I suppose it's a matter of how it's presented as the story unfolds. Never will it be All About Alizande. Out of an infinite variety of possible events, again and again... it will be her. Not because she is chosen, but because that is how it all turned out. Besides, she wasn't really intended to be the Great Dark herself, but as the catalyst who made a whole lot of other things, and people, happen.
Ugh. So I decided to sit down and forcibly brainstorm Alizande. I had a few notions to begin with, of course, a template which I planned to follow, and a few key events spaced out - but, inspired by various readings and this previous eight-version exercise, I did the same once more.
By all means, read, and comment which top-two or three catch your interest the most! All are different ways of telling the same tale.
1 An old and discredited statesman tells the tale of his protegé’s rise to power.
2 The story of a noble-warrior of a rigid caste-society whose structure is challenged from within.
3 A hardened mercenary meets a young woman, who contracts him for a seemingly simple mission…
4 An exile from a fallen kingdom conspires his return to power - while he raises the troubled child of his dead lover.
5 The ambitious scion of a disgraced house strikes a deal with a revolutionary, but is unable to control the events which follow…
6 (A man, wanting to make a name for himself, strikes a deal with a mysterious woman - with terrible consequences…)
7 The childhood friend of a girl with multiple personalities becomes, years later, a follower of the revolutionary movement she has started.
8 The servant of a political leader tries to alleviate his mistress’ political difficulties while winning her heart.
Alizande is clearly bipolar, or rather, suffers from a multiple personalities disorder. Perhaps this all becomes a tale about her disorder as interpreted by a superstitious warrior society. When I continue planning this, I will jot down entries in my internal encyclopedia for every character, and Alizande will have two or maybe three, a third for her outward persona. Because it’s not really about her. It’s people’s take of her, her like a force of nature, of an Event which forms a backdrop to their own lives. Say, like Vietnam.
“And no moves left for me at all but to write down some few last words and make the dispersion, Vietnam Vietnam Vietnam, we’ve all been there.” [Alizande, Alizande, Alizande, we’ve all seen her]
Number five sounds chaotically delicious, with very appealing core ideas. Revolutionary? That can go many places in of itself. A scion of a disgraced house implies intrigue and scheming. Unable to control the events that follow? You have my attention.
Noice. Yes. I’ll go with #5, I think. (And likely weave in most of the other narrativies as character-specific archs.) Let me try a quick rephrasing and re-honing of that plot:
"A son scorned by his father takes extreme measures to win back his (self-)respect, but the situation spirals out of his control..."
I will also, I think, go with the classical “unities” of space, time and action. But before all of that, I sat down and made myself list up… just what is it that I want to write about?
- Not a coming-of-age story, but a coming-to-terms-with-who-you-grew-up-to-be story. -A story about wanting to be ambitious (rather than actually being so) and of what is the universal human characteristic - fear or laziness? - Of taking something obvious at face-value, and of having that rug tugged away from under you - That it takes one man to build something, but two to wage a war over it - Of the several-faceted-face of man, that we are one thing to some and an entirely other to ourselves - That victory comes to the victor; of committing to extreme ideals and persevering through any storm - and how, when one arrives at one’s prize, one looks about and sees only graves and the fate of one’s own reign - That fantasy-people are still people. There’s a bureaucracy and a mother and introverts and needing to go to the bathroom, and all the rest - Of having something good and turning it down, and regretting it. - Of being good at something, but not necessarily enjoying it/doing it. - Of drunkenly asking, what is the meaning of life, while at the same time protesting that we cannot possibly have that conversation now! - Of growing up one day and, looking around, realizing you are you, you are locked in into yourself, and change is hard. - Of asking what you will cast out to future generations. How will you be remembered? What do you live for? Of asking the question, more than the answers you arrive at, because how you ask is half the question itself.
Also, what is Alizande?
Alizande is the split between what you want to do and what you actually do; who you want to be and who you are. She is the cake that you eat and the wish (made while blowing out a candle) you regret. She is the promise that you could keep, and should keep, but for one reasonable reason or another do not, in fact, keep.
Finally, the story. I’ll probably revise it completely, but here’s a first notion to build from.
Yicatsek (? silly name, must change) is the younger son of a noble house which has fallen into decline. He wants to make his mark and restore his house’s fame. Or something. Anyways, he invites Alizande - then called just the Dame - over to his mansion for Plotting. Over the course of an eventful night it becomes clear that he is the one being used by Alizande (and she, in turn, serves a darker master) to throw a coup. But how, not even he can imagine until she unleashes the power of tlao single-handedly.
Big points, pulled into a three-act structure;
- Inciting moment; perhaps Yi meets the Dame, a chance encounter (though probably not). By the side of the street, in the hallways of the court? - First climax would be Yi inviting the Dame to his house, of making that choice. - Second climax would be word spreading of Yi and Dame’s colluding, perhaps the palace troops are on their way and putting pressure on people? - Third climax and crisis is the Court of the Pillars. The Dame tears down the old order. - Denouement is Yi walking through the destruction and reflecting on that he sure made his mark, and future generations will hate him for it.
