The traveling cast…

This past month I’ve eased up on the writing throttle. I dropped from a ~16 hour/week writing schedule back to about 6 hours/week. I’ve written a few scenes, edited some others but, mostly, I’ve focused on outlining.

In prior posts I’d mentioned how bloody that process was (and will continue to be). The new structure works pretty well (atm), but it needs a lot of work. Most of the existing ~60K words will get heavily edited or thrown out wholesale. Much of that’s b/c: the writing’s crap, scenes are moved around, characters removed (or added) to scenes, etc.

To reorganize BK2 I focused on travel times. Boring, but necessary since there’s a ton of travel. I’ve already mentioned Hermod’s journey, but along with that:

  • Frigg’s stuck in Gladsheim managing things, but then she leaves to speak with a Jotunn woman named Thokk. She has to be back in Gladsheim for the final scene(s).
  • Vaft & Hyrrokin have to get from Jotunheim to Gladsheim. Because reasons.
  • Odin arrives back (late) and aside from a quick jaunt down to see the Norns and then, a bit later, to the High Seat with Heimdall, he stays in Gladsheim.
  • Freyr and Freyja travel from Alvheim and Vanaheim, respectively, to Gladsheim. And, then, oops, Odin asks if Freyr brought Skidbladnir. No, Freyr, says, I rode Gullinbursti. Well dangit, Odin says, I need that ship. How long to get it here? (BTW, this is all prep for BK3.)
  • Thor zips into Gladsheim (b/c of the culminating event in BK1), Frigg orders him into Utgard’s frozen north (b/c of what Vidar found there), but he then HAS to be back in time for BK2’s climactic scenes.
  • Loki meets Odin “on screen” for the first time and then, at Frigg’s request, goes to Helheim. Then he has to get back to Gladsheim.
  • Vidar has to get back from Utgard, get to Vithi (his home), get to Gladsheim, get to Ifington, get back to Gladsheim and be present for the climactic scene.
    • One of the major changes I made was splitting up Vidar and Loki. In the “first” draft, I had them paired up for what I thought were good, dramatic, tension-raising reasons.
    • Then I decided it was silly and didn’t make sense time-wise. So, now they’re both alone & doing their own things.

So, with all that done, I’m really, really hoping that it’s not work in vain. Because, by Monday, I’ll have my editor’s comments back. Major changes to BK1 will ripple into the subsequent books.

/crosses fingers

WoW, Norse Myth

Shockingly, I’m a World of Warcraft nerd. In past expansions of the game, I’ve enjoyed Blizzard’s integration of Norse myth into its universe — particularly with the Ulduar raid.

The most recent expac (Legion) dives back into Norse myth. So, I thought it’d be fun to note the few things I’ve seen so far.

