Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Works-In-Progress Wednesday: The Process

I am in the process of rewriting Laurel of Andar. Of course, you've heard about this for the last couple weeks.
I just thought, for this week's WIP-Wednesday, I'd give a glimpse into exactly how much goes into writing, and--just as a special treat--show you how it gets from "bad" to "better."

The Starting Point: This is how it started--short "vignettes" of conversations amid lengthy paragraphs explaining the setting and cultural context very much in the manner of, as one friend put it, "a history textbook." DRY. AS. A. BONE, with very little character interaction and almost nothing of actual pertinence to the story as a whole. Principle: world-building is necessary and can be very interesting, but as far as history that does not directly involve the present characters, let them be the ones to refer to the parts that are relevant. There is no need to "info-dump" on your readers. Ever. Even if it's cool stuff.

One day, when Laurel was still very young, an adolescent of only twelve djenu by Elvish standards (for a single Elvish year, called a djen, was equivalent to about five years by the reckoning of Glastor), King Polograth received word that an army approached his kingdom from the direction of Medrosk.
King Polograth was the youngest of a long line of kings who had ruled Glastor. He did not, as he was wont to suppose, ascend the throne by his own merit. He merely became king upon his father’s death. Each generation of kings was lazier than the last, so by the time Polograth received the crown, only the royal council of Glastor knew what went on outside the palace walls, and they knew how to appease the petulant young king and give the impression that his whims were being entertained while not oppressing the people beyond their capacity. Polograth merely spent his days giving feasts for his chiefs, musing over a grand map of his kingdom, and dreaming of the day when his son Polograth II, now an infant, would ascend the throne, for he resolved that he would yield to none other. Polograth was a hot-blooded man, but Glastor rarely went out to conquer other lands; rather, the selfish Polograth focused his military energy on the single most impressive (once the most profitable) feature in the whole kingdom: the vast, lofty Mt. Horbaroth.
When Polograth's great-grandfather’s great-grandfather, Meledoth, first became king, the only profitable occupation was agriculture. Then a visiting band of hunters from a neighboring country requested permission of the king to hunt omorni (bipedal herbivores somewhat like bears) on the mountain. To the arrogant, naive king, Mt. Horbaroth was nothing more than a feature of the landscape named after his great-grandfather when the son of Horbaroth took possession of it. He granted permission, and when the hunters returned not with meat but gold and jewels, Meledoth realized his mistake. Forthwith all outsiders were banned from Mt. Horbaroth, and for a time Meledoth had a part of his people (the ones who did not have a skill for any trade, at first) sent to the mines of Mt. Horbaroth.
The king enjoyed plenty of wealth from the mines, and by the time he died he left his son a kingdom ten times richer. Through the reigns of the successive generations, (who only reigned a few decades each before dying one after the other), the resources of the mountain were gradually depleted. In order to continue the steady flow of riches, the miners would need to venture deeper into the unknown darkness. This opened an opportunity for the fearless adventurers who found the small country not exciting enough. They willingly ventured ahead in the tunnels, to trap or restrain or kill any dangerous creatures there-- but few returned. Those who did were badly maimed, wounded, or frightened, bearing wild stories of mammoth lombrels that formed out of the darkness itself, and ferocious Hiromorni that struck before their victims heard their approach.
By the time Polograth claimed the crown, when Laurel was about two djenu old and Polograth himself was only about seventeen, the Glastorians had ventured as far as they dared, and he observed that there were still a few veins left in open parts of the mountain. Rather than mine the last few jewels and have done with the mountain, young King Polograth entertained the fear that, if he chose to do this, maybe an outsider would find a way to go further into the mountain than his miners, and would "steal" his riches from him. Hence, Polograth declared the mountain closed to everyone; the royal council put sharp-eyed watchers all around the base if the mountain. The only beings allowed in and out of the mountain were the Elves from Andar, who by now had formed an excellent reputation with the authorities. The council knew the Andarians—their name for the Andaru, because they refused to use the term those elves used themselves—were rich enough on their own, and the Elves swore not to mine any jewel or metal from the mountain.
Closing the mountain attracted the attention and the animosity of the outlying countries. Polograth found himself now constantly beset by enemy troops, all seeking to convince or force their way into the mines of Horbaroth, which only grew richer in the imaginations of those who could not enter them.

