Dennogin's Blog: Interloper

The novel is called "Interloper", its setting is 12 years after a devastating pandemic wiping out over 1/3 of the global population. The protagonist, Cristal, is an orphan who is about to reach the age of emancipation. She learns that her mother is an Interloper, a person who swears off the modern world and lives in one of the many regions abandoned from the plague. Cristal goes on an adventure to discover who she is, who her mother is, and what life is like without the advent of technology. Of course, in a vulnerable society such as this its only a matter of time before the technologically advanced overlords attempt to reap what they had abandoned.
You can read through the wiki here.
Naturally, if you care about the story, be warned, there are SPOILERS AHEAD
Adalgard Expectations Difficult Topics Diversity Inspiration Soul Visually Writing Cristal's Journey First post


If your story is more than a few pages long, you or your readers will eventually start to ask questions of how things came to be and why. You can cut this cake in several ways, but ideally you can either have a backstory in mind before writing the present, or come up with the backstory after and sprinkle bits of lore here and there. Loredumps are bad. Okay, happy writing!

How backstory?

...Oh, yeah, how do you come up with a backstory? Well, its pretty opinionated as to how you even begin one. Do you want an alternate history timeline? Is it purely fantasy with no limits but your imagination? Is it a localized history regarding certain characters or a certain location? The list could go on, but the general idea is that you need to confine it to a certain limit. If you don't confine it and build up this massive backstory, you'll eventually 'story creep' the backstory and not flesh out the main project you have. If this backstory is shared between works like your own literary/cinematic universe that's mostly fine, but in terms of the background of your story you need to box it in and wall it off somewhere. Now, you just need to come up with it. Try to identify key moments in the backstory which may seem important to your characters in ways that may affect them, in ways of a domino effect. In Interloper, for example, a 9.4 magnitude earthquake destroyed the west coast of the United States, key point. It affected the characters and ongoing history in several ways:
  • Seattle was washed out into the Puget Sound, effectively ending the city
  • The whole of California was struck by a tsunami, eliminating Los Angeles and San Francisco
  • Keeper's hometown was destroyed, and the land was bought by a corporate benefactor after persuading his former neighbors with free housing
  • The strategic handicap urged North Korea to attack South Korea, in what came known as the Second Korean War
  • Due to severe losses, North Korea released the Zalim Plague, a deadhand switch
  • This would be a severe turning point in the course of human history, as three billion people would die worldwide
  • As a result of the plague, bionics and robotics would become the norm to make up for the deficit of manpower
  • Due to work leaders no longer hiring 'organic' workers, this leads to a surge of Interloper migrants
  • Because of their departure encouraging a few others to do the same, the United Nations lists the only vaccine and cure of the Zalim Plague, Quatiun, as a restricted substance, forcing the Interlopers to rely on the cities

  • Its a simplified explanation, but it does showcase the domino effect of one thing leading to another. Things happen for a reason, but things may also just be an 'act of God'. The earthquake for example can be considered an act of God, wheras the eventual release of the Zalim outbreak is a result of that. Don't blindly tack down story points, detail why it happened as a result of something else. A lot of people like to work backwards, starting from someone's villain arc to their tragic backstory, but I like to work forward, have a general basis, something that every character can relate to, and by extension the readers can relate as well. Every Interloper left the cities for one reason or another, but there's always something else which drives them forward each waking day. For example, this is an excerpt of an Interloper bandit, whose backstory can be relatable by some;
    Neeman simply shook his head, before trudging within the treeline, as quiet as he could be. I followed along, watching Falk through gaps in the trees. He simply stood in the middle, rifle pointed at the ground. Scanning the trees. Our ears collectively picked up someone moving through them. Neeman held out a hand to stop me. Just then, someone came out of the treeline, with a beaten up KL-215. Carry handle sight half broken and most of the handguard chipped away. Its owner, a man with a sly grin on his face, approached Falk. His rifle too pointed at the ground. A parley.
    “Funny meeting you here again, Falk.” He spoke.
    “Sawyer.” Falk responded.
    “We thought you ran off, your brother, a mutt, and some, dare I say, fine piece of ass.” Sawyer chided, I gritted my teeth, pulling the hammer back on my revolver.
    “It’s just me, Sawyer. ‘Ey left a while ago.” Falk gave him a snarl.
    “Hmph. You never told me where your dad’s rifle went. If you did, we wouldn’t be trying to kill you or your brother. You know we’re in a bad way.”
    “He wouldn’t want you to have it.” Falk spat at Sawyer’s feet, “You dirty the name of Cascadian Interlopers. Clinging to what had dirged humanity to begin wit’. Overt pride, takin’ more than what is owed, rulin’ over people…” His eyes fell to Sawyer’s gun, “...Greed.”
    “Greed, huh? We all wanted what was best for the community. We have children back in Neilton who need Qatties and food, and we’re not waiting for a Ranger to come trade for it.” Sawyer seethed and shook his head, “Your daddy just had to get in the way, save those Quinault who had the Qatiun. My boy is dead because of him, every time I close my eyes all I see is the blood tearing out from his eyes and going down to his blue lips. Zalim didn’t kill my son, your father did.”
    “Sawyer… I’m sorry for your lo-”
    “No. I don’t want to hear it from you.” Sawyer’s grip on his gun tightened, “Do you really want to tell me my own son had to die because we didn't have to be greedy!?" He spat in Falk's direction, and a distinct click could be heard from Sawyer's rifle, "How do you want to do this? Hm? You wanna just point that rifle between my eyes and pull the trigger?” He growled, “But your daddy taught you revenge was a bad thing. Don’t kill for the sake of killing, kill for the sake of survival, isn’t that what we’re doing, Falk!?” Falk’s snarl to deepen further, his fists tightening. I looked to my right and saw Neeman train his sights on Sawyer. I had no idea what either of them were waiting for.

    The impact of Zalim is still felt in the story even 12 years after its outbreak, when Sawyer lost his son to the plague, which prompted him to start targeting natives (Quinault) and passerby like Cristal for supplies believing it would be for the sake of survival for those in his community. And it was all because of an earthquake and its resulting war.

    Why backstory?

    A backstory offers depth to your story, an extra layer of narrative which can intrigue readers into learning more about your world. Without one, the work will appear dull and flat, things just happen for reasons and there's no real method behind the madness. Granted, in short works you don't really need much of a backstory, maybe just a brief summary or off-side comment about a character or place. Children's books do this a lot. The absence of one isn't always a bad thing either, it can leave a lot to interpretation, leave the author's intentions and message open.
    A backstory can be extremely beneficial in stories which may require a lot of context or cause readers to ask a lot of questions. Especially in fantasy where readers can become intrigued by the different kingdoms, races and people in your story, they will want to know more about them; what's the history of this kingdom? Why are they at war with these people? How did these events start? Its recommended you have a backstory in mind before you write out these events.

    When backstory?

