YPP Weekend Blockades, December 3-4: Blockade now, supplies are limited
Bookends! My last meal before leaving Avon, just like my first in arriving, is at China Garden. (Today I'm having the snow peas and mushrooms with beef. It is OK but I think I liked the crispy duck better.) But unlike last Saturday, I have no overdue homework to angst over, and I'm not exhausted (despite being at Loaded Joe's until 2 AM last night) nor even out with food coma quite yet, and the series of buses is still in my future. Thus, blockade post!
I am as we speak jobbed with Barely Dressed in defense of Duat Island on the Meridian Ocean. 'Cause they're my flaggies, that's why. Also I'm all about earning more PoE to trade for doubloons. But there's also a 'kade running on the Cerulean Ocean, and all the 'kades on Emerald, so you have your pick.
Actually, there may not, for all intents and purposes, be a blockade on Cerulean; the BK attack on Kirin will be undefended.
Correction: Though the player posting may not personally be defending, I can attest that some defense has been mustered at Kirin. They will need all the help they can get, though. They're about to lose round 1, 319 to 59. Get in there and help 'em out!
Ocean Master Demeter can tell you exactly when there definitely won't be blockades:
Confirming the blockade closing dates here : islands will be closed to blockades on the weekends of December 24th and 31st. You will still be able to scuttle brigand kings.
So get your 'kading fun in before End Of Year Holiday Week is upon us!
Standard reminders: Schedule is given in Pirate Time, or U.S. Pacific. Player flags link to Yoweb information pages; Brigand King Flags link to Yppedia Brigand King pages. BK amassed power given in parenthetical numbers, like so: (14). For more info about jobbing contacts, jobber pay, and Event Blockade battle board configuration, check the Blockade tab of your ocean's Notice Board. To get hired, apply under the Voyages tab.
Doubloon Ocean Blockades
*** Saturday, December 3 ***
*** Sunday, December 4 ***
Subscription Ocean Blockades
*** Saturday, December 3 ***
this fictionette is not alone and is very distracted right now
- 1,218 wds. long
I done put a Fictionette up on Friday, an' it feels great. (I really did! Check it out.) Also, I am hanging out at Loaded Joe's where the best karaoke DJ in Colorado (in my opinion) is doing his thing, with the help of a huge enthusiastic crowd of Eagle Valley visitors and locals. Life is good.
So! First things first: "The Actress Who Went to Utter North, and What She Found There." It's a damn long title, but it suits the genre. (Patron-only links: ebook, now for the first time featuring .mobi format, and audiobook, featuring random crowd noses as bookends.) It's a fairy tale from the non-existent collection The Green Book of Hollywood Stories. An' there you go.
I'm having a hard time remembering what I else was going to write in this post, because somebody just took the stage to sing "Bohemian Rhapsody." It's very distracting.
My song was "Caught a Lite Sneeze," btw.
can't TG when I isn't O
It's Thursday. Thursday is scrimmage day, both here with 10th Mountain and back home with Boulder County Bombers. (I hear tonight's BCB scrimmage was fantastic.) Unfortunately, a conflicting event scheduled in 10th Mtn's practice space obliged them to cancel tonight's scrimmage, so I never did get to try out the jerseys I made out of those plain white and black T-shirts I bought at Walmart the other day.
Actually, I only found time to finish one of them, and I'm still not sure it was a good idea. See, after I hacked off the sleeves and six inches of the shirt tail, I cut that material into long strips, about a quarter-inch wide, which I then crocheted into numbers which I sewed onto the back of the shirt. I'm a little concerned that the crocheted numbers are too thick and heavy to hang from such a lightweight material. They're also about a quarter inch thick, which could be a problem in terms of sticking out and catching people's fingers. I don't know. I'll try it out when I next need a numbered white jersey and see what happens.
It's possibly a good thing there wasn't scrimmage. My shoulder got tweaked a little last night, ice skating up at Beaver Creek Village. It wasn't a fall! It was one of those sharp backwards windmilling arm movements a body makes when trying to catch one's balance, even after roller derby has done its level best to train a body otherwise, and I guess I pulled something, 'cause it hurts. It feels better now than it did late last night, but it'll be even better after resting a few more days.
