Characters Lead the Way, Redux

Image Source: https://lonewolf.fandom.com/wiki/Shadow_on_the_Sand

While cleaning up this weekend, I happened to stumble across the original “Rough Draft” that I’d printed out for my story Dragonhawk. This story (to the time of writing this blog entry) remains my one-and-only story that was accepted on the first try. It is truly a “rough draft” in that it is only three (3) paragraphs long (and is probably shorter in total length than this blog entry will be by the time I’m finished writing it). What struck me, however, was the first word on the “rough draft” was Kelfryn, the name of the protagonist.

Inspiration from a Book Cover

So, the book cover above, is from a series of Choose Your Own Adventure books called The Lone Wolf series by Joe Deaver and Gary Chalk. While the D&D books were pretty popular at the time, the ones by Deaver and Chalk really spoke to me. While not part of the Warhammer universe, the illustrations still have that “Old World” feel that marks the Warhammer brand (and what is probably what drew me to that universe). While definatley dark (the character could and often would die and the “adventure” would be over–much like a “game over” screen in video games), I always found the artwork both on the covers of the book and in the interiors to be arresting and fascinating. The above cover of a warrior riding a giant “warbird” was particularly interesting and stuck with me into adulthood.

Kelfryn and Scryfe

As I began writing, I had several incarnations of this image pop up, most notably an idea for a novel entitled Sparrowhawk as I imagined the protagonist would be a young Norse warrior who was mentally bonded to the bird (much like Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders were bonded with their dragons in her series of books (which I, of course, loved and devoured as a child). I was also much taken with the idea of a bird hunting other birds–which is what the Sparrowhawk is named for doing. However, the novel did not progress and that idea fell by the wayside. After I had a few publications under my belt, I decided to revisit the idea, but this time I went back to the original image that had captivated me: the warrior riding a giant warbird. Then it came to me: why not have both the warrior and the bird still be mentally bonded, but why not have them hunt dragons?

The Art of the Character Sketch

From there, I tried to come up with a reason for them to hunt dragons and I likened them to fishermen. They had to hunt dragons to survive. Finally, I reasoned that even with the warbirds, dragons would be too ferocious, so they would only hunt things that the dragons left behind (scales, teeth, talons, etc.) when they went out hunting for food. Then came my stroke of brillance: I used Scrivener’sCharacter Sketch” template to completely write out each of the two main characters: Kelfryn (who became a young “wannbe” warrior) and Scryfe (his devoted warbird companion). I filled out all of the sections of the Character Sketch with a solid paragraph for each of the major categories (I found those sketches earlier this year–that’s how I know). After doing the character sketches, I simply started the story and everything seemed to fall into place–I didn’t have Writer’s Block at any point, nor did I have any major diversions to the story that I dreamed up–both character and plot seemed to just seemed to merge together, so that’s what I’m working towards now–getting back into the Character Sketch mentality.

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Project Dog  (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)
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HawkeMoon Acceptance!

Falconry--falcon landing man's gloved hand.
Image Source: https://www.usatoday.com/videos/travel/2018/11/12/celebrate-world-falconry-day-historic-hotel/1977581002/

So, sometime ago, I wrote an Author’s Note that covered the genesis of my short story, HawkeMoon. While I thought it was an awesome story, I despaired of every getting published as it is an action story. And it features an ending that is not the typical “GrimDark” fare that you see these days in Fantasy based on the successful of Game of Thrones (and its many imitators). Well, after 21 tries, #22 turned out to be the right market! HawkeMoon was accepted for publication by StoryHack Action and Adventure! While I’m not sure what issue it will be in yet, you can be sure that I’ll be keeping readers know when it is available.

