!” Elda cries out. She follows closely behind and unleashes a frenzy of attacks, but the beast seemingly ignores her as it continues to lug Arro deeper into the forest.
Finally, when it looks like the jaguar will disappear into the undergrowth with her brother, Elda does the only thing she can think of to save him. She jumps onto the feline’s back and proceeds to bash its head in with her bo staff in a very unconventional wide hold with both hands palm down. “Stop, stop, stop!” she yells with each attack, until her bo staff snaps. “Sap!” she swears as she tosses the bent staff aside and puts her hands on the feline’s jaws, intending the pry its mouth open.
But the moment she makes contact with the jaguar, it collapses on the ground in a heavy sleep. Elda jerks down after it and mashes her face into the black earth. “Ow,” she grunts.
Arro scrambles to his feet. They both look down at the jaguar sprawled on its belly purring like a kitten. “What did you do?” he asks. He grabs his bleeding arm with his good hand and kicks at the beast, which continues to snooze away.
“I don’t know,” Elda answers. “But let’s get out of here.”
The two turn and make a run for the Life Root, shouting the whole way, so that Uncle Drake will know where they are. They stop only briefly so Elda can gather up Arro’s spear and pack, and then they push onward through the foliage until they make it back to the path. In a short span of time, they both plant their feet firmly on the bark of the Life Root and begin the climb up the hill-like landform. After a few moments of climbing, Elda looks back down and spots their uncle hurrying to catch up to them. He reaches the Life Root without incident and scrambles up after them. “Thank the Saints you’re both alive. Are you two unhurt?” he calls once he is safely on the Life Root. Auma follows right behind him, her orange tail flicking in the bright morning sunlight.
“A Melder’s Beast mangled by arm, but Elda rescued me,” Arro says as he gives his younger sister a one-armed hug with his good arm. “She was brilliant.”
Elda’s cheeks burn. “I broke my staff and lost my bag, but other than a few scratches and scrapes, I’m unharmed.” She hugs Arro back, letting out a deep sigh. That whole encounter could have ended much worse. Now that it’s behind her, she can’t help but sag against her brother. The sun peeks over the horizon and the mist recedes back into the shadowy forest below them. Holy sap it’s good to still be alive, she thinks, and a toothy smile spreads over her face.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Step Five: Synopsis (Flash Summary/Prewriting)

I know what you’re thinking. You don’t want to start the next step in the writing process by doing your synopsis! That yucky task is best saved for when the book is all done and you’re looking for editors or agents, right? Well, I can understand that line of thinking, but hear me out. In this post, I want to thoroughly explain why I write my synopsis after I plot out my outline and before I begin writing.
I am a teacher. I teach my students that when they are writing, they need to find the process that works for them. I try to show them as many different ways to go about the creative process as possible, including plotting out a story with a story mountain, creating a chain of events and then going back and creating scenes for those events, free writing to just get all the ideas out on the page as quickly as possible, character sketching, and even just jumping in and writing. I stress that some of these options are bound to come with more work later on during the revision process. I’m curious if anyone out there has other ways to go about the actual process of writing (once all the planning is done, of course!) because the more ways I can teach my students to go about this creative process, the more kids I will reach and inspire to become writers themselves!
I have come to accept that my writing process is not the most efficient. I tend to fly by the seat of my pants even when I have an outline. (Pantsing, as it is called, is not considered good practice by many published authors or agents/editors!)  Then I will look at the outline I made way back when I started the project and think, “Meh, what I came up with when I let my character go off course and do what he wanted turned out much better than all this anyways.” Kinda makes me wonder why I made that outline in the first place.
Now, I am in a very interesting situation, because I outlined this novella I’m working on, and I have potential readers who know what is supposed to happen and who may very well be disappointed in me for veering off course. If I warn you beforehand that things may not go according to plans, will you forgive me when my characters realize that the story I have planned for them is much too boring, and they take it upon themselves to right their own story for me? (Oh, and it might go without saying, but if you would rather read the story without any spoilers, you will want to avoid reading the synopsis I have included on my blog.)
With that out of the way, I am probably ready to start a process I like to call free writing/flash summarizing. (I have no idea what other people consider free writing to be like, but for me, this is how it goes.) I am going to write an overview of the major (and maybe some minor) plot points of my novella, going into as much detail as I possibly can at the moment, using my outline as a guide, so that I won’t end up with a story that is unsound structurally. But I will be as vague as possible with as much as I can, so that if I see another way to accomplish the same plot point later, while I’m actually writing, I will have more freedom to veer off course temporarily in order to be more true to my characters and make the story as best as it can be.
I know everybody does things differently, and I know that I am most likely not the only writer who takes the time to write a synopsis of a book before writing it. In a way, this synopsis is more of a summary that can become my official synopsis later. While I will format my summary as a synopsis, this is not the synopsis I would send to agents. I would make sure to revise this before sending it off, to pare it down to the important plot points and beef up the character development while keeping it under 2 pages. (Most agents don’t have time to read a long synopsis anymore, so short ones are the way to go!) But when I’m freewriting, I am freewriting and I will not constrict myself with trifling matters such as how long the synopsis gets. Also, since I am still fairly early on in my process, I will be free to revise any of this along the way. (You might notice that my characters’ names have changed slightly, and that I even added a very important character since that character creation post I did a week or so ago.)
For my synopsis, my shout out goes to The Marshall Plan for Getting Your Novel Published by Evan Marshall. Not only does this book have chapters explaining how to format synopses, queries, and cover letters, but there are exemplars too! My example will hopefully help you get the idea, but without the reasoning behind it, it’s possible you could miss the subtler aspects of writing the synopsis. For example, it is standard practice to write a character’s name is ALL CAPS the first time the character is mentioned in the synopsis. There are additional similar rules like this, as well as expert tips, all explained in the book.
Also, to beef up Marshall’s book (and offer readers yet another agent’s personal opinion on writing) he included sections on writing professional-quality fiction—from how to write dialogue, action, and narrative to how to write dramatically without coming off as melodramatic—all with more examples! The book is rather old, so hopefully the rules haven’t changed since 2003. For someone who hasn’t done any research on the process of getting published, I would strongly suggest checking out this book; it is worth rereading and referencing throughout the writing process, so I’m glad I own a copy.

A.C. Sutliff                                                                                                                       Fantasy
(Name of agent)                                                                                                                # of words
(Name of Agency)                                                                                                           Synopsis
(Address)

