Thursday, July 15, 2010

New directions

I'm playing with a few things here. Still not at all certain I like the flow of the portion written in third person. It feels so stilted to me, not to mention repetitive. The good news is that I do think I know a little better what sort of person Jeyne is now.

Something I am considering is trying to adapt to the third person POV better while also having sections that are told from a first person POV. These sections would be 'written' by Nameless (that naked guy in the rain who still needs a name from me), who is a rather analytical sort. Anyhow, here's my paltry headway. Still chewing it all over, but I'm a fan of outside input.  

_______     

Jeyne peered out from the shelter of the guardhouse and sighed heavily at the prospect of stepping back out into the steady downpour of rain. Her shift had started several hours earlier that evening and it had been drizzling then, which was unpleasant, but not more than her oilcloak could handle. Then the winds had picked up and blown in a storm that had begun as a fiercely driving rain before settling down into a deluge with cold, heavy drops of water.

The thunderstorm had at least been exciting, with the furious winds threatening to push Jeyne from the top of the city wall where she patrolled between the main gate and the guardhouse that marked the halfway point between the main city gate and the smaller eastern gate that mainly saw traffic from the fishmongers who came to sell their wares at the wet market.

Knowing that her few minutes of respite were over, Jeyne pulled the hood of her cloak forward and took up the spear that she carried with her on patrol and then stepped back out into the wet night.

Even while privately holding the belief that a person would have to be suicidal to attempt to come over the wall on a night like this, Jeyne was as alert as she would have been at the start of her shift and in fine weather. Although it was tempting to allow her weariness to creep over her, she moved briskly, eyes peering into the darkness and wet beyond the wall.

Every so often her gaze would sweep the wall in front of her. Soon, Jeyne was frowning.

Guards patrolled the wall in pairs of two at night. Jeyne and her partner, Vyl, always started at opposite ends, meeting in the middle and turning back. Because the main gate had two guard towers, always manned by their own assigned guards, there wasn’t a guardhouse on that end which could be used as a brief respite from foul weather. On nights like this, then, they would take turns patrolling the whole length of the wall, each of them lingering for a minute or two in the shelter of the guardhouse, holding their hands to the fire that was kept perpetually burning there, to be used when signals were needed.

Jeyne was well past the halfway point and should have seen Vyl by now. Wondering whether Vyl had perhaps slipped or stopped somewhere to investigate something, Jeyne hurried forward. Several yards further down the wall, Jeyne spotted Vyl slumped on the ground.   

Muttering a curse, Jeyne dashed forward and slid to a halt before dropping to her knees next to the other guardswoman.

“Vyl?” Jeyne called, searching for anything that might tell her what had happened. There were no wounds to be seen on the other woman’s body and she was breathing deeply, as though sleeping. When shaking and calling didn’t wake Vyl, Jeyne moved to slapping her lightly on the cheeks.

“Damn,” Jeyne cursed again when all her efforts failed to wake the other woman.

Pushing herself to her feet, Jeyne pulled off her own oilcloak and settled it over Vyl. The guardswoman would need to be moved and for that, Jeyne would need help. The gate tower was closer at this point and could be reached quickly at a flat run. Jeyne briefly considered leaving her spear behind to be free from it hampering her movements.

The delay, fleeting as it was, caused her to be looking towards the outside of the wall when lightning flickered briefly in the sky. A flash of something pale was illuminated briefly in the flicker and Jeyne moved closer to the wall’s edge to peer into the darkness. She couldn’t be sure, but it seemed that there was a body lying on the ground, not far from the wall.

Her alarm increasing tenfold, Jeyne delayed no further in sprinting towards the tower.

In less than a minute she was throwing the door open, ignoring the startled looks on the faces of the tower guards. “Vyl is down and I can’t wake her,” she reported swiftly. “There appears to be a body outside the wall. I need assistance with Vyl and the body. We might also want to dispatch some people to search the city and alert the guards that someone might have come over the wall.”

Her voice was calm, its steadiness surprising even her. Training had kicked in and the other guards were reacting with military precision, snatching up their cloaks and weapons and dividing into teams with only a few directions from their captain.