Action and Adventure

So, this market is exactly the type of market that I wish there were more of in the Fantasy and Science Fiction field. Most of the markets are more for “social” sci-fi where they look at a trend and extrapolate on that trend for near future/far future and then that becomes the author’s world. Fantasy is a lot more fluid, but thanks to George R. R. Martin’s success with his “GrimDark” Game of Thrones series, it is very hard to interest editors of markets to get behind anything that is not “GrimDark,” or has elements of that sub-genre in work. I make no bones about despising the “GrimDark” sub-genre, hence my despair at finding a publisher for HawkeMoon.

One of the things that I like about this market–in addition to the awesome system of keep authors in the loop about the submission process–is that the editor understands that “action” and “adventure” are not dirty words, but are elements that are integral to the story. Yes, characterization is the most important (see, I’m learning), but just because characters don’t have “bad things” happen to them and then they turn around and do “bad things” to others (take a guess to which Fantasy series I’m referring to), doesn’t make the story nonpunishable. Action/Adventure, when used appropriately, can heighten the suspense for the reader and make the character “change” by putting him or her under extraordinary circumstances from which they must escape. So, they don’t “change” via a soliloquy or deep intense reflection–that’s okay. They still change–whether its deciding to kill (or not kill) that Troll guarding the bridge, or whether or not to pull the trigger on those starfighter controls that will, in effect, kill his mother and yet, all the girls go gushy over because of his long black and emo personality (guess which popular space opera movie I’m referring to here), still these are choices that the character makes and these choices define the character (for good or ill) and are just as appropriate as deep navel gazing (reflection) or long dramatic speeches (soliloquy) in defining the character.

Celebration

So, I haven’t decided what to do quite yet to celebrate HawkeMoon’s acceptance. My birthday’s coming up soon, so I may just roll the celebration into my birthday and call it a day. At the very least, getting an Acceptance for HawkeMoon is an awesome birthday present!

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Project Dog  (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

Mini-Review: Netflix’s The Dragon Prince (Season 1)

Image Source: https://www.theverge.com/2018/9/7/17826544/the-dragon-prince-review-avatar-last-airbender-netflix

Okay, with the impending release of Season 2, I thought I’d take a moment to come back and talk about my reactions to Season 1 of the show now that I’ve taken I’ve seen the first season all the way through. This will be a shorter entry as I have a packed schedule today, but I’ve been meaning to revisit this series for a while.

Characters

So, one of the main reasons that I didn’t initially like the show was that the main character was just too close to their earlier creation–Sokka from The Avatar: The Last Airbender series. Prince Callum (pictured in the above image on the left) is very much in tone, spirit, and vocal inflection a “spiritual successor” to Sokka. While I like Sokka, I can only take him as a “side” character. As the main character, he grates on me (or at least he did until the 4th or 5th episode). I think they toned down his character and gave him a “specialty” which made him seem more in tune with the other “main” characters and less of a walking “joke.” The other main characters were fine and I didn’t really have any problems with them, but Prince Callum really turned me off at first.

Plot

I actually liked the way the plot unfolded after say the 4th episode. The main characters find something and must return it to its rightful place — in other words, a quest. This was missing in the early episodes. Once they set out and began their quest, things seemed to fall in place for me with the show and I began to look forward to watching it, rather than it being a chore to get through.

The main villain seems a little off, however. He seems to use the best interests of the Empire as his justification, but his actions are at odds, and much of what he does seems like a “power grab.” I can’t tell if the creators are trying to create a “complicated” villain (and just not reaching it, in my opinion), or if they are trying to show the villain’s “two-faced” nature (i.e., the Palpatine/Emperor duality from Star Wars Prequels).

Final Observations

The show has potential–which Netflix seems to have seen as they greenlit a second season of the show. They’ve added a new “main” character–so I’ll be interested to see how that works out in regards to the characters’ dynamics as they go about their quest. They’ve added several side characters, so I’d like to see how they are going to be used over the upcoming semester as well as I kind of like their side characters as much as the main characters–probably not their intention, but they are still varied and fun.

