Writing Rewind #6: Chapter 4 Part 1

On our last trip down memory (and cringe-worthy) lane, Heiwa, with some persuasion from the folks in his life, decided to go on the life-changing mission aboard the UNMEI. It took 10,000+ words for him to come to that conclusion. We are literally 30,000+ words into this story and just hit the official start of the main plot. That is 1/3 the length of my first published novel, for reference…

Not much recap to do, so let’s get started!

KEY/GUIDE:
Strikethrough = cut out
Highlight = rephrase/reword/awk
Blue highlight = minor additions
DANGER RED HIGHLIGHT= massive cringe

CHAPTER 4 P 1

*pours fifth cup of coffee* Settle in, folks. It’s going to be a bumpy ride!

Per usual, this selection is bogged down by heaps of detail that are totally unnecessary and which add nothing to the story. So, it’s time to chop it up and glue it back together into something a bit more cohesive!

Here are the proposed changes…

CH 4 P 1 CHANGES

The start of a chapter should not be such a drag. It needs to accomplish the set up in a way that isn’t so slow and wordy. A lot of the detail in this isn’t needed at all; Heiwa’s week leading up to the mission isn’t important to the grand scheme, so that paragraph needs to go, and what is left needs to be reworked.

So, here are the results:

ch4 p 1 fixed

Much shorter, and yet, it conveys the same message. Heiwa is clearly excited about what is to come and we don’t have a useless recap of the non-important events leading up to the day of his departure. Who cares if he had to fix the roof before he leaves? IT DOESN’T F*CKING MATTER!!!!….Ahem. Sorry about that…

Next up, this lovely passage:

CH4 P 2

Ristsuko’s first dialogue segment features the word “good” three times. THREE TIMES. You know what that is? It’s NOT GOOD, that’s what it is!!!! I’m not against using “good” in terms of dialogue, but three times is excessive.

CH 4 P 2 CHANGES

THREE TIMES. THREE. TIMES. I’m sorry, I can’t get over it…

Other than that, it’s the standard fare; needs to be trimmed and rearranged; slimmed and reworked. The dialogue is clunky (THREE TIMES!!!!!) and needs a bit of clarity, so the words will flow better.

CH 4 P 2 FIXED

Ah… the use of “good” is down to an acceptable level, and the dialogue has been re-worked so it sounds more natural. Heiwa’s description is also fixed, so, although it relies on the “looking in the mirror” cliche, it sounds a bit better.

For a bit of a summary of the bits I’ve skipped to get to the next section, Heiwa shares a tearful goodbye with his mother, catches a ride with Kato to the airship base, and is now awaiting orders, though he has yet to see Daisuke…

CH 4 P 3

We get two new major/supporting faces in this chapter; Colonel Kaiser Berkmann and Sergeant Benedikt Kahler. Also, I apparently didn’t know that the “v” in “von Schneider” should not be capitalized. Hindsight is so fun, y’all; especially when a bit of googling could have saved me a lot of time, way back when.

My first scan results in this:

CH 4 P 3 CHANGES.PNG

I genuinely believe that if I eliminate all references to Matthias being “cold” or “frigid” or “austere,” the word count could be under 100,000. Well… that might be a stretch. Let’s say 150,000. That “austere” reference is getting the axe, and fast.

Lots of yellow, here… and it is definitely necessary. This whole portion is tough to slog through and has no sense of flow, plus the character descriptions need to be tweaked. Also, the way General von Schneider speaks must be addressed, because I know that I was aiming for “intimidating” (or “cold,” if you will) but the way he speaks rings hollow in that regard, and doesn’t seem genuine or particularly “official.”

CH 4 P 3 FIXED.PNG

Much better! (There should be an “a” before “chiseled,” though. Just pretend it’s there…I don’t have the document with me to fix it at the moment…)

Exposition is still there, but it’s smoother and less clogged with unnecessary words/sentences, and the character descriptions are trimmed to the basics. The dialogue for General von Schneider has also been fixed, and he sounds a bit more “General-esque.”

Lastly, we move on to one heckuva doozy…

ch 4 p 4

*bangs head on table*

How will we ever fix this…this… MONSTROSITY?!?

