Hey guys! Welcome to a very special Town Line Tuesday. As you may have guessed from the title, I’ve just hit the 100 page mark on the novel. In honor of this landmark I thought I’d share with you all the first page of The Demon of New Salem. Enjoy!
Magic and technology, kingdoms and queendoms and distant planets, alternate universes and mysterious galaxies, magical creatures and alien races, to name but a few of all the little pieces that go into building elaborate fantasy and sci-fi worlds. World-building is a key part of writing fantasy and sci-fi, it’s a fun and creative process but also a necessary one—even magic worlds of make-believe need some sort of rules and structure, without them you’ve got nothing but chaos and your readers won’t be able to follow what’s going on let alone suspend disbelief the way they should. Still, while world-building is a lot of fun when it’s all in my head—seriously I could spend all day lost in imagining worlds of my own design—I’ve found that getting it onto the page is…less fun. The problem with putting the world-building on the page is that it, by very definition, needs to be done through exposition (the placement of often very wordy explanations of important background information into a story) and honestly, I don’t much like reading exposition let alone writing it. Don’t get me wrong, exposition, while annoying, is very important and I do actually find its contents interesting (most of the time anyway) it just has a way of completely bogging down the story.
I’m currently reading Ready Player One by Ernest Cline and let me tell you, the first six chapters were a pain to get through. The prologue explaining the contest was one thing, it set up the premise of the story nicely and it was all necessary information at that point in the narrative. The next six chapters however…well as interesting as I find the OASIS and I have to admit the background about Halliday is certainly necessary for Parzival’s solving of the puzzles but nothing happens in those six chapters. Parzival goes to school and does almost nothing there and the rest of the sixty-odd pages are nothing but exposition. Maybe it’s just me but personally I’d prefer the author trust the reader a little more to figure out what’s going on through context and small bits of exposition spaced out throughout the novel and interspersed with action rather than dumping everything on us all at once at the start of the story. Maybe you like your world-building all at once at the beginning of a book because when you’re finished, once you’ve earned the action after slogging through all the background muck, you at least know what’s going on and you can sit back and enjoy the ride. But I’ve got to say, I actually don’t mind being somewhat confused at the start of the book, I relish figuring things out on my own and the twists and turns in the plot that slowly reveal the secrets of the world I’m immersed in keep me coming back for more when pages upon pages of exposition exhaust me to the point of wanting to walk a way rather than keep trudging forward.
This reading preference really shows itself in my writing, I like to play things close to the vest, revealing things only when the plot demands it. Sometimes this dislike of heavy exposition and descriptive language works to my disadvantage as I sometimes struggle with making sure scenes are as descriptive as they need to be but it’s something I am constantly working on. As for world-building in The Demon of New Salem, since the novel takes place in our world—albeit our world with magic—the primary pieces I have to worry about building are my fictional town of New Salem, creating lore for the Supernaturals, and of course creating a system of magic and rules for how magic works and doesn’t work—which is what I am currently trying to work out during my writing sessions at my local coffee shop. It’s funny how given that magic is something that doesn’t exist, and can therefore theoretically operate any way I want it to, has me spending quite a bit of time researching… I’m sure my Google search history from my last writing session looks like that of a novice Wicca. Unfortunately, since magic isn’t real, it hasn’t been super helpful, but at least it helps to get some idea as to what plants and incantations supposedly do what so I have a place to jump off from when creating my system. Now to figure out how to put the pieces I have worked out to paper without falling into the trap of wordy and complicated exposition. It’s all about balance I suppose.
Hey y’all! Here’s another little out of context line. From page 36 paragraph 7:
“Sulfur. You know what that means.”
They say nobody exists in a vacuum, that no one ever goes through life without being impacted and shaped by the people around them. This is of course true of fictional characters as well. No matter how brilliantly crafted a main character, their story is nowhere near as interesting if they don’t have friends and/or family to support them or enemies to challenge them. In the spirit of this, I thought I’d introduce you to a couple of the central characters in Daphne’s story so far.
Occupation: AEGIS agent
Hannah is Daphne’s best friend and partner. She grew up in AEGIS–the secret vigilante organization that works to keep peace between humans and Supernaturals–her entire family having been agents of the organization for almost as long as AEGIS has existed. Hannah is a highly trained badass whose skill in hand-to-hand combat and marksmanship, not to mention her mile-wide stubborn streak, are more than a match for Daphne’s own. Even though Daphne is the one with the people-reading powers, Hannah’s even-tempered nature and easy charm usually makes her a better diplomat than often hot-headed Daphne. Especially when Daphne tells her exactly which buttons to push. Despite her lifestyle of living with a gun in her hand and blood under her nails, her hands are always perfectly manicured–even if she can’t quite lose the calluses on her palms–and she’s mourned the loss of more than one fabulous dress in the line of duty.
Hair: Light Brown
Occupation: New Salem Sheriff’s Department Deputy
Spencer is Daphne’s adoptive brother. While they share neither blood nor legal familial ties, Daphne and Spencer grew up together and Spencer’s father was more of a dad to Daphne than Daphne’s flesh-and-blood one. The Spencer Daphne knew was an intelligent yet carefree man with a penchant for breaking rules in the name of having fun. In the wake of his father’s sudden death, Spencer is a new man. A more serious, more suspicious, more reckless man, and yet still every bit as prone to breaking a few rules in the name of finding his father’s killer. He still blames Daphne for leaving New Salem without so much as a goodbye and now, ten years later, she’s returned from who-knows-where and he can’t help but wonder what her true motives are for coming home.
