Setting

Yes, I know, I know! It seems that I haven’t been doing any writing at all lately with all that stress and real life drama going on, but I think I’m getting back into the swing of things, now that a lot has happened and I have gotten some things sorted out. Right now I’m being eaten alive by homework, but I’m actually hoping to get some writing on Six done this week (keep your fingers crossed for me, people). Anyway, to make up for the sheer among of writing and blogging slackage recently committed, I thought to maybe post some things I’ve written for my creative writing class lately.

Since the final project here will be a short story, I’ve been tinkering with a few ideas revolving around Raeyn’s character who I really want to write some more for. We have little fiction assignments every two weeks (since we alternate between poetry and prose) and so far I’ve written some things on setting and characterization that I think aren’t all that bad, though I’d say they really aren’t what I’d call my best. Ah well, blame the stress and whatnot, but at least things are moving again and I’m surprised how much fun I’m having to write for Raeyn and his rather cynical attitudes (blame a good deal of that on my own cynicism lately ūüėČ ).

Anyway, here’s a piece about the setting of Light and what I’m calling “Raeyn’s Story” for now, seen from Raeyn’s PoV mainly focusing on description (which I suck at). Let me know what you think.

Stephanie Lee – ENGL 2250

Setting

I remember the day when my father first showed me the city outside of the Palace. It had been on a bright spring day, the sunlight reflected by the white marble of the Palace, making it look like one giant beacon of light. It looked beautiful. Rays of sunlight mirrored in the glass dome of the Temple of Light, giving it the semblance of a multifaceted crystal. Back then, I was young enough to believe it when the priests told me it was a sign; a divine favor of some sort.

Standing almost at the very same spot as I had so many years ago, I spot one of them now, bald and white-robed making his way to through the buzzing streets. I cannot help but realize how gullible people are. The priest’s slow gait halts from time to time to mutter some meaningless blessing to a woman or child, randomly selected from the faceless masses bustling around him. Just as every other Sun Day, the streets of the City of Helos are packed with people, flocking to the white, marble structure of the Temple like sheep, every bit as ignorant.

Here in the Core, even the air smells clean, free of the stink of rusty engines, stuttering through the streets of the Lower City.  Here, life runs its course along neatly-paved roads, clear of any of the trash or human scum that litter the streets elsewhere.  Merchants are hawking their wares from a cluster of wooden booths, painted in bright colors.

The streets of the inner city of Helos are never quiet, its population lulled by a sense of safety and prosperity. Above it all looms the Finger of Light, a cylindrical tower, higher than even the Palace itself, its glass façade, imaging the smooth and modern style of the Palace and the Temple of Light. Just as anything built by the Empire, it is nothing but a symbol for the public, stark and unforgiving, impossible to overlook.

In the end, the Core is nothing but a white and shiny public image. Visible to anyone and absolutely immaculate. Absolutely fake.  And yet its people believe whatever they are told. Like sheep indeed.

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Let’s say you have three different characters and they all walk through the same street…

…what would they notice and why?

I went to Mountain Con yesterday and attended an interesting workshop hosted by Brandon Sanderson that dealt with all matters concerning plot. Talking about the difficulties of distinguishing between different character voices, we talked about an interesting idea concerning character and setting.

Let’s say you have three different characters and they all walk through the same street/city – What would they notice about their surroundings and why?

If I take Ares, Damian, Raeyn and Nymeron for example, all four of them would see entirely different things when walking through the City’s Core. Nymeron would see it as the center of his rule, his legacy if you want to call it that and generally as the center of civilization itself. While his son Raeyn would see it as a scam, as a world he’s being pushed into as the heir to the Emperor’s throne and generally everything he’s trying to escape from. Damian would view it as some sort of work environment. He’d know a lot of residences of the city’s nobility and he’d notice the places he’d usually use to commit an assassination without being noticed. He’d know which ways to use to slip in and out of the Core without ever being seen, etc. Ares would see the Core a lot like Damian does and yet it also is part of his childhood as his memories about the Core are entirely different from Damian’s or anyone else belonging to the Shadows. Like Damian, he’d know the patrol routes of the Watch and know when to keep away, etc.

