Where do Characters come from and what do they want?

Where do Characters come from and what do they want?

Interesting, complex characters are the most important element of any novel. I will tolerate the most cliched of settings and plots if I love the characters. When writing my own fantasy novel, (which involves the very cliched plot of a kidnapped princess) I sought to create a team of fun characters that I wanted to spend time with and see embark on future adventures. Knee-deep into draft three of my novel, Ghets, I’m not thrilled with my word choices (seriously Matt, you’re using ‘luckily’ again?), but I absolutely love my Ghets team. They feel rounded and interesting and play off each other well.

Creating characters is lot like creating worlds to me. There’s a long germination period where I play around with an idea in my head. I usually have some sort of framework to start with when I sit down to write, and generally can’t track the character’s inception point. Reez, my lead, started with some questions like why not make the lead an orc? Why not an orc woman? and grew from there. Elise the Coward’s backstory was a direct reaction to the macho-mythologizing of the Spartans. But other characters, like Jaques, seemed to emerge ex nihilo. I can’t even remember a time when I was work-shopping them.

Characters follow a truth that has become something of mantra for me and writing: everything is perfect, until it’s real. Meaning, when you’re doing the necessary, fun and frantic work of constructing a character in your head they seem dynamic and stuffed with potential. But then when you start arranging them on the page, you realize you don’t know what they’ll say or how they’ll react. No matter how much time you spend thinking about your characters, you don’t know them until you start writing them.

Writing is a process of creation, re-examination, and change (yes, I couldn’t think of a third ‘tion word), characters follow the same process. They start out one way in the early drafts, and then slowly evolve the more time we spend with them, shaping them, coming to understand them. I would even argue that it’s a good idea to just start with a scene, something you never intend to include in your novel, that’s just your characters doing something together or sitting around talking.

I’m a dialogue guy, so I do a lot of scenes of just talking. But when I first started writing I noticed that a lot of my characters sound alike. To try to find their voice I would play with dialogue, create lists of words they could or couldn’t use, tried to reach outside of my own vocabulary and vocal meter. I tend to ramble, so a lot of my characters did too. I tried to reign that in, create characters that said little or nothing and communicated with expressions and gestures or characters that spoke very precisely.

Character voice is important, it’s one of the few things that can help differentiate characters on the page. Ideally you want each character’s voice to be so unique that the reader can tell who’s speaking by voice alone. But what’s even more important than a character’s voice is a character’s desire.

If you want compelling characters you need to know what they want, and what’s keeping them from getting what they want. A lot of times what your character wants is something immaterial: respect, connection, etc. And also, a lot of times the character themselves might not realize, or be resistant to, their own desire. Ideally as the writer, you should know what your characters are after. Good scenes and good character moments are created when we let characters and their desires drive the plot.

If you get your character’s right they will help you understand your own story better, they’ll guide you as much as you guide them. Readers too will stick through a tough or detailed book if they love the cast. So take your time, play around with them, ask them questions. Figure out how they talk and think and most of all what they really want. It’ll help you figure out what you want from them.

Ghets Chapter 7

Ghets Chapter 7

Hi everyone! Thanks for following the preview of Ghets. This is the last chapter I’m going to post for at least a little while. If you want to get caught up on the story you can check out my Ghets Preview


Chapter:

With the Fellowship gone Reez ordered some cheesy, fried, bat wings. Despite being on the Aphetrrain side of town and run by a former Aphetrrian monk, the ‘Holy, Holy’ had a Dairkkul chef and she made the greasiest, most horrible for you food, you could get on either side of the Divide. Reez loved it. Nothing tasted better after a night of drinking and haggling than something deep fried and covered in stinky green cheese.

Odvid loosened his hood. He had kept it tight to make sure his red eye wasn’t visible to their guests, though Reez doubt it worked. Problem with groups like Markus’s was that you had to ease them into the differences between the two lands, force too much on them early and they’d freak out. Odvid’s red eye might have been enough weirdness for them for one night.

“That was…informative” Odvid said of the negotiations. “What did you think of the ‘Fellowship’?”

“I think they’re greener than me.” Reez said flashing Odd one of her infamous grins.

Odvid smirked. “Their requests… I don’t know where to begin. They don’t want to take the Gates? Or eat any food from Neradoom? They can’t travel over large bodies of water because they’re afraid Nord the dwarf will sink and the priestess wants to know if there’s any temples to Dhiamitrst they can stop at on the way?”

