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Category Archives: My Writing

Personal Project – Fire & Stone: An Overview

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A while back I took an art/drawing class. For our last project we were to create something that “embodied” us in some way. After 50+ hours I made the above picture from pencil, pen, charcoal, and paint.

It’s difficult to see on this (since the picture is iPhone quality) but each section is crafted with a bit of all four mediums. I did this because I felt the best things in life are  made with many different things combined with great love and attention. Cheesy, I know, but I worked hard on it, and I can honestly saw it embodies everything I feel is important to writing.

Hence, if it took me a few days to make that you could imagine what goes into my writing.

Fire & Stone, my first attempt at a long formatted story, is about ten years in the making. Now, before I let that sound too impressive, I should note the story itself did not take me ten years to write. Rather, the story itself was crafted from a short story I wrote ten years ago.

In that short story, called An Unexpected Friendship, a boy made of stone and a girl made of fire met each other after some people left a campsite. After overcoming their initial shyness they talk and find they had much in common. Soon after they became friends and their lives were better for it. That story came out to be around 5 pages and was written in 2003. Back then I never heard of “data saving” or a “flash drive” so any copies were lost to a Windows 95 computer that was probably recycled into someone’s car.

Nevertheless, the idea of a boy made of stone, and a girl made of fire, was never far from my creative process. Often I thought about redoing their story, so when the time came for me to write my Senior Project I figured, “eh, why the heck not.”

Eventually the story took on a form of it’s own. The campsite that from my first story became a massive forest surrounded by a thick mist. The campfire became the cities of Al-Hascio and Romanica. Eventually, the boy made of stone became Elhove, and the girl made of fire became Nijam. Soon enough the stage gained a few locales, such as the Ivory Tower and the Central Mining Quarry, and the cast quintupled.

Research, as you could imagine, was as varied as the subject material I wrote. I tore through books on psychology (namely those of abuse, neglect, and bereavement), anthropology (mostly on stone and iron age societies), and history (mostly that of Indian and Middle-Eastern societies). Honestly nothing was off limits, as I found researching geology and alchemy aided my endeavors (to varying degrees, i.e. there is no alchemy in this story).

As my friends and family knew, writing this story took a lot out of me, but the end result was well worth it: One shitty first draft, complete with all the tools and tell-tale signs needed to make it better.

After my time at Denver I plan to put a little more information regarding this story, and maybe even post a few excerpts. Until then I hope these last few entries have given you some insight into my current project.

So do you all have something in the works? Any stories where research came to you at a weird time? Do you write when you’re “inspired” or do you just write and hope something sticks?

Until next time.

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Personal Project – Fire and Stone: The Cast, Basics

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“A good story can be weighed down by mediocre characters. Good characters can carry a mediocre story.”
– I don’t know, I can’t find the source. *curls into a ball and cries*

In all seriousness, I cannot stress your characters’ importance. But if I were to explain it in a simple fashion, then allow me to talk as if I were discussing a movie.

Let’s go with The Matrix.

I’ll be 100% honest. I saw the Matrix sequels long before I saw the Matrix itself. As such, the initial shock and awe of “this world is a fabrication” was lost on account of “Yeah I knew that already.” In spite of this, I didn’t want this to spoil my enjoyment of the movie. As such I went in with the mindset of “Let’s see how it gets there.”

Well, to be honest, I almost fell asleep half the time. Not to say Mr. Reeves isn’t a good actor, but I found more personality in my cereal spoon than his performance.

Keanu Spoon

And it wasn’t just Keanu. Morpheus and Trinity struck me as such wooden characters that I found myself caring almost little for anything they did. I even considered shutting off the movie until I got to the major “betrayal scene.”

For those who have watched the movie you know what I’m talking about. For those who haven’t seen the Matrix i’ll not spoil this for you.

In this particular scene a character does and says somethings that put the main characters in a real, tense, life-threatening situation. This character fascinated me so much, because I heard, in that character’s monologue, all their strife, anger, and the many layers that makes a human a human. I was enthralled by this person’s performance on such a scale that it convinced me to watch the rest of this movie.

Now, i’m not saying the Matrix was a bad movie. In fact, I highly recommend it to anyone. However, as novel as the world and plot were, it meant little when none of the cast members came close to that level of intrigue and humanity.

The same goes for writing your story.