I went ice skating last night and paid full price because I knew with scrimmage tonight I wouldn't be able to go when it was free. Well, surprise! So once I heard scrimmage was canceled, I headed back up to BC Village again. Unfortunately, those rental skates are really unfriendly, and my feet were still annoyed at them. Most especially annoyed was my right upper ankle/lower outside shin, where the hard boot cuff had abraded a slice out of my skin last night which opened up again tonight. The boots also pinched my feet, as though the soles, rather than being sole-of-foot shaped, resembled valleys. And not wide, rolling valleys, but sharp, deep ones still being carved by a white-water creek. And the snow was piling up on the ice. I think that's why I skidded around worse tonight than last night. In any case, I managed just a few minutes of skating before giving up. Good thing it was free!
So in the end I walked across Avon and took the shuttle up from Elk Lot to BC Village... mostly just to have dinner at Blue Moose Pizza. So that was my Thursday night.
It's also December 1. December 1, in addition to just happening to be the day this year when the reindeer visit Avon Public Library (they are adorable and a good deal smaller than you might imagine), is the day after National Novel Writing Month ends. This is sometimes known as "Thank God It's Over" Day, when NaNoWriMo participants hold TGIO parties to celebrate achieving their goals and getting their lives back. But my novel, far from being over, has not even hit word 1. It's still deep in the planning stages. No, despite designating November as the start of my personal "novel-writing season," I quite definitely didn't do NaNoWriMo this year.
I feel a little guilty about this. I did it for so long, it became a tradition. But if everything I did for more than two years running became obligatory for the rest of my life, I'd have no room to try new things, or to just rest. Besides, after twelve years of done-and-won, and then a few years of "Am I doing it? I should be doing it. Except I don't seem to be doing it," I've come to the conclusion that I've learned what NaNoWriMo had to teach me, and it's OK to let it go. Maybe at a later date I'll return to it, but right now I have other things to learn.
(Like how to plan a novel. And then how to begin drafting it without blurting out all the juicy worldbuilding details in the very first scene.)
The other thing about NaNoWriMo is, it's social. It's joyfully social. It's an international communal challenge that brings all its participants together under a single banner and in pursuit of a single cause. And that is awesome, but it is, at this time, no longer for me. I seem to have reached a time in my life (and doesn't that make me sound old?) where my writing process has become intensely private. It wants a writing environment that's more or less under my control. Like, say, in a room in my house behind a closed door. I'll still write in coffee shops and libraries occasionally (and have done most days this week!), but my threshold for ambient intrusions has dropped sharply. And what with a decade of being a NaNoWriMo Municipal Liaison and organizing and attending NaNoWriMo write-ins, I've kind of burned out on having to be the Mean Lady who's constantly telling everyone else (including, memorably, my co-ML that final year) that this is a write-in and some of us are trying to write and could you please take your loud, animated conversation elsewhere. I'll happily do a write-in with a group of close friends who have all agreed what we're there for, but I'm kind of done, at least for now, with public write-in events a la NaNoWriMo.
In the meantime, I continue planning out the current novel. During tonight's session I managed to start moving out of backstory and worldbuilding and into plot. There are several catalyzing events that I know of, but I don't know what they consist of. For instance, I know Delta gets a phone call during her first date with Michael, but I don't know who's calling or what they have to say. I know that the talking cat has something to tell Delta, but I don't know what.
And so forth. I made a list of that sort of thing. Questions That Must Be Answered Before The Plot Can Move. And then filled in a little more backstory and worldbuilding, which led to at least an idea about who might be on the phone.
Argh. But I'm getting closer to being able to start writing actual scenes. When I do, in the spirit of NaNoWrimo, I plan to do it at a rate of at least 1666 words per day. Every month should have fifty thousand words in it. Or more. Because this is what I do.
the hot tub and red wine method of novel planning
- 1,328 wds. long
Tonight was another successful evening of novel planning. Yes, yesterday counted as successful--once I put away the laptop and got in the tub. This time I skipped the bit that didn't work and went straight to dunking myself in hot water AND I COUNTED THAT TIME TOWARD MY WRITING LOG AND YOU CAN'T STOP ME. Because it worked. There was about 20 minutes of soaking in the tub and talking to myself, and then there was about 20 minutes of non-stop feverish-paced typing to jot down what I came up with. We have a method, folks.
