If music be the food of love, play on

On the list of things I’m supposed to be doing…blogging is probably not one of them.

Pfft.

Oh captain, my captain!
Oh captain, my captain!

 

*cough*

 

As I’m getting ready to revise and submit IN SECRET KEPT I’m revisiting some of the musical inspiration for the novel. Because I write with a soundtrack. Sometimes it might be only a few songs that I have on continuous loop*. Sometimes it might be a playlist hours long. For SECRET I wanted lots of piano music since the piano is key to both main characters. I also looked for Celtic-style music since the world is very Saxon/Celtic/Norse inspired**. And the funny thing I learned in the early revisions is that music is literally embedded in the bones of this world, from its inception to its eventual end.

Stories have a way of surprising me that way.

So to that end, I’m sharing two tracks that are…central.

If I had to sum up IN SECRET KEPT in one piece of music, it would be this:

 

 

 

The other piece is this one (esp. the 2:16 mark):

 

This one was a late-comer to the party, but when it arrived it was one of those moments I just knew. And I wrote the scene in one go and it’s one of my favourite scenes in the book. (Some of you know may what I’m talking about…)

 

Aaaaaand….because why not? The following is the main theme for RHEDA, set several hundred years previously in the same world as SECRET.

 

And on that note***…

 

Waes hal!

 

 

*Don’t give me that look. Pbbt. 😛

**OLD NORSE FTW. *coughresearchbiascough*

***Pun maybe intended?

Taking the Lead: Foreground Characters

So…the other week I posted about background characters, inspired by a post by RR Willica and S. Hunter Nisbet. This is part two. I’ve included the links to the initial posts at the end so you can send some love their way and check out their most excellent blogs!

 

When we speak of background characters vs. foreground, how do you divide them?

This is something that normally comes out when I’m outlining (and I’m just going to state, for the record, that in my case and outline is really more like guidelines. It evolves. IN SECRET KEPT and MIDNIGHT HOUR are both a case in point). I know who the story is about, who it revolves around. Background characters may have varying strengths of voice, and sometimes that will surprise me. In MIDNIGHT HOUR, which has a much larger cast than SECRET, I can still point to it and say “Raoul is the MC”, though he’s not the only POV.

 

At the start of a new story do you have your characters decided or do you just take off running?

Um…I mostly have them figured out. Mostly. But they get clearer in the writing and that’s when I realize some of things I thought they were don’t work. In terms of who’s protagonist or antagonist, though, that doesn’t change. I have that nailed down to begin with or I can’t write.

The thing with MIDNIGHT HOUR that surprised me, though, was the strength of the voice of some more minor characters. Though I wouldn’t call them mains, they’re getting POV chapters because they literally won’t shut up. And I realized that their voices are integral to the story. Given that I’m writing about a band of misfits, you need to understand how they all work together. Since the story is centered on those relationships and how they play out in the face of the evil they’re about to face, knowing who they are as individuals and collectively is crucial.

 

Do you find it’s easier to write multiple POVs vs one character?

Ha. Hahahahahaha. I’ve been writing mostly single POV for a long time. SECRET is mostly told from Alodia’s POV, though I’ll flip to Rinan because the story is about the both of them and it’s necessary to see both sides. MH is…so different. It’s a larger cast with about 5 POVs (that includes my villain). And it’s much more of a challenge because while SECRET was very linear, MH is not. The first 3 chapters are the same night from 3 different POVs. The challenge here is keeping all the threads from getting tangled, and making sure they all converge at the appropriate time so as to resonate emotionally and plot-wise. It’s something I’ve never done before and it terrifies me – which is, as a friend of mine pointed out, a sign that it’s the story I’m supposed to tell.

In terms of choosing who gets a POV…the characters chose it themselves. Obviously Raoul would get one and so does Esmera. But then Amadi and Min proved to be very significant voices as well, so there we go. Other, smaller, POVs may pop up as needed but it’s not something I’ll know right away. It’s something I’ll learn in the telling when I sense there’s a hole.

 

Do you write with a large time-scale?

Somebody get me a TARDIS, stat.

3486167-tardisfastflight

Time scale is my weakness. I always have a loose idea—actually, scratch that. “Loose idea” is being way to generous. I have a wibbly wobbly timey wimey spacey wacey idea of how long things will take. It’s something I continue to struggle with and usually have to go back and fix things in revision. I am RUBBISH with time-scale.

 

What genre would you classify your novel?

SECRET is high fantasy, definitely (and there are many more stories in that world to come, and I can’t wait to tell them).

