Wednesday, November 8, 2017

NaNoWriMo Update: THE LAST INKWEAVER Makes A Comeback!


Wow! I know in the last post, I expressed great optimism over all the plans I had and the grand notes I had prepared (even though I only got halfway through before November began!) but I have a confession to make: in reality, I have been writing myself silly trying to keep up—for some reason, delving into the story with just notes was a lot easier and deceptively smoother than the actual writing is turning out to be…

Anyway, here are a few things that I have been or will be tweaking around in the second draft of The Last Inkweaver!

Names

I have known from the beginning that most of the names in The Last Inkweaver are straight-up placeholders, sometimes even copped from other stories of mine for no justifiable reason! Therefore, I do very much want to change everybody’s names, remaking the story even further. By now, I think I have decided on at least a few names: the restless, energetic character will be known as Terra, nicknamed “Tear-Away Terra” because she is always running hither, thither, and yon. My main character is known as “Callista” for now, simply because I cannot come up with a more convincing “long name” for “Callie.” Any ideas from the audience? Other characters who have been named so far are Feyton, a random extra; Matthias, the main male character, and various teachers/adults like Miss Needle, Madame Collette, Mr. Colton, and Professor Mikel—but can you believe a geek who invents a language with over 300 words can’t even come up with a reasonable naming convention to allow her to address a handful of characters? Part of me doesn’t want to get too flowery, but another part of me can’t stop thinking of flowery names!

Mirrorvale

The next thing that is changing is the fact that now I am getting a clearer picture in my head of what Mirrorvale—Callie’s village—actually looks like! When I started it the first time, I went full-on generic because, like I said, I was just slapping down details willy-nilly because I really had no idea what the town actually looked like. A lot of the details came after-the-fact. All it took was an excellent world-building discussion, and I started thinking of a cross between a 60s/70s vintage prefabricated neighborhood and a Industrial Victorian kind of main “village,” complete with various shops and whatnot. The crowning achievement, and the main “draw” that would keep such an isolated town from going completely obsolete would be The Academy, a branch of the prestigious Capital Scholars sent there expressly to train young people in how to agree with what they are told, and the kind of critical reasoning, just enough to apply the principles they’ve learned in a way that coincides with the general consensus. There they teach courses like Calligraphy, History, Etiquette, Geography, Culinary Arts, and some types of music or art, but the way I see it, the art is mostly representational and the music follows a set, predictable pattern according to sheet music.
Overall, I think that with a solid idea of what the town itself looks like, I will better be able to give the whole book a sense of “place” so the reader doesn’t feel like everyone is acting against a plain white background!

Matthias

In Draft 1 he is known as “Belak”, but I decided to change it because it's weird, and I’ve finally arrived at the name “Matthias”. So this is his name from here on out. A couple different Beta readers did note how the relationship between him and my main character felt a bit forced, but how do you lead a character who refuses to “speculate” to fall in love with someone? Well, I’m not too sure about the answer myself, but I am sure going to try! I also wanted to make him into more of a useful character. Most of the time in Draft 1, he was the one most often disparaging my main character, making her feel bad and discouraging her, so that she would keep secrets and be less inclined to go along with the other two girls, who firmly believed in the cause of the Wordspinners. That was probably unfair of me, so this time around, Matthias will be more of a logical, reasonable catch, and definitely going to be more proactive in the group instead of just tagging along with a bunch of girls. You’re welcome!

Navigation

Oh, this is huge! Draft 1 kind of just pushed the girls from one town to another, without really taking into account the fact that “Callie” didn’t actually want to be there, they just “had” to go on account of “the tapestry said so”—a lame excuse, and one I was looking to be able to offer a clearer justification for. Also, in Draft 1, two teenage girls take it upon themselves to travel cross-country and they basically leave their parents behind with little warning and almost no explanation… yeah, not cool. So this time around, as I was making notes, I had an idea: since I was already making a big deal about The Academy in this secluded village, why not bring in a contingent of soldiers rounding up the best and brightest students to populate a “Finishing School” in the capital city? The girls could leave the town in custody of the soldiers, then break away from that convoy when they needed to strike out on their own, and their parents wouldn’t worry if they believed their daughters were safely guarded. And maybe the convoy could be a recurring thing throughout not only this book, and the series—perhaps the Finishing School holds dire implications for the apparent resurgence of the Wordspinners? Additionally, meeting the 3rd girl for their party at the first stop, she could be the one to point them to Naten, giving justification for them stopping. And other locations and directions the journey takes would be based on needs or opinions voiced by the characters, rather than this undefined compulsion because the author said so. I think it might help me also get a better sense of the layout of the country, too, since now I know just how many locations I need, I can place them mentally in a better sort of context, instead of just regarding each one individually.

