Practice Poems #3 – 20 Feet Beneath You

Look down.

Imagine what’s 20 feet beneath you.

Someone else’s bedroom?

The underside of a bridge?

Maybe an animal den.

Probably all of those things.

A red panda’s hammock, hanging from bridge girders.

You’d have to wreck your schedule to find out for sure.

Beg the cops to let you clamber down there and take a look.

Or maybe just circle around, camera ready, frantically looking up.

It’s not worth it–I’m telling you.

Just believe instead.

~~~

So, that was a ton of fun to write.

But, serious time now, here’s a heads up: I’ve talked before about needing to figure out something with this blog. The intention was to find a way to reliably post earlier in the day.

The promotion at my day job . . . has made that incredibly difficult.

I was already struggling to post, fighting sleep to write here after working on the MS. The struggle has only gotten worse; the job title comes with a significant bump in hours and a ton of responsibility, which are both great, but terrible for my writing schedule (i.e. I can’t sneak in a few hundred words at work anymore).

So, just a heads up, I’m going to take the weekend to figure it out, but I might have to cut my schedule down. I love posting every day, but it might be a luxury I can’t afford anymore. More on that this Monday.

For now, ladies and gentlemen, my name is Louis Santiago, and I’m a fantasy writer based in the Bronx. My short story, “Aixa the Hexcaster,” was recently published in Mirror Dance Fantasy. However, I’m still very much learning about the writing process–still trying to figure it out. Part of that has meant posting here every weekday, even though I make absolutely no money from it. So, if you like what you read here and feel up to getting updates by email–a new post from me delivered right to your inbox–then please hit the Follow button at the bottom of this page. Because, even though all I get from this site is emotional support, that support means the world to me.

Regardless though, thank you just for dropping by. And, as always, write well.

Fantasy Fandom: Steven Universe

Confession time: I still watch cartoons.

I’m a writer who believes he can learn good writing habits from absolutely anywhere, so I have no qualms about trying out new cartoons that friends recommend.

Or just . . . trying them out when they look awesome.

Adventure Time.

Rick and Morty.

And, especially–said with a heavy, nostalgic heart–Avatar: The Last Airbender, and its follow-up, The Legend of Korra.

The thing is, my ability to watch those shows turned out to be surprisingly rare when I suggested them to fellow writers.

Me: “Avatar–not the James Cameron one, the good one–is one of the best fantasy stories I’ve ever exper–”

Other Writer: “I’m not watching a cartoon show.”

Me: “–ienced . . .”

Another time:

Me: “You haven’t seen Rick and Morty?”

Another Writer: “No. People keep telling me watch it, but, ha, I just never get around to it.”

Me: ” . . . ”

Yet another time:

Yet Another Writer: “Oh, our [mutual friend] got [whatever article of clothing] because it’s supposed to look like the one character from some cartoon?”

Me: <looks at said article of clothing> “Oh! Lumpy Space Princess? Adventure Time?” <inhales to shout, “I love Adventure Time!”>

Yet Another Writer: “Right–that’s it. Sorry. Didn’t know because I’m an adult and I don’t watch cartoons.” <actually rolls her eyes>

Me: “. . .” <sigh>

So, look, everyone has their reasons, so I don’t want to judge.

But, man what a shitty, boring life.

Cartoons are amazing. They have the ability to convey incredible love and support very real diversity.

And, when it comes to the range of cartoons I watch, no show does love and diversity better . . . than Steven Universe.

dccomics_ad_SU_v5

For a short summary, a group of aliens called Crystal Gems live in a town called Beach City. There, they defend the world from attacks from their own people–homeworld gems who want to turn earth into a colony for a giant space empire, or corrupted gems, made animalistic and insane after a war with humanity ages ago. Among the Crystal Gems, there’s Steven, the half-human son of the Gems’ former leader, Rose Quartz.

Why I Love It

The show is as much about the Gems and their adventures as it is about Steven, and his growth as a kid. Not simply a rapid loss of innocence, but a sapping of faith that Steven counters with a determination to love and accept everyone.

To not fight, which is, in and of itself, beautiful. It’s a concept that I’ve been working with and one that I think the world needs more of.

But the show’s passive, loving male protagonist is only the beginning of its press for diversity and acceptance.

For starters, Steven is also, obviously, a fat kid. The show embraces that immediately, unabashedly focusing its first episode on Steven’s love for Cookie Cat Ice Cream Sandwiches (which he begins to believe are the source of his budding gem powers). Rather than doing the usual song and dance of fat-kid-loves-food-and-that’s-all-he/she-loves, the episode eventually pushes Cookie Cat aside in favor of showing our overweight protagonist . . .

. . . helping save the day.

Wow. Whodathunk it, right? An overweight kid being some kind of hero? Also, please apply the appropriate amount of bitter sarcasm from a guy who’s struggled with his weight for his entire life. I would’ve loved to have this show when I was 10. Especially because it never slims Steven down to convey character growth; there’s no shitty diet and work-out montage that makes “thinner” synonymous with “better” or “stronger.”

Seasons later, Steven is still fat, and still a hero.

That initiative is followed up with the rest of the 95% female cast. Because, you see, all Crystal Gems are women.

So, our young protagonist is surrounded by incredibly strong, loving, women with a ton of depth.

There’s Amethyst, who’s short, heavy, and loves fighting as much as a good gag.

There’s Garnet, who’s strong and stoic (the old go-to for strong female characters), but she’s also . . . a spoiler I refuse to give away.

Last, there’s Pearl, a comical take on typical thin-equals-best character design–a gangly ballerina who obsesses about perfection. And also hates Steven’s father, because she was in love with Steven’s mother.

Because, of course, all Crystal Gems are lesbians, a concept that the show completely embraces.

But that’s still only scratching the surface of this wildly progressive cartoon for kids. There are episodes where you find out male characters are gay–without gasps or ostracization. There’s Connie Maheswaran, Steven’s best friend, who’s Indian-American.

And there are episodes where side characters are made extremely human and flawed by their conflicts. There are episodes where main characters struggle with the consequences of war and toxic relationships. And, to all of these problems, the solution isn’t just the usual, comic book-ish “Punch it real hard!” Sometimes, it is, because it needs to be.

But just as often, the answer is love. The answer is taking pain in and dealing with it constructively, instead of just dishing it back out.

There’s just . . . so much that Steven Universe does that I genuinely can’t explain here.

So, rather than continuing to rant, I’m going to finish up with . . .

What I’ve Learned from It

Here are the three major things the series has taught me so far:

  1. Do not be afraid of diversity. We’re clearly living in an America that still fears it, but it doesn’t change the fact that everyone is beautiful. Write for everyone, without holding back. If you feel you don’t know enough about a marginalized group, do research and write them anyway.
    On that note, yes, write heavy characters. Ones who are smart, ones who are beautiful. Because, as a heavy man, I know for a fact that there’s more to us than how much we enjoy eating. We aren’t a bunch of maladjusted, bumbling jackasses, but the majority of media will always portray us that way–unless we provide a different dialogue. That dialogue being that not every hero is a 20-something-year-old model.
  2. Punching isn’t always the solution. Despite what fight-heavy America wants you to think, fighting often just makes a bad situation worse. Stories that embrace combat as a problem, rather than a solution, are just as engrossing–and often richer in real emotion.
  3. It is always possible to explore a range of side characters. They’re a wealth of stories just waiting to happen. All you need to do is allow those characters to have their stories that exist completely (and realistically) outside of the protagonist’s world. Have a protagonist who’s a hero? The Asian woman who works in the cafe down the block has an awesome story to tell–because she’s a real person–but that story might not have anything to do with your hero.

