Camp NaNoWriMo, July 2021, Feels Like Fate

I know that’s a little dramatic . . .

. . . but I just finished editing my outline. Not rushing or stressing. Just at my normal pace, I just so happened to finish editing my outline an hour before July 1st–giving me exactly enough time to write this post.

And that outline didn’t need massive changes–the finale was just good.

And the tweak I made to an earlier scene yielded a significantly better scene.

And there was a thunderstorm as I edited the last bit (and, seriously, if you don’t know, rain and thunderstorms are my ideal setting for writing because of Jurassic Park [a major inspiration for me as a baby writer]).

And a heat wave just ended–on the eve of Camp NaNo.

I don’t know if that’s the requisite amount of things to qualify for auspicious, but it sure feels like it to me.

I would have nerves . . .

. . . if I wasn’t so goddamn pumped to write this novel.

My Camp NaNo 2021 Info

My name on nanowrimo.org is “LouisSantiago.” Feel free to add me if you’ll also be toiling away on a project this July.

My project for this Camp is Memory, a rewrite of a novel I originally completed in 2014. I spent the interim seven years working on other projects, learning more about my novel-writing-process, and outlining the rewrite.

My word goal is 50,000, the lowest total you can select because, at this phase of my writing career, I am extremely concise. There is a chance I won’t write a full 50,000, but we’ll see.

My daily goal is going to be 1,666 words, which would be a bad omen but, ha ha! Fuck you, world! I was a Goth in high school! Your supposedly evil numbers mean fuck all to me! Ha ha!

