Thursday, May 24, 2018

Soooo that wrap-up movie for the Wraith Resurgence plot on Neopets pretty much destroyed the backstory I'd made up for Malum--much of which hinged on the (incorrect) idea that his cursed form was how he normally looked. (Also much of which hinged on him having a past besides being old friends with Kaia.)

That being said, I didn't want to just cut out his role in the plot entirely--while it's not absolutely integral to the plot, I wanted to throw a wrench into the usual cast, and I had a good character arc planned out for Terra that he would be involved in. So I decided a wholly new character was in order! :)

This is Zoltan Arnyek, the Halloween Kyrii battlemage (someone who fights with a synthesis of physical combat and magic). He's a good guy, but he's rather grouchy and distrustful. As for his role in the plot... let's just say he owes Isengrim a favor, and our heroes have found themselves in a situation where they could really use a good magic user and Pharazon's not around.

His design does hearken back to cursed Malum a bit, but that's because I had (non-canon) ideas for why Malum looked the way he did. Zoltan has infused himself with dark magic, which has altered his appearance (and given him magical glowy hair... don't know if it heals people when he sings, though), and he also has channeled this magic through his Shadow Scimitar, imbuing it with extra dark power.

I decided to make him a Kyrii because I realized that Halloween Kyrii are fortuitously also "werewolf"-ish, and considering he and Isengrim first met a long, long time ago (pre-"Worth Fighting For", to be more specific on the timeline), I also realized that after a fellow Werelupe, a Werekyrii would be the most likely creature for past Isengrim to extend kindness to. Plus, considering how many other Lupe main characters I have in this cast (Isengrim, Suhel, Celice, and Connor), I didn't want to make yet another Lupe if it wasn't necessary for plot reasons. (Celice is a Lupe because when I was writing "Draik Expectations", that was the species I randomly chose while making up her character.)

And as for why Zoltan is a Halloween Kyrii--he wants all the power he can get (for a good cause, mind you), so he willingly "let in the wild", as Werelupes term it, and made himself into a Werekyrii.

Oh, and the embroidery on his cape might look out-of-place, but it's actually magical embroidery that contains warding enchantments--possibly the only thing left of his people.

Okay, I've said enough. :) I'm now considerably more excited to work on this story! Not sure when I'll get started, but I have enough finished stuff for the NT to hold me over until then.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic MBTI chart

This is what happens when I get bored.

Enjoy figuring out your MLP spirit animal!

If you don't know your Myers-Briggs type, here's a great chart that will help you.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

I also found these cutesy cartoons of Eloreth and Azimuth from On Borrowed Wings, that I'd done ages ago. Augh I used to be so great with Prismacolor marker and now it's like I don't even bother anymore. Well, to be fair, those markers are expensive (deservedly so, but still, expensive), and smelly (which is less justifiable in my book), and take up more desk space than my computer which is always on my desk anyway.

At any rate, if you look closely at Eloreth you can see some aspects of her design that didn't make it into the design on the book cover. This was back when I thought I had to cram ridiculous amounts of bells and whistles into my robot designs, so when I re-designed her for the book cover, I cut out some extraneous elements.

Also, to be clear, the Armamants' faces don't move in the book--they look like stone statues, not Transformers (old-school). Also Az's eyes aren't red, but I messed up in coloring. Oh well, it makes him look more menacing.
I was going through some old art yesterday and found some Skydwellers concept sketches, and I though I'd share them!

Early concept art for an arcoreum. My original idea was for torium to be a weird material that grows on its own into buildings, but I scrapped that as too out-there. (Because everything else in the book is normal, clearly.) So if I were to re-draw an arcoreum now, it'd probably look less organic. Also, it's supposed to have an extensive underside, as you can see in the fainter sketch below, but I never got around to finishing it.

Mathchis, Wilder, and Rohui. I keep forgetting Wilder's freckles auuggghh. Well, like I said before, I only mentioned them once in the entire story and then forgot about them. I was such a marvelously consistent writer who obviously cared deeply about these characters.

And finally, Miette! (I have drawn Kieri, but I didn't bother to take pictures of any sketches of her this time around.)

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Today's writing notes:

Working on: Skydwellers third edition

Done! Auuuggghhh now I can move on with my liiiiiife. And by that I mean work on my next project! In the meantime, I'm going to hand this book off to my proofreader, so I'll make a post when the new version of the book is available for purchase! If you've read either of the first two editions, you won't be missing much in terms of story, but if you're thinking of buying the book for the first time, I highly recommend this new third edition over the other two. It's better!

