The sampan dipped into a glassy trough and then climbed the shining face of the next wave. As it teetered on the peak, I lunged to the right side of the bow. My weight felt insignificant against the waterlogged boat, but it had the desired effect. The sampan pivoted and began to fall down the backside of the wave, carving an arc from left to right. By the time it began climbing the next wave—a monstrous wave wider than the sampan was long— the bow squared to the foaming break and cleaved it in two as it thrust skyward. The boat passed the center point, hovered atop the foam pile for a moment as if contemplating a backward slide, and then slid forward. The river seemed to fall out from under me.
In my short story The River Lords, I’ve undertaken to give it an admittedly pan-Asian feel. I’m sure my approach would horrify those who know well various ethnographic and geographic details of countries such as China, Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines, and so forth, but the asianesque setting was in my head as I began conceptualizing, and then writing, the story. I’ve attempted to provide a Thai weight to the Asian feel by researching Thai names, words and Buddhism, taking
what I like, what I think is appropriate for the telling, and what sounds right (to me, at least). However, and here’s the key, since this is fantasy fiction that I’m writing, I feel like I can borrow and still evoke a cultural feel to my setting and characters without worrying too much about getting the particulars to match with real world cultures.
Me, I’m in West Virginia in the U.S. so I borrow where I can. What techniques do you use when you want to give your story an ancient vibe that doesn’t exist in your everyday world? Where do you go for information to give your story a certain cultural flavor?
I think–I’m pretty sure–Yeah, it looks like The River Lords could very well be novel material. As I passed the 10k word mark today I felt there was more that could be told…and still be interesting. For fun I decided to search online for clues that your short story is becoming a bigger story. I found this at the WriteAnything blog and decided to use it to evaluate my story. Annie Evett offers seven things to consider when making the decision. Here they are:
- Your short story just isn’t. — I find myself wanting to flesh out things more, provide more background, and explore the minor characters and setting more. However–and this is key–I like it as a story that leaves much to the reader to fill in gaps with their imaginations as well.
- Time frames are too long — Maybe. There is backstory. The story arc is non-linear, although not overly so. The scenes themselves keep the story moving, however. Because of my desire to explore this more, they could become too long without much trouble.
- People want to know more–I’ve gotten feedback from avid readers that they would like to know more.
- Originality–I’m never a hundred percent sure on these things until they’re done. 100% Original? No. Original enough due to the telling (as opposed to just the concepts, themes, characters)? Maybe
- Character Overload–No, although, again, I could see bringing other characters to the fore.
- The theme has not been fully developed–This could go either way. I’m a fan of leaving a good bit up to the reader, though I wonder if I’ve provided enough clues to bring the whole theme together (I should note that the them evolved with the telling. I didn’t set out with the theme in my conscious mind–That was pretty freakin’ cool)
- You can’t stop working on it–I don’t want to–yet.
So there you have it. I’m currently of the mind to go for both. I have it in my heart to submit a short story before I get back to work on revising the first draft of my first novel, Shadow of the Black City. I feel like I can tighten it up and make it shine at under 10,000 words. There’s a good chance that I’ll submit the polished short story to the Online Writing Workshop for feedback as well. Then, possibly as the occasional break from Shadow revisions, I’ll begin building out The River Lords into a full-length novel.
Yet another installment. This thing is starting to get away from me (a shade over 10k words for my first draft). Hopefully some deft editing can tighten everything up and keep this a short story. On the other hand…
I had pored over the texts, drinking in their meaning like a man dying of thirst gulps water. “Where did they come from?” I asked. Trader families along the Yan River seldom enjoyed formal lessons; our education consisted of learning the sampan, bargaining and trade goods. Esoteric concepts were best left to the Jao Naam in their temple and traveling teachers plying their trade in the villages further downriver.
Akki answered my question with one of his own, “What did you think?”
I paused as if to weigh my words, but I already knew what I would say. “It sounds like a child’s story.” As long as I could remember, river traders spoke of the Jao Naam and their temple, Wat Rohm Glao, in hushed tones built of equal parts respect and suspicion. They seemed to be in one of two camps: Some claimed they wielded magic and controlled the river; others laughed at such superstitions and labeled the Jao Naam shamans. I had put away notions of magic when I began helping Father. After reading Akki’s texts, those thoughts resurfaced.
He nodded. “Anything else?”
“How do they get the magic?”
“Ah. There is something that you must witness to understand, or at least begin to understand.”
“Do you think the Jao Naam would let me see?”
Akki looked out on the languid current with me. “There is only one way to see it.”
I found out this morning on my Google Reader (if you read a lot of blogs and don’t have a reader, do yourself a favor and get one) that my flash fiction piece After the Golden Times won Jay Lake’s flash fiction open contest. I’m thrilled. In an earlier post I indicated that I was excited to be included in the top five. To cap it off like this and win a signed copy of Green–sweet sassy molassy.
In celebration, I’ve changed my header with an honest to god picture of words and coffee, taken in my writing shed in the afternoon sunlight. That’s the cup from which I enjoy hot, black coffee and the dictionary I use when my internet connection is on the fritz.