Saturday, November 23, 2013

Lessons from Legend of the Moon


After 167 days of writing, Legend of the Moon is done. I'm so pumped up, I just have to share my thoughts and feelings about the experience. Just to make it a bit different from a normal post, I'll be doing this like an interview.

Q: What brought on the story?

A: If you read the story from the beginning, you'd know it was inspired by...of course... the moon. I was doing my daily walking exercise just before dark when I saw it, a full moon in a clear sky. It brought back a childhood memory of me riding in Dad's car one night and commenting that the moon seemed to be following us. Like most adults, Dad shook it off as something ordinary (or maybe he was just concentrating on driving) but I gazed at that moon for almost the whole trip. The memory ended and, right there, the story just formed and I began writing it in my head. When I got back home, I opened up my blog and started on it.

Q: Did you intend to make it as long as it did?

A: No, I actually thought it was going to take just one or two posts. It was supposed to be a short story, something like Aesop's fables or the Brothers Grimm folk tales. I was envisioning around 3,000–4,000 words but it turned out to be 80,000+.

Q:What made you decide to lengthen it?

A: I happen to like detail. If the story was going to be just 4,000 words long, detail would have to be sacrificed. If you read the first seven paragraphs, you'll notice there are no names. I didn't plan on putting names on the characters except for the princess, just tell the story and keep the characters unnamed.

Q: So, what was the original plot of the story?

A: It was fairly simple. Guy saves princess and they fall in love. A man, who turns out to be a wizard, gets jealous and attempts to kill the guy. Guy tries to enlist the aid of a fairy but that fairy fails and the guy gets turned into the moon.

Q: You mentioned that the princess was the only one with a name in the story. Why is that?

A: If you stretch your imagination a bit, the moon looks like a giant eye in the sky, right? When the guy was turned into the moon, he kept searching for the princess and calling out her name, Luna. Finally, I planned on putting a funny twist on the ending because the guy eventually loses his voice but the people remember that lonely call...Luna...and start calling the moon, you guessed it, Luna.

Q: Okay, so the story plot changes and it gets longer and longer. How many words were you planning to write?

A: After one post, I decided I'd use the story to practice for the NaNoWriMo—National Novel Writing Month in November. You're supposed to write a 50,000+ word novel in one month from November 1 to 30. It doesn't have to make much sense, doesn't have to be perfect, spell and grammatical errors are acceptable. There's no prize, just the satisfaction of finishing a novel in one month.

Q: But you didn't make it, writing the novel in one month, I mean.

A: Nope, I didn't. I said I liked detail, right? I also happen to like perfection. I'm not saying I'm perfect but if I find a mistake, I just have to go back and fix it. After I finish a post, I usually go back over it, correcting spellings and rewording things to make them clearer or more understandable. Then there were the interruptions, the battle over computer time (there's only one computer in the house) and, sometimes, laziness steps in.

Q: What about writer's block?

A: Yes, that too. There were a few times when I couldn't write anything because I couldn't think of the next scene or situation.

Q: Didn't you have an outline?

A: No, the story was written without a plan or outline. I had an idea of how I wanted the story to end but had no idea how to get there. I just kept typing and inventing as I went along. Occasionally, I would paint myself into a corner when I introduce a scene or situation that made it difficult to proceed.

Q: For example...

A: For example, one of the main characters was a woman named, Iole—later, as Elsie—and she was first introduced as a witch. I figured, the only way that a moon was going to appear was by magic so Iole came in as a witch and she would be the one to create the moon. Then, for some reason, I decided the story was not going to have any magic in it. Everything was going to be scientific, albeit with a fictional slant. I had to think of a way to weave the possibility of a scientific explanation into the story without changing posts that I had already made.

Q: Why not change previous posts?

A: Because people would have already read them. If I changed the flow of the story drastically, you'd wonder how that came to be but you wouldn't think of going back to previous posts to find out why. It would confuse people and I don't think they'd like that.

Q: But you did end up with a magical reason for creating the moon.

A: Yup, coming up with a scientific reason became too much of a burden. Magic, on the other hand, frees you because anything's possible when it comes to magic.