If I had a dime for every time Rohui rubs his chin, I'd have several dimes. Pro writing tip (that a very helpful editor gave me): avoid repetitive character actions. They deaden the prose. Also, avoid writing character actions as prose filler, especially during a conversation. The simple "he-said-she-said" exchange may seem boring, but it reads better and smoother than a bunch of meaningless and unnecessary actions, especially when those actions get repetitive because you can't think of any new ones.

Story-wise, another thing I am altering here is Miette's character arc. In the first edition, she triple-crossed her aunt and uncle, getting the idea during her hike in the woods with the other girls. In the second edition I decided this was a bit of a stretch for a 9-year-old girl (even a very smart one), so instead she remains fully loyal to the Faemor until the climax. In this edition, I've realized that that's not really true to her character either, so now when she rejoins her uncle with Mathchis she does so hesitantly, obviously feeling guilty and reluctant to work against people who have befriended her and shown her true unconditional kindness, especially since she discovers she identifies greatly with Mathchis. Thus, the climax is now a moment of bravery on her part as she finds the courage to break away from her family, fight the Faemor, and protect Mathchis.

I'm actually cutting out a lot more Wilder/Rohui banter than I thought I would. I guess, looking at it now, their relationship in the previous revision seems to be unpleasantly contentious. I think that, despite them both being young, they both realize that there's no point in slinging insults at each other all the time, especially when there's a world to save. Considering everything they've been through and everything they're dealing with, their verbal (and sometimes physical) jabs at each other just seem out of place and forced, like I felt obligated to shoehorn in banter everywhere I could. Nowadays, I find that I like nice conversations much better than banter--unless characters are purposely doing it because they're joking with each other, of course.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Today's writing notes:

Working on: Skydwellers third edition

Cut out another Rohui and Wilder fight because FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC. One new element of Rohui's character arc is that now he not only realizes that the Freethinkers were never his friends, but he comes to realize that his weird little adventuring party on the surface are the best friends he's ever had, and he cares about them deeply. I knowwwww that I said before that Wilder and Rohui always dislike each other, but I changed my mind. Because I am the author and I can do that. I want this story to be upbeat and full of good messages!

Also, I am never including this many points-of-view in a story again. I never had any solid POV plan for this book when I was planning or writing it--I just used a POV for each chapter that was relevant considering what was going on in the chapter. Which I guess kinda makes sense, but on the other hand I've found it hard to keep track of from a reading perspective. So that's probably not something I'll do again. I have not found much occasion since to use more than one POV in a story. (One notable exception was "Worth Searching For", which required multiple POV's because the main characters were split up over the course of the story.)

We're down to 74,000 words now! While mostly I've been cutting things out, I have taken the time to fill in spots where I feel like the worldbuilding could use more clarification. I have to admit, I'm one of those people who just takes a world as it is, and accepts that there are things about it that I don't understand and there's plenty of room for speculation, but I respect that most other readers want explanations for things.

So, for example, I've added in some brief dialogue between Rohui and Fraa where Fraa explains that "Sain" is a Graling honorific for war tanaaki, and a bit where Rohui and Miette explain to the others about how certain technology can materialize thoughts--this is how most of their processes work, and also makes it so it doesn't seem to come from nowhere (both figuratively and literally) when Rohui pulls a map out of his head a little later in the book.

Speaking of that, I'm also cutting out that bit of his character arc about realizing his psych-contriving talents, because I felt like that was a little forced, and didn't make sense--if his occupation is a newspaper reporter, I doubt he would find a sudden interest in becoming a software engineer, a totally different type of field. So now the main gist of Rohui's character arc is about learning who his true friends are. I don't think he needs to discover any special talents in order to come to a satisfying conclusion by the end of the story--he just needs to accomplish something, even something as seemingly small (but certainly not inconsequential) as understanding the meaning of friendship.

Also, in Chapter 16 I made Fraa and Kieri much more sympathetic toward Miette. Before, they had this rather harsh tone of "you're an idiot for being upset about things we don't think are a big deal", but that's really not very nice of either of them. I think Kieri's the kind of girl who earnestly cares about other people's problems, and if someone is upset she wants to help them, while Fraa is good at hiding her exasperation and is patient when helping those less emotionally mature than her. I like to think that kindness and patience, not harsh words, are what really help people change.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Today's writing notes:

Working on: Skydwellers third edition

Kieri totally sounds like Apple Bloom in my head. Cannot unhear.

I've been cutting out a lot of unnecessary conversation here and there. One thing I noticed about this manuscript is that I tended to include a lot of mundane exchanges between characters that did nothing to advance the plot or character development, or expand on the world--for example, I cut out a brief part in Chapter 11 where Rohui and Wilder discuss Wilder's ignorance of taxonomy, because it was inconsequential, and we're already well aware by that point that Rohui knows a lot of things that Wilder doesn't.

