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Posts Tagged ‘snippets’

When I’m working on a story, it often helps my writing-brain if the drawing-brain gets in on the act too.  Right now I’m plugging away at an old-fashioned buddy low fantasy adventure tale, in the vein of the pulp authors in the heyday of sword-and-sorcery (I like pulp.  It’s overwrought and over-the-top and fun, never preachy (unless, “Hey, Therns, enslaving people and murdering them is not cool, so quit it” is preaching), and it’s eventful and colorful.  So how do you meld a pulp sensibility with a more modern story-telling style?  Will that even work? Stay tuned), and trying to nail down a design for the main characters keeps me thinking about them even when I’m not actually writing–which, let’s be honest, is 22 out of the 24 hours of the day, most days.

So here is a rough pass at Clover and Bronig*, the heroes of my work-in-progress.  He’s a Viking warrior with a penchant for smashing, she’s a cleric of an unknown god, together they fight crime monsters!  (I’m hoping to submit the story to the latest Sword and Sorceress anthology, deadline soon, so everyone please send me happy story-finishy thoughts.)

Rough pencils--please excuse the mess.

Rough pencils–please excuse the mess.

I had wanted to finish this drawing and color it before today, but oh well.  Maybe next week! 😀  Clover must be standing on a box here, because otherwise she would only stand as tall as his belly-button.  Yes, he is huge and she is tiny; I love that kind of contrast in my main characters, and since they are both warriors, I needed to find other ways to play up their differences.

How about a snippet, while we’re here?  I cut this bit because it set the wrong tone, and because it was taking too long: it’s supposed to be a short story, which means I don’t have a thousand words to spend on the characters walking up to a church.

The Sanctuary of the Queen crouched in the midst of lower buildings, at the end of a tangle of hilly streets, as though lying in wait to pounce. The long, bleak stone plaza fronting its tall red doors gave it plenty of time to overawe the approaching worshipper with its dense black height, its bristle of towers and turrets and scowling gargoyles and its row of wholly extraneous spikes along the peak of its roofline, and the blank eyes of the buildings lining the plaza glared to reinforce any approaching human’s littleness and the sanctuary’s superiority.

Clover, stepping into the plaza from the mouth of a narrow alley, raised her eyes and recoiled, her heel coming down squarely on the top Bronig’s foot.

He grunted. “Easy,” he said, and removed her.

“That church,” Clover declared, “is a bully.”

Bronig said nothing. His silence weighed nearly as much as that of the inimical building glaring them down. Clover twisted round to beam at him.

“Ineed,” she said. “Have we not faced much worse on our journeys? And shall we falter in our divine purpose now? No, indeed!” Back to the sanctuary, she raised her voice and her fist and cried, “We do not fear you!”

The shout rebounded from stone to stone, filling the space between buildings with echoes. With a a rattle of wings, a raft of large black birds launched themselves into scummy sky, screeling. Bronig patted Clover’s head.

“Well,” he said. “Now they definitely know we’re coming.”

She grinned at him, a flash of teeth like a drawn sword. “It is honorable to give one’s foes fair warning,” she said.

He shook his head–but the corner of his mouth twitched a little beneath his moustache.

Their footsteps rang loud against the cobbles–or Clover’s did, her boot heels like the clappers of bells. Bronig by rights should have clanked like a working forge with all the cutlery he had hanging about his person, but not a single dagger rattled in its sheath, and his tread was inaudible beneath all the racket Clover was making. No other humans were visible, in that stony space before the looming sanctuary and between the cramped, inward-leaning buildings, but the sense of being watched was strong. Clover’s shoulders twitched, and her hands dropped to the hilts of her twin swords. Bronig dropped back a few paces behind her, his gaze keen and alert and everywhere.

Under the sanctuary’s shadow, the peak of its roof cleaving the sky, its stained stones straining at their bonds, each eager to be the first to fall on the interlopers. Clover’s toe touched the first step up to the red doors, and she paused, craning up, and the building glared back down. Bronig, passing her, hooked his arm through hers and hauled her up, sure-footed as a mountain ram, unworried as a man traversing his own home.

“I can walk!” Clover protested.

“So do it,” was his unruffled reply.

Halfway up, the tall red doors swung silently outward; a figure stood in the opening, waiting.

 


*I think I’ll leave the story of the origins of these characters for another day, but I should mention that Bronig is somebody else’s creation, and I made sure to get his permission and blessing before snatching up his character and running off with him!

