On occasion, I have been known to draw maps for stories I never actually write, if for no other reason than it being part of the world-building process that I particularly enjoy. The irony, of course, is that I don’t always manage to draw them for the stories I do write. Don’t ask me why. I’m sure I have no idea.
(Though. I should probably figure it out at some point, since I have been told by reliable sources that my track record on writing consistent and believable travel is… less than stellar.)
But, that’s beside the point. The point, such as it is, is that I’ve actually managed to scribble something together as a visual representation of the Verdant colony. It’s all heavily subject to change, of course, but even in this state it’s already helped solidify some ideas for the Tanner and Miranda stories, including giving me a better plan for an overarching and coherent story arc between stories.
What I mean is that I’m actually pretty excited.
So! Without further ado, I give you the current map of Verdant.
At the best of times, I am not the most patient of people. This was not the best of times. I was cold, wet, and hungry. I was tired– exhausted, even. I had watched a weekend that was supposed to be a welcome shred of rest go from bad to worse to something so unfathomably, irredeemably ridiculous that I could feel the hysteric laughter bubbling up the back of my throat. If someone said I looked like I was at the end of my rope, I would inform them that my rope had snapped sometime last week. Or I’d just cut to the chase and bite their head off.
Sometimes it’s just fun to write Miranda. Okay, scratch that. It’s usually a whole lot of fun to write Miranda. And the bit above is no exception. There’s a certain catharsis to getting inside her head when she’s about ready to start (or finish?) a fight, and if you said that might reveal more about me than anything else, I’d smile and shrug and admit that you’re probably right. And then I’d remind you that that’s half of what makes it so much fun.
So, recently I’ve come to realize that I’m actually pretty bad at writing physical descriptions of my characters. By which I mean, mostly, that I forget to do it. Because a lot of times I have at least some vague idea in my head of what my characters look like. Probably not as solid an idea as I ought to, but then, that feeds into the whole “bad at writing physical descriptions” thing.
On the one hand, I don’t think this is the end of the world, because even if I never say what color hair someone has, as long as I can reliably tell (or rather, show) you how they would react in a given situation, then I’ve at least got things moving in the right direction. For example, it’s far more important to know that Miranda’s first instinct is to punch a problem in the face (as opposed to, say, attempting diplomacy) than it is to know that she has brown hair. Which she does, by the way!
On the other hand, though, neglecting someone’s physical description while writing fiction can make it harder to fully and consistently flesh out a character. A character whose height tops out around five feet will quite literally view the world differently than one who is six-foot-six. They also might find it easier to hide in crowds. Or more difficult to convince someone that they’re a threat. Given that, it’s hard to argue that a character’s physical appearance is actually unimportant at all.
Which, if I follow my own logic, probably means that I should put a little time into actually writing down what Tanner and Miranda (and all the rest of my cast) actually look like. Because at the moment, I think the only thing I have written down in any of the stories is Miranda’s height.
“See if I let you go investigate anything on your own ever again,” I muttered. “‘I’ll be careful,’ you said. ‘It’s nothing,’ you said.” My mutter became a growl as I lost my footing on the steep slope and half fell, half slid a few feet down. Somehow, I stopped myself before tumbling off the edge and down the rest of the way to the canyon floor below.
Tanner wasn’t around to hear my rant, but that wasn’t about to stop me. With all the practice I was getting, once I finally got to deliver it to my brother’s face it was bound to be a rant to end all rants. It would remain unparalleled for all eternity. It would be the platonic ideal of a rant. Or at least one that would make him think twice about getting himself captured while gallivanting around without backup.
I tried not to think too hard about the fact that I was doing more or less the same thing.
Hey, look! An excerpt! This is one of the stories I’ve been looking forward to writing, mostly because it puts Tanner and Miranda in a situation that I haven’t played with much: on their own. But the question remains… do they get into more trouble when they’re together or when they don’t have each other to hold them back?
It turns out that writing a stand-alone short story for a contest was the kick I needed to start making progress on the Tanner and Miranda stories again! (Also, keep an eye out for the contest story in a few weeks’ time, since I’ll post it up here as soon as judging is over!) Anyway! I spent most of yesterday putting together synopses for the various stories that will make up the collection of their adventures for their first real book, and figuring out the overall flow for the book in general: what order they should go in and what tweaks the stories I’ve already written will need to match up with the rest. Continuity is a beast, you guys.
