The Force & the Storytelling of Star Wars

Disclaimer: Spoilers throughout. I will be speaking mostly to the Original Trilogy and the Prequel Films. However, when speaking to the story elements and how they come together, there’s a lot to consider from legends canon, creator comments, the expanded universe, and more.  It goes without saying I do not own Star Wars and all opinion contain within are my own, images and dialogue used for the examples presented here and not in any sort of attempt to make a profit etc. This is just one fan speaking about the storytelling takeaways from a franchise they love.

Preface: I will assume you are well versed in the Star Wars franchise and subsequent lore because we’re going to be diving deep into several plot points. This is in no way to say that my opinions are the end all be all. This is simply how I see the Force. How it’s used as a storytelling device, my views on Star Wars – specifically through the lens of how the franchise has evolved to tell some amazing stories.

I think it’s important to understand that Star Wars, as a worldwide phenomenon, has touched so many people’s lives, each in a unique way. I grew up with the Original Trilogy. Watching VHS tapes until they wore down enough to be unwatchable. Images of the seedy hives of scum and villainy, dark swamps of Dagobah, or industrial monuments to imperial rule will be forever etched into my mind.

Yet some of my best friends didn’t start watching the films until the Prequels were coming out. The adventures of Obi-Wan and Anakin and the tragedy that followed. Others grew up watching with me but didn’t take away the same Promethean flame of creativity that I did.

Science fiction has always been such a wonderful playground in which the mind can have fun. The two biggest film franchises from my childhood that influenced me are Alien and Star Wars. I’ve always clung to that gritty, dirty future. That’s not to say that I don’t love Star Trek. Star Trek is fantastic, but it never really felt like the same sandbox I wanted to play in.

Star Wars literally starts in a sandbox, a metaphor that I’m sure no one envisioned except maybe for Mr. Lucas himself. Star Wars is a universe of stories with layers and complexity told using strong plotting (when it’s done well) and even stronger archetypes. 

There’s a lot of philosophy at the center of Star Wars. Maybe because Star Wars have taken so much from the westerns and samurai films that inspired it. Lucas merely changed the backdrop. I could do an entire post on how these influences allowed Star Wars to not only be the greatest Western of all time but also, potentially, the most magnificent version of a jidaigeki ever seen, albeit in a different setting. 

If a story is the series of events that occur, then the plot is how we execute the story. Many times the plot follows a structure (think the three acts at its most basic). It’s a character arc, a lesson to be learned. It’s the level of meaning under the story’s surface that gets us closer to the theme. 

That’s the lens that we are looking through, not the facts and semantic trivia you find in a story. We’re talking plot, and if it doesn’t add to the plot, we don’t need to go into it.

What do I mean?

The Millennium Falcon clearly has only X number of thrusters; it’s a spaceship, it needs thrusters to move. But we don’t ever need to know precisely how many unless one of them breaks. Why? Story vs. Plot.

How about the fact that Vader’s breastplate is flipped in one scene but back to normal in another. This isn’t a fanboy breakdown of what I hate about Star Wars. This is one fan’s insight into why he loves the franchise, what I’ve learned from it, and how it’s informed me as a storyteller and writer.

I say all that to say this, they take this with a grain of salt, my opinion, and one that’s open for lively if not respectful debate. 

What is the Force?

“The force?”

“The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us, and penetrates us. It binds the Galaxy together.”

-Luke Skywalker & Obi-Wan Kenobi

Obi-Wan Kenobi explaining the mystical nature of the universe to Luke Skywalker

Within the world of Star Wars, the Force is a powerful mythical energy field. But even Obi-Wan’s simple explanation is the tip of the iceberg. As a viewer, we are in the same boat as Luke, wondering what exactly that even means. It would be easy to just dump a ton of information here, and if you look at Lucas’s notes even for a New Hope (which was simply ‘Star Wars’ in the 70s), you know he could easily do that here. But he doesn’t. The plot needs to be teased along through the actions and journey of Luke. 

There are tons of pages that you can break down into the nitty-gritty of what the Force is or isn’t. Wookipedia even has a canon and legends entry covering it all. Which brings us right back to the story versus plot debate. Let’s push through. Plot.

Obi-Wan’s description is vital, as this mystic element show up a lot in the original trilogy. It is an important distinction; this is a science fiction story that is really loose with the science. This is done on purpose. Ultimately this is a story of space wizards. That’s what we are dealing with here, Space Wizards with fucking laser swords. It’s genius, and in the original trilogy, wonderfully reinforced. The protagonists of Star Wars use the Force for the benefit of the universe. The Force is natural, mystical, old, and powerful. The Empire is the opposite; rigid, industrial, military, oppressive, all the things that the Force and, by association, the Rebellion are not. Even Imperial officers openly mock Vader’s belief in the Force. The Empire as a whole is drastically different from the protagonist; this is why the parts of Vader that do not fall in line with Imperial values (his use of the Force) are ostracized. This makes the revelation of the Emperor being a big-time Force user himself so dramatic. The Force serves as a multi-faceted storytelling device used to build a universe, culture, opposing forces, and opportunities to subvert expectations when appropriately used.

The Empire, its fight against the Rebellion, and the Force are essential elements in showcasing Star Wars’ themes, and possibly its most significant theme: the struggle of light and dark. Duality and the struggle that both sides create is fundamental in the storytelling of Star Wars. Light against darkness, nature against industry, love against hate—strong oppositions colliding together, set in space. Star Wars. 

Hence why the characters are more important than technology. We don’t need to know how a lightsaber works until a character needs to know. Even then, only if it helps that character’s story. This is as it should be since when you let the story lead instead of the plot, far too much gums-up the works.

Star Wars is more folklore and mythology than story sci-fi and schematics. 

This is a crucial distinction because this shows why some aspects of the Legends canon show up so often in the Disney Canon. Disney really focused hard on story, less on plot. I could but won’t give a laundry list of grips, but that’s not the purpose of this, but I will briefly address the Disney Trilogy (DT).

If you look at the Disney trilogy, some elements are poorly executed from a narrative viewpoint. They had a series of events (story) with no plot to give actual meaning and resonance. This is not constant in the Disney films; some of those endeavors have genuinely hit the Star Wars nail on the head (I’m looking at you, Rogue One and the Mandalorian). These missteps can be felt far more as the Disney Trilogy progresses. Because no plot held the movies together, the weaker story elements give way to glaring character issues. I don’t want to get sidetracked further, but some character studies could prove useful in the future. 

Back to the subject at hand. Obi-Wan tells Luke that the Force is an energy field created all by all living things; this gives us a kind of scientific but very mystical explanation. 

I mentioned earlier that the audience is on the same journey of discovery that Luke is on. We’re his side-kick through the Hero’s Journey (it’s little wonder why so many see the movies as told through the viewpoint of view of R2 – more on that later). 

Harry Potter takes the same journey with magic (and more importantly reader’s introduction of magic). Peeling back layers and layers of a mystical, magical world that is best enjoyed in those first tentative steps into a larger world of fantasy. This is even said by Luke and confirmed by Obi-Wan Later in the film.

“You know I did feel something; I could almost see the remote.”

“That’s good. You’ve taken your first step into a larger world.”

-Luke Skywalker & Obi-Wan Kenobi

The first steps.

As the story progresses, we get a much larger view of the Force. Not only via the Original Trilogy but also as we go back through into the Prequel Trilogy, we see it vastly expanded upon in the canon. 

At no other time in the Galaxy’s history do we see such a wide array of Force users. In ‘A New Hope, ‘ Obi-Wan says for a thousand generations, the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and hope in the Galaxy, before the dark times. Before the Empire. That’s the backdrop of the Prequel Trilogy. The hight of the Jedi order and subsequently the Republic.  

I’m going to get a little technical just to explain some other elements of the story. For that, a slightly more comprehensive understanding of the Force is needed.  

The Force is this energy field, but it comes in two forms. The living Force, which is very much in the here and now. This energy is created singularly by living creatures. The vibration that you as a living creature give off in the universe. The second is the cosmic Force; this is the Force that exists through the vastness of the cosmos. Possibly the energy from the big bang itself. The cosmic Force is sometimes seen as the Will of the Force. 

In rough drafts, Lucas’s script indicated it was taken from the ‘ Journal of the Whills.’ Vague terms that plainly create a sense of magic and wonder. What we are left with is the understanding that the Cosmic Force has a will of its own. Simply put, Deus Ex Machina is an actual element of the universe. Once again, reinforcing a certain sense of mythology, supporting that these are stories of folklore, theme, and parable. Not hard science-fiction. 

For most kids, myself included, the Living Force was your best friend in the playground of childhood imagination. You walk up to an automatic door, timing it just right so you can wave your hand, the door opens, and that little voice in your head goes, “The Force is strong with this one.”

It sticks with you. As an adult (on more than one occasion), I’ve turned to my significant other and waved my hand, informing them that I’m not trouble. I then say I’m free to go about my business before moving along. 

We don’t see much of the living Force in the Original Trilogy. The examples we do get are far more tied to the mythical views that see the Force as a religion instead of something scientifically quantifiable. 

During his training with Yoda, Luke is given a gauntlet of physically demanding tasks and drills, not to make him physically strong, but to open him up to listen to the Cosmic Force. By becoming an ally to the Force, you can wield it through you. Only through symbiosis with the Force can you genuinely meet your potential. Even the most talented must learn, and something UN-learn to really make progress. Yoda’s giving Luke life lessons. This is pure, delicious plot. These lessons stick with Luke, develop and inform the character he becomes.  

If it was any other 80s movie, we would probably get a montage. But there’s no plot in a montage, just some quick cuts, and catchy tunes. Star Wars is about the journey. We need to see Luke’s failing because it makes him a stronger character in the end. Training with Yoda is critical because he corrects both Luke and our own assumptions of what the Force is.

Luke, like us, initially sees the Force as something quantifiable – something that can be measured. Here’s a scene from Empire Strikes Back after Luke’s X-wing sinks into the swamp:

Luke: “We’ll never get it out now.” 

Yoda: “So certain are you?” 

Yoda (after a heavy sigh): “Always with you it cannot be done. Hear you nothing that I say?”

Luke: “Master, moving stones around is one thing, this is totally different.”

