Process in Progress #5 – I Need to Figure Out My Editing Process

Things That Happened While My Back Was Busted:

  1. I watched The Princess Bride, and in doing so discovered that . . . holy shit, Inigo Montoya is really the protagonist of that story. Like, the Han Solo factor of “Why am I not following this guy the whole time?” couples so strongly with his arc getting the most satisfying payoff that I came away from this last viewing like, “How is he not the protagonist?” Seriously, having read the book, it’s bizarre seeing how much the screenplay beefs up Westley (as if someone behind the scenes knew he paled in comparison). Potentially a post coming up about that. In the meantime, seriously, ask anyone to say a quote from The Princess Bride and consider how quickly they answer, “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”
  2. I started playing Hades. Possibly a post about that coming up as well.
  3. I trimmed the tip of the tree branch that kept bashing at my window, which I only mention because just imagine walking down the street and looking up to see a Hispanic man with wild, Medusa-like hair, Danny DeVito-panting as he clumsily hacks at a thin branch with an old bread knife. That was me. It only took seconds, but just in case no one saw it, now you did.
  4. I barely got any editing done.

Being totally real; my back was bad enough that I just stopped caring about anything. Coupled with the holiday, I just totally stopped trying.

However, the last time I edited (Wednesday) I did realize something.

I have no idea if I’m over- or under-editing.

To explain, my editing process so far has been as follows:

  1. The Big Fix Pass. I consider big feedback I’ve gotten from my writer’s group and pair that with larger edits I wanted to make to a chapter.
  2. The Small Tweaks Pass. After a break, I read back over the chapter, focusing on tweaking everything so it reads well and makes sense. Especially descriptions, which I realize I go super ‘implied magic’ on in my first drafts. Shit like, “The wind swirled blue, stalks wayward swaying,” which is not actually something from my first draft of Memory, but does perfectly represent the kind of starry-eyed bullshit I write sometimes. Although I’m much more guilty of under-describing because I don’t want to flood the read with worldbuilding. It’s weird to have to reign that reflex in (from what feels like the wrong direction), but I’ve really enjoyed getting to go ham with additional descriptions so far.
  3. The Line Feedback Pass. I whip out whatever line edits I have from my writing group and go over the chapter one last time, which works really well when it comes to catching anything I missed.

And that’s it. It definitely feels like a healthy approach to editing.

However . . . the problem is the Small Tweaks.

It definitely feels great every time I find a paragraph that doesn’t make sense. When I catch a description like “he rode the elevator down and the wall fell away” (paraphrasing here), I’m always super pleased to catch that, “No, the wall isn’t ‘falling’—it’s literally going up past the character because the elevator is going down, so I really need to find a new phrasing here.” Moments like that always feel like small victories, where I’m teasing out the best ways to describe a scene.

But I also feel like that side of myself—that focuses on literal meaning, clarity, and flow—can keep going forever if I let it.

Maybe that’s not true. Maybe if I went back and looked over the first chapter again, I wouldn’t find anything new to edit. But I can’t help feeling like I’d find myself thinking, “Well, is ‘chartreuse’ 2% more accurate to the color of the scum in this run-off ditch?”

But then, at the same time, if I don’t go back, am I going to feel massively unsatisfied when I finish editing this book? I’m two chapters in and every time I think about moving forward, there’s this nagging sensation that something’s wrong. And, being fair to the editing-Terminator part of my brain, I’m usually right when I get this feeling.

I think that what I need to do is add one more pass over a chapter. And, just imagining it, I’m sure it’s going to come down to this:

  1. I look over the chapter and fully accept that I can move on. That might mean finding a balance: adding charming descriptions to make things less clinical and further smoothing out moments that don’t make enough sense. Either way, I need to walk away feeling . . . Okay. This is going to sound super intense, but at this phase in my writing career, I think I need to walk away from every chapter feeling like it would be okay if it got published immediately. Like, if no one else ever touched the Prologue, I’d still be okay with the public reading it.
    Or . . .
  2. I look at the Prologue again and my eyes glaze over, indicating that my brain can’t handle another pass right now, which I would totally accept. And which would definitely constitute some kind of Final Pass on a 3rd Draft after I finish this edit.

Obviously, I don’t know which of these things will happen. But I do know that either way, all that matters is that I walk away from those edits feeling certain I can walk away.

Especially because, around all of this, there’s a time constraint; I still don’t live in a world where I can casually take another year to edit this novel. At best, I have until June of 2022, but I seriously can’t take that long or I’ll feel like a failure. Just personally, as a human being, I need to be submitting Memory by February at the absolute latest.

That’s . . . a lot of pressure.

Regardless, I’m grateful I was able to write all of this out here. Because when I started writing this post, I genuinely didn’t know how I’d solve this editing problem.

