Monday, March 25, 2013

[possibly] a new beginning for my "White Tiger"

For a number of reasons, and I'm sure I'm not the only writer who has thought/said this, I am hesitant to share what I write. Blogging is one thing where I can just go on and on about a topic. So what? It's a blog. I have very few friends and know few people, so few individuals I know will see what I write. Little risk is involved.
But it's an entirely different story (literally, cuz we're talking about lit, opposed to something that would be contrused as a memoir/journal). Maybe I'm worried that people won't "get" where I'm coming from. This sounds totally silly, considering how sensitive I can be of people's opinions of me, but I feel protective of my characters. I'm afraid others won't see them the way I do, so as much as I want to get out there, I shield them from prying eyes.

And naturally I'm hesitant to share this because this particular story/project was stolen once before. I could say, the more time goes by, the more I can believe that this person isn't a convincing identity thief type that would stop at nothing to have my work for themselves. 

I wrote the following over yesterday, between the morning and night hours... with the time in between being devoted to being at a family function. And so far, I have good feeling about this:

“What are you all doing in here?” The barrage of whispered confusion surrounding me immediately stopped. Their attention shifted to the new arrival, giving him away as their leader. His footsteps pounded into the cave, easily breaking through its renewed silence. Meanwhile, I fought to stave off unconsciousness and opened my eyes. Something about his voice was familiar somehow, but I couldn’t remember where I’d heard it.
Despite my instincts demanding I change my mind, I locked eyes with him. The highly decorated tiger gasped, but unlike so many others I had met these past several months, he seemed taken aback. I struggled to breathe, but even that proved to be too much. I coughed, gasping for air.
“Let me through!” The clan made way for him as he knelt beside me. His eyes never left mine as his hands examined me. The bruises on my arms and legs protested his touch, however gentle it was. He cupped my cheek after I managed a more substantial breath.
As if afraid to break his concentration, a voice within the clan hesitatingly asked. “Kohaku, do you know her?”
Kohaku kissed my forehead, staying in place for several moments. When he broke contact, he answered with a question he posed to me. “Chihiro…” My ears fluttered at the sound of my name. Nobody had called me by it in a very long time. Kohaku delicately took me into his arms. His body rose and fell with a sigh of unimaginable relief. “She is my goddaughter, the heir to my sister’s clan.”
Unintelligible conversation erupted once again. The same tiger responded on behalf of the rest of the group. “Kirakotsu had a daughter?”
He turned his head to face her. “After observing her countenance, do you understand why I kept her existence a secret?” Although he continued to address his followers, his focus was entirely on me as he cradled my head. “White tigers are extremely rare as are such individuals in other races. No one quite knows why this inflection occurs, but it is almost always seen in a negative light. No matter what the motives may be, that prejudice is why Chihiro likely spent months fighting for her life.” Kohaku traced the side of my neck in search of a pulse. When he found it, he nodded and dropped his voice to a whisper, “Chihiro, I need you to stay with me, all right? Everything is going to be fine from now on. I promise.” Whether it was relief or weakness, I couldn’t be sure. But at that precise moment, my consciousness slipped away.

However foolish it seemed, given my recent history, I believed him. Conflict rushed through his veins, pangs of anger and sadness—all for my benefit. Meanwhile, his calm gaze never wavered, as if to say he wanted his strength to become my strength. Little by little, Kohaku nursed me back to health. Fish stew came three times a day and he always made sure I had more than he did. At night, he kept me warm with several blankets. More were added as the winter months grew harsher.
But getting me to speak again proved to be his most difficult task. Not a day went by without him asking me once to tell him what I went through to get there. He did everything to reason with me. He assured me repeatedly that nobody in his clan, him included, would dream of hurting me. Likewise, nobody would track me down to retaliate for my confessions.
Then over three months later, Kohaku gave me a piece of advice that changed my mind: “It will help to talk about it with someone because it will give you closure. Having closure will give you the chance to move on from the pain and the hurt you went through.” 
I couldn’t help but agree, but one thing still troubled me. I swallowed, clearing my throat. “When I got here… what you said about me… the fact I am so rare…Have you ever come across anyone else like me? Not just our kind?”
“No, I haven’t, Chihiro.” Clearly, he was still getting over the fact I finally spoke. He managed to contain his joy and his composure relaxed. “Why do you ask?”
At this point, there was no going back. I had to tell him. I had to tell him about the white wolf. Even a year later, I still believed my encounter with him saved my life—despite the fact I saved his that very same night.

I don't know how much feedback I'm going to get, but this is here in case anyone is interested. 