Yoda (stamps his cane into the mud): “No! No different. Only different in your mind. You must unlearn, what you have learned.”

Luke: “Alright, I’ll give it a try.”

Yoda: “No. Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try.”

After Luke’s failed attempt to lift the ship, he slumped down defeated. Nothing so heavy can be raised. He’s not big enough, not strong enough. This is more plot; this defeat happens internally in Luke. We are almost frustrated that Yoda could ask so much of our hero. 

After Luke protests that the ship is simply too big, we get an excellent explanation of the mysticism behind the Force offered by Yoda. It piggybacks on Obi-Wan’s description to great effect:

“Size matters not. Look at me, judge me by my size do you? Hmm? And where you should not. For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you. Here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere. Yes, even between the land and the ship.”

-Yoda

Yoda’s training of Luke is relentless but it serves to temper the youth for unforeseen challenges.

Luke stands and scoffs at the suggestion. The Jedi Master is asking for the impossible, and Luke tells him as much. 

But then something else happens. Then the slight frame of Yoda does the impossible; he lifts the X-wing out of the swamp. He’s not even winded – because the living Force is about harmony, patience, endurance, a stillness of mind. 

There’s a ton to unpack here, and I could take eight hours gleefully doing so, but I’ll keep it as short as possible. TL;DR being a Jedi, using the Force is a discipline. A life long commitment and not something that one can just pick up willy-nilly. It’s a state of being, a belief.

The Prequels

I feel there’s an inherent problem with telling a prequel. Sometimes the origin story can do more damage than good. The Prequel Trilogy, on their own merit, have some issues. Overall, they are decent films that spearheaded every technological advancement that filmmaking had to offer and even created some unique ones along the way.

But as Vader himself said, “Do not be too proud of this technological terror you’ve contructed.” 

The Prequels, in many ways losses some of the heart and soul of Star Wars. Its attempt to shift a little more into Science-fiction instead of staying in the kingdom of Science-fantasy hampered it.

Midi-chlorians.

Ouch. It’s tough to say sometimes; I remember how confused and almost angry I was. It was not because the Force is microscopic bacteria that are communicating through our cells. There’s nothing wrong with that. It was because it was trying to turn some of the fantasy into hard science. This made the Force predetermined, measurable, mechanical, and cold. Anakin could use the Force because his innate Force score was high.

This upturns some of the narrative consistency in my eyes, especially when going from the OT to the prequels.

It also borders the edge of something more dangerous. Destroying the original plot. I’m not referring to the angry fanboy rant—more of an examination of the cause and effect of the choice to include something like that. 

By pigeonholing the mystical aspects of the Force into a measurement, you quickly establish the strength of Anakin to the audience’s meta-knowledge of how strong Yoda is. This is why it was the “easy way” out. Anyone remotely familiar with Star Wars knows Yoda. He’s in the public zeitgeist. 

Lucas gives us a number, and both Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon are astounded that someone could be that strong in the Force.

I need a midi-chlorian count.

The reading’s off the chart. Over 20,000. Even Master Yoda doesn’t have a midi-chlorian count that high.

No Jedi has.

―Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi

There are many ways the exposition of Anakin being strong in the Force or the Chosen One can be delivered. By taking an easy way out instead of science fiction instead of well crafted Science-fantasy, the PT started out in a far deeper narrative hole than they needed to. 

Here’s where the narrative flow gets wonky. Luke Skywalker in Star Wars wasn’t the son of Darth Vader; he was just a farm boy. It’s only until the finale of Return of the Jedi that we understand the gravity of who Luke is in his place in the Galaxy. Even then, Anakin is not the chosen one at this point. It has never been narratively established.

In the Original Trilogy, anyone can be a Jedi. This is the established narrative that is used. Granted, we only have a pinhole view of their customs through the perspective of Luke. But this is the dangerous line that a prequel tows. There’s never a mention that having children or personal relationships of love are forbidden among the order. The Jedi in the OT are far more Samurai-like than their Monk-like counterparts presented in the Prequels.

It may seem innocuous, but it’s not.

The Force presented in the OT is a balancing act in and of itself. The Force, according to Yoda, to be used for knowledge and defense, never attack. Feelings of anger, fear, and insecurity are commonplace in an OT Jedi’s life. The audience is taught from our surviving Jedi Masters. Yoda does not give up on Luke even though the young man makes huge mistakes. Instead, Yoda challenges him to learn from those experiences, to grow stronger. The Dark Side is quick and easy, giving in to temptation for a faster outcome. It does not have the same temperance, patience, and inner strength.

This reaffirms the place of discipline in a Force user’s life. It parallels real life and, thus, why the plot and theme are so wrong.

In the Prequels, these topics are mainly missing in favor of connecting the dots chronicling Anakin Skywalker’s fall and the rise of the Empire. Simply put, lots of story, not much plot. 

Because these Mystical elements are light or non-existent, the Force changes. It becomes more a McGuffin or thing to have, be born with, or wielded versus a state of mind, means of connection, or source of learning.

There are narrative lines within the OT that the PT holds that keep the story arc coherent. From the Original Trilogy, we find out that the Force can run strong in one family as an example. Here’s the issue, though. You now have to create storylines that can get a character from point A to point B in a way that doesn’t undermine or threaten your story. Seems easy, but without the same cohesion of plot, those lines are not smooth. Your original story now becomes a sequel in a sense. The prequel trilogy struggles with this as it favors story over plot. 

Many of these plotlines are thankfully cleaned up in the expanded canon. We are given a larger view of the Star Wars Universe. Again, that is not to say the Prequels are not good; they are. Just that without the attention to the narrative flow of the plot and theme, stuff gets messy. They’re good, not great, not excellent, and without the same moralistic take-always of the OT.

If you’ll excuse the pun, the expanded canon brings balance to the Force as a storytelling device. The Jedi are shown as having flaws, some running so deep within the order it’s no wonder the Emperor was triumphant during Revenge of the Sith. Thanks to the efforts of content like the Clone Wars, Rebels, Jedi: Fallen Order, and the well-executed Star Wars Comics, the mystical elements of the Force have received more space within the sandbox. I surmise that many creators also grew up on the OT, and their view of the Force has at least a passing similarity to my own. This allows the full experience of Star Wars e far more intricate. The Prequels can primarily take its place as a cautionary tale of the hubris of the Jedi and the consequences of enabling children raised to feel they are owed the Galaxy.

The rabbit hole here goes deep. The Jedi and the Sith. Forces users (beyond Luke and Anakin) and their place within the plot. Even the Mandalorian (or How the Outrim Was Won) all have an immense bearing on Star Wars’ storytelling. Topics for future discussion.

Until then,

Excelsior!

Spinning Plates

I have not had much of an online presence in the last few weeks as some pretty big things have happened, and I’m trying to rally back from it. Apologies for not giving more frequent updates; I hope that will change soon as I get some content out.

How my recent writing progress has left me feeling.

I have not been writing as much in these last few weeks; I needed a break from really anything remotely looking like work – but I’m ready to come back with renewed vigor, although through smaller steps. I started editing a little today. I’ll keep working on it. But that project will be released under a pen name, more so I can get my feelers out for what it’s like to self-publish.

Outlining on Grimoire has stalled. But I miss my characters, and honestly, the world of Grimoire in general. I’ve been sitting on some proto-drafts and random bits that I hope to get posted next week. If there’s an interest, then I can start getting my character profiles and art up too. Given the nature of the series, I may also start posting one-shots on the blog between drafting.

I think that covers almost everything except the Trail of the Klondike and my writing assignment. 

Snowy weather has been helping in my gold rush novella. But it gets too cold to write sometimes!

Trail of the Klondike is moving along; chapter two is almost done. From there, the rest is outlined. If you read chapter one, you know that James has gotten himself into a bit of a hard spot. If I can keep a solid pace, I should have something ready to publish by year’s end. Fingers crossed, and if you want to find out what happens to Mr. McQueen, make sure to subscribe or follow. 

That leaves my writing assignment, which I will get typed up and posted. I cut it shorter than I intended, leaving it as more of a chapter/ tease. I don’t feel it’s my story since it was an assignment of sorts, so there’s only so much that can be gained from digging. There could be something more there, but for now, I’ve got as much out of the ground as I can. 

I will be posting it under the title of What Happened to Ray? Stay tuned.

I did enjoy the writing prompt process and got a lot from the exercise, with still more to be gained. If you have a writing prompt you’d like to see me tackle, let me know! I’m looking to improve my skill, and I feel the relationship between the storyteller and their audience is important. I’d like to hear from you.

Earlier this week, I dictated rough 4000 words on the subject of Star Wars, specifically speaking to the Force and how it fits into the storytelling of Star Wars. This will be the first in a series of posts/articles. The intent is to break down story elements and characters for popular franchises and speak to how they influence me and how I used those lessons to educate my own approach to storytelling. 

I had a lot of fun doing it, so I hope you have fun reading it. If you want to see additional subjects or franchise again, let me know and subscribe and follow to be part of the conversation. 

Until next time,

Excelsior!

The Klondike Trail – Chapter One

Skagway was a Boomtown. Originally a small plot of land scouted by a steamboat captain almost a decade ago, he claimed this land, and even built a small dock for any boats that may happen through. On the backside of the town loomed the tall glacier filled peaks of the Alaskan Panhandle. These coastal mountains served as an unforgiving gateway into the harsh north wilds that was Canada. Five hundred miles north of Skagway a chance discovery had caused the boom that filled this tiny beach with life.

A bright yellow rock that filled men with an unquenchable desire. Just its name was enough to spark a fire within them. Like wildfire that quickly swept through Alaska, Canada, and the American states; the news of this discovery spread through even the furthest corners of the world.

Any and all who sought fortune rushed north into the strange wilderness that they called the Klondike, looking for that glittering rock that could make men crazy; gold.

Overnight Skagway went from a scant town of dozens to a swell of thousands; now a destination of any would be prospector gripped with the terrible disease of gold fever. That lust for the precious metal was like a splinter in their mind, they only felt relief as the inched closer to that elusive goal – the rich goldfields of the north.

