Highborn & Aeon Blessed

Our Q & Ayl’gard – Part 3

 

Welcome to part 3 of our continuing Q & A series my good lords and ladies. That was probably one of the most British ways I could have opened these proceedings but the topic of nobility does play an important role for this post. Anyway, another question follows in the wake of your previous inquiries as we touch upon the subject of character development and my own personal bias toward the ones that I have created.

 

‘Do you have a favourite character you’ve enjoyed writing about the most?’

 

The characters that populate the genre of fantasy have a tendency to fall into specific groups or tropes that, whilst offering a sense of familiarity to the reader, have the potential to render them a little bland. Sometimes. You have your warriors, your roguish types, sorcerers, your nobles and peasants, the dark lords and heroes of destiny and everything that falls in between. These are some of the basic templates of what many have come to expect from those who dwell in the worlds of fantasy fiction.

From the pool of characters populating my own world, those that I enjoy writing about the most are the ones that I give permission to myself to really expand into something more unique and complex. They may begin as your typical, insert cardboard character variant here, archetypes but then I’ll dwell on them a little and pick out the ones that have the most to say and try to evolve them into something a bit more colourful than the bland grey they started as. It also helps to pique my interest if they happen to have powerful magicks coursing through their veins as well. Some of you may be able to tell but I’ve got of a bit of a ‘thing’ for magick wielders. Just a bit!

To coincide with this preference, I have found myself developing certain characters, mages, that also happen to be members of great Houses and powerful families. It is not a certainty that being a part of these Houses would guarantee being born into magick but it occurs within these realms with surprising regularity. Mostly because I made it to be that way but that’s the way I like it! One type of power combined with another can breed all sorts of intriguing plot lines. Amongst my populace, it is well known that being born into certain Houses increases your chances of acquiring the ability to wield magick. Specific elements in particular. I suppose with all that power, you may be inclined to wonder just how some of them rose to prominence in the first place.

Are you wondering about that? Hmm? You see, now I’m wondering if you’re wondering about that which I once wondered some time ago and that if you are wondering about it now then it makes me wonder that whether or not this wonderment was worth the wondering to begin with – I wonder! The word wonder has now lost all semblance of credibility and sense to me. It’s like saying the same thing to yourself over and over and it eventually just starts to sound like a nonsense word. Now I’m wondering which word you are thinking about repeating into oblivion. Dammit, let’s get back to the topic!

I’ll give you some examples of what I was previously referring to. Being born into the lineage of House Emberheart will vastly increase your chances of becoming a pyromancer. The House of Goram has a tendency to produce a high amount of stoneweavers, also known as earth mages. Like I mentioned previously though, it doesn’t guarantee you an awakening to magick as an Aeon blessed mageborn. However, within their bloodlines lies dormant power going back through the ages that originates from a time before written history. Several generations may come and go without a single mageborn child coming to power and of course, they are not the only ones able to wield these elements. You may have the fortune, or misfortune, to gain these abilities no matter where you are born. I like the fact that what makes some of these Houses special is that they have a history based not only political and economical dominance but also their increased likelihood to have mages born into their families. And you just know that they have taken advantage of the fact throughout their own histories.

To go back to the original question, I enjoy writing about mages and especially those who are born of a noble House. There is just something about utilising the complexity of the ruling classes and their varying agendas and having it interwoven with the arcane intricacies of the power of magick that appeals to me and thus I have written a fair amount of characters to this regard.

A few examples of this include Isabelle and Aeliana of House Emberheart, grandmother and granddaughter who are both pyromancers. Alden the Elemagus, current Arch Magister of the Aeon Citadel and a distant exile from House Lockewood. The Citadel is home to Luther, a stoneweaver from the previously mentioned House of Goram, along with his uncle, Guardian Master Aleksandr. There is also Elrik, one of the surviving sons of Baron Edrik Thorn, who is carving out a reputation as a powerful waterweaver and a strong candidate to one day succeed his father, though his is a tale tinged with grief and a great burden to bear.

So to sum up, if you happen to be someone who was born into the nobility of Ayl’gard with the power of magick at your fingertips then there is a good chance I’ll be spending a good amount of time developing you into a figure of prominence. Even characters that are remotely related to these lineages are of great interest to me such as the descendants of a fallen House that once produced some of Ayl’gard’s most powerful cryomancers, ice mages. They are so far removed from their birthright to the point where they aren’t even aware of their former prominence yet the fact that I, the writer, is obviously aware makes the connection oh so tantalising for me. They now walk a bitter road amongst a trail of frozen leaves, misplaced and far gone from a history steeped in ice and stone. Tantalising!

I would like to thank Ignited Moth for providing the question for this topic discussed during part 3. I certainly hope my response was satisfactory enough to sate your curiosity.

Whispers – From Fragment to Fiction

They are speaking to me again!

Who are they, those voices who whisper words to me across a veil as thin as thought?