~~~

Well, I did it again. Another 1000+er.

Thank you for reading this one. And, if I’ve piqued your interest in any way, I’d suggest giving Steven Universe a chance. And, for that matter, if you have the adult friend who recommends cartoons . . . maybe check them out on occasion. Because, even though it might not seem like it, there’s a ton a cartoon can still teach a grown adult.

Ladies and gentlemen, my name is Louis Santiago, and I’m a fantasy writer based in the Bronx. My short story, “Aixa the Hexcaster,” was recently published in Mirror Dance Fantasy. However, I’m still very much learning about the writing process–still trying to figure it out. Part of that means posting on here every weekday, even though I make absolutely no money from it. So, if you like what you read here and feel up to getting an email every weekday–a new post from me delivered right to your inbox–then please hit the Follow button at the bottom of this page. Because, even though all I get from this site is emotional support, that support means the world to me.

Regardless though, thank you just for dropping by. And, as always, write well.

Muse Tuesday – The Eternal Frontier | Ant-Man

When he woke, Hank found himself wedged into a runnel of wood grain. Wide-eyed, he checked the time and found he’d only been asleep for a few hours, as planned.

“Son of a bitch.” He sighed through his nose. “Shrinking faster than I thought.” 

Maybe exponentially.

“Or with serious gains.”

You’re talking to yourself again, Hank.

“Not like there’s anyone here to listen.”

But if there was?

He shrugged.

And then sat up. The grain flowed around him in a dark river of iterating rings, dappled and imperfect. If the malfunction in his suit was speeding up, he’d be able to watch the dapples get bigger as he walked over them, becoming holes he’d step into.

And then pits he could fall in.

Eventually, pigment would turn into patterns–messes of atomic structures that would be impossible to recognize as blue or red. Nets of molecules that would part beneath his feet.

“Okay. You know what? I like talking to myself.”