“They’re gucking insane.” Reez said inspecting her glass. Buzzed or not she decided it would be a waste if she didn’t finish her wine. “Don’t these fellowships usually come with a Ranger or something? You’d think with all the fuss the Aphetrrians are putting up about this group, they’d at least include some veteran who’s been to Neradoom.”

Odvid scratched his chin, he had been growing a bit of stubble there, most of it was black, but Reez spotted a white hair or two. “Given the timing of the decree the Fellowship should have made it here before now, even if they weren’t using the Gates.”

Reez shrugged, “Thinking the same, figure they might have taken a detour. Wasn’t there supposed to be seven of them? They only talked about sneaking five across the border.”

Odvid shifted forward, his chin resting on his massive hands. Even though he was just shy of twenty-five he looked like an old man then. The hunchback he was always trying to hide in the folds of his coat was sticking up like a mountain.

“They could have had some trouble on the road. But even so, Sphetrra to Ghetshaven is an easy enough journey through allied territory.”

Reez shot up when the barmaid brought out her plate. She stared down at the mess of wings and chunky cheese.

“Yeah strange,” Reez said pawing at her bat wings, they were still too hot to eat, so she had to make do with licking the grease off her fingers.

“Lot of questions about this group, like did you know Arilune was a princess? Or that she’s supposed to be an Avatar to some Elven Goddess? How that even work? She’s human, Markus too. Speaking of Gods, why are they avoiding the gates? We can sneak anything shy of a god through them. They’re being silly gunkers.”

Odvid didn’t say anything for a moment. He was staring out at nothing, getting all deep like he did. Reez focused on her bat wings. She bit in, snapping one with a satisfying crunch.

“I noticed you haven’t been taking on as much work since the kidnapping.” Odvid looked at Reez like he was talking to a patient, all concern in his eyes. “There was no way for us to have known what Crow was after Reez. It’s unfortunate, but it’s part of being a Ghets.”

Reez dropped her batwing. “What are you getting at Odd?” She asked suspicious.

Odvid kept his eyes on her. “You feel guilty. I know you waited for the Fellowship, you want to save Arilune.”

Reez laughed, “Odd it’s a fat purse nothing more. Orcs don’t care about the wise of the fighting, we jus—“

Odvid rolled his mismatched eyes. “Reez, it’s me.”

Reez frowned and squirmed a bit. Guck Odd for ruining her bat wings. “Okay, maybe I feel bad about the princess. But this is a win-win Odd, we get to make a lot of money, and the girl gets to go home. I don’t seem a problem.”

Odvid lent back with a sigh, him and Elise always sighing. Reez crossed her arms pouting.

“I don’t want another burning gatehouse Reez.” Odvid said, “They’re quest isn’t ours. You didn’t kidnap Arilune and it won’t be you who saves her.”

“I know Odd.” Reez said annoyed. “Plausible deniability, we only lead them some place and then lead them back home when they’re done. I’m the gucking captain, I know how a gig works.”

Odvid nodded, but neither spoke for a while. Reez started down at the congealing cheese on her wings. She wasn’t hungry any more, Odvid had lectured it out of her. She glared at him and asked the question.

“You coming this time? Or ‘am I too close to this job’?”

Odvid frowned. “I get it. I sound like the old Sergeant in one of those hardboiled guard plays you love.”

That a got a grin out of Reez. “You are totally ‘the too old for this gunk’ type.”

“And you’re a loose catapult Kaikor Reez,” Odvid said with a smirk. He shook his head. “Of course, I’m coming. Who else is going to shame you for going off contract again?”

Reez laughed and tore into her still warm wings. She might have been the captain of her crew, but they were Ghets not the Okkore, everyone got a vote.

“I’ll talk to Elise tomorrow see if she’s in.” Reez sucked up the cheese off a wing, still talking as she chewed. “Given how Aphetrrain pretty that elven mage was, I don’t think Elise ’ll be a problem.” Reez also had questions about what business a human princess had being the avatar of Anudica.

“I’ll handle Jaques.” Odvid said, “He’ll complain about the distance, but he was down at the races last night, I’m sure he’s in need of coin.”

The races again? The dumb weasel was going to get his legs broken for a third time. Reez shook her head and focused on finishing off her batwings. The Fellowship wanted to leave as soon as possible, which meant she wasn’t going to get to enjoy a meal this greasy for months.

Why an Orc?

Why an Orc?

As I wrote last post there are problem with Orcs. But despite those problems I still wanted to include orcs in my fantasy world and even make my protagonist one. Orcs are fun! Their dumb and violent tendencies can make them mischievous, even endearing if presented in a certain light. And as the ‘evil minion’ race of hundreds of fantasy novels orcs feel like the underdogs. Maybe they’re just misunderstood? Maybe what is so often seen as barbaric in orcs is just a different point of view?

