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The Writer's Journey

I've started a blog/page/journal process following the writing process from "I have an idea" to "I just finished the rough draft" to show how a story is written from one writer's experience. This is going to be a spoiler filled, technical jargon laced, inside-the-writer's-head experience showing what goes on behind the scenes of telling a story. Why? Because no one has ever done something like this before that I know of, and all too often, writers tend to treat the writing process like a trade secret, then wonder why people don't understand what we go through. It's meant to be educational more than entertaining, so if you're looking for a thrilling experience, here's your money back. But if you want to see what the story writing process looks like from the inside, and understand why writers act the way we do sometimes, I'm pretty sure you'll get something out of it.

So, here's how it starts:

How it all starts...

Here is where it starts: At work, the idea hits me, and I grab a, a few pages of legal size paper, fold them in half and start making character notes:

Oh, look, more character notes....

More character notes

What's this? Ah, even MORE character notes. As the idea progressed in my head, the characters and their stories began to become more and more intertwined with the main plot line. More on that soon.

Picture 24
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Story Outline Part 2: Initiation

The party rides out into the night, and Jack reflects for a moment on how crazy his life has become. They ride until the moon sets and sleep for a few hours, then rise, to ride again, eating in the saddle.

Three nights later, they arrive at the designated rendezvous point, a burnt out tower. Jack is sent on alone, with the rest of the party watching from a distance. He sets a camp inside the tower and takes pains to keep his face covered as much as possible. The second night there sees a group of men approach. Jack uses the phrases and signs from the agent’s notebooks to convince the newcomers that he is the man they are seeking, marveling at how easy it is to fool them using pilfered intel.

The bandits insist on leaving at once, so Jack stalls as long as he can to give the rest of the company time to sneak up and ambush them. The fight starts outside the tower, and the leader is caught unprepared for a moment. Jack takes advantage of his indecision to strike, but only wounds him because he doesn’t hit hard enough, which leads to a fight that Jack barely wins. Afterward, Jack resolves to strike to kill the next time. Runjolf reminds him that his job isn’t as much about fighting as it is about being clever.

As the party prepares to leave, Jack suggests that they don the outer armor of the men sent to retrieve the agent, since they will be riding toward the lands of the Forsaken. Thus camouflaged, the Green Company begins the trek toward the Shattered Lands. Saeth follows the trail their victims left, but the going gets slower once they enter the badlands. She manages to find their starting point, and returns to tell the party that things just got difficult. Departing from the trail the party climbs a ridge that overlooks the Forsaken camp and find themselves facing an unpleasant surprise: the Forsaken have claimed an old Dwarven stronghold as their base. Only a portion of their number are on the surface, the rest appear to be housed underground. What’s more, the Forsaken number in the hundreds, far more than Bolverk anticipated. It will be impossible to get the information hey need by attacking the camp. One by one, eyes begin to turn to Jack.

After studying the camp for a while, Jack devises a plan to get in. Once the sun sets, he scales the wall and sneaks in through one of the upper level porches. The upper levels are nearly deserted, and he makes his way deeper into the complex. Much of it, he finds, is unexplored, but before long, he discovers where he thinks the leader is.

Once the camp beds down for the night, Jack sneaks into the leader’s suite and finds his map table. After some sweating and whispered curses, he finally manages to open the lock on the strongbox. Inside, he finds not only the map leading to Malazin’s location, but also plans to overthrow the High King.

Just as Jack is about to make his way out, a messenger arrives. Thinking quickly, Jack hides and overhears the messenger’s tale: Malazin had another agent in Bolverk’s household. He followed the party and has reported the death of the first group sent out to retrieve the agent, as well as the suspicion that the Green Company is nearby. The leader mobilizes his forces and goes to his strongbox. Jack’s pilfering is discovered and he is forced to flee deeper into the Dwarven complex.

