26 Jul 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Future Plans

Thirty-seven full chapters and a third of another later, The Elf's Prisoner is not complete.  The plot is a complex web of conspiracies that Kazi, Nyssa, Jyslyn, Wren, and Leo and cutting with a sharp sword.  Different cultures have appeared.  What's next?

That's the big question, even for me.  I have ideas of what I want, and I know that there needs to be a showdown against the Big Bad.  It's the path to get there that's in question.  The general direction is south, thanks to Sessarine.  South seems like a good spot to have backstabbing snake people.  It's warm, it's humid, there's rocks.  Everything a snake might like.

Along the way, the group would meet other Niceans and the crystal elves.  I don't want a travelogue, but the world would get explored.  The Niceans are more laid back than the ambassador to the Realm Under the Mountain is.  The crystal elves, well, they're another matter.  Like the elves of Wildwood and the Sundered Chasm, the crystal elves are a matriarchy.  They're also who the dark elves were sundered from and they have long memories.  Jyslyn would become their prisoner until Kazi and Wren sorted things out.  Jyslyn has some of her own tricks up her sleeves, too.  The crystal elves are very much into magic.  Jyslyn goes for practical means as needed, so getting out of manacles while in a magic dampening field is a matter of sleight of hand.

Speaking of ambassadors, it occurred to me that the ambassadors from both the Nicean Islands and the Seven Dominions are officious.  While the Nicean ambassador had other matters on his mind, the respective governments may have sent such people to deal with the dwarves because the dwarves appreciate such an approach.  That may have been the insight I was missing when I started Chapter 38.  Nyssa hinted at it, though.

Once done in the Realm, the heroes will take a canal boat to the coast.  I have a working canal locally, the Rideau Canal, that will help me with ambiance and actual working of shipping along a waterway.  It can pay to take note of what's around.  Anything can be tossed into a story.  Once down the canal, off to the Nicean Islands to catch a ship further south.  That may be the perfect spot to end the first book.  Not that I intended The Elf's Prisoner to have multiple books.  It kinda got away from me.

Long term, I need to get Kazi and Jyslyn to become a couple.  A possible sequel set decades later would have their children dealing with Valenza and her machinations.  Valenza has a long memory and the capability to nurse a grudge until the time is right for vengeance.  How best to do that than to tempt one of Jyslyn's kids back into the fold?  Jyslyn would be older and crankier by this time and is feeling her years.  Kazi, not so much.  The difference between dark elves and surface elves.

The biggest lesson learned from The Elf's Prisoner is to have the world built before starting to write.  So much effort was spent laying down the tracks in front of the characters that could've been used figuring out plot and characters.  However, I also learned that I can create a world on the fly while letting the characters interact to hide the frantic paddling.  It's a good skill, one that shouldn't be overworked.

This ends The Elf's Prisoner for now.  Unlike the other stories that were unfinished, there's too much right now to try writing chapter by chapter for the next few weeks.  I have other stories in the works right now and I do have a serial lined up for the next ten weeks.  I'll also post the potentials for NaNo 2019.  Thanks for sticking around for The Elf's Prisoner.

25 Jul 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Commentary 38

The sudden stop, Chapter 38.

Not much to Chapter 38, is there?  I reached this point in the final days of NaNoWriMo 2015 and the creative well was empty.  It wasn't a block.  I had a sense of where I was going.  I just didn't have the creative juice to keep going.  I not only was creating the plot, I was creating the world, and I realized that I didn't have enough in my to flesh out dwarven culture.  I considered myself lucky to figure out the naming convention for dwarves.  (For the record, Aztec/Mayan names.  Because no one has done that before.)

There's not much to talk about.  Nyssa's using some linguistic tricks to get away with having Jyslyn, Leo, and Wren at the meeting.  The dwarves aren't going to hold Jyslyn's home against her; they're not going to let her make any mischief but they'll give her the rope she needs to hang herself.  Having all five, though, sends a message that the problem is bigger than imagined.