Talk to Jan.

Blinking, Hank pulled the recorder off of his suit–a piece of black box protocol just for such an occasion. He took a deep breath. “Jan . . .”

The edge of the grain river was up to his ankles. Had it already been there?

He shut his eyes. “Beautiful . . . impossibly intelligent Janet Pym . . .” He swallowed, and licked his dry lips.

Walk. You can still get to the manual particle override, but only if you start walking now.

“I know.”

Then why aren’t you walking?

He adjusted his grip on the recorder, fabric creaking. “I’m going to take a moment with this. Because it’s maybe the last time one of my experiments tries to kill me. And I know you love when that happens–these stupid adventures of mine.

“But I’m pretty sure the experiment’s going to win this time. And that . . . feels depressingly appropriate. Of all of the ways I could die, this, somehow, feels right.

“So, what I’m going to do is, I’m going to detail this entire, stupid adventure of mine–this last one–so you can at least laugh at it some day.”

Please.

The river curved away ahead of him–an arc of thirty paces.

“But, ya know, as I explain, I’m just gonna walk too. Because the only thing scarier than the idea of dying here . . .

“. . . is the idea that this is the last time I’ll ever fuck something up.

“And, having said that, I realize now that I didn’t say I’m afraid I’d never see you again. I also realize that this recorder has no rewind feature.”

He sighed as he started walking. “Goddammit.”

~~~

So, this is the one idea I’ve ever had for an Ant-Man story. It was super fun playing up Hank Pym’s tendency to be terrible, but toning it down–making him a combination of genuinely horrible, abusive Hank Pym, and lovable, clueless scientist Hank Pym (who’s my favorite). The result was a total fuck up, which feels like a perfect fit (especially after his arc in The Ultimates).

At any rate, I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

If this is your first time here, my name is Louis Santiago, and I’m a fantasy writer based in the Bronx. My short story, “Aixa the Hexcaster,” was recently published in Mirror Dance Fantasy. However, I’m still very much learning about the writing process–still trying to figure it out. Part of that means posting on here every weekday, even though I make absolutely no money from it. So, if you like what you read here and feel up to getting an email every weekday–a new post from me delivered right to your inbox–then please hit the Follow button at the bottom of this page. Because, even though all I get from this site is emotional support, that support means the world to me.

No matter what you do, though, thank you just for dropping by. And, as always, write well.

Practice Poems #2 – Furious Puppetspeak

No idea if it’ll become a trend, but I like ending the week with a poem.

Let’s jump right into it.

~~~

There are places beyond the walls.

Rooms you’ve never seen, full of voices you’ve never heard.

They’re so close to being familiar.

Furious puppetspeak, rattling just across the street. Down the road.

Even if you tried, you couldn’t hear it.

You probably never will.

~~~

Just keeping it short and sweet this Friday.

Thank you again to everyone who’s passed by this week! I hope you get to enjoy the weekend. I just got the promotion I applied for a few weeks ago, so you better believe I’m taking advantage of this last work-free weekend.

But, anyway, my name is Louis Santiago, and I’m a fantasy writer based in the Bronx. My short story, “Aixa the Hexcaster,” was recently published in Mirror Dance Fantasy. However, I’m still very much learning about the writing process–still trying to figure it out. Part of that means posting on here every weekday, even though I make absolutely no money from it. So, if you like what you read here and feel up to getting an email every weekday–a new post from me delivered right to your inbox–then please hit the Follow button at the bottom of this page. Because, even though all I get from this site is emotional support, that support means the world to me.

Either way, thank you just for dropping by. And, as always, write well.

Let’s Talk About: The Ethnic Rival

I’ve watched three things recently. Doctor Strange, John Wick: Chapter 2, and Iron Fist.

And all three of those things . . . featured an Ethnic Rival.

Now, I don’t want to spend too much time talking about this. Maybe because I’m tired of talking about race after 2016, the year when I discovered that some of my friends really were Hydra the whole time. Just when America started to become a bastion of hope for acceptance, it one-eightied, becoming a place where people defend their right to say disgusting things while shaming you for reacting to them.

Still, with the hope that someone, somewhere, will take this to heart, I’d like to say . . .

. . . stop writing the Ethnic Rival, please.

To be clear, an Ethnic Rival is exactly what it sounds like–a non-white villain in any movie that gives our white protagonist a run for their money, but who is always, ultimately defeated. The Ethnic Rival can be unnamed, appearing for only one scene (Tim Burton’s Batman had the black Joker goon who only appeared in the movie’s conclusion). They can start off as Ethnic Sidekicks (a whole other thing), as they did in Doctor Strange and Iron Fist. And they can have names and tons of screen time, serving as opposition for our protagonists for a long portion of the plot.

But, no matter how long they’re in a story, Ethnic Rivals are always awkward. And obvious.

In the three pieces I mentioned earlier, you have white, male protagonists who are the best in the world at ______. The runner up? A black/any-other-race-but-white man of a similar build, height, and skill set. A guy who’s not as good as the protagonist, of course, but who’s–oh man–so good though.

At best, it feels like the pandering that it is. “See? We had to make out protagonist white, of course, but hey–this other guy isn’t white, but he’s really good too! Like, wow, he’s on the same skill level as our white protagonist! Oh man, aren’t other races great? We think so too!”

At worst, it comes off as petting a sense of white dominance. “See? This other sorcerer/assassin/fighter is almost as good as our protagonist. But he’s not as good. And he never will be. Because our white protagonist is just . . . better.”

Now, look, if you are white, I’m not trying to attack you. I think that, usually, the Ethnic Rival is a reflex–a standard that writers fall back on because we’ve seen it so many times before.

And, further on the bright side, the Ethnic Rival is a super easy problem to fix. I offer two solutions for it:

  1. Make the protagonist’s rival a white guy who’s almost as good but isn’t.
  2. Make your protagonist . . . a minority.

From the bottom of my Puerto Rican heart, please just pick option 2.

