Friday, May 31, 2013

Laughing in the Face of Death

One of the things I've tried to do with Damian as a POV character is to let loose his oddities on our narration. The way his brain works isn't too far from my own (what with the voices and all), and I enjoy word-nerdy things like alliteration, puns, and pithy sarcasm. Generally speaking, if you have a straight-laced POV character and then throw in the crap that I'm throwing in, it would stick out and be thematically incorrect. I'm hoping that by letting Damian be Damian, I'm also allowing myself to have a little fun with the prose without jarring the reader out of the story.

This scene is a perfect example of that. Fights are serious business. Right? And yet, I have some random metaphors and groan-worthy alliteration thrown in. I think it's fun. A literary stickler would probably lambaste me. I subscribe to the "write what you would want to read" theory, and these are tiny little jokes that make me cackle. Even in the middle of a serious fight.

Jim Butcher is, in my opinion, a master of this. I love his Harry Dresden novels, wherein the main POV character's peculiarities are completely embraced and provide for some hilarious jokes within jokes. Emulation is the sincerest form of flattery, so I'm definitely trying to channel my inner Butcher here. (And it has nothing to do with fine meats.)

Damian is no Dresden, but I like to think they'd get along if they ever met in person. Harry would be dry. Damian shy. But how often do you get to meet a wizard?!
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What Death Sounds Like

Righty stepped back and coiled his arm to strike again. Damian's feet danced away. Damian leveled out his weapon and balanced on the balls of his feet, ready for any dish to be served in this deadly feast. Righty delivered a ripe, overhand thrust, aiming the blade down at Damian's face. The oaf had apparently eaten his fill of finesse and was hungry for a main laden with brute strength.

Panic took control. Damian saw the knife in his hand and pictured dozens of movies he'd seen. As Righty came charging, he emulated them and threw the knife, end over end. It spun through the air, time slowing and light glinting off the sharp blade. The camera pivoted one-eighty on the blade as it hit the big man in the chest.

With the hilt. Which, of course, did not stick in like an assassin’s airborne offering, but instead bounced off harmlessly and clanged to the floor. Righty kept right on coming.

Damian caught a meaty wrist with both hands and they toppled onto the bed. The big man was on top, leveraging his weapon down. It would be over soon. This was not the movies. That knife swung down far faster than it should.

Oh God, oh God, oh God, oh God, Damian prayed.

Do I have to do everything? Inigo whined. Clear your mind!


Just do it.

Damian closed his eyes and tried not to focus on the blade bearing down on him. Mere seconds and it would be over. Over! He would be murdered in a hotel room. He could feel the cold steel on his chin, the blade sliding along as it went after the soft flesh of his throat. What's the use? Damian gave up.

He heard a pop.

So that's what death sounds like...
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Friday, May 24, 2013

Friday Focus

As the day winds down, I struggled to get this part out. I actually wrote some new stuff this week, but wanted to stick to this scene. Originally, there was a bit more which I'll post next week. Just didn't get to it today.

Fight scenes generally fly out of my fingers and then need a good deal of editing. There tends to be a lot of little, stylistic annoyances. Like redundant words. I also tried to tighten things up a bit. One of the tricks to good fight scene tension (any tension really) is to keep your sentences short and almost choppy. Not so much that it's annoy, just enough that the reader is pushed from one idea to the next. It can add a "frantic" feel when done right, which is entirely appropriate for a fight.

I remember when this scene first came to mind, I had reached a point in the story where I was like "now what?" When in doubt... fight scene! It's not totally gratuitous. There is a reason these baddies are tracking Damian. And there's always reason to kill when you're an evil henchman, am I right?

More next week! I'm trying to get back into things!
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Dark eyes drank Damian  in from across the room, feeding what they saw to the tiny flames and stoking their unnatural fire. Righty stalked to the foot of the bed, shoulders rippling as he prepared to pounce. Damian felt his hand tighten around the hilt of the large knife he'd taken from Righty's twin. Lefty's carcass lay between them, pool of blood percolating outward.

What now? Damian's panicked brain asked. He had no idea of how he'd managed to slay his first assailant, yet here he was with the man's knife, facing the second–are these even men? Damian backed away.

“I didn't particularly like him,” Righty said, giving the body a quick glance as he stepped over, “but I like you even less.”

Well, that's comforting, Damian thought.

Be quiet and let me focus, Inigo responded.

Focus? I'm the one in danger here!

Be quiet!