My weekly total is going to be roughly 5 chapters (the outline tops off at 19), which is probably less lenient than it feels. But, hey, I will at least accept the shoulder-tension-release I’m getting from that potential wiggle room.

~~~

That said, I’m ending this post here, because my ritual lately has been waking up super early and getting to work right away, and I refuse to break that–especially tomorrow.

This will be my post for this week because I want to give Camp NaNo and Memory all of my attention. I figure for this month, I’ll switch to Thursdays, and then go back to business as usual in August.

Until next time, stay safe, stay hydrated, and, please, no matter what happens, don’t let other people slow you down. I don’t mean that in a weird, lone wolf way. I just mean that if there’s anyone in your life who’s constantly telling you not to do the things you want to do, or manipulating you into second guessing yourself, fuck them. Your dreams don’t have to conform to what they want–ever. Be yourself. Live your truth.

And let’s fucking do this.

I Finished the Outline for Memory

Finally.

I can’t explain how good it feels to finally get over that hurdle. To finally be one step closer to writing anything else.

I love Memory, and I’m excited that I have ideas for its sequels, but man am I ready for the next steps in my process: making a few tweaks to the outline, and then using it to write Memory next month for Camp NaNoWriMo.

And, after that, moving on to a new project for the first time in six years.

There’s some additional tweaking and retallying I need to do between now and July—in particular, I need to bolster the one plotline and add additional stakes to the finale—but I am still in what I’m now calling “forced celebration mode.”

Which means I’m continually loading up my outline, staring at it, and realizing that I can’t work on it because I’m knee deep in what I call Recovery Mode, which is when I’ve just written a bunch and I know from years of experience that, if I push myself to do more, I’ll just be writing nonsense that I’ll have to delete later (no shame if you can push yourself, and I’m not advising anyone else to do this, but I have a finite amount of Write Juice [or whatever you want to call it] and I know to respect when it runs out session). Usually, that dearth of Write Juice (I like it) just means I stop writing for the day, but when I hit a milestone, I usually like some breathing room for a few days.

Which mean I keep telling myself that it’s okay—that I don’t have to work this weekend—and then I just kind of . . . wallow? No—wrong word. It’s not a sad thing.

“Not-work!”

Not-working is what I’ll call it.

Never in my life have I experienced it, but yes, I am in a perpetual state of not-working, where I just kind of roll around my apartment, lying and sitting in different places, thinking about the outline, excited to get back to it, but also accepting that I need a break.

Things I have done in my determined quest to just fucking relax for a minute:

Watched Escape from L.A. for the first time.

Played through Superliminal for the first time—in one sitting.

Read a ton of Ultimate Spider-Man, which I’m trying to catch up on after finishing Spider-Man: Miles Morales. There’s something addicting about experiencing all of the different iterations of Miles in succession (I just finished Spider-Man: Miles Morales recently and I watch Spider-Verse all the time). Every version of Miles’ story does some things better than others. For example, the video game version of his mother, Rio, is the only version with an actual personality. Video game Uncle Aaron is also the best. The comics have the best version of Ganke (the video game version of him is such an over-the-top, app saavy genius, that the moment he suggested monetizing the app he made–so people could contact Miles and ask him for help–I couldn’t get over the idea that he’s a silicon valley monster waiting to happen). When it comes to Miles himself though, there is no beating Shameik Moore’s smooth, reluctant-nerd Miles from Spider-Verse; I love comic book Miles’ reluctance to be Spider-Man, and I appreciate video game Miles consistently speaking Spanish (the only one who actually feels Afro-Latino), but cool, confident (eventually) Spider-Verse Miles is such a departure from Peter Parker’s routinely-beaten-down-little-guy, that he’s definitely my favorite of the now many, many Spider-People out there.

Anyway, I also suffered through Tenet (which I might rewatch to do A Writer Watching—I have so much to say).

I tried Goat Simulator, which I played for longer than I thought I would, but got tired of pre-e-e-e-etty quickly. The weird thing about being me and taking forever to play / watch / read anything is experiencing trends out of sequence. So, to me, Goat Simulator is just bad Untitled Goose Game. I know Goat Simulator came first—I know it birthed both the trend of wacky animal games and the trend of intentionally bad sims, but it is impossible to divorce myself from Untitled Goose Game.

I started Rime, which is absolutely beautiful so far. Having just finished Superliminal and intending to move on to Okami (which, yes, I’m playing for the first time), Rime turned out to be the perfect transition.

But the thing that I’ve done most recently to celebrate is ending this post here. Just keeping it light, possibly going back to sleep for a bit while it’s still cool. I have this last day to relax before rolling into edits and Camp NaNoWriMo, so I’m just gonna kick back.

And, yes, I will be posting here about my Camp NaNoWriMo run. I’m not going to write a series like I have in previous years, but, at the very least, I’ll share my profile name here so anyone else who’s doing Camp can friend me. We can cheer each other on!

Anyway, if you enjoyed this post and want to know when I’ll be posting an absolutely fierce, needlessly brutal takedown of Tenet, you can give this blog a follow on the left side bar (on PC) or the top right drop down menu (on mobile).

Until next time, stay safe, and I’ve been saying it for a while, but seriously, stay hydrated for the Summer. You can absolutely do that however you choose to, but I’ve found that, since going full Summer Mode (no coffee, just ice water and caffeine-free iced tea) I’m so much better at dealing with high temperatures that it’s insane. Seriously, I feel like an idiot: for two years, I lived in AC that facilitated me chugging iced coffee, not realizing that doing that made me a Grass type Pokémon; anything over 80 degrees was super effective against me. Kicking caffeine takes some work, but I’m so much more functional in hot weather now that I’m like, “Ah. ‘Summer Mode’ is going to be a rest-of-my-life type thing, huh? Got it. Cool.”

Anyway, bye!

A May Break – I’m Sorry, but My Weekend Was Dominated By D&D

And, to put it into context, two things:

First, I haven’t played D&D in years.

And my character was a Teenage Mutant Kung Fu Penguin.

Yeah, I pitched that idea to my DM and he was like, “Sure, you can make that character.”

So, yeah, my weekend was dominated by making that character and having an all-day D&D session yesterday.

And just . . . zero regrets here.

I’m sorry that I don’t have a post and that I wound up publishing this super late, but to be totally real, I didn’t have anything to write about and my brain just totally overshot the point where I realized I had to post. I have made huge strides on Memory, my current WIP, but not such huge strides that I felt comfortable writing about it here. I would’ve at least written a “Something to Read / Watch / Play” at the very least, but I haven’t played, watched, or read anything new that was so amazing I wanted to recommend it.

So, all I will say here is please forgive me.

And also, my character was the Michelangelo of his group. Seriously, it was the most fun I’ve ever had playing D&D.

I will be back next week, possibly talking about how excited I am to be writing prose again.

But until then, take care, pet a cat and/or dog, and–for the love of God–play D&D. If you never have, seriously, try it–with the understanding that it just gets better with time. Seriously, your first character will be a super serious OC–an Elven knight betrayed by his king or something–but eventually, you’ll be like, “My new character is Hornswoggle. She is half gremlin, half cat, 100% Rogue, and she only drinks White Russians.”

Process in Progress #3 – My Villain Isn’t Palpatine (and, Seriously, Thank God)

I had to do my taxes this week.

They just got away from me. I was definitely spoiled last year, able to get to them at the point I naturally would have (in June), so when I learned that they were due earlier this year, my brain just kept hearing “Not yet though,” until days before they were due.

Cool.

So I busted my ass to do them and managed to finish before Resident Evil: Village and Subnautica: Below Zero came out (because the true hell would’ve been owning but not being able to play two of my most anticipated games of 2021 because I had to finish extremely tedious paperwork), but, as you can imagine, this week was still a major pain. Which is also why this post is a little late.

That said though, somewhere in the mix, nearly lost, was a super important triumph:

I finally finished the backstory for my villain.

And, to frame that success in the most accessible light I can imagine, I have to add that–thank God–he’s not just Palpatine.

That Easy Palpy Goodness

I don’t know if it’s just me . . . but the reflex to make villains like Palpatine . . . is weirdly strong.

I don’t mean that I make them look like him or act like him; none of my villains has ever criticized the protagonist for their lack of vision and shot lightning out of their hands.

But, because I grew up with the original Star Wars trilogy, and the prequels came out while I was in high school, Palpatine’s backstory stands out more than any other backstory for any other villain I love. Pro-o-o-o-obably because no other villain I love has full movies devoted to their backstory.

Well, I mean, Darth Vader obviously does, but I always choose to forget that his backstory is “he hated sand a lot.”

Okay–jokes aside, I never really think of Vader as a villain of Star Wars; in my eyes, he’s more of a puppet used by the real villain: Palpatine.

Anyway, my point is, I watched Palpatine become the Emperor in my teens and early 20’s, so whenever I think about my own villains, even if they’re a floating mask that looks like an eye and attaches to people’s faces, forcing them to do its bidding (yes, one of my early villains was basically Majora’s Mask), when I try to dive into their backstory, it is always super duper easy to imagine that they were a politician in an ancient era who fomented civil war that allowed them to gain power.

The villain for Memory, who actually is an old, male emperor, really re-e-e-e-e-eally challenged that reflex.

Thankfully, a totally different problem with his backstory helped me shake off that case of the Palpies.

A Forced Restart

I absolutely hate scrapping massive blocks of worldbuilding and starting over. It’s just soul-crushing every time, especially if it’s tangible pages of writing you’ve already done that you literally have to delete.

And even though it was written in outline form, my first run at my villain’s backstory was many pages long. Wa-a-a-a-ay longer than it should’ve been.

The thing is, I was forced to restart it because it was built around a discrepancy with my magic system that didn’t make sense–a super esoteric plot hole that would only be visible to me on the back end . . . which meant I just could not let it stand. Because I just obsessively hate plot holes so much that it’s borderline dysfunctional.

Anyway, I smoothed out the magic system, went back to restart the villain’s backstory, and realized that one of his major drives (learning how to wield magic better than his siblings so he could make a name for himself like his father stressed all of them should) just wouldn’t work anymore (because, post change, no one can wield magic except for gods). That meant I couldn’t go the route of him just being power-obsessed.

Which was, ultimately, such a blessing that I’m here writing about it. Because, without realizing, I’d slathered on a little bit too much of the Palpy on the building blocks of my villain. I didn’t go full Palpatine, but the dude was an old man who manipulated different political parties to fight while hiding he had crazy powers . . . Definitely too much Palp.

But being forced to find a new, more unique motivation yielded a backstory that feels weird and interesting. I can’t share it here, but the major thing is that my villain wasn’t an insane narcissist who manipulated his way into power. Instead, he was just a guy who had pretty intense issues, put in a variety of world-specific situations that ultimately made him a monster.

And I guess that’s the key term here: world-specific.

This is, in no way, an instructional post. If anything, this is just me venting about how I’m still learning how to fight bad reflexes when it comes to my creative process.

But I think the most important take away here is that my new villain’s backstory is world-specific; the things that made him who he is are only possible in the world of this story, and that feels so integral to making him unique that “How are their motivations world-specific?” is going to be in my villain-design tool kit from now on. Because that alone will force me to think more creatively about the world as a whole, and that just feels right to me.

Whether or not that’s right for you is totally up to you. I’m not here trying to preach today. I’m just a man freshly done with his taxes, venting.

And celebrating. Cause my WIP got several degrees less typical this week, and that’s always a good feeling.

And, more important than anything: because I finally finished the villain’s backstory, I can finally finish the outline this week.

Which means I’m just a week out . . . from finally writing prose again.

I’m so stoked I could open-hand slap a cake right now.

