Nov 25, 2014

Dear Characters - Part 3 (NaNo '14)

NaNoWriMo update: a bit over 50k (with a projected total of 125k over the next few months), enthusiasm for the main plot flagging, writing stalled... and I finally realize why. I was trying to do one plot. I learned with book 1 in the series that my writing style works best with a large cast of main characters split in half. Half the characters do one thing, the other half do something else, and at some point what they're doing overlaps. (Heck, in book 1 I split the party on about five separate occasions, reshuffling my six characters differently each time. It kept things fresh.)

I know a lot of authors don't write this way, but if it's what works for me, I should stick with it, right? :)

So this brings me to...

Dear Chantrell, Gilly, and Ametrine,
Thank you so much for being the teenagers you are and demanding your own plot! The fact that Ametrine and Chantrell are daring each other to go ghost hunting because they don't believe that Gilly interacts with these is perfect! Fingers crossed the originally-planned-but-forgotten Scooby-Doo-style subplot has let my enthusiasm return!

-Chell: Sorry for switching the POV away from you, but I'm thinking it'll be better with Gilly as the narration character. She can't speak, so it's a lot easier to develop her as a character when I can follow her thoughts. That said, when did you turn into a girly-girl? Granted a girly-girl in practical shoes, but the eyeshadow came as a surprise.

-Gilly: So today I learned that your grandmother was a medium/priestess-type-figure who helped ghosts cross over to the correct plane and she taught you how to do this. This'll definitely be relevant in my rewrite of book 1! Question, though: how can you talk to ghosts when you can't vocalize? Is there some telepathy with shadow elementals going on? ... but that should mean you should be able to speak telepathically with Etri. (Shhhh. Don't tell him he's half-shadow. He has enough complexes as it is.)

-Ametrine: I already like you, kid. You're easygoing, helpful, and fun. One question: what exactly is your gender? So far I have you as "him", but I'm not entirely sold on that one. Ah well, after writing Drake for almost a year, I'm sure I can figure you out if you're also non-cisgender. Another question: what's your carnival act? You seem surprisingly good with horses, but that doesn't seem act-related. I think you just grew up working in a stable.


Dear Etri, Adair, and Blythe,
What the HECK happened to your plot?? I've been writing the three of you consistently for a year with no problems and all of a sudden your plot stalled! In book 1 you had too much plot and now I feel like I'm scraping the bottom of the barrel to get any plot out of you. I'm tempted to ground the three of you to your rooms without dessert until you behave and give me words, but you're the adult characters. Sheesh. Besides, it won't work. Adair would just spend the time painting, Etri would read, and Blythe would sharpen every weapon she owns until they wore down to nothing.

-Etri: You know you have a fear of being choked after being killed by a cloud of magic-spawned gas. So why on earth did you try fire-eating without Blythe (the flipping healer) to supervise? What exactly did you think the smoke was going to do to you once it got close to your face? *headdesk*

-Adair: While I'm writing the other trio, can you come up with a funny thing to do with your disguise? This feels like the potential for silly, but you're acting overly serious with it. Stop it. You're my comic relief of this side of the story.

-Blythe: I loved that you facepalmed when Adair gave his fake name as "Blair" when the two of you went to meet the corrupt art dealer. That's the kind of thing I expect out of you guys! And handing Adair an article of clothing to try on for his costume that looked like a dress? Comedy gold! This is what I want from you guys!

~Meri, your writer who seems to like the number three.

Nov 20, 2014

Dear Characters - Part 2 (NaNo '14)

I was fretting about how I didn't want to write a female character needing to be rescued because bleh, so I was planning out a way to do something else.
My husband: "Just make it Adair. It's always Adair. The bad guys don't even set out a box trap with a pie inside anymore. It's just a box with a drawing of a pie, he's that dumb. Adair is the Princess Toadstool of your writing world."

My response: "Oh my gosh, my damsel in distress is Chowder!" (Adair is so very much like Chowder from the tv cartoon.)