Overall Grade: B

So, due to the earlier part of the season, I would have rated this as a B-, but based on the stellar last half of the season, I’m raising my grade to a solid B. If you can get past the early humdrum episodes, I think there’s a worth fantasy series that is worth checking out. It’s no Avatar: The Last Airbender, but it isn’t that bad as fantasy series go.

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Project Dog  (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

1st Try

So far, I have only sold one story on the first try: Dragonhawk One of the reasons why I believe that it was so successful is that even though I had the plot for the story in mind when writing the story, I also used (for the only time time since I restarted my writing “career” by buying Storymill and then later Scrivener) the Character Sketch Template Sheets provided by Scrivener.  One of the things that the character sheets forced me to do was to think about my characters from the external and the internal

External

So, on the Character Sheets, there is a place to fill out all of the external characteristics of the character.  What do they look like, what is their background, etc.  All of the things you might ask yourself when filling out a biography for a character.  Sure, it isn’t much, just spaces where you can write a paragraph or so, but I did that for both of the main characters in the story: Kelfryn (the young man who was a Hawkrider, but wanted to be a Dragonrider), and Scryfe (his mind-bonded hawk, who didn’t understand his rider’s obsession with dragons and dragon eggs).  It really didn’t take that long to write out each one–maybe half an hour to one full hour for each one.  However, when it came to describing the characters and knowing the history, my mind was able to weave a narrative around them that made them seem (to the editor who bought the story, and hopefully his readers), well, alive in some undefinable way.  It also made it easier, for me, to come up with a reason why  he was doing what he was doing that seemed both rational and in keeping with the character.

Internal

Perhaps the most important point is the fact that the character sheet provided a place for internal conflicts–i.e., what is the character struggling with internally.  For Kelfryn, he wanted so much to be a Dragonrider of old and to have the status of a Dragonrider.  His great grandfather had been one as had countless generations before that and in the world I created, even though there were no more Dragonriders, there was still an air of mystique about them and a reverence.  Even though he knew it was forbidden in his culture, his desire to bring them back trumped his good sense and he (pardon he pun) “hatched” a plan to steal an egg, thus setting the story in motion.

Concluding Thoughts

As I said earlier, this is the only story which has sold on the first try–and I didn’t even like the story all that much (the kid learns his lesson while I wanted a fun adventure story).  While I may never have another story accepted on the first try, this incident is trying to tell me something: good characters need both internal and external conflicts.  To help me, I printed out several character sheets.  My goal, of course, is to use them for each of my projects to help get at the inner conflicts and to create well-rounded and dynamic characters. I’m starting this with The Independent.  I’m working on the 2nd Draft now and I’m hopeful that a Character Sketch Sheet will help me to create Ryn (the protagonist) into a round and dynamic character.

Perhaps, one day, I can even reach the rarefied heights of getting back to getting a publication on the first try.  It’s something to shoot for anyway.

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress: The Independent (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 2nd Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Project Star (Sci-Fi Short-Story -1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue #1)

Finished EdgeDancer (Novella) by Brandon Sanderson: Mini-Review (Non-Spoilers)

edgedancer_cover_amazon

EdgeDancer Cover From the Stormlight Archive.  Image Source: Amazon

Word Count (What I’m Writing)

  • Project Paradise Word Count: 357
  • Project Skye Word Count: 1617
  • Project Independence Word Count: 3041 
  • Project Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel Page Count: 12

0.  Zero. Nada. Zilch. That’s my level of production since Tuesday of next week.  What happened?  Bad day on Wednesday and a realization that I’m still not focusing on enough on characters when I sit down to “plot” out my stories.  To be fair, school and reading for school interrupted as well as I should write after class (about 4:15), but usually end up spending the time in the sun outside watching YouTube videos instead.  

