Peering into the mind of an author clawing his way out of writer’s block
I’m plugging away at Part 2 of the Rümayesh triptych. For those of you who have no idea what that is, it’s a series of three (somewhat) standalone novelettes that will tell one contiguous story. It’s a Shattered Sands story, and features Çeda, the star of Twelve Kings in Sharakhai and the Shattered Sands series.
But you don’t really need to know much about that to, ahem, enjoy what I’m about to pass along.
* Beware: mild spoilers ahead *
I’ve been struggling with a part of this story. It’s to do with a djinn type of creature known as an ehrekh. Çeda comes across Rümayesh (the ehrekh) in her travels and then becomes an object of interest for the creature. I’m using a “true name” sort of thing for the ehrekh, such that humans might control them for a time, and I’ve been struggling with how it works, its origins in the pantheon of gods, how others can gain control of Rümayesh using it, its limitations, how much freedom Rümayesh has, etc., etc., etc. It’s important, as much of this story hinges on it. But also, it will effect the larger series, as ehrekh figure into the story there as well.
When I give talks about writing, one of the things I address is writer’s block, and what you can do to claw your way out of it. It takes work, but the process is simple. It’s a process of doggedly asking questions whose answers begin to illuminate the world, the characters, the magic, and eventually, provide a way past the block I’m experiencing.
I thought it might be interesting to show some of this. This is basically what I do: I write down questions and answers in a stream-of-consciousness way, slowly but surely heading closer and closer to the path the story’s going to need to follow. I’ll often work past the place where I’m stuck, too, while all of this is fresh in my mind, which helps me to capitalize on the momentum I’ve built by chipping away at the story like this.
I’ve not altered this at all. This is exactly what I had in my Scrivener file. Now, clearly there’s not a lot of context. I’m not writing a wiki entry. But hopefully it’s interesting if not of value.
Hidi and Makuo want the object to take her back to Onondu and make her his slave?
Çeda recoils at this.
She wishes to free Rümayesh, and in so doing, give Rümayesh the power to send H&M away, thus freeing herself.
So Kadir tells her that the object is secreted away somewhere.
What are the rules?
If you have a name, you can make the ehrekh do something for you. Kind of like a wish. The one who does this is protected to a degree from backlash, but not all of their friends/family are. Sometimes the ehrekh will let things go, so as not to make the human come for them again and exact revenge. Others hate being imprisoned and will lash out no matter what.
If you have the object where their true name is written, you can control the ehrekh utterly?
Rümayesh, however, knows that she can take on a new identity, and when she does, she writes her new name on a new object and hides it. She is reborn. A phoenix, of sorts.
She entrusted this to Kadir.
The object is secreted away somewhere safe.
What is it about this object? Why does it change?
It changes with the moons?
Some other tidal thing?
Something about the desert?
A great storm? A confluence of some kind?
Maybe Kadir gives her the name each time?
He receives something? Love?
What sort of object? A gemstone.
Maybe it’s done by choice, not by occasion.
When she feels like she’s worn out her welcome, she uses it.
Written in sand?
A human? When they die, Kadir moves it to another?
Maybe this is where Brama comes in?
Some other living thing?
Sort of like moons.
Sort of like the person.
Sort of like the sandstone.
Something that decays?
A boring insect?
If it’s something astrological, what happens? The planets align in a certain way? Bring about a change that most would never notice?
And then what?
She rewrites her name?
Maybe too difficult to manage in the story?
Çeda needs to be able to rescue Rümayesh.
She does so by freeing her from the boys’ control.
She does this by, what? Causing Rümayesh to re-form. She loses herself and reconstitutes.
Maybe it’s as simple as Çeda finding it, destroying it, and the boys lose interest?
I do like the idea of Rümayesh chasing them away.
Çeda needs to find an object? A person?
A ring? Destroy the ring?
It should be the same in each of her incarnations.
How does she reform?
Does she lift up from the sand?
Reform from the sand?
So much else is blood.
Maybe it simply needs to be washed away? Someone new needs to write their name upon it?
Kadir would give it to Çeda? He doesn’t want to, but he does so that she can live?
Why can’t he do it? He can’t undo his own blood. Someone else’s must mark the thing.
And when it does,
Is it a stone?
A black, clear stone. Like obsidian.
Kadir imparts knowledge: about the names of ehrekhs, and at the end, about where he’s hidden Rümayesh’s.
Next scene: Çeda talks with Brama and the two of them go off to find the item.
She takes it to Hidi and Makuo.
Çeda has one more dream?
Çeda brings the item to the place where they are.
She frees Rümayesh, and Hidi and Makuo are chased off.
How are their names changed?
They have a name.
They hide it. On some object, whatever.
Someone finds it.
They call upon the ehrekh.
That person must willingly give it up? Give the ehrekh a new name and inscribe it again?
Does Kadir have it?
It would be cool if, after calling upon an ehrekh, the ehrekh in some ways has the upper hand.
Like once the ehrekh’s name is invoked, it will do anything it can so that you’ll die, so that its name might be returned to it.
Kadir needs to trick Çeda.
How do the ehrekh change their names?
They take on new names when they’re freed by their masters.
They inscribe them, committing them, which frees their old name.
This is something the elder gods did before leaving? Making the ehrekh beholden to humans. But Goezhen gave them a way around it. They can change their names when they’ve been released from bondage.
Kadir knows where it’s hidden, but doesn’t know her name. He also can’t reach it. He has no idea where Rümayesh is.
Rümayesh’s only link to anyone other than the twins is Çeda, through her dreams. She wants her to find Kadir, and for her to retrieve the artifact with her name. She is to bring it to Kadir, and then help Kadir free her.
Things become bungled when the twins find her and try to stop her.
Maybe Kadir, in the meanwhile, has found out secrets about the twins, too, a way to be rid of them.
Rümayesh wants Kadir to find the object and to break it. That will force her to rebuild herself, but it’s preferable to living under control of the twins.
Maybe Çeda has to create the new name?
Çeda has to steal it back from her? Destroy it again?
Are they after her true name?
How does it work?
She goes to Kadir. We see what’s become of him.
She recovers her name for Kadir?
At the end, she just wants out, and Kadir gives Rümayesh her true name.
Çeda thinks that’s the end of it.