But now I’m both excited and terrified to attempt that one last pass and hope that I come away from it feeling certain. Of anything.

~~~

Thank for reading. I feel like I have to follow up on this next week, so that’s what I’ll probably do. If you’d like to find out what happens—if I’m relieved or infinitely more stressed out come next Sunday—then you can give my blog a Follow via the button on the left side-bar (on PC), or the top-right hamburger menu (on mobile).

Until next time, take care, stay safe, and if you’ve ever enjoyed any rogue-like, you owe it to yourself to play Hades. As a fan of the genre, Hades is easily my favorite ever. I seriously haven’t felt this strongly about a game recommendation since Spiritfarer.

Anyway, have a good week, everyone!

Sorry–I Need Another Break Today

I never, ever like taking multiple week breaks these days.

But I’m working with a half-charge on my laptop and a thrown-out back. So, like, can I get to my laptop charger on the other side of the room? Sure. Am I going to do that? Hell no–even lying down right now is uncomfortable.

And, on top of that, I just don’t have anything to talk about.

I tried writing something (thus the half-charge), but I’ve seriously got nothing. Lesson learned–always write posts earlier in the week. Never leave them for Saturday night / Sunday morning, when my garbage-y body might betray me, crazy-old-scientist style.

By way of an update, I’ve been entirely focused on editing Memory, which has been an interesting, impostor syndrome-tastic experience. On one hand, I’m worried that it’s taking so long (I’m only a chapter in). On the other, I’m glad that I’m being extremely thorough (and that I had enough time away to be hyper-critical).

That said . . . I’m going back to sleep if I can.

I seriously despise the idea of full, 100%-do-nothing sick days at this point in my life.

But, holy shit, fuck it. It’s 1PM and I am done.

Last thing: if you missed it, only weeks after I talked about my Fantasy fiction Smash Clone, Arya Stark . . . is officially in a Smash Clone: Multiversus, Warner’s newly announced platform fighter.

Here she is with Bugs Bunny, Garnet, Jake the Dog, and Personality-Sold-Separately Superman

I mean, I knew my Fantasy platform fighter would never come out, but now it’s well and truly dead.

But at least we can have Arya versus Shaggy from Scooby Doo, Harley Quinn, and . . . Reindog?

Truly the epic battle we’ve all been waiting for.

Anyway, take care, stay hydrated, and if you’re in the states, have a good Thanksgiving!

A November 2021 Break – In Prep for Editing Memory

Apologies for this one being a little late; my sleep schedule is such that I accidentally missed the majority of Sunday.

I would have done a November “Read/Watch/Play” today, but A) I haven’t finished the novel I started reading last week and B) the only good thing I’ve watched so far this month was Shang-Chi, and telling anyone to watch that would feel like an incredible waste of time. Because, yeah, I liked it—it was good—but also everyone saw it months ago.

Still, I wanted to take a break because this week had some weird medical bullshit that threw me off track.

And, as a result, I fell back into “Emotional Prep Mode.” Initially just to prepare for the steadily approaching nightmare of getting those leg surgeries.

But I realized halfway through the week that what I was really preparing for was editing Memory.

It’s been almost two months since I finished it, and, this week in particular, the corrections that I need to make started burning a figurative hole in my imaginary pocket of corrections. More than anything, I’m dying to get back to the ending, which I know needs a ton of changes; I went full “this part of my life needs to end” mode and settled on a bunch of stuff for the epilogue that I know is terrible.

On top of that, I’m also at the point where I think I can honestly read and edit earlier chapters without just skimming over them. The all-important distancing period is finally over.

So, I’m just gonna end this post here, because I want to finish prepping for tomorrow by compiling all the comments and critiques I’ve ever gotten into a complete, like, Editing Dashboard (and yes, of course it’s a spreadsheet). Maybe I’ll write a post about it if it’s actually effective.

Anyway, with that said, thanks for passing by.

I finally feel like I’ve gathered enough info from Likes to know that my most popular posts are the ones that focus on my writing process and WIP’s.

And first–aww, thanks, everybody! But second, okay–I’ll start focusing more on those posts. However, I still appreciate Likes as a way of gauging how readers feel about the content I put out, so if you enjoyed this, you can give it a Like via the left sidebar (on PC) or the top-right hamburger menu (on mobile). I also appreciate Follows because they help me grow my platform.

That said, take care, stay hydrated, and is anyone else as obsessed with the Shishi from Shang-Chi as I am? Seriously, I see people talking about Morris a bunch, but not the Shishi, which surprised me because, as a Fantasy nerd and a cat lover, they blew my mind. Like, they made me 10 years old again; I seriously just went wide-eyed like, “Whooooooaaaa,” and paused the movie to stare because they were so cool looking . . . Anyway, just asking. And also, my next D&D character is going to have a Shi Shi as a companion for sure.

What I Learned from Xiran Jay Zhao – The Art of Almost Never Using the Same Setting Twice

*This is a spoiler-free post.

Hello and welcome to the very first installment of a new series I’m calling “What I Learned From . . . ,” where I’ll be talking about one thing I learned from an author I’ve read.

This series is ridiculously long overdue; I love reading and I learn things from authors all the time. I think I’ve shied away because sometimes I learn things from authors’ mistakes and I never want to come off as anything but respectful. But I decided I’m just going to focus on authors I’m a huge fan of.

Which is why, today, I’m talking about Xiran Jay Zhao.

I learned a lot of things from reading Iron Widow, but one thing in particular stuck out–a pacing technique that I think is next-level amazing, so I had to share it here:

Zhao’s Technique of
Almost Never Using the Same Setting Twice

I mentioned this in last week’s post, but Zhao almost never uses the same setting twice in Iron Widow.

And, just to be clear, Iron Widow is not an epic journey Fantasy; the novel does not center on a quest from one part of a world map to another. It’s actually fairly stationary.

But it doesn’t feel stationary at all because even though the characters stay in certain locations / return to certain locations a bunch of times, Zhao almost never reuses the same part of those locations. For example, the second scene on an estate might take place in a gazebo on the grounds instead of returning to the office used in a previous scene.

What does all of this bring to the plot?

Mobility & a Hook

Zhao’s use of settings made a fairly stationary plot feel incredibly mobile. Even when it returned to places we’d already been, there was a certainty in the back of my mind that something new would happen in that setting, conveyed by literally new sights to catch my interest.

It got extremely addictive almost immediately.

Like, you’re already reading Iron Widow because you’re really into the characters and the drama is so good–but also, subliminally, you’re excited to see where the plot literally goes next.

It’s Also a Vehicle for Descriptive Writing . . . & a Hook

Zhao has such an affinity for descriptions; she just goes in describing a cool new setting in a way that blows your mind, and reading how she describes things immediately becomes its own hook, which I haven’t experienced since reading The Vagrant, by Peter Newman.

But to stop myself from devolving into how great Zhao’s descriptions are, I’ll just say that the point is, if you’re great with descriptions, continually introducing and describing new settings the way she does might be the way to go for you.

At the very least, it’s worth an afternoon writing exercise.

Using Settings-Within-A-Setting
Can Also Make Scenes More Memorable?

I seriously feel like I can recount everything that happened in Iron Widow beat-for-beat, in perfect order.

On one hand, that might be because the plot and characters were so memorable and the drama was so juicy.

But I also think it’s because I remember the graduation of certain settings-within-settings, which I’m going to call micro-settings from here on out because it’s easier to type.

What I’m getting at is that I remember, and can clearly differentiate, the scene that took place in the living room of the one apartment and the scene that took place in the kitchen of that same apartment.

And I feel like there’s an inherent value there; I don’t want to make this post too much longer, but there’s absolutely a dissertation in the application of Zhao’s micro-settings. How they can be used to create visceral associations to specific moods; how reminders of those micro-settings can snap a reader back into those moods very easily. How they can be used to convey character growth by only returning to a micro-setting from previous scenes when characters and / or circumstances have significantly changed.

But, more than anything, how they can be paired with significant events to make those events–and the scene where they happen–more memorable.

Also, if you write a dissertation on this, please let me know where I can read it. Not a joke.

Finally, I Mean . . . Why Not?

If you’re writing a fantasy novel . . . you can just do this with your settings and there’s no consequences. You aren’t beholden to a budget; you can use whatever settings you want for whatever scenes.

Disclaimer: I definitely I get why you wouldn’t though. And I understand that maybe you shouldn’t. There’s nothing wrong, in any way, with reusing specific rooms for multiple scenes. In fact, doing so might be essential to your WIP–especially if you’re writing a location-based story; off the top of my head, something like Harry Potter relies on returning to certain locations to make the audience feel familiar with / comfortably rooted in Hogwarts. But even if a story only reuses one setting, that setting can be pivotal to cementing a vibe (like the conspiratorial feel of Mistborn being bolstered by returning to the gang’s hideout).

That said . . . you can still make your stationary story feel incredibly mobile if that’s something you want to do.

And even if it isn’t, I can’t help feeling like it’s worth remembering that we can make our stories take place wherever we want. Even if it’s within a small part of a setting we’ve already established, that tiny bit can house a really awesome moment. And why shouldn’t it?

~~~

Thanks for reading!

It felt great to write this one. In the wide, messy spectrum of stuff I post on this site, this felt like Content Prime. Like this series is what I should’ve been writing from the beginning, combining my habit of over-analyzing things with my love for writing Fantasy. Seriously, if I could add a spreadsheet to this somehow, it would be the single most me post I’ve ever written.

Anyway, I post every Sunday and sometimes Monday. If you enjoyed what you read, I always appreciate Likes and Follows. They both help steer the direction of my future content and build my platform.

Because I forgot to say it last week, to anyone doing NaNoWriMo 2021, I wish you good luck! I believe in you! And also, if this is your first time, you just took the super important step of starting a WIP. No matter what happens, that’s an amazing first step that takes a lot of guts and it’s worth celebrating . . . in December. You have to work on your work count for today. Hang in there!

Anyway, until next week, take care, stay hydrated, and I miss D&D. Yep–I’m using these salutations to vent; I miss D&D, guys. The next time you play, please roll a natural 1 just for me. And when you do, raise a clenched fist and shout, “Damn you, Louis Santiago!” as loud as you can. And when your friends are like, “Who’s Louis Santiago?” don’t tell them. LOL Just be like, “Ya know. Louis Santiago. Anyway, did I drop my sword?”