~~~

Keeping things short today, because I don’t want to rant. But, also, one of my eyes is killing me. I don’t know why, but I don’t have to; eye pain is eye pain, and it’s always terrifying.

I hope you enjoyed and weren’t offended. More than anything, I hope this one gave you something to think about. Because progress is a slow, rapidly changing thing.

My name is Louis Santiago, and I’m a fantasy writer based in the Bronx. My short story, “Aixa the Hexcaster,” was recently published in Mirror Dance Fantasy. However, I’m still very much learning about the writing process–still trying to figure it out. Part of that means posting on here every weekday, even though I make absolutely no money from it. So, if you like what you read here and feel up to getting an email every weekday–a new post from me delivered right to your inbox–then please hit the Follow button at the bottom of this page. Because, even though all I get from this site is emotional support, that support means the world to me.

Regardless though, thank you just for dropping by. And, as always, write well.

Muse Tuesday – Jadha Swayne | Freewriting

Hi there, and welcome back to Muse Tuesday.

This week, I’m drawing from the ether; this isn’t going to be a WIP or a fanfic–just freewriting with a single goal in mind.

Write a character I absolutely hate.

It’s an exercise to expand my range as a writer. I don’t want my characters to feel samey, so I’m trying to broaden my horizons.

And,  I feel like the best way to do that . . . is by writing a character I despise, based on some of the weirdos I’ve encountered here in New York.

Enjoy!

~~~

Jadha Swayne always shook her head when she invented a deity.

It bought her time. Gave her a heartbeat to find a name, the beginning of a story.

“Konlo, the Despoiler.” She said. “You’ve heard of him, right?”

And the man who’d come to her–a villager named Gavin–shook his head.

Of course he did.

By reflex now, Jadha lifted an eyebrow and looked as disappointed as she could. “You never heard of Konlo? A demon lord from the east. Konlo the Jealous, they call him, too. He steals children. Not himself–he whispers in the ears of the weak while they sleep. He convinces the jealous and the lonely to steal other people’s children away.”

When Gavin’s brows furrowed, she suddenly remembered this man’s son had fallen into a coma, not been kidnapped. Shit.

“Sometimes, they do it physically. But, most times . . . Konlo tells his people how to steal children’s souls.”

She watched Gavin’s face pale, his lip quivering. “He–”

“Yes,” Jadha said, controlling the conversation. Always keep talking. Always steer the dialogue in a direction you could control. “Yes. I’m saying that your son’s asleep . . . because Konlo had someone steal his soul.”

Gavin looked away, shaking. “How? How did it–?”

“There are many ways,” she said, steering toward a wild current now, almost smiling. “This person–the one who has your boy’s soul–might have a painting of him. It doesn’t have to be new; Konlo often tells them to paint their victims onto canvases that have already been used–scenes that were already hanging in their homes. It makes it harder for people to find their children and free them.

“But it could be something worse. A pinch of arm hair, torn out while they stared at your son. A mirror with his soul burned onto it. A stoppered flask, hidden away in their home, warm from the soul light inside of it.”

“Just,” Gavin cut in suddenly, eyes wet. “Just tell me . . . how to get my son back.”

And Jadha breathed deep, finally reigning herself in. “You have to find this thing. This painting. This tuft of hair. The mirror or the bottle. And you must destroy it. Without the captor realizing it. Only then can their bond with Konlo be broken, and your son’s soul set free.”

Gavin breathed deep for a moment, looking away. Jadha had to wonder if he realized how impossible that task was. How difficult it would be for him to find the one hidden flask among all the houses of his neighbors–without getting caught.

For a moment, his brow sharpened, and Jadha’s heart raced. For just a moment, she was certain that Gavin saw through her lies.

But then he was up on his feet. “What do I owe you for this counsel, sister?” he asked, reaching into his pocket for a bundle of spare notes.

And Jadha, putting so much sadness into her eyes that they shined, shook her head. “You don’t owe me a thing, Gavin Cask. It is enough for me to have told you what you didn’t know.

“It is enough for me to have helped educate you.”

