The Space Between Heaven and Earth

The Nile River

Eleven months ago, my betrothed and I walked the desert to lie before the stars, so that their light might pierce our shells and share with us our true names. For the names given by family and friend are mere nicks and scrapes on the surface of a person’s true nature, and as the elders say, “Only the stars can show us who we are.”

Before the stars gave us the names we sought, our people called my betrothed the second son of Ammon, and me the second daughter of Nu. We went west from the great river, crossing the high dunes with a warm rain sitting soggy on our shoulders, and did not speak throughout the morning. I followed my betrothed, watching the dunes, counting our steps, spotting the few subtleties of landscape we’d been taught to navigate by, and soon we came upon our destination.

We did not see the monolith until it was right in front of us, for it had stood hidden, a giant grey slab of stone against the grey storm. Its walls inclined toward a single point high above, directing our eyes skyward, and we paced slowly around looking for the entrance to the sacred cave.

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Page Turners (Scenes & Sequels)

Bad news...

Usually my work falls under one of two categories: a story for a video game I’m working on, or novelized fiction. But for the longest time, the stories that I intended to be played (experienced by a player) were easier to write, and more exciting to me. This is because, unknowingly, I was applying the principles of Scenes and Sequels to my game projects but not to my novels.

If you are unfamiliar with Scenes and Sequels, or as I like to call them, action scenes and reaction scenes, the link above is a great introduction. But I can give you a quick rundown.

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Plotting Without a Parachute

I wrote a novella last year without understanding its universe at all. It was an experiment. I wrote it blind, without doing any plotting, world building, or character sketching. I let it fall from my brain like a sky diver without a parachute. I’d taken no precautions, I had no idea how I was going to land.

That said, I did land, and I landed in a really cool place. Such a cool place, in fact, that I decided to stop living in the vague world I’d created, step through the fog to see what existed outside of the novella’s narrow path. The world grew very large very quickly. New characters sprouted up in familiar and unfamiliar countries, with their own stories to tell, all of them connected in some way. And thus I took a hard look at the old novella and decided it wasn’t good enough, it needed an overhaul. Ugh.

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Outlining with the Hero’s Journey

The Hero's Journey, with great examples!

The Hero's Journey, with great examples!

I recently posted an entry that practically said, “Hey, I just wrote a story without doing any planning and it was awesome!” and now I’m here to say, “Hey, I’m planning like crazy and it’s awesome! (And also, there’s no one way to do a thing, try different stuff!)”

I tend to get carried away when outlining, I’ll go off on a tangent or into too much detail, and subsequently lose steam and scratch the whole thing, but I’ve recently found a way to stay on track, and thought I’d share my experiences and thoughts. This isn’t a how-to post; despite the silly heading, you won’t find the twelve steps listed here (though you will find a link to them).

I don’t particularly like the idea of writing to a formula, but I’ve been using Christopher Vogler’s version of The Hero’s Journey (the twelve steps are there!), and Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth (seventeen steps are there!), as a basic blueprint for the outline of my latest novel. This has provided much inspiration, and freed up some of my brainpower for problem solving rather than blank-slate plot generation.

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The Importance of Conflict

A writer friend recently confessed to me that she had all of these great protagonists, but had trouble coming up with things for them to do, and one of my favorite pieces of writerly advice popped vaguely to mind: YOU are the antagonist. If you don’t torture your protagonist, who will?

#20 – Torture Your Protagonist. It’s not enough for him to be stuck up a tree. You must throw rocks at him while he figures out how to get down. – Allen Guthrie, Hunting Down the Pleonasms.

Yo, Luke!

Yo, Luke!

I couldn’t recall the above quote at the time, so instead I told my writer friend that she should punch her characters in the stomach and see how they react. While this can certainly come in the form of a literal punch, the point is actually to take the character out of their comfort zone, to shake up their lives and see how they react. The punch is the catalyst that kick-starts the story, and the reaction/pre-action to the punch generates plot. By bullying our characters, we explore what we love about them by watching the way they cope with trauma.

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Beginning Without An Ending

The writing process for my latest novel started as an exercise: One short scene told in present tense, third-person objective (wacky challenge woeeohooo!).

The concept came like a painting, hanging in my imagination: I saw a boy humming a tune to himself on a river’s edge, the stars shining overhead, with a girl watching from the shadows of the far bank. I wrote the scene effortlessly, letting my imagination do whatever it wanted; and what it wanted was for a minotaur to come out of the forest to berate the children for being out so late at night.

I had never written in present tense before, and I thought it worked in the piece better than expected, drawing me in over the characters’ shoulders. But a few weeks later, when I reread the story, the story itself drew me in, and led right into another scene. I continued the story in the same experimental way, writing without plotting, world building as little as possible along the way (which is completely out of character for me! I am a world builder at heart!). The writing process had decidedly been to let the story tell itself. I did not understand how the magic in my world worked, and I did not understand what the world was like beyond its dystopian borders. I did not know my characters’ parents until I met them. I wrote more scenes, and then chapters. The project was a completed novella about two months later.

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Building Khaos

This is the first draft of a character sketch/world building exercise I did to help me better understand the origin of the deities and magic of my novel. I will be posting a more fleshed out version shortly, which stretches the story out and reveals a whole lot more about Khaos and her society.

I am known as Khaos to my people, though it has no great meaning to them yet. I have just learned (among other things) what it will come to mean, which it turns out is the antithesis to my thesis. The chaos of which I speak is a true danger to this world, and it is my compulsion to create structure, rules which promote homeostasis, stability, so that chaos cannot unravel that which I love and cherish; my people, my family.

I will be the one to shape the rules of this world. I know this because this morning I became omniscient. I am a God, or what will be called a God in the years to come.

When I woke up, just a few moments ago, from my grassy place in the corner of my dirt floored, stick-and-mud hut, I didn’t understand why fire always came to the fire pit when I needed it to warm the cooking pot, and when I looked through the open doorway and thought the crop looked thirsty, I didn’t understand why rain began to fall. I simply thought that was how it was supposed to be. I was puzzled by clouds, and by stars, by plants and animals; by sun and moon. I had a very incomplete knowledge of everything; but it was my love to question life, to question these things, and the question that I asked myself today was, can I know the answers to these questions, of the fire, and of the rain? and instead of wondering about the answers themselves, I decided to know them, and then I did. It was then that I became aware of my omnipotence, and decided I could know the answers to all questions, and I do. I now have complete knowledge, and am the first and only omniscient.

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