An Aspiring Writer's Blog Site

Sphinx

Sphinx Part 7

Its been awhile since I’ve written anything about Metamorphosis of a Story. I had stated I would write a brief outline, but there are still a few holes I haven’t quite figured yet. Hopefully, I’ll be able to post it soon. However, I wanted to at least post the real-life person who I draw inspiration from for the story’s main character: Flaviana Matata, Miss Universe Tanzania 2007. Here are some images of her.

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Sphinx- Part 6

I thought I’d give an update on the story’s status. A lot has been on my mind over the last week or so regarding the story. I’ve been researching, brainstorming, looking for inspiration etc. Things are starting to come into picture. Other things are more blurry.

Here are some items that I am leaning heavily towards:

  • The story takes place before the unification of Egypt (probably about 100 years before. Maybe earlier, I’m still deciding).
  • The story takes place before the traditional Egyptian pantheon has been established. At this time, people worship their ancestors (who are becoming more and more god-like over the years).
  • The protagonist is the archetype for the Egyptian goddess of Destruction, Sekhmet (as well as the Sphinx). She is a very dangerous person (how to make her both convincing, sympathetic, and not the typical womanly bad ass is a bit of a challenge).
  • The archetypes for both Set and Horus are main characters in the story. I am strongly leaning towards Set as being the antagonist (another possibility is the legendary figure “Scorpion”).
  • The story takes place over about 50 years. The protagonist sees several generations come and go.
  • The creature that posses the protagonist was born from the rare combination of a lioness dying during a sandstorm on the day of the summer solstice. It is a demon.
  • The protagonist is a mystical slave. Her powers are used for the betterment of the chieftain who is her master.
  • The protagonist slowly learns her powers over the course of the story. She is a creature of the desert, the sun, and a lioness. She controls flame and light, demons who spread disease, sand, desert storms, and can shape-shift (into a man, woman, and lioness). She’s also stronger than most people. She does not sleep and has no need for food.
  • The protagonist is vulnerable to water. It can kill her (or control her depending on how it is used). I picked water because it seems to be the opposite of many of the protagonist’s powers 1. It extinguishes flame, 2. Cuts through the desert and makes it lush, 3. Lions do not like water. Another reason to pick water is because in the legend of Sekhmet her destruction is stopped when she drinks from the river Nile. Probably the most important reason I picked water though is because I simply need some type of kryptonite for Superman (or Supergirl, whatever).

I have a thin outline. My biggest problem right now is deciding the course of events. I would like to keep it true to the legends and historical data available to us regarding Egypt’s pre-dynastic period (they don’t always match up with my story ideas). My next post should be a more solid outline. From that I’ll start on the rough draft of the story.


Sphinx- Part 5

The When:

One of the first things I need to decide is when in Egyptian history does this story take place? I want this to be an origin story and seeing the sphinx is an ancient creature, I want the story to take place in an early period. The first known depiction of a sphinx is from the 4th dynasty. I think my character should be at least that old. However, I am strongly leaning towards the pre-dynastic period—before Egypt was even unified. I am kind of imagining the sphinx playing a pivotal role in the unification of the kingdom and this is where the legend of the sphinx begins.

The Who:

As I said, I’m going to have the sphinx join with a human host, which will be a young woman. I’ve been thinking about this character a lot. Becoming one with the host really changes her life and sets many things in motion. I’ve been thinking what that change would be. It should be painful. I had originally thought about making her a young woman, just about ready to marry. But really—what would such a young woman have to lose? Little. A better idea would be if she is married and has a child or two. This opens up all kinds of interesting story lines when she becomes the sphinx. How does her family react to her becoming a sphinx? What if she is taken away from her child by force? If she is immortal, how does she cope with her family growing old and eventually dying?

The What:

I am still piecing together the story’s content and looking for ideas. While researching, I rediscovered the story about how Thutmoses IV fell asleep in the shade of the great sphinx at Giza. At the time, all that was visible was the sphinx’s head. The rest was covered in sand. The king had a dream where the sphinx told the pharaoh if he restored him, the sphinx would make him a great king. I thought, I might be able use that. A cool opener might be to have Thutmoses restoring the sphinx and come across an ancient chamber. When he opens it, he finds the main character inside, having been locked away for centuries. The story would be her fulfilling her promise to the king. I then looked into what Thutmoses IV did during his reign. Pretty unremarkable, actually. I’d have to start making stuff up.