Such were Polograth's suspicions now, twenty years later, when the messenger told him that one of the watchers spotted the army of Medroskans headed for the mountain.
He stood out of his throne petulantly. "Those sneaky wraith-sons! I will teach them to attack our country." he waved at the messenger, "Alert the Andarian regiment and the special guard; they will fight the Medroskans."
The messenger hesitated, "Won't the Elves in such an army outnumber the men at least five to one, sire?" he asked.
The king sat back on his throne, "Dare you question me?" he barked; his temper grew short indeed when his blood was up. "It will be all the better for us if that is true, because the Elves are better fighters anyway. Go, do as I have told you to!"
The messenger obeyed the king.

Golon frowned—a mere crease in his brow—when he saw the summons from the king.
Nareandor shook his head. “We promised our steel ‘as needed,’ to fight in a larger war, or when Glastor lacked warriors, not so some slovenly sovereign could send us out on pure whim to save the hides of his own men!”
“All the same, my son,” Golon responded gently to him, “we have made an agreement with Glastor, and we must obey it’s king, even King Polograth.” He continued, consulting a map before him. “We will encamp in the Field of Massregent, between Belanta Valley and Mt. Horbaroth. If we can keep the Medroskans away from that area, there is little chance they will find anywhere else to invade Glastor on this side of the kingdom.”
"But, uncle," Nareandor still protested evenly, "why do we risk our necks for these humans? Why could we not remain as merely healers, and leave the fighting to their own men? They take advantage of our skill at every turn!"
Golon sighed at his nephew, "We have given our word," he reminded him again, "and we must keep it, no matter the cost."
Golon turned to the captain of the Royal Guard of Andar, an elf named Imadan. "Let all the regiment meet me outside the east boundary by sundown."
Imadan bowed, "What of the children who have none else to care for them?" he asked, glancing significantly in Nareandor's direction.
"Let one of the houses for the time being be converted into a dormitory for the children, and let five or six elf-matrons watch over them all until we return," Golon decided.
"It will be as you command, milord," Imadan replied.
For the rewrite, I knew I had to strip everything down to bare bones--but I still wanted to communicate the same information, just in a different, more personable way. To help me remember, I typed out a paragraph that listed all the events I wanted to relay, and some possible ideas as to how I could communicate the information without sounding like a textbook. I had understood the concept of showing not telling a few weeks before, now it was time to apply it.
Golon and Nareandor discuss the summons. Nareandor wants to let the enemies take the mountain, but Golon cautions him against it, and calls for more respect for their authorities, no matter how unjust. Imadan brings in a young cadet who had been spying from a hidden corner. It is Moraenor, and he wants to join the Andarian regiment and “apprentice” under Nareandor. Golon thinks it’s a great idea, Imadan has his reservations, but Nareandor recognizes what his uncle sees, and agrees. There is only one more matter to discuss: what to do with the children—specifically Laurel, who does not have a mother, and there will be no family to care for her. Golon suggests she be placed in a dormitory for orphaned children.

And Now, How It Finally Ended Up:

One day, when Laurel was about twelve djenu old, and still an adolescent by their standards, King Polograth, in his high, opulent castle on the southernmost end of the kingdom, received a disturbing message: The king of Medrosk to the northeast had declared war on Glastor and even now, an army marched toward Mt. Horbaroth.

“Those sneaking wraith-spawn!” he seethed to the messenger. “I will teach them to invade my kingdom! Send for the Andarian commander!”
The messenger bowed and strode from the Great Hall. Polograth signaled to a servant.
“Bring me something to eat,” he grumbled. Agitation always made him hungry.
The messenger returned soon thereafter, bowing low before speaking.
“Your Majesty, Commander Golon has not yet returned from his regular visit to the Andarian Quarter.”
“Oh, he hasn’t, has he?” snarled the king. “Who does he think he is? These refugees have no king of their own—I am their king! Perhaps the commander needs to be reminded of this…”
A servant returned from the kitchens with a plate of sandwiches for His Majesty. King Polograth waved her away, but the messenger still remained, awaiting his orders.
“Ah well,” Polograth sighed, “I need him now, there’s nothing else for it. Here, messenger, write down this summons: By order of King Polograth of Glastor, the Andarian Commander Golon is to muster the Andarian Regiment and the Glastorian Special Guard in the defense of Mt. Horbaroth immediately. Dispatch a runner to deliver the summons.”
The messenger paused in his transcription of the King’s command.
“Sire, if I may,” he said hesitantly. “The Elves of the Andarian Regiment outnumber the men of the Special Guard at least five to one. Would it not be more judicious to reserve the strength of the Elvish refugees for larger battles, and send more men in defense of their country?”
The king pushed the tray of sandwiches away and leaned forward, his round, red face flaming with anger. “Did I make you my councilor?” he demanded. “The Andarians are under my command! I shall do as I please with them! Even if they are so many, they are refugees—we can afford to lose a few, as opposed to true citizens. Besides, everyone knows they are better fighters and rich enough in their own right. I will not have to fear them stealing from my mountain. Now go! Do as I have commanded!” King Polograth applied his signet to the soft wax seal and gave the paper to the messenger.
The messenger bowed and left the king to fret about the state of his riches.

