Ashe Elton Parker

A Writer of LGBTQ+ Characters in Speculative Fiction

Tag: Necia Phoenix

Confluence of Ideas

It’s about 10:40AM on Sunday, the 11th of June as I write this. Sleep didn’t come to me last night because I took my night meds too late, and my second wind hit before they did. So I’m up, and I’m fiddling on the computer, opening random Scrivener files and reading incomplete wips to the point where I have the most desire to read to. I do this pretty frequently with my incomplete wips. A sudden desire to read a particular scene will hit, and I’ll start at the beginning and keep going ’til I get there. Most often, I’ll read to where the story abruptly ends, in a spot where it really shouldn’t end, but does because that’s where my creative mind gave out, either in the outline, or directly in the wip where there’s no outline at all.

I did that until around dawn, when one of my writer friends came into Writing Groove’s chat. NPhoenix and I will often ramble at each other—her rambling has a way of triggering thoughts on my own stories. This morning was no different, and I think I have to thank, in part, my exhaustion for that, because, to be honest, I’ve made the most progress on any of my writing, no matter what I’m working on, when I’ve been exhausted this year.

So she started rambling about one of her shelved projects she hasn’t been able to figure out for a while, but for which she got hit with some big ideas last night in a shower before bed. I can’t take the liberty of explaining precisely what sparked my creative mind’s ideas beyond saying one of the major plot points hit me hard.

And reawoke interest in a story I’ve long struggled with.

Honestly, I forget exactly when I first wrote the original opening scene to “The Rose’s Thorn,” but I do know I did so long before I got Scrivener, because I had to get a program called Open Freely so I could even access the scene, never mind edit it. When I did that, I transferred it to Open Office, as that’s the only text editor I had at the time that I could write in. And there it languished for years, with me opening it occasionally to read as vague notions—or just a simple desire to read the scene—struck.

In the meantime, I got Scrivener, and I eventually moved “The Rose’s Thorn” into that program. Last year in September, I rewrote the opening scene (twice) and tacked two more scenes on the version I liked better. In those scenes, I came up with the official title of The Veiled Court. Shortly after writing them (by a few days, that is), I decided those additional scenes didn’t fit, though they read well, and I liked them, which is generally a good indication that I’m on the right track with a story.

After that, I let it languish. Mostly because the ideas ended with that third scene, and I blocked myself on the story by declaring two scenes I liked unfit for the wip.

But NPhoenix’s rambling reminded me of an aspect of the story . . . and built upon it on the 11th of this month. So I opened the file after she was done rambling and posting snippets from her shelved project. I read through what I had of the story. More ideas surfaced, along with the opening of book 2. For one POVMC, The Veiled Court will end on a cliffhanger. That seems to be my “thing” with novel series. Heck, even in the one duology series I have, book 1 ends on a mild cliffhanger that could actually be a passable (if mysterious) ending if I didn’t already have ideas for that story’s book 2.

Beside me on the floor between my plastic drawers and my rolling drawers-and-file cart, I have four brand-new story journals that I haven’t written in. I’m planning on opening up one of these and scribbling what I think of for The Veiled Court today. Because this is the most interested in any story I’ve been in weeks. I honestly don’t expect this period of inspiration to last beyond today, but I’m going to run with it, for it feels good to be thinking about any stories right now, especially one that’s languished so long.

Suspension of Disbelief

I’m sure, if you read any kind of fiction, especially Science Fiction or Fantasy, you’ve likely heard the phrase “suspension of disbelief” in relation to how well you’re able to get into and follow along with the books and stories you read.

Suspension of disbelief is also important for writing fiction, particularly Science Fiction and Fantasy. I’m going to go on about Fantasy in particular, because that is the genre I know best, both from a reader’s perspective as well as a writer’s.

As a reader, I have a much easier time suspending disbelief in magic, shapeshifting, and pretty much whatever I’ve come across in most Fantasy books. There are few Fantasy books/stories I’ve started reading which I’ve given up on due to the fact I simply could not invest any faith in the worldbuilding or magical system of the world. If I have given up on fantasy books—any kind, whether they be Urban Fantasy or High Fantasy, or Epic Fantasy—it’s because something else about the book caused me to do so. I can’t recall a single instance where I came across a magical system or bit of worldbuilding in another’s book which caused me to say, “I just can’t believe that, so I can’t finish this book because of it.”

It’s much easier for me to suspend my disbelief when I’m reading another’s story.

When I’m writing stories of my own? Not so easy.

In one project I’d like to get back to but haven’t had a chance to really work on in a few months, which I haven’t even listed here on the site, I have plans for one of the Main Characters to create little spies out of wooden dolls. These dolls aren’t very big, and they’re jointed, and he dresses them, names them, and sends them on spying missions to gain information he needs about the place he lives and the people who are around him. When I originally wrote the scenes depicting these little magical mannikins, I had a great deal of difficulty believing they moved on their own because they were supposed to be inanimate objects—I could not convince myself the magic my character had used to make these dolls functional was “real” in the context of the world, so every so often when writing about the dolls, I froze and tried to figure out how they were moving without muscles. How they were communicating by thought-image without brains.

I can sometimes be a bit too literal.

I’m the same way with shapeshifters. Necia Phoenix, one of my writer-friends, has a world with shapeshifting dragons (check out her site; she’s got a list of snippets with these dragons, and they’re worth the effort). While, when reading, I can believe that these dragons do shapeshift into human form, I have difficulty keeping the belief when I consider whether or not I may want to add shapeshifters of any kind to my own writing. In fact, my first published story, Soul of Insurgence, makes a statement about shapeshifting on my world of Chraest—it’s not possible. Only substitution is possible. A Mage may capture an animal and place it somewhere to fool mundane people into thinking either he’s changed his own shape or that he’s changed someone else’s shape. In truth, however, on Chraest, changing one’s form from human to animal is impossible. The magic doesn’t work that way.

Now, on Chraest, if one has Healing Gifts, one may alter the human shape of their own body. Make themselves thinner or fatter, keep a youthful-looking appearance if they so wish, darken or lighten their skin, grow more body hair (up to and including like fur) or less of it (until they’re completely hairless from scalp to toes). That’s the way the magic works. But shifting to an animal’s shape? Impossible. I can believe in changing one’s own body to suit desires or self-image. I can’t believe in crushing a human’s body mass into an animal the size of a house cat (or something the mass of a traditional dragon into the size of a human).

I’m probably not the only writer with this hangup. It hasn’t stopped me from trying to do things which I know magic can do on my worlds. I’m not sure I’ll ever use shapeshifters, but I do intend to use the mannikins in the story I mentioned above. This character’s efforts at gaining information are too important to the plot, and he can’t go into the areas his magical dolls can—at least not without causing a great deal of suspicion or being caught snooping.

I’ll just feel my writing muscles stretching further. Which is a very, very good thing.

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