After a long perusal, this is what I’ve got:

CH 4 P 4 CHANGES

A few cuts here, and a few cuts there, and we might be able to save this bit! There’s a lot of description here, but sentences can be fused together to create better transitions, and some can be eliminated to make the whole thing move faster and smoother. Also, I believe Sergeant Kahler’s “nonchalance” can be summed up instead of described in multiple different ways.

ch 4 p 4 fixed

That selection is just about halved and nothing of importance was lost, and the awkward descriptions have been fixed. The conversation flows better and isn’t stilted with superfluous fluff. Honestly, it’s amazing how much I am able to cut from this piece with ten years of practice and some schooling under my belt.

Alright, next time we have the second half of chapter 4! Who will Heiwa’s roommate be onboard the UNMEI? What will their training entail? What is the exact mission that Heiwa is now involved in? What are Majors Tango and Leiter like? Only one of those questions will be answered next time, but the rest will follow eventually! After all, what is a scifi/manga epic without excessive exposition and at least 7 chapters to establish the plot and main cast?

Stay tuned for the next installment!

Worth 1000 Words #9: Snowtober 2011

Some of you, particularly those of you who reside in the northeastern United States, might remember the freak snowstorm of October 2011, which resulted in near state-wide power outages and general icy desolation in some areas.

383486_2063359704083_2085259487_nIt was Halloween weekend. My parents were visiting for a few days, and would be taking my grandmother (with whom I lived for a year and a half during college) back to PA with them for the winter. Saturday, afternoon, my father dropped me off at my second job, and all proceeded as normal… until the first fateful flakes began to fall. Within an hour or so, it was a full-on snow assault. I made it almost all the way through my shift, worriedly peeking out of the windows as white began to conquer the parking lot, until my dad appeared to pick me up and I bolted out the door.

The journey home was probably the most tense, stressful car ride of my life, but thankfully, my father is a skilled driver and we made it safely home. Had I been by myself, I never would have made it; the highway was a wasteland, the snow plummeted in droves, and cars were careening all over the place as folks tried to make it to their destination, dodging downed tree limbs and power lines.

Once back at home, the power had already gone out, so we dined on cold chicken by candlelight, dug out the spare blankets to stave off the bitter cold, lit a fire in the fireplace and played UNO to fight boredom, and mourned as our electronics slowly died. As the snow continued to fall, I fell asleep (beneath several layers) to the ominous snap-and-thud sound of breaking tree branches in the forest behind the house, praying that none would fall on the roof and crush me during the night.

The next day, New England was buried in snow/ice hell. Power was lost in a huge portion of the region (including almost all of Connecticut, if I remember correctly – I lived about ten minutes from the border) and because the weather was so wonky (it was warm right before the storm, then warm again immediately after) there was extensive damage that reached far beyond just NE. After I called out of work for the day, my parents and my grandmother left me to endure Snowtober alone, since I hadn’t heard anything about classes being cancelled for the following day or any time after. TO THIS DAY I STILL CANNOT FATHOM WHY THEY DID NOT IMMEDIATELY CANCEL CLASSES DUE TO THE DEVASTATION but regardless, I sat and waited it out. It was cold, boring, and I had no means of contact with the outside world. I did manage to get my homework done, though; we were covering Emerson and Thoreau in my American Literature class, and, in a true display of irony, our assignment was to read “Nature.” I didn’t laugh, nor did I develop a deep appreciation for transcendentalism as I paged through my literature textbook by candlelight, munching on a stale bagel.

I am proud of my alma mater, but I was NOT pleased to be going to class the following morning when over half of campus still had no power, despite the fact that the snow had already nearly melted. I am grateful, however, that the Writing Center where I worked still had power… I was able to charge all of my electronics in preparation for the long, dark night ahead. While I was there, doing homework and getting warm, the school released a statement announcing that classes were cancelled for the rest of the week, and students were advised to return home if possible.

This was AFTER they had us go to Monday classes, mind you; so classes were cancelled until the following Monday. I only went to one class on Monday, too, since night classes were cancelled and one of my professors wasn’t able to make it to campus regardless. It was very difficult to tamp the lid down on my rage, since I’d missed a free ride home with my parents the day before, and I couldn’t go for the less-expensive Amtrak option due to the massive power outage. Luckily, my dad loaned me money for a last minute plane ticket (which is quite a price-gouge for a day-before splurge) so I wouldn’t need to drive 6 hours solo through two snowpocalypse-plagued states in order to make my way home.