  • Aegira: I play a monk. Aegira is integral to one of my quest lines & ends up being one of my followers. She’s a “brewmaster.” In Norse myth, Aegir had a cauldron (fetched by Thor from a giant named Hymir) in which he brewed mead for the Aesir.
  • Egyl the Enduring: Possibly a reference to the Icelandic poet/skald Egil (“Egil’s Saga”).
  • Fathnyr: Refers to Fafnir, brother of Andvari and Regin who, in Reginsmol, murders his father Hreithmar. Fafnir somehow became a dragon, as you do, and was subsequently killed by Sigurd in the Fafnismol.
  • Havi: One of the names associated with Odin in the Havamal. It means “High One.”
  • Helya: This is Hel, of course. In WoW, she’s the body-double for Ursula (yes, from The Little Mermaid) which is both weird, funny and not at all true to the myths.
  • Naglfar: The “Nail Ship” is made from the fingernails and toenails of dead men and women — cutting the nails of the deceased before they are interred means that fewer nails get to Helheim. Therefore, it’ll take Hel longer to build the ship. Once finished, Naglfar is the ship on which the dead, along with Loki and several others sail to Asgard at Ragnarok.
  • Huginn: “Thought,” one of Odin’s ravens.
  • Muninn: “Memory,” Odin’s other raven. He sends both ravens out at dawn to scour the realms for information; they come back at night.
  • Nithogg (and his brood): “The One Full of Striking Hatred,” is a dragon of death in the Voluspa. Due to drinking blood and eating corpses, Nithogg has serious halitosis issues. This dragon lives thru Ragnarok.
  • Odyn: Odin, the Alfather. In Legion, Odyn has a full, glowing beard of fiery hot magma.
  • Runelord Ragnar, Floki, Lagertha (fallen Val’kyra): All three are references to Vikings the TV show (History channel), as well as to Norse myth and sagas.
  • Val’kyr: The valkyrie are the “choosers of the slain.” Contrary to the image of beautiful spear maidens riding winged steeds, an older interpretation/conception suggests that valkyr were vicious, demonic creatures related to the disir (female spirits).
  • Vydhar: Found in a land “Filled with growing trees | and high-standing grass” (Grimnismol, 17), Vidar is a son of Odin — and one of my book’s main characters. In a jaw-dropping moment (mine, not someone else’s) I came across Vydhar in Stormheim. He’s a tree. My jaw dropped b/c in my BK3 I had Vidar turn into a tree. Once I saw that same idea in WoW: Legion, I ditched my idea and found another, better one. It’s better b/c it ties more directly to him as a character and what he gets up to. Saying anything more would be teh spoilerz!
  • Yotnar: Or Jotnar, which is the plural form of Jotunn. As a name for a dude, it’s a little silly, but so are gnomes dancing. In a good way.
  • Ymiron (the fallen king): Obviously a riff on Ymir, the Jotunn progenitor.

Many of those listed above inhabit Stormheim (Home of Storms) which also features a really cool, humongous statue of Thorim, I think (have to double check). One of the new dungeons is the Halls of Valor; it has a whole Valhol thing going on, including a glowing golden bridge up to where Odyn’s waiting for you to comb his magma beard.

Hymdall (Heimdall) is the first boss in the “Halls of Valor” dungeon which is fitting because he guards the main gate to the halls. He’s also a huge PITA. Fenryr (Fenrir, one of Loki’s sons) is another boss in that dungeon.

Anybody playing the game catch names/places that I haven’t included?

Thunder & lightning…

“…very very frightening, Thor!”*

The ultimate disproportionate retaliation, Thor and Mjölnir not only crack Jotunn heads but they threaten to crack my plot wide open.

One issue is that the myths suggest that (some) Aesir/Vanir and (some) Jotunn can go toe-to-toe with each other. I have two such battles accounted for — but Thor is the outlier. A huge outlier since he kills every Jotunn he comes across.

In BK 1, I play right into that by making Thor break-a-mountain kinda strong. And I put Hyrrokin in his path which, I think, results in a pretty cool scene. (We’ll see what my editor thinks.)

But, there need to be limits.

Norse myth has already limited Thor’s strength in a couple ways. For example, to use Mjolnir Thor needs the Járngreipr (iron grippers) — i.e., iron gloves. He also wears Megingjörd (power belt) which doubles his strength. (As I write this, I don’t remember if the belt is needed for Mjolnir or if it’s just a bonus. To the books!)

But those limits aren’t enough, really. They do suggest that I could have Thor’s hammer stolen (as it was in the myths) or even his other implements. I’m not going that route b/c in my books, that’s already happened to Thor and now he keeps a watchful eye on his stuff.

Instead, I separate Thor from the conflicts. First by having him “away” when he needs to be in Gladsheim. Second, by having him actively choose to zig when he should have zagged. And, third, by having him manipulated.

In Norse myth, there’s a bit of friction between Thor and his father (Odin). This appears true historically, too. The temple at Uppsala (Sweden) has three central statues: Thor, Odin and Freyr. Thor occupies the central position suggesting, perhaps, that he was worshipped as the “mightiest” god (according to Adam of Bremen). The language of place names and people names further suggest that Thor was very highly revered.**

In the Poetic Edda, the Poem of Harbarth illustrates another difference/tension between Odin and Thor:

The noble who fall | in the fight hath Othin,
And Thor hath the race of the thralls.