Like any longstanding antagonist orcs have gone through several revisions and become heroes. Stan Nicholls novel Orcs: First Blood, tells a story of human orc warfare from the orcs’ point of view, taking a traditional band of orc warriors and making them the protagonists. Terry Pratchett’s orcs are near extinct and suffering from a case of bad propaganda. And then there’s the Warcraft games.

Warcraft started out with a traditional Tolkien set up. There was an evil army of orcs vs. an alliance of humans, dwarves and elves. The first two Warcraft games had the orcs invading from a dark portal led by evil wizards and hell bent on conquering and killing everything in sight. But with the third Warcraft game Blizzard (the game studio behind the Warcraft series) decided to do something different.

Blizzard deconstructed its orcs and the very idea of orcs as the ‘barbarian other’. They took inspiration from what happened to historical ‘barbarian’ or ‘savage’ peoples after they were conquered. The orcs of Warcraft III start off enslaved or kept on hemmed in reservations. Their story becomes a fight for freedom and once they achieve that freedom they desire to go back to their traditional ways. The orcs are still violent, a warrior culture, but one that is more complex and less aggressive than the conquers they used to be. They even finally defeat the demon overlords that led them astray in the first place.

The orcs of Warcraft moved from mindless evil to at worse worthy antagonists, all while keeping the things people loved about them. They’re still big and green and mean. They still have pointy armor and say funny made up words like ‘zug-zug’, but they’re given their own needs and desires. They now do stuff outside of fighting.

When coming up with my own orcs I took inspiration from Warcraft, as well as Wahammer, Tolkien and all the others. The orcs of Ghets like to fight, drink and eat meat. They have green skin (as well as purple, orange, and pretty much any color). They’re a proud warrior society, that fights in ‘hordes’. And they’re the underdogs, despised by both Aphetrria the land of Order, and Neradoom the land of Chaos. But in Ghets, the orc’s ruling body, the ‘Okkore’ is the closest thing there is to a medieval UN.

The orcs of Ghets were created by the god Kor to act as border guards, to prevent Aphetrria and Neradoom from killing each other. They take their mandate seriously, and even went so far as to conquer both lands to put an end to the millennia long war. It didn’t work, and by the time the novel begins the Orcs are trying to learn from their past mistakes.

I don’t spend too much time with the Okkore in Ghets, I’ve got more planned there for another novel. Reez is the orc that readers get to know the best, since she’s the lead. Reez is all the stuff I love about orcs with none of the baggage. She’s a carefree adventurer that’s always cursing in funny made up words: guck, gunking guckers. She loves to fight and get into trouble, but she’s not mean or even mercenary in her thinking or actions. She’s clever without being condescending and most of all she doesn’t take herself seriously.

Reez would find the abject barbarism of orcs like those in the Shadow of Mordor series to be comically over the top. Like the people she comes from, Reez is down to earth, an orc that’s good at fighting, but is into other things than just conquest and plunder. She’s got her bones in the old greenskin trope, but she’s grown out of them into her own character. I really like spending time with her and I hope you will too!

 

Ghets Chapter 4

Ghets Chapter 4

This week on Fiction Friday, it’s Ghets Chapter 4! We meet Markus and his Fellowship as they quest to save the Princess Reez just helped kidnap.

You can find the first three chapters of Ghets here


Chapter

It was night as Markus and his Fellowship approached Ghetshaven. To the East over the banks of the Divide a Black Sun hung in the air. Markus had never seen something so wrong. It was the blackest of black, darker than the very night and yet it’s edges radiated a pale light. It was a twisted mockery of the moon. The product of a dark and foul place, one where the moon and sun dare not tread. Neradoom, the land of demons.

Markus was close now, closer than he had been in months. Soon he would see her again, his love, Princess Arilune.

Markus winced at the thought of the Princess. He remembered lying next to her on nights like this. Her deep green eyes, the bright freckles that dotted her face like a mask, her wild red hair. He remembered the feeling of Arilune’s slender shoulders against his chest. He would stare at her in shock that this dainty girl, the girl he loved, was the avatar of Victorious Anudica, Goddess of War.

Arilune could be fierce in her way, but she was no warrior. She was a princess, regal, capable at diplomacy and the intrigues of court life. But for combat, she relayed on Markus to be her knight and champion. He had defended Arilune ever since they first met, having sworn that he would always be there for her.

He wasn’t.