    Implementing your backstory into the main dialogue can be done any time, but usually less is more. As mentioned previously, loredumping turns away many people if they aren't very interested. Especially when there's a two page loredump at the beginning of a book when the reader is not invested in any character in this universe. Instead, if you place small pieces of lore scattered throughout the narrative, this will open up the backstory to your readers, and they'll potentially get intrigued and curious about this newfound information, eager to learn more about it. But what you reveal is important. Don't immediately delve into a character's backstory, give the reader just a nibble of their history, explain why they're here or why they are the way they are. Maybe something happened in the past that they don't want to talk about, which will give them an aura of mystery until they reveal it later.

    Building a world

    Naturally as you accumulate these events, your backstory might develop a small world of its own. You'll develop the need to keep track of things, analyze each relationship this event has with that event. The last thing you want is for some Redditor to get a bunch of updoots because they pointed out some inconsistency in one line of dialogue.
    I use the Fandom Wiki to host my story's universe, though I strongly advise you to not use Fandom and use something that won't bombard you with ads, something like Miraheze or other content manager will assist in organizing things in your world's lore. But naturally, whatever works for you will work for you the best; if you insist on keeping everything on a corkboard or an 800 page Word document, that's how you do things. As you link characters to different pages, and pages to different events, you'll find that your world is slowly but surely taking shape. Don't be daunted by the lores of other projects (especially the fucking Silmarillion or the Elder Scrolls wiki), your story in its simplicity or complexity will still pique the curiosities of your readers because they yearn for the unknown that is bound in your manuscript.

    Dennogin, October 3 2023, 0047 PST (UTC+8)


    Adalgard is the second oldest Anaheim daughter out of the five. She primarily serves as the folk medicine expert, known in Cascadia as a "Rootwalker", a specialist in old remedies, ancient medicines, and sometimes a wish and a prayer on homeopathy and magick. I write her as a light-hearted relief character with a larger spring in her step than other people. Its not to say that Adalgard doesn't have demons in her own closet, but she's a genuinely happier person than most. Cristal confides in her numerous times in the story, as she seems to Cristal to never really take sides or have a strong of an opinion; "Adalgard's concerns seemed to be mulled by some force taking over her body, whether its a given instinct, some spiritual intervention or inebriation, I couldn't get a bead on why." I commonly describe Adalgard as a short woman who, like her sisters, don't know a whole lot about the world outside of Vancouver Island and Cascadia as a whole, other than the value of Qatiun as a trade commodity.

    Adalgard's Introduction

    I woke up a significant time later. The left side of my head singed with pain. Anaheim rubbed my shoulder.
    “I made you two breakfast.” I looked up at Anaheim, who stared down and smiled at me. “Morning, sleepyhead.”
    “Morning…” I rubbed my temple and got dressed, before sitting down at the table with Keeper. Buckwheat pancakes stacked high on a wooden plate, with fried boar bacon and actual, genuine, honest-to-god Canadian maple syrup. This is perhaps the most normal meal I’ve had in my life.
    “I forgot how great of a cook you were, Anaheim.” Keeper cut down the stack of cakes and ate the divided section in one bite.
    “Maybe if you relied less on your cat to get food for you, maybe you’d be eating better!” Anaheim giggled. The pain flared yet again, and I swore I could feel the pain move around my brain. I covered the side of my skull.
    “Cristal, you alright?” Keeper looked up from his breakfast.
    “Yeah, yeah, I just… might have slept bad or… something. Just a headache.” At this point I was suddenly made aware of how remote everything was. A bottle of aspirin was completely out of the question in this scenario, and one absolutely has to keep moving out here, lest they become slothful and die. “...I really do not want to walk with it though.”
    “I got just the thing, hold on.” Anaheim opened the door and yelled out to the lake, “ADALGARD! CAN YOU COME HERE FOR A MOMENT!?” She lingered by the door, before a slender woman, shorter than even myself, entered the lodge. Black hair pooled over her chest, with a thick ornamented braid coming down the back of her head. She wore a cloak that reached to the floor, though really the whole garment could be a bath towel for all I know.
    “Yeah mum?” Adalgard stared up at her mother, almost gargantuan in comparison, before turning to us with a pleasant expression. “Oh, allo Keeper and friend.” Reijo trotted over to her, and her face lit up, “Friends!”
    “Our friend Cristal has a headache, you wouldn’t happen to have something, would you?” Anaheim waited patiently for her daughter to finish petting Reijo, before she stood back up. The dog was taller than her knee!
    “Headache? Ah, I might have something for it.” She turned to leave, then turned back to me, “You aren’t diabetic are you, Cristal?”
    “No, I shouldn’t be.” A lifetime of Nutrio and a week of hardtack and game meat? Surely my pancreas is holding up just fine. Just.
    “Righto, gimme a minute.” She gave us a two finger salute before jogging away from the lodge. I finished my breakfast minutes before she returned with a drawstring bag. Inside, she pulled out a large bundle of curled shavings, tied together with cord. “Willow bark, extremely powerful in the right concentration.”
    “I thought that willow was poisonous?” I asked.
    “Herbalism is basically poisoning you enough to get rid of what ails you.” Adalgard put a full kettle on the hearth and slowly cut the bark with a knife, “Medicine is taking it twenty steps further than that.”
    “Thank you Adalgard,” Anaheim beamed at her, “Where are the other girls?”
    “In the lake.”
    “The lake?” I could not imagine how cold that would be.
    “Yeah, the lake. How else do you wash?” Adalgard tilted her head curiously.
    “With a shower.”
    “In the rain? It's very inefficient.” Adalgard gave me an odd look, to which I realized that she had no concept of what a shower was, living on this island her whole life.

    Adalgard's Cabin

    The inside of her cabin was the absolute, word-for-word definition of cluttered. Jars of various herbs and roots occupied a shelf that stacked as high as the roof rafters, a stepladder just beside it also seemed to serve as a shelf, which also had a stepladder beside that as well, with a few revolvers resting on the steps and the ‘Trunkbuster’ leaning right next to it. Numerous tapestries, dreamcatchers and bunches of leaves hung from the walls, oft one over another. The smell of patchouli, sandalwood, and a faint skunk smell hung like a physical musk in the air, to the point where it felt like breathing heavier air in here. There were three beds in here, two of which were partitioned off by a tapestry, one which was (most likely) Adalgard’s, having a pile of books and other trinkets sitting in stacks and piles around it. As a former housemaid, I had red flags going off everywhere.
    “You live like this?” I had to take special care to not step on or knock over anything. Did not help my shin running into the table leg of a table supporting a chair that seemed to lead up yet again into the rafters of the roof. God knows what horrors awaited me there.
    Kujah, I have a… unique system of organization.” Adalgard stretched her hand out across her room, “Everything is where it should be, because I remember I put it there.” She closed her hand, “Now, for that sauna. Through here.”
    I. Was. Appalled.