~~~

To be clear, I’ve never open-hand slapped a cake before.

But I absolutely could right now.

Anyway, thanks for reading. I post here every Sunday. Full warning though: this is just an aspiring Fantasy writer’s blog, and, as you can see, I post whatever weird, sometimes entirely self-centered bullshit I decide to write about each week. I just do not cater to algorithms; in fact, I usually don’t write about new fads until literal years after they’re popular. Example: I watched Terminator: Dark Fate for the first time the other day. I just don’t care about being timely. I care about writing, and experiencing stories outside of their hype windows. So if you’re down for reading the perspectives of a guy who cares a lot about storytelling but doesn’t give a single shit about what’s happening on the Epic Games Store, well, hey, there’s a Follow button on the side bar on the left side of the screen (on PC) or the upper right corner drop down menu (on mobile).

Until next time, stay safe and try making resin jewelry. It’s a relaxing, easy hobby. Just sit somewhere pretty; pop open a window; wear safety goggles, a face mask, and gloves; mix up some resin with whatever colors; pour it and leave it for a day. Come back, see what worked out and what didn’t, try something else.

Just allow something fun and uncomplicated to exist outside of your control. Because, especially if you’re a writer, you deserve to enjoy some chaotic beauty in your life.

Something to Read / Watch / Play – May 2021

I’m getting this post out a bit later than I normally would . . . for about the exact reason I decided to take a break this week.

I had . . . a weird week.

Not terrible, but definitely exhausting. I got my sleeping schedule in order, which is cool, but every night since, all of my dreams have involved different people from my past?

As if I’m a character in one of my own goddamn books, I go to sleep, dream about a character from my backstory in a friendly, intimate scenario that never happened, and then I wake up like, “Why?”

Whatever. Point is, I wasn’t feeling it this week.

But, I started doing a new thing last month where, every day, I have to do something new. Watch something I’ve never watched, eat something I’ve never eaten, etc. I kinda love it.

And, since starting that, I’ve wanted to make a series to talk about the new things I’ve enjoyed the most.

And I figured, “Why not make my ‘Break’ posts into that?” so here we are.

Keep in mind that this is going to be an extremely laid back post (because I still want it to feel like a Break).

But with that said, let’s kick off this new “Something to Read / Watch / Play” series with . . .

Something to Read:

The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie takes a bit to ramp up. But when it does, it really does.

I will spoil absolutely nothing here. I feel like I can’t talk about it without ruining some part of the experience.