Author’s thoughts: Here is where the Hero’s Journey suddenly presented me with a part that I hadn’t anticipated but should have. As Jack flees further into the underground complex, he is tossed into the Abyss. This is the Death and Rebirth of the Hero. Cut off from his friends, he is truly on his own, and must pass this test unaided. It is here that he will gain a bit of supernatural aid, in the form of some trinket that will help him become the jack that he is destined to be. It won’t be a weapon, though he will find some Dwarven armor that is well constructed. I’m thinking it will be the Dwarven equivalent of a multi-tool or something similar. Perfect for a jack. NOW I’m getting somewhere. I have to admit…I didn’t see this coming.
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Thoughts Along the Way

This week, I’ve been struggling with a bit of writer’s block combined with this weird thing called “Life.” Apparently, I have one and didn’t tell myself about it. So, after a visit from family, and the ensuing readjustment period to something resembling normal, I found my momentum on A Good Day more than a little stalled. I had other obligations that needed to be met. A game to run and a con to attend to support a friend. That place where I go and do stuff and get paid. The next novel in my current series to write. And all the while, ideas bubbling up in the back of my mind for other stories.

This is where the post I made the other day came back to mind: writing is a calling. I need to treat it like the profession I want it to one day be. Had to tell myself “So what if your momentum stalled? WRITE damn it!” Because really, stalled momentum is just an excuse. When I started this, I had ZERO momentum, and an uphill climb. Now, instead of a word count of zero and no freaking idea of what I’m going to do, I have character notes, the first third of the story outlined and lots of folks watching this happen. I have PLENTY of momentum. The only thing to do is just write.

And, the writer’s block died a quiet little death of malnutrition as its diet of BS slowly dwindled. I sat down and started jotting notes for the next section in the notebook, and writing became inspiration. The ideas began to flow as I wrote, and the next thing I knew, I had the first two conflict scenes mapped out. So, the cure for this particular case of writer’s block? Action. As I sat down and forced myself to tell myself the story, I overcame the lack of action.

“But what if the story sucked?” your internal editor is asking. How do I know this? Mine asked the same question. I duct taped its mouth shut and locked it in the closet. Truth is, I EXPECT it to suck. I almost demand it. What’s that? Hang on, my internal editor is trying to ask me another question.

“OW! Why do you expect it to suck? Shouldn’t you be trying to create your very best work the very first time? I mean, look at how many people are following this page. Aren’t you afraid you’ll set a bad example?”

An excellent question. I expect it to suck because it’s a rough draft. It’s supposed to be flawed. This is the stage where I take chances, try stupid shit and go out on a limb. This is the place where I’m ALLOWED to write badly. Now, back in the closet with you.

Okay, so, yes. This next part might be complete and total crap. It might shine like no one’s business. But until I open that creative vein and let it bleed out onto the page, I have no way of knowing! Here’s the thing: No one sees this part! (Most of the time). I can write this part and decide I don’t like it and completely rewrite it after the first draft is done. And no one else knows. During the outline and rough draft phase, you have total autonomy and immunity from judgment. Take advantage of that. I am. So, now back to my regularly scheduled writing.
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A milestone on A Writer's Journey.

Broke the 100 like mark on the Writer's Journey Facebook page today. I didn't set out to do much more with this page than to make the writing process transparent. The idea was that if other writers saw something outside their own process, maybe they would find something new, something inspiring. Also, I wanted readers to see how the stories they love come about. As I sit and look at the "100" in front of me, I want to thank the folks who have hit that like button. Every one of you who did that have made this journey that much more fulfilling.

As I see exactly how much I've already done before I started even writing the rough draft, I also have a renewed passion to show writers exactly how much work we really do put into every story we write, so that, in the end, more of us might see that what we do has VALUE. I want to instill a pride of craft in other writers so that when we're told that things like "exposure" and "for the love" are adequate return for the time and energy we put into a single work, be it a short story, a novella or a full length novel, we have the confidence in our work to stand up and say "That isn't enough."

Money flows toward the author for a damn good reason. Without your work, publishers have squat to sell. Remember that. If someone tells you that you have to pay to get your book published, they're not about selling your book to the reader, they're about stealing your dream and ransoming it back to you.

