LotSF: Respect

PREVIOUS

I sprinted through the forest full-tilt, the anger and adrenaline coursing through my body pushing me past my pain. It was like my body was fading away with every step, the aches and wounds unravelling and leaving just my soul exposed. I hurdled fallen branches, pushed off of jutting rocks, wove between trees lightly and powerfully and nimbly. I felt faster than the river, lighter than the air. I didn’t just feel free, I felt capable.

Unstoppable, even.

The bearskins were faster, more desperate, more afraid, and they scrambled haphazardly through the trees towards some unknown destination. They plunged ahead, skidding and stumbling, but only ever went a few dozen metres before pausing to see if I was still following. Their pale, vile eyes flickered white in the failing light. They snapped and snarled at one another as they fought to get away but still I kept running.

I knew it was there, the fire between my fingers, the little black vortex churning ceaselessly within my chest. It was driving me on, pushing me through every twinge of pain or weak muscle. I wanted to rip into those bearskins, burn them alive for what they’d done, and the thought of finding their little hidey hole, where obviously there was something important to them, filled me with a dangerous hunger.

Steady, the wind seemed to croon as it twisted around my body. Steady.

I was more than this anger burning beneath my ribs. I was more than the blindness and the pain and the fear. I was more than loss and isolation and desperate risks. I was alive and powerful and I was not stopping for anything.

I leapt up on a rotting stump, planted my boot against its wood, pushed off and hit the ground running, kicking up leaf mulch and pebbles. My breath thundered in my ears. I wanted to go faster.

But rising above me was a steep ridge, lying across the forest floor like a bony spine beneath the grass and leaves. The bearskins’ claws raked deep gouges in the dirt as they frantically clambered up the incline and threw themselves over the other side.

I sped up, kicking hard as I fought gravity and my own heavy body. I grabbed shrubs, thick tufts of grass, anything within reach that could help pull me to the top. And there I stood at the crest of the forest’s backbone. My chest heaved. My legs shook. The aches and pains came coursing back.

I turned, looked behind me. Smoke curled up from the ground where liquid handfuls of flame had scorched the dead leaves. You could see the deep orange trail of smouldering forest tracing my steps hundreds of metres back into the darkness. That was me. That was me passing through the forest, as powerful and unstoppable as I was, and leaving my ugly black mark on it.

That damage was my fault.

My ribs shuddered as I fought to normalize my breathing and I slowly turned again, looking back ahead of me on the other side of the ridge.

There it was. Their hidey hole.

Bearskins swarmed like ants in the little hollow in the middle of the forest, their greasy pelts catching the moonlight, their pallid eyes reflecting white daggers in the darkness. They churned around their dingy camp, between piles of rotting meat and hoarded junk. The bearskins I’d been chasing flooded into the hollow, stirring the others to run faster and more erratically, until they were a chaotic, senseless mass.

I scanned the mass of seething bear pelts, searching for any tiny sign of anything that might be a clue. There was nothing. No sign of Faith, no sign of any gypsies, no sign of anything that meant anything to me. What had I expected anyways? That these brainless monsters would really be hiding anything important?

The swarming bearskins had started to slow, not quite as frenzied as they’d been when I first arrived, and I watched them with a curled lip. They were horrible creatures, monsters that preyed on emotional weakness, that inspired the same fear they thrived off of, and here they were in front of me. Afraid of me. So what did that say about me?

Maybe I belonged here.

I half slid, half clambered down the side of the ridge, tiptoeing around animal carcasses and rusted metal until I stood in the centre of their camp. They instinctively moved away from me, surrounding me in a circle that spun and bristled and pulsed constantly. The faint moonlight rode like a serpent on their backs. Their continuous motion was dizzying and infuriating and I wanted them to stop.

“Where are they?” I snarled at the beasts, and a low growl passed through the pack. A few of them swerved out of the circle to snap their jaws at me and a flicker of fear sparked in my chest. These monsters could kill me if they wanted to and it was their fear of a magic that wasn’t really mine–that I couldn’t really control–that kept me safe. If they decided they weren’t afraid of me anymore…?

The spark of fear flared hotter and now the bearskins were dodging in and out at me, snapping and snarling, made hungry by my worry but still cautious in the glow of the fire dripping from my fingers. The fear in my chest kicked harder, spiraling into something big and fierce, and my efforts to contain it only seemed to compress it into something sharper. The bearskins slowed, scraped their claws, turned inwards to glare at me. A few of them stepped towards me, threatening and huge.

The anger flared defensively, using the fear as ignition to make it burn hot and unwavering, and the bearskins leapt back from it. I sent them into a maddening dance, pulled like a magnet by their obsession with my fear, repulsed forcefully by the heat of my anger. They didn’t know how to respond, they didn’t know how to treat me, and we stood in a tense stalemate.

I swallowed tightly. Balancing the fear and anger like a pendulum where my heart should be, I took a step towards the bearskin directly in front of me. It immediately retreated, but I let out some of my fear, drawing it back, then held it there with a flash of anger. It felt scalding and nauseating in my throat, the potent emotional cocktail, but it held the bearskin transfixed as I took another step, and then another. I was standing a breath away, our eyes locked. My heart pounded, fury stretched taut across my shoulders, as the monster and I faced each other with ruthless respect.

It was a respect caked in dread and hostility, but it was respect.

My breath steamed hot and restless.

“Find them,” I snarled softly, baring my teeth in the darkness.

The bearskin growled lowly, pale eyes flickering, and then it took off into the night.

***

*collapses into an exhausted heap*

This was an effort to write. But it is done and hey, look, it’s the 15th. I’m sort of not really on schedule.

I have things I would like to do and a direction I would like to pursue and a whole lot of vague thoughts and aspirations but I have no promises for when any of that will happen. For now, I am tired.

Night.

