Soundtrack for a Frozen Soul

One of my favorite parts of beginning a new story is picking out the music I think I’ll want to listen to while I write it. I try to vary it a bit so I don’t always listen to the same things, but even then a lot of songs will overlap from story to story. Artists like Covenant, Basia Bulat, Pink Floyd, and Depeche Mode have been in the playlists for all the stories I’ve written – along with several others.

Along with creating a playlist for the story, I also pick out a few signature songs for the story’s main character. These are songs that I feel fit the character especially well, or which I connect with them in some particular way.

The time has come to list Kala’s signature songs.

Eivør – Brotin

Eivør is a Faroese singer-songwriter, and this song is in Faroese. I do not understand the language, and I haven’t looked up the lyrics or tried to find a translation. With this song it’s all about the feeling, and I think perhaps that not understanding the lyrics contribute to that. It’s mellow in a slightly haunting and ethereal way, and that’s why I picked it.

The feeling of this song is one I want to try and replicate in my story. There’s something mysterious about it; fragile on the surface, but with hints of a hidden strength underneath. It’s very close to how I imagine Kala as a person.

Mandalavandalz – Kaunista

Once more it’s a song in a language I don’t understand: Finnish. Kaunis is the Finnish word for beautiful and Kaunista is some kind of variation of that. Here too, the foreign language lends the music an air of mystery.

There’s nothing fragile about this track though. The music starts out carefully, but quickly grows. It gains strength and confidence, develops an attitude and then lets it all loose. This song is about Kala dancing around the Fire of the Lonely Ones, deep in the forest under the stars of winter. It’s about how she lets go of her fears and worries, starts to put her past behind her, and gives herself to the fire and the music.

Annakin – Trooper

This song, it seems to me, is both about change and about finding your place in the world (though I admit I could be wrong). Both of these concepts are central to Kala. Her entire existence has been thrown to the wind and she needs to find a way to get back on her feet somehow. It’s kind of what the entire story is about – in a roundabout fashion.

The mood and sound of the song also ties in well with the character – in much the same way as the previous ones. On the surface it’s cold and perhaps a little bit vulnerable, but there’s strength and power hiding underneath. If you haven’t picked up on it already, that’s kind of a theme here.

If I had to pick only one song for Kala, I think it would probably be this one.

Hybrid – Break My Soul

Hybrid is a band I’ve been a fan of ever since I first encountered them back when I was at uni – nearly two decades ago – and this one of my favorite tracks of theirs.

This is a song about coming back – about standing up straight after having found your balance. At least, as far as it applies to Kala it is. It’s about how she’s taking her first steps in her new life and how she’s getting ready to take on the world again. She’s gone through the bad things, still are, but she’s found hope, and she’s found the will to go on living.

And she’s got a thing or two to tell the world about the hand she’s been dealt.

Depeche Mode – When the Body Speaks

This is the soundtrack to someone mortally wounded freezing to death all alone somewhere out on the ice wastes of the northern sea. Most likely, that’s not at all the way it’s meant, and it’s not what the lyrics are about, but if you close your eyes and listen and pretend you don’t understand the words, you’ll see it.

Picture a vast plain of ice. Picture someone lying there, on their back, with falling snow piling up around them, and their blood frozen on the ground. Picture that they’re still alive, but not for much longer.

There is no one else around. No one will come to save them, and no one will know their fate. They know all this, and they’re fine with it. They’ve made their peace, and now they just wait for the end.

This is the song that plays in the background.

The above isn’t a scene from my story. It’s not how Kala will end. It’s not a spoiler. It’s an attempt to paint a picture and show you how the song fits with the character and the story.

Edit:

Kala?

This is a late edit. I realised a few hours after I posted this that I hadn’t really introduced the story – just assumed everyone would know. That’s probably not the case.

So, anyway…

Kala is the main character of my NaNoWriMo project: Kala is Alone. It’s meant to be a cold, grim story about a young woman who loses everything and her struggle to get on with life. I’m putting up the chapters on the blog as I go, and you can find them linked from the story’s main page, here.