I guess this means that a.) I don't write stereotypical gender roles, b.) This series is frequently comedic, and c.) I now have the mental picture of one of my male MCs in a pink frilly princess dress. And yes, Adair does end up in the "damsel in distress" role far more than any other character. He's so trusting and oblivious!


Okay, now for the "Dear Characters" post!

Dear Etri (the Sentinel),
You're supposed to be the smartest character in this series, but you've been acting even more oblivious than Adair. You're just really bad at reading meaning into what other people are saying, aren't you? Is it a language barrier thing or is it just that you don't understand flirtation? After writing Blythe's heartbreaking flashback, I don't know how she's continued to put up with you. Sigh.

Dear Blythe (the Curator),
I'm waiting on you to figure out that you're connected to the other two, so stop arguing with them and do something that'll let me play with the trio link. I'm curious what's going to happen if I make it so you're the one who gets injured. You can't get a premonition about your own injury, right? Are you guys picking up emotions from each other? That'll be interesting when Etri doesn't emote and Adair's emotional state is perpetually set at "happy, excited puppy".

Dear Adair (the Master artist),
Look at you, coming up with an idea to go undercover to talk with one of the corrupt art dealers! I love that you painted Dali's "The Persistence of Memory" only with pies instead of clocks.
PS: Here's a clue-by-four. I think you might need to beam Etri over the head with it next time.

Dear Chantrell (the caged musician),
You were so spunky when I had you in book 1! What happened? The plot's making you way too passive when I know you're not. Maybe once Gilly sneaks you out, you'll come out of your shell. I hate that you have to be rescued, but since it's another girl doing it, it's probably okay. Please try to do something against your sister on the way out! She is going to burn your beloved garden.

Dear Sapphire, Obsidian, Ametrine, Pearl, and the rest,
What happened to you guys? This book was supposed to have a lot to do with the carnies, but you've barely been in here! That said, Ametrine, WHY are you winking at me and saying I should use you as a main character in a later book? You've had three lines of dialogue and all I know is that you used to be a stablehand, you're a courier, you're probably gender fluid, and you don't put up with Blythe's sarcasm. ... Actually, that last one earns you points in your favor. I'll see what I can do about getting you into a later book with Chantrell and Gilly. You intrigue me, kid.

~Meri, the writer who has reached the week three blues where all I want to do is rewrite this into something pretty. But I won't! I will finish building this framework so the second draft has a foundation.

Nov 11, 2014

Dear Characters - Part 1 (NaNo '14)

I've been putting off a "Dear Characters" post this month because so far Unexpected Inspiration: Sentinel (book 2) has been mostly Etri. I'm at about 25k words (41 pages) and probably near the first quarter mark of the story, so the others are gradually being added.

Dear Etri (the Sentinel),
Sorry about Garvin. Sorry for taking Adair from you yet again. Sorry for getting you and Addy poisoned. I'm not so sorry for leaving you clueless about all the side effects that go with being a Sentinel. It's more fun to have you stumble across them on your own. So far you know that your internal compass does point due-Adair and that you get a type of premonition when something is going to hurt him. Hindsight is great, right? Now to figure out the other weird things that go along with the job... Oh, and just wait until Blythe gets added to your empathetic link!

Dear Adair (the Master artist),
Are you even awake to read this? You went from the main character in Colorweaver (book 1) to having almost no dialogue in the past 20 pages of the sequel due to being either missing or unconscious. I promise you'll only have to put up with this for a few more pages, then you'll be able to talk and eat pies to your heart's content.
PS: Please don't throttle Etri for breaking one of your paintbrushes. Or for losing your cat. He really did have the best intentions.

Dear Blythe (the soon-to-be Curator/muse),
Okay, okay! You can stop grumbling! The next scene is from your POV, I promise! I know you were last seen on page seven, but you're here now! Not that you'll like your following scene much since you're about to learn that you did end up a muse, which is something you've been avoiding for almost a decade. Try not to freak out too much, okay? It's really not what you think!
...but I know you. Rather than try to talk this out with Etri and Addy, you're going to stew until something forces you to admit how you feel and *gasp!* talk about your past.