So all I will say is, if you’re down for reading a Fantasy novel that presents an extremely interesting take on gods, interwoven with a political mystery / intrigue plot, and written with a masterful use of second person perspective, check out The Raven Tower.

No lie–kind of embarrassing–I hugged my copy for ten minutes when I finished reading it. So good!

Something to Watch:

I . . . am still shocked by how good HBO’s Watchmen series was.

It is nothing like Zack Snyder’s adaptation; all the ways that movie completely missed the mark of the original comics, this show does not. Clearly created by someone who read and loved the source material.

Actually, speaking of the source material, you will need to read Alan Moore’s original Watchmen series before watching this. If you haven’t, the Watchmen comic is still really good (a gateway drug the same way A Game of Thrones was for Fantasy), but if you’ve already read it, you can jump right in.

I was a little let down by the finale, but in the end, when I tried to guess how this story came to be (a game I play with all fiction), I assumed it was a plot someone lovingly crafted for decades after reading the graphic novel, and then fought for years to get it published somewhere. No idea if that’s true, but it feels true.

If you’re looking for a superhero show that dives head first into really heavy issues and fleshes out nearly all of its characters, check out Watchmen. As a nerd out of time, perpetually watching / playing / reading things years after the hype has died down, I’m telling you that Watchmen has my vote for Best Comic Book Show Ever Released.

Something to Play:

I almost don’t want to write this, because I just want to keep it for myself.

But . . .

Spiritfarer . . . is beautiful.

Beautiful in a way that no other game I’ve ever played is beautiful.

And, man, I’ve written this section so many times, deleted it, and started over because if I say exactly how I feel about it this game, it would color your experience with it, and that would be absolutely criminal.

So I will just say Spiritfarer is important to me in a way other games aren’t. It perfectly balances its story and mechanics, something that games that try to be emotionally impactful usually struggle with.

I recommend playing it. Specifically though, I recommend experiencing Spiritfarer alone, without looking anything up.

Just do what feels right.

And I hope that it helps you the same way it helped me.

~~~

Alright. I’m gonna go relax and mentally prepare for the dentist appointment I have tomorrow.

Until next time, stay safe, hug your animals, and eat your oatmeal.

An Essential Reset

I’ve been saving this one for a while, because, total honesty: I’ve just been recovering and processing a lot of stuff.

But, to finally break some news, I moved out of that terrible room I was living in. The place with the neighbors downstairs blasting music all day every day. The neighborhood where I was totally present for a gas station getting robbed.

Yeah. I moved out of there.

To the only place I could move during COVID and unemployment–back with the family. It’s a little depressing, but it was an essential reset. And it is out of this world how much better my living situation got the moment I moved back in. Like, we’re talkin’ “Wait–why did I stay at the other place for so long??” level.

Because, on top of the downstairs neighbors starting with the all day parties again, stereo blasting directly under my room, my roommates started with incense–the kind that’s made with benzene (which, if you don’t know, some incense is made with harmful chemicals, like benzene, that induce headaches and fatigue). Seriously, the first time they burned incense, I nearly lost a full day because, at 5pm, I got really tired, lay down for a nap, and woke up the next day at 2PM. It’s pretty bad.

So, in late February, there came a day–the fourth day in a row–where the downstairs neighbors turned on their four-song playlist. And I decided to take a shower to hopefully drown out the music for a bit. But when I stepped out of my room, I immediately got hit with the benzene–extremely strong, like my roommates had been burning incense all morning and walking around the apartment with it. And I just remember walking to the bathroom with an immediate ache behind my eyes, shutting the bathroom door . . .

And there was just shit in the toilet.

Like, no toilet paper. Just shit.

To this day, I don’t understand the logistics. But I don’t want to.

I definitely didn’t try to figure it out in that moment. I just blinked and said, out loud, “I’m moving out of here.” Like it was a realization of an empirical fact. “I’m just gonna go.”

I’d been determined to stick it out and find a new job and get a new apartment during COVID, all while staying away from the old apartment because I didn’t want my mother to potentially get sick from me going outside. But I’d just texted my mom about NYC Vaccine List and she already had her first shot scheduled.

And I just couldn’t anymore.

As if the world was egging me on too, I started watching Steven Universe Future, not expecting its main theme to be, “Stop torturing yourself–it’s time to move on,” the same week I watched the finale for WandaVision. Seriously, it almost felt like an audience somewhere was like, “Finally! We threw every goddamn hint at him but he just stood in that room for so long!”

I want to tell you that I gave a heartfelt goodbye to that place–my tiny room high up on Fordham Road.

But I really, really didn’t. I didn’t even sleep there for the last few nights I was renting the room; I just kept hauling stuff on the bus to the old apartment and sleeping here instead. The move was a surgical six hours where I was in zero-fucks mode, determinedly moving my property as quickly as I could to ensure the nightmare was over. Even when I walked around Fordham asking for spare boxes at stores, trying to drum up some emotion for a place I’d lived for nearly two years, I just couldn’t.

But . . . there was one thing that I knew I had to do before I left.

One thing that I liked about the room so much that I wrote about it here.

One thing that I wanted to contribute to the neighborhood.

Yeah. Yeah, that’s right.

It was so old that it wouldn’t even turn on.

And I’m exactly the kind of Loki who couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

Cause, seriously, can you even imagine when someone woke up the next day, made coffee, looked out the window and was like, “Wha . . . Wait. There’re two PS4 controllers out there? Who the fuck is throwing these controllers out there!?”

I mean, there’s every chance that no one will notice or care.

But I’d like to imagine that, in May, someone like me is going to move into an apartment over there.

And they’re going to look out their window, at the one roof across the way, and say, “Huh. There’s a PS4 controller out there. I wonder who–Wha–! There’re two!”

And maybe they’ll be so intrigued–by the fact that they’re the same color and facing the same way–that they’ll spend an afternoon thinking about them, the same way I thought about the first. Best case: they come up with their own story for how those controllers got there.

Or, even better case: they contribute their own controller.

Seriously, I’ll die happy if I go back one day and there are 300 broken PS4 controllers on that roof.

