Tag Archives: charactersdoingstupidthings

An analysis of a flash fiction edit: draft to final

So, as you may or may not know, I write silly short fiction based on my workplace. And I wrote one recently that I’m not happy with – so I though it’s a pretty much perfect piece to analyse, and give some idea of how I work as a writer.

The edits are the hard bit to explain, often – unless you watch an editor work – and it’s often just trial and error that makes things work.

Version One

True power is never good or evil, you see. It lies in the hands of those who hold it, and lies with their decisions; and a neutral overlord is in many ways more terrifying than the maniacal laughter or the sweeping righteousness of the extremes.

He was good at his job; knew when to put a finger on the scales to tip the decision, and when to give a subordinate enough length to make their own bad decisions. The chastisement was never bad, per se; but it left you feeling like you had a pit in your soul. But the truly terrifying thing was that he did not care; underlings were resources, and when those clear eyes looked at you, you were judged useful – or not.

So! In this one…I haven’t caught the emotions I want. Paragraph 1 Line 1 works, I think. Line 2…doesn’t. It captures the feel, but it’s too long – it overdoes something that could take fewer words to say.

Paragraph 2; hmm. There’s a repetition of “decision” that I don’t like; I did want to use “enough rope to hang themselves” but I hate that expression, and the substitute doesn’t work. As for the next two lines, hmm, They’ve sort of captured the feel but they’re still very muddled. I want to use a specific example there, I think – it’s too general a feel, and I want to narrow it down.

Version two

He was not the maniacal-laughter type, but it was generally agreed that amongst the Evil Villains of the world, he was ranked pretty high. He was extremely good at his job; knew when to put a finger on the scales to tip the balance, and when to give a subordinate enough length to make their own bad calls. The clear eyes would look at you and judge you useful, or not; but that simply allowed him to use or discard resources for the project’s best interests. And the chastisement for failure was never extreme; but it left the subject with a pit in their soul, a chip on their spine, and the feeling that they had somehow failed beyond any measure of redemption.

This actually went through about two rounds of tweaks before I remembered that I was trying to keep track of what I was doing and why! You can see that quite a lot has changed…

So, I’ve removed the start; I just want the feeling of “Evil Villain” so I may as well state that outright.

From the original paragraph 2, with too many “decisions”; I’ve changed that to “call” in the second, and “balance” in the first. I’ve also extended the idea of being judged useful or not.

And the final line; to give the failure some consequence, and tell us something about the person – a final jab.

Unfortunately I feel like I need a red pen and highlighter to try to catch everything else I’ve done, and why; I’ll try to do this again with another piece and catch more of the reasons for the changes!

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.]