…sorry for the long delay here, folks, I’ve been alternately busy with conventions, setting up The Scribbling Lion, and being horrendously ill. Every time I get up, I seem to get knocked down again. Here’s to heaving myself to my feet and charging at the windmill once more… and thanks for your patience!
Well, really it’s cleaning-off-my-desk time, but whatever. In the process of cleaning up my office, I came across a list of questions that I’ve been meaning research. If I recall correctly, I started the list one day when I was tremendously bored during a very slow book signing slot…so that might give some insight as to where the questions came from.
The list is titled “100 Questions”, but I apparently never got that far. Some of the questions are quite banal, others more interesting. Some are easy to answer with a five minute internet search, others require a more structured approach. It’s a prime example of brain lint from a bored writer.
Enough blathering. Here you go:
1. How is glass made?
2. How do planes fly?
3. What is laughter (mechanics of)?
4. How have fashions changed over the past 100 years? (Note: this would require picking a given culture/community to focus in on.)
5. How many bones are in the human foot?
6. Why do people lie?
7. How has the most popular color changed in the last 50 years? (Note: this would require picking a given culture/community to focus in on.)
8. How is paper made?
9. How are books bound and printed?
10. What causes waves?
11. Learn to dance: something classical
12. What constellations show up in winter? How do they change throughout the seasons?
13. Why does hair go grey?
14. What are the differences between English & American spelling & grammar? (Is there a chart that lays it all out side by side?)
15. What did taverns actually look like in the 1200s?
16. When were riding skirts developed, where did they originate, and what did they look like?
…. at this point I apparently found something more interesting to do. Aren’t you glad I never finished the entire 100 question goal? I sure am!
Let me know if you actually research any of the questions above. I’d be interested in the answers. I’ll try to come back to this post and supply answers myself now and again, as time and energy permits–just because, like Idisio, I don’t like unanswered questions.
Writing exercises, that is. I’ve been working through a book called Now Write! Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror; making myself slog through exercises roughly in order. So far the best approach has largely been to use each chapter as consecutive building blocks, rather than stand alone items. I’ve also found myself pulling down some of my other writing books to get my brain shifted back into proper creative gear. It’s been a while since I stretched myself creatively. My mental muscles are a bit sore. But it’s a good burn… and I’m liking the output I’m achieving!
… or two. I’ve finally given in to the reality that I’m sick again–either severe bronchitis or walking pneumonia, take your pick. The meds have kicked in, and they’re helping, and the best part is that I’m finally at the stage where I want to sleep all the time. This means that everything has to get backed off and handled in tiny doses for a couple of days. Please be patient, I’m getting healthy as fast as I can…. and doing as much as I can in the background, so hopefully within a few days I’ll be able to assemble and launch all sorts of cool posts and updates and news. Right now I just need to sleep….
In wandering through back-alley files on my computer (always a dangerous place, where old Ideas might jump out and mug me for my spare time), I came across something really astonishing: notes I’d made while developing Secrets of the Sands. Apparently I’d first conceived it as a series of short stories… the notes (and how far some bits went off the rails when I actually started writing) amused me tremendously. I figure if they crack me up, they’ll get a giggle out of you folks too; so, for your amusement, I present…. Gerry and Iddy! (Note that while I cleaned up the text slightly, it’s largely my stream of consciousness writing, so it’s going to be messy. I wanted you to see the raw form my ideas take.)
From a file labeled “Kingdom Ideas”:
The historian, Gerau Sa’adenit, on his travels through the kingdom, collecting information, and his faithful sidekick and a couple other companions that join now and again and drop away each story.
So, let’s make Gerry a good character. I’m thinking he’s tall, and has lake blood, but doesn’t show it so much; he’s an empath, and a telepath sometimes, he’s got a lot of the gifts but doesn’t look like it. He’s tall, like I said, and noble-looking; has the look of one who’s of the royal bloodline, which he is, and – oh! How about, the lake born aren’t the only ones with the gift? His comes from the old, old jungle blood, the old lineage, and the tribes that split off south were the ones with the gift … that’s why it’s not seen in the main lines these days. Ooh I like that. So, he’s from the jungle line, he’s a … what, a recessive? I don’t know. But he’s definitely got the appearance of a royal, which means he needs a shyster companion to get to places where he wouldn’t be able to walk without attracting notice.
So – develop Gerry a bit more. Hmmm …
He’s about six foot, with a thin, bony build and dark skin, bronze sort of, looks like an American Indian – look up tribes, find the characteristics and find out which one. He’s got a quiet presence, a noticeable one though. He tries to stay in the background and not be noticed, especially in the northlands, because it’s dangerous to be seen as a southner up there in places.
So. Strengths: he’s very smart, and has a terrific memory and analytical/problem solving skills. He can figure math problems and science stuff in his head. He has a sense for people, when they’re telling the truth, when they’re not, and a knack for getting them to talk to him if it’s a situation where they’ll give him a chance. He can be very charming.
Weaknesses: in private, he’s often impatient and sour-tempered. He’s demanding and a perfectionist, and once he gets started on a project or assignment he sees it through, come hell or high water, often to his or other people’s detriment. He’s not always likeable.
These stories are going to have to be told in objective view – no inner thoughts, just outside observations. Aren’t they? Or maybe not. I don’t know.
