Aftermath Part 3

Jareth made his way back to the old hotel that served as the headquarters for the Blood Skulls. It looked different in the light, less intimidating and more inviting than a gang headquarters should look. As he neared the doors the man and woman who had looked at him disdainfully yesterday snapped to attention and gave their best version of a salute to him. He shook his head and went through the door, laughing on the inside that this menacing gang didn’t have a single salute.
He climbed the stairs to where he remembered his vision going out last night and saw her still in her throne, wearing the same dress that made him actively avert his eyes from her form, and the fiery red hair that hung at her shoulders.
“Red, ma’am…” He started fishing for words. He had not planned what he was going to say or what he was going to do. He was mostly just focused on getting there alive. “I don’t know what happened last night and if I hurt anyone I apologize. If you have to kill someone kill me and spare my family.” His eyes were glued to the floor in disappointment as the last sentence left his lips. His father would be ashamed that he wasn’t going to fight this woman to save his family. Then the strangest thing happened.
Red cackled. She threw her head back in laughter and lifted herself from her throne.
“What you did last night was slaughter my lieutenant like he was a lost lamb.” She said her voice sing-songy in the way that let the crazy slip from the edges of her mouth. “You killed him without a second thought and so you took his place.” She smiled, too wide for it to be comforting to Jareth. “But that was last night and now I have a mission for you!”
Jareth was on edge. He did not remember killing the man, but the blood on his clothes and the floor and walls here proved that he did open someone. He recoiled from Red out of instinct at what eh had done and she grabbed his arms and brought him closer to her than he ever wanted to be.
“Don’t be shy. I need to tell you what I expect of you!” Her breath smelled sweet and minty and her teeth were sparkling white. She brushed her teeth regularly, a luxury that not many people had these days. “I need you to go to a new gangs headquarters and kill their leader. They are encroaching into our territory and I will not have it. I’d do it on my own but you will have such an easier time with it than I will.”
Jareth looked into her eyes trying to see if she was joking. Enter a gang’s HQ and leave after killing their leader. This was a suicide mission and this was how she was going to get him back for killing her lieutenant.
“Ma’am, I don’t think that I can go in alone and leave alive.” Jareth said still in her grasp.
“Nonsense with as easily as you dispatched my last lieutenant you’ll have no problems dealing with these hooligans.” Her smile came back, but her grip tightened in one arm as she dropped the other. “Besides you wouldn’t want to disappoint me would you?” She asked her tone turning to more of a seductive one flashing him begging eyes and toying with the front of her dress.
Jareth blushed when he looked to her hand out of instinct and averted his eyes when he saw more of her than he wanted. Red cackled again and gave him a light peck on the cheek and let go of him.
“If you don’t come back I’ll assume you failed and got killed. Your family will be left alone and to their devices, you have my word. But, if you don’t come back with the head of the leader,” Her face became darker and the song left her voice, “I’ll kill your family in front of you and leave you on death’s doorstep forever away from your precious loved ones.”
Jareth understood the threat and could make no words as his throat went dry when her face darkened. He nodded in agreement and turned to leave. He heard Red’s laughing until he was a ways away from the old hotel. He hurried his pace and changed his direction.
If he was going to do this he was going to need help and he was going to need more than just his knife, He would need to go see Raymond the Mechanic. For support and equipment.

Aftermath Pt. 2

He was faster than Jareth had anticipated. He drew the knife and dodged in just enough time to dodge the hammer like fist. He took a defensive stance and prepared for the next charge from the giant brute.

He came at Jareth again and this time Jareth tried to block the attack with his knife but misjudged the hit and it struck him in the stomach. Jareth was wrapped around the giant fist and his vision went dark, his eyes went white and he grabbed the arm with his free hand and sank the knife into the giant arm and drug it towards him leaving a long deep gash in the arm as he pushed himself away and landed on the ground bringing the knife back in front of him ready for the next attack.

The large man screamed in pain and lowered his head and began charging at him again. He was at Jareth in and instant, bringing both fists down in a crushing blow. Jareth moved out of the way at the last moment letting the hammer fists crash into the ground and sink into the floor. Jareth spun and brought the knife into the side of the Lieutenant and gave it a twist. The Lieutenant fell to his knees and screamed in pain.

