After my last post about how some holidays don’t exist in the world of my books, I started exploring another aspect of writing in a fictional setting. Namely, language. Language is a constantly changing and evolving thing, and many words today don’t have the same meaning they had just twenty years ago. New words are being invented all the time. Depending on the origin of the word, this can lead to some complications in some kinds of writing.
Of course, none of this means I can’t use these words in my book. There’s no reason to get too nitpicky about them. But as an etymology hobbyist, I enjoy studying words and finding out their origins and history. I sometimes even write about those etymologies. But even if the words listed below might be found in my book, there’s that little voice in the back of my head telling me that they don’t belong.
Jeez (Variants: Jeeze, Geez)
“Jeez” is a common type of non-profane exclamation. It can be used in place of any number of curse words, such as when saying “Oh, jeez” instead of “Oh shit,” or “Jeez, what the heck!” instead of “Damn, what the hell!”
More specifically, according to the origin of the word jeez, it’s a shorted form of “Jesus Christ.” It first appeared in the 1920s. It’s easy to imagine how this word came into existence if you’ve ever had to censor yourself in front of a child. “What did you just do? Jee–…ze. I can’t believe you just fu–…dge. You’re a pain in my … neck.” And so on.
In my books, everything takes place on a fictional world. Since that world isn’t Earth, there was no Jesus Christ. I always replace any instances of a character shouting “Jesus Christ!” with “Oh my God!” or something similar. I try to avoid jeez as well, though I doubt anyone would notice if it slipped in here and there. Similarly, anyone writing a historical novel set before the 1920s should avoid using jeez, since it probably wasn’t in use yet (though with all words, it was probably in common verbal use for some time before the first written account of its use, and written accounts is all we can base etymological studies on). Though I doubt many people are writing Victorian romance novels where the characters use slang words like jeez.
“Guy” is an informal word for a man or boy. Originally, the word only meant an effigy of Guy Fawkes (yes, that Guy Fawkes). After Guy tried to blow up parliament on November 5, 1605, people in England started making and burning these effigies. According to Wikipedia:
In Britain, 5 November has variously been called Guy Fawkes Night, Guy Fawkes Day, Plot Night and Bonfire Night … it became the custom to burn an effigy … of Fawkes. The “guy” is normally created by children, from old clothes, newspapers, and a mask. During the 19th century, “guy” came to mean an oddly dressed person, but in American English it lost any pejorative connotation, and was used to refer to any male person.
As you can see, “guy” basically referred to the doll that would be burned, which was oddly dressed because it was made from scraps of whatever clothes the kids could find. Eventually instead of an “oddly dressed man,” it just became any man. But in a world that never had Guy Fawkes, the word wouldn’t exist. And in a story set place before the 1600s, it wouldn’t have been made yet.
I’ll probably add a few more “Words I Shouldn’t Use in my Books” as I do more research and come up with them. Of course, that doesn’t mean I won’t use them. But it’s good to know where your words come from.
Manifestation is available in paperback format through:
I write in a fictional world. This is a common trope seen in fantasy writing, where a writer wants to create a fictional history, geography, government, and so on for their world. It allows for a lot more freedom to do things that couldn’t happen in the real world. This is especially true if you want to add some detail to the geography that would otherwise be impossible, like floating continents, the ruins of a super-advanced ancient civilization, or magical physics that show the world functions in a very different way. It can also be used in science fiction with alien civilizations (such as how Star Wars takes place in a galaxy far, far away, as opposed to Star Trek which still has the real Earth, just far in the future).
A few complications arise when writing in an entirely fictional world. Even though Manifestation is set in a modern-day setting that is very similar to the real world, there are some key differences. One key example is holidays. There’s no “America” in the fictional world I created; the people live in a country called the Northern Union, which is loosely modeled after America but very different in some ways. Since there’s no America, there’s no Thanksgiving, Fourth of July, or any other national holiday that is specific to real life. Likewise, there’s no Christmas, because there’s no Christianity. Religion plays a heavy role in the books, and the religion is loosely modeled after Christianity (I make references to the seven deadly sins, for example). But in these books, there was no Jesus Christ, so therefore there’s no Christmas or Easter or anything like that.
Sometimes this makes me stumble in my writing. For example, there’s a scene near the end of Manifestation when I refer to “holiday decorations” on the house. I never say which holiday, since real-life holidays don’t exist in that world. But the scene takes place in winter, around the time of what would have been Christmas in real life, so holiday decorations become part of the setting. Some books I’ve read address such topics by having a “Winter Festival” as the winter holiday celebration. If the holiday were of specific relevance to the plot, I could even develop a fictional set of customs and traditions around it, in order to flesh it out more. But in my case, it’s more of a minor background detail.