    Random moment

    “I see.” Adalgard stared down at the floor of the deck, “Cristal, can I ask you a favor?”
    “Shoot wha-, oh, uh… I know your mom would probably hate you for it, but given she expressed for the rest of us to do it… could you please assist us with the Pagans?”
    “The Pagans, I…” I scratched my cheek, “I would want to help, but I’m unsure how she would react. If she would even allow me. If I'd even be prepared.”
    “If it's possible for you to, I’m sure we would all appreciate it.” Adalgard stood up, “Raelene would appreciate it too.”
    “Oh, how is she doing?”
    “She’s doing well, she’s been trying to get better with her archery. It’s… a learning experience.”
    “Give her my regards.”
    “I will, don’t worry.” She hugged me around the waist, “Good luck with your mother.”
    “What were you doing up here, anyway?” I asked.
    “Oh, I come along on Ma’s trips to The Parish to sell tinctures and medical training. In return I get these neat skunk balls!” Adalgard unscrewed a beat up tobacco tin and unrevealed a collection of green flowery buds. I already knew what they were, not just by smell alone. “I don’t know what they are, but they apparently grow under the Northern Lights and mellow you out when you smoke them. Do you want to try?”
    “...Another time.”

    Dennogin, September 19 2023, 1546 PST (UTC+8)

    Meeting Expectations

    I've always been told I was a good writer. I don't see it.
    From family, friends, teachers, even other writers who have published all said "You're a good writer". I don't see it.
    And I don't say this as a means to fish for complements or humblebrag about my prose or how many complements I do get, I say that solely because I don't understand what they're talking about, or where they're coming from. Its when I ask them to read or critique something is when it feels like they brush it aside and say such things as a pleasantry. Yes, that's what friends do, that's what teachers do, its the nice thing to do. But when you care so much about something you made, bled and stressed over for years, you want to know if it was even worth the effort to begin with. You almost want someone to say something bad, so you can either fix it or prove them wrong. I hate this feeling, which is why I give my genuine thoughts when I critique someone's work. Most of the time they're meek, or seem to take offense, but some had a sigh of relief thanking me for not just saying "its all good". And the times I do say "its all good", I do mean it. But I simply do not trust that outcome from others.
    I can't say impostor syndrome, but it certainly feels like I somehow elevated my skill in the eyes of these people. There's this comic strip which probably explains the way I feel, but I'm not comparing my writing to others. Its those cold, lonely, raining nights when tufts of hair poke out of my white knuckles squeezing my brain wondering what the hell is wrong with this one sentence, which acts as a branch on the railroad tracks for my train of thought. I know there's a fucking branch on the tracks, I beg people to tell me where it is, but they all shrug and say everything is fine. And my train of thought catches the branch, everything fucking derails, and I can't write for weeks.
    I need a smoke.

    Dennogin, September 14 2023, 1504 PST (UTC+8)

    The difficult, the taboo, and the ugly

    I finally managed to get that hard part out of the way, which was Cristal breaking up with Raelene. The topic is something that perhaps many people could relate to, which is conceiving a child in a relationship where two partners may not be able to, and perhaps the difficulties in one partner objecting to someone outside of the relationship conceiving. (Naturally if this does affect you personally then feel free to stop reading)

    “...By the time we got back we were covered in loam, but it was exhilarating.” I was telling Raelene, and a few other Interlopers listening in, on how the training went for the Mountain Corps, along with a few other swapped stories.
    “Ah, that’s nothing,” One of the Interlopers swiped his hand dismissively, “Your girlfriend and I had to sit in the lake for close to an hour until someone came along with the target for us to shoot at.”
    “It was ten minutes.” Raelene blurted, “Did I ever tell you the time we were caught in a blizzard during a Cleansing?”
    “You don’t really have to, you’re still here, ain’t you?” He gave her a dumb grin.
    “Eh, piss off.” Raelene raised a hand to his face, and the Interloper left the tent with his friends, a trail of laughs with them. She turned to me and crossed her legs, “So, are you staying here for the night?”
    “Was hoping you’d have me.” I nodded.
    “Oh, I’ll definitely have you alright.” Raelene grinned.
    I recoiled slightly, and shook my head, “Sorry, I didn’t mean it like that. It… still hurts there.” I placed my hand over my clothed scar. Raelene’s face dropped and she threw her hands up.
    “I-I completely understand, sorry.” She looked back up at me, “How are you holding up with that?”
    “Well, like I said it hurts, but…” I blinked out a forming tear in my eye, “It’s the finality which hurts worse. Adalgard wasn’t sure if the blood loss affected the other one. I don’t know if I’ll ever have a child.”
    “Well, I…” Raelene swallowed, “We’re a lesbian Interloper couple, it wouldn’t have happened regardless.”
    “...What do you mean by that?”
    “I read that in the cities, you can have children without ‘doing it’. If we were cheech we’d have that option, but neither of us want to do that. That means the only option is… you cheating on me with a man.”
    “Raelene, you know I wouldn’t do anything that would hurt you.” I said in a low voice, the sinking feeling in my heart made it hard to breathe, “But I’ve wanted this for a long time. I wanted to be the parent I never had growing up. Would it hurt you so much to abide by a wish I’ve had since I was eight…?”
    “How would that not hurt me? To always know I’m taking care of someone else’s kid? The child of someone who cucked me?”
    “It… it wouldn’t be like that Raelene, it would-”
    “And you couldn’t settle with that alternative? Raising someone else’s child? You were an orphan most of your life, you yourself should know the feeling of waiting years for someone to come along and adopt you.” She stood up and glowered over me. I stood up and met her gaze just the same. “And this whole conflict? There’s bound to be hundreds of orphaned children, on top of the ones left behind each and every single day! Do you want them to abide by your wishes too!?”
    I stared into Raelene’s eyes for a few moments. Once pools of green I could get lost in, now something I was drowning in. I wrung my hands, considering whether I should punch her or slap her. Then, I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and looked into the murky pools once more, “I can’t believe you’d bring up my past for your own argument. How fucking dare you.” Then, I pushed her aside and left the tent.

    Not a huge fan of the ending but I always have the freedom of going back and changing it later (Which is going to be an absolute curse with 400+ pages to work through) but it does at least serve as a segue into something I've wanted to talk about regarding difficult and taboo topics in media. Lately I've seen popular media playing things safe in regards to difficult topics, either by discussing something easily explained away with "This is bad!" or not talking about it at all. And while I and many others can agree that homophobia, racism, sexism, and any XYZ-ism is bad, its become a crutch for numerous hollywood writers or even independent ones, who probably can't find or figure out any other point of contention to explore. Its not to say that there haven't been any attempts at doing so (South Park pretty much throws everything at the wall) but for the world at large we're mostly stuck with saying "this is bad" and not actually allowing people to figure out that this is bad.

