The long night of Winter Solstice is almost upon us, occurring for the first time in over 400 years in conjunction with a lunar eclipse. There’s a lot to be said for that sort thing. It just feels momentous. The majority of writers I know personally are a superstitious lot – with writing in favorite rooms, or with certain brands of pens, or after observing certain rituals. Over and over I’ve heard tell of the nightmares of trying to produce new words while Mercury is in retrograde, or how good or bad someone’s relationship with their muse might be.
One of the things I try to think about when I create a character is their little superstitions. Whether it’s a common “wives tale” in a fantasy setting, or simply a particular habit of an individual, it’s the little superstitions that make characters feel more rounded. It sometimes also makes them come off a bit eccentric, but that’s the point.
I’ve been working on a new story, with limited success (no doubt to the aforementioned Mercury in retrograde) but one of the things I’ve tried very hard to do is throw away some of my superstitious crutches. I write in other places than my office. I push myself out of my comfort zone, partly to remind myself that I don’t need those other things. Partly, I am reinforcing the belief in my mind that “A writer writes. No matter what.”
I encourage each of you to stretch yourself in some way, as the days stretch out once again. Write with joy and write with abandon. Most of all, just write.
Happy holidays, whatever your holiday of choice may be.
This is part two of an Essay I started on Monday, dealing with the fun and frustration of writing fiction for franchise tie-ins, specifically as it relates to the work I’ve done for the Pathfinder RPG.
As I said in the previous essay, there’s a lot of fun in being allowed to play with other people’s toys, provided that you show care and respect. This holds doubly true where gaming fiction is concerned, because you end up walking a delicate tightrope between including effects that reader-players recognize and can understand with trying to keep them from thinking “Somebody just botched their Stealth check”.
With Pathfinder, I had certain elements that had to be included. Knowing that one of the characters was a spellcaster, I had to constantly think of ways that magic could be used to short circuit the plot I’d laid out. Having readers think “Why didn’t he turn invisible/teleport/levitate” out of that situation only added more complexity. I ended up keeping a list of all the spells available to that character tacked to the bulletin board next to my desk, and would look at for every scene to ask which spells might throw a wrench into the works.
The biggest issue for me, however, was presenting a thrilling story that felt like a tabletop session with it reading like one. My approach to that was to focus on a single point of view and tell the tale from as tightly restricted a POV as I could. This does lead to some interesting times – the central character in Feast of Fools is self-centered and somewhat lacking in the brains category, and he tends to interpret the events around him in the most favorable light towards himself. Still, there are moments (the Featherfall stands out) where what’s happening is obvious to the reader even if it’s not to Ollix.
In all, I had a blast writing for Pathfinder – it’s a great world, with a rich pulpy feel and can tell all kinds of stories just by moving from region to region. With luck they’ll let me shave the nib on my pen and revisit.