The goal of the meeting is to find out if the dwarves have a problem with Count Varin.  None of the heroes believe there is one, but getting it confirmed by the dwarves is key.  Nyssa can send a missive back to the Count and to the King and be considered to have discharged her duty with this mission.  That leaves her free to pursue the investigation.  She's there under orders of the King, not Varin.  The King likes results.

/The Elf's Prisoner/ is not something I'd want to do again, not the way I did it.  Worldbuilding is something that should be done in advance, even if it's just where the story is happening.  Steve Savage, who runs The Seventh Sanctum where I have Lost in Translation, has a series of books about worldbuilding and the different elements that go into it.  It's not something that is easily done on the fly.  Quite frankly, I am surprised that The Elf's Prisoner got as far as it did.  Lesson here, it helps to plan a bit, even if you pants the story.

I don't think I could have written The Elf's Prisoner even five years sooner.  It was my tenth NaNo, and just being able to tackle a large project with little prep helped show me how far I've come since Lethal Ladies, my first NaNo project.  The plot is more complex.  The world is deeper despite the rapid development.  Everyone has a motive.  There's a sense of a world outside the pages.  I can live with what I wrote.

Tomorrow, what could be, the future of The Elf's Prisoner.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, advertising, adaptations, and Wacky Races.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, The LEGO Batman Movie.

19 Jul 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Chapter 38

Chapter 38

The new path.
Entry Cavern, Realm Below the Mountain
Jyslyn stared in awe at the sheer size of the Entry Cavern.  Her home, the Morien Citadel, towered over most of the other residences within the Sundererd Chasm, but even the Citdel was overshadowed by the immenseness of the Realm Below the Mountain, more so because the dwarves had hollowed out the mountain itself, not just settling inside where space allowed.  The dark elf, covered head to toe, felt a nudge.  Wren urged her to keep up.  Jyslyn brought herself back to the moment and fell back in pace behind Kazimier and Nyssa.

A dwarf in armour made from a black metal greeted the group.  He set down his massive warhammer.  "You're Kellus and Starpetal?"

Kazimier stepped forward.  "I am Kazimier Starpetal."  He waved an arm at the knight.  "This is Dame Nyssa of Kellus."

"And who are the rest?"

"Our companions."

"The scroll said nothing about companions."

"The response didn't say anything about just the two of us attending," Nyssa said.

The dwarf spat on the stone road.  "Follow me."  He picked up his warhammer and began walking, not noticing or caring if he was followed.

Instead of going up to Embassy Row, the dwarf led the group on the road down, into the Realm Below the Mountain.  The light globes grew further apart, still lighting the road but not as brightly as ine the levels above.  After a fifteen minute walk, the dwarf stopped in front of a structure carved into the mountain.  "The Temple of Stone," he announced.  He looked at Jyslyn.  "Not polite to hide your face in the temple."

Jyslyn glanced at Kazimier, who only nodded.  She removed her hood.  "I didn't know if I would be allowed in."

The dwarf scowled. 

Next Week:
An overview of what is planned.

18 Jul 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Commentary 37

The last full chapter of The Elf's Prisoner, Chapter 37.

Chapter 37 was the last full-sized chapter written for The Elf's Prisoner.  By the end of NaNo 2015, I was exhausted from not just creating the story but also creating a world several steps ahead of my characters.  NaNo is a marathon, not a sprint, though there are days when sprinting happens, thanks to local events.  Mentally, I was tired.  I knew that I had to step back and figure out not only where the plot was going, as in, what were the characters going to do, but where it was going, as in, where in the setting needed to be developed.

I did wind up working on the world after NaNo.  There is still a lot of world to be developed, but if the characters aren't going there, there's no push to fill in the details.  However, when I ended NaNo in 2015, I had to figure out dwarven culture and names, southern culture, how the characters will get there, how to avoid unnecessary random encounters, and how to keep the plot on track and going and still be interesting.  That's just exhausting to think about, really.