~~~

Thanks for reading. I didn’t want to fall back into life updates, but my other post ideas weren’t gelling and I couldn’t take the usual extra day to decide on something else.

That said, this will probably be my last life update for a while, because things are going to be calm for a bit (seriously, I moved nearly a month ago and I’ve been able to sleep, write, and think whenever I want, every single day–it’s been amazing).

But that means I will be back to writing-talk next week Sunday. Feel free to stop by then, or if you’d rather read the most recent thing I’ve posted about Fantasy writing, it’s my last post, which was about realistically messy worldbuilding.

Anyway, until next time, take care, stay safe, and Thin Mints come in two sleeves. Did you know that? I didn’t know that. This is a warning: a single box of Thin Mints has wa-a-a-a-a-ay too many Thin Mints in it. Like, a dangerous amount of Thin Mints to be surprised by.

Bye!

A March Break . . . with “Creme” Eggs

Yeah. That’s how they spell it. “Creme.”

Did I just Mandela Effect you? Cause I definitely just Mandela Effected myself when I glanced at the box.

Anyway, hello! I’m taking a break today.

On one hand because I woke up from weird dreams earlier. Dreams that were chok-full of people from my past. People I don’t even think about anymore until my brain decides to drop them into my dreams like, “Hyuck! Guess who!” I woke up from that immediately weirded out, didn’t eat breakfast . . . and then left the apartment to run errands, only realizing I forgot my glasses? Just not a great start.

On the other hand though, I’m taking a break because . . . I actually did write the majority of a good post, but I realized I really needed to do research before publishing it. Basically, I wanted to coin a term for a type of worldbuilding, but it occurred to me while writing that there must already be a term for it, so rather than pig-headedly pretending I came up with an idea that probably already exists, I want to do the proper research instead, find that term, and elevate the woman or man who came up with it.

So I figure I’m going to let that post sit, take a Sunday off, do a ton of research next week, and post a hardcore article with sources–which is something I want to start doing more of anyway.

In the meantime . . . someone gave me Cadbury Creme Eggs. I am not going to eat all of them in one sitting, because I’m at the age where I genuinely think I’d die if I did.

But a single Creme Egg with vanilla soy milk and Spiritfarer? That sounds like a beautiful night off.

So, I’m going to get to that.

If this is your first time here, I post every Sunday, but, once a month, I give myself the luxury of days off (like today). For a hint of what I’ll be posting in coming weeks, I have the aforementioned post about worldbuilding, a life update, and a post about the genre tropes of certain decades (and what they say about the generations who wrote them).

For tonight though, stay safe, wash your hands, and be careful when you’re buying glasses online. Seriously, if the website you use has a preview feature where they use your camera so you can virtually try glasses on, use it. Does not matter how good the glasses look on their own–they might just look wrong on your face.

Okay–bye!

Process in Progress #2 – The Character Wall

Hi there.

I had a bunch of things I wanted to write about today, and, in choosing one, I wound up shooting wa-a-a-a-ay over the typical release deadline. Apologies for that.

But I didn’t want to publish another life update. And I didn’t want to vent about my presence on social media either (which I’m displeased with not from a popularity standpoint, but from an “I hate what I do on there” standpoint [more on that in the Afterword]).

What I did want to do: actually talk about writing again, which I feel I haven’t done for a while.

The topic? The weird way a story requires you to prioritize certain character arcs. In a roundabout way. Let me explain.

I’m Honing One of My Protagonist’s Motivations
(& I Was Having a Harder Time with It Than I Wanted)

The situation: one of the protagonists in my current WIP is named Kole Buchanon. As that WIP is a rewrite of a book I wrote years ago, Kole’s personality has drastically changed.

In the original, he was insecure from a lifetime of being mistreated. Lacking in confidence, he was often unwilling to face challenges and his arc centered on defying that–putting himself in harm’s way to help other people. The hang up of being mistreated is something I still want to use in a future book somewhere, because I think that has merit, but the arc was as typical as they come.

New Kole is a capable, fledgling rebel. A person who’s challenged the setting’s corrupt Emperor by engaging in (admittedly low-impact) criminal activity. His hang up is experiencing, in the Prologue, the futility of challenging the Emperor when he tries a slightly higher-impact heist and it goes horribly wrong. His arc is . . . still up in the air actually, but that doesn’t matter for this post! Ha ha!

What matters is, in my outline for the rewrite, I kept referring to Original Kole’s arc.

