The Legacy of Zyanthia


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Time is a Novelty

Time NoveltyIt is always fun when diving back into an unfinished story. Now where did I leave that character? What did that mean? If you are like me then the mind will weave clues into your writing that only make sense later. Resembling a magical trail of bread crumbs spread throughout the pages. A clue with no meaning re-emerged to take over the story. It is not the first so I clung on for the ride. That is why editing waits until after the first draft is finished. Things have a habit of reappearing much later. As a writer it can feel the same as being in a tug-of-war. On one hand I think I know what is happening and then everything goes topsy-turvy. I have lost count of the times I thought, did I mean to do that?

Falling into a Scene

There is only so much planning that can go into a scene to mix all the ingredients together. Then the wait begins and the suspense builds to find out how the pieces will fall. When almost halfway through the story a formidable villain appeared. Through a sequence of events the scene lies in wait. All the pieces of the puzzle ready to fall into place. I do not like predicting an outcome so I think of multiple outcomes before a fight scene. Halfway through a series and I still let my protagonist rise and fall by the final flow of a scene. There have been a few times when characters have not wanted to live or die as per the outline. Once an outcome is written in first draft it stays. That is one line I do not cross. There will be no resurrecting of characters here.

Fall Out

This leads to the next problem, what if a character lives? For some reason villains don’t want to die, who would have thought? The best thing about going into a fight scene with many outcomes is that the danger is real. There is more at stake. If I am not sure who will win then it will not be clear until the end. Have faith in your characters and let them achieve on their own.

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Story Lines

Story LineStory telling can take on a life of its own. Halfway through writing the series there was a question that needed to be answered. This meant putting the pen down, saving the draft, and taking a journey into the past. It is a difficult task keeping the backstory out of a series.  Yet the background demanded a novella. A few short sentences that held the scene needed to be told. Yes, I begin with writing a sentence for each story. A small idea swirling outward from a story, to a chapter, and finally down to a scene. Except for one thing, when the idea has had so much time, and so much thought one sentence is enough.

Backwards to go Forwards

At no stage had the thought entered my head. The backstory would be enough to hold the span of a novel. Even a novella was stretching the idea. Yet in the distant past of a series a chain of events impacted on the main story. The series was packed away. Expectations began to unravel with a few differences. The protagonist was not the same, and neither were the main obstacles. In the midst of the story details began rising to the surface. These linked the past to the main story. A complex set of events spanning across time began to reveal with a few small twists.

Results

Was it worth going back in order to go forward? The short answer is yes. For a series with a plot embedded in a sequence of events it helped to keep focus on the main obstacles. There was one unforeseen downside, having to start a story from scratch. If you are anticipating being able to dive in to a backstory at the same pace allow more time. The biggest drawback was re-building the old world. Where changes meant having to rethink how the landscape had been altered. Alliances, communities, and the immediate problems had changed. Amidst all this a past revealed itself taking the form of a novella.


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Stumbling and Avoidance

AvoidanceIt has been an interesting experience. Diverting from the path of writing a series to write a novella set in the past. For one thing the dangerous fowl tempered dragon turned into a cute cuddly hatchling. It gets into mischief on a miniature scale. It all began with a question, what happened to a legendary character? What happened before? There is still some more books to write but the big question focused on the end. Not just the end of the book I was working on, but the end of the series. Somewhere locked away in the distant past of a fantasy world one moment remained. An event pivotal to the path that had led the story to this point. It lay hidden, forgotten, and unsaid buried in the pages and a world that had grown up around it.

Stepping into the Past

Much remained outside the focus of the story for the series. There the last remnants of the old world remained. Yet one had gone before, a leader, a myth, and then a legend. A character that had so much in common with the protagonist. Yet as the story evolved the differences became clear. This protagonist was going to lead me down the path with a unique perspective. There had been a terrible assumption on my part. I thought that there would only be one type of character as the lead. It pains me to say it but I thought I could only write one type of protagonist. The doubt set in as the character diverged and changed, was I doing the right thing. Three manuscripts later and all my mistakes had taught me one thing. To follow the path the character was taking.

Blending Past and Present

One pivotal moment experienced by two different characters across a vast timeframe. On that journey I learned that one was anti-hero flawed in so many ways. The other was a hero with all the naivety that came with in experience. Yet somehow the two merged to reach the same event. A moment that would take a journey spanning a series to discover. That is why I love writing, when you start you are not the same as when you reach the end.


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Organising Characters

Organising Characters

What do you do when writing a series? Re-organise the characters. Especially when you realise you made two lists that are not the same. Oops! If you are like me then you tend to have a soft spot for all the minor characters and name them too. So how many names can you have after writing three books? Try over 100, and counting. Add into the mix an epic journey and it increases three fold.

Keeping Track

There is something special about characters. While merging the two lists I could remember each of them. Then I came across a character that threw me off because he was known by his nickname. Mental note: must keep better notes! It is so much easier to keep track as you go through the story. Rather than waiting until afterward. It is always fun when you forget an occupation, or place the character was from.

Finding Details

If you are not the best at writing down details don’t stress. I would still be staring at a blank page instead of having three manuscripts. If I had waited to find out whom my characters were. The truth is they grow with the story. So what you knew at the beginning will not be the same as what you find out later on. Writing a series can be tricky. Oops, where did I leave that character? It also helps to note who died, or more to the point who is not supposed to come back from the dead.

Time for Notes

When working with a complex plot and many details there is bound to be more than one file. It helps to have a ‘cheat’ sheet to flip back to at those crucial moments. I may have difficulty filling out a full character sheet. Yet managing 163 characters and counting not a problem. Until I accidentally split the file that is. The details were pretty stark to begin with yet in time they became much more. Thank goodness I am only part way through the series, it is going to be hard to say goodbye.


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A Challenge to Write a Children’s Story

Red Dragon - LongChildren’s stories were something I had not contemplated for one reason. They are deceptively simple. After writing poetry for twelve years and loving sonnets because of their tight structure. I was reluctant to dive into a story with an equal amount of difficulty. Yes, those well-loved childhood stories hide a secret. They require a high level of execution and craft. If someone had asked me earlier I would have avoided the challenge. The thought of all those restrictions made me squeamish.

The Challenge

I was commenting on the story structure in a children’s book. My friend seized on the opportunity to issue a dare. Write a children’s story that begins with ‘once upon a time’ and ends with ‘the end’. I accepted. After ten years of writing novels, including the painstaking task of editing. I thought it was time to go back and revisit some of my old poetry skills. This combined with a rigid structure and reading level sounded like a fun exercise.

The Task

After having written 70,000 words (260 pages) a length of 500 words looked tiny. I love creating titles, all my books began with a title and this was no exception. The list of titles grew to eighteen in all. Instead of writing just one I wrote three stories with a fantasy theme. I have always preferred fantasy when escaping from the real world into reading. For me there is only one type of fantasy and it involves a dragon, a large clumsy one named Bruce.

Research

Words matter with children’s stories. The first 100 words, the second 100 words, and so on. These are the common words that children learn when they are beginning to read. This enables them to branch outward when learning. I did say that this was going to be difficult, and fun. Playing with words is a challenge but it can also be rewarding.

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