Your characters are your actors, and good actors are those who make the audience believe they are real people. It’s why Heath Ledger’s performance as “The Joker” was so haunting, and why Marissa Tomei won an Oscar for playing a woman from New Jersey in My Cousin Vinny. However, in a writer’s world we are not blessed with being able to pick and choose who portrays what in our story.

So it falls upon us, as writers, to create those characters ourselves.

For my story, Fire and Stone, no two characters got more development than Nijam and Elhove. These two, a girl and boy respectively, carry the brunt of the story, and as such they hold the responsibility of being the most realistic. Getting to that point, however, meant that I needed to get to know them better.

Ever have an imaginary friend? Someone you talk to? Listen to? Gives you advice even though, deep down, you’re really just talking to yourself? To me, making a character is a lot like that. I’ll give you an example, a bit of written dialogue I had when I “interviewed” Elhove.


(This is after I asked about his dad)

Elhove: Well what do you want to know? He’s the Elect. People like him. He’s kind of a big deal.

Me: Yeah but do you like him?

Elhove: *shrugs*

Me: What does that mean?

Elhove: I don’t know… I don’t talk to him much.

Me: What do you mean? You’re his son.

Elhove: Only when it’s convenient, I suppose.

Me: Convenient?

Elhove: The last time we talked he scolded me for missing my studies. *covers his arm*

Me: Is that when he gave you that scar?

Elhove:  *glares* Let’s talk about something else.

Silly as it sounds this “interview” went on for a couple of pages. In that time I really got to know a character I made up, simply by keeping in mind what kind of person he might be. As I learned more about him, I looked up various psychology books about children and teens who go through similar pains, all in an attempt to make him seem realistic. Throughout the interview a lot of his answers surprised me, and though he was a figment of my imagination, I felt as if he were a real human being. Whether that comes across to others is a different story, but the fact of the matter is I tried my hardest with everything I had.

For the sake of telling a good story, a lot of work goes into the mechanics. Regarding characters I found you have to practically talk to them, and make them feel like real people rather than just a few archetypes smashed together. This wasn’t the only way I got to know my characters but it definitely helped round them out. Maybe next time I’ll go over more details as to how I get to know my actors and actresses.

In the meantime here are a few links that helped me better understand the people on the page:

http://solsticeapocalypse.tumblr.com/tagged/character-crafting (this tumblr has a wealth of writing information. Very helpful stuff.)

http://www.springhole.net/writing/marysue.htm (how to tell if your character is a “Mary Sue”)

http://www.pgtc.com/~slmiller/characterdevelopment.htm (your basic, catchall character writing site. Contains a good list I use)

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So do any of you have a hard time getting to know your characters? What tricks or tips do you do to help round them out? Have you ever had a character talk back? What do you think about Character archetypes?

And with that I bid you all adieu until next time.

 

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Personal Project – Fire and Stone: The Stage, Basics.

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Your plot is like a stage, your characters the cast, and your plot is the script.
A story with only the last two has nothing on which to stand.

Setting is paramount to a story, and as any fantasy author knows this is especially true in this genre. When writing the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, Tolkien spent years devising worlds, cities, languages, and cultures all for the sake of his stories. The same goes for Brandon Sanderson, who crafted an entire solar system in which his stories take place (look up the Cosmere and you’ll see what I mean). Ursula K Le Guin, Robin Hobb, Tad Williams, George R.R. Martin, and many other great fantasy authors devote their writing not only to the plot and characters but to the world itself. Though their worlds vary one thing is for certain: the setting is paramount if the story is to get off the ground.

Hence, when I created Fire and Stone, the first thing I created was a stage. Thus the Two Cities came into fruition.

The Two Cities – A Legend

Nearly a century ago, the Two Cities were once one. Bound by the teachings of The Savior, known as the Will of Fire and Stone, their society came out of barbarism. Eventually a war broke out, and the city was split in both people and ideology.

To the east, a society known as Romanica was born.
To the west, a society known as Al-Hascio was born.

The Two Cities: An Overview

The story takes place in a massive forest. And when I say massive, I mean that if you climb to the top of a tree and look out, you’ll see more forest. The forest itself is extremely dense, so much so that almost no light escapes the canopy. Those who live in the Two Cities avoid the forest, for its inhabitants are the source of many superstitions and mysteries.

The Two Cities themselves are about 10 sq miles (16 sq km), and are currently undergoing a transition. With the invention of farming and smithing, the Two Cities are in the dawning of an Iron Age, and with it all the social unrest and anxiety that brings.

