Tag Archives: howIwrite

Returning to a Ghost

I stopped writing things in the No Man’s Land series after Ryan died. He was one of my beta readers, and the one who cheered me on; he asked the questions, laughed at the jokes, talked to me about the latest plot and idea. He was the one I’d email at 3am with a story.  And I miss him so, so much, even eight months on.

But I did some organising this week, and hauled out all my half-finished short stories…and amongst them are six No Man’s world ones (well, No Man’s Land – they’re mostly about Ghost, because I love her). And I want to finish them. I started reading them, just to remind myself. It hurts, still. But that’s now being tempered with the love for writing, and the characters are starting to talk to me again. They’re not getting drowned by the waves of grief any more. I want to write.

Have the start of a new story that might now get finished…

The air is cold and frigid, with mist creeping across the ground, obscuring my footing. The trees are long dead, their branches hung with decades of cobwebs and vines instead of leaves. The ground is a morass of swamp and rock, its stink rising until it’s almost visible. The scenery wavers between dank, dead forest and occasional rock spires, their outlines jagged against the dark sky.

In short, it’s not the nicest of places – and in addition, the path that I’m on is most certainly haunted…I’m not just saying that because it’s pretty freakin’ creepy.

I’ve got a ghost whining in my ear.

One of the downsides of being able to see spirits is that I can also hear them, and I’ve found that they fall into three categories: dull, friendly, or freaky.

This one is trying for freaky. It’s achieving dull. After all, blood-curdling moans are only terrifying when you don’t know that the ghost producing them has no torso. I know that should be scary, but actually it’s quite amusing to see a disembodied head and legs floating along, particularly when said ghost is doing the traditional arm-waving and managing to look as if it’s attempting to land a plane. I’m not sniggering, but it’s taking willpower. Ghosts tend to get touchy when their efforts to scare go unappreciated.

Plottin’ plottin’ plottin’

“OH! They’re the same world, just different time periods!”

Tudors or Civil War? I need guns, I think, but early. Tudors with Age of Enlightment could work.

If you’ve got the basis for a matriarchal society there all along, how is that going to change the society? Well, duh, it’s pretty much Chaucer. Just keep it at The Wife of Bath. (Possibly with less sex).

I’m still not entirely sure about the dragons.

“…oh god that means I’m thinking of writing four books. WHAT THE HELL, BRAIN?”

Victorian scientific discovery! Saving dragons! YES!

I need a revolution…

Ooh, a voice in a charm. And it’d last, so HE’D COME BACK! (Duh duh duuuuuuh).

“Three books. Ok, three books is do-able.”

Five hundred years, that’s a respectable amount of time for everything to turn to shit.

Railways on drove roads?

“….or I could add a sci-fi one, too? Nah. Trilogies work better. And it means I’m only writing three books instead of four.”

Who is she? I know the two from the first book inside-out, but the second set…she’s a puzzle. Hopefully I’ll figure her out before I come to write her.

“That’s still three books. And they’d have to be longer than my usual 70k. ARGH.”

They could dunk a dragon in a lake! (Poor thing).

I need to go do so much resesarch on the 1920s. And WW1. And the Tudors. And Victorian explorers.

THIS IS GOING TO BE THE BEST THING EVER!

I may be plotting for The Thief & The Seer, as well as my new yet-unnamed one…

To Fantasy or not to Fantasy?

I have started thinking again about The Thief & The Seer, which has a possible working title of “As Old As My Tongue” or possibly eyes. I haven’t decided yet.

Anyway. I’ve got the basis for a plot, which involves politics and a Quest and a Thief (duh) and stealing a Thing. I wanted a Baddy, something huge and overwhelming, and so I temporarily put in Dragons…and the whole thing seems to currently be set in the traditional Fantasy Cliché world. So I was trying to think of a twist that would make it more interesting.

Well, I can’t think of one. And so I was chatting to a friend over the weekend about it, trying to work out what to do.

The plot could move to anywhere; it’s two people and a third and a theft and politics. That could go sci-fi, or medieval, or ancient, or futuristic. It doesn’t necessarily matter what the setting is.

And that, as my friend pointed out, is the point. Why bother? If those settings aren’t going to add anything, then why not write it in the world I’m comfortable in, using dragons?

Ok, sure, it’s clichéd. But actually the plot is going to have a few anti-cliche twists, and it’s the relationship between the characters that is the interesting thing. The world around it could change, and once the story is written, I could tweak. I could edit. It could move if I suddenly came up with a different setting.

So…fantasy might be the way to go. It’ll be traditional Western Fantasy, sure, but…hey, I’ll have fun.

