Aundes Aura

(This book is a work-in-progress.)

Eoin’s sister, Saera, is afflicted. Seven years ago, while venturing into a cave behind a waterfall, she absorbed the Aura of the Goddess of Light, who cultivates war by making men blind to one another.

Their father, the village blacksmith, languishes in the dungeons for refusing to fight in the Duthonian army, so the siblings must fend for themselves, begging for coin by day and stealing into houses for food by night. Meanwhile, the power-hungry Church prepare an army for an all-out attack on neighbouring country, Meira.

When the Aura reveals itself within Saera, the Church make it known they are coming for her. She and Eoin take flight and with the help of Faine, a traveller with a mysterious past, they fight off their pursuers. Making alliances they would never have dreamt of, they find themselves swept up into a struggle against the country they once called their own.

Sample Sunday: July 24th

     A dark patch indicated an exit up ahead. Stopping by the last pair of braziers, Fórdhain put an arm across Eoin’s shoulders and said, “Now, Eoin, when you get out there, don’t be going and doing anything stupid. There’s something we teach here very early on: if you’re not up to the challenge facing you, it’s better to run than to die. Or something like that. The words keep changing but it’s all the same concept.”

     “What about them?”
     Fórdhain chuckled. “They know how to fight.”
     “I know how to fight.”
     “Against trained men? Somehow I doubt it.” Fórdhain scratched the dark stubble on his chin and slowly turned Eoin to face him. “Come back here alive and I’ll show you how. You can stay with me and help us save the poor from hunger and sickness.”
     Eoin’s heart leapt. “You mean it?”
     Faine grabbed Eoin and pulled him back away from Fórdhain. “I’m sure the young man has more important things to be doing than running around with a bunch of thieves.” Then he whispered into Eoin’s ear. “Don’t let him fool you into his service. You still have a life to live.”

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Habitual July: Day 24

Well, I've missed a few days here and there unfortunately, but I wrote today and that's something. At this point I only have 1,000 words left to write to reach 7,000 words this month. I'm well past my 5,000 word goal of earlier months.

I knew this was going to be a challenge with school coming back. By George, it was!

I've been hoping to implement a schedule but we all know schedules don't work for me.

Anyway, here's the rundown.

12. Jul: 319
Total: 3966

13. Jul: 271
Total: 4237

14. Jul: 74
Total: 4311

16. Jul: 695
Total: 5006

17. Jul: 222
Total: 5228

18. Jul: 237
Total: 5465

21. Jul: 234
Total: 5699

24. Jul: 227
Total: 5926

I'm miraculously still ahead of schedule, but I'm headed the wrong way. No matter where I go from here, though, it can't negate the great accomplishment this month has been. I can only be proud of how far I've come, and hope that I can take what I've learnt into the next month and beyond.

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Sample Monday: July 18th

I had scheduled this to post on Sunday but it didn't. So here's the tardy Sample Monday. (Unfortunately, it doesn't have the same ring.)

Saera could hear the raucous in the faraway streets despite sitting in the Queen’s spare room. The sounds were uncommon to the dusk light that fell threw her window; there were no voices calling good evening or be careful with that, boy. They were shouts, screams. She leapt from her bed and struggled with the door latch, and when she finally got it open she marched with bare feet towards the Queen’s study. From there, from the balcony, she would be able to see what was happening. A silly argument in the street? A boy from the Underground thieving an apple? No, the screams she had heard were of fear, shrill and desperate.

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On Writing [Fantasy World Building]: Info-Dumps and How to Avoid Them

Ah, info-dumps! The bane of fantasy writers the world over.

A large volume of data supplied at [one] time, says the internet.

Czech: informace o výpis

In writer terms:
A great wad of information on backstory placed at an inappropriate time and/or in an inappropriate manner.

What's the lure of this? You've spent all this time developing your world and you desperately want to let the reader know all about it!

Give it time.

Your readers are smart. They don't need to know everything from the beginning. The most important thing in the first three chapters is to hook your reader into the adventure.