Driving home from campus that night (after the Writing Center closed) was a total nightmare, since power was still out and none of the traffic lights were operational. It was like driving through the zombie apocalypse sans zombies – though I was pleasantly surprised to see that my across-the-street neighbors, who were lovely people, had left some chopped wood for my fireplace on the front stoop. Things were looking up… until the next morning, I awoke to the shrill, shrieking tones of my burglar alarm blaring throughout the house. There were no intruders, I think it had something to do with the power outage. The alarm company also wouldn’t shut it off, because the house and account are not in my name, so I had to leap through several hoops to get them to have mercy on me (and my neighbors).

Less than five hours later, I’d been ferried to the airport by my godmother, and was nestled safely at home in PA with functional power. While at home, I did manage to snag 36 extra hours of work and by Thursday, I heard that power had been restored to my area of New England – which meant there had been 5 straight days of no power. I returned home on Sunday evening and life resumed as normal, as all traces of the Snowpocalypse began to fade away, and autumn picked up once more. It’s difficult to imagine how much difficulty and suffering a one-night snowfall can bring, but I hope to never experience another storm of the same magnitude ever again.

Writing Rewind #5: Wings of Fate Chapter 3

When we last left off on Writing Rewind, Heiwa met a new friend named Daisuke and attended a “mysterious meeting,” which announced a year-long mission on an airship under the command of the cold, icy, frigid, glacial General Matthias von Schneider. However, Heiwa doesn’t believe he can go because of his obligations to his mother and grandmother, even though he technically shouldn’t have the ability to refuse because it should have been an order, not an optional offer. Will Daisuke be able to convince Heiwa that going on this mission is his destiny?

To set the scene for chapter 3, Daisuke and Heiwa have arrived at a fast-food establishment called Burger Village (my creativity at its peak) where Daisuke and Kato (their cab driver, who comes along for some reason) are going to attempt to convince Heiwa that he must not pass up this chance of a lifetime…

KEY/GUIDE:
Strikethrough = cut out
Highlight = rephrase/reword/awk
Blue highlight = minor additions
DANGER RED HIGHLIGHT= massive cringe

ch3first

I’m all for similies and metaphors, but sometimes they should just… not. They can be a bane instead of a boon, if you know what I mean. And in my early years as a writer, I over-relied on them to the extreme. You should see my old fanfiction, it’s even worse than this!

My first scan yields this:

ch3firstchanges

Oh, look – familiar issues are cropping up again! Superfluous dialogue, awkward phrasing, needless detail… which means it’s time to fetch the trimmer! And there’s some tweaking to do, as well, to help eradicate the choppiness.

ch3firstfixed

The end result is a bit clearer, not so clunky, and doesn’t feature quite as many similies.

Next up…

ch3second

Good LORD, Heiwa could have probably said all of his opening dialogue bit in like… two sentences. That is over-explaining to the maximum, and it must be destroyed!!!!

My first round produces…

ch3secondchanges

It’s rare, but there are a couple of additions to be made (gasp!), along with the usual rephrasing and cutting. Also, I wish I could eliminate every single time Daisuke says “Dude,” because that was a definite mistake. I still might – it’s up in the air, at this point.

ch3second fixed

And there we have it; Heiwa’s blathering is sliced down to a far more manageable 3 sentences, and the awkward sentences have been reworked to improve clarity. A couple of sentences/snippets have also been swapped around, which I think flows better.

Next up, we have…

ch3third

For the life of me, I cannot fathom why everyone in this story is astonished that Heiwa would get to go on an actual airship during this (absurdly implausible) mission. He’s a member of the military branch that deals DIRECTLY WITH AIRSHIPS. It shouldn’t be such an uncommon thing, but apparently, this made sense to 15 year old me. So that needs to be phased out, obviously…

Other than that, it’s the same old, same old…

ch3thirdchanges.PNG

That first sentence is complete cringe. There are many ways to convey surprise, and in this sentence, Ritsuko is displaying two, and “stunned disbelief” is somewhat oxymoronic. And I’m just plain moronic.

Other than that, this selection is a bit tame, actually! A few redundant thoughts to hack off, and a bit of tweaking, then we have…

ch3thirdfixed.PNG

Ritsuko is showing her surprise in only one way, as opposed to two. Some dialogue was rearranged, and other sentences were removed, and we still have a functional passage that isn’t completely awful!

