The stages of forming a story

1. An initial premise

I get an idea from somewhere. Maybe I’d like to explore a plot, or I have an interesting idea for a character, or I saw a movie and was really displeased with how the writing/characterization/plot ended up. I spend some time, from a couple of weeks at the minimum to a couple of months at most, thinking things over in my head before I bother to start writing things down. By the time those months are over, things have typically changed quite a bit from my initial ideas.

2. Actually writing down the ideas kept from stage 1

Now I start writing things down. This either happens in on paper or in Google Docs (for some reason, I can’t do this in any other word processor). A lot of this is done in a stream-of-consciousness format. Readability or organization isn’t the point in this stage. I just want to get stuff down on paper and out of my head.

3. Proper worldbuilding, outlining, & characterization

At this point, I make some templates. These are based on the templates included in Scrivener, but formatted in a way I like. I have templates for characters and settings, as well as a general “notes” template I can use for things like magic, mythology, etc. I also make a timeline to keep track of events that happen in the story (as well as before the story, if they’re relevant).

For things like conlangs, I write up a grammar in Microsoft Word and keep track of the lexicon in Excel.

My outlines are fairly detailed; they’re essentially a description of everything that happens – scene by scene, chapter by chapter. As a result, the outline for each chapter is its own file in Scrivener.

This stage can take quite a while while I flesh things out. It also depends if it’s the main story I’m working on. If it is, then it might only take a few months. If it’s not, it could take years before I have the time to properly focus on it.

4. Actual writing

Now begins the actual writing phase! Most of the time I start off writing in prose, but something I’ve done in the past few years is start off with a relatively bare-bones script and transfer it to prose later. That way I don’t have to worry about finding the right word or describing things properly.

There is a problem with the script-to-prose approach: it takes me quite a while to add in the descriptions that should have been there from the beginning. This is something that happened with both The Book of Immortality and The Land of Two Moons.

The Book of Immortality: Origins

The first inklings of this story started in 2014 when I decided to combine Western & Chinese mythology. The elves and elemental magic came from the Western side, and the dragons and tigers came from the Chinese side. There was a fairly even mix between the mythologies, but I didn’t have much of a plot, so I set the story aside until I had a burst of inspiration in 2017 and started work on The Book of Immortality.

I create three different maps for the original setting. The first has been lost entirely, but I still have images of the other two.

tboioldmap1

This is the second map, which was created in August 2014. “Resunishe” was the city where the story started. This obviously became Resuni, the capital of East Meitsung in The Book of Immortality.

tboioldmap2

The third map is much more similar to the final map of Meitsung. The Kingdom of Flames (tiger territory) and Dragon Mountains (dragon territory) are in roughly the same areas.

Unfortunately, I seem to have deleted most of my notes. The only character name I remember is Sirilrhis. He was in the story from the very beginning, as were his kids (though Vidhas had a different name and Zhivasu’s name was spelled differently).

Lisel existed from the very first draft. She was always an elf, but she had a different name (Rensel, possibly) and a much different personality. There was a female tiger character who was some kind of guard. She didn’t make it into The Book of Immortality. There was no equivalent to Kiyaska – I don’t remember if there were any human characters.

The story actually started off in the same way: Rensel attacked Sirilrhis so her people could get him to help them. However, Rensel was an archer who used a bow. She also wasn’t a leader – she was super insecure and genuinely not the best at what she did. This was actually she was picked to shoot a dragon: so they wouldn’t lose anyone actually valuable if she failed and died.

I also write two short stories. They were posted on this blog in 2014 and I took them down some time later, likely when they became irrelevant.

The Land of Two Moons: Initial Ideas & Inspirations

How did I first come up with this story? Aside from wanting to reuse the characters from The Gate at the End of the World, and Veitlen & Nymue…I don’t entirely remember. Then again, it takes quite a while for most of my stories develop. Most of this happens in my head, and I don’t start writing down notes until things are much more concrete.

I do, however, remember some of my initial ideas.

The very first idea: A boy (Veitlen, though he had a different name at first) discovered he was a witch, which was a very bad thing in his society. He fled into the forest to join some other witches. One of those other witches was definitely Morgaine, but I don’t remember anything about the others.