So I'll say it again. Your work has value. If the 100 people who liked this page get any one thing from accompanying me on this journey, I want you to walk away with that above all else. Be it your writing, your art or your music, it has value. Don't sell yourself short.
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A Writer's Journey: Story Outline Part 1 completed

Had to take some time to figure out how I wanted some of this to go. There were some surprises here, one, with the relationship between Jack & Aolynn. I was at first trying to decide between pure friendship and romance, but I realized that is what is ALWAYS done. So, I decided to use some of my own personal views on relationships between people, that place beyond friendship that we don't really have a word or even a concept for in the English language. Soul friend (anam cara) is the closest I could find for it.

Also, it turns out that Aolynn is half-Elven. Who knew? Okay, so, now for the outline.

The Green Company descends into the smoking ruins of the brigand camp and begins the process of salvaging what they can. The leader’s tent holds a chest that is locked, and Jack is called on to inspect it to make sure it isn’t trapped. He discovers the trap and figures out how to disarm it. Jack notices that they create two distinct piles. When he asks Aolynn about this,m she explains that most of the spoils are stolen and the bulk of what they collect is going to be given to the locals, either handed out as they can, donated to temples or handed over to the jarl of these lands, a man they trust. The smaller pile is theirs, mostly what was stolen from them, and other coin and supplies that they might need.

Saeth returns with several horses and they load up before heading to another site to regroup. Once encamped out of sight of the bandit stronghold, they settle in and begin to rest, repair their gear and eat. Among the things they took for themselves is some armor for Jack and a few weapons for him to try. Saeth attempts to teach him how to use them, and it is discovered that he is an abysmal failure with the sling and broad sword. He is decent with a short sword and bow, and particularly good with knives, both up close and thrown.

As he works, Jack is struck by the almost concentrated casualness of the company at the moment compared to how intense things were just a few hours ago. Saeth assures him that tomorrow will be hard enough, and today won’t be a picnic either. For the rest of the morning and early afternoon, he learns how to sword fight and use the bow. By the time the party finishes cooking a late lunch of pottage that they serve in bread bowls, he is blistered and sore.

Jack is surprised by how thick the stew is, and how salty it is compared to what he is accustomed to. The coarseness of the bread is also new to him, and how gritty the cider is. He also notices that each member of the company prays over their meal, so he waits until they are done before he eats.

Once he’s done eating, Jack thinks he’s going to have a hard time getting to sleep on the thin bedroll he is given, but he is asleep seconds after laying down. All too soon, Saeth awakens him for her shift as sentry, and begins teaching him the art of moving silently and being unseen. He takes to it quickly, having learned the urban equivalent as a kid, though he is still a rank amateur by this world’s standards. He drops like a rock when he goes back to bed and wakes up groggy the next morning to a breakfast of bread and cheese before beginning his first day in the saddle.

Traveling by horseback is a completely new experience for Jack, and by midday he is sore in entirely new places. The company  follows the narrow road for the first part of the day, then sets off across country when the road turns south. Lunch is eaten in the saddle, and the company alternates between a walk and a trot. By the time the company stops during the late afternoon, they have covered about 30 miles. Jack is assigned to collect firewood, then spars with Markus until they eat. He takes the first shift with Saeth, who continues his training.

The next day sees another five hours in the saddle through grassy woodlands with no roads, using the sun and other landmarks as their guide. Aolynn begins teaching Jack sleight of hand, and he begins to train himself once more in the art of the lift. Near the middle of the day, they are approached by a messenger from Jarl Bolverk, requesting their presence immediately. Runjolf turns the party north, and they begin to ride hard.

The next day, they cover another fifty miles, putting them well into the highlands of Erinheim. Jack finds himself exhausted at the end of each day, but able to handle the rigors of riding more readily with each day.

His fourth day of riding finds the Green Company approaching the jarlstead of Hadrun Hold. An ancient hall surrounded by more recent buildings, within a walled structure about a stony hill. The jarl’s warriors greet Runjolf as an old friend, and the party is escorted to the hall at the top of the hill straightaway.

