Saturday, May 4, 2013

What I'm Writing

I'm a writer.  I write all kinds of things, including this blog.  I'd like to be a fiction novel writer, too.  But most of the fiction I've written in recent years has been journals of roleplaying games.  I used to keep copious notes of all of the campaigns I participated in, and frequently I would convert them into the form of letters from my characters to their families back home, or private journals kept by the characters.  I published these in the form of emails or on an RPG forum site for the entertainment of my fellow players and others.  Originally I didn't think of this as "real writing", or as fiction.  I've come to realize it doesn't really matter what I'm writing, as long as I'm writing.

But I'd still like to write a novel, or several.  I have multiple novel plots in mind, though I haven't finished any of them and have written very little of a couple of them.  I've decided  to take the risk of telling people about them and see if I get any kind of feedback.

The novel I was most invested in finishing - and have the most written for - is a wuxia novel, a genre I'd like to introduce to a broader Western audience.  I am having a lot of problems with the development of this one.  I can't decide if I want to set the story in historical China, an alternate history version of China, or a fictional setting that resembles China.  I can't decide if I want to introduce elements of magical fantasy into the story.  I've been watching a lot of wuxia films and tv series, and I find that I start trying to incorporate what I watch into my story, which is making it a derivative muddle.  So I've decided I will set that story aside for a while, until I can make some final decisions about the setting and the plot elements I want to retain.  I'm also going to read more wuxia fiction.  Not a lot of it has been published in English, but what I've read has all been by the same author and I hope reading some material by other authors will give me a broader perspective on what constitutes a wuxia story. 

The second most developed novel in my collection is a traditional fantasy.  As in many a fantasy novel, the invented world setting of the story is threatened by a Great Evil, and the protagonist is the Chosen One who can vanquish the evil.  I ran my hero through The Universal Mary Sue Litmus Test to ensure that I'm not creating a Mary Sue. I've tried to differentiate the character from other Chosen Ones in fantasy as much as I can.  The Great Evil isn't a person but an entity that isn't really evil in the sense that it's made a choice to do bad things; the things it does that are bad are part of its very essence and it couldn't change if it wanted to.  So the hero's task isn't to kill it or make it surrender or take away the McGuffin that gives it its power.  He has to lock it away on the other side of an interplanar barrier so it can't get back into the world where he lives. 

He's done this before, or rather helped to do so, centuries ago when this entity first slipped through a crack between worlds.  At that time he was one of a whole army of people who fought to help their mother goddess hold the entity on the other side of the door.  The goddess has been holding the door shut all this time.  But when the entity manages to slip part of itself past her, she has to use a little bit of her power to send just one of her long-ago worshippers into the realm of the living to warn the inhabitants of the world and recruit help to block up the opening for good.  My protagonist is a man out of his time, unable to even speak the same language as the people he meets (I've got a plan to get around the language barrier).  He has to convince strangers to listen to him and help him.  He also has to deal with some personal issues created by the method the goddess uses to send him into the world of the living.  I hope this doesn't end up being too much like every other 'Chosen One defeats the Great Evil' story out there.  I have no intention of making it a trilogy/quadralogy/endless series.  It's one book, and when it's over it's over.

Novel Number Three is also a traditional fantasy.  The premise of this one is pretty simple:  It's basically a traditional D&D adventuring party.  A group of characters get together - though not at an inn - and set off to achieve a goal.  The world setting is inspired by Hyborea, and my intention is to avoid using anything that is too obviously D&D-derived.  I'm trying to imagine how to take the tropes of D&D and other fantasy roleplaying games and make them seem rational and realistic.  There will not be any elves or dwarves in this story, though there will be beings that somewhat resemble those common fantasy fiction races.  There will be wizards and priests and monstrous creatures, but I hope I'll be able to devise things that, while recognizable as traditional fantasy elements, aren't too obviously derivative of D&D rules.  I don't want to get in trouble with the publishers of any roleplaying game or roleplaying fiction.  I am not basing the story on any RPG campaign I've been involved in.  I just wanted to write a story about the kinds of things that happen in the roleplaying campaigns I've participated in, without being tied to the events of an actual campaign or characters that were created by my friends.  I admire my friends characters, but I don't want to write a novel about them.  I wouldn't do them justice.

Novel Number Four currently exists only in my head.  This is the first time I've actually written something down about it.  It's an urban fantasy.  The premise is that magic and the fey have been cut off from the material world for centuries, but somehow the fey were able to reach into our world and kidnap a person.  After several years of mortal time, they release him, but he has no memory of his time in the fey realm.  At the same time he returns to the mortal world, the fey re-emerge into the world as well, in a cataclysmic magical event.  What does the kidnapping of the protagonist have to do with this re-emergence?  What did he experience during his time with the fey, and why can't he remember anything?  These are the questions that I hope to answer eventually.

You may have noticed that all of the protagonists I mentioned are male.  When I think of a story it emerges from my imagination pre-populated with a protagonist of a specific gender, and all of these have emerged with masculine heroes.  I don't know why that is, but I find that if I try to force a change of gender it doesn't make me feel comfortable with the change.  I may be able to change the gender of the character in Novel #4 because I haven't actually written any of it yet, but the protagonists of the other three novels will all continue to be male. 

Well, there they are, the offspring of my imagination, all still in a fetal state.  Perhaps if I talk about them a little here, it will help them to grow and develop into something that you can read someday.

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