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Writing: Wizards & Work, Part 4

These are still entertaining me! They often need a moment to click; a phrase or comment, or a mannerism linked in to a fantasy setting. I’m really enjoying it when they do come to me. As usual, no offence intended to anyone who is inspiration, and definitely nothing implied; it’s often just the initial inspiration that I’ve borrowed, and then gone off in a completely different direction!

You can also read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

 

He has a way of looking at you; a sharp-eyed, sideways glance that takes in everything before he gives a friendly smile. In that red-hot moment, you’re never entirely sure what the judgement will be. Are you interesting enough for a longer look? Considered useful enough for a smile? Judged unimportant and politely dismissed?

Or is the smile that of a predator, approving of his prey?

 

The curse was subtle and vicious: it cursed the bearer to tiny bad luck, to those small twists of fate that wear down the hardest mountain with grey disappointment. It dulled his days to tedium, spiralled his thoughts into circles and worked every project into knots and snarls. The problem was that no one could figure out what he had done to earn such a costly revenge. He had no drama in his backstory, no offenses placed against his name; and that seemed the final jab of the curse – to not even deserve another’s carefully-crafted hate.

 

He preferred ‘adaptable’ over ‘slippery’; his pride in his ability to get things done was almost as strong as his stubbornness in staying his course. But it was rare that he was taken aback; he even went so far as to blink.

“I don’t think anyone’s ever offered…help…before.”

The small elf blinked in turn. “It’s called being nice.”

“Yes. Well. That’s not something I’m very good at.” But the tall, imposing necromancer managed something approaching a smile, creasing his face into new lines. Nice… it would need some practise, but this new plan might just work.

 

He was a true Knight in Shining Armour; one that blinded the vision when he appeared, glowing and explosive, inspiring and righteous. Around him, faces would shine and bodies would bow. And when he approached, for a moment everything would be perfect; ideas would flow, projects would work, twists would unsnarl. For a moment, the world was good.

And then he would be summoned away, sweeping off to the next perfect moment, and we would be left in the grey, shattered ruins of our normality.

 

He is friendly, smiling, affable, cheery; always up for a conversation, or a chat and always open to suggestions or ideas. But sometimes, mid-conversation, you’ll see his eyelids flicker for a few seconds – almost as if a thought has been stopped, or a plan redirected.

“I heard he was one of the supreme evil overlords,” kitchen gossip tells me. “Rehabilitated, of course. That’s the therapy kicking in whenever he gets ideas.”

“But we were only talking about cute bunnies…”

“Well, you can make anything evil.”

Writing: Wizards & Work – Part 3

More silly fantasy character studies from my work; they are definitely taking liberties with the people, and most definitely not intended to be a comment on anyone’s character!

(The first one may be the exception… totally not looking at you, Remy.)

You can also read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 4.

 

She was so sweet, so helpful and so friendly that it was clear she had to be thoroughly evil; everyone knew that she had plans for world domination, but no one could quite determine how exactly she was going to achieve it.

Everyone ensured that her every whim was obeyed anyway, just in case.

 

The thing about zombies is that they’re only brainless and shambling if the spell goes wrong.

He was so useful that his employers had not even let death stop his work. The spell was expensive – indeed, he was still paying off his debt for the reanimation – but he did not need to eat, or sleep, or stop. The occasional shamble did not prevent his friendly face being one frequently seen around the office, and the knowledge in his brain was not hindered by his lack of pulse.

It was rumoured that one of the company projects was earmarked for reanimating key members of staff if they happened to pass away inconveniently; but after a slight misunderstanding with a betting pool, the rumour was officially denied, and the project name put down to simple coincidence.

 

A man thrown out of time, irritated and frustrated with our world – longing for a time of direct politics and simpler morals, where words were not picked apart in endless streams and courage was easier to grasp. And yet he had found his faith and his love in this time, and fought for them every day; argued with those who would drag his soul down, defended his love to every comer, and came back every dawn with a stout heart and explosive temper to wage war against his fellow believers.

 

No one could exactly put their finger on when the potions machine had become sentient, but it was universally agreed by all the staff that the device had a personality of its own. Stubborn, wilful and devious, it seemed to take perverse pleasure in denying the vital fluid to those most in need, and deliberately thwarted every attempt to fix any problem. Even threats of violence rarely placated it long enough to get more than a dribble of liquid.

For those few in the company that could order its replacement, however, it worked perfectly.