For the penultimate selection, we’ve got…

ch3fourth.PNG

Whoooooo boy. This passage can only be described as DRAMATIC AND OVERLY-DRAMATIC. I mean, Heiwa is obviously conflicted about the decision he has to make, but damn… it should not take this many conversations and repetition and blabbing on, and on, AND ON, to come to a conclusion.

So the proposed changes include…

ch3fourthchanges.PNG

That red-highlighted sentence is flat-out ridiculous. I am now a firm believer that “orbs” should never be used to describe eyes, EVER. Or certain parts of female anatomy, but that’s just my opinion. Also, I thought garnet was green when I wrote this. It is not green. So… yeah. That’s gonna pop up a lot in the future, too.

Also, WAY, WAY TOO MUCH dialogue for Izumi. The heartfelt words kind of lose their impact when it’s stated repeatedly in various ways and in a massive chunk of as opposed to compacted into a concise version. THAT MUST CHANGE, STAT!

So basically, we need to chop, chop, chop, and polish, polish, polish!

ch3fourthfixed

Ahhh, look how slim and trim the fixed version is compared to the original! It’s so svelte.

So, their interaction is cut dramatically, but doesn’t really lose any meaning. Heiwa and his mom can profess their thoughts to one another and enforce their bond without PRATTLING ON FOREVER.

And last, but certainly not least, there’s this gem…

ch3fifth.PNG

Ohhhhhh my. This is just… no. No, no, no. I wish I could deny that I ever wrote this, but alas, it has my old trademarks all over it!

ch3fifthchanges.PNG

The axe is going to have a lot to do in this one, because the sappy, melodramatic blabbering has GOT to go. It doesn’t need to be reworked, or preserved. It needs to be terminated.

So, with that as the strategy, our final version is…

ch3fifthfixed.PNG

The same ideas have been expressed in two sentences instead of 10+. It’s so simple. Even though there are a lot of words that CAN be said, and a lot of emotional gravitas to be conveyed, they don’t always need to BE said or included. Simple is good.

And there we have it! Chapter 3 is also completed in one fell swoop! If it isn’t obvious, Heiwa has decided to go on the mission after being persuaded by his mother, grandmother, new friend, and a random cab driver. Next time, the mission is underway and we might meet a couple of new characters! That might be chapter 5, though. I can’t remember; I’ve blocked it out of my memory…

Next time, Chapter 4: The Point of no Return … a chapter likely named after the Phantom of the Opera song of the same name. I went through a musical phase in high school, so… yeah…

 

Writing Techniques: Place Names

My strategy for place names is similar to my strategy for character names, which I previously discussed in a blog post here.

By similar, I mean it is almost exactly the same, but there are some nuances worth discussing.

I know a lot of folks trend more toward the “don’t sweat it” when it comes to names for characters or places, but I fall more into the opinion that names are important for characters and for places. I think a good name is indicative of the place/character it is bestowed upon, and thus should be selected with care. But if you’re poring over name websites or google translate for 100000 hours trying to whittle a list down to the “perfect” name, it might be time to relax a bit.

For places, my strategy is a bit simpler than it is for names, but the technique is generally the same. There are 2 websites I rely on to help me concoct place names, and they are:

Google Translate (lots of options and more in-depth)
Indifferentlanguages.com (Presents choices in list-form, which is a bit easier to read/use)

Essentially, I analyze the place I am trying to name and pick out certain characteristics – like, is it rural/urban, are there mountains, is it defined by a certain landmark, what sort of people live there, etc. – and then look up related words in Google Translate or on the other site. Sometimes I have to go to other sites to translate character-based languages, but these two are the sites I utilize most frequently. For example, if the place is a snowy, northern city with a small population, I’ll see what “cold,” or “ice” or “desolate” mean in various languages, and try to align my choices so that the name sounds indicative of the place, if that makes sense. Often, I’ll combine two or more words – like, “ice town” could be Ledoras, a combination of related Serbian and Romanian words. Sounds like a plausible name for a city or a town; or a Middle-Earth elf.

Lastly,  I google the end result just to make sure I’m not accidentally swearing or using a questionable term. And wherever possible, I like to throw in an umlaut or an accent mark. I love a good umlaut.

I also think it’s a better idea to select/create names that are going to be at least somewhat easy to pronounce. But that’s a personal preference.