Jareth backed away and came in with a leap driving the knife into the back of the Lieutenant’s skull. His eyes rolled back into his head and he fell forward blood streaming from the knife as he fell.

Jareth’s breath was even and he did not seem shaken. Red gazed at him perplexed that the timid man who had come to her to make a deal had killed her best man so quickly. She sat up from her reclined position making sure to move so that her dress continued to cover her.

She began to laugh and spoke, “You definitely earned your deal. But, I am going to change it now. You will work for me when I need you and your family will live in peace. Does that sound agreeable?”

Jareth stood there and sheathed the knife. What he had wanted had been accomplished and his family got to keep all of what they could coax the ground to give them. He nodded in agreement with the deal and strode out of the building more confidence in his stride and his eyes stayed white until he got home and laid next to his wife.

Jareth woke the next morning sore and confused. He had passed out after the first hit had connected to him. He did not know what was going to happen with his family and he did not know how he got home unscathed except for the muscle pain and the bruise on his stomach.

He got up and looked at his clothes. They were covered in blood and from the looks of it the blood was not his but belonged to someone else. he stared at them for a long time trying to piece together what had happened the night before.

It had been a long time since he had an episode where he could not remember what happened to him. He had done something then ht at he was not proud of. Every time it happened someone got hurt, either someone close to him or someone who had threatened him. The anxiety that he killed the hammer fisted man over took him and he hurriedly got dressed and ran out the door to rectify what he had done that he could not remember.

Aftermath Pt.1

So I talk a big game on here and thought I should try my hand out at using all my tips in a story told here and on my patreon. If you follow me there it will be posted earlier than here and you’ll be able to hold that over everyone else that reads it. I hope you enjoy.

 

 

It was cold, it’d been cold since the conflict but today was colder than usual. Buttoning the coat around them tightly they made their way to the run down building. The blade hung heavy at his side.  A large knife handed down to him from his father. Bullets had run out long ago making this pistol he carried just a hunk of metal and an awkward club.

He had agreed to this meeting to spare him and his family the torture at the hands of the gang that ran the area he had settled. Countries were an idea of the long past, before the conflict. Now it was all gangs, clans, and warlords. Everything was ruled by force and bloodshed. Somedays the ground was more red than white with snow.

His families existence had been hard without making a deal with the gang. He figured that if he gave them some of the food they were able to extract from the ground then their time would be better. He slid through the open door and rested his hand on the handle of the knife and sighed heavily.

“Nothing would make this meeting worth it.” He said to himself. Already on edge and the men on the walls of the gaudy red velvet room were not helping the situation at all. He walked towards the stairs. In the old days this building would have been a hotel with conference rooms on the second floor but now it served as the head quarters for the Blood Skulls. And he was here to meet the leader, Red.

An unimaginative name to say the least but the person leading the blood skulls made their living with violence and intimidation not thinking or creativity. No one had seen the new leader but the rumors were that they were crueler and that anyone who said the wrong things in meetings with them were not heard from again. All reassuring things he told himself as he climbed the stairs and saw the conference room turned throne room open in front of him.

On the throne sat a beautiful woman. She wore all red from her boots to her hair. The tattered dress came went down to her ankles with a slip that was cut to her hip. If she made a wrong move everyone would see underneath. The top of the dress had only one strap remaining, and it was on its last leg. She was lounging and unbothered by the entrance of the man in the brown trench coat and jeans. His attire was the opposite of hers in every way.

Where she was barely covered he was completely covered. His boots that were once black, now faded from continuous wear, dark jeans that had seen better days from when he got them, a simple shirt to try and keep the cold off him, and the long brown jacket covering his weapons. His beard was cropped short, not an easy thing to do now a days. He was not an overtly handsome man but his rugged exterior and attitude made him seem more attractive that his outer appearance would suggest.

“And who might you be? Our new plaything? I must admit I was getting quite bored.” Her voice was almost sing songy but had an underlying hint of psychopathic tendencies.