Don’t expect much though. I’m not used to writing fast, and I’m not used to having as vague an outline as I do for this one. I’m sure it’s good for me – educational and stuff. It probably won’t be my best quality work though. Still, it’s there if you want to have a look.

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Soundtrack for a Frozen Soul

Gearing up for the NaNoWriMo

Two weeks ago I was dead set on not doing it. Now I can’t wait until tomorrow to get started.

I was thinking of starting right away at midnight – in a little over two hours – but I decided against it. It doesn’t feel right. I’ll do some last minute tinkering and then relax instead. There will be a lot of writing over the next 30 days.

There will be a page here on the blog where I upload the chapters of the story as they get written. As usual, I don’t expect more than a few people to even look there, but it’s the thought that someone can look there that matters. It helps keep me motivated to keep going.

I’m also going to see how much more I can do about the outline…

I’ve done a rough outline and I’ve listed all of the major and minor events that will take place throughout the story, in chronological order. I also began writing more detailed descriptions of these events, noting down minor details like who’s present and where the event takes place and suchlike.

That part is not done yet. I just reached the halfway mark yesterday. The first two acts are completed, and the second two are not. My gut feeling is that the second act will be the longest one, with the third and fourth the shortest ones.

This means I’ve got more than half the book outlines.

I also have a hunch that this may be enough for the NaNo. The challenge, as I understand it is to write a novel of 50,000 words. For me the difficult part will be the word count. Fifty thousand words is a lot.

The novel is going to be longer than 50k words though, probably by quite a lot. If I’m lucky the bits I’ve planned so far will last me to 50k words, and then I can take a break from the story and go back to the planning.

Hopefully, ideally, maybe, we’ll see…

It’s not like I’ve really written enough to have much of a clue when it comes to estimating word counts. Either way, it’s not all that big a deal. What matters is that I take part and that I have a good reason to try and be more productive in my writing.

Gearing up for the NaNoWriMo

Adding Details

I’m making quite a lot of progress on my story outline for the NaNoWriMo, and I’ll tell you about it, but first a bit of music:

I’m putting a new mix-set together to help with inspiration for the story, and I’m using this track as the seed. I’m trying to pick out music that fits with it and follows the theme, and so far I have a real good feeling about it. This could be great.

And now, about that story…

To the surprise of absolutely no one, there has been some changes to the story since last I wrote about it. The basic concept is still the same. Kala is still alone. It’s still cold and dark and miserable – perhaps even more so.

A lot of details have changed though.

I’ve split up the story into four different acts, kishotenketsu style. There’s an introduction, an elaboration, a complication, and a reconciliation – as it’s meant to be, as I like it. Hopefully I’ll pull it off a bit better this time than last (I tried it in Toini Comes Home and I’m not sure it worked out very well).

After I split up the story into acts I wrote down a list of events that will take place during each act. This stage is fairly dull, as I know the major events already and the events I add in between them don’t add that much to the story. It’s stuff like “the village mourns their dead” or “Kala goes hunting a lot” which really doesn’t say too much, but which is still needed to bridge the gaps between the bigger, more important events.

The next step is where the fun begins…

It’s where I describe the events in more detail, and I got started on that last night. This still isn’t the story itself. It’s more of a description of what’s happening during an event, or what the scenes describing the event will really be about.

I’m taking what’s just one or two sentences and rewriting them in more detail – usually a few paragraphs of text. This gets me thinking about the little details that bring the world and the story to life. As an example, my first description of the second “event” of the story – after Kala’s father’s boat does not come back – reads something along the lines of:

The village mourns the deaths of those lost at sea.

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Photo unrelated to story.

That’s it. It’s not much. It’s not exciting. In fact, it sounds kind of dull.

I sat down to think about it though, trying to figure out how this could be described in the story. I realized there had to be some kind of funeral or memorial ceremony, and I realized that this would be an opportunity to show just how deeply Kala is affected by the loss of her family and her betrothed.

So I had to come up with some kind of memorial service for the villagers to perform, and something for Kala to do to make an impression on the villagers.