Don’t worry folks, I’m not suffering from some severe mental deficiency that conjures an overtly passive aggressive yet oddly charming phantom version of me that is attempting to persuade me to plot the murder of a couple of vertically challenged, hairy footed fellas just because one of them has a shiny golden ring! I am of course referring to those voices that come accompanied by the conversations that emanate as a result of the effort you have put into your work as a writer of fiction. Or in my case, fantasy fiction. To create a world of fantasy and to populate it with creatures and characters can be a particularly satisfying process. Now I find that this world, Ayl’gard, which was once as empty as a graveyard with only a vague historical template in place is becoming busier and busier with each passing week.

It is a peculiar feeling as a writer isn’t it? To sit down and create a piece of prose where your characters are having a conversation with each other but through you. Without your words to bring life to a scene or a chapter, they may as well be banging their heads on brick walls in utter frustration for their inability to converse without the guidance of your hand to put into place their thoughts, feelings and echoes of intent. We provide that forum for their connections. I open the door for them, ask them to come in and I swear it is like I am merely a spectator sitting by the side, merely giving a voice or two to a situation that is unravelling marvellously before my eyes. All in my own head at first and then onto the page.

Did I mention that this is all very peculiar? But a good kind of peculiar. Not ‘Oh there he goes again staring through the neighbours windows with his pen and notepad looking for inspiration and smiling as they give him the finger whilst secretly disappointed they aren’t inviting him in for some tea and biscuits’ peculiar! There are plenty of opportunities to gain inspiration without resorting to pissing off the neighbours.

So who are they really, these fragments? Where do they come from? Are they figments of me, my imagination, because I often ponder the possibility that this world of fantasy I have created and populated with fictional characters is slowly acquiring some sentience. A life of its own. And such a notion, as ridiculous as it might seem to some, is absolutely brilliant to me.

Some regions of Ayl’gard are quieter than others when formulating ideas for stories, I will be the first to admit. Of the three continents I’ve created thus far, it is the cities and settlements of Gaiaden that have been the busiest. I’ve written a fair bit about the Middemire region and the Barony of Amberfall as some of you who visit here regularly will be aware. Not that there isn’t a mild din of voices coming from the other two, Terraden and Valleden. Maybe I have a subconscious preference for the people in Ayrlaston and Lochland just because they were the first to be crafted from the chaotic cauldron of whispers and words that is my mind. I think what brings me joy in this regard is that there is someone speaking to me from every corner of this world and it would be my utmost pleasure to be able to tell those stories. Some day.

Many writers amongst you will probably have some inkling of what I am referring to. All it takes for your characters to get chatty with each other is a few embers of imagination and those first few lines of dialogue on the page. For any of you who are just getting started for the first time with your character creation and might be uncertain as to how to proceed, just have a go and do as I suggested. Eventually you may just be filling your pages with conversation after conversation from characters beginning to take on a life of their own. In time, some of these fictional fragments may become fictional entities that will form the basis of your own story.

I don’t get the opportunity to speak with many writers face to face and so it is difficult for me to gain insight into the creative processes of others without delving online for verification of my own personal brand of weird. For the purpose of full disclosure, I am a little weird and I am completely fine with that. I think an element of ‘weird’ might actually be an unwritten, softly spoken requisite for being a writer of fiction.

How do you approach your characters and their development my fellow writers? I am intrigued.

Forged From Reverie.

 

 

Final Fantasy VII: Where It All Began – Part 2

If you wish to read the first part then hop aboard the train to Sector 7, last stop – the Train Graveyard.

Final Fantasy VII: Where It All Began – Part 1

As mentioned previously, there will be some minor spoilers relating to the story.

Final Fantasy VII showed me for the first time the concept of an untrustworthy narrative due to the unreliable memories of its primary protagonist, Cloud. This changed my perception of the story when relating to his counterpart, a lost legend risen from the shadows whose background is coated in a great degree of sorrow and twisted circumstance that is Sephiroth, whose past was heavily manipulated by other forces to forge him into the destructive being he finally became. Every character was distinct with their own unique perspectives and personality. You’ll have the chance to explore their own histories, their reasons and motives for carrying on despite the overwhelming pressure of forces working against them. The overprotective and headstrong Barrett, the sombre yet powerful Tifa, thoughtful and wise Red XIII, enigmatic Vincent, playful Aeris, deceptive Yuffie, upbeat Cait Sith, excitable Cid. All of them were created in a manner that made me realise that my companions weren’t just there to make up the numbers. They were important, they had a purpose, all were meaningful in the grand scheme of things if you take the time to speak to them, listen to them and help them when the time comes.