Choosing this storyline has other issues with it as well. As stated, I really want to make this an origin story. If I start with Thutmoses, which is in the New Kingdom, I have to start doing a lot of backstory. It would probably be best to have two stories running parallel—one with Thutmoses and the other on the origin. That sounds pretty cool, but there is a major problem with that. I’m a new writer and am still developing my craft. Writing a story that runs on parallel storylines and has at least two POV is something that is just beyond what I am capable of doing right now. This is not even mentioning the research I’d have to do for two different time periods. One thing I learned from video game development is the importance of scope vs. resources and experience. In the mean time, I am still looking for a story line. For those who are following this blog, do you have any ideas to throw at me?

A mans gotta know his limitations. . .


Sphinx- Part 4

I am sharing a little of my writing process for this post. I had made mention previously that I use what I call ‘bursts.’ Bursts are short narratives that could be in the final story. They can be merely a few words, a sentence, a paragraph, a scene—it doesn’t matter. The important part is to just get what is bubbling in my head onto paper. Some are short. Some are longer. I use bursts for several reasons. During the early writing phrase it helps keeping my writing hand limber while I am in research phase and don’t write as much. The second thing it does is help inspire me: if I can get some bursts that I really like, I can potentially iterate on them until they are full blown scenes. Its also a morale boost. Once I have some bursts, I can confidently say I have written some of my story.

NOTE: When you read these, it may feel disjointed. A few will have bad grammar or may not even be a sentence. I grouped them so they will make it a little easier to understand.

 

 

Protagonist Characterization

NOTE:  The protagonist has the temporary name Sekmet

She hated wearing sandals. They hurt her feet.

She envied her mother’s beauty. Sekmet had always wanted to look like her mother with her black complexion, full lips, straight back, and long graceful limbs. Instead she knew she favored her father—withered and bent as an old stick.

She used to sing all the time. Those who heard her said she had a beautiful voice. Her father was certain that she could find employment in the nearby temple of Hapi. “With a voice like that, they will take you in for certain. You will live a good life: good meals, fine clothes, and many suitors willing to pay a good bride price for you.” The days leading up to her audition with the temple’s choral priest had been some of the worst days of her life. She had difficulty sleeping and eating. She had nightmares. On the way to the temple, she had vomited twice. Her knees shook when she stood before the priest who stared at her crossly through his malachite darkened eyes. He did not say anything, only waited until she found the nerve to sing. Her father gave her a small push on the middle of the back. “Go on, Sekmet. Sing for him.” The priest sighed. She could tell he was about to leave. Summoning all her courage, she opened her mouth. What came forth was nothing like singing—only off key squacks. She could not continue and she looked at her feet. The priest stood and left the room without a word.

 

 

Plot and Conflict

The elements were just right—the wind, the fire, the sand. It gave birth to a new desert spirit—a rare one. Very rare. If we can catch it, the priests of Nit will pay handsomely.” He licked his lips and seemed to lose himself for a moment. “Most handsomely indeed.” He fixed Sekmet with a stern gaze. “You must not let this creature out of your sight. You understand that?”

She wrung the waterskin over her open mouth. A few drops trickled out.

Flung herself at him. Cat-quick, he grabbed a cup of water and splashed it on her face. She fell to the floor shrieking and clawing at her eyes.

 

 

 

Sphinx Description

NOTE: These are preliminary descriptions of the sphinx before it joins with the protagonist. I imagine it to be a spirit that resembled a fiery whirlwind–a mixture of wind, sand, and fire (or perhaps the sun’s rays).

Swirling. Flame. Breeze. Gust.

Sprinkles of glowing red sand floating in the air. Beautiful. She reached out and touched one with her finger tip. She pulled it back just as fast. It was fire hot.

The spirit became a sheet of glowing sand. It hovered in the air for a moment and then began to ripple. It formed little mounds and gullies. They reminded her of the sand houses she and her brother used to make as children.

More ripples. Out of the ripples came a face—her face. She laughed. The image laughed.