Another related thing that pops up from time to time is brand names, and this becomes more complicated. I can’t, for example, have my characters eat Jell-O or Cheetos. Those brands don’t exist in the fictional world, so I have to say gelatin or cheesy puffs. My characters have to use tissues, not Kleenex, and take aspirin, not Tylenol.
Some brand names become harder to avoid. There’s a lot of fighting in some of my books, so naturally there’s guns. In some action-oriented books I’ve read, people will refer to a specific model of gun, like a Glock or a Luger. I can only say “pistol.” Though I fudge some of these rules when people drive a jeep or wear a kevlar vest, because really, there aren’t a lot of better names to use for that. Kevlar is technically a brand name but it’s in many ways seen as a name for the material itself. A jeep is technically a vehicle produced by Jeep, but it also brings to mind a very specific type of vehicle that the phrase “off-road vehicle” doesn’t quite capture.
This can be difficult, and sometimes it seems like it would be easier to just write in the real world. But on the other hand, I’m sometimes able to create fictional brands and companies that become a part of the personality of the world. For example, on multiple occasions I refer to places like the Donovan Grant Hotel, Donovan Financial Trust, and buildings sponsored by that company like the Donovan Financial Field where the local sports team plays. The Donovan family that owns these businesses remains mostly in the background (though there’s an easter egg in there for people who pay attention), but this remains a personalized detail that is part of the structure of this world.
Maybe in the future books, some new holidays will be formed commemorating the disasters that strike. Perhaps the people will start holding barbecues and/or memorials on Arcana Day. And they could hang decorations and hold services in remembrance of the people who lost their lives when magic was reborn.
Manifestation is available in paperback format through:
As I mentioned, I recently won #NaNoWriMo 2014. It was a long haul. I had quite a few nights where I was up until 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning. My back is killing me. I spent several days in a daze, barely able to focus on anything else.
The novel is complete. At 160,484 words, it’s both the biggest NaNoWriMo victory I’ve ever had and the longest novel I’ve written in the series. As you can see by the progress meters on the sidebar to the right, it’s 28,000 words more than the previous novel. This was more-or-less what I expected, and the reason why is the first “thing I learned” from NaNoWriMo:
I learned to better estimate word counts
When I first wrote Manifestation, I had no idea how long it would be. I also didn’t know how the story would shift away from any original plans I had. These shifts can lead to longer word counts on some drafts, since the story expands in places I didn’t expect, then shorter word counts in revisions, when I cut scenes that end up not fitting the new direction the story went in. One of the consequences of these unexpected turns is that the structure of the novel can change.
For example, when I first started the series, I already knew where the third volume, Collapse, would end. I had a scene in mind for the climax and what consequences it would bring. I started writing with that goal in mind from early on, always trying to move Gabby Palladino and Tock Zipporah, the two main characters, in that direction. But at the time that I started writing, I thought that would be the end of volume two, not volume three.
I had originally planned Manifestation to stop in a place that is now somewhere around the middle of the second book, Contamination. I had a story arc planned out for Gabby that would take her through various family dramas, build on her romantic relationship with her main love interest, Callia Gainsborough, and help her grow from the introverted teenage girl we see at the beginning into, well, you’ll have to wait and see what she becomes. But when I was moving past the 100,000 word mark on Manifestation, I realized I needed a lot more time to get Gabby to the point I wanted to take her in. So I devised a new climax for Manifestation, finished the first book, and started the second one.
Then, when I was near the end of Contamination, the same thing happened again. I had a point where Gabby’s relationship with Callia was really just getting off the ground, where Gabby’s understanding of the supernatural changes to the world around her are finally coming together, and where Gabby’s growth as a character was reaching a major turning point. But a turning point isn’t a climax, and I realized I needed another 50,000 words or more to get Gabby the rest of the way down that path. Like with the first book, had I not come up with a different ending, the total length of the book would have been over 170,000 words. Instead, I started the third book, and about halfway through Gabby reached the point of character development I’d originally planned. It was mostly smooth sailing after that to finish the third book, reaching the climax that had originally been planned for book two.
This year, I went into my writing expecting and planning for a length of 150,000. I came up with this number by considering the various story arcs of the previous books, how many main characters had leading roles in each, and how much world building had to be done. When I crossed the 130,000 word mark, I reanalyzed based on the number of scenes left, and adjusted my word count estimate to 160,000. The final total word count was only a few hundred off of that second estimate.
I plan to consider these variables when working on future books as well, so that I’ll have a better idea of how much will “fit” in one book. That way I’ll be able to avoid major restructuring like I went through in the early books.