Start where the story starts (more on this in another post) and stay relevant to the action.

The biggest info-dump offenders are prologues and first chapters (Ryan, I'm looking at you).

Yes, yes, I've written a prologue and in my old draft I had a nice, juicy info-dump. I can tell you now, my new first chapter is much stronger without the storyteller character, and without it being seven years before the story even starts.

Don't bother reading the next five hundred paragraphs unless you really want to. This is an example of an info-dump from my old draft -- in Chapter One -- and an example of what not to do. (It also involves the fantasy trope of the storyteller!)

Also, this was almost 70,000 words ago and I'm a much better writer!

“And so the Great Peace of the Gods returned once more. Since then our country, Duthonne, and Meira to the north-east have not warred due the differences in our beliefs.”
One of the children chimed in, “Old Hanne? Do you think the war will ever start again?”
“I hope not, child, for the War of the Gods was one of horrors beyond your imagination. Ah, Eoin...and Saera, too. Please come join us.” They sat on the grass in front of him.
“What was so horrible about the War of the Gods?” asked one of the children.
“They didn’t just use normal weapons. At the beginning of time the Gods sent down gifts into our world. These gifts were supposed to make the world perfect. The Gods hoped that our people would be able to use these gifts to solve our problems. Careus Aura would allow a person to alter time. A man could decrease the amount of time it took for a berry bush to grow. There was Kathes Aura. With this gift one could take control of the nature around them. The Gods were confident that their Solution was the key to the success of this world, but not all had gone to plan. While the Gods’ plan was near to perfect, humankind was, and is, imperfect. If things had been different, if humans were better people, the Solution may have worked. But we were blinded by our hatred for each other. People began to exploit the Auras to their own ends.
“Duthonne and Meira have differing concepts of which Gods are good and which are evil. For example, Maechre, the God of the Passing, is revered by our people as the one who allows our friends and family to pass into the Overworld so that they can rest in peace. The people of Meira, however, fear him as they believe that he is the one responsible for the deaths of those close to them. It is due to humanity’s flaws that the War broke out between the two countries. Humanity’s ‘Blindness’ was our inability to see the good in others. We could not understand that there is no such thing as good and evil, right and wrong. There is only what people think. Yet people still believe today that they must be right. The Church teaches us that the Aundes, the Goddess of Light, is to be held in contempt. It is taught that with her light she blinded us, and in doing so she began the War of the Gods.”
“What about Arlea? What Gods do they look up to over there?” asked Eoin.
“Ah, the island to the north,” said Old Hanne. “It’s quite simple. Arlea didn’t adopt a preference to any of the Gods. It is in fact the only place which retained its traditions fully. Duthonne and Meira have changed so much now that they are but a shadow of what was. The two countries adapted separately from one another until now they are quite different. Come to Duthonne and you will see in each town a hint of culture, different from what you would see in Meira. However, travel to Arlea and you will not only see Arlea as it is, but Duthonne and Meira as they were. It is the nature of humankind to adapt and change. The people of Arlea had been served well by tradition, though, so they continued to live by tradition.
“Now, didn’t you three say you had to be home about now?” Old Hanne directed his question to the other children.
“Oh!” Quickly the three got up and ran off, leaving just Eoin and Saera with Old Hanne.
“Tell us another story, Old Hanne!”
“Well,” began Old Hanne, “do you know the Tarne River to the east?”
“Of course we do.” This was the river that the two would spar at to pass time.
“I’ve heard tales about a waterfall that can be found if you follow the river south. Do you remember what I said about Aundes, the Goddess of Light?”
“Yes,” said Eoin. “She’s evil because she started the War of the Gods.”
Hanne lowered his voice to a whisper. “Well, that’s what the Church says, but what they say isn’t necessarily true. I told you that Aundes blinded us and because of that we can’t see the good in each other.” Old Hanne raised his voice back to normal. “I don’t believe that. You see, people don’t like to think that some things are their fault, and so they blame them on other people.”
“So, Aundes didn’t blind us? It was just made up as an excuse?” asked Eoin.
“Probably. All I’m saying is that you shouldn’t just believe what the Church says. In our society, the Church has the greatest influence. Too many people today think that just because they says it’s true, it must be. I know much because I’ve always asked myself questions. From my studies of the world I now understand that there isn’t really good or evil. This idea is based only on what people want to believe: that they are right.”

