Finished Netflix’s Ragnarok

One of Netflix’s new (teen) drama is Ragnarok, set in Edda, Norway. First up, the views of the mountains and fjords are amazing. Second, the series is enjoyable, but gets a little slow and is full of teen angst. It’s watchable, though. And fun.

In this post I focus on the Norse myth stuff I caught while watching — and I will be spoiling the show, so you’ve been warned.

Myth references

All right, here we go. this is from my (crap) memory so when I miss stuff, lemme know! And, btw, there’s definitely some Marvel comics/movies influence going on in the show (imo). Which is fine.

Magne

Magne / Magni is the son of Thor in the myths. At the end of the show — SPOILERS — Magne fights Vidar. Magne brings down the lightning (finally) and blows them both up. It’s unclear whether or not they both die, neither die or only Vidar dies. I don’t know why lightning would kill Magne when he survived getting run over by a snow plow but w/e.

Magne being the SON of Thor is important b/c at the end of the show Wenche (more on her) says something along the lines of “most believe Ragnarok is the end, but it’s actually where it all starts.” There were other references by the Jotunn (the Jutul family) throughout the show to the old gods dying in a big war, maybe some survived b/c the battlefield was chaotic, etc.

Magni (Wrath) and his brother Modi (Mighty) live through Ragnarok. So, Magne’s name makes sense in that context. And it makes sense that he is not Thor. (Thor also had a daughter named Thrud. Will Modi and Thrud make an appearance somehow next season?)

BTW, I SO wanted one of the hammers Magne chucked to come flying back at him.

And, when Magne fights (and kills) the dog Tryme (sp?) — which is possibly a Garm (or Fenrir?) reference — Magne kills the dog by pulling its jaws apart. Which is one of the ways Vidar kills Fenrir. The other way is stabbing thru the mouth with a mighty sword.

Laurits

This is the Loki figure. But here’s where the Marvel comics/movies influence comes in. In the myths, Loki is Thor’s uncle (kinda). In the comics, he’s Thor’s adopted brother.

Laurits in the show appears to be gay (which Magne knows b/c he makes a reference to Laurits being interested in Fjor (Vidar’s son). Laurits does some cross-dressing, goes heavy on the eye-liner and is most definitely a trickster type. Particularly at the end.

Vidar

In the myths, Vidar is Odin’s son by the Jotunn Grid. So, he’s half Jotunn (like most of the Aesir). I was annoyed by the big bad being named Vidar. It’s just not who he is in the myths. Oh well.

Or, is there some other reason why the name Vidar was used that the show will make clear in S2?

Ran

In the myths, Rán is a mysterious goddess of death associated with the sinister aspects of the sea. Her husband in the myths is Aegir who is the life-giving aspects of the ocean. (In my books, Rán and Aegir are the gods revered by my characters. Aegir more by the Aesir; Rán more by the Jotunn.) Cool character.

Jutul

Obviously a reference to the Jotunn. In the show, the Jutuls say they used to be worshipped by humans. The characters in the show have been around for 3,000 years (I think Saxa said that). Saxa at one point asked Vidar if he’d gone “berserk.” It’s a little unclear what “powers” the Jutuls have except for strutting around, flexing and super strength. Their eyes go feral when they channel their Jutul powers or w/e. Weird.

There is a scene — which was fantastic — when the Jutuls have Magne and Laurits over to their house for dinner. It had elements of the Utgarda-Loki myth. Just a great scene. Anyway, Magne arm-wrestled Ran. In his drunken state, Magne saw Ran as (perhaps) she truly is — some old, wrinkly hag thing. And he saw himself as a blood-smeared warrior.

Also, there’s a mummified head laying on the shelf in Vidar’s office. A reference to Mimir?

Fjor & Saxa

Meh. The bullying rich kids. I’m not clear on whether they’re actually the kids of Vidar and Ran or if they’re just pretending to be. And if they are, being 16 for 3K years would suck big time especially if your dad is “old fashioned” and beats you.

And, why haven’t they aged? Saxa could believably not be in high school, but Fjor looks like a punk.