LotSF: Chasing Fear

PREVIOUS CHAPTER

I tripped on a root, exhaustedly catching myself against a tree trunk and standing weak-kneed for a moment to try to catch my breath. I was becoming progressively clumsier as I went on, less and less steady on my feet, less and less able to keep myself going every time I tripped. My whole body felt like a throbbing bruise. Every muscle wanted me to lie down on the forest floor and give up.

And this felt so terribly hopeless.

Why was I out here, wandering the forest alone and injured?

How could I ever find my horse in hundreds of acres of trees, when I didn’t even really know if she was alive?

But I had nothing else. Nothing to lose. Nothing to do but keep moving, keep walking, keep trying to fix the mess I’d made. So I pushed myself away from the tree and focussed on putting one foot in front of the other.

Almost an hour after I’d started walking, as the sun sank lower and lower towards the horizon, I noticed them. Bearskins. Creeping silently between the trees on either side of me, easily keeping pace. Their hungry, greedy eyes were fixed on me, glowing yellow and amber in the dying light, and my hand reflexively dropped to my hip. My sword wasn’t there. I was weaponless, surrounded on every side by dozens of monsters that could easily tear me apart.

But they weren’t attacking. They kept me surrounded, they kept their eyes trained on me, but not a single one of them stepped towards me. If I stopped walking, they paced restlessly, antsy and jumpy and skittish. They were afraid of me. Afraid of my ugly, flaming magic, most likely. It made me feel astoundingly powerful, knowing they wouldn’t dare touch me, but being this close to something so brutally dangerous raised the hairs on my arms and neck. It was so incredibly eerie.

The sun sank lower, burning the sky red and gold, and still I hadn’t even come close to finding Faith. I was tiring myself out, disorienting myself in this massive forest, and keeping myself company with a pack of bearskins–company that made my stomach twist into all sorts of horrible knots. This didn’t feel like progress. It felt like it was making things worse and I was growing desperate.

But over the next little ridge, I found a river.

Judging from the size and speed of the river (plus a pretty desperately hopeful bias), I decided it was safe to assume this was the same river the gypsy camp was built alongside. That meant that if I followed it in the right direction, I would find the gypsies and possibly even Faith. Except that I couldn’t figure out which direction would take me to the camp. I knew vaguely the direction we’d ridden to fight the bearskins, but had that been up- or downriver? I couldn’t remember enough to give myself a clear answer. I couldn’t even use the position of the sun–I’d never thought to pay attention to its location when we marched out.

I was lost. Completely and utterly lost, with a 50/50 chance of becoming found.

I could walk forever, trying to find the camp, and as injured and fatigued as I was… what if I didn’t make it? What if the gypsies weren’t even there? What if the bearskins finally realized I was too weak to hurt them and attacked me?

Feeling helpless and powerless and so horribly lost, I waded into the cold water. I walked past my thighs, up to my hips, water flowing under my dusty, ashy armour, before falling to my knees and letting the river rush over my shoulders and chest. My blood mingled with the water where it flowed past my damaged shoulder and I wished it would wash the rest of me away, carrying me along the river’s course, dumping my ashes into the lake where they would settle to the bottom.

I felt the water drag at my body, urging me to join it, to give up my pointless quest, to just admit that I’d failed and run away from all my problems. Its weight was so tempting, so soothing, and I wanted to follow wherever it might take me.

This was so, so hopeless.

But it was my fault.

did this to Nolan. did this to Faith. did this to myself.

So was going to fix it, damn it.

I felt it again, the little stirring anger in my chest, that ugly black hole where my magic used to be. It burned like a coal within my ribs, urging me up onto my feet, pushing me out of the river. I was angry. At myself, at the bearskins, at the woman who’d kidnapped Nolan, and that anger drove me on, drove me up, drove me onto the riverbank. I staggered, lungs heaving, feeling an electric energy build inside me that I could neither stop nor control, and I felt heat brush against the insides of my palms. I looked down at my hands, remembered the flames.

Small, lazy yellow tongues of fire dripped down my fingers.

The bearskins stirred anxiously in the shadows of the trees. I turned towards them, raised my hands. They pressed back, away, clamouring over one another to try to escape me. They were terrified of the magic.

The anger kicked up in my chest. I wanted to summon massive torrents of flame, I wanted to hurl them at the beasts and punish them for what they’d done to me. But I bit back, reined in the fury, held white-knuckled onto the fire in my hands. I would not let this anger overcome me. I would not let it consume me.

Because while the bearskins were doing everything they could to escape me, they weren’t fleeing randomly into the forest. They were gathering at a specific point, some of them darting off into the darkness but all of them following the same path. I walked towards them and they funnelled along that path, never straying, never breaking away.

There was something there. Something they felt they could run to. Something that made them feel safe.

Maybe it was the woman who’d stolen Nolan. Maybe it was something else.

But it was better than wandering alone in the dark.

The anger, the determination, lifted me above the pain and fatigue.

Fire clutched tightly in my hands, I took off after the fleeing bearskins at a run.

***

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

I did it. I actually wrote a LotSF chapter.

It’s horribly late (it’s currently 1:23am, whoops) but it’s done. It’s here. I did it!

It feels good. It feels really good. I am proud of myself. And I am so much happier with the way this chapter went than the way it was going before.

Again again, thank you everyone for being patient and all of that, I hope this was worth the wait.

For those who are possibly new to the whole thing, welcome welcome. I hope you enjoy.

And I hope everyone is having a good weekend thus far. I will see you all sometime tomorrow (or later today, since it’s already Sunday) for my regular posting schedule.

Good night!

-Alex

 

 

Some Preparatory Words

Here we are, March 31st (shhh, please just pretend), the day before I finally begin to update LotSF again.

Or so you thought! Haha, April Fools’! I’ve actually given up on the story and am throwing it in the garbage. Goodbye. Adios. Rest in pieces! *jazz hands and glitter*

Okay, no, obviously I’ve not given up on the story, but with the amount of effort it’s taken to figure out what to do with it, I kind of do want to take this big old mess and toss it in the trash. Siiigh.