Markus was at Lunderbik when the demons attacked. Smoke choked the air. Alarm bells and shouts rang out. Bucket brigades collided with guards as chaos engulfed the manor. Lost and searching for Arilune, Markus had stumbled upon the fleeing demons.

They had the princess. She was bound and rolled up in a rug, being carted off like livestock. Markus charged the Dairkkul intent on freeing his Princess, but was stopped by a fiend, one of the demon’s slaves and monstrosities.

The creature had claws like daggers and raked Markus’s chest. The pain was immense, but rage carried Markus through and he fought the creature to standstill eventually taking its head. Bleeding and panting Markus ran in the direction the dairkkul had fled, but they were already gone.

Weeks later when the elves of Sphetrra, Anudica’s holy city, called for a Fellowship to save the avatar, Markus was the first to volunteer. The elves were rightfully suspicious of him. How could they trust the so called ‘knight’ who allowed Arilune to be kidnapped in the first place? But Markus’s persistence slowly won them over. They included Markus and his mentor, the grand sir Roland, in the Fellowship. The pair were joined by five other elite warriors picked from all over Aphetrria.

But the journey had proven difficult, even for a company of heroes’ such as Markus’s Fellowship. Before reaching Neradoom they had already suffered death and betrayal. Three warriors had fallen, including Aawut the Fellowship’s ranger and guide. Now Markus was left with only three official members and one apprentice and they hadn’t even made it halfway.

Markus touched Impaladius the sword that was lost and now found.

“Was it worth it?” He asked his companions as they neared Ghetshaven.

“It was.” Meiral said. Meiral was an elven mage and Priestess to Dhiamitrst the fertility goddess. She was gentle, and Markus often found her words to be of great comfort, a comfort he needed now more than ever.

“We’ve lost so much” Markus said. “Meraldo first, now Aawut and Aeikhu…” Markus twisted his grip around Impaladius’s hilt. “I still can’t believe Aeiku was a traitor!”

Meiral came closer, her voice soothing. “Aeikhu was Unclaimed, they have been fighting this war longer than anyone, Markus. There was no way for you to know.” Meiral’s Lori’ve accent made her words fluffy turning ‘they’ to ‘zey’. Markus let out a calm breath. It was hard to be anything but hopeful in Meral’s presence.

“It’ll be alright.” Roland said coming up to meet his former squire. “We’re nearly there.”

Markus stared at the round, soft face of his mentor. Roland had been one of the greatest tourney knights Markus had known. But Roland had seen less war than even Markus and he was old and growing frail. Markus couldn’t help but feel protective of him, of all the Fellowship. He glanced back at Yin and Nord staggering behind them.

Nord the dwarf was limping, still recovering from Aiekhu’s attack. Yin was helping him walk. Yin was taking Aawut’s death the hardest. She wouldn’t even look at Markus, instead hiding her good eye under her straight black hair.

At first Markus had found it difficult to believe that Yin was a ranger in training. She was only part elf and had already lost an eye despite being younger than Markus himself. She seemed undisciplined and bragged of once being a pickpocket. But she had proven her worth as guide in the tombs of Ruinsway. And she seemed determined, shadowing Aawut, trying to copy his every move.

Markus looked at Roland and wondered how he would have taken his mentor’s death, if the knight had fallen while Markus was still a squire. He shook his head, he would be half the warrior he was today.

Sadness and frustration gripped Markus. His Fellowship was wounded, lost and nearly beaten. He hated to admit it, but they needed help. A guide to replace Aawut, a mage to help Meiral, warriors to keep the Fellowship safe. He had been debating it with Roland for weeks now, but after Aeikhu’s betrayal there was no choice. They needed Ghets.

Ghets Chapter 3

Ghets Chapter 3

This week on ‘Fiction Fridays’ it’s chapter 3 of Ghets. We visit Ghetshaven and Reez learns of the consequence of her last job. Hope you enjoy!

You can find Chapters 1 and 2 here


Chapter

Reez stared at the wilting leaves of her Mawba plant. Odvid had gotten the plant for her because it was notoriously hard to kill. You could feed it water or booze, plant it in soil or in a bowl of steam and it would still prosper. If the Mawba’s leaves weren’t a pretty red-brown with maroon flowers, and if it didn’t take forever to grow and spread, it might have been considered a weed. It even grew in the Under-Kingdoms way beneath the earth, that was how little care it needed. And yet, Reez was still managing to kill hers.

As an orc that should have been a point of pride, she could kill anything. But Reez just huffed and fed the plant some more wine, hoping that would perk it up. Wine usually had that effect on Reez…usually. She had been in a funk the last couple of weeks and even going out for drinks with her team wasn’t doing it for her.