This is the first time I’ve been working on this collection in a while, since all my Tanner and Miranda related energy (such as it is) has been going towards The Dalton Job instead, so this is actually a nice change of pace. Plus, if it goes well, it will give me a great, solid base for all the planning that still needs to go into Dalton.
Also! My plan is to give you at least a little Tanner and Miranda related content most weeks, since I hope you’ll find it enjoyable (I do!) and it’ll help keep me honest. And disciplined. Ish. Particularly since I know I’ve been sketchier than posting lately. (Something something work, something something pandemic, something something SKYRIM…) Either way, keep an eye out for more excerpts, bits of world building, or even just descriptions of settings or characters. Also! If there’s anything you’re curious or want to hear more about (oh, the hubris), let me know!
But for now, here’s those synopses I was working on! Let me know in the comments below which one you’d like to see the most!
THE FIRST JOB or: We Encounter the Native Fauna
Tanner and I head out on our first job together: finding an expensive (and experimental) AI drone that went missing while mapping a section of the Badlands in preparation for a road between a couple of the colony cities (Coville and Oriole). It’s a simple job but it pays well, and it’s a good way to introduce me to Verdant. Or it would be if we didn’t end up having technical difficulties and getting stalked by the local wildlife. What kind of planet has carnivorous sheep anyways?
THE DELIVERY JOB or: The Rocky Road to Oriole
It’s been a few weeks, and I’m getting used to life on Verdant. The road to Oriole is coming along, and they need someone to help guard an important generator that’s getting delivered since they’ve had some recent trouble with bandits. We’re there mostly to provide backup for Oriole’s own Ava Loesan, but naturally, things don’t go as planned.
THE EASY JOB or: Murphy’s Revenge
We’ve had a rough go of it, and as much as I’m loathe to admit it, we could use an easy job. One of Tanner’s rancher buddies has us go along with an old-fashioned cattle drive just to throw us a bone: it shouldn’t require much real work from us. Of course, literally everything goes horribly wrong.
THE TRACKDOWN JOB or: To Catch a Thief
There’s a thief in Verdant! Or rather, there has been for a while, but the Rangers have only recently been able to close in on him, and now they’re asking for our help. He goes by the name of Blue, and he has an irritating knack at getting into places he shouldn’t be able to without being seen. Now that we’ve finally had a chance to actually rest and recover, our friend Paul Tarjian (Tarj) enlists our help in setting a trap and finally bringing Blue to justice.
THE SNATCHBACK JOB or: We Thieve a Thief
After our work tracking down Blue, word gets around that we know how to think like thieves well enough to thwart them, and a private citizen hires us to steal back a particular item with implications for the colony as a whole. The job seems a little shady, but the pay is really, really good. We do it, but only after checking in with Tarj to make sure we get the full story.
THE ETHAN LINDSAY JOB or: Never Trust the Man with the Thousand Dollar Smile
After a few successful jobs, we hit a good rhythm, and it’s easier and easier to get work as our reputation grows. The problem with that, of course, is that we get clients like Ethan Lindsay.
THE PRO-BONO JOB or: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished
Now that we’ve been on Verdant for the better part of a year and have gotten ourselves nicely established, Tanner wants us to offer our services to a group of colonists heading out to set up a reliable water line to a new town in the Badlands, mostly as muscle while they install the machinery. Trouble is, it looks like someone in our little group has ulterior motives, and might be working for the other side.
THE RESCUE JOB or: Out of the Fire, Back to the Frying Pan
A veteran bounty hunter hires us to help her scour the Badlands for a pair of troublemakers who have managed to get themselves on the wrong side of both the law and a couple of gangs. Oh, and they also happen to be the sons of a prominent local politician. What could go wrong?
THE PERSONAL JOB or: Bearding the Lion in its Den
All our meddling over the past year hasn’t gone unnoticed. That, or one of Tanner’s side projects ticks off the wrong ganger. Either way, someone takes it upon themselves to kidnap Tanner, and it’s up to me and all the favors I can call in to rescue him.
July is over, and with it my latest attempt at Camp NaNoWriMo. Technically, I didn’t win. In fact, I only got about a quarter of the way through my original goal of 20,000 words. It would be so easy to be discouraged by that, particularly as I know I can write more. Or rather, I know that in a similar amount of time, I have written far more than I did just now. So, yes, by that metric, this last month wasn’t a particularly resounding success.
