Thoughts about chapter names

Something I noticed lately was that vast majority of the books I’ve been reading only had chapter numbers, very rarely the chapters were named. During my recent thoughts, I’ve found that quite surprising.

Truth is that in this year, I was mostly reading self-published books that were in the 200-400 pages range and so it was not as important. If a book can be read in single evening, then it’s not as likely someone will try to find a specific passage to look at. I’ve realized that as reader, there might not be much benefit from named chapters.

That changes a lot when I shift to writer perspective, and that’s where my surprise comes from. The idea that I would be going through my draft without chapter names, trying to find a specific moment I needed to have a look on, is scary.

But then I thought about it again. Maybe the reason why it feels scary is on my side again, because of the sheer size into which I let my ideas expand – I am now somewhere around 450.000 words summed across book 0,5 (40k), book 1 (230k) and maybe 70% of book 2 (170k) + notes and bits that were cut already. Sometimes, I need to find a specific scene to look at. I am quite sure that just with chapter numbers, I’d be lost. Chapter names are pain to come up with, but I found them really helpful when I need to find something. And even though I do (and will do more) complete proof-reads myself before going to some kind of beta stage, I know that some parts were trickier to write than others and require several closer looks.

Well, I’ll end this random jumble of thoughts here I guess…

Fantasy thoughts: Elite law enforcement units

This time, I’ll be sharing my thoughts about “elite law enforcement units” in fantasy. What I mean is something like American SWAT units and similar special teams in any other country. In fantasy, that will of course have different forms, but several things are shared: when you see them, they should induce respect on sight with heavy gear and reputation of extremely skilled and powerful troops that are used to counter the biggest threats.

Maybe Aurors from Harry Potter series could be used as example, but as you’ll see, for my story I went different way.

Also, this will probably be the first post where I share details from my story – but not about the plot, not yet.

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Book review: Soldier Scarred

The fifth book picks up pretty much where the fourth left, with Endric tasked to bring Tresten to the Conclave. For the slightly better part, Senda is there with him. For the worst part, Urik is too. After his talk with him through the fourth book and Tresten’s approach to him – caused by hope for redemption – Senda does not understand why is he talking with him so often after all the time he spent chasing him and put him to justice.

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First draft done, many to go

Two months ago, I wrote a post about reaching a tough decision in my writing attempt(s). Eventually, what I considered the hard way won, and I decided to pull out the prologue of the book to separate piece with as much detail as it deserves. I hope and wished I would have the first draft done by the end of the year, but I am bad judge of my capabilities in that regard, and it was threatened a lot when I wrote very little during November.

I had some more chances in December and yesterday I finished the first draft. In two months, which sounds quite fast, but some part of it was extending what I already had. Then, the rest was being created from scratch. Anyway, as of now the first draft is at almost 40.000 words, which sounds like really nice progress in two months of which one had no progress at all.

Now, it has much more left to do. There are still placeholder names (I really hate my ‘creativity’ when it comes to names) and some other things that will require my attention to make it as good as I can, which I guess will require two or three more drafts at least. How fast will that go I don’t dare to say, I only know that I’ll now take a break, read a book or three (I already blazed through one today, review will come later this week) and then return to it.

Maybe, by the end of winter, I might have something more to share than just terribly unspecific posts. I hope so. Maybe I can have it ready in late summer 2018. That would be even better.

Storytelling thoughts: Signature ability

Even though characters might have a wide array of abilities in their arsenal, in the key moments, some might ten to use something they know well, even more if it helped them out of sticky situations in a while. It can also say more about their characters as bad guys usually tend to use ‘instakill’ attacks, showing no emotion or remorse when using them (hello, Voldemort!).

For the good guys, the choice can be telling more about them, especially if they are forced to fight someone they don’t want to kill for any reason. Here, I could even mention the reprogrammed T-800 from Terminator 2 movie who, after being commanded to not kill anyone, was shooting people in the leg to cause non-lethal injury that would reliably prevent pursuit. Of course, this case is heavily seasoned with the cold approach of computers and finding the most efficient solution.

Now, I’ll move to my own experience. These days, it’s around 15 years since my first ideas and as it was not until 2015 I started to put the pieces together, the story went through several iterations in the early concept phases. The main hero and everything about him – skill set, personality, role, friends and family – went through at least four stages before I started writing, each having their own pluses and minuses.

In the early stages, the main hero – who still lacked even placeholder name, fact made easier by the fact I looked at the story through his eyes – was a warrior that somehow learned a few magic tricks, which allowed him to surprise his opponents and enemies. How many and how powerful these skills were changed a lot over time.

Due to his lower age, I wanted to show both the willing to risk by toying with magic (something very rare for a warrior) and unwillingness to kill. The risk element was even more in the fast that his signature move at that time was lightning strike that he learned to use on power that would stun or knock out the enemy, but without fatal damage.

It was much later when I decided to take slightly different approach to his skills (I guess maybe around 2012) and turned him into a paladin instead. Since then to maybe some late 2016, I was solidifying what I wanted his approach and skills to be.

In one of the iterations, he had a skill I later gave working name ‘final judgement’. The effect was that the victim was frozen in time for a split second during which he was judged by higher powers. If he was found evil, his soul was sent straight to hell and the body died while on (mostly) innocent person the effect was only short-term confusion. The reason I eventually scrapped that idea was that with powerful spells like that, it kills variety. When you have something that can destroy demon with a single incantation, why know more?

I’ll still not mention all his skills, but for now only one. It is my take on the iconic World of Warcraft skill, Hammer of Justice/Fist of Justice. The spell creates a spectral fist that he aims for the chest, the result being that the person’s breath is knocked out, leaving him temporarily unable to fight, which is great tool for capturing targets.

If the victim needs to die? Well, paladin is still a warrior, even if empowered by divine power, and he can still use his sword to lethal damage. As time passes, he learns more abilities for both offense and defense, but it’s not the time to mention them yet.