You’ll notice it’s a really weird day for me to be posting (Friday vs. Wednesday), and that’s because I wanted to say a few things before the next chapter of the story goes live tomorrow. First off, if for some reason you’re new to Language of the Small Folk, here is a great place to start (the links to the story are all on that page). Second, I’ve decided to make some changes to the story that I honestly didn’t think I was going to make.

I noticed as I was rereading the story (yes, I reread things I wrote FOUR YEARS ago, oh the pain) that after the second chapter of Winter, there is a huge change in tone. It’s like, we go from the struggle of not giving up in Getting Up, and then in Guidance suddenly I’m writing about this random forest lady who gives me a gift of warm light and huh? Then the next two chapters are just… off. They’re very off. I think maybe it was the result of me not writing as consistently as I did in the beginning of this project but wow it’s really hard to read.

It’s just not right. Which is also maybe why I had such a hard time continuing the story. It somehow meandered off into some weird part of the forest that it was never really supposed to go.

I hummed and hawed about it, because the point of this story was to just go where it took me, and it was important that each chapter just be allowed to exist as an intuitive expression of my heart and soul and blah blah, so it felt… wrong, in a way, to consider going back and changing those last three chapters. But I really don’t like them. I hate them. And they make this awful, awkward lull in the story that would be really disconcerting to anyone reading the story for the first time.

So I have indeed decided that I am going to remove the 3rd, 4th, and 5th chapters of Winter from the LotSF timeline.

The chapters will stay up on the blog in their original format, and I’ve changed it on the About LotSF page so that it’s clear they’re not a part of the story anymore, but for the intent and purpose of the story you can pretend they don’t exist. Erase them from your memory, banish them from the realm, forbid them from ever stepping foot in this place again. Or y’know. Something less dramatic.

Because of this, I am picking up immediately where I left off in the second chapter of Winter, Getting Up, and will hopefully be able to better match the tone and content that suits the story. I feel that this “fresh start” will allow me to write the story better and bring me closer to the ending I’ve imagined.

As always, thank you guys for being patient with me as I go about mucking the story up and changing my mind every time I turn around. It’s a bit chaotic but that’s what makes it more fun, right?

Lastly, as we gear up for the release of the next chapter, here is a lovely little summary of the story thus far, in case you understandably don’t want to read through a story that’s four whole years old (just think of the sacrifice I made for you).


After winter leaves her deaf and blind to the Small Folk, Alex is determined to find the root of the problem so she can get her magic back. With Nolan’s help, she sets off to meet the gypsy tribe, intending to help them with a simple emergency and potentially trigger her lost magic.

The feathered Small Folk are wounded and desperate; the threat plaguing them is worse than it first seemed. A pack of bearskins are on the hunt–vicious, violent creatures that feed off of fear and emotional distress. Simultaneously confronted with the devastating discovery that the barrier blocking her magic is psychological, Alex is not prepared for the battle ahead of her.

The gypsies fight as bravely as they can but the odds are not in their favour. The gypsies begin to fade, Nolan’s life is put in danger by a bearskin unlike the others, and Alex’s anger surges as the battle gets out of her control. Finally, in a burst of flame and fury, the blackness crowding her heart flares and leaves her cold, injured, and alone. The bearskins have been beaten back, but Nolan is nowhere to be found.

Stumbling through the forest, Alex is now left to figure out on her own how she can save her best friend and find Faith in the bearskin-infested woods…


Again, if you would like to read the first part of the story, the PDF is here, or all chapters are here.

That’s all for now. I will see everyone tomorrow for the oh-so-(probably not)-anticipated release of the next chapter.

All the best.

-Alex

A Foreign Language

There is one thing that is more neglected than my poor blog, and that of course is Language of the Small Folk.

I remember exactly where I left off. I remember it so well because I probably tried finishing that chapter a dozen times without success.

I had been writing every LotSF post on the spot, usually the same day it was published. It worked pretty well for me; I’d get into the heat of the moment, really feel the emotion of the particular chapter, and just let the story take me wherever it flowed. But for that last chapter I was working on, it really didn’t work.

I think I may have perhaps written myself into a corner.

Oops.

I mean, I know where I planned to go with it, I know how I wanted it to lead into the rest of the story, so it’s not like I couldn’t work with it. I just… lost a bit of the passion, I think, when I started into that scene, and it made it really hard to write it.

So what on earth am I going to do.

Since I’ve been blogging more, I’ve been enjoying the rigors of a schedule to give me a deadline and keep me motivated. I’ve been considering doing the same thing with LotSF–perhaps I will be more reliable and more motivated if I actually have set dates in which each chapter is due.

My idea is to post two chapters a month: one on the 1st, one on the 15th. If those days fall on a Wednesday or Sunday (a regular posting day), I’ll publish the regular post either on the day before or the day after, to keep things a little more spread out.

I mean, once upon a time I would post at least one LotSF post a week (and for a while it was every other day, believe it or not), so this leaves a lot more wiggle room than there used to be. But I think every 2 weeks isn’t so bad, and it will give me plenty of time to work on chapters in between deadlines.

I plan to resume the story with the new posting schedule starting on April 1st (April Fools’, I know, sorry). So hopefully that gives you guys plenty of time to reacquaint with the story and gives me time to get everything ready.

Now of course, I have a feeling it’s been so long since the last update that most of the people who were reading it don’t remember so well what happened last. My own memory is pretty foggy, and I’m the one who wrote the darn thing. So when I do post the next chapter up on April 1st, I’ll be sure to include a brief summary of the story so far, just to get everyone up to speed (and remind myself where exactly I was going with this).

But in the meantime, for those of you who might be new, or maybe just want to read the chapters again (which would be insanely flattering), I’ve compiled the whole first part of the story (named Spring) into a PDF that you can read or download here. Plus, the links for all the chapters for both parts (Spring and Winter) can be found on the main About page for LotSF here.