“No, I am Jareth. My family and I run a small farm down the road and I am here to make a deal to keep the Blood Skulls from attacking us.” His father would have been ashamed of him to come groveling to this gang. He had kept them away single handedly for his entire life but Jareth was not like his father and lacked the fighting spirit he had. He just wanted to live peacefully with his family until the cold came and took them forever.

“You certainly did not come equipped to make a deal.” She said as her eyes flashed and Jareth could not tell if it was because of some supernatural feat that more and more people seemed to have in the Aftermath or if it was a trick of the light. “I’ll tell you what with your equipment you will have a fight against my lieutenant there,” She gestured to large man that whose fists looked more like hammers that hands. “If you defeat him I will require a very small tax from your farm and you will be free to go, not to be bothered by us anymore.”

Jareth swallowed hard, had she used some power to see that he had a knife on him? How would he be able to defeat this monstrous man? Would he even make it out of here alive if he somehow did manage to win? But, in the end what choice did he have, he would just be killed here and now if he denied the challenge. He sighed again trying to stop his knees from shaking.

“I accept.” He said his voice shaking terribly and cracking on the end.

The women laughed at him and looked to the man she pointed out earlier. “Kill this farmer for me.”

The man gave a grunt of agreement and headed towards Jareth…

Why Your Stories Deserve to be Told

Why do my stories deserve to be told? This is a question that I ask myself over and over again especially when I am feeling down on myself. Who would care about what I have to say and who would even pay to read it. Well not to get sappy or weird but they deserve to be told because they are your stories and have your own outlook on the world imprinted on them.

This also means that everyone who reads it will have a different interpretation as to what the story says to them. If you write fantasy to one reader, or several, it could be the new Lord of the Rings. If you write horror you could be the new Guillermo Del Toro that they have so desperately been seeking out. And the same goes for every other genre of literature out there. Don’t be like me and listen to the voice in your head that no one will care about what you are saying. While I am one of the biggest fans of my own work I also can tear it down faster and more efficiently than anyone else that I know.

I know this post differs from my normal advice and how to do things but after being in a slump recently only to come out of it better I wanted to share with you, my readers, what happens with me and to not listen to the critic in your head unless you are editing a sentence. Small scale is ok, but when you start to criticize why you are even writing stories to begin with, that is when it becomes detrimental.

Writing the Male Power Fantasy

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Why would males need a power fantasy? Tricky question to be honest, but the answer is pretty simple: everyone likes to feel powerful. Now for male power fantasy the power is the visceral, combat driven badass with a limited amount of emotions. Basically just a walking powerhouse with a sword or axe. The problem with this character other than the obvious is that character gets boring to read after a while. Look at the most recent God of War. Kratos is still the God killing guy he always has been but is developing more as a person with emotions and learning how to parent his son.

This makes Kratos a more rounded character and more interesting to play and learn the story of. How van a writer work this in taking a fresh book with new character and make them the male power fantasy and establish that they are developing as a character and person? They can make the character similar to Kratos and use flashbacks as a device to show the character’s troubled past. Or instead of flashbacks using town folklore or interactions with characters that bring up this power fantasy character’s past work as well. There are several tools but the emotional development can be the hard part here.

It could be the death of a loved one thatvwas a result of one of their actions or a new child that they don’t want to be like them because they see that being them isn’t the best thing that can happen. Or something terrible can happen to them as a result of something that they did. But, those are just my ideas. I would be very I retested to heat what you guys thought. Please let me know so we can discuss.

Unsatisfying Endings Can Be A Good Thing

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Recently I finished Far Cry 5 and to not give any spoilers I’ll just say that the ending I wanted did NOT happen. Instead I was left looking at the screen saying that it was horse shit and the most unsatisfying ending to a video game since I completed Halo 5. But, as I thought about it more I realized that the ending for the game was set up so that the player would remember it. The unsatisfying ending made it a more memorable experience and overall a better story.

An unsatisfying ending feels like a cop out at first. The knee jerk reactions are that they are setting up for a sequel or that the writers got lazy and just let the story end without resolving the conflict that incited the story. I have a different view though, as I stewed with the ending of the game I thought more about how I would remember it as a story and how those mechanics could be used to make my own stories more memorable to readers. Not all endings should be unsatisfying because then no one will read it because every reader will leave the book feeling blue balled by the lack of catharsis in the ending. They are a great thing in moderation and can be used expertly in the context of fantasy writing.