~~~

Phew. Well . . . that was surprisingly easy. And fun enough that I might actually use Jadha for something in the future. And, man, I have to say, moments like these are part of the reason why I love this site. Without this site, I never would’ve pushed myself to practice like this.

Of course, the other reason why I love this site is you guys. I don’t want to get too mushy, but thank you so much for reading. For coming back, for liking, or just for passing by. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it absolutely keeps me going. Thank you.

My name is Louis Santiago, and I’m a fantasy writer based in the Bronx. My short story, “Aixa the Hexcaster,” was recently published in Mirror Dance Fantasy. However, I’m still very much learning about the writing process–still trying to figure it out. Part of that means posting on here every weekday, even though I make absolutely no money from it. So, if you like what you read here and feel up to getting an email every weekday–a new post from me delivered right to your inbox–then please hit the Follow button at the bottom of this page. Because, even though all I get from this site is emotional support, that support means the world to me.

Regardless though, thank you just for dropping by. And, as always, write well.

Just Watched #1 – Iron Fist

Welcome back for another rip roarin’ week of talking about fantasy. And writing. And probably cute animals at some point.

We’re starting off with a super reactionary piece that I’m going to tie into one of my greatest fears as a writer–losing the ability to be objective.

Before getting to that though, let me explain that this is Just Watched, a series where I get to react to a fantasy-based movie or show that I just watched.

And, for this first one, I just finished Marvel’s Iron Fist on Netflix.

Now, I’m not just going to review it here, because I hate doing reviews for anything.

But . . . I wanna have a relevant rant! So, let’s jump right in!

~~~

A few weeks ago, the media received a preview of Iron Fist–the first six episodes. And reviews of those episodes were . . . universally negative.

Me, being a fan of anything Marvel since I was a kid, was worried. But I also . . . wasn’t surprised. I was there for Ben Affleck’s Daredevil. I remember the prism covers of the 90’s, Spider-Man 3, the first X-Men movie.

That is to say that I remember when Marvel was terrible. Just, non-stop garbage.

And I’ve been waiting for the first major crap fest to spoil Marvel’s streak of movies and shows.

Not because I want them to tank . . . but because I want to be sure that, when that time comes, I can see that crap fest for what it is.

Because, as a writer, I have to stay objective. About everything.

I know Iron Man 2 wasn’t great, and I know people hate Iron Man 3, but I didn’t mind the former and actually liked the latter.

That . . . has worried me to no end. Because, if I can’t be objective about franchises I love . . . how can I be objective about my own writing?

I’m also terrified of becoming the guy who forgives Batman V Superman, a movie that double abbreviates “versus” in the title. There are a bunch of Marvel movies that I didn’t like (Ant Man, for example, and I still think Thor: The Dark World was the absolute worst of the bunch [it’s boring, goofy in the worst ways, and has the premiere example of a horrible, toothless MCU villain]), but I’ve been thoroughly terrified of how blind BVS fans are. I’ve met writers who liked it.

The idea of being that blind of a writer actually fills me with dread.

I’ve listened to people balk, “Well, the fight between Batman and Superman was actually pretty good.”

Me: “No, it wasn’t.”

Them: “I mean, with those characters, that was the best they could do, really.”

Me: “No, it wasn’t.”

Them: “Well, I thought it was pretty good.”

Just the idea of having that little quality control . . . Fuck’s sake.

As I’ve told friends in the past, my intake, as a writer, matters–across all media. Being discerning of that intake is incredibly important. I have to watch and read things that I can learn from.

At the very least, I need to avoid things that are going to instill terrible habits in me.

I can’t excuse BVS having a terrible plot, because that would make it easier for me to write a terrible plot in the future.

Which is why I was immediately worried when I finished the first episode of Iron Fist . . . and liked it.

But then, relieved when I got to the end of the sixth episode and clearly saw (as with Iron Man 3) what it was doing wrong. By the end of the second to last episode, I was genuinely bored.

Thank . . . God.

Iron Fist is a show that does not understand what it’s supposed to be about. Danny Rand, the protagonist, is a sweet, loving guy who has the power of the Iron Fist–which basically means he’s the best fighter in the world.

This is not a show about that.

It’s first about him returning to New York and getting his company back, because, like countless other super heroes, he’s the incredibly rich son of an incredibly rich (and dead) businessman. Slowly, the plot builds momentum, but it always does so with regular cuts back to boardroom meetings and moments of character drama that would be great if they didn’t happen so often.

Sprinkled in, there are a few decent fight scenes, but they afford very little use of the actual Iron Fist.

It’s a strange thing to watch. I’m not adverse to the business drama side of the show–two of my favorite characters are exclusive to that side–but it’s not what anyone signed up for when they sat down for a fun, combat-oriented show based on a comic.

Especially because none of the combat delivers in a way that Daredevil didn’t. In fact, every time a fight starts in Iron Fist, I think, “Man, the hallway fight in Daredevil was so awesome. I wish I was watching that.” In part because Iron Fist returns to the highly choreographed fighting that Daredevil abandoned.

Oddly, the show also backpedals in the diversity department. And, yes, sure, I mean that the protagonist is another rich white guy. But, removing race from the equation altogether, he’s a rich male super hero who likes to listen to classic jams. Marvel’s Netflix shows were awesome because they were so different from Hollywood’s superhero formula. Iron Fist goes all-in on that formula and it just feels . . . samey.

“Why is Danny listening to Outkast?” I wondered as episode one started.

The answer: because this is a Marvel anything.

“Why am I watching a kung-fu master, trained in heaven, attending a board meeting?”

The answer: I don’t know. I really don’t.

All of that said, I don’t hate the show. Danny being a nice, naive guy at least makes for a . . . unique MCU protagonist.

But I am still really glad that I can be objective enough to see the massive flaws in Iron Fist. Its pacing. Its manic plot, incapable of deciding where it’s taking us until the very end. Its totally nonsensical moments (there’s a lot of “No, we can’t call the cops!” on this show, along with too much, “Just call Daredevil!” shouted by me, at my TV).

My point is, even though it went about it in the worst ways, Iron Fist still taught me some things:

  • Sudden changes of setting and circumstances happen in real life. They also fall into the Stranger Than Fiction trap, and make for a choppy, unsatisfying plot.
  • Don’t shy away from a crazy premise. Make it believable. If you avoid it, the reader/viewer will know.
  • When it comes to superheroes, never, ever write a white, male orphan/heir to a multi-million dollar company. Especially if it’s a company with his last name on it. It has been done. So done.