All right. Also, come the sidekick. Hmmmm … name is … Iddy. That’ll do for now. Iddy is a thief and a con artist, with a merry and extroverted temperament. He always finds a way out of every trouble and his self-confidence is very high. He loves to learn new things and see new places, and has a soft spot for people in trouble, although he also has a deeply cynical side that keeps him from being a patsy for other cons. His goals don’t always match with Gerau’s, and he’s only travelling with the man under duress (he was caught attempting to steal from the man, and he had a choice of going with Gerau to help him or taking the penalty for stealing, which would have marked him for life.)
The first story deals with: Gerau and Iddy meeting, being assigned the task of researching the kingdom, agreeing to do it, and hitting the road. Conflicts in that story are: person vs person (Iddy vs. Gerau), person vs. ethics (Gerau hates the idea of travelling with a thief). Story arc is:
Let’s see …
Ordinary world: show Gerau in his accustomed world of being surrounded by respect and awe, not being accused or threatened. Something happens to shake him up … There was a woman he fell in love with. One he thought to marry. But it turned out she was actually a member of a rival political faction, one trying to disgrace him, trying to get some dirt on him. He found out about it … hmmm … let’s see. Shall we make him a disgraced lord, barred from the southlands for a time? That has possibilities. It’s an old story but still solid. And it lets me how how nasty Bright Bay can get in the higher echelons. Let’s see. Gerau is … he was … a member of F’Heing Family. Or Darden? Maybe. Or maybe … let’s make it one of the lesser desert Families, actually. Maybe even Sessin. no … keep it out of that. Make it another Family, a little one that nobody thinks much of. And as a child, he was no more than, oh, ten or so, his entire family was killed and the keep destroyed by the … I don’t know, he doesn’t know either. They were all masked and hooded and he doesn’t recall insignia and nobody knows. And so, now he’s homeless and clanless, so to speak, and he’s taken in by the … oh, some noble family in Bright Bay. And he’s raised as one of them, but he’s always aware that he looks different and is treated just a little different, and it pisses him off because he wants to know who killed his family. So it gives him a short and surly disposition, but on the surface he’s trained in his courtly graces and he plays the part just fine, understanding that it’s the only way to pass and maybe find out who killed his family in time. He’s got a long memory and a dedication to his purpose; he’s not exactly patient on the issue, but he’s willing to do what it takes to get there, and he knows, knew even as a child, that it wasn’t something that would come to him quickly or easily.
So. Gerau’s about thirty now, and he still hasn’t gotten much of a clue as to who killed his family twenty years ago. He’s gotten moodier and more violent over the years at his failure, and when this girl he actually cares for turns out to be a spy trying to get inside information on his adopted family, he snaps and almost kills her. Does he kill her? I don’t know. I think so. Mmm … no. I don’t want that on his head, actually, and I want her to be able to cause trouble later. So. He almost kills her, and he does kill the man with her … ???? maybe. I don’t know about that. He certainly humiliates her, throwing her out into the street half-naked and bellowing that she’s a whore. And so there’s charges brought in the King’s court, because it involves nobles.
So. Let’s see … start the story there, where Gerau is on his way to the King’s Court, and Iddy tries to lift his purse, and gets caught, and Gerau drags him along because he doesn’t have time to sit and sort out a pickthief. And so he’s in the court when they try Gerau for his offense. I think that might be best told from the POV of the thief, to set Gerau up as an intimidating figure.
Refusal of the call: Gerau resists being banished to the northlands. Iddy resists being assigned to go with him. They’re both given reasons to obey; Gerau’s told he’ll be banished from the kingdom unless he does it, and Iddy is told he’ll be branded as a thief worse than the crime he committed, a mark that will make it a death sentence if he’s ever caught again. He can’t risk that.
All right. Now, that’s the first few taken care of, how about Meeting with the Mentor: well, Gerau and Iddy talk, and they’re sort of foils for each other; mentor, I don’t know, maybe the king is the mentor. So that’s taken care of right there too.
I don’t think I could fit the whole hero’s journey thing into a short story. Mmmm … I think this is one that will play out over a series of short stories. The resolved conflict in the first one is Gerry and Iddy coming to an agreement to respect each other, not kill each other; let’s see, how do we do that? mmmm … After they leave the king’s chamber, they’re to travel right away, sot they hit the road, and the first village they come to there’s a problem … let’s see … something that tells you something about the area, the people, the history, something Gerry gets a bit of info out of … Let’s see, it’s the marshes to the east of Bright Bay, there’s something about the marshes, just a little patch of swampy land at the end of the river, there’s something … let’s see …. lizard. Something about a lizard. A big one. Mmm …. the previous king found the local lizard a delicacy, a big, one about 2′ long, almost that high at its highest point, and now there have been so many of them taken …wait, no. King Oruen doesn’t like them, so the market has crashed. And there was a marriage contract based on the wealth of one of the lizard farmers, and now it’s dropped out because of that, only that’s not the only reason, and someone dies. Mmm … someone’s murdered … someone’s missing … rrrrr … this is hard. Go take a shower and think about it some more. (Side note: I can just SEE Gerry staring and saying, despairingly, “lizards? gods …” and covering his eyes. “this is what I’ve sunk to, researching lizard breeding. gods.”)
End of excerpt. There was more, but that was honestly the most interesting & amusing section. All I can say is, Thank God for second, third, and fifteenth drafts…..