Vacation in the Land of Forests

I’ve been on vacation in Sweden for about a week now. I’m flying back to Ireland later this afternoon. It’s been good, but it’s gotten to the point where I’m looking forward to going home.

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Elves dancing over a field in Lerum, Sweden.

I met up with my mother and father, and I met most of the friends that matter.

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Lerum, Sweden

Ireland is great and all, but the forests around where I live leave a lot to be desired. They’re just not the same as the ones back home. Fortunately, I had some great opportunities to get out and about and wander among the trees.

I’ve probably mentioned it in the past, but it bears repeating: I’m a forest person. There’s something special about walking among the trees that I don’t quite get anywhere else.

The hills back in Ireland provide stunning views and magnificent scenery. There’s a grander scale to the landscape when you can see so much further.

Often, in a forest you don’t get that in the same way. You usually don’t see that far, but there’s still a sense of greatness. Now and then you can climb a hill and be able to look out over a forest that stretches towards the horizon. You get a glimpse of how large the forest can be and for a moment you get a sense of perspective.

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Måröds Lyseberg, Hjärtum, Sweden

The forest isn’t visible, but you know it’s there, you just can’t see it for all the trees. You get a view of what’s near you, and you get a feel for the rest of it through glimpses and imagination.

I think that this may be a hint to why I like it so much. It tickles my imagination in just the right way. It gets my thoughts running and the ideas flowing.

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Gipenäs, Hjärtum, Sweden

The forest also makes me feel safe and comfortable in a way I rarely do in other places. It’s probably related to how I’ve spent so much time there. I grew up right next to a forest, and my family was very active in the sport of orienteering. We traveled all over Sweden to take part in competitions and events, and I’ve seen most of what the country has to offer as far as forests go.

By far, my favourite kind is the one showing here in these pictures, where pines and firs stand tall and straight, and where the land buckles and twists into hills and ravines.

It’s been great, but it’ll be good to get home again too.

 

Vacation in the Land of Forests

What Did I Learn This Time?

Yesterday, I finished the first draft of Toni Comes Home. You can, if you want to, read it here.

You’re more than welcome to give it a shot, and if you do, I’d very much appreciate your thoughts on it. However, you can probably find better ways to use your time. The story has some good bits, and I’m happy I wrote it, but it also has some serious flaws.

That’s why I’m happy I wrote it. I feel like I learned some important things and that I gained some useful experiences. I’ll try and sum that up here in this post.

Things I learned:

  1. It’s good if the reader understands the character’s motivations.
  2. Not everyone will know the words I’m using.
  3. I’m not yet good enough at conversations to make one last the entire second two thirds of the story.

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Character Motivation

There is a reason for Toini to return to Kul Viller – her hometown. That reason is explained in the seventh scene of the story. The story itself has nine scenes. I don’t feel that waiting that long to reveal Toini’s motivation for coming home is very nice. I should have put that in a lot earlier.

Sure, it’s probably natural for the topic to come up in the conversation at the time it does, but it could have been mentioned earlier on in the story. Perhaps Toini and Raoul could have talked about it at some point.

The way it is now, the reader just gets to tag along and see what Toini does, and they don’t have any context to put her actions into. Then when the purpose of Toini’s visit finally is revealed, it turns out it’s not really all that exciting.

Sure, it’s important to Toini, but the reader doesn’t know why it’s important to her. I feel like that’s the main flaw of the story, and it’s something I will be addressing in the next version of it.

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Strange Words

I used the word paladin in the story without explaining what it is. I’m personally very familiar with the word and I have a clear understanding of what it means. It didn’t even occur to me that others might not know the word.

It turned out at least two of the people who read the story didn’t know it. One of them looked the word up and figured out the rest on their own. The other kept on reading, hoping for an explanation, and then stopped when no explanation came.

Being unfamiliar with the word, which is very defining for the main character, in combination with the lack of character motivation made the story confusing and lacking in purpose for the reader.