MIDNIGHT HOUR is dreadpunk/steampunk/fantasy. If you are unfamiliar with dreadpunk, it is homage to the Victorian horror novel (Dracula, Frankenstein, etc.). And the thing about Victorian horror is it was never (or not always) just about the horror – it was the Victorian’s way of dealing with the taboo. And that makes it so much fun to play with. A great tv example of dreadpunk is PENNY DREADFUL (still haven’t seen it, but I need to…Timothy Dalton and Eva Green? Hello.).

Most of my novels/stories are either a fantasy variant or science fiction. This is my happy place.

 

Do you specifically cast your foreground characters’ gender and appearance or do they create themselves?

I touched on this in my previous post about background characters, so you can read it there. But this also brings to mind the question of language because I’m a language nut and I speak four (and have a tendency to shout at idiot drivers in Russian, ahem). SECRET and MIDNIGHT HOUR both contain non-English languages. To give real-world equivalents for MH: Raoul is French, Esmera is Arab, Amadi is Nigerian, Min is Chinese. So sometimes they will say a word or short phrase in their own language, which, apart from the French, requires research. SECRET (well, actually RHEDA) was my first foray into writing with this dynamic and in getting into the issue of why we don’t italicize non-English languages. Daniel Jose Older has a fantastic video which you can watch HERE.

When it comes down to it, italicizing a language other than English is a way of marking it as other in the way that only mentioning the skin tone of a black person or Native American assumes that the default is white – and the world isn’t white any more than it’s English.

And it makes sense to me. I’m a native English-speaker from Québec, which is officially French. And in Québec we have major tension over language that really dates back to the time the French ceded the colony to British after they lost the war. So now we have this thing called the “Office québécois de la langue francaise”, also known as the language police. I kid you not.  It is entirely possible they will fine your business if, God help you, the English text on your signs is not half the size of the French. Government employees are not required to speak English and I have been discriminated against when it comes to jobs, simply because I’m not Francophone. Fluently bilingual and just as qualified, but as an Anglo — not good enough. So when I’m made to feel that my own language is “other” or “not good enough” then I’m not going to “other-fy” another language by italicizing it.

I would hasten to add that the reason for the existence of the OQLF is because somewhere down the line, they felt the same way. Also, not all Francophones discriminate nor are all Anglos open-minded. This works both ways. But the point remains.

And I mean…give the reader some credit. They don’t need you to point out a non-English word. They’ll get it.

Ok, so that was a rabbit trail. But it’s something else I’ve been thinking about.

Questions or thoughts? Leave me a comment!

 

Also, check out Part One of this series on S. Hunter Nisbet’s Blog

and

Part Two on RR Willica’s blog!

 

Send some love their way 🙂

7/7/7/7 Challenge

In a fit of academic procrastination creativity, I am finally getting around to responding to Maggie Maxwell who tagged me for a “Share Your Work” blog challenge.

In short, you go to the seventh page of a WiP, count down to the seventh line and then share the following seven lines with your readers. And then you tag seven more people. (That last part still needs work…if you have a blog and a WiP of at least 7 pages and want to be tagged, leave me a comment with a link to your blog)

This wee segment is from my novel In Secret Kept, an adult high fantasy. The story opens with an ill-fated journey.

 

Brilliance at work.
             Brilliance at work.

***

Yes, Father. May I be excused, Father? Father, please.

What had happened to her? To him? Once there had been laughter, and music, and late-night games of chess. And then her mother died and everything changed.

Biting back tears, Alodia pushed away from the wall. Not now. She couldn’t fall apart here where all could see.

She set off down the hall, the click of her boots echoing loudly in the quiet. The silence, too, was all wrong.

***

Want to be tagged? Leave me a shout.

Ciao!

Revisions & neon signs

Aaaaand, that’s a draft!

Again.

‘Scuse me while I fill my wine glass in celebration.

So. Yes. This is the second complete draft of the novel In Secret Kept. The entire second half has been rewritten because I stared at what I’d written originally and realized there was no way the characters would act that way. So I rewrote it.

Funny thing about revisions? They get you closer to the truth. Closer to what the story’s about. This is the second revision (not counting those that came, literally, well over a decade ago. Yes, this novel has been with me for that long), and the more I work on it, the more I start to feel like this:

Mushu nails it.

And one of my plot twists took a plot twist I DID. NOT. SEE. COMING.  And I fought it. Which was my first clue that it was what was supposed to happen. Second clue was when the thing proceeded to map itself out for me. Third clue was when I woke up the next morning it was all still there despite the fact that I hadn’t written it down.

Yeah. Ok. Neon sign. Gotcha.

So I wrote. And now it’s finished. And now it has to sit and simmer for a few weeks while I attempt to distract myself with academia and other fiction writing. And when it’s been a few weeks, or a month, I’ll pull it out again and get to work.

In the meantime, I’m gonna raise my glass of lovely French wine and give a Scottish toast, ’cause that’s how I roll.

Slàinte!