More Time – More Writing

Since I now have a job with normal hours that does not require a lengthy commute, I have much more time to procrastinate write. That being said…

It is July. In April, I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo for the third time, acting as a NaNoRebel in multiple facets of the meaning. This month, I am once again participating in Camp NaNo (the short name for it), rebelling in the same way –– perhaps even rebelling more, actually. Let me count the ways…

  1. I am adding to a pre-existing work.
  2. I am co-writing with a writing buddy.
  3. I am, when the mood strikes, editing –– and that is not limited to fresh writings.

I think that’s a long enough list, short though it is. Do I feel any guilt for rebelling? Naw. Camp NaNo is much more relaxed than NaNo proper. You set your own word goal –– anywhere between 10,000 and… 999,999, if I remember correctly. There are “cabins” set up, so you can procrastinate chat with ten other writers about writing, etc. [Start ramble] This July, they finally set up private cabins, so you can properly choose who you want to have in your cabin.  This is a vast improvement, as previous attempts to choose cabinmates was much like playing Russian roulette. You never knew if you’d all end up in the same place… At any rate, that’s not what I was going to talk about. [End ramble]

I can’t say as I’d made much progress this week, except to realize that I was actually getting closer to figuring out how to get to the ending of this story, which is what I’ve been seeking since the last Camp NaNo. Let me tell you, that is progress! Honestly, I wish Camp NaNo was quarterly, with NaNo proper remaining as the “Big Shindig” (or whatever you want to call it). Truly, I think my writing would benefit from it.

Enough of that, however. Perhaps… It is time for an excerpt…

Two things you should know:

  1. Kedric and Aubyn are the same person.
  2. An erchyll is a staff that fires blue beams of… fire.

 

Rikane watched as Kenneth planted two hefty forked sticks into the ground, forks up.

“You realize this is a really bad idea, right? We don’t know what will happen if we actually manage to break it. It could be very, very bad.”

“How bad could it possibly be?” Kenneth scoffed, “Come, now. Hand it over.”

The general rolled his eyes. This was a waste of a perfectly good weapon, in his mind. It was akin to ––

“Rikane! Come on! They’re bound to notice it’s missing any minute now. This is our chance!”

“It’s all you.” Rikane stated, handing him the erchyll and stepping away as far as he could justify.

“Where are you going?”

“Not far.” he replied. “Not far enough, that is.” he thought.

Disappointment crossed the scholar’s face, “You’re not really interested in this, are you?”

“I am, but I’d rather not get burnt to a crisp if that thing explodes.”

“It won’t ––”

“You don’t know that, do you? No. You don’t. And so, I choose to err on the side of caution.”

“You didn’t choose that when you were talking to my sister.” Kenneth accused, “How is this any different?”

Rikane stiffened and looked up. He’d wondered whether the scholar had been present when he’d tested the queen’s virtue, but in the moment, he hadn’t cared. Perhaps he’d been filled in on it later and was warned to watch the general. He couldn’t help but chuckle, a toothy grin splitting his face. He turned to face the queen’s younger brother.

“You choose your confrontations strangely, scholar. We’re in a field, far from the walls of Merivale, and while there is an erchyll near you, I can reach it much faster than you and blast you to pieces before you know what’s happening. I would only need to scamper off into the woods and hide there to avoid your comrades. Likely, Kedric would find me, but I’ve seen him fight and could win if I wanted to. Though if Regan were with him, it might present a bit of a challenge.” he paused to let his words sink in, “But, considering who you are and what you’ve done thus far, I’ll refrain from doing you any harm and simply warn you to mind your own business.”

“Mind my own ––” Kenneth cut himself off and narrowed his eyes to slits, stepping closer –– away from the erchyll, “Yvette is my sister. It is as much my business as anyone’s!”

Rikane smirked, “By all means, step closer. I quite enjoy defending my honor, though you are a lesser opponent than I would normally choose.”

Kenneth scowled in earnest now. Rikane took a step forward, “It’s about time someone raised your ire, for once.” he said.

“Stop it. We’re here for a reason.”

“Then why’d you bring up your sister?” Rikane challenged, “Huh? Why? I’ll tell you why. It’s because you wish you had the guts to be one of the big boys. That’s right. All your life, you’ve been the little one, looked down on and left to tend your books, pitied by even the lowest of chambermaids, because you’ll never amount to ––”

Kenneth’s fist met his pointy nose quite suddenly. He’d seen it coming, but Rikane was so starved for a bit of action that he let it make contact, the blood running down his face as he grinned.

“Doesn’t that feel good?” he goaded, “Don’t you just love the feeling of your fist making an impact, the snap of broken cartilage, the sight of blood? So exhilarating!”

The scholar held up one finger in warning, “Don’t. Just don’t. One punch is enough for me.”

“Come on, now. You know you want more.”