The Tales of The Inkweaver

That’s the other big change, and I think the nexus of my problem with the first draft. I wrote the Tales first, then tried to develop a narrative to match. This time, I regarded the narrative itself, without involving the Tales, and I think I am getting a more solid story out of it. I will probably keep the Tales for insertion later, but it will be the narrative itself dictating to the Tales and whether or not I am going to tweak the short bits to call out different aspects of the narrative I write, rather than the other way around.

The Six Tapestry Items

Yep, this was an afterthought kind of idea I came up with early in Draft 1, and I think I’m keeping it! Only this time, I’ll be more deliberate about it all. Rather than just dumping it into the very beginning, Callie is going to discover the significance of the items after she already has the sword and the shield, and the symbol that marks them all is going to lead her to Delia’s village, where she and Matthias are going to really have it out about their unresolved relationship tension. I realize it’s falling much earlier in the story than it did before, but according to the “journey map” it fits in with the goal of that particular section. It’s roughly halfway, though, so it’s not like I’m moving it all the way to the very beginning. I think I’ll still have the items be dispersed just like they were, so the gang will acquire them from the same people, but maybe this time around I will have the chance to throw in a few more references to the associated moral qualities I came up with for them.

Now, as far as “how The Last Inkweaver follows the Hero’s Journey cycle”, here are some of the highlights and the way I have or I am planning on re-structuring some of the plot events from the first draft:

The Hero(ine)s Journey

1: Character Begins in the Comfort Zone

          
My main character strikes me as a “do what you’ve always done” kind of girl. Everything is expected and prescribed, so there isn’t much to ruffle any feathers or rock the boat, as it were. That is not to say that this girl is all humdrum and boring—she is willing to pursue a matter without backing down, but she is satisfied not knowing, if it means maintaining safe boundaries for herself. One of the things I did tweak was the fact that she will get what she calls “flashes”: bits of scenes like a triggered memory, except that they aren’t exactly memories of events that happened to her. They are uncomfortable, but she finds them relatively easy to ignore. (An added benefit of throwing this idea in there is that now I don’t have to be putting her to sleep all the time so she can “dream” of the Tales; I can just let the “flashes” happen and move on with her day) Bonus: she might think it’s random when the flashes happen, but in reality, there remain a smattering of Told items from Wordspinners, which no one else can hear any longer, but she can—and for that, I have a good reason which I will not divulge because SPOILERS.

2: Character Needs Answers--What is going on, Why will no one talk about the Wordspinners, and what is she going to do about it?
          
This one was where the planning and note-taking really took off. I had a lot of things I could now set up in Part 1, only to systematically strip them away one by one in this part, leaving her with only this driving need: her relationship with her friends, her ideas for her future, her safe and comfortable home (when she gets carted away by the royal guard) and even her predictable life. (As the tapestry seems to affect reality, or things start happening that she hadn’t planned on) More and more questions start building up, and Callie begins to realize that she won’t be getting any answers if she stays in Mirrorvale. Suddenly, “getting what she’s always gotten” is not enough for her, and she is compelled to be more open to change. There’s also the matter of discovering this random Tapestry in the remains of a hut behind The Wall that has been there since they were very young, but Callie’s “flashes” have told her that The Wall hasn’t always been there, and was definitely built in her lifetime, because she can remember having a clear path--but still, what exactly was on the end of that path is unclear, until she actually visits the space, and discovers the things that serve as the irrefutable evidence that something went down!

3: Character Goes--Leaving her village, striking out on her own away from the royal convoy, and taking her first steps on the journey when she doesn't know how it will end.
          
And now the fun begins! This is the part where not only is she forced to accept what is happening to her, and she can no longer dismiss it as “not real,” but she must now act upon it more than she might be comfortable with. They leave with the convoy at first, so the parents assume that’s where they’re going to be, and Callie thinks she’s safe on the convoy, and will be able to look for the Inkweaver without leaving--but then she meets a mysterious girl who “just appears”, and as they are following some clues laid out in the half-finished tapestry, they are actually abandoned by the convoy, and no one seems to notice the two missing girls, nor will anyone believe that they need to rejoin them, so now the girls are free to embark on their own journey.

4: Character Begins to Search--Looking for proof of the Wordspinners, wanting to believe, wondering what happened to them, trying to discover why all these strange things keep singing out to her, in particular.
          