~~~

Well, that took . . . way longer than I expected. I hope this one was interesting, and I promise that next time, I won’t go over 1000 words (ugh–why is it 1AM?). Regardless, I absolutely appreciate the read and I hope your week started off well.

My name is Louis Santiago, and I’m a fantasy writer based in the Bronx. My short story, “Aixa the Hexcaster,” was recently published in Mirror Dance Fantasy. However, I’m still very much learning about the writing process–still trying to figure it out. Part of that means posting on here every weekday, even though I make absolutely no money from it. So, if you like what you read here and feel up to getting an email every weekday–a new post from me delivered right to your inbox–then please hit the Follow button at the bottom of this page. Because, even though all I get from this site is emotional support, that support means the world to me.

But, regardless, thank you just for stopping by. And, as always, write well.

Practice Poems #1 – Silent Godsong

Disclaimer: I am . . . not a poet.

Still, a friend suggested that I try poetry as a means of refreshing my prose, which sounded like an awesome idea.

Of course, as I do with almost everything these days, I thought I’d share my first practice poem here. At most, expect to get a candid look at what I produce when I’m outside of my comfort zone and have no idea what to write.

Enjoy!

~~~

Awaken.

Dance your jangling dance.

Laugh with teeth clattering.

Pretend there is no cold dark. No such thing as skeletons.

Believe in only what you can see.

Breathe the silent godsong.

And, when you’re done, lie down again in that place that only you know.

So you can close your eyes and wait.

~~~

Whoa! Someone’s an angsty teen!

Seriously though, thank you for closing out another week with me here on my blog. To everyone who followed, liked, and commented this week, I absolutely appreciate it. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again–you guys are definitely keeping me going. I’ll be back on Monday with something that’s definitely not Monday, AM.

Until then, my name is Louis Santiago, and I’m a fantasy writer based in the Bronx. My short story, “Aixa the Hexcaster,” was recently published in Mirror Dance Fantasy. However, I’m still very much learning about the writing process–still trying to figure it out. Part of that means posting on here every weekday, even though I make absolutely no money from it. So, if you like what you read here and feel up to getting an email every weekday–a new post from me delivered right to your inbox–then please hit the Follow button at the bottom of this page. Because, even though all I get from this site is emotional support, that support means the world to me.

Regardless though, even if you’re just passing through, thank you for visiting. And, as always, write well.

Let’s Make: A Fantasy Monster – Gekouls

Welcome back for the second part of this week’s accidental series of Let’s Makes. If you didn’t read Tuesday’s Let’s Make: A Fantasy Alcohol, you can check it out to find out how my creative process led me here.