 

He has not been hired as a spell-smith; merely an administrator, he says when asked. He has always refused to discuss his provenance, age, or any other such mundane matters; his conversation centres around his employment and the wonders of modern cinema. However, hints such as 636 BC being “a little while ago” and a brief reference to having known several famous historical figures personally suggests age; the accidental wreaths of blue smoke and angry mutterings of dead languages when something goes wrong do little to dispel the impression of some deep, arcane skill.

The occasional mumbling of “when in doubt, use demons,” also do little to counter this impression.

 

She looks up as you approach, tinted goggles across her eyes and delicate gloves sheathing her skin. A parchment lies in front of her, the words twisting in your vision as you catch a glimpse of it and your mind filling with a dragon, raining fire and vengeance down upon a walled city.

You ask for a recommendation; a gentle story, one to ease your mind into sleep and your body into welcome rest. She nods, lays a glove-covered hand on the scroll in front of her to obscure the writhing text and then leans back to pick out one of the copied scrolls from the shelves behind her.

“What would happen if you gave me the original?” you ask curiously as you take the story.

The book witch pushes the goggles up onto her hair and gives you the faintest of smiles. “You’d sleep easily, but you’d likely not wake up again.”

 

[This may be ending up as a story…sort of plotting odd bits off and on!]

Writing: Wizards & Work

I seem to have a thing for being inspired by workplaces…Madcap Library came out of a previous library (although without the Sloth, sadly) and I’ve spent the last few days being inspired by my current one – or, more accurately, by the people in it.

The original inspiration came from thinking about books as spells, and working the words into an intricate illusion to delight the reader…and then I started thinking about the people, and putting them into a fantasy setting. While I still want to write something using the book-illusion idea, the people one spiralled on me! I’ve taken an aspect of some of my colleagues, and built a fantasy character around it. That said, for anyone reading who might recognise themselves, it’s definitely not intended to be true to life! The core might be one aspect, but I’ve then bounced off in a completely different direction – and I hope you find them entertaining.

You can also read Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.

 

The journeyman had walked miles in his previous life, speaking to every spirit, rock, mountain, plant. Some joker had put a spell on his tea-mug to make it walk when it was empty, and so he spent many hours wandering around the office in search of it. “Why did you leave?” I asked him, meeting him in the potions cupboard on one of his frequent excursions.

“They hate us,” he confided. He smiled often, but it rarely reached his eyes. “We’ve put so much pain and mess into them, and they have nothing but dislike. I keep trying, but it’s hard.”

 

He was a wizard of some fearful power; and yet he was a far cry from those power-hungry and rapacious seers I had known before. He filled the office with snatches of song to speed our work, and charm-spoke anyone who came by, making them smile and bow to him with the most willing of hearts. He was a word-weaver of considerable talent, yet one who spent his days helping others with their own spells. He spoke frequently of the world outside, and with the wisdom and foresight that spoke of long hours of study in a previous life – and yet he would often be the source of the frequent laughter rising into the ceiling-panels, ringing out into the still air and making the space above our tables shimmer and shine.

 

She was a weaver of spells and illusions, and of more practical things – she could turn the most chaotic of tresses into beauty as easily as she could fix a broken spellwork, turn raw ingredients into delicacies as simply as she brought order to a vision. But those around knew to tread carefully: the spells that turned so casually to beauty could also be turned to chaos, and one did not step within her reach if the air was dark.

 

An illusionist, he spun the most elegant of clothing, the most dreaming of landscapes, the most terrifying of monsters. He could pick your face out of a blank pad and capture your spirit in nine brush-strokes. He was a creature of sunshine and air, moving with a grace and surety that made the breezes dance around him, bringing light and life to the room anytime he smiled.

“Why here?” I asked him, gesturing to the sterile box around us, filled with bent workers and the hum of magical suppressants.

He shrugged. “Where else should I have gone?”

 

The photographer was one of the first people we met on entering the company; and yet he was unassuming, hiding behind the camera, counting on his diffident air to grant him anonymity. Despite his care, I heard the rumours; he could kill a person in four different ways before their potion had finished brewing; could play any instrument handed to him, charming the creatures out of the trees with it; and could disappear from notice at will, even in an empty room.

His true role was always given as a simple “community support”. If he travelled for occasional periods of time, and at similar times the most vocal disapprovers of our work unexpectedly changed their tone or took refuge in silence, what of it?

 

The fortress has only come under attack once, and it is now the stuff of legend – half truth, half myth, both woven together into a morass of glorious grandeur and terrible feats, raw courage and horrific slaughter.

But those who were there, who remember, carry the scars. And they do not speak of it.

