Saturday, October 18, 2014

A Centaur's Mating

Druid Derrick

I'm sure you've heard me talking about this book before - my longest-living work in progress, and very likely my longest work in progress when all is said and done.

Anyway, I recently had something of a small problem. In an effort to help another, which my character always tries to do if he can and if it's logical, I threw him into a second wedding - an unofficial one - one he has no intention of consummating (though I might decide to mess with him there too - haven't decided).

Anyway, Derrick waltzed into the centaur village carrying the fruits of his latest hunt intending to trade the meat for someone to turn the pelt into a winter coat, and the only way he was going to be able to carry the carcass for half a day was, logically, in the form of a centaur. 

Unbeknownst to him, young male centaurs do such things when they are in the market for a mate. If the filly of his desire is in his own village, he presents the kill at or near the front door of her father's door (proximity might be an indication of how open he was to other advances). Yes, centaurs can take in more than one mate - the average is two or three. Though it happens, both mates are seldom selected at the same time.

If the young suitor can't find anyone in his home village, he goes to another village to look and presents his kill in the center of the clearing. Eligible fillies are quick to help him unload and present his kill to the leader of the clan. If he's impressed, enough the young hunter gets to choose a mate. The meat is not given away, not to the leader of the clan or to the filly's father, it is to be the young couple's first supplies in their house.

There's another part of this mating that is of importance. It is a father's responsibility to see to it his daughter has a home to move into as soon as she accepts a mate, and it is the wives in her father's house, commonly all acknowledged as her mothers, who are responsible for furnishing the house with the basics at the very least.

The filly's mothers and other female friends will take her aside and make sure she's all prettied up for her special day. If the young male is new to the village, the village leader will take him around to meet all the families. During these meetings, he is treated to a taste of whatever the man of the house is most willing to show off - usually some kind of food or drink. The women in the house will add a small decoration to the visitor by braiding in a colorful strip of leather and/or combing an aromatic oil into his mane and tale.

The end of the day is crowned by the filly's father throwing a feast. During this feast, the young couple is on display in all their splendor, in the very center. If they ate at a table, they would be in the center of the table. Centaurs don't sit at tables though, instead, rugs or pelts are spread out on the ground, the males rest on them with their first wives beside them. Second wives serve their seniors before settling themselves. The lowest wife generally manages the children, though some are allowed to attend if they can behave properly. Since the young couple is the center of the event, they are expected to be the very last to leave the 'table'. Also, for the duration of the feast, they feed each other. Yes, they are expected to eat and drink until everyone else has asked to be excused or until the host has run out of food. It is a huge embarrassment if the host runs out of food, but those gathered generally try to avoid such an occurrence. Just like in every other small village, everyone knows everyone's at least somewhat. For instance at a poor couple's feast, guests would start to beg off after the first plate. However, a rich couple's feast might be more fun, as everyone is doing their best to test the new couple's endurance to the limit. Yeah, they gotta keep eating and drinking to the very last. How big is your bladder? Am I evil or what?

After the feast, the young couple go home and start their life. Have I missed anything? Please let me know if you have any ideas to add. It's all fun.

My druid, Derrick, took a girl, when it became clear that she would no longer be accepted back into the home of her father. All her life she had been blamed for the death of her mother, who died in childbirth when her twin was born wrong. Since her birth mother was dead and her father basically rejected her, her 'mothers' allowed her to run wild most of the time, giving her the minimum attention that would keep her alive. Terrified of dieing in childbirth like her mother, she had rejected too many previous advances to mate. For a filly to be kicked out of her father's house wasn't really all that bad; she could still carve her own home out of the hillside and take care of herself. She is generally not cold-shouldered by anyone just because she was single and on her own. It also didn't mean that she stopped getting advances, but such an act was still an insult perpetrated upon her by her father. There are many forms of insult, but bullying isn't very common at all.