Tales of Elda’ri

South for the Summer


ELDA’RI and her brother ARRO’AY are two Sylvan Duellators (Elemental Fighters) living in Fox Hole, a small settlement located in the north of the Rainforest Realm of Sylva. They are members of Fox Clan, a clan that is mostly peaceful, with a few scattered attacks by Shadow Melders. The real threat to the Realm is in the south, where the bordering Realm, known as the Impyre, is at odds with the defending Clans over valuable resources such as food and water, which are scarce in the neighboring Fiery Realm.
Due to the constant threat, all Clans are expected to train their children at a young age to wield the elements in combat. Once the Duellators are seasoned enough for battle, and have unlocked another powerful magic, called Splitting, they are sent south to defend the Realm. All Splitters are expected to serve in this fashion, and it is time for Elda’ri and Arro’ay to join the fight.
Their journey begins at the onset of summer before the sun rises. In the foggy twilight, Shadow Melders are easier to see, because their dark forms stand out against the mist. Elda’ri and Arro’ay are accompanied by their uncle DRAKEN’EL. The Smallclan at Fox Hole is short on numbers, so the two adolescents must make their journey to the neighboring settlement of Fox Den with only one experienced fighter as a guide. The hope is that they can make the one-day trip without encountering any Shadow Melders, but sightings have been increasing recently, with sporadic scrimmages breaking out around the border of Fox Hole.
With Drake’s help, Elda and Arro bravely fend off an attack and escape into the rainforest. The narrow escape ends when a Shadow Melder attacks Elda’ri and injures her wrist, and she manages to incapacitate the creature by touching its head. Arro notices, and the two spend the rest of the day of travel trying to find some privacy to discuss how Elda was able to save herself from death. They travel across the Rainforest Realm along a Root of the Life Tree. Sylva’s Life Tree is at the center of the Realm; its branches reach high into the sky through the frozen clouds of Nebula (The Sky Realm of the Eran Dawn People).
At Fox Den, Elda and Arro meet up with RAIT’SA, a Changer of the Bear Clan, who is charged with recruiting for the southern defense. Rait’sa considers rejecting Arro’s request to join the defense, because he is green. While Arro is older than his sister, he unlocked the potential to become a Splitter after she did. Elda threatens to return home with her brother if Rait’sa refuses to let him join, and Rait’sa grudgingly agrees to admit Arro if he can pass a test in combat.
Rait’sa takes Arro to the outskirts of the settlement and thrusts him into a real combat situation to see how he fares in a fight. Arro manages to help the locals defend their food stores against a few Eran Flitters from the Sky City Nebula. Flitters have no way of growing their own food up in the clouds, and are vegetarian. So it is common for the airborne Flitters (who look like small children) to come to the surface in search of food. Rait’sa accepts Arro, and the two adolescents wish their Uncle a safe journey home and leave Fox Den by way of a Dimension Gate.
The Dimension Gate brings Rait’sa, Elda and Arro to Bear Clan’s major dwelling of Bear Cave. There, the group meets up with four other new recruits: JEEL’IN of Jaguar Clan, BLY’TA of Badger Clan, COMFRE’YA of Coyote Clan and HAWTH’AN of Hawk Clan. Sylva is a very large Realm with many Clans, all scattered around the vast Rainforest. Each Clan has a Clan Animal that not only serves as a symbol for banners, but also adds some variety to the appearance of the people of Sylva.
Because the Sylvan can unlock the magical potential to take on the characteristics of animals, throughout history, each Clan has chosen an animal. Changers (those with the ability to magically imitate certain aspects of animals) have, over time, passed on animal traits and characteristics to their children. Though all Sylvan are human in appearance, the different clans have distinct physical features. Therefore, the new recruits see Elda and Arro as two cunning fox-kin with pointy fox-canines, pointed fox-ears, and red hair. Jeel’in has jaguar whiskers and cat-like ears, Bly’ta has a distinct badger nose and ears, and black and white coloring in her hair, Comfre’ya has large coyote ears, and Hawth’an has a hooked nose and brown slicked back hair with a prominent widow’s peak.
From Bear Cave to the Southern settlement of Beaver Dam it is a four-day walk. While traveling, the new recruits get to know each other a little, but Rait’sa pushes the group of adolescents, so as to arrive as quickly as possible. They reach Beaver Dam, which is on the border of Sylva. The Dam settlement creates a giant lake on one side, and on the other, the dam serves as a fortification against the Impyre. Beyond that, the Flats of the Horse Clan provide a buffer, and it is here that the recruits will be stationed.
The Impyre begins an attack as the recruits are getting settled in. The young fighters come face to face with Igniads of the Fire Realm for the first time. Their men have invisibility magic and technology, and the terrifying fight results in some deaths. Bly’ta is wounded, and two experienced Splitters and a Whisperer are killed.
The new recruits join a small band of Defenders in which Rait’sa is a lower-ranked officer. Their commander, TAMAR’IK of the Tiger Clan debriefs them on the dangers of fighting the Impyre. Above all else, they are warned to never let an Igniad touch them. The Fire Realm’s army mostly consists of what the Sylvan have come to call Engineers. These are the invisible fighters who have guns and explosives. Elda’ri discovers that her water infused bo staff could potentially uncover the invisible fighters if she can learn to extend the water’s range considerably. Arro learns that he can use his fire spear in a similar fashion, if he can learn to greatly increase the power of his fire. All the recruits begin training in their new magic: that of Splitting.
Splitting is a magic that involves unmaking or separating. Splitters make great opponents for the Impyre because they can unmake their guns. The trick is that they must first dispel the Engineer’s invisibility and then get close enough to touch the weapons. Most of the time, the Sylvan take a more defensive tactic, setting up traps for the Engineers. The higher ranking fighters of the Sylvan Defense, those called Tanglers, play a key part in this tactic. Using their plant manipulation magic, Tanglers set vine traps for the Impyre. Once the Fire Igniads are entrapped, the Sylvan can unmake their weapons. Without their weapons, most Engineers retreat quickly, for they lack the combat skills to fight against the Sylvan, who have been training in hand-to-hand basic fighting since they were children. Tamar’ik is a Tangler, and Elda and Arro also meet HALLE’TA of the Horse Clan, the only other Tangler in their Defense Band.
In this way, the new recruits acquire new skills and survive a few brushes with the enemy. In one such encounter, the group learns that if they let the Engineers touch them while they are trying to reach their weapons, the Igniads can steal their life energy. Jeel’in almost dies in this way. Elda learns more about her secret ability: That of the Sylvan Whisperer. Whisperers can manipulate beasts, who become Companions that can help in a fight. The band of defenders has three Whisperers, Rait’sa and her bear, ROWA’NA and her rhinoceros, and DAG’DA and his dog. Most importantly, she learns that she need not touch the animal directly to manipulate it; she can activate her ability with a claw, a fang, or even a few hairs.
While resting one evening, Elda shows Arro that not only can she use a Whisperer’s animal manipulation magic, but she can also manipulate plants to create traps. She is far more gifted than even she realized. Arro gets mad; he thinks that if she lets others know about her abilities, she will be promoted to another band of fighters and he will be left behind. He warns her not to let anyone know she can use this advanced level of magic. She argues with him, because she is convinced that her powers would do nothing but help save people’s lives. She doesn’t like the idea of hiding her powers and letting someone die, but if her abilities are discovered, she knows she could be reassigned elsewhere. She doesn’t know what to do, and she runs off to be alone and think.
The Impyre is on the move, and from her vantage point, Elda’ri sees them coming. She must race back to her band’s camp and warn them of the giant army of Engineers that is approaching. When she arrives, she warns Rait’sa and then promptly finds her brother. Elda wants to protect her brother, and she promises to keep her ability a secret so she can always stay by his side.
In the brutal fight, Elda is forced to reveal her powerful magic abilities when she comes to the aid of a few others in the band of Defenders. Arro and Elda beg for them to keep her abilities a secret.
The attack continues, and an Igniad Burner joins the fight. These are the higher ranking officers of the Impyre Army, and they can invoke and control fire. The Defender’s Tanglers try to hold off the attack, but they just don’t have enough power. When all seems lost and the band is going to be overrun, Elda makes a choice: She reveals her magical abilities to Tamar’ik, and he and Halle’ta quickly show her how to create plant shields that can block the Burner’s fire.
Thanks in part to Elda’s new Tangler powers, the small band of Defenders manages to push back the Impyre’s attack. Elda is worried that the second the fighting is over, Tamar’ik will send her off to start her own band of DEfenders. Her worries are quickly set to rest when Rait’sa thanks her for saving the band and assures her that they could surely use another Tanger in their troupe.
Since Elda can control plants, that also means she can use Whisperer abilities to manipulate beasts. Elda is permitted to take a few close friends with her to journey back into the nearby forest in search of a Companion to call her own. At first it seems that she will have to settle for becoming a Horse Whisperer (there are many horses on the Flats of the Horse Clan), but finally, when it seems they will need to return to camp, Arro helps Elda find a fox den. She finds her very own fox Companion, which she names HOPKINS, and the group returns to their camp.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Step Four: Choose a Point of View (and Tense!)

