Thursday, December 28, 2017

Just as a heads-up, updates might be a little scarce for a bit. I got a book illustration job that I'm really excited about, and it's going to be pretty extensive.

I'll see what projects I can sneak in during my spare time, though. :) (Thankfully I have a sizable backlog of stuff to submit to the Neopian Times.)

My current project - the My Little Pony fanfic - is now on hold, but I can pick it back up any time. I've been having a blast writing the main characters of the show, and I hope this story evokes the spirit of the show well. It also provides some good closure for Radiant Dawn as she enters a new chapter in her life. Hopefully future canon material won't explicitly say there are no other alicorns besides what's shown in canon, because after this story, Ray's existence is no longer secret. And I can be very pedantic about making sure my fanfic lines up correctly with canon.

Ah well--the ball's in the canon writers' court now. And I'm sure if future material contradicts my fics, I'll find some way to weasel around it. (Like how I made Yuezhi work in my Neopets fics when we learned that Kaia is the only known faerie from Shenkuu.)

Anyway, going to have tons of fun with this illustration project!

Monday, December 25, 2017

Christmas present for my grandma, who loves giraffes. :) Bird in the background is a palm nut vulture, which are native to sub-Saharan Africa.

Giraffes are fun. The ones at my local zoo are super friendly and like saying hi to people. Sometimes I feel like zoos are where animals get free entertainment every day, watching all of the funny humans pass by.

Micron pen on sketchbook paper.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

I felt guilty, so here are some sketches! :) Yay for guilt trips!

That piece in the upper right is me poking fun at my own writing process for On Borrowed Wings. When I started writing the first draft years ago, I set out to make it a very serious, deep drama that tackled profound ideas about personal growth and human potential. When I decided to finish it, I realized that that approach was boring, so instead now it's about obsessions with spicy chicken ramen and discussions of the characters' favorite MLB teams.

(Pro writing tip: Have fun with your writing! It makes the whole process more enjoyable.)

Poor Hyren. My first attempts at making up a cool backstory for him when I was 14 didn't go so great. I like the backstory I've settled on now, though. Grumpy ex-space-marines are the best.

Slight redesign of a Digimon I made up some years ago. Maybe someday I'll make her into an original character. Mostly I just love those dino feet. More things need dino feet.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Finished my revision of "Draik Expectations"! :)

I rewrote the climax a little so that a) Pharazon's thought processes throughout the whole thing are more clear, and b) Celice shows a bit more of a believable reaction, and one that leads in better to her apology at the end.

A good character-arc tip that one of my editors shared with me is: if you're planning on having a character have a change of heart, you have to set up adequately for that by giving them some adverse reaction to their actions beforehand. Guilt, doubt, and being taken aback by another character disagreeing with them are some good examples of this.

Essentially, it's important to establish that this character has been introduced to the idea that what they are doing may not be the best course of action, and that the character is not dismissing this idea. Even if their initial reaction is to get angry at the person calling them out or doing things differently, that will at least show that this character is not apathetic to others' opinions--getting their ire raised will, if they are open to it, give them the opportunity to think through their anger and come to some important conclusions.

Anyway, Pharazon's character arc here is also important because it establishes that he has a habit of getting so worked up in his emotions that he will put his trust in people who offer him an easy solution to his problems--something that becomes a much more serious issue the year after "Draik Expectations" occurs, during "Worth Searching For".

Another big change in the climax is that in the revision, Pharazon's and Celice's make-up process is more realistic. In the original, Pharazon was far too quick to accept Celice as a friend, and in light of his actions in "Worth Fighting For", it's established that Pharazon (at least at this point in his life) does not let go of grudges easily and has difficulty forgiving others. I feel that it's important that this character trait of his manifests in this story, as foreshadowing for when it gets him into far more severe trouble in "Worth Fighting For". While in "Draik Expectations" he learns the importance of forgiving others when they apologize, in "Worth Fighting For" he learns the importance of forgiving others even when they don't apologize, and why it's important to seek solutions that will help everyone, rather than act on vengeful and hateful impulses.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Today's writing notes