Even so, thought patterns do continue to form, and I try to jot them down in the moment. Here comes a brief summary -
Yi (the only POV character) is a lord, yes, but ought probably to be a younger son. He's a guard captain, lording over a portion of the defence detail of the capital, Cahuali. He is slightly fat, but is deeply etched with warrior ideals. He is from a rural county, one which recently has seen an upsurge in "Alizandism" and, as a consequence, a crackdown from the government. There are rumours that his father/older brother even supported the revolutionary movement, but nothing tangible yet. Yi is disappointed with his decision to take up a commission in the capital - his ambitions have far from been fulfilled. He finds himself doing menial tasks which he disdain and underestimate, and is flustered (and angry) when he realizes he is thus failing a task which he considers himself superior to.
Alizande is still a far-away rumour. A name, drifting on the wind, but what it means no one knows. It is a foreign name, for sure, a made-up moniker, perhaps. It springs from the lips of several of the various rebellious movements over the past few years. Terrorist tlao call out the name before springing their hit-and-run attacks. Old Cahuali is tottering, its grasp of its provinces slipping and unrest stirring - but there is still strength in her yet. In the latest campaign, Mulmapoi Cuametle decisively defeated the largest and longest-living of those rebellions. Toasting in the capital is to the effect that the Rebel's back has been broken, and under Cuametle, Cahuali will return to its former glory.
The Dame is in Cahuali to destroy it. Desperate times takes desperate measures, and she has come to change the world. Not because she wants to, but because the world will not suffer one such as her to exist. Her followers are sadly whittled down by recent setbacks, but the Burned and Bright men are with her, shadowing her movements. She has a plan. Just what it is, is still slightly unclear - but it hinges on capturing/coercing a city guard captain so that she can get close to Cuametle. Hers is the heroic quest through the lair of the dragon - but she will use that old leech's depravity and pride against itself as she worms closer, and closer, to its heart.
Mulmapoi Cuametle, a brilliant military man and charismatic leader, is heir-apparent to the throne of Cahuali. But although his adopted father is old, Cuametle is considering a coup to speed up the process. Reluctantly so. When he was sent out to crush the rebels he saw the injustices of the current regime, and they bear down on his conscience. It is with mixed feelings he return to the capital, where he is greeted with a Triumph, the likes of which have not been seen for half a century.
That triumph had marked the end of the age of conquest: now it seems all they have left to celebrate is the defeat of internecine enemies. For three day the grand spectacle continues, as ancient Cahuali reveals herself in all her glory, revelling in sacrifice and holy processions...
The book is far away, but I'll carry on anyhow, I'll get to it eventually. But ah. One of the things I took away from that book was the fundamental difference between the (proposed) Aztec way of thinking about... about taking things away from the gods in order to live your life. Like this. From the day they were born, they knew, they started stealing the gods' everything. The food they eat, the water they drink - they are the gods' food and the gods' water. They live on borrowed goods. Sooner or later they will have to return it, and then they will be as babes again. (Apparently the aztec warrior societies' equivalent to the Viking Valhalla (with all the boozing and viking-stuff going on there) was to become hummingbirds and drink nectar from flowers.)
That, compared to the Christian ethos where the idea is to be reconciled with God and live in heaven and be holy, you, too.
First, the world. A place of extremes - extremes of night and day, of faith and disbelief, of power and slavery. And most of it crowded together along the twilight rim where Attala's light is bright enough to warm the long nights but faded enough not to scorch the earth to deserts.
Such, at least, is the case in the (tribute-)empire Cahuali. It's unlikely the light of Attala would cause such extreme changes in temperature, more likely Cahuali is simply neighbouring a region of deserts which happens to lie "north", Attala-wards, from the empire itself.
The region is defined by city-states, clustered too close for comfort. On this strip of land between the desert and the ocean to the south, resources are scarce and population control might be a somewhat... violent business. Cahuali grew strong and has devoured most its neighbors - like Lili. And it is a tribute-empire, focused inwards on its own glorification. Human sacrifice may or may not be in there - I want it to, but will have to figure out why, what to use it for. There is definitely some sanctioned murdering of outcasts and deformed babes (read about "mingi") and the like. Cahuali is a warrior culture, Spartans, as it were, very much all about proving their strength and falling on their swords and such.
Revolution will find root in such conditions, methinks, one way or another. Alizande's message is, perhaps, one we would recognize as fairly Christian in tone. Or at least, what some would say was Jesus' original message... what was the name of that book? Oh, yes - www.amazon.com/Zealot-Life-Times-Jesus-Nazareth-ebook/dp/B00BRUQ7ZY Perhaps she simply started out as a beacon of hope for the repressed Lilis.
Of course, the Alizande of the revolution, and the cultured Dame of Cahuali high society, and who knows how many other names that woman has worn - they are quite another thing than the woman herself, and more reflect the hopes and opinions of those surrounding her.
I think that will be a big thing in this story with Yi. (God, a name! A kingdom for a name! Now "Yi" has stuck... maybe it's simply his nickname.) Yi is a guard captain who, although he is aware of a trap, gradually becomes more and more swayed by the Dame. Not seduced per se - but there will come a point where he will realize that he completely misunderstood, and misjudged, the Dame and her motives. Though he knew them, even if she said it outright, what one person (the Dame) means and says, and what another person (Yi) hears and interprets, are two completely different things. And Alizande's curse and blessing and mystery is how people of all kinds will identify with her.
