A Reformation is Needed

One of my earliest posts on this blog was about creating a Story Bible – an in-world encyclopaedia to go with my novel.

It’s somewhat depressing to read in that post:

I am getting closer to finishing my first novel…

and be still talking about the same novel, two and a bit years later. Well, I guess technically any progress is moving closer… and (in some respects) I have finished it; now I’m just polishing.

I’m currently revising Vengeance Will Come, hopefully for the last time (pre-publication or pre-free-release), and I’ve noticed that only best intentions weren’t enough to keep my story bible well organised or up-to-date. If only I’d used best intentions and discipline it’d be in a better state.

The question is do I use valuable editing time to tidy up the story bible, ensuring it’s true to the current version of the story? The answer is yes. Vengeance Will Come is book 1 of a series, and so I need my source material to be easily accessible (and accurate) for when writing other books in the series.

I’ll however keep editing for a while longer while my brain is sharp. As the Writing Excuses podcast would say, “‘Smart Ben’ can edit. When ‘Dumb Ben’ subs-in later, he can work on the story bible.”

A Fantastic Ending

…even if I do say so myself. 🙂

I’m currently half way through revising my final scene of Vengeance Will Come. I’ve really ratcheted up the action over the draft-ending. I think you’ll like it.

 

My fingers dance lightly over the keyboard

Each caress a mere tickle, a spark of joy

Adding to the glimmer in my eye

I am the creator of worlds

I bring species to life and destiny to fruition

I am a writer.

On Robert Jordan

375px-robert_jordan
“Robert Jordan” in 2005

As I’ve written numerous times the quality of writing is subjective; Robert Jordan was occasionally too verbose for my liking.

Having said that, I must immediately leap to his defense. He is writing epic fantasy which is known for its length and exposition. He has also written a mammoth series, so the occasional ‘loosening’ of passages is unavoidable and entirely forgivable. His Wheel of Time series is beyond popular (over 11 million copies) and he has legions of fans in 25 countries.

Though I may find fault with the occasional element of his writing I am awed by his formidable writing quality. He does so many things excellently.

I would love to know how he plotted, how he could seemingly see books in advance and lay the foundations for epic plots. Was it all in advance or did he throw things in and decide how to use them later?

His world building has produced fertile ground of a vast scale that deserves to be transformed into a multi-season TV series and numerous computer games. He inverts social norms but leaves it cohesive and structurally sound. Each civilization is distinct, unique and rich.

Each character has a journey, likable traits and weaknesses. He does character perspective and voice like a stage performer. The reader is dragged along, following the diverse but connected adventures of each of the many characters.

I sit in the huge shadow that he casts. There is nothing like standing next to a giant to make you feel small. I am somewhat depressed at the gap I see between our writing skill. I must remind myself that he had been publishing stories since 1977 and had 18 years experience before The Eye of the World was published. I have only just not-yet begun.

It is for these many reasons I consider Robert Jordan to be among one of my vicarious writing mentors. He was a master of the writing craft.

(I have been analysing The Eye of the World chapter-by-chapter. Part 1, 2, 3, 3b and 4).

The Eye of the World Review (3)

This is the third installment of my reading review of the late Robert Jordan’s The Eye of the World. I’d like to draw your attention to the important caveats I made in part one discussing my perspective, bias and limitations. (Part 2)

From now on my analysis is going to be less exhaustive than the first two posts… because it is less exhausting and time-consuming than examining each sentence. I had intentions of tracking an insane level of detail but will instead hold onto my sanity that remains. So, chapter 2, “The Strangers“…

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Crystin Goodwin’s Clever World-Building

Side note: I had planned to complete this post much earlier but a pretty intense storm (by our standards) put the entire State into a 2-day rolling blackout. Fortunately we only lost power in 1/2 day periods, but its a strange thing being in a house at night when the only light is coming from the screen and a back-lit keyboard. Very post-apocalyptic. Thankfully the water stayed on or that’s when things really starting getting bad.


I was reflecting on Crystin Goodwin‘s UnBlessed this morning and I realized how clever an element of world-building was. (I walk a fine line in not giving out spoilers).

As I briefly mentioned earlier the plot involves a group of people who have powers either to manipulate the elements (water, air…) or shape-shift into their “own” animal. The storyline goes that the people schism through war into two societies: the Melior and the Transeatur.

The Transeatur are the shape-shifters. They understand that the powers are derived from genetics.