…and all of a sudden I have two scenes that could both of them be quite interesting in the way they establish the world and the main character. It’s once again the magic of writing at play. Ideas just turn up and add themselves to the story. It’s amazing when that happens.

 

Adding Details

Music in A Land of Ice and Stone

Whenever I start on a new story I put together a new playlist for the story. I pick out music that I hope will inspire me and which I think has a mood and a feel that fits with my character and my story.

I also pick out a few signature songs that will serve to represent the main character of the story. Like for Toini, and for Alene. I’m going to do that for Kala as well, but not yet. It’ll probably be a week or two. The story and the character are still both too young for me to really know for sure what songs will work for her.

The basic idea though, and the setting, those are things I’ve bounced around for quite a while. I’ve got a good feel for those. I’ll show you.

Here:

This video captures the feeling of the Kala’s world very well, both the sounds and the images. Unfortunately, it doesn’t show any forest or it would be perfect. I’m a big fan of forests, and they will figure in the story, even if they perhaps don’t exist in this kind of landscape.

Let’s say the forest grows further inland – or something like that, perhaps in valleys shielded from the sea. I’ll try not to worry about it too much.

I should probably spend more energy on figuring out the plot.

Music in A Land of Ice and Stone

What does Kala want?

2015-12-10 19.00.03Right, let’s do a little brainstorming.

In my last post I wrote about my new story idea and how it’s taking shape and how I have a lot of questions to answer before I can even start figuring out the plot. One of these questions was “What does Kala want?” and I’d like to try and come up with a few suggestions here.

I’m sharing it as a blog post because knowing that others could potentially read this helps keep me motivated to strive for some sort of coherence. A public notepad if you will.

So, anyway, what does Kala want?

My train of thought is already running, but it’s not really coming from anywhere. There’s another question to answer first:

Who is Kala?

Let’s start with this. Who is she?

First of all, here’s the Kala playlist I put together. I built it more to get a feel for the story than for the character, but they’re so closely entwined it doesn’t really make any difference.

 

What I’ve decided so far is she’s a young woman, somewhere just on the border between a teenager and an adult.

Family etc.

Kala lived alone with her father Leifur. The rest of her immediate family is gone. Let’s say her mother (Agnes) and younger brother (Tryggvi) went through the ice and drowned a few winters back.

Kala’s older brother (Larus) married and moved out about a year ago. He lived in the village with a woman (Svanhildur, aka Svana) from down the coast. He was on the same boat her father was on, the one that never made it back to port on the last evening of autumn.

There’s an uncle (Bjarni) as well, but he’s moved to another village to marry.

Also on the boat was Kala’s betrothed, Agnar.

Kala has no grandparents. They’re all dead. Life is harsh.2016-09-23-12-26-16

Now, Kala is alone. All of her family and relatives are dead or gone. Svana is still around, but now that her husband is dead she will move back to her family down the coast.

It’s possible that Kala could go live with her brother Bjarni, but it won’t be an option for some reason (I’ll think of something).

All names taken from Behind the Name, except Kala – I just made that up, but apparently it an Indian and Hawaiian name.

Is Kala special?

Apart from being the main character of the story, Kala is also a talented weaver of magic. However, like the majority of weaver she’s not able to channel the aether into weaveable strands of magic. She can’t do magic on her own (this is normal in this setting).

In order to do magic, Kala always had to pair up with her friend Agnar (also her betrothed) who’s a strong channeler. He had the ability to pull the aether into strandes for Kala to weave. The two of them practiced magic together ever since their respective talents were discovered and with time they become quite skilled.

Now that Agnar is gone there’s no one to channel the aether for Kala. There’s no one else in the village able to do it for her. She’s no longer able to practice the art she’s spent her entire life trying to master.2015-03-19 10.13.54

She will have an average set of practical skills – the kind you pretty much gain automatically when growing up in a small fishing village – but they’re nothing special. It’s the same thing everyone else knows as well.

The other thing special about Kala is that she’s sensitive to motion sickness. She starts getting nauseous as soon as she’s in a boat for more than a few minutes. If she stays on board any longer than that she’ll start throwing up uncontrollably.