We may need a non-tub version, though, because once I get back to my own house, it might be prohibitively painful in the utilities bill. At the very least, I need a comfy place to lounge and complete solitude so no one will hear me talking to myself. But I'd prefer the wine and hot tub method any time I can get it.
Meanwhile, I got this book out the library, right, I got it yesterday, but this evening it TALKED to me about THE VERY THINGS I'D BLOGGED ABOUT YESTERDAY. Like the author knew. It's The Writer's Idea Book, which isn't entirely my cup of tea as it turns out--the author's sense of humor comes across to me as LOOK AT ME I MADE A JOKE, he has a tendency to make unmerited universal pronouncements ("Who, for heaven's sake, doesn't like Popeye?" Me, for one, but thanks for telling me how absurd and freakish you think that is) and the "prompts" are more like the Tasks in The Artist's Way than they are viable jumping-off points for my daily freewriting--but which is nevertheless full of unexpected gems here and there. Like...
...under the spell of The Author, that part of ourselves that sees every moment of writing as important and valid only if it leads to publication.
(Emphasis mine.) Which seems to speak directly to my insecurity yesterday that the time spent novel-planning was such a waste of time compared to, say, revising a story that's nearly ready to submit, or going back to consider an existing novel draft that's much closer to completion than this thing that still only lives in my mind. I'll also admit to chafing at my Morning Pages or daily freewriting sometimes for the same reason: THIS isn't publishable writing, why am I wasting part of my precious day on this? Despite knowing that they are both valuable exercises from both a craft and self-care standpoint.
And then there's the frustration that came from sitting down at the laptop to fill in the gaps in my knowledge, only to find that I couldn't make the missing knowledge appear just because my hands were on the keyboard.
Ideas don't respond to the force of our wills--damn them. We can't make them appear. That's why when we're feeling blocked it does little good to try to pound our way through. It won't work. We'll grow even more frustrated....
Getting ideas requires allowing our minds to yield....
YES. Or, in other words, relax and let them come. Let yourself off the hook. Don't try (so hard!) to figure out the novel. Get in the goddamn tub, drink your wine, and daydream about the novel.
Incidentally, another activity that has produced significant insight into this novel is thinking about it while falling asleep. Not coincidentally, my dreams have also played a part.
Anyway. During my successful novel-planning session tonight, what did I come up with? All the details about Delta's daughter and the broken contract that obliged her, Delta, to give up her name. Also an extra tidbit, related to that, which makes the tragedy in Michael's backstory not just a maudlin trope but PLOT-NECESSARY. Yay. I was worried about that.
And that's all I'm going to say. This novel is now far enough along that I can't keep blogging everything anymore because that would be spoilers. And that's kind of exciting!
The closer we get to the point where it's time to start writing actual manuscript, the more scared I get. Can I do it? Can I actually convert this novel in my head into a novel on the page? Emotionally, I'm all nooooo it's not possible I'll BREAK it I suck forever. But logically, I remember that I've been doing exactly this in short-short form almost every week for two years now. This is exactly what I'm supposed to be getting out of Friday Fictionettes: practice in, and confidence in, turning ideas in my brain into stories on the page.
Speaking of Fictionettes, I have released the Fictionette Freebie for November 2016. It's "The Witch on the Corner." Link goes to the HTML version, which now includes the first text. At the bottom of the page are links to the ebook and audiobook versions, or you can just click the links right here. Free for all! Enjoy! See what you think!
no no really this is part of the writing process
I've never planned a novel out the way I'm trying to plan this one. But then, I've never actually finished a novel at all, so it was probably time to change my approach. Oh, I've reached THE END before, I've reached 50,000 words, but I've never quite managed to clean up the babble into proper drafts and chapters, fill in the holes marked I'LL THINK OF SOMETHING LATER, or clean up the infelicities and unfortunate implications. I've never gotten more than the first three chapters of a novel ready to submit anywhere, and since the rest of that novel was still a mess, those three chapters were probably a mistake. But all the novels I've ever not finished, I wrote them according to the NaNoWriMo method: 1,667 words a day, come hell or high water, and fifty thousand by 11:59 PM on November 30th.