Somewhere along the writing process, every author should contemplate point of view and tense. With my last two projects I just picked a point of view and a tense subconsciously; I started writing and went with whatever felt right. But for this project, I want to be purposeful in every step of the way. I want to really contemplate the best perspective for telling the story and choose my style (point of view and tense both are big parts of a writer’s style) by consciously weighing the options.

I used to think that fantasy couldn’t be written in first person point of view and that it needed to be past tense. When I started my last project, I chose third-person limited past tense because it was fantasy and I thought the only other choice for fantasy was omniscient past tense. I wanted to be as close to my main character as possible, so I went with the better of two evils. (I wrote my first trilogy in first person present tense and I fell in love with that voice; in a way, I feel first person is still the superior option.) I was trying to make my writing fit in with what I mainly experienced with fantasy as a reader.

I worry now that it reads like something that fits in a box. And as every agent, editor, and self-editing writer knows, issues with point of view or tense are the most problematic and time consuming to edit. I worry that the project would have been better in first person present tense, for example, and that it will never be published because I can’t just fix the tense and point of view with an easy revision. I’d have to rewrite the whole book. (Yikes!)

Somewhere along the writing process? The earlier the better, in my opinion. So my Step Four is choosing the point of view and tense. But how?

Since I’m still somewhat early in this project, I feel like I could most certainly stand to get to know my characters and my world better. So I’m going to write a scene that may or may not make it into the book. This will help me really explore who my characters are and what their world is like.
While doing this, I’m going to play with the writing tense and viewpoint. I reread an old favorite of mine during this process: Self Editing for Fiction Writers (How to edit yourself into print) by Rennie Browne and Dave King. While rereading and working on this project, I was reminded of just how helpful this book was to me when I first started writing. If you don’t own a copy of Self Editing for Fiction Writers, I strongly suggest it!

Sylvan Rainforest Fantasy


Omniscient 

Present Tense

Below the floating sky city of Nebula hides the Rainforest Realm of the Sylvan. Though the land is perpetually shrouded in the cloudy Nebula’s shadow, the constant rain and natural plant magic of this realm spur the forests to grow with tall trees, plentiful berry bushes, and even keeps the fields crowded with crops below the canopy. At the heart of this Realm, the Life Tree reaches toward the skies in a sort of Living Mountain so vast, its Roots are like hills reaching out across the land.
Upon one such Root three Sylvan of the Fox Clan stride onward, intent to make it to Fox Den before nightfall. All three have fiery red hair cascading in braids down their backs, though the leader’s hair is gray at his temples. He uses his living staff as a walking stick as he treads along behind a small red fox. The boy comes next, a spear propped against his shoulder. His eyes dart from the surrounding foliage to the clouds above, ever wary. Finally, the girl brings up the rear, her thin staff strapped to her back. With her eyes down on the moss-covered Root upon which they tread and her head lost in a daydream amid the clouds, she is quickly falling behind.
“Keep up, Elda!” the boy calls after a quick glance back. “You’re too far behind again.”
“Do you need a break, child?” the man asks. He leans on his staff and waits for Elda to approach.
“I’m not tired, Uncle Drake,” Elda insists as she trudges up the Root to them.
“She just doesn’t like to hurry,” the boy Sylvan interjects with a playful sneer. His smile is so wide, he unintentionally shows off his pointy fox-canines.
“Perhaps a game will keep you interested in the task at hand,” Drake proposes as his tiny red fox joins them on the Root, rearing up on hind legs with his shiny black eyes on Drake.
“Games are too boring by myself. Arro won’t play,” Elda says. “He’s too grown up for games.”
“Not true; Elda is the one who won’t play,” Arro counters. “She’d rather put her head in the clouds. It’s easier than interacting with someone.”
Elda scoffs. It is true, but she still acts hurt to save face. She is the youngest of her Smallclan and expected to play like a child, but she’s already forty-two seasons old. In her mind, that is plenty old enough to give up on fun and games. If she is seasoned enough to join the fighting south, then she must be too old for child’s play.

First Person 

Past Tense

The sun suddenly peaked under the clouds of the flying cloud city above us, blinding my right eye. I glared away and tried to ignore the slight flutter in my gut. If the sun was already lower than Nebula, were we going to make it to Fox Den before nightfall? My brother and uncle and I had been walking all day. We left our Smallclan at Fox Hole before the sun even came up, but it seemed like the head start wouldn’t get us to safety before night fell.
“Keep up, Elda!” Arro called after a quick glance back. “You’re too far behind again.”
“Do you need a break, child?” Uncle Drake asked. He leaned on his staff as he waited for me to catch up.
“I’m not tired, Uncle Drake.” I trudged up the Root of the giant Life Tree that rose like a mountain at the epicenter of Sylva, our Rainforest Realm. I just hated walking like this, but I knew better than to complain. Arro already treated me like a child. If I started whining, who knew what he would do in response.
“She just doesn’t like to hurry,” Arro said with a playful sneer, showing off his pointy fox-canines. That was also true. It wasn’t that I was slow, but more that I didn’t like to be rushed through anything. It was easy to understand that we needed to be at Fox Den before night fell, but that didn’t mean I was about to work up a sweat to get there sooner. We had a long journey ahead of us. I couldn’t very well tire myself out on our first day.
“Perhaps a game will keep you interested in the task at hand,” Uncle Drake said as his Companion Auma reared up on his hind legs with his shiny black eyes on his Master. I wished that I could have my own fox Companion, but that was impossible. Even if I was capable of harnessing that level of magic, I wasn’t supposed to be that strong yet. It was one of the reasons why I preferred to be alone. Alone, I didn’t have to hide my true power.
“Games are too boring by myself. Arro won’t play,” I said. “He’s too grown up for games.”
“Not true; Elda is the one who won’t play,” Arro argued. “She’d rather put her head in the clouds. It’s easier than interacting with someone.”
The truth was that I wasn’t day dreaming. I was remembering. Every time I looked at that monstrosity of a tree, I couldn’t help but remember a time when I was thirty seasons old and my Smallclan journeyed to the Flitters’ Farm.

Third Person 

Present Tense

The truth is that Elda isn’t day dreaming. She’s remembering. Every time she looks at that monstrosity of a tree, she can’t help but remember a time when she was thirty seasons old and her Smallclan journeyed to the Flitters’ Farm near the Life Tree’s base.
The journey was rough on her father more than anyone, because he had been injured by a Shifter when Elda had only been a few seasons old. Elda can’t remember the attack, but she remembers the journey their Smallclan took to try and heal their father’s crippled leg.
The Flitters’ Farm is so far from home it took nearly half a season for them to walk there and back. They carried their whole entire harvest on their backs, and even young Elda was expected to help bear the burden. And in the end, it had all been for nothing. The atrocious Flitters refused to take their wheat as payment for healing their father. Flitters are vegetarian; everybody knows that. But her family hadn’t known that the Sky People refuse to eat plants that are killed when they are harvested for food.
Every time she sees the Life Tree, Elda remembers the look of disgust and loathing on the face of that tiny Flitter when they presented their wheat. The stormy thoughts make it hard to be cheerful or sociable. Though Elda isn’t the least bit thrilled with the idea of playing a game, she puts on a face and agrees anyway.
“What sort of game, Uncle Drake?” she asks.
“A racing game,” Drake suggests. “I’ll name a landmark along our path, and you two will race Auma there.” He nods at his fox Companion. “The first one there wins. You can rest while I catch up and then I’ll name another landmark.”
“What do we win?” Arro asks. Of course, he would only care about the prize for winning.
“Hmm,” Drake says as he tugs on his pointed chin. “How about the winner chooses our dinner tonight? No matter the cost, if it can be found in Fox Den, I will buy it for us.”
“I’m playing,” Elda says without hesitation. “And I’m winning.”
“We’ll just see about that,” Arro says. Her older brother is almost seventy seasons old. Standing nearly a whole head taller than Elda, he’s practically finished growing, meaning he has longer legs for running. But Elda is big for her age. She isn’t completely outmatched.
“See that berry bush a few strides along?” Drake says, tipping his staff in the right direction.
Elda takes off like a deer.
“Hey, no head starts!” Arro shouts, but Elda doesn’t stop, and Auma quickly follows after her. “Cheater,” Arro mumbles as he races after them.