Fantasy, whether high, modern, or noir lends itself to great story telling and some great unsatisfying endings. Leading with a main character and then at the end of the book with their goals almost accomplished a supporting character swoops in, kills the main character, and completes the plan because it was his all along. Or your hero is about to slay the BBEG(Big Bad Evil Guy) but unexpectedly the BBEG pulls out some trump card and overpowers the hero leaving him either gravely wounded and unable to stop him or dead as the narrative for the BBEG continues to show him ruling over the world, realm, kingdom, or universe.

These ending moments will frustrate readers because they will come out of left field and leave them staring blankly at the page wondering what just happened and they will wonder if they wasted their time, but if done correctly then as they marinate with the ending they will start to remember it as one of the best stories they have read in their recent memory. I enjoyed the ending to Far Cry 5. Honestly, I did. After the initial frustration wore off. I will remember it as great story telling in the game even if it was a little bit railroading in the way the ending happened.

But, I am always curious as to what you guys think of unsatisfying endings. Do you like them after the frustration wear off or do you stay frustrated that you wasted your time reading a story that didn’t end the way you wanted it to. Please let me know and I will be happy to discuss either view point.

 

Playing the Long Game With Characters

Chaotic Evil, an alignment most notably characterized by the Joker. But, that is a bit cliche in my eyes, the laughing maniac running around killing everything because they think it would be fun. There is a way to work with a “Chaotic Evil” character in writing and especially in fantasy.

A character can play the long game and appear to everyone around them that they are working for the greater good but in private they are working just for themselves or for something a bit more sinister like a demon or some evil god. All of the good things that they are doing could be for a very nefarious purpose. How can this be written though?

Think of the novel as more a game and work in the biggest picture possible. And, foreshadowing is going to be your friend. In a project I am working on my character does not know that what he is doing is evil. He is mostly doing what he does for the money and personal gain. That is one way to do it or the character can know exactly what they are doing, like Cersei Lannister in early Game of Thrones. This allows the character to be more manipulative than a puppet working for a dark shadowy master.

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While I am working on the former my favorite to read and to play as a character. These characters are smart and clever and always know more than they let on in their interactions with other characters. But, my question to all of you: What is your favorite type of secretly evil character to write, read, or even play? I am very curious to know what other writers and readers think so please let me know.

Phrases That Stick With You

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So I want to take a break from fantasy again and talk about something a bit more personal. When I was younger there were a couple times that I was told a phrase that really shaped who I am now and who I was at the time. I think everyone has these phrases whether we think about them or not. It wasn’t until recently that I thought about them in this context that I truly recognized the impact they had on me.

The first one was from an old friend of my dad’s who also happened to be a former school principle of mine. If you live in a small town this happens more than you think. But it must have been around my birthday because of the phrase that came up. He inquired about my birthday and upon learning when it was looked at me and told me that people born in the month I was born in were meant to do great things. Looking back on this as an adult it was probably a way to make me feel good, and it did, but there was another impact on me. This phrase stuck with me and has pushed me to be a better person throughout my life and strive to do great things even if that means that it gave me a perfectionist streak and I slowly finish the things I want to do.

The second one came from a school friend of mine when were hanging out between years in college. We were discussing career paths and how he wanted to be a youth minister and pursue that as a career and what I wanted to do. At the time I wanted to be a famous musician and had strived to do this. As we talked more and more he turned to me and said, “I don’t think you’d ever be happy riding a desk for the rest of your life.” This, unbeknownst to me, would stick with me for the rest of my life, or at least for the next few years. Recently I have strived for that desk job. Romanticizing it and eventually finding out that it was not what I wanted. That can be seen in my Office Suffering Series. I have chased that stability and tried to find it but where I have felt most at home and done some of my best work, according to me so take that as you will, has been when I have been working on my own and now riding a desk for income. Yes, the desk job has more income and if I could find a job willing to let me write and have a desk I would gladly take it, but most of the jobs I have found have not been for anything creative they have been very strict in their guidelines and the management structure has been worse.