    As mentioned previously, the topic covers an issue that a lot of non-conceiving relationships have. I've never been in one, but that shouldn't mean I can't explore it. I never explicitly say that Cristal nor Raelene is in the right or wrong, its entirely up to the reader to look inward and see if they agree with either character. There's really no right or wrong answer to the situation, a lot of writing has the clear "good guy" and "bad guy" option that herds its consumers into either of the two points. That, and both arguments have strengths, flaws, and hypocrises to them which people can discover that can help determine their views upon it. For example:

  • Raelene states that she would not feel comfortable raising someone else's child, but suggests adoption.
  • Cristal says she would do nothing to harm Raelene, but also refuses to listen and understand Raelene's qualms about it. And at the end, she strongly considers striking her.
  • Raelene insists that if Cristal were to do this that she would be cheating on Raelene. Cristal never outright denies this, only insisting she would do nothing to harm Raelene.
  • Cristal brings up her childhood as an orphan to support her own argument, but does not allow Raelene to do the same.

  • A heated argument such as this should have flaws in both arguments in order to show hidden thoughts and emotions, often saying things they may later regret in an emotionally charged situation. Conflicting viewpoints and their inconsistencies add depth to both characters and make the argument feel authentic. It allows the reader to empathize with both characters, as opposed to immediately side with the protagonist, and to reflect on themselves as they may apply their own experiences onto Cristal and Raelene. Perhaps a reader who values parenthood will side with Cristal, while those who value fidelity and commitment will side with Raelene. As mentioned earlier, there's no wrong answer. The reader is forced to think for themselves.

    Continuing on with taboo topics, there's numerous topics which are usually taboo to write about period. There's a long list of banned books elevated by the Streisand effect, usually about religion or government, which cover topics a lot of people may find disturbing. Its unfortunate that these people would sooner feel comfortable than experience anything new or different, and to go as far as to shun those who read it. Beserk is a recent example. When outsiders discovered that Guts' backstory dealt with sexual abuse as a child (And as a whole sexual abuse as a male victim which is woefully underrepresented) they sought to get the entire manga banned because it dealt with rape of a minor. Instead of accepting the fact that these things happen in real life and numerous people would relate to Guts' story of not allowing it to define him as a person. Not only Guts' story, but the violent depictions of war, gore, and the overarching story made people extremely outspoken against it. If writers are not allowed to explore such themes, we'd be doomed to instead stay comfy and safe in some bubble while the Happy Happy Happy cat constantly plays inside it.

    In closing, always push the boundaries (within reason) and don't be afraid of getting your book banned or flamed for its content; if your work is added to a banned list you're probably doing something right.

    Dennogin, September 9 2023, 0902 PST (UTC+8)

    Diversity, and lack thereof

    Diversity in media has been a point of contention in the last several years. I'll call a spade a spade and say its blown out of proportion out of the actual issue at hand. Consumers will bemoan the amount of men in one movie, while calling an all-female cast "diverse". When I think of a "Diverse cast" its more of how the character acts rather than what they look like. It does not help that the main cast of a movie varies in gender and race but all act like tough-as-nails badasses with very little personality other than their race and/or gender, or their MCU level sense of humor. Cristal does not have some "girl power" moment, nor do any of the male characters berate any of the women in the story for being women, and vice versa. Race is only mentioned by colour or appearance, but is never discussed. Pretty much every character in Interloper can change race, gender, creed, what have you and still be the exact same. Cristal could very well be a guy, travel north, and still do the exact same things Cristal has and still inherit her personality. Anaheim and her five daughters could easily just be Fresno and his five sons, and still be written the exact same. Everyone acts very androgynous, nobody really conforms to what they were born with, they just do what they can to survive and be happy, and that's all you should ever ask out of your characters. That's what I want out of a "Diverse cast", but everyone is caught up on race and skin colour that its demanded it be the only facet of their personality. And when these poorly created characters cause their movie, game, show, or whatever to fail, the creators will blame the people who didn't watch the movie after constantly barraging them with "this X was not made for you". Its insulting to the audience and to the characters themselves, who are often ripped from already established IPs to "bring it to a modern audience".

    You can't have a strong female protagonist anymore without them literally blowing up the fourth wall with semtex and screaming "I AM A WOMAN AND I'M AS GOOD AS THE BOYS!!!" And of course in order to further cater to the audience these characters were made for they've got plot armour and know the answer to every problem. Its why I'm proud of Cristal. She never goes on a tangent about being a woman doing boy things, and she starts off as incredibly weak in terms of an average Cascadian. Where other "strong independent female" leads would scream "GIRL POWER" and refuse help to then immediately triumph over it, Cristal wholeheartedly accepts help knowing she has a lot to learn, and you will see this growth as the plot progresses. She could hardly hunt on her own without Keeper's tutilage, nor could she aim right without Raelene's guidelines. Now she's able to come back from a hunt with something in a quarter bag. She faces consequences from her actions which figuratively and literally scar her. Where the average strong female lead would somehow dodge a bullet, Cristal gets brutally injured and the effects of it will stick with her for the rest of her life. War and combat in general rips many things away from its participants, so I always beg the question of "Why and how did this shoehorned in diversity token take on 30 bad guys and not get so much as a broken nose".

    Its because everyone wants to relate to these characters, and there's absolutely nothing wrong about that. But hardly anybody wants to, or try to, relate to somebody that looks different from them. They want to see "themselves" on the screen, even if it comes at the cost of what that character was originally supposed to look like in the story. If they somehow made a movie out of Interloper and turn any character in the story into anything different than how I wrote them, I'm tearing the rights away if possible and disowning the movie. People need to understand that looks are skin deep and do not need to be changed to appeal to a wider audience. Keeper lost his son to divorce, Anaheim lost her best friend due to her own stubborness, Boatman has to live with his actions in the war, I can go on about these things that absolutely anybody can relate to before I reveal that Keeper is a white man, Anaheim a white woman, and Boatman is a black man. Then and only then do people suddenly have a problem with the race of someone that does not exist. "I can relate but why is Keeper a white man" one will say, "I completely understand her character but why is Anaheim a woman" another bemoans, "I've had the same kind of past I'm guilty of but I'm redrawing Boatman as my own race and you will not stop me" cries another, desperate to cling onto something because race and identity is all they ever care about.

    Of course, I'll do what most writers won't and ignore these kinds of criticisms. Appearance is only a small part of the grand tale that unfolds in a single individual. Some may even complain about the actions of a character, and they're right to do so, but will most likely blame me for writing it. That's some tangent for another time. I'll leave you with this little excerpt.