I want to maintain first person POV, seeing as this is Chihiro's tale to tell. Part of me is worried that I didn't show enough or tell enough from her POV. Most of what I have is dialogue, which often saves me the trouble of having to go into great detail about stuff. 
I'd written a couple versions of this premise already with her being in various conditions. Here in particular, it isn't necessarily as dire as it had been in the past. She's on the brink of starvation, battered and still carries the bruises inflicted by her own kind... some simply because her appearance marks her as an outcast. Maintaining a little mystery is good, but hopefully this isn't so sparse that anyone who reads feels like they need more detail. 

But I will be going into plenty detail later, so it's not like there will be millions of unanswered questions... if anything, there should be less than 10. That's most desireable in this case. 

It's strange. I'd written a number of scenarios, what feels like, millions of times over. I know my characters extremely well... ok, maybe just Chihiro and Kohaku, who dominate my experimental files. But it's a matter of figuring out the choice of words I want to use to describe the situation. The one in particular I wish I could develop more is why exactly she can't speak... I barely even highlighted that fact in my passage. I just wrote in passing that she hadn't spoken since she arrived and perhaps hasn't in several months.
If I were to guess, it would be at least three months before finding Kohaku, right after this growth spurt occurs. The idea is put into her head that simply speaking results in unnecessary violence and quite simply, she's experienced substantial drama. Heck, I could have made the argument that finding her mother's dead body after the massacre was such a shock, it robbed her of speech, perhaps forever. But I think the story would be severly lacking in some spots early on if she didn't speak at all.

One thing I'd kinda noticed about my writing as of late is how I'd been keeping things neat and orderly. I'd tried to use different types of sentence structures and a fresh set of vocubulary so I don't repeat all the same words and phrases all the time.
And I think one of my other projects, which happens to be grounded in non-fiction, is where it all began. I want it to have a sense of professionalism, so I'm upholding off all these standards.
Now I can't seem to turn it off despite the fact I hadn't worked on it in months :-P

I'm also guessing part of me is keeping a lot in mind because I don't want my weekly email subscriptions to writer's digest to go to waste. 

As for where I'm planning to go after this:
Chihiro will tell Kohaku about when she first learned about the war, one last conversation she had with Kirakotsu before she went into battle. And of course the encounter with Lucas... the all important scene that gives her motivation to succeed in her goal: to find a new home where she can serve the purpose she was groomed for by her mother. 

Without that encounter, she would have given up right then and there. Either she'd have died of starvation or would have fallen victim to the first enemy she met. 

All the while, I'd like to keep the following in mind: Lucas is the spark that drives Chihiro forward, but I don't want this part of the story to be oversaturated with the mention of his name. Would it be possible to do that without making it seem like it comes out of nowhere in her next dire moment of need? He can't be the one thing propelling her forward. I also don't want anyone who reads to see his name pop up 20-30 pages later and wondering a) who was he again? and/or b) where did he come from? 
Then again his name will be mentioned in the synopsis, so I don't think that'll be a huge issue. 

Man, rejection has me feel annoyed with myself when it comes to making sure everything hits their mark just right.

Anyway, anyone who reads, feel free to leave feedback and I'll see what more I can come up with in the meantime. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

White Tiger: Toying with Biology and Flashbacks

Probably the worst feeling in the world when it comes to writing anything... whether it's writing the first draft, starting a brand new project or beginning again with a brand new draft... staring at the page and realizing that that "strong opening line" isn't coming to mind.

There are few things more important to a story than having a strong first sentence. Because that's what keeps the reader reading. Whether it addresses a person, what a person is feeling or what, there has to be a reaction like:
"Why does s/he feel that way? I have to read more to figure this out."
"Whoa! You've got my attention. What's going to happen next?"

With this story, my first draft began with a lot of exposition. A couple of years after I wrote it, looking back at it, it felt phony to me to start with "My name is..." 
The latest draft I did, which is going back to 2011, was a bit more dramatic: "Mother was worried. Something is coming." 

Now that's a beginning that could get a heart to skip a beat. I could keep going with that, but there's also the question of what I do next. I wrote a little bit of exposition to explain the kind of world this story takes place in, a little bit about tiger clan hierarchy, Chihiro's mixed heritage. The question that follows up in my head is: how long should I drag this out before going back to the first sentence? Followed by: Should I bother with the exposition at all? 

Because I really don't feel confident with "throwing away" my drafts, I know I'm going to have that information somewhere where I can pull it out if needed. If one thing comes up a lot in the querying process, it's the hook, snagging an agent's attention, especially if their submission guidelines include the first couple chapters/pages of the story. There has to be enough there for them to want to keep reading.