Thank you for your patience and huge thanks to those who have read every chapter. It means the world to me that you guys enjoy the things I put so much passion into (even if that passion seems to come in fits and bursts).

All the best.

-Alex

POTS and Plots

A friend pointed out to me recently that it’s been quite a while since I last mentioned anything about POTS (y’know, that huge novel I was in the process of editing…), which is a fair observation, because I really haven’t said much about POTS lately. Nor have I really been working on it either…

Sigh. I mean, on the bright side, I have been working a little bit on other stories, mostly short stories or short series, so it’s not like I’ve not been writing anything. I just haven’t been writing the one thing I should be writing.

Ohhhh POTS. What am I to do with you?

I think last time I talked about it I’d just “finished” the third draft, or something like that? I can’t even remember anymore. But I realized when I finished that draft and considered moving on to the next one that I was feeling really discouraged by the whole thing.

It feels like, with that draft, I didn’t do very much to improve the story. It feels like, if anything, I might have strayed farther from what I want it to be.

Which is unbelievably frustrating, but not very surprising, given my track record.

I mean, when I first started editing POTS, I had no clue what I was doing. I naively thought that I would be able to just edit as I went through–that most of my problems, I suppose, would just be scenes that needed tweaking or holes that needed a little bit of filling. But that very quickly proved to be mind-numbingly asinine, because trying to fix the beginning of the novel without addressing the issues at the end of the novel really really reaaaaaally does not work.

But I still didn’t really know how to do that, how to rework the entire plot and keep the big picture in mind while also going scene-by-scene to put things in order. So I just kinda winged it as I went along, hoping I was getting closer to the story I wanted while also kind of realizing I was not doing that.

I have realized through a few NaNoWriMos that I tend to have the brain of a pantser (making up the story by the seat of my pants) but I write a much better story if I approach it like a planner. When I’m actually writing the story, I tend to just get into a flow and go with whatever’s coming to mind, which often results in me writing myself into a wall or writing in scenes that are terrible and completely sidetrack the plot (straight off the road and right into the ditch, woo). Things that seem like a great idea while I’m writing them out are often not as good of an idea when I’m reading them back later. If I plan the story before I start writing though, I tend to have much less of this sidetracking and come out with a much more reasonable story.

So clearly that’s the best thing for me to do, to look at the story as a whole and plan out what I need it to be, what needs to happen, and what I need to change. But it’s been terribly difficult for me to do that, and I’m trying to figure out what exactly is going wrong.

I mean, I know roughly what’s going to happen. Bad thing happens > protagonist is taken to other world > joins group of weary adventurers > travels point A to point B to point C > gets in a fight at point 1 and point 2 and point 3 > reaches the final destination > last big battle of the novel. It’s quite simple, really, like most adventuring stories are, and that of course isn’t the problem. It’s all the Whys and Hows that are the problem.

Why does she get sent to the other world? Why does the bad guy want to do bad things? Why do they need to go to their destination? How is the bad guy going to achieve his evil goals? How is everyone going to get from point A to point C? How is the final battle going to play out?

Why is the protagonist here? How is she going to react to all of this?

And it’s the technical parts where I’m really struggling. I can’t make my plot work, I can’t even figure out what I want my plot to be, and it pretty much feels like a big old soggy mess that I can’t for the life of me sift through.

Sooooo naturally, I’ve been avoiding it.

Which isn’t a permanent solution, I know, but it’s been admittedly nice to write short stories that aren’t as confusing and technical.

But of course, POTS is still my baby, and recently I’ve really missed writing it, so I’ve been trying to figure out how to approach it, to actually make it into the story I believe it can be.

And honestly? I’ve been allowing myself to question everything.

I mean everything.

If you think about it, I’ve been working on POTS for about 6 years now. Some of those years took place in high school, some of them took place in university–arguably a very big transitioning point in one’s life. And if you look back to the very original version of POTS, it’s actually a story I wrote when I was in seventh grade, which was about 8 years ago. Clearly, the story has followed me through some pretty big milestones in my life.

It’s only natural, therefore, that my writing style and ability would have changed in the time since POTS was first created. My ability to write, my ability to craft stories and develop meaningful characters, is a hell of a lot better now than it was back then. And who I am as a person, the things I think are important and the things I’ve learned about the world? Astoundingly different from when I started.

On one hand, it’s really cool to look at this story and see elements of my younger vision mixed with elements of my more mature insight. It’s like a scrapbook showcasing my development as both person and writer, and I think it’s what makes POTS such a special story to me.

On the other hand, it’s pretty clear that the story I wrote 6 years ago isn’t quite going to match up with the story I want to write now. I can see now where I’ve made mistakes, where I’ve lacked depth, where I’ve fallen short of the full potential in a scene or character. I can see now where things can be improved, and I can see new ways of bringing life and spirit to the story.

Which is actually quite possibly where I’m tripping myself up.

I’m trying to weave these two very distinct stories together, the young one and the more mature one, and I’m finding that the original plot that I had just doesn’t really work with my current goals. The message I wanted to convey with the story when I first started writing it was much simpler than the one I want to convey now, and I really can’t convey it well if I’m trying to use the same plot I started out with.

Basically: the reason I’m struggling to figure out the plot is because it’s just not working anymore.

I mean, I don’t think I have to throw the whole thing away, but I think I really need to take it in a new direction. And I think the best way to approach the story is to start from the ground up.

Which is what I’ve been trying to do. I’ve been re-establishing my characters (who are they, what do they want), re-designing my world (what’s the current state of affairs, what’s the biggest challenge), and I’ve been re-working my plot (what kind of story do I want to tell, what’s going to happen to get my message across).

It feels nice, in a way, to be able to look at everything again, to give myself this metaphorical Play Dough that I have the freedom to shape into whatever I’d like. What if this character wanted something different? What if the bad guy actually did this instead? What if the protagonist made this decision here and changed the outcome?