For I’m With You, the names of the Empiryan cities were mostly rooted in Latin with a couple of exceptions, like Kelvar, which I made up so long ago I genuinely couldn’t tell you where it came from (though, in retrospect, it is very similar to “kevlar” but I stand by it) and Terra Speranza, which is a combination of Latin and Italian, loosely meaning “Land of Hope.” For example, Fortisan is derived from the Latin term for “strong.” Postremo means “lastly,” or “and finally,” since it’s their first stop after a long train journey. Mount Gelu means “ice,” Silex means “flint,” Econtra is derived from “conversely” or “opposite” Fomeus means “smoke-filled,” and Organum has a dual-meaning, as in “organ” (instrument) and “organ” (part of the body) because the town itself is vital to certain characters. That’s the gist of it, anyway.

For the nation of Selva (which means “wood”), I mainly used Italian, even though Selva is an amalgamation of various places/cultures and not profoundly influenced solely by Italy. I also used a certain theme when it comes to the city/town names… Pero means “pear.” Fragola means “strawberry.” Mela means “apple.” That should make the theme clear. I couldn’t tell you why I named the cities and towns of Selva after the contents of a fruit bowl, but I’m fond of it.

It’s easy to get stuck on the details of writing, like names – or get so preoccupied with character names and personalities that the development of the setting/place names get tossed onto the back burner. It doesn’t have to be a hassle or an inconvenience to choose names for particular sites or settings in a story; it can even be a lot of fun, paring down options and trying out different word combinations, figuring out what to call the places that have already taken shape in your mind. Naming, though it’s not as major as actual plot development, helps to give the place/setting life – and outside resources certainly help to make the process easier.

Writing Rewind #4: Wings of Fate Chapter 2

Last time on Writing Rewind we got a kickstart into this bloated disaster of a story as our hero, Heiwa, received a letter imploring him to attend a mysterious meeting. Is he finally about to embark on the adventure he’s always dreamed of and achieve the chance of a lifetime? Probably. I mean, there’s still 200,000+ words to go, so something obviously happens.

To set the scene, since I skipped over some exposition to get to the first selection for this chapter, Heiwa is at the airship base with his new friend, Daisuke, whom he met on the way. Along with several other members of the military who received the same strange letter, they are now waiting for the mysterious meeting to begin…

Without further ado, here we go!

KEY/GUIDE:
Strikethrough = cut out
Highlight = rephrase/reword/awk
Blue highlight = minor additions
DANGER RED HIGHLIGHT= massive cringe

ch2first

….Lord, I need a drink. We’re getting into character descriptions. This is going to get messy. I wonder how many “tall and muscular” male characters I’ve got in this; I’m sure it’s several.

So, here are my initial scans…

ch2firstchanges

It’s hack n’ slash time!!!

Per usual, all of this can be condensed a considerable amount – there are ideas expressed in 2 to 3 sentences that could have been accomplished in 1. Also, there is a lot that needs to be rephrased for clarity and to fix some clunkiness.

And here is the fixed version:

ch2firstfixed.PNG

The three paragraphs have been shaved down to two, and the descriptions – of both the setting and our new character, Kaminari – are much more concise. Not every detail spelled out, but just enough to (hopefully) paint some sort of a picture.

Further along, we have this gem:

ch2second

I think it is quite obvious that I did not know what I wanted the airship to look like, so I threw some random features into the description and hoped that was enough. Also, “unmei” means “fate” or “destiny” in Japanese… see what I did there? It’s like when they say the title of a movie in the movie!… I’ll see myself out.

So, here are my pinpointed corrections…

ch2secondchanges.PNG

Literally cannot believe I used the word “radical” in this context. Daisuke’s dialogue is going to generate a lot more cringe as we go along, because if I remember correctly, he has a “surfer dude” style of speech that comes across as completely terrible.

Also, there’s a lot of trimming to be done here, some punctuation tweaks with the last bit of dialogue, and a few sentence removals to eliminate unnecessary or redundant ideas.

So here’s the fixed version:

ch2secondfixed

A bit clearer; less bogged down. I slimmed down the description of the airship because it does get explained (in painstaking detail) later on, and I’ve chopped out some needless words and sentences, because this entire segment is dragged out wayyyyyy too long. I think this version is still relatively coherent, despite the changes.