I learned the difference between a “romance” and a “love story”
As you may have seen by recent blog posts, I’ve been studying romance novels lately. I have a few serious problems with the common romance tropes I’ve seen. Examples include characters who seem to constantly profess their love in the narration without me seeing love in their actions, characters who are too perfect (perfect bodies, perfect hair, flawless morals, etc), characters who fall in love too quickly without enough development of their relationships, and the unrealistic nature of the “happily ever after” ending. I’ve been trying to avoid abusing these tropes in my own writing, by either breaking them entirely, or at least approaching them from different angles in order to avoid being cliche.
However, a new variable was recently brought to my attention. I recently wrote a post about exploring infidelity in romance stories, where I considered the possible roles cheating might play in the development of a story. In particular, I cited novels like The Notebook, where the female lead started off in a relationship then cheated on her fiance with the male lead, who she eventually ended up with. After writing this post, however, one of my romance writer friends directed me to the rules of the Romance Writers of America, and I learned there are some things you can’t do if you want the story to be considered an official “romance.”
According to the RWA, a story is only a “romance” if it has A Central Love Story and An Emotionally Satisfying and Optimistic Ending. That is, the love story can’t be a subplot, and it can’t have an ending that isn’t in the “happily ever after” category.
A happy ending, according to my friend, means things like no cheating. You can’t do anything to betray the relationship or make the reader stop rooting for the characters to get together. If the reader reaches a point where they wish the characters would break up, it’s not a “romance.”
Q: You once said the difference between a love story and a romance is that “love stories must use universal characters and settings.” What did you mean by that?
“Universal” means you feel as if they are real. You feel like you can know them. I don’t write stories about astronauts or CEOs of Fortune 500 companies or millionaires or movie stars. These are stories of everyday people put into extraordinary events that are also very real in ordinary people’s lives: accidents, a past you want to get away from, a husband that got violent.
Now, I don’t necessarily agree with his entire view here, but what he’s basically saying sounds like “romance novels have unrealistic characters but love stories have ordinary people.” I wouldn’t call this a 100% accurate statement, but it touches on what I mentioned above. Most romance novels I read have people who are too perfect. They’re rich, famous, gorgeous, and flawless. Now, I think you can have a traditional romance novel that has believable, down-to-earth characters (just many of the ones I’ve recently read don’t). But if you go by Sparks’s views, romances are fantasies, while love stories are more realistic.
Even if you disagree with how sparks describes this difference, I do think that the distinction is related to the “no cheating” rule I already mentioned. Characters who cheat on each other would spoil the perfect fantasy of the ideal relationship. But characters who have to struggle to heal and forgive after an affair might better represent the kinds of people we see in real life.
I’ll probably follow up with some more things I learned in a future post. It was definitely a long and educational experience.
Manifestation is available in paperback format through:
As you may know, I’m participating in #NaNoWriMo this year. If you didn’t know that, you haven’t peen paying attention for the last 19 days. I’ve been chugging along at a pretty crazy pace, and so far, I’ve written 117,349 words.
But to put that in a little perspective, here’s some pictures of my sticker calendar.
First, here’s what I wrote in September, before I started working on this novel:
Every sticker is either 1000 words or 1 blog post (I get a sticker for writing this blog post you’re reading right now). As you can see, I had a shitty month. Busy with work and school, I went days at a time without writing. I had a nice surge of energy at the end of the month, which was mostly revisions for Contamination, the sequel to Manifestation.
Next, here’s how October went:
A lot better, all said and done. The stars are for new chapters I wrote in Contamination, and the “Wow!” and “Great!” stickers are for every chapter I revised. I made pretty good progress . . . but I still had long stretches of inactivity. I maybe managed a sticker or two per day some days, and there were a few days at the end of the month I only got three per day. After the big rush at the beginning, I was starting to slow down.
Now, here’s my #NaNoWriMo calendar so far:
I know, right?
I had a few days in there where I managed between 10,000-12,000 words per day. Which is really killer on the back. My average goal has been 5,000 per day. I’ve hit that . . . most days. I’ve got a few days with only one or two stars (the round star stickers are still the same, one sticker for 1000 words written, but I ran out of the shiny stars on Sunday and had to switch to new ones). But as you can tell, the last week or so has been a lot slower than the beginning. I only managed two stickers yesterday, one last Friday, two last Wednesday. I’m losing a bit of steam, but I’m almost done.
My goal is still 150,000 for the month, give or take. I’m almost done the novel itself (which is still untitled because I can’t think of a title). The main characters, led by Gabby Palladino, are marching off to the epic final battle right now. Some of them will live, some will die, and some will kiss. Though I don’t plan on anyone kissing someone who died, cause, eww, that’s some creepy Disney stuff right there.