Now this doesn’t include things they’d actually see. Every character would have different associations with buildings like the Palace or the Finger of Light or districts like Nightshade or Up Side. They all would describe the buildings, streets and people they see in other ways relating to their background and personal association with it and that’s what makes this exercise this interesting. It’s definitely worth a try, especially if you are writing a novel from different PoV’s, but also if you struggle giving your supporting characters their own personality.

Right now I’m working on an assignment for my writing class; describing a specific setting. I personally always find mere descriptions rather dull and uninspiring so my attempt here is to describe the City of Helos from Raeyn’s perspective (since I’m planning to write a short story about him for the final project of this class). I might end up doing the same thing for more than one character though just to see what comes out of it and to improve my own setting description skills, because honestly it’s not one of my strengths and this sounds like a cool way to work on them a little. I’ll see about posting the results on here to get a little more content up and running again *cracks whip* I really need to get my writing back into gear.

Worlbuilding – Epic vs. Simplistic?

First off, I daresay that whether to go with a vast and epic world in contrast to a rather simplistic setting is totally a matter of taste. Secondly, tastes like so many other things are liable to change. Thirdly, personally as an author I hate worldbuilding just for the sake of worldbuilding. Honestly. It’s dull, it makes things complicated and I mostly catch myself forgetting some totally inconsequential detail and it just bugs me.

Okay. Having said that, I’d definitely say that all three of the reasons mentioned above have resulted in the following kind of worldbuilding for Light:

Pretty much everything happens within one city. The world of the Empire of Light pretty much focus on itself and the City of Helos as its core. In fact, I’m not even sure if I’ll ever leave this godsdamn city to explore the country of Illyria beyond what characters know about it from their backgrounds etc. There are/may be some tangents that I’m including, but the main setting is really clearly-cut

There are no other non-human races. Nope. No fairies/trolls/orks or other mysterious (im-)mortal races of any kind.

Pretty much all of the plot is seen through two first-person PoV’s. No multiple characters that spend ages finding each other/building up a relationship etc. Ares and Damian start out together and their plotlines definitely diverge, but they remain pretty much close together.

Religion is a mix. Officially it’s a monotheistic supremacy over the rest of the ‘lesser gods’ so to say. This is sort of an element taken from more epic concepts, but I won’t spend pages over pages dwelling on it, trying to bludgeon my readers to death with creation myths (I’m personally really not a fan of vast tangents on creation myths, though there are novels like Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel series with really good concepts, as a writer, it’s really not my thing and after some kind of trial&error process, I decided to stay the heck away from creation myths :p )

The setting is urban with a good dosage of medieval backlash. Light is set in a post-apocalyptic, urban fantasy world with modern technology, guns and even spaceships (though space travel never really worked out). Still, the Empire of Light has its medieval streaks despite its modern outset. It’s basically a faschist monarchy that still hangs its traitors, the Eye reigns from a palace in the center of the city, power is mostly inherited… you get the idea.

Generally, it’s been interesting how the ‘world’ Light is set in has changed over the course of two years. Back in 2006, the zero-draft consisted of some chapters set in close to the same kind of world that I ended up using now, though a tad more futuristic and rather reminiscent of The Matrix. It never really went anywhere, because neither setting nor the character cast of multiple third person PoV’s nor the initial rush of ideas worked out in a consistent plotline. Then in 2007 I changed it all over: One first person PoV, narrating the story set in a pretty much traditional medieval fantasy setting. The result was some sort of mix of Lies of Locke Lamora jumbled up with The Name of the Wind and Wheel of Time – and made out nearly half of my first draft until I finally figured out exactly how much and what I was doing wrong and we ended up with the setting and PoV’s mentioned above. With the second draft, I added Damian as second first-person PoV.¬† Even though some people initially yelled at me for my utter butchery of the concept of a first-person narrator, telling me what what I was doing defiled all rules of nice and shiny PoV logic, most of them ended up liking that approach and I’m personally having a lot of fun and new and shiny plot-propelling ideas with it.