On to the next challenge!

So, having pinged No Man’s Land out to agents, I’ve subbed to 20 and have only had one request for a full. So, at this point I’m shelving the project. And that’s fine.

Seriously, it actually is.

No Man’s Land is a weird book; I knew it when I wrote it. It’s not hard to describe, but I can’t really do it in a sentence – or at least I can (“apocalyptic urban fantasy”) but that really doesn’t describe any of what goes on, and what in my opinion makes the book awesome. I knew it might not be quite right for the publishing world at this stage, so this is just a step in the plan. I’ve got a couple of options now: I could keep an eye out for publishers with open doors; try other agents; try small presses; self-publish; serialise on the blog or Wattpad; or shelve the project completely. None of those are bad options, so it’s just a case of deciding what I want to do.

My friend Adrian commented that it took Brandon Sanderson 6 books to get accepted by his agent, and his plan was to get rejected on 6 books and then hit the bestseller. Adrian himself screwed up and got picked up on his first one (because he is super talented!), but I think I’m of the same mindset.

No Man’s Land is a good book, and it’ll stay in my “done” pile. I’ll work on the next one, and the next – I’ve already got ideas for two, with another four in a pile! So while this one isn’t quite right, it doesn’t mean the next one won’t be – I just have to write it.

On that note, I’m plotting. I started plotting out a necromancy-mafia-grimdark thing, but I’ve now gotten sidetracked onto something that’s started as a medieval-fantasy-politics (ugh, that sounds like GoT…it’s not, really, although maybe as that’s popular I should take advantage) and I’m throwing around ideas of how to make that one work. I need some enemies is the problem…

So, while NML may be currently shelved: onwards to the next story!

Diversity and Interesting Characters

So, I’m trying to decide who to have as a central character for a book I’m currently planning. I need two central characters who will play off against each other, and I’m wondering what’s going to work best.
In all of this, I want diversity. I’m not doing it because I’ve got some sort of agenda, or need to be part of some in-crowd that’s shaking up the status quo. (Well, I do want to do that, but not because I want to be hip). Let’s face it, straight white males are boring. Garion’s journey in the Belgariad is interesting because of the external challenges he faces, and the growing he does – but it’s what he finds out and what he faces that makes the journey. He doesn’t have a lot of internal struggles, or angst because of who he is.
The fantasy world has been embracing its own kind of diversity recently, despite the screams of straight white males – think Mark Lawrence’s Jorg or GRRM’s Joffrey. They’re both HORRIBLE, and that internal character is what makes them interesting. And THAT, to me, is what diversity is about. It’s writing someone who is different, and who reacts differently. Who faces different struggles. I seem to be hearing the same screams of “if it’s not a straight white male I’m not reading it” – so there’s a problem with imagining loving someone who happens to have male bits when you also have male bits, but you’re quite happy living in the head of an angsty, murderous, paranoid ruler for a book? If you can imagine dragons and wizards, humans should be the easy bit!
Anyway, I’m now trying to work out what I want to do with my next characters. While I do feel like I have got a checklist, again, it’s not an agenda thing. It’s because it’s interesting, and it stretches me as a writer. I want a challenge. I want a world that isn’t the same one I’ve read a hundred times. I’ve been polling ideas with myself: what else do people not see in fantasy worlds that we have a lot of in ours? What needs showing? What would be interesting to read?
Gay couple who you don’t expect to be? Anxiety/extrovert?  Loquacious liar and true believer? Asexual and extravagent lover? Old – either 40+ or 60+. Obese? Anorexic or body-conscious? Social anxiety or agrophobia? (is that fear of going outside)? Severely disabled? A carer? Emotional or physical abuse – either as the abused, or the abuser! PTSD?  Even when I occasionally divert back to one-man-one-woman, it’s always with a twist. There might be a romance, sure…but I’m pondering a matriarchal society, just to mix up the power balance. I’m pondering underdogs and hidden secrets. I’m pondering personalities and clashes, and how the they’re-falling-in-love could be subverted.
The point of fantasy is to look at what people do when faced with a situation; that may involve a Dark Lord, or dragons, or a Quest…or may involve politics in a gritty kingdom, thieves and murderers, or magic gone wrong. It might be a twist on our world, or somewhere completely different. But it’s always people. It’s always about what the characters do when those situations hit them.
And that’s why I want to write diversity – because I can’t write the same character again and again. I want to be challenged. I want to read (and write) a different story to the one I read (and wrote) last time. I want a new world to explore, a new face to stand next to – and I want to find new and different ways of turning everything upside-down.
I want to make you love someone so different from yourself, and then break your heart.
That’s fantasy.