Normal skills?

Like mentioned earlier Kala has the “normal” skill set of anyone in the village, apart from anything that requires her to be in a boat. This includes:

  • General crafting skills: mending nets and clothes, sewing, cooking and baking, house and boat maintenance, woodworking.
  • Wilderness survival skills both on land and on ice.
  • Fishing on ice.
  • Hunting: both with rifle as well as with longbow. Including skinning and such.

Her skills in these tasks are as good as anyone else her age. Kala and Agnar practiced their magic during the times when there was nothing more important that needed doing. Often this lead to them spending time alone together instead of hanging out with the other kids which resulted in neither of them forming any strong bonds with anyone else their age.

Current outlook

By “current” I mean at the time just after the story starts – the morning after the boat with her father and her betrothed doesn’t come back.

  1. Kala is alone (yes, that’s the title of the book as well, I’m liking it)
  2. Kala is useless.

Let’s elaborate on number 2 for a bit. Technically, Kala can do whatever any other land-bound member of the village can, but is there any need for her. She can do things, but is there any need for her to do it?

2015-11-13 19.26.44 - CopyThe margins for survival are tight in the village, and while an extra pair of hands would be nice for chores, it’s also an extra mouth to feed. The village can take care of Kala for the winter (they may be bound by honor or duty or something), but the lack of two fishermen and a boat is felt by everyone – maybe there were more people on the boat as well.

Once winter ends she’ll be asked to leave if she has not found a way to meaningfully contribute to the village.

What if…

What if Kala doesn’t make herself useful? What are her options if she has to leave? What’s at stake?

These are the main options I can think of at the moment:

  1. Join the army. The nation has a standing army in which Kala can enlist.
  2. The City. Kala can take the train to the big city and try to make a living there.
  3. Other villages. It’s possible there will be a place for her somewhere else along the coast, but that will most likely mean she’ll have to marry.

There are a few less likely options as well – things she may consider in her more desperate moments:

  1. Suicide
  2. Roadswoman. Wander from village to village and beg for shelter and food. Probably die alone and cold.
  3. Torpare. Find or build a cabin in the forest inland. Live from hunting and foraging. Probably die alone and cold.
  4. Find another channeller. Unlikely. Will require traveling, but may be possible in the army or in the city.
  5. Enroll at the university. Unlikely. Will cost money. Will require travel to the city.

There isn’t anyone for her to marry in the village, and it’s unlikely anyone else will come to try and marry her during the winter.2016-08-29-00-05-26

That’s Kala

Now I have a somewhat better idea of Kala’s situation. There’s still a lot to figure out before I can say that I know who she is, but I know a little more now and I have a few clues about what experiences will have shaped her in the past.

She’s alone, and she needs to prove herself in order to keep living the life she knows, even if it’s changed.

What does Kala want?

Like a lot of other people, Kala is worried about change. She doesn’t want to leave the village. She doesn’t to have to prove herself useful. She doesn’t want to be alone. She wants everything to be the way it’s always been.

Unfortunately for Kala, none of that matters.

Things have changed and she’ll have to adapt.

At the start of the story, Kala will want to stay in her village and she’ll want to try and prove herself useful in some way. She wants things to remain as close as possible to what they’ve always been.

I have not yet decided if this will change during the story or not. Chances are she’ll probably change her mind more than once, but I have not made my mind up about how it will end – yet.

For now, Kala wants to stay in the village, and she will try to make herself useful.

2015-08-27 10.36.06

Unfortunately, there is not much for her to do. The village slows down during the winter months. People stay inside as much as they can. They eat, sleep, and get drunk.

The stores in Kala’s house are full. Agnar and her father stocked them up before winter, and they also stored food for themselves. Kala has enough to share if she wants to – this winter. She’ll survive, but she still goes fishing on the ice, or hunting in the mountains now and then, for a bit of variety and for something to do.

It’s not far fetched to think that she’ll get the idea of becoming a good hunter and be able to help out the village that way. She probably starts to spend a lot of time outside to practice her hunting skills.