“Rif and Atino, alert the city guards and the other tower. One of you come back to man this tower after. Dox, you go to the next patrol down on this wall. Have them pass the word and look for anyone going over. The rest of you, help with Vyl. Jeyne, show me this body.”

In moments, they had all dispersed, Jeyne and Vern, the tower guard’s captain, heading out into the soggy mess that was the ground just outside the walls.

At first, Jeyne thought she must have been mistaken about seeing anything. The night was dark and the lanterns that lit the top of the wall weren’t enough to penetrate through the rain to reach the ground. Vern had a lantern of his own, but the light was feeble.
  
Just when she was about to admit that she must have been seeing things, Jeyne caught sight of a white hand, palm turned up as though to catch the rain.

“Over there,” Jeyne pointed. As she and the captain drew closer, they could see that there was a man there, lying sprawled in the rain. Gasping at his appearance, Jeyne hung back for a moment. Unhampered by any shock, Vern immediately knelt in the mud and placed his hand to the man’s neck.

“He’s alive.”

----------------

My story begins with an unusual set of circumstances. They say it is best to start from the beginning when trying to explain something difficult, and as I can scarcely imagine a tale more difficult than mine to tell, I will begin with my first memories of the events that propelled me into a life of intrigue, danger and magic.

I came to in the rain, lying flat on my back in a sizeable puddle of mud, with what appeared to be at least a dozen people either leaning over me or moving around me. 

“He’s awake,” one voice said, cutting stridently through the noise of the rain and making me cringe back. I was still befuddled, having no idea where I was or how I had come to be there. Rain drops spattered in my face, and I squinted in an effort to be able to see.
 
A new face came to peer down at me, this one female. She blocked the rain from dashing into my eyes and I was able to see her clearly. She had regular features and wore a grim expression, but I could see a glint of some excitement in her grey eyes. In a carefully neutral tone, she addressed me. “Who are you?”

“I’m –“ I started to say, but then stopped abruptly, shaking my head slightly as though to break a thought free. “I’m naked!” I blurted, having caught sight of the rest of myself. My hands went automatically to cover my groin and I made to get to my feet, but was restrained by a hand on my shoulder.

“Easy,” warned the man who was attached to the hand holding onto me. His voice was a low growl, and the implicit threat caused me to wordlessly subside back into the mud.

“I think we can let him up.” This came from still another voice, this one sounding amused. “I don’t think he could be hiding anything.”

“Didn’t I tell you to get back to the guardhouse, Atino?” Growly Voice questioned.

“No, Sir. Rif is there.”

“Well, why don’t you go get something for this guy to cover up with, hm?”

While this exchange took place, I cautiously eased up into a sitting position, feeling embarrassed. This time, I was allowed to stay up, and I looked around in utter bewilderment. There was little to see, other than a massive stone wall and the detail of guards that were more or less occupied in eyeing me with speculative looks.

Aware of my nakedness and the coldness of both the ground and the rain, I shivered and began rubbing my arms for warmth. The guard called Atino was turning to leave, presumably to fetch me something to wear. I hoped it was warm.

The female guard caught my eyes again as I shifted uncomfortably in my puddle. “You can stand up,” she told me, darting a look at Growly Voice as though to dare him to contradict her. “We’re going to need to have you answer some questions. Can you walk?”

I nodded, relaxing slightly at her manner. When I stood, though, it seemed as though every eye that was on me traveled downward and I flushed, covering myself with my hands again.

I caught a glimpse of the female guard rolling her eyes and my embarrassment ratcheted up a notch. “Could you all grow up?” Turning away from me, she snatched at another guard’s arm. “Give me your cloak. You don’t even need to be out here.”

The man she was addressing made a face of distaste at her, but didn’t bother to argue. He merely removed his cloak, thrust it ungraciously in her direction and then turned to stalk off into the night.

“Here,” she offered me the cloak, a full-length and hooded garment crafted from oilcloth. I took it gratefully, noticing how she turned tactfully away while I put in on but still seemed to know the exact moment I had covered myself.

“Thank you,” I offered.

She studied me for a moment by the light of a lantern. Then, without acknowledging my words, she turned away, saying, “Follow me.”