The Melior believe that the powers are a sign of blessing from the Elemental deities. The more power an individual has the more blessed and acclaimed they are. At the top end of society’s power-scale are the Favored who live like Kings/Queens and at the bottom are the Unblessed, those without powers. Theirs is a harsh existence of trying to work-off immense shame through a life of dedication in the Temple.

World-building only works if it is not contradictory. Each concept of the world needs to fit together like a puzzle piece or it becomes like a table with a different length leg. Or to put it another way, each aspect of world-building should exert some level of influence on the other aspects. World-building should be like a spice which mixes through a dish not a poorly-mixed clod of flour that dares you (unsuccessfully) to eat it. That’s enough metaphors for the entire post.

In the social construct that the Melior use of scaled blessing, from Unblessed to Favored, the society maintains the status quo. A Favored is more likely to mate with a Favored and the Unblessed are forbidden to have children. By doing so the society continues on- even under the misconception of divine “blessings”. The social constructs protect them from genetic dilution (Unblessed reproduction or intermingling with Favored).

If this were not the case, Meliorian society would fail. By instituting these social norms, Crystin protects the integrity of the Melior people and her world-building. A clever piece of work.

TMI: (Way) Too Much Information

Here on BenEzard.com I’m sharing my writing journey which includes the ugly and the good. If I’m being generous to myself I’d say its a ratio similar to the chemical composition of Hydronium: three ugly for every good.

A while ago I created a method of secret communication for my novel, Vengeance Will Come.  (Lacking expertise in this area I have no idea if this is a plausible solution…) The idea was that one tremendously large file hid the secrets of anyone who paid to use the storage service. To any observer, it would appear just one long piece of encrypted text, with no way of knowing where one message began or ended. Only the sender/receiver would know the coordinates of their message, and the encryption keys to decrypt it.

This was my first attempt at ‘writing it’ (many, many moons ago).

He went to the DataBank site which required no login and no password. After entering his credit card details – one of the number of fake identites he had on Drasius – he entered two coordinates. The Databank held a single file stream which was yottabytes in size.

Unmarked portions of the file ‘belonged’ to the tens of millions of users – individuals and companies who wanted to store data securely. Any person could upload/download any portion of the stream (paying per megabyte). The trick was, only you knew the coordinates in the stream where your data began and ended, and the encryption used on it. Without knowing where the ‘data ownership’ began or ended, or the type of encryption that was used, decrypting it was nearly impossible.

Cameus entered coordinates that were hundreds of megabytes on either side of his desired data block. This cost far more money, but also meant that anyone tapping the planetary-net would have to try decrypting a lot more data. The download process to his computer took a few minutes. Cameus then disconnected from the net and entered another two coordinates into the computer with the encryption details.

These coordinates were where his message was, ignoring the padding on either side. His computer was powerful and compact, but the decryption process would still take about twenty minutes. Cameus headed back toward the warehouse.

Congratulations if you read each of those 226 words. You’d be among the minority, and I don’t blame you if you didn’t make it all the way through. No one – except for me and a very rare egghead care about how the encryption specifically works.

For this reason in the next editing pass I savaged my creation, diluting its so-called brilliance for the sake of brevity.

He went to the DataBank site which required only one of his false identities credit cards. Entering in coordinates that were only known to him and his employer he began to download data. The Databank held a single file stream which was yottabytes in size, the unmarked portions of the file ‘belonging’ to tens of millions of users on Drasius. Cameus had downloaded hundreds of megabytes on either side of his desired data block; which cost more but would exponentially increase the difficulty for anyone trying to locate his message. The download process took several minutes after which Cameus entered the two precise coordinates of his section with the encryption details. His computer was incredibly powerful for its size but the decryption process would still take about twenty minutes.

So I had cut it severely down to 129 words but it was still not enough. The passage was a mouthful without flavor – calories without enjoyment – ready to frustrate the reader. I don’t know about you, but if I’m absorbing calories I want enjoyment: reading is no different.

So now my creation is rendered invisible, for the greater good of the story:

On the roof of the drinking shop he used his wrist computer to connect to the dark side of the net, downloading the encrypted stream from the DataBank. Cameus started the decryption algorithm and headed back to the warehouse at a run.

Author’s Notes: When Nightmares Wake

This post is my author’s notes to When Nightmares Wake where I describe my thought processes, decisions and mistakes in writing the story. Think of it like the Director’s commentary on a DVD; only better because it won’t be in monotone (unless you read it so).

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