Tag Archives: charactersdoingstupidthings

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.

 

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!

Beta reading: Opinion, problems and causes

I’ve just recently finished a beta read for Adrian’s latest novel, and saw him last week to give feedback on it. Well, I sent him an email with the draft and feedback, gave him a day to weep into his ice-cream bucket, and then met him for cake to discuss.

One of the things he and I both agree on with feedback is that it hurts. That never gets easier – no matter how many things you’ve submitted, I think it will always feel like a personal blow to get someone telling you that they hate your novel, and it’s the worst thing they’ve ever read – or in this case, I didn’t like the first half, and thought it needed rewriting. You need a day wallowing with ice cream.

And then you pull yourself together, get some perspective, and get to work.

The interesting thing with beta reads – and the trick to it, really – is to learn to separate your personal opinion and the problem. You need both – when I edit or beta, I make a point to add what I like as well as what I don’t like, because the author needs to know what’s working as well as what isn’t. But for the bits that I don’t like, it’s then a case of doing some analysis.

Do I dislike it simply because I don’t like that sort of thing? Adrian had gone quite Reservoir Dogs, and for me, the strength of the books in many ways is the heroism…and so having some nasty scenes is a jarring moment. Is it because it’s the wrong time in the book, or the wrong character? Is it because it just doesn’t fit?

So we sat and chatted, and spent some time working through what he was going for, what effects he’s using, why the scenes are there in the plot and themes, what works and what doesn’t…and I think we did eventually boil it down to a root cause (which was wrong character POV). But if we hadn’t done that analysis, all that would have come out was “rewrite the first half” – and it could have ended up as bad. I could highlight a problem, but then Adrian can counter with reasons those scenes need to be in there…it’s really interesting to try to get to the bottom of problems, and to understand why the reader is having the issue – particularly as this stage in a book, when the plot and characters are still fairly in flux.

And this is why people say that everything can be fixed in editing, and that you’re writing the first draft simply to find out what the story is. You get it all on a page, and then you tear it to pieces again – and rebuild. One of the other things to come out was that I felt one of the secondary characters didn’t get enough of a showing, despite having a few key scenes – and so the rewrite hopefully means that she can get wound further into the plot, and it will make her contribution better. So the changes potentially solve another problem that might have come up on the next round of edits.

It’s really interesting, and while it is hard work, I’m loving doing it.

 

*apologies for any spelling mistakes in this; I’ve got a cold and my fingers aren’t typing what my brain wants them to!

Dresden Files fanfic – gettin’ it out there!

Ok. So. Having had several lovely comments on a Dresden-Files-ish short story (Winter’s Loan), a kick from both PandaFries and Thalamas, and a good day, I took my courage in both hands and jumped.

While I have previously posted some of my Dresden Files fanfic around the RPG I played up until last year, I’ve never had the courage to post more than snippets. But, since this weekend, the first few complete parts of my Dresden Files fanfic is up on Wattpad, and I’m going to be trying to post another bit each week – probably Saturdays.

And holy f*** does this take more courage than I thought I had. It’s ridiculously exciting – I was on top of the world on Saturday and didn’t shut up thanks to overflowing happy energy (sorry, Swindon FreeWriters) but it’s also terrifying.

I loved these characters. I lived them for over two years. I had them in my head and in my life. I wrote so many words of game write-up or extra story…this is a bit of my heart and my soul, and I’m terrified of putting it out there because I feel so small, and so completely and absolutely judged. I’m scared of what people reading are going to think of me. I’m scared of what it says about me (apart from the fact I have a knack for putting my characters in mean situations). I’m scared of what anyone who reads is going to think. It was fiction, yes, but it was choices that I made for my characters – and having almost lived the situations, I can’t stay as removed from it as I can with my other writing. I was there, having those arguments, laughing at the antics. With the game, at least, it’s not just in my head – and while most of these pieces are just character extrapolations from that (certainly the romance and sex scenes would be a bit of a different roleplay style from the one we played, and probably require less clothing) it’s still got that heart-string tug.

But…I love it. Re-reading, I can’t stop smiling. I love it. And I want to share it.

It will only be the Dresden Files Swindon game that will get shared, and I’m still taking that one story at a time, so there may end up being pieces I don’t put up. I won’t ever be sharing any of the wolfpack games; while I wish with all my heart that I could share Ryan’s writing with you, I can’t get his permission, and I don’t think he’d want it shared. I absolutely adore it – but it’s his, not mine. And so that will stay locked.

But as for everything else… *deep breath* I can do this. I can. So, keep an eye out on Wattpad for new stories, and absolutely please, honestly, tell me what you think!