It is here that Anatacia’s fiancé is introduced, a young noble from the eastern cities who represents the epitome of the more “refined” nobility. He is offended by the state of the party when they approach, unwashed, smelling of horses and covered with road dust. His immediate demand to have them removed offends the jarl and earns him a sharp word as he rises and embraces Runjolf as an old friend. He explains that no knight can do what needs to be done, that this is bloody work that needs the hands of hard men on it, not perfumed, silk-swaddled boys putting on airs. When the party arrives, the jarl looks old and tired, but their arrival seems to revive him and instill him with new hope.

That evening, the party eats at the jarl’s table. One the meal has ended, the tables are cleared away and a skald entertains the hall for a while. As the party begins to relax, an apparition of Malazin appears and threatens to punish the jarl for his insolence in attempting to move against him, then unleashes a Hel hound into the hall. The jarl’s men and the Green Company engage it but seem to have little effect on it. Only Saeth and Aolynn seem to be able to harm it, leading them to realize that it is a true summoning and can only be dispelled by breaking the summoner’s control over it. With the rest of the company engaged in containing the hound, Jack pulls one of his own throwing knives and hurls it at the “apparition”, realizing that it is probably not an illusion but a person. The knife breaks the illusion and releases the hound from the summoner’s control, which makes it turn on them. The summoner releases the hound and attempts to flee. The company chases the summoner down and catches him right before he releases a carrier pigeon. Cornered, the agent kills himself with Jack’s knife, leaving the party with what appears to be a dead end.

The party checks the agent’s quarters, and finds some evidence of what his job was. Saeth is sent to check the stables while Jack and Aolynn search the room. Runjolf asks the jarl to close the gates of the castle and watch for anyone sneaking out.

Jack and Aolynn discover a hidden compartment with a codebook and instructions received from Malazin, as well as gold and gems in payment for the steward’s loyalty. Saeth discovers that the steward had a horse saddled and ready to leave. Among the notes was a set of instructions for where to meet emissaries of Malazin if necessary, as well as a seal so that they might know him, and a description of the men he was to meet. Jack proposes that they follow through with the agent’s plan and send the pigeon, reporting success and asking for refuge. Once the emissaries show up, they kill them and track them back to where they came from, which he believes will lead them straight back to Malazin. Runjolf likes the plan, except that he and Markus are too big to be the steward (figuring it is a good bet that the other guys have a decent description of him as well). Jack offers to play the part, seeing as how it wouldn’t be the first time he was bait for the bad guys. The only difference would be that this time, he would be doing it intentionally. Runjolf offers a rare laugh and agrees to present their plan to Bolverk.

Bolverk agrees to the plan, revealing that the men described are Forsaken, former soldiers and tenants who he had declared wolfshead for various reasons, including heresy and Davra worship. The place spoken of is a couple of days ride to the northwest, near the Shattered Lands, an area of badlands that are thought to be cursed. The Forsaken are thought to hide there, but no one is willing to go in to seek them out.

Bolverk agrees to provision the party and urges them to go as soon as possible. Runjolf says they will send the messenger pigeon the night following and depart at the same time, to keep as close to the steward’s plan as possible.

The party seeks their quarters for the night, but Jack finds himself unable to sleep. He leaves his room and finds Aolynn on a balcony. They talk, and he comments on how this must be like coming home, which she says is not true. Being half-Elven, it seemed to her as if no place was home until she joined the Green Company. Now, any place is home, so long as they company is there. She asks Jack what it is like to be so far from his own home. He confesses that he misses his son. And some of the comforts, like air conditioning, soda, and a car. But in the moment, he also feels, for the first time in his life, like he’s doing something worth talking about, and he’s beginning to understand what the Battle Maiden meant when she said she was giving him the chance to truly live. Aolynn comments that small comforts are worthless without things that have meaning, like blood-companions. She uses a word that doesn’t translate to Jack, so she explains what it means, more than friends, not romantic, boon companions who will be there until you die. Even then, she quips, there is no ridding yourself of them, for they often agree to return to other lives together. Without another word, she takes his hand and tells him to shut up and simply enjoy the moment, without expecting anything more than company and the view.