In Old Norse, Saxa means “to cut, chop with a small knife.” She’s aptly named at least — lotta knifeplay from her.

Wenche

I’m not certain if she’s meant to be a chain smoking seer (a vólva), a valkyrie or Frigg. Wenche apparently means something like “friend” in Norwegian. At the end of the show she appears to transform into a raven, which suggests she’s associated with Odin.

My guess is she’s probably a valkyrie. Few reasons:

  1. she’s first seen with Odin (more on him)
  2. she “chooses” Magne by awakening his powers. I’m not clear if she could have awoken Thor-power in anyone or if Magne was the only one who could receive Thor power.
  3. The valkyries were the “choosers of the slain” — the heroes who were taken to Valhol to become the Einherjar. Did Magne die in his fight with Vidar? Is he now an Einherjar? Was he just knocked unconscious? /shrug
  4. Ravens are associated with Odin

Old guy in an electric scooter

When Magne et al arrive in Edda, he hops out of the car to help the old dude with an eyepatch in an electric scooter across the road. Wenche is chain smoking nearby. Great stuff.

Other stuff

There’s a scene where the new girl, Iman, sits down next to Magne out on the field. The scene sticks out for two reasons.

First, it parallels how Isolde and Magne met almost exactly, so it must be deliberate. Second, Iman says: she’s such a fake (referring to Saxa) and then says something like “maybe you and I can make Edda better.”

Is this girl going to be a Sif character? Sif had black hair before Loki cut it off. Sif was Thor’s wife…will this girl be Magne’s love interest in season 2?

Turid is the mother of Magne & Laurits. According to babynames, Turid is derived from Thor which means ‘thunder, thunder god’ ; fridr ‘peace, beautiful, fair’

Turid seems to have had a fling with Vidar way back in the day. Is the implication that Magne is Vidar’s kid?

Why were Magne and Laurits cast to be so physically dissimilar? Conscious choice, I assume, but why? Different fathers in the show? A nod toward the Marvel comics depictions of Thor and Loki?

Erik, Isolde’s father, is several times shown wearing a shirt with “Parsifal” on it. Why? Isolde is primarily from Tristan & Isolde. Parsifal is a German spelling of Percival and refers to that knight. Why were those names used? Is Erik just a dirtbag? Did the costume change person fall down on the job? Continuity errors? Dunno.

Finally, Old Norse is spoken multiple times in the show by the Jutuls. It’s not translated, which I assume means that the language is also strange to the people in the show. Hopefully that’s the idea. Also, each show quotes the myths and/or provides some explication regarding mythic figures. Cool to show the roots like that.

That’s all I’ve got for now. What did I miss?

Aaand back, again.

A long time since posting, largely due to some unexpected family stuff (ongoing & unresolved). Since early December, I’ve been:

  1. Sitting on the finished version of Dark Grows the Sun. It’s uploaded to Amazon but I haven’t hit “publish” yet because I’m…
  2. Working thru some marketing/advertising stuff that I need to get a handle on if I want even modest success as an author. This stuff sounds simple — book blurbs, Facebooks/AMS ads & building an email list — but the nitty-gritty is tough and time-consuming. Doesn’t help that my time is already split a dozen ways. It’s also depressing af.
  3. I’m also considering un-publishing Kinsmen Die so I can serialize it on a different platform. I need to grow my audience and the only way to do that, basically, is generate awareness. I can’t leverage KD across other (or multiple) platforms while “shackled” to Amazon. I hesitate b/c this approach doesn’t solve the problem, it just creates different problems. But, different problems that are easier to solve? Dunno.
  4. Writing a “reader magnet” short story that shows a different angle on the same story in my novels. It’s meant to be a short, snappy intro to the world and conflict. I’d intended to finish it by Jan 6, but that didn’t happen. I have the story worked out. I just need to rewrite it a couple thousand times while…
  5. Planning & plotting my third book: I want the outline/framework as complete as possible before starting to write. I can tell that I’ll still be “pantsing” my way through some of it, but my goal is to nail the turning points before I start writing. The prior 2 books were much more fleshed out before I started writing unlike this third book. I’m hoping that a month spent planning will save more than a month of rewriting & revision. If it doesn’t, then I should’ve just pants’d the whole damn thing.