Imagine it yourself. You’re reading a story about someone and it turns out they are a <something> but you’re not sure what that something is, only that it’s kind of important. On top of that, you don’t know what the character wants to achieve or why they’re doing the things they do. It doesn’t sound like a very fun thing to read – unless off course that’s intentional, but that wasn’t the case here.

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Too Much Talking

I really like writing conversations. I think it’s good fun, and I think it’s a great way to get to know a character. I enjoy it.

Unfortunately, I still need more practice. The bulk of Toini Comes Home is taken up by the conversation between Toini and her sister, and it goes on for quite a while.

I’ve written long conversations before, but I don’t think I’ve done one that’s quite this long. The further it went on, the more I felt like I was repeating myself. I felt like I kept using the same old tired beats over and over again.

There’s a lot of sighing. There’s a lot of raised eyebrows, grins, and eyes sparkling with mischief. I think that within a reasonable limit a bit of repetition can be good, but I feel like passed that limit by a pretty wide margin.

I need to break the conversations up and have something happen between them. Maybe move them to a different location, or add some new props for the characters to deal with.

I’ve often had my characters drink alcohol while chatting. It’s easy. They got a glass of some kind to play with and they get drunker and drunker, meaning the conversation changes and there’s a limit to how long you can keep going.

In this case, Toini and Paivi had a pint of beer each, and then Paivi went to get coffee instead. It kind of worked for a bit, but in the end I don’t feel like it was enough.

For now, the best course of action is probably to not add too much talking at once, an to try and break it up a little more in between.

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What’s Next?

I’ll soon start on the outline for the next version of this story. It will be about the same event, but it will be a very different story. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to address the concerns from this version without overcompensating too much in the other direction.

What Did I Learn This Time?

What’s A Paladin Anyway?

I’ve had a reminder that things that are obvious to me may be completely unknown to others.

Toini, the main character of my current story, Toini Comes Home, is a paladin. I’ve read a lot of fantasy and I’ve played a lot of computer games taking place in a fantasy setting. The word paladin has been sitting in my vocabulary since… well, since very long. In some of my social circles it’s a word that people use on a daily basis.

It didn’t even occur to me that there are people who aren’t familiar with the word.

Obviously, this is the case. For example, my sister, who I tend to ask to read my stories I write, had to look up the word in google.

Someone else who also read the story was in a similar position. They told me that at first they’d been intrigued by the word, as it had seemed important, but that when no explanation came they couldn’t apply it to the character. That’s not good.

At the moment, I don’t have the room to fit in the explanation of what a paladin is in the first scene of the story. Technically, there’s no explanation at all in the story. A ready will eventually find out more about it, but that takes a while. I think it’s a bit of a stretch to expect a reader to get through several thousand words to find the explanation.

Her being a paladin is an integral part of who Toini is, and it’s important for how she’s perceived. I can’t just let my readers hang without a clue, and it’s not right to expect them to go find out on their own – then they might as well read another story.

For now, what I’ve done is I’ve added a “dictionary entry” to the top of the first scene, with a short explanation of the word. Hopefully, if I get someone new to go over the text, it will save them a bit of confusion.

What’s A Paladin Anyway?

The Magic Between Outline and Draft

I had an amazing time with my story last night.

That sounds kind of saucy, but bear with me, it was the perfectly respectable kind of amazing. I’d had a bit of productivity related angst all day, and even though I had two good sessions, I still felt like I wasn’t writing enough whenever I wasn’t writing.

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I’m back at Alchemy again. I’m happy to be there, and I get some good writing done. My coffee-shamans are happy to see me, and they bring me good coffee.

The scene is a long one, and it’s not yet done, and it’s more than half a week since I finished the previous scene. I want to try and stick to the One Scene A Week schedule. It worked really well with Emma’s Story and I’m hoping to do the same thing here.

So because there was still time left and more writing needed doing I sat down for a third session last evening. It turned out to be a bit of an experience out of the ordinary.