The next day dawns, and after a more hearty breakfast than he’s had in days, Jack finds himself in the exercise yard with Markus, Runjolf and Saeth practicing his sword play and knife work. Though they drive him hard, he soon begins to understand the bond that is growing between them. One of the first things Markus tells him about the sparring field is that he must step into it with the expectation of pain. He is there to learn to kill, and its best lessons hurt. As he practices, he begins to win their approval, especially after he gets his knuckles rapped hard and fights the urge to complain. After the midday meal, Saeth begins teaching him some unarmed skills, showing him the Elven Way of Water and Wind, a fighting art that resembles aikido and judo, with krav maga and KayCee methods added in the mix.

At sunset, they eat another big meal and bed down. Late in the night, Markus wakes Jack up and they go down to the gates. Aolynn joins them after releasing the carrier pigeon. Saeth is already on the trail ahead of them, and will meet them ahead.

(Author’s thoughts: At this point, Jack has embarked on the Road of Trials, and has completed the Departure. He is now fully on the path of Initiation, having accepted the change in his life and his new destiny. On a less mythic side, his outlook on life has been broadened, where friendship and romance are not the only ways to relate to people, and that there are bonds that go deeper than the ones he has been shown. He has also begun to prove his worth, not only to the party, but to himself.)
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Thoughts on the Journey

Over on another page, someone noted that some writers mentioned that their characters talked to them, and other idiosyncrasies some writers display. His real question was "Do you need to be a little unusual to be a successful writer?

Here are my thoughts on that:

To be "successful" a writer needs to treat writing like the profession it is. That is, write regularly. Read as much as you write. And write even when you don't feel like it and when every word you staple bleeding to the page feels like it's being pulled screaming in protest from your fucking brain or when every word you write looks like total crap on the page at the moment. To be successful, you have to write well, and write something people want to read. How you get there doesn't make a difference to anyone but you. You have to finish the story in front of you and press the hell on, and not worry if your characters talk to you or if you tell them how it's going to damn well be. You know what your readers give a damn about? What you write. Not how you write it or how odd you might be when you write it. They care about the moment when they pick up your work and get their souls sucked out of them and into your world. They don't want to know HOW you did that to them...they just want you to do it to them again and again. In the end, THAT is all it takes to be a successful writer.

Simple, right?
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Author's Thoughts Along the Way

The Ties That Bind
(Author’s thoughts: I spent the day researching things medieval, because I do want a sense of veritas in this story that makes the fantasy world feel a little more alien, instead of like you’re watching a guy in modern clothes walking around having fun at the Ren Faire. I also find that people will accept the impossible (magic, being transported from one world to another) before they will accept the implausible (a horse covering a hundred miles in a day, or a modern man suddenly being great with a sword for no apparent reason outside of “natural talent). That being said, I also had the following thoughts on the theme of the story: )

Get a group of gamers together, and eventually, the stories start flowing. Everything from the “No shit, there I was…” stories I heard when I was first starting in the SCA to the “Remember that time when…” tales players swap of their character’s past exploits. Stories of courage, ingenuity and skill will almost always come up when you get enough gamers together. And that’s when I get to see the REAL product of gaming: friendship and loyalty.

You know what you NEVER hear said with any enthusiasm? A story that starts with the phrase “Remember that time you screwed the party over and took all the treasure for yourself?” Granted, you DO hear those stories, but the guilty party is almost never around, nor are they ever spoken of with any warmth. Rarely are they ever invited back to the table again. This is the scourge of gaming, the Munchkin or powergamer.

When you read the stories that are the bread and butter of fantasy, from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings to the more Modern Icewind Dale stories, they all have themes of courage and friendship running through them. When I first read The Lord of the Rings in junior high school, I was truly saddened that the Fellowship had to eventually disband and return to their normal lives. You never read tales about how the great warrior waited until all of his comrades had died weakening the dragon before he rushed forward and slew the great monster on his own and took the treasure for himself. Mostly because those stories aren’t worth telling because they are nothing special.