Currently Reading (What I’m Reading)

  • For Fun:
    Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy Novel, Stormlight Archive Book 3)
  • For School:
    Rhetoric in the European Tradition by Thomas Conley (A Book on the History of Rhetoric)
    Rereading the Sophists: Another book on the history of Rhetoric
  • For Research/Personal Development:
    Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)

I wanted to read Oathbringer over the summer break before classes started again, but BS said that it might be helpful to read a Novella entitled, Edgedancer, before starting on Oathbringer.  I finally found a copy at MTSU’s library and I’m reading it now.  X gives a history of Rhetoric.  Great Aircraft of WWII is a book that I’ve had in my collection for sometime–I’ve glanced at it periodically, but never read it cover-to-cover.  Now, with Project Skye, I intend to do just that.

Game Mode On (What I’m Playing)

  • Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands (Ubisoft Multi-platform): Open World, Third Person Tactical Shooter–About ¾th of the way through.  Special Ops/Military combat in a fictional Bolivia taken over by a Mexican drug cartel.  Difficulty is auto-leveling to its hardest difficulty (Tier One status) and it is slowing down my progress in the game as enemies take more hits to die, but you take far fewer hits to die.  Difficulty is currently set to ADVANCED–the game’s doing, not mine.  Very irksome when all you want to do is finish the game.
  • Until Dawn (Sony PS4 Exclusive): Third Person, Horror– branching storyline game that features a variety of choices that affect the outcome of the story using a system call the “Butterfly Effect.”  As I’m writing this, I haven’t put any time into this game as of this weekend because of E3.

A Bite-Sized Interlude

So, last week I finished EdgeDancer by Brandon Sanderson after a bad day of classes (I won’t go into the particulars, but it was one of those “Bear Eats You” days).  In a nutshell, I thought it was a good story.  It is one that I wish that I’d known about before buying/starting Oathbringer by Sanderson as it is a prequel of sorts and it delayed my beginning Oathbringer until I finished reading it.  It is part of the new trend of authors releasing “side” stories in-between entries in the mainline series.  Tad Williams has done it–in fact, I still haven’t had a chance to buy the actual  new”mainline” novel in his Osten Ard series because I only just bought his novella and finished it earlier this spring.  To my knowledge Elizabeth Moon hasn’t done that with her Vatta series, but Diane Duane has done it with her Young Wizards series (and for this one, I bought the mainline entry, not realizing that their were two side stories available that I’m going to have to go back and get at some point).  In the mid-80’s, EdgeDancer might have been a full novel as it clocked in at about 200 pages.  However, as Oathbringer is approximately 1,000 pages in length (and is in the general range of Sanderson’s normal length), this book is only about 20% of what the author is capable of writing.

A New Character and a New Power

EdgeDancer focuses on a new character, Lift and her new abilities.  I’m actually not sure if we’ve seen Lift before–I somewhat feel that we might have seen her (or maybe it was the characters she interacts with) in an Interlude to the main story, so if she isn’t completely new, please forgive my memory (I haven’t read Bks 1 & 2 recently).  I found the story to be pretty good.  The main character’s characterization was excellent and the setting was well done.  I felt the ending seemed to veer slightly as it has a misdirection that I’m not sure completely works (no spoilers), but the resolution of the story was strong enough that I immediately jumped into Oathbringer.  I love Lift’s powers and can’t wait to see if they will be worked into the mainline story.  The antagonist of the story was well done, if off the stage for most of the story and I have to say that even with the ending lurching wildly, I did still enjoy the final confrontation scene.

Overall Grade: B (Above Average):  This story is a good set up for Oathbringer.  Is it necessary?  No, but it is fun and if you enjoy the world of the Stormlight Archive series then it gives you a new character with new powers in a setting we haven’t seen much of in the series.  It is available in either a standalone volume or in a large volume, Arcanum Unbound with novellas from his other fantasy series.

Sidney




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I earn a small commission on the purchase of these items.