Third Person 

Past Tense

The truth was that Elda wasn’t day dreaming. She was remembering. Every time she looked at that monstrosity of a tree, she couldn’t help but remember a time when she was thirty seasons old and her Smallclan journeyed to the Flitters’ Farm near the Life Tree's base.
The journey was rough on her father more than anyone, because he had been injured by a Shifter when Elda had only been a few seasons old. Elda couldn’t remember the attack, but she remembered the journey their Smallclan took to try and heal their father’s crippled leg.
The Flitters’ Farm was so far from home it had taken nearly half a season for them to walk there and back. They had carried their whole entire harvest on their backs, and even young Elda had been expected to help bear the burden. And in the end, it had all been for nothing. The atrocious Flitters had refused to take their wheat as payment for healing their father. Flitters were vegetarian; everybody knew that. But her family hadn’t known that the Sky People refused to eat plants that were killed when they were harvested for food.
Every time she saw the Life Tree, Elda remembered the look of disgust and loathing on the face of that tiny Flitter when they had presented their wheat. The stormy thoughts made it hard to be cheerful or sociable. Though Elda wasn’t the least bit thrilled with the idea of playing a game, she put on a face and agreed anyway.
“What sort of game, Uncle Drake?” she asked.
“A racing game,” Drake suggested. “I’ll name a landmark in our path, and you two will race Auma there.” He nodded at his fox Companion. “The first one there wins. You can rest while I catch up and then I’ll name another landmark.”
“What do we win?” Arro asked. Of course, he would only care about the prize for winning.
“Hmm,” Drake said as he tugged on his pointed chin. “How about the winner chooses our dinner tonight? No matter the cost, if it can be found in Fox Den, I will buy it for us.”
“I’m playing,” Elda said without hesitation. “And I’m winning.”
“We’ll just see about that,” Arro said. Her older brother was almost seventy seasons old. Standing nearly a whole head taller than Elda, he was practically finished growing, meaning he had longer legs for running. But Elda was big for her age. She wasn’t completely outmatched.
“See that berry bush a few strides along?” Drake said, tipping his staff in the right direction.
Elda took off like a deer.
“Hey, no head starts!” Arro shouted, but Elda didn’t stop, and Auma quickly followed after her. “Cheater,” Arro mumbled as he raced after them.

First Person 

Present Tense

Even with the head start, my sister only barely beats me to the bush. “That’s one!” she calls out with a cock-sure tilt of her head. “Where next?”
Uncle Drake takes his time catching up to us, all the while scanning the crest of the Life Root for likely targets. I, on the other hand, keep my eyes on the sky and the darkening crevices below us where the Root meets the earth. Elda might call me paranoid, but Uncle Drake would say I’m cautious, and rightfully so. Shadows can be anywhere, and I know full well how much they hate us Sylvans.
“The sentinel pine,” Uncle Drake says with a tilt of his staff, and Elda is already on the run, but I’m right behind her. And I’m faster. With quick strides I stay just behind her nearly the whole way to the pine tree growing right out of the Life Root. When Elda skirts around a large bush, I stretch my long legs and hurdle over it. Just like that, I’m in front of her.
I nearly reach the tree when I see it: something in the shade below us moves. It’s subtle, but I saw what I saw. I instantly pull out my spear and stand at the ready, the game forgotten.
“You let me win!” Elda complains, and I glance up to see her lips turned down in a snarl. “It’s no fun if you don’t try!”
I shake my head. “Shadows, El,” I say under my breath, pointing down the small ravine with my spear.
Elda loosens the bo staff on her back. “Uncle!” she calls, then she squeezes close to me and hisses, “Where?”
I point again, but even I don’t see it any more. Maybe I spooked it into hiding. Or the movement I saw was the Shadow running away. Half the time they’re cowardly, and there’s three of us. We’d probably already be dead if it wasn’t a single Shadow.
My spear feels heavy in my hand all the same. I fight to hold my weapon steady while behind our backs Uncle Drake quickly catches up to us. When he reaches us, he puts himself between us and the ravine and looks down warily, one hand on his staff and the other on Elda’s shoulder.
“Let’s keep moving, and stay together.” He gestures for me to go first.
“Does this mean the game is over?” Elda asks as I step in front of her and lead on, stumbling slightly on the uneven Root beneath my boots.
“I’m afraid so, child,” Uncle Drake says.
“Fine by me,” Elda retorts. “I’m choosing dinner!”
I roll my eyes as I hurry along the Root.

Omniscient 

Past Tense

The two young Sylvan raced for the bush, but given the head start, Elda reached it right before her older brother.
“That’s one!” Elda called out, very pleased with herself. “Where next?”
Drake followed after the youngsters, all the while scanning the crest of the Life Root for another landmark for their game. Beside the bush, Arro kept a watchful eye on the sky and the shadowy ridge below, where the Root of the Life Tree melded into shadow before becoming solid earth.
“The sentinel pine,” Uncle Drake said with a tilt of his staff, and Elda led the way, Arro right behind. With quick strides and longer legs, Arro easily kept up, and when she sidled around a bush, he leaped over it and passed her by.
Below them, the noise startled a Shifter who had been dozing under the pleasant shade of a poplar. Still groggy from waking suddenly, the Shifter leaped to her feet and nearly ran. But just before she gave away her location, she managed to calm down and stay still in the shadows, where she was invisible and safe.
“You let me win!” It was a young girl’s voice. “It’s no fun if you don’t try!”
The Shifter turned toward the sound to see a small boy pointing his spear almost directly at her. He was a fox-Sylvan, she could tell, because he had fox-red hair and pointy ears. She had to remind herself that she was invisible if she didn’t move.
Beside the boy, a fox-girl loosened the bo staff on her back. “Uncle!” she called, then she squeezed close to the boy and hissed something in his ear.
The boy pointed again with his spear. The Shifter felt the hair on her neck stand up, but she fought the instinct to run.
Finally, the older Sylvan reached the younger two. When he held up his staff, the Shifter almost bolted. But soon enough, the threesome decided to move on, and the Shifter sighed with relief.
It was only after the danger was over that the Shifter noticed the fox that followed along behind the old fox-man; the Sylvan was one of the Stray Swayers who controlled animals with his magic. The Shifter glared at his back. Unlike the Stray Swayers, the Shifters had true animal Companions, not prisoners or slaves who were coerced at best, and forced at worst, to do as their Stray Swayers commanded.  “Come, Theaba,” the Shifter whispered and the shadow beside her stirred. The Shifter put her hand on her feline Companion and slowly she shifted into the form of a panther. The two felines slinked after the Sylvans, careful to stay in the shadows.


Author Commentary:

Again, my purpose for writing this is to help me decide which point of view would serve me best while doing this project. As a result, my writing is not completely up to par. I’m ignoring any possible issues with craft and focusing instead on how the different points of view and tense brought out different versions of the story and gave it a much different feel.

The first part of the scene is much different in omniscient PoV than in first person. I managed to include some details about the world in first person, but it felt forced. Why would Elda be thinking about the name of her Realm or pay enough attention to the Root she was walking on to let me adequately inform the readers about these details of my fantasy world? Even though it was a challenge to build the world of my story, I could more easily build the world of my character. She feels like a real person as she thinks very real (though potentially confusing) thoughts about her day-to-day life. The opening in omniscient PoV isn’t my best writing, I’ll admit, but I can’t deny how easy it was to describe where my characters were or what they looked like. I was also able to give the reader a general idea of why the threesome is journeying south: to join the fighting. In this PoV I felt like a camera with a built-in mind-reading device, able to zoom out and give a panoramic description of my world, or zoom in to give a close-up of my character. That freedom was very refreshing.

