Tag Archives: backstory

Bound A-Z: N is for Nox

Backstory is a tough thing for a writer to deal with. Ideally, we know everything about a character’s background. We know his secret obsessions, the details of her first heartbreak, his grade-school enemy, her favourite book. All of this affects the character in tiny ways, and our knowledge helps make him or her more real on the page.

The thing is, not all of this stuff should actually be on the page. Maybe that time she fell up the stairs in junior high was embarrassing and made her a little more shy than she was before, but it’s not relevant to the werewolves she’s killing at age twenty-five. Telling readers about it would slow the story down, and that’s generally the last thing we want to do if we can avoid it.

The question we often have to ask when editing these things out is: Is this relevant, or merely somewhat interesting? Does knowing this affect the reader’s enjoyment of and immersion in the story? And is that for better, or for worse?

Nox is a character whose backstory has suffered more than its share of cuts. It’s interesting stuff. Some of it was (I think) nicely written. But the fact is that sometimes taking a break to share that backstory puts the brakes on things when we really don’t want to. Going from an action sequence and a big revelation to musings on one’s childhood can be…

*Zzzzzzzzz…*

Sorry. And in two cases, I’ve cut information about Nox’s past that wasn’t vital to understanding the story or her character. It’s been hard to do. I love Nox, and I know some of you want to know more about her.

So here you go. A little information on her early years, dedicated to the person who recently called Nox “my book girlfriend,” and also to the person who named her kitten “Nox.”

This post isn't about her, but COME ON.

This post isn’t about her, but COME ON.

[The following information was cut from Sworn in the interests of relevance and pacing]

Nox (named Avalon by her parents) was born, coincidentally enough, on the same day as her twin brother Aren.

*cough*

Her birth was never officially recorded, and as far as most people know, only one child was born that day. There were a few reasons for this, but one was superstitions regarding twins. It’s widely believed that twins with magic will have the power of one person divided between them, and will be perceived as weak because of it. Most thinking people don’t truly believe this, but it’s a superstition that’s been around long enough that it does affect people’s biases.

In any case, it was decided that only one birth would be recorded. Since Aren was more likely to find a significant place in the royal family, his birth was acknowledged. As a male he was more likely to possess magic, and even at birth he showed potential. Avalon showed none. In fact, for as long as they both lived in the palace it seemed that if their power was divided, Aren had claimed all of it.

Now, this doesn’t mean there was great fanfare and a country-wide celebration. Life in the royal family is very much a “survival of the fittest” situation, and making things too public does make a mess of things if a king wants to cover up disasters. Still, people who lived and worked in the palace knew about Aren, and his mother’s servants guarded him from danger when she no longer could.

Little Avalon was less fortunate.

For her own safety, only a few people ever knew who she was. There was her mother, of course, who loved both of her children equally regardless of magic. She had no magic herself, remember, and if anything she felt more protective of her daughter, who would never be able to defend herself in this cutthroat family. Ulric knew, but he had so little to do with his children at that age as to make his involvement irrelevant.

And then there was the wet nurse.

Well… she wasn’t, really. She was a trustworthy and well-paid young woman who was brought in from another province. Someone with no connections in Luid, and few back at home. No one thought twice about the fact that the king’s last wife chose to have another woman feed the new prince, and if it seemed unusual that the nurse and her new daughter lived so closely with Magdalena and her baby boy, well, people from Belleisle are strange anyway.

Of course, the wet nurse had no baby, though everyone thought that Avalon was hers. In fact, that wet nurse spent her days assisting with the babies and keeping their mother company, but their mother fed them both. No one outside of those rooms had reason to question the situation. Even when the wet nurse stayed on as nanny, it seemed only somewhat unusual. Avalon lived with her, but saw plenty of her mother, and was sometimes allowed to play with her brother (though they never got along well).

And then, of course, came disaster.

[Torn spoilers ahead]

Ulric was forced to send Magdalena away, to let everyone believe she was dead. She took Avalon with her, knowing that there was no place for a girl with no magic in Luid. She changed her daughter’s name to Nox, a hard and cold name that she hoped would help her daughter become what she needed to be to survive in an equally cold and hard land. They never spoke of the city or the palace again–not until Nox was old enough to understand that she should never try to claim her place as a princess of Tyrea.