Reez was sure it was her little apartment in Ghetshaven. She was getting bored and claustrophobic. It had absolutely nothing to do with lingering guilt about stealing some redheaded human girl in the middle of the night. No, what Reez needed was to get out of town on some job. After guiding caravans through The Bitter Pass or hunting for treasure in Ruinsway she’d be back to her old self. Satisfied with the plan, Reez split the remainder of her wine with her plant and headed out for Oath Hall.

It was raining out on the Neradoomin side of town, so Reez kept to the streets on the Aphetrrian side where it was nice and sunny. Reez was fortunate enough to grab an apartment on Godless Isle. Godless was the old part of Ghetshaven and sat right in the middle of The River of the Great Divide (or just the Divide, as the locals called it.). Godless Isle was one of the few borders between Aphetrria and Neradoom where you could simply walk across from one land to the other.

Godless also had easy access to Gate Square and Oath Hall, as well as any guild or merchant offices Reez might need to visit. But it wasn’t cheap. Reez’s team went in for bigger places on either side of the Divide, placing them in Aphetrria or Neradoom proper.

Reez scoured the pre-written contracts and job posting at Oath Hall. There was a survey team looking to build a temple in the Ourobori jungle and needed a guide. Perfect. The Okkore was opening a Gate to Morjara today, and according to the schedule there’d be a Gate open in Ghoneshi on the other side of the jungle on the fifteenth. It would be a quick four-day job, three nights in the jungle, and then to Ghoneshi, to take the Gate home. Reez grabbed it.

Reez stopped by the post to send a quick a note to Odvid letting him know she’d be out of town and see if he could work some magic to fix her plant. He was a mage as well as a healer after all. And then Reez headed to Gate Square. She’d pick up some supplies in the bazaar that was held between the gates before heading to Morjara.

The Orc Fortress of Korragorra loomed before Reez. The Orcs had their own sprawling city on Godless Ilse. Ghetshaven lived in the shadow of it, leeching off the trade and travelers that used the Gates. The Gates technically belonged to the Okkore, the closest thing the orcs had to a kingdom. Only Orc shamans could operate and maintain Kor’s Thirteen Gates and each Gate was a portal to an Orc barracks in either Aphetrria or Neradoom.

There was a time when the Okkore didn’t like sharing the gates. They understood the gates’ full military potential and used them to send armies all over the world. Armies they kept resupplied and reinforced thanks to the gates all leading back to their chief fortress of Korragorra. The thirteen gates helped the orcs conquer both Aphetrria and Neradoom and for a hundred years the Okkore had ruled the world putting an end to the Deinomachy and enforcing Kor’s peace.

But the Orc Empire didn’t last, the gods wanted the Deinomachy too bad and the orcs were almost wiped out. The Okkore that now ruled Korragorra was a very different beast than the one that had conquered the world. It was leaner, more cautious and more cunning.

The new Okkore opened Gate square to the merchants of Ghetshaven. It employed Ghets, sending them on trading missions to guilds, kings, pit lords and chieftains. It re-ranged the arch totems, the gate exits, building barracks with totems near major ports and crossroads. It paid to lease arch totems in the capital cities of every kingdom on either side of the Divide.

The new Okkore did everything it could to promote travel and trade between Aphetrria and Neradoom. If Kor’s peace couldn’t be won through the sword, the orcs were going to see if they could buy it. So far it had been working. There hadn’t been a major war between Aphetrria and Neradoom since the Elven retaliation thirty years ago.

Reez passed the Okkore’s contraband checkpoints and entered Gate Square. Gate Square was a giant courtyard that held the Gates and a daily bazaar. Merchants set up stalls along the lanes leading to and from the thirteen gates, trying to pick up trade from the thousands of travelers that passed through the gates each day. The square was unlike anywhere else in the world and always made Reez get philosophical, reminding her of ‘the churn of creation’. The early days of existence when there was only Apherria and Neradogtha. In the churn chaos chased order, order chased chaos, the forces came together, and broke apart again. It was balanced, yet volatile, Apherria and Neradogatha expressed as a single primal force, that was the churn, and that was Gate Square.

Lanes of merchant caravans streamed from one gate, narrowly avoiding getting tangled with the reins and wagons of caravans coming from the opposite direction. A mass of messy pilgrims bumbled through the bazaar like gawking tourists. The pilgrims’ Ghets did everything they could to shepherd them along, while merchants shoved trinkets, charms and idols in their faces and shouted of deals and wonders.