I write rather detailed outlines, for my stories (as you can see here) and when it comes to conversations, like in this scene I outline them too. I write our the exact words the characters will say and I make notes about what emotions they are feeling and expressing.

Before I start on the actual story I generally have a very good idea of what is going to happen and where the story is going.

Even then, last night I couldn’t stop writing because I had to see how it would end.

Somehow, between the last scratch of the outline, and the first draft of the story, the scene came alive. It stopped being a series of events and quotes and became something else. The characters become people, with memories and feelings and opinions I hadn’t even considered before, and that was amazing.

It doesn’t happen often, but once in a while it does, and I’m not sure I’ve experienced it this strongly before. It’s the magic of writing.

I’m sitting there, and I know what’s going to happen, and I know what’s going to be said, but I don’t know who my characters will be when they come out the other end, and that was what kept me at it until long after I should have stopped and gone to bed.

Hopefully at least something of the excitement I felt writing the scene will spill over to the reader.

Oh, also, when I’m saying scene, I really just mean that particular part of the scene – a section of conversation. I hope to take on the rest of the scene tonight.

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Yeah. More black coffee.
The Magic Between Outline and Draft

I’ve Got A New Story

I’m writing again, and it feels great. This time it’s “for real” – whatever that means.

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Ireland in February. I had to sit and wait for an hour until the first clouds showed up.

My last story I wrote, about Enar’s last day before his vacation, turned out to be crap. The idea wasn’t too bad, the intention was good, but in the end I just never felt good about it. I ended up writing it to completion, but that’ll be it for that story.

There was no passion in it.

This time it’s different. This is a story I’m excited to write and that I will want people to read. There’s a lot of emotion and a lot of strong feelings, and I’m confident I can do it. There is not a lot of angst and uncertainty – which was the case with the previous story, and which I felt really weird about writing.

With this new story, I’m eager to get back to it, to sit down and start wringing words out of laptop. So far I’ve got three scenes written, and I’ve set up a page for the story here.

Initially I’d thought I’d do it like I did with Emma’s Story and upload one chapter a week, but so far the scenes have been quite short. I’m already on the fourth one and it’s less than a week since I started.

The last six scenes, which are more loaded with content, and with heavier content, will take longer to write, but I still think they’ll take less than a week to write. I also added a link to the full story outline to the page, just for the sake of completion.

I doubt anyone will want to read it, but I did the same thing with Emma’s Story and I actually had use of it. Partially because I needed access to it even when I didn’t have my laptop with me, but I also ended up linking to it in a discussion about planning and outlining.

This time I’ve included the Kishotenketsu story structure as a part of the outline and maybe it could come in handy for referencing at some point.

Video

I’ve also put in some time on catching more time lapse footage. The picture at the top of this post is from where I set up today. Somehow, the sky stayed completely clear for an hour after I set up. A few planes flew by, but that was it. Only during the second hour did clouds show up and then it got interesting.

I don’t have a video of today’s footage yet, and it’ll probably be a while before I share it. I did upload a video of the sunset from just outside my kitchen window though. Unfortunately, the camera battery ran out of cream before it got full dark, but I know for next time to start the recording later and hopefully that’ll be enough to catch the full show.

The music is from the track Manzanilla, by Vibrasphere and I’d strongly recommend checking out the full version of it.

The plan for now is to get a series of shots like this, and then string them together for a longer video. I’ll be asking around among friends t see if they want to make some music for me, but if not I’ll probably just pick some chill-out track I like – like I did here.

I’ve Got A New Story

Nothing New Here

I’ve had a bit of a dip when it comes to inspiration lately. I finished the third draft of Emma’s Story and sent it off to two people for feedback. I didn’t want to start anything new before I heard back from them so I haven’t done any “serious” writing for a while. The blurbs don’t really count.

I’ve started working on a new short about Tuuli, the polar elf, but I’m not really feeling it. It’s not taking off like I was hoping. It’ll be short though, so I’ll keep at it and I’ll finish it, but it doesn’t really have me excited. then again, writing it anyway may be a good exercise.