It’s made it easier for me to work on POTS because I don’t have all this pressure to make it better, to make things work. I can just play around with things, scrap things or add them in, and I don’t have to worry if it’s an improvement of what came before it–all that matters is that I’m creating something that feels true, that feels important, and feels reflective of what I wanted when I first started writing this story 6 years ago.

It feels an awful lot like creative freedom, and I’m loving it.

I’m hoping that this story that’s grown up with me over the years will blossom into something beautiful.

And heck, I’m hoping I’ll do the same.

-Alex

Mundane; Magnificent

I’ve always gone on about how life is the greatest adventure, but sometimes it feels like life is actually just a crummy, mediocre version of a really boring, really difficult adventure.

I mean, come on. Filling out tax forms, paying bills, buying groceries, getting the flu shot–none of those things are particularly fun or exciting or daring like adventures are supposed to be. You could probably argue that you could turn those things into an adventure if you had the right mindset, but the reality remains that they’re pretty mundane things to do.

Of course though, adventures aren’t 100% danger and excitement and thrill. Adventurers still have to do things like cook food and buy supplies and pay for places to sleep and walk on a path for gods-know-how-many hours a day if they’re trying to travel somewhere. And if the adventure is set in the real world, it makes it even more likely that the adventurers will have to do some of the mundane things required to stay alive and get a good (or at least decent) sleep at night. Adventures do have their dull moments, we just tend to write those out of the story.

But really, you could argue that adventures are just mimicking real life, except that they’ve been glorified to exhibit all the fun, dangerous bits and modified to leave out most of the boring ones.

In a way, that can make it pretty difficult to relate to adventures, when we feel like our lives aren’t very similar.

Which is something I feel a lot in my own life, and in my writing too. I mean, I’d love if my life was more exciting, made of more than just work and school and sleeping and writing, and I could go travelling and exploring and learning and all the exciting things that adventurers get to do. But at the same time, in POTS (the story I am presently writing) I find I have almost the opposite problem. My protagonist (who’s from this world) is off doing all these crazy exciting things and I’m trying to find a way to keep her human, keep her relatable. After all, she’s modelled after a teenager from our world, so I want her to really feel like a teenager, and not some distant action hero. So I almost have to pay more attention to the mundane bits of the adventure, whereas in my own life I’m trying to pay more attention to the exciting ones.

It’s quite a situation.

But I think it kind of emphasizes what exactly we find appealing about adventures. We like the danger, the excitement, the exploring and exploits. But we’re looking for the relatability, the parts that let us see ourselves in those same adventures, no matter how fantastic and out of this world they might be.

And that’s why the characters are so important, you know? We need a character that has the same fears and doubts that we do, the same morals, the same view of the world. We need a character that is going to react to an extreme situation in a way that we can understand and sympathize with. When the adventurer finally becomes the hero and does something big and brave, we still need to feel like, if we were in their shoes, we could have reached the same state of courage.

So I think it’s kind of cool to put characters through mundane situations, to see how they would act and behave. It’s like… this character can take down dragons and supervillains, but could they handle taxes? Would they know how to pick a ripe avocado at the supermarket? Can they cook a fancy quiche when they’re more used to kicking butt?

Which is probably why coffee shops and dinner dates are common scenes for fanfiction. We just love seeing our heroes act human.

I’m thinking I may have lost my original point through the course of this post, but ultimately I think that adventures aren’t that different from our everyday lives. They still have mundane, human moments amidst all the chaos and thrill. They just happen to have a lot more chaos and thrill than the typical life of a layman.

And like I said, with the right mindset, you could make just about anything into an adventure.

What was the last adventure you had?

May all your adventures have a touch of humanity in their magnificence.

-Alex

Camp NaNo: Reaver

Hey, it’s been a while! I’m probably going to apologize for my absence every time this happens because I don’t want to be away but darn life gets in the way. So apologies. I realize my blog has been real quiet lately >:I

But it’s the 3rd of August, if you can believe it, and that means that July’s Camp NaNoWriMo is officially over!

For those who don’t know, Camp NaNoWriMo is like regular NaNoWriMo, where you try to write a novel in a month, except that Camp NaNo has no rules. You can pick your word goal and you can write whatever you please. It’s just a fun summer thing to do to get you writing words with other geeky writers around the world.

As I mentioned briefly in my last post, I attempted Camp NaNo again this year. But instead of doing short stories like I tried last April, I aimed for an actual novel this time. I’d recently gotten a story idea that I was really excited about and I figured it would be a perfect summer project. I knew it was going to be a biggie so I set my goal at 60k and thought it would be a great month.

The beginning, unfortunately, was pretty rough, but I mean, that was to be expected. After all, July 1st is Canada Day and I had plans with friends. But I thought it would only set me back a little bit, no big deal, I’d catch up in no time.

Hahaha. Haha. Ha.

campnanoreaver1

As you can see, by day 23 I was just a liiiiittle bit behind. Just a little bit. And realizing that it was going to be very hard for me to reach 60k at that point when I wasn’t even at 15k, I changed my wordcount goal to 40k. Much more manageable, yes.

But on day 26, I had 16 022 words. I had 23 978 words left to write. And only 5 days left.

There was panic, yes. There was a very strong desire to give up and throw in the towel. But during the #NaNoInspired event on July 16th, a day of fundraising and inspiration-sharing to boost wordcounts, the NaNoWriMo Twitter account actually retweeted something I had said:

“But all this community geekery is encouraging me to keep going. I’ve chosen to write this novel, so I’d better keep at it.”

So when I was thinking of giving up, I remembered how I had been retweeted. People had seen my words of determination. They’d seen my commitment to continue writing my novel. I was now accountable.

Damn it, I thought. Well now I have to finish my novel.

Oh yes, I did it.

I wrote 24000 words in 5 days.

I don’t know how.