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Ironically, in light of my previous, I just got a ton of work dumped on my head, and am swamped.  It is exciting and in one case slightly hilarious work, but still.

I would like to thank everyone who liked or commented the mommyhood rant; I had no idea my dashed-off scribblings would generate such a reaction.  People had lovely, kind, and helpful comments, so that was a great comfort.

I feel certain I had some follow-up things I would have liked to add, but  The Kiddo is telling me all about the curry he is going to eat for dinner, and wanting all his toys to do voices talking about curry, and now it is dinnertime, and I must away.

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Last week’s snippet was the first half of a quite long section that got cut; here’s the second half.

______________

evion1“Your local potentate,” she was proud of herself for remembering the phrase, “is he paying you?”

Evion looked down the front of his vest, brushing at imaginary lint.  “He would never insult a professional of my stature by asking me to work for free.”

“So, yes.”  Aine brooded out the window.  “With that, and the rest of what you’ve earned, will we have enough to hire a ship?”

Evion snorted.  “I’ve told you,” he said, “the problem isn’t paying for it, the problem is convincing a captain and a crew to sail out into the deep ocean on our say-so, without knowing where we’re going or how we’ll know when we get there.  The problem–” warming to his theme, “–is that damned erratic compass never pointing in the same direction for more than a day at a time; who’s to say it won’t switch again the minute we set sail?”

“Can’t they just … turn the boat?”

“Ship,” Evion said.  “Yes, they could, depending on a number of highly technical variables that I won’t go into now, since you’re not interested and they’re not really the point anyway–and they probably would, once.  But believe me they will begin to balk when it happens again, and again, and again, and we no closer to our goal than before.  Not to mention, those who sail on the sea in ships don’t usually have a lot of patience for landlubbers.”

“Landlubbers.”  The word made her smile.  “Is that a real word?”

He slapped his forehead with an open palm.  “Gods help us.  ‘Is that a real word.’  And that right there is why we can’t just plunk down a sack of coin and hire a ship.”

Aine thought, gnawing on her lower lip.  Outside the edge of town, south from the busy docks, was another center of activity; if she leaned forward and put her cheek against window glass, she could just see the edge of it: three ramps sloping gently from shore to sea, and resting on them huge constructions like the belly-up skeletons of some enormous animal, surrounded by scaffolding, workers crawling about them like ants.  The shore beyond these ramps was taken up with a vast orderly yard, surrounded by a guarding wall, filled with neat stacks of timber and other such things.  Her eyes had passed over it several times without really seeing it or wondering what it was.

“The shipyard,” Evion said, coming round behind her chair and following her gaze.  “They’re building ships.  If you look there, beyond the slips, you can see the ordinary, where the finished hulls are waiting for their masts.”

“The … slips?”

“Those ramps with the half-built hulls on them.”

She barely looked; a new thought made her catch her breath.  She glanced up at him, but all she could see was the line of his jaw and the edge of his cheek, pointing out to sea.  “Evion,” she said, and he turned his head to look at her.  “Could we … buy a ship?”

Evion stared at her for a long moment, his mouth open; then his legs collapsed as though cut out from under him, and he fell to the floor and laughed and laughed.

 *****

When he recovered himself (and it took some time), Evion devoted himself to explaining to her why, exactly, they could not buy a ship.  It was suppertime before he was done; she kept asking questions, most of them beginning with “but”: “but what if we–” “but wouldn’t they–” “but what about–”  He fielded her protests as best he could, but he wasn’t sure she was entirely convinced–she was wearing the same stubborn look he’d seen when she told him she was staying to learn fencing with Tyne, whether he liked it or not–but they were both hungry by then, and good smells were drifting up from the Seacrest’s kitchen.

“Listen to me,” he said, “you’d have to be rich as a king to commission a private ship, even a little one, and it would take years to build.  You’d have to crew it, and ballast it, and arm it, and supply it, all of which takes both time and money, and oodles of both.  And even if we had oodles of time and money, which we don’t, you don’t just saunter down to the Royal Shipyard of Brene and say, ‘Hi there, I’d like to buy a ship,’ especially not in a time of war!  It’s just not–it isn’t–it’s not some farm wagon or a new headboard for your bed, it’s a ship!”

She was gazing at him steadily, like a madhouse doctor observing a fascinating new patient.  “And we can’t hire one either,” she said.

“That’s right.”

“So what do we do?”

“I don’t know!”  His hands came up and clutched his hair, pulling until it stung his scalp.

“What about a boat,” Aine said, “just a little one?  Like that?”

