Friday, January 31, 2020

That Great Hunger

I engineered this story specifically to make readers feel sorry for Isengrim, and if you don't then you have no soul. :)

This short story is important because it was really the seed for almost everything that came after Worth Fighting For--and I think the way in which it came about was a really wonderful illustration of how the creative process can work. I had a beta reader for my first draft of Worth Fighting For who commented that the Werelupe King in that story had no clear motives for wanting Terra to adopt him, so I remedied that by coming up with a backstory that he had actually once been created by an owner, and turned into a Werelupe after being abandoned by his creator. That unfortunate beginning gave Isengrim an (un)healthy dose of the Neopet equivalent of developmental trauma, which led to several neuroses.

And then I realized with a backstory like that, he needed a family again--for good this time. And thus I started brainstorming for the next long fic, Worth Searching For (which I will put up here eventually, but it's a whopper, over 30 chapters, so that will be a rather big project).

Anyway, that's why I appreciate this story so much. I feel like after this one I just kept writing about this cast and never looked back. It was a wonderful exercise in how a group of characters that you enjoy writing can just keep building and expanding, and their world along with them. Maybe someday I'll have an original fiction cast where that happens, but for now I'm really proud of what I accomplished with my Neopets characters.

This story was published in issue 639 of the Neopian Times, but I edited it a bit before putting it up here, mostly to make Isengrim's personality fit what I established for him later. It's kind of tough when you have an initial personality concept for a character that turns out not to work, but you only discover that after you've written several stories about them. But I think I did a good job editing those previous stories and helping everything flow more smoothly character-development-wise.

And yes, I know Isengrim's character design doesn't look too much like the canon character design for the Werelupe King. They are one and the same individual, but as I continued to write Isengrim he just kept looking more and more like this illustration in my mind's eye. I'm kind of not sorry about this because I rather like this design better, and I'm a little bit of a rebel when it comes to changing stuff I don't like. :)

Anyway, it's time for sad backstory!

Isengrim pawed through the forest undergrowth, a powerful scent lingering in his nostrils. Dropping to all fours, the Werelupe stalked through the shadows, silent as night itself. His shoulderblades rippled beneath his dark fur. He was on the trail.

“Milord,” said a female voice beside him.

“What is it, Suhel?” Isengrim asked. He did not have to see the other Werelupe to know she was there. He recognized her scent, and his quivering ears picked up every time her bare paws stepped on dead leaves, her bone-crafted armour brushed against branches, or she breathed quickly.

“Aren’t we too far away from the keep?” she asked. “I believe this is Hubrid Nox’s territory, sire.” They spoke in low whispers. Even though their quarry was far out of earshot, in the Haunted Woods, other things could be listening in. Maybe even the Woods itself.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

I finished that Neopets story! It came out to about 37,000 words and I think it did a great job of wrapping everything up with my Neopets cast. I'm excited to put it on the blog someday! When I am less busy with other projects.

Like novels! In anticipation of this next one, here are some concept sketches of the two main characters! Or to be more accurate, their player characters!

First up is Quinny, the dwarf lucent mage character of Maria Elena Gutierrez, a recent college graduate who has discovered that she actually hates her new accounting career. Whoops. To unwind from work and get her mind off of her homesickness and lack of social life, she starts playing Heroes of Avonell, a brand new, cutting-edge VR MMORPG that's touted to have the most advanced ever AI for its NPCs, to the point where you can talk to them like they're real people.

Before she can even choose a job class, Quinny stumbles upon a severe glitch and ends up in a place no one is even supposed to know about yet: the fortress of the end boss! Not that she knows that--or that all of the NPCs she's befriending are scripted to be bad guys. But they've decided they don't like their role in the game, and Quinny suddenly finds herself trying to balance real life and her increasingly appealing life in Avonell as a member of a friendly dark lord's magic personnel. And it gets a lot harder when "good guy" characters start going rogue and affecting the world outside the game.