But I did it.

camp graph camp win

It felt so good though. I mean, after I went straight to bed and slept forever and spent some time relaxing and not churning out words–it felt really good to have the win.

Sooo enough with the numbers, here’s what the story (called Reaver) is actually about:

With civil war brewing and racial tensions running high, it never occurred to Alekess that her actions would cause any political stir. It never occurred to her that she would inspire a movement, that her name would become synonymous with hope, or that she would lose so much.

She became Reaver. She became a leader and a figurehead. A reason to fight and a reason to seek peace. And as her name was growing, becoming a blazing torch against the consuming hatred, she was struggling with herself and everything she stood for. Just as she thought she was finding herself, she realized she was losing everything she’d ever loved. She was losing herself.

Reaver is the name of a dauntless hope. But it is also the name of a terrible fear.

A fear that may yet consume her.

I don’t even know if I’m happy with that synopsis because all the times I try to explain the story to someone, I don’t know what to say. It’s one of those stories where… nothing happens. I mean, yes, stuff happens and it’s very important and it changes the world but… it’s not really anything that feels like a plot. The plot is more in the characters’ lives. And that’s a lot harder to explain in a synopsis.

Only three of the really important characters have been introduced so far, and of course they’ve decided to go against what I originally planned for them and just create their own personalities as they go along. Sigh. Oh well. Such is writing.

I’m going to have to finish the story at a later date (the 2nd draft of that dreaded manuscript I always go on about still isn’t done… *shudder*), but it was a lot of fun to write. The odd thing is, though, that there’s not really a moment in Reaver that stands out to me. Usually after writing for a month I would have some scene or another that felt important and significant.

I suppose one thing that has been important and pleasantly challenging to write is all the non-verbal communication between characters. Body language–or lack thereof–is incredibly important in this story and tells a lot about the characters and their world. And one scene that was fun to write because of this is the following:

Kneeling a few feet away from her, respectfully keeping his distance even as he tried to be close enough to reassure her, he asked, “What happened?”

She stared at him, her distress and her ebbing hostility pulsing in her eyes with a rhythm like a heartbeat. That gaze held him, communicated with him in a way that body language or words never could, and though he barely understood it, he felt it. And as he watched the distress take hold of that vibrant space, she quietly began to cry.

It’s interesting to write a scene like that, one frozen moment where they both seem to understand each other, because all their interactions up to that point have been so different. Her magic has to do with feeling the world, sensing it deeply. His magic has to do with seeing the world, understanding it logically. So them having a space where neither sight nor sense is necessary is pretty cool, as far as their development is concerned.

Anyways, I’m sure I’ve rambled on about it for long enough. Apologies, again, for the silence. There are things I want to write, just not enough time to write them. Ugh. Oh well. I shall keep trying.

What has been your best summer achievement thus far?

May you never give up.

Alex

Race or Ruin

Every once in a while, I stumble across some article I never meant to read, and it gets me thinking in unexpected ways.

The other day, the article that sparked my brainstorm happened to be this one. It was about why animals can’t have schizophrenia, even though they can have other mental illnesses such as OCD and anxiety. The article discussed how schizophrenia, and humans’ susceptibility to it, likely has to do with evolution. As humans got smarter and our brains and genomes became more complex, there was more room for error and mutation. Thus, schizophrenia arose.

I started wondering about why we’re so darn intelligent as a species. There’s a lot of argument out there that we’re not the most intelligent species in terms of sheer brainpower and cognition (which I could definitely agree with), but there’s no denying that the society we’ve created far surpasses anything seen in the natural world. With our cities and electricity and medicine and technology, we’ve done some pretty mind-blowing things. Things that animals wouldn’t even imagine doing.

A lot of humanity’s intelligence is of course due to our evolution. I never really learned about evolution until last year in university, and we mostly talked about animals rather than humans. We talked about how natural selection picked out the most useful traits in the species, developing the instincts and behaviours of the populations to increase their chances of survival. It’s simple enough when you’re talking about Darwin’s finches, but it becomes a heck of a lot more complicated when you’re trying to understand human evolution.

Darwin’s Finches

What process of natural selection determined that we’d build concrete and steel buildings? What form of evolution led us to the creation of machines and technology? It’s wild, to see how we’ve come down this insanely advanced path while the rest of the animal kingdom has followed a much humbler course. Why us? Why humans? Why so far?

Big questions, I know. Certainly not anything we mere mortals can answer. But it’s fascinating to think about such things, and intriguing to imagine what it would be like if we weren’t the only ones.

What if there was another species that could build cities and computers? What if there was another species that could speak a bunch of different languages? What if there was another species that had the same profound thought patterns as us and could do math and science and art?

Well, if you’ve ever read a sci-fi or fantasy novel, this concept probably isn’t that new to you.

Because when it comes to those kinds of stories, “race” is rarely a matter of skin tone. More often, race determines whether you have fur or scales, a tail or wings, or even what planet you were born on. It determines if you’re human or elven or dwarven or draconian. And while each of those races may be fundamentally unique, they all share one common trait: they’re the most intelligent and advanced species on whatever world they live in.

You barely have to think about it to be able to name a hundred examples. Video games make good use of this, often allowing players to choose between a wide variety of races:

Guild Wars 2 race selection

Elder Scrolls Online race selection

Tera race selection

Then there are the legendary worlds, the kingdoms that rule the fantasy/scifi genres. I’m talking about Tolkien, Lewis, and Lucas here:

Middle-earth

Chronicles of Narnia

Star Wars

And not to mention all of the mythology and real-world legends where many of these races were born or inspired. It seems humanity has long been intrigued by the concept of other species being as smart and advanced as we are. Why is that, do you think? I wonder if it’s because it’s so hard to believe we’re the only species that has the potential to evolve in such a way. Or just the excitement of having competition in this universe that is advanced enough to give us a challenge, but not human enough to feel like we’re fighting ourselves.

