Sunday, October 27, 2013

Do You See What I See?

No?  Good.  Because you don't have to.

This entry comes from a recent Twitter conversation I had with Teri Harman and F.J.R. Titchenell.  Take a look; it's brief because, hey, it's on Twitter.  ^_^  But it brought up something I didn't realize I'd done until I thought about it.

In The Accidental Warlock, I don't describe the two heroines' body types.  I say that Shiloh has blonde hair, blue eyes, and pale skin; likewise, I say that Alexi has copper-brown skin, dark eyes, and black hair with a purple sheen to it, as well as a red mark on her forehead.  (A desert deity claims Alexi's people as her own, hence her hair and the mark.)  And Shiloh describes Alexi as being a few inches taller than her.  But that's about it.

When I started, I didn't know how to have Shiloh describe Alexi's figure, and Shiloh describing herself felt strange to me.  So I skipped it, figured I'd add it in later.  But I gave it some thought and realized it was better that way.

Modern culture has some ridiculous image issues when it comes to women.  I'm a guy, so I'm subjected to this less, but... seriously.  It seems that any woman who's in the spotlight in any way will have her appearance picked apart at every opportunity, and two different women will be criticized for opposite things.  I see and hear this everywhere - someone is too tall, too short, too thin, too heavy, too dark, too light, wearing too much makeup, not wearing enough makeup, dressed too sexy, not dressed sexy enough...

Just typing all that up makes my head hurt.  And I decided not to subject my characters to that.

Fictional characters aren't free from all this; I've seen the same barbed comments directed at women across multiple fandoms.  So I decided to not describe my heroines' body types, and let the readers picture them however they want.  This wasn't easy for me - I do a lot of description because I want my readers to see what I see in my head.  But I read something once, where a reader said that they were overweight, so they tended to imagine the characters they read about as overweight.  I gave it some thought and decided I was fine with that.

For the record, I picture Shiloh as skinny, and Alexi as athletic with some curves.  But if someone, for example, wants to picture Shiloh as chubby and Alexi as tall and willowy, that's okay.  It's a little weird to me to give something like that up to the reader, but if it means my characters won't get saddled with other issues just because of how I describe them, I'm fine with leaving that out.  And it won't affect how I picture them, or how I write them.

Next entry: probably something about rewriting an ending, because that's what I have to look forward to this week.  Grr.  Arg.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Plot Squeezings

I get to write an entire blog entry about something working right.  I'm very pleased.  ^_^

As I said at the end of my last entry, I planned to take some time to figure out a plot for one of my half-dozen clusters of gathered ideas.  It's really hard for me to work on more than one story at a time (something that needs to change, but that's yet another blog entry), so I took a few days off of editing TAW to hammer this out.  Editing on TAW is going well, by the way; I cleared one of the major hurdles tonight, and there's only two more huge changes to make before I have to rewrite most of the last chapter.  So that's good too.

But, about the plot-in-progress: it didn't crash and burn while I tried to figure it out.  And that alone is reason for celebration.  A small celebration, but still.

A writer whose work I really enjoy - Brian K. Vaughan, who's done mostly comic books and whose stuff you really should read - has been quoted as saying he always knows how a story will end before he starts writing it.  I wholly support this, and I haven't written anything good when I've gone against it.  So when I sat down to plot, I hammered out a few crucial plot details from beginning to end, and started filling things in, finding all the little things that had to happen in between.

And I just kept filling.

It was one of those bizarre moments I think a lot of writers hope for, like the story was already there, I was just digging it out of the blank page.  It's kind of like being an archaeologist, chipping away to find an entire damn dinosaur skeleton buried somewhere in my head.  And the more I wrote, the more I knew, of the plot and the characters and the setting, so I just kept going.  There's always something awesome about realizing a story as I go along, when figuring things out becomes almost effortless.

Of course, the real effort is yet to come.  I still haven't figured out everything; the plot still has some significant holes in it and needs a lot of fleshing out to determine character actions and motivations, and to make sure it works as a whole.  And I have to write the thing, which is always the hardest part, until it's time to edit.  @_@  But for the first time in quite a while, I've got a good feeling about what's there so far, and I'm really eager to keep digging it up.

Especially since this isn't doesn't actually involve a dinosaur skeleton, but a dragon skeleton.