I also snipped a lot of bits and pieces that just bogged down the pacing of the prose and had absolutely no purpose, such as brief lines of dialogue where Wilder gets confused about things Rohui says. While little bits of speech like this do happen all the time in real life, in fiction writing I find that they just interrupt the pacing and muddle the train of plot that the reader is supposed to be following. So I think it's perfectly okay to have fictional conversations be more streamlined than they probably would be in real life.

There are also a lot of minor actions that really don't need to be there, such as most of the times a character looks at another character, sighs, or smirks--there is so much unnecessary smirking in this story and it's driving me crazy, haha. I used to think that I had to describe every single thing a character did, but now I understand that - like pretty much everything else in storytelling - you only need to describe a character's actions if they're meaningful to the story. Everything else can be safely left out, and it will help your story flow better.

Annnddd we're down to 75,000 words! I am only celebrating this because in this project's case, less words equals less useless prose.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Today's writing notes:

Working on: Skydwellers third edition

The first few chapters of this book really seem to drag on to me. I think it's because when I started writing it, I didn't have much idea of what I was doing, and I was kind of making up the plot as I was writing, so I spent a long time in Wilder's village because I had no idea what I wanted to do next. I realize now that I greatly dislike doing that - not the least because it leads to problems like these - so for longer works I always make sure to have a good-sized plot outline charted before I start writing. In this revision, I've been trying to streamline the beginning a bit so the pace is at least slightly more snappy. (But also probably it's because Wilder's village is so sleepy and samey that everything feels like it drags on there, so.)

Another fairly major edit I've made is to take out the Gralings' wings. See, I derived their species's design from a creature I'd conceptualized some years earlier, that I'd randomly given scraggly wings. When I decided to put them into Skydwellers, I felt like that element of their design worked well because it would be interesting if they grew themselves wings to try to emulate the Sky Gods. But now that I'm better at plot construction, I realize that if you incorporate a major design element like that, it should probably actually come into play in the plot. In previous editions of Skydwellers, once the wings are explained, they're really never mentioned again, and that's been eating at me. Plus, the Gralings are cool and all, but I really don't think they've managed to achieve species-wide genetic engineering. That aspect always felt kind of out-of-place in their civilization. So, considering removing their wings does absolutely nothing to alter the plot, I feel perfectly safe in taking out that element of their design.

That reminds me, another misconception that I need to clear up is that Gralings are not descended from humans who were mutated by the catastrophe 30,000 years ago. Gralings have always been an entirely separate sapient species and they've always been weird-looking. (Plus, the destruction that ended Mathchis's artificers' civilization was not nuclear-based--they were using aether weapons, which is a totally different type of energy than radioactivity.)

Also: so much unnecessary prose and dialogue tags that aren't "said" whyyyyyyyyy. It's funny how much one's writing can improve in just a few years. Writing tip: less wordiness is better. Cut out words that don't need to be there to convey the meaning of a sentence. For example, instead of "became engaged in explaining events", just a simple "explained events" will do just as well--perhaps even better, since it's snappier and clearer.

I also considerably reworked Wilder's and Rohui's conversation in Chapter 8. Rather than have it be a culmination of cultural tension, now it's about Rohui being mopey and overdramatic and wanting to give up because the other Freethinkers have been caught, and Wilder has to talk some sense into him. Overall there's a lot less contention and drama in this version, and I think it makes the book an overall pleasanter read.

Down to 76,000 words now! And I'm about 25% of the way through the manuscript. This is taking longer than I thought... probably because this thing is so olllddd.

Fraa is still fantastic. She definitely steals the show in this book and I'm not even mad.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Today's writing notes:

Working on: Skydwellers third edition

I want to take this opportunity to set a couple of things straight about the story, because I've gotten some comments from readers who I think misunderstood some points:

- This story takes place in a completely separate world from Earth. It is not a post-apocalyptic Earth. Yes, a drastic civilization-ending event happened about thirty thousand years ago in the Skydwellers world, but it is totally unrelated to our world. (Assuming that, on average, stars have the same amount of proper motion in that world's sky as in our sky, it would take about thirty thousand years for the constellations to look appreciably different, prompting Mathchis's comment when she sees the night sky for the first time since her reawakening.)

- Rohui and Miette are not an item. Rohui is 19 and Miette is 9--their relationship is that of an older brother and a younger sister. Maybe I need to make Miette's age clearer or something. There are no romantic relationships in this book.