So while I work to answer those questions, I've moved onto another idea, a temporary Plan B:
Restarting the story in a completely different way-- we're at the penultimate event of Part 1; Chihiro finds her second home with her uncle/godfather. And while she's recovering, she retells the story of the journey she took to get there. 

But I hit another brick wall: Where to begin, with her arriving there or with her recovering there.
Obviously I need a clear head for all this and my eyes starting to go a little bit as I'm typing up this entry... it's not going to happen tonight. 

Last night I started on one of my badly timed brainstorming sessions. As soon as my head hits the pillow for me to go to sleep, my mind starts cranking out ideas, and I'm too comfortable to roll out of bed, grab my notebook and write it all down.
Once again, I started playing around with the idea of Chihiro being a white tiger because of a genetic mutation that only affects a handful of individuals, rather than playing around with man and beast consummating. But given the kind of realm this is, nobody will know what genetics is. When members of a species are born with white fur and blue eyes, they either believe it's a bad omen (because they don't understand why this difference exists) or it gives away a bond of dirty blood (royal bloodlines mixing with common folk) or, an even more ancient belief (adultery).

The other week, I determined that the cause of the massacre that destroyed Chihiro's way of life was nothing short of jealousy. Her mother had several suitors and she picked none of them in favor of someone else entirely. 
Heck, I could build up the fact that Silas, the eventual villain, vowed revenge because her refusal of him was an embarrassment to his entire clan and a blow to his reputation.

Chihiro's father could have been a nomad passing through and came across her mother in a time of need. She opens up to him about her predicament, marrying someone from another clan so they can bring their families together. But none of them feel about humans the way she does. They have been at peace in her region since she came into power and she didn't want to damage that trust. Slowly but surely the two fall in love, she decides she is strong enough to have no need of marriage. "You live your life and we'll continue to live as we have for a number of years." 

The one snag is whether Chihiro's feelings for Lucas are believable. Surely if I take the inter species relationship out of the picture, the idea of man-beast hybrids, members of different races can't fall in love because they obviously cannot reproduce.
But in my weird, twisted universe, I can technically make up whatever the hell I want to fit my situations. 
This could easily be something that can have the story go full circle. Kirakotsu chose love over fulfilling a "duty" to her species. Ultimately Chihiro makes the same choice, choosing to give her life for Lucas, forsaking the duty she'd worked so hard to be ready for... her goal throughout this story should be taking her place as the heir of her mother's people and wanting to be at her absolute best to do that duty to its fullest. Throughout her training and journey with Lucas, a shift starts to happen.
Providing a balance to everything is definitely going to be key here. 

Which just leaves the question of Lucas. Is his parentage similar? Did his father (his pack's alpha) consummate with an omega from another pack? Should his story remain the same it's always been? He and Chihiro developed a bond earlier on because their personal histories have similarities. 
Technically speaking, I guess Lucas could still be a bastard son because he came to be out of wedlock. And his mother, if she isn't human, could have human sympathies the way Chihiro's mother does with the human villages bordering her territory. Their relationship begins with his father's intrigue about human life and why this she-wolf allies herself with them.

All of these are ideas that need to be developed further, but I think I might have a foundation to work with.
The one thing that is for certain is that Chihiro's mother had immense trust and regard for the human race and for them to declare a war that results in an all-out slaughter... such a thing could only have been stirred up by dark magic. Which Silas only had recently perfected his craft in.

That is an important thing for me to bear in mind after all of this goes down. Chihiro's newfound distrust/fear of humans, as a result of this, leads to being caught between a rock and a hard place. Not feeling confident in seeking their help when, at times, they seem willing to offer it. And the hard place, of course, is being outcast by her own kind... which can only escalate from bad to worse. With humans, it'll fluctuate, but an uneasiness will always remain in some small way.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Brainstorming Part 1 of "White Tiger"

This is a tentative title that I will most likely be changing... at least to relieve my conscious of being plagued by the fact someone stole my story and tried to profit from it... not that I'd been losing sleep over it, but until this venture ends in a success story, it's going to bother me, if only for a little bit.

I'd been scribbling a couple of things in my notebook and have been coming up for a few ideas here and there for what I can do to make this story... fuller... I guess is a good word for it.

