Soul Trials and Killing Characters, Maybe

Designing the soul trial and fleshing out a joke character

Writing type: On phone

Keith's Audio Commentary

Original Transcript:

All right, just wrapped up a close to 1,300 word writing session on a stormy, rainy morning over here and it was, it was good.

It was, it was smooth.

Most of the, for most of it, a lot of world building in this one because yesterday I said that I was going to lay out the parameters for these things that I call soul trials in Gates of Okinawa and I did just that today and I always used to have a really hard time with world building.

To be honest, it's still not one of my favorite activities when it comes to writing because it can get, it starts to get pretty dull if you do it in the wrong way, especially just writing it.

For me, it just gets so tedious just describing certain things and just, I think because there's, it lacks dynamism than just writing the story out when you've got all these events happening.

When you're having to find a way to, okay, how do I explain this in a way that's not too terribly boring, but it's important information for the reader to understand, especially since the last chapter was a pretty big mystery.

It opens a lot of loops as far as what's happening to Ethan, like why is he in this state?

What's going on?

Who is this mysterious figure that showed up?

And so we have to answer all those questions and you got to answer the mail, so to speak, in this chapter.

And so there was a lot of that, like describing who this guy is, sort of, still leaving it kind of mysterious, but he gives his name and then describing what's happening to

Ethan and then laying out the rules of this state, which I called the slight soul state.

I was happy with that name and just made it up, just didn't even, no research, just on the fly. I do this a lot.

In fact, this is kind of part of my process of just creating in general.

I know I'm one of those guys that the longer I spend crunching on something, the probably worse it's going to turn out because it's just kind of diminishing returns after a while.

I'm not getting any new ideas if I just sit there.

So it's better for me to just go in and start writing and even if it's just putting a placeholder in and do that instead of just sitting there, just ruminating over and things like that.

But the chapter itself, I think it turned out well because it got to a part because all I had in my head was, we've got to explain all this world building shit.

And once I get through that, then there's going to be a conversation and it's basically going to be a brief mini backstory for Ethan.

And I'm glad I, at first I was like, oh shit, I put all these kids in here and now I got to deal with these kids.

What am I going to do with all these kids?

But I'm glad I did because they definitely add, I originally wrote this novel to be accessible for not just adults, but for mainly high school students.

I used to work at a high school and the high school that I feature in the book, I used to work there and yeah, I wanted something that, one, it's just always cool when your school is in a book or something.

It's never happened to me, but I think it would be cool if it was like, oh, that's my school. I know that school.

I don't do the whole making up, sometimes I'll make up locations, but I mean, no, I wanted to be grounded in this, in reality, but yeah, I wanted the high school kids, not just to be kind of this, this nameless group of heroes is kind of stand-ins, but I want them to have their own mini arcs and show them as second characters.

And Ethan is one of those characters that I didn't really think much about.

I just knew he was a Black kid.

He is kind of a jock type of dude.

He kind of likes to screw around.

Yeah, he's close to the comic relief character, but not over the top.

He's just kind of a jokey type of guy, but in this chapter, I get to go in and get into some of his backstory, which was cool to really flesh him out and see him dealing with this situation.

Another thing that I do is when I go into these scenes, I have no problem killing characters off.

I think this is something that I've seen newer authors have a tougher time doing because I get it.

You get attached to these characters, especially if you've modeled certain characters off of people that you know, and then you really don't want to kill them off and things like that, which if you're listening to this and you're a newer author, I highly advise that you don't do that.

I think that's a self-imposed creative restriction that you're putting on yourself by saying, oh, this is like my wife, this is like my brother, this is like my mom, whatever.

Because it's just going to come a point where you have to break that and it's not like them anymore for the sake of the story, or just for the sake of your own interests, because you're like, oh, they would never say that, they would never do that, they would never go there.

And then they read it, they're all pissed off. I would never do that. I would never say that.

Anyway, so I went into this scene like, okay, well, to quote Rocky IV, "if he dies, he dies."

And I was like, okay, we're just going to see. And I do this a lot. You know, I've talked about randomness, how I really enjoy that and it forces me to adapt as an author.

I think I've become a better author, novelist, because of it.

And so I rolled the dice to see if he would go through with the soul trial, at least try it.

And I rolled a no initially.

And I was like, oh, so my man is just going to roll over? he's just going to die? he's just going to get his soul scraped?

But as I kept writing the scene, the mentor figure, or the guy who's basically giving him a chance to take on the trial, starts basically interviewing him and asking him, because I think he can sense that he doesn't want to do it and that he doesn't want to go through with the trial.

And I was really channeling some of my experience when I was an agent with OSI, because you get these people in front of you and they're scared, they're confused and you're just making decisions just on the fly.

And in a way, you can kind of coach them through it by just asking them certain questions and asking them to think about things.

And that's what inspired this scene to where he's just kind of asking him, hey, you know, he doesn't ask him outright, but he's like, what's important to you?

And do you have somebody that you want to do this for, that you want to at least try?

And he does.

Of course, he focuses on Mia and his relationship with her. And we get a little entertaining backstory there.

And then the chapter ends with the next chapter will be the trial.

Originally, I planned to have the trial in this chapter, but it just started getting long.

And I was writing on my phone, which is nice.

I like writing on my phone because there are zero distractions, like you literally cannot, I was writing in Google Docs this morning, and you can just not have anything else in your screen while you're writing, you know, you need the whole screen to write.

So unlike sitting at my keyboard, like I did yesterday, it takes up the entire screen.

And there's always the temptation of email and social media and all these other distractions.

But at the phone, I actually went over to the couch and sat and just tap tapped away for maybe an hour and a half, something like that.

And it was done.

So really happy with the way this turned out.

And I'm excited to see what I do tomorrow with the actual soul trial, because I don't know if he's going to make it or not.

I don't know if he's going to pass or fail.

I'm not sure what's going to happen, but I'm looking forward to tomorrow's writing session.

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