Anyway, that’s all for now. Wish me luck. I may break something before the end.
Manifestation is available in paperback format through:
Cheating is a common trope in romance stories. It can add a lot of tension and conflict to a story, leaving the reader uncertain whether the couple will pull through and mend their relationship or if they’ll end up breaking up and being unable to forgive each other.
It’s easy to say, speaking very generally, that “cheating is wrong.” I doubt there’s many people that would promote cheating on your partner in real life. If you’ve been cheated on, it hurts like hell, and many people who’ve cheated on someone else end up wracked with guilt over it. Alternatively, infidelity could be rationalized by saying that the relationship was already broken due to other problems. If someone’s partner is abusive, uncaring, or for whatever reason doesn’t deserve them, then one might not care if they get cheated on because “they deserved it.” Though you could also argue that it’s best to end the relationship before getting involved with someone new. Oftentimes, relationship problems lead to people cheating because they’ve already begun pulling away from their partner even if the relationship isn’t over yet. As Jess said in When Harry Met Sally, “Marriages don’t break up on account of infidelity. It’s just a symptom that something else is wrong.”
But when it comes to writing a novel, there can be a wide variety of ways to express infidelity. I’d like to explore four different angles: the Main Character as the cheater, the MC as the victim, cheating as a mistake, and cheating as the right choice.
The Main Character Cheated
In most romance novels I’ve read, the story is usually told in first person from the main character’s perspective (usually a woman; I haven’t yet found a romance novel told primarily from a male lead’s point of view). The basic formula of a romance novel is: they meet, there’s chemistry and attraction, the relationship grows more serious, then there’s some kind of crisis (which leads the reader to fear the relationship won’t work out), and at the end the crisis is either resolved or it leads to everything falling apart. The ending of a romance is almost always either “they live happily ever after” or “they broke up but learned valuable life lessons as a result.”
(Note: This formula is based on my personal reading experience, but if you’ve read any books that greatly deviate from it, I’d love to hear about them.)
The “crisis” that leads to the relationship either ending or surviving can come in a variety of ways. I’ve read novels recently where the crisis could be anything from a lie being revealed, to a betrayal, to an ex-girlfriend coming back into the picture and causing conflict, and so on. The main character cheating is, by this formula, just another source of conflict.
So what leads the MC to cheat? Well, as an example from a friend’s book I once read, it could be because the MC actually isn’t happy in the relationship and they’re subconsciously sabotaging it. In one novel I read, the MC cheated on her fiance with the fiance’s brother, then tried to cover it up, only to have the lid blown off the lie at the wedding. The relationship was torn apart, and the affair with the brother couldn’t last either. In the long run, the MC broke things off with both the fiance and the brother, and ended up making some major changes and starting her life over. While as a reader I was disappointed in the MC’s decisions, in the long run, I could see that she’d learned some valuable things and she was ready to move on. The ending left me with the hope that her next relationship would be more successful, because she’d learned not to “fake” being happy with a man she didn’t truly love.
Now, it’s possible a story could involve the MC cheating without suffering any consequences. It would all depend on how it was portrayed. But I think, as a reader, it’s important for me to see consequences occurring and lessons being learned. Because if the MC never even feels a twinge of guilt, I would just see them as immoral, and I’d likely lose sympathy. But if the MC changes their life afterwards, the cheating can be seen as a mistake that they overcame. If a writer wanted to show the other side, where it wasn’t even treated as a mistake, it would be important to show the MC’s perspective and help the reader understand why they don’t regret it. It would be necessary in order to keep the reader rooting for the MC.
The Main Character is the Victim
Alternatively, the MC might be the one who’s been cheated on. In this case, it’s more likely that the cheating will be painted as simply wrong. It puts the MC’s partner in the role of the villain, hurting the MC and ruining the relationship. The MC might break the relationship off and move on, finally leaving behind someone who didn’t deserve them. Or the MC might find it in their heart to forgive their partner after the partner works to make things right.
The difference here, regardless of whether the relationship is salvaged or ruined, is that the MC wasn’t the one who made a decision that led to the conflict. If the MC chose to cheat, they face consequences they must address based on their own actions. If their partner cheated, it’s more like a catalyst coming from an outside source. It could serve as a “wake up call,” letting the MC see their partner for who they really are. Or alternatively, if the MC was mistreating their partner and driving them away, then the MC might come to realize something about themselves. There could be introspection as they consider how they neglected their partner or in some other way allowed their partner to slip away. How this is addressed–whether the MC is seen as the wrongdoer or their partner is–will depend a lot on the MC’s perspective. For example, the MC might come to say, “I’ve been mistreating them, no wonder they sought out someone else,” or they might say, “Nothing I did makes me deserve this, they had no right to hurt me.”
