Category Archives: Writing
I figured it was about time for another extract, so here’s what I was just working on. Presently, it’s scheduled for the second episode, though I can’t say for certain how much of it will remain because it might drag on too much… this extract is 1,600 words (only half the scene), while the previous draft was half that (first drafts are almost always rough, broad strokes, and I fill in the details later – very much as I would approach a piece of artwork, in fact), and my aim is to bring in each episode under 20k (so I’m not overworked). But we shall see. Is there too much detail? Too much meandering about? Not enough actual plot? Let me know what you think!
Here’s a bunch of televisual writers talking about their job to a misanthropic frog-faced journalist.
Word count for the current draft sits at around 40,000, about a quarter of the way through everything I want to have finished before I start publishing. That sounds scarier than it is. It’s also about as much as it sounds: a quick estimate puts it equal to around 42 chapters – almost half – of the previous version of Phantasia. A lot of it is coming from increased focus on character, rather than plot, which is a good thing in my eyes, though I’m aware not everyone will agree with me! Which leads me to ask: what do you prefer? A character focus, or a plot focus?
Phantasia, in its original 2005 form, was certainly plot-driven, and the second version – the 2009 one I serialised on this here internet – began that way too, until the characters themselves began to demand more and more attention and development. This, the 2012, Final Version (because I’m not going to do a Tolkien and spend my whole life revising and rewriting, only to have all my drafts published after I’m dead!), has swung all the way over to character. Well, to a degree. It very much depends on the viewpoint – Dante’s story is character-focused, Phantasia’s is more plot. It’s a a duality I can imagine playing out over the long term, and one I’m quite happy to embrace as the story is all about duality.
As for my own, personal taste? Character-driven, which feels an odd thing to say given the genre I write, but there you go. That’s probably why I was just able to blaze through a 4,500 word section that mostly consisted of two people, in a room, discussing their repressed fears, but hit a block the moment I have to plough through some action XD
(I should try and write a post about something other than my own writing…eh…suggestions?)
Just (3.30am!) reached the end of the first episode. At 25,000 words it’s a bit more than planned, but I’m letting it slide as it’s effectively the ‘hook’/’pilot’. Although how well it will work, given that the central character’s name isn’t even mentioned until the last page, is debatable XD
I had hoped to have it written and edited, so I could get some people to test it out, but the aforementioned length had put paid to that. I’ll be putting it aside for a few weeks now, while I concentrate on redrafting the next batch of episodes (some chapters of which haven’t been touched in at least six months).
In between enforced writing periods, I’ve started putting together some kind of image. It’s an evolution of one I posted a few weeks ago, though I haven’t added any characters to it yet. As you can see, our Moon isn’t looking too healthy.
…I tried posting that to Farcebook earlier. The compression was hideous. ‘High quality’ my arse.
A view with a moon? A moon with a view! A room with a view! Geddit?
…ah sod it, I need a Random Post Title Generator.
One of the overarching themes of Phantasia – which is far more apparent now than it was before – is the power, and meaning, of names. Naming characters is a pretty long-winded process at times, since I’m not the sort of writer who can just make something up.
” …you must understand that names have power. A name gives you influence. A name shatters illusions. A name…is a bond of trust.”
So, with that in mind, I thought I’d delve into the meanings of some character names. For the sake of the uninitiated, I’ll be sticking to the main characters introduced in the first episode (or else we’ll be here all day), in order of appearance. I believe I’ve covered some (possibly all) of these before in the past, but never mind!
1) Dante Orpheus
I’m sure I’ve delved into this one many times before: named for the poet, Dante Alighieri, and the mythical figure Orpheus. Dante translates to ‘enduring’, while Orpheus…oh boy, where do we begin?! ‘Darkness’, ‘Night’, ‘Separation’, ‘Father-less’, also has connections to ‘Oracle’ and ‘Oracular’. And, if you want to bastardise classical Greek a little, you could even say it was a combination of ‘orphe‘ and ‘theos‘, ‘darkness’ and ‘god’ respectively. It is fair to say that Dante certainly ‘endures’ all of these things. I haven’t even touched upon the symbolic means of using ‘Dante’ and ‘Orpheus’ – but a read of their Wikipedia articles alone should provide plenty of fuel for those who love their speculation.
2) Emily Fomalhaut
And in contrast to the above, there’s very little symbolic about ‘Emily’, but ‘Fomalhaut’ is Arabic and means ‘Mouth of the Fish’. It’s a star in Pisces. There’s a reason for this, but spoilers.
3) Katrina Ritches
Katrina also has a fairly innocuous name: her favourite animal is the cat, and her family is fairly rich (owning, as they do, an estate-turned-orphanage). Actually, it goes a bit deeper than that: Katrina is derived from Katherine, which in turn is associated with the Greek ‘katharos’, meaning ‘pure’.
