Growing a hero from an ordinary person in a fantasy world has many possibilities, and some of the best characterisations I've read for these, like Pug in Magician or Frodo in Lord of the Rings, have characters who struggle to rise because magic alone will not make them great, but they have a spark in their souls that is both at once gentle and fierce.
Entering the final phases of Chasse's Song, giving him a mentor who comes from an heroic background, Chasse is facing what it takes to become more than average, even more than good, and writing this section draws me back into my sporting experiences where, to rise to the top, players I've played with and against and admired in several sports have worked harder than the average sportsperson - countless hours of strength and endurance and agility building, repetitive practice of skills, experimentation with skills to find innovative ways to apply them, sweat, blood, tears, exhaustion.
I remember one critic mocking Shana from the Ashuak Chronicles, saying a woman couldn't really do what I have her do in the novel, but every part of Shana is based on the efforts and successes of real women who have grown stronger, more agile and more adaptable through perseverance and training to be among the best in their sport. As a fantasy writer, I've been very lucky to be involved with real people facing challenges and seen how they have overcome them. Applying that to characters amplifies the heroic qualities of the real people on whom I base stuff like Chasse's training under Natias in this novel.
Chasse must be worthy of walking beside his amazingly intelligent, talented and resilient sister. His skills lie outside of her capacity to bond with a dragon and to perform magic, so he must harness his limitations in order to become worthy as a protector.
Character development aside, having the central characters meet people from other cultures poses the issue of language and authenticity of cultural variations. Tam and Chasse were raised in a monolingual community with limited interaction with other cultures, but their escape through the mountains brings them into contact with new languages and beliefs. I've had fun developing a language of the Menuii, spoken by Natias. Although this language is used sparingly, because it is not the lingua franca of the world into which our characters will arrive by the novel's end, it's fun looking for ways people might express common phrases like 'Thank you' or 'Again,' or 'Welcome among us.'
Research for the novel this past fortnight extended to learning how ancient cultures smelted metal, particularly iron, because Natias introduces Chasse to creating iron arrowheads. This led to fascinating reading and viewing as shared in an example below:
And along came Jones...
Tropes and stereotypes and all the assorted apparent pitfalls of genre writing have featured in the past couple of weeks as I've wrestled with concepts and ideas to let the story progress in Chasse's Song.
Finding Chasse a 'male' mentor within the story's confines is part of what caused the writing to slow dramatically and for me to be only at around 80,000 words of the draft. He has been partly trained by his father and dragonwarriors, but the forced escape from the village to save his sister and the baby dragon interrupted his development as a warrior and put the story in a situation where a new mentor had to be found. Fortunately, this past week, we found a stranger in the mountains who wasn't originally cast for this novel and he will be Chasse's significant mentor hereafter. He comes with his own back story and reason for wanting to help three siblings and a baby dragon. He puts a couple more jigsaw pieces into the wider puzzle Eric originally shared with Tam in Book One.
I've also been tampering with mindspeak/mindmeld as Tam and Harmi establish their dragon/wizard relationship in line with the lore of the world in which they exist. Add to this relationship the capacity now for Tamesan to 'inherit' the magical ability of all wizards and dragons who preceded Harmi - Claryssa and her ancestors - and for both Harmi and Tam to face learning how to apply their inherited knowledge. Mindspeak between dragon and wizard can extend to them also having the capacity to listen into other minds and to speak with those minds. This opens a host of possibilities and problems with the storytelling. Tam's younger brother, Jaysin, is an adept - a mind capable of understanding and learning magic. However, our protagonist for this part of the story- Chasse - does not have a magical capacity like his siblings and finds the mindspeaking/mindreading intrusive.
I spent some time editing and then re-editing sections where Tam communicates with Chasse - at first allowing him to learn the skill, then denying him the ability to see how that would affect events, and finally deciding to let him participate as a receiver and conveyor when it involves Harmi, Tam or Jaysin, but not with anyone non-magical ie characters who cannot be the catalyst for mindspeak. Logical magic - hmmmm. But we do demand it.
Thus I'm closing in on the end chapters of the first draft. Chasse will undergo harsh training at the hands of his new mentor, Tam's transition to wizard will mature with interesting results, Harmi will learn to fly and begin taming her knowledge, Jaysin will continue to learn his own brand of magic from books. The characters will come down from the mountains and see the kingdom and great city for the first time. I'm envisaging I have about 15000 words to go or approximately 4-5 chapters to reach the end and launch point into the third book.
Writing is my passion. Ideas, opinions, beliefs, experiences expressed through language - through words and images - pervade and create my life. Writing is my voice, my soul, my self. My dream is one day writing will sustain my life...