Though they share a common beginning, the two societies are different in both management, culture, and magic. Decades of isolationism tend to do that with relationships, no matter how close they once were. Observe:

Romanica: The Society

Will of Fire

“The Fire Sigil”
Romanica’s Offical Symbol

Romanica is a Theocratic Matriarchy. In essence, they are a deeply religious society in which the political and social norms are determined by females in power. The citizens are devout followers of the Will of Fire, and attend a weekly mass held in the city’s tallest structure: The Ivory Tower.

The most powerful woman in Romanica is the Noru, who is also the head of the Fire Clergy. She, like the Pope, is the ultimate say in the religious goings on that encompass the society. As the political leader she is the final say in every economic, legislative, and judicial proceeding. You can probably guess she has a lot on her shoulders.

Inherent to their society is a magic called “The Inner Fire” in which practitioners can use their emotions to summon flames and keep themselves warm. This magic is not unlimited as the body uses one’s hydration as fuel for the flame. In addition, one’s own control of their emotions determines one’s ability to control the fire, for the soul acts as a spark for the flames.

Al-Hascio: The Society

"The Five Paths" Al-Hascio's Official Symbol

“The Five Paths”
Al-Hascio’s Official Symbol

Al-Hascio is a Democratic society built into a nearby lone mountain. Those who live here were the descendants of those who instigated the War of Fire and Stone, and as such they hold great pride in their history. Built on the Will of Stone, the other half of The Savior’s Teachings, these people fought for their freedom from the Noru and the Fire Clergy, and now live within a mining society.

True to their symbol, everyone lives within one of five “paths”, or careers. The five paths are: Scholar, Guardian, Politician, Mason, and Labor, though not all paths fit neatly into one category (for example Teacher falls between Scholar and Guardian.) Children in this society are raised in such a way that they experience what it’s like to live in all five paths. When they come of age they are expected to marry and choose a path from which to serve the city.

Within their city are gemstones called Sceon. When touched, these dull blue gems steal warmth from whoever makes contact with them and glow brighter for every bit of warmth they took. They have the consistency of gems but are oddly malleable and capable of being grafted into everyday tools. Doing so enhances the tool’s properties (a metal knife can easily cut through stone, a hammer hits with more force, etc.). When not being a tool these stones act as a renewable light source for the cavern dwelling people of Al-Hascio.

Final Thoughts

I have much more I could put down here but I would rather not, seeing as the Word Doc for this is over 40 pages. Instead I consider this to be an acceptable starting point for these places.

I can’t say I knew exactly what I was basing these from but I can say I had a lot of help from peers. I asked my History and Anthropology friends what all is necessary to make a society, as well as looked into cultures myself. Any blanks were filled in by going to websites like The Seventh Sanctum or Hiveworld. This information served me well, and hopefully it would do the same for you.

So that’s some insight into the world of Fire and Stone. Do you all like to make worlds of your own? Do you think worldbuilding is necessary when your story takes place in the real world? What do you like most about worldbuilding?

On Friday i’m going to post some basic info on the cast of Fire and Stone. Until then, happy writing everyone.

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2013 in My Writing, Uncategorized

 

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The Campfire: A Scene from my Story.

Since I always talk about writing, I feel I should probably put some of my stuff up here from time to time. Here is a scene from a project I’m currently working on. It was written a while back but it remains one of my favorites since it marks a time when I finally sat down and wrote something.

All the background you need: the protagonists’ name is Alaric. The story is Fantasy set in a world I made up. It is written in first person. This section is 8 pages long on Microsoft Word.

The Campfire

A cold chill woke me from my sleep. I reached around for another layer of bed sheets only to feel the rough stitching on my sleeping bag. Sighing, I sat up and let out a soft groan so as not to wake my companions. Three weeks ago I was separated from Sir Rorand en route to my destiny. Three weeks ago I was captured by marauders and flung into this constant battle with the wilderness. “Three weeks” I mumbled, “and I still can’t keep myself warm at night.”

A soft humming, as though someone were practicing scales, caught my attention. I knew this voice did not belong to Yakov, whose last attempt at singing nearly killed us, nor did it belong to Lady Jayshra, whom was still asleep. As I rubbed the blur from my eyes I realized the campfire was lit, and Lady Iselle was tending the flames. I noticed she held a charred wand, most likely burnt from the spell she used to light the fire. “What I wouldn’t give to use magic like that.” I chortled. Even if it meant becoming a Clar’na.