4) Joel Gibson
Joel’s an old character, dating back to the mid-nineties, when I half-named him for a similarly-ginger goth fellow I was friends with. When I recycled the character into Phantasia, I kept the name for old time’s sake. It turns out to be rather appropriate, though, since ‘Gibson’ is a rather famous guitar manufacturer, and Joel is rather fond of his guitar! ‘Joel’ itself has no meaning. I guess it’s kind of generic? He’s a pretty down-to-earth guy. When he doesn’t think he’s a rock star.
5) Byron d’Arcadie
I’m presuming people know who Lord Byron is. You may also have heard of the ‘Byronic Hero’, so what better name for a poetic anti-hero? Meanwhile, d’Arcadie means ‘from Arcadia‘, or to look at it another way, ‘from Utopia’. Pretty self-explanatory, methinks.
6) Kaori Shimomura
Like her boyfriend Joel, Kaori is something of a legacy character from my work in the nineties, when I thought giving a character a random Japanese name was cool. I kept it, because it meant I could name her after Yoko Shimomura to balance out all these highbrow literary references like ‘Dante’ and ‘Byron’ with a terribly uncultured video game one (and because Kaori is herself a musician). Also, thanks to the Japanese language having some scary depths of hidden meanings, ‘Kaori’ can mean ‘excellent/beautiful weaver’. Given that Kaori’s primary artistic pursuit is fashion design, this seems appropriate.
Bonus Number Seven) Phantasia Caelestis
Are you ready? ‘Phantasia’ is Latin for ‘fantasy’, ‘idea’, and ‘imagination’, as well as ‘phantom’ and ‘apparition’. It comes from the Greek ‘phantazo’, which means ‘make visible’, which itself comes from ‘phaino’, which translate as ‘to shine’, ‘give light’, and ‘to appear’. Note also ‘fantasia’, which refers to a style of musical composition that is considered ‘irregular’ and not fitting in with excepted structures/standards. ‘Caelestis’ (I changed it from ‘Celeste’ for consistency’s sake, but they mean the same thing) is Latin for ‘heaven’ or ‘sky’. It can also mean ‘of the heavens’, ‘divine’ or ‘god-like’. You can put the pieces together. You might also note how the name in general stands in opposition to Dante’s: his is about enduring darkness, Phantasia’s is all about light and sudden appearances.
It scares me how much of my life I have possibly wasted trying to name characters. It also scares me how much time I’ve spent writing this post…
Since I released a draft of Phantasia’s first chapter for the world to see, I thought I might give some additional detail on the thoughts behind it – in this case, on the idea of ‘Theia’, or what we generally refer to as THE MOON.
The name Theia is a direct reference to the Giant Impact Hypothesis said to be responsible for the formation of the Moon. In this instance, it is referencing how the Moon is spiralling inwards towards the Earth, in effect creating a repeat of the original impact (well, sort of). Here is a dramatic recreation of said impact (that’s what I wished Majora’s Mask looked like – man, that ‘moon’ was way too small…). It should be noted, however, that scientists have recently began to revise this theory, and current hypotheses suggest a smaller, faster impactor at a more direct angle, as opposed to the slower, larger ‘glancing blow’ of the original theory. Either way, the symbolism remains intact.
Also of note is the origins of the name. Theia was a primordial goddess, a daughter of the Earth (Gaia). Her names translates directly to ‘goddess’. Also known as Euryphaessa – ‘wide-shinning’ or ‘far-shinning’ – she is the mother of the Moon goddess Selene, and an all-round matriarchal figure. And yes, some of this stuff is relevant, and those of you with a cursory knowledge of Phantasia (old and new) may well recognise some other names in that link.
To touch on a third level of pretentious symbolism, the idea of the Moon spiralling inwards is a metaphor FOR LIFE ITSELF. Specifically how humans pass their insecurities and flaws down the generations and how, with each cycle, these problems grow and multiply. You could call it a form of emotional entropy, if you really wanted to sound like an arse (like me). Just as people refuse to face their problems and live in denial, so too does Theia come ever closer, until annihilation is inevitable. It also represents the spiral of depression, in this case on a global scale: it’s almost as if the world itself is dragging its death ever closer. Each cycle builds upon the last, things get worse, the avalanche grows in strength, and so long as people ignore or deny their issues, their problems, then things continue to get worse. If you want to see another person’s take on this concept, you could do worse than watch Lars von Trier’s Melancholia (which I only caught a year ago, while researching the whole concept, but is now one of my favourite movies). If you’re wondering, the initial idea was – much like Phantasia itself – born from dreams: specifically a recurring narrative throughout my teenage years, starting around 1995, where the Moon would gradually grow closer over the years, and dreams featuring tidal waves tall enough to touch the sky.
On a more Real Life level, the change in lunar orbit presents us with some interesting possibilities. In the story, Theia/the Moon is about 100,000-120,000km distant: about 3-4 times closer than it is currently. Accounting for the wonder that is the square-cube law, that means the force of its gravity upon the tides is anywhere between 27 to 64 times its current levels. Here’s another clip to demonstrate the potential. Suffice to say, the tides around my local coastline are around 5-7 meters. If the more were 3x closer, that would be 135-189 meters. You can use your imagination for a Moon 4x closer (or more). I use the term ‘tsukinami’ (月波, I think – feel free to correct my poor grasp of the language!) in the story for such things – tsunami is Japanese for ‘harbour wave’, tsukinami? Moon wave. Or thrust-wave, which is also appropriate (the Japanese language is cool like that).