On the aspect of taste, my own reading tastes of course totally influence my writing and those have changed pretty drastically since when I first picked up epic fantasies like Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time etc. I don’t say that I don’t like an epic setting, I definitely appreciate intricate worldbuilding as long as it doesn’t bog down the plot and keep things moving. Excessive worldbuilding that makes books thick enough to bludgeon you to death with while the plot starts diverging into all directions while they lose themselves in insignificant details really make me want to throw the book to the room and I tend to start skimming to catch the interesting sections. Can I just say that I’m not a great fan of Tolkien et alia? An endless list of races, their backgrounds, describing everyone and their dog paired with vast lengths of travelogue just doesn’t do it for me – I prefer a mix there and would like my backstory fed to me in little bits instead of great, big infodumps, but I guess I’m not alone here, am I? ūüėČ

Corrections ;)

Since Alaerien pointed out some things about the general ideas that I posted last night in my LJ, I think there are some things to add to make things clearer.

For now, the “Outer Rim States” is a filler word, I’m not quite sure how to call them yet (something in the way of “the lost lands” etc is more likely to fit) is all and I was apparently too tired and forgot to mention that…oops ;)

For the US and Russia: yeah, it would be kind of weird if it just worked out how I summarized it. It’s not as simple as that, the US and Russia aren’t just friends and everything is just fine. But who said that? ;) What would be more plausible is that the World is generally split into its former most powerful forces and that would put Russia against the US again. They might have tried to make everything seem like a nice united world, but after all reality is far from that. That is actually what I meant to say with the whole US/Russia complott. In the end it’s basically a world split into different…I guess you could call it sectors or territories that still have enough ressources to keep their own autonomy (aka Russia, the US, maybe even Africa if they weren’t too dependent on greater economical powers already)

The reason why Europe is more or less non-existent in its union anymore is actually based on today’s conflicts as well as the fact that they will inevitably run out of oil/other ressources. Of course there’s some more fiction at the works here but that’s basically how it could be explained.

I guess I should have gone further into detail here, but somehow I must have spaced off, sorry about that

Progress – Attn.: Spoilers

Today has been a good day in terms of restructuring Light. The ideas have just kept coming and I think I’m rather well set to start out writing again. As a matter of fact I will start writing right after finishing this entry (oh yes, we’re getting to work again) and on the same, really painfully slow laptop. I don’t know why, but in some way I like the little thing. It’ll do until I’ll get my new one in a couple of months though.

So anyway, here it goes. The world and general setting are created, I got rid of the rather superfuous religious system and most of the things that just reminded me too much of other books or series that I’ve read before. A good part of characters have been undergoing some major changes, but in my opinion those new characteristics and general attributes will¬†fit them all the better.

Oh and something¬†else has changed too and that is something I was tinkering with from the beginning when I really wanted to write this as a first person narrative from Ares’¬†point of¬†view. Well the initial doubts being¬†confirmed, I scrapped that part.¬†The overall plot is just too complex¬†for one single character to survey. Ares¬†simply wouldn’t have enough insight to¬†always know what is going on and there will be¬†other point of¬†views that have to be included in order to make the story itself work.¬†After all the last thing I want for Ares is him sounding like¬†some kind of omniscient lecturer, for he’s quite the opposite of that and ¬†sometimes just has no fucking clue what is going on and so…well you’ll see.¬†

Anyway, here are¬†some of the general things I’ve been working on (I won’t give too much away though ;))

The World: 

It’s the year 2191: The world is dominated by the United World Nations, an institution that took over after the Civil Wars that had broken loose almost a hundred years prior. The Wars had been a result of the World’s population generally running out of ressources like oil and the United Nations’ failure to reconcilliate the diverging economical interests of the USA and the rest of what once had been called the G8 states. Environmental collapse and the dramatically fast melt down of the Poles only added to the general unrest, turning nations against each other trying to protect their individual interests.¬†

To deescalate the situation and out of fear of a nuclear war, the UWN was formed after ten years of civil chaos and general chaos. The international attempt to reunite the world wasn’t accepted without resistance of course. The foremost nations among the Resistance, France, England and Germany had to succumb to the overwhelming forces coming from the United States and Russia, who had formed a rather unexpected, yet stable alliance. Apparently old quarrels and conflicts like the Cold War and its resentments had been forgotten. Once more the world seemed united and the winning powers experienced a flood of loyalty united in the urge to stop the Wars. Some remembered tales how it had been two hundred years earlier after what had been called the Second World War, other, more doubtful voices only saw the deserted wasteland that had once been three of the most powerful nations of what had been called the European Union.¬†

Some may say the Unification has brought the end to all qualms and conflicts, while some -mostly those who lived on the other side of the Fence or in one of thousands of fugitive camps built after the Wars- would probably say that Unification has been the end of personal freedom and any attempts to unite the world in democracy. 