Or perhaps do we believe, deep inside, that this earth should not belong to us alone? Why would we be the only ones to develop so enormously? Why wouldn’t animals also have their cities and civilisations? Why wouldn’t they have their own nuanced languages and cultures, similar to our own? Why should humans be the only ones when the world is so big and incredible?

Or do animals already have all of these things, but in a way that humans simply can’t perceive? It’s food for thought, in any case.

I think it would be interesting to see what the world would be like if we weren’t the only race upon it. Would we learn better tolerance, seeing as how we wouldn’t be the dominant species anymore? Or would the racism that already exists today be a thousand times worse?

I want to leave you with this clip of a speech given by the wonderful Bill Nye the Science Guy, science hero of my elementary school days. It’s a beautiful point he brings up and just another reason why I love science. If you start at 13.55 and listen for a couple minutes, that’s the part I really want you to hear.

“There really is no such thing, scientifically, as race.”

Like I said, food for thought. And definitely something that the world as a whole would do well to think of more often.

What do you think? Why would humans be so evolved? What would happen if there were other “true” races?

May you always remember that we are much more alike than different.

-Alex

LotSF: Snow

 

IMG_2868

Author’s Note: as of April 1st, 2017, this chapter has been removed from the LotSF timeline.


PREVIOUS CHAPTER

ARCHIVES

If asked, I couldn’t explain exactly what it was that made it feel like the ladder was calling me. I would’ve guessed it was curiosity that encouraged me to reach out and touch the lowest plank, as if I intended to climb it, but it felt like there was something more. I wasn’t the one who’d made the ladder but I wondered if I’d ever climbed this tree. It certainly didn’t look familiar. I couldn’t bring up any memory of this tree in particular, no matter how hard I thought about it, so if I hadn’t climbed it, then why did it feel so important to me?

I ran my thumb along the rough, weathered wood musingly, trying to put a finger on why this tree was special. Was it intuition, or was I just missing something? Did the forest woman have something to do with it? Was this the moment that I was supposed to trust myself? And was I supposed to climb it?

I looked up the tree trunk dubiously. The ladder would make the climbing easier, but it was an awfully old ladder. Some of the planks were split and most of the nails were rust-ridden–if they weren’t missing entirely–and the ladder only went up so far. At a certain point, I’d have to climb onto one of the branches and then I’d be on my own. I’d gotten a lot of practice tree-climbing when I was younger but I hadn’t done so in several years. Too many years. The last thing I needed after everything that had happened was to fall out of this massive tree and break my neck.

But the tugging. This tree, this ladder–they were pulling at my soul, yanking on my bones, driving me forwards until the urge to climb the ladder was almost too much to bear. I put one foot up on the first plank, contemplating the wisdom of going ahead with this. My body was still aching, my shoulder complaining loudly behind my curiosity and my hips and thighs knotted with a quieter pain. Could I even physically get myself up the tree? If my shoulder or legs gave out… I backed away from the tree, firmly decisive. I couldn’t do this. It was insane. I would just get more hurt. And there was no reason for me to climb this tree. I needed to find Faith. Unless she was waiting at the top, perched on one of the branches, climbing the tree wasn’t going to help me. I had to move on. But my feet felt rooted to the spot.

She told you to trust yourself.

I can’t trust myself if I’m dead.

Why are you so afraid? You can fight bearskins but not climb a tree?

I’m not afraid of the tree. But my fight with the bearskins is the very reason why I can’t climb the tree. I’m injured.

You’re strong.

I’m injured. My shoulder is torn up. I can’t climb a tree.

You know you can.

Yeah, well, I know I shouldn’t.

you could.

I’ll regret it.

Maybe. Maybe not.

I ground my teeth and shook my head, turning away from the tree. I didn’t need this indecision. I didn’t need this crossroad. How could I even think about climbing it? My body was too battered. And it had honestly been years since I’d even attempted to climb a tree. I could just imagine the struggle I’d have to go through to haul my butt up there. And not to mention getting down at the end. That would be a disaster.

But…

…it would be kind of fun.

Nooo, it wouldn’t be fun. I shook my head again, scornfully. What part of hurting myself would be fun? Absolutely none of it. But being up in a tree again, high above the ground, pretending I was a bird, one with the wind… that was the part that would be fun. That was the part that my landlocked heart longed for.

I turned back towards the tree, taking a hesitant step. I could at least try… I touched one of the planks, giving it a little tug to see if it would support my weight. It seemed sturdy enough… and my left hip seemed to hurt less than my right, so I could use that leg to pull myself up…

I was so tempted. But my shoulder. It was hurting even more now, as if reminding me how bad an idea this was. I sighed and let go of the plank. There was no way. It was an entertaining idea, and on any other day I wouldn’t have hesitated, but it just wasn’t going to happen. Not today.

Making up my mind once and for all, I turned sharply away, picked up my boots, and started walking in the opposite direction. I cast a yearning look over my shoulder, just one last glimpse of that enticing tree, and as I turned my eyes back to the forest, I caught a flash of white along the edges of my vision. I followed the movement, pausing uncertainly, and saw it again–a dash of white darting between the trees, caught for a second in the moonlight. I watched it with narrowed eyes. What was that? I couldn’t think of anything white that would be running around in this forest, but I supposed that–

–the white flash stopped, frozen in place for just a heartbeat, and my breath caught in my throat.

It turned dark eyes towards me. We stared at one another. It took just a fraction of a second, barely enough time to think, and then the connection was broken as it leapt and sprinted away.

But the image was seared into my mind.

It was a unicorn.

It was Snow.

***

Whaaaaat?! LotSF so soon?! I know, I know, it’s exciting that you don’t have to wait two months for a new chapter. Please, try to contain yourselves.

In all seriousness, though, I actually couldn’t wait to write this one. For a while there, as I was writing the earlier parts of this story, I had veered away from my original vision and inspiration, and I think that may have been a factor to why it was so difficult for me to update frequently. But now I’m getting back to the raw spirit of the story and it’s exciting! Thus the early update, hooray!

