A Proper Baddie for Roger Draper

I think I’ve worked out who my baddie is now in the Roger Draper story. It’s an amoral monk who acts as a necromancer for hire to the highest bidder. It has taken a bit of time to arrive at who the main evil character/antagonist in my story should be – who is actually doing all the killing, as the main plot is really about how the main character, Roger, gets himself and his loved ones into trouble through his investigations, and how his ideals change because of this. The killings that he is investigating were almost secondary. But I think I have this now, and best of all the necromancer antagonist has links to the love of Roger’s life, Margery Haukwake. 

Still on stage 3 of the snowflake method, and have done three of the major characters so far, but I now have six major characters instead of five. I am thinking that I should include a major character as well for each of the groups hiring out the services of the freelance necromancer for hire, as their motivations are key to the murder plot as well. 

Snowflake so far

So far so good, I think. I’ve got to stage 3 of the snowflake method without too much drama and found out a lot of solid information about the story and the characters. Stage 3 is to work through important information about each major character: motivation, conflict, resolution, and also a paragraph on the story from the characters perspective, their own personal storyline. I think this is the bit that I have found most useful as it makes you think through the story from the point of view of the character, which adds a lot more depth to the story. 

Currently I’m working with five major characters in the story: Roger, Jake, Margery, the Abbot and the Inquisitor. I have done stage 3 for Roger and Jake. Doing Jake today I realised that the people who were dying at the hands of necromancy were Jake’s friends, other beggars like him who no-one else in the town cares anything about. Thus the reason that Jake helps Roger to solve the mystery and why no-one listens to Roger to start with. 

Snowflake Method

With Roger Draper I have now got to the stage where I feel there needs to be some order brought to the chaos. I need to work out what I should be doing to plan this novel and in what order. Especially as I know that with previous projects I have come unstuck because I have tried to do too much planning or done too little. 

I found a website today about the snowflake technique. Although I’m not sure about the author, I’ve never heard of him, the technique actually looks quite reasonable. It gets you to think about plot structure and character at the same time or at least in close proximity. It also shows you how you can get your planning done in roughly 100 hours, which is pretty amazing if it works. 
I’m going to try it. 

What I’m doing now? Editing Bisclavert

Editing Bisclavert again and again and again it seems!

Received some useful feedback on the story at VWC, which confirmed my suspicions about the first third being a little dull. So I have shortened it drastically. I’m planning to post a revised version on the VWC message board and see what people think before then submitting to A Fly in Amber for their delictation. 

Editing Feedback on Bisclavert

I got a nice rejection for my story “Bisclavert” yesterday from a Fly in Amber, a more mainstream magazine than I am used to submitting too. The rejection was nice because they gave me some good feedback. I was  a bit confused too. They basically said they would have published it if it had been shorter and without the first scene. I have written back to them in the hope that if I did edit it they might reconsider. They kindly suggested that if I did trim it a bit there should be no problem for it finding a home elsewhere. A slightly odd but welcome message (I think?).

I think mainstream mags might be the way to go for submission of my cross-over historical/fantasy pieces. Speculative or fantasy fiction magazines ironically often have quite specific guidelines and ideas of what they want to publish. An odd condition for them to be in when one considers that they claim to be for speculative fiction!

Showers and Early Morning Inspiration

It’s funny how sometimes I have my best ideas first thing in the morning. Must have something to do with the subconscious mind pondering things while I sleep. Anyway, this has meant that this morning rather than doing some research (I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do on the story this morning), I realised in the shower that I sort of knew what the main plot of the story was going to be and I should damn well write it down once I had thought it through a bit more. Well I do have it now. With the addition of some subplots and fleshing of characters I think I should have a good narrative plan. That will be the lengthier bit though – the characters and their motivations and the fitting of the subplots. I think the main plot works though – it has plenty of rising tension, it puts the main protagonist under a lot of pressure, it has a strong antogonist or two, and it brings into focus the themes of the book, which are the search for truth, and whether ends justify means (i.e. torture and suffering caused by witch-hunts). 

Books better than the web for author research?