Chapter 37 recaps a lot that has happened now that the group is back together.  However, I wanted more than just restating the obvious.  The group needed to figure out where to go.  There's no turning back from the mission now; there's too much at stake.  As a group, they figured out the details, like where Sessarine might be from.  Leo is thinking of the name Sevarine here, mind, but it's close enough.  What I did was take Sevarine and had a snake say it, since she's half snake.  I'm not going to ignore an obvious convention when it makes my job easier.

The canal was tossed into Chapter 28 as a way for the Realm Under the Mountain to ship ore and goods off for trade.  It became far more useful than I imagined.  First, the Canal District in Silver Trailings became the shadier part of the city, a place where thieves skulked.  The other use I found for it was travel, as in, I can get the heroes down the mountain without dealing with roads and bandits and all sorts of distracting encounters.  It may not be the most comfortable trip, but it's direct and patrolled.

The Tivalan, Sevarine, was a royal brat.  Poor Leo was assigned to watch over her, since he's just a squire.  Being from the south, Tivalans have darker skin in general, though there's varience.  The goal was to make this world feel like Earth, with different shades of skin throughout.  I have no idea if this is working, though.  Too much time spent in too small an area.

The last tidbit, The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 38.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, the balkanization of television.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, advertising, adaptations, and Wacky Races.

12 Jul 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Chapter 37

Chapter 37

Jyslyn made some key discoveries.
Inn of the Foxes, Silver Trailings, outside the Realm Below the Mountain
Once the elves returned to the inn, the group gathered in Kazimier's room.  Leomund stood beside Nyssa, who sat in one of the room's two chairs.  Kazimier claimed the second chair, sitting near the knight.  Wren and Jyslyn sat on the bed, the latter in her new dress.  Leomund worked at not staring at the dark elf, succeeding most of the time.  For her part, Jyslyn didn't notice the young squire's furtive glimpses.

"We have some news," Kazimier said.  "Whether it's good or not is up to you."

"My feeling is that it's a mix," Nyssa said.  "First, the Niceans now know the fate of their ambassador.  It's hard to tell whether they're relieved, angry, or overjoyed."

"We may have forced them to cancel a war footing build up," Kazimier added.  "The Minister didn't indicate anything to us.  To be fair, the Niceans were a new addition to everything we have discovered."

"Second, we did get a reply from the dwarves.  They sent their missive to the embassy for the Seven Dominions, not to us."  Nyssa held up the scroll from the Realm Below.  "The meeting is tomorrow morning, back in the Realm Below.  We may have an third person with us, the ambassador from the Seven Dominions.  She received the scroll on our behalf."

Wren held up her hand.  "Is she someone we can trust?"

11 Jul 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Commentary 36

Sibling rivalry, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 36.

I realized that while I had the villain introduced, I didn't have a way to let the heroes know who is the immediate mastermind.  Sessarine had a few appearances, but the way the plot was going, it'd be some time before Kazi et al found out anything, if ever.  Silver Trailings was introduced to be a trade town, so beings from any number of nations and cultures could be here, which helps with Sessarine.  I just needed a way to make a connection to the heroes.

Enter Biala.  I introduced him with the rest of Jyslyn's siblings, more to flesh her out than anything else.  But, much like Mara in The Devil You Know, once introduced, Biala became useful.  First, he's a link to Jyslyn's past, one that isn't sympathetic to her.  Second, while Valenza is busy consolidating her new role as family matriarch and Tereska is busy trying to not die by her sister's hand, Biala has spare time.  He just needed a motive to join Sessarine in her plot.

Biala's motives comes from wanting to destroy his society to rebuild it in his/the Defiler's image.  Valenza wants power, but she doesn't want to destroy the power structure to get it.  What's the point of striving and strategic murdering if society is left in ruins and all she gets to rule is a half a dozen vermin?  Biala hasn't planned that far ahead.  But he has a plan and Sessarine is a useful pawn.