There’s not much ice fishing to do in the summer so that’s not really a viable contribution. That said, there are things out on the ice to challenge even the most experienced of land-bound hunters. It wouldn’t be too far fetched to think that a desperate youngster with nothing left to lose may go hunting dangerous prey, would it?

The “other” option

The majority of the villagers don’t have much need for Kala, but there is one for whom she may be useful: Fannar – the village’s shaman.

Fannar is a snowspeaker (a winter shaman), and he’s getting on in the years. He’s been looking for an apprentice for some time, but none have come forth that had any talent for it.

So far Kala has also not shown any talent, but she also hasn’t been tested very much. After all, she had a talent for weaving, and it was more important for her to practice that. Now though, she has some time to spare, and since she’s got an understanding of the aether already, maybe she can pick a thing or two up from the old shaman? Maybe she has some latent talent that can be awoken?

I don’t think Kala will have the talent for becoming a coastal snowspeaker like Fannar, but I think she may pick up a thing or two from him anyway. He’s not reluctant to help, and he’s happy to share his knowledge. If he can’t pass on his shamanistic skills, he can at least share some of his life experience with her.

Furthermore…

Kala might not be in tune with the coastal spirit, but she might find that Fannar’s teachings will help her discover things in other places – perhaps in the forest inland, or far out on the ice.

The Plan

For now, as per the above. Kala will want to try to prove her usefulness to the village by becoming either a skilled hunter, or a shaman, or a combination of the two.

2015-03-19 10.02.02

What does Kala want?

The Wheels Are Spinning

In my previous post I mentioned I was starting to toy with the idea of taking part in the NaNoWriMo.

I’ve been warming up to the idea all day. I may just go for it, even if it’s not really my thing.

There are few things that are as stimulating as starting up a new story. I dragged up an old idea I’ve been kicking around for a while and decided to see what I could do about it.

It’s roughly based on this song.

So far I don’t actually have a story, but I have a starting point, a setting, a conflict of sorts, and a main character. I also have a very clear feeling for what kind of mood I’m going for.

It’s dark.

It’s cold.

It’s mean.

This will not be a children’s story.

Okay, so here’s the idea…

Story Concept

The story takes place in a small fishing village on the cost of the great northern sea. It starts on the last day of autumn. It’s the last day the fishermen can go out in their boats to fish (I need to come up with a good reason why).

The villagers that aren’t out to sea gather atop a cliff overlooking the bay and there they light a great bonfire to guide the fishermen back to the safety of the harbour (this is probably just symbolic these days but may have a deeper meaning/purpose).

At the end of the day all of the boats find their way back to land except for one. A boat missing is not unheard of, but also not common. It doesn’t happen every year, but it’s always a bad omen (elaborate on this).

It is especially bad for Kala. The missing boat contained all that remained of her family (mother and/or father, maybe some brother/sister/uncle/aunt, and possibly her fiancee) and she’s now orphaned and alone in the world.

So, Kala is alone (I think that’ll be the title of the story by the way).

The story will be about her struggle to make a place for herself in her village/community.

Kala needs to prove to her village that she can contribute to community in a meaningful way, and that she’s not a burden on them. If she does not contribute to the community she becomes a burden and she is no longer welcome in the village and her home and other possessions will be taken over by the village.

Because reasons (make something up) the village can not cast her out until after the new fishing season begins. It may be a bad omen to cast someone out during winter, or she may have a certain time to prove herself.

If Kala has not made herself useful before the end of winter she will be cast out.

Questions:

  • What does it mean to be useful to the village and contribute to the community?
  • What is Kala good at?
  • What does she want to do?
  • Why wasn’t she on the boat?

Those are the major questions at the moment. Some are easier than others to come up with answers to.

I also have a final twist that I’m toying with: The story will be about Kala, but it will not be from her point of view. Instead I’ll tell the story through the various villagers. They will have different opinions about her and they will have different interpretations about what she’s doing, or ought to do. They can also be wrong about things.

At the moment, that is probably going to be the most difficult thing to pull off, but I want to give it a go, because I really like the idea.

The Wheels Are Spinning