The focus here, of course, is still on what the MC gets out of it, and what they decide in the end. They can choose to forgive their partner, or choose to end it all. What decision they will make will be the question that will keep the reader hooked.
Cheating as a Mistake
I already touched on this a bit in the above sections, but I’d like to go into more detail. Cheating might be seen as a mistake the MC (or their partner) made, and a sign that the character isn’t perfect. Everyone succumbs to temptation now and then, and there have been stories about seduction and weakness going all the way back to biblical tales and ancient Greek myths. Such affairs can have disastrous consequences, such as when Helen of Troy ran off with Paris, leading to the Trojan War (note: while the 2004 film depicts this as a voluntary affair, other versions of this story say that Helen was kidnapped).
There are several different ways to address the “cheating as a mistake” trope. One can be to make the affair lead to consequences, as in the example of Troy, above. Or the victim of the affair might resort to violence or murder, killing either the cheater, the person they cheated with, or both. There could also be less severe consequences, such as a divorce, a broken family, or public scandal if the characters are celebrities and the affair is revealed by the media.
In each of these cases, the consequences of the affair will be far-reaching, and will likely affect the rest of the plot. Though it’s also possible for the consequences to be more internal to the MC. Say, for example, the MC simply struggles with their own actions for the rest of the plot. An example of this is the movie Eyes Wide Shut, which depicts Tom Cruise going down a path of dangerous choices because he’s angry with his wife over an almost-affair (the wife confessed that she was tempted to cheat once, but never did). Early in the film, Cruise comes close to sleeping with a prostitute, presumably because he feels betrayed by his wife and he is driven to drastic actions. He stops just short of going through with it when his wife calls his cell phone while he’s at the prostitute’s apartment. Later, he finds out that the prostitute just found out she is HIV-positive, so Cruise barely escaped the serious consequences he would have been faced with if he had slept with her. His actions for the remainder of the movie still continue down a dangerous path, until he finally gets caught in the end.
Cheating as the Right Choice
I started this post saying that it would be hard to consider cheating as the right thing to do, but there are some examples in media that address it this way. One of the most famous is The Notebook. During the main flashback scenes that show the MC’s past, she has a short-lived love affair with a man named Noah, only to have the relationship end, partly due to interference from her parents. Years later, the characters reunite, only by that time, the MC is engaged to another man. It’s clear that the MC doesn’t truly love her fiance, and she ends up cheating on him with Noah, rekindling the romance they ended years ago. The fiance even offers to forgive her if she’ll stay with him, but in the long run, she leaves him for Noah.
Stories like this depict cheating as “the right choice” because the MC ends up with the person she truly loves and is meant to be with. It is still a struggle, and such stories usually involve a moment of indecision where the MC has to choose between their current partner and the person they’re having an affair with. Sometimes, they choose to leave and go with their true love. Other times, like in the classic movie Casablanca, the affair has to end because the characters know it can’t go on. This is the meaning behind Bogart’s most famous line in that film, “If that plane leaves the ground and you’re not with him, you’ll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.” This is Bogart’s way of telling her that she needs to stay with her husband and not be swept away by the fantasy of a passionate romance that will never work.
In any case, infidelity is a complex issue in many stories, and there are a lot of different ways to address it. Because not every relationship is guaranteed a happily ever after.
Manifestation is available in paperback format through:
I was peer pressured encouraged to share an excerpt from my current #NaNoWriMo Project, Arcana Revived Volume Six (currently untitled). The chapter below is an early chapter that introduces Gabby Palladino and her sister, Adrianna.
Be warned, spoilers ahoy. Since this is a sequel, there’s massive spoilers in here for my first novel, Manifestation. Read ahead at your own risk.
Gabby and the Manifested warped into Evesborough, landing at the edge of the city in a flash of light. They staggered a bit in catching their footing and adjusting to the difference in elevation; Evesborough was in the mountains, high above sea level, so it was a stark shift from the coastal city they’d just left. The air was cooler, the sky was clear, and the mountains around them were covered in fresh evergreens that climbed the slopes all around the city.
Gabby rubbed her temple, fighting off a headache. The pressure around her skull from the ever-present weight of her aura was worse than usual. She was sure it was a mix of not only the stress she was going through, but also of the massive mana surges she’d just witnessed Tock wielding in the City of Arcana. Tock’s power had become immense, far greater than it had been last time Gabby had seen her a couple of months before. It was something she wasn’t sure how to handle, or even wrap her head around.