Regardless, the goal of this post is to make a new fantasy monster for use in a future project–Rainwater Archaic. Because of Tuesday’s Let’s Make, I’m starting off with the idea that these monsters will be goblin-esque.

Now, there wouldn’t be anything wrong with going 100% goblin here. Fantasy is a genre with a large well of creatures to draw from, and even if we didn’t add a bit of flair to goblins, there’s nothing wrong with using them regardless.

However, that’s just not the kind of writer I am. Everything has to be abnormal. New. A pain in the ass to make.

So, let me walk you through what I already know about the race of fantasy monsters I’m creating today. And then, let’s figure out the rest of their details together.

Step 1 – Consider What We Already Know

This Let’s Make is going to start a bit differently because, again, we already know that these creatures are intelligent. Smart enough to make crude stills, which means they’re smart enough to fashion tools and weapons. They likely also have their own strange language and possibly make simple clothing for themselves.

That was my starting point last Tuesday, after posting. Since then, I’ve made one more decision about these creatures . . .

Step 2 – Decide on a Base Monster Aesthetic to Start With

If you read the salutations from yesterday’s post, you know lizardmen have something to do with this Let’s Make. What is it?

Yesterday, in the shower, while idling in brainstorm mode, I took this second step of the Let’s Make early, trying to figure out what kind of mini-humanoid I wanted to make. Beast-like? Elf-like? Goblinoid? Kobold?

The thing is, I didn’t even get to consider any of those options, because “mini-lizardmen” popped into my mind immediately. And then I laughed.

Because, man, if there’s one race I actually hate, it’s lizardmen. The go-to, forgettable, middling flunkies of fantasy. Do you remember the 80’s, when lizard people where slightly more threatening because of Conan: The Barbarian?

Neither do I.

When it comes to making a race of annoying, stupid, stunted swamp monsters, lizardmen were the perfect choice.

Step 3 – Add the Weirdness

Let’s face it–I’m weird. Three Let’s Makes in, I’m just embracing it.

Because, even before I got to this step–back when I started this post–an idea for a weird detail popped into mind, and I’m going with it.

These small lizard people have tentacle mouths.

A Zoidberg, if you will, only not crustaceans; they’re still lizardfolk, but their mouths are hidden behind writhing tentacles.

Which winds up making them feel a lot more like strange question marks, and a lot less like archetypes. “They’re those small, squid-faced lizard things that live in the swamps,” someone would say, instead of, “They’re the lizard creatures that live in the swamps.” And that level of uncertainty is something I strive for. Because it almost always feels better to make a unique thing that warrants an explanation instead of a simple thing that needs no explanation.

Adding just a bit more weird here–they’re also hunched over. I don’t know why I’m so hellbent on that idea, but the thought of them having perfect posture, running easily on two legs, seems completely wrong. These things, although bipedal, need to be borderline harmless, shuffling around everywhere with slow, grasping, chameleon steps.

Step 4 – Add a Culture

We already decided that these things are intelligent, so we need to give them some kind of culture.

I don’t think going crazy with it will serve the idea well, however. At most, these guys might have a crude religion, but even just imagining them worshiping whittled idols feels wrong.

Because these little bastards just seem too . . . primitive for that. They’re only borderline sentient. Like, imagine if a cat could talk; these things are only slightly above that level (so I guess they’re in intelligent bird territory?).

Whatever. The point is, I think they’d have a society, but that’s it.

And their society would absolutely be based around a queen. Because an animal hive-mentality seems right for them.

Which works well with the only other idea I came up with for these things in the shower. I thought, “Maybe there would always be one giant alpha in every clutch of mini-lizardfolk.”

No, buddy. That giant, tentacle-faced monster standing at nine feet, able to run on all fours like a wolf? That’s their queen.

I . . . love these things.

I’m really just adding more weirdness here, so I’ll reign it in. But first, really quick, if you haven’t heard of surinam toads, they’re amphibians who give birth from their backs. I’m not saying the queen of these lizardfolk gives birth in a similar way, but I like the idea that these creatures gravitate towards the queen’s back. They definitely can and often cling to her as she migrates and hunts, but she does the latter very rarely, spending the majority of her time bathing in pools of swamp water, face down and hibernating, her back acting as the central hub for her drones’ camps.

Those drone spend the majority of their time hunting–to feed her and themselves–and stealing as part of a mating ritual (the lizardman with the most shinies is most enticing to the queen).

This thievery is likely how they’ve learned to fashion tools, weapons, and simple armor, which they use to aggressively defend their territory, or venture abroad for plunder.

Their kleptomania is also likely how they learned to develop stills. They, apparently, have a great love for alcohol.

