Project Log – Trails & Paths

Last fall, I jumped back into NaNoWriMo for the first time in several years. Really, I’d wanted to focus on a story I’d been dragging my feet on for a couple of months. But I’d ended up getting through that by the halfway mark, and so I thumbed through my Percolator for another story to play with to finish out the month.

The prompt I latched onto was one I often played with while driving between home and school on breaks during grad school – a pair of siblings, one a cleric, the other a ranger. I didn’t have many of my old notes, so it was pretty much an open playing field. I assumed I’d play with the religious differences that came with their respective lines of work, but as I started to really work with the idea, it became a different story all together, drawing in influences from other prompts I had lying around.

They became half-siblings (only a couple of months apart in age), their paladin father the common parent between them. While that alone opened the door to so many possibilities, I chose to keep it focused on just the two of them and the relationship that had developed between the siblings growing up. More than that, it became an exploration of each sibling on his or her own. I gave them a twist that the stories got a half-hearted chance to play with because I’m not accustomed to writing truly dark characters. And as I worked, it became clear I could work this into another storyworld I’ve been working on, and so that changed the setting, and in turn the story.

One of the biggest challenges I faced working on these stories is that I wanted to write a pair of parallel stories, something I’ve wanted to try for years, and I figured this was my chance. But I didn’t have the first clue where to start. Somehow, though, I fumbled my way into a process that seems to have produced a mostly coherent pair of stories. The characters and their outlines were developed together, and then their drafts were written and edited separately. Then, I went back, created the timeline for both stories to run in, and edited both stories to fit within that timeline. (It sounds backwards, but I don’t know that it was possible for me at that time to have done it differently.) and to sync them. Editing them together was also a bit of a trip. I eventually set them to different fonts so I could flip back and forth between them without losing track of whose story I was working on.

Another major challenge was handling the earthquakes that roll (pardon the pun) through both stories. Despite knowing they would be a part of the storyworld, I didn’t actually plan for them in the outlines. Or the first drafts. But it gave me time to really research and figure out how to incorporate earthquakes into the story. While it was a pain to layer them back into the story, it made syncing the stories easier, and it showed places where I hadn’t fully thought through the storyworld itself or the overarching timeline.

I’m hoping to eventually come back to these stories and pull them into a larger story, perhaps one that incorporates more action, maybe a little combat (which I don’t really write, either). But for now, the stories are out there for consideration and comment. And I’m looking  for my next project.

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