On the other side of the city, in the gated community known as the Andarian Quarter, Nareandor and Laurel sat by the fountain in the middle of the square talking of the history of Andar. Golon had stepped away to confer with a royal messenger sent from the castle, and when he rejoined them, there was a glint of concern on his face that Nareandor knew meant trouble. He stood and looked to his daughter.
“Well, Laurel, that’s enough learning for today,” Nareandor kept his tone even, almost light. “Go do what you like to amuse yourself.”
Laurel’s face brightened. “May I go play in the City, Father?”
Nareandor’s eyes shifted automatically to his uncle’s face.
Golon gave no indication of displeasure beyond a slight pressing of the lips.
“Not today, Lairen,” Nareandor answered. “I would like you to stay within the gates for now. Perhaps later we can go out together.”
Laurel’s expression dimmed. “Very well, Father,” she sighed, and walked slowly toward the park at the back of the Quarter, where the other Andarian children gathered to play.

When she was safely away, Nareandor turned to Golon, who showed him the summons without a word.
Nareandor’s eyes burned with outrage as he read the summons and understood its meaning.
“So!” he seethed, “The Fat King would send us out to fight instead of his own armies, merely to defend his pleasure!”
“It is unwise, yes,” Golon said, “but nonetheless, we must obey—and we must do so with respect for King Polograth as our ruler.”
Nareandor shook his head. “He is not our ruler, Uncle.”
“We pledged allegiance in return for sanctuary—or do you not remember when we first arrived in Glastor?”
“I remember, Uncle—but we pledged our allegiance to King Meledoth and our steel ‘as needed.’ Do you not recall how Glastor was at first? A kingdom of farmers, not fighters!”
The corners of Golon’s mouth twitched. “Generations later, and they still cannot fight, which is why we have been summoned.”
“Uncle, we are always summoned when the mountain is in danger! Every generation from Meledoth to Polograth has gotten richer and more indolent than the last because of those accursed mines! Surely after three centuries there cannot be many veins left in the mountain. Why not let the enemy countries invade and claim it?”
Golon laid a hand on his nephew’s shoulder. “Careful, Nareandor; you speak treason! Do you not see that whoever holds the mountain holds the kingdom? If we refuse to defend Glastor and allow other nations to take over the mines, it will only be more difficult to prevent them from taking the outlying villages and eventually besieging the City itself! Do you think that another nation would allow us to live in such seclusion as we currently enjoy?”
Nareandor knew enough about the kingdoms of Murinda to know this would not be the case. On a continent where races bled across national borders, the solidarity and patriotism of the Andaru would certainly be frowned upon as “intolerance.” He felt the fatigue weigh on his shoulders, but he squared his frame, picking his head up and looking his uncle in the eye. “What would you have us do, then?”
Golon beckoned to his nephew and walked around beside the large mansion, to his private quarters at the back of the house. Standing before the door was a stalwart Elf with smooth, dark hair, staring straight ahead with piercing green eyes—and yet evoking the feeling that he knew exactly what was going on all around him, though he kept his eyes on one spot.
The Elf bowed low when Golon approached, so that the edges of his purple cloak brushed the ground.
Rethanar,” he murmured. “My liege.”
“Thank you, Captain Imadan,” Golon replied. “I do not know what we would do without your unflagging faithfulness.”
The two Elves passed inside, and Imadan resumed his post.
Nareandor shook his head. “If hellbeasts from the depths of the Kidorlaithe came charging at our door, still Imadan would remain, long after their flames died.”
Golon nodded, sharing a smile with his nephew. “This is true; I have but to ask of him, and it is done. But come, let me show you what I have planned for the defense of Glastor.” He pointed to a map he had spread on the table. “We will encamp in the Field of Massregent, between Belanta Valley and Mt. Horbaroth. If we can keep the Medroskans away from that area, there is little chance they will find anywhere else to invade Glastor on this side of the kingdom.”
Nareandor nodded; Glastor City was safely tucked in the southernmost boundary of the kingdom, too far away from the coast to be assailed from that side, and only a small opening—Massregent—where their enemies could prevail upon Glastor without inviting the wrath of another country. If they could hold the Field, they would halt the invasion—but there was always the chance that the enemy was becoming more bold and more devious.
“Uncle, what do we know of Medrosk? Are not their soldiers arming themselves with the black powder, as the Glastorian regiment has done?”
Golon nodded, “It seems as if all the humans on Murinda are suddenly set upon with the urge—“