 

What’s On My Bookshelf: Numenera Role-Playing Game By Monte Cook

Numenera_Amazon

Numenera Book Cover (Futuristic humans and aliens on the cover)

Word Count (What I’m Writing)

  • Project Paradise Word Count: 357
  • Project Skye Word Count: 1617
  • Project Independence Word Count: 3041 
  • Project Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel Page Count: 12

I didn’t manage any new words on any of my major projects–I didn’t even manage a blog post.  I realize this is where I’m sabotaging my writing, so I’m redoubling my efforts to write at least 250-500 words each day on at least one of these projects.

Currently Reading (What I’m Reading)

  • For Fun: Edgedancer by Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy Novella)
  • For School: Rhetoric in the European Tradition by Thomas Conley (A Book on the History of Rhetoric)
  • For Research/Personal Development: Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)

I wanted to read Oathbringer over the summer break before classes started again, but BS said that it might be helpful to read a Novella entitled, Edgedancer, before starting on Oathbringer.  I finally found a copy at MTSU’s library and I’m reading it now.  X gives a history of Rhetoric.  Great Aircraft of WWII is a book that I’ve had in my collection for sometime–I’ve glanced at it periodically, but never read it cover-to-cover.  Now, with Project Skye, I intend to do just that.

Game Mode On (What I’m Playing)

  • Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands (Ubisoft Multi-platform): Open World, Third Person Tactical Shooter–About ¾th of the way through.  Special Ops/Military combat in a fictional Bolivia taken over by a Mexican drug cartel.
  • Until Dawn (Sony PS4 Exclusive): Third Person, Horror– branching storyline game that features a variety of choices that affect the outcome of the story using a system call the “Butterfly Effect.”  My latest choice may have just gotten one of the characters killed.  😦

There Have Been Eight Previous Worlds

“Each world stretched across vast millennia of time.  Each play host to a race whose civilizations rose to superman but eventually died or scattered, disappeared or transcended.  During the time that each world flourished, those that ruled it spoke to the stars, reengineered their physical bodies, and mastered form and essence, all in their own unique ways.

Each left behind remnants.  

People of the new world–the Ninth World–sometimes call these remnants magic, and who are we to say they’re wrong.  But most give a unique name to the legacies of the nigh unimaginable past.  They call them . . .

Numenera.

Thus begins the blurb on the back of the Numenera RPG.  Numenera was one of the two rpgs that I wanted ever since I heard about them (the other was The Strange, also by Monte Cook Games).  They are both $60 books (!), but I waited patiently for sales and eventually got them both (at various times) for half price (around $30 each).

Super-Science and Sorcery

So, I have a confession to make: one of my most favorite series of all time is the Saturday Morning show Thundarr the Barbarian.  I loved that show and I would love to see (or write) a live action version of it one of these days.  I’m linking the show’s intro. down below, but in it, there’s a line that links “sorcery” with with the term “super-science.”  This is a “short-cut” for the very well known idea/adage in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy community “that any sufficiently advanced science is indistinguishable from magic.”  Airplanes would seem magical to most non 20th century people (although a few talented dreamers, such as Galileo, might be able to make the inferential leap).

That is what Numenera does.  It posits a future where at least eight other civilizations have risen and fallen and their technology, long forgotten, appears almost magic when discovered by those of the Ninth World.  Thus, you have this dynamic element of future tech combined with mystical abilities for your character–the best of both worlds.

Not the First, but so far the Best

I have to say that I’ve not really had a chance to do a deep dive Numenera yet because of school.  I’ve only had the chance to skim the book a couple times, so there’s probably so much that I’m missing in terms of describing it.  Also, I have to acknowledge that this isn’t the first RPG to combine technology and magic.  There are quite a few, but even back when I was in high school, Rifts was a RPG that I ran that also incorporated this post apocalyptic setting and integrated super-science tech with the mystic.  However, this is by far one of the best settings that I’ve seen so far (again, having only skimmed the rulebook), and I think that it really understands the concept of “Super-Science.”

I’m hopeful that it (like its sister book, The Strange) will help inspire ideas for my own writing as I’m really interested in the concept of “Super-Science.”