I’ve seen this played out in real life as well. In LARPing, you can always tell the Munchkin in a skirmish, because he is the guy who might be the most skilled with a sword in real life, but put him on a team and he lets the rest of them get mowed down like cannon fodder before inevitably being dropped by a slew of less skilled fighters. He is usually also the guy who whines about not being taken seriously when he’s the best there is on the field. But put a tight-knit group of moderately skilled players together, and they will clear the field almost EVERY time. Why? Because a group of people who have a sense of loyalty to each other will fight harder to help their friends than they would for their own survival. Don’t believe me? Look at the intense loyalty of battle buddies in our own US military. Men and women who fight for someone other than themselves, I believe, are channeling their inner hero, and I believe that makes them mighty.

This is one of the themes I’m hoping to convey in A Good Day, that a small band of loyal friends is capable of more than a small army of cutthroats. That the most powerful of wizards is no match for a team who knows how to work together. And that in the end, that bond between adventuring companions is as strong as any blood relationship.

As one of my favorite Big Damn Heroes, Captain Malcolm “Tightpants” Reynolds said when facing down an entire town with only three people: “She’s OUR witch, so cut her the Hell down!”
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Writer's Journey: Thoughts along the way

Working on the next parts of the outline, and recalling why I don't write a lot of fantasy. Being in the SCA sort of ruined fantasy writing for me because the real historical world is so very interesting to me that I want to add in parts of history to it as opposed to just making shit up as I go along and calling it good.

Thus I can't simply say "They had a meal of bacon and eggs to start the day" when I KNOW that a commoner's breakfast was actually cheese and bread! (Also known as a ploughman's meal). And knowing that most folks didn't drink wine...commoners drank ale, beer or cider. But not a lot of water. So, yeah, researching medieval food and horseback riding and pickpocketing and so on. Fortunately, I know a stage magician who I'm going to hit up for exercises to train for sleight of hand, and a locksmith. I also dug out some of my old history texts and and my Osprey Military Warrior Series book "English Longbowman 1330-1515".

In the meantime, here is a good place to start on learning about medieval food. For fiction, wikipedia is a good jumping off point.

This one isn't bad, either, but both are far from complete. It's been my experience that the SCA provides a very good way to immerse yourself in a medieval setting, if you can ignore the reminders of the modern world around you.

Now, back to plotting....
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Writer's Journey: Story Outline Pt 1

This took some time to hash out. This is really only the first part of the story, where some of the most difficult steps must be taken. Jack is ripped from his own world and tossed into another without warning. He has to come to grips with his new environment, something the average person is not prepared to do, and adapt quickly to it or die. He will have helpers along the way, specifically the Green Company, and by the end of the first few chapters, will have started the process of becoming the Hero of myth. But the first few steps are pretty rocky ones.

Story Outline:

Story opens on Runjolf and the Green Company having a bad day, finding themselves at the mercy of their own jack and his other compatriots. The brigands taunt the Green Company, secure in their own safety because of the ogre among their ranks. One of the brigands grabs the group’s mage Aolynn and drags her screaming into the brush to have his way with her. Brunjolf speaks the name of his Goddess, the Battle Maiden, and redeems a boon given to him for a service rendered to Her. She promises him “one who will open doors and find what is lost.”

Jack is having a bad day. Jack is at work when his ex and her fiancé show up and start creating a scene, demanding that he sign over his parental rights and never try to see his son again, accusing him of harassing them. Jack tries to stay calm, though he really wants to beat the crap out of the fiancé. When the fiancé tries to escalate the situation, Jack asks them to leave the shop with him so they can continue the conversation without disrupting business. The fiancé refuses and Jack tells them to leave the store, and is backed up by his boss. His boss also tells Jack to take the rest of the day off, and get things settled before he comes back.

Devastated at the prospect of never seeing his son again, Jack leaves and starts to drive home, uncertain of what to do, believing he really only has one choice. Suddenly, Jack finds himself with a passenger. The Battle Maiden tells him she’s going to give him a chance to truly live. What he makes of her gift is up to him. As she talks to him, a gray mist surrounds the car, though it seems to Jack as if they are both standing still and flying along very quickly. Jack asks her what will happen if he refuses. The Battle Maiden replies that she’s not asking him if he wants it. “Like it or no, this is a boon already granted. It is given you to decide what you will make of this chance, nothing more.” She fades away as she tells him this, and Jack suddenly finds himself hurtling through the air at a very large man.

