10 Mar 2016

The Elf's Prisoner - Commentary

Title: The Elf's Prisoner
Year: 2015
Main Characters: Kazimier, Jyslyn, Nyssa, Leomund, Wren
Current Status: Incomplete

The Elf's Prisoner was my tenth time participating in NaNoWriMo.  After the successful work on Unruly, my plan was to work out a thought out story that would carry me through November 2015.  That idea died when the characters for what became The Elf's Prisoner started clamouring for attention at the last minute.

For a story that sprung itself on me, I managed to get thirty-seven chapters completed.  The problem I ran into was not having an idea of what was going on once I got past the chapters introducing the main characters.  The villain finally appeared after Chapter 22, when I finally had an idea of what the plot was.  I became a "pantser", someone who write by the seat of their pants.  I had little beyond the character introductions, so if something came to mind, it got tossed in.  The Elf's Prisoner gained random encounters.

Chapter 1 lays out the working title of the story.  Jyslyn becomes Kazimier's prisoner.  I tired to set out the characters of both elves while setting up some conflict to carry the story until the real plot was found.  With the gnoll attack, I could get some action in to distract readers from the lack of direction I had.  I really do need a scene to aim for when I write, so pantsing became a challenge.  I had no ending in mind when I started, nor any intermediate scenes.  Some came to me as I wrote, but not during the first or second chapters.

Jyslyn allowed me to introduce an intermediate villain, a threat that was personal to her but still a danger to the homes of Kazimier and Nyssa.  Jyslyn's eldest sister gave me a few ideas, but her brother helped lead to my main villain, Sesserine.  Sesserine is a snake person, the upper half the body of a woman, the lower half a snake.  Even there, she's not the primary villain, but she's closer to the ultimate villain than Jyslyn's family.  Between them both, though, I had a general plot where someone was trying to cause strife between allies.  Nyssa and Kazimier both worked out what the plot was, leading to a failure on the part of the villain.

The story is filled with placeholders.  Stopping to figure out details meant stopping the writing while the story was flowing.  Placeholders began with the '$' to make it easier to find with a global search.  One even slipped into the part I posted.
The woman let Kazimier help her get the tunic over her head, her arms through the sleeves.  The $tunic made her look even smaller than she was.  Still, it covered her from neck to mid-thigh, protecting her from the sunbeams that poked through the trees.  "A little better," Kazimier said.  "Can you stand?"
Fantasy requires worldbuilding.  The last minute nature of The Elf's Prisoner meant that the world was being created as I wrote.  To help me get an idea of what the area would look like, I kept in mind the coast of British Columbia.  There's an ocean to the west, mountains to the east, tall forests where I could place an elven city, and room to expand as needed.  From there, I added more details, such as a canal from the dwarven kingdom to the ocean, letting the dwarves send bulk goods down to a port.

The story is incomplete.  I wrote myself into a corner where I needed to work out not just what the villain was up to, but what the heroes were going to do.  As of the end of NaNo 2015, the cast has an audience with representatives from the dwarven kingdom.  What happens during that meeting, I have no idea.  I need something to push the characters onward, but I haven't figured out what.  So, the story will lay fallow for a bit.

Tomorrow, the NaNo retrospective summary.
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, "Casting the Runes" Part II.
Saturday, over at Seventh Sanctum, Batman Fluxx.
Also Saturday, check out Comics Bulletin for comics-related reposts of Lost in Translation.

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