The smoky scent of barbeque blended with the spices of curry, the honey of glazed nuts and the steaming stench of dung produced by a thousand different types of draft animals. Barkers shouted in Xunese, Loir’ve, and Kul, before repeating everything in Common, trying to entice travelers to the inns and gambling dens in Ghetshaven proper. Agents of various guilds and merchant companies ran across the bazaar directing their caravans to the correct Gate or warehouse. Most caravans would have to spend a couple of nights in Ghetshaven while they waited for their destination to come up. Kor only had thirteen gates and they needed to be changed to a new location every morning.

The Okkore was a heavy presence in the square. Okkore sergeants prowled the Gate lanes, pushing aggressive vendors to the side to make room and halting traffic to let orc warriors march between gates. The orc sergeants cleared up messes and directed complaining merchants to Oath Hall in Ghetshaven where their dispute would be overseen by Aphetrrian law masters and Neradoomin judges.

Confusion erupted everywhere in the square, there was a mess of different peoples, each speaking different languages, with different biology and wildly different customs. And yet that confusion was quickly sorted and shifted, if not completely dispelled thanks to the tight routines and layout of the square and the discipline of experienced guards and guides. This wonderful, beautiful place of managed chaos was all thanks to the symbiotic relationship between the Ghets and the Okkore.

Reez felt some pride in that, since she was both an orc and a Ghets. She bought some dry goods from a salt merchant representing the Roohr League and a new water sack from a Dairkkul Skin-Smith, before chatting with her friend Monoko who dealt in mounts and then heading over to an apothecary stall to haggle over bug ointment. Finally, fully stocked for the excursion, Reez bought a roasted frog on a stick for a quick lunch and headed to Gate Four to start her job.

Reez, and everyone in her lane, was stopped by an Orc sergeant to let an Okkore unit of pikemen march out of the gate. It was always strange to watch people exiting the gates. They looked like they were just walking into the bazaar from another entrance rather than traveling leagues in an instance.

Each gate was a portal that sat in a giant doorway carved into the walls of Gate Square The substance that made up the portals were hard to describe. It was a spiral. The ether of Neradoom and Aphetrria coming together in one swirling blend, the churn again, light chasing darkness, darkness chasing light. You didn’t really feel anything when you touched the portals. You just stepped through them like a regular door and were transported to whatever spot had the active arch totem.

Most of the gate exits weren’t as big as the gate entrances in Korragorra. There were a lot of rules to the gates, the orcs had a whole class of shamans dedicated to them, and Reez didn’t know all the particulars, but she did know that each gate exit had to be an archway, at least a mini version of the doorway in Korragorra. The gates were fascinating and a gucking miracle, but like any miracle people got used to them and started to take them for granted, like the indignant merchant that pushed himself ahead of everyone in Reez’s lane.

“You’re doing this again?” The merchant shouted at the orc sergeant, “I’ve been halted five times today already, once for two hours to let your people through. You own these gates! Get organized! Do your nonsense in the morning before you open the square! It’s not hard.”

The orc sergeant reminded silent and kept her face cool. Unlike the civilized orc, most peoples found it rude to be punched in the face when they said something stupid.

Luckily, Reez was there.

“Hey friend,” She said tapping the merchant on the shoulder.

“What is it?” He said spinning around. “Oh for the love of Apherria another one,” He said looking Reez up and down. “Are you this one’s superior? Because—”

“Because what?” Reez said leaning in. “Just because it’s the middle of the day in Ghetshaven doesn’t mean it’s noon in Morjara. What? Every orc should abandon their post in the middle of the night just because it impedes you by a couple of hours? The gates are a literal gift from the gods! Stop whining and get back in the gucking line.”

The merchant looked like he was going to say more, but Reez smiled at him, big and hungry like and that was enough for him to scurry back to his waiting pack animals.

Reez winked at the orc sergeant after the merchant retreated. She was young, probably only about sixteen. “Had to do gate duty during my training too, don’t let these gunkers get you down.”

The sergeant didn’t reply. Reez stood there in awkward silence while the last Orc pike man passed. Before letting everyone go the orc sergeant spat at Reez’s feet and muttered “Traitor”.

Reez immediately felt an emotion too hot to be called shame and too heartbreaking to be called rage. Her smile deflated, and she sunk into the crowd of merchants and travelers that flooded into Gate Four. Sometimes Reez let herself forget everything that had happened between her and the Okkore. It was generous of her, the Okkore had taken more from her than it had given. But just because Reez was willing to be generous didn’t mean the Okkore reciprocated. At best they tolerated her, seeking to forget that she was ever a part of them at all. To the Okkore Reez was no different than the pushy merchant, just another traveler using the gates.