Moving on bring us to…

ch2third

We meet the general again; the fellow from the prologue! It’s all falling into place now! I think he’s a cold, intimidating guy, but not sure what would have given that impression…

ch2thirdchanges.PNG

We’re getting into the nitty-gritty of the mission (with is super improbable, but whatever) now, but the major issue in this selection is obviously the character description of the general, Matthias – who is a main character, if my deliberate pandering failed to make that clear. He was my favorite character at the time that I wrote this, and that should be obvious by the amount of superfluous detail I provided on his appearance, and my constant mentioning of his “cold” personality and features. There are some other issues to address, like the typical wordiness to eliminate and sentences to rephrase, but the character description is the glaring one.

I’m all for character descriptions in stories, whether they be gradual or spelled out at the start, but I definitely now lean more to the side that they should be as brief as possible if it’s all going to be dumped in one place. Outfits do not needs to be described down to every last button or thread, and hairstyles do not need to be detailed down to every last hair. Simple is best, for most cases.

Here is the fixed version:

ch2thirdfixed

I probably could have shaved the character details down even more, but it’s definitely less wordy than the previous version. I’ve described Matthias without going too overboard. I also cut down on some of Dr. Black’s (the mastermind of the mission) speech about the mission. Exposition is still important, but the more to-the-point it is, the better, and it was getting a bit rambly.

Speaking of rambly… there is one more paragraph of description for Matthias…

ch2fourth

Wow. That is bad. That is a paragraph straight out of the “what not to do” manual of writing character descriptions; literally an entire paragraph about how cold his eyes are, which was already stated IN HIS PREVIOUS APPEARANCE. Good lord, based on this description his eyes could join the Justice League! This illustrates the very definition of ad nauseam.

So, these are my proposed changes:

ch2fourthchanges

It is all cringe-worthy and it all NEEDS TO DIE.

So, there is no fixed version to post, because it was razed entirely. It is gone FOREVER, sliced from existence, and I hope it burns.

Lastly, we have this segment:

ch2fifth

Same old, same old – wordy and awkward. Nothing too terribly major, but improvements can definitely be made. It’s time to bring out the axe and the red pen…

ch5fifthchanges

“Brown eyes twinkling in the winter sun” probably should have earned a red highlight, but I think the previous selection was enough cringe for today.

Also, a “confidential meeting” of this nature probably shouldn’t have been held outside during the day, where outsiders could possibly hear. Security is tight and the base is well away from the city itself, so it could be plausible, but if I were doing a complete rewrite, I could probably have held the meeting inside the hangar as opposed to the outside.

ch2fifthfixed

The edited version is a bit simpler, but still gets the point across. So far, this series has definitely been an exploration in being succinct – or significantly less verbose.

And there we have it; chapter 2 was finished all in one post, though I assure you, there were many more opportunities. Now we know that the mysterious mission is a year-long adventure on an amazing airship, though details are still sparse! Next time, we venture onto chapter 3, where Daisuke attempts to convince Heiwa to go along on the mission, despite his obligations at home. Will he succeed?!? Spoiler alert; he does. Wouldn’t be much of a story is Heiwa stayed home, would it?

Stay tuned for Chapter 3: The Hardest Decision. I have my trusty axe ready to chop, and I’m sure I’ll need it a lot.

 

Writing Techniques: Music

When it comes to my own writing projects, I typically construct playlists to listen to while working. I LOVE when I read a great book and the author includes a list of songs they listened to while writing, either on their website or in the back pages. It helps readers get a glimpse into their process, in a way – to peek at their inspiration.

The full playlist I listened to while writing I’m With You can be found here. Now, the playlist is quite long, so for this post, I thought I’d take just a few selections from the list and explain the impact they had on the writing process. No major spoilers, though. If you’d like to read I’m With You and see the results of the playlist for yourself, here is the link to buy from Amazon! It’s available in print and e-book formats, and is also available in print on the Barnes and Noble website.

Dead Hearts by Stars
This song was pivotal in the creation and evolution of Remiel as a character. Not only for the lyrics, but also for the general sound, which I found incredibly unique from the first time I heard it. To me, this song evokes sadness, but it also seems cold and detached, even when exploring something very visceral – which was fitting for Rem’s personality.

If There Was No You by Brandi Carlile
Valkyrie and Ramus were created as characters long before the plot of I’m With You was finalized. Their original roles were quite different (one of them was originally a hit-man, one had two-toned hair, etc) and they have undergone many changes in personality and background as the narrative evolved into the final version, but their relationship (both the good aspects and the problematic) remained largely unchanged throughout development. This song was a partial inspiration in that regard, as without the other, their characters would not be complete.