The middle part of the scene transitions to third person PoV. I was really playing with the tense during this section. I chose to use the same PoV for both my first and second attempt at the scene, because I was delving into backstory. In this way, I really noticed how awkward present tense storytelling with backstory can really be.

In present tense, the story is happening right now, meaning the reader is following the character around as the story happens. In first person PoV, the reader is privy to the character’s thoughts as the story unfolds. This makes traditional backstory impossible, in my opinion, because the character isn’t going to stop what she’s doing to ponder her past, just to give the reader some much-needed backstory. Characters will think about their past every now and then, but those sorts of thoughts would be so fleeting and confusing. If I had written part two in first person, it would have had a completely different focus. I maybe would have needed to use dialogue to get the same backstory to come out, and why would the characters suddenly start talking about their childhood memories while walking? Normal people don’t deeply ponder their pasts in organized ways or strike up conversations about their pasts. Not unless they know they’re telling a story, and that’s when first person present tense can start to feel weird, like you are somehow sharing a psychic link with the main character.

What I really want to focus on with the second part of this little scene is the tense shift. In present tense, I had to concentrate really hard to make sure I didn’t break tense while writing backstory. It even feels slightly unnatural, going back and reading it. There might be mistakes in the tense. But in past-tense, the backstory flows more naturally. It doesn’t once feel broken or awkward. This could explain why writers usually use past tense, and why they often use third-person point of view too.

Let’s take a look at the last part of this scene. Inside Arro’s head, the reader gets a better feel of the action and inner thought process, and even how real the danger is. It was moderately intense to be locked in Arro’s head and not know what was watching him. But with the omniscient PoV, the reader can really see the danger. As a floating camera above the scene, I could choose to go down the ridge of the Root and take a closer look at what Arro thought he saw, and the result is more tension. The reader knows now that Shifters can hide in shadows, that they have beasts who fight alongside them like real Companions, not slaves, and even understands why the Shifters are fighting the Sylvans. That truth could very well come out naturally later, and make for a great reveal for the end of the story, but with omniscient PoV I can bring it out now and increase the tension.

Well, now I have to make a decision. What PoV should I write this fantasy in? Now that I’ve really explored all the options, I am so glad that I did! I have a feel for why so many writers write in past tense, and use third person PoV, as a sort of balance between two extremes. I can’t help but admit that I am leaning toward this choice just because it offers the most flexibility (and not coincidentally, it was the PoV I chose for my last fantasy project.)

But if I wanted to, I could get nearly all the details from each of these attempts to come into my final version of the story. How, you might be wondering?

I could use a flowing omniscient/third person point of view combination to portray the main character at a camp fire with her grandchildren in the present. The older and wiser versions of Elda and Arro could tell the story to their grandchildren in first person point of view using past tense. Backstory would be peppered in wherever it made sense to tell more about their past. (I could even have a grandchild ask a prudent question to prompt the grandmother to explain something more.) I could also use the main character or just use the omniscient narrator to share commonly known traditions or happenings from other places of the world.

The only problem with this idea is the obvious one: if the main characters are in mortal peril, the reader will never truly be afraid for them, because they obviously survive to tell the story to their grandchildren. It gives the whole story a light-hearted feel. If that’s okay with me, then I could tell the actual story in first person past tense. I could work all the backstory naturally into the story and still use present tense to show the characters gathered around the fire for story time. I could use a combination of all three points of view and both tenses.

I have a feeling this sort of storytelling has been done before, and for some reason it feels very old fashioned. I honestly can’t think of any stories that have been told like this. And I certainly have never read a book like this first hand. Have you? Please share them in the comments section. It might be refreshing to have an old-fashioned sort of style of writing come back again, a sort of new twist on an old style. Or it could be an awful idea, and I might ultimately decide to go with a standard and boring route to keep it safe. I’m still pondering.

Thank you for reading my rambling thoughts! I hope they were insightful enough that you might ponder these choices the next time you start a project, instead of just choosing what feels natural and jumping right into the writing process.


This has been another glimpse at A.C.’s Desk.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Step Three: Story Outline (Plot your Novel!)

To be blunt, outlining doesn’t stifle your creativity. Sit down and actually try out the outline I’m going to share with you, and you will find that you have to be very creative to think of story events that fit into each stage of your book. On top of that, it’s just an outline. The real work (and creativity!) comes from actually writing the darn thing. The outline will serve more as a backbone for your writing so that it can stand up straight instead of crumple under the weight of all those extra unnecessary scenes and plot holes you’ve likely been writing without even realizing it. (Yes, even I am guilty of this. If you don’t believe me, go check out the preview of my self-published book In My Head on Amazon.)

I also want to give some kudos to the writing resources that I used to create my story outline process. I already introduced Victoria Lynn Schmidt’s 45 Master Characters in my last post, in which I created a few of the characters for my current project. This book has a section in the back for plotting a novel. I absolutely love how she breaks the three acts of a story into 9 manageable stages. She even has a feminine journey and a masculine journey which gives you two different plot structure choices. I use “he” and “hero” when drawing inspiration from the masculine journey, and I use “she” and “heroine” when elaborating using the feminine journey.

I stumbled upon Tara Maya’s video “How to Magically Outline Your Novel … (So It Practically Writes Itself)” and I have to admit that her stages of a story also ring true for me. Her video also does a great job of explaining why writers should use outlines. The video is at the end of this Hub. I decided to try something new, so I went with her general outline for this post, but with a twist.

I decided to try and elaborate on each stage in the journey using the 45 Master Characters journeys. In this post, you will find each of Tara’s stages with a blurb written by me, explaining what I would do with that stage in general. (Then below, I also share a pretty generic description of my specific project, stage by stage.)

Act 1:

Opening micro-conflict (mini version of overall conflict)

This stage of a story doesn’t have a counterpart in either the feminine or masculine journey. It’s the only stage that doesn’t seem to cross over in a significant way. In her video Tara explains that her outline is adapted from a screenwriting outline. Now the lack of a cross over makes sense. Movies start with micro-conflicts! Just think of your favorite movie. There is probably a micro-conflict that gets the viewers in on the action immediately (especially if it’s an action flick). My example here is the second Avengers Movie: Age of Ultron. The movie opens with the whole gang in the middle of a mission. And because movies are structured this way (and we are pretty darn used to getting thrown into the action immediately) authors have taken to opening their novels with micro-conflict too. Use this stage to hint at the overall conflict of your book by creating that same conflict on a much smaller scale. This is also a great opportunity to show that your character is proactive, and to build up an expectation of what your main conflict in your book will be.

Daily Life before transformation (The perfect world)

The masculine journey begins with the Perfect World. We see the hero in his daily life and probably get a good hint about the theme of the story. Your main character (especially if he’s masculine) will likely be facing one of three societal issues in this stage: Performing, Providing, or Protecting. Essentially, the world he lives in will be pushing him to fit into a neat little box. Maybe he already conformed, and he’s not happy about it. This stage can be a chance to show why the character needs to go on his journey in the first place.

Opportunity for change (The Betrayal or Realization OR The Call)

I like to think of this stage from both the feminine and the masculine standpoint. The hero might feel called to take action. Maybe a brief run-in with the villain surprises the hero, or maybe the hero realizes what his goal should be, and he sees a chance to change his life. He could receive an order from his boss, or get put on the path through some sort of belief or misstep.
With the feminine journey the opportunity for change is really more of an opportunity rather than a challenge or order. Oftentimes feminine characters have been living a life with some sort of coping strategy. (There are five different ones, and if that is interesting to you, I strongly suggest you get the book!) By now, the coping strategy will prove to be useless. She might realize that she wants something more out of life, or she might feel betrayed by society, by herself, or by the villain. This is called the inciting incident. The character will respond to this stage differently depending on her coping strategy.