Perhaps she says something uncouth - curses, spits, what have you. Noblemen will laugh and invite her to their circle, thinking she is making fun of silly peasant ways. And the peasants will flock to one of their own. But which is she, really?
Ah, danger: she mustn't become bland, faceless. No, never that.
The great irony of the Alizandian revolution is, of course, what comes of it. And Alizande... aah! Ah, now I see. Brain. I must give Alizande a true companion. Of course. A co-conspirator. Lapuco himself? Oh there is a dark thought... but makes sense, hmm... But, but, that later. The irony is what comes of it. Like the French revolution, it began with the greatest of ideals and then spat out Napoleon - glorious and great Napoleon, who was the Great Dark of the free world back then; how many millions died because of he?
I must specify, but right now I draw on aztecs, on persians, on swahili city-states. A world small and dense with heat and buzzing mosquitos, where the dream-world is close, pressing in from the other side of the polished-obsidian mirror. Large cities - Cahuali, no doubt, with a population in the hundreds of thousands. Divided into wards, or - Tenochtitlan serves as inspiration - calpulli. Strict social norms and little social movement - a caste-society, with warriors almighty, and the dirty few Untouchables here and there.
Oh, I'm starting to like this. Maybe it is Lapuco and a band of Lili outcasts who are devising a revolution, one which has taken the name of Alizande to heart, and they find it spinning, spinning, spinning out of control... what is it like, to be a child, and be the Cause of so much killing and dying?
Also, I realize, apropos just writing. I do author stuff now and then. Just to kinda... keep track of my brainwaves, because this is all combine-able, here comes repost from Facebook:
I think of them, now and then, the graveyard people.
It was 2011 and we had travelled for a few days into the heart of Tanzania, finding ourselves upon the stage of our childhood plays. I don't remember much of that time, but I remember the church, and I remember singing "Ich bin da" (though if the singer was myself, or connected to Christmas, or the church, I cannot specify).
We had already visited the ruins of the school, seen the old sleeping-quarters, the old attic (the dusty psalm-books in Swedish still there from way back then, lying side by side with drying fish. Where did that fish come from? There is only a smallish river nearby. And what happened to the great snake skin in the stairs, I wonder?). When we came to the old radio-room (confused evening conversations through bursting static with our parents; I picture green-glowing instruments but that must be movie reconstruction, it was all empty now anyway) Rebecka cried. The bookshelves made by father were still there, empty as well. I grinned stupidly with the men escorting us, none of us knowing what else to do.
We went outside after that. The day after we circled the church.
There is something solitary about that graveyard, right beside the church in this far-away village, on the other side from the school. Smallish, bounded by brick walls - containing perhaps seven, perhaps a dozen silent graves. Concrete slabs. The Cross, protruding from the surface. Etched in - two names, and two dates. I took photos, none of which I am proud of.
The names - Slavic to the sound, maybe Poland? Surely it was they who set the foundations to the Church which is still standing here. I wish now I had checked if any shared the same surname - or, then again, not.
But the years. They ended in the 1940s, near all of them. '42, '43, some as far as '48. They began, some early - 1800s, some late - '36.
And ask you did, on Skype! I will here try to summarize all the awesomeness that ensued after our conversation, which was to the effect of Alizande's future.
Summary: Alizande is Joan of Arc and Jesus the Zealot, and one of the now-forgotten initiators of the French Revolution (and/or Napoleon's later coup); all set against a backdrop religious/populist mythos of quasi-Aztec-Christian conflict. Alizande is, further, likely a pawn, or played by, Lapuco and other Lili/disgruntled Cahuali statesmen who need a figurehead for a coup. But the coup they envisioned becomes a revolution, and revolutions, per definition, are out of hand...
Hello, world! (And, more importantly, myself. I am my own most targetted audience.)
A few updates. Alizande is relegated to the back seat as I was convinced (with no effort whatsoever) by Tim to pick up Shatterbridge again. A short discussion of that will follow, along with a rechristening of this page to "ashenmoon's tale(s)" at some later date.
First, however, Alizande since last. I'm even playing with the notion of a second-person perspective... or some other such strange shenanigans. Likely not. But I might divide the book up by days or some such simple scheme: the five days of the revolution, or some such. During which, backflashes and such will fill in all relevant details on Alizande's backstory. Such as they are. Perhaps more correctly, "Alizande's mythos". But, I'll let Alizande mature a bit while I mature my own writery thinking, using Shatterbridge for stage.
I'll admit, I'm annoyed to've been so quiet in this thread. Of course, there's the usual suspect: Other Things Going On, but I actually am doing a whole lot of writing, too! Just, on the Shatterbridge thing. So I'm pondering if I'll start putting up my wip-stuff and plans on here... I mean, I'm still basically writing my prologue, I've got a fairly planned-out story arch - which'll likely take, oh, six-ten updates, which'll tie everything together neatly and set me hurtling into "realtime" game-world.