Derrick's accepting this mating enable the girl to use the home her father was required to build for her. But since he is already married to a human woman who lives in the city, his intentions are pure. Besides, how will he explain to his wife that he married a centaur? I'm going to have fun with that one too. At least now he has someone who will make the coat he needs. I'm sorry, his city wife wouldn't have a clue. Can you see her if he was to come to the door with some kind of carcass, in this case a mountain goat? "Here honey, I need you to tan up this hide and stitch me up a coat." She'd be like, "What?" And yes, she is fully away of who and what he is, but I'm thinking this would be going a bit too far.

So now Derrick has someone else to be responsible for. His world is becoming more complicated by the year. Just wait until he finds out his (city) wife is pregnant.

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Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Words We Use

I read an article heading the other day about cussing in your writing. I've always had a fairly low opinion of using cuss words in average dialogue, but I am a writer now, and I know that some people do talk like that. I do avoid the hugely colorful examples, I'd prefer to get on with the story rather than try to make my reader translate what this one guy is trying to say, or not say, as the case may be.

I will put in the occasional cuss word, but for the most part, I write in worlds and times and societies where such language is either nonexistent or not very classy, which it isn't in any world, if you ask me. Webster went to great lengths to write a dictionary; some of these people should take a look at it once in a while, they might actually be able to get their point across better. Okay so now you know how I feel about cussing, and it has nothing to do with religion; it's just stupid. Rant over. Please accept my apologies.

No, my writing is not all lilly white, but I strive for my words to be as invisible as possible so the story can come through, and whenever your reader has to stop and try to figure out what someone said or what is happening, that effort has failed.

There's another aspect of this. Accent. There's the southern accent, the New York accent, the northern accent, the Texas accent. Those are the ones I can think of in this country, and then there's the foreign accents of people coming to this country from wherever around the world. And of course, if you have an extra-global society, there's that accent too. Spelling these accents can be very distracting. My advice would be to keep it simple. Too many tweaks on the spelling, and once again your words are getting in the way of your story. In reality, most foreigners probably speak better than the average American.

Spelling isn't the only cue to a different language foundation. Sentence structure is a biggie.

“If no mistake have you made, yet losing you are … a different game you should play”
 Yoda is probably the most famous of those who twisted sentence structure. If you've ever studied any other language, that is much closer to the norm; ours would seem twisted by comparison.

So, how do you show where your character comes from, or do you bother? For me, most of the time, it's one of those get-to-know bits of information that's introduced somewhere along the line. I seldom use accent spelling, though I might use dropped endings replaced by an apostrophe most of the time. Most of the poor or low class people in my books have little education and so talk like their parents did, and probably for generations before that, but they would never dare to be so rude as to cuss openly shy of what might come out if they smashed a thumb with a hammer. There's always those kinds of incidents to watch out for. I've nothing against a little spice now and then.

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Saturday, October 4, 2014

Flights of Fantasies

So where does your fantasies wander? Mine have wandered into the far future, into another dimension, even into space. Many of my stories take place in some kind of alternate reality, where the history is very different. Currently I'm working on the one thing I haven't tested yet - this world.

This world is tricky. I try to mix in major events as they happen, to kind of anchor the story in time. I must confess however, that I didn't think to do that for the first four or five years within the book, so you'll have to forgive me if I missed something. I don't recall any huge natural events that might have affected my character from 2008-2012/13. I suppose I could ask a friend though. Eh - maybe I will and maybe I won't.

Let me tell you, creating a world in some other dimension or time, or even some other world, is far easier. It's not that you don't have to keep track of the same kinds of events, the turning of the seasons, earthquakes, or major weather events, but you can put them in where you want, make them what you want - as such, they become convenient. In the real world, such events are set in concrete and your character needs to react to them, provided he is close enough to be affected.

However, if you blast your fantasies off into space, you need to remember such mundane things as plate tectonics and the creations of mountains and valleys. Believe it or not, they affect weather a lot more than you might think, as does orbital velocity and proximity to the sun.

So, where is your favorite world to write in?

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