Jqqhmizz Aldo Salt · Author · added 7 months ago
Revisions Notes #7: A New First Chapter

I’ve been sharing sample of Cold Iron Crossing with agents, editors and fellow writers. They’ve very generally been liking it, warts and all!

I’ve heard one common  critique/suggestion from them all: strengthen the imagery for the main character. The second-person narrative style I’ve employed for this book makes it extra difficult for readers to get a sense of what Diesel looks like, since they’re always looking at the story through his eyes and projecting themselves into the narrative via the "You" pronoun.

The second-person perspective makes it difficult for a writer to work a main character description into the narrative in a way that feels natural...difficult, but not impossible.

With luck, my latest update of the 1st chapter should add more color to the world of "Cold Iron Crossing", helping readers form a better mental picture of Diesel, his friends and the mysterious urban jungle of Cryptatown –– or at least, that’s the plan.

Feel free to share your thoughts!
Jqqhmizz Aldo Salt · Author · added 11 months ago
Revision Notes #6: The Mysterious Alder

When I wrote out the first draft of "Cold Iron Crossing", I consciously committed myself to write and post no less than 1 chapter per week. In other words, I chose to write a serial novel.

There’s a lot of merit to writing stories this way: you learn to write by the seat of your pants, making each chapter dynamic and game-changing in order to keep yourself and the readers engaged.  Plus, cliffhangers really do work.

The downside of serial updates, though, is that sometimes you just plain forget about plot elements...or introduce important plot elements and characters late in the story without proper foreshadowing.

The character of the "Alder" is a great example of this. She’s a very intriguing character, a mysterious ancient vampire lady who rules Cryptatown with a Iron, Well Manicured Fist...

...but I only really introduced her in the last chapter of the plot, with a few vague references here and there beforehand.  It wasn’t clear how she played a role in the greater plot, or why the other characters feared her. 

To address this,  a good portion of my revision work was dedicated to giving the Alder a greater presence in the storyline and stronger ties with the other characters.

Morgaeous, the Drake-worm is afraid of the Alder.

Sarah Mankiller, the firebrand activist, owes her a very awkward debt.

...and Dieselnoi Worawoot wants to become one of her Private Eyes?

I won’t say that the Alder perfectly implemented as a character...but I’m pretty sure I’m on the right path with her.

What do you folks think?

Jqqhmizz Aldo Salt · Author · edited about 1 year ago · 1 like
A very good point, Leo! 

Magic with a cost is a great tool for storytelling, because it reflects the real-life challenges people struggle to overcome every day. To surpass our limitations, we must give up something that’s holding us back. To gain something new, we must sacrifice something else as an investment. Et Cetera.

In my current draft for this story, Diesel can whisper a word of power, tap his bronze sword, and give it +1 fire damage––all without any long complicated rituals, blood sacrifices, or a loss of HP.

Still, there are costs for his magic. Some of the costs are material–– things like time, focus and energy––while the other costs are much more abstract––debt, duty and a butterfly effect where the consequences of his magic ripple out through the world and return his way. That’s something I hope to make much more clear as I continue posting revised chapters for "Cold Iron Crossing".
Valiquette 10 22 18 028 copy Leo Valiquette · Author · added about 1 year ago
Hey, Aldo. My two cents on the whole magic thing (and this comes from others). Magic should bear a cost/consequence, either in terms of what spiritual, emotional or physical toll it takes on the wielder; what is needed to make it happen and how difficult or challenging those things are to acquire; or what sacrifice it demands. Give and take.

Jqqhmizz Aldo Salt · Author · added about 1 year ago
Revision Note #5: The Flavor of Magic

Does magic work because it’s magic...or is there a consistent principle behind it that is...dare we say...’scientific’?

Arthur C. Clarke once said that "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic". The graphic novelists Phil and Kaja Foglio built upon that famous quote, declaring in turn that "Any sufficiently analyzed magic is distinguishable from science".

Magic should be mysterious, enticing, terrifying and miraculous. But at the same time, it shouldn’t be unlimited and all powerful. Every fantasy author needs to walk the narrow line between these two extremes when depicting magic, deciding how much they want to explain and how much they want to keep hidden.

How does Diesel’s magic work? What limitations does it have, and what clever tricks can he use to surpass those limitations?

With luck, my ideas for updating Diesel’s magic will let me have the best of both worlds––letting me depict his magical talents in a consistent fashion throughout while keeping the secrets of the trade suitable mysterious and tantalizing.