So guess what--I am updating "Draik Expectations" and putting it on FFN. :) Thinking about the story more, even though it's pretty weak technically, I feel that it does represent a big turning point in my approach to writing for the Neopian Times. Unlike its predecessor "The Zafara Who Would Be Mayor", "Draik Expectations" actually involves lessons learned and characters developed. It was during this story that I think I began to move away from seeing my NT fiction as off-the-cuff tales of hilarious hijinks, and more as tales of my Neopets having ambitions and acting on them, going through experiences that change them, and of the family dynamic acting as something besides comic fodder--this is a family that goes through both challenges and wacky randomness together.

Unfortunately for the story, this kinda happened as I was halfway through writing it, so as it reads in the Neopian Times it's very disjointed in tone, starting off as comedic and random and ending on a rather somber note, as both Pharazon and Celice learn important things about the nature of friendship.

I think the main turning point was that I realized that while comedy-hijinks-style writing sounds good on paper, in practice it tends to be unsustainable if that's all you ever write. While it's good to be funny, and there's a time and a place for funny (as I think I have established), if all you ever write about characters is situational comedy, they don't really develop much depth. Stories become much too formulaic if it's just the same "she does random things and he gets exasperated and Pharazon is there because I don't want to leave him out I guess" every time. My writing process seems to go a lot better if I think in terms of "what do I want my characters to get out of what they go through" rather than "random fun with [insert topic here]!".

Plus, I think in writing "The Zafara Who Would Be Mayor" I realized that I did not have a good handle at all on Pharazon's character. Blynn and Hyren had really well-established characters, but I'd never put much thought into Pharazon. (In the original version of "Draik Expectations" he reads a lot differently than how I write him now, simply because I hadn't figured out his personality yet, so in this revision I'm doing some rewrites to make him read more like his usual self.) So I wanted to write a story where he was the main character, and see if I could figure out more about him from there. Comedy does not really lend itself well to in-depth character development--I realized I needed to have him go through a conflict and learn something from it.

In this revision I'm also making that conflict clearer. In the original, Celice just embarrasses Pharazon by using him as a demonstration subject for her presentation on faerie Draiks, but in the revision she outright lies to him about helping him get into Brightvale University, tricking him into attending a presentation where he's looked upon with disdain by Brightvale's snobbish intellectuals. I felt that was a clearer source of conflict than in the original, where motivations are kind of muddled because I didn't quite know what I was doing.

Also, while most of the edits either have to do with tightening the plot or fixing old prose, I couldn't help but throw a few little extra things in there. For example, it's now established that faerie-colored pets bleed magic. Poor Pharazon--he's hopelessly sparkly.

Another major edit is a few mentions of Terra where the original had no mention of her at all, as though the three siblings were ownerless. The reason I did this in my first two post-hiatus stories is because I didn't want to be seen as an author who used her Neopian Times writing as thinly-veiled self-aggrandizement, with a few Neopets as minor characters so it would get published. By "Worth Fighting For", though, I'd ditched that idea--Terra is an integral part of her own Neopian family, and her relationship with her Neopets is just as important as their relationship with each other.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Guess who's working on another My Little Pony fanfic?! And this one actually features the main characters of the show this time! It takes place sometime during season 7, to be precise. While I won't spoil too much, it's about the MCs (the Mane Six plus Spike and Starlight Glimmer) journeying to Daybreak and meeting Princess Radiant Dawn. By this point, Prince Ironclad has built up an army of pegasi in order to defend the kingdom and his wife, and Westerly here is in charge of a squadron of border patrollers. The westerlies are mid-latitude winds that circulate closer to the poles than the equator, so I had fun giving the corporal a bit of an alpine theme.

Writing the main characters from the show has been really fun--their personalities are all so well-defined that they have strong interpersonal dynamics, and it's easy to gauge how they'll react to most situations.

Not sure when I'll be finished with it, but it's fun so far.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

My sister wanted me to draw her cats as human children.

