Friday, April 24, 2015

Random Fridays: Let's Talk About Writing
Hello, everyone! I wasn't planning on doing Random Fridays at all this month, what with Camp NaNo and school and all that sort of thing. However, I realized this morning that this week's theme is writing, and, well, I can't pass that up, now can I? Emma left the exact topic fairly open, so I thought I'd talk about where I get my inspiration.

One major source of inspiration for me is roleplays. Some of you may know that my Berstru Tales series were inspired by the Battle! thread on the Underground. Most of the main characters were directly taken from that roleplay, and many of those that weren't (Dustin, Hunter, and Aleta) were still very heavily based on characters from the Battle! thread. (For any Underground elves who are curious: all three characters are inspired by Liessa's characters. Dustin and Hunter came from Ben and Cris, obviously, and Aleta, less obviously, was semi-based on Audri.) In fact, I think there's only three or four major characters who didn't, in some way, have their origins in the Battle! thread.

Another story that was strongly (though much less obviously) influenced by a roleplay thread is Poison Lies. The main characters were roughly inspired by three characters on the Character Chat thread on the Underground- not just any characters, though. These three were (and still are) some of my favorite characters made up by my friends, and they tend to cause me (and each other) a lot of heartbreak.

As I've mentioned before, another source of inspiration for my stories is music. I've written a great many characters, short stories, scenes, and even a whole novel, based on songs. Lately, music in and of itself has directly inspired fewer and fewer of my projects, but it remains an important factor. Part of the reason is that it's had less direct effects is likely that I'm writing fewer short stories, which are the main works that I write based off of songs.

A third place I find inspiration is, naturally, in books. How exactly the books inspire my writing varies, however. Sometimes the book inspires my novel directly. For example, my Berstru Tales dragons were heavily influenced by the dragons in The Inheritance Cycle, and The Lay of the Nightblade was partially inspired by Tolkien's Lay of Beren and Luthien. Also, several aspects of Danger in the Tower, my 12 Dancing Princesses retelling, were inspired by Entwined and Tales of Goldstone Wood.

Sometimes, however, books influence my novels less directly by first influencing my daydreams- and for the record, my daydreams are somewhat like novels themselves, particularly in that, if I'm interrupted during one, I'll pick up again later where I left off.. My most recent NaNo Novel, Between Two Worlds, was taken largely from one of my favorite daydreams, which has changed somewhat over the last several years, but has remained essentially the same. The main idea- the girl captured and broken by an enemy who then remade her into a tool for that enemy's own use- was largely taken from a combination of The Wingfeather Saga and Heartless. Naturally, exactly how this happens has changed from those stories to my daydream to my novel, but the basic idea remains fairly similar.

Where do you find inspiration? Please tell me in the comments, or feel free to make your own blog post. I'd love to hear about it!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade) 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Camp and Character Encounters

Hey’a, everyone! So, I didn’t mean to totally disappear this month . . . but with Camp NaNoWriMo (first prep, then actual writing) and other things that needed doing (like school and driver's ed), that’s kind of what happened. I do hope that I'll start back up with TTT and Random Fridays in May . . . but we'll see. Until then, posts will be sporadic.

Anyway, onto the point of this post! I recently started following Knitted by God's Plan and discovered Kendra's Character Encounters link-up/writing challenge. It sounded like fun; essentially, you write a short piece about how you meet up with one of your characters in a certain location. Better yet was this month's location: my character's own world. This works out very nicely for me, since I've managed to do that in-novel multiple times, canonically even. Well, a character based strongly on me has, but as the main differences between the character and I are that the character spends more time writing and less time staring at the computer and doesn't freak out quite as much about talking to people (mainly because she knows almost all the conversations are happening on her terms anyway), it comes out to about the same thing. And yes, I do have an excuse for putting in a self-insert character! What is it? Well, the best way to answer that question will be to tell you a little about my Camp novel, starting with the synopsis.

Tuira is a land without an Author. It has been for two hundred years, though the bards and bardesses insist that the land’s stories will be written once more. Now, however, the waiting has come to an end. A new Author has been appointed- but she’s not like anything the people of Tuira ever expected.
No one was more surprised than Rinna when the new Author appeared to her, of all people- especially not since Rinna has been denied entrance to the Order of the Pen multiple times. However, that didn’t even begin to cover Rinna’s shock when that same Author informs Rinna of a threat to Tuira and to her position as Author. Before long, Rinna finds herself on an adventure that will not only decide Tuira’s fate, but challenge everything she ever believed.
It was inspired by the argument I had with a certain bardess in my Berstru Tales and another thought: what if characters in a story knew that their world was controlled by an author, and what if those characters could actually interact with their author? At first I thought it would only be certain characters . . . but then it became more interesting to have everyone in that storyworld know . . . and then it kind of turned into its own religion (which was rather interesting to make- it’s something I’ve never tried before now). Anyway, it’s been pretty fun to write.

