I saw a wizard yesterday. 🎵

A fiddler playing a Celtic reel live. The sound was like a a clear brook spilling over rocks, like a diving falcon.

I’d not seen real live wizardry, until I saw his fingers moving on the strings. Brilliant. Just spectacular.

I wish I’d recorded his playing, but it was a concert and against the rules. Still, would’ve been worth breaking the rules for. Hopefully the magic will live in my soul, even if I can’t hear its sound again.

Not the concert I heard. But behold that fiddling wizardry.

Storycraft learnt from recent novels read. 🖋️

(1)
From Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo: the gradual character revelation. Bardugo dribbles character development and revelations out across the entire novel. When one character trait is fully revealed, the same scene hints at a new character trait. And when that is revealed, a new one is hinted at. This continues for all the POV characters, well past the novel’s halfway mark; even into the climax and denouement are new character traits being revealed. This slow, “nested” revelations of character are the hooks that keep the reader engaged and engrossed, wanting to discover something new.

So I’ve been reviewing the character arcs in my novel. How can I stretch out the details and revelations of a character arc over time? Make a note of each scene where character development takes place, and structure the reveals/facts to reveal one thing but hint at the next.


(2)
From The Ladies of Mandrigyn by Barbara Hambly: how to introduce memorable characters and embed them in the reader’s mind from the first few words. Hambly is brilliant at writing vivid, memorable character introductions. The characters’ personalities shine through powerfully within the first sentence of their introductions. They’re unforgettable from the get-go… what’s more, their personalities continue to be strong and vivid as the story progresses.

I want to learn this sort of kick-ass character introductions. Does it involve developing 1-2 quirks for each character, and then amping them to the Nth degree? I’m still reading this novel, plenty of chance to study how Hambly does it.


(3)
From Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon: project management for a creative endeavour, especially Kleon’s advice on maintaining analogue vs. digital workspaces. This dichotomy is extremely powerful for segregating different sets of information, and more importantly: the mental gear-switch required to operate in those disparate sets.

I used to keep both the manuscript and the revision meta in the digital space. I’m typically well-organized, but for a long time couldn’t figure out why my creative projects always ended up in organizational chaos. Creativity can’t be fully tamed into a structure — I’ve made peace with that — but this chaos was actually crippling my productivity and causing much discouragement. Then I started handwriting novel drafts last year, and had an epiphany about coupling mental processes to physical ones.

Now, my novel manuscript is in the digital workspace, while the the notes that guide the revision process (the “meta”) is in the analogue workspace. Doing the project vs. analyzing the project’s progress involve different mental processes. Hooking the mental gear-switch to the physical, visceral movement between analogue and digital workspaces is incredibly powerful. Now that I’m physically recording the meta with pen-and-paper, I’m way more organized, and no longer struggle with switching mental gears.

I think I write about as many words in the meta as I do in the novel manuscript, if not more. But now it’s helping, not hindering. Just have to make sure that it doesn’t metastasize and overwhelm the creativity.


(4)
From recent, inconstant attempts to post handwritten quotes from my current novel, A Dirge for the Amphiptere: Dear God, my handwriting is atrocious. And the photos aren’t even straight. So woeful! Time to practise penmanship again!


Part One of A Dirge for the Amphiptere is finished. 30 days to revise 17,000 words. It’s light-years better than the previous draft. And I’ve learnt so much about editing and the craft of weaving the myriad strands of character, plot, setting, and voice altogether into a coherent story. Lessons on how to not reveal character backstory too quickly, but drip-feed it instead. How to saturate the storytelling with setting/world-building — and just when you think you’ve soaked it properly, just how much more that you can still do. How hard it is to create idioms and proverbs from scratch that reflect the gestalt of an entire culture. And much more.

Part Two is next. It’s three times as long as Part One. I’m sitting at the opening chapter, seeing at myriad ways I can change it to make everything — character development, world-building — richer. Didn’t someone say that editing was a bottomless well? Where you can keep fishing in, at the expense of finishing a novel and moving on the write new ones?

Must keep going. I’m not going to meet my February deadline for finishing the full revision. Shooting for end March. Camp NaNoWriMo is in April, and I want to begin something new by then.

On this day.

Currently editing. A Dirge for the Amphiptere, ~68,000 words. Edit into Draft 4. Daily target: 3 days per chapter, for 27 chapters. Deadline: end February.

Now reading.
Six of Crows, Leigh Bardugo. Heist caper in a lush fantasy world. The kind of book that is simultaneously intimidating (would I ever be able to write something this good?) and stimulating (of course I can, just keep writing), and a great story to analyze and study for craft. 5 stars.

Show Your Work!, Austin Kleon. It’s given me a new perspective on how to use social media for showcasing creative work. I have an idea of what to do with my blog now. 4 stars.

Now playing.
Fallen London, and looking forward to the very-soon release of Sunless Skies.
Slay the Spire, roguelike deck-builder. Great for quick, fun gaming fixes with endless variety in each run. 4 stars.
Riven: Sequel to MYST, puzzle adventure. The first PC game I ever bought and played (when I was 13 years old), and has remained evergreen and beloved. I’ve finally discovered all the “endings”, and enjoyed the exquisite sound design and superb live-acting. 5 stars.

