Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Story Sheets: "Someone is Aiming for You"

Welcome back!

This month I'm going to try a bit of a different tact. Since we're entering the '20s, and a new year, I wanted to give a bit more to readers of the blog. Since you've been here so long you deserve something new.

I'm going to try getting two posts out every week this month instead of the usual one, with this series being one of them. The usual post will be on Thursday as it always is.

This new series is going to be a post on a story I've written, and what what into writing it. This should be useful to some writers, but also those that want to know a bit more about the creative process or writing in general. Either way, it's going to be fun.

Since I have a book out at the end of the month, I'm going to start with the stories in that upcoming work.

First up in this series: the very first short story I have ever written.

"The Seeker moved at night, like always. The licensed government dogs had free reign of Summerside—and the world—during the day, but it was different after sunset. Night was for the Crusaders—vigilantes who had no one to answer to, except God and their own consciences."

When I was first getting into the pulp revolution I began to take short stories seriously for the first time in my life. For the longest time I was convinced that short stories were meant to be nothing but moral lessons straight out of The Lottery playbook. Much of this came from school and reading ists that repeatedly offered things I wasn't interested in.

It wasn't until I started reading old pulp authors like those who ran in Weird Tales and Argosy that it began to change. Short stories could be adventures! Then on top of it a modern magazine named Cirsova showed it could still be done today. This was a whole new world opening up!

While writing Knights of the End I began to think of the sort of stories Teddy (the main character) was talking about when going through his old comic books. What sort of strange things would he read that would make him idolize heroes? In one of the drafts I came up with the idea of The Seeker, a character so good I couldn't just waste him on a fictional reference. He grew in my mind beyond being a one-shot reference. The first thing I did was posit who this man was and what exactly was his goal.

The first thing to mention is that he's not a superhero. The Seeker was a deliberate throwback to pulp vigilantes like The Shadow with a Weird Tales twist on his abilities. He's not Weird Menace, there is no dopey Scooby Doo explanation for the weirdness, and neither is their a focus on baser things like sex or hyper-violence. He is meant to be both a throwback and a step in the right direction for hero fiction characters of his ilk. No one wears a cape in his world.

He has no origin story, because we live in a world where origins are a crutch these days, and because it's irrelevant. The origin story is a weakness for a people that can't imagine a future, so they have to keep reliving the past. The Seeker has no time to reminisce--he has a job to do. In the process of designing him, he began to turn into a sort of post-superhero character, reconnecting with the pulp roots of his type and stepping into a new setting. This meant the setting had to be tweaked, too.

To explain Summerside, the city of these stories, would be foolhardy. It's not meant to match any real city in particular, and is meant to be the endpoint of a society in social decay, but at the same time at the cusp of something great. Heaven or Hell? Which will it choose. It's a dark place at night, but there is a strange sense of hope despite it all. This teetering battle is what Summerside is all about.

My inspirations when creating this sort of thing were straightforward, but I was also reading old hero pulps and noticing the difference between then and now. Otherwise my inspiration in modernizing it (for lack of a better term) was anime, the only current medium that knows how to do hot-blooded action right. I wanted to bridge the gap between the way things were, and the way things are.

As an aside, this is what I was listening to when developing this story:

I ended up creating a world where powers and magic both exist on opposite ends of the spectrum. There are those born with abilities, and those who get them from an external source. The latter has been biding its time waiting in the shadows for a chance to strike back, and the former is fading away with every generation. It's a battle of the supernatural from opposing points of view, which means someone has to exist somewhat outside and inside of them at the same time in order to link the pair. Therefore The Seeker is a true outsider to this world, but still chooses to be part of it and protect it. He's a walking contradiction, and is a hard character to write because of this.

At the same time, I wanted to have a White Hat character with teeth. So few people understand how to write true good guys anymore, and I wanted to show it can still be done.

Not only him, but I wanted to write a hero story that presented wonder above all. Who is Condor? We never see him. Who is the Inner Light? They don't appear in the story. What exactly is Demon's Blood? It's not answered here. There are many questions, but only the ones that are needed for the story itself are answered. The Seeker is here to save the good and eradicate the evil. Does he do it? You'll have to read it to find out, but that was the entire point of the story.

The title is one that stuck in my head and I had to get out. What is it that would glue to a man's thoughts who had something to hide. Not just that they were being watched, but that someone was aiming at them--that they were a target. But if you do not know who the trigger-man is, it makes it harder to relax or know peace.

As for why the graffiti in the story is slightly different than the title, it is simply because words have meaning. "Someone is Aiming at You" conveys a hit, an aggressive action. This is what The Seeker wants his victims to understand. "Someone is Aiming for You" conveys a broader, more vague feeling of mystery. What are they aiming for? Only The Seeker knows. Hence, the title of this piece.

Another reason I came to write this is because modern heroism, especially that from the comic book realm, is completely vacuous. The cartoony and soft-headed worship of a Shadow rip-off who is rewarded for not killing unrepentant murderers by bad writing propped up by merch sales, and is held up as some kind of deep morality when it is actually nothing of the sort, is frustrating. How many modern hero series have the hero chastised for killing a psycho who had no qualms with butchering innocents? It's empty. I wanted a character that would do what needed to be done.

Suffice to say this took a good while for me to write. I had to learn how to write in shorter form and get across everything you need in a bigger story in a small space. But after a good amounts of personal edits and help from the wonderful L. Jagi Lamplighter as my editor I was able to finally iron it out. As a consequence this is one of my most favorite pieces and I will always have a soft spot for it.

Others thought so, too. It was accepted in two different anthologies-- the Crossover Alliance Vol. 3 and Silver Empire's Paragons. I received messages from readers and mentions in reviews about how much they enjoyed the story and wanted more. It was the first piece I wrote that received that sort of attention. And it was my first short story. Suffice to say, I've been writing them since, and have not regretted that choice.

Because of this significance, both the fact that it is important to me and to readers, and also that fact that it is the first story in this world I created, the anthology coming out at the end of the month is named after it and The Seeker graces the cover. On top of it, it sets the mood for the stories to come.

But that's it for this installment, next week we'll continue with the second story in the collection. Thank you for reading! There are more Story Sheets to come in the future.

Coming soon!

No comments:

Post a Comment