So, as some folks know, I’m writing this sci-fi western story based on a videogame universe. Blah blah blah, I know, it’s fan fiction and not real writing, whatever. I’m still having a blast with it, and just one of the reasons why is it’s given me a new perspective on some old characters.
For those who read “Anywhere but Here,” my 2012 NaNoWriMo project: Remember Tych and Imien? They were the pilot and the cypher, the secondary runaway characters following the two mains in the teenager half of the story. (Don’t worry if that’s confusing. It’s not important for this post.) Anyway, I came to a point in my current story, “From Hell,” where I needed a getaway ship. At first, I’d planned to model the ship’s captain on the character VT from the seventh session (episode) of the anime Cowboy Bebop, “Heavy Metal Queen.”
– screen capture: “Cowboy Bebop” –
If you’ve any interest in anime, sci-fi bounty hunter stories, or jazz music, check out Bebop. But, again, not important to this post.
In playing around with the different interaction scenarios between the main characters of “From Hell” and the ship’s captain, I realized the ship couldn’t have just one crew member. So, I developed a daughter for Janus (that was going to be the captain’s name). On the story went, but neither Janus nor the daughter character really took hold with me. The daughter, by the way, never even got far enough in my thought process to get a name. That should tell you something about how well that subplot was going.
One afternoon, I was sitting at my writing desk working on designs for the ship. (That went through a few permutations, too.) I stumbled across an old sketch I’d made of the Ridout, the smuggler’s ship from “Anywhere but Here.” Never one to pass up the opportunity to save the world from my terrible vehicle sketches, I considered my work on the new ship done. And, quite suddenly, it hit me.
I already had a smuggler crew, all ready to go, fleshed out and everything. Enter Tych and Imien…or, as I renamed them, Twitch and Ivory. I’d always liked the Tych and Imien characters, but their personal stories never got any deep attention in “Anywhere but Here,” focused as the story had been on the more major plight of four teenagers on the run from the galactic government. Bringing them into “From Hell” offered me a chance to examine their personalities in a more acute light. Plus, their own conflict, such as it is, relates well to that of the main characters…who are also on the run, now that I think about it, but that’s a thought for another time.
Of course, Tych and Imien had to go through some changes to make the jump from one universe to the other, but I couldn’t believe how stupid I’d been not to consider reusing these characters before! I’d borrowed pieces of other characters to create new ones before – I think every writer does that, at least at a subconscious level. For instance, the second principal character in “From Hell” – Hal, Axton’s engineer partner – developed from a mishmash of Amber from Fearless (cultured and sensitive, but also an elitist snob), and the Brock and Captain Aral characters from “Anywhere but Here” (sharp, loyal, a know-it-all techie, but afraid to pull a trigger). In turn, those characters developed from ones to come before them. I could draw up a whole family tree of where my characters come from…but it would probably be as confusing as the Baratheon/Lannister line of heirs!
I had to bring this up because I’m just having so much darn fun writing this story, and I wanted to share some of my excitement. I’ll go back to more serious stuff next time. Maybe.
Do you recycle characters?
It’s November, and some of you out there are writing fiendishly for National Novel Writing Month. Despite my earlier expressed excitement, I decided at the last minute that I should instead concentrate on some works in progress rather than on a completely (well, mostly completely) new story. Rob and Paige’s story isn’t going in the bin; I’m just holding off on them a bit longer. They deserve a fuller telling, anyway.
NaNoWriMo is a celebration of writing, deadlines, creativity, and support, all important aspects of becoming a storyteller. Even though I won’t be running the race, this year, I don’t consider that a failure. In fact, NaNo has given me at least five stories of which I’m pretty proud:
2012’s NaNo – “Anywhere but Here” – is a dystopian science fiction story, about four runaways and the Hounds tracking them down. In my delusion, I thought I could possibly push that one to publishable status, so I sent the first 1000 words to editor Kate Johnston. Kate had some great comments…but I was too shamed to send her the rest for a real job; I wanted to make the draft the best I could make it, and I knew that first pass wasn’t good enough. So, I’m working on that in bits and bobs.
On a side note, I believe Kate is still offering a great deal on a free critique of 1000 words, over at Musefly Writing Studio. Check out the link for more details!
2011’s NaNo – Fearless – is still in progress, around 160K in first draft form. (I know: edit, edit, edit.) It’s a romance drama, one I’d once hoped to publish some day. As the story has become longer and more convoluted, though, that possibility has become ever more doubtful. I don’t mind. Once it’s done, I will print it up, bind it, and put it on my shelf. Because the story is so much a part of me, now. I’ve learned the most through writing it, and the depths of its beauty, sadness, and humanity I don’t think I’ll ever approach again.
2007’s story was Sixes and Sevens, romance from an interracial angle, set circa 1997. Why that year? I remember being at a sleepover and waking up to news of Diana Spencer’s death, and talking with my friends about it, how we take the most important parts of life for granted. That, and the music from 1997 was pretty rockin’. 😀
In 2006, I wrote “The Daughters of Krull,” based on the high fantasy film from the 1980s (don’t judge me). While a fantasy, the main plot dealt mostly with fathers and daughters. I took three supporting characters from the film – a middle-aged man, a younger man in his physical prime, and a boy – and used them to examine their relationships with the women in their lives. It was actually a lot of fun to write, if not terribly popular with my usual readers.