Which is to say, until this fall, my novel writing experience has consisted of pounding away at the keyboard whether I knew what came next or not. It's a perfectly feasible way to do it, but I can't help but think my failure to finish revising any of them is connected with this untidy method of creating them.
So this fall I determined to plan everything out before I wrote Scene 1. Instead of the Chris Baty "No Plot? No Problem!" method, I'd give Rachel Aaron's "from 2K to 10K" strategy a try: The more you know about what you're going to write, the faster you can write it, the more you'll enjoy the process, and the more developed your first draft will be right out of the gates.
Aaron's first step is to write down everything you already know about the novel. Cool. Check. Good. It's her second step that's bogging me down: Fill in the gaps. Take all the stuff you don't know, and figure it out. I'm having trouble figuring things out. Like, oh, how the novel will end. And a large chunk of the middle, too, I don't know that either. Every time I sit down, I figure out more about the characters, their surroundings, their conflicts, and their backstories, but I still don't know how things will proceed. It's like there's a barricade constructed right across the plot timeline about two weeks into the narrative, and I keep running into it--wham! Ouch.
Today, taken as a whole, went swimmingly. I worked my "morning shift" right on schedule (at the Avon Public Library, as planned), so I had plenty of time to stroll around town, shop, eat, and then go back to the room and read (library books!) and nap. Then I sat down to my novel planning session, also right on schedule. I had allotted myself two whole hours to work on that novel, and not the last two hours of the conscious day, either! It was, in theory, fantastic.
In practice, I immediately got uneasy and restless. Like I wasn't properly utilizing my work day. As though sitting there planning a novel was wasting time. Like I was cheating my timesheet, crediting myself for two hours of writing when all I'd done was sit there staring into space, talking to myself, and typing incoherently into my Scrivener project. Which, yes, is part of the writing process, I know that intellectually, but deep in my gut where the butterflies live I feel like it doesn't count as writing at all.
It's not precisely that I feel I should be typing up the draft rather than planning it--although actually typing out actual scenes would probably help mitigate the uneasiness. It's more like I'm feeling that any time spent on this novel is a waste, and that I ought to be spending my day on more worthwhile projects that actually have a hope of getting finished. Like revising one of my already sorta-finished novel drafts. Or writing new short stories and revising existing ones for publication. What if this novel never gets finished? What if I never figure it out enough to write it? What if I secretly know that it'll never get finished, and that's why I'm doing it, as an infinite means of procrastination such that I'll never finish or publish anything else again?
Reminder: These are not my logical thoughts. This is the shape of my uneasiness. Have you met me? I am a very insecure person. If you didn't know that, awesome. Maybe I've gotten better at hiding it over the years. (I hear that's like 85% of adulting right there.)
Sometimes, when I'm stuck, things will come unstuck if I just talk to myself about them. Not on the laptop; just talking to myself, out loud. Admittedly, I'm always talking to myself. It's like my thoughts aren't real until I've made them into words that my ears can hear. So that's what I did tonight. I put the laptop away, ran a hot bath, and commenced with the relaxing and talking to self. (The talking to self method works better while relaxed. Relaxing works better in a hot soak. Also, a hot soak was really necessary after this afternoon's hour and a half walk to the Walmart and back. I forgot to pack my scrimmage jerseys, OK? So I needed cheap T-shirts in black and white. $2.79 in the craft aisle along with all the fabric paint pens you can choke on.)
What I was hoping to figure out was more street-level details of the neighborhood Michael's currently living in: what his daily commute looks like, what cafes and restaurants and bars he frequents, what his apartment complex is like. I can't really write forward without knowing the terrain the characters are going to be moving through. I didn't get any of that. What I did get was a few more details about childhood in Allemondia, the kinds of fairy tales and fantasies that those facts inspire, and a tragedy in Michael's childhood that was a factor in his decision to be a doctor.