If you lived in the “right” areas of the world, the Capital City, or the Central States you would never have to face the conflict that once more seperates the World into a class system not much different from the classes before Civilization. Whereas the rich wouldn’t want for neither rights, freedom nor ressources and technology, it were those who lived in the Outer Rim States, those who according to the Council had refused to assimilate to society and accept the chances the UWN would offer them, who suffered major throwbacks. In countries that had no official authority, countries ravaged by war and want for the very basics to maintain civilized life, it were self-declared warlords, whose word was law ruling the land with repression, exploiting all natural as well as human ressources left to them while the UWN Council onveniently looks away as long as their interests remain untouched.¬†

Religion: 

As I mentioned before, I scrapped the pantheon of different Gods that I created for the Nano-draft. In a world where Science has become humankind’s largest religion, there are only few followers of the anchient religions left.¬†While some Christians, Muslims, Jews and others still cling to their out-dated beliefs, Unification also progressed on a religious level. Attempting to truly unite humankind and realizing that God, Allah, Jahwe and all those names meant one and the same in the end, the Empire of Light was created as a synonym for the fact that all religions essentially weren’t different at all. Those who used to believe in one God, had been taught to believe in the Light that shone upon all of them in the same way. Those whose beliefs required a Prophet to guide them were taught to trust in the guidance of the Eye, the Lord Chancellor himself, elected by the Council who reconcilliated worldly as well as heavenly reign in one and the same institution, while the Watch makes sure to enforce law and order on the streets and in every other aspect of life, if possible without letting anybody know about the exact extend of their influence.

Of course there were those who refused to believe, those who insisted in their personal religious freedom. However, those who remained defiant to the world’s new movement of Enlightenment would soon find their churches, Moschees and Synagoges torn down and used to build new Houses of Light while those foolish enough to hang on to their old beliefs would soon find themselves deported to the Outer Rim States where they might be lucky and¬†be able to continue their religious pursuit or not.¬†Everything the UWN wanted was keeping their citizens out of trouble and¬†extinguish riots from their roots. The last thing they needed¬†was another war over matters that had been solved so¬†efficiently.¬†

Magic: 

If you have the¬†Gift, an ability similar to¬†psionics¬†in the way of¬†Sensing people’s minds and influencing them on a mental basis, but also more complex in the way of Touching people directly with your ability to¬†attack, bind or even heal people, you’re in deep trouble.¬†

You may be lucky and the Empire (or the UWN to¬†use a friendlier word and one that doesn’t¬†get¬†you into jail) will find you when you’re born at one of their hospitals (Scanning is mandatory, no way to avoid it). You’re lucky then, because they will Fix you, even though that will require some more or less extreme fiddling with your brain. But in the end you’ll be Blocked from either Touching or Sensing. There have been rumours of cases that lead to a child’s premature death either during the surgery itself or after suffering from seizures, stroke or even brain tumors, but those rumours have been silenced to mere myths.¬†

Of course you might have been born in the Outer Rim States and emigrated later, willing to receive what the UWN offers you, but even then you won’t be able to avoid Scanning and if they find out that you’re one of those unfortunate creatures in need of Cleansing, you’ll be off for a little trip to one of those neat labs that will take care of your problem and you can be sure that after you’re Cleansed you won’t have any problems at all anymore. In fact, you won’t feel anymore because there won’t be anything left of you capable of human emotion. But here we’re entering the realm of myth and rumors again for never has anyone seen the inside of the UWN’s Cleansing facilities and that better stays that way too.¬†

Characters: 

“The Shadows”:

Ares Maevere – our German/American, unfortunately Gifted, orphaned and sometimes more than halfway insane leader of the band of merry criminals with a rather dark past