As I reread the above, I realize how down in the dumps it sounds. Can’t have a flow without an ebb, right?

3. Fire he needs | who with frozen knees
Has come from the cold without;
Food and clothes | must the farer have,
The man from the mountains come.

Hávamal (https://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/poe/poe04.htm)

Back…

So yeah, I vanished from my blog. Been a busy couple (three?) months. Four business trips, kid stuff, short vacation, etc.

Since my last post, I’ve gotten my manuscript back. I’m almost done going through the edits, comments and suggestions. I’m amazed at how many grammar errors I made. And commas. Jebus.

As compared to Kinsmen Die, however, the level of rewriting/reworking in Dark Grows the Sun is minimal — mostly just adding some action beats, tweaking some scenes to get deeper into the POV, smoothing out some rough spots/language, etc.

The next step is to create an actual marketing plan…something I keep swearing I’m gonna do but I never do it.

Anyway, just wanted to “resurface.” I have a few ideas for Norse-related posts rattling around in my noggin which might prove interesting to folks.

Done again, for now

Yesterday afternoon I submitted my “final” manuscript. I should get the edits back in early October.

In my last week of editing I used ProWritingAid to focus on issues in the writing. Two reasons:

  1. I didn’t want to re-read every chapter. Not only would it take too long but I’d get bogged down.
  2. I wanted to focus on removing words w/o rewriting every other sentence.

Words removed!

Here are the results of that process:

  • Starting word count: 91,971
  • Ending word count: 88,000
  • Words removed: 3,972 (~4.3% of the book)

Got report?

I used three PWA reports on three passes per chapter:

  • First pass, Sticky sentences: Sentences overloaded with “glue” words (and, in, the, of, etc.). On average I had ten of these sentences per chapter. Sometimes these are fixed by removing words or, more often, by rewriting the sentence.
  • Second pass, Writing Style: This report highlights issues involving passive and hidden verbs, over-reliance on adverbs, repeated sentence starts.
  • Third pass, Real-time: My final (quick) pass thru the chapter just to catch anything the first two reports missed (very little).

PWA has many other reports: cliche, structure, readability, pacing, overused, echoes, etc. I’m sure some of those also would have been valuable. In my unscientific “tests” of those reports, the three I settled on seemed to provide the most bang for my time. YMMV.

Next steps

During the next 6 weeks or so, my plan is to:

  • Put some time & effort into learning how to advertise & market. More on that later. This is critical.
  • Revisit the 67K words I’ve written for Book 3. Ninety percent of them werds is trash — old ideas, bad ideas, crap writing, wrong POV characters, obsolete plot points, etc. My goal is to get BK3 thoroughly revamped and outlined by year end. After that, It’ll probably take two years to write. Which is depressing.
  • Keep writing by working on my Lit-RPG series. I want to figure out a way to work on BK3 while also writing ~1,500 words in Lit-RPG…with the goal of publishing ’em every month as a serial adventure. More planning needed.

And, finally, if all goes well, DGtS will publish in December 2019. So, yeah, done but not done.

Before and After

Here’s another short example of a first-round edit to a chapter hook — the bad before and mediocre after.

Here’s the before (128 words)

Frigg watched sparks fly from the hooves of the two goats—Toothgrinder and Toothgnasher—who hauled the cart through the sky. The skies rumbled like a rickety bridge beneath the wheels of Thor’s cart. At first, he was a speck in the sky no bigger than a distant bird. By the time she’d climbed down to the ground, Thor was overhead.

He circled the hilltop once, twice, leaning out over the rail as he peered down, and then guided the cart down to a bumpy landing. He stepped from the car, freed the goats from the traces so they could wander, and then in a booming voice said, “Why was the Gjallarhorn sounded? I see no army at the gates nor any trace of an enemy within miles.”

Matt Bishop, Dark Grows the Sun

What’s wrong with the above?

Nothing grabs you because:

  • Frigg is “watching” — inherently passive and boring.
  • The scene is about Frigg but the attention is on Thor.
  • Thor gets all the action, such as it is.