Argh. More background and backstory. Still no narrative progression. But I got out of the tub and I wrote all of it down, because I'll take whatever I can get. In the end, it's all going in there.
this fictionette can think of five reasons to stop feeling guilty without even trying hard
- 1,133 wds. long
All right, all right, it's up. Finally. The Friday Fictionette nominally for November 25 is "Five Good Reasons" (Patron-only links: ebook | audiobook) and if you're wondering "for what?" the answer is many things. But mainly it's to do with a dental hygienist deciding to save the planet. Yes, this is in fact part of the same continuity as "Please To Confirm Your Appointment with BRIGHT SMILES!" and "An Office In Transition." Because there's dentistry involved, of course.
No one should be surprised that the dang thing didn't go up until today. I'm either on time, or I'm at least three days late. There doesn't seem to be much in the way of in between. And it was the stupidest thing: there were only about 500 words left to write! But the very fact that it was late made them the hardest 500 words ever. It's psychological. It's a reliable effect of being late. Of knowing I'm late and hating it. And of course there's the "It'll be out on Saturday, promise!" post, and then it's not ready for Saturday, so I say "Sorry, but it'll be out on Sunday for sure," and then it isn't, and then I don't say anything at all because I'm feeling too ashamed to show my face.
This is not healthy and I don't like it.
However, there are few better antidotes for a depressive period full of guilt and self-loathing than ROLLER DERBY and by the Gods I have done roller derby today. The kind and generous skaters of the 10th Mountain Roller Dolls invited me to drop in with them, what with my being in town and all, and they arranged to carpool me over, and then they proceeded to kick my butt in the best of all possible ways. They worked me hard, and I felt it, and not just due to an elevation of about 2,500 feet higher than I'm used to. I mean, that's definitely a factor--I was winded hard for pretty much the full two hours, and thank goodness I don't have much in the way of asthma going on--but it doesn't account for how very sore my thighs were when we were done. (Rolling squat warm-ups! All the squats!)
And that is why 1. I rescheduled my Monday home strength training routine to Tuesday this week, and 2. I'm very, very glad of the luxurious in-room spa that is one of this resort's amenities. All the hot water. Yes. And also wine and cheese, because, cheeeeese, wine-not? Ha ha ha geddit? I am funny.
All right, so. With the overdue fictionette published, I am DONE WITH GUILT for the week. I intend to make my way over to the library tomorrow to get some writing done and also to check out a book or two. After that, who knows? I am on vacation. Other than holding myself to my writing goals (and planning to attend 10th Mountain's Thursday scrimmage) I am entirely unscheduled. It's glorious.
the postponement that surprised no one
Turns out food coma is a thing, even on vacation. Especially on vacation. Thus the Friday Fictionette which I said to expect on Saturday will come out on Sunday instead (which you probably saw coming), but not for lack of trying. I'm working on it right now. But it's 10:30 at night and I am a realist.
My day was pleasantly full of travel. I like public transportation, for the most part, and I got to sample several flavors of it today. I'd especially been looking forward to the Greyhound portion because all their buses are now equipped with wi-fi and electrical outlets. But of course that wi-fi is only as good as the signal strength where the bus is traveling, and signal strength is poor on mountain roads. But even knowing that, I was surprised by the stretch of I-70 where I could download and install a Java upgrade, play Puzzle Pirates, and yet be unable to load web pages. (This is why no blockade post today.) So I played Puzzle Pirates and read ebooks until the Greyhound arrived in Vail.
Twenty minutes later I arrived in Avon on the westbound Highway 6 bus, and my annual week of "run away and hide from the world and get lots of writing done!" commenced. It was sunny and bright and warmer than I'd expected, the forecast snow not having arrived yet. I figured I'd better enjoy the weather while it lasted. Besides, I'd arrived too early to check into my room. So I wandered down the street in search of dinner.