But that was okay, Reez liked being a ghets more than she ever liked being Okkore warrior. She stepped through the gate and got to work.

Reez’s job in the jungle was mostly okay, but Reez only got into one measly fight and the gig was over way too quick. Reez found herself in Ghoneshi with a whole day to spare. Usually, under those circumstances she’d do some sightseeing, but Ghoneshi was a Darikkul city and it was all a buzz over the latest news. And what news it was, Reez stayed in her inn soaking it all in, growing increasingly pale.

According to the local gossip, Lord Maelator had pulled ahead from his rivals and was on the verge of taking the Black Spire. Maelator had always been a contender, but his sudden success had come when he converted his staunchest enemies into allies. He accomplished this by doing something that no Dairkkul outside of a Dark Lord had achieved before. He kidnapped the avatar of an elven god. The girl was proof that Maelator wasn’t just seeking the Black Spire for himself, but for mother Neradogtha. For surely, he would use the power of the Dark Lord to marshal all the fiends to him and restart the Deinomachy.

Reez almost fainted when she heard about the avatar. She ordered ‘literally all the wine they gucking had’ and asked her Dairkkul drinking companions to go over the news again.

“Maelator stole an elven avatar?” Reez said, “But I, um, heard the girl was a human.”

“She is! She is!” The Dairkkul said excitedly, sloshing his drinking dish “An Aphetrrian human with red hair and green eyes, just like the god.

“But how can a human be—”

“I don’t know” The Dairkkul said slurping up his liquor “It’s Aphetrria they have so many constricting rules. I don’t know how people survive under that tyranny. But apparently, they have humans there too, and this one is the avatar of a god, the elves have said so themselves! They’re calling for their heroes to form a fellowship to win her back. Maybe we’ll get a proper war again!”

Reez snatched the wine jug out of the innkeeper’s hands and immediately started guzzling. There was no way this was happening. Crow had signed contracts, made promises! Reez felt her forehead. The orcs were going to call her a lot worse than ‘traitor’ if they found out she was the Ghets that orchestrated this.

“Do you know which god this avatar is supposed to be? Reez asked.”

The Dairkkul smiled. “The bad one. The worst one. Wicked Anudica, the Goddess of war.”

………..

Ghets Chapter 2

Ghets Chapter 2

I’m trying something new. Every Friday I’m going to post some of my fiction work. I’m calling it ‘Fiction Fridays’ cause I’m creative like that. For my first Fiction Friday here is ‘Chapter 2 of Ghets’.

If you want to read Chapter 1 please check out my Ghets Preview page where I’ll be storing all the chapters I post.

Thanks!


Chapter

In the beginning, there was no Dienomachy. There were no gods. There was only the Ether.

From the Ether two gods emerged. Apherria, goddess of order and Neradogtha, goddess of chaos. They were each other’s opposite and should have hated one another other, but they did not. They felt a deep need for the other. They embraced and blended and all of existence was them, a swirl. The light chasing the dark, the dark chasing the light. The churn of creation.

In the churn the goddess came to understand themselves and each other, and love emerged. The first emotion, the most vital. Apherria and Neradogtha loved one another. They were still opposites, they would bicker and argue and fight, but they didn’t war. Instead their conflict helped them to grow and create. Apherria created the sun, but Neradogtha grew bored with it and kicked it across the sky creating night. Neradogtha made fire, but it was too hungry and wouldn’t stop eating so Apherria created water to douse it.

The sisters, the lovers, the first gods, worked like this. Creation was a game they played together, a language which expressed their love. They created the old gods, their first children, gods of stone and mountains, gods of wind, gods of moon, and many more. They raised their children together and taught them the language of creation

But unbeknownst to Neradogtha or Apherria, a third god had emerged from the ether. This third god lived alone, lost, unaware that there was anything like him in the universe. This god, Kor, the wandering god, traveled the vast nothingness and the lonely ether, searching for a home. He eventually found the world. And found the goddesses.

No one knows who Kor met first, Apherria or Neradogtha. But he met them separately, Apherria during the day and Neradogtha during the night. And for reasons only the gods know, both fell in love with Kor. The goddesses didn’t tell each other about this new god either. It was their first betrayal. Kor was different, something neither had created and that intrigued them and made them covet him. It is said the goddesses felt ashamed about their secret, and knew it was wrong, but they kept seeing Kor. Apherria during the day and Neradogtha at night. And Kor never revealed that he met another god either, for he was a foolish god who wanted only to be loved and feared returning to the lonely ether.