Jqqhmizz Aldo Salt · Author · added about 1 year ago
Thanks for the input, Leo!  Things are going pretty good with the rewrite: in time, I’m going to be adding in a few flashbacks that’ll flesh out Diesel’s background and growth. Keep checking in on my story’s progress, and I’ll try to do the same for yours!
Valiquette 10 22 18 028 copy Leo Valiquette · Author · added about 1 year ago
Hey, Aldo. how is this coming along? You’ve got a great premise and I like what you are doing with the way the story is being narrated by the haunted hat. That challenge you note in your Revision Note #4 is a challenge I’ve faced too, with good old-fashioned third-person narrative, where secondary/supporting characters threaten to upstage the protoganist. 

And thank you very much with that review and recommendation on Bane yesterday. Much appreciated. Let me know how I can return the favour.  
Jqqhmizz Aldo Salt · Author · added over 1 year ago
Revision Note #4: Internal Character Journey

A thing I’ve noted in many of my first drafts: the antagonists and the supporting characters tend to have clearer, more vivid motivations than the actual protagonist, who too often seems to act out of a vaguely generic desire to ’help out’.

I suspect this tendency comes from an inclination to view fictional protagonists as ’blank slates’, avatars that both the author and the reader project themselves and their desires into. The second person perspective of "Cold Iron Crossing", designed to mimic the voice of ’Interactive Fiction’ and "Choose Your Own Adventure" type games, probably didn’t help matters.

Fortunately, there’s more to the happy go-lucky Dieselnoi Worawoot than meets the eyes. Thanks to some great editorial advice, plus some fleshing out of his backstory, I was finally able to start work on revisions that explored the heart of one of Diesel’s deepest drives:

Becoming a full-fledged, hard-boiled Private Eye.

Why does he want to be a Private Eye? What does being a Private Eye entail in a lawless supernatural hive like Cryptatown?

You’ll get to see in time. ;)

Jqqhmizz Aldo Salt · Author · added over 1 year ago
Revision Note #3: Following in the Footsteps of Giants

Full disclosure: I’m a white guy who’s writing and revising a novel featuring an Asian-American protagonist (inspired very heavily by a certain co-worker who likes to talk like a grizzled Gumshoe). As a writer drawing on elements of a culture and heritage not his own, it’s doubly important for me to avoid stereotyping, seriously engage with perspectives of Thai-American folk, and above all, make "Cold Iron Crossing" a damn good yarn.

I also want to give a big shout-out to some of the many talented Asian  authors out there, pumping out out brilliant fantasy stories that blow mine out of the water!

–JY Yang, the Tensorate Series: https://jyyang.com/the-tensorate-series/

–Benjanun Sriduangkaew, "Scalebright" and "Winterglass": https://beekian.wordpress.com

–Ken Liu, "The Dandelion Dynasty" series: https://kenliu.name

–Fonda Lee, "Jade City" and "Zero Boxer: http://fondalee.comhttp://fondalee.com

–RF Kuang, "The Poppy War": https://rfkuang.com/books/

–S.P Somtow, "Vampire Junction": http://www.somtow.com

–Jamie, Legapsi, "Moonflowers": https://www.inkshares.com/books/moonflowers

If you like Cold Iron Crossing, you’ll definitively love these works!
Jqqhmizz Aldo Salt · Author · added over 1 year ago
Revision Note #2: Making a Setting Come Alive.

Cryptatown, the setting of "Cold Iron Crossing", is the unfamiliar neighborhood in your hometown you’ve never visited. It’s the fenced-off house down the block that probably belongs to a mob boss. It’s the the hole-in-the-wall restaurant you stumbled across that serves really good Phở soup. It’s the adventure that lies just around the corner, the secret you’d discover if you looked just a bit more closely...

To sell Cryptatown as a fantastical ’Otherworld’ where anything is possible, I tried to throw in as many eerie, eye-catching details as I could into the narrative: Living graffiti, Goblin Markets, silent film theaters that can show you the past, present and future...

I was particularly proud of the Lizardmen Heritage Center–a museum dedicated to the history of secret "Reptilian" masters that feature in so many conspiracy theories and New Age texts. I knew this location would be a major element in the story...

...and then I forgot about it. Completely. 

Maybe I was juggling too many ’weird details’. Maybe the Lizardman Heritage Center isn’t needed to complete the plot of "Cold Iron Crossing". 

I suppose I’ll just have to see if I can properly bring this setting to life...