And here’s the after (107 words)

Frigg climbed down from Heimdall’s tower to greet the arriving Thor. The skies rumbled beneath the wheels of Thor’s cart as he circled above the hilltop, one hand raised in greeting. A pair of goats pulled his cart—Toothgrinder and Toothgnasher. Their shod hooves hammered sparks from the air.

Somber, Frigg raised her hand in reply. Thor wouldn’t know why he’d been summoned. He’d flown faster than the news had spread.

The hilltop boomed first beneath the cart as it landed and then again beneath Thor’s voice. “Why was the Gjallarhorn sounded? I see no army at the gates nor any trace of an enemy within miles.”

Matt Bishop, Dark Grows the Sun

What’s better about it?

  • Frigg is more active; she’s doing something
  • We’re more in her head — she’s somber, there’s an inkling as to why Thor is arriving…which the reader knows but Thor clearly doesn’t.
  • It’s a little shorter

What’s wrong with the revision?

  1. The second sentence is clunkier than Thor’s cart.
  2. It’s still more about Thor than it is about Frigg.
  3. I’ve basically just reorganized the existing text. The transitions from ‘graph to ‘graph feel stilted.
  4. I think I’m cramming too much into that first paragraph. The bit about the goats needs to go, maybe. Frigg knows their names, so that’s an infodump that could either wait till later or just never be provided. It’s not relevant to the scene.
  5. It’s still boring.

I suspect I’ll end up ditching the last two sentences of the first paragraph and/or rewriting the entire hook. Either way, I’ll let ye olde subconscious work on it for a bit.

8 Days Out

I have eight writing days until my deadline (the 19th). Yes, that math doesn’t work, but I typically don’t write on the days my wife works.

Eight days works out to roughly 30 hours of writing (assuming I hit my average hours writing per day). That’s not a lot (especially considering I dropped ~16 into one scene). I could probably scrape together another ~8 hours, but I can’t count on that.

The good news is that the work I’ve transitioned into is mostly “editing.” For me this means going through each chapter. Repeatedly. Here’s a short list of what I’m doing.

Revising chapter hooks

I make sure that the first sentence of each chapter begins with:

  • The POV character’s name
  • An active verb
  • A decent hook.

This can mean considerable rewriting…or not. Depends.

Tip: If your opening paragraph is passive / boring, skip down a couple paragraphs. That may be where the “action” starts. Put that bit at the beginning and either delete or splice in the original chapter beginning. Usually does the trick. But, it takes some work. In my case I often end up “killing my darlings” … which are almost always purple. Or just bad.

Revising chapter endings

Search “how to end chapters” and you’ll get a bunch of hits with advice on how to end chapters. Personally, I can’t keep all that advice in my head at once.

I just try to do two things:

  • Always end in the character’s POV
  • Have them doing/thinking/saying something cool (that relates to the plot, etc.).

Then I move on — which leaves me where I am now: going back and working out the kinks.

Tip: I also try to tie the closing words / concept / thought / action of one chapter into the opening of the chapter right after it. Doing so can help pull the reader through from one to the other. I’m pretty crap at this.

Multiple editing passes

DGtS happens over a nine day period & that’s how I’ve organized my Binder in Scrivener. Each day consists of multiple POV chapters.

In my first “editing” pass I stick to one POV per book-day. Example: Odin has 2 chapters during Day 5. I’ll edit his consecutively rather than go: Odin > Frigg > Loki > Odin. This helps me keep the POV voice consistent from chapter to chapter.

During my second pass, I will work consecutively through each chapter so I’d edit Odin > Frigg > Loki > Odin. In this pass I’m more focused on the chapters flowing smoothly from one to the other.

Throughout these passes I’m looking at words: Are these the best words? Which words can I remove? Can I use fewer words to say the same thing?

But I also try not to get too nit-picky b/c that’ll slow down the overall process. And my editor will do that. But the cleaner my copy, the better her edit.

Wait, what?

I’m also looking for inconsistencies, plot holes, opportunities to improve clarity, etc. .