“What happens now?” Mason asked. He stood off to the side with the others, outside of the range of Gabby’s aura. She was having trouble holding the aura in right now and pulses of mana were leaking through it. The Manifested kept their distance in order to remain safe.
“Gather the rest of the Manifested in the city square,” Gabby said. “We’re going to have to make preparations for tomorrow.”
“Preparations for what, exactly?” Vijay asked. “To fight?”
Gabby shook her head no, but she didn’t know what other answer to give. “We’re going to stop the fighting.”
“How?” Mason asked.
Gabby sighed. “Just get everyone together.” She turned to Jaden. “Send out a city-wide summons. Not just our usual crew. I want all willing volunteers with any kind of arcana to come. We’re going to need everything we’ve got.” Evesborough currently held a few hundred thousand citizens, most of them refugees who had fled from other mountain towns in the surrounding area and come here for the protection offered by a more well-defended city. Out of the whole population, somewhere between ten and twenty thousand were Manifested, though they hadn’t been able to perform any kind of census to get an exact count. Plus, many of the Manifested were children who were too young to fight, or people who were unwilling to join the struggle. Gabby could hope for a thousand, maybe two, but that would be it. Not enough to stand against the entire massed force of the Northern Union army, to say nothing of Tock’s mass-produced golem army.
Jaden raised her megaphone and channeled a stream of mana into it. Translucent emerald light flowed from her fingertips into the gemstones that were encrusted around the device, melding arcana and technology together in a design Vijay had developed just for the telepath. When she channeled her thoughts into the megaphone, they were amplified by the arcanatech and channeled across the whole city. All Manifested willing to help us stop the war, please gather in the city square. Commander Palladino requests all Manifested willing to fight . . .
Gabby gave Jaden a grateful smile. “I’ll see you guys there in a few minutes.” She headed off on her own, walking down the street towards the lodge that had been turned into a makeshift command center. She kept her head held high as she walked, giving professional nods to the citizens and Manifested she passed by. The streets were fairly crowded with pedestrian traffic, though there wasn’t a single car in sight. They hadn’t yet had time to develop any arcanatech vehicles, and gas was a resource that had all but run out in the months since the mana storm. She didn’t think there was a single operational car or truck left anywhere in Evesborough, and in the other cities to the south, the military had taken control of all the gas supplies to keep their jeeps and tanks running.
She headed into the lodge, where groups of volunteers were working to coordinate everything from the details of Evesborough’s defense force, to the management of their food supplies, to the manufacturing of arcanatech weapons and devices based on Vijay’s designs. Several people stopped her with questions as soon as she entered and she was stuck for almost ten minutes making decisions about where to mount the newest arcanatech gun turrets, how to handle distributing food supplies to different parts of the city, and how to settle disputes between different teams who each wanted a bigger portion of their limited manufacturing supplies. She didn’t have the first clue what the best answer was to half of the questions, so she just made her best guess, or delegated the task to someone else. She didn’t really know how to lead an army or be responsible for the lives of others. She’d just been roped into the job because of how powerful her arcana was, and how it made the others look to her as their leader.
As she was moving among the various desks that filled the lodge’s main lobby and central rooms, Gabby spotted her sister seated at a desk in the corner. She arched an eyebrow, curious as to why Adrianna was there. Her doctor, Mahir Pavari, stood by Adrianna’s side. Gabby walked over to the and gave them a small wave. Adrianna looked up from the paperwork she was working on and gave her a tired smile.
“Hey, Sis,” Adrianna said. “How did it go?” Her eyes showed signs of strain and dark circles had formed under them. She was dressed in a hospital gown and slippers, with a fluffy blue robe on top.
“About as well as could be expected,” Gabby said. She decided not to go into detail, not wanting to add to her sister’s stress. “What are you doing here? Should you be out?” She looked to Dr. Pavari.
Adrianna frowned and lowered her head. She pressed her palms down flat on the papers that covered the desk before her. “I’m not an invalid,” she said. “I’m perfectly capable of being out on my own.” She glanced over her shoulder at Dr. Pavari. “I don’t need to be babysat.”
Dr. Pavari pushed his glasses up his nose and said, “We’re giving it a trial run. I think it’s good for her to get out and try to get into some kind of normal routine.”
Adrianna pressed her hands down harder on the desk. “Don’t talk about me like I’m not here.”
“I’m sure he didn’t mean it like that,” Gabby said. “It’s okay.” She paused, chewing on her lip. Then she nodded to the papers. “So, what are you working on?”
Adrianna cast a glare up at Dr. Pavari, the turned back to Gabby. “Food inventory. I used to do this at the restaurant.” She patted the papers before her, then smoothed them out, then patted them again. “I know how to do this. I used to do it all the time.” Adrianna had worked at a small restaurant in the West District suburbs for a few years, back before she got pregnant. She had been planning on going back to work when Dante was old enough. Though his death, and Adrianna’s subsequent breakdown, had prevented that. So had the beginning of the apocalypse.