James McQueen did not feel the lust for fortune that gripped these north bound men. While the gold brought him here it was for a different reason. His father was a successful playwright from Illinois, and James was raised in a nurturing home; filled with education, and of course no shortage of books. Paul – James’ father – always knew his son would take to writing as he did, it was perhaps why he pushed the young boy so much to take up the craft. James did not mind. His father was right, he took to writing as a fish to water, as the saying goes. Even kept a journal from the young age of eight. His defame a daily ritual. The chronicling of events interested him greatly and while his father’s talent was in crafting the entertaining works of fiction that delighted the crowds of their home state, not to mention the fine folks of Michigan, Wisconsin and even Minnesota; James turned his talent to journalism.

The Elizabeth was a capable steamboat and a comfortable ride all things considered, for it was terribly cramped. James did his best to fine pleasantries as he could. More often than not it was easy, despite his sheltered upbringing, the scent of sea air on the soft breeze would always invigorate him with that vague notion of adventure. However a rogue wave would sometimes give a decent churn and buck against the underside of the vessel, enough to remind him that he was traveling further away from civilization as he understood it and closer to a great unknown. These two sensation would mix in his chest with a flutter. It occurred to him that the further from Seattle, the more these wild waves would seemed to be. He took this down in his journal of course, having already started his observations.

He watched swarms of men talking jovially about the fortunes they would soon amass. He did not participate in this rough speech; the laughing, gambling and drinking of these men bordered on vulgarity to some. It was not that he didn’t approve, perhaps he was just too nervous to join in. Unaware that they were just as naïve as the young McQueen when it came to what they would find in Skagway.

Many even dressed in a nicer fashion than James, but it was if, now with the shadow of Seattle at their backs they almost sought to return to a more manner-less state.

But watching them, interesting talk came in bits and pieces. Some made proclamations of rumors, or which piece of news had sent each man, where the riches knew no limit.

“The nuggets are just lying around for the taking! I was smart enough to bring extra sacks so I don’t lose any!” One man exclaimed.

“They say Carmack got tired of buying houses and started buying city blocks, and his claim isn’t even the best one there!” From another.

James doubted these claims, he knew nothing of the Klondike, or gold, or anything of that sort; but he knew of the sensationalism of a local paper, something he never approved of. The truth, he felt painted a far more compelling picture. He diligently wrote down the boasts of the nearby men that he overheard. Looking up only for a sparse moment here and there to survey the horizon. His stare would linger as he caught more of the rough wilderness that he would soon set foot upon.

They were scheduled to land that afternoon, and James eagerly looked forward to it.  He imagined the sights and sounds of the town and how it must swell as if a large, writhing animal. He took care to note the time and then strategically worked his way forward throughout the morning. Finally sitting himself casually near the front of the Elizabeth so he could disembark before anyone else.

His premeditation was well planned; and he was also fortunate to have no need for the large amounts of supplies that others needed. Only a week or so provisions, clothing, writing supplies, toiletries, and other similar essentials. Everyone else needed far more.

It had recently come down that anyone crossing into Canada needed a near ludicrous amount of supplies to survive in the Klondike, and that the mounted police were strictly enforcing this rule. Since James’ plan was to report on the Alaskan side of the border as the men and women would pass through either the White Pass or further on to the more popular route of Chilkoot via the nearby sister boomtown of Dyea, he did not require the ton of supplies. He would re-provision as needed and stay in one of the many inns that had sprung up. So outside of his rather large backpack, he carried only two manageable duffles.

Excitement built for the young man with every mile they passed. When afternoon had finally come, almost an eternity to James, he nearly jumped out of his seat when the steam whistle sounded to signify the arrival to their destination. There, a small dot getting ever closer was Skagway. The other passengers crowded together on the already cramped deck as the steamboat workers staged the boxes, bags, sacks, horses, carts, sleds and other cargo that the sea of travelers had brought with them. James simply hoisted his large packs onto his shoulders, and slung it around him securely, carrying the rest.

As they got closer, Skagway didn’t quite meet James’ expectations. ‘Town’ would have been a generous description from his perspective. Tents crowded the beach leaving precarious pathways deeper into the settlement. Far back were a cramped assortment of buildings.  Yet there was only a single dock.

How could the throngs of people build all this and ship so much with a single loading dock? The thought struck James, as he observed and took in the details.

Additional images made their way to his memory for future chronicling. The tell tale smoke trails from wood stoves of crudely build homes, cabins, and trading posts streaked black trails in the otherwise drab grey cloudy sky. Soon the sounds of Skagway were upon his ears. It started as a quiet mutter, barely audible over the steam boat engine and the splashing of the ocean waves, but with every minute the sound grew to a roaring cacophony of hustle and bustle. A symphony of dogs barking, cat calls, bids for packers and shippers, boxes shuffling back and forth. James’ ears even picked the clapping sound of a pistol being fired. It was the sound of a dangerous life, of the gateway into the frontier; and it caused him to stiffen in his stance – holding his pack just a little tighter. The last to hit McQueen’s senses was the smell; an odor that matched the ever exceedingly rough sounds of Skagway. It was the  smell of sweat, fear, spoiled food and wet dog. It struck him and churned with the salty sea air. Never before had his senses been assaulted so. His sense of fear and excitement gave him seemingly equal parts paralysis and energy.

This made the last hundred feet before they reached the dock stretch out as an eternity before him.

The gangplank soon clapped down on the dock and James quickly descended down it. Once he was about halfway down he heard the distinct sound of splashing.He turned and re-caught the balance he almost lost.

The workers of the Elizabeth were unceremoniously dropping the carefully packed goods straight onto the watery beach below. It was a thing to behold, right over the sides it all went. This created a sort of panicked mass evacuation of the vessel.

Men, like their goods, threw themselves into the water. They scrambled out; attempting to round up the stock and supplies before the tide took it all back out to open water. James quickly ran down the rest of the walkway as a wave came down the narrow wooden bridge behind him. He barely got out of the way. Those who had not jumped now stampeded down the plank – only to wade in after their goods. He watched in awe amid the shouting, and cursing.

Boat captains attempted as many trips as they could and as quickly as possible. Already their were sold out tickets for the next voyages up, and back and up again. Tickets were for the first ship back, so it was almost a race for your next load up.

This meant they didn’t bother to have crew negotiate the single plank for supplies. The town was built too quickly to accommodate more docks being built so the solution for those transporting the throngs of masses was simple, but unexpected for many. Since the ships were in constant motion; never stopping in either in Skagway, Dyea, or Seattle for longer than necessary they just dumped it all as fast as possible.

Once everything had been unloaded by the crew of the Elizabeth they already had begun turning the ship for its return trip back to Seattle. James glanced back up to the deck of the ship and saw a few men who’s boxes were dropped from the edge, but hadn’t had the chance to disembarked themselves.

They nervously paced, trying to quickly work out the best course of action. Two of the men jumped. Splashing into the cold Alaskan water with little grace. They surfaced in a violent, desperate swim for land, hacking and coughing the saltwater from their lungs. The third man had by now walked around to the back of the Elizabeth and looked with longing at the shore. James felt for the man – a trip so wasted it may have easily cost him everything. His adventure had ended before it started.

The men that had jumped or otherwise disembarked the large steamboat now struggled against the icy cold tide waters on Skagway’s muddy shore. Even in the warm Alaskan summer the water was frigid enough for the men from down south that their plight was magnified as the wrestled what they could salvage.

Glaciers once covered this entire stretch of land, and as they receded over centuries, they left in their wake fine silt which made much of this shore. Amid the cursing and strife, those whose tenacity paid off lay caked in this silt, catching their breath before carrying their mostly intact boxes further up the beach and to the packers that awaited them.

The packers of Skagway by now were well versed in their craft. They stood in teams, awaiting new shipments; but they never fought among themselves. Instead staying just up shore enough to not get involved in the chaos of the men struggling in the mud. Once someone had pulled enough of their supplies up safely the packers would descend, offering to help for a nominal fee. Desperate men would eagerly agree, and once enough money had changed hands the packers expertly went to work. Skillfully picking what could be salvaged and handing it to the next packer in the team who worked in an assembly line. A man who paid well and didn’t haggle would find most of, if not all his provisions hauled up to a dry part of the shore. Those that insisted on bargaining prices or otherwise went alone, learned that the salt water found its way into their supplies given enough time. The exception were the canned goods, but they often sunk or floated away into the sea.

James took all this in and hurriedly wrote down what he saw in his journal. Not only fascinated by the skill and speed in which the packers moved but by how many were toiling away. Soon the chaos was relatively managed, and the soaking men trudged up the hill. James made note of the faster packers among them and the system in which they used. It was fascinating to see them work.

After jotting down two quick illustrations of their procedures he became very aware of himself. His awkward position on the dock kept him in the way of the workers. So he put his journal away for safe keeping and committed himself to study the rest for later.

So he stepped off the dock – his first steps in the great North.

The ground was wet, and muddy. Many paths were laid out via planks of wood. Walking along them kept you mostly safe from getting caked in the dirt. It also prevented stepping in great pools of scum filled water. People, dogs, horses, sleds and supplies clogged the roads, the smell was almost overwhelming for the young man; the chattering, yelling and occasional bangs and clanks ever present. But soon his assaulted senses began to attune to these surroundings. There was a delightful shanty riding on the air somewhere far off. The pleasant fiddle cast the whole place in an almost whimsy of hope, despite the rough exterior.

Dreams were being sought out here, James reminded himself. Everything seemed to crackle with movement and vivacity, as if brought to life by those very dreams. He was reminded of the stories of similar boomtowns during the Rush of ’49, or the rough ‘n tough Wyoming frontier from decades ago. This was the new Wild West.

Soon he found himself in front of a large pitched roof with the words ‘Acme and Johnson: General Merchants, Carriers and Packers’, and then to one side an advertisement for both a hotel and restaurant available. James stepped inside and saw a swell of movement about. Men quickly packed goods into smaller packages as orders were frantically shouted and more money exchanged. The sheer amount of transactions and staggering cost of every day foodstuffs was almost dizzying for James; back home for a little over a dollar you could buy a bushel of potatoes, here that same bushel was twenty five dollars. Eggs sold individually they were so expensive, ninety cents each. James thankfully saw most meals in the restaurant were still relatively cost effective by comparison. It was the supplies that were expensive, anyone passing through had to pay premium prices to be properly supplied up here.