Here’s an example. A bunch of rebels get captured in one of my early scenes…and are never referred to again. That makes no sense because in two later chapters Odin interrogates one rebel and then another.

So, I had to figure out a simple way of weaving in a reference to that first group of rebels. I can’t write a new scene b/c I don’t have time and it’d detract from what I’ve already written.

My solution: A two-ish line reference by Odin that essentially said “those bad guys were questioned but had no actionable info.”

Follow that thread

I’ve mentioned this in other posts, but there’s always a chance that when you change even a single line you have to fix everything else associated with that line. Just goes with the territory. I’ve chased quite a few already; hopefully won’t be too many more.

Overall, I’m confident I’ll hit my deadline. I’m at the point where more time won’t help…I’d just end up futzing with it. Gotta move forward!

Sixteen hours and counting

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been having trouble rewriting a scene with Frigg in Ifington. I’ve (mostly) figured out the geography & layout of the city and its environs — enough to write about it, at least.

Scene Goals

The bigger issue continues to be the scene’s goals. Frigg has two plot arcs in DGtS. The first deals with Hodr. The second deals with Baldr.

The goals of the scene, then are to:

  1. Transition smoothly to the 2nd arc.
  2. Make Frigg feel guilty about saving Baldr.
  3. Tie into what’s going on with Odin
  4. Worldbuild without forcing it and/or infodumping

So, pretty standard stuff. But in this case, for me, tough. So far, I’ve spent at least 16 hours working on this scene.

I’m working! No, really

That’s not all pure writing, of course. A lot of it is:

  1. Staring at the screen, thinking
  2. Jumping off on short research tangents — e.g., I had to give Frigg a matronymic that made sense. Another one is finding names for minor characters. Ordinarily I’d skip this step but I’m doing it now b/c I have to deliver the book to my editor in less than a month.
  3. Looking for new music to listen to
  4. Getting up & moving around
  5. Writing, rewriting, editing

Right now, the scene’s at ~2,400 words. Back in March 2019 this same scene was ~1,300 words long. None of those original words are in the current scene which is fine b/c the original scene was pretty craptastic. Here’s why:

  1. It was passive. Frigg was either listening to people give reports, or describing events from a distance. The original scene began with her literally flying over the city and describing what she saw. /yawn
  2. It didn’t advance/complicate the plot.

Fixin’ stuff

Here’s how I’m trying to fix these issues.

  1. Make Frigg active from the get go. In DGtS I’ve done a much better job of starting scenes in medias res but it’s still not second nature.
  2. Getting her active in the scene’s events. My next pass will focus on making this better. I’m trying to believably make her start feeling guilty about Baldr b/c it helps make what comes in later scenes more impactful. That’s my working theory, at least.
  3. Advance the plot: Still weak here. Maybe by working on the prior point I can make the scene more effective.

Over the next week or so I’ll probably spend another four hours (at least) reworking this scene. Lotta effort that I hope pays off. All told I have roughly 42-ish hours of writing time before I send the book off. Many other things to work through in that time besides this one scene.

ATM, DGts is ~92K words. Kinsmen Die clocked in around 175K words. Which is nuts. Having written that huge book this second one feels a whole lot shorter (cause it is) and as a result, a whole lot more manageable.

Maps!

Whenever I hit worldbuilding snags I tend to switch mediums. My current issue is with one of Frigg’s scenes that I’m rewriting. In it, she flies from Jarnstadr (pictured below) to Ifington — and then she flies over Ifington itself.

The problem was I didn’t have a good picture of what Ifington looked like. So I kept confusing myself, hitting iterative, unproductive loops on describing the city — and then I just gave up….and started drawing.

In KD, I described Ifington in very broad strokes…

  1. Had been a settlement founded by the Jotunn which the Aesir took from them
  2. Was on a long strip of land connecting Asgard to Utgard
  3. Was split in at least two pieces by the river Ifing (which in myth is a boundary between Asgard and Utgard)..
  4. Had an “old bridge”
  5. Had two newer bridges somewhere in the city
  6. Had the Bay of Thund to the west and the Great Sea to the east

Rather than start by mapping Ifington (which I eventually did), I started drawing my world. I’d actually done it before, but this time I really dove into it.

