I recently answered a forum post on Wattpad, and it was so chalk-full of neat history things surrounding my process as a writer (and the birth of Grazing), that I decided to make this response my first blog post!
Here we go!
(In response to https://www.wattpadwriters.com/t/tell-me-about-your-children-your-fictional-children/11926/29)
Question: Tell me about your children… your fictional children.
When I say “your children” I am talking about the original characters in your fiction novel that you worked on. You do think of them as your children, right? You watch them as they were born(well created), grow, and even maybe die. Tell me about them(well, one of them if you can)and how they make you feel. Go into detail if you have to.
Oh, wow. This is a big one.
Rewind to 2002. I was seven years old and actively creating “imaginary plots”—stories in my head that starred pets, people in commercials, cartoon characters. Basically, anything my brain could process went into some type of mental fictional scenario.
Around 2002, my young brain was exposed to two things: Final Fantasy IX and Naruto. I immediately fell in love with the characterization, specifically Zidane Tribal, but more specifically the fact he had a tail. Dragon Ball was also huge at the time, once again exposing me to human-like creatures with tails, but that’s a side-note.
The second thing, besides FF9, was Naruto’s anime adaptation. I loved the fact that Naruto had a unique setting—olden Ninja ways with seemingly modern technology. Or at least that’s what my kid brain picked up.
So… I created a new mental scenario: I put Zidane Tribal into Naruto.
But Zidane needs a friend, I realized, and I have a vivid memory of lying awake in bed, in the dark, and beginning to craft his friend as if I were controlling some character simulator in a video game.
Opposite of Zidane. A girl. Green eyes, brown hair. Now I just needed a name.
Our family recently went to a zoo. That could work, but it needs more.
So, I went down the alphabet and sounded out syllables.
Zooka! That’s it.
And so their adventures began. I joined a monastery school in second grade, where I stayed until the end of middle school. This curriculum required me to participate in Young Authors, where I had to write one book a year, and towards the end of my middle school days, I tried to finally write out Zidane and Zooka’s story. I nearly did a Naruto fanfiction with my original characters, but embarrassment and self-consciousness got the better of me. I told myself that it wasn’t normal to have characters in your head, especially for so long.
So I created a story with characters that were very loosely based upon the cast in my head (a few more had joined, and my brain was slowly moving away from Naruto’s setting and characters, favoring something totally original. I just hadn’t totally gotten the pieces of it together).
For my final two Young Authors (seventh and eighth grade), I wrote two stories: The Halfling and The Shadow Thief. Each story followed the same cast of characters. They had a loose plot, but the kicker of each story is how I named the main character. There was no way I was putting my Zidane into a story where everyone I knew could read—I was once again too embarrassed. So, with my older brother leading me, I flipped through his Kingdom Hearts strategy guide and picked another name (ironically from Square Enix). Roxas. A good name for a main character.
The Halfling, a story I recently read through for a YouTube series, is basically about a boy who is half-Wizard (I knew my Zidane had magical-like powers; I just didn’t know what to name that part of him) and half-human. The memory of his name gets erased for some reason, and he is long time/childhood friends with Irene (Zooka with a changed name. She makes good stew for some reason). Roxas can travel via shadows (speeding from one shadow to the other). He is also part of a thieving clan, something that never quite separated from Final Fantasy IX’s Zidane Tribal.
The Shadow Thief is the reboot of Halfling, where Roxas continues on with Irene and the orphanage caregiver, Kazuo. In all the stories Kazuo is in, his name and character never quite changed too much.
Even though The Shadow Thief was about 60 pages long, it wasn’t up to my standards. The assignment/book itself starts out with a page-long author’s note, depicting how my lonely school year was and how my depression affected my year-long writing assignment.
Months before we had to turn in our final Young Authors, something happened. Early on in the school year, I became friends with a girl named Maryn. She was happy, bubbly, full of puns, and more than a tad bit weird. She was also really into writing her final Young Authors, and since she was literally my only friend in a class of 19 kids, we swapped stories.
Just days after handing my story back in passing, she came up with a new Young Authors’ story. One… Very, very much like mine.
I was torn. This story wasn’t THE STORY—it wasn’t really what I had been imagining for so long, but it was kind of close. These characters weren’t my longtime babies, but they were part of the same seed.
So, I was stuck.
If I had asked for advice, some might’ve said to just let it go. It didn’t mean that much to me, and it was only an assignment, but I don’t think I would’ve listened. I think it was inevitable that I confronted her, even if it was calling her the day before Halloween (her birthday), shoulder and cheek cradling the landline phone and my other hand doodling an eyeball on the side of the school directory.
“Your… story is kinda like mine,” I began, partly focused on my doodle and partly focused on just speaking in general. This final year of middle school had forced me to be socially enclosed, something I had never done before.
“Huh?” she replied, and then said something I’ll never forget. “I don’t think they’re similar. I mean, we both had that animal in the beginning.”
“No, the plot,” I told her. But then she nervously laughed it off, told me she’d change it, and the conversation ended there.
When the time came to show our stories, I hastily finished The Shadow Thief by inserting myself into the story and having it be a “everything was all a dream but I share Roxas’ unique Wizard markings”. The kids and adults who peeked at my story the night we had to have it on display praised me for it, but I knew my story wasn’t good enough. Some pieces were missing, I just didn’t know the specifics yet.
I didn’t really write freshmen year of high school, but sometime before my sophomore year, something changed.
I was unloading the dishwasher when a burst of creativity hit me, more specifically a vision. A band, the main character Lance (a guitarist and vocalist) and a drummer–his best friend, Cal. Danny, the quiet bassist. Trent, the other guitarist.
I didn’t have a name for the band yet, but dammit if I didn’t have a band in the works. I played around with a new plot, and it’s been the only time where I’ve had two mental scenarios at once. The first being my everlasting Zidane-Zooka Naruto scenario (yes, it was still going on!)
So, I began developing this new plot. Something about Lance getting injected for a government experiment. Crashes through the popular girl’s window, ropes her into a race-against-time adventure, somehow winds up in a Mars-like desert.
But what if they find Zidane there?
Click. Lock. Boom. I had just birthed something huge, I knew it right then. I instantly connected a few pieces, and the workings of a new story were born.
I began writing it all out, a process that took me two and a half years to finish. Or finish the first draft anyway. I wrote as if I were digging a hole. Each lift of the shovel heavy, hard to do. Here I was, writing down all these characters that had been with me for so long. For once, for the first time, putting that deep imagination down on paper