BONUS:

Here are the paragraphs that I cut from Torn, again in the interest of preserving story momentum. I still like these words, and I hope you enjoy them.

(These were Nox’s first words after meeting Aren, Kel, and Cassia)

I’ve never liked surprises.

I don’t remember much about my first home or my first family. I remember leaving, though, being scooped out of my bed, wakened from sleep and taken from my warm bedroom out into the cold night with a blanket wrapped around me. My mother held me in her lap as we rode in the back of a wagon. I remember the smell of hay, and horses, and the driver’s pipe. My mother cried every day of our journey, and I thought she’d never stop.

That was the first surprise I remember, and I haven’t had many pleasant ones since.

My rescuers were a surprise I wasn’t sure about. I’d resigned myself to going to Luid, accepting that fate was leading me there to kill my oldest half-brother. I knew little about that family aside from rumor and reputation, but I felt confident that I would find a way to do it. The hatred that had grown in me since I had learned my true identity and the reason for my mother’s banishment would finally bear fruit.

But then this group of strangers had appeared, and now I found myself leading them down the road, away from my old life. Moving forward.

How will Nox move her life forward after everything that’s changed?

We’ll find out soon enough.

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G is for Griselda…and Going Places

G

Griselda Beaumage is a teacher at Ernis Albion’s school on Belleisle.

As we know from Torn, she’s a powerful Sorceress–an omnilinguist and an illusionist, to be precise, though she has other skills that Rowan knows nothing about. She’s tall and intimidating, and fiercely intelligent. She’s a bit of a hero for Rowan, who hasn’t really had a Sorceress to look up to. Sure, there are a few other female students at the school, but a true Sorceress is a rarity, and Griselda has had a lot longer than those students have to hone her skills.

She’s an adventurer, and has been spending significant time in Luid as the guest of the Tiernal family and as an ambassador.

She’s more than that, though.

Griselda is a scholar of magic. She’s far older than she appears (one of the benefits of strong magic), and has spent decades exploring the world outside of Serath. Her gifts with languages have allowed her to travel as she pleases, communicating with people and intelligent species the world over. She spent years among centaurs–previously a misunderstood and nearly legendary group, as far as her people were concerned. She has loved, and she has lost far more than she will ever let on in front of her students.

She’s also a character whose history I’d love to dig deeper into some day. She’s not the only one. If I were to write every story I wanted to that branched off from the Bound trilogy, I’d be looking at…

*counts on fingers*

*takes off socks, counts on toes*

A hell of a lot of work ahead of me. I’d love to follow the merfolk to their world, to explore new lands with Griselda, to seek out the Aeyer and witness their clan wars. A dragon’s story would be a challenge, but an interesting one.

And then there are the two trilogies I’m actually planning to set in this world, one historical and one set in the near future.

There was a time when I worried I’d run out of stories to tell. That was before I met my characters and realized that each one of them is the key to a door that opens up new lands, new worlds, and new adventures.

Have I mentioned that I love my job?


WIPpet Wednesday, Backstory Edition

WIPpet, WIPpet Wednesday, it’s the greatest day in his-tor-REEEEE…

Or at least in the week, because I get to hang out with amazing people and read their STUFF. Yeeeeeeeaaaaaah.

My offering today is something a little different. Sometimes I need to fill in a character’s back-story in my own mind, so I’ll write a little flash fiction piece or two, just to flesh things out for myself. It’s nothing that will ever make it into the book, but it’s part of the story, nonetheless.

Could make for interesting bonus materials some day, no?

In any case, here’s the first (3+12-2-0+1+4=) 18 paragraphs from a young lady named Nox who’s rather near and dear to my heart these days. Things haven’t been going so well for her since… well, since she was quite young, as she discussed many Wednesdays ago.

Sorry for the lengthiness… I’ll try for nineteen words next time.

A gust of wind followed me into the house, scattering a thin layer of snow over the bare floor. I forced the door closed behind me, careful to not let the latch click too loudly, and set my old black bag gently on the table. I tried not to let the glass bottles rattle about as I put my potions and medicines away, but couldn’t help the creaking of the floor.