For further information on the influence of the Moon on the Earth, the BBC produced a documentary a couple of years back, which you can watch here.
And to conclude, here’s the original ‘prologue’ page from the old version of Phantasia. I was surprised no one ever commented on the Moon…
Phew. I’m not sure if this is what I should be posting in a blog, but there you go. Is this sort of thing interesting to people? Or have I bored you all to death?!
So, Dary, what have you spent all that time you were just talking about actually doing?
Well, after putting out the current draft of chapter one, I’ve been working on two and three. The second chapter is tentatively entitled ‘Belief’, and focuses on, well, people’s belief, and Dante continues to be a somewhat (in my opinion) unlikeable jerk. But hey, that’s the whole point of character development! The third chapter is presently called ‘Names’, and helps to establish how the two world (physical and imaginary) relate to one another, while furthering the actual plot.
If you’re wondering, Phantasia herself doesn’t make a proper appearance until the fifth chapter. I felt it important to establish the human characters first, and to give the reader time to get their head around the concept of strange, immaterial beings who don’t see the world as we do. That’s what eighteen months of research, world-building and idea-development do to a story XD
I would like to like to think my writing ability has similarly improved.
Working on a few things to post over the next week, but for now I’m going to share a draft of Phantasia’s first chapter (I must stress the draft part – I’ve already notes on things I want to change!). I’m posting this for those who have stuck with me all this time. I really do worry that people think I’ve given up, or that I’ve been slacking off XD
This is about the fifth variation of the first chapter I’ve written since the start of 2012. The first chapter is also a reader’s first impression of the story, so I’ve been going through all these different versions trying to work out what I want that first impression to be. One could go even further and say the first page – the first paragraph even – is the most important of all (and I still need to work on that). You’ve got maybe a couple thousand words – a couple hundred even – to establish themes and character, and get the reader hooked. I have no idea if I’ve ever come close to doing that.
On the plus side, it’s not the first chapter from years ago. My embarrassment over that tragedy is what has spurred me into putting so much effort into it this time!
So let me know what you’re first impressions are. The one thing a writer can never do is approach their work as a new reader would!
I’m not best fond of posting work-in-progress stuff, but I’m making an exception because I need to bulk this thing out. And because that’s kind of the point of having a blog (well, one of them).
I spent a good portion of 2012 getting to grips with a graphics tablet, and digital art, and I’m slowly making some headway. I’ll be producing cover artwork for Phantasia again, possibly in a variety of styles (depending on time, resources, and effort required), and presently I’m working on a cover for the first episode.
I think the purple’s a little gaudy, and I need to unite the various elements across the image, but it’s a start!
The following piece isn’t Phantasia related, rather it’s just something random I did for practise. I never got around to finishing it, but there you go.
Maybe keeping a blog will not only keep me motivated, but coerce me into actually finishing things XD
I’ve stopped and started this blogging business so many times, I’ve lost track the amount of times I’ve made a post commenting on how often I’ve stopped and starting this blogging business.
For 2013, I am starting again, and I shall leave it at that!
It’s been strange. I looked back at what I was doing creatively a year ago, and I find myself in much the same place. I was ready to put myself down with accusations of laziness and ineptitude but I know that’s not true, because I kept track of how much work I did, and I have quite a few notebooks to prove it! What has happened, in truth, is that I have spent a year refining my ideas and my techniques. It has been, for want of a better metaphor, something of a cocoon. I may not have achieved what I initially hoped to achieve, but my skills and abilities have (I hoped) grown somewhat in the process.
Nowhere is this more telling than in this blurb I’ve been working on for Phantasia – not least because, a year ago, I struggled writing blurbs for Phantasia.
On the morning before undergraduates of Torsten Academy leave for their summer vacation, a mysterious shining girl is spotted falling from the sky. Rumours soon spread that she is an angel, come to save humanity from sinthetic monsters, the falling Moon, and – worst of all – itself.
Dante Orpheus believes none of this. He doesn’t believe any of the fairy tales people hide behind to escape their despair. He believes the girl little more than a technological trick, a projected avatar of light sent from a far-off utopia to deceive and control the witless savages of the surface world.
His crush, Emily, is determined to prove otherwise. With help from his friends – misanthropic minstrel Byron, attention-deficit glam-rocker Joel, and reckless photographer Katrina – she means to break down Dante’s denial and convince him that, yes, faeries do exist.
But Dante is not the only one living a lie.
It’s only a work-in-progress at the moment, but it sums up the initial story, and establishes the characters, world and themes (and in under 150 words!). Or I hope it does. At any rate, publishing it here feels like taking a proper step forward, after I’ve spent much of the past year not talking about anything I’ve been working on. Hopefully, I’ll be able to keep up with the blog this time, and continue to post these sorts of updates, alongside other yet-to-be-decided things.
For 2013 I am starting again, but not from square one.