I always set off with high hopes of being able to pump a search term into Google and getting back some high quality information from amateur websites. In particular when researching for a novel it always seems easier if you can get some information from reading a screen and type up some notes in your electronic research file, rather than sitting down with an actual book and writing notes by hand, and then going back to your laptop to type these up. 

Yet the amount of good information actually out there that isn’t of a superficial nature is quite limited. For what I’m researching, medieval towns and the medieval church (particularly monastic orders), there is some good info on the towns, but very little detail actually on medieval monasticism. The one good site I did find for monastic orders was unfortunately written from the point of view of a roleplayer and only went up to the 12c, so no good for me. 
Which leads to the conclusion, that actually the old-fashioned book is what you need. And this means that unless you are an academic with a library that has access to a comprehensive collection of e-books, you are going to need to either use your local public library service or get onto amazon or second-hand booksellers to get what you need. Luckily my local library service seems to have most of what I need!
The great site I found for medieval towns was Medieval English Towns
The site that was interesting for medieval monasticism, but not thorough enough for me was Aedificium

Roger Draper Plot and Character research

I have now finished reading the historical surveys about St Albans and it’s abbey. This has given me plenty of ideas for developing my fictional town. This is the part I really enjoy, but which also makes me sligthly nervous with excitement. Why nervous? Well I think it’s because I worry that the decisions I make now about plot and character will have implications further on. What sort of story do I want to write? Will the characters and plot ideas I come up with now work, are they too ambitious, are they too stereotyped and boring? Should I not worry about this too much at the moment, as I can always change things and rewrite. I guess its OK to say that if it’s a minor issue, but if it’s the whole setting of the book then you’re in trouble.

So far though I am quite happy with the way things are going. I have some good ideas about the motivations of the major factions within my town. As was so often the case in the Middle Ages a lot of the conflict arises from disputes over rights and income. Such will be the case within the town of St Seward’s and its environs. I think the Abbot is going to be an interesting character. He will have ruffled a lot of feathers when he started in his role, criticising his saintly predecessor, but working hard to recover the rights and income lost by the abbey due to mismanagement. He has already had a number of run-ins with local landowners and the burgesses. Some of which have been successful for the abbey, but others have left him with enemies. He is now taking a more subtle approach to get what he wants for the abbey. 
On the other side are the townspeople who have suffered under the yoke of the abbey for too long. They are jealous of other burgesses in towns who have their own charters and freedom. The last time they tried to rebel though they were cruelly oppressed. Now the Abbot is offering them reconciliation and some leniency as long as they acknowledge his power over them. So there are two camps amongst the townspeople – those who want to accept this reconciliation, and those who want to stand up for their rights. 
Also in the background is the threat of a new heresy in England – Lollardy.  There are other factions and subplots as well, but for now I have to work out how the main plot will fit together!

From Agincourt to St Seward’s Roger Draper

I did about 30 rough html docs and may do some more today while watching the rugby – which should be a walkover for England, but you never know, could be embarrassing!

Getting the first version of the outline done for the Agincourt gamebook was quite exhausting, and I have been yearning to get back to the novel project featuring Roger Draper, demon-hunter. So I have started on the research for this again. I have found some interesting stuff on the borough organization of St Albans, on which my fictional town of St Seward’s will be based. I have also identified other areas that I need to research. This in a way is quite easy research compared to Stupor Mundi as there is a relatively large amount of stuff available in English. Also my setting at the end of the day is fictional. So while I want to get the setting genuine, the actual historical details of what happens is less important, as the story is more a mirror of what really happened or could have happened. 
A bit more research about the abbey and the surrounding county should allow me to be in a position to map out the local history and factional/character background for my own fictional location. Should be fun!

Agincourt Gamebook – initial plan complete

I have now completed the initial plan for the Agincourt gamebook. I decided to keep things simple by only doing the writing for the initial historical deployment and actions of Henry V’s army – so they will start with the same formation and advance towards the French. I have started planning out alternatives to these situations, but it will take quite a lot more writing, so I have decided to see how things look with a shorter historical version. 

I have now started putting together the html documents.