Of course, since this novel is pretty much one big character encounter, I have a lot of options on what I could do for this post. I decided to do a certain conversation which I'm particularly (perhaps unreasonably) fond of. Keep in mind: it is still the first draft and therefore rather rough.

"Oh." Rinna adjusted her bag's strap again, trying to find the most comfortable position for it. "But . . . why walk? Why not just appear there? Why bring me along?"

"Official reason: this seemed more fun and I wanted to test my theory. Unofficially . . ." Sarah looked slightly sheepish. "I'm not sure what determines which Fourth Walls shatter when I appear and I don't want to take any risks. I mean . . . there's a lot of Fourth Walls in the High Temple."

"Oh. True." Rinna winced, imagining the crash if they all shattered at once. "Couldn't you just appear outside the Temple?"

"I could." Sarah shrugged. "But like I said, I'd rather do it this way." She glanced at Rinna. "You don't mind coming, do you?"

Rinna hesitated before shaking her head. "No. You want me to do this, so I'll do it."

"That's very kind of you," Sarah said, a hint of wryness in her voice. "Also, from a completely logical standpoint, somewhat foolish, since Authors tend to land their characters in a sea of boiling water."

"But not doing what you want would be worse, wouldn't it?" Rinna recalled what she'd heard the Bards say on occasion. "You'd force me to do it anyway, or manipulate me so I had no choice."

"Force you?" Sarah shook her head. "Never. I mean, I could. But outright forcing a character to do anything usually doesn't work very well. They resist and make the scene nasty and clunky and it's easier just to think of a different option . . . or, yes, manipulate them into taking the path I want them to and thinking it's their idea."

Rinna eyed Sarah suspiciously. "Is that what you did today? Manipulated me so I thought coming with you was my idea when it really wasn't?"

Sarah's gaze remained fixed on a point in the distance. "You were entirely free to say no at any time you liked. You can still say no now and I'll send you home. You can tell your parents that you found out I was crazy or not a real Writer or whatever you like. I'll go to the capital by myself."

Rinna shook her head. "But saying no would be out of character for me. You're my Author; if you ask something of me, I do it. And you told my family you're a Writer offering an opportunity for me to get experience and a better chance of joining the Order of the Pen- again, saying no would be out of character and you, my parents, and I all know it."

"Ah, true." Sarah assumed what was supposed to be a wise, learned, Jedi-esque expression but which really just looked silly. "However, you also fear protagonist-dom, and you recognize that this quest is a good sign that you're going to become one. Thus, you do have a certain amount of motivation to say no. It was just a matter of whether your rather misplaced devotion to me and not-misplaced desire to be a Writer would outweigh your fear."

"Which you counted on them doing." Rinna glanced to the side with a frown. Was it just her imagination, or did the rolling hills and groves of olive and cedar trees seem to be passing so fast they blurred?

"Well, of course. What kind of Author would I be if I couldn't predict what my characters will do in a given situation?" Sarah's walking stick swung and tapped faster, creating a rhythm just slightly out of sync with their footsteps. "But that doesn't mean I manipulated you. You still could've said no."

"But it wasn't very likely." Yes, the trees were definitely blurring, and when Rinna looked down, the ground whizzed by unnaturally fast as well. Rinna's stomach turned, and she looked up again, focusing on the horizon to fight the sensation of nausea.

"If you offered your brother your dessert in return for his doing the dishes for you, is he likely to say no? No. He's not. Is that manipulation?"

"Well . . . no." Rinna couldn't help but feel that there was something wrong with that comparison but she couldn't figure out how to put that wrongness in words. "So why did you want me to come?"

"As I said, I'd like your company and your help." Sarah shrugged. "The latter in particular- I need a native who knows who I am to warn me when I'm acting too odd." She smiled an odd, sly smile, almost a smirk. "Besides, I have a feeling about you. My stories seem to go better when you're involved."

Oh no. Rinna tried to keep the dread out of her voice. "You've decided you want me for a protagonist, haven't you?"

Sarah didn't answer- at least, not how Rinna expected her to. "You're not going to die, Rinna."

"That's not answering the question!"

"It is, just not the question you asked. I answered the question you should've asked- the one you're really asking- and the answer is now." Sarah's stick tapped faster, and the blur of the landscape increased. "No, you're not going to die- not by my pen, anyway. No, I'm not going to elevate you to some high rank you don't want or put you through a war or something like that. I'm not Sanderson or Martin or anyone like that. I said I'd do what I can to keep you safe and help you achieve what you want, and I meant it. That doesn't mean you'll never face trouble, or that the path I choose to get you where you want to be is the same as the path you'd choose. It just means I'm not just doing those things for my own amusement." She turned to look at Rinna, her expression for once completely serious. "You said you wanted to trust me before. So do it now. Trust me that I'll keep my word, and trust the Great Author who guides me. Can you do that?"
I think that gives you a pretty good look at how my storyworld operates, as well as how the relationship between Rinna and me works! (Though, neither one is usually quite so meta as this conversation was . . .) Anyway, I hope you enjoyed reading that, and that you'll join in the Character Encounters link-up as well!

Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)