where do I go from here? part 2

I threw out some initial ideas in answer to this question in the previous post. Now, I’m going to take it a little further in hopes of showing you more of how story develops from your world, and specifically here, the magic of your world.

Let’s begin with Ms. Jen Neric, a 20 something priestess who has served at the temple of Dreb since childhood. Dreb is a god of fresh waters and closely tied to the river from which the people of her village derive their livelihood. That is until the day she mysteriously vanished from the village. Left in her home was a short and simple note.

Dreb has betrayed me.

Confusing to say the least. Save for Jen who had met face to face with a troublesome god, loosely associated with the temple of Dreb. Much like a 10th cousin you’ve heard stories about but hoped you’d never meet. He and Dreb had an arrangement, and it was her. This would have been bearable if it wasn’t glaringly apparent that his ill thought out agenda included the fall of Dreb and his own meteoric rise to power. Unfortunately for the both of them, Jen knew meteors tended to fall.

His name was Ikyris. As he told Jen, the man’s unfortunate demise was entirely due to the unfortunate spelling of his name. So he changed it. Did I mention that Ikyris was a god of misfortune? Jen believed his own misfortune, and therefore hers, was well underway. His ambitions were as ill conceived and unfortunate as his namesake. She also believed a lot of people would suffer if she didn’t find a way to circumvent his meddling in the world.

So, a holy priestess finds herself trying to thwart the ambitions of a very mediocre god.

Can you see the beginnings of a story here? The whole thing stemming from the world’s magic system (being chosen by a god) added to the individuals involved. One character a lifelong and rather moral priestess who feels betrayed by her god. The other main character an ambitious god who doesn’t seem to have any real power or skill, but one deluded enough to believe it’s all possible.

Most of what you read above simply sets the stage. If we take it further, maybe the sense of betrayal leads Jen to make more of the meddlesome godling than anyone thought possible in a bid to get even with Dreb, or she may come to believe that Dreb placed her there on purpose to have a friend in the enemy camp. And what’s more, it might be both before the stories over. Remember life is a process. It’s a process for our characters as well.

I hope that helps illustrate how the characters themselves and their interactions with the system develop the story. All of this simply because we have gods choosing their servants.

Now, let me give you a challenge. Take the magic system described in the post linked above and using your own trio of characters, throw out some ideas for a story. Please share in the comments if you would like. I’d love to see what you come up with!


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reporting in…

Time is flying by and I rarely know how quickly until I stumble upon a mile marker like the date of my last post. Ouch! I hope to do better in the near future. Thankfully, I don’t have anything complaints, life is very good – simply busy!

In way of update regarding September’s fast. The fast itself has gone well for the most part. Largely helped by avoiding a particular friend’s home where the TV is always on. However my filling of the void has been far from stellar. First I rediscovered a couple novels I’d been given but never read. 5 days, several hundred pages and a few late nights later I found the first week of September gone. My other nemesis, the video game, also reappeared with a friend who needed the guest room until he can get into a new place. Sadly I gave in to temptation far too often and worked far too little.

And you may ask, as I had to, did anything good come of this? Surprisingly, the answer is still yes.

I was still more productive as a whole. Just not in the manner I had envisioned. I spent more time behind my piano than I have in a long time and discovered the beginnings of a song. I found myself brainstorming further ideas on the big story project that is still growing after 21 Days. And the play was a welcome escape from the heavier load of work that comes with harvest time. So, all in all, it’s been a good month and a worthwhile endeavor still a couple days away from its expiration date. Who knows, I may yet do more than just look at the words of Eleanor Brown and get some editing done.

Finally, a promise to expound on the story that develops from the people within the system in my last post is forthcoming. A this weekend kind of forthcoming.


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so where do I go from here?

What is it that happens when we’ve come to the end of our 5 questions?

We ask more questions!

It isn’t exactly a profound answer, but it is honest. In a moment, I’ll sum up the skeleton we created through these questions. If you find yourself using the words “but…”, “what about…”, “what if…”, then you’re in exactly the right mindset. As you continue to answer the questions that your system breeds, you’ll hone it to greater and greater specificity!