Another cold wind pierced my skin, losing my mind of the desire for slumber. Knowing I had nothing better to do I slid on my boots and started towards my companion. I called her name, but she did not answer. I called once more, and louder, but she still did not answer. I let out a groan and decided less subtlety was needed.

“Iselle” I said as I placed my hand on her shoulder.

This time I caught her attention, but instead of ‘hello’ I was greeted with a shriek. She swung around to face me but became tangled in her white and blue robes. She then fell over, a loud thump signaling she hit the ground. “A thousand pardons Clar’na Iselle” I said as I rushed to her.

Her blue eyes twisted in anger at the sight of me. She pursed her lips and slapped my hand away. “Spearhead!” she said, emphasizing the spear in my nickname, “Don’t startle me like that again!” Too tired to argue I swallowed my pride and ignored the insult.

As she stood up I noticed she dropped her headdress, revealing her short, shoulder length hair. To my astonishment it was a dark shade of indigo. At first I thought it was fake, a wig or pigment dye of some kind, and yet as the wind blew I saw that every strand was attached to her head. I knew all Naman women had bright hair, but something about Iselle’s was beyond understanding. She snapped her fingers at me to catch my attention.

“Sorry. It’s just the first time I’ve ever seen your hair.”

She reached for her head and ran her fingers along the top. Her eyes widened as she felt her hair, and I feared she was going to shriek once more. Her face turned bright red as she turned me away.

“My headdress! Where is my headdress?” she said as I heard her gloved hands rustle through the dimly lit grass. I turned around to help look but was commanded to stay put as she picked it up.

“I know a Clar’na is to be modest in the presence of men, but is this truly necessary?” I asked. She sat back down and jerked her hat back on, grunting as she did so.

“Hah” she laughed, “You’re hardly a man. And for your uncivilized Ecnecian brain yes, it IS necessary.”

Knowing it was safe I turned, only to see her sitting on the log with her nose in the air. As soon as I sat next to her she stood up and faced me, though her eyes dared not meet with mine. I sighed, knowing a lecture would soon follow.

“In Namudios, a Clar’na is not to show her hair, for her hair is a blessing by the Goddess. Its basic decency you know. Even your Sentines understand that much, despite their savage mountain people ways.” By “their” I knew she meant “my”, but I decided not to comment. Hoping to keep the conversation civil responded with another question.

“I thought that only applied during church” I asked, throwing a piece of wood in the fire. I braced myself for a cutting remark, a contrary opinion, anything to say that would suggest that she had the moral and intellectual high ground.

“I…” she began. “Where did you read that?” she asked.

“Um… in the library back home?” I responded. Had I not been so caught off guard I’m sure I would have said something smarter. Instead I blurted the first thing that came to mind, and by her blank stare I could tell it was a stupid statement.

“A library? In the mountain lands? Surely you’re telling tales” she said, her voice shaking from disbelief.

“No, no we have libraries in Ecneics.” I said.

That should be enough.

“In my province we have a massive library that contains almost every book ever written. I once read through the Tome of Namudios.”

Withea burn me! Why did I just say that?

“In the third chapter of The Conduct, it read that a Clar’na need only wear a headdress during ceremony or mass.”

Shut up you imbecile! Why dig yourself deeper?

“I thought it applied to all Clar’na…. in… the… parish…”

I turned and was greeted by her chilling glare. I realized she had a wand, and with it she could end my life. Father always told me talking too much would be my end, and now I feared he would be right. Closing my eyes, I braced for the worst.

“W-well done Spearhead” I heard her say.

I turned to see her face and saw her lips rise into a smile. My jaw dropped a little as she chuckled. In her laughter I could not help but follow her eyes. For once they lacked the spite or pride, and showed only joy. It’s a good look for her, I thought, allowing myself to chuckle as well.

“Well done Spearhead. You’re not as ignorant as your people, it seems.” she said, her eyes and body facing me for the first time since I met her a week ago. Though I was angered by her “compliment” I chose to brush it off once more. Not wanting to ruin this moment I gathered my wits and cleared my throat.

“Well everyone back home reads. You’d be surprised just how many books are used daily. I had to search the restricted area to find your country’s Holy Tome.”

“How did you get into the restricted section?” she asked.

Despite the fire before me a cold chill crawled up my spine. I realized I had not told her I was a Crowned Heir, or that I even had a life before travelling. I could tell she wanted answers, yet for once I had no desire to give.