Great world building resources. A Manual of Gesture. An Outline of English Speech-Craft. (Both courtesy of @ayjay) The History of English podcast.

Recently learnt. Cynghanedd. Old English alliterative verse. Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie by Longfellow, written in epic verse (viz. discussion with fellow writer about poetic metre and conventions).
The Winchester rifle; must study firearm tech & dev over time. The Diolkos, a rudimentay railway in Ancient Greece.

Newly discovered. The joys of using fountain pens. I’ve never understood the obsession with stationery, but having tried out a fountain pen and inks over Christmas break, I get it now. Nevermore will I use cheap ballpoint pens again.

Weird dream.

Last night I dreamt about Serbian guerilla fighters in a muddy field beneath a looming cliffside containing a network of caves. The sky was cloudy and overcast, and it was all damp and probably drizzling. I was in the field, dug into the grass and mud, and then I was inside the cliffs with the soldiers, who were all dressed in blue uniforms, tramping through the tunnels, talking about Skopje and strategizing about some important mission there.

M. and I. were in the caves with me. They’ve been on my mind recently, and M. comes from a European country but is decidedly not Serbian. Apart from that tenuous link, I have absolutely no connections to the Balkans.

Sometimes, a weird dream is just a weird dream.

Appreciation for Micro.blog.

(I ended my M.B hosting subscription before I thought of making a final post on vega.micro.blog, so this will have to do.)

I’ve moved fully to my own domain. Now blogging at v.hierofalco.net, which includes the posts that were originally on vega.micro.blog. That M.B blog has been mothballed, but I’m still on the M.B social-media front.

Many thanks to Micro.blog for hosting vega.micro.blog for a short while. A few months, but they were important ones. If I hadn’t found M.B, I probably would’ve remained adrift in social media, ignorant of the Indieweb and the decentralized Internet, for a long while yet. If M.B hadn’t hosted me first, I wouldn’t have regained the desire and drive to have my own domain/website again. In a way, M.B was a midwife to reviving my webmastering hobby, and continues to prompt conversation and personal reflection on what social media means to me, and what goods and ills it brings into my life.

Thank you, @manton and Micro.blog. Keep up the good work; you don’t know what kind of impact you’re making on people.

💡 Things learnt today: Kandyan dance.

I work with a Sri Lankan colleague. What began as a discussion about Bollywood’s popularity in Sri Lanka (last night’s radio show still on the brain) ended in her describing Kandyan dance, a classical dance form indigenous to her home region. (The Kingdom of Kandy was one of the last sovereign kingdoms in Sri Lanka to fall to Portuguese colonists.) She called it “the king’s dance”, and it was a religious ritual performed by vassals before the king. When she learnt Kandyan dancing it was in the form of story. Every movement has a meaning, and together the movements form a story that makes the learning memorable.

Some YouTube videos. Fascinating. It distantly resembles classical Indian dance forms, with their intricate, symbolic gestures that each have a sacred meaning.

Weird Indieweb idea of the day: guestbooks.

If the Indieweb is reviving “Web 1.0” artifacts that foster a sense of community, such as site directories and webrings, I’d like to see a comeback of guestbooks. I remember how you could sign up with a guestbook host — they did all the scripting/hosting, and you pasted a link on your webpages to “sign guestbook” and “view guestbook”, and watched as visitors signed in over time. In the days of static websites, those were delightful methods of public, mutual discovery, through leaving a mark on someone’s website while also including a link to your own. At least, they were delightful before the spammers and big commerce arrived.

I suppose it’s still possible to make a “guestbook” by pinning a static page on your blog that people can comment on. Comments on a blog’s post seem to be the present-day equivalent to guestbook signings on a static, mute website. That doesn’t have the same feel as “sign guestbook” and “view guestbook”, though.

Something to try out one day when the site has gotten off the ground. But I’m a little doubtful that guestbooks will catch on. For one, the Internet is a very different place, and when the manual act of signing guestbooks has been replaced by automated metrics and anonymous trackers, this “neighbourly” practice has been lost. But it’s worth a go to see what kind of people might bother to sign a guestbook.

Hugo is a winner.

Installed Hugo and playing with it. This is incredible. All the laboriousness of coding webpages has been automated. Hugo can handle all the rote tasks, and I can get on with making content in markdown instead of stuffing around with markup. Most of my online presence is suited to static webpages, but has been spread around social media because I didn’t quite have the tools to build everything I wanted. Hugo offers a way to do that. Consolidation FTW. The days of finally leaving Tumblr, WordPress, Wordnik, Instagram, and Twitter are on the horizon.

Things to do:
Find a good website theme, or learn how to make one. How to make one theme adapt to different content types.

How to syndicate a static blog/site on RSS?

How to integrate Hugo into my existing creative workflow, and then publish everything online, with the least amount of friction. FTP is too much friction.

Hugo’s local server, and Writemonkey‘s abillity to bind its database to independent files, may be the keys to some of my writing workflow problems.

Dream.

I dreamt about AR last night. We were in a room in a building (apartment block? hotel?) chilling out and talking before he had to leave. We were probably talking about life and everything and nothing — nothing memorable, the way idle conversations between friends are like.

I’ve lost track of AR for many years. I haven’t thought about him for just as long. Not enough to prompt a dream, when I seldom dream these days.

I guess it’s time to pray again.