The story about Tuuli got me thinking though. I originally wrote the first short about her almost five years ago, just when I started out writing. I did a rewrite of that specific story a few months back, to see how much I’d improved since back then. It was good fun.

Back then, when I just started out, I wrote a lot of short stories. I was really proud of them and I put them up on my wiki to share them with the world. Looking at them now, I see there’s room for improvement.

So why not improve them?

It should keep me occupied for a while, and it should give me enough ideas and inspirations for new stories to write. These characters mean a lot to me. I was really excited about writing their stories when I first started out and I’m now really looking forward to getting back to them to see what’s changed since last.

One of the story is about Enar, the protagonist of the novel I’ve written (currently on ice waiting for its second draft). I’d like to see if I can rework it as a companion story for the novel to help promote it.

All in all, I copied 22 old shorts from the wiki and put them into a folder on my hard drive for rewriting. This should indeed keep me busy for a while.

Nothing New Here

I Wrote A Blurb

Well, I tried to write a blurb – for Emma’s Story. It was trickier than I thought.

Originally I’d meant to write up a few different ones to see what I could do about presenting the story from various angles with focus on different things. I have a some good ideas for things that I would like to try.

Going from the idea to the actual blurb was more difficult than I’d anticipated and it took me all evening just to get one blur together. It goes like this:

Emma wants a family. She wants to get married, have some kids, and live a pleasant, quiet life like her mother and grandmother before her. It’s the way it’s meant to be.

Torkel has proposed. He’s strong and healthy, and he’s Emma’s best friend since as long as she can remember. There’s an empty burrow in the village for them to move into.

It should be easy, but it’s not.

And then there’s the bear. Come down from the mountains it scares the villagers and makes their forest unsafe. In the middle of winter, the summer magic of the village elder is not enough to drive it off.

Together, Emma and Torkel set out to bring help from other villages nearby.

If you’ve read the story already (first draft is available here) you’ll notice that the blurb hints at a different story than the one that’s actually told. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

There’s nothing in the blurb that isn’t in the story, and as far as the story is concerned, the things mentioned in the blurb are accurate. They’re just not what the story really is about.

So why did I write it like that then?

I don’t want to lie to readers, but I also don’t want to give away too much of the story. If you’ve read the story I think you know what I mean. It’s difficult for me to give a good description of it without giving away details that are better discovered through reading it.

The blurb sets the stage for the story, but I feel that it also sets the wrong expectations. There’s a hint of some kind of big relationship drama with lots of romantic tension – potentially even a triangle drama depending on who the couple might encounter once they reach their destination.

Again, if you’ve read the story, you know that’s not the case.

Yes. I’ll rewrite the thing at some point. I just got surprised by how complicated it actually was compared to what I’d thought. I’m glad I found that out now, and not the last evening before its time to publish. Now I can spend some more time musing on it and figuring out what’s really important.

In completely unrelated news, I accidentally discovered that mixcloud links can be shared in this way too:

Looks kind of neat, right? I wasn’t able to figure out how to get the big picture back if you click the image back to start the music, but it looks kind of neat before you do. Makes the (admittedly minor) effort of picking out a nice photo for the mix a little more worthwhile.

I Wrote A Blurb

Productive Evening

This evening I published two things: one article about writing, and one mix-set.

You can read the article on the Mythic Scribes website here: Speaking Without Words – Writing Body Language

You can listen to the mix-set right here: 

I’m feeling pretty good about both of these things. It would have been cool to put in a third example in the article, but it’s quite long as it is already, and adding even more of what’s already there would have made it too long. Hopefully people will find it worth their while as it is.

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The mix-set suffers from a similar issue. At over 100 minutes of music, I’m worried that it feels a little bit too long. I kind of wanted to try and make a longer set again though. It’s more difficult to give it a natural progression that way, and it’s something I want to learn and experiment with.