Dear Chantrell (the caged musician),
Are you dizzy yet from the amount of times I've repositioned you in the series and changed your age? I do think this book is where you belong and I think 15 sounds about right for you. I know you've been lonely since your parents died since your sister has pretty much put you under house arrest, but you'll be meeting Gilly soon. She's 14, so you two can bond over issues of Tiger Beat. Or, ya know, get my plot back on track since I have yet to bring up the Merchant mafia yet and your sister's a member.

Dear Sapphire (the leader of the... I still need a name for your band of carny-thieves),
Welcome to the series! I'm curious why you got picked as your troupe's leader, although I have the feeling it's because no one else wanted the job. Could you please let me know why you wear long gloves all of the time? Is it a sensory thing? A cultural thing? Or just a style preference? You're not a shadow mage like Etri, so it can't be because you're cold.

Dear Garvin (the soon-to-be not Sentinel if you keep up this nonsense),
I don't think I've written to an antagonist yet, but I'm wondering how the heck you ever passed the Criterion to become a guard in the first place. What is it about carnies that pushes your crazy button? You don't seem to mind that Etri is foreign (which is the usual problem he comes across), but the fact that he eats fire and juggles knives is clearly too much for you to handle. Good luck: by messing with him, you've kicked the nest. You're going to have carnies swarming your home momentarily. Oh, and your patron's little sister is working with them, too. Have fun!

~Meri, the writer who- even when she trims down the number of cast members- STILL ends up with too many.

Nov 4, 2014

Dear Writer (from Etri)

Dear Meri,
Why am I not in the least surprised that the easily distracted Adair never bothered to write you a "Dear Writer" letter last year? Anyway, I have a few bones to pick with you if you have some time. If you do not, I can always bring you over into the plane of shadow where time moves slower, but I doubt you would much like it there. You are an artist like Addy, so you would not like a monochrome environment any better than he.

First of all, what was the big idea of splitting the two of us up when we got to the guild hall? I had finally worked through my social phobia enough that I was ready to face whoever we met there- but with him! Not alone! You put me into a textbook anxiety situation where I was separated from those I trust, forced to deal with someone who already hates me (that is my antagonist, is it not?), and given shared sleeping quarters with strangers in a room with no windows. Is it any wonder I slept on the roof? Just wait until Blythe hears about this. She is already angry that you are not letting her rejoin the story until the end of the first quarter. (She should be here with us, by the way. I know this, Addy knows this, she knows this, even your mysterious "Creators" know this. We are a trio.)

This brings me to my next point. You forced me to sleep outside and now I have a cold. On the most important day of my life. How am I supposed to pass this Criterion to become the bodyguard of Adair when I am sick! And what exactly happens in this mysterious test? It weighs me for loyalty, courage, and skill- this sounds like a dog show, yes? Do you want me to be the golden retriever or the Sentinel of Adair? Besides, I have already shown these traits: loyalty by protecting him even after I died, courage by the fact that I am doing this Criterion despite my social fears, and skill... well, after practicing knife-work with Blythe for three years, I would like to see anyone best me with that. So what will the test actually entail?

You always say that you torment your favorite characters most and I am beginning to see that I have the dubious honor of being the "favorite" in this series. Could you please stop taking Adair away from me? The first time resulted in me being drained of magic, the second time got me killed, now I am on a third time and there is at least one more time ahead. I can only imagine what you have in mind for those. I need him for comic relief because otherwise the story is going to get bogged down with just me. I have no idea how I am going to keep this narrative the required level of silly when it is just me and the cat. Perhaps I shall have to channel my brother and find a ridiculous hat to put on the cat, but alas, that has already been done before.

... And I would like to place a bet that when Sol was helping me pack, he put that fez into my backpack along with the squeaky toy and the unwrapped peanut butter sandwich. See, you could have a plethora of comedic elements if he was the main character. I am scrambling here, Meri. Please return Adair, Sol, and Gilly to the plot as soon as possible.

-Etri Celeste

((It's been forever since I did a "Dear Writer" post- the last one wasn't even for last year's first book in the series, but for the unrelated novel I was working on in '12.))