In this context I believe that “thrall” means the common people / peasants more than “slaves,” per se. So, it’s a class / societal status difference between the father and son.

The entirety of the Poem of Harbath is pretty awesome — it’s a battle of wits/insults between a disguised Odin (Harbath) who refuses passage across a river to a weary Thor who’s just returned from fighting the Jotunn. That in itself illustrates another key difference between them — Odin’s the cunning god, a trickster, who lies to Thor and is basically just being a jerk, while Thor’s portrayed as the opposite — honest and forthright. After all, he’s not disguised and he gives his name while the disguised Odin never does.

Note that there’s an underlying, casual brutality to both Thor and Odin that’s alien to us moderns:

Harbath spake:
32. “Thy help did I need then, Thor, | to hold the white maid fast.”

Thor spake:
33. “Gladly, had I been there, | my help to thee had been given.”

Thor is also typically depicted as simple-minded / stupid. I think that’s crap and probably more an outgrowth of “nobles” thinking they’re better than “peasants.” I’ve nothing to back that up, though. I will cite, however, the events of the Alvissmol in which Thor outwits the “dwarf” Alviss (All Wise).

So, is Thor dumb? Not in my books. 

However, my Thor is susceptible to deception (just as anyone is). In BK 3, Odin deceives Thor — manipulates him into leaving so that he (Odin) is free to do something vile which Thor, had he been around, would have prevented.

And that implies that Thor is capable of countering Odin. Which, in my books, he is. Odin doesn’t scare him nor is he intimidated by his father. After all, what does the oncoming storm  have to fear?

On the other hand, Odin isn’t afraid of Thor. He’s circumspect with his son. He doesn’t want a direct confrontation with Thor. And why would he, unless it served some subtle goal? (Also, he’s not sure who’d win.)

But even when Thor obeys his father, he’ll still refuse to do something he thinks is dishonorable — despite being ordered to do it by his father and despite what the Jotunn themselves did to the Aesir at the start of BK 1.

In the Lokasenna, Thor is portrayed as the only Aesir who Loki respects.

64. “I have said to the gods | and the sons of the god,
The things that whetted my thoughts;
But before thee alone | do I now go forth,
For thou fightest well, I ween.

I don’t think Loki fears Thor any more than Odin does; I read respect in those quoted lines — born, likely, of familiarity.*** And, much like Odin, Loki only does things if they suit his purposes. Loki will give ground if it makes sense and he’ll endure mockery by the Aesir since it means they’re more likely to underestimate him.

So far, I haven’t given Thor a POV in my books. That’s for several reasons:

  • His huge popularity these days
  • I didn’t think his POV was required, unlike Loki’s and Odin’s. I don’t need to be in Thor’s head to show him kicking ass.
  • I’m more intrigued by those who I put in his path. We’re in Hyrrokin’s head for her confrontation with Thor. That’s for two reasons:
    • reveal her character and
    • show the reader what Thor’s capable of — which, I think, delivers a bit of what they want (cool factor) and sets up future expectations.
  • His threat of overwhelming force. The Jotunn know it, they’ve lived it, so how do they plan on countering him? As the author, that’s the challenge I find interesting.

And for the Jotunn in my books, countering Thor is an ongoing concern. At least until Ragnarok.

__

* Courtesy Deadpool in Marvel Heroes 2016, sung to the tune of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody.

Note: The graphic is from here. It’s a 10th century version of Mjolnir and is an amulet worn by someone who worshipped Thor.

** There’s WAY more to Thor than my poor summary suggests. Of notable interest, imo, is the parallel to Indra and how Thor’s role among the ancient Scandinavians and Germanic peoples shifted over time.

*** Of all the Aesir besides Odin, Loki is most often seen in the company of Thor.

And bloodier still…

Funny how timelines expose problems.

