Battle Song Q&A — An Introduction to My Current Novel

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Sorry this post has been so late in coming! It’s mostly because I feel like I haven’t really made significant progress on Battle Song. I’m in the middle of scene 10 (out of 64), and I’ve written just over 11,000 words. I love my outline, and I love the story, but I still find it hard to actually sit down and write.

But here I am to talk about my novel! In a nice Q&A format that I made up myself.

So…what’s it about?

Good question. It should be easy to come up with a blurb, with all the planning I’ve done, but I still can’t come up with something I’m satisfied with. I’ll keep trying, but here’s what I have for right now:

Amrya il Osamarii is trapped in tradition. Forced to fight and kill, she longs for something besides the ceaseless battles and bloodshed of the mers. Something more. Something like the humans.

After the pain and conflict become too much, she risks all that she has in order to become human–only, the humans aren’t anything like she dreamed. Forced to fight in a war, she continues to seek for peace.

But how can it be found, when forgiveness is impossible?

Where did you get the idea for Battle Song?

This is actually a long story.

If you’ve been following me for a while, you might have noticed that Battle Song has evolved a lot.

My very first idea was written down at school, I think. I don’t remember where I got it from, but I had the idea that “the little mermaid trades her beauty instead of her voice”. I was tired of love at first sight, and I wanted a story where people fell in love for someone’s personality, not just how they looked.

Then other stuff got added in, such as warrior mermaid clans and fabulous princes. I became especially fascinated with the mentions of religion in the fairy tale, and I decided that religion would be an important part of the story.

(If you haven’t heard, in the original fairy tale, the merfolk don’t have immortal souls, but the humans though. When the little mermaid becomes human, she has to marry the prince, so that their souls can become one and she can live forever.)

Unfortunately, as I continued to develop it more, I found that both of these aspects became less prominent. I still would love to address the religion aspect as it relates to marriage more in Battle Song, but it just doesn’t work. The conflict just doesn’t work.

When I wrote (or, more accurately, started) Battle Song 2.0, I touched on some really great conflict at the beginning. However, I didn’t realize how important that conflict was at first, still thinking that the main issue of the story was marrying the prince, like the original fairy tale.

Then I began the Snowflake Method, and I realized that the real conflict of the story was about war, forgiveness, and hope. So the conflict became much more internalized–and much more complex, which is awesome and what makes it so exciting!

Who are the main characters?

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From left to right, we have Malena, Rhysdan/Rhys, Amrya, and Aeren.

Although I’d say Amrya is the only actual main character, the others do play their roles. (Plus, I drew this before the others became less important, so that’s why they’re all on there.)

Amrya il Osamarii–

In one word, I’d say she’s conflicted. Throughout the entire story, there are so many different things pressuring her. But she’s also determined and loyal, which is why she’s so great.

Prince Aeren li Sannave–

Aeren is just…awesome. Okay, I’ll come up with a better word. He’s tender. But he’s not necessarily weak; he’ll also fight for those he loves.

(And no, the pineapple shall remain mysterious.)

Princess Malena il Althair–

Malena is a princess from the neighboring island of Sannave. She’s perceptive. And she’s surprisingly kind for who she is and how she grew up, which is awesome.

Prince Rhysdan li Sannave–

Yes, Rhys and Aeren are brothers. Rhys is older. Rhys is resolute. He’s willing to do whatever it takes to keep Sannave and his people safe. Even if that means doing something good. Definitely an ends justify the means kind of guy.

There’s also another awesome character, but he doesn’t have a name yet, so I won’t introduce him. (I also don’t know all that much about him, but he is awesome.)

What do you think will be your favorite part to write?

Oooh, I have several. Of course, I can’t tell you about any of them because of spoilers, but…scenes 37-38, 46-47, 54, and 60 will be quite fun. *grins evilly*

What are your thoughts?

What do you think about Battle Song? Do you have any ideas on how the blurb could be improved? What questions would you add to the Q&A? I’ll try to answer them, if they’re not spoilerous. (Just so you know, spoilerous is probably the best writing word ever. It’s just so fun to say! Spoilerous!)

Oh, and do you like fairy tale retellings? If so, which ones are your favorites?

Dissonance and Consonance in Writing

Dissonance and consonance are terms used in music. Dissonance means “notes of unrest”–two notes that rub up against each other and cause tension. Consonance means “notes of rest”–notes that would normally “go together”.

When used correctly in a piece of music, dissonance is held to create tension, then released into a consonant chord, creating this amazing sound that could not be found in music created only with consonance. (This is an absolutely beautiful example of dissonance and consonance used together: Lux Aurumque, composed by Eric Whitacre.)

But have you ever heard a little kid pounding on a piano? It doesn’t sound like music at all–it’s made completely of dissonance. No one wants to listen to that. And in the same way, no one wants to read a story that’s made completely of conflict.

I went to a writing conference about a year ago, and there was one session I went to about writing dramatic scenes that happens to relate to this. Here’s some of the notes that I took:

You can’t write tension all the way through, otherwise, your reader will just be so, so worn out that they can’t stand it anymore. Sometimes you have to give your characters a little bit of hope, give them a breather, and then go back into the tension. There has to be a tension relief.

If the conflict of the story is regular and steady it registers less with us over time, and increasing the conflict can drum us senseless. Give audience time to breathe a little bit and distance yourself from the tension so you can be resensitized so it hurts even more this time. Constant pain stops hurting after a while, but if there’s pain, then calm, then more pain, then calm, it hurts more.

Just like with dissonance and consonance in music, you have to hold the tension, and then release it. Leaving the dissonance for too long–or having too much conflict placed on your characters–just seems wrong. When too many things happen to your character all at once, your story stops being beautiful and instead exhausts your reader, just as slamming random notes on a piano can annoy everyone.

I used to have a problem with this. When I was little, I would play imaginary games with my cousins and friends, and I always insisted on being the one who was hurt. Or I would pretend my stuffed animals had broken legs and I would wrap their leg up with paper towels colored with red marker. Something about the helplessness fascinated me, that they needed someone or something else to get through what they were going through. (This may have come from countless stories of “damsels in distress” and princesses rescuing princes, but I’m not sure.)

While helpless characters still interest me to no end, and I’d read about them all day long, I’ve become much better at limiting that from coming into my own writing and making sure to add consonance as well.

On the other side of the spectrum, however, you can’t have dissonance and then ignore it. When you have dissonance in your music, you have to sing and swell into it, otherwise it just sounds like a mistake.

Likewise, you can’t make a character always be able to defeat the conflicts that come their way, or at least not immediately. They have flaws and they’re imperfect, and sometimes the bad guy almost wins.

You can’t introduce a character to a conflict, or even the main conflict, and then whisk them away before they truly have a chance to get to know it. In the Hero’s Journey, the character has to travel through many steps until they reach the final, most excruciating step, where they face the main conflict, head on, and completely alone.

All the other steps have been building toward this point, just as a song slowly builds to its climax. While there are crescendos and decrescendos in between, they all lead up to a single moment. Without this conflict, there is no story at all.

Our writing should be like the ocean leading up to a storm. The waves slowly get larger and larger until they’re the size of houses , but between every wave, there’s always a lull, a time to breathe, before you dive in again.