I’m not sure how that happened. I knew he was a different character in the rewrite, but somehow, I focused so heavily on my other protagonist, Memory, that I just didn’t realize the adjustment to his personality was as intense as it was. Or maybe I was just so hellbent on getting the outline done that I didn’t realize I needed to slow down for Kole’s sake?

Either way, all of this came to a head when I got to the last chapters, and finally looked at the notes my writing group gave me about Kole’s motivations: that they weren’t clear. And, after I revisited those motivations and his arc as a whole, I finally realized the mix up.

Now, why am I writing about this at all?

Because, on one hand, after the last session of my writing group, I realized not only that Kole needed a totally new background story, but that the arc he needs for this first novel . . . isn’t going to be his best arc?

Like, I came up with a really awesome arc for him when I was brainstorming what his best character arc could be, but it just doesn’t fit in the first book? He needs to react to the situation in front of him, and that awesome potential arc works way better for a potential sequel?

I definitely explain, but first . . .

The Character Wall

When I realized I needed to rewrite Kole’s past, I realized that there were certain aspects of him that I wanted to focus on.

And, if you’re here exclusively for the “Process in Progress” part, then this is it.

I realized that, with Kole and all of my characters going forward, I want to know:

  1. The Hang Ups – Probably the most important thing for me is going to be the emotional problems that a character has. It’s “hang ups” plural because there are going to be a bunch of these. “Regrets abandoning his family.” “Experienced a lot of horrible things in the war.” Not all of these will heavily impact the plot, but in my mind, they’re as prevalent as “Favorite Color” and way more important.
  2. The Arcs – Specifically the arcs the character is going to go through and how those arcs are split up among the different entries in the series (if it’s a series). I can’t predict this right off the bat–I’ll have to work on each installment of the story before I know what arcs fit where.

But I’m here mentioning all of this now because . . .

A Character’s Arc in a Story Needs to Fit the Story

Okay. Seriously, forgive me for sounding dense.

But what I meant with that heading is . . . a character’s arc can’t just be what you want it to be for a novel.

You can’t just design a setting, establish a plot, and then just force the character’s best arc to happen in that setting and plot if it doesn’t fit.

Kole Buchanon is going to learn some hard truths about his past. It’s going to happen.

But as absolutely bizarre as it is to say, he’s not going to learn any of those truths in the first book.

Because it just doesn’t fit what’s happening and what he’s feeling in the setting and plot I’ve created for the first novel.

Kole can’t reconcile his bad experiences with his family because that just doesn’t work with the theme and plot of the first novel. Even if I tried to wedge it in, with would be rushed, rigid, and would not land like it would in book 2.

So I can’t do it in book one. And, as a person who’s never written a sequel, that blows my goddamn mind.

The Memory Roadmap–which is a things I have now?–is set for Kole to have his big arc in book 2 and Memory to have hers in book 3.

And, aside from that being weird and surprising, it also brings me a lot of hope.

Because, for the first time in my life, a sequel is coming together in my mind.

And just yes.

Please.

I am so goddamn pumped to write an amazing sequel.

This is a weird milestone that I have to imagine other writers hurdled right over.

But whatever. I’m not them, and I’m massively grateful to be experiencing this progress.

Book 2? I’m coming for you.

~Afterword~

Thanks for reading.

Yeah, about social media–I hate it. LOL I just don’t do it well. Like, when I hop on Twitter, it’s just to look at cute cat videos or get massively angry about political stuff. Or, at the worst of times, I scroll through fandom hashtags and get inspired to talk shit about things I don’t like.

And–I’ve said it so many times on here–I just don’t want to do that anymore. Dissecting multi-million dollar blockbuster films is one thing, but talking shit about something people love–on Twitter–is another thing entirely. Like . . . why? Why shit on someone for being excited about Justice League, or for liking the DCEU in general? I unironically loved Aquaman. It was a stupid, fun spectacle and I’m super excited for it’s sequel.

I’d just rather dole out that love than fling hate.

So, yeah, I’m deleting my Twitter. I would keep it and say positive things, but I’d feel trapped not being able to speak my mind, and speaking my mind has the chance to spark an argument, yadda yadda yadda.

So, on the chance you’re following me there, expect me to just disappear.

And, hey, just follow me here instead.

Where, ya know, we can chat about dumb stuff in more than 280 goddamn characters.

If you enjoyed this post, I do this every Sunday (unless it’s a day like today where I got to posting after 12am). You can always stop by next week for something else that could be anything. Between now and then, I could go to space and write about how that felt. Probably not gonna happen, but maybe.

Anyway, until next time, stay safe, and take care of yourself. Really though–make sure you’re drinking enough water and don’t push it all the time, even if you want to. You are the only person capable of pampering yourself the way you deserve to be pampered. Basic human rights, like water, are a good start.

Bye!

Writer’s Workshop – Being in a Gas Station While It’s Getting Robbed

This post was written on Monday the 15th, the day after my February “break” post.

A lot of things happened today.

By way of update: I was woken up by the guy upstairs playing his music. But when I went on an investigation (fully contemplating gross sabotage of their front door), I discovered that not only was the music actually coming from downstairs, the people blasting it were an old couple. Which I discovered because they cranked it so loud that I heard it through my noise-cancelling headphones (which work, but aren’t literal magic capable of perfectly muting 80 decibels), so I just had to go down there, knock, ask nicely for whoever to turn it down, and pray for the best. Thankfully, they turned down the music enough where I barely hear it without the headphones, and don’t hear it at all with the headphones.