Lorik is a grimalkin rogue and the player character of Baltazar "Balt" Gutierrez, who puts way more effort into video games than into his noncommittal college education. He and his big sister Elena used to be total gamer buddies when they were younger, but then she decided she didn't have time for video games anymore because she had to concentrate on boring things like a career. Thankfully, even though she lives in another state now, Balt is able to convince Elena to join him in playing Heroes of Avonell

Except Lorik can't ever find Quinny anywhere in the game, and Elena always seems too mysteriously busy to romp around Avonell with Balt. Lorik's also discovered that the NPCs' AI is so advanced that they're actually self-aware, and some of them are reacting adversely to the revelation that they're video game characters. Faced with an escalating situation and feeling even more alienated from his sister, Balt has to come to some important decisions as to where his priorities lie and who to believe.

I hope to have more updates on the novel's progress soon! Thanks for your patience!

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Blahhh it's been a super long time between posts and I'm sorry! :( I am trying really hard to finish this Neopets fic so I can move on with my life and start writing that next novel, but life keeps getting in the way. It's almost done, though! It's at nearly 30,000 words and we're coming up on the big climax. And then I'll have finally felt like I've sent my Neopets cast off fondly.

But in the meantime, the other day I did something I haven't done in ages and sat down and just doodled! Here are some of the results (click for larger size).

Sometimes I like to doodle human versions of my Neopets characters! Purely to play around with character design and see what they would look like as humans--I don't think they'd ever actually work as human characters because there's a lot of instances where their Neopet species' physiology comes into play in the stories. But anyway it was just a not-too-serious thought exercise.

Also this was the point at which I realized I'd like some better sketching markers--the ones I was using were in a limited range of colors, and I imagine human Kass would have a darker skin tone but I just could not get myself to give him bright orange skin. Next time I'm in the vicinity of a craft store I'll have to pick up some more neutral colors.

Also, trying to tinker with a suuuuper old character design (I'm talking high school here) and I think I came up with something pretty cute. I actually might use this design in a science fiction novel concept I've been tossing around (maybe the novel I'll work on after this next one). That one will be a lot of fun--it's about spacetime going haywire and quantum entanglement and what do you do when you were en route to the Moon and suddenly you're in the middle of the Andromeda Galaxy with a motley crew of alien space pirates???? Should be good times.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Happy New Year, everybody! Here's to a 2020 full of joy and peace and Mars rovers! (And don't forget, next year James Webb Space Telescope launches! Epic!)

Just wanted to drop an update on that Neopets fanfic--it's at 21,000 words now and I'm probably 2/3 of the way through the plot. I think half the reason it ended up this long was because Blynn started another Neoquest campaign. But I used it for some good character development so I think it works!

I don't want to say much more because of spoilers, but I think it's looking good so far and I'm excited to put it on the blog once I get the rest of my favorite fics up here (gotta stay in chronological order, after all, or else it doesn't make as much sense).

If you're just wondering when I'm going to get around to starting that novel, it is coming soon! I really hate leaving projects unfinished, so I'm going to wrap up this fanfic before starting on the stuff I get paid for.

On a little more mundane note, I changed up my "stories on the blog" tag to only include the first chapters of multi-chapter stories. This will help keep things neater and avoid spoilers for those trying to read the stories in order. I like to think of that tag as the functional equivalent of my old Petpage that was a directory of my Neopian Times writing. Except here on the blog, I'm only going to feature the good/important stories, because stuff like "A Noteworthy Adventure" is cringe-worthy and not representative of the main body of work. (Just like everything else I wrote as a teenager.)

Plus, at the beginning of every story I'll write a few paragraphs (i.e. a reasonably sized research paper) discussing my feelings about the story and how it came about. Y'know, for people who like that kind of thing. (Am I the only one who likes that kind of thing?)

That's really all I've got as far as updates--I've got some family in town for the holidays so I've been enjoying spending time with them.

Catch you later!