. . . These salutations are getting weirder and longer every goddamn time–I swear.

Anyway, bye!

Something to Read / Watch / Play – October 2021

Happy Halloween!

Nothing on this list is scary.

I’m sorry, but I’m just not into theming these posts for holidays. At least not yet.

What I am into: taking a little break from publishing long, monstrous posts . . . by promoting some stuff I recently read, watched, and played that were really good.

Something to Read:

Have you ever followed a YouTuber for a few months and then found out that they’re a Sci-Fi / Fantasy author whose debut novel just came out? Have you ever decided to check it out and were so utterly hooked by the first page that you dropped everything you were doing, bought an ebook of it, and binge-read it for hours?

That was me when I decided to check out Iron Widow, by Xiran Jay Zhao.

The novel follows Wu Zetian, a young woman who decides to enlist as a concubine co-pilot of a mech, the Nine-Tailed Fox, so that she can kill its celebrity pilot. Why? Because that celebrity pilot killed her sister: one of the many concubines that he and other pilots sacrifice to power their mechs in battles against alien creatures.

And that . . . is . . . just the exposition.

Yeah, that’s not even the entire premise. Seriously, that’s just the set up.

Iron Widow is a beautifully written novel that repeatedly surprised me. It did so many things I wasn’t expecting that I actually had no idea how it was going to end while I was reading it. And then it did end and I’m still reeling.

Just such a wild, unique, awesome ride of a Sci-Fi / Fantasy novel.

Also, it has really well-crafted, extremely visual descriptions.

And an extremely well-paced plot (to the point that I want to write a post about Zhao’s technique of almost never using the same setting twice, which blew my mind).

Also, great characters that you root for even though some of them have done some terrible things. Seriously, where some novels briefly mention that there’s a grey area between their heroes and villains, Iron Widow dives in, head first, and just stays there.

Finally, on top of all of that, there’s a romance that also just . . . I can’t. Just read the book. LOL! I want to talk about the romance and how beautiful it was, but I also, desperately want to avoid spoilers.

Please note that the novel does touch on topics like suicide and physical/emotional abuse, so if you are sensitive to those topics, it may not be the right book for you.

But if you’re okay with those topics, I cannot recommend Iron Widow enough.

Something to Watch:

Ah ha! It turns out there is something vaguely spooky on this list!

Am I Halloweening correctly?

I could have given you a confectionary treat, but instead, I have given you . . . a deception!

Yeah, I’m pretty sure I’m doing it right.

Look, if you’re reacting to this pick like, “Wait. A YouTube video about wrestling?” let me immediately say, “I know.”

I get it–I haven’t watched wrestling in about 20 years, and I’ve never regarded it as a legitimate medium for fiction.

However . . . one of the guys in my writing group brought up how one of our projects unwittingly used a technique that pops up in professional wrestling of all places. The technique in question was elevating one villain by having them squash another, more consistently present villain from the first act. And when I learned that technique had a name in wrestling, of all places, I was extremely intrigued.

So that guy from the writing group recommended a YouTube channel that regularly talks about storytelling in professional wrestling. And this video, “The Undertaker: Long Term Story Telling in Wrestling,” hit me hard. Not just because of its polish or the emotion it invokes, but because I never noticed how unique of a storytelling medium professional wrestling is or how intricate its characterizations can be.

If you have a half hour and want to either celebrate an avenue of storytelling you already love or dip your toes into a completely new realm of living fiction, then check out “The Undertaker: Long Term Story Telling in Wrestling.”

Something to Play:

I mean . . . I usually want to talk about lesser known things with these “Read/Watch/Play” posts, but I already talked about Iron Widow, which was a New York Times Bestseller before I even started reading it, so whatever.

And besides, Metroid: Dread is amazing.

It is . . . extremely hard. Like, surprisingly, mind-bogglingly difficult for a Nintendo game. Having died a total of maybe twelve times in total across all of my casual playthroughs of previous Metroid titles, I died in Dread a lot. Seriously, getting to certain stealth segments required flipping a switch in my brain like, “Time to die, like, 10 times in a row!” The last boss alone took me an hour to get through.

The thing is . . . that level of difficulty feels incredibly appropriate for the series.

Because Metroid has always had an element of skill shot. It has always been the platformer where you can either wait for Space Jump or perfectly time your Morph Ball Bombs to get to an otherwise inaccessible area.

You can wait until you get the Screw Attack to get up this tunnel, or you can learn to wall jump right now.

In the original Metroid, you can wait to get the Bombs so you can get the Ice Beam like a normal person or . . . you can learn to execute a screen wrap in 1987, before the terms “screen wrap” or “speedrunning” even existed. Obviously, a screen wrap is an exploit that wasn’t intentional, but everyone still knew about it, so of course it bled into the identity of the series (evidenced by things like the ability to sequence break the original Metroid II: Return of Samus by running through lava without the Varia Suit, and the ability to get the Ice Beam early in Super Metroid by executing a bunch of difficult tricks).

My point is, Metroid has always had a high skill ceiling.

And Metroid: Dread leans all the way into that design philosophy, bringing back the parry skill shots from Samus Returns, giving you an extremely narrow chance to counter enemies that are about to insta-kill you, etc.–and, to me, it all feels completely and utterly Metroid.

Accepting the skill shotiness of Metroid also means that Mercury Stream was able to fashion what are, hands down, some of the best boss fights in any Metroid title. Bosses, which would usually be a thing to coast by, became amazing, challenging treats that felt so rewarding to overcome that when some of them didn’t give me an upgrade, I didn’t go like, “What? No Power Bombs?” I was just like, “No! Is the boss dead? . . . Can I just fight it again? Is there a Boss Rush??”

Combat is fluid and fast, but early-game encounters teach you to respect every enemy you come across, so that, late game, when you’re finally fully powered, you respect that power so much more.

Exploration is definitely more limited than it used to be. Dread still chooses to deliver a story and experience on a more linear path than other Metroid titles.

But the story and experience that are delivered are so completely different from what you’ve come to expect from the series that even I–a dude who values free roam mechanics over everything–didn’t really care, because I also appreciate when a series dives head first into new, weird territory. Metroid: Dread presents a totally new villain who still feels perfectly in line with the series, but also a new planet. New enemies. New [redacted to save you from spoilers].

Most importantly, it did what I now accept as the true hook of the series: pushing Samus Aran into perpetually newer, stranger situations that she perseveres through, getting more badass and more . . . weird every time. Did you think it was strange when she almost died in Fusion and had to have Metroid DNA spliced into her own DNA to save her? Child’s play.

Would I love it if the next game gave you more freedom to explore? Absolutely. Would I still buy DLC for Dread even if I knew it was completely linear? In a heartbeat.