With that out of the way, I was also in a gas station earlier, when it was getting robbed.

And, this totally was not what I intended to write about.

But how the fuck could I not?

Because, on one hand, I’m still processing. And, on the other hand, in the most mercenary-writer way, it’s at least a useful experience.

I will say immediately that I’m pretty sure the other people involved were fine. I was literally the only person not behind a counter, and the people the robber was threatening were behind a protective barrier, but they still immediately gave him money (meaning the chances of him shooting them were extremely low–if you don’t know, people committing robberies in real life usually don’t want to shoot anyone and make their rap sheet worse). Anyway, this was also not a small mom and pop gas station, so the only loser today was the gas station chain (and, whatever–get fucked American corporation).

That said . . .

The confusion hit first. Something like the Uncanny Valley. I was hearing an amalgam of a million movie quotes, but spoken aloud–sincerely.

My brain took a moment to catch up, so it’s impossible to remember what he said, but it was something like, “Alright! I am not fucking around! Let’s go!The words of a caricature, stepping out of the fourth wall to remind me that, yes, these things happen.

I looked and saw a man poised against the gas station’s counter, his hands on it, arranged to conceal what could only be a gun (there was no way clerks behind a wall wound freak out for a knife). And as I turned back, I realized a few of things:

  1. I didn’t wear my glasses today. Half-awake and in the heat of preparing to confront a noisy neighbor, I stumbled out of my apartment without putting them on. Because of course I did.
  2. A lifetime of action movies trained me to expect Arnold Schwarzenegger, Spider-Man, or whoever to show up and stop this. As a writer hearing dialogue and auto-assigning the next step in the action, I know I thought of this for a moment, but only in relation to whatever process reigned it in–the part of my brain that sounded the This Is Not A Fucking Movie alarm.
  3. I was the only person standing on the store floor. There were people behind the gas station’s counter–women who were screaming and a guy who kept shouting something–and one guy behind its mini Dunkin Donuts counter (who disappeared into the back immediately to–I assume–call the police) but I was the only person on the floor itself.
  4. And I was standing at the ATM, which still had my card, and was slowly dispensing my rent.

All it would take was for this man to look to his left, see me at the ATM, and he could’ve walked up and demanded what I was taking out. Because I, a person who has experienced guns before, knew that they are the ultimate means of control. If someone points a gun at you and tells you to do something, you do it–unless you have real life training that gives you other options (which almost no one does).

In that scenario, I would either give him the money, or he’d shoot me for it.

But . . . he was too busy shouting for the clerks to “Get the other one! The other one!” which I guess meant “the other register.”

I stood there, frozen, staring at the ATM screen as it processed the withdrawal, contemplating if I should just leave, aware that the clerks would be fine because this was a chain (they had nothing to lose, were already giving the robber the money, and thus, he was extremely unlikely to shoot them). Honestly never for a single second did I think I should help (all of the boyhood fantasies I’ve had about confronting a robber and / or talking them down were lost immediately in the sea of adulthood–the cold, hard realization that “there is no wall protecting me, so on the off-chance that he really is trigger happy, he can just fucking shoot me whenever”).

A thousand breathless thoughts before the ATM flicked to “Your transaction is approved!” and the male clerk behind the gas station counter shouted, “That’s it! We’re closed, man!” And then, in an oddly casual way, like either he was tired of shouting or he and the other clerks had retreated far enough–into a room behind the counter–that they knew they were fine, “We’re closed, man. Nah, we’re closed.” I still don’t know what that means.

But the ATM whirred and finally finished dispensing.

And then, I did not even look back, certain that if I did, I’d be spotted.

I just took the money–folding it into my wallet in one quick motion which, in retrospect, was probably the dumbest thing I could’ve done (guaranteeing that if he saw me, “Give me the money!” would’ve turned into “Give me the wallet!”).

But, if he did see, he deemed the risk of trying to rob a dude who was already walking out of the store–a man who maybe didn’t see him?–not worth it.

The only reason I didn’t run is because, when I came out, there was another guy standing near the door who had to be a look out, and I didn’t want to draw attention. For the same reason (I honestly did not remember the Dunkin worker at the time), I didn’t call the cops, assuming that keeping an eye out for snitches was part of guy #2’s job. I just crossed the street immediately, looked back (which was another stupid mistake because, without my glasses, the station and guy #2 were just a massive blur from that distance [so all looking back did was almost get me caught]) and then kept walking.

I’ve been checking the news since to see if I could find details about the robbery. I even made the mistake of downloading Citizen App again–which, if you’re unfamiliar, is an app that shows incidents, like stabbings and fires, in a region (which means it’s massively depressing for New York)–but I’ve found nothing. [Edit: Even checking back now, on Sunday afternoon, I found nothing about my robbery.]

Which cranks the hopelessness meter to ‘Ultra Max,’ even though I didn’t lose anything, and–to my knowledge–no one else did either.

In part, it’s because I could not give a single detail about this robber–the ATM was far enough away from the counter that I, a blind man without his glasses, couldn’t have made out the dude’s face even if he looked back at me and I stared, neither of which happened. The glance I took was on the dude’s hands and posture, so I’m not even secure in the observation that he had a dark jacket on.