First, let’s sum up.

Our magic comes from a supernatural source. It is now literally a gift from the gods. Furthermore, it is exclusive. Only select individuals are blessed with the gift. We’ve also established its power is sufficient to take on 5 average warriors at once, but we also decided that its minimum impact will effect 3 which may potentially harm people the caster does not wish to harm. This includes the caster himself. So, in order to protect himself from the dangers of wielding these difficult to control powers, he must tattoo one-shot protective runes on his body. Unfortunately for him, this means that when space runs out, ensuring his protection from the very spells he wields becomes exceedingly difficult. Finally, the methods for wielding spells are 1) incantations, 2) rituals, 3) imbued relics, or 4) some combination of the three. The specifics are dependent on the god whom that person derives their power from.

Now that we’re all on the same page, let me share some of the ways this system is fleshing itself out in my mind.

First of all, an individual is chosen by the god… whether they like it or not. Imagine answering the door one day to find the enemy of your people’s patron god. Pack your bags. You’re her new errand boy!

And let’s not forget these wonderful tattoos that keep us alive! How does that work exactly? Each rune is a symbol corresponding to a god in the pantheon. As some gods are more powerful than others, so too are the protections given by those wards. This can work to your advantage if that god is an ally, but should their be a falling out you might find yourself stripped of your armor. Terribly inconvenient if you hadn’t been informed. There is also a more general tattoo invoking an alliance of gods, but they have proven ineffective in the past. Largely because a god in the alliance must first notice it, and then choose to respond with a little power. Obviously, some gods are better about that than others, but are you willing to take that chance?

To take it further, there is no real outward signal to tell you whether your runes have been used. I take that back, walking out of a pillar of flame is very clear. It’s the not so noticeable attacks or charms that might leave you exposed. This makes it incredibly important that you set a regular appointment with your deity as they are the only one who can tell you how many are still effective. Let’s hope you he can get you in! And yes, it is considered wise to have several active at a time. On a side note, why wouldn’t I try several little spells to wear down my enemies defenses? It’s simple. You’re very likely wearing down your own at the same time.

Finally, regarding the method. It simply depends on your god. Casting a spell might be highly impractical like having to repeat a 20 word incantation in Ancient Sumerian three times before it takes effect. It may be something against your moral standards. Say a requisite visit to the brothel before you can cast a spell. And maybe it’s very simple, which may or may not work to your advantage. Imagine trying to live day to day while having to avoid the use of many common words such as sleep or burn. Have a Thesaurus handy? This is something that could lend itself to something serious and thoughtful or laugh out loud funny. I’m sure you can add your own ideas for gods and their whims. Oh, by the way, I forgot to mention that the god you serve might give her servants different methods for the same spell. Isn’t their room for a little favoritism? Just be wary should she get a little fuzzy on the details.

That should give you a good idea of where things can go once you have the basic structure decided upon. I hope you have as much fun as I have playing with the possibilities!

Next time, I’ll run with these ideas a little more in hopes of showing you places where the world becomes story. Things that move from the reality of the world to the perceptions of its inhabitants and how that creates their story. Cheers!


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Question #5: How do you do that again?

We’ve arrived at the final question in our quest for a system of magic. How do the people of our world use magic?

Now, before we address the question, we need to remind ourselves of what we’ve done thus far. Our magic comes from a supernatural source. It is a gift from the gods so to speak. Furthermore, it is exclusive. Only select individuals are blessed with the gift. We’ve also established its power is sufficient to take on 5 average warriors at once, but we also decided that its minimum impact will effect 3 which may potentially harm people the caster does not wish to harm. Finally, we discussed costs and limitations to the use of this power.

I greatly enjoyed your ideas and have let my mind wander down several tangents of my own after reading them. (I hope to share some of these tangents later as an example of where the process can lead.) For this world, I am choosing to use tattoos as the limiting factor. Hilaire’s suggestion that they are protective wards for the caster is the one we’re going to run with. One large reason for this is found in her wording of the idea which suggests that targeting the spell might be rather difficult. I like the way this fits with our minimum impact so we’ll be adding that as a cost/limitation. To sum up, spells are difficult to control and may harm or kill the caster if they do not have a tattoo ward to protect them. Once there is no longer sufficient space on their body, they have no further protection from their own spells or the spells of others.