Hair: Graying Dark Blonde
Occupation: Lore and Logistics Admin for AEGIS
Once a field agent for AEGIS, Marge has long since hung up her sword (figuratively at least) and taken up a desk job at the organization, coordinating field missions, filing reports and researching and updating supernatural lore for the archives. It’s supposed to be a promotion but, truth be told, she sometimes misses getting her hands dirty. As Hannah’s mother, she has naturally had more of a presence in Daphne’s life as an AEGIS agent than she has with most field agents and Marge and Daphne have developed a strong mentor-student bond as a result. No one understands Daphne’s mindset at the beginning of the novel better than Margaret Beckman, even if she is worried what that grief might make her young friend do.
Occupation: Coroner for the New Salem Sheriff’s Department
Anka is the Coroner for the NSSD and a close friend of Spencer’s. She’s confident, smart, and the best at her job–something she’s not too humble to admit. She adores Spencer so even though it could cost her her job and every instinct she has is screaming there’s something suspicious about this Daphne character who has shown up at Spencer’s side seemingly out of nowhere, she’ll do anything she can to help her friend get justice for his father’s murder.
Eyes: Endless Voids of Evil
The Demon is New Salem’s one-and-only urban legend. In a town where the supernatural has always been impossible, no one tells stories about haunted houses or bogeymen or even monsters under the bed. The Demon is the only exception because she is less a legend than indisputable fact. The Demon was a real girl once, a citizen of New Salem born and raised. But time and fear have a way of twisting things and she was a strange girl with even stranger eyes; eyes they say could tear your very soul from your body if you looked at them too long. Said to have telepathic and mind-control powers–and those being only the very tip of the iceberg as far as what she can do–The Demon is the antithesis of all that New Salem holds sacred. So when people start dying of mysterious, seemingly supernatural circumstances in New Salem, everyone knows The Demon must be the one behind it.
Every writer has been subject to the plague known as Writer’s Block at one point or another and every writer has their own way of dealing with it, methods that are, ultimately, just treatments for the symptoms and not a cure for the disease itself–no matter what you do, Writer’s Block always rears its ugly head again. Writer’s Block can manifest in many forms and can persist for varying degrees of time, sometimes it comes as a loss of inspiration, sometimes as a loss of motivation or the ability to express oneself, it can last a few hours or a week or even years in truly severe cases. My own personal struggle with Writer’s Block is a near constant wrestling match between the story I want to tell and a brain that refuses to cooperate. Rarely is it an issue of ideas but instead a sort of invisible wall in my brain that makes it near impossible to get my ideas from my head to the page. It’s a sort of anxiety I think, a feeling like what I have to say needs to be said perfectly and if it’s not perfect, it might as well not even be on the page. Even now, writing each sentence feels like trying to squeeze that last little bit of ketchup out of the bottle without it exploding everywhere in a bloody red mess. Dad told me today that I need to just relax and just write, stop worrying so much about it being perfect that nothing gets done, which is good advice, advice I’ve heard before from several college writing professors, but saying it and getting my brain to actually comply are two very different things.
So how do you get that annoying invisible wall to go away long enough to actually be productive? Well, you’ve got your basic Google search of options. There’s the obvious putting it down and coming back to it later which is good for stressed out minds but not so good for productivity or lack of inspiration. Exercise such as yoga or anything that gets your blood flowing is always good–when I do have inspiration problems I like to go on nice long walks to clear my head. Some people say you need to minimize distractions but while I’m sure this works for some people, staring at a blank Word doc is the opposite of helpful to me. Listening to music is supposed to help but I always listen to music when I write (I don’t know about you but I can’t work in complete silence, I need background noise) so it’s less of a cure for Writer’s Block and more of a necessity. And then there’s the seemingly paradoxical tactic of free-writing. I mean, if you’re having problems writing it seems like you wouldn’t be able to sit down and, well, write, though I suppose it probably helps with specific problems with inspiration. You can’t figure out how to write the current project you’re working on, go write something else until you’ve loosened up enough to write what you need to write. Personally? When it comes to this particular kind of Writer’s Block, I prefer what I call the ninja method. When I’ve been staring at a blank Word doc, kind of knowing what I need to say but not quite able to say it, I need to shut my brain up so I can just relax and write. And in order to do that I need to sneak up on the problem; like a ninja. So I read. Sometimes a book, sometimes fan fiction, sometimes I just scroll on Tumblr, anything to distract my anxious foggy mind, to lull the anxiety into quieting for a bit, to clear my head and inspire me. Like the “walk away from this for a bit” option there is a very thin line between clearing up the Writer’s Block and your everyday procrastination. But, at least for me, it works better than staring at a blank Word doc getting increasingly anxious and frustrated.
Hey everyone, sorry I haven’t been posting regularly as of late, I’ve been a bit busier than usual. I’m dog-and-house-sitting this week for a family friend and I’m just getting settled in today so this week’s Town Line Tuesday will be another short one but I will be posting another non-novel-related post later in the week and should be back to regular Town Line Tuesdays next week. For now, enjoy another out of context line from page 21 line 11.
“I just follow orders dear. And so do you, so I expect you to keep everything you learn here hush-hush.”
In honor of Valentine’s day, I thought it would be fun to create a fake dating profile for Daphne. This ended up being way more involved than I originally imagined and I might go back and edit this at a later date (it’d be awesome if I could somehow get artwork for a profile pic at some point) but for now, enjoy!