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Plotting: Raw Data

Originally published at Joely Sue Burkhart. You can comment here or there.

May and I have had an insane Writing by Mathematics discussion. So many ideas are sparking in my brain that it’s about to explode.

Meanwhile, I have two stories bubbling in pots on the backburner, specifically a third Keldari novella (target 20K) and the re-vision of NSR. I’d really like to get the plot for the Keldari novella sketched out by the end of this month, and since May and I have talked so much about plotting…I thought I’d try to capture some of my thought processes.

Everybody is different, each writer’s process is unique, and at least for me, the process changes with each and every book. But for what it’s worth, here’s a snapshot into my brain. Beware, it’s a scary place.

~ * ~

First, I start gathering little bits of data that may or may not be important for this story. This story is special in several ways. I have the worldbuilding mostly done–although this novella will look at Keldar through entirely different lenses. I have a bunch of timeline both before and after this story to fit within. And, my lovely editor, Deena, challenged me to write this one starring a Keldari heroine and a Green Land hero. I’m starting out with:

  • Keldari woman, don’t know her name or tribe
  • Green Land man: I want to use Ranulf, the Crown Prince who was kidnapped by the Sha’Kae al’Dan and tortured in Touch the Sky. I had to shuffle my Green Land monarchy around, which affects Dainari’s heritage (Shannari’s mother), but I think it’ll work.
  • I need a title involving “Fire.”
  • I know the setting will involve Keldar at first, and end up in the Green Lands. Should be fun to show the munakur world through a Keldari’s eyes.
  • Since this is Keldar, I know dragons, fire, thirst, etc. are involved. Keldar is a hard land, a hard life.

Now I’ve been thinking about this story off and on for months. Listening, absorbing, thinking. At church weeks ago, we sang: “He hideth my soul, in the cleft of the rock, that shelters a dry thirsty land.”

Alarm bells went off. Cleft of the rock, and a dry thirsty land (Keldar). Knowing the great commission at the end of The Fire Within, I know what Agni, He Who Burns, has been up to. He ordered the Keldari to bring him ALL whites, all daughters descended from Somma, She Who Hung the Moon. Now this is one of those things that gives me chills. I knew the commission…but I didn’t know WHY Agni would give that order. I knew it as truth, though, no matter how unpleasant.

I mean, what do you think a big hungry dragon is doing with all those women? Yeah, he’s eating them. Most of them…

Not all of them.

All of this is backstory, but crucial. It’s setting up the beginning scenes of the story, helping me determine who my heroine is. What if (the famous writer’s question) she was one of these women who were sacrificed to Agni, but He didn’t eat her? Why not? What’s she doing now? How’s that important? This all fluttering in the back of my brain.

So now add to my list of raw data:

  • a Rock, Agni’s lair
  • a small group of women who were sacrificed to the dragon and are assumed dead. e.g. if a “normal” Keldari stumbled across one of these women, he may be frightened. Maybe he’d think she was a ghost? Hmmm.

If you’ve read Touch the Sky, you know the Sha’Kae al’Dan were not very kind to Ranulf. They actually cut a few fingers off and were going to do much worse before Iman stopped them. How did he end up in Keldar? Why is he still alive? How is that important? That gives me:

  • hero, Ranulf, is near death after torture and exposure
  • the only thing keeping him alive is a goal to return to Shanhasson.

Now I have the opening scene for the story: heroine finds the hero near death, dying of thirst and exposure in the desert of Keldar. Why is it so important for him to go home? Make it personal. Look at the politics going on at the time. He has a younger brother who’s insane and unable to rule, and a young “step-brother” who’s not a step brother at all, who could be a huge political nightmare for him if Darin takes the throne. Maybe there’s some personal hatred going on between them, too? Ah, lots of ideas perking up there.

Now I go back to titles, themes, and coming up with key names. I know my title involves Fire. My first thought is “Quench My Fire” which may be too cliched, but I may use it anyway. I need the heroine’s name. It involves fire, but isn’t that exactly. I made a mental list of all words related to fire and started looking through Behind the Name for Arabic or somewhat related names that would make sense with the mythology, and stumbled across:

  • Koray, “Ember Moon.” Oooh, that names gives me chills, it’s so perfect!!!

I continued looking on Behind the Name for the tribe. Searching for “rock” I found:

  • Sakhr, Arabic for rock. This becomes the name for the secret sect at Agni’s holy rock.

With all the turmoil about The Jewel of Medina, daughters of the Prophet are on my mind. I did a Google search for “daughter of” in Arabic and came across Ruqaya, ” gentle”, a daughter of the Prophet. I don’t want to go exactly on this name, and although I liked the “y” it didn’t seem to go with the ending “y” in Koray, so I ended up with:

  • qara, “Daughter”, the heroine’s title. It’s more than just “daughter of”, implying almost a holiness to her sect. Remember, these women are assumed dead (and many of them originally sent to Agni are), so maybe the “q” implies deceased? Reborn? More to think about for later.

So that gives me the heroine’s formal Keldari name as Koray qara‘Sakhr, Ember Moon, Daughter of the Rock.

I love the translation. Not so sure about the Keldari spelling. For now, I can’t decide, so I’ll leave it for another day.

Other than the obvious “quenching”, what is the heroine’s “fire” and how is the story going to “quench” it? More plotting fun next time to answer that very question!

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