And, all the way back in 2005, for my first NaNo, I wrote “Through Green Eyes,” a coming-of-age story of four siblings in colonial Japan, seen through the eyes of the family cat. This is probably the roughest and simplest of my NaNo ventures, but it’s also one of my favorites. It rekindled a love of my personal heritage I hadn’t felt in a long time. And, writing a cat was fun.
Whether you’re participating in NaNoWriMo or not, take a moment to reflect on some of the stories you’ve written over the years. What are your favorites? Feel free to leave a link with your comment, too: because NaNo is just as much about sharing and inspiration as anything else. Tally ho!
“A Little Sliver of Nirvana”
Another 20-minute effort, funkified with Photoshop
Wading through the sea of boozehounds and whores pressing flesh and passing money, an unending rolling tide of vice and greed, he settled in to the corner booth, the one with the well-worn center cushion seat and the uneven grooves in the grain where metal stiletto heels had tread for too many nights. He clicked the control pad beside his seat, prompting the silencing swish of the heavy velvet shroud, and sat back, closing his eyes in the dim dank, to wait.
A flutter of music – high winds with low brass, though more than that he couldn’t tell – made him breathe deep, the scent of soap and lilies filling his nose, erasing the thick stench of sweat and despair. And, looking up, now, he saw her: legs shifting, hips rolling, belly and breasts shining with some invisible light; arms swaying, hair swinging, lips and eyes focused on him, holding him in the trance of her magic-making for as long as they both could stand it, this little sliver of Nirvana.
Slowing at the whisper of the final chords, she frowned, reaching out to him – forbidden, but she’d never cared – to touch his face, when he grabbed her wrist with one hand and slapped the other on the space of table between them, around a treasured bundle of cash, and murmured, “Marry me, now?”
Today’s original fiction piece inspired by this week’s Five Sentence Fiction prompt, “CHARMED,” from Lillie McFerrin.
I wrote this entry on my morning commute on Friday, so it’s about 20 minutes’ worth of concentration and typing. I didn’t bother with any editing or refining. I’m not making any apologies for it, either. I’ve decided that, if a prompt doesn’t inspire an idea within 5 minutes, I let it pass. If I do get an idea but I can’t make it materialize properly in 30 minutes, I set it aside in my ever-growing “Random” folder. No offense intended to the folks posting these lovely prompts – or those participating more fully than I’m doing – but I want to concentrate on my larger writing goals. For me, this plan is a nice balance.
Do be sure to visit Lillie’s site for more Five Sentence Fiction submissions, though, and for other flash fiction goodness!
How do you balance between all the stories in your head?
I hadn’t meant to kill her.
I certainly didn’t start out the day planning for it to happen. I didn’t even know it was happening, until I looked at what I’d wrought, and realized she was dead.
Somewhere deep down, though, I knew: it had to happen. I’d been waiting for it to happen.
That knowledge didn’t make it any easier to do. It didn’t make the squeeze of the trigger any less jerky, or the thunder of the shot any less loud. Or the pain I felt watching the once-bright light in her eyes go out any less acute.
One moment, she was there: fighting, struggling, strong. And the next, she simply…wasn’t. She wasn’t there. She wasn’t anything. She was just gone, like she’d never existed in the first.
I cried when I killed her. I honestly and truly did.
Sitting back, I had to stop. Everything. And let her have that one moment of my reflection. Because I hadn’t given her the chance to have anything else. Not the happiness she’d sought, or the love she’d desired. Not even the fleeting freedom for which she’d run and fought so hard.
I’d never killed anyone before. Not anyone who’d mattered. Flitting bystanders with no histories, random casualties of war: they didn’t make a difference. They had no stories.
This one, though. She’d had a story. A story I’d cut short, for a split-second of excitement. For the sake of mere plot.
“Acceptable losses,” I called her, the next day, after I’d had the time to reflect. A phrase to describe her and her ilk, the ones I’d left soulless and smoking along the way. Because in love and war, sacrifices must be made.
I knew it was for the best. I knew it had to be done.
But, I’d still cried.
I’ve been thinking about this topic ever since a recent blog post about what heroes can do, by Vanessa-Jane Chapman.
I’ve always thought death in stories should be warranted. Many of them are. They’re often valuable for completion of a story. But, when it came time to do the deed, myself, with one of my own…it got to me.
Let your story go where it needs to go, even if it’s someplace terrible. You may end up stronger for it. Or, you may end up realizing you’re not as nice a person as you’d always thought you were.
Death in your stories: how do you react?
“Enough to Last”
doodling Aral leads to this….
The high-pitched strains of concerto violins singing from the stereo in the corner. The slow-motion flutter of gossamer chiffon to the floor. The muted patter of raindrops against the window, tapping as though to be let in as witnesses to their dance.
He remembered them all, but, more than any other, the words breathed in his ear as she came and took him in her arms for the first time as had and held: “It’s always been you.”
He didn’t totally believe her, but the shine of love when he looked in her eyes could be enough to last him.
I hadn’t planned on participating in any challenges this week, but last week’s free write must have jump-started something in my writing brain, because, after taking one look at Lillie McFerrin’s Five Sentence Fiction prompt this week – “WHISPER” – this vignette came to me almost instantly, with only minuscule changes from the initial drafting.
I hope you, too, are enjoying freedom in your writing, as it’s a glorious feeling to have.
Did you participate in any writing challenges this week? What whisper was blown into your ear? Or, did you whisper something, yourself?