Step 5 – Decide on a Name

“Cthuls” came to mind immediately, but it feels too easy.

Trying to think of something else that ends with “-uls,” because I feel I can get away with that much, and it reminds me of “ghouls,” which I love.

Thinking of common reptile words and sounds, my mind snaps to “gecko.” The end result is “geckuls.”

Respelling it so it doesn’t sound like a pelvic muscle, I end up with “gekouls.” It feels oddly clean–like the correct pronunciation would come naturally–but it also feels like it could be the name of a mythical, forest dwelling creature from an Earth-modern culture, and that’s the real win for me.

~~~

Phew. This was a lot of fun. I’m excited to use these weird little bastards in Rainwater, because I absolutely love them. Thanks for joining me as I worked them out, and I hope that look into my process helps you make a strange race of huggable, violent monsters in your own fantasy world!

My name is Louis Santiago, and I’m a fantasy writer based in the Bronx. My short story, “Aixa the Hexcaster,” was recently published in Mirror Dance Fantasy. However, I’m still very much learning about the writing process–still trying to figure it out. Part of that means posting on here every weekday, even though I make absolutely no money from it. So, if you like what you read here and feel up to getting an email every weekday–a new post from me delivered right to your inbox–then please hit the Follow button at the bottom of this page. Because, even though all I get from this site is emotional support, that support means the world to me.

Either way, I hope to see you again tomorrow. Until next time, as always, write well.

 

Let’s Talk About: A Fantasy Loophole–Earth-Modern Words That’d Make Great Names, If Only We Could Use Them

I think a lot about fantasy meta.

Maybe too much. I’m not sure.

Although I do know that, when sitting in a car with another writer recently, I dipped into my obnoxious fantasy meta-speak and almost completely killed the conversation. “Well, it’s the same way that we as humans write human-centric stories without realizing. And there’s no way to get around that. You could–” and this is the point when I realized my friend had tuned me out.

I mean, he probably didn’t, but I definitely felt self-conscious enough to stop in my tracks. Because I know that, if I don’t stop myself, I’ll just go on and on about the weird, completely throwaway observations I make about the genre. Thoughts that dangle precariously from the line between “interesting” and “almost meaningless.”

Still, I think about these things. So, I figured, why not share? Or at least vent, so that I’m not tempted to assault another friend with meta-speak.

Earth-Modern Words That We Can’t Use As Names

 The fantasy meta loophole that always comes to mind first is the Earth-modern word that makes a great name . . . but can’t be used as such because of its Earth-modern denotations.

And, the example I always think of when this comes to mind . . . is “circus.”

“Circus” . . . would make a great name for a knight. Possibly a nobleman. Really, any character in a fantasy world analogous to medieval England.

At least . . . it would make a great name if it didn’t mean “a large public entertainment, typically presented in one or more very large tents or in an outdoor or indoor arena, featuring exhibitions of pageantry, feats of skill and daring, performing animals, etc., interspersed throughout with the slapstick antics of clowns.”

Clowns. “Circus” would make even the most open-minded reader think of clowns.

The real pain is that, even if there aren’t circuses in your fantasy world, it doesn’t matter. We, as humans of Earth, will still think of over-sized shoes and face paint. We probably always will, assuming that clowns persist in modern culture forever (worst-case scenario).

This means that, at best, a fantasy writer can only use a word like “circus” as a name for a fantasy character if they do so to send a clear message about that character. “Circus” (maybe altered to “Sercos”) would have to be an buffoon. His name would have to be a cheeky wink at the reader–a thing I would never do.

And that kind of sucks. Because “Sercos” would be a pretty sweet name.

So would “La’Treen.”

So would “Wan Millian.”

Just food for thought.

~~~

I’ll keep it short for tonight, so this doesn’t turn into a rant.

If you’re a regular, thank you for your continued support. Tomorrow, I’ll finish up with this week’s pair of Let’s Makes. I’m excited for it actually, because I get to talk about my least favorite fantasy creature of all time on this blog–again. Curious what it is? Well, you’ll have to tune in fo–spoilers: it’s lizardmen. I hate lizardmen. Sorry. Couldn’t contain it. You can tune in tomorrow to find out what these mindless vessels of disappointment have to do with the Let’s Make though. Hope to see you there!

If you’re new, my name is Louis Santiago, and I’m a fantasy writer based in the Bronx. My short story, “Aixa the Hexcaster,” was recently published in Mirror Dance Fantasy. However, I’m still very much learning about the writing process–still trying to figure it out. Part of that means posting on here every weekday, even though I make absolutely no money from it. So, if you like what you read here and feel up to getting an email every weekday–a new post from me delivered right to your inbox–then please hit the Follow button at the bottom of this page. Because, even though all I get from this site is emotional support, that support means the world to me.

Either way, thank you for reading. And, as always, write well.