Oh, and if anyone knows someone who knows someone who knows the person who holds the rights to Thundarr the Barbarian, please have that person call me.  I’d love to write the screenplay or graphic novel script for a Thundarr the Barbarian live action movie and/or graphic novel.  I’m not picky! 😉

Have a great weekend!

Sidney




Amazon Associate Disclaimer:
I earn a small commission on the purchase of these items.

 

Finished Rereading Towers of Midnight (Wheel of Time #13) by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson

TowersofMidnight_BookCover_Goodreads

Tower of Midnight (Wheel of Time #13) Book Cover.  Image Source: GoodReads

Word Count

  • Project Paradise Word Count: 357
  • Project Skye Word Count: 1617
  • Project Independence Word Count: 2428 
  • Project Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel Page Count: 12

I didn’t manage any new words on any of my major projects–I didn’t even manage a blog post.  I realize this is where I’m sabotaging my writing, so I’m redoubling my efforts to write at least 250-500 words each day on at least one of these projects.  

Currently Reading

  • For Fun: Edgedancer by Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy Novella)
  • For School: Rhetoric in the European Tradition by Thomas Conley (A Book on the History of Rhetoric)
  • For Research/Personal Development: Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)

I wanted to read Oathbringer over the summer break before classes started again, but BS said that it might be helpful to read a Novella entitled, Edgedancer, before starting on Oathbringer.  I finally found a copy at MTSU’s library and I’m reading it now.  X gives a history of Rhetoric.  Great Aircraft of WWII is a book that I’ve had in my collection for sometime–I’ve glanced at it periodically, but never read it cover-to-cover.  Now, with Project Skye, I intend to do just that.

Finally Finished

So, this past week, I finally finished rereading Towers of Midnight, the 13th book in The Wheel of Time Fantasy series.  This series was started by Robert Jordan in the early 1990s, but he sadly passed away.  Brandon Sanderson was asked to complete the series based on the notes left behind by RJ after his death.  I can’t remember if I’ve done a formal review of the books based on fact that I’ve already read them, but I won’t do a full one here, just a shorter one that tells why I like the book.

Secondary Characters

If the previous book’s focus is mostly on Rand (the main protagonist of the series), then this book focuses more on the two side characters who also act as protagonists, Perrin and Matt.  RJ & BS do the time-honored tradition of splitting up the characters and having them go their separate ways.  This book checks in on the pair and offer resolution to their separate storylines so that they might be unencumbered by dangling plot-lines for the final epic battle that RJ & BS are setting up for in Book 14 (the final volume).  In this case, the book works, although even though we spend quite a bit of time in both characters’ heads, it still feel like this one is more about Perrin than Matt.  I think that it may be because the author may identify more with Perrin than Matt, but whatever the case, this is what makes it feel slightly unbalanced to me.

Not Sure at First

When Brandon Sanderson first took over the reins of the series, I was hesitant to read the final books because I wasn’t sure how they would turn out.  I actually delayed reading them until all three were out because 1) I hadn’t read anything by BS yet, so I didn’t know what his writing style was like and 2) because of the mixed reviews on Amazon.  Some praised his characterization and said it matched the “spirit” of RJ’s original books, while some were disappointed in the way the books were characterized.  For me, The Wheel of Time was always more about the characters than the world (at least, in the later WoT books).  Jordan had a dense style, and while that was sometimes helpful to “world-building”,  it was also sometimes off-putting and (dare I say it, a little dry and boring).  It was his characters and traits that really stood out, from one character’s tagging on her braid when she was angry to one character also being an absolute flirt while claiming he knew nothing of the opposite sex, Jordan’s ability to create characters was amazing.  After I read Sanderson’s A Way of Kings, Book 1 of his Stormlight Archives series, I had enough confidence that he would treat Jordan’s characters right and so I dived in and I’m glad I did.

Sidney




Amazon Associate Disclaimer:
I earn a small commission on the purchase of these items.