Now, we’re prepared for our final question. Taking everything we’ve done thus far into consideration, answer this question. How? Are spells the result of prayers? Are they channeled thoughts? Do they require incantations or elaborate gestures? Are they channeled through a holy/demonic relic? Do they require preparation? Do they require components?

As always, have fun!!!

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fast to…

I believe each of us can quickly list off the time wasters in our lives, and we can do so with minimal effort! They are an ever present drain on our productive, creative lives. A drain that all of us would like to plug.

Life can be pretty hard on our creative lives. All to often the attempt to maintain artistic endeavors is like manning a leaky boat. The boat is our glorious ideals; it is the dream of uncharted lands and adventure. Unfortunately, we can barely keep it afloat. Life’s very busy trying to sink us, and it seems to fill the hull effortlessly. We end up spending all our time bailing water and never going anywhere.

As bleak as that image may seem, we can handle a leaky boat. Most often we get in trouble because of those time wasters we’re so fond of. In short, we’re bailing water into the boat instead of out. So what do we do?

Of the myriad possibilities, I’m going to ask you to join me in one. So grab your buckets and let’s start bailing water out again.

First, this is a fast. Most everyone is familiar with the concept. We fast by giving something up for a specific amount of time. So, choose one of your favorite time wasters to give up for a minimum of 2 weeks. We could end there, but we’re not going to. You see, we’re not only going to fast from, but we’re also going to fast to. Any time we take something out, it leaves a void. When we don’t fill that void, we feel it keenly. Simple enough, right? Just like a smoker who trades his cigarettes for gum, we’re going to trade up from our time wasting habits. Quickly imagine the place you want to take your dream boat. Now, whatever that entails, fill the void with actions that will get you there. These actions are what you are fasting to. They are the destination.

I hope that in this challenge, all of us will come one step closer to discovering the ship that will carry us to our dreams. My fast begins the first of September. I’m taking a break from TV and movies to spend more time writing and editing my children’s books. Will you join me?

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reasons to create…

“Since it is so likely that [children] will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker.”                                                      – C.S. Lewis

I wonder what prompted these words from C.S. Lewis. Though I don’t have that information, they still struck me as incredibly poignant. We all stand face to face with a very simple truth.

Life is hard.

When cruel events shroud our days in pain and suffering, it helps to know that something or someone can stand in the face of those shadows.

There is hope!

I can think of few better reasons to create than the proclamation of hope to all who will find themselves walking in dark places. I know how often I turn to stories to remember that the enemy can fall, that there are those who are noble and stand to fight, and that even I can be a defender, a protector, a brave knight in a fearful world.

I think this a truly happy and noble reason to create. To whom are you thankful for stories that have blessed you with hope and courage? What stories are you telling that bestow this blessing on others?

Go – and be a blessing!


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the “good stickers”…

One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our window today.

Dale Carnegie

Earlier today I caught a short story on the radio. Two women were working together on their scrapbooks when one asked about stickers in a drawer. The other woman would not use them. They were her “good stickers”. Her friend soundly proclaimed her a hoarder and set her in immediate therapy. She made her use the stickers.

I had to laugh. In part because I’ve been there. And strangely this is in keeping with the last post regarding excuses. Life has made me clear quite a few things out. That is the nature of hard times, but I can still remember the things I’ve discovered and kept for the elusive “someday”. One beauty of creative minds is that we can generally find wondrous uses for just about anything, and occasionally it is something truly special. We can already see just what we’ll create with it. That is, when we’re good enough.

Sometimes we hold off on using the “good” stuff because we don’t think we have anything to create that’s worthy of it. I’d use this wood, but it’s so nice I don’t want to mess it up. I’d use this (fill in the blank), but (fill in the blank). How many things do you have that you can fill in the blank with?

My advice, given not only to you but also myself, is to go ahead and use the “good” stuff. Just like the crazy people that pull out the expensive china for pizza night. Live!

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