So, basically, I would be less-than-no-help in this situation, which makes me feel so oddly stupid.

And that’s probably the major takeaway here, writing-wise; I’ve been robbed at gunpoint before–when I was much, much younger–and that came with its own, way more acute sense of hopelessness, but even just being a bystander, realizing that there was genuinely nothing helpful that I could do in the moment (that legitimately I would only make the situation worse) fucking sucks. But that feeling goes beyond the moment; having been involved in police investigations before–working security and the aforementioned time I was mugged–I can’t help imagining the look on an officer’s face when I tell him, “No, I didn’t have my glasses, but maybe he had a dark jacket on?” I can almost hear him sighing, “Waste of my fucking time.” Like, thanks. I fucking hate it. I hate that sleepily deciding not to go back for my glasses impacted the day that strongly. And I hate that, even if I had gone back for them, I would only be able to provide a detail or two to the NYPD, an institution that, after 2020, demonstrably doesn’t give a fuck about me or any of the minorities working that gas station–an institution that would only be motivated to catch that robber if it turned out he wasn’t white.

Okay. I’m just moving on from that. I’m frustrated, guys. My bad. Focusing now–we’re focusing.

Another writing takeaway: in the moment, information is crystal clear but processing at such a hectic rate that you easily forget things. Like, all data is streamlined for your survival (i.e. “I’m at the ATM,” “he has a gun,” “no one else is on this side of the counters with him but me,” etc.), but that means some data is shoved right the fuck out of your brain to make space; I saw that dude working the Dunkin Donuts counter, looked at his face and acknowledged he was not the dude who was normally there, and then noted that he disappeared during the incident, but by the time I was outside (10 seconds later) I completely forgot he’d been there at all when I was considering calling the cops. That weird survival instinct to, I guess, override non-threatening information is totally new to me. Like, if it wasn’t pertinent to me getting the fuck out of that gas station, it did not exist.

And, last thing, having that event just absorbed by the general horror of life–finding that it was not bad enough to make headlines–is also kind of terrible.

Because worse things happened in the Bronx [that day].

At least it’s a soft confirmation that no one in that gas station got shot.

The little things, I guess.

~~~

Phew.

I genuinely don’t get how my life has become this batshit. Like, everything is a bad mess lately. I don’t want to go into detail, but yeah, the rest of the week was bad too.

But I’m just tired of focusing on all of that. I really want to get back to posting happy, fun stuff. I also want to redesign the website (I made a new logo for it and everything, and I’m excited to settle into a new, more fun vibe).

So, today, I’m gonna go order a veggie burger with coffee and get to work making things better for myself–in whatever ways I can.

Thanks for listening, and hopefully my account of this experience can be useful to your writing.

If you’re new here, thanks for passing by. I post every Sunday, so if you’re keen to hear more–about my life or my writing progress–feel free to stop by next Sunday.

Until then, take care, breathe deep, and maybe just lie down for a minute. Like, just breathe slowly and let a nap happen if you can. Cause we all deserve it.

My Valentine’s Day Gift to Myself: A Break

Last week, I predicted that I would either be bummed but chill or happy but stressed.

Oh, my sweet Summer child.

Somehow, I didn’t account for the possibility that I’d be bummed and stressed, but here we are!

To make a long story short, that freelancing gig is taking forever, and the dude who lives directly above me has started blasting the same bodega-top-40 playlist (by which I mean the set of songs that are currently playing in bodegas) for at least five hours every. Single. Day. And, to be clear, as a Puerto Rican man, I have nothing against reggaetón, bachata, etc. But when it’s muffled by a ceiling, primarily what you get are percussions. And the percussions are extremely formulaic for each type of Latin music.

Which means that it sounds like the same five songs are on loop for (again, at best) five hours every day. On Friday, the loop was playing from 4pm to 2am.

Now, I would like to clarify first that I am not exaggerating.

But, on top of that, I think I’ve just become especially susceptible to noise. Whether it’s because I’m just a quiet dude who doesn’t like loud noises because of his past, or because I’m just physically wired to dislike noise, I dunno. I am not a “cover my ears when trains pull into a station” person. But I am, 100%, a “please stop blasting your music–it’s 12am on a Thursday and I’m trying to write” person.

Who is stuck in a room during COVID where he has no lease and literally can’t go upstairs to confront a dickhead who does. At best, I’ll be told to fuck off, and, at worst, I’ll have a knife put in my body (I live in a legitimately terrible neighborhood).

What I’m saying here is, I managed to get some light graphic design work done at the beginning of the week, but then started getting headaches and ultimately switched to zero-fucks mode, tanking the rest of the week playing Slay the Spire.

Yesterday, I splurged on a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, and today–for the first time in a week–the dickhead upstairs didn’t play music at all, so there is hope for next week.

But, for me, today’s vibe is still “what-the fuck-ever.”

Which means I needed a break from the blog too.

I will be back next week, of course, and, hopefully, I’ll be able to develop the topic I have into a weird post.

Until then, take care. And if you live somewhere safe and quiet, just take a minute today to sit down with a coffee or tea at a window, and enjoy the underrated freedom of inviolable thought.