Eight . . . hundred . . . and . . . fifty . . . four . . . unnecessary . . . words.

Why are info-dumps so bad? Because they slow down the real story, the story your readers are actually interested in.

How to Avoid Them

Stop! Reconsider before throwing them down in slews in the first three chapters. What your readers do need is grounding -- they need to know where the characters are, what they're doing and why. But of course, don't tell us these things (otherwise it would become an info-dump), but show us.

My new first chapter that I plan to write in my next draft, the main characters start out alone, hungry and desperate. But I don't want to go telling everyone why they're desperate. I'll show them instead. So in my first scene the MC will be sneaking into a house at night-time to steal a loaf of bread. That shows that they're desperately starving -- it doesn't need to be said

Later, we will find out through the dialogue of the characters that their father was taken away by the government. Or perhaps another way to approach this would be for the characters to have a discussion, which would then prompt a thought by the MC as to what had happened with the father.

And I think that's an important technique to take away from this.

Demonstrate your world-building through prompt.

When your character sees something for the first time in the book, that's a good time to throw in a line or a paragraph about it.
The path came to a gradual incline, and the horses soon began to pant. They continued to the top of the hill, where Eoin could see the entire capital city from where he stood on the hill. The water surrounding it sparkled in the thirteenth-hour sunlight. Three bridges spanned the water to link the city to the mainland. Two of them were in ruins.
Within the city, great buildings rose higher than the ones Eoin was used to back in Tarne. Rising above almost all the others he could see the church. The front of its roof was adorned with statues of the four good gods. The only building that rose higher than the church was that of the Grand Tower. Here lay the seat of power in all Duthonne. Since the King’s death several hundred years ago, they held dominance over the land as there had been no royal blood to replace the King.
The great thing is, once you've cut all those info-dumps from the beginning, it's much easier to find things to write about when you come to new places, because you didn't blow it all in the beginning.

World-build to your heart's content; it can only make your world richer and truer. Just don't expect it all to get mentioned.

Critique Circle Update

A very fleeting notice here to let any CCers know that if they're interested in critting or having a read, Chapter Six of Aundes Aura has come up early -- it should be up for review in a few hours.

It's a bit of a crazy chapter, so I look forward to people ripping it apart.

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Habitual July: Day 11

Well, it's that time again, and I come here today with a proud fact. I have written every day this month. And I feel that my "write every day" philosophy is working well to keeping my writing productive, even if some days I write somewhat little.

Here's the rundown.

6. Jul: 419
Total: 2463

7. Jul: 139
Total: 2602

8. Jul: 57
Total: 2659

9. Jul: 201
Total: 2860

10. Jul: 402
Total: 3262

11. Jul: 385
Total: 3647

So of course there are some dodgy numbers in there. I think it would be unrealistic to expect anything else. But many of the other times, it seems like I'm going to get another dodgy number. I sit there for an hour or two slowly writing from 26 words to 70. But then I push through, and come to a part that is more interesting to me, or a nice chunk of dialogue, and the word count runs away with me.

Speaking of word counts running away, the current chapter is nearly 5,000 words long at the moment, but I've already decided where to split it to make two shorter chapters. I think shorter chapters would facilitate the reader better than one long one coming up to the end of the first part.

The shape of this graph is exactly what I'd expect; there are days when it's just not your kind of scene, and you have to accept that. Writing through it, even if a little bit every day, will get you to the exciting scenes, which you'll blitz through.

Last night I passed 45,000, which was very exciting. That means I'm in the top half of reaching 50,000. I need these small goals to help me keep it all in perspective, so I look to the five thousands and ten thousands. They're my marks of success.