For the unfortunate souls ill prepared for the journey, or worse yet, saw their carefully selected and packed cargo wash out with the tide upon arrival, this place and other suppliers like it were their only recourse.

James eased passed them, pressed against the wall and scooted as best he could, apologizing as he went, he eventually reached the doorway to the side building which housed the restaurant and rooms.

The space inside was cramped still, but more from size than occupancy, straight ahead were makeshift tables for food, and a counter which served to check in visitors to the right of the entrance. The man behind the desk was thin, eagle-nosed, with a bushy brow, and an unkept beard with a waxed ended mustache, as if the curl offset the rest of his gruffness. But his expression was anything but gruff, instead friendly and inviting. This helped to put James at ease, as he was beginning to feel overwhelmed by the sights and sounds of it all.

“Ho there friend!” The man smiled, “New in town by the look o’ ya.”

James offered a smile back, “I suppose it’s plain to see”

“Bah, don’t worry ‘bout it.” The clerk waved dismissively, “Everyone was new here once, sides ol’ Morrey.”

“Oh, sorry I don’t follow.” James confessed.

“Nah, just a joke. Wut can I do ya fer?” James noted this peculiar slang.

“Uh, room?” James asked, “And a warm meal would be nice.”

Clerk looked over his counter to see James’ bags.

“Bags ‘er extra,”

“Not a problem,” James gave the man the amount indicated and the man’s eyebrow raised at the sight of the full wallet.

“Offer a word of advice? Fer a Cheechako?”

James had never heard the word before, he tried to repeat it as a question. Chee-cha-ko?

“Greenhorns, rookies!” The man exclaimed laughing at James’ pronunciation. “Judgin’ by the packs, ya ain’t plannin’ on headed North, and if ya are, then by gum ya gonna need to buy yer supplies!”

“Oh no, I’m not a prospector.” James offered, “No, I’m not going to the Klondike, I’m a journalist, here to interview the men and women chasing their dreams. What I report here will captivate audiences from Sacramento to New York! Stories of Northern Adventure, told by those coming back with fortunes and others going to claim theirs!” He spoke eagerly.

“Well then!” The man clapped his hands twice, and then “I suppose we all find our way to make it up here! So, that word of advice. Unwind! They got a saloons, they got a games, and they got a girlies! Just down the way, them’s pretty, the dancing girls, and card games easy ta win! Perfect to double or triple that wallet ‘o yers! It gets expensive ‘round ‘er, can never have too much cash on hand.”

He had a point. James packed enough to fund a few months worth of living expenses but admittedly it was more expensive than he anticipated. And with how busy it was – now that he was here – it occurred to him many may not need his letter drafting or notary skills for some time. He would need more money if he did not want to return home soon.

James thanked the man, signed his name in the crisp registry and took his bags to the last room in the hall. After a few minutes to properly settle his things, he put up his bags and made his way back from the cramped quarters. At the long planked table he had his meal.

It was served in a tin plate with minimal utensils. Molasses baked beans, roast beaver with potatoes and carrots. On the side, equally thick slices of both sourdough and cornbread, with warm beer. The food was good; although beaver was new to him. It was surprisingly tender and flavorful if not a tad gamey. After his belly was full and hunger abated, James pondered what he should do next.

He briefly considered staying in his room to write in his journal since already in his short time, there were notes that he wished to commit to written form. However the sights and sounds of the town called to James’. He wished to experience more.

So he got up from his table before thanking the clerk and made for the doorway, taking his journal with him. He set aside some money for the gambling hall, within his leather bound book. Determined not to engage with the intention of winning, but more for the ability to later tell of the experience. He then slipped his journal into his large overcoat.

No sooner had he drawn his wallet than a large rush of people came in through the doorway. James stumbled against the great wave, causing him to stumble back from the exit back into the restaurant area. He attempted to regain his balance, but before he could a man came directly at him from seemingly nowhere. Just as quickly as he had appeared the man snatched James’ wallet out of his hands before he could put it away.

The clerk came from around the counter, having seen the crime exclaimed, “Thief! Not in my establishment! Ho! After ‘em boys!”

The whole room upheaved at that moment. Such a cacophony of sounds and movement as everyone scrambled for their own belongings in the scuffle. They cared little for the fact a crime was committed – outside of keeping themselves from being a victim as well. As the abrupt chaos churned many rushed the door. James observed his assailant slip out with them. He gave chase.

The mob remained unquieted for some time, and on more than one occasion he was knocked prone or shoved backward in a way that make James’ journey to the exit a trial in its self.

Eventually he reached the doorway and once released into the streets frantically looked for the criminal. The streets had not quieted and if possible was busier than before. He scoured the populace and caught the thief looking over their shoulder before fleeing, disappearing into the masses.

James pursued, by now the distance would have been impossible to close – but he persisted. Driven on by his own stubbornness and inability to let the act go unresolved.

 Many would take a look at the young man from Illinois and easily dismiss him as a reserved and therefore dainty fellow. But his outward meekness hid a surprising amount of athleticism; he ran through the shifting crowds, at a pace many trail-hardened men would struggle to keep. He was fast – like the wind. When he jumped over a fully packed cart that rested waist high, he caught the eye or two of an onlooker. Although he stumbled upon landing, he regained quickly and was only slowed momentarily.

Minute after horribly long minute passed, eventually James resigned himself to his loss, the wallet was gone. Out of breath, energy and willpower he leaned against a few barrels stacked against a log shack. Breathing came in large gulps as his mind tried to think clearly and determine what to do now.

His muscles ached as the adrenaline began to ebb away, and James knew his best course of action was to go to his room and get some sleep. After a restful night he could take inventory and try to contact the authorities.

The trudge back was long, and against the current of crowds made it seem all the more exhausting. By the time James returned to Acme and Johnson dusk was making itself known. Once more he negotiated to the side area of the building, passing the general store and re-entering the dining hall. The commotion from earlier had subsided and now was relevantly quiet. This gave James a clear path to his room. But as he made his way a man from behind the desk stopped him. This was a different clerk than before. His manner of speaking was far more firm and understandable than the first worker, his face shrewd and hard.

“Can I help you sir?” The clerk said with discernible accusation.

James became defensive, himself a victim of a crime perpetrated in this very building.

“I beg your pardon?” James asked.

“Those rooms are for paying customers who have made reservations.”

“I assure you I have paid sir!” James exclaimed, bewildered at such an accusation.

“I have not seen you before,” The clerk explained, “What’s your name?”

“McQueen, James McQueen.”

The clerk went back behind his counter and pulled out the registry, one that seemed slightly darker and more well worn than before. He opened it and read through the most recent logs. Afterwards he placed the registry on the counter for James to inspect. The last name entered was Burton, not McQueen. In fact there was no McQueen on the page, nor the past three. James was astounded to not see his signature.

“No,” he protested, flipping through with increasing earnest, “But your clerk sir, he had me sign. I paid for the last room in the hall!”

The clerk now showed visible annoyance, “I am the only clerk here today, I do not recognize you and you have not signed in our registry. What would you have me do?”

James stuttered taken aback – how could this be happening?

“Then, at least let me fetch my things.”

“And allow you to steal from the paying customer on the end row? I think not! There’s confidence men around every corner, and I will not be taken a fool.” The clerk responded loudly. A few heads turned at the prospect of another thief about.

James was speechless.

“I assure you those are my belongings there! I can give detailed descriptions!” James protested not caring who heard. He  would not stand for this.

The clerk’s patience was reached in regards to the scene that had unfolded between the two of them. He drew his pistol in warning and James quickly relented; having no recourse or defense, and therefore could do nothing should this escalate to violence. He left and offered no more resistance.

Outside the weight of recent events felt crushing on James’ shoulders as the most acute feeling of loss filled him. No belongings, no money, nothing save for the clothes on his back; he had lost everything.

The coming sunset had begun to paint its details on the underside of the grey clouds overhead. Pinks, reds and orange bloomed and flowered into wonderful purples. A most beautiful warning promising the arrival of a chilly night. James knew that shelter would be needed. So he set off through the streets hoping to find enough employment to earn a night somewhere with a roof.

Most places were full up. James’ definition of the word grossly underestimated the practice. For here, ‘full up’ did not mean that each room was occupied by a single tenant. These rooms were booked double, triple or even more. With some entire families crowded within a thin planked room with their own packs to serve as bedding.

Some recommended that James could make due with a tent on the ever growing outskirts of town. Rain did not seem likely, but then again the older folks warned; ‘weather here changed as it pleased, with little regard to rhyme or reason’.

“Sounds like what happen’s to most Cheechakos ‘round here.” An older man sighed sympathetically as he stroked his bushy beard, “Got no rooms or work today, better luck tomorrow. Just stay clear of Sudsy’s crew and you can save up for a ticket back home I’d wager. Fer now camp out on the beach. Ocean sounds is good fer drifting ya ta sleep. Ya seem like a nice lad, and green as a first year willow no doubt! I’ll borrow ya a tent. That’s a days work forwarded to ye.”

“Sudsy?” James asked, catching the name after thanking the man for the opportunity.

“Oh that’d be Sudsy Malone, he’s in charge around here.”

“The mayor?“

At James’ inquiry the man burst into abrupt laughter. “Heavens no! He’s a bunko man wut come up from Outside. Well there’s no law here, save for mob rule or a miners meetin’. But sure enough they run scams aplently, and he pays well to keep folks in line.”

He patted James’ back as you would to someone in his situation, it was a kind gesture, then he offered friendly council, “You’ve gone bust son, nothin wrong wit it. Many here have, an many more never made it this far. Find a warm corner tonight, then make for home. Cheechako’s aren’t suited for the cold.”

James thanked him and left, resolving in the need to now find a space to set up. He made his journey towards the beach, trying his best to remember the path he had taken before. It took several minutes as a few of the streets were laid out in such a strange way they some to loop back on themselves. Or maybe it was just how similar the buildings looked. Being built so quickly did not leave much for style or imagination.

It made navigating difficult and James had to right himself several times before starting to recognize where he was. Once these bearings were found, James happened to catch a face in the crowd.

It was the clerk from before, the overly-friendly one – the imposter. Given the time James had to brood on the events that brought him here, he had already surmised that the imposter was most likely working with that man who stole his wallet. James straightened and called out at him before running in the man’s direction.