This time, there’s a track in the middle (the ninth one, Sym-pathy, by Moshic) that serves as bridge between two different parts of the set. The first part is a bit more melodic, while the second half is harder and darker.

I could have split it completely and made it two sets instead, but it just didn’t feel like the right thing to do. I’ll give it some time, and some more listens and then try to evaluate how I feel about it.

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Productive Evening

A Tempting Suggestion

The other day I posted about how I wasn’t sure how to spend my time while I waited for my beta readers to get through the third draft of Emma’s Story.

I’ve done pretty well with just reading, playing games, and watching anime, but then my little sister made a suggestion. She recently had a baby (yes, I’m now an uncle), and she mentioned she’d enjoy it if I wrote a story she could read for the child.

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My old boss made this for me.

The idea has grown on me since last night. The little one is only a few weeks old still, so there’s no sharp deadline coming up, but the more I think about it, the more I realise it’s something I’d like to do. I’ve got plenty (or, well, some at least) of friends with kids old enough to understand actual stories.

It could be fun.

I probably won’t get to it any time soon, but the seed has been planted, and eventually a story of some kind will grow out of it.

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Random calf.

In Enar’s Vacation, there’s a character named Elsie. She’s probably around nine or so at the time of the story, and she’d make a great protagonist (can you even call it protagonist if it’s a children’s story – it feels really detached).

Elsie is one of the more interesting characters of the story and I’ve already thought about writing a novel about her and Otter that would take place after Enar’s Vacation. That doesn’t mean I can’t write children’s stories about the things she gets up to before that time though.

There are plenty of incidents mentioned in Enar’s Vacation that could potentially make for great stories:

  • Elsie runs away from home and Bolvar has to come and find her.
  • Elsie gets to know the sylph in the old pump.
  • Elsie spies on the family of badgers up the hill.
  • Elsie has to stay indoors because there’s a lynx in the garden.
  • Elsie climbs the ancient oaks in the field.

That’s just the ones mentioned in the novel, and I’m sure there are more I could think of if I just put my mind to it (Anna carries Elsie down from the tree after she falls asleep).

Right, this could be a lot of fun.

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Similarly random horse.
A Tempting Suggestion

Okay, what now?

I just mailed the third draft of Emma’s story to two different beta readers. It’s only marginally different from the second draft, but I hope I’ve managed to fix the issue pointed out by the reader of the second draft.

I’ve spent the last three days reviewing the same handful of sections for changes and eventually I realized I’m just shuffling a few words around without really adding or changing anything but mere nuances that no one but I would notice.

At least I hope that’s the case because I decided I’d had enough of it and sent the mails away.

I’m a little bit nervous.

One of the readers is, from what I’ve seen, a rather passionate advocate for diversity in fiction. I know most of the other people who have read the story also feel strongly about these issues, but since this is a new acquaintance I’m looking forward to hearing what they have to say. This person also hasn’t read my novel (Enar’s Vacation), so it’ll be interesting to see how they take to the setting of the story.

The other reader is male. He did read Enar’s Vacation and quite enjoyed it. I’m pretty sure he’ll like this one too, but it’ll be good to get a male perspective on the story – other than my own.

Does it matter? I think it does. It matters to me.

The story is about a woman, and it’s told from her perspective. She’s written well enough that previous readers haven’t raised any major complaints. Will a male reader bring up things the previous female readers haven’t mentioned? Maybe. I almost hope so.

So now I’m just sitting here, wondering what to do next. The story about Alene is done for now. I’m not going to make any more changes to Emma’s Story until I hear back from the beta readers. I’m not yet ready to get back to Enar’s Vacation, and I don’t feel like there’s enough time to start on a new project.

I also don’t have a new project I’m feeling passionate enough about yet. I really want to get back to the novel soon. It needs a lot of work, and I have a lot of ideas about things I want to do with it.

But for now, I’m just sitting, here, trying to think of something to do. I’ve played enough games, and once I’m done here I won’t be writing anymore because my arm is starting to ache.

I should get a book and read something.

Okay, what now?