With her fellows falling in around us, I did as commanded, wondering at the circumstances in which I found myself. Although I couldn’t have said where I was or how I had come to be there, there was still a nagging familiarity to the smell of the cloak enveloping me and the way the wall angled just so at that point.

The guardswoman had asked my name. She had promised further questions, which would doubtless be about my appearance in such a place at such a time, without a stitch of clothing to my name. Not that I had any notion of what my name might be. 
     
As we trudged together through the mud, Growly Voice leaned close to the female guard. “What are you planning, Jeyne?”

“I am following procedure, Sir” she replied briefly. “We found nothing at the site and until Vyl wakes up, we don’t know that this is anything more than strange coincidence.”

Her words made no sense to me, but Growly Voice had at least provided me with a name for the guardswoman. Jeyne, a plain name, much as she herself was plain. I filed the information away, along with the fact that she seemed to be Growly Voice’s subordinate, or was at least affording him the courtesy of someone who had a higher rank without actually deferring to him.

These thoughts distracted me for a few moments, but as soon as we neared a gate, I went back to worrying over how to explain myself to these guards when I couldn’t remember anything of how I had arrived at their wall, undressed and unconscious.

We passed through the gate without fuss. Growly Voice spoke to the detail of armed guards who held a defensive position, asking whether they had seen anyone else. When their answer came back in the negative, he ordered the gates closed and the watch doubled on the wall. Everyone escorting me was dismissed to their duties with the words, “Jeyne and I will be taking this one to the barracks for questions. Send word there if anything changes with Vyl.”

Before we set off, the guard Atino arrived with a small bundle of clothes. He passed these to Jeyne who eyed me briefly but did not surrender them to me. Without further ado, I was led deeper into a city that, though it seemed familiar, I couldn’t have named for anything.         

         

Monday, July 12, 2010

O, is it all forgot?

I have not forgotten Emergent. Honestly, though, there would not have been an update here if Chas hadn't come by, read, commented and re-sparked a series of thoughts I'd been having. (Thanks for that. And for freaking me out. I'll never get published.)

Very little in the way of actual writing has taken place since (eep!) January, although I have turned over many mental stones and poked at ideas until I've more or less arrived at a system for magic that will hopefully be lots more interesting than mana pools.

There are still a number of problems I need to resolve before delving too far into writing.

Firstly, I still haven't gotten to know Jeyne at all. She's a mystery to me, so perhaps sticking with third person isn't the worst idea in the world.

Secondly, I have some notions as far as the major events in the story, but I want to be able to fit several rather large pieces together and I'm not sure I have them all assembled in a way that I understand how the presence of one will affect another or even where the major alliances will fall. (Which is to say, in as unclear a fashion as possible, that I need to settle in my mind how the military, clergy and ruling powers all interact. And whether there are more factions to consider, such as merchants or even the peasant classes, etc.) (To be even more succinct, I want the world to be rich and varied but clearly understood.)

Thirdly, and perhaps relating to the first point, I need to determine from which subset of the overall populace Jeyne comes from. The more I consider, the less I like the idea of her being an inn-keeper's daughter. I want to stay away from the most common clich├ęs as much as I can, and I feel that "commoner who rises to power and/or glory," "girl who stands on her own in a man's world," and "princess who doesn't act like a priss" are all done to the point of being somewhere well past dead.

In fact, most fantasy novels also contain patriarchal societies, except for the ones that are matriarchal and usually very bad due in large part to the fact that they seem to be written by bitter women who hate men and make their male characters whiny, emo bitches.

I don't want either, thanks.

In fact, I really enjoy Scott Lynch in that regard. His books have a refreshing lack of gender bias, in my opinion. Men and women alike are sailors and soldiers, powerful and powerless, thieves and nobles.

With that in mind, I am thinking of moving Jeyne closer to where the heart of the story will take place - the seat of power in the realm - and thrust some events on her swiftly enough that perhaps it won't matter what she started out as.

Although, you know, I am thinking maybe she's a palace guard. Standing in the drizzle on a cold autumn's night and about to find some naked dude. Because for whatever else I don't know about this story, I do know it should start with a naked dude. And rain. Naked dudes and rain are where it's at.