She pointed down into the darkening harbor, where a newcome ship, probably a merchant by her lines, was anchoring, surronded by a little fleet of bumboats and dinghies.

Evion gaped out loud.  “You can’t put out to sea in a dinghy!”

“We might not have to go very far,” she said.

He didn’t know whether to be charmed or exasperated.  “It wouldn’t work,” he said.  “Please trust me: it just wouldn’t.  We’ll think of something, I promise.  Are you hungry?  Come on, let’s go get some supper.  We’ll find a solution, we will, but not when we’re so famished we can’t think straight.”  He took her elbow and helped her stand, and to his surprise she made no protest, not even when he tucked her arm through his and led her to the door.

Ridiculous, he thought, glancing at her sidelong.  She’s half a head taller than I am.

She leaned against him a little, as though tired.  He held onto her arm tighter, and led her downstairs.

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In a move completely ripped off from Dragonlance, I decided my heroes should move undetected across the countryside by dint of disguising themselves as travelling performers–well, Evion would disguise himself as a travelling performer, because that’s the kind of thing he would be into–and it became this whole sidequest distraction-thing.  I quite liked some of the writing, but it was bogging the story down, and so it had to go.  (I let Evion keep the outfit, but it became less of a disguise and more of a practical way for them to earn some much-needed coin.)  (It looks like some of the original’s pretentiousness crept into this bit as well, and I try to weed that stuff out whenever it crops up.)

_________

Evion’s hat hit the table with a heavy clank, landing in the midst of a litter of dirty rags, metal polish, a whetstone, a pitcher, and other suchlike paraphernalia, not to mention the remains of Aine’s dinner: some crumbs on a plate, and a half-empty teacup, its contents forgotten, now stone cold.  Aine gave her dagger (a new acquisition) another pass along the sharpening stone, glanced along its edge, shaved a few hairs off her forearm, and nodded in satisfaction as she put it away, and only then looked up into his eager face.  She had meant to keep her expression stern, but one glance at his enormous grin called up an answering smile of her own.

“A good day?” she said.

Super duper chibi Evion, circa 2001.  The flamboyant outfit is now a disguise and not an overt classic FF reference.

Super duper chibi Evion, circa 2001. The flamboyant outfit is now a disguise and not an overt classic Final Fantasy reference.

“Indeed!”  He stripped off his gloves, and dropped them onto the table and himself into a chair.  “The Red Wizard,” he said, sinking back into its dubious embrace and closing his eyes, “is the most talked about performer in Brene–in all of Foras.  My reputation has preceded me, and my fervent admirers throng the streets, shouldering each other aside in their eagerness to shower me with coin.  In fact,” he added, cocking his head to peer at her with one eye through his hair, which had fallen into his face, “one of the local potentates sent a lackey to tender me an invitation to perform for himself and his honored guests at a banquet tomorrow evening–an invitation couched in the most flattering terms, naturally.”

Aine’s hands were busy gathering up the flotsam of her labors.  “And what does that mean to the rest of us?”

Evion’s other eye opened.  “Are you asking me for a translation, or for the repercussions?”

“I’ve been with you long enough, I almost understand the way you talk now,” she said, lips twitching.  “Repercussions, please.  We’ll be staying here another day, then?”

“We’ll be staying longer than that if we can’t find a ship and a captain crazy enough to take us,” he responded.  “Or until the compass changes directions.  Again.”

When the first city loomed up before them, Aine had wanted to go around, but the compass, with its usual perversity, had swung round to point directly at its high stone walls.  Evion had delighted in the compass’s whimsicality then, crying up the pleasures and advantages of civilization (clean clothes! hot food! beds!), and to Aine’s objection that they had no funds for such luxuries, replied with six most ominous words: “Don’t worry; I have a plan!”

And she had to admit, it seemed to be working.  She had objected at first that his act would draw too much notice to themselves, but in fact the opposite seemed to be true: folks’ eyes slid right past her without a second glance, and when Evion dressed in the simple clothes of an ordinary citizen and not his ridiculous “Red Wizard” garb, none of the crowd who had shouted so eagerly for his tricks the day before gave him a second glance.

“It’s not me they care about, you see,” he explained (this was in the second or third town along the coastbound road, after a long day of performing in the parks and on the streetcorners of the town, and against his usual custom he was drinking ardent spirits, a strong, clear liquor with a fresh, vivid smell, said to be the local specialty), “not me at all.  It’s the costume, and the tricks.  What with–everything–” he waved the hand with the empty glass in it, and the barman at once reached out and poured him another measure, “people just want some–some color, some hint of bitter things.  Better things.”  He hiccupped.  “Give them the appearance of wonder, and they won’t bother themselves about the deeper truth.  You follow me?”

