Friday, November 27, 2015

Pirates Don't Just Say "Arrr"

So, I lied.  I have 45,500 words, not 50,000, but I'm well on my way to finish by Monday.

Research and world building for Peter Pan and his Neverland would be incomplete if it weren't for pirates.  Somehow, this isn't something I'd really plotted out, even up to the point I was a few days away from starting.  It wasn't until last week that it really occurred to me I was going to have to write other pirates besides Hook.  And they were going to have to be nasty.  And I would have to do some research about pirates and ships.  Because I know nothing about either.

True story.  We were watching Once Upon A Time and it was at the part where Hook decides he's going to be pirate and change the name of the ship to the Jolly Roger.   I was like "Where did he come up with that name?" to which my younger sister said, "that's the name of the pirate flag."

You learn something new everyday.  Most of the new things I learn come from my younger sister and I'm supposed to be the writer!

I started my research this week with a simple bing search for pirate history.  I do like google a lot more but bing gives me reward points and I can redeem them to feed my Starbucks iced chai tea habits.  As my brother says, bing is so much more inferior, they have to pay you to use it.  It's actually not that bad, but I digress.

The first things that come up with a simple googling, or in this case binging (hello, that's why they're not as big as google.  It just sounds dumb to say you're going to go 'bing' something), were references to pirate movies and a bunch of websites with pirate slang.  I read a bit of it which left me giggling more than informed.

When I picture pirates, I think of smelly, unwashed, missing teeth guys who can't speak the English language properly.  My pirates are a bit like that though I eased up on the smelly portion since I hate reading stories about dirty people, especially when they'll well written.

The word "pirate" has its origins in "per" which meant "to risk" and "pieren" which meant "to attack".  It became the Latin word "Pirata" (Sea Attacker).  The earliest mention of pirates seems to come from 14th century BC.  Basically, these dirty, smelly, moralless people have been around as long as there've been ships in the sea.

In the Middle Ages, Viking's became well known for their acts of piracy.

My pirates don't carry a lot of these origins since they are modernish people trapped in Neverland and resorting to whatever means they think are necessary but even so, I wanted to give them a feel of a swashbuckling pirate, as well as the slightly inept, sometimes funny feel of the pirates from the original Peter Pan stories.  Even so, they need to be dangerous and scary, something I've attempted to incorporate.  This comes into play a bit when Wendy ends up on a pirate ship full of guys who haven't seen a girl in a long time.

So, the pirates are blood thirsty, slightly inept, and just a bit funny but I wanted to inject a bit more personality into them than that.  There are more specific characters the reader will really come to know (Captain Hook, Smee, and a few select others), and while I wanted to carry over this fairytale/stereotypical pirate feel, I also don't want them to be the same tired cliches that've been read before.  They need to have hearts, purpose, and a desire that's more than looting villages and getting women.  

I think pirates bring out my bloody side.  Just today, I wrote this whole chunk where they get attacked by these flesh eating things and one pirate gets totally eaten.  That's a bit weird but the weirder part is...I actually, sorta, kinda, had a bit of fun writing it.  It was super easy, too.

Write again soon!

-Anna Leigh

Friday, November 20, 2015

In the Midst of Madness

For all writers out there, November isn't just a month of family, good food, and awesome deals (if one is willing to wait in line all night.  Or three or four nights).  It's a month to put those words that have been floating, collecting, and jamming the inside of your head on paper.

Throwback picture from last NaNoWriMo.
Yes, my house is that cold!
Finishing out the third week of NaNo, I have somehow more confidence than when I started and less.  More because words are flowing out a lot easier than I expected and even when I've expected to get stuck, I haven't, and less because I am working on this book.

This book is my baby.  The story that started it all.  My first book.  I'm no longer eleven years old and now I don't just write to change the end of other people's stories.  I write to tell my own.

Peter Pan is a story ripe for the retelling, the reason why it's stayed timeless since Peter's first appearance in 1904.  Even small elements of the story have been used in multiple ways to add flavor to other stories and you would be hard put to find a person, at least in the US, who didn't at least know who was being referenced when the boy who won't grow up gets mentioned.

I've discovered something strange in the nine chapters I've written.  Peter Pan is an unexpectedly dark story, make slightly darker by my own unique (I hope) twist.

There have been multiple steps in plotting this particular novel, even more than my plotting for QoT.  There are a lot of different complications in writing a story about time travel and a legend that would've taken place in a mostly real backdrop (QoT), than a mythical, magical island where kids who don't grow up are in charge and hapless pirates create entertainment, not danger.

I knew I didn't want to incorporate magical elements so that went into the trash bin of plotting ideas right away.  While I have worked with super human powers and time travel, I've always kept it on the science fiction-y end by giving somewhat-ish reasonable explanations as to why everything is the way it is.  Even the Doorway that sends Gwen back to Camelot is explained away as a scientific fact.  Neverland has some very odd vegetation, some parts of the island where gravity is funky (flying, anyone?), and several other things that would never be found on Earth.  Knowing these things, one of my first plotting moves was to figure out why the environment would be the way it was.