The Imposter’s reaction was panicked; an outstretched arm his chosen means of defense. His hand was open as in truce showing no threat as James descended upon him. Once within earshot James finally heard his shout, ‘Y-you got a’ gun?’

 “What?” James was caught off guard, anger paused momentarily, and his movement halted with the question.

“Why would-” he began.

There was a loud clap, and something whizzed by James. Instinctively he ducked after the sound and soon realized the clerk he was advancing on had a revolver. The first shot had gone wide, causing the mud behind to burp on impact. James caught the look in the man’s face, full of means and menace. There was a clear intention to kill. The man leveled the firearm at the young McQueen who felt his heart sink.

To be continued–

Spooktober Updates, Shorts and maybe Novella?

Currently been hand writing my homework.

It’s been a minute since my last update. I went back to work – due to several things, I was on summer leave. It was a great time to get some stuff put together, and projects started. But now that I’m working 50 hours a week plus commute naturally, my writing has slowed. If you’re in that boat, know you’re not alone. So this is an update of what’s going on and even some tips that I’ve picked up along the way to help keep myself as productive as possible while having a busy day job.

To quickly touch base on Grimoire. I don’t want to say break or hiatus, but let’s be honest – I have had little to no chance to write anything more on my first draft. I will admit with more than a little guilt, it is in part because I was having difficulty with the last few chapters. After all, they did not have a flow that I’m happy with. More on that later. Instead, I turned to outline the first book in a much more severe matter, and it’s been great! I feel confident about the plot, story, and how it contributes to the overall theme. Giving me the temptation to outline the next two books while I’m at it. But I Can’t seem to give it enough attention. Maybe it’s that fear of it not being good enough. But the work must continue.

My focus has shifted to some other stuff. Reading, for instance. Oh my God, how I’ve missed reading. This year I started reading On Writing by Stephen King, and if you’re following me on Twitter, you are probably sick to the point of nausea at how much I’ve complimented this book. But it’s that good. It gives me an equal measure of hope and fear at the prospect of being a professional writer (something I think is good), it also cements what I love about the craft – being a reader you get to play in those fantastic worlds of fiction. It’s safe to say that On Writing is my favorite Stephen King book period. It’s a fantastic behind-the-scenes view of an author whose work has always been near and dear to my heart. He also doesn’t pull punches, something I appreciate. He breaks it down and puts his two cents in; moreover – he drives home how the mileage does indeed vary. What works for some doesn’t for all. But he challenges you to think about not only why you write but how.

And the biggest takeaway I have is this: read a lot, write a lot.

I’m out of practice. I used to write stories that never saw the light of day, only the darkness of a wastepaper bin. I used to read far more too. There’s no way to give a series a proper treatment without getting back into the swing of things. So reading and writing.

I’m going to keep it brief because if I don’t, it will seem as though I’m working far more on my skills than I have. So here goes.

I started a project that will be released under a pen name. But this little nugget that I thought would be no more than 3000 words is almost 12k and may dovetail into something more. It has been a good source of practice and learning. I’m going to see how far down that rabbit hole I can go. I’m optimistic that the rough draft will be finished within a week if I can keep writing.

I also have a writing assignment from the aforementioned book On Writing seriously; go get it. There’s an assignment/homework/exercise, whatever you’re comfortable with. It’s going to be a short story and handwritten. Exploring a craft that I gave up long before I should have. I used to write everything by hand since it creates what I feel is the most genuine and most personable rough draft. You can’t edit; you can only write.

That’s what I’m attempting. It’s a story that I’m discovering as I go utilizing the advice given in the book. Considering it’s been twenty years since it was published, I am taking some liberties with the project. Not sticking to the names Mr. King offers or the length of the prose suggested – which is supposed to be 5 to 6 pages.

I fear it will be longer because as I’m uncovering this ‘fossil,’ I’m finding there’s more to unearth. Granted, I have inadequate tools (my fault) and a layman’s knowledge of ‘Dino-bones,’ but I hope to make do. What I find I’m not sure, but the journey has been fun so far. The final result, which is to say a finalized draft, or at least beta-reader ready, I will post on here, so stay tuned.

I was taking breaks to make time for pumpkin craving.

As for Grimoire, there’s a lot of heavy lifting to do, and if I’m being honest with myself, I need to walk before I run. It’s a journey.

Tips along the way – pen and paper; I highly recommend this for a couple of reasons. It forces you to write and not edit. Once you give up on that voice, you can do what most of us forget to; Practice Ugly.

Write and read as often as you can. It helps you learn what you like and what you don’t. Read outside of your preferred genre, don’t only spend time there but dabble; it enables you to learn what’s out there. Try writing prompts. This is something that I will start doing starting with the writing assignment from On Writing.

Like any skill you are mastering, you need to try a wide assortment of things to determine just what workflow is best for you. But tips from the pros help immensely! It’s a toolbox; understand you have limits, not only the mental and the physical, but also space and time—sad truth. Don’t put it off. Take it from someone coming to the game a little later than others – you can’t get time back.

Reading more feels amazing; while I sadly don’t have as much time to write, my ability to learn and practice has not diminished. You just have to find little bits of time. Writing by hand helps with this, too, since I maybe get ten minutes outside of my lunch break. I hope that helps motivate anyone else struggling to get words out. Let me know! Comment or send me a tweet (or whatever).

I’ll wrap up an update, circling back to the title of this post. Spooktober!

I love Halloween, and if you’ve been following me on Twitter, then you know that I do the 31 Days of Halloween. A tradition that, for me, goes back about fifteen years. A scary movie every day of October. Here’s a quick recap and remind you that you can play along or choose and post your own. I’d love to hear what everyone is watching!

Day 1 – Hocus Pocus

Day 2 – The Thing

Day 3 – The Ring

Day 4 – Misery

Day 5 – Life

Day 6 – Us

Day 7 – The Fly (1986)

Day 8 – Paranormal Activity

Day 9 – Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein

Day 10 – DOUBLE FEATURE! Hubie Halloween & Escanaba in da Moonlight

Day 11 – Ernest Scared Stupid

Day 12 – Color of Space

Day 13 – Interview With the Vampire

Day 14 – The Atticus Institute

Day 15 – Friday the 13th marathon

Day 16 – Exists

Day 17 – The Banshee Chapter

Day 18 – Thinner

Day 19 – Ghostbusters

Day 20 – The Conjuring

Day 21 – STAY TUNED!

I’ll leave you with that since there is reading and writing to be done. But here’s a campfire if you needed some relaxation tonight like me. Until next time.

Excelsior!

Writing Grimoire – Part 4

Writing Style

So far I’ve talked a bit concerning Grimoire. Mostly in vague what-ifs in an attempt to avoid spoilers. Meow that the first three chapters are out, (Check it out) and I’m toying with getting chapter four out within another week (I know!) I feel far more confident it ‘up the stakes as it were’.

I want to preface a bit because – for blog posts especially – I’m a pants style writer when I’m writing in a casual setting. It is a far different beast than when I actual write. Because try as I may, I cannot seem to write fiction by the seat of my pants. No matter what it always comes into some kind of outlined form. Even in my short stories, I’ll quickly put the rest in at the bottom separated by an extreme amount of paragraph breaks in my word document. 

It’s a trick, if I read what I original wrote first and then I can test the water. And try without referring to those notes and outline fragments. Better ideas today? Sweet! But if not I have a little something to cling to in case I can’t get the whole though out in one go. Sometimes it even works.

Live writing (in which is more just a glorified scene supported by a copious amount of dialogue) and blog writing are my two outlets in which I can freely write without too much rhythm or reason. This post is a bit different, I kinda held myself to some topics on my last post (Another Night, Another Campfire). So in a sense I’ve actually outlined this a bit so we’ll see how it goes. 

Story Origins

It all begins with an idea, or several. You often hear of author being struck by creative lightning as their genius simply realizes itself onto paper. I’m sure that how King does it. Of course it’s not like that, but often times a Creative can tell you the specific origin of their work. I can’t exactly pinpoint the seed of my story in that way  since Grimoire wasn’t even called that at first.

Originally it was ‘Legend of Andoir’, aren’t I such a great title creator? Yeah, it’s rough. But I loved the story. Or at least the genre. I love fantasy, sci-fi and horror. Specifically paranormal and supernatural. I wanted to tell a fantasy story with demons, vampires, werewolves etc. Andoir was the world I created to fit the task.

Now when I say created I mean just that. Tolkien style, his world building always captivated me as a kid. I used to pour over the books of Middle-Earth or more correctly Arda. I cannot claim a Tolkien-nerd level on par with Star Wars, but suffice to say, I know my stuff; not just New Line Cinema extended version. But the way I first encountered the world of the Hobbit, and the wonder of Middle-Earth occurred when I was in the fourth or fifth grade.

I thought hobbits were real, and sometimes envisioned myself climbing the Alaskan Mountain ranges with a party of Dwarves as we quested to take back what was lost. Ironically I grew to be 6’8”. Far more troll or giant than hobbit. 

But in the time between childhood-fantasy and adult-creativity came a world of my own. Fully realized like Tolkien, I even drew characters and equipment. Very much in the style of Japanese manga and comic books. Same with crafting languages, and lettering. Maps, lore, species, religions, origins of the cosmos – everything.

Then I had an idea for a ‘demon’ named Dimitri. I used the term loosely to better explain his range of abilities, rather than his alignment in the sense or morality. 

I would love to cover the journey of the other side of what the Legend of Andoir became. But I can tell you this – half of it became Grimoire.

Dimitri’s journey is better suited for Andoir – more specifically what it became. Which will come in all due time. A lot of its DNA is shared with Grimoire. My close circle of friends who have read or talked about Andoir/Edren/Midland with me will be happy to recognize many elements. With more should I be able to cover the other side of this whole crazy thing.

Andoir didn’t have a way of working. It was too much to manage and handle. First as a comic book, for which as a staff of one was a workload I could not handle while working full-time to barely make ends meet. It went through endless forms; tabletop RPG, book, D&D Campaign, book, video game, book, etc. and on and on it went. Really because there was simply too much content I was trying to tell. Too many ideas.

At some-point I intend to release my notes on those WiP out for people to see. And maybe if the timing is right finish. Who knows. 