    “Don’t you owe your daughter answers, Heather?” Anaheim glowered. A few of the Interlopers gasped. Boatman immediately got on his feet.
    “Out of my damn way, Jessie.” Mom looked up at her.
    “Ladies, wait.” Boatman limped toward them.
    “You were in everyone’s way with the Pagans and look what happened. Now you’re abandoning them, just like you did Cri-”


    The crack of her fist against Anaheim’s jaw echoed through the small church, and forced Anaheim against the frame of the entryway. With a loud yell, Anaheim grabbed a fistful of Mom’s hair and rammed her head against the door, busting it open and forcing Mom out of the Parish. Everyone stood up to follow the action, blocking Boatman’s path. Anaheim stomped outside. I ran beside them, begging for them to stop. Mom stood in the muddied road, with blood running down her face, fists clenched with red teeth. They charged at each other, blocking blows and swinging fists back in retaliation. A crowd gathered, watching the two fight. Cheers and jeers rang out in the evergreen woods. When one of them managed to gain an advantage, the other reversed the positions and the cycle continued over and over, slinging mud and blood in different places. Boatman pushed his way through the crowd, stumbling past the onlookers. Anaheim had Mom in a stranglehold. Mom grasped Anaheim’s head and rammed it down onto her shoulder, breaking free. They both reached for their hip-


    Everything froze. Standing between Mom and Anaheim was Boatman, gasping for air, holding their arms high and away from each other. In their hands were their revolvers, one blued and one silvered. Their barrels plumed with smoke, carried away by a silent, cold wind. Mom and Anaheim looked at each other, blood red with fury. Mom was seething through her teeth, a string of saliva bowing out and breaking. The sclera of one of Anaheim’s eyes was pooled with blood. Boatman wobbled, groaned, and folded. Under his trousers was a prosthetic leg, which had come undone during the fighting. The ring that formed during the fighting stayed still and silent, so it was me that first stepped forward to help Boatman up, followed by another Interloper who grabbed his leg. Mom and Anaheim turned and walked away from each other, the crowd making way for the two. Standing at the door of The Parish was Reverend and Benson, who watched the whole thing unfold.

    Dennogin, September 7 2023, 1740 PST (UTC+8)


    Everyone has some inspiration or aspiration which helps them to keep going. In the creative field this is usually from other works of art, and I'm no exception. Different mediums stir different things within, so I'll sort them by that!


    For some reason, post rock fits very well with the setting of my story. In my novel playlist (Shameless plug!) a lot of the songs are from post rock bands, chief among them being Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Thee Silver Mt. Zion, both bands basically being the same (I think TSMZ is more vocal than GY!BE but that's just me). I'm not sure what makes it my vision so well. Every time I see foggy clouds drift through evergreen trees, or the mountains getting their first coat of snow for the winter, or even just watching a storm sway the needles off the trees, post rock just plays in the back of my mind. Whenever I hear these songs I imagine Interlopers fighting valiantly against AFUN forces, or simply just struggling to survive a harsh winter. That, or just the simplicity of nature going through its courses.
    Other than post rock, dark folk, ambience and a little bit of metal is thrown in there as well. The more ambient tracks are things I listen to while going on walks, while dark folk is more reserved for the somber moments. Metal was a recent addition when Cristal began to turn more brazen and angry.
    Sometimes, people will leave comments on these songs, spilling out their stories of how much it means to them or how they feel about things. It leaves a sense of fonder, or knowing that other people around you, people that you never knew existed or never will ever meet in your entire life have lives just as complex, just as boring, just as interesting, just as same and just as different as you. There is a lot we will see, a lot more we will never see. So when I think about the vast expanse of Northern Cascadia and see the little townships dotting the little pockets of civilization up there, places I've never been and places I've never even heard of, places that billions never even heard of... I think back on those words I see from the people I may never meet, and know things are as complex for them as they are for me, as complex as the characters in my stories.


    Interloper was initially going to be either a game or a graphic novel, but since game dev is not something I can do solo and I can hardly keep a consistent style for more than three panels, it became a novel. I still draw inspiration from games and apply it to the story, however. The main games which drives the inspiration train is The Long Dark and Unreal World, two games about surviving in the wilderness with nothing but the clothes on your back and whatever you can manage to find. The Long Dark focuses a lot more on journeying from place to place, with a harsh emphasis on carry capacity balanced with staying warm with heavier clothing, and keeping everything in check lest it fail you at the absolute worst moment. Its a good game to be pensive to, when I otherwise cannot wander outside. Unreal World is a simulation of iron age Finland, where hunting demands special prepwork and care to successfully do it, and building a cabin takes a considerable length of time as you have to cut down upwards of 30 trees and process them. As mentioned in the previous blog post, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is also a huge inspiration when it comes to the concept of gradual growth and triumph. Both Cristal and the player start off with basic clothes and a simple gun, and eventually grow to have complex gear and a pristine rifle, and a name which will rival legend.


    I don't really watch a lot of TV, truth be told, most of the things available to stream don't seem worth the time to watch or even consider. And the times I do pirate something because I'm not paying $20 just to watch half an hour of a show, it stirs nothing. When I do get inspired from this, however, its usually from YouTube videos or old Dick Proenneke tapes. Dick's journal entries have such a prose to them!
    YouTube channels I watch which inspire me to write are often bushcraft/survival type videos, which is usually a timelapse of a log cabin being built by hand. Guntubers which discuss the firearms involved in my story are also a huge inspiration, Forgotten Weapons is chief among them as Ian showcases some oddity firearm that I'll think is interesting and attempt to incorporate it, or its odd feature, into a weapon.


    Naturally I am a fan of artistry, ranging from photography to hand drawn mediums. Though it may seem rather antithetical, I am a big fan of Leri "Pushbak" Greer's work, it has that gritty maximalist feel to it, coupled with a futuristic aesthetic (Interloper is considered "cyberpunk" in the cities). His work isn't easy to access, though fortunately there is an archive of his work here. Any artwork that's primarily "sketchy" is also a bonus. I'm also a fan of photography, primarily landscape photography or old photographs from the 19th to early 20th century.


    I'm basically a fan of the long-dead authors; Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Dickens, Thoreau. There's also some inspiration to be had from religious texts, I've read from Venerable Bede but I've yet to crack open an actual Bible, Quran or Torah (I'm an Omnist and view every religion as legitimate but do not practice any one). For example, Seaoko's Velenques Arcology is supposed to be a reference to the Tower of Babel, though more that people do not understand eachother through linguistic differences and rather do not understand (or WANT to understand) eachother due to status and personal beliefs; they are so high above the clouds they are dismissive of the people below, and so high above the people next to them that they dismiss eachother. Other than that, I also like reading from old manuscripts about events and history of the First Nations of Cascadia, such as the The Adventures of John Jewitt.

