Greetings, miserable slaves! Vrokthar the Skull-feaster, Scourge of the Northron Wastes, brings your weakling ears glad tidings! You muck-dwelling wretches are literate, or so Vrokthar’s thanes inform him. So it is that you have been chosen to workshop Vrokthar’s latest work of literary genius: “Vrokthar the Skull-Keeper.”
Yes, I see you tremble in delight at this mighty opportunity to strengthen your anemic minds upon the mighty words of Vrokthar’s dream-vision. However, the tale of this fictional barbarian slaughtering his fictional foes in numerous, spleen-wrenching scenarios is not yet perfected. Vrokthar was told that he needs “a new perspective” and “narrative objectivity” to judge his work. Naturally, Vrokthar immediately slew the incontinent fool who dared suggest such a thing, but upon drinking the imbecile’s blood, Vrokthar now believes he may have been hasty. So, I have searched my slaves for those worthy to read my opus.
Be warned, however! Vrokthar has tried several groups before yours, and each has been a more bitter disappointment than the last. These mewling Wetlanders have made unreasonable demands of Vrokthar, and even sought to embitter him towards his own word-hoard. So, they have died. This is where you come in.
Between now and when I am satisfied with your literary offerings to me, you will no longer eat nor drink nor sleep. Vrokthar’s art requires your fullest attention. Those who seek to leave my yurt shall be devoured by my hunting dogs, who even now wait in the dark in anticipation of your cowardice. Oh yes, your devotion to this task will be complete!
I shall remain here while you read, watching your blood-rimmed eyes devour every word with what I will assume to be rapt admiration. I furthermore demand that you inform me of the motivation for every facial expression you make. If you giggle, I must know why and, if the part you read was not intended to be funny, your life will be immediately forfeit. If you smile, I shall also demand explanation, and that explanation ought to be your grim appreciation of the new forms of slaughter the fictional Vrokthar hath delivered upon the deserving foe. Failure to do so will mean I shall flay you alive and then salt your flesh, so better preserve your corpse for the feeding of your fellow slaves.
Upon the mighty conclusion of my 22,000 word short story, once your long-lasting applause has lapsed into exhausted silence, we will begin our work. Each of you shall offer your opinion of my work. I demand honesty, for Vrokthar cannot perfect his manuscript without your courageous truths. Some of you, at this juncture, may be tempted to propagate vile falsehoods about Vrokthar’s story. For instance, that there “seems to be no plot, setting, or character development” or “the protagonist is never in danger.” Such fools shall be fed their own entrails as the others watch. To avoid this, as that manner of death is time-consuming and Vrokthar cannot spend all day screwing around in his yurt, here are explanations for your concerns in advance of your reading, so that your feeble minds may realize your errors before you make them:
- Vrokthar’s character need not be developed, as he is already perfect. Yes, at everything.
- Where Vrokthar slays his foes is unimportant, only that they are slain.
- The plot is obvious – Vrokthar kills his enemies. How is this not obvious to you?
- How can Vrokthar be in danger if he is perfect? This tale is meant to be realistic, you slavering baboon.
- No, I will not change the POV. Go to hell.
- Vrokthar uses commas when and if they suit him. The commas serve Vrokthar, not otherwise. No decapitated semicolon will give me orders, of that you may be assured.
Again, honesty is key to your survival.
Should you give Vrokthar the feedback he deserves, you shall be freed of your chains and set loose into the world once more. However, should you ever write a story about a barbarian named Vrokthar who slays his enemies, I will come for you again. You will pay me royalties or I will take your head. So it is written, so shall it be.
So, I’ve been writing a lot of short fiction recently. Well, I am usually writing a lot of short fiction, but I’ve been thinking about it more than usual. Planning my strategy, as it were.
Like a lot of writers, finding inspiration for a story is a key part of the process. I’ve a wide variety of ways I do this, many of them too arcane and fuzzy for me to accurately describe. I do, however, have a pretty tried and true method for producing work, much of it quite good. What I do, in a nutshell, is set a story within a world I’ve already developed/am in the process of developing.
This serves two purposes. First is world building, which is essential in any good fantasy or sci-fi novel. To paraphrase David Eddings, you need that 1000 pages of stuff before your world is likely to seem real, so you need to get cracking, right? Second is that is gives the story a sort of built-in background. It anchors it and allows it to seem more alive, better situated.
So far, my most successful stories to date have been the ones I’ve written this way. Now, I can’t say for certain that this method is the cause of that or, indeed, if this method of mine is holding me back or propelling me forward – I haven’t had enough success yet to tell – but I do think it makes it easier for me to produce material. Besides, I happen to love Alandar… and the Frontier universe, and the Quiet Earth, and the Multiverse of the Rubric. I’m at home in these places, I know them, and you’re supposed to write what you know, right?
Well, anyway, I’ve got some more stories cooking, some set in Alandar, some set in the future, some set in parallel dimensions, but all filling out a kind of grand map of my worlds. Perhaps, if I’m very lucky, some fan of mine will sit down and map them all out on some kind of branching timeline. That would be cool. Especially when I go and compare their timeline to mine.