Gabby opened her mouth to reply, but she was distracted by the way Adrianna continued smoothing out the papers before her. Her movements became rougher and she ended up ripping one of the pages. She held the two halves of the page up and pressed them back together, frowning. “I can fix that,” she said, her voice a bare whisper. “I can fix it. I just need tape.”
“It’s okay,” Gabby said, giving her sister a reassuring smile. “It’s not a big deal.”
“No,” Adrianna said. “No. I can fix it.” She opened one of the desk drawers, her hands shaking. She dug through it, her movements becoming more frantic by the moment. She slammed the drawer shut and reached for another. It stuck and she yanked on it, squealing. “I can fix it!” She yanked the drawer open and knocked it off its tracks. Pens, pencils, and paper clips spilled all over the floor.
“Maybe it’s time we head back,” Dr. Pavari said, touching Adrianna’s shoulder. “It’s been a long day, and it’s time for your pills.”
Adrianna sat stiffly, tilting her head towards him. “I don’t like the pills,” she said. She pressed her hands down on top of the desk again. “I don’t like the way they make me feel.”
Gabby swallowed a lump in her throat, fighting off tears. “Addy, if the doctor says—”
“You’re always taking his side!” Adrianna snapped. She stood up and slammed her hands down on the desk. “Don’t talk to me like I’m a child, Gabby!” She leaned against the desk, shaking.
Gabby held still, not sure what to say. She hated having to treat her sister like this. She’d always looked up to Adrianna when they were growing up; her sister was two years older than Gabby, and she used to teach Gabby about life and love and making friends. But their relationship had broken down during Adrianna’s pregnancy, and fallen apart completely in the aftermath of Dante’s death.
Dr. Pavari touched a hand against Adrianna’s back. “Let’s get back to the hospital. You can get some rest, and we can come back to finish the work later.”
Adrianna turned and glared at him, her fists clenched. Then she turned her glare on Gabby. “Fine,” she said. “It doesn’t matter. Fine.” She swung her hand out and knocked the pencil sharpener off the desk. Flakes of pencil trimmings flew everywhere. Adrianna turned and stalked from the room with Dr. Pavari trailing behind her. He gave Gabby an apologetic look and Gabby responded with the bravest smile she could force onto her face.
When they left, she took a deep, shuddering breath. The rest of the people in the room were staring at her, though most of them were trying to hide it. She held back her tears and pushed down her feelings, then forced herself to get back to work. There were still questions that needed to be answered and concerns that needed to be addressed. She was the one in charge, so she had to keep working.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about Timelines and Continuity. It had a lot to do with rearranging chapters during revisions, due to my nonlinear writing process (note: Professor Ron Block of Rowan University says all writing is linear, even when it’s not, because you have to write it and read it in a linear fashion across the page). As an example, I said I usually write, say, 6 chapters from Gabby’s POV, then 7 from Tock’s, then back to Gabby, and so on. But during revisions, I need to weave these chapters together to flow more fluidly back and forth between each character. The result can throw off some details that need to be fixed in revisions (such as if a character refers to something that happened “yesterday” but due to rearranging the order of events, it now happened “this morning,” or it won’t happen until tomorrow).
So why am I revisiting this topic? Well, my #NaNoWriMo novel, Arcana Revived Volume Six, is requiring me to look at chapter order in a very different way than in my previous first drafts. As an example, here’s the chapter order (before any revisions) for Volume Four, Mutation.
As you can see, I wrote 16 chapters in a row of Gabby, just because that was where my Muse was taking me. I kept writing on Gabby until I reached a point where I wasn’t quite sure what to do with her next. Then, to avoid getting log-jammed by writer’s block, I switched to Tock and Mae. I wrote with them for a while, then switched back.
Once I get to revisions, these chapters are more likely to go Gabby/Tock/Gabby/Tock/Gabby/Mae/Gabby/Tock or something like that. But when I was writing them, I just went with where my flow was taking me, in order to get all the words down as smoothly and quickly as possible. And it didn’t really hurt the narrative or the continuity at all, since Gabby and Tock weren’t directly interacting with each other in those early chapters. They’re in different places, going through different (but parallel and directly linked) events. Which was all building up to a point, close to the end, where their individual halves of the story merge and they end up in the same place at the same time.
This is the method I’ve really used with every book I’ve written so far, from Manifestation to Contamination (which is currently on Draft Two) to the next three books (which are all first drafts). It’s worked well each time. But the sixth book, which I’m currently writing for NaNoWriMo, is turning out to be an entirely different process. I’m handling continuity and the order I write the chapters in a completely different way.