 

*   *   *

To the other writers out there who read my posts, I’m curious as to what your writing process is like during the early stages. Feel free to comment here!

Next up, I’ll post some of my current thoughts on main character, the setting, and what happens in the story (the who, when, and what).


Sphinx- Part 3

One of the things I learned while making video games is to surround yourself with stuff that inspires you. It gets the juices going. Boy, its great to have the interwebs. There’s just some amazing stuff out there. Right now, I’m just looking for anything that fits some of the broad story themes: Egypt, Africa, Sphinx, magic etc. However, I am mostly looking for sources of inspiration for a woman who could possibly be the main character.

Check out some of the imagery I found here. . .

By Kontrastreich. http://kontrastreich.net

By Zack Stella http://zackstella.com/

Alice Musukwa, Miss Zambia 2010

There’s a couple of artists I want to give a particular shout out to. These guys blew me away.

First up Snow Sultan and his kick-ass babe, Smacky. She really caught my attention! The attitude! The ferocity! The hair! I particuarly like the second image here. I kind of imagine my character @ 15 or 16.  Check these outs and be sure to check out Snow’s page on DeviantArt: http://snowsultan.deviantart.com/

The other guy is John Connell. His creatures are actually a reverse of a sphinx and more tribal in nature (and mostly male), but boy are they ever wicked!

Here’s his website: http://www.nightmarerhino.com/

And here is the website to buy his novel. I can’t wait to get it.  https://www.lulu.com/commerce/index.php?fBuyContent=2463084

You may have noticed that the inspirations for the main character are (mostly) black. There is a bit of controversy regarding what race the Egyptians were. Some say its a white cover-up. Others say its Afrocentricism. Here’s my two bits. I think the Egyptians were a pretty good mix of different colors. Egypt is a geographical crossroads. Throughout Egypt’s history, you had incursions of people from both the heart of Africa and people from the Middle East. These people would have been mixing it up plenty. In my opinion, this is why Egypt’s achievements are astounding—it is the product of different types of people making a unique culture with their many different ideas and backgrounds. I think if you went back in time to Egypt you would have seen all shades of colors. For my book, I would like the main character to be dark.

Next up, I’m going to post some “bursts” . . .


Sphinx- Part 2

The sphinx idea has really piqued my interest and for the last few days I have been mulling it over some more. It nice to have 30-45 minute drives for work to think these types of things through (its about the only thing I can say good about those drives).

My biggest concern with the idea was what I call the superman problem—if the title character is a sphinx, can’t she kick most anything’s ass? What challenges would she have? It’s important that she not be all powerful and have some glaring weaknesses that can be exploited by an antagonist. Also, I don’t want a kick ass chick or someone who just throws magic all over the place.

Then there was the problem of POV. I wanted the sphinx to be the pov character. But how does a reader relate to this all powerful creature? I had wanted her to be supernatural—not of the regular mortal world. I think it would be hard to write from that pov. Also, I was imagining her to come from a different place and learning about people. How does one describe things from the pov of a creature that is not familiar with people? Things we take for granted like language, technology, clothing and everything would be foreign to such a creature. I’d have to describe it from the POV of the sphinx and that would would be a pain in the butt to write, I’d think, and a pain in the butt for a reader to read.

Then I thought–what if the sphinx was a creature that took over the body of a mortal and endowed her with its powers? That could solve this issue if the host was still aware of her own world. It would also give me the devise to explain the powers of the sphinx from a human perspective. Also, it could open up all kinds of conflicts. How does the creature change its mortal host and how does the host adapt to those changes? How does those changes effect the people around the host—the people the host has known and perhaps has goals and important relationships with? What if there were people who wanted to take advantage of her powers? I think these are some ideas I can run with.

Ok, so I have a premise for my story. So, now what? I run with it.

Every author has a different way of writing their stories. I actually hit on something that worked very well for me with Bronze Raiders that seems to fit my creative style. I write in bursts. What this means is that from here on out I’m going to get ideas for the story—could be just one line of dialogue that I think is cool, or a couple of sentences that describes something that I see in the story—a location or something that people are doing, or perhaps a character. Sometimes its a full blown conversation. So, I put these little bursts in separate docs.