“Not really.”  He had happily dived into an explanation, and she smiled and shook her head, but she wasn’t really listening.

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Hi guys!  It’s been awhile!  Last week I was engaged in some family drama of the hobbit-sized kind (apparently toddlers can be difficult!  Who knew?), and in actually putting some snippets back in to the current draft … as well as deleting lots of reallys and seemses, cleaning up the timing on certain events, and other nuts-and-bolts-type writerlykinds of things.

In the course of looking for the bit I’d cut that I wanted back (it’s a character moment with Evion, and I thought I’d had approximately one million instances of it in the book, and apparently I cut them all), I found some more potentially interesting scraps for you guys.

A bit (more) intro here: in the original 1998 version of the story, Aine and Evion journey into a haunted forest (like you do) and get into a fight with a GIANT SPIDER (like you do if you’re in a Tolkien rip-off).  Part of the my trouble with writing the new version was my resistance to having them fight a giant spider, or any other kind of spider, or anything at all, darnit!  I have talked about my struggle with the haunted forest elsewhere; what follows is one of the fourteen or so false starts/unsuccessful attempts to get around the haunted forest without a random encounter.

_______________

CHAPTER TEN

Definitely Not a Giant Spider in This Chapter

“You know,” he said, turning back and extending his hand to her as she scrambled out of the low cave mouth, “I must confess myself disappointed.”  She took it, and he helped her to her feet.

Aine brushed dirt from her trousers.  “Oh, really?  How so?”

“All that rigmarole yesterday,” he said, “all that running after ghosts–or a ghost–obligingly allowing ourselves to be led on a wild chase through haunted woods, and did we have one single encounter for our pains?  No, indeed!  We were unmolested!  Not a ghast, haunt, werewolf, hag, vampire, or banshee did we see.  Not a single twelve-foot-tall ice bear.  If there were any justice in the world, a yeti would be gnawing our bones even now.  Or a giant spider, maybe.  I hear those can get as big as a carthorse.”  As he spoke, he knelt and fussed about with cooking implements by the fire, with such a clatter as must have attracted all of the above in the area, had there been any to attract.

“Our … quivering bones?” said Aine, raising her eyebrow.   A reference to an earlier exchange.  -Me

He sniffed in response, chin high.  After a suitable pause to let her know how affronted he was, he continued, “I thought last night we would certainly be attacked, if not when we found the cave, then at the very least sometime in the night watches.  Imagine my disappointment!”  He spread his arms wide, indicating his disappointment’s vast extent.

“Oh, yes,” Aine said.  “Crushing.”

“Hmph,” said Evion.  “Do I detect in my companion’s tone a reluctance to do battle?  Are we cowards, to–”

“To refuse such an adventure,” Aine finished for him, wearily.  “My companion must have that written on the inside of his eyelids.”  She dropped down beside him at the fire.  “Here.  Where are the coffee things?”

 ***

Six hours later, “This,” said Aine, “is all your fault.”

“Me?” Evion cried, all wounded innocence.  “What did I do?”

They were still in their campsite clearing–or, more accurately, they were back.  Here was the wet earth where they’d buried the campfire’s ashes, there the scuff marks where they’d planted their feet or their bottoms on the ground.  And there: their own footmarks, crossing and recrossing the same ground, again and again.  The same camp, for the fifty-third time.

Aine groaned and let her pack slip off her shoulders.  It hit the ground with a soft plumpf.  Dragging her hands through her sweat-tangled hair, she said, “If you hadn’t taunted the forest, practically begging it to attack us, we’d be out of here by now.”

I drew this something like 13 years ago.  So, you know, with practice anyone can improve.

I drew this something like 13 years ago. So, you know, with practice anyone can improve.

Evion stared at her for a long moment, one eyebrow slowly drifting up to meet his hairline.  His lips pursed, then parted with a loud smack, eloquent of disdain.  “Well,” he said finally, “I must congratulate you.  That is the most perfect piece of illogic I’ve ever heard.”  It was Aine’s turn to glare, and she did so with a will.  Evion carried on, “It’s not as though the words we say actually have any effect on the activities of the uncaring universe!”

“This from a wizard,” Aine sneered.