Just don't tell Sessarine that.

Obviously, the roster of deities expanded in this chapter just from necessity.  The Defiler is a deity of destruction and corruption.  Followers tend to leave things in worse shape when they leave.  Destroying the Sundered Chasm?  Almost too easy, except that the matriarchs there hold on to power like a koala holds on to an eucalyptus tree.  However, the ensuing chaos will send ripples through society, destabilizing it further.  If successful, there may not be much left of the Sundered Chasm.

When Jyslyn was skulking around to learn magic, she realized she needed some practical spells.  Spells that weren't direct, to get around magic resistance, helped earlier.  Jyslyn also planned on being caught at some point.  She has a spell to unlock chains and manacles.  However, given where she's learning magic, spells tend to be rough on the recipient.  The manacles needed to close tighter before releasing.  This goes back to the idea of special effects for spells.  Just as Kazi needs to use light as a motif, Jyslyn can't really use magic on herself without causing pain.  Once the voyage to stop a massive chaotic war is over, she can start learning new ways to cast spells, ones that don't hurt when cast on herself.  Her rod, as mentioned before, is a way to channel magic without burning herself out.  She can cast without it, but she becomes the path for mana.

A new direction, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 37.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, Solo.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, the balkanization of television.

5 Jul 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Chapter 36

Chapter 36

Politics and worries.
The Busty Dryad, Canal District, Silver Trailings
The manacles hung heavy on Jyslyn's wrists, pinning her arms behind her back.  Her cloak and tunic sat in a crumpled heap where they had landed after Biala removed them from her.  Her brother pulled on her arm, forcing her to sit down hard on a creaky chair.  He stepped back out into her view.  "Now, dear sister, we can talk."

"Are you sure that'll hold her?" the young man asked, his voice trembling with nervousness.

"Not even a Matriarch can cast spells with her arms locked together."  Belial knelt down to meet Jyslyn eye to eye.  "Shall I start to tell you just how much trouble you are in?"

Jyslyn maintained the eye contact without flinching.  "Just how is Mother these days?"

"Dead.  She died in a tragic accident."

"She was tragically in Valenza's way, you mean.  Just how did Valenza kill Mother?"

"Do you really think Valenza did the deed herself?"

"It's so hard to tell with her.  Did she see killing Mother as a task or as sport?"

4 Jul 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Commentary 35

Political complications for Nyssa, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 35.

It's the final countdown until the end of what's written with The Elf's Prisoner.  The plot is coalescing.  Characters are coming together and relationships are forming.  It only took thirty-five chapters, and I'm not even close to the middle.

Nothing happens in a vacuum.  Having a Knight of the Realm appear with no warning sends a message, intentional or not.  The embassy to the Realm Under the Mountain had no idea Nyssa was coming.  Mind, that isn't on Nyssa.  Count Varin should have sent a missive; he didn't.  Nyssa should have sent a note to the embassy announcing her arrival, but her approach is more bull in a china shop.  His Majesty thought he had one problem, not the one that exists.

Enide is officious, but she wasn't appointed to get her out of the king's hair.  Her mindset is useful when dealing with the dwarven realm.  Every regulation has a purpose, even if she cannot fathom it.  'Tis better to obey than to risk offending her hosts.  Trade between the Realm Below and the Seven Dominions is good, so she is doing her job well.

Wren tried to stay calm.  The day has past, though, and Jyslyn hasn't returned or even sent a message.  Wren doesn't know what's going on, so her imagination is running wild.  That she hasn't gone hunting for Jyslyn yet shows that she's willing to give the dark elf time to work.  She didn't stop worrying and she's not experienced enough to know when to follow her instincts and when to hold back.  And Kazimir is correct; Jyslyn is in trouble.

Friday, news from home, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 36.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, the anti-adaptation backlash.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, Solo.