From day one of writing QoT, I worried about writing Gwen.  She has not and continues not to come easily to me as I struggled to understand her character and move it in the way I want.  I talked a bit about it with my critique group leader this week and figured out some hidden things about her in conversation that I'd never really realized, things that will fuel her actions and in turn, move along the plot line.  With all the elements I've worried about getting right with Darling, Wendy has never been one of them.  She is by far the easiest character I've ever written.  The girl has sass, is impulsive, and consequently ends up in multiple bad situations because of her hotheadedness.  Even to the moment where gets captured by pirates (spoilers~~~), she won't back down.  It's been really easy to write her.  The challenge this time around will be making her character likable.

Gwen is likable but there are times when even I want to say "Get a backbone, girl.  Stand up to them!".  As QoT progresses, she becomes a lot more sure of herself and a lot less likely to let people push her around.  Wendy starts at the opposite end of the spectrum and has to soften a bit.  She has a lot of trust issues which I haven't totally justified with her past.

Because I'm not spending as much time figuring out Wendy, I've been putting a bit more time into Pan and Hook.  I wrote a post a while back about how all the characters in QoT essentially boil down to how they treat rules.  In this book, the characters all boil down to how they view other people and how unselfish they'll be.  Hook and Pan were on a very similar path but then they made a different decision.  Peter decided to sacrifice his life to protect others and Hook sacrificed others lives to protect himself.  I'm very interested in the characters and how that dynamic will pan out (pun intended!).  I literally only wrote Hook's first sentence today and I'm already excited.  I've never tackled a pirate before (figuratively or literally :) and I'm looking forward to the challenge.

The next time I write, it should be with a solid 50,000 words into my manuscript and NaNo completed!!!

-Anna Leigh

Friday, November 6, 2015

To Write A Novel

Up to this point, I haven't said a lot about my sequel to Queen of Time.  It is not because I am not excited about it but because I haven't wanted to spoil too much of Queen of Time.  Unfortunately for me, I just can't keep excitement under wraps.  I will do my best to keep my spoilers to the minimum!

As some may have guessed from the title, my second book, Darling, is a Peter Pan retelling.  To my knowledge, possibly apart from the disgustingly creative folks writing Once Upon A Time, no one has ever mixed an Arthurian legend with the story of Peter Pan.  Of course, I haven't made it past halfway through season four of OUAT so maybe I have outdated information.


Peter Pan is one of the core books that got me started writing. Robin Hood was truly the first but Peter Pan was close on its heels.  My issues always had to do with the fact that the story centers around the reality of growing up and in the end, Peter still doesn't grow up.

I knew in the plotting stage that writing Wendy was going to be a lot easier than writing Gwen but it wasn't until this last week of frantic writing (NaNoWriMo, anyone?) that I realized how much easier she is.  Gwen is a by the rules type and Wendy can't stand the confinedness (is that a word?) of rules. Gwen was poor, Wendy is a bit posh.  Gwen ran away from problems, Wendy punches them in the nose.  Of course, these traits get poor Wendy into more trouble than Gwen ever was.

In the original story, Wendy doesn't like the idea of growing up but after being in Neverland, she begins to realize how much she really does want to do things like a grownup.  This is shown a bit poignantly in the 2004 live action version of Peter Pan where Wendy finds herself attracted to Peter, an action that is decidedly grownup.  I'm not going quite the same route but I do want to focus a bit more on Wendy's unwillingness to grow up.  In Darling, Peter, on the other hand, would love nothing more than to grow up but he can't.  Spoilers.... :)

Last week, I was a bit stressed as to my antagonist(s) stance in my novel and how I was going to puzzle piece all the characters together.  I laid down for a nap and boom, I got half a dozen ideas that tied up a bunch of my loose ends.  Let's just say, it's made writing this week a LOT easier.  Hook is a complication that I haven't totally worked out but from what I've written out about him, he's going to be a big part of Wendy's journey to understanding who she is and what she needs to become.  For any love triangle lovers out there, I am not doing what I have read multiple times now which is to create a love triangle between Pan, Hook, and Wendy.  Seriously, can't we be a bit more original??  To the rest of readers who are super sick of love triangles; you're welcome!

This book will continue some of the time travel elements featured in Queen of Time and will tie in some of Gwen's story.

I'm so excited and nervous about building Neverland.  It's going to be a crazy place with a bunch of strange elements to its nature.  I have some of my old notes and drawings from when I originally started writing a Peter Pan retelling eight years ago and I really want to rework some of them and put them into Darling.  It would be  a nod to my younger writing self who would've never envisioned myself where I am today.

Off to get more writing done.  It's so sad that when I take a break from writing, I inevitably blog or go write on some other platform.  What can I say, even if I'm not that good, I am a writer!

- Anna Leigh