Next entry: inspired by some tweets from earlier this week, a discussion of body image, character, and things we give up to our readers.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Accidental Warlock: What it's All About

Shiloh Donovan dreams of a book only she can see.  When she finds the book, she wonders if the gods sent those dreams, until a disembodied demon bursts forth from the book and attacks her.  The demon speaks an incantation that forcibly changes Shiloh's vision - she sees magic as raw power that she can manipulate.  Shiloh uses this new power to close the book and banish the demon, but when she contacts her parents and they're concerned but not surprised at the turn of events, she realizes they know something.

To make matters more complicated, on that same day, Alexi RiLeon arrives.  She's there to settle a business deal with Shiloh's family, a deal that involves Alexi's marriage to Shiloh's older brother.  Shiloh takes Alexi to Donovan Manor, where Shiloh's parents reveal the truth:

Shiloh is adopted, and her birth parents were part of a demonic cult that prepared her before birth to be a new body for the demon Ak'tagth.

Dealings with demons are forbidden in her homeland, so Shiloh agrees to hide at the family's safehouse.  Alexi asks to delay the business dealings, and goes with Shiloh.  But the portal to the safehouse instead sends them to a seaside city hundreds of miles away.  Shiloh and Alexi realize what this means - the demon's people are working inside Shiloh's home, and altered the portal to send her elsewhere.

Now, far from home with cultists and demons coming after them, Shiloh and Alexi must find a way back.  The changes Ak'tagth wrought within Shiloh grow harder to ignore, yet that altered view of magic may be the only way she and Alexi survive the journey.

And on top of all that, Shiloh is falling hard and fast for Alexi.

Kind of reads like a query letter, now that I look at it.  @_@  Don't worry, I won't use it for that; I'll study Query Shark again before heading down that road, and I'll call myself lucky if I'm ready to query this book before the year's end.

But!  There you go, the basic characters and plot of The Accidental Warlock.  There's a ton more to it, as that covers only the first chapter and a half; most of the book is Shiloh and Alexi's journey as they try to get back to Shiloh's home city.  A lot changes for them along the way, and even more has changed by the time they get back.

Speaking of changes, it's editing time again.  Oi.  Hope you all enjoyed this.

Between now and the next blog entry, I'll make a valiant attempt at squeezing a plot out of one of the half-dozen different stories I have somewhere in the planning stages, and I'll blog about the results.  It might get ugly.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

How Happy an Ending?

As of a few minutes ago, I'm nearly done with the by-hand edits on The Accidental Warlock.  There are two chapters left, the final conflict and the wrap-up.  It's weird how long this has taken, and even weirder how much I've seen in editing it like this that I missed when reading it on my computer screen.  It's been so long since I did this, I'd forgotten what it was like, and I know now that this is an essential step of the editing process.

But most importantly, I'm almost to the end.

After I reach the end, I'll have a lot of changes to make.  I've already rewritten the first half of the first chapter. I also have entire chunks of the story to pull out and put in new places, paragraphs to delete, sections to rewrite with a different mood, and the occasional note that just says "FIX THIS".  And as a result of all this, there are major changes to the ending.

Not a single one of those changes is a good thing for the two main characters.

I now understand why some fans think writers hate their own characters - hell, a few times, I've asked myself if having things go so badly is really necessary.  And the answer is always 'yes'.  As I've said before, TAW already has more of a downer ending than any other book I've written.  But I gave some serious thought to the consequences of the characters' actions and realized I hadn't taken things as far as I should have.

There's not a lot I can say here without ruining the ending, but I know things have gotten a lot worse.  Not as bad as they could be, of course; I could have killed off the entire cast and had the main antagonist win, but that would leave me without these characters for a sequel.  ^_^  But I think the new ending works better overall, and puts everyone in a different place for whatever comes next.  This also means I have to figure out whatever comes next, as this new ending renders most of my plans for the sequel invalid.

It is, in part, still a happy ending.  Though it's one the main characters well and truly had to earn.  And I think the whole book will be better for it.

Next entry: now that I've talked about the ending (without really talking about the ending), and now that I might have a few new readers here, I think it's a good time to take more than a few sentences to actually say what The Accidental Warlock is all about.