Damian Cain – Ares’ ,originally French, second in command and significant other (what was that about major buttsex warning? *scratches head*), apart from Ares, he likes to shoot holes in other people, oh and to patch up his own crew, after all he’s a born paradox of a man ūüėȬ†

Naerya and Nurya Artume Рthe Colombian twins and well-known first class Courtesans, always handy to get some helpful information out of male as well as female clients 

Jay –¬†the American tech, whether it’s hacking, fixing up a car or even an airship, she’ll do the job

Orion –¬†the American mercenary:¬†lockpick and weapons specialist¬†

Orpheus – the Mentor, almost old enough to have witnessed the Wars, the original founder, or should we call him Collector of the Shadows, it is said he has some rather interesting connections to the Watch and the Intelligence of the Empire

“The Temple” aka “House Gioa” (the place where officially nobody has a last name ;))

Amaelia – Highpriestress/owner of the etablissement

Veleine Рfuture Priestress of the Temple with rather interesting beliefs 

Eliaf – more often mocked as “the Prophet”, a strange guy with a strange name and even stranger ideas

Declyn ¬†– someone who doesn’t like to talk about himself, but who is wanted for nothing less but arson and murder

The Eye: Sirius Nymeron – Lord Chancellor and only true “Prophet” of the Light

The Watch: 

Arturiel Valyr РLieutenant of the Watch, best friend of Ged Maevere, husband to Eva Valyr

Ged Maevere¬†(deceased)¬†– Captain of the Watch, Ares’ father, a convicted traitor

Dahlia Laras – Captain of the Watch, Intelligence and contact to the Shadows

Others: 

Faele Maevere – Ares’ mother

Eva (deceased) – Arturiel’s wife

Raeyn Nymeron – Sirius’ son

Dawnelle Nymeron – Sirius’ daughter¬†

Coras Рdealing in drugs and genetical enhancements 

There would be other things to mention but I think it would drag it too long and I’m trying not to give away any spoilers, this has become a much longer post than it was planned to be. I’m¬†ready to write though and hope there are enough dystopian themes in this to convince anyone that no, nobody’s going to save the world here. After all, there’s no place for Heroes in this world. Heroes die, kid.

Changes

Alright. So yesterday that little bug that’s been telling me to screw my medieval fantasy setting and go for an urban one instead finally won over. I’m happy with this actually. Even though I was feeling all chaotic and “throw it all over again” like yesterday, I think this has been an important step for me to realize that I’ll have to make some radical changes to get rid of some of the flaws in my story like:

– similarities to other fantasy series that I’ve read
– the feeling that this world is but a fake medieval concept while much of the values and the general conflicts of the story are modern ones
– that whole creating a myth part that overall doesn’t make much sense and maybe the story might even be better served by reducing the role of religion in contrast to the power of science

All in all I’m pretty optimistic. Even though I’m looking at a lot of work and rewriting here, I think it’ll make a better plot in the end. So here goes to massive changes and outlining till another writing intensive phase will come in March (for MarNoWriMo on westeros or before)

Cheers ūüėÄ

Crap…I hate when this happens…

Sooo…general writing doubts are kicking in again, but those are actually referring to something specific IN my story, even though changing that will probably throw everything all over again…

Ok, here we go. Some of you guys already know that I originally wrote Light in a today’s world/scifi setting, but for last Nanowrimo I threw it all over again and rewrote it in a medieval fantasy setting. In a way it was easier to write in a medieval setting, but now I’m sort of doubting the entire outline, because all in all it just has too many Name of the Wind/Wheel of Time/Gentleman Bastards elements in in and that’s actually not what I want to do with it.

So my question goes to all of you because I feel I’m pretty much stuck with this right now: Should I keep going with the rather traditional medieval fantasy setting or wouldn’t it be better to redo it in a modern world/urban fantasy setting?

I know that some of you haven’t seen the earlier draft, but maybe you still have an opinion and can help me out with this. It will be noir fantasy but I don’t want to do it too conventional so I’m wondering if the medieval setting really fits. If you want to have a peak at the earlier drafts, let me know though I have to admit that those parts are in a horribly unedited state.

I know this is a bit vague, but maybe you can still help me out or give me an opinion which setting you’d prefer.