Light by Sleeping at Last
A major idea I tried to explore in the novel was the idea of “family,” though not always in a typical sense. To me, this song emulates the influence/impact a person can have on another, whether it be via familial connection, friendship, or some other meaningful relationship. Since the main characters forge bonds with one another over the course of the story, weaving themselves together into a makeshift family, and they each come to be important to one another in some way, the content of this song seemed very appropriate. Also, I like how it sounds.

People Help the People by Cherry Ghost/Birdy
I think people are more familiar with Birdy’s cover of this song, which is amazing, but I will always prefer the original. I love all of Cherry Ghost’s work, which is criminally underrated. Overall, this song’s tone and sound is what I derived the most inspiration from, but one line in particular is what stands out to me the most, and that is: “And if you’re homesick, give me your hand and I’ll hold it,” which reminded me of the sibling relationship between Ciarán and Remiel, and how they support one another.

Dead Man’s Suit by Cherry Ghost
This song sort of served a dual purpose – I consider it thematic for the novel, mostly for the unique sound it has, and also because my play count for this song was extraordinarily high when all was said and done. It’s one of those songs that really hit me when I first heard it, and I never skip it when it comes on shuffle. It is also a partial influence for the character of Ernest Morrigan, Rem and Ciarán’s father, due to some particular lines of lyrics.

Six Weeks by Of Monsters and Men
Along with Your Bones, King and Lionheart, and Silhouettes, this song was pivotal during the writing of chapters 17-19, largely for their sound and lyrical content. Six Weeks, in particular, influenced the development of Cinderflynn as a character, and it, along with some of the other Of Monsters and Men songs on this list (from their first album – the second wasn’t out at the time of the first draft) were on repeat as I wrote those portions of the story, and were a definite factor in the development of the narrative and the overall tone. Of Monsters and Men have a very distinct “mountain sound” to their work that I sought to emulate while writing those chapters, and their songs provided a lot of inspiration.

The Story by Brandi Carlile
In addition to being one of my favorite songs of all time (OF ALL TIME, I TELL YOU), this song was also one I listened to for the general feel of the story/themes. If I hit a snag with writer’s block, this song helped drag me out of it. This song was my rock. I think if the main cast had a theme song to tie them together (you know… like the Power Rangers… or the Planeteers… or the Transformers, maybe) then this would be my choice, because the main characters are bound by their own stories, as well as “the story” that brings them together.

Coming Home (pt. 2) by Skylar Grey 
I listened to this song (the version sans the rap part) while I wrote the closing chapters of the novel, as it definitely struck me as an “ending theme.” It symbolizes the end of a journey; a determination to see something through to the end, until it is time to return “home.” The final stretch of a laborious journey. Etc, etc.

My Silver LiningFirst Aid Kit
This song wasn’t released until I’m With You was in the editing phase, but it still provided a boost of motivation as I worked through rewrites and tweaks to the manuscript. Because if there is anything the main (and supporting) characters needed during their ventures, it was a “silver lining” to their respective circumstances. Also, it’s a total jam, man.

DemonsImagine Dragons
I liked this song for the overall tone and theme, but also as a partial influence for Kaz’s personality and his mentality. Several characters grapple with their own demons over the course of the narrative, so the song is fitting for the plot, but I listened to this particular tune during chapters 23-24, as I tried to convey that, though someone may be plagued by demons, it is not impossible to overcome them.

Believe by Mumford and Sons
This song didn’t come out until after I found out my manuscript was going to be published, but I added it to my playlist during the editing process. To me, the song explores what happens when belief falters and doubt sets in – but also about overcoming those difficulties, or striving to restore dedication in a cause. And that is the main plight that Ciarán faces in the story; his world gets flipped upside down, and he no longer knows what to believe. Through the course of the novel, he must learn to cope with new circumstances; to find belief again, after his perspective gets utterly rearranged.

Writing Rewind #2: Wings of Fate – Chapter 1 Part 1

Because the chapters of this monstrosity are so long (the first was 10,000+ words and it’s one of the “shorter” ones if you can believe it) I’m splitting them each into at least 2 parts. Some may even be 3, depending on the content. Since I’m only including snippets instead of the full draft, which means large cuts in plot and context, I will attempt to assemble some semblance of a story from the passages I select. Don’t want y’all to miss out on the extremely well thought out and plausible plot I devised ten years ago!