He never changes place, despite eloquent speeches and logical plans; first in from the door, and facing anyone who enters. A necromancer, they say, or an enchanter: sly and cunning with his strategies, ruthless when provoked, and rarely speaking of anything beyond his current work. But take one look at his desk, and one may find a hint of what lies behind the calculating strategist: his walls are lined with tiny figures in rows, frozen into stillness, their weapons at the ready.

 

[I am having fun writing more – and they’re definitely a work in progress! Suggestions always welcome.]

Writing snippets – when it’s not really working

I (try to) do a little writing group on Thursday evenings – it’s just a Facebook chat with a few of us encouraging each other on. I missed the week before last due to work, so I was determined to try to write something. Problem is, I’m feeling stuck on the new No Man’s story; it’s bitty and I can’t get any sense of what I want to happen to the characters. I’ve got a vague plot but no detail, and that means no scenes.

So I picked a couple of prompts from the Wattpad #urbanfantasy, just on the offchance that they’d work; sometimes things do just fall into place for short stories, and I end up with a random one! However….neither really worked, and so I’m putting them on here to say – yes, this happens. This is my version of stop-start-stop, when the stories just won’t come, when something doesn’t fit. This is one of the stages of writing something; this is when an idea gets turned and twisted and ends up as one of the random hundreds of files I have in my writing folder, with a snippet that might end up in something else, or might not.

The first prompt was, “I would never bring my mobile to a demon hunt ever again.”

I picked my Dresden fanfic world for this, because a) snark, and b) demons. However, the specification was that the prompt had to be the last line (or paragraph), and frankly, I was struggling to work out what problems a mobile could cause on a demon hunt! Someone else trying to get in contact constantly? The mobile itself sends out signals that disrupt things somehow? I just couldn’t pin anything down as being the problem that needed to be overcome, and that meant that the story itself wouldn’t resolve.

“This is your idea of a date?”

I raise my eyes from my phone and look at the scarred, lanky, pissed-off form of the Winter Knight. From battered trainers to battered t-shirt, topped with a battered – well, scarred – face, he’s the picture of grumpiness.

“If I’d known it was going to be this romantic,” he continues, “I would have brought you roses.”

I open my mouth to say something snarky, but someone gets in ahead of me.

“This is not a date.” It’s laced with as much disapproval as a Fae Marshall can output – which is, it turns out, quite a lot.

“Dollface invited me here,” the Winter Knight points out, shoving his hands into his pockets and smirking. “And she didn’t state that she wanted to hit me. Therefore, it’s a date.”

“I can rectify that second criteria if it helps,” I say mildly.

“Your levity is out of place,” the Marshall grinds on, ignoring me. “We have a serious purpose.”

…and then I couldn’t work out what they were doing, apart from ‘fighting demons’. It may turn into a short with them fighting vampires, or just generally arguing, but the mobile phone was giving me problems.

However! That doesn’t mean that the prompt isn’t any use – and if you’re ever in this situation, my sincere advice is to go off the rails. Abandon the prompt! Write whatever comes to mind! It just so happened that I huffed, tried another prompt (see below) and then got caught up in something else…so I may come back to this one sometime.

“Couldn’t you have just broken my heart like any normal guy/girl?” I asked with tears in my eyes, leaning over him/her and his/her blood – so much blood.

I considered this, and considered how dramatic it was on the surface… so I promptly went light-hearted.

And I couldn’t hold back the laughter any longer.

[NAME] turned, her expression turning from shocked to bewildered, and then to horrified realisation.

And then she spun back to [BOY], dipped one long finger in the blood, and tasted it.

I sat down on the edge of the stage, my stomach hurting, yet unable to stop the howls of laughter that were shaking me. My cheeks were wet with tears, and I laughed and laughed.

Pippa turned and stormed out.

[BOY] started to pick himself up as I regained control of myself, and met my eyes as I pushed myself up and wandered over.

“Can’t you just break my heart like any normal guy?” I ask with tears in my eyes, leaning over him and his blood – so much blood. That should have been her clue.

He grinned up at me. “It’s more fun this way.”

“You’re a dick, [BOY].”

“And you love me for it. Here, help me up, and let’s go post the photos on the web!”

For this one, frankly, there’s no way anyone in the Dresden universe would go that light (I did play with some Kindred/Dini stories but ugh for drama and that’d be seriously depressing, and just…no) so it ended up being random. That said, I don’t necessarily like it. It doesn’t fit anything existing and it’s not a story that I want to tell in a new world.

And that’s the thing with prompts, for me. Sometimes they do lead to stories that I do want to tell, just from that one snippet – and sometimes, like these two, they just end up as scraps.

So it’s still writing progress, even if it’s somewhat dead-ended!