But what was important is that I needed to slow down. I was building a world bigger than I could tell, mostly because I was doing it wrong.

Yep.

So I broke it apart, separated the world of fantasy from the world of occult and horror. Choosing to turn the later into another type of story that I felt better suited to tell. Andoir would be there, waiting patiently. It had already endured my tinkering for years – it needed the break.

What was taken out and given a life of its very own was Grimoire.

I wanted to tell the story of a young man, Richter, who after graduating from high school finds himself in the world of the paranormal. He is enlisted in the fight against monsters and other creatures of darkness after having been accidentally turned into a vampire. His mentor M, an ancient vampire who was captured in WWII begrudgingly teaches him the ropes.

I had a narrative, but not in a way that truly came alive. I had a great library of content, notes timelines, one shots, and almost 50,000 words into a first draft – what most would call a book. But there was no story. Gotta have that. There were events to be sure, but no story. It was a plot only. Know the difference? Well maybe I’ll do a post on it. But I think of it as this: the plot is simply the chronicle of events, the story is why they matter.

Because if the story doesn’t matter to you, the plot is not your problem.

The story makes it your problem. It’s your investment in the characters or the situation. Its the backbone of your story because your readers are engaged by it. It could be identifying with a shared insecurity in a character. Stopping the world from ending is great, but no one sets out to do that. Even Superman and Batman have reasons. Because story.

Either way you want to read what happens because something in the main character or at the very least their journey is compelling enough for you to turn the page.

At the time Grimoire just didn’t feel genuine enough. Not in a way that really resonated with me either, because the narrative story was too weak. There was no real direction or purpose behind my character’s actions. So it got the Shelf. Hiatus, a permanent one was my intention. 

But fate had other plans.

Character Origins: Aurora and Matthias

Concept art for Aurora and Matthias.

As I said in my last blog entry (*Another Night, Another Campfire) I started writing again far more often after meeting my girlfriend. She asked for stories via text while she worked and I had nothing else better to do but scroll through Reddit giving my insight on what the possibilities of the next Star Wars movie could be.

She then asked about some other characters, new characters. Not having anything really ready I used Matthias – originally known as ‘M’ in the rough draft of Grimoire. I thought what the Hell, it not like he’s doing any good there.

But I needed something else, I needed a new character that I could have Matthias get into trouble with – and then she came along.

Her hair the silver of moonlight, with eyes of brilliant violet. She was a spitfire. Someone who could go toe-to-toe with Matthias. A Devil.

Her name was Aurora.

I would not say it was an ‘aha’ or even a ‘Eureka’ moment. More like a deluge burst. The pieces were far from in place (still aren’t’) but ideas came rapid fire.

Now maybe it was a perfect storm; the fantasy nerd in me could not be contained. I had assembled a group of players to play a campaign for D&D set in the 18xx timeframe. They would be monster hunters. Vampire-slayers, you get the idea.

Well it fell through. As these things tend to, but I had built characters, NPCs,  situations etc. I had an idea for a group of monster hunters traipsing around Europe slaying baddies.

It doesn’t take much to see how it all happened:

I was writing again, and on one hand brought out a character from retirement and created a new partner in crime for him. On the other the fragments of a failed campaign ready to be lived in.

Victorian London, that’s where our story takes place. At least at first, but you’ll have to read on for that stuff. Instead I’ll attempt to stay on topic. Aurora became my new Richter, a person foreign to Matthias, the ‘real’ world and life. 

I don’t’ want to necessarily go into theme and arc of the series too much as one it could give it away,  and two, I don’t think you really want to hear it right know, but something else to be explored. 

Suffice to say that Matthias has gone through as much evolution as Andoir, and that currently he is the closest realization of the character I mentioned earlier (Dimitri). His arc however is (or perhaps was) relatively flat. While absolutely a major character and player within the world of Grimoire, (You’ll have to read to know exactly how much!) he could never be the main protagonist. Because his arc is mostly flat, and honestly he’s too much of an asshole.

But Aurora had in her a character who’s story I wanted to tell. Someone who can be affected by crossing paths with Matthias. So she came to life in a way that Matthias did for me, and with those two the rest very quickly started coming into focus.

There’s more to tell here. That relationship is a dynamic one. Their story is complex. I hope you’re as excited to read it as I am to write it.

Specific Chapter Spoilers

As said above this post has major spoilers for what has been published for Grimoire. So this is your second warning as I wanted to talk a bit about what has already been put out there. I invite you to comment or ask me questions as I love talking about the worlds I create. There will be a shameless plus for you to roll your eyes at at the bottom of this post.

Chapter one was something I included as a tease for the story in a hope to draw in readers. It wasn’t super successful, but I’m glad I did it. The scene has long been in my head as the character of Matthias is unique for me. I felt his origin was necessary. So if you wanted to know, yes, he is who it was on that balcony in 1474.

That event triggered a chain. What the fallout is, you will have to read. But the consequences of Matthias’ actions is something that comes up often, so stay tuned!

Chapter 2 has probably been tinkered with the least but for those that question how much to take out or add – Francisco’s part in the story have been greatly expanded, him being all but nameless initially. Aurora’s introduction was even more tediously drawn out, with only Matthias that points out she was not human. It didn’t work, it was far too Roland from Dark Tower, so I retooled that. 

New bits of Aurora’s world came into view. I restructured her meeting Charlotte. Conversations needed fine tuning, etc..  Many, many, many changes. 

But the party has always served as the meeting place for Matthias and Aurora. It went through many changes over the last few months. In hindsight, maybe I spent a tad too long. Sometimes you have to tinker. Take apart put back together. Putting the work into those initial character help set the rest of the novel up for success.

Chapter 3 was very, very different too, it had Matthias and Aurora fighting some street muggers. But that also was an earlier version mostly written as a one shot. Now that those first three chapters are revised an mostly final (no professional editing yet, yikes!) the first book can be told. 

Chapter 3 serves as my call to action. Aurora finds herself at odds with a few characters. She thinks this threat is from Matthias, but in actuality it is from an Exorcist that is pursuing her, sent by Francisco’s Family. See? I told you his part expanded. 

The Exorcist’s death also set into motion a series of events as you will read in the forthcoming chapters. 

What I’ve learned about writing so far

So what have I learned so far since I began this journey of attempting to realize the dream of being a storyteller? A lot actually. Now there are a lot of blogs out there that have a way better presentation for this kind of stuff. But I’ll keep it to some easy to read bullet points for folks starting out.

  • You need to write a lot. More than you thought you needed to. Most author crank out books so fast because they have been practicing, get your word count up. As a new author I’ve been told that you should be shooting for the equivalent of a novel/book every six months. 
  • Editing is not only vital but where most of your book comes into shape. Just like a film you start with rough footage, then you cut it, then you add effects (fancy words?). The point is editing is a process that is something that I don’t think many people put as much stock into as they need to. I edit and edit and re-edit. Admittedly I have posted my first few chapters without them being professionally edited, and you can tell.
  • To piggyback on editing for a moment. Think about word effectiveness. Example: Rough draft is 100,000 words. 10,000 are gone just as a best practice. But even so eventually, ideally you’ll shrink that to 70k for example. Why? Word effectiveness. Think about your manuscript like Twitter. Give yourself a character limit in a sense. If you can say something in 10 words, why use 12, 14, or 28 unless you have to? Or to put it simply; instead of saying ‘very crowded’ you say, ‘bustling’. Congratulations, we just cut a word form the book.
  • Your prose needs to be super clear. Readers need to know who exactly are doing what and they only know the details you give them. Conversely, too much information is no good. A reader can fill in your purposefully vagueness with their own imagination when done correctly.

I’ll do some more posts concerning marketing, apps and tech recommendations, and if there’s interest. Give some tips for social media, since I’ve had a couple people reach out to me for such advice. Leave comments below to let me know what you want me to cover next!

Outlining, Updates and goals.

I’ve been outlining the first book of Grimoire for about two weeks now in a attempt to get ahead of my writers block, by sorting out some of my narrative issues before I run head first in to them. It’s going well, with the storyline pretty much drawn (Story Curve) and approximately the first 26 chapters having synopsis, character appearance, and any subplot elements and notes. Another week and I should be good and can focus on writing. Speaking of that. I have rough drafts of four, five and most of six. Seven is now the next hurdle. So I’ll make updates and hopefully get new chapters available soon. 

I may be switching over to Scrivner to help keep everything organized. I’ve made some breakthroughs in the overall series, and how my plan for each book will roughly go. 

Additionally I’ve taken on a few other projects that could see a slight delay in some of Grimoire, but will be lots of stuff for you to read, see and follow along. So here’s a brief rundown.

I started a historical fiction novella set during the Klondike Gold Rush that is gaining attention. I have a rather large video project potentially on the horizon as well. 

I’ve also been working on a new short that is not in my normal genre. Its almost done, maybe a day or two of actual writing left before edits. However for a variety of reasons I may release that under a pen name. I’ll let everyone know as decisions are made. 

 Grimoire is my priority so that is where most of my focus will be (outside of the possible Pen Name short story). The first twelve chapters or so of book one will be FREE for the next few months as I write the rest of it and get ready to publish. I have been playing with the idea of a Patreon page to host a free epub of these chapters with options for bonus art and more. Really depends on how quickly I can get book one churned out. So by November first I intend to have the free chapters fully written and edited. 

I also am working on getting some new cover art done in this time too, so lots happening!

Please comment and subscribe below, you can also follow me on Twitter or Facebook. 

Until next time,

Excelsior!

Campfire Breakfast Apology

Get ready to cook!

I know that sounds like a strange title for a blog entry but let me explain:

In my last blog entry (*Another Night, Another Campfire) I made a commitment to have another entry of Writing Grimoire out. And I swear to God I tried. I know, not good enough, but I got over halfway through – and at least 1500 words. But I didn’t want to write it as a two part-er, I’d rather it be a little more cohesive. So I instead am offering a preemptive apology by way of campfire breakfast.

I will get the next part of Writing Grimoire up – but for now I can at least make you breakfast. Well, not you in a physical-real sense, but you in a digital-do-it-yourself sense!

