Where Am I?

(C) 2019, JJ Shaun

The series of stories I have in mind will take place in a variety of settings. I even started one of the stories a couple of years ago when the group I play online games with were thinking of writing in a different realm. When the group moved on to something else, I left poor Katra hanging.

I know I jump around with my projects a lot. Part of the reason is the twenty or so years I spent juggling Tech Writing assignments with varying deadlines that forced me to split my time among projects at a quick pace. Another reason is that I think I have some form of attention-deficit. While a benefit to my career is not so much as a writer trying to pen a novel. Had I grown up one or two generations later than I did, I would have been medicated to the gills just to get me to sit still. Luckily, I got plenty of outdoor time growing up, so I got to run that energy off every day. If the sun was out, we were not allowed in the house unless it was to eat. When the streetlight came on, it was time to go in. But I digress.

The concept of “magical” transference of a group of characters from one realm to another has been with me for several years, and I wasn’t sure where it would fit. Then I had an idea to tie all the characters together into one family and make it a series of stories. Once I had the family, and the characters (more or less) envisioned, I could move on to the different settings.

At least one of the characters will land in a world of my own imagination. So far, that world is a half-baked idea based on the guidelines laid out in the Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, and Generic Universal RolePlaying System sourcebooks. I use those references when creating a fantasy world because a lot of the legwork is already done. I then decide how the guidelines will apply to that setting and make the appropriate changes so as not to infringe on the D&D or GURPS copyright. Other characters will land someplace like the Forgotten Realms or Tamriel, or somewhere I haven’t heard of yet. In those cases, my stories will be classified as fan fiction.

Once I choose a setting, I have some questions to answer: Will the story have high magic? Low magic? No magic? These references can help me keep the rules of the setting consistent. I’ll draw a map of the area in which the characters find themselves. If a map exists in a pre-made context, I’ll look at that to get a feel for what the character might experience. Maps help me visualize what the character might see. If I draw a top-down map of a region or keep, I can later interpolate what might be seen on the ground.

Recent events have pulled me out of the usual fantasy-based games I generally play and into more modern and futuristic settings. It’s not that the fantasy games are stale. Still, something more modern, like a zombie apocalypse or a spaceship-flying game, is useful in several respects. First, the gameplay is foreign to me, so I had to learn a new interface style as well as fresh terminology. When you’re used to playing a game a certain way, then try something different, it can get frustrating when working to make progress. But it’s also good to learn new things to keep the brain and reflexes sharp. Second, the storylines are fresh and different, but not so much so that I don’t recognize an escort or rescue quest (a “mission” in a more modern setting) when I see one. Honestly, these new games are a refreshing change from the same things I’ve been doing for the last ten or more years.

Video games serve a creative purpose in my life, much like reading does for many other writers. During gameplay, I often turn to the notebook I keep next to my keyboard and jot down a note or two about not only the game itself but what the avatar I’m controlling might be thinking as I move it around the screen. It’s an exercise that frequently leads to a vignette, if not a full story. In other words, a writing prompt.

Now that this story series has direction, I will look back at Katra Alterian and listen as she tells me where she has been and what she plans to do next. I have other ideas that I’ll present as the characters tell me about their travels. For now, I’m drawn to the Madison Range and Sphinx Mountain in Southwestern Montana and the twins, Elaina and Eliam Alterian. What will they discover when they enter the cave with the glittering reflections that entice their imagination?

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