    Real Life

    As a toucher of grass, there's a lot of things one can take away from real life. Whether its an overheard conversation or a lengthy hike, there's always something I gain. My favorite hiking areas are in the Olympic National Forest/Park, after an hour long car ride I get transported to an entirely different, remote world. No internet, no cell service (Though I have an emergency transponder on me) and barring the occasional weekend warrior blasting his bluetooth speaker for everyone to hear (I beat them with rocks) and airplanes passing overhead, it is completely and utterly quiet of manmade noise. It is perhaps the only place in the world free of manmade noise, but even that is slowly going away as more planes are in the air, and I know for a fact that the military likes to use the area to do helicopter training. Its obviously the best setting for my book, as I like to imagine where an Interloper would like to settle down in the many miles of woodland. I aspire to do a through-hike of the park, and once I get my travel visa eventually do the same trail that Cristal took to get to Bedwell Lake;
  • Grey's Harbor to Neah Bay via the 101-West (156 Miles) (Apparently its less miles to cut through the mountains)
  • Ferry from Neah Bay to Port Renfrew (If at all possible)
  • Renfrew to Kissinger Lake (24 miles)
  • Kissinger to Father & Son Lake (15 miles)
  • Father & Son Lake to Bedwell Lake (50 miles)
  • In total: 245 miles

  • That's not everything that inspires me to write, but its the bulk of it.

    Dennogin, September 3 2023, 2208 PST (UTC+8)

    There's no SOVL

    This isn't exactly about writing, but its something I've been thinking about in terms of the main themes of Interloper and how it extends to its real life examples.

    First off, firearms are a central theme of Interloper. It's intentional, even though I've had beta readers argue against the opposite in ways that prove my point further. Interloper is about self reliance and triumph in a world where governments expect and demand for everyone to rely solely on them. Ergo, being armed in the Badlands and Cascadia as a whole is crucial to become independent of the global government; an Interloper can freely hunt and not rely on a license to do so, an Interloper can freely defend themselves from harm without begging for protection by authorities, and an Interloper can defend themselves from global security forces stating that they cannot do so. In short, firearms and the freedom of owning and posessing them are a central theme, and I will hammer that point in any and every time someone claims its not.

    Interlopers primarily use manually operated firearms, such as bolt and lever action rifles, due to ease of maintenance and wider variety of cartridges. While many would opt for an AR-15 or other rifles of its ilk, after 1,000 rounds things eventually start to need replacing, and finding a spare BCG in Cascadia is no easy task. Smithing an entirely new bolt action rifle, while difficult and can only be done after extensive learning and training, is extremely lucrative. Lately, however, I've been finding myself more interested and invested in the "wildcat" articles which are extreme one-off or limited production firearms (or cartridges) which did not reach a broader audience. Cristal wields a Nasant m1895, or in the case of real life, the Mosin Nagant m1895 revolver, which featured a gas seal against the cylinder and breech of the barrel via the unique shape of the cartridge. There are only two other firearms which would feature such a gas seal; the Pieper m1893 and the Steyer 1893. There's a very good reason for it, pushing the cylinder forward takes a lot of trigger pull strength (Roughly 20 pounds in single action), and the benefits of increased velocity would be easier sated with a different cartridge.

    Essentially, once we began to figure out what worked and what didn't, we stopped experimenting, and everything sort of became the same. Most modern sporting rifles (Or "assault weapons") are either a derivative of the AR-15 or some AK variant. Bolt action rifles almost all look identical, there's hardly anything which tells them apart other than perhaps branding or maybe a thumbhole stock. Handguns and even revolvers primarily just copy the same design as what worked before. They lack the experimentation from over a century ago. Every so often you may see some new cartridge or firearm which changes things slightly, but are still just the same thing as their predecessors. There's hardly anything unique about them except for a few aesthetic details. A Mossberg 500 and Remington 870 will fire pretty much the same way as any other shotgun, though the saving grace is you're buying a trusted name brand and know they won't immediately blow up on you.

    Now the more experimental, leap of faith, designed-it-while-high-off-their-ass firearms of year's past deserve way more recognition, which is why I've attempted to place them in the hands of the characters in my story in ways that would make sense, or "design" some of my own. For example, Amaranth is absent in the beginning half of the story as she was in Haida Gwaii receiving her new rifle, Echowood. It uses what I call "Cascadian Ratchetfire" action, which uses the blowback to ratchet the en-bloc clip forward to the next available round without expelling the casing. I based it off both the Krag-Jorgensen and T35 Garand in the sense that the rifle loads from the side, as opposed to beneath. The Cascadians also devised a pattern of revolver, simply named the "Cascadian Pattern", which is a unified pattern of revolver available in most cartridges. Pulling on the lever allows the cylinder to be spun for reloading, but pulling on the trigger while the lever is pulled will eject the cylinder out of the receiver and allows for an easy replacement cylinder to be slotted in for a fast reload.In real life these most likely would not work on a wish or a dream, but I find these to feel a lot more unique and bespoke as opposed to just giving someone a generic gun, and to showcase the ingenuity that a modern, remote gunsmith would have given the opportunity to experiment and not have to contend with R&D budgets.

    That's not to say every named character has a Mary-Sue complex and has some one-of-a-kind gun that can blow through cover at the drop of a hat. Cristal's main rifle(s) are a simple .30-30 lever action and an Ensign (or Lee-Enfield) chambered in .308, both of which aren't much to write home about. However, later in the story there's a point of contention between using these old rifles and using more modern rifles against the Armed Forces of the United Nations (AFUN). Many Interlopers would fall to the belief that a .30-06 would go through body armor, but it would not prove to be the case due to the fact that most AFUN combatants (Many people consider them "mercenaries") are equipped with updated body armor rated for NIJ-IV and the newer NIJ-V-MAG plates.

    NIJ-V-MAG is a NIJ-V plate (Which uses nanotube sapphires to support the ceramic plates in between) coupled with a system that creates a magnetized field. You can read more about it Here. Operating on the theory that lead is diamagnetic material, a strong enough magnetic field would either repel or drastically reduce the velocity of a round hitting the plate. The obvious downside is that a steel core bullet would be ferromagnetic and the field would instead attract and increase the velocity of the bullet, but the NIJ-V plate would be readily rated for the projectile. Repeated, sustained fire at the target would eventually discharge the battery the magnetized system is attached to (It is recharged by a Micro Solar Cell (MSC) sheet attached to the carrier) but most Interloper weapons would not have the rate of fire needed to defeat the target. The one saving grace is that NIJ-V-MAG is expensive to produce and would only be equipped on squad and platoon leaders. Knowing that speed is key to defeating the body armor, Keeper would sadly insist that Interlopers need to temporarily abandon the rifles they know and love and opt for either scavanged weapons from their enemies, or the stash of modern weapons that the gunsmith Hanover keeps. .45-70 is one of the few calibers popular with Interlopers which would stand a chance to penetrate. That, and the so-called "Trunk Busters", rifles in 4 bore and even 2 or 1 bore, which are essentially shoulder mounted artillery, would create enough force to cause severe trauma against those who wear body armor, if it did not outright demolish it.