On Saturday morning I sat down with pencil and paper and continued my handwritten outline while looking at my existing BK2 Scrivener manuscript.

I was having problems with Hermod’s ride into Helheim. In the myths, a one-way trip takes her 9 days. Too long. So, in BK1 I condensed that to 3 days for Odin (6 days round trip). Much better.

So, in BK2 when Hermod rides Sleipnir (Odin’s horse) into Helheim it’s gotta take 6 days total.

Timeline problems ensue: She has to be back by Day X to deliver Message ABC which then spurs other characters to action.

The problem was that the pacing was off. (And it still might be.)

My fix: I ripped out a major event in the book’s middle(ish) that the first 1/4 of the story was building toward and made that event start the book.

And I thought my hands were bloody before? Eep.

That let Hermod leave earlier which partially fixed the problem. It also heightened the conflict between Frigg and Odin, cast Loki in a different light, and got Vidar to Gladsheim sooner — along with Hyrrokin & Vaft. Pretty good change in light of those benefits. (I’ll come to the downside in a minute.)

Then I realized that, hey, I rehabilitated Heimdall at the end of BK1. What if he overheard the message Hermod was to deliver and relayed it to Odin?

That solved the problem. It also made Hermod’s conversation/message the reversal that kicks off the latter ~1/4 of the book and put Odin and Frigg into “take action” mode sooner.

What’s the downside? I have to rewrite the entire book! Not only are previously written scenes out of order (so they have to be redone), but POV characters aren’t in the right places, they’re in the wrong scenes, the events in the scenes are wrong, etc.

I’m not upset b/c a lot of the writing was junk and I kinda expected this to happen. N00b novelist, remember! 🙂

For all that, I think this will make BK2 better. Not only does it start stronger, but the turning points feel right. And the book’s climactic event remains the same, as does the cliffhanger.

But before I start writing, I’m going to re-outline everything again and again until it’s as right as I can get it before I sit down to write. I have to keep reminding myself b/c I keep trying to write instead of outlining.

As it stands now, BK2 is ~68K words long. 30K words will be easy to add since, as I mentioned in the prior post, I have several plot threads that need to be taken up in BK2.

And, check out this scene & avg word count:

  • Frigg: 17, avg words per scene: 982
  • Vaft: 3, avg words per scene: 1,131
  • Hermod: 9, avg words per scene: 705
  • Hyrrokin: 5, avg words per scene: 640
  • Loki: 6, avg words per scene: 1,855
  • Vidar: 10, avg words per scene: 1,320
  • Odin: 12, avg words per scene: 1,055

These counts are not that meaningful since each one will be almost completely rewritten or thrown out. And, I’ll still be adding/removing scenes where appropriate. But, I’ve added the above to my tracking spreadsheet, so it’ll be interesting to see how it looks this time next year. Which, realistically, is probably about when I’ll be finishing the “first” draft before sending it to my editor.

Bloodied hands

So, I’ve begun tearing the entrails from BK2. So much wrong with it. So much horrific writing.

Events that I once thought were organized now seem disjointed and lame. Illogical.

I’ve huge gaps of time — days — in which the main characters are doing nothing. Major stuff went down in BK1 and they’re doing nothing?

Failure of my imagination.

I can see what I did, though. I wrote scenes about the signposts related to specific events in Norse myth. Hermod’s ride into Hel is one example. But while she’s doing that, I have 7 other characters that need to be doing something.