As you can see in the chapter orders for Volume Six, I’m alternating a lot more between the characters from chapter to chapter. Really, this is what the above chapter order will look like after revisions. I’m just doing it during the first draft this time, spending no more than a few chapters in one character’s POV before I move to the next. This is because the stories are more directly interwoven than before. As a result, I have mostly fallen into a pattern where I write Gabby/Indra/Jaden/Gabby/Indra/Jaden in order. I have to do this because it’s not just a question of “which event happens first.” It’s a situation where all the characters are having a very direct impact on each other’s actions, so I can’t continue to write the next character’s chapter before I finish the first.
Here’s an example of two scenarios, one from Mutation and one from the new book, that demonstrate what I mean in a more concrete way.
During Mutation, there’s a point where the characters are battling a variety of giant mythological creatures that have come back to life because of the revival of magic. At one point, some of the characters are split up, so that Gabby is battling one Beast of Legend, Tock another, Mae a third, and Callia a fourth. The individual battles don’t impact each other, but they all impact the overall plot and together the battles determine whether everyone will be safe or if the Beasts will crush entire cities and kill thousands of people. So, after each battle has been decided, the characters can reunite and we can see the aftermath, but during each battle, each character is on their own (or “the character plus the miscellaneous supporting characters helping them fight”).
What makes the new book different is that for the majority of it, the characters are coordinating their efforts in the same struggle, instead of battling separate (but related) foes. For example, right now, Gabby is lying in ambush, waiting for a signal from Jaden that a certain task has been completed before it’ll be time to strike. But Jaden can’t do what she needs to until she gets crucial information from Indra and her cousin Vijay. So while I’m alternating between characters from one chapter to the next, they’re working together on a common goal, and their actions directly impact things. Gabby literally can’t proceed from her current position before I’ve written Jaden’s next chapter (unless she wants the entire mission to fail), and Jaden literally can’t accomplish her goal without the key information she’s waiting to receive. It requires me to look at the book differently than the previous volumes.
That’s not to say that either method, “nonlinear” chapter order or direct alternation between POVs, is better or worse than the other. It just means that the revision process for this volume will require less rearranging (in theory), since the chapters are already in more-or-less the order they’re going to stay in.
Hopefully things continue to flow well throughout the rest of NaNoWriMo. And if you’re also writing a novel this month, good luck, and may the continuity be ever in your favor.
#NaNoWriMo is here. We’re going into Day 9. Words are happening.
I’ve written before about the Midnight Disease. I have it. It’s obsession. Insomnia. Mania. Ever have a book that was so good, you just couldn’t put it down? You had to keep reading until you found out how it ended? I’m that way right now, but with the writing.
Here’s my progress so far:
I’ve written more in the first eight days than I did for the entire month in 2012, when I was working on the first draft of Manifestation. I’m about as far now as I was 14 days into NaNoWriMo in 2013. I’ve had multiple days, including today, where I wrote over 10,000 words in a day.
The characters are a lot of fun. If you’ve read Manifestation, you’ll be familiar with some of these characters, particularly Gabby Palladino and Tock Zipporah. But there’s some new characters as well, like Jaden Farrell, my telepath. She’s a very different type of character to write. As a telepath, she’s very in-tune with other people’s thoughts and emotions. Her ability to contact people across distances with her telepathy allows me to bring distant characters into the same scene, without needing to use scene breaks to move back and forth between locations. It’s also interesting to explore telepathy as a type of magic. Magic is a very big part of my series, and each character’s abilities are unique. I’m having a lot of fun considering how a telepath will use her powers to overcome various obstacles, such as evading enemies, defending against magical attacks, or defeating magically animated living war machines.
I’ve also got another new character, Aeldra Dekara, the druid. I’ve mentioned her on the blog before, because she was in book five, Possession. I haven’t even gotten the chance to really delve into her capabilities yet, because my plans for her come into play in the second half of the book. But she’ll have a whole new set of magic to explore, melding healing powers, plant manipulation, earth magic, and cybernetic capabilities. She’s extremely versatile and has the potential to become quite powerful. She’s also a blast to write because she has a snarky attitude and she won’t take shit from anyone.
I don’t know quite what will happen in the next few days. If I keep going at my current rate, I might finish this book by around November 20th. Or I might crash and burn. Either way, it should be fun, right?
If you’re also working on #NaNoWriMo, I wish you the best of luck. But I don’t recommend staying up all night in a daze, writing until you drop. It’s neither healthy nor wise. But I’ve never claimed to be wise.