I say all of these things to ask a question: What phrases were you told when you were younger that really stuck with you? Which ones molded you into the person you are today without you really ever knowing it or putting too much thought into it. Please let me know so I know I’m not the only one with these moments in their life.

Other Races In Fantasy and Their Uses

Elves, Dwarves, Goblins, Orcs, and even stranger things have become synonymous to fantasy and these races are almost always used for something. It can be to illustrate racial tension in the culture of the writer or it can be used in an allegorical sense equating a race to a group of people who were being killed for just being who they were. The most famous example of the latter is the Dwarves in JRR Tolkein’s “The Lord of the Rings.” He uses the Dwarves to symbolize the jews in Nazi Germany by having them being killed by the Orcs or Uruks who represented the Nazis. But, there is another way to work with other races in fantasy work that I don’t believe has been really explored to much.

Classism. Now, don’t worry this post isn’t going to be my very own communist manifesto. Races can be used to demonstrate classes. Taking a look at Elves, Dwarves, and Humans the picture can be painted that the Elves are at the top of the wealth pyramid and symbolize the illustrious 1% or the .001% of people on the planet in developed countries that control 99% of the wealth of the world. The Humans can be used to symbolize the middle class, they can make as much as the Elves but they don’t have the lifespan to accumulate as much wealth as an Elven family making it impossible for them to overcome the Elves. Finally, Dwarves are the working class and the poor. Why do I say this? Because, if there is a society run by Elves then the Dwarven kingdoms wouldn’t flourish, their society wouldn’t become as great as it could have been or it wouldn’t be seen that way in the eyes of the Humans or the Elves.

This is an idea I am working on in another project I am working on that is a modern fantasy work that really plays off of classism and class warfare where Eves are the 1% and control the wealth and the government of the world. I have not seen this symbolism done but I could be wrong, someone may have beat me to it. But, I am curious as to how you write other races in fantasy works. Do you use them to symbolize systemic racism in society of do you use them for classism or do you have them represent something completely different that I have not even listed? Please let me know. I would love to talk with you about these ideas.

Anxiety in Characters and How to Make it Work

Anxiety is something that a lot of people have in the world and it seems like that number goes up every single day. The world is a stressful place to be, but the question today is how do you use that anxiety in characters and make it work?

If you have an anxiety disorder the answer is pretty simple: write what you know. If you don’t have one the answer gets a tad bit more muddled, how can you write something that you have no experience with it and make sure that it is done properly. Looking at anxiety can affect people in several different ways: panic attacks, body pain, fatigue, and restlessness. Or if you are really unlucky you could have to deal with all of these at the same time. Personally I cycle through these symptoms depending on how anxious I am or how stressful the situation I am anxious about is. How as an author can you put these into your characters? How can you make these things sensations that can’t be explained away? Make it read like a fight scene or battle between your character and this unseen opponent that hits them mentally. Or a tightness in their chest making breathing hard and like someone is standing on it. Or the feeling of tendrils of pain extending from one point in their body and fading away as it get further into the core of their physicality.

Another way to write this especially for train of thought or dialogue is to have them repeat certain phrases over and over and over. The big thing about anxiety is dwelling and overthinking the simplest of situations. That leads to the physical symptoms and the panic attacks.

Why would you do this? To make your characters more relatable and because no one makes it out of life without scars. Especially not the heroes of a fantasy tale. That battle hardened veteran that slaughtered thousands of men with his sword single handed? Yea, he is pretty messed up in the head after words. No one can leave a climate of always being on the look-out and be fine in normal society and going back into that way of life would be hard after acclimating to normality. It puts that simple element of real life into your work that makes the characters more fun to read and allows the reader to place themselves into the story and live as that character that they want to be.

Anxiety while a terrible thing in real life is a great and super helpful tool when writing. I found that writing my personal experiences with anxiety down has been a big relief for me and made a character, that when I created him I was not going to like him, one of my favorite characters because I related with the situation that he was going through on a personal level.

I hoped this helped and if you personally have anxiety please go see a therapist and find some coping mechanisms they can be a great help. And, please let me know if you do anything different when writing anxious characters that I missed.