If you know me, you know I love a good campfire. And here’s an amazing breakfast you can make by campfire. It takes little prep – pan, mitt, wooden spoon are your weapons. A knife to diced veggies, and I would assume you’d have one one you already so I didn’t think it necessary to mention. Dicing in advanced is preferred – but over the campfire cowboy style looks more badass and has the added bonus of being slow and dangerous.

I’ll keep it short and sweet – ingredient first then steps with pictures.

  • 1/2 stick Butter cut into tablespoons.
  • half pound ground sausage
  • 1 potato, diced
  • 1/2 onion diced
  • 1/2 bell pepper diced
  • (Optional) 4 mushrooms sliced
  • Garlic Powder or minced garlic to preference
  • 6 Eggs
  • 1/4 cup cheese (colby or cheddar)

First get a fire going, you’re looking to get enough coals to creat a bed to lay your cast iron on. I use a 10 inch in these pictures and it makes quite a bit of food! Let it warm up for about four minutes. Then add butter. Always add a Tablespoon at a time. I’ll let the photo captions speak the rest:

Once pan is hot, add butter.
Add half pound sausage. Brown to a crumble, stir occasionally add another bit of butter
If your not backyard camping, bring a ziplock of pre-cut veggies, way easier. For this I use a potato, half green pepper, onion all diced. You can also add mushroom or fresh garlic, I just add garlic powder since it’s quick.
Once sausage is browned add veggies, another bit of butter and stir. Cover – tin foil will do! Simmer for eight minutes.
Everything should me just cooking along now! 😋
Eggs! I add six; but sometimes feel more Ron Swanson-y (up to you). Along with – you guessed it. More butter. Basically the trick here is I throw down another hunk at each step. Stirring and coating the bottom before each new ingredient. Prep, sausage, veggies, eggs. Keeps everything cooking, tasty and doesn’t stick. You can cut back to your preference. Cover, cook five minutes.
In my kitchen I normally scramble them in but in cast iron, this is the way to go! If you’ve covered them, just cook to your preference. The embers if you got them hot enough are still very warm, and cast iron holds heat well. You could cook them through and if your coals die just make a new bed and transfer them over. I like them about over-medium consistency.
Remove from heat, and add you favorite cheese!
Eggs yolks ready to party!
Added bonus!! Top it of with your favorite sausage gravy or salsa!

So there ya go! Apology breakfast made! And now when you miss your next deadline you can spread a good meal and ask for forgiveness too! Let me know what you think, if you try it yourself and even more so if you use it to successfully get yourself out of trouble. Seriously comment below, or follow me on Twitter. I trying to blog more and more and the first three chapters for Grimoire are available on wattpad at https://www.wattpad.com/story/230347111-grimoire-dance-with-a-devil, with more incoming soon!

Until next time, hopefully sans-needing-culinary-bribery!

Excelsior!

Another night; another campfire.

The crackle of flame, the sight of embers flying on the breeze, the cozy smell of smoke and warmth. Perfect ambiance for writing.

Sounds about right. But looking back on the last week (or two) I’ve made some real progress.

If you didn’t know, I have the first three chapters of Grimoire up on Wattpad (https://www.wattpad.com/story/230347111-grimoire-dance-with-a-devil) also, for the eagle eyed. Or if you’ve seen the cover art before you’ll notice I’ve striped away the more ’pulp-magazine’ aspects (for now). But also the title’s subheading.

Dance with a Devil.

I think it fits. Titles are hard for me, so to feel fairly certain with the way that it flow feels good. In addition to that, there has been a lot of progress on Grimoire behind the scenes. In fact later this week – maybe by Friday you can expect another entry of Writing Grimoire. So if you haven’t read the free chapters but you’ve read this blog, there will be spoilers. I’m gonna dive deep into the characters of Aurora and Matthias. Their origins, the beginning of all this, and why Grimoire may ultimately see a slow roll out. There’s a lot to unpack. It will be by far the largest blog on the subject, now that the chapters are posted.

I don’t want to go too much further than that since it could be spoilers and I pride myself on not revealing story tidbits. To some of my friends’ frustrations.

However, I’ve really been challenging myself to write. Something that has let me churn out a 1000 word chapter that was sorely left out along with two more chapters both seeing a healthy words count. And then outlining. Again, I will share more in depth later this week but you can expect;

Story Origins

The split of Grimoire from the original canon.

Character Origins: Aurora and Matthias

Current updates and goals.

So again it’s a lot to cover. Due to the for lack of a better term, tapestry that is the universe of Grimoire – it’s been tough to write. Understand Grimoire in some form has been in my head for two decades, the revision rough draft that spanned some 40,000 words before it was shelved? That was five years ago. Then there’s Erden Saga, which I promise I will talk about to those interested (looking for feedback on this blog, my published chapters – everything really!)

But writing has become as therapeutic to me as it once was, but mostly at the cost of actually letting go, and walking away from Grimoire to work on other stuff. Then I can reapproach with a fresh set of eyes within a couple of days. It works.

So I have a side thing I’m working on. Which as of right now sits at over 6000 words. All live written.

Much like this blog.

An explanation; when my girlfriend and I were first dating I would send her stories. Mostly made up on the fly, then eventually with the characters of Grimoire.

That’s what made me dust the story off – so full credit to her.

I say that to say this. It’s a habit I keep. Writing words as they come to me and then sending them to her in chunks, barely a page ahead of her. Only stopping to spell check and catch any grammar errors so horrendous you’d question my intelligence. Sometimes I’m successful, other times I get a reply in real-time that I would imaging all writers dread:

‘???’

Fuck.

I didn’t explain something right, I forgot a tidbit of info. Now I have to retcon. Shit. Shit. Shit.

I’ve become the buffer distance in the written version of a reader’s YouTube . But it keeps you honest. And truly it helps. I tend to think on the fly, and when given a direction I can run with it. Which is why I went back to the drawing board on how I was outlining Grimoire. Much better now.

In fact, this right now – these words, I write as I would in a ‘live-writing session’ I don’t hem-and-haw over them – insistently editing every word. I try to avoid the cluster-fuck verbiage if I can. Again, sometimes with success.

It’s something I may explore on a better platform for fiction, specifically; maybe via Twitch, YouTube or something else.

I suppose Twitter and Reddit lend themselves to it via AMA and the 280 character limit of the former.

I say this as Bob Seger’s ‘Turn the Page’ queues up on my iPhone; I’m getting a LOT of writing done. That side story was all live written, and as a short, maybe it’s ready for the editing floor soon. Though as a new writer what do I do?

Do I publish everything across a wide variety of genres?

I’m eclectic; I like it all, while my favorite movies tend to gravitate to the Sci-Fi, At the heart of it all; I love stories.

All stories, even bad ones. Like MST3K – a love I’ll take to my grave, and I still put on most nights as I fall asleep; recreating Saturday nights with my brother when we were allowed to stay up late to watch bad horror flicks.

I love the wide variety that storytelling can take. So some times it can be difficult to know what to do and how to navigate. In an industry that tends to draw hard genre lines.

While similar to what I’ve written in the past it’s also something that I may publish under a pen name. To be decided. What does that look like?

I don’t know.

What I do know, is that I’m writing it regardless. It’s getting published regardless. With a bunch of other stuff and Grimoire, my first of two very personal series to me.

I hope you join me for that journey, either tonight or on another. Hopefully by campfire. That’s where I tend to be.

So that’s what I’ll leave you with.

Late night blogs by campfire.

I sit by fire side tonight as I often do. But this time not really taking the time to edit. Just to write.

Reading, researching and working my outline. mostly reading, and honestly relaxing.

I feel good about where my writing is at, I have a long way to go not only for the first book of Grimoire but also the series that I have planned for it.

So I’m reading, studying, learning and getting ready for the next step in sharing that story. I have a lot of chapters ahead of me but I’m excited to get the words out. As I do I especially hope that the adventures of Aurora, Matthias and a few more characters that you have yet to meet.

There are coming. As is more story, so much more.

For tonight though, I’m enjoying a night of relaxation, reading up on a variety of subjects while getting ready to meet the next day.

Tomorrow is a big day. Lots of work – Audio editing, chapter planning. Writing, revisions and quite possibly another blog post.

I’ll leave it at that – if you don’t have a campfire of your own; take in mine for tonight. I have enough to share. I’ve often thought of doing a live writing stream by campfire. Maybe something in the future for those interested.

Until then,

Excelsior!

Milestones, achievements and goals or Writing Grimoire part 3

Reflecting on my writing progress concerning Grimoire is a mixed bag; in many ways I would hope to be far further along. But I also have made far more progress in the last week than in the last month before. In fact, part one (consisting of the first three chapters) is ready for beta readers; which I am currently seeking.

I will be publishing it on Wattpad later today, so be on the lookout! 

That was what this morning was, the final touches, listening to the chapter get played backed so the grammar is just right. At least, I hope. 

But that’s not all, this week has brought a lot of positive change, although through baby steps – I’ve begun the arduous task of learning my home keys and touch-typing, a necessary evil to write faster. I’ve also been diving deep into my narrative process, learning a ton and coming out I feel more knowledgeable. 

Unfortunately, this means going back to the drawing board and fleshing out more of the book; the good news is it was needed, part were weak – when the character’s motivation was in question. 

Aurora is a Devil. Already a controversial protagonist for some. But as show like Lucifer have shown us or films like a Clockwork Orange illustrate. Anyone can be a good protagonist as long as their arc is compelling. So, what her arc? Well if I can’t explain it to myself then that’s a problem. I know what Aurora is going ot go through, that’s that plot. The series of events. 

But what is her story? And underneath that her theme?

I really needed to get into the meat and potatoes of it – that can be tricky. If you’re a new and struggling writer and your character feels a little two- or one-dimensional think about their story. And more importantly their arc. If you haven’t taken the time to explore your character’s arc, you need to. Because that’s the story. 

Why do I like Star Wars? Because behind the laser blasts and lightsabers, there’s a great story with solid themes. One that can be explored and talk about for years. Luke Skywalker goes from farm boy to Jedi Knight, and Rebellion hero. That doesn’t happen overnight – more importantly it’s not easy. There’s is struggle that’s what your character needs. That’s why your reader wants more from your story.

If Frodo just had to walk to the end of the Shire to throw the ring into a pit or whatever no one would read it. It’s the journey, we the reader want to go on it with your character. As a writer, I want you to go that journey with them. Whether an external conflict or and internal one your character’s story is one of some kind of struggle.