Used to be, my first meal in Avon would be at Finnegan's Wake, the Irish pub next door to Loaded Joe's. Used to be. Some years ago, I arrived to discover Finnegan's Wake was gone and had been replaced by some barbecue and sports bar thing called Montana's Smokehouse. I've eaten there once. It didn't really speak to me.
I think my new Welcome to Avon ritual is going to be China Garden. I already make sure to get there at least once per stay; why not on Day 1? Today I had the crispy duck and a pot of tea, and I consumed it all. (OK, maybe not all the fried rice. But close.) And of course this gluttony occurred after a day full of travel, which itself included the altitude spike of Vail Pass and also the ant-under-a-magnifying-glass factor of several hours in buses on a sunny day. Thus the food coma to which I succumbed the moment I got to my room.
So the "get lots of writing done!" aspect of the week is starting a little later than usual. But it is starting.
how much doing stuff makes up for not doing the stuff
My brief run of on-time Friday Fictionettes has been undone by Thanksgiving plus travel preparations. And it's not even like either factor was particularly extravagant. Thanksgiving consisted of a little skating, a nice lunch at a favorite restaurant, a big long nap, and a bit of hot chocolate in front of the fire. And I'm only traveling about two hours west via Greyhound and the regional transit systems of Denver and Eagle County. Nevertheless, my writing productivity took a hit.
Not that I'm not proud of what I got done today! I got a lot of crap done that needed it, in some cases very badly. All the bills are paid, the physical inbox is empty, the household accounts are reconciled, my filthiest set of bearings is now clean and ready to skate on, and the dome light in the car is no longer dangling like a Christmas tree ornament. That was some very important crap got done. Groceries and prescriptions got gotten. Saturday AM volunteer reading got read, recorded, and uploaded (there won't be time to read it tomorrow morning). Also my suitcase got packed, more or less.
Nevertheless, one important thing didn't get done today, and that was writing. The Friday Fictionette for November 25 was unfortunately no exception. Look for it tomorrow (and I mean tomorrow!).
taking the guilt out of guilty pleasures
I still don't have the hang of Wednesdays. Their insistence on coming after Tuesdays is one problem--although, admittedly, last night's roller derby practice was much lighter than usual, so I didn't wake up feeling beat up. But I had another rough night of constantly interrupted sleep, which kind of killed my morning.
That, plus, I had dreams. They were compelling dreams. They compelled me to go back to sleep to remember them better. They resonated oddly with all the novel planning I'd been doing, especially the idea of a "company store" environment in which Delta, one of my protagonists, is trying, futilely, to work her way out of perjury debt.
OK, so, it goes like this: In Balvion, the country in which the novel takes place, contracts are not legally but inevitably binding. Inevitable, like gravity. When you sign your name to a contract, you are offering it up as collateral. If you fail to uphold the terms of the contract, you lose your name and identity. You can theoretically earn enough to buy it back under a new contract, but you need a job to earn money, and to get a job you need things like a resume and references and a work history--which you no longer have because your identity isn't yours anymore. You can't even claim your own high school diploma.
So what you do is this: You rent an identity. At ruinous interest. So you can work a crap job that pays less than minimum wage and play along with the fiction that this will somehow make it possible to scrape together enough money to buy your name back.
That's the situation that "Delta Echoes" is in. It's not her real name. We won't know her real name until later in the story. Meanwhile, I'm having nightmares of being beholden to shady corporations that will compromise me morally if I continue working for them but will seriously punish me if I escape their evil clutches. Fun!
Meanwhile, after my appointment at Cafe of Life, I went back to that terrible super buffet. I AM NOT ASHAMED. It was strangely less terrible this time. Even the green-lipped mussels and the so-called seafood pie were acceptable, although this is possibly because I was choosier about where in the pan I selected my portion from. But I suspect it really isn't about the food. It's about the routine, which I find comforting and comfortable. I completed one of my writing tasks over my first plateful of vaguely OK food items and a bowl of perfectly adequate egg drop soup. Then, as a reward for accomplishing that writing task, I picked my way through a bunch of crab legs while rereading a few chapters of The Goblin Emperor. (This included the chapter with Maia's nineteenth birthday, which meant a little bit of crying in public. I am not embarrassed. That scene is beautiful and wrecks me every time.)