And a unicorn too! I have always always always loved unicorns. Still do. But I’ve never really had the opportunity to write about them. (Well, there was this one story I attempted when I was younger, but that was a flop. I’ve never had the opportunity to write dedicatedly about them, we’ll put it that way.) So this is an exciting experience. We shall see where it takes us, yes?

For now, I am going to have to take myself to bed. Toooo tired. I hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend. Have any exciting plans?

Good night, friends.

-Alex

LotSF: Childhood Calling

20150503_200906 (2)

Author’s Note: as of April 1st, 2017, this chapter has been removed from the LotSF timeline.


PREVIOUS CHAPTER

ARCHIVES

A sharp twig dug into my heel and I cringed, sidestepping off it quickly before I put my full weight on that foot. I stopped and rubbed my heel unhappily, glad it was my right foot this time and not my left. I’d already made the mistake of stepping on a rough patch of lichen that had pretty well chewed up the sole of my left foot. This early in the spring season, I hadn’t quite built up the leathery toughness I was used to on my feet.

I sighed. But it was nighttime, and I wasn’t supposed to walk with boots in the forest once the sun went down. That was what I’d learned back when I was a kid–you wear boots at night, you get bad luck. And at this point, I needed all the good luck I could get.

Ugh, but what a pain. I’d forgotten how many pointy things there were hiding on the forest floor, under the leaf cover. Twigs, lichen, stones, pinecones–sometimes bones, even. Lots to get hurt on.

“How did I do this as a kid?” I muttered under my breath, pushing a branch aside so I could keep following the path. Seriously, though–how had I managed to survive romping through the forest barefoot and armourless as a kid? How had I not gotten scratched to pieces, or broken any bones falling out of trees? I mean, I had a few scars from scraped knees and cut palms throughout the years, but I couldn’t remember complaining about sore feet back then. And I used to go wild, running and jumping and crawling all over the place.

A wave of nostalgia rolled over me, thick and irresistible, and I felt a twinge of longing for my younger years. The days when I could just climb up any tree, quick as a squirrel, and survey the forest like it was my kingdom. The days when I could fit in those little nest-like nooks that formed at the bases of the trees, where the roots curled and twisted over each other. The days when I didn’t run out of energy and I never felt so angry as I did nowadays.

Heck–I missed the days when I could understand the Small Folk. When I could see them.

It had been so long since I’d  been a part of that world. This winter had been so long and brutal… almost six months of darkness and deafness. Six months without seeing a gypsy sprite, or a trick-it, or a turn-up. Six months feeling like my tongue had forgotten how to speak because I couldn’t remember the language of magic that had brought me such joy.

The Small Folk magic had been a gift. I was blessed at birth with the ability to hear and see their world, to speak their language. I had grown up with it, learned from it, let it shape my life. And now I had lost it. I’d lost it because… of myself? Because of some psychological block in my mind that was preventing me from tapping into it?

The problem was I didn’t know how to get past that. I didn’t know what part of my mind was cutting me off from my magic and it was driving me insane. Long gone were the days of my childhood when I could believe in anything without thinking twice–when belief was a matter of the heart, and not the mind. I didn’t know how to tap into that youthful state of being. I didn’t know how to go back to the old me, the me that could use magic.

And now what was I doing? Wandering a dark forest with the owls and the fireflies, still looking for my horse even though I had no clue where she was. That strange forest women had told me to trust myself and that I would find my heart again, but what was that supposed to mean? Probably something that I wouldn’t be–

I stopped. Blinking and turning in a half-circle, I looked around me. Something about this particular place felt familiar, though I knew I hadn’t been here in a very long time. I searched my memory, searching for an experience that just barely escaped my grasp, and failed to remember why this place was significant to me. But it was, there was no denying that.

I kept walking, slower now, my eyes searching the darkness for any landmark that would remind me what this place was. I couldn’t for the life of me figure it out, but as I came over the crest of a small ridge, I saw something that caught my attention.

A tall, fat, gnarled old tree stood proudly just beyond the ridge. I didn’t recognize the tree exactly, I couldn’t even begin to recall its name or its history, but I knew at once that it was special. Because crawling up its sides, fastened on with rusty nails, was a ladder made of weathered planks. A ladder made by a child.

And it was calling to me.

***

I just got back from camping with my parents for the weekend, so of course I had to write some LotSF.

It was so good, to get into the forest for a little bit–especially since spring is in full swing over here. I actually went for a couple walks in the forest near my house (the one that inspired me at the beginning of LotSF) which was a bit of a nostalgic trip. I can’t believe I started writing this two years ago. Crazy.

Also, some LotSF news for you: I’ve created a Google Doc of part 1, Spring. It’s the same story, with all the pictures included and everything, but it’s put all together in order so that it will hopefully be easier to read for newcomers or for anyone who wants to read it again. It’s a work in progress right now, but I’ll link to it when I have it closer to being done (it’s taking foreveeeeer). I’m thinking of posting it elsewhere too, like maybe Wattpad, for those who don’t like Google Docs all that much (*coughcough*me*coughcough*). But yes, this is the news. You’ll be able to find the link here or on the LotSF about page.

Oh! Whoever’s been reading through all the LotSF chapters these past few days (yes, I can see you in my stats)–I don’t know who you are, but hey, thanks! If you’re new and catching up, welcome! If you’re a regular reader going through it again, well thank you very much. I’m quite honoured that you’re giving my story a read.

And also in my stats–I keep seeing that some of the views from my blog lately are referrals from Twitter. Are you the same person reading LotSF? (Who aaaaare yoooou?!) Anyways, welcome Twitter person! Thanks for clicking through and checking out my stuff. Much appreciation.

All right, all right, that’s enough from me. If you’re in Canada, happy Victoria Day! If you’re not, well, I hope you have a swell Monday. You shall hear from me soon.

Take care.

-Alex