I'm more than halfway to my slightly more ambitious 7,000 word goal for this month, and that is with three or so days until we reach the second half of the month. It's clear from the graph that I'm ahead of schedule.

I'm also happy that I haven't dropped below that line -- the only time I was near it was at the beginning, really.

Anyway, that's me for today.

How are you going with your goals?

Expect nothing. Just write.
Next post:
On Writing [Fantasy World Building]: Info-Dumps and How to Avoid Them

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Sample Sunday: July 10th

The army wasn’t coming just for Saera. They were coming for him, too, even Faine. They’d take no liberties with harming anyone else, though.

Eoin was better off where he was than if he’d remained in Duthonne. That was the difference between the Church and the Queen. Meira was a place of community; an interleaving of class and mutual aid. Eoin was stronger here with people like Fórdhain on his side, and he in turn fought for the Underground. The Church couldn’t last the way they were going about things. Burning villages, stealing people away from their homes. Surely someone, sometime, would find the courage to revolt, and others would follow. If only the army, like the Queen to her people, could see Saera as a person.

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Habitual July: Day 5

So, it's been a few days now since I updated on my Habitual. I can gladly say that I've written all five days of this month, and most of the word counts produced weren't much to laugh at.

1. Jul: 248
Total: 248

2. Jul: 711
Total: 959

3. Jul: 347
Total: 1306

4. Jul: 126
Total: 1432

5. Jul: 612
Total: 2044

Wow! To be honest, today my word count was on track to being 70 words. What happened with that? Well, late at night, after hours and hours of perilous procrastination, I finally hooked up to my Write or Die desktop edition. At first I put in to write 100 words in 15 minutes, thinking 200 to be a decently respectable number. Then I fiddled a bit, thinking Why not take the pressure off? and gave myself more time to do it in (let's say 25 minutes). And then I wrote, and I wandered for a bit. But then I found my place. And I wrote and wrote. When the timer went off, I'd written 288 words (totalling well over 300). But hey! I wasn't done! I'd gotten into the flow, and I knew what I wanted to write next, and I wasn't going to wait until next time for it to get away from me.

It's those times when you're focusing so intently on the scenes rolling out from underneath your fingertips -- it's those times when the word count gets away from you. I can't believe tonight was going to be another one of those meager nights like last yesterday. I hate to think where I'd be if I'd gone to sleep instead (it's 4:00am -- no surprise there).

And then, then I see that over the past five days I've written just over 2,000 words. What?! I think that's more than I wrote all last month!

And it's so, SO rewarding to see the word count and progress meter in my sidebar trickling upwards consistently. Tomorrow I should be passing into the 44,000s. I'll expect nothing to last, but I will hope and try, and I'll enjoy this while it lasts.

Time for shiny!

And after writing tonight, a special motto formed in my mind -- and it's very appropriate to me, you'll find (although it's not "Use en-dashes every third sentence"!)

So here it is:

Expect nothing. Just write.

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Print Preview: A Look into Book Formatting

Below I'm going to provide some screenshots of the document I've been formatting for Aundes Aura. I've omitted the copyright, dedication and acknowledgements pages, as I haven't written anything for them yet.

These images pertain to the print version, which I intend to publish through Createspace.

If people are interested, I'll consider doing a tutorial for the result I've come out with.

Reading over this stuff has made me glad that I don't go back while I'm still working on the first draft. It's a glaring fact that your writing develops over the course of a novel, but you have to resist and even it all out at the end, after you've done the content revisions.

I'll list a few things I've learnt through this process, the basic stuff.

1. Times New Roman is not a standard font used in books! I'm going with Garamond; apparently that was the one used in Harry Potter.

2. You can easily make those big fancy first letters of chapters by selecting the letter you want to change, going to Insert and clicking "drop cap". You can even select the size from there. This doesn't screw up the lines as simply changing the size of the letter does.

3. (I already did this but it's useful to know if you're not already doing it) Use indents not by putting spaces in, nor by hitting tab, but by selecting the top grey part of the ruler and sliding it to your desired point. I'm going with 0.5 inches because that's what I seem to be finding in the books I read.