What I’m saying here is . . . Metroid: Dread is really good. If you haven’t played it yet and you’re looking for a beautifully designed, challenging 2D platformer that will not hold your hand, then give Dread a shot.

~~~

That’s it for me. I’ll be back next week.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider giving it a Like or giving me a Follow!

Until next time though, stay safe, take care, and always remember that a minority doesn’t have to prove their minority-ness to you. It literally doesn’t matter who you are; you don’t get to judge a Japanese person for not knowing a lot about Japanese cuisine, or a Brazilian person for not speaking Portuguese. If all else fails, the simple test goes as follows: Think, “What am I?” Whatever the answer is–for this case, let’s say, “Irish”–ask yourself if you know the information about your own culture that you’re about to roast someone else for not knowing about theirs; for example, “Can I speak Gaelic?” or “Do I know everything about traditional Irish food?” If the answer is “No,” then shut your fucking mouth. If the answer is, “Yes,” then shut your fucking mouth. Not being able to speak a language doesn’t somehow lessen the amount of bullshit a minority goes through, and, ironically, when someone else expects us to be a full glossary of information for our cultures, that’s just another level of bullshit being foisted onto us. An ethnicity is not a goddamn monolith.

Anyway, enjoy the rest of your Ghosts ‘n Candy Day!

What If… Someone Made a Smash Clone for Fantasy Fiction?

Disclaimer: Let me say right out the gate that this entire post is me being a huge nerd. That’s all it is–no insights about writing or documentation about my current work in progress. All it is: me mashing up two things I love in a way I’m not sure overlaps for a lot of people. So if you’re not a gamer and a reader of Fantasy, this post might not be for you.

For everyone else: holy shit!

You guys . . . what if there was a Smash Bros. clone for Fantasy fiction characters?

I need to back up; let me explain.

Two weeks ago, Sora was announced as the final DLC fighter for Smash Bros. Ultimate.

And I have to be real here: I didn’t care that it was Sora.

Nothing against him or Kingdom Hearts; I just don’t have a close connection with those games. Worse, the trailer really made it look like the Chosen Undead or Ashen One from Dark Souls was going to be the last fighter, which blew my mind so hard for five seconds that anything else could only be a let down.

Like many a disappointed nerd that week, I turned my thoughts to who I would’ve preferred instead of Sora (the easiest fucking choice in the world being Urbosa from Breath of the Wild, who I will champion from now on as the next Zelda character we need). Alucard was a close second.

But naturally, my mind went, “How about Memory?”

Memory, if you’re new here, is the masked bureaucrat-ninja-assassin-protagonist of my current WIP. And I surprised myself when I imagined her in Smash because, “Holy shit. I found it; the only daydream more indulgent than imagining my novel becoming a million-dollar Summer blockbuster: imagining my character getting into Smash before Waluigi.”

“Or, like, Harry Potter. Or Frodo. Or any other classic Fantasy character that–“

I texted one of the guys is my writing group immediately.

We went back and forth about how much we’d love a Smash clone full of Fantasy characters.

At one point he said, “I want you to write a post about this.”

I seriously sent him back pictures of the draft I was already working on.

Everyone . . . please indulge me in what is undoubtedly one of my nerdiest posts ever: my roster for the Fantasy fiction Smash clone that I now want more than anything in the world.

The Core Eight

First thing first: let’s do this right.

If we’re doing this like Smash, then we need to have the eight, core characters. The ones who would be in the very first iteration of the game and all of its sequels, even if the rest of the cast fluctuates. The backbone of the franchise, without whom it wouldn’t exist. Everyone’s picks would be different, but here are mine:

  1. Frodo – I mean, come on. Not only does he feel like the #1 must-have, but I honestly think he’d control like Mario in Smash, with the same speed and size.
  2. Harry Potter – The titular boy wizard from the famous series written by Hatsune Miku. I’d probably never play as him despite loving those books, but he should be in the game regardless.
  3. Aslan – Having only read the last of the Chronicles of Narnia when I was eight (and didn’t know better), I was hard pressed to pick one character. In the end, Aslan felt like an appropriately-video-gamey choice because he’d be a literal fucking magic lion in the roster.
  4. Drizzt Do’Urden – I will be totally real here: The Legend of Drizzt is one of the ones that got away for me. It’s a hole in my Fantasy knowledge that I need to shore up. But the one thing I know about him: he feels like a great, classic Fantasy addition to the core eight. Like, how could we not have at least one of the common Fantasy races in here? I know he’s a Drow and not a traditional Elf, but wha-a-a-a-atever.
  5. Lyra & Pantalaimon – It is extremely hard picking out only eight core characters for the theoretical first game, but Lyra & Pantalaimon feel like such a good addition to the roster. They’d be the first game’s weird team-character with a complicated move set that would absolutely dominate at Evo.
  6. Shadow Moon – We just need a Neil Gaiman character here. I was going to pick the Sandman because I feel like he’s Gaiman’s most iconic character, but it felt wrong to dip into graphic novels.
  7. Kvothe – I know there are many more classic fantasy characters who could fit into this spot, but it just felt weird to not feature the protagonist of one of the most popular modern Fantasy series out there.
  8. Vin from Mistborn – Of the Core Eight, ladies and gentlemen, may I present . . . my main. I have seriously been waiting to see a movie and/or play a video game about Vin for nearly 20 years. If this game was real, she would be my very first pick, hands down. *Also, just a reminder that this is my list, and if I was producing the game, Vin would have to be up there.

The Sequel Additions
aka
“These people seriously weren’t in the original!?”

If choosing the Core Eight taught me anything, it’s that the first game would definitely need to have more than eight characters.

But if we’re following the Smash model for fun, then these are the equivalent of that Melee-specific vibe of, “Wait–Bowser wasn’t in the original? What?”

  1. Conan – He is so culturally present that he’d probably be in the Core Eight if this game was real, but I’m imagining a world where lesser known characters are highlighted first. And also, I seriously just don’t have the emotional strength to keep rearranging that top eight.
  2. Geralt, the Witcher – I can’t help feeling like he wouldn’t be in the first game for licensing reasons. But I can dream that he’d eventually be there. A part of me wants him to be a totally new take on the character, but, realistically, he’d be the CD Projekt Red version, which means he’d also be a video game crossover character. Also, his last two color choices would be variants of his Netflix look.
  3. John Snow – I honestly just don’t think HBO would be like, “Yes, you can put a version of a character who was on our TV show in your indie game.” Maybe I’m wrong, but I think John would be one of the major “How the fuck was he not in the first one?” characters who would drum up excitement until HBO and George R. R. Martin gave in. His reveal trailer would be trending and he’d absolutely sic Ghost on his opponent with his Side Special.
  4. Ged from A Wizard of Earthsea- I have no idea how Ged would play, but that just makes me want him in it even more?
  5. Rand Al’Thor from The Wheel of Time – Everyone has their massive, Tolkien-esque, 80’s Fantasy series they read a ton of, and everyone would definitely put that series’ protagonist in this spot. For me, Rand is here because my 80’s Fantasy series was The Wheel of Time.
  6. Katniss Everdeen – Again, I introduce you to my motherfucking main. She’d have her bow on Neutral Special, freely aimed by holding down B, firing when released.

My Personal Must-Haves

Okay, look–I know the structure of this post is unravelling fast. And I apologize for that.

But . . . I mean . . . I fell into a rabbit-hole imagining the characters I would lose my mind for and you can’t blame me for that!

  1. Sabriel, the Abhorsen – Seriously, I got chills when I imagined playing as her in any video game. I realize I need to do a post about how much Garth Nix’s Abhorsen Trilogy influenced my writing.
    Neutral Special is “Necromancer’s Bells,” which changes all of her inputs to Ranna, Mosrael, Kibeth, and the rest of the bells. Different combinations have different effects, but also the speed that you ring them influences the strength of those effects (so you can ring them quickly for a few seconds of buffs/debuffs, or you can absolutely flex on someone by taking a full 10 seconds to ring the bells while an enemy’s recovering). The idea that she, a necromancer, would have more time to ring her bells when opponents are weaker (i.e. she’d be stronger when opponents are closer to death) is some of the tightest theming I’ve ever made up without realizing.