    A lot of stories don't tend to focus on firearms. Western movies and games see guns as disposable or merely a means to an end. You're given enough ammo for an all-out war at all times, you hardly have to manage your recoil or even your gun. You can even abandon the gun entirely without even blinking. HALO, Battlefield and Call of Duty fall into this formula. There's peashooter guns and outright killing machines which turn into a meta, all of which can just be tossed away if you run out of 800 rounds for one of them. Its not to say I don't find them any fun (I miss playing Halo 3 with THE BOYS). In the east, especially Japan and Ukraine, they're a lot more regarded and observed. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. for example has you take care of your guns like it was your own child, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Anomaly takes this ten steps further. Its something you have to invest in with sparse ammo, sparse repair supplies, and exhubrant repair costs if you fail to maintain the rifle with supplies that are as expensive as ammunition. You eventually grow a bond with the rifle you're taking care of, its like having a dog or a car you care about way too much. Its the same thing with Interloper; Interlopers have to constantly keep check of their casings in order to reload them later with primers, powder and bullets. Amaranth had to make the hard choice to abandon her heirloom rifle due to the ejector spring wearing out and not being able to find a replacement. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. therefore is one of my main inspirations for Interloper... barring the radioactive hellscape and mutants which will bite off your wiener without hesitation.

    Anyway, I've gone on long enough about guns. Maybe next time I'll continue with whats inspired me to write the story. May your boots be warm and your blood untapped!

    Dennogin, September 1 2023, 1934 PST (UTC+8)

    Writing visually

    Its still August here in Cascadia but everything feels eerily like fall; from the way the weather immediately dropped to the 60's, squirrels frantically stashing food in the leaf-covered ground, and the return of constant incliment weather. Autumn is my favorite season, so is early Spring. Its idyllic for the region, in a way that it makes more sense for the weather to be just like this instead of weeks long stretches of constant sun bearing down and drying everything out.

    Its got me back in the mood of writing my novel, now that its what I imagine the setting to look like most of the time. Of course, to convey this to the reader I usually take a moment for Cristal to explain her surroundings for a moment:

    I grimaced, having only three to four hours of sunlight left. I took to finding shelter before finding the hermit that lived here, that was my utmost priority.
    The city looked more desolate with snow. Buildings toppled in on themselves, the roads caved into the sewers and washed out in mudslides. The snow blanketed many old homes, businesses, playgrounds, and other things I was not inherently familiar with. The tattered nets on the basketball hoops went with the wind. Signs pointed to, from, away from, and away to, different streets and locales that ceased to exist, or never existed in that direction. Many floods have taken place here since the Rumble, the inlet having flooded the surrounding neighbourhoods and waterlogging everything around it. Shelter would have to be on higher, dryer ground. I found a shallow incline, and followed it up.
    The sun did not cast golden and yellow hues on the horizon during its set, nor did it light up the sky at all. The sky instead just slowly dimmed down, with snow clouds rolling in and making the city that much darker. It was cold, and the snow falling on me made it that much worse. Everything was a dark blue, and I only had minutes left to find something suitable to shelter in. My eyes caught the orange reflectors of an ambulance, and I headed in its direction. The dark outline of the hospital rose before me. It did not look entirely damaged, actually it looked to be more intact than most of the buildings in Victoria. I turned on my flashlight, grabbed my revolver, and headed inside.
    The inside looked absolutely desolate. Stretchers and gurneys were scattered and toppled over everywhere, the suspended ceiling having fallen down in multiple places, including several of the pipes and vents inside. I could already gather what had happened at the hospital during The Rumble, but seeing it first hand made me question more than what was answered here. I slowly walked through its hallways, following the directional signs for the stairwell. I climbed to the fourth floor, thinking that it was safer than the lower floors. Though the windows and exterior walls were broken in various places, it was considerably warmer inside than it was outside. When I reached the fourth floor, I was met with something far different than the monotonous white-khaki ruins.
    A rainbow of handprints dotted the walls, a corkboard full of amateur drawings, stuffed animals of many sizes occupying patient rooms with various popular cartoon characters decaled onto the walls, some I even recognised from my youth. The lingering hope on the walls were peeling or mildewed, chipped away by time.
    I entered one of the rooms that looked the least dirty, covered the broken window with a tarp, and turned on the lantern. The flickering orange glow cast numerous shadows from the paint chips, wires hanging from the ceiling, and ruined medical equipment. Reijo yawned and curled up in a pile of patient gowns in the corner. I laid my blanket in the bed and folded it over myself, and almost immediately I began to feel warm again. I stayed there embracing myself for only a moment, before getting back out to get ready for the night. I rested my rifles against the wall, and my revolver on the table. I was conflicted with wearing my pyjamas, though they didn’t insulate very well. I also didn’t want to wear dirty clothes to bed. I grimaced, then removed my dirty top layer. The cold seeped through Mom’s turtleneck, and the leggings that still remained from my past life. I turned off the lantern and stumbled through the dark to find the bed again. After wrapping myself twice with the blanket, I was content with these conditions. Through the small opening of the tarp, I could see the clock Arcology hazily peer through the foggy, snow choked wind. And there, millions would be warm with their families. I shut off the lantern, and welcomed the cold darkness.

    I woke in the early morning, the sky a violent explosion of orange and purple. Victoria was covered in white, leagues worse than when I first entered. The wind sounded different here than it did in the wilderness; it was not a hum anymore, but a faint whistling whimper, blowing through millions of broken windows, loose rusted car doors acting as its percussion, and the rebar a choir, praising the day it would buckle under this destroyed city. It was a song of desolate longing, Victoria and I knew that it would never be the same ever again.

    Writing visually is not an exact science, nor does it really have a theory to it. A writer can be as abstract or as literal as they want with detailing a scene. Relying on more than just sight is a strong recommendation, however. I can harp on like your English teacher about using your five senses to be descriptive, but using them in places where they shouldn't be used would only so much as pad out your paragraph with senseless fluff. You should only bring in more sesne and detail if it will create further impact; do not check off the boxes for your five senses in a scene. If you can picture it in your head, and substantially feel, hear, smell, taste or see it in the forefront of your mind, consider adding it.

    For example, imagine you're at a birthday party. You can feel the beat of a song playing in the other room in your feet. The candles on the cake dance and flicker, casting twitchy shadows on the smiling faces of people surrounding it. The smell of burning wax permeates through the air, then after a quick exhale, replaced by a sweet smelling smoke, which twists and turns toward the ceiling. You get your share of the cake, its weight slightly deforming the paper plate, the frosting just about staining it, telling you immediately that nobody wants to be doing dishes on this special occasion.