(Also it is strange looking back at yesterday's blog post and my use of the term "brainstorm" while in the midst of rereading a novel in which that word is used as a synonym for a cerebral stroke.)
I will admit that sometime during the sleeplessness of Monday night I was attacked by an intense and specific craving for lumps of crab meat mixed into butter and eaten with a spoon. That's how long I have been looking forward to my Wednesday evening dinner at China Buffet. Have you met my brain? This is my brain.
And now I have discovered that they have ambrosia on their dessert table--you know, the chunks of fruit and the mini marshmallows in some sort of creamy matrix involving either sour cream or yogurt and also the unconfessed sins of childhood? They used to serve it at my school under the name "pineapple delight." I was routinely the only person at the table who actually liked it, so everyone gave me theirs. This is one of my ultimate comfort foods, and this restaurant has it, and I am no longer ashamed of returning. So there.
i knew this when I was a puppy
It's already November 22 and I've barely spent any hours at all working on my new novel. I guess novel-writing season is likely to extend into December. Of course, in theory, thoroughly planning the novel out beforehand can result in knocking the draft out in a week or less. However, I'm new at this 10K-a-day stuff, so I'm trying to keep my expectations reasonable.
Had a worldbuilding brainstorm last night, though, which is incidentally the best way to compensate for being almost entirely unable to sleep. Only, before I can tell you about that, I need to catch you up on some of the story so far.
In the country from which one of the main characters hails, humans aren't born human. They're born chimera--part human, part some other animal. For instance, Michael was born half-cat. More than half, actually. Mostly cat. But over the course of adolescence, the animal features are replaced by human ones. It's a perfectly natural and spontaneous process, comparable to other processes associated with puberty. Its social effect is as you might expect: Where our world has Sweet Sixteen parties, quinceañeros, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, and other coming of age rituals and celebrations, Michael's homeland makes a great big Hallmark deal out of children becoming fully human.
(Only some few days after I'd come up with that did I realize this echoed a let's-pretend motif of my early childhood, mostly forgotten until this time. I can't remember the details, but I can remember a specific incident that has the freight of something much repeated. I was all-fouring my way across the kitchen floor and going woof to get Mom's attention. Mom asked me what I was doing. I said, "I'm being [NAME] when he was a puppy." She said "I don't think [NAME] was ever a puppy." I said, with a trace of exasperation that she didn't get it already, "No, the powerful [NAME]." Apparently the person I was pretending to be had experienced a previous stage of life in which he A. had superpowers and B. spent his childhood as a puppy. A. and B. were inextricably linked, as best as I can recall.)
And so but anyway here's the brainstorm: Those animal features don't just disappear. When they're all gone, an animal of that type appears in the newly adult human's life and stays with them forever. It's possible this was influenced by a current reread of The Golden Compass, because this sure sounds a lot like Pullman's daemons. But in this case, the magical animal companion isn't a revelation of your essential nature, but rather the ultimate home of your not-exactly-discarded childhood. We talk about "the inner child," right? The people of Michael's homeland have a very much outer child.
Now, here's the real brainstorm: That's what the talking cat character is. Did I mention the talking cat character? There's a talking cat character that shows up and startles the other main character, Delta, by talking to her. Turns out it's not some random talking cat popping up to be accounted for. It's the part of Michael that used to be a cat.
I haven't decided yet what to call it. "Familiar" has the wrong connotations, and besides, I'm using that in another continuity. "Pet" is entirely inaccurate. "Daemon," as I said before, is taken. And "magical animal companion," though it works well enough as a descriptive phrase when talking about the novel, is a bit too twee for use within the novel. Well, Delta can use the phrase sarcastically while she's trying to come to terms with the critter. But Michael wouldn't. Him and his folks would have some other term, something matter-of-fact, devoid of both fanfare and self-deprecation.
I'll come up with something eventually.
I'm not sure quite what to do with this information, but that's OK. I don't have to know everything just yet. As long as I figure out a little bit more at each novel-planning session, I'm doing fine.
And so I am off to have a novel-planning session now. Cheers!