A Writing Journey

Posts tagged ‘fantasy writing’

Serial Saturday – Onaemi 4

deeplovephotography:“ flickr | facebook | society6 ”

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Those first weeks with the strangers were excruciating. I walked between them, snow soaking into my boots and chilling my feet. My body did not want to heal from the torment I’d put it through. The food the strangers ate was tasteless.

They called themselves Naha, Shuri, and Abrisin. Naha was the eldest, or so I assumed, for she directed the others and they followed her bidding. She had spoken to Auntie, made the deal with her to sell me. Shuri was the man. He was in charge of our food, and I wondered if that was why it tasted so bad. But he did keep us fed, and he often took special note of how I reacted to the dishes, and tried to change them so they would be better. Abrisin was in charge of my care. She was a gentle soul, and when we stopped each evening she made sure I had a cozy nest near the fire.

And so we went, travelling deeper into the cold. North, they called it. There were no birds or animals that I could see, though Shuri pointed out their tracks. I could not even hear them in my head over the whispers of my traveling companions. Their lives were so loud that I wondered how they could ever travel in silence, which frequently we did.

I was not in their care for long. There was a storm one night that threatened to bury us in our camp, so Naha decided that we would press on to the town they knew was near. We’d not stayed in a village or town since setting out from Auntie’s. In the town, we arrived at an inn. The innkeeper told Naha that the rooms were full, on account of the festival of fire. He said that we were welcome to stay in the common room, for reduced price. I think Naha was ready to brave the storm in search of another inn, and certainly we would have followed her, but she looked down at me, weary and shivering, and agreed to the innkeeper’s terms.

The common room was full with people in a similar situation to ours. Some of them looked as we did – weary travelers who just needed a place to stay for the night. Others looked fierce, as if this was their first time among civilized folk. Naha ushered us to a corner out of the way, and Abrisin settled me in a cocoon of blankets. She smiled down at me, stroking my hair, and told me that all would make sense when I made it to the Citadel. And then Shuri warned someone not to come any closer.

I think those memories I chose to lose, for there are only flashes of what happened. Warm blood on my face, Abrisin’s back as she stood to protect me, her weight as she fell on me. And then someone dragging me out of my nest, and a grinning face with a cracked front tooth.

The innkeeper did nothing as they drug me from the place. The other travelers did nothing. Perhaps they thought that since I did not scream or cry, I was in no danger. I was too afraid to scream or cry or even fight. Perhaps I thought it the way of things, to be passed from one keeper to the next. The big man who had me in his grasp was wild. His hair tangled with itself and the beads strung through it. A gold ring shone from his ear. His fingernails were torn and dirty.

Out in the storm he loaded me up on a horse and swung himself up after me. I’d never been on a horse. When he spurred the beast into movement, I clutched the arm around me, terrified of falling. We rode out into the night. The storm closed around us.

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Serial Saturday – Onaemi 3

Midwinter Dream..Love the snow and how quite it is when the snow falls outside. Then on the inside,a warm fire in the fireplace, the smell of cooking and baking. AAAAAHHHHH YES!!!:

From Pinterest, originally pinned from midwinter-dream.tumbler.com

My convalescence was, I realized, a fabrication. It took time for this realization to strike, a whole other season of hot, but once it took hold I would not let it go. If I asked Auntie about it she told me I was ill, not like the sun-sick I’d been before, but ill with nature. This made no sense to me. I could feel nature pulsing outside of the cottage, feel it calling me, telling me stories. I could hear the birds whisper sweet nothings to each other, I could hear the ants warn each other of water spilling into their hills. They all mattered so much, and I wanted to find them, love them, cherish them.

When the crisp air came again, Auntie went to the villages. Before she’d taken me with her. Now she told me to stay home, rest, and work on my letters. For the first time, I defied her. When she left, so did I. I went into the hills and talked to the animals, the insects, the plants. I coaxed dying flowers back to blooming, I kept long grasses from giving in to their exhaustion. I had missed a whole season with them, I did not want to let them all go not.

Much of the season passed so, until I came home late, or perhaps Auntie came home early. She yelled and screamed, so angry that I’d disobeyed her. She took me back to the little stone room within a room. The man who’d been there was gone now and the stones told me he was dead. Auntie didn’t know what else to do and she put me in the little room and left me there.