(Author’s notes: This is where Jack answers, however reluctantly, The Call to Adventure.)

Parin notices that Saeth is missing & begins to get nervous. The other brigands dismiss his concerns because they broke her bow, and continue to go through the Company’s gear. The bandit who dragged Aolynn off reappears and gestures to one of his compatriots to come over. The second bandit heads over and a scuffle breaks out moments later, and Aolynn begins screaming again. The bandits joke about what they think is happening to her as they continue searching through the company’s gear, searching for a gem the Company was rumored to have with them when they left the last town. Runjolf knows that by now, both brigands are probably dead.

As they search, an invisible Aolynn sneaks into the middle of the group to give Runjolf and Markus knives to help them free themselves. As the two manage to cut through their bonds, and are awaiting Saeth’s announcement of her own arrival, when another bandit discovers the two bandits they thought were raping Aolynn with their throats cut. The fight starts a little earlier than expected.

Markus and Runjolf make short work of the two men guarding them, so the rest hold back and let the ogre step up to take care of them. Saeth announces her own presence with arrows in the backs of two more bad guys. A war horn sounds as the ogre moves in to take on the company, and all eyes are drawn against their will to the ridge overlooking the fight. They see a gray mist with the silhouette of the Battle Maiden with her spear held beside her. Parin realizes first which way the tide of battle is about to turn. A heartbeat later, Jack’s car flies out of the mist and hits the ogre, killing it instantly and landing on top of it after it hits the ground nose first. The bandits break and run, but Runjolf catches Parin & kills him with his bare hands.

With the immediate threat gone, the party checks the dead and reclaims as much of their gear as they can before moving to look at Jack’s car. The car is a marvel to them, in part because of the glass, which is rare in their world, and because of the plastic, which is non-existent.

The company’s first impression of Jack is that he is a noble because his hands are so soft, his face is clean shaven, his hair is so well trimmed, his clothes are so much softer than anything a commoner would wear and the inside of the car is padded and soft. They can also see that he is hurt, so they break the driver’s side window and cut him free of the seatbelt to get him out. Saeth assesses his injuries and determines that he isn’t too badly hurt aside from a gash and a bump on his forehead, and decides it’s best to let him wake up on his own. They make a camp nearby and lay him near their fire. Saeth makes a poultice for his injuries.

When Jack wakes up, it is dark. Faced with people who don’t speak a language he understands, a woman who doesn’t look human and in a strange place he has no idea how he got to, he reacts as well as a person could be expected to: he freaks the fuck out. Runjolf sends Saeth out to keep a discreet eye on him until he calms down. Unable to come to grips with his surroundings, he runs for his car and tries to start it, but to no avail. Once he runs the battery down, he tries his cell phone, but of course he can’t get a signal. Thinking like a modern person, he gets out of his car and starts trying to find a signal. As he walks around, he stumbles over the corpse of one of the bandits and loses his shit again.

The amount of noise he is making and the light he’s holding up it makes it easy for a bandit scout to find him and attack, thinking that he is a noble just as the company did. Jack’s old reflexes save him from being gutted with the first blow, but he is unarmed and in the dark, so it isn’t long before he’s on his back waiting for the deathblow. Saeth shoots the bandit in the throat before he can strike, though.

To show Jack she intends him no harm, she picks up the bandit’s weapon and tosses it at Jack’s feet then turns her back to him and walks a few steps away before turning back to gesture for him to follow her. Jack sees her eyes glowing in the dim light of his phone and concludes that she is the least dangerous option for now, and decides to follow her.