Last time we dissected the problematic prologue, which introduced a mysterious “mission.” This time, we meet our hero, and my very first original protagonist (of some kind of substance) – Heiwa! So let’s get started with Wings of Fate, Chapter 1: The Letter.

KEY/GUIDE:
Strikethrough = cut out
Highlight = rephrase/reword/awk
Blue highlight = minor additions
DANGER RED HIGHLIGHT= massive cringe

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*sigh* Here we go again… bogged down with excess description and detail.

If it wasn’t cringe-worthy enough in itself, I envisioned this piece as an “anime/manga,” hence the random Japanese phrases strewn about. But that’s the least of the issues, here, so I’m not going to bother pointing them all out. Rest assured, I am mortified by them.

Every sentence just keeps going, and going, and going, when it has already conveyed the message and does not need any further explanation.

Also, way, way too many adverbs. I’m actually not as anti-adverb as some folks tend to be (within reason), but I do think they should be used sparingly. A decade ago, I was a huge advocate of adverbs; but I didn’t really know better. Still… I look forward to hacking through them. Might get my word count under 200,000 with that alone!

So, an initial scan yields this:

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Time to get rid of that awkward phrasing and those pesky adverbs! Not to mention the overly-descriptive passage about Grandma. Her character becomes clear later through dialogue and her interactions with others, and doesn’t need to be so overt from the get-go. We don’t need a full description in her first appearance. Or ever, really.

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Despite losing some description, Ritsuko’s character and personality still seems to come through, as does her relationship with Heiwa. And it could be done in far less words! Imagine that!

*cracks knuckles* The next bit is going to be… well… a challenge. But it does show just how bloated this entire story is, as there are passages like this throughout the piece.

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SWEET JESUS. Where to START? I almost wish I could highlight all of it in red.

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While some degree of description is necessary for setting and for characterization, as blindly leading a reader into a story probably isn’t wise, I think I laid it on a little too thick. And by “a little,” I mean way too thick. There does need to be set-up of some kind, especially since the story is futuristic, but an exposition dump is almost always a bad way to approach it.

These revelations should be more gradual, especially when it comes to the protag; we’re going to be spending 22 chapters with this guy, so not everything needs to be spelled out right at the beginning. Especially not in such a callous way, either – the listing of his flaws comes off as trying too hard to show what a “screw up” Heiwa is, or to downplay him on purpose; like making a girl protagonist “clumsy” just to give her a flaw. In retrospect, the message doesn’t need to be quite so heavy-handed, as his personality unfolds throughout the introductory chapters and doesn’t need to be foisted upon the reader right at the start.

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The word count for the selection was more or less halved, and nothing was really lost. Everything that needed to be said is still there in a more concise manner. Heck, it could probably be trimmed even more! HECK, I PROBABLY COULD HAVE LEFT IT ALL OUT. But, I digress… onto the next snippet!

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I thought the last section was bad, but now, I… am beginning to regret doing this. I’m not sure I can take it. I might just shrivel up and die of embarrassment.

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FIRST OF ALL, THAT CRINGE-TASTIC RED HIGHLIGHTED SENTENCE HAS GOT TO GO. That is so, so, so bad. “Green orbs.” I am horrified. LAY OFF THE EYE DESCRIPTIONS, ALLIE, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD. Sadly, as I have seen the rest of this work (being the one who wrote it, and all) I know it will only get worse from here on out. Much worse.

Also, lots of awkward wording and phrasing that needs to be refined.

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Whew, the cringe is gone! Well… most of it, anyway.

The last portion for the first part of the chapter (because I don’t think I have the energy to any more of it today… I need a break to ponder my life choices) features another character; Heiwa’s mother, Izumi.

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*gets out the scissors* TIME TO START CUTTING!!!!!!

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Izumi doesn’t need to spell out her entire life story and the progression of her illness all in one chunk of dialogue. Especially since it has already been discussed previously, and it is partially explored in the paragraph that follows it. It’s just too much, and can be narrowed into something that is more efficient.

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AH, much better! So much is gone, but not much is lost. Izumi’s personality and her situation peek through without bombarding the reader with info. Subtlety is a virtue… one I did not understand a decade ago.

That’s it for today – I’ve done enough damage! Next time, we’ll tackle the second half of Chapter 1… which is, unfortunately, similar to the first. We’ll discover what “the letter” means and how it will affect our hero, Heiwa. Hopefully, I can whip the latter half of the chapter into shape without splintering my sanity.