Damian resisted the urge to prod. If the voice in his head wanted quiet, Damian would comply. It wasn't like he didn't have more pressing uses for his brain.

“Yeah, well,” Damian responded, “you should leave now if you don't... if you don't want to... to... die or whatever.”

The threat sounded hollow to his own ears. Righty grunted. And kept coming.

From somewhere inside of his black sport coat, Righty produced a switchblade. He flicked it open and whirled it around, perhaps hoping to intimidate his foe. It worked. Damian tried to swallow, but even the smallest drop of spit couldn't find its way down his constricted throat. He coughed loudly, sputtering.

Righty saw the weakness and leapt. The switchblade flashed out toward Damian’s neck, slicing the air. Damian once more trusted instinct.

Reflex pulled him down while his knife hand shot up. It deflected the swipe away from Damian’s body. Righty regrouped, and aimed another sweeping slash at Damian's midsection. The hilt of Damian's blade caught that one. The move pulled Damian face to face with his assailant. Inhuman black eyes stared back, the tiny flames flickering wildly.
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Friday, May 17, 2013

Lefty For Dead

Lefty, despite the obvious threat of the lamp, hazarded another step. It put the man within striking distance, so Damian swung. Unfortunately, in his haste, Damian had forgotten to unplug the weapon from the wall. As the weighted base arced toward his assailant's head, the lamp’s cord went taut. Then, just as suddenly, it snapped free from the wall, flinging Damian forward.

The lamp clanged harmlessly against the bed’s frame, and a jolt shot up Damian's arm as he toppled. Some part of him must have been expecting the fall, for he felt himself tuck into a roll. One with the momentum, he let it carry him back to his feet. With a start, he realized his attackers were behind him.

Damian spun, lamp-weapon in hand. Or, rather, what was left of it. The base had snapped off and rolled away. It clunked into the baseboard, causing Damian to flinch. His eyes went to Lefty, who was still standing a step away. The man appeared even more menacing than before. Damian wasn't sure how that was even possible, but it likely had something to do with the two fresh cuts across the man's cheek.

The plug, Damian reasoned. It must have grazed him.

Lefty didn't acknowledge the injury, but Damian was sure it had to hurt. It was bleeding, after all.

“Sorry, I- ah... yeah,” Damian stammered.

To his surprise, Left grinned, though it fit about as well as a dragon in a dollhouse.

Damian didn't have time to marvel at the expression, however strange, because with the smile came a step and a grasping hand. Damian ducked with speed that surprised him. Even more surprising, he thrust the top of the lamp out in front of him like a spear. It jabbed into Lefty's gut, pushing him back slightly.

The man grabbed the weapon, trapping it and crushing the shade. For one awful moment, Damian was staring directly into the man's burning eyes, eerie darkness with a dash of flame. The perfect recipe for an arduous death.

Damian allowed instinct to control him again. This time it yanked his arms away from the suited stranger. Damian didn't expect the weapon to budge, but the crumpled shade ripped free. Lefty glanced at the remains.

What happened next, Damian would someday find even harder to explain. He had a great view of the events, perched–as it seemed–high in his own head, viewing everything from a distance. He was the audience for his own action film.

With the removal of the various parts of the lamp, all that remained was the long, skinny midsection with a naked bulb in the socket on top. Damian’s hand gripped the implement at the bottom and hefted it, judging the balance. Then, his arm brought it up in a circle even as Lefty was raising his eyes back to his prey.

The bulb caught the man flush to the side of the head and popped. A bit of white powder puffed. Glass speckled the suit. Lefty raised his knife, but whatever controlled Damian was quicker. Even as the shards of glass were bouncing of the man's wide, muscular shoulders, the lamp whizzed back around.

It raked across the man's face from brow to chin, tearing the skin. Blood oozed out of the cut and down into Lefty's right eye, partially blinding him. He swung with his knife where he thought Damian should be, but Damian's body had already vacated the spot, swirling to the left.

The dance ended when Lefty stumbled forward and Damian brought the broken bulb up under the man’s jaw. Damian rammed it home and the tiny fires were snuffed out. A red flood burst from Lefty's mouth. As the man fell back to the floor at the foot of the bed, Damian's hand darted out to grab the knife. It parted easily from lifeless fingers.

New weapon in hand, Damian turned to face Righty. The man wasn't laughing anymore.
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Rock, Paper, Lamp?