Cut out a lot more Wilder snark because Wilder is not really a snarky person. Also snark is not all it's cracked up to be, honestly. Overdoing it just makes characters seem acerbic. I also altered Chapter 5 quite a bit--before, it was about Wilder and Rohui arguing and Rohui realizing that he's being condescending toward Wilder's culture, but now their conversation is more about Wilder feeling stuck on the farm. I think this will better help lead up to his decision to run away with Rohui. It also aids in his characterization, because in the previous versions Wilder didn't really have much in the way of dreams or life goals, but now we see that he yearns to explore the world outside of the farm and wants to do something with his life beyond being a farmer, and he's frustrated by being kept under his father's thumb.

Another fairly big change in this early part of the book is that I incorporated Pops more. I always felt like he needed some closure, because from what we see of him, he seems pretty close to Wilder, and I didn't like the idea of just leaving him hanging once Wilder decides to help Rohui. So now Pops gets a bit more of a proper character arc, even if he is just a minor character.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Today's writing notes:

Working on: Skydwellers third edition

I can't believe I just now realized that I couldn't keep Wilder's eye color straight. In the second chapter he's got blue eyes, but in the very next chapter he's got brown eyes. Also I forgot he has freckles. Obviously my mental image of these characters is very clear. At any rate, I think I'll keep his eyes blue because it's symbolic of how, even though he's a sturdy Passerim farmboy, he's figuratively got his head in the clouds and he's always wondered about the cities he keeps seeing drifting by in the sky far overhead.

Another thing I want to do in this revision is make Wilder's characterization stronger, which is something I did not put a whole lot of thought into before. Wilder is Rohui's foil in a lot of ways, but something they both have in common is that they're pretty brash and impetuous. At many points early in the book, I kind of waffled between having Wilder be quicker to act and more on the cunning side, but now I realize the latter just isn't like him. He's a very straightforward person and just kind of says and does whatever's on his mind at the moment, and doesn't allow himself much time for planning ahead. (In other words, he's a typical teenage boy.)

Rohui is slightly different than this in that he thinks he's an strategic mastermind, but his genius plans just end up making everything worse because he does not actually think them through enough. They're both really bad at looking before they leap, but Wilder's experiences tend to turn out slightly better than Rohui's, because Wilder does a lot of his impetuous things out of altruism, while Rohui kind of mostly just wants to make himself look clever.

TL;DR: Kieri is smarter than both of them.

Also, hopefully it is evident from the Passerim's manner of speech and their general aesthetic, but I based their culture largely off of early 1800's frontier America--so basically the Mississippi River region (which the Deepmast River is a stand-in for). This story is essentially Tom Sawyer with goblins and flying cities. I like basing high fantasy worlds off of cultures and historical eras besides medieval Europe, because that idea's really been done to death, when there are myriad other equally fascinating and rich cultures in Earth's history to derive inspiration from. That's why I had fun basing various cultures in The Voyage of the Kaus Media off of (to at least some extent) WWI-era Europe, Moorish Spain, Warring States China, and Classical India. Let's get creative with our fantasy worlds!

Tommand does a lot of stomping. I guess he's the kind of guy who thinks that if he stomps his boots hard enough, he can rattle everybody's brains into thinking the same way he does.

Also, I'm making a conscious effort to make Wilder nicer overall. In the previous editions he arbitrarily does and thinks some things that are rather mean-spirited, but there's no reason at all for him to be like that, and I think he works better as a good kid who tries hard to treat others right. Writing tip: nice characters are more likable and a more pleasant read. :)

Also, the gist of Aehirim technology is that they've managed to basically turn their brains into smartphones. "Processes" are apps that run in your own head, and psych-contrivers are app developers. I had fun coming up with the idea. There's a bit of stuff about it that doesn't make it into the final manuscript, but that's what this behind-the-scenes stuff is for. In Chapter 4 Rohui briefly mentions things called cerebral loci that were used before processes--cerebral loci were physical bionic augments that were surgically attached to the brain stem. Eventually the Aehirim figured out how to dispense with the electronics entirely and directly rewire the brain to act as a computer that could connect to a central network. So Aehirim are really very, very advanced cyborgs whose bionics are fully mental, not physical. Of course I have no idea how they managed to achieve this, but remember that a) they have been living in a post-industrial society for thousands of years and thus they've had ample time to develop crazy tech and b) using aether as their power source may enable them to do things that our own civilization can't with its reliance on lesser forms of energy such as fire, electricity, and radioactivity.

The word count may not reduce as much as I had initially anticipated, because dialogue tags (or more specifically, lack thereof). Ugh I'm glad I don't do that anymore. Yep, the prose is gonna look soooo much better once I'm done here.