I decided that I was going to break the story into three parts, three parts of the story of this one character... who she dealt with adversity, overcame it, found love and sacrificed herself for it... 
Quite a bit of part 2 isn't going to change at all... if there are any changes, it will be omissions, particularly of conversations... not just taking out one or two people, but the repetition that, after a while, I just couldn't stomach... you know things are bad when you're a drama queen and that particular trait has you annoyed with yourself

Until now, I've, quite simply, skipped over explaining this part of the story entirely... all I'd written were that beatings from her kind were frequent, being ostracized was the norm, a fear of humans still linger despite the fact encountering them involved the few moments where the comforts of home were provided... food, water, shelter and a warm place to sleep...

Other than that, the only two solid events were meeting Lucas and finally finding a new home with her godfather... I simply skipped past all that because I didn't know what I could possibly add.

What I ended up with was a new use for the name "Silas" and seeds of doubt being planted that involve the only way of life she knew... 
albeit, it's a little dark... not to mention malicious...
It goes without saying that half-breeds are outcasts and being half-human entails not being able to belong among the race of the parent who raised you... so some violence will result from that... the degree of said violence ranges from bad to horrific... and there are only a handful of individuals that would participate in the horrific... 

When I was doing the initial work up of the logistics of this world I've created, I decided that the following things were given:

  • Tigers are relatively peaceful, non-confrontational race in the "if you leave us alone, we'll leave you alone" school of thought
  • Because of this supposed war that erupted between these two races, there are few tigers left
  • Kirakotsu (Chihiro's mother) was one of the most powerful members of her race and greatly respected
As I'd worked through trying to map out how human interaction varies from interaction with her own race, I'd found a few road blocks...

If there are so few tigers left and humans are more fearful than violent, how she not only end up on the brink of starvation, but broken?

That would have to mean that some of the things she had grown up knowing prove to be false. The race is scattered and however many are left are extremely good about covering their tracks, assuring that their way of life is unable to be found by anyone outside of their own.
The end result is that she manages to track down a number of clans... somewhere between 8-10 along her journey, just to throw out a number... but she is unwelcome based on her parentage... once or twice, violence occurs in retaliation, fearing that humans might use her to track them down with or without her knowledge...
As she dwells further down this road, she learns more about her mother's relation to their race. Learns that she and her family were outcast simply based on her actions to consort with a human. Also learns that she had several suitors interested in her, all of which were infuriated when she chose a human over all of them... they don't find this out for several years because, as a general rule, "tigers are extremely good at hiding if they don't want to be found." 

On top of that, I added another "general rule" that, when I really thought about it, I found a lot of sense in...
Tigers are a race that believe in soul mates... once they find a mate, they are unable to [completely] fall in love with anyone else... it doesn't matter if the distance is in miles or life & death... once they pick someone to love, they will never have eyes for anyone else...
This also goes on to explain why Chihiro feels so strongly about Lucas... the mere idea of him dying being so unbearable that she'd rather die so he can live...

Eventually, she manages to cross paths with these former suitors... I think only one of them has a solidified territory... the others are part of nomad parties that travel around the region without settling down... I suppose there is a kind of poetic symmetry to this...

Chihiro's clan was predominately female... meaning almost all of her family was female... I don't know why, but I have trouble imagining any males being part of it... and yeah, I'm aware that in nature, tigers are solitary by nature and my model is closer to the lioness structure, this was never meant to be completely anatomically correct.

These nomad parties are made up of males... which goes on to explain why a select few individuals treat her in the way that they do... heck, their mentality is likely no sharper than that of a frat house... at least one of these parties shares that degree of mob mentality...
I should make it clear, though, that I DO NOT believe that all fraternities are made up of guys that want nothing more in life than to drink and get laid... sometimes when it comes to cheating spouses and such, I hate the increasingly viable fact that men seem genetically programmed to be that way... and that's more or less where I'm coming from with this.

The evidence starts to pile up little by little throughout this, eventually explaining to Chihiro why her mother wasn't as respected as she was raised to believe... 
part of me is still trying to determine whether or not to take some liberties with her age... it originally started with her being 9 and then I changed it to 11... playing out some scenarios, I had her going through an unexpected growth spirit in this time she's wandering... 
if I make her too old, she might seem ridiculously naive. Taking the plot this route, the idea being pounded into her skull (and the rest of her body) that Kirakotsu wasn't thought very highly of, and by extension, her life was worthless... I can't make her too old because there's no way she'd believe it.
Part of me is also leery about her being too young. Unless it's the way of the animal, there's no way I can have a huge growth spurt. The other way for that to happen is for her to be on the run for years... and with all the factors, there's no way she could make it past a couple of months.