There are tons of teacher, blogs and resources that are far far better at explaining this than me so take a look, but here’s a video that really breaks down how easy it is to create that through line for your characters. Because there are arc types in storytelling that we follow.

But I will let a much better storyteller explain;

Once you know this shape you can start looking at your characters arc, and building your story. Or as the poet Jagger once said, “You can always have what you want; but if you try sometimes you find you get what you need.”

So I’ve been looking at my characters and really breaking down who there are and what they need more importantly so their stories can unfold with the right pace and direction.

I say all this because something that I feel is important to share with other new writers, as it can be difficult to navigate – or really be honest with the quality of your work. I don’t think of my writing as being delayed, but I do have to plan a far better structure, so my writing is more informed. I have tools to help with that now, again I can share later and even give readers sneak peeks to what happens to my characters.

But in this time, there has been some great milestones! I recently crossed the 1000 follower line eon Twitter. Something I never thought would happen. Now, this could just be small potatoes for some, but for me it helps keep me driven. Not in a vain, ‘I’m hot shit coming through way’. No. It’s difficult to put your creative work out there sometimes, for me especially since I’m trying to actually make something of it. Being able to connect with that many people because of a shared passion for storytelling, or better yet because they want or read or hear my stories reaffirms my love for the craft. 

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

If a story is written but no one reads it, does it exist?

It makes me happy to think that people can read about the exploits and adventures of my characters. It makes me want to write more. Which is why I’m taking the time to do it right.

“A delayed game is eventually good; a bad game is always bad.” A Shigeru Miyamoto once said, it applies to all form of creativity and art. And while it’s also true that you can overwork a project, there is striking the right balance that makes it right. The original Star Wars trilogy (theatrical version if you lucky enough to have a copy) still hold up – it’s almost better because of its flaws. George Lucas wasn’t held back by the limitations of technology, he was push forward, problem solving ways to tell his story with the skills and abilities of the time. 

Anyways to get back on track – Grimoire is coming along. Today after posting chapter 2, I will be outlining with far more structure. By doing so editing should move at a far faster rate. This will allow me to get the book done fast, or at least be able to release the beta version rapid fire via wattpad before it gets edited and goes on sale. 

I’m also working on some new art and am now planning something to thank everyone for 1000 followers. So outside of doing so free art, maybe a giveaway? Let me know in comments.

Goals.

Okay so there’s a bit of insight as to what’s next but I’m wanting to lay it out a bit more, since I tend to work on multiple things, and I want to make some hard commitments. The first three chapters are ready for wattpad (revision of the prologue, followed by two totally new chapters), I will release them over the weekend, chapter 2 today, and chapter 3 probably Sunday. Chapter 4 is planned, 5 is written but not edited. Chapter six has remained a thorn in my side, but I hope I’m finally breaking through it. Chapter 7 is partially written – about a page, nothing exciting. So ‘Part two’ is already coming together. I would be very happy to have it written by the end of October. Better yet ready to come out over Halloween!

As for the rest of the book, that’s where the outlining comes in. 

Once you’ve had a chance to really meet the characters, I hope to be able to go into far more, but right now there’s still no context for them, and that’s on me, but later today you can start to meet them. Head on over to the wattpage and take a look!

https://www.wattpad.com/story/230347111-grimoire

In addition, I’ve begun tinkering with my Klondike story, it’s first chapter can be found on wattpad as well – link below. It’s a rough draft, but if you are a fan of Jack London, Klondike, Gold Rush or honestly westerns you might want to give it a try. There’s more to the story of James McQueen to come! If I find myself struggling to write Grimoire, then I will be making up my word count here – haha

https://www.wattpad.com/story/230370283-trial-of-the-klondike

I’ll leave you with the rough draft of the original cover for part two of Grimoire. Originally, I was going to feature Aurora again but decided instead to have Matthias on the cover front and center. Who is he? Well you’ll have to read that – and wait for the final cover.

Until then,

Excelsior!

Writing Grimoire – Part 2

Its crazy how quickly time moves nowadays. 2020, the gauntlet of a year that would not end yet also seems to inexplicably be flying by. I find myself looking at and thinking about time, the quickness of how it passes and how often we retread the trails of our past.

I suppose that’s one of the themes in Grimoire. It took me a long time to find some of my stories deeper meaning. That’s why it has been collecting dust all these years. And in truth if I set down that initial two-thirds of the original manuscript in front of you, Grimoire as it is today would not be very recognizable within those old pages.

But a couple years ago I had a bit of a breakthrough, created new characters and kinda realized that the reason that Grimoire was not compelling enough was because I was starting in the wrong spot, about halfway through the story actually. I needed to go back to the beginning.

So I started to create new characters, fleshing out the story. That’s where I began to find some of those deeper themes. About consequences, lose, redemption, and revenge. The nature of love, family and what mistakes we make with the best of intentions. Once I found these wants and needs in my characters more pieces began to come into place.

Being new to the ‘writing scene’ and with no formal education to support this it is difficult to daunting to think that my story could either find an audience or be something that I can persevere through to the end. Grimoire is not a short story. And while I look for way to cut the narrative fat at its core its is a long form serial. It highlights the journey of those fighting along side and against the forces of evil. How best to tackle such an endeavor.

Being hugely influenced by comic books, pulp fiction and other literature classics I set out to write Grimoire as a serial very much in the vein of these older styles of fiction, like a monthly pulp magazine, being a bit of an artist I would design the covers as well.

That’s the artistic visionary talking. 

As I have come to learn in the self-publishing industry is – spoiler alert: an industry. While there is definitely room for innovation and new dynamic ways of telling a story there is also the tried and true method which is how many have found their career in self-publishing.  This means that those you try the ‘something new and different’ can easily fail. Yet, they can also find huge success by setting themselves apart, Andy Weir for example.

That can be a difficult decision to make. 

Last time I said I was releasing the first book in parts, which I still intend to do. However I will no longer be approaching the story in ‘seasons’ as after struggling with writers block, themes, and a variety of other pitfalls, I’m going a more traditional route. This will help me establish some much needed positive routines around my writing.

This blog will as a result see far more activity as I feel that blogging this journey will really help me break through my narrative hang ups etc. I hope that these posts concerning the actual writing of Grimoire can help others work through their own writing journey when they can see that another writer suffers from the same insecurities and issues. By knowing what I’m going I hope this can become a discussion and forum for others who find themselves in a similar position.

In the last month I have gotten a dismal amount written to the page as far as the manuscript is concerned – not good. However I have made progress on aspects  of the plot and outline I have realized that I have been shamefully over looking my characters. I need to make them more compelling, more alive, and while it seems like getting each word out is a horrible agony of writer’s block frustration I feel better even if its terribly written. Because no revision or edit could as worse as that version; so I have no where to go but up. But that’s a tough beast to grapple. 

Its difficult to really give much frame of reference without even the first part of Grimoire out (I know, I know), but I got 1000 words edited last week, and should be able to crunch through the next 6500 this week if I can keep pace (see more below for an update). So I’m going to do my best to set the stage of what I am referring too.

But to illustrate my point; part two of Grimoire opens with Jonathan Augren a man whose story will become very important to the world of Grimoire. Originally the scene to introduce him and his companions was a stiffly written train scene. The characters were there, but with no real voice. Like a bridge scene in a movie where he characters need to give the audience exposition but do so with B-movie dialogue and nothing memorable. It felt like a checkbox of an introduction so I could get to a more exciting scene. 

But that’s the thing – these character are exciting knowing where they came from and what they will go on to do. They become so big for the story even though they are not the main protagonist. But I want them to be as engaging to my audience as they are in my head.

It was frustrating, I kept rewriting it over and over and was till not happy with it. It wasn’t until I took a step back to think of the feeling behind what my character was going through. For any well-versed authors out there this may be common practice or a , ‘Well duh” moment but I realized it was something that I don’t do enough with all my characters.

Main protagonist sure, but side characters? Or secondary protagonist? Not as actively. This gave me a moment of pause and I thought  about why Jonathan why on that train, what he was coming home to and how it felt for him. That gave way to how he feels about the friends he is going to visit. Now they were no longer physically in the scene but I could still introduce them via Jonathan’s inner monologue and narrative. By exploring his emotional connection instead of arranging the characters like pieces on a chess board it became a different experience. One that I feel is much better written.

Again this main seem mundane to experienced authors, but for new writers like myself sometimes you can easily forget why you fall in love with characters and their stories. The more important lesson perhaps is to not try and force your scenes or writing but be willing to walk away and come back, like a sculptor who needs a good night sleep for the current work to fully come into shape correctly. And that may means returning that clay make to a starting block to be reworked again, but its become necessary for compelling story I think. To string scenes together with no theme or character drive to motivate the scene forward it loses its soul. In some medium you can overcome this but when you only have the written word, the emotional connection to a character is vital to keep a reader invested.

At least that’s how I see it, and what I’m trying to be mindful of as I write Grimoire. So as far as status updates are concerned. I am still hard at work on Part one which should contain the prologue and the first three chapters – four chapters in all. The prologue can be found on Wattpad (https://w.tt/2QKB1kU) for free now and I have finished initial edit on Chapter One. 

I need to find the best way to host everything whether this blog, Wattpad, Smashwords etc. I’m still very new to all this so if you have tips or advice please comment!

Anyways, so Part One has appox. 6500 words left to get edited before I publish. This version of Grimoire is what I would consider Beta Reader ready. So I would love any feedback you could give! Reviews welcome etc. Ultimately I want to tell the whole story that is Grimoire, but more importantly I’m committed to telling in the best way possible and seek to improve myself constantly even more so for an audience who wants to read it. 

So next steps: I am hoping to have the rest of Part One in Beta within a week (really and truly). Part two is a lot of content with new characters and settings as well as continuing the story of Aurora and what she has gotten herself into. That being said, it currently clocks in at 4200 words which is only one and a half chapters worth of story. Right now Part Two will consist of around seven chapters if I had to guess. So there’s a bit to go, but with the release of Part One I would be excited to get the rest out either piece by piece or as the final book ready to go via your favorite storefront (still got to figure that out too).

Until then,

Excelsior!