My concern was for nothing. In spite of the late hour, the bed was empty when I looked into the back room.

I sighed, as much from relief as from frustration at my husband’s continued wanderings. Let him take it out on someone else tonight. Tending to the ill always exhausted me, and mid-winter had brought with it a vicious sickness that had swept through the population of every village in our province. Though my presence had saved more people in our town than had survived in others, I still felt guilt over every death. Tonight’s had been no exception.

I set the kettle on the stove to boil. I’d need something to help me sleep, however temporary it might be.

The little girl who died was hardly more than a baby. Dirty and thin, I suspected that she wasn’t well looked-after at the best of times. Still, her parents had cared enough to call me. Too late, as it turned out, but a Potioner’s services don’t come cheap, and people in Cressia are too proud to take charity. Even after the child passed on, the parents insisted on sending me away with a bag of potatoes and onions.

Not a payment my husband would appreciate, but it was more than they could afford.

I hung my threadbare coat on the hook next to the door and poured steaming water over elinberry roots and dried berries, then added a splash from the flask I kept hidden under the sink. Warmth spread through my body as I sipped, and the tension flowed out of my muscles as I sank into bed. I didn’t bother undressing. Someone would be banging at the door soon enough, needing me.

The door slammed open, then shut. I lay with my eyes closed, listening to him muttering as he stumbled about the house, his ox-strong body banging into furniture as he went. Something shattered, almost certainly the bottle of bitterleaf I’d just distilled that morning. It would take me a week to do it again, and I was running low.

Idiot.

I rolled over and pulled my knees up to my chest, making myself small.

He eventually staggered into the bedroom and made his way to the washbasin to splash water on his face. The straw mattress shifted under his weight as he sat to remove his boots, and he exhaled the stench of ale over me as he leaned over to study my face. I shifted slightly, as I thought I might if I were asleep. He sighed, and finished undressing.

He rolled toward me, pressing his body against my back. “Why’re you dressed?” he mumbled, as he tugged at the buttons on my shirt.

“Just got home. Need sleep.”

He abandoned the buttons and reached for the hem of my skirt. “You get paid?”

“Enough.” I pushed his hand away and pulled the skirt tight around my legs. “I’ll probably have to go out again soon.”

“Good thing this won’t take long, then.”

“I mean it, Harold. Stop.” Tight as I gripped the fabric, his hands were stronger than mine. He pried my fingers open and rolled on top of me. “Harold, no.”

He laughed and bit my ear. “Who the hell you think you are, missus?”

 

He’s a keeper, that one. -_-

I kind of want to share the rest, what with my girl being a giant badass with questionable morals and all, but you know. Spoilers.

So…

As always, thanks to K.L. Schwengel for hosting WIPpet Wednesday! Swing on by (and witness Driev being amazing, as per usual), click the linkie, and see what everyone else has to share today. You just never know what you’ll find.

ROW80 Update

My editor is still behind schedule thanks to illness (where’s a Potioner when you need one, AMIRITE?), and won’t be able to work on my stuff until the end of the month. This may or may not throw my entire schedule out of whack, depending on how much I need to do once he’s finished with it. It is, however, a self-imposed schedule, so there’s still some flexibility there. Whew.

The good news is that my cover designer is totally NOT behind schedule, and is working with me now. She’s fantastic, and (thank goodness) patient. The design she’s working on wasn’t what I initially pictured, but faced with a choice between what would be OMG PERFECT in my mind* and what will actually sell to my target audience… well, I had to make the best business decision. It’s going to be fantastic when it’s done. I’ll keep you posted.

So that’s the business update. As far as writing goes, I’m working on getting book 2 read through and plotted out on index cards. There are issues, but so far I at least have ideas of how to fix them. There’s a romance subplot that’s going to be SUPER DUPER AMAZING when I get it filled out more. Because, y’know. I enjoy that stuff.

Annnnd… that’s about it.

So what have you been up to?

*Not that I had a single clear idea to offer her. This is why I’m so thankful for her patience.


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