  2. Westley from The Princess Bride – If I wasn’t already down to buy this imaginary game, I literally just shouted, “WHAT!?” in my room when I saw him in my head-canon trailer. I would preorder it so fast to play as Westley.
    I imagine all of his Specials being parries that look the same but have wildly different effects (Up as a vault over the opponent’s head, Side to shove the opponent back, Neutral to deal extra damage, Down to trip them and set up combos?).
  3. Inigo Montoya – My other main. I can’t even right now. Why can’t this game be real!? He’d probably be an Echo Fighter of Westley, but I can’t help feeling like he would be insulted by that?
  4. Commander Vimes from Discworld – I imagine him being like Pokemon Trainer; you can swap between him and other members of the Watch on the fly, swapping through movesets.
  5. Arya Stark – It’s weird that I almost forgot to add her here, but that’s 100% because of season 8. It’s wild how that season made me forget that ages before the show was even announced, I thought Arya Stark was the fucking best. I would absolutely want her in with the stipulation that she’s novel Arya (which would never happen). Also, I was going to roll into a joke about how this theoretical game will come out before Winds, but then I got sad because that might actually be true.
    Down Special would let her change faces with her opponent, making her the absolute best for mind-games in hectic matches.
  6. The Strength and Patience of the Hill from The Raven Tower – I mean . . . how much more rad of a Fantasy character can you get than a fucking rock who’s also a god? This is another character I can’t imagine the moveset for but want to play as anyway so badly.
  7. The Malice – It was her or the Vagrant, and I just couldn’t help going with the Malice. To be totally fair and true to myself though . . . I wouldn’t go with either of them if it meant I could have the Hammer that Walks & the Goat as a playable character.
  8. The Hammer that Walks & the Goat – I just remembered this is my list.
  9. Wu Zetian from Iron Widow – It just came out (I just read it), so, first thing’s first: please skip to the next section, “The Rounded-Out Roster,” if you want to avoid spoilers for Iron Widow.
    With that out of the way, I’m imagining Zetian in her Vermillion Bird Spirit Armor for sure. Highly aerial and mobile, but never walking around because of her lotus feet.
    Her Final Smash has to be “Welcome to your nightmare.” It just has to be. It can be one of those Final Smash’s that you have to catch someone with at close range. And when you do, your opponent gets dropped into a Chrysalis pilot seat, Zetian behind them. They get the shit beaten out of them in her mind realm, and then the super ends with her dropping their body, standing over them, and shouting, “Welcome to your nightmare!”
    Just the ultimate flex.
    Also, for the record, I want Shimin and Yizhi both to be playable as well, but I desperately want to avoid spoilers here.

The Rounded-Out Roster

Okay. I’m just going to wrap up here with all of the characters I can think of. But also, I’m absolutely going to stop too soon because A) there are so many awesome characters in the Fantasy genre–this list will seriously never be done–and B) I’ve been maintaining critical levels of hype for too long, so I have to just let this one go.

Thus, in no particular order, under no particular heading, is everyone else I think would be / who I’d want to be in the game:

  • Bilbo (Echo Fighter of Frodo) – It was either Sam or Bilbo who would be an Echo Fighter. The clincher was the realization that, “Ah, of course Frodo and Bilbo would both have ‘Don the Ring’ on Down Special.”
  • Sam – I have no idea what his moveset would be, but I want him in it. Maybe if you’re playing on teams, Frodo will just collapse at 200% and Sam has to literally carry him for the rest of the match.
  • Gandalf – Without a doubt his final Smash would be him fighting his opponents like the Balrog. I mean how could it not be? Imagining it starting with “You shall not pass!” is enough to make my entire playstyle revolve around getting that Smash Ball.
  • Gollum – It was him or Sauron and I just feel like Sauron would be more of a stage hazard on the Mount Doom stage.
  • Aragorn – We have to just accept that this game is 75% sword fighters. It’s just worse than Smash in that regard . . . Unless, wait, is it? I’m not kidding–I’m looking at the roster and I think this game might somehow have fewer sword fighters than Ultimate?
  • Hermoine Granger – Her moveset would definitely be similar to Harry’s, but I feel like she’d have better spells–or maybe use the same spells in a totally different way because she’s a genius. Maybe all of the moves that are spells can be held to get her to perfectly pronounce Leviosa–for example–making it significantly stronger.
  • Ron Weasley (Echo Fighter of Harry Potter) – You need him for the trinity for sure.
  • Luna Lovegood / Your Favorite Potter Character(?) – It’s my list, so it’s absolutely Luna, but I think Potter characters could easily be the “Fire Emblem characters” of this franchise. Everyone’s waiting on playable Smaug, but Cedric Diggory gets announced and it’s like, “Fucking . . . really?”
  • Voldemort – For his Side Special, he can summon his pet snake, Nagini, who–as you and I know–has always been just a big snake and nothing else.
  • Brienne of Tarth – Not only would I put her in it, I’d make sure her kit as strong and technical as possible, so her skill ceiling would be through the absolute roof. Evo finals would probably be Brienne VS Lyra & Pantalaimon.
    Or, ya know, Pippin V. Pippin on Mount Doom over and over and over.
  • Daenerys Targaryen – Her Final Smash would be “Dracarys,” which would 1) activate an unskippable, four-minute cut-scene of the “Dracarys” moment 2) kill all of her opponents 3) log all other players out of the game, and 4) uninstall it from their console / PC so they have to download it again.
    I’m kidding. It wouldn’t do that. It would just melt their console / PC.
  • Lirael (Echofighter) – She’d have the pan-pipes instead . . . I just sighed. Seriously, I love The Abhorsen Trilogy, everybody.
  • Kelsier – Paradoxically, he’s already in Fortnite, although, I would not want to use his look from that game. No shade on whoever does the character designs for Fortnite, but he just looks like a frat guy in Kelsier cosplay?
  • Sazed – I can’t even imagine how to retrofit Feruchemy for Smash, and I feel like that’s . . . a good sign?
  • Auri – No idea how she’d play, but I just imagined finding her on a character select screen and went, “What!? Are you serious!? Auri’s in it!?” and I feel like that means she has to be.
  • Fezzik from The Princess Bride – I don’t even care what his moves would be–I would just taunt all day.
    “We face each other as God intended. Sportsmanlike. No tricks, no weapons. Skill against skill alone.”
    “I just want you to feel you’re doing well.”
  • Maggie Hoskie – It would just be rad to play as Maggie, who would be such an awesome, clean fit for this game. Her Final Smash would definitely be her letting in Honágháahnii.
  • Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell – I really shouldn’t put them together since they’re so at odds in their novel. But also . . . it somehow feels right to have them be a Pokemon Trainer-style team? Like, the longer you play as one of them, the stronger the other one becomes when they get tagged in, as if they need to one-up each other?
  • Death, Captain Carrot, and a Bunch of Other Characters from Discworld – It’s been ages since I read a Discworld novel, and making this list made me realize I really need to get on that.
  • Harry Dresden, Percy Jackson, Julian of Macedonia, Quentin Coldwater, and the Countless Others I Missed

Phew. I have seriously been tweaking this post for two weeks, and I just have to let it go.

If you stuck around, thanks for nerding out with me. I don’t usually write totally self-indulgent stuff like this, but I just couldn’t expel the hype for this completely imaginary game any other way.

I find it funny now that the original inkling for this idea was “Memory in Smash,” but somehow, I can’t convince myself to add Memory to this list of amazing characters. Maybe it’s because, in the end, the real excitement is just celebrating this mass of characters I grew up with. The depressing thing is that we don’t live in a world where this game would ever exist.

But the awesome thing is that I realize I have a ton of Fantasy characters I haven’t experienced yet. And that thought has made me happier than anything has in a long time.

The Poppy War is seriously right in front of me; like, abstractly, it’s next on my TBR list, yeah, but it’s also literally 10 feet away from me, on a table. I can see it from where I’m sitting.

The idea that I can post this, go make some tea, and then start reading it is an absolute treasure that feels somehow out of place in the existential nightmare that the world has become.

The plan was to work on my resume and do some other tasks.

But . . . Yeah, I’m putting a pot on. The resume can wait.

I want to get lost in another world again.