A shout and the noise of blows being exchanged interrupted their discourse. Imadan soon entered with a younger Elf in a firm headlock.
“My lord,” he cried, “I caught this one concealed in the hedges by your lordship’s window, where he no doubt thought to observe your movements and overhear your conversation.” He threw the Elf on the ground at his commander’s feet.
Golon folded his arms and stared at the young spy, but Nareandor permitted the flicker of a smile around his lips. Golon noticed this and glanced at his nephew.
“Do you know this one?”
Nareandor reached out and helped the Elf to his feet. “Indeed I do, Uncle. This is Moraenor, who has recently joined our ranks as a cadet.”
Moraenor’s lips tightened as he faced his superiors. He hung his head, knowing well the fate for spies.
“Well?” Golon demanded sharply. “What have you to say for yourself? Why were you spying on us?”
“Please,” Moraenor begged, still not meeting the commander’s gaze, “I did not intend to spy—I was on my way to speak with Captain Nareandor, and when I heard mention of garrisons and battles, I hid myself—and then your guard caught me.”
Why was it necessary to speak with the captain so privately in the first place?
Sir, it was my desire and purpose to speak with the captain on a personal matter, a carbeddacheme.
Apprenticeship? You came to Captain Nareandor to seek apprenticeship?
I did indeed, sir. I have spent my cadethood in the earnest study of the Andare Ardjedere, which I am told is still rigorously maintained among the Royal Guard. I believe I have what it takes to be your lieutenant.
Golon glanced from this self-assured young Elf to his nephew. He saw that same spark in his eye that Nareandor had shown when he wanted to do anything unconventional—such as marry a Half-Elf or make an untried cadet his lieutenant just before a battle.
As a matter of fact, I have no objection to your offer, Moraenor. You will be my lieutenant; where I go, you go. Report with the Guard at the edge of the City by midafternoon, and we will march to Massregent come nightfall.
Yes, sir! Thank you, sir!
Golon waited till the eager young Elf departed. He and Nareandor bent over the table as if to study the map together, but they both knew the coming battle was the furthest thing from their minds.
Are you certain you did the right thing?
Uncle, I have been observing Moraenor's training longer than he realizes. I have seen him to be trustworthy, loyal, and faithful to the point of belligerent.
Who does that remind me of?
You see my point, then; I have been wanting someone like Moraenor to oversee personally, as a way of leaving a legacy when you and I can no longer join the Guard in battle.
Golon fell pensive. He had taught his nephew well—even though it was difficult to see at first glance.
Speaking of legacy, what is to be done with your daughter?
Nareandor crossed to the window and looked out to the square where the young Elf-children played. The girls sat in a circle, placidly weaving baskets and blankets out of grass blades, or dressing their dolls in flowers. The boys sparred with fallen branches or climbed the gnarled trunk of the old oak tree that shaded the back of the Quarter. Two or three of them stood in a group, staring up at something happening higher in the tree. Nareandor followed their collective gaze. A familiar bright-green pinafore fluttered among the leaves. Nareandor winced as Golon joined him.
"She cannot be allowed to continue living in this wanton manner," Golon cautioned his nephew.
Seeing the sunny face suddenly peek out from the foliage reminded Nareandor of the face he loved almost as much but would never see again.
"What would you have me do?" he demanded bitterly. "Send for Lyberedd again?"
"Laurel is no longer a young child—"
"But too young to be left alone!"
"And I seem to recall when I passed through the town last that Lyberedd thanks the Fates to never pass through your door again!" Golon chuckled.
"You laugh," said Nareandor, "but what else am I to do? There has been no other woman at the house since Lyberedd nursed Laurel—"
"Nor should there be," said Golon. "It is not proper for an unmarried maiden to reside at the house of an unmarried Elf. "
"Then I am to leave Laurel in the care of the household servants?"
Golon shook his head. "Perhaps I can find someone willing to take her in while we are gone. Imadan!"
The Elvish soldier entered and awaited his orders.
Golon nodded to him, "Please inquire at the home of Matron Fynnalia and Mistress Noellewynn if they would be willing to care for the daughter of Captain Nareandor during this absence."
Imadan bowed and departed to carry out his commander's wishes.
"Fynnalia?" Nareandor asked. "Would she not be the likeliest to refuse such a request?"
"On the contrary, Nareandor, I'm afraid she might be the only Andara willing to accept. We both want Laurel in good hands, do we not?"
Nareandor sighed. "Fynnalia it is, then."

So there you have it, a rather effective process for rewriting. What do you think?