Resistance to the opportunity (The illusion of a perfect world)

In Tara’s plot outline the character resists the change. This is natural, in that most people are slow to change in real life. For this reason, I have related this stage to the Illusion of a Perfect World from the feminine journey. This is where the character’s coping strategy comes in. (In 45 Master Characters, this stage comes before the last stage, but I could easily see how the two could be switched. For one, resisting change is natural. After realizing there is a chance for change, it makes sense to revert that that coping mechanism and say “No thanks, I’ll just keep my simple easy life, thanks.”) I think it’s worth noting that if the heroine’s daily life is perfect, then there’s no reason for her to avoid giving up and returning to the perfect world. That’s why it’s an Illusion of the Perfect World. There must be something about this place that makes it so the heroine can’t quite function – and wouldn’t want to stay once she realizes that her life could take a different route.

Point of no return (Awakening – preparing for the journey)

The heroine has come to a harsh realization about her life. She might have been betrayed or challenged to go after what she really wants. She makes the decision to change her life and pushes herself toward a concrete goal. This stage is purely feminine, and in case you were wondering, it is her turning point, which happens at the beginning of the feminine journey. (Don’t worry, this full outline creates a multi-climactic story.) This is a great time for the heroine to gather her weapons or tools and prepare for her journey. The more active you can make your protagonist during this stage the better, because making that first step toward change is a big deal!

Act 2:

Entering the new situation (Small Success)

The hero has answered the call and started out on his journey. As your hero enters into his new situation, this is a great time to show him having a small success. He may have received warnings before he set out on his journey, but he ignored them and has already had some small measure of success in spite of them. He knows he can succeed where others have failed. He doesn’t want to sit back and examine things. He wants to take action.

Meeting friends, enemies, romance; Transformative Experiences (Friends and Enemies AND Invitations)

This stage combines two from the 45 Master characters, so it’s rather beefy. Your hero will meet new friends and enemies, or if he already knows them, they will fully enter the story here. This is a chance to introduce some side characters and possibly start a subplot for your book. You should really show the hero shine when he interacts with these new characters. Show his character traits – both good and bad.
The idea of Transformative Experiences made me think of Invitations, the fifth stage of the masculine journey from 45 Master Characters. This stage is masculine, but it involves inviting the hero to go down the feminine journey. He is essentially given a chance to give up on his outward goal and go through an inner transformation. Even though the invitation is extended, the hero will likely ignore it, walk away, and continue on his path. But the fact that the invitation is given will remind readers of that theme you set up all the way back in Act One.

Problem brings them together (Eye of the Storm)

In this stage (also called the Eye of the Storm), the heroine feels a false sense of security. She is surrounded by her allies and probably getting ready to go after her goal. Or maybe she has faced her fears and changed her life by entering the new situation, and she feels like the journey is over. This stage brings to mind a movie montage of happiness and hope. Maybe the characters are training together in preparation for defeating the villain. This stage can end with the heroine taking a risk she shouldn’t take, while the villain watches and schemes away.

Problem drives them apart (The Descent)

In this stage a small problem drives the heroine’s allies to abandon her as she nears the point of descent into the main conflict of the story. Now that the heroine has made a life-changing decision, she has to face the changes this decision brings. With the Descent, the heroine will face her fears alone. She can face seven different issues during this stage, each one corresponding to the seven chakras. (These issues are summarized briefly as survival, sexuality, willpower, love, self-expression, intuition, and self-awareness. If you want to know more, again, buy the book!) Ultimately, the hero must give up all control during this stage and surrender herself or her weapons. She must confront her issues without putting up a brave face.

Crisis Hits (Support)

This stage doesn’t quite have a nice tie in to the journeys in 45 Master Characters. I imagine that if the villain is initiating the final conflict of the novel here, then the heroine would gather her weapons and her allies together to offer her support. As the crisis hits, she would willingly accept help from others. This can be the event that brings everyone back together after the small problem that drove them apart. Very often, these supporting characters have problems of their own, and she can let them make amends for leaving her by helping her now and accepting her help in return.

Act 3:

Terrible secret is revealed / attack starts (Trials)

Stage 6 of the masculine journey is called Trials. The hero faces more obstacles that must be overcome if he is to reach his goal. The terrible secret that is revealed could help hint that the hero is going to change when he reaches his turning point. This is a great time to push your hero into that change.

All seems lost (Death – All is Lost)

The villain is back with a vengeance. This stage is like a reversal that ends with a dark moment when all seems lost. During the crisis, we saw the heroine’s inner conflict. Now it’s time to show her outer, plot-driven conflict.

Self-sacrifice or symbolic death (Death – A fork in the Road)

Here, the hero reaches the fork in the road where he must debate his options: change and find success or face death and failure. He can face his real or symbolic death and continue down the path of awakening, or he can rage against death and take the path of rebellion, and fail to reach his goal. If he takes the feminine descent, he may lose sight of his goal for a moment, but he will be changed by the experience. His tools are failing him, and his plan is falling apart. He’s shown courage up to this point, and now he may have to use his brain or follow his heart.

Final showdown (Awaken or Rebel AND the Moment of Truth)

Here is that classic turning point, when the hero faces off against the villain and realizes his true purpose in life. He becomes the active creator of what he truly wants for himself in this stage. It is the moment of truth, when the heroine has found her strength and resolve and goes after her goal with a passion. She has reclaimed her weapons and her identity and realizes that she was the creator of her own fear. She acts out of power and truth and takes the final steps to show her transformation. She now embodies the opposite of her former coping strategy.

Conclusion – Wed or Dead (Victory or Failure AND Full Circle)

If the hero chose to awaken, he now finds victory and rewards. If the hero chose to rebel and rage against death, he now finds failure and death (literal or symbolic). He has the courage and knowledge to face any challenge the villain may throw at him, and he triumphs! Then she returns home to see just how far she’s come. She sees her old life for what it is. Thanks to her journey, this world is changed somehow, which might bring her to choose someone else to go on the journey next. Most often, the person she was closest to before she awakened on her journey will be the one who is influenced by her transformation and will hear the call to change as well. Give your reader a sense of satisfaction that the heroine was successful and accomplished her goal.


Act 1:

Opening micro-conflict (mini version of overall conflict)

Elda’ri, Arro’way, and Drake are attacked by a small band of Shifters. Elda’ri and Arro’way both help defend their possessions and their lives. Elda asks Drake about closing Chakras that are open. She needs to know if she can hide that she has reached Fourth Chakra already.

Daily Life before transformation (The perfect world)

Elda’ri and Arro’way are on their way to the heart of Fox Clan to meet the Whisperer who will bring them south to Bear Clan, where the Sylvan are fighting against the Impyre. Elda and Arro play a game, meditate, and travel across the northern region of Sylva.

Opportunity for change (The Betrayal or Realization OR The Call)

At Fox Clan they meet Rait’sa and she assesses them both. Backstory on how Elda helped Arro unlock his second Chakra.

Resistance to the opportunity (The illusion of a perfect world)

Rait’sa says she won’t bring Arro’way along. He’s too green, even though he’s older than his sister. Arro insists he is ready, and Elda says she won’t go without her brother.

Point of no return (Awakening – preparing for the journey)

Rait’sa gives Arro a test to gauge if he really is ready for the Impyre. He passes and she takes the two siblings to a Porter and they dimension walk to the southern border.

Act 2:

Entering the new situation (Small Success)

Elda and Arro come to their new camp. They only barely get settled in when reports come in of an Impyre attack. Elda helps take out a gunner and a leecher (Arbiter and Initiate, respectively). Arro almost gets himself killed, but manages to get away, though the Igniads do so as well.