“Actually,” she asked, “I’m more impressed libraries still exist in Ecneics. I thought you Spearheads burned them down when Chaler III came to power.” Her statement caused me to laugh.  

“You don’t honestly believe…” I started, holding back my tears as I laughed. I realized she wasn’t laughing and, looking back, I realized the sincerity of her question.

“Chaler III lived one hundred years ago, and he was only one noble.” I said, composing myself.

“The Ecnecian Nobles believed he was mentally ill and never followed through on his plans. In fact my hometown has a library, free for public use.” A look of disbelief came across her face as I finished. She then looked at the fire and let out another chuckle.

“Wow, I never knew mountain folk could value knowledge. My whole life we were taught the savage Ecnecian Spearheads were in a constant state of barbarism” She said.

“Namudios is more ignorant of the world outside than Ecneics it seems.”

Burn me twice! Why did I say that?

Her eyes twisted in anger, yet before she emoted her body stopped. She then sighed and shook her head.

“I deserve that I suppose,” she said. I did not reply, content that I had not been burned alive.

“Spearhead,” she said without any malice in her voice, “What made you want to learn about my people?”

Burn me thrice! This girl can’t stop asking questions! I was able to get away with learning foreign religions back home but only because I kept quiet about the ordeal. I had no desire to betray the comfort of silence, and yet… her eyes seemed to beg for an answer.

My mind teetered between two extremes: do I tell her and risk my country’s secrecy or do I ignore it and risk losing her respect? The more I debated the more my father’s words bit at my mind.

“You don’t have to tell me everything. It’s not like I’ve told you much either” she said her eager eyes drooping toward the fire. All at once my anxiety disappeared, yet the look in her eyes still made my heart sink.

“I just figured you had a reason to do so. It’s not like I ever tried to learn Ecnecian folklore,” she spoke slowly, yet I could feel the weight of her words.

I then realized she was just like me. So far from home, out in a world she never saw before now. If anything we were two of a kind, two souls of similar make-up but in separate bodies. There was no way I could avoid it now.

“Sentinel Verick, once told me” I began “that Withea blessed us with wisdom and understanding” I paused for a moment to see if she was still listening. When I looked down to her I could see I had her full attention.

“I don’t like conflict, so I always felt the best way to create peace, no matter how bitter, was to learn why the other person thought that way.”

Iselle leaned forward, eyes squinting in what was either skepticism or anger.

“Are you saying that by learning about our religion you want to make peace with our country?” she asked. This time I could feel my face turn red as the blood rushed to my face.

“N-nothing that grand” I stammered. “I just thought that if I ever met a Naman I’d like to have more than cross words with them. Is that so much to ask?”

I turned to her, and for the first time my eyes met hers.

We sat in silence, yet I felt as though we were peering into one another’s soul. I don’t know what she saw in mine, but in her eyes I felt a lingering sorrow, a familiar anxiety, and the shared desire to return home. I was entranced as our eyes stayed still, and the pristine colors in her iris made a deep ocean blue. I then realized I was but an inch from her face so I turned away.

“You’re a strange individual… Alaric.” She said. I nearly choked at the sound of my name, yet I maintained my composure. Suddenly I felt better, though I was still too embarrassed to look at her.

“Well… What’s so strange about wanting to understand people” I broke off pieces of the log and threw them into the fire. Her gloved hand stayed mine.

“That’s not what I mean,” she said. Her hand left mine as she clasped them together and held them up to her head. She then raised her index finger and motioned a circle around her forehead, mouth and chest. I realized she was praying, but for what I did not know.

Iselle stood up and smiled. “Thank you for enlightening me tonight” she said. As she walked away I felt as though I had forgotten something. I looked at her headdress and recalled what I wanted to know.

“Lady Iselle” I called. She turned without hesitation. “I meant to ask, why don’t you show your hair more often?” Her face turned red once more.

Bah! How many times must Withea burn me tonight?

“I’m,” her voice trembled, “I’m different.”

Without another word she walked over to her tent. In the orange light of the campfire and the blue light of the moon I sat alone, wondering what she meant by “different.” Another cold chill broke my concentration so I decided to return to bed and think on it some other time.

So yeah, that’s my piece. Not the greatest but I enjoy it all the same. Any Criticisms? Comments? Concerns? When all is said and done I hope to talk more about the world in which these characters live. Until then I hope you have a good day, and that you enjoyed reading this.

 
 

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