Q: If you would have stayed with science, how would the moon be created?

A: It wouldn't be created in the real sense. I thought of it as a rogue moon—a moon that's wandering through space—which comes too close to the planet and gets captured by its gravitation pull.

Q: So what's wrong with that, why didn't you go with that scenario?

A: Because I have absolutely no idea what happens to a planet when it captures a moon. Would the force of the event result in massive earthquakes and tsunamis? If it does result in such calamities, most, if not all, of mankind would probably die and that would make a lousy story ending. I forgot to mention it earlier but, in addition to detail and perfection but I also like to be as realistic as possible. Of course, there's nothing realistic about magic but I try to be as accurate as I could be. I researched about things like archery, the construction of castles, medieval terms, clothes, battle tactics, and even names and surnames. Unfortunately, I couldn't find anything about what happens on a planet when it acquires a moon that wasn't there before.

Q: You keep referring to it as "planet." The planet in Legend of the Moon isn't Earth?

A: The original story idea was that it would be set on Earth in Medieval England. Then, I got to thinking: Earth has always had a moon. Therefore, this planet cannot be Earth. I decided it would be another planet somewhere in the universe that somehow paralleled Earth during the Middle Ages.

Q: The book mentions that Iole/Elsie/Liona comes from another planet. Was that Earth?

A: Maybe. If it is Earth, it's probably in our future because of the technological advances that she brought with her. I'm not sure.

Q: Not sure? But you created the story!

A: I'd like to think that it created itself. Like I said, the story had no outline. Words just appeared unto the computer screen—like magic—and that was part of the fun of doing it that way. I really enjoyed not knowing what was going to happen next. Or at least, not how it was going to happen. There were times when I'd get an idea while walking or doing something but when I started typing, the whole thing changes. I was always wondering how the story would turn out.

Q: What other aspect of the story was changed, other than the decision to use magic rather than science?

A: There was quite a number of them. One was that Elsie could never return to her home planet and, when she died, Tilly would build a sort of mausoleum for her...the she could be that much closer to her planet than  if she had been buried on the planet surface.

Q: That's awful!

A: That's why I didn't go through with it.

Q: What else?

A: Well, originally, John's planet actually was Earth and Liona—a.k.a. Iole/Elsie—was supposed to be a time traveler.  In her time, she discovered there was no mention of a moon in the history books until the Middle Ages, around the time that John was living in. She goes into the past and instantly changes it, meaning, the Earth will not acquire a moon unless a certain series of events take place.

Q: And?

A: It got too complicated. There's a theory called the temporal, or time travel, paradox. If you watched the movie, Back to the Future, you'll know what I mean. In that movie, Marty McFly accidentally goes back in time and inadvertently causes his future mom to fall in love with him (Marty) instead of his future father. As the movie progresses, Marty starts to disappear. The reason for that is: if his mother doesn't marry his father, he would never have existed and, therefore, could not have returned back in time.

There's another version to that theory that says: even if you can travel back in time, you cannot change the future because history cannot be changed. Anything you do will merely result in history moving in the direction it was destined to do.

Q: That's pretty heavy stuff.

A: I know. It certainly got too heavy for me. I had to find a different approach. Other authors sometimes ignore reality just so the story goes the way they want it to be. It's called literary license. I'll probably have to learn to do that but for now, it's not how I work.

Q: You're planning to turn it into an ebook, right? Why would people want to read an ebook when they can read it in your blog?

A: I'm planning to rewrite the whole story which means the ebook version will be slightly different from the blog version. I don't intend to change the story, just improve it for readability and that includes, spell and grammar corrections. A few sceneries might need to be rearranged or completely reworded to make it more "interesting."

Q: Speaking of interest, how much interest did your story get from readers of your blog?

A: Honestly? Not that much. My biggest fan was my sister Eva. The numbers on the stats don't show that many reads. The earlier posts had higher number of reads than the later posts but that's probably because of fatigue. The story had been cut up into chunks of about 1,200 to 1,700 words and that's probably tiring for people who want to read a story from beginning to end in one sitting. Who wants to take five months to read a book eh? I hope the ebook will do much better.