Meeting friends, enemies, romance; Transformative Experiences (Friends and Enemies AND Invitations)

Introduce some fun supporting characters. The enemy is clear, but they will learn more about them in this chapter. Elda will be invited to reveal her secret, but she will resist the urge.

Problem brings them together (Eye of the Storm)

Training montage. Develop side characters!

Problem drives them apart (The Descent)

Characters’ flaws push each other away. Elda and Arro both face at least one issue.

Crisis Hits (Support)

Their defense line gets attacked.

Act 3:


Terrible secret is revealed / attack starts (Trials)

They fight. Elda is forced to use her Whisperer ability to gain the aid from a beast so she can save herself or her brother or both. Only a few close friends see it, and she asks them to keep it a secret.

All seems lost (Death – All is Lost)

A Burner (Invoker Commander of the Impyre with fire magic) joins the fray. The siblings’ fire infusions are useless against him.

Self-sacrifice or symbolic death (Death – A fork in the Road)

Elda tells their commander Rait’sa about her true abilities, so that as many people as possible will survive this attack.

Final showdown (Awaken or Rebel AND the Moment of Truth)

Elda awakens to her Changer powers and takes on aspects of (this beast). She defeats the Invoker, and along with her friends’ help, they push back the Impyre attack.

Conclusion – Wed or Dead (Victory or Failure AND Full Circle)

Everyone is impressed with Elda. She worries that she won’t be a true member of the Defense Band now, but Rait’sa insists that Elda is too young to lead her own Band, and she just got here. Why would she go home now? Elda and Arro get to stay together on the front lines until he can go home.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Step Two: Creating Compelling Characters

Here is Step Two in my creative process, with a commentary to follow. If you missed Step One, please check it out HERE first.

These are two characters for my current fantasy project, set in the realm of Sylva, the Forest Realm of Pangaia. In Step One I laid out my process for creating the fantasy world. Now it's time to start populating it with some compelling characters.

Yarroway of the Fox Clan (Sylvan Splitter):


Overview (Age, sex, title):

Yarroway (M) is a boy of seventeen. His friends and family call him Oway. He has just unlocked his Second Chakra and ascended to the level of Splitter. He must leave his home and begin his adult life on the southern border, defending his Realm from the Impyre.

Description:

Oway is fair of skin with long braided red hair and fox-like pointed ears. He has freckles on his nose and a wide smile that accentuates his canines. He is somewhat short, but makes up for it with his speed. He is lean but with wiry muscles. He wears leather jerkins over orange cloth tunics, thick brown cloth breeches, and tanned leather boots that reach his calves. He fights with a fire spear. He is fast and agile and stronger than he looks.

Personality Traits: (Archetype)

Oway is the Protector Archetype: Ares. He lives in his body instead of his head. Physical activity makes him feel alive. In a way, he lives on ‘eggshells’ feeling like everyone is out to get him. (This clashes nicely with Rait.) He is a ticking time bomb, but he is also fiercely loyal and protective. He can make women feel special and cared for. From an archetypal standpoint, Ares tends to avoid thinking about the future and is more in the now, ready for the next adventure. He likes to take risks. He cares about his family, and in his eye, the best way to protect them is to go off to the battlefield as soon as possible, so that he can come home to them sooner. He will fight for a good cause when others would give up.

Objective:

Survival is the basic objective, but he does have a goal beyond that: to prove himself to the Whisperer who has come to bring him to the fight.

Motivation: Why the character cares about the objective. What will be gained?

Yarroway knows that if he impresses the Whisperer, the commander is sure to make certain he receives more training. Oway’s long term goal is to be able to return home to his Clan one day, to see his sister again and take his mate. His goal is to become a Whisperer as soon as possible, and then impress the Demutator so that he can become a Changer. Then he will be free to leave the battleground and return home to take on a leadership role within his Clan.

Stakes: The consequences of not gaining the objective. Create suspense.

There are many stakes. For one, if Oway cannot learn to be a Splitter, he will not fair well in battle against the Impyre. He could die if he does not learn to harness his new power. But he needs to not only survive, but to stand out, so that he can begin training to become a Whisperer. He will need the added protection of a beast to fight alongside him. He will need to ascend the ranks as quickly as possible, so that he doesn’t instead become a pawn on the battlefield who cannot ever make it home.
Oway fears not being able to protect the ones he loves and cares about. He would hate to fail and have someone get hurt because of it. He hates using his mind too much, and would prefer to jump to the physical solution to every problem that arises.

Obstacles: Inner and External. Set up the journey.

Oway’s new powers have only recently manifested. He hasn’t had enough time to train with his mentor before the Whisperer came for him. He is green. He has been fighting to protect the Clan village for some time, but has no experience in any real battles, only a few skirmishes in which he wasn’t the deciding factor in victory. He has fought against Eran Flitters, but who hasn’t? He has fended off an attack from a Shapeshifter or two, but that is not entirely special in and of itself. He is overly aware of his own lack of experience in a real fight. He needs experience, but what if seeking the very thing he needs puts him in a position where he is over his head and unable to do what needs to be done? He can’t put himself into harm’s way if he can’t get himself out of it. Would it be worse to be rescued by the Whisperer who brings him south, or to die trying to prove himself?

Oway needs to learn to use his mind as well as his body, to sit still and meditate, and to hold his temper. Above all else, he needs to learn self-control; he needs to stop taking risks. He needs to learn to defend himself by assessing a situation before reacting.

Backstory:

When he was a kid, Oway’s parents were both hurt in a Beast Tribe attack by the Rootless Wanderers. They are living now, though his father is crippled and his mother is scarred from the attack. He saw them both get hurt and was unable to help them. He wasn’t strong enough to protect them.

Oway has been trained by Mandrake (Drake for short) a middle-aged Sylvan of the Fox Clan who has served his time and was offered retirement to settle down and start a family back home. He is a distant uncle to Oway, and has a daughter that has caught Oway’s eye. Oway wants nothing more than to prove himself to Drake so he can win Juniper’s hand in marriage and start a Smallclan of his own.

Character Flaws:

Oway will physically react to an attack without thinking. He lives life on edge, always acting as if he is fighting for his survival. He can’t take anything lightly because of it. He can’t think things through well enough to see the consequences of his actions. He believes that those who hurt him (or his loved ones) deserve to be hurt. He will attack a Rootless Wanderer if he sees one, even if it is not the one who hurt his parents, and even if the Shapeshifter tries to run and isn’t attacking them.

Relationships:

The Whisperer is Rait, a female of the Bear Clan, who has a Bear Companion that she rides. She is immediately unimpressed with Oway’s thin weak body and his Clan, which is known for its trickery and lack of brute strength. He feels he must prove himself to her, especially because she seems painfully aware of how green he is. She urges him to stay with his Clan for another season to train and prepare himself before coming south, but he won’t listen because he is determined to prove himself and doesn’t like it when others tell him what to do. He was born a fighter and will die a fighter. He is too impulsive to think about the right course of action.

The other new Splitters are either impressed with his intensity and passion, or are unimpressed with his thickheaded bullishness. But Oway doesn’t care what others think, as long as he is free to react in the moment and enjoy himself. Oway would rather intimidate his new companions than make friends; he wants to show them the dark need for battle that lurks behind his eyes. In this area, Oway really needs to learn to become a protector, not just a fighter.



Rait of the Bear Clan (Sylvan Whisperer):


Overview (Age, sex, and title):

Rait (F) is a Whisperer of the Bear Clan. She is old and wise enough to protect herself and others, and for some reason she has remained a Whisperer for many years beyond what is considered normal. She is in her mid-thirties and will most likely never settle down and have cubs of her own. She is married to battle.