What I’ve posted below is the fourth iteration of one section of my world. I’m no cartographer — nor much of an artist. But, this crude map has helped a lot even though it’s not the “final” iteration.

A portion of the world in KD and DGtS

Here’s a list of the things wrong with the map:

  • Ugly, heh.
  • Scale is totally whacked.
  • Jarnstadr should be north of Ifington, not east
  • A little inconsistent with some of what I wrote in KD
  • I don’t like that peninsula cutting down into the Great Sea.
  • I wanted the Thund closer to Ifington.
  • There should be more continent “west” of Gladsheim.

My sketch of Ifington itself is even cruder than this one. But, it’ll help me finish rewriting the scene tomorrow — which was the whole point.

Because of my days-long tangent, I’ve found some good map-making & worldbuilding resources. Check these guys out:

  • WASD20: draws fantasy maps & has some good tutorials on how to do it. He mentions a few other resources as well (which I haven’t looked at).
  • Stoneworks: some worldbuilding tips based on the real world. Good for maps as well as helping make sure your world makes sense.

I also tinkered with Inkarnate and watched some videos of Campaign Cartographer (CC3). Last year I had bought a year-long license of Inkarnate (it’s not expensive) and tinkered with it here and there. CC3 looks pretty powerful but also time-consuming.

If I’ve learned anything from these past few days it’s this: I’m a writer who dabbles in map-making not the other way around.

From down in the weeds…

In the editorial report my editor sent me, one of her comments was this:

Inelegant variation and absolute phrases are no longer overwhelming the writing—where did the overwriting go?

I bolded the last part because I wanted to show an example of my own overwriting.

In working on DGtS I’ve been going back into Kinsmen Die to make sure I’m getting my continuity right — events, description, etc. As I do that I’m having to re-read my own writing…which is sometimes a little cringe-inducing.

Here’s an example of the old:

…as if they were caught amid a school of silvery fish. Below them, a river of frozen stars coursed outward, flowing like molten rock and singing with the voice of an avalanche.
The river stretched like a sea monster’s tentacle back into the Hvergelmir, which lay spread below them like an open-petaled flower. At this remove, the cauldron’s voice was the merest susurration, but the way it swirled and spun like fast-moving storm clouds entranced his eye just as it always had. It had thrown eleven giant arms out across the face of the Ginnungagap. The roaring cauldron was fed from above by a never-ending cascade of white fire and from below by red roiling fire.

Kinsmen Die, Matt Bishop

And here’s the new. I wrote it without first going back to see what how I’d originally described the Ginnungagap.

He stared down into a familiar place—the Ginnungagap. Red roiling fire blasted into the Gap from below; flowing ice plummeted from above. And where the two torrents met, the Roaring Cauldron churned, stretching out eleven mighty arms across the Gap. And still the Gap was unfilled.

Dark Grows the Sun, forthcoming, Matt Bishop

So I’m not saying the newer version is good per se, but I do think it’s better than what I wrote 2+ years ago.

And that’s some of the fun of writing — looking back and seeing the progress.

Catastrophes

In the last couple months I finished a couple books: The Magicians of the Gods and America Before, both by Graham Hancock. Magicians is the book to start with.

But before you read it, make the time to watch the video linked below — Randall Carlson on Joe Rogan’s podcast.

The discussion is wide ranging but it centers on catastrophes and how impacts (meteors, comets) have radically affected life on Earth — and not just in the distant past, but as recently as ~13,000 years ago…and even a few hundreds of years ago. But watch the video. I can’t do it justice. Carlson’s breadth & depth of knowledge is impressive.

Hancock has also appeared on Joe Rogan’s podcast. Those interviews are equally intriguing.

Hancock posits the existence of an advanced human civilization that predated the Mesopotamians, Egyptians, Mayans, Incas, Olmecs, etc. This civilization, if it existed, may have been wiped out in one of the catastrophes Carlson describes. But, some of those ancients survived…and maybe what we consider the beginning of our history is actually its rebooting.

But, start with Carlson.

#501 Joe Rogan: Randall Carlson
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R31SXuFeX0A