Chewbacca is a neurotic control freak, and his little brother Marshmallow is the most ridiculously derpy cat I have ever seen. He also likes to hide in the fireplace and get soot all over his white fur.

I love my cat nephews.

Friday, December 1, 2017

I finished "Giving Day at Black Keep"! Nearly 14,000 words of domestic drama and Lord Kass being great. It's been fun to write him do a total 180 from the Battle for Meridell plot, although it's still not a good idea to mess with him. (Of course not; being nice and being a pushover are not synonymous, and an important part of kindness is standing up for the people you care about.)

Anyway, as I threatened to do, I also wrote a short story that attempts to tie up some unexplained items and loose ends of the Champions of Meridell plot. I won't give away too much, but it mostly takes place before the First Meridell War, as King Hagan and Master Seradar learn that King Skarl has obtained a mysterious orb, and they determine to try to get to the bottom of things.

I wanted to explain two things with this story:

1) The nature of Darigan Citadel, both historically and in the aesthetic of its citizens. In the Flash animations for the CoM plot, the Orb is stolen from a place that looks like the polar opposite of Darigan Citadel, an idyllic utopia where we see a non-freaky-looking Grarrl and Korbat who are heavily implied to be General Galgarroth and Lord Darigan. This gave the impression that Darigan Citadel Neopets were once perfectly normal Neopets who were hideously mutated when they lost the Orb.

But not only is this incredibly depressing, but I realized it doesn't square with my headcanon that Neopets from the Citadel (or at least from the nation it came from) helped build Black Keep in Brightvale's Market Town. If you've ever played the Darkest Faerie PS2 game or at least seen screenshots/videos, you'll see that Black Keep has a remarkably post-Orb-Citadel-esque aesthetic about it, and that inspired me to think that the Darkest Knight hired mage-architects from the past equivalent of the Citadel to build his fortress. (Because, if Darigan Citadel itself is anything to go by, its citizens seem to be remarkably adept at magically-aided structural engineering.) It also explains why Kass likes the place so much--it reminds him of home.

Not wanting to lose that idea, I wrote what I like to call an expanding upon canon. Nothing in this history contradicts canon--I don't believe it's ever canonically stated that Darigan's people were the first owners of the Orb, and I don't think anything ever says that Darigan's people naturally looked like normal Neopets. So I took a few loopholes and ran with them. :)

Also addressed is the matter of the Citadel's name. It's called Darigan Citadel and its ruler is Lord Darigan. But Darigan has likely not ruled the Citadel, or at least the country it came from, for the entirety of its existence, and he does not strike me as the type of guy vain enough to name his own kingdom after himself.

However, in several places on the website, "Draconian" is used as the possessive for Neopets/items from the Citadel, and that got the wheels in my head turning. What if Draconia is the name of the nation the Citadel came from? What if "Darigan" is just a descriptor that's fallen into the common vernacular? I think this makes much more sense, and it's why I try to use "Draconian" as a possessive in my writing more often than "Darigan" (usually unless I'm describing the paint brush color).

2) The existence of the time portal to medieval Meridell, and why all of modern Neopia can now access Meridell like it's no big thing. I talked about this more in a previous post, but it all gets explained, hopefully neatly, in the story.

Anyway, more fun times were had in Brightvale with this story. It was fun to write Master Seradar again (he also shows up in "Worth Searching For"). He's got some Gandalf-like spunk in him and there's some fun good-natured bantering between him and Hagan.

Characterizing Hagan was fun too; I like to picture the guy as a good, fair ruler of his people, but also self-righteousness personified, and someone who thinks he's just too clever for his own good. He and Seradar are on good terms and he sees Seradar as a trusted adviser in magical matters, while Seradar puts up with Hagan's airs because Hagan is such a generous patron of learning.

Oh, and this story also explains what Brightvale was doing during both Meridell Wars. So I think it clarifies things rather nicely, and provides a good prologue for the Champions of Meridell plot.