Research rabbit holes: I had to look up the name of a mapmaking tool for a character who is an amateur cartographer, and now I, too, am an amateur cartographer.
Here’s another excerpt from Stars Fall Out, one of several I set aside to post before I finished the draft, but then never got around to posting due to the fact that finishing the draft ate all my free time in the weeks before its completion.
This excerpt features Master Zanhori, known as one of the greatest living oneiromancers, who travels throughout the Kirosz Empire with his three fearsome beasts, negotiating for peace where he can, and sometimes leaving destruction where he can’t.
The chair creaked alarmingly when I sat in it. Berihl opened a single eye at the noise and snorted. “How did you get a huge boar like that up the stairs?”
“I’d rather not talk about it.” Zanhrori tapped his long, elegant pen against the side of his desk. “And she’s a sow, not a boar.”
“For all his keenness, he isn’t much of a biologist. Your husband could’ve told you the difference.”
“That’s probably true.” His unexpected mention of Tirsan had thrown me off balance. I took a deep breath and braced myself in the chair so it wouldn’t creak again. “I know that you’re busy, so I’ll get right to it: I’m looking for someone to train me.”
My completed first draft of Stars Fall Out is 234,000 words, 173 scenes, and 1125 pages, with a printing time of two hours.
I posted on Facebook that hole-punching would be my hobby for the foreseeable future, and it did take three days before I got the entire draft off the dining room table, punched and distributed between three binders.
I still have several excerpts I haven’t posted since I’ve neglected the blog in my single-minded drive to finish this thing. Here’s the first of them, a longer one from near the end:
Tirsan leaned against the counter too, arms folded across his chest, and once again considered me. “This is the most we’ve spoken in two days.” He studied his fingers against his upper arm. “Do you want to know where I went today? I went to talk to a man with some animals to sell. More gyadi, sheep. A dog. He’s moving north in a couple months, and he let me inspect them.
“Gods, they were nice animals. Even if you knew nothing about them, you could tell. Glossy coats. Well-tempered, meticulously groomed. Fresh hay. I could’ve paid him, gotten the whole process started, and been back to [some other farm chore.]
“But I didn’t pay him. I said, ‘Do you mind if I talk to my wife and come back in a bit?’ Then I left. Walked around for the better part of an hour. I came back and said you’d told me to make sure they didn’t have any history of health problems in the breeding lines.
“He reassured me that they were all set—he’s had them going a few generations back–and said something like, ‘Good looking out, that wife of yours.’
“And I agreed with him, and asked if he wouldn’t mind me running home a second time to talk to you again. He said, ‘No, no, not at all, though you probably should’ve just brought her with you and saved yourself the trouble.
“I laughed and said, ‘Yes, I probably should have. But she’s far too busy getting things ready around the house.’
“Then I did the whole walk again, came back, and told him we’d take the animals. So that’s underway now. I thanked him and said we’d be in touch.
“And then, Tyatavar, I look the long way around home, as if I hadn’t walked enough miles already, because the whole thing bothered me so much. Why did I make it take two hours longer than it had to? Why did I lie about talking to you? Why did I say you had all those questions, when I knew within minutes I’d take the animals?”
Me: Time to print a 1,125 page draft.
HP Officejet Pro, 95 pages in: Align the printheads. DO IT DO IT NOW.
I’m on one of the final climactic scenes of Stars Fall Out, and have ended up in a situation where my female main character is, in a not at all tongue-in-cheek fashion, trying to break a glass ceiling.
I’ve found I have two methods for developing my magic systems in Stars Fall Out, and I’ve used each one exclusively for a single type of magic.
First there’s the Painstaking Research method, which I’ve used for shadowmancy. It involves poring over lists of root words, drawing diagrams, and researching real-life machines and devices that I can modify into crazy magic stuff. Coming up with secondary world terminology and items is the kind of worldbuilding task that can lead to heavy procrastination, so I try to avoid it as long as possible, and engage in it only as needed.
For my second magic system, oneiromancy, I’ve engaged in almost none of it at all. I’ve never sat down and said, “Today I am going to create magical jargon.”
What happens with oneiromancy–and I’ve only just realized this–is that a character says something, and it becomes part of the magic system. And when I say “a character,” I mean the same character every time.
When my character popped into my head blithely explaining that the magic vial works on “a double manifest with stabilized water as an anchor,” I finally had an idea of how the book’s main magic item works within the magic rules of my world, but didn’t necessarily expect to use that information in a scene. However, part of the book’s climax involves a hearing in which the Nirsuathu University council tries to determine the circumstances behind the theft of the magic vial, and also what the hell it actually is.
That seemed like as good a use as any for the jargon I had lying around. I decided that, prior to the “lying and setting enormous fires” portion of the hearing, I’d have my oneiromancer explain how the item works. After months of living as a human test strip for a dubious magic test, he finally gets to show that he is quite intelligent and competent, and in doing so, pisses off some of the other characters. Win win.
Piroszehlt didn’t so much as flinch at Zanhrori’s use of his oneiromancer’s name, but took a deep breath and straightened his papers once more. “First, for those of you who were unaware, or who had heard but not believed, the magic vial does in fact allow transport from place to place when used to consume water from a natural body. In oneiromantic terms, it’s a double manifest with stabilized water as an anchor.”
Ghordaa snorted, under his breath yet meant to be heard. Vilari looked at Piro as though she were about to spit in the soup of the Great Pon.
Ghordaa unfurled his hand like a spring fern. “I would only like to caution against the intellectual laxity of using borrowed terminology to describe what I have created.”
“Noted. Would you like to give the council a lesson on the proper terms at this time? I understand you’re supposed to be a teacher.”
“And is this to be a classroom now? I’m not certain how receptive or capable my students would be.”
“You’d have to test them, wouldn’t you?”
Next to me, Tirsan gave a close-mouthed chuckle. “What? I enjoy watching them snipe at each other like that.” He spoke so low that no one else heard him.
After a pause in which Piroszehlt and Ghordaa both seemed to be deciding if other insults were necessary, Piro spoke first. “I shall continue using my borrowed terms. Unless you intend to train all here in the practice of your new discipline, I think they will suffice for the sake of understanding.” He rolled his paperweight in his hand. “Now, to go back to the question from before the interruption. Sunivar?”
And then he gave them all coronavirus.