Final Prophecy Update and Finishing Things

The second draft of my fantasy short is done. I’ve written about “The Final Prophecy” before, but I will add that finishing the second draft was tougher than expected. When I got to the last chapter and a half, I stalled. That’s usually a good sign, because the harder it is for me to finish something, the more I’ve loved working on it. So much so, I don’t want it to end. Luckily, I eventually got tired of procrastinating and went back to work.

The next step is more revision. Editing used to scare me, but now I see it as a chance to polish and tweak where needed – and in the worst case scenario spot a dud before I send it out into the world. Finishing the second draft is still a milestone worth mentioning, because this is the part of the process where I involve a few trusted readers. They are the Wise Ones who point out where the holes are, and the inconsistencies as well as the gems and the exciting stuff. Their feedback provide the setup for writing draft three.

There is also inspiration coming from the gaming campaign, I’m running parallel to the writing. We just finished running an adventure set a few years after the events described in “The Final Prophecy”, but in much the same location, and some of the questions posed by the players as part of our game, provided excellent fodder for the story. Details about the daily life, geography and mythology that had not crossed my mind before.

And it doesn’t end there. I recently read two excellent pieces that helped kick me back into writing mode. One is an interview with Stephen King by Neil Gaiman. The insight into King’s process and approach was highly motivating to me. Then I read Second Drafts are a Way of Life by Ryan Macklin, the timing of which could not have been better. Both are recommended reading to any writer.

Now I’m going to take a short break from the story, while I filter it out to the Wise Ones. And in the meantime, I hope to ride the wave of finishing things, and get my arcade iPhone game – Nebula Rescue – done and out the door.

Webley, Palmer and Gaiman (aka Favorite Photo of 2011)

Throughout any given year I shoot thousands of photos, so when I was recently asked which one was my personal favorite of 2011, I had a difficult time answering. However, when thinking about it over a couple of days, the one above kept jumping out at me.

On 11-11-11 I documented Jason Webley‘s concert at The Moore in Seattle. That was where I caught this moment in time. Webley is talking about the virtues of love, while Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer sit together behind him, listening.

There is a love story there, and it starts with a look of genuine happiness on Jason Webley’s face, as he looks up into the light, sharing his joy with (and for) the audience. Amanda Palmer represents that audience to me, relaxed, attentive and having a good time, and Neil Gaiman ties the story together, looking down at his wife with complete adoration and a smile that says simply: “I Love You.”

There is enough intimacy in this photo, that I felt a little like a peeping tom as I put it through post processing, like I was crashing a private party. I actually had to remind myself that it was taken at a public event. That is why this is my favorite photo of 2011. It makes me feel like giving my wife a kiss, putting on some good music and take pleasure in the little things in life.

Click on the photo above to view a larger version.

I Might Kill You

Plasticwrapped dead woman © Rasmus RasmussenAs a writer it happens that you meet people, who will want to be in your stories. Some literally ask for it, while others have something about them, which lends itself well to whatever you’re writing on.

A while back, I attended the opening of a new restaurant here in Seattle. As I made myself comfortable in the wine bar (where else?), I started talking to this lady. She was dressed in a sharp, navy blue dress that could probably serve as both a business outfit and something for a night out. She turned out to be a lobbyist, working for both republicans and democrats, helping them push issues through where ever she was needed.

There was definitely an aura of power about her. She worded every sentence carefully, as if the world was listening, smiled a lot and it was obvious to me, that someone like her would be an interesting character to put in a crime novel. So, when she asked me what I do, I told her about the books I write and added that I thought, I might kill her off in one of them. This luckily went over very well, and the stories she told immediately grew even more exciting. Thinking about it now, I probably should have gotten her e-mail address.

Though that time, the person’s job, charisma and even clothes were like taken right out of a novel, most often I am not this lucky. Usually, there are only bits and pieces of a person, which I can use. A barista at the local coffee place, where I often go to write, joked around one day and said: “I want to be in your novel.”

At that time, I was currently planning the plot of my next project, so when he said that, I started looking at him. His name is uncommon enough that it’d be good, and him being a skinny dude, barely out of his teens, his description and body language were perfect for a character I was going to add anyway. Okay, so I will have to change his profession, give him a few bad habits and so on, but that’s how it usually is. I don’t think he believed me, when I nodded and answered, that sure, I’d put him in there.

Modelling characters is one of the most important aspects of writing. If you do a bad job, your stories will be flat and fail to grip the readers. It really doesn’t matter if they love or loathe the character, as long as they believe in it and build up an idea of how this person would act under various circumstances. In my experience it is really the little details, that make your characters stand out, and what better place to find those than in the real world, where we are constantly surrounded by people. If you need characters, I suggest you go shopping and do a little spying on the other people in the store. You’ll be surprised what you can pick up.

When people want to be in my stories, I immediately begin to dissect them in my mind. Nearly anyone will have one or more qualities (and in this case, qualities also refers to less fortunate traits), that you can pick up and use. If you’re lucky, there’ll be a whole bag of qualities, and you’ll have an almost finished character right there, ready to get killed off in chapter seven. Or whatever else you might need them for.

The image used for this piece was shot by me and is available on iStockphoto.