Description:

Rait is fierce. She has a bearskin cloak that she uses to control her Companion Ursa, who is always by her side. She often rides Ursa into battle, but if need be, she can allow Ursa to defend her while she takes on an attack stance with her own bear claws, which are the natural aspect of her Clan. She also has fangs, but she doesn’t fight with them unless necessary. Rait wears hard leather subligar with knee-high leather boots. She keeps her dark hair short. She fights with both brute force and agility.

Personality Traits: (Archetype)

Rait is the Nurturer: Demeter Archetype. I picked this archetype for her because the Nurturer naturally cares about the children under her care. She will put others ahead of herself, especially if those others are children. She may bestow amazing gifts to her newly assigned Splitters under her care. She has been living on eggshells her whole adult life (so to speak) always worrying about what other people need before examining her own feelings. She is driven to help people, is extremely helpful, and is a great listener. She is generous and committed. She misses her home, but she will not allow herself to return until she completes the journey south with a group of young Splitters and reaches her destination without a single loss of life.

Objective:

To bring all the newest Splitters to the front lines alive and teach them a thing or two along the way.

Motivation: Why the character cares about the objective. What will be gained?

Rait cares about completing her task because as the Nurturer, she longs for love and belonging. She knows that the new Splitters under her care will care for her too. This particular job (bringing new Splitters south) is of extra interest to her because she remembers her first voyage and all the new Splitters who died along the way. Since she has started bringing groups of Splitters south, she has always vowed to do so without a single death.

Stakes: The consequences of not gaining the objective. Create suspense.

Rait’s whole identity and reason to live depends upon caring for others. She will protect those under her care, even at the risk of destroying their independence and even if she is protecting them from a danger that doesn’t really exist. She cares about not letting a single Splitter die, and every time she fails, she refuses to retire. She must have at least one trip south without a single death, or she will not consider herself accomplished in the ways of her Clan, and she will not settle down to have her own family.

Obstacles: Inner and External. Set up the journey.

Rait has to learn to let go of her attachment to her young Splitters and find her own identity. She needs to learn that being alone sometimes can be refreshing. Above all else, she needs to accept that it is time to return to her Clan. She needs to let go of her need to make a perfect journey south and instead, let others take her place and complete this task in her stead.

On the other hand, there are plenty of external obstacles in the way. She has to get a group of young Splitters to trust her enough to follow her orders blindly. She must trust herself and her own instincts in order to gain their trust, and this is a big obstacle for her. She worries constantly and second-guesses herself, and so when others second-guess her (especially the youngsters) she bristles easily and is very defensive. She knows the best ways South. She knows the dangerous areas and the safe passages. She knows that every journey is different and that there are certain things you can’t predict, but she is the best Whisperer in the Realm. She was made for this task, and she only needs to prove it to herself.

Backstory:

Rait has lost at least one Splitter in every band of youngsters she’s brought South. That is nine Sylvan altogether. She can’t help but feel guilty about them all. She still sees them in her sleep and her mind wanders to them during her daydreams. She sees them in the young ones she has currently under her care. She can’t let herself forget them.

Rait is most haunted by her own young journey south. She was on the journey with her best friend, who unlocked the second Chakra after she did. Her friend’s Chakra opened barely a moon before their journey south, and Rait is convinced that if her friend had had more time to train and prepare, she might have survived. Rait has a tendency to say “no” to recruits that are this green, to suggest they take another season to gain some familiarity with their powers before they journey south. She tries to say no to Oway for this reason.

Character Flaws:

Rait has fallen into a devastating depression over the deaths of the Splitters under her care when journeying South. She takes all the guilt upon herself, she can’t help it. Grief has consumed her to the point that others around her are suffering too. She needs to be needed, and so she continues to accept this tough job of bringing Splitters South. Rait hates quiet time, and must always be actively doing something, whether it’s training the new recruits, hunting for provisions, setting up camp, or going over resources to plan the next day’s tasks. She always joins the youngsters at the fire at night and though she doesn’t keep to herself, she doesn’t engage in idle chit chat either. She is constantly trying to teach her youngsters useful lessons.

Relationships:

Rait and Oway do not get along. She sees a bullheaded kid who will get himself, and other members of their group, killed. She fights to exclude him from the journey and leave him behind with his Clan for another season. She babies him when he won’t give in and demands to join her group. She overworks him in her effort to prepare him for the worst. She fails to see a leader in him because of all his flaws, and she fails to see his potential, or let him prove himself.

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Commentary by A.C:


I love creating characters. It's why I write! Story ideas and fantasy worlds may entice or inspire me, but characters keep me going. They are what brings a story to life, in my opinion. So I have always endeavored to create compelling characters who jump off the page. To do that, I have used Victoria Lynn Schmidt's 45 Master characters for quite a while, and I swear on her book. If characters are hard for you, or even if they aren't, consider looking up her book HERE. These are the archetypes I mention, and they have proven time and again to help me create original characters who feel like living breathing people.

I have also tried something new and organized the information according to Ellen Brock's Eight Steps to Create Interesting and Complex Characters. Check out her video HERE. While this didn't so much help me with the content of my character sketches, it did help me organize them nicely.

Behind the Archetype


To be upfront, I didn't really create any of the characteristics described here (besides the physical description). Most of this is adapted straight from Victoria's wonderful book, but tailored to fit the fantasy world that I have created and know so well. The beauty of that book is that each archetype is fully realized, though the layout is different than Ellen's Eight Steps. Simplifying the information into eight categories helped me zero in and really use the archetypes with purpose. It was interesting to see how the two strategies complemented each other.

For Yarroway (who quickly became Oway) I have chosen Ares, the Warrior. I knew Oway would need to be a fighter early on, but that didn't necessarily mean he needed to be this archetype. What helped me decide to go for this seemingly cliche choice was all that archetype's flaws. I wanted Oway to be confident in his fighting ability even though he was somewhat inexperienced. I wanted him to be charismatic so he could hold the reader's attention, and so he could inspire Rait to finally obtain her true goal and be able to forgive herself and go home to her Clan. To do that, I knew I needed an archetype with a compelling reason to fight. Hence Oway's backstory, which walked right off the pages of 45 Master Characters.

Rait was originally going to be the Amazon archetype. She's a fighter too, right? But I quickly rethought her actual role in the story and decided that she should be the true main character. I want her story arc to sizzle! I picked the Nurturer then, because I knew that someone who protects and fights is compelling, but someone who protects children and fights to keep them safe is even more so. I wanted her to have a good reason for what she was doing with her life, and I wanted to give her something to reach for, even if subconsciously. This eventually grew to become a middle-aged woman who has thrown away her own chances of having children in order to protect others' kids. This became Rait, the she-bear who will defend her surrogate cubs with a ferocity that is both terrifying and beautiful. And in the end, it is Oway who will show her that her real life has yet to begin, and she need not put it off any longer.


A Note on How I Name My Characters


Naming characters is a tricky thing. I started typing this entry and immediately went for my Magical Book of Names by Phoenix McFarland, a compendium of many many wonderful names from all over the world. In this case, I opened to the middle and started flipping pages until I came across the section of magical names from the green man's garden. In a Realm based on plant life, this rang true for me. 

My character's names are never safe from the revision process, but in the meantime I know I need to call them something. I picked Yarroway, because it was a name that I wanted to use for another character in my Code Chronicles, but which I had to change. It is a variation on Yarrow, a root used for protection and courage. The meaning is there, even if the sound of the name doesn't have the right feel for me down the road.

I found Rait on the next page. It is a Druid name associated with Brambles and Myrtle, which is a very old and powerful magical name. Rait is an older woman's name, a name of someone who has the wisdom to know when to be silent and the will to keep it. Again, the meaning is nice, but I'm not sure if I like the sound of it. Nevertheless, my Magical Book of Names has proven helpful as always.

Thank you for reading!

With hopes to inspire and shamelessly plug some fantastic books on writing,
This has been another glimpse at A.C.'s desk!