I loved progressing these characters through combat, to watch them slowly become more powerful as the game continued. Cloud, Barrett and Red XIII were my chosen three for my first playthrough, though through subsequent runs I began to use each of them at different times where I thought it most appropriate for them to shine. I treasured every orb of materia that I collected and salivated at the unknowable prospect and tactical battle variations that lay at the heart of each possible piece. I trembled in amazement as the planet shook to unleash its terrible wrath as its monstrous Weapons were let loose upon a world that abused it. Damn you Ruby Weapon and your incessant need to murder my people at every possible opportunity because I lacked the necessary preparation skills as a mere child filled with an impatient desire for victory! (I experienced this defeat many times) And the loot, oh did I come to love the loot! This game offered me my first taste of what would become a lifelong desire, the never-ending quest to keep tracking down all of that in game, in any game, loot. Nothing could beat equipping each party member with their ultimate weapons and watching as I cleaved my way through the late game Behemoths and Marlboros with satisfying ease. I even began to appreciate the prospect of chocobo racing and breeding, which at first seemed to be little more than a confusing and frustrating distraction. Even this, a completely optional mechanic, can yield great rewards (Knights of the Round summon materia – hell yes!) for those who travel far to seek and abide by the knowledge of the Chocobo Sage in the quest for that hard earned, elusive golden chocobo.

‘The knowledge and wisdom of the Ancients is held in the materia. Anyone with this knowledge can freely use the powers of the land and the Planet. That knowledge interacts between ourselves and the Planet, calling up magic.’ – Sephiroth’s explanation of Materia, FFVII’s magic

One of my most fundamental experiences with Final Fantasy VII came around the ten or so hour mark for me. Up until this point, I had assumed that the entire game would be taking place in the malevolent metropolis of Midgar. After escaping the Shinra building on a motorbike, an unexpected minigame added to the mix to keep things interesting, with my comrades following alongside in a truck that I had to defend, the next phase of the game kicks in to reveal a depth and scope that had my jaw wide open as my eyes temporarily lost the ability to blink. The world quite literally opened up for me. It gave players an opportunity to roam the landscape, battling a variety of fiends and monsters with every attempt to continue along this wonderful journey. I’ll never forget my first encounter with the monstrous Midgar Zolom, a thirty-foot cobra with a vicious bite, and being almost wiped out with just a single move.

I’ll also admit to it getting a little weird at times, such as certain parts of Wall Market for example, which is not entirely unexpected considering the cultural differences between western audiences and Japan. There were some obvious translation difficulties as well. Some of the scenes were, let’s say, I didn’t fully understand them until I returned to the game as an older, more experienced person. If you’ve ever watched a film recently that was a childhood favourite and then had that ‘Oh yeah!’ moment when returning to it as an adult, you’ll understand what I mean. This just makes the game that much richer in context though. It is large enough in scope that there is something to be gained every time you decide to restart it and have another go.

If the legacy of FFVII could be summed up in one, offering but a single example of the profound effect it has had and still continues to have to this day, I would have to mention the moment, THAT moment when something and someone is taken from you in a solemn instant of utter devastation. A moment of heartbreak without equal. A bitter calm at the end of a blade. Every fan of fantasy can relate to a fictitious tragedy that just took their breath away and left them empty and aghast for what seemed like an age. If you talk to readers of A Song of Ice and Fire about the Red Wedding, you can see spark in their eyes dim into a sullen shadow as they recollect the instance. For fans of Final Fantasy VII, we will always remember the moment we lost a treasured companion to the merciless whims of a warrior lost to madness and sorrow. Two decades later, this is still remembered as a quintessential example of just how powerful the story of a game can be.

‘What I have shown you is reality. What you remember… that is the illusion.’ – Sephiroth

I’ve prattled on for quite a bit now about this much-loved darling of the industry but honestly, it is no more than it deserves. I could probably write another several thousand words on the subject and how even after all these years, from my first time playing the game one dreary weekend, it still has such a profound grip on what a quality story of fiction and fantasy should be like. It set a huge standard for me going forward in the years to follow.

My friends at school eventually began to tire of my incessant desire to regale them of my adventures because I just wouldn’t shut up about it. Sorry lads!

Without Final Fantasy VII, I doubt I would be quite the same man I am today. My eyes were opened to new possibilities and I fell for the genre of fantasy in all of its glorious forms because of this game and what it showed me. From the very moment Cloud jumps down into the streets of Midgar, wielding his Buster sword and battle ready, to fight alongside Avalanche in a war to decide the fate of a dying planet, the flickering fire of my curiosity was set alight and by the games end. With one brutal Omnislash against the hero’s arch nemesis, the flames were fanned even further into a blazing inferno of passionate appreciation. The sheer range of emotions I felt, the awe, the joy, the dread and the sorrow, they would keep me coming back. I craved more. I needed to see and do everything this game had to offer.

From here I moved onto other stories, other books, other films, other games, all giving me new concepts and perspectives to consider. It was, and always will be, an absolute inspiration to me and was one the first stones laid in what would become the foundation of everything that I create to this day.

I wonder how things would have turned out for me had I not asked my grandmother for this game? Perhaps I’d be writing spy thrillers if I’d discovered Goldeneye on the N64 instead. Oh, who cares! I’m off to play Final Fantasy VII again.

*Begins to hum the boss battle music to get psyched up*

I’m coming for you Sephiroth!

Forged From Reverie.