However! There’s another metric. Specifically, the metric of how much I wrote this month compared to the last few months. And by that measure, this month was a smashing win. I averaged over 100 words a day. I made progress on mapping out a story I’ve been wrestling with (in one form or another) since last November. I knocked a bit of rust out of my writing gears. And for now, I’m happy to count that as a step forward.
Keep an eye out for some excerpts in the next week or so!
As most of you have probably noticed, I enjoy a good sci-fi show, which has led, most recently, to a rewatch of the Fringe series. Which, by the way, if you haven’t had a chance to watch it, you absolutely should. The thing is cleverly written with fantastic characters and ridiculously convoluted plots and brilliant relationship dynamics, and the thing happily bears multiple re-watches. Granted, I may be biased, as it’s one of my favorite shows ever, but what can I say? There’s a reason for that.
It’s also, as anyone who’s watched it can tell you, a spiritual descendant of the X-Files. I mean, heck, just look at the opening sequences of both shows. And, you know, the premises in general: FBI agents, weird events, extensive lore…
But the different lore of the different shows is also one of the things that separates the two, and part of why I actually prefer Fringe to the X-Files (sorry, not sorry!). Most people who are familiar with the X-Files will admit, grudgingly or otherwise, that the show’s lore episodes are some of the weakest. They tended to be overly complicated, and over the course of the entire show, rather short on answers and fulfilling story arcs. Don’t get me wrong! The X-Files is still great! The characters, Mulder and Scully’s interactions, the interesting ideas played with in several of the episodes; I remember one in particular that had me in hysterics the entire time because seeing the same story (with vampires, no less) told from both Mulder and Scully’s perspectives and with all the over-the-top caricatures that came with was brilliant, and no one will ever convince me otherwise.
But while I can’t immediately think of any singular Fringe episodes that stand out in the same way, the overarching lore is so much stronger. Maybe it’s just for the simple fact that the series does actually answer the questions that it raises. In fact, the writers did a fantastic job of going back to the beginning of the show and tying in all sorts of things that would have been plenty easy to just forget. Plus, it has one of my favorite love stories ever, and that never hurts. (Peter and Olivia forever!)
I think, simply put, the thing that I like best about the lore from Fringe is that it’s all part of a bigger story that the writers want to and do tell. And then, when those stories are finished, they move on to new ones. For the X-Files, it always felt more like the writers chose to add more twists and to dive deeper down the rabbit hole instead of developing a true conclusion, which unfortunately resulted in the show feeling like it was avoiding finishing the story.
As a writer, I think that’s something important to keep in mind. Stories end. They have a shape to them, a rhythm. And a good writer knows that. In fact, if I wanted to be melodramatic about it, I’d even go so far as to say that it’s a promise that each author makes their audience: I’m going to tell you a story, and I’m going to get it to the end. And I’m going to give it closure.
I didn’t used to get excited about writing more than one day in a row. But oh, how the might have fallen. Because I am excited that I’ve written at least a little bit for two days running, and that’s two more days in a row than I’ve done in longer than I’d care to think about. Thank God for sisters: they make awesome motivational speakers/writing coaches/literary border collies.
Can I just say that I have some writing related regrets? Well, just the one, really. The one where I let myself fall out of my daily writing habit. Even though I know it’s so much harder to start again than it is to just keep going; static friction versus kinetic friction and all that. And even though I had perfectly sensible–and possibly even responsible–reasons for focusing on other parts of life. And even though I know that I’m human, and therefore possessed of only finite capabilities, and that burnout is a real thing.
But as I sit here and stare at my painfully blank screen, it’s hard not to think that maybe I should have just slogged through. And kept writing every day. Because maybe it would be easier to be writing right this moment.
But, hey. I’ve been here before. Maybe all I need to do is just start writing again. And to start doing it every day again. It can’t hurt, that’s for sure!
Let it here be recorded that sisters are dangerous. Sisters, you see, talk you into things like Camp NaNoWriMo. Which, come to think of it, is just another way of saying that sisters are the sort of people who keep you responsible.
In other words, one of my own dear sisters convinced me to try my hand at Camp NaNo again this year. On the one hand, I didn’t need that much convincing. But even if I had been disinclined to try for it again, that would have required me to say no to the challenge put forth to me in a letter written in invisible ink. And you just don’t say no to something like that.
Check back in next time to see just how much this endeavor is kicking my butt! Ha!