    Now, you might be thinking that I did just do what I said not to do and crossed off all the sensory checkboxes, and you could be right, but notice how there's more life within the paragraph because of it. Also note that there's many details left out of the scene altogether. There's music playing somewhere, but I never specify the song, or how loud its playing, only that you know there's music playing and the vibrations in your feet are not from something else. I only specify the people surrounding the cake being happy, but are they happy for the person having the birthday, or the selfish reason of having cake? What flavor is the cake? Why does nobody want to wash up? It offers enough detail, with enough left out of it for the reader to interpret the scene for themselves. The only inferred actions in the scene are someone blowing out the candles, and receiving cake, the rest is purely description and visualization. The brevity or complexity on how you describe things will highlight its importantness or its lack thereof. Perhaps the narrator or protagonist is only attending the party to make connections and is ambivalent toward the birthday boy/girl.
    I never even described whether it was on a table, a counter top, if its at a friend's house or a venue, or even if there's food other than cake. That's because those are the kinds of things you need to bring up if they're that important to the story, otherwise the reader will get caught up in all the little details which water down your description of the scene. Perhaps the location is important to the story, say its a dormatory and the RA comes in to break things up due to the noise, or perhaps its a haunted house and the protagonist begins to notice spooky things. Whatever the case may be, description should only be used to set the atmosphere or the tone of the story at the current point, describe an important object or event, or detail specific characteristics or things you want to pass onto the reader. That, or pass on that information and establish the setting before your descriptive narratives.
    Or at the very least, that's how I handle visual and descriptive writing. Everyone has their style they will either develop or fall back on. If you're not confident in your own, don't worry, with enough practice you'll eventually find your niche and discover the way you like to do things.

    Dennogin, August 30 2023, 2207 PST (UTC+8)

    Cristal's Journey

    I don't think self-inserts are that humble or interesting. You do understand yourself more than everyone else, but translating everything you've learned into a character that's just a spitting image of yourself feels like cheating yourself out of a character that can grow in their own way. So when I created Cristal Bellamy and put her as a protagonist, I wanted her to represent something about myself I felt deeply about myself; the utter lack of experience, and breaking out of a shell that's surrounded me for most of my life.

    I was never the popular kid in my school, that much is something everyone can relate to. But for some reason I've never properly done things most people do with their friends, like hanging out at their house or going out to lunch with them. I never even went to prom or my high school graduation, because of my sheer adversity to people whether they cared about me or not. I don't know what it was, any attempt at looking inward to find out yielded no results. I pretty much lost contact with every friend I made in highschool, haven't even said a word to them for six years as I built this vestibule around myself. I don't know why. I don't know why. So when I made a character who lived a majority of her life inside an estate, sheltered from the rest of the outside world with no access to the internet and the only knowledge she has of the outside being from tutors, I knew I had to explore it further through her, though our walks of life are completely different the fact that she was so ready and able to leave everything she knew behind and emerge out of this box is something I wish I had the guts to do. 400 pages later and she's an entirely different person from when I first created her.

    Every character I make has some part of me stuck in them (You can call it a cancer if you want) in a way which allows both of us to interpret the same things in the same way, but so utterly different in personality, geography, and numerous other variables that they have autonomy. Anaheim, for example, represents the utter rebelliousness I have (and still have) in regards to her upbringing, while she rebelled authority she eventually conformed to the throwes of motherhood and the Interloper lifestyle, all of which would have never come about had she followed the line. But the reader only understands that part through a few anecdotes from Anaheim herself, Cristal hardly understands rebellion save for a few small victories she had over Headmistress Klara. In a way these characters allow me to explore these concepts in a way I never could.

    Next time you're writing your character or creating a new one, and you feel as though their personality is shallow or non-existant, try to apply something about yourself to them. Let a character represent your love or your anguish, a personality trait you know you have which you're neither happy or uncomfortable with, and let them sprout roots from that implanted seed and grow on their own. How would they deal with your issue, and how would they overcome it in their own way? Don't force their hand in their decision, let them stand at the Rubicon and cast their own die.

    And for the love of god don't let it be a nat20.

    Dennogin, August 27 2023, 1400 PST (UTC+8)

    Where to even begin?
    I suppose I can start off by saying I'm nearing 400 pages and not even close to done with it. This is a feat that I wouldn't have dreamed of when I was a decade younger, writing edgy stuff a middle school boy would usually write. But now its kind of a hinderance, both to myself and whatever publisher picks it up, if any. Splitting it into different books would make sense, but there's not a lot of places to drop the story off and pick it back up. There's only two or three points where it would make sense, but I also feel as though the story would feel more complete if it were stuck into one book. Of course, being a new writer a publisher would hesitate for some scraggly 24 year old to shuffle up to their desk with a 600 page manifesto and ask when to sign some books. No, I'll have to make it a series, and be forced by the publishing house to delay releases to milk that extra hype, only for the final review to have some changes made to it that I don't know about and now I have to write Cristal out of some cliche love triangle, because EVERY young adult novel needs a love triangle.

    Anyway, I'm currently struggling to write even a word right now. There's one scene I want to write involving Raelene and Cristal, but I'm unsure if its too early for it.

    At this point in the story, its been nearly a month since Cristal was shot and nearly killed by Asana Xenie. She survived, but her ovary was shot and surgically extracted to prevent necrosis. The blood loss, as Adalgard suspects, may have also traumatized the other ovary, which brought Cristal's future prospects of having a child into question. Naturally, Cristal is distraught about this news, and enters a week-long depression, mixed with rage. She feared she was turning into her mother and less like the way she used to be, but later vowed to turn her anger into something constructive. By doing this, she enters into militia training with her mother's mountain corps (To prepare for a coming AFUN Intervention).

    During a break period, Cristal travels from Bedwell to Father & Son Lake to find Raelene, only to find Raelene's sisters shying away from Anaheim, their mother, as she's clearly distressed over training people. According to her sisters, Anaheim refused Raelene the opportunity to enlist with the militia, stating she was too young. Cristal attempts to speak with Anaheim about this, only to find that Anaheim was teaching children how to shoot and kill. Cristal points out Anaheim's hypocracy, and learns that Raelene instead joined Keeper's Sharpshooter Corps. Upon reuniting with Raelene, she brings up her frustrations and concerns over being unable to bear a child. Raelene takes this as a joke at first, stating that two Interloper lesbians would be unable to bear their own child in Cascadia, they would have to go back to the cities for that. Cristal breaks it to Raelene that she's wanted a biological, natural-born child of her own. Taking offense to this, Raelene chides Cristal on her wishes, asking if she would be willing to have another Interloper have sex with her to bear a child that wasn't Raelene's, which Cristal responds that she's wanted to be the parents that she never grew up with. Raelene's pièce de résistance in this exchange is when she brings up Cristal's orphanage, how she must have wished night and day for someone, anyone to adopt her. That there are dozens of Interloper children orphaned each day, and so many more will during the conflict between the Cascadians and AFUN. Cristal drops a "How fucking dare you" (The only F bomb she, or the novel, ever has) and breaks things off with Raelene.

    I feel as though its a natural, if harsh and abrupt, conclusion to a relationship. An observant reader may have seen coming it miles away, but the average consumer who falls for tropes of the "City X falls in love with country Y" caliber may not have. Either way, I'm still unsure whether to include this now or later down the line. Cristal did just get shot two chapters ago, should I make the reader ride Mr. Bones' Wild Ride of Emotions a little longer, or let them breathe? Frankly, I want a reason to pull away from all the training montage stuff.

    Dennogin, August 25 2023, 0111 PST (UTC+8)