I wanted out. Out of the room, out of my mind, out of my skin. The world was going on without me. I needed to sing the grasses to sleep, bid farewell to the migrating birds and soothe the butterflies as they died. But I was concealed in stone, and I could not feel them, could not connect to them. And so I clawed my flesh, I beat my fists against the stone, I screamed and cried and ripped at my hair. Auntie brought me food, but did not bring me company or peace. I begged her to let me out, but she said she couldn’t let me lose myself. She didn’t know I already was, trapped in stone like that.

And then, one day when the earth was sleeping, she came and was not alone. There were three of them, two women and a man. They smelled of sheep and horses, but with another scent as well, a tang of metal, a wisp of smoke. They were appalled. I was bloody and broken from my months in captivity. Auntie cried for me, and cried for herself. She’d failed me, she said, and the Whisper Man had died and she didn’t know what to do, or if I was dangerous. One of the women hugged her and told her she had done her best, but humans were not equipped to deal with Whispers. The man was disgusted with my Auntie. The other woman was focused on me. She brought me out, wiped blood from my face and hands, wrapped me in a blanket. Onaemi, she called me, my first true name.

I marveled at the sounds of sleeping earth, sounds that had been held away from me by the stone. I heard the snow softly sighing, and hibernating animals dreaming. I heard the mournful song of the dragon fill my mind and my heart ached for it.

Auntie cried herself out, and dumped coins into the man’s hand. They told her that I would be better off, that perhaps, if the Whisper Council approved, I might go to the Citadel. She said whatever they could do to make me well, she would welcome. Her eyes rimmed red, she watched them lead me away.

Every Character is Their Own Hero

Writing fantasy (or any genre, but it seems especially true for fantasy) takes a lot of characters. Because I write fantasy, I’ll be talking about that and largely ignoring other genres. Sorry!

I saw a chart recently that listed the characters introduced in the first chapters of some popular books. They were all upwards of 20 characters. In fairness: that does not necessarily mean 20 named characters make an actual appearance. Some of them are mentioned by other characters, some of them are unnamed. When it comes to fantasy, there are a lot of characters to keep track of and remember. In chapter one of QFS I have 10 named characters, one unnamed character, and 3 groups of characters (“others,” “diggers,” and “healers”). I don’t think info dumping 20 characters is a necessarily good idea, but it depends on how long the chapter is. If I doubled my chapter length, 20 would, I think, be a good fit.

BUT. I’m not about to spend a whole post talking about how many characters appear when. I bring it up only to make a point about how many characters we writers must take into consideration.

In fantasy we usually have a core group surrounding our main character. Sometimes they are a single unit and any division is a big deal, as in Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. In others, the MC has a group, but flits in and around them more (as in the Farseer Trilogy). And all around the MC and their core group are the Other Characters.

Those others may get a few speaking lines, a brief appearance to illustrate a point, move the plot forward, or to contribute to realism. Our MC only sees one aspect of these others – a one-dimensional snapshot that is, often, of little importance. What if we flip our point of view? What if that other character looks at our MC and sees an irritable, crabby, person, intent only on their goal with no interest in the lives of those around them?

Every character, named or not, recurrent or not, is their own hero. We hear this all this all the time. There is difficulty in accepting it our writing it out because we ourselves are limited to our own viewpoint. We can’t hop into another person’s shoes and know their lives (even though we can empathize, it is NOT the same as understanding who that person is on the inside of their mind). We are all different “I”s. When we don’t accept this “everyone’s a hero*” mentality, our supporting characters are flat. And flat is boring.

How, then, do we combat this? Back story. When we create our MC’s and secondary characters, we give them elaborate histories that elucidate their motives and actions.

Okay, step back a minute. I know I have a complex history that informs my behavior. In my life, I am the MC (we’re all the MCs of our own lives). Around me are my family, my boyfriend, my friends, my co-workers. The people I have direct contact with everyday. I know that they, too, have complex histories, even if I don’t know every aspect. There are also people I interact with at my work place that I see once or maybe a few times – but I know nothing about them. There are people on the street that I pass everyday but never speak to. All the people at the grocery store – I may recognize the cashier but I don’t know her name, even though it’s on a name tag. They all have stories too. They are all a MC. They, each and everyone, have a complex history that started before they were even born. (Yes, our ancestors’ stories directly inform our own.)

Let’s jump back in to novel-land. Every character that our MC encounters has a rich background, just like every person that we encounter does. Does that mean we have to right an in-depth back story for every single character we write? No. It does mean we should give it thought. It means that if we have a character that has more than a few lines, more than a scene, we should really think more about who they are. Because everyone really is a hero in their own eyes.

Write on,

Emily

*in their own way! Thanks, Captain Hammer

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