Meanwhile, I research and start creating a world. I draw maps, I make character sketches,. For inspiration, I mainly look at non-fiction books—history books and biographies. I also watch documentaries. I also read similar type novels and movies and video games. I surf the internet and look at images of characters and settings that would fit well in my world. All the while, this will feed my imagination and keep giving me little bursts.

Soon enough, Ihave accumalated enough of these bursts where I start seeing the skeleton of a story. From there, I’ll make an outline (though I remind myself that I can change it anytime I wish). I then group those bursts into scenes based upon the outline. I begin focusing on parts of the outline that I haven’t explored yet—I get more bursts and write those down. I change my outline as needed and keep writing bursts. Soon, I have a rough draft—its full of scenes that may or may not go. It has characters that may not be necessary, it has scenes that do not have any transitions between them—that’s fine. I now have something to work with. I begin to take the rough draft and streamlining it (removing scenes, adding scenes, revising scenes etc.) until I have a first draft that is readable from start to finish. I then let people look at it. Based on those comments, I rewrite. After that I make a second draft and send it out. After that . . . . I don’t know. I’ll let you know when the second draft of Bronze Raiders is done being read.


Sphinx- Part 1

I thought it might be kind of cool to write how my writing process works for a story I am currently thinking about writing. Its not to say that this story will ever see the light of day, but it may be fun to look back and see how I went through the whole “figuring things out” to a final product.

About a month ago, as Bronze Raiders was finishing up its second draft, I began to think about what else I would like to write about. I had considered a few things—all of them historic in nature. I had been writing a story about Sargon of Akkad about six years ago and I thought maybe I’d go and pick that up again or perhaps I’d go back to one of the various other fantasy stories I have worked on over the years. I had also considered writing a story about Priam, Heracles, or the Amazons—all of which would be set in the same universe as Bronze Raiders.

I then did a little exercise. I wrote down as many historic periods that I could think of (Viking, Mayan, Greek, etc.). Next to them, on a scale of 1-10, I wrote my level of interest in each of those areas. Next to that, I wrote on a scale of 1-10 what I thought people’s interest in those areas were and would be willing to read about. I then added up the numbers for both. The two highest were Greece and Egypt. I figured, well, I just wrote a story that was Greek, why not do an Egyptian one?

My first inclination was that I would write a story about Memnon and keep the story within the same universe as Bronze Raiders. I had a few passing ideas about Memnon over the last couple of years. For those that don’t know, Memnon was a hero in the Trojan War who came from Ethiopia. I thought I could weave in that he had grown up in Egypt. I could write about one of his adventures before the Trojan War—similar for what I had done with Hektor.

As I thought about what I knew about Memnon, I thought about what he would have been like growing up—how he had become this great warrior. I knew he had a brother who was later killed by Heracles. I wondrered what type of warrior he must have been compared to his brother. I like my stories to have a spin on them. I thought maybe Memnon hadn’t started off as a warrior. Maybe he was something else. Perhaps it was his brother that was the warrior and Memnon sort of grew into it after his brother died. I wondered if there was another spin I could put on it. What if Memnon was actually a woman? That changed the whole characteristic of the story. But I thought, you know, I don’t really want to write about a warrior woman—I plan on writing about the amazons someday and I don’t want to cover that. Besides, women warriors have been overly done. Still, this whole idea of writing from the point of view of a woman intrigues me and it has stayed with me for the last couple of weeks.

Right now, I am leaning towards making the woman magical instead of a warrior. Maybe she’s immortal, or near immortal. Perhaps she is the basis for the mythical sphinx and is a protector of Egypt. I think that sounds kind of cool. I thought perhaps she would see people come and go and how that would effect her. I keep thinking of the title “Sphinx.” I’ve also thought about making the story take place over a hundred years. I have a fascination of how things change from generation from generation but in many ways don’t change all. What happens in the story? I don’t know.

So, you can see now how my processes kind of goes with this story. Will I keep going on this path or will I go on to something else? I’ve got other ideas that I could run with—for instance over the last few days, I thought about doing a steam punk story—a Victorian style Batman or James Bond maybe. But right now, the Sphinx idea is something that sounds like something I could have fun with. Who knows?

I’ll post from time to time about how my thought process goes with this story.