This is where she starts to cross paths with other Wordspinners. I decided that the connection with Naten would come very first, with the encounter in the Blackrope forest following that. This would be so that Callie can have the sword on her when they come across Boy in the Blackrope. In Draft 1, she couldn’t see the sword at all, and I made it this big deal about her carrying around something she couldn’t see, till she finally used it… Yeah, obvious reasons why I decided to scrap that whole motif. What I am planning on doing, actually, is for Matthias to insist on carrying the sword, leaving Callie with just the shield. She doesn’t know it’s significance, so she just lets him… until later on, when she actually needs it, there is going to be this scene between them where he will actually give it to her, and—yeah.
From Blackrope, then, Matthias kind of still asserts himself, and it’s his idea to stop in Aberon because the girls are “woefully under-prepared.” (Which, if you remember the satchel they bring from Draft 1, you know is not the case…) There, they meet Morgianna (no way am I changing that name!) and it really seems like she catches Matthias’s eye in just the way Callie wants to. I am considering just skipping most of the “proverbs” and the trippy parts, and putting Callie into a situation where she observes somebody getting accused for speaking out, and somebody gaining acceptance because everyone assumes things about them and they don’t refute the rumors. Perhaps she draws conclusions about the “radio silence” concerning Wordspinners, and that starts her being more open to accepting them, and she unwittingly gets even closer to discovering where she fits into all this. After wanting to give up and return to Mirrorvale, it is at this point that Callie discovers the matching symbol on the sword and shield, and she gets one of her “flashes” about that symbol on something in the next town, so they have to continue.

5: Character Starts To Find What She's Looking For--The truth behind the disappearance of the Wordspinners, the way they're treated in other parts of the kingdom, and the first indication toward the person who seems to be behind it all.
          
Now this is the part where I decided to shift the altercation with Ronni the Bounty Hunter, who is no longer a “quick-changer”, and she and the prisoner Callie meets (his name being another placeholder, he is currently “Boy 2”) are not the same person, because that was lame and I have no reasonable explanation for why I wrote it that way in the first place. Within the context of this phase of the journey, this character takes on a more important rather than incidental role.
In the new context, someone like Ronni would highlight the dangers a Wordspinner faces, elevating their status from “passively unwanted” to “actively threatened.” It would explain how a deeply-rooted people group so widespread could be wiped out so quickly. And, armed with the answers to so many of the questions she’s had, Callie can start believing what she’s been told by other Wordspinners thus far. And, gaining support from her friends at long last, particularly Matthias, she can step forward with an additional amount of confidence and renewed commitment. Oh, and I decided it would take her about this long to finally give up on trying to turn away and go back home every other step. So yeah, big changes!

6: Character Takes Ownership of What She Finds--"Taking" her place among these Wordspinners, coming into her own, finding out about who she really is, which has been denied and suppressed for so long.

After this, in the style of “Out Of the Frying Pan, Into The Fire”, it’s on to Tark and another level of people-stealing—but this time, the four friends are united and it’s going to be harder to fool them or carry them off, as they are now willing to work together and escape. It’s at this point that they all start being honest with one another, and Callie finally admits how long her whole connection with the Wordspinners has been going on. With all this out in the open, she is ready to move on to the next phase in her journey.
That next phase turns out to involve a small deserted village fairly close to a deep forest. They find a young girl in the forest who has two other siblings, and they all live together in a house, barely scraping by without their parents. Now that Callie is getting more aware of her calling and the way storytelling ties in with that (after the miraculous way it had worked so well with Tark), she now uses a story not just to divert attention, but to draw it to the plight of these children. So now she begins to see firsthand the benefits of the Wordspinners, and how vital they actually are to the function of a society.

7: Character Makes A Return--To her friends, to the familiar lifestyle she has known from before, armed with new knowledge and power.
           
And finally, now that she has learned what she needs to be and gained a sort of purpose and direction for her life, all that remains is to finally get to the place where she will finally meet the Inkweaver she has been looking for. But before this happens, she encounters the strange and mysterious Moon Valley, and the enigmatic Earth-Teller, Jacqueline. This is where the story might have the tendency to get very cerebral and trippy, but I don’t want it to veer too far off the rails, not when we’re so close to the end! So I’ll have to think very carefully about the events from Draft 1, weighing each of them to figure out if they are really necessarily the best way to get my point across. After meeting Jacqueline, who answers most of her questions, rather in an oblique way, she discovers Derrian the Story-Healer, nearly unhinged with guilt over his actions in the past, and they find the last item they needed to seek. 

8: Character Has Changed--Her outlook and her perspective has changed, and she is ready to change the world.
           
I don’t want to spoil my own book, but you can pretty much guess what goes on at this point. Callie is still far from home, but the story isn’t over yet, and who knows? Maybe by now her parents have discovered she isn’t with the convoy any more, and they could venture out to look for her, reuniting that way, or perhaps later in the series she might have cause to return home, but the fact that this first book is called “The Last Inkweaver” is still very deliberate, and it carries some implications for the other four books. (You can check them out on The Shelf, and muse about your own ideas for how the plot might continue with those ones!)

So yeah, I do have more of a trajectory in place, I just have to pull it off! This beginning, already, has proved quite hairy, so I am hoping to at least get the rest of it down and then go back and get a fix on the way I envision it! I hope you’ll join me in this journey!