This Veitlen would have ended up a lot more similar to the Veitlen in The Gate at the End of the World. The story would have been a lot darker, too.

Eventually I settled on something resembling the characters & plot of The Land of Two Moons. Originally, I didn’t know what kind of setting I wanted the story to take place in. I seriously considered a high-tech cyberpunk city at some point. That would have made things very different, as it would have been more about investigating & opposing the Avatar & government.

I had two choices with the character’s ages: teens or adults, and I went with adults because teenagers with magic powers is a bit too large a genre. Also, I’ve lost interest in YA literature as I’ve gotten older.

At some point, there was flower symbolism along with the spirit weapons, which I dropped because that would have been too much going on.

I spent quite a while deliberating on what I wanted the spirit weapons to be made out of. Veitlen had a sword made out of glass, and that was something I really didn’t want to change. I hadn’t come up with a theme, and had no idea what I wanted anyone else’s spirit weapons to be made of.

Then I watched Land of the Lustrous and thought about gemstones. There are hundreds of them, and that also gave me the ability to use the Seven Treasures. Then I realized there could be seven Avatars instead of one, and have each Avatar correspond to one of the treasures.

This was a very last minute decision that ended up driving the whole story. And then there ended up being more Buddhist influences, because they ended up fitting the story really well. Sometimes that’s what happens.

Speaking of Buddhist influences, the demons in The Land of Two Moons are essentially hungry ghosts, and it took me until about halfway through writing the story for me to realize exactly what I’d reinvented.

The Land of Two Moons: Languages & Cultures of Tsurennupaiva

I did quite a bit of worldbuilding when I first started developing the world of The Land of Two Moons. Most of my attention was focused on the Rennuryhpa (rennu “moon” + ryhpa “people”), who are the majority ethnic group of Tsurennupaiva. Originally, they were referred to as “Selenians” in English – just like Tsurennupaiva is called “The Land of Two Moons” – but after writing the entire story, I realized that I never actually used any of those words to refer to them.

When you do a lot of worldbuilding, not all of it makes it into the actual story. In this case, I’d say that most of it didn’t make it into the actual story.

Now on to the actual point of this post: the languages and cultures of Tsurennupaiva.

500-ish years ago, the moon Ellinen blew up and destroyed 90% of living species. This was later called the Cataclysm. The remnants of humanity spent ~250 years on Sairren, another moon, and returned back to the planet. Then they founded Tsurennupaiva.

During that time on the moon, most of humanity (who came from all over the planet, not just one country) developed a new culture and started calling themselves Selenians (in Rennukat: rennuryhpa). Their language, Rennukat (rennu “moon” + kat” language”), is not a creole or mixed language like you would assume, but a lesser-spoken language that was chosen to be the language of the new Selenian people and adopted en masse.

Selenian culture was, to a large extent, constructed in order to deliberately avoid the mistakes made by the Old Humans – the people who lived before the Cataclysm. The Cataclysm was and still is seen as a punishment from the gods for the behaviors and lifestyles of the Old Humans.

The Ciniáne and Miryani people are two of the largest minority ethnic groups in Tsurennupaiva. Brithan Thiosciare is Ciniáne, and Ren Fennel is Miryani. Both of those characters (and their cultures) came from the second version of The Gate at the End of the World.

Both the Ciniáne and Miryani people existed before the Cataclysm, and have largely managed to keep their cultures & languages intact despite everything that happened, including the pressures to adopt the Selenian culture and language.

While the Ciniáne language is a naming language with slightly more fleshed-out grammar than usual and I’ve thought about the culture, the Miryani language and culture are…nonexistent. This wasn’t going to be the case, especially when I was working on The Gate at the End of the World since Ren was actually a main character there. But in The Land of Two Moons, she’s a secondary character who’s primarily out of focus.

I definitely did not get a chance to explore everything about these things that I wanted to. A large part of the problem, I think, was the (necessary) switch from a comic to prose. There were a lot of things that I planned on showing through visuals that simply that did not make the transition to writing.