The old gods, Apherria and Neradogtha’s first children, grew alarmed at these rendezvous and conspired to reveal the truth to their mothers. Moon and Sun entered the same sky, creating the first eclipse. Apherria and Neradogtha both came out to meet Kor. And he revealed himself to both, not sure if it was night or day. The sisters were confused to see each other, but then realized what had happened. The love that they coveted was not theirs alone, their sister had stolen it.

Apherria and Neradogtha were angry and aghast at each other and themselves and most of all at Kor. They banished the wandering god to the sky and they both retreated to opposite corners of the world. If it all ended there then maybe they could have reconciled, as they had done in times past. Maybe they could have even forgiven Kor and all three gods could have lived in peace and love. But it did not end there.

For Neradogtha and Apherria were both pregnant with Kor’s children. And the birth of those children would lead to the first atrocity and from that would bloom a hundred upon hundred more. The world would be rent in two, with each god taking half, turning it into their own lands.

Apherria founded Aphetrria and gave birth to seven daughters, the Elfraye, goddess of civilization, whose descendants would become the Elves. Neradogatha founded Neradoom and gave birth to Zaevas, a son who would live nine lives. In his first life Zaevas molded the Dairkkul out of living Doomcotta. And ever since their births the elves, children of Apherria, and the Dairkkul, children of Neradogtha, have been at war.

Sir Namington of Somewhereshire: My struggles with coming up with Fantasy Names

Sir Namington of Somewhereshire: My struggles with coming up with Fantasy Names

After years of toiling on two drafts of Ghets, my latest novel, I proudly declared on Facebook that I was looking for beta-readers. Friends and family immediately requested copies, showering me with support. I felt loved and ready to share…but then had to stall. There was just one little problem with the latest draft of Ghets, about half the things in it were missing names.

I love worldbuilding: creating towns and creatures, different legends and cultures, but I absolutely hate naming them. It’s not that I can’t think of names, it’s more that I want to get the name absolutely right and nothing will gum up your writing flow quicker than trying to come up with a name on the fly.

My practice for name generation is to brute force it. Open a fresh word doc and start writing down ever name, sound and spelling that comes to mind. I start with existing names and words to build my new name out of, like Elisette, Odvid and the Uldritch Pit Lords. Maelator, my chief antagonist, I got from chopping a bunch of different words up and mashing them together. I was going for a name that sounded like the big bad from a Saturday morning cartoon and I think I nailed it.

Once I created one new name, it led to others. It make sense that people from the same group would sound have similar sounding names. The chief god of my orcs is named ‘Kor’ so there’s a lot of ‘kors’ and ‘or’s in their naming scheme (maybe too many) there’s the fortress of Korragorra, and Kaikor Reez and her brother Kalighor.

My biggest stumbling block to name creation turned out to be Google. I would come up with the perfect name only to google it and find out it was already the name of a small village in India or the last name of some guy in Uruguay or was in use on the World of Warcraft forums (or all three).

It got to the point where I would spend my writing time for that day playing with different names or tweaking the spelling to create something un-google-able. Finally, I had enough. When I came to a person, place or thing that needed a proper name I just wrote ‘BLANK’ in all caps. It was a revolution.

I was back to writing, back to creating. My writing flow was coursing again uninterrupted. The Angular fish people of the Dark Sea were the BLANK, as were the lizard-like citizens of the Underraod who they fought and raided with the help of the BLANK pit lords. Markus’s magic sword BLANK clashed against Maelator’s magic sword the Jaws of BLANK. And then there was the time BLANK grabbed BLANK’s BLANK and bashed BLANK into the walls of BLANK cathedral.

After I finished Draft II I reread the novel and realized that it was unreadable to anyone, but myself. By some miracle I had remembered what all the BLANKs referred too, but it was a mess. I spent several days creating random fantasy names and waded back into the novel replacing BLANKS with names from my list or giving them more generic ones. I’m still at it even now. I have a hundred pages still to go, hunting down the BLANKs.

But I don’t regret the decision to BLANK myself. When creating drafts, especially rough ones, nothing is more important than just writing. What I do regret is not going with a name more often, no matter how bad or just using one that’s already taken. Everything is already a name, it’s not like Jose Duomarco from Uruguay is every going to read my novel and realize that I used his last name for a port city.

Readers will forgive a good character with a bad name. Besides, it’s only draft II, names can change! And speaking off, anyone have ideas on how to make really good fantasy names? I still have more BLANKS to fill.