“And besides!” he said loudly, riding over her words, “even if they did, what I said was, I wanted to be attacked and bothered and messed with, and I was disappointed that nothing had happened, a clear invitation for the forest to leave us alone and go bother someone who wouldn’t like it!”

His face was flushed, his fine pale hair a frizzy, sweat-darkened halo around his head; his fists were clenched at his sides.

“And you accused me of being illogical!” Aine said.

It was in the middle of Evion’s heated reply that the spirit howled up in a whirl of snow and ice and shrieking winds.

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I mentioned last Wednesday that I was rapidly running out of snippets to post, but I guess I underestimated how close I was to the bottom of the scrap pile.  I will simply have to write more story, and screw up, and cut the screwed-up bits, and write more, and fix it, and continue the process, so that sometime in the future there can be more snippets for you guys.

Meanwhile, in lieu of content from me, how about this post from Cory Doctorow, who talks about the strange phenomenon we’ve all experienced, of characters coming to life in our heads and behaving in ways we never expected (and throwing the story we’re writing completely off its planned track!).  (Hat tip to Mayerson on Animation.)

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I’m running out of snippets faster than I anticipated (many of the ones I have remaining are spoilery), so I had a hard time picking one for today.  I finally landed on this one; it might appear later, in a different form, in the book, but this version turned out a little too Miguel and Tulio.  Which, let me add, there’s nothing wrong with Miguel and Tulio, and Road to El Dorado is as close to a perfect movie as one can make in an imperfect world, but these two are not my main characters:

miguel-and-tulio

The mighty and powerful

——

Beaming, he pulled a little pouch from within his vest.  “Here.”

She took it, turning it over in her hands.  It was an ordinary flat pouch with a drawstring mouth, though made of finer materials than many she’d seen, and covered with symbols embroidered in gold thread.  He must have taken the cloth from the lining of his red cloak, and pulled threads from all that fancy-work on his clothing.

To all appearances, it was empty.  It weighed next to nothing, and it flopped and flapped limply, like a poor man’s purse after the bills have been paid.

“Go on,” he said, beaming with ill-concealed pride.  “Open it up.”

Empty indeed, not even a tooth pick or a clipped copper inside.

“Now give it here.”

She did, and he reached into it with all the drama of his stage-magician persona, and, with a flourish, pulled out a worn little leather-bound book.

“See?” he said–not, she noticed, offering to let her hold the book.  “They’re all in there, safe and sound.  It doesn’t even matter if water gets inside; they’re protected.  It’s like a–you don’t care what it’s like, do you?”

She couldn’t help it.  She stared at him.  In a moment she was going to be very, very angry, but for now she was just incredulous.

“…Aine?” he said, taking a step backward, still holding his precious book and his damned magic pouch.

“Let me see if I understand,” she growled.  Delicate wizard or no, friend or no, she was going to beat the stuffing out of him.  “All this time, you’ve had a magic pouch of unlimited capacity, and it never once occurred to you that you could use it to carry a little extra food?”

He gaped at her, at her balled fists and heaving chest.  If he had laughed at her, she probably would have really hit him, for the second time that long, long day.

He didn’t laugh, though.  He sucked in his lower lip, looking disappointed and sad and thoughtful and determined all at once.  Absently, without looking at what he was doing, he tucked the leather journal into a pocket at his breast.  Then he tilted his head and offered her a tiny smile, eyebrows quirked, and the pouch.  “It does have limits,” he said.  “I couldn’t fit an oliphant in there, for instance.”

She glared at him, but she let him put the pouch in her hand.  “A what?”

“Giant tusked animal, big as a house, grey wrinkly skin, long snout.  Lives in hot southern grasslands.  Also, completely beside the point.”  He prodded the pouch with one finger.  “You can only put something inside if it’ll fit through the opening.  So, you couldn’t use it to–oh, I don’t know–transport an army without having to feed or house them.  Unless it was a very tiny army.”  And he grinned and held up his finger and thumb to demonstrate: about this tall.  Aine rolled her eyes.

“Why are you telling me this?” she asked him.  The pouch lay limp and slightly ridiculous across the palm of her hand.

“Because,” he said, suddenly serious, and reached out with both hands and curled her fingers around it.  “I want you to hold onto it for me.  For safekeeping.  And–“ again he was unable to suppress his smile, but there was no malice in it, only simple amusement, even joy, “–if you want to shove some hardtack in there for future use, it’s your decision to make.”

She sighed, and looked down at their joined hands.  She felt a smile trying to tug at the corner of her mouth.  “You are ridiculous.”

“It’s been said,” he agreed.

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