Still on the verge of a panic attack, he reutrns to the camp & reluctantly allows Aolynn to cast a spell that will let him understand her, and she him. The side effect is that they will both learn the language of the other. The company asks Jack about himself, his car and his clothes. His name doesn’t surprise them and they assume he is exactly what he says he is: a jack. Runjolf alone is convinced he will be a help to them, as the Battle Maiden had promised him.
Saeth’s news of the bandit scout does not sit well with Runjolf or the rest of the company. The decision is made that they cannot allow the threat to remain unchecked, since they are already trying to seek them out and most likely try to kill them. Runjolf asks if Jack can use any weapons or fight. He replies he’s good with a knife, and is told to stay close to Aolynn. Saeth is sent to track the bandits, and Jack is kitted up before they all bed down for the night & set sentries.

Near dawn, Saeth returns and rouses the camp. The company follows her to the valley where the brigands are camped. She tells Runjolf that they kept sentries up most of the night, but most of the later shifts slept at their posts. The company settles in to observe the camp and wait.

During the day, a few bandits ride out and Saeth observes that a few sneak out. At dusk, a large group rides out, but Runjolf decides to wait to see if they come back before attacking. When they do return, they are visibly weakened and injured, leading Runjolf to conclude that the ogre’s strength was a large part of their strategy. Still, the camp is thirty strong, more than even Runjolf and Markus can hope to stand against even with Saeth and Aolynn’s help. Runjolf devises a plan.

A few hours later, Jack finds himself near the horse pen with an unlit torch and a knife in hand. The plan begins as Saeth and Aolynn toss fire bolts and flaming arrows into the camp, setting fires left and right. Jack lights his torch from an open fire and torches a tent behind the pen, then opens the gate and lets the horses stampede through the camp. As chaos erupts within the camp, Ranjolf and Markus cut down bandits under cover of the smoke and confusion, until only a few are left, and they flee into the night. Jack even manages to kill a couple of brigands on his way out of the camp, emerging as the sun rises as a blooded member of the party, though still the new guy, and still as unsure of himself as the rest of the party is of him.

(Author’s notes: Here is where Jack Crosses the First Threshold. He has taken his first steps in a dangerous and harsh world, and emerged knowing he can kill a foe if needed.)
Demon's Apprentice Cover

Writer's Journey: On structure and the Mythic or Hero's Journey

Not much actual "writing" done today, for two reasons. One, I went back and took a look at the Hero's Journey again, and two, I did need a day to sort of let my brain relax and recharge. While you can totally force art, it does help to have a little fun, and nothing helps me remember how to tell a good story than some table-top role-playing. Hence how I spent my Wednesday night.

One thing that A Writer's Journey has been helping me to do, oddly enough, is hone my craft as a writer. When I try to explain why I do or what I'm doing, it makes me go back and re-examine not only the why, but the how. Thus I find myself studying the Hero's Journey once more and coming away with a somewhat deeper understanding of how to use it to frame the structure of my story. In fact, once I started consciously applying the hero's journey to the story, framing it became a piece of cake, and it prompted me to add certain elements that really enriched the story for me as a writer (and hopefully for the reader as well).

The Hero's Journey consists of seventeen steps, though not all stories will use every step. (The link to the Wikipedia article here gives a good overview of the steps, but it's by no means exhaustive). Other steps have been added in by other writers, but the seventeen basic parts are still my go-to for story structure.

For "A Good Day", I am going to use the following 12 steps (in some places, two things will be happening within the same scene):

1. The Call to Adventure
2. Crossing The Threshold & Supernatural Aid
3. The Belly of the Whale

4.The Road of Trials
5. Temptation
6. Confrontation/Atonement
7. The Ultimate Boon is Given

8. Apotheosis/Rest
9. Crossing the Return Threshold
10. Freedom to Live & Mastery of Two Worlds

As I start on the outline of the story, I'll incorporate how each part of the outline fits into the mythic journey. I know already that the Road of Trials is going to be a big chunk of the story, while the next two or three parts may all happen within the same scene as I currently see things.

Once I post the outline, there will be major spoilers, because you're going to be seeing the same thing I am, you're going to know how the story ends from the beginning, and you're going to see how I turn that basic idea into reality.

Wow, this was going to be a short post. That soooo didn't happen. Well, then, onward. Tomorrow, I start on the first part, Departure.