And they are doing things, but none of it seems quite substantive enough…or quite cool enough. Here’s a snapshot:

  • Hyrrokin & Vafthrudnir are riding to Gladsheim. Yawn. Aside from a couple scenes comprised of considerable foreshadowing, their arc is an arrow waiting to strike…in the back 1/4 of BK2.
  • Vidar arrives back in Gladsheim and is given a task by Odin. He doesn’t want to do it, but Odin says it’s important. Odin says he’ll deal with the “stuff” that Vidar feels he himself should be handling.
  • Hodir’s in Gladsheim. He’s not in a good place.
  • Odin and Heimdall are at the High Seat. More talking, but some cool stuff happens. These few scenes also help show what’s going on — b/c Heimdall can see & hear lots of stuff. As can Odin, when he sits down (sight only, though). And he casts his eye far and wide. This  broadens the world to include groups of people that have been mentioned but not dwelt on. Those people (the Alvar and Svartalvar) have their own books (BK4+).
  • Frigg’s in Gladsheim. So far she’s caught Odin doing something really bad and she isn’t happy about it. When she figures out what he actually did, she’s even less happy. All of that deepens the rift between them…which pays off in BK3. But, she needs to be doing other things — important things that are relevant to the plot and her character, but she doesn’t want to be doing b/c she’s tired of ruling alone. And what are those things? I’m slowly grasping my way toward a few good ideas. Slowly.
  • Loki is doing what he does best. And he’s had his first meeting with Odin. I have a draft of what they discuss, but it’s far from perfect. That conversation is a clash of wills, personalities and goals and it needs to be really good and really subtle. Loki’s role crystalizes at the end of BK2…in a gigantic cliffhanger. 🙂

Over the past few days I’ve been going scene by scene, in-book day by in-book day, sketching out events, plots and conflicts (similar to what’s written above) and then finding the gaps, moving things around and/or revising conflicts. I’ve thrown out a half-dozen scenes already; more will follow.

My guess is that following the threads left open in BK1 will help resolve some of what I feel is lacking in BK2. And, frankly, I can’t wait until Oct 1 b/c then I’ll have an outsider’s perspective on what worked and what didn’t in BK1.

But until then my hands will get bloodier still. And afterward, too, I expect.

 

Back in the saddle…

This past weekend I started work on Book Two. Right now, it’s ~121K words long and organized into 5 parts, two of which are short “turning point” scenes in which a major reversal drives the book forward. It’s complete in the same way all first drafts are.

As mentioned previously, I’m going to split the current “BK2” into two separate books. The existing word count justifies it based on what happened on my rewrite of BK1. My guess is that I’ll easily add ~30K words to each half just by:

  1. Improving follow through on events foreshadowed in BK1 as well as additional foreshadowing for events in BK2 and beyond.
  2. Incorporating new/revised plot & character elements that have been developed through rewriting BK1.
  3. Adding more involved character building. Here are several examples:
    1. Widening the rift between Odin and Frigg as they increasingly go head-to-head
    2. Hyrrokin’s arc is in flux as I work on new ways to make her cool(er).
    3. Deeper glimpses into Loki’s motivations as he and other characters interact with his children — particularly his daughter, Hel.
    4. Introducing a new POV character, Hermod, who in my telling is the daughter of Odin and Frigg. She’s young, anxious to prove herself and, in some ways, she’s the counterpart to Hyrrokin.
  4. Adding more world building:
    1. Yesterday I improved on my idea of how the Jotunn’s use of magic differs from how the Aesir use magic.
      1. As a sidenote, I started very like “Sanderson” in my magic system — clear rules that were shown (and sometimes told) to the reader (sometimes referred to as “hard magic”).
      2. Over the past year, I’ve basically thrown a blanket over those rules. It’s all still there, the characters do certain things when they’re using magic and they can “run out” of it, but I’m trying now to focus on the cool of what they’re doing rather than the (added) cool of how they’re doing it.
    2. Movement to more places in the world while also spending more time in those places. One example is Hlidskjalf, the High Seat, which Odin uses to see out over all the worlds. He uses it in BK2; it was fun imagining what that experience would be like. Not happy with it yet, but it’s getting there.

Since I get my editor’s critique back by September’s end, I’m going to use this month to plan, outline, revise…and then do it again. I think I’ll get more out of that than throwing myself into the nitty-gritty of writing/rewriting various scenes, POVs and plotlines. Having a more clearly defined idea of where things end up two novels later will help make BK1 better.