~~~

That’s it for me. If you enjoyed this post, I post here every Sunday / Monday morning. I write anything from posts about my writing process and status reports on my WIP to detailed movie critiques and random musings about the writing in general. You can find links to my most popular series on the red bar on the left side of the screen on PC or the top-right drop-down menu on mobile.

That’s also where you can find my Follow button if you want giant walls of text like this one emailed to you whenever I post. Likes are also always appreciated so I can tell how many people like what content going forward.

Until next time, take care and stay hydrated, and always remember that the Golem effect is real! Bye!

Let’s Talk About – How What If…? Was Not a Great Show But Is a Good Writing Exercise

Disclaimer: You don’t need to have watched Disney+’s What If…? to read this post. And, to be completely honest, it would be better for you if you didn’t watch What If…? anyway because it’s just honestly not worth your time. I’ve always been fairly critical of what Marvel Studios puts out and I have to honestly say that only one episode–“What If… Doctor Strange Lost His Heart?”–is legitimately good while the rest is probably the MCU’s most skippable content to date.

Regardless though, I will be spoiling parts of the show, because this post will briefly touch on its bad elements to highlight how not to do the writing exercise it accidentally presents. So if you don’t want any spoilers for What If…?, then this is your official warning to read no further.

~~~

I.

Am.

Still bedridden.

I realize I haven’t given updates on my leg in a while, but my kneecap is still loose. Months later.

I’ve seen three specialists now, and every visit yields a new prospective surgery I’ll need to correct what is now very clearly one of the shittiest legs ever. Long story short: the alignment of my knee is making it harder for my kneecap to heal. Or possibly my ligaments and tendons need to be repaired / replaced with surgery (one of the three–yes, three–operations I am going to need soon.

There are definite pluses to all of this, of course.

But also the side effect that I’m extremely bored.

I took over the world in Civ 6.

I’m close to the end of Metroid: Dread.

I already watched all of Star Wars: Visions.

And I watched . . . What If…?

And I know I took my time getting to it, but What If…? is what I want to talk about today.

Because holy shit was that show disappointing. I promise this isn’t going to be a hit-piece on that show, but I do need to talk about why that show is bad, so I can bring us around to the point of this post:

That, when done right, What If…? can be a great writing exercise.

But, first, let’s get to that realization the same way I did.

Starting with the confession that . . .

Man . . .
I Just Love Talking About Alternate Realities

If you haven’t been to this site before, I am a ridiculous fan of / believer in / supporter of the concept of alternate realities. I seriously think about them and talk about them all the time.

I’ve written a short story that focuses on them.

I often say things like, “In an alternate reality, there’s a version of me that’s a food scientist,” because, once upon a time, I did a way-too-elaborate presentation on cnidarians in college and my science professor offered me a job in his lab. A job which I didn’t take it for some stupid fucking reason.

I have often, when pressed for something to talk about with coworkers at my old job, resorted to throwing alternate reality hypotheticals at them. Questions like “If you went to an alternate reality and found out the version of you there was struggling financially, would you help them out?”

What I’m getting at here is that alternate realities are genuinely fascinating to me. They have incredible potential to make us question our own choices and the influence those choices have on who we are. For example, in the alternate reality where I wasn’t born with a fucked up leg, I’m probably in amazing shape. I definitely also wouldn’t know 99% of my current friends, because my life would’ve veered in a completely different direction when I was much, much younger (I honestly don’t know if I even would’ve had the same friends in grade school).

TL;DR: alternate realities are a cornucopia of possibilities.

And What If…? Totally Squanders That Potential

If you haven’t seen What If…?, it’s an animated series based on alternate realities within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It explores questions like, “What if all of the core Avengers were murdered before they became a team?” and, “What if Thor and Loki were never brothers?”

And then it’s like, “Thor would be a party boy.”

Me: “What? Wait . . . What?”

The Show: <throwing back a swig of beer so carelessly that it slops all over his shirt, and then wiping his mouth clean with the back of his hand> “If he din have his brother, Thor woulda been a big party man with a hammer.”

Me: “. . . Dude, what the fuck are you talking about?”

The Show: “He’d come down to earth and start a big party!

Me: “Okay. But, I mean, are there interesting consequences from that? Like, would Thor have become a shitty king? Would he have had more weird, space-centric adventures or just stood on Asgard forever?”

The Show: “Nah–it’d be like Ferris Thorler’s Day Off, I think. I dunno.”

Me: “. . . For fuck’s sake. Sure. Whatever. What about the other question?”

The Show: <grunts a> “Wha?” <as he eats spaghetti out of his hand>

Me: “The other theoretical: ‘What if all of the Avengers were murdered?'”

The Show: “Oh, right. They’d have to solve the mystery.”

Me: <blinks> “What?”

The Show: “They’d have to do it–have to figure out who done did it.”

Me: “Yeah, no shit. But how would that change the world???”

The Show: “Um . . . The Avengers would be dead?”

Me: “I know! But how would things be different!? What significant, unthinkable consequences would come out of that!?”

The Show: “Whoa . . . Dude . . . I can see you’re angry. Uh . . .” <lifts up his hand, offering> “Want some spaghetti?”

Yeah, I was . . . obviously a little disappointed.

But, if nothing else, this show did yield a really lively discussion with my writing group. About what the show did right (the animation was consistently beautiful) but mostly about what it did wrong. We tend to do that–critiquing pop culture content and brainstorming fixes for their missteps.

That discussion led me to create a question, on the fly, that I actually would’ve wanted answered: “What if Captain Marvel Never Left Earth at the End of Captain Marvel?” If I was part of the writing team for What If…?, that’s the first episode I would’ve suggested, because it’s the very first thing I wondered after seeing that movie for the first time.

But after the conversation, I wanted to make a joke to one of my friends that the episode I really wanted to see was “What if [the protagonist from their WIP] was evil?”

And then I immediately thought, Wait. What if one of the pivotal events in my novel never happened? What if someone else found the [spoiler]?

And, like a lightbulb flicking on, I realized . . .

What If…? Can Be a Really Fun Way
to Explore Your Own Stories

Obviously, this wouldn’t work for everyone; at its heart, writing fiction relies on the writer’s ability to make decisions and stick with them–to say, “Character A will be like this because that works with the theme I’ve decided on,” etc. So if you’re struggling to make decisions about your stories, maybe ignore this next part entirely.

For everyone else though . . . it’s weirdly fun to imagine how different your WIP would be if you changed one pivotal event or decision.

The one I stated above (the admittedly vague “What if someone else found [spoiler]?”) proposes a simple, extremely likely change to a single event in Memory that would completely change the story. Seriously, it would alter it in ways that I still haven’t grasped. The protagonists, Memory and Kole, would probably still come together, but they would’ve had a completely different quest that possibly would’ve been an elaborate heist? And the information yielded by that heist would not have had the same impact, so . . . would my villain have even been stopped?

It’s just wild to think about.

This is not me saying I’m going to rewrite Memory a third time. Hell no.

But wondering “What if . . . ?” does weirdly force me to explore character motivations in a way that I think is interesting.

It also naturally makes me see the world through a different lens that feels healthy for worldbuilding, if nothing else. The What If…? version of Memory explores a totally different portion of its world setting, and something about that feels especially rewarding to me.

Is it something I’d suggest for everyone? Not really. But it is a fun exercise in completely free plot-building.

And it can be a useful creative tool for the brainstorming phase of a new WIP. A way to test the parts of your plot that are absolutely pivotal and see the version of your story that you never would otherwise–a vehicle by which to explore an alternate version of the “Is this the most interesting time in your protagonist’s life?” question: “Is this the most interesting version of your protagonist’s life?” The goal of course isn’t to get lost considering alternate events for eternity, but to shake up your plot and force you to explore alternative events that might be better for the themes you’ve chosen.

For example, “What if Modis just stood in his cell?” . . . I know that means absolutely nothing to you–Modis is a character from the second item on my personal WIP queue), but holy shit, I just blew my own mind. Should Modis just stay in his cell and go to Primus? Would he get to Primus? Does that support the “Summer roadtrip” theme I have for that story more than him escaping?

Okay, sorry. I’m not even kidding–I have to go brainstorm a bit.