I had a few late bursts of inspiration before I went to bed and also a couple after I laid down. In one of my random "alternate/deleted" scenes, she encountered a handful of individuals that trashed Kirakotsu's reputation... it's a given that she is on the offensive to protect her honor, only to pay the price.
It'd be cool if I could use some of that for the story, but I'd have to change the setting where this all takes place... otherwise, she wouldn't think to trespass into one of a series of caves to get out of a storm, where she happens upon her godfather's clan.

There's a natural progression that has to take place where it goes from bad to worse... oddly, the few bright spots that come into part one... other than the "bookends" of the journey, is when she's in the company of humans.
They're kinder as she goes further north, most likely because the aligning villages are in good standing with Kohaku... he has a great attitude about alliances and allegiances and such... as I will go into later

Humans originally start shooing her away. In the first case, one wants to go after her, thinking she'll lead others to them, but another in the group talks him out of it on the mere fact she most likely doesn't belong to anyone... some see her and out of pity, leave food out for her... only a handful invite her to talk with them, but by this point, they're doing most of the talking

The climax to this part comes down to Silas... who was to be Kirakotsu's life partner until she found love elsewhere... as a result, he "curses" (not in the literal sense) her family and wants to be sure they pay for whatever they may have done... humiliation, shame or just being turned down... and he has the powers of sorcery on his side...
symmetry again... Lucas has his adversary in Ivan... the same race, but its pure blood vs. half blood... Chihiro & Silas, same thing... 

By the time she does encounter him, she's close to the end of her rope... battered and bruised, both physically and mentally... although all of the dialogue will be available for the reader to see, she will attain none of it, falling in and out of consciousness... oddly enough, the one thing that saves her from him bewitching her mind to the point of torture is this powerful memory she has of Lucas... apparently he's unable to trifle with "true love"... or whatever pish-posh I wanna throw in for the benefit of the story... her heart is her strongest weapon in this and even though for a while it might not seem that way to the reader, her being a strong individual, hopefully I can bring that point across... 

It becomes clear that he has targeted her for a reason, bringing several of the nomads to do his bidding... getting his final revenge on Kirakotsu for spurning his affections by breaking her only daughter's spirit... 

Everything does connect later on... but it'll be an 11th hour thing when she finds out why the massacre happened, why her family was killed... that's reserved for Part 3 in the biggest of climaxes.

At the moment, I'm determining whether or not it'll make sense to bring Lucas into the narrative at that particularly important moment... before that, not really mentioning him again... because if I do, I might end up doing it excessively and I'd rather my readers not get bored in her pining for him... that's all of Part 2, lol

There's a decent chunk of time until he actually comes back INTO the picture... 
after Silas leaves her for dead, she makes her way to her final resting place... which becomes her new home... and the rest of Part 1 is about Kohaku picking up the pieces and building her back up... faith in family, which takes her a little while to accept...
along the way, he acquaints her with a neighboring wolf pack, whose leader is on his last legs and he thought she should get to know his successor...
Sandy doesn't make an official appearance until much later... ;) I liked him a little too much to take him completely out of the picture and I'm confident I know him well enough as a character that he's not going to become the Jacob of this story...
some of the circumstances echo "Twilight" in an eerie sort of way... 

while on that subject, I want to aim for part 1 to be a minimum of 20 pages... which is roughly how long "Twilight" was before Bella & Edward met for the first time...
not that I'm hinging the whole story on the same things, but I'd like to keep a certain few things in mind when it comes to how long these things are... 

I'd love for Part 1 to be 50 pages... then part 2 would be 100 and part 3 to be another 50... that would bring me to 200 pages... dream scenario... everything matches up the way I want it to and the grand total is 300+ pages
that would be just be incredible.
(to that end, my final Twilight reference for the entry... that book is 498 pages... I'm a LONG time away from 500 pages... so I'd like to at least manage 200 solid pages first... then shoot for 300)...

I guess the biggest key to all this is finding a sense of balance to the story... between how many pages each part is, to how many times "Lucas" comes into the conversation in part 1... I've got plenty of ideas down here all ready and hopefully soon, I can get this thing started.

The most important thing is for the morale of my character to be just right with the believability intact... how will these experiences shape her perceptions about people and life? 
I've already kinda figured that her fear of humans is a moot point, given that there were some pleasant encounters towards the end... maybe her initial fear of Bastian at the first meeting is because he know magic and at Silas's hand & will, she only knows the negatives about it... 

Although that might be a good reason why Kirakotsu didn't pursue him with any interest, he could have been dabbling even all that time again... I just know the dude has a major grudge and there's nothing he won't do to exact his revenge.