This scene jumps back to where we were prior to last week. There are two goons in the room and Damian has no idea what is about to happen. As they say, animals are most dangerous when they're backed into a corner.

This is the first scene where we see a strong hint that maybe there is more to Damian than his mundane exterior might suggest. Certainly the skill with which he moves in this fight is not native to your average cubicle dweller. I, for one, am pretty sure I would have a dreadful time surviving if I brought a lamp to a knife fight...
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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Make it Personal

I made a post over on my gaming blog that I thought was also applicable to post here. It's not going to be an exact copy, but I'm going to use large chunks and frame them slightly better for this blog. The basic musing came from my thoughts about "tortured" protagonists in fiction.

The class I used to play when I was heavily into World of Warcraft was a Warlock. These fellows consort with demons and are generally shady characters. I wrote some in-character RP back in the day, and it was always fun trying to make an evil, selfish character sympathetic. I like to think it made for some very interesting reading.

Last weekend, I went to see Iron Man 3 and really enjoyed the movie. I had the crazy notion just this morning that, you know, Tony Stark might be similar to my Warlock character. He's not evil, nor does he consort with demons, but he definitely has that selfish thing down. Let's just say: He's no Captain America.

The cool part about that movie, to me, was the cleverness with which the story was pulled off. In the Avengers movie, the very fabric of the world was in jeopardy what with the alien invasion and Norse gods and all. It was the epitome of a "save the world" plot. How, then, do you create a movie in the same universe, with the same character, and have it retain a high stakes feel? It's like... well, we just saved the world, now what? Sequels in general struggle often with this problem. The stakes were so high in a previous movie and any subsequent plot will fall a bit flat.

There is a neat little trick that I think IM3 nailed. Instead of putting the whole wide world in jeopardy, you need only put the main character's world in jeopardy. If you do your job and make a sympathetic character, then threatening things that are important to them can really raise the stakes without needing to resort to threats of a more global variety.

As a former Warlock, I appreciate this. Saving the world doesn't always appeal to me. Sometimes, well... let 'em burn, right? Yet, threaten what I love and... it's on! A game like World of Warcraft has a hard time using this trick, since everyone is a protagonist. Global threats are the only ones that seem to work , which perhaps is why I feel it gets a bit overdone there. They have some good story threads, but my favorite by far was the Lich King. Fitting, then, that it may be perhaps the most personal of the story-lines in that universe.

With Damian's story, I'm trying to use what I learned from my time as a Warlock. Tortured, somewhat ambiguous characters are loads of fun to write (and hopefully read). Just... don't forget to make it personal!
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Friday, May 3, 2013

I Bet He'd Kick A Puppy, Too

“…and that’s why I hate orphans. It’s not their fault, I know. Product of their environment and all that bullcrap, but that is exactly the problem. We abdicate responsibility so easily these days, you know?”

Not really. Damian wiped at burning eyes. “I–”

Sonny rolled right on over him. “Of course you do. Listen, I’ve really enjoyed our conversation. Made the flight almost pleasant for once.”

It was the first not-explicitly-hateful thing Damian had heard the man say. Even so, when Sonny reached into his pocket, Damian felt himself flinch. It didn’t help that the clunk of the cabin door opening timed up perfectly.

“Whoa, whoa buddy! Do you see a beard?” Sonny threw his head back in laughter, pulling out a piece of paper. “I just wanted to give you my card. Call me once you get settled into your hotel. Where did you say you were staying again? Let’s do drinks.”

Sonny pressed the card into Damian’s hand and, without waiting for a reply, strode down the aisle. Damian watched the man shoulder through several people in his quest to be the first off the plane.

What a strange and unpleasant fellow, Inigo said.
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Jumping Ahead

I know, I just went back to the thread last week. Now, I'm jumping ahead. I wrote a very small but brand-spanking-new chunk this week. It tacks right on to the end of where I left off prior to my little life event. I'll be honest, it's probably the first cohesive bit I've written in like 6 months, so I'm sharing it. My mind seems to be getting back into gear.

The story left off with our hero trapped on a trans-Atlantic flight next to a very rude fellow named Sonny. This takes us to touch-down in Vienna, and straight into our next setting. I think my transitions are a bit jarring when reading sequentially (perhaps less so in the episodic nature of blog posts), but I'm rolling with it for this story. I think the benefit is that it cuts out a lot of unnecessary meandering. I'm trying to give you just the essentials. That's not always a bad thing.

Anyway, here 'tis...
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