~~~

Thanks for reading. Especially if you got all the way to the end. This one wound up being way longer than I thought it would.

As always, I honestly appreciate Likes and Follows–Likes because they help me gauge what content to focus on and Follows because it helps me build my professional platform. The Like button is at the end of this post, but the Follow button is on the left sidebar on PC or the top-right drop-down menu on mobile.

That said, I appreciate you either way. Stay safe, take care, and seriously, fuck everybody else on your birthday. Like, go on vacation, but if you can’t, everything else that is not your favorite thing should fuck right off. Get that ice cream. Buy that booze. It is your day and anyone who’s like, “But I don’t want your favorite food for dinner,” needs to fuck off. Unless it’s also their birthday, in which case I have no answers–I have failed you. Goodnight!

Dream Diary – My Friend Published Novel Prime

It’s not often that a dream makes me jealous.

But man this one did. But also didn’t? I don’t know–it was weird.

This was another multi-phaser, but the other parts of it were extremely boring and mundane:

First, I was in a hospital visiting my old landlord’s husband for some reason? Particularly weird because he didn’t even have a life-threatening injury, but I went and sat with him anyway like we were family, even though I he was not and I would never do that.

Second, I had a car and lived in a small town in what I can only imagine was California? That part isn’t clear, but it was definitely a small, desert town where I lived with new roommates in an extremely large room? Again, weird, but mundane.

The only part that really matters was when . . .

An Old Friend Published Book Prime

Okay. This is weird to explain but during the dream, the “old friend” was just that–a static entity that I only knew as “an old friend.” I don’t know how often this happens to other people, but she was only an idea until I woke up and realized that the vague shape I saw in my dream-peripheral might have looked like an ex-coworker.

Whatever. That doesn’t matter.

What matters is, at some point, I drove my car through that desert town, got out, and went into a brick building (just imagine the most boring, two-story building made out of large bricks and concrete that you could possibly imagine in an a small, industrial town in an American desert and you’ve got it). And inside . . .

. . . an old friend was signing her newly published novel.

Somehow, this was a surprise. Like I was going to that building for something else.

I remember walking up and talking to her while she was signing for a line of fans. To be clear, there was no stage or signage; it was just her, sitting at one table that was weirdly placed next to machinery and piping.

Regardless, yes, I was being a weird, rude asshole in this dream–because who just walks up to an author while they’re signing and starts talking to them? Actually, on that thread, I remember her being visibly annoyed that I was doing it, but she was also amazingly patient about it (probably because it was my dream). She just gestured for me to check out a copy of her novel–one of the many on her table.

And . . . my God.

Okay, first, I remember seeing it while walking up and thinking, “Is she signing dictionaries?” because it was that thick.

Which is why, when I picked it up and saw that it was not a dictionary but a Fantasy novel, I remember saying, “Holy shit.” Part of that awe came from the dream-knowledge that this was her first novel, it was that long, and it got published, which immediately translated to, “It must be really fucking good.” On top of that, dream-me remembered talking with her about it when it was in the planning stages and now I was floored that it was here, I was holding it, and it weighed ten pounds.

But the real mind fuck was that the cover was gilded. Seriously, every copy was bound in actual leather with 14 karat gold accents. I opened it and not only were the edges of each page gold-leaf, but they were . . . wavy? Not in a water damage way–the edges of every page were intentionally cut so they swelled and dipped in a subtle, waving pattern. And that pattern shifted every twenty pages or so, so the edges of the text block looked like golden coins.

It blew my mind.

And, wildest of all, I opened up her novel . . . and discovered it was a graphic novel? Well, no–hold on. Not accurate. It was not a graphic novel in the way that term suggests.

It was a novel . . . that was fully illustrated. In color.

I don’t know how, but it was somehow both–full narration and panels at the same time.

I kid you not, even my dream brain was like, “No. This would never happen,” so the art in those panels was clearly not great.

But even with that, I just woke up. I didn’t jump awake like this was a nightmare–I just opened my eyes, blinked, and chuckled as I said, “Seriously?” to myself.

Because it was the kind of beautiful tome you’d see in the Cloisters or some other museum, published here in America, in bulk. There were so many copies on her table–of this book covered with actual gold.

It was cartoon-levels of ridiculous; seriously, I just started rewatching The Simpsons and I feel like it’s Homer-daydream levels of silly.

The moment I woke up, I was immediately disconnected from the jealousy in that dream, because I would never want one of my books published like that. The gold cover, the wavy text block, and then the horrible art inside is the exact opposite of what I’d want. I will admit that the idea of a bunch of high quality illustrations conveying all of the narration for an entire novel sounds amazing even though I don’t understand how that would work (wouldn’t it need to be, like, 14,000 pages?). But if there was any part of that dream that I’d actually want, it’s the signing–although not in a maintenance hangar in a desert town.

I dunno. This one was just all-the-way weird and I had to share it. If for no other reason than to just give everyone a peek into a weird, dream reality where publishers apparently don’t give a single fuck about publishing costs.

