Last night, I submitted my first ever complete work, my novelette Abuse of Power, for publication. Awash in the glow of accomplishment, I reflected a bit on how my world came to be.
The year was 1996 (In my mind, I’m sounding like the narrator on How I Met Your Mother. Well, kids…). Heavily into Wheel of Time and still thinking Sword of Truth good, I decided, “I’m going to write an epic fantasy series.” Having no experience writing, I started doing two things: reading books about writing and creating the characters and plot.
At the time, it seemed logical to base the four protagonists on me and best friends. Since then, I’ve learned a few things.
- Though all characters have a part of me in them, it’s a bad idea to base any of them completely on me.
- It’s a beyond horrible idea to base characters on your friends. You need them to a) have flaws that may make your friends uncomfortable and b) conform to the dictates of the story.
Thankfully, though certain archetypical features remain, the characters eventually took on a life of their own. Take the primary protagonist, Xan. You can see how he might be compared to me as someone who was something of a nerd and shy toward girls in my youth, but who would have referred to me as an arrogant know-it-all? Oh, wait…
With the first four characters established, I worked on my magic system. I had six mage types: one for each of the four elements (I know. Original, right?), a life mage, and a death mage. I decided that, not counting the primary character, I needed one of each type of mage. Over the years, I drew upon more friends to fill the additional three roles.
Eventually, I completely changed the magic system, and those three characters came to fill much more important roles – the girl Xan wants, the girl Xan should want, and a foil to Xan’s leadership.
While the plot and the characters came easily to me, the names did not. The first one I came up with, and I’m still not sure where it came from, was the duke, August Asher. The girl that Xan desires is the duke’s daughter, and her name came to me pretty easily as well – Ashley Asher.
It’s hard to not note the double alliteration, and I thought to myself, “There’s got to be a story to it.” I can see August finding his name too cutesy. Why, then, would he pass that along to his daughter? Thus, Abuse of Power, the story of how Ashley’s mother and father met, was born.
For the other names, I finally settled on using meanings to determine them. Xan, short for Alexander, means defender of mankind. Lainey, at the time a fire mage, means torch. Dylan, who was to be a water mage, means great sea. Brant, my soldier/adventurer type, means sword. Tasia, who was to be my life mage, is short for Anastasia meaning resurrection. Lucan, I just liked the sound of. By the time I changed my system, it was too late to change the names; that’s how I thought of the characters.
I like what Abuse added to the world. With my style of writing, I don’t want to give you backstory that doesn’t directly impact what’s immediately happening. Short stories really flesh out the stuff I’m not telling you. For example, two of the characters in the novelette appear in minor roles in the novel. Were it not for Abuse, you’d barely notice them in Power. Instead, if you’ve read both, you’re going to be more interested in what they’re up to almost twenty years later.
I have some plans to further use short stories for this purpose. I think that a pair of related stories, one showing the nobles’ POV about how the Wizard’s War came to be and another from the mages’ side, would be interesting. I’d hope that I could, with the first story, make the reader believe that the nobles are completely correct in their actions and turn that thinking on its head with the second. I’d also like to write something that doesn’t show the catcher as the bad guy. They do, from one perspective, serve a purpose and not all of them are corrupted by the power. Finally, I think the war itself is a good subject for at least a novella, and it would feature the only character shown in Power who was alive at the time.
Before I can start any of those projects, I’ve got to get further along on my primary objective. As of today, November 1, 2012, I have exactly seven months to: finish my second draft, completely do my third and fourth drafts, send Power of the Mages to an editor, and make final revisions. Wish me luck; I’m going to need it!
I also need to figure out how to do a complete story arc in about 5000 words. I simply don’t have time to write 10-12k for each of the three shorts.
So little to do, so much time. Wait. Stop. Reverse that.