Kenneth’s face wrinkled into a furious scowl, and he aimed another punch at Rikane’s jaw. The general caught his fist expertly in one hand, feeling the strength of the scholar’s momentum. Their eyes met, and they stood there for a moment, Kenneth trying like anything to regain his composure. Rikane tightened his grip, cracking the man’s knuckles.

“This is doing nothing for either of us!” Kenneth snapped, “Just agree that you will not pursue my sister anymore, and we’ll be done with this.”

“Who said I was pursuing her?”

“I was there. I saw the whole thing!”

“It may have looked like that, but I only asked her a question.”

“Aubyn didn’t seem to think so.”

“He’s a hard man to convince.”

Kenneth seemed unsatisfied with his answer, but changed the subject, “Let’s do what we came for.”

“Aye. Let’s.”

They brushed themselves off, though neither had made contact with the ground. The scholar looked around for a moment, “We need rocks. How good are you with marksmanship?”

“Having seen you in action, I will admit that you are probably better with throwing rocks than I.”

“Oh, so you’ll admit that I’m better at something than you are?”

Rikane wrinkled his nose and immediately grabbed at it, regretting the movement, “Throwing rocks is child’s play, and a skill I never considered my own.”

“Right!” Kenneth snorted, “Start looking for rocks, will you?”

The general pointed, “There’s a rock.”

His companion rolled his eyes, “That’s a boulder, blödian!”

“Well you said to start looking for rocks.”

“Just. Rocks that I can throw.” He scanned the ground, looking around. Rikane picked up a pebble.

“Like this?”

“Don’t insult me.”

“Or what?”

“I might not be as formidable as Kedric, but I have my ways of getting vengeance when you least expect it.”

“Do you? Well, I hope I don’t inspire you to follow through with that.” Rikane sneered, “How about ––”

“Ah, perfect!” Kenneth snatched up a rock that was double the size of a man’s fist, “This should do nicely.”

“Wouldn’t it make more sense to find two larger rocks to balance it on, so that we don’t just knock down the sticks holding it?”

“No. This should do.”

“Fine.”

They both moved something of a distance away, Rikane further than his companion. The scholar heaved the rock at the erchyll, but missed by at least a foot.

“Very nice.”

“Shut it.” Kenneth grumbled, bending to retrieve the rock.

“Maybe it’d work better if you climbed a tree and dropped the rock on the erchyll.”

The scholar paused and looked up. Rikane followed his eyes to a branch that hung over their experiment. Kenneth’s face lit up. I really shouldn’t have said that.

Before he could stop him, Kenneth was halfway up the tree, the rock in a makeshift sling he’d made using his cloak. Rikane sprinted away from the erchyll, hoping he’d be in time to miss ––

There was a loud explosion, and he flew from his feet into the air, landing face first in a pool of mud. Trying very hard to ignore the slimy stuff that now seeped into every fold of his clothing and chilled him to the bone, hardening here and there, he rose to his feet and sputtered mire from his mouth. Turning back to where he’d come from, he looked at where the erchyll had been. Nothing remained of it that he could see, but the sticks that had held it up were burning up with blue flames. He had a feeling it was the type of fire that would not go out easily, but would spread until it exhausted itself.

He scanned the area for Kenneth, but couldn’t find him. He was about to head back to Merivale when he felt a tap on one shoulder. Turning to see who’d done it, he saw no one, but heard a chuckle at his other side.

“Oldest trick in the book, and you fell for it!” the scholar mocked. Rikane reacted with lightning speed, grabbing Kenneth by the collar and pulling him into a headlock.

“You nearly killed us.” the general growled, “And here you are, pulling pranks? We have to put this fire out now!”

Leave a comment

Filed under General, NaNoWriMo

Finish him! – Or, A Writer’s Ethical Challenge

There are moments in writing when I picture a scene from that game, Mortal Kombat, which was so popular in the…. Was it really back in the 90′s? Wow. Anyway, the fighters have been fighting, the player mashing and smashing buttons haphazardly, and one of the combatants is struggling to stay standing. The words, “FINISH HIM!” are emblazoned across the screen in gory red letters, and the player is compelled to throw one final blow…

I am currently at one of those moments. Thing is, I’ve had this scene in mind for weeks –– even months –– but even now, I cannot decide whether I will have someone finish off this foe, or if he will be taken away in chains. The pacifist in me says, “Oh, he’s just misled. Let him repent!” but the fighter in me says, “No! FINISH HIM!”

In reality, my protagonist has a history –– a messy history –– but he and his friends justify it by saying, “That had to be done.” How on earth does this relate?

Well, when I first started writing this note,* my protagonist had a choice to make. Kill off his rival, or let him off the hook? When I couldn’t decide, another character stepped in and decided for both of us, finishing off the villain (Thanks, Rikane…). I’m always conflicted about this.