I will update on the Habituals front tonight when I've finished writing.

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Posted to CC: "Aundes Aura: Chapter Six"

Yes, Aundes Aura is making a return to CC! However, I will only be posting chapters as the previous one's period ends, so as not to incur extra credits. But this in turn will give me time to 1. Earn back credits and 2. Work further on Aundes Aura.

It's currently up for review in the period starting on the 20th.

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Sample Sunday: July 3rd

“Who are these people you have with you?” said the Queen.
“Athrù, Faine, Saera and Eoin,” said Fórdhain, pointing out each person along the line. “They have come to me with important news, and I highly suggest you read this.” Fórdhain slipped the letter Athrù had written from his pocket.
Queen Therese took it without hesitation, broke the Thief-King’s seal and read. Having finished, she slowly re-folded it and placed it on her desk. “Come with me.”
The Queen took them through the arched doorway, out onto the balcony where Emareus now stretched out before them in plain view. Over the tree-tops they could see all the people in the streets, every merchant’s cart, every shop-keeper’s stall, the kids playing chase and hiding around corners, the labourers hefting their stock. This was the city of Queen Therese IV, and from here she could see it all.

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Habitual July: Day 2, aka "What the Hell Just Happened?"

I apologise to anyone who finds the above word offensive, if people in fact do. But that was a little bit how I felt after writing tonight. There were many times when I could have stopped.

I don't know if I can say I was enjoying it particularly, although it must have felt great to get that scene out of my head. I didn't really feel any emotional reaction as I was writing. I just kept going, because I knew there was a place I wanted to get to and I knew if I just write that bit more, that bit more, a little bit more, I could get to the end of this scene.

So I did.

There isn't a feeling I could associate with the process that occurred. It was nothing I wanted particularly much; I wasn't inspired; I hadn't given myself a deadline or a big goal to fill.

I think I've worked it out now. It was one of those scenes that I always knew would be in the book, one of those scenes that I always used as a "checkpoint" to keep me writing, to give me a foreseeable goal to write towards. Those scenes I think always have a tendency to just topple out of me.

But enough about that. Let's get down to the nitty gritty.

Yesterday I wrote 248 words. I said, "I don't expect that every day but it's a great start."

Today I wrote 711 words. When I finished I felt like saying something along the lines of awhapbopaloobalobawhapbamboom!

That's a GREAT start!

Well, I probably wasn't going to post a Habitual today, but just look at the shiny graph!

Click to enlarge. [Is there any better way?]

How could I help myself?

The important thing now is not to get slack just because I'm ahead. I have to focus on writing something every day -- and who knows when the next whopper could show up?

You can't usually pre-empt it, so give yourself the chance every day to write a whopper.

Now it's done, I can't imagine how things would have happened if I hadn't sat down to write at 9:00.

It should certainly be noted that I achieved all this in blocks. At first I only had 170 words. I then used Write or Die with an aim of a mere 30 words in 15 minutes to get me up to the more respectable 200 words. But by the time I was done with that my word count sat on somewhere over 300 words. Then I must have gotten profoundly lost in trying to work out how I was going to write each tiny part of the rest of the scene, because I have no idea where the last 400 words came from!

À l'écriture!

Tomorrow: Sample Sunday

Habitual July: Day 1

Well, today was a decent success. Actually, quite a good success!

I wrote 248 words, and I don't expect that every day but it's a great start. I'm currently above the progress line. I'm sure I will dip under it every now and again, the idea being that I'll be able to reach my seven thousand with a few focused writing days thrown in among the consistency.

I'm going out tomorrow so let's see how I manage to fit it in then. I have a few more useful blog posts planned so expect one or two in the next week -- also, this Habitual should mean I can re-start my Sample Sundays!

See you guys soon!

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Welcome to The Dark Corner of the Mind. My name is Ryan Sullivan and my aim with this blog is to help others with their own writing, as well as to make note of some of my own writing endeavours.

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