Seriously, in that world, every copy of Memory is a 13×11 tome with art by Yoshitaka Amano on every single page. And the cover has a silver mask that you can pull off and wear. Because why not?

~~~

That’s it for me. If you’re new here, I’m an aspiring Fantasy writer who posts here every Sunday / Monday. I tend to write about whatever I want, so posts range from talk about my writing progress to talk about the weird fucking dreams I have sometimes. If you’d like to join me on this journey, you can give me a Follow via the button on the left-side bar (on PC) or the top-right drop-down menu (on mobile). Likes are also always appreciated because they help me gauge what content people like on here.

No matter what you do though, thank you for reading. Take care, stay safe, and enjoy this last Halloween before literally everyone is Robert Pattinson Batman. Bye!

Drafts – The Abysswalker

It was the steed of a dead god.

Cel had always been told as much, but seeing the Abysswalker up close for the first time made it undeniable.

Even though it wasn’t a horse or any other beast of burden. Within seconds of seeing the large hump of it’s back, covered with metallic feathers that rippled over its body, it was obvious it wasn’t a larger version of any animal she knew. It’s head, vaguely shaped like a horse’s, only had calm, black eyes–at least from what she could see with the rest of its face covered by a golden helmet of gently swaying chain. On its side, what looked like a strange, vestigial arm–curled forward over the strap of its saddle–became a wing, at complete odds with its impossible legs.

They were the detail you always heard about when anyone spoke of the Abysswalker. The parts of its body responsible for its name. From her spot on the far side of the Walker’s boarding platform, she could only see the tops of them–long muscle corded in a way that made them look like tree trunks. But as she walked to the edge of the platform and looked down over the cliff’s edge, she saw them arching down an unknowable distance–a mile or more into misty nothing below them. One of the legs was straight, wooden muscles tight. The other curved, slack in a way that somehow didn’t demonstrate where its knees or ankles were.

Both legs stemmed from the Walker’s hind quarters.

“It really only has two legs?”

Its keeper chuckled. “Everyone always asks that. You pilgrims come here ready to let the Abysswalker carry you off into the unknown, but you’re all worried it’ll fall before you get there.”

Sacrificing your mundane life to ride the steed of a dead god into the Abyss, knowing that at some point, the Walker would return without you–that you’d be lost in another realm you couldn’t possibly imagine–was one thing. Having that steed stumble so you plummet to an early death in a mile-long pratfall was something else entirely.

“It’s surprisingly intimidating,” Cel said. “That’s all.”

A grunted chuckle as the keeper walked up and patted the Walker’s side. Cel heard it growl low before releasing a short cry. A trumpeted pop that echoed across the edge of the Abyss–the sound disappearing into its maelstrom of gentle, pearlescent clouds.

The Walker lifted its wings, exposing the rope ladder to its saddle.

“You sure you’re ready?” the keeper asked.

Cel looked at that ladder. Fidgeted with the straps of her travel pack, stuffed heavy and high over her back, but suddenly feeling too light.

Trying to keep her breathing steady, she looked back over Ashaiden–the immediate villages of Northwatch that she’d only just experienced, and the lands beyond, unseeable, where she’d grown up.

“Sure,” she said, because in that moment, no word could possibly be more decisive.

~~~

I woke up today with half of a post already written, but I decided I didn’t want to publish it. It was about my writing process and it felt a little too much like the last three months of my content, so I decided, “How about a Draft instead?”

With absolutely no idea what I’d write about, I looked at old, half-finished short stories from my discovery writing days and found a document titled “The Abysswalker,” which, when opened, turned out to actually be called “The Voidbeast” (because I’d been switching names for the story’s titular monster).

Seeing that “Abysswalker” was free though, I thought, “What would an Abysswalker actually be?” and that became the challenge for this Draft. Halfway through, I added on a secondary challenge of making this a “Megapremise” (a type of premise that I wrote a post about back in June) which worked out well enough that I kinda want to write more for this?

At any rate, thanks for reading. If you’re new here, I post every Sunday/Monday. If you liked this Draft, there’s a link to more of them on the left sidebar. But you can also find the Follow button there (on PC at least; on mobile, it’s in the top-right drop down menu) if you want to give my blog a follow. If you liked this post, please give it a Like so I can gauge how much all of you liked this content. It helps steer the ship when it comes to future posts.

All of that said, take care, stay safe, and Civ 6 is amazing. If you find it on sale or free on the Epic Game Store, it’s absolutely worth it. Unless you hate micromanaging the growth of a civilization for literally hundreds of turns. To each their own, I guess.

Camp NaNoWriMo 2021: Week 12 (Bonus) – Memory, My Project for Camp NaNoWriMo 2021, Is Finally Complete

I . . . cannot even begin to express how I feel right now.

On one hand . . . so happy. Ffs, I finally finished it. Two full months late, but still, I finally finished Memory.

On the other hand . . . so tired.

Why? Because I’ve discovered that when I’m writing a finale, I do a thing where I get so into the writing that I don’t eat? And when I do, it’s seriously, like, bananas and bread? Sometimes with coffee? Seriously, today I woke up, wrote for four hours, got up, ate a grapefruit, had two slices of bread, and then sat back down to finish the epilogue with a cup of coffee I just realized is still right here, unfinished.

But it’s okay, because Memory is!

Final Stats:

Time to Complete: About three months.

Number of Words: 70,304

Number of Chapters: Prologue + 19 + Epilogue

Average Chapter Length: 20 pages.

Things I Learned:

  1. Always plot out fight scenes!
  2. When you’re writing your outline, never “leave it to future you” to decide how something happens. In fact, the more you plot out things, the better. Options for a Scene > A Defined Set of Events for a Scene >>>>>> “You make it up! Have fun!”
  3. The final draft will always be significantly different from the outline and that’s okay. As long as changes improve character arcs, wordbuilding, and all of the other good stuff, they are absolutely acceptable. In fact, being about to manage those changes, instead of strictly adhering to the outline or going totally AWOL with new ideas, is absolutely essential for my process (more on that in a future post).
  4. Additions, no matter how “free” they seem, will always require smoothing out. But if the addition is necessary, the smoothing out will be worth it.
  5. Rushing to complete a novel is bad. In an alternate reality, a variant of me wrapped up Memory two months ago and is probably now depressed because he realized he has to add an extra scene that’s going to require massive rewrites down the line. Seriously, I will never rush myself ever again.
  6. Although “rushing myself” means writing a novel in a month instead of a few months, so win-win.
  7. Likewise, the way I write my outlines, they basically are first drafts that I then nitpick to death when I write the actual first draft. The best way for me to think of my outlines is as actual “Alphas”–just the potential parts of a project, composed as a proof of concept to myself and a base to build off of–while the first draft would be a “Beta”–the functional but rough version of that project. Again, this is a good thing, because, as I’m just admitting to myself, I am a chronic “rewriter” (again, something I’ll talk about in a future post).
  8. It’s okay to take days off. In a perfect world, my process will always include full days off where I just do anything but think about my current WIP, and that’s not me being lazy–I get to have days off.
  9. I write dramatic scenes and dialogue to absolute silence or ambient sounds I find on YouTube. I write fight scenes to video game boss music that I am extremely picking about because I’m that much of a nerd.
  10. At the end of a writing project, I enter a weird state where I forget to eat. And when I do eat, I seriously eat whatever is the easiest possible thing for me to find and that’s it. Seriously, it has been days of either A) food ordered from outside, or, as I said earlier in the post, B) fruit. And, like, bread. Possibly a glass of milk. I keep thinking of it as “Blanka state,” because in Street Fighter Alpha 3, Blanka ate a lot of fruit for whatever reason, and, as previously stated, I’m a fucking nerd, so “Blanka state” is probably going to stick.

What Now?

I am taking exactly one week off.

To do whatever I want.

There won’t be a disruption in posting: after this, I’ll be posting next Sunday, the 3rd.

But between then and now? Probably Civ 6.

Definitely the rest of Star Wars: Visions.

Absolutely that bottle of wine I bought for this exact occasion.

Oh, and getting food. Seriously, I am so hungry right now that it’s insane.

~~~

Thank you for joining me on this long, perpetually bumpy road to finish this year’s work in progress. Of course, I have to edit Memory, and eventually put together a submission packet for it, but those are all a problem for Future Louis. Right now, I just want to say I appreciate everyone who’s been reading with me for the past three months, and I am excited to get back to weird content about my process. And hopefully, if my brain allows it, weird talk about stupid dreams I had.

My name is Louis Santiago, and if you want to join me and maybe hear about those stupid dreams, or want to keep track of what happens next with Memory, you can feel free to Follow me via the button on the left sidebar (on PC) or the top-right drop-down menu (on mobile).

Either way, take care, stay safe, and if you have sex in front of your parrots all the time, don’t fucking put them at your window. I mean, you would think that “don’t have sex in front of your parrots” would be common sense, or that–if it wasn’t–“don’t put them outside your window so they can mimic your sex noises to your entire goddamn neighborhood” would be a given. But apparently, my downstairs neighbors don’t get that, so, ya know, fyi.

Anyway, have a good weekend!