See, on the one hand, I want to kill off the villain. Seriously. Get him out of the way! Let the good guy take his vengeance and live happily ever after! On the other hand… I am a bit of a softie, and perhaps a bit sentimental. I find myself thinking, “Oh, he can always change his ways.. It won’t be easy, but it can happen…” Or can it? I usually have to bring my villain to his wit’s end before he even considers regretting his evil tendencies, nudging him by reconnecting him with such things as people he misses or taking the blinders off to the awful things he’s gotten into. Not to mention, there is such a thing as an unrepentant villain…

But this whole scenario begs the question: Am I to be held accountable for the way I portray these situations? What does it say about me as a person? On the one hand, yes, this is fiction. On the other hand, how does this effect the way I look at people in real life –– or how my readers look at life? I ask these questions, not to give myself or anyone else a guilt trip, but because they are very real questions. When I write, I am getting into the heads of my characters, and I not only consider what the character would do, but what I would do. Would I be willing to value a person’s life –– and chance at redemption –– less than I value “justice”? How does one even discern whether the person in question is sincerely willing to make the effort to change?

This is where the shady characters step in and save me from my own debate –– the ones who are on the right side, but whose values that aren’t quite the same as those that I hold. I feel absolutely guilt free when they make these decisions, because I don’t feel like I need to agree with them 100% of the time… So that is my solution.

But is that enough?

*Footnote: This goes to prove that one of my many, many ways of procrastinating from writing is not mere business, Facebook, forums, or general procrastination, but writing about the struggles I’m going through with my writing. It’s both helpful and unhelpful, really. Helpful, in that it helps me process. Unhelpful, in that it takes me away from the actual story I’m writing. I started this note when I was in the middle of writing that scene, and finished it after writing several following scenes (and a few to fill in beforehand). It spans a few days…

Leave a comment

Filed under General, What To Write, Writing Advice

Character Mortality and Predictable Writers

I guess you could consider this post a double-whammy… But beware: There is much following of bunny trails…

This is going to sound awful -

Twice, I have tried to kill off a certain character in my current work in progress. I had it [kind of] planned out from the beginning stages. I’d kill her off and make her a martyr, then leave her love interest reeling in agony. Both times, I’ve chickened out or found a way around it.

I partly blame this on my writing buddy. Said buddy has a very odd habit of falling in love with the characters that I eventually plan on killing off or maiming. I don’t know how he does it, but it gives me a guilt trip every time. He also loves cliches, which I try like anything to avoid –– then accidentally toss in when I’m not paying attention. And you know what the strangest thing is? I will either send him a chunk of the latest writings, or I’ll hint at what I’m working on, and he somehow already knows what I’m planning… even if I haven’t said anything.

When I told writing buddy I was not going to have things end perfectly happily, he guessed that I was going to kill off one of two characters –– one of which was the one I had targeted. I, being of a contrary nature at times, started to hesitate about going through with the plan.

But I moved on, wrote the terrible betrayal, read it through several times, then decided, “This doesn’t work.” I marked those scenes in red for later removal and pretended something else had happened. I would postpone the character’s death for a later time, in a less horrible way.

Well, that didn’t happen. I trapped her outside during a seige, handed her over to the villain (sort of), and then… her companion/love interest shot the villain with an arrow and chased the bad guys to rescue her, negotiated a cease-fire, and whisked her away to another location –– because he’s awesome like that…

I’m starting to think that this gal has some sort of magical protection on her. At first, I thought, “She’s doomed!” because I named her for a character I killed in another, semi-related story. Oh, wait… Let me explain the paradox:

  1. I originally wrote her years ago in a scrap of writing that never went anywhere.
  2. I wrote another story last year that had a character based on her with the same name –– with one letter’s difference. I killed off the one in the newer story, after putting her through some pretty rough times, and then said to myself, “What just happened?”
  3. I took the scrap of writing that never went anywhere (referred to in #1), and I expanded my favourite part of it –– the part pertaining to her –– which is what I’m working on now… but it takes place hundreds of years before the story I wrote last year….

Confusing, right? Not confusing enough, apparently.

In short, there’s been a huge conflict in me between wanting to preserve this character and wanting to avoid the “happily ever after” cliche ending… and I think that’s what’s held me back the most with this story. Not time constraints, not writer’s block…. this wrestling match with myself over this character’s mortality…

And now for a bunny trail –– This whole conundrum of deciding who lives and who dies (and how) has me looking at stories very differently. When I [finally] watched the Hunger Games, I was thinking with my writer brain, figuring out who was going to die and how. I won’t toss in any spoilers here, but the author definitely took a route with one character that I would have taken if I were in her situation with a story. I wouldn’t say that it ruins how I look at stories, but it does put them into a different light… And I’m not sure whether it’s awesome or scary when I predict where a writer is going with their story. While I tend to prefer surprises, I want to say, “AHA!” every time I do get it right.

So back to the original topic:

What to do when your writing starts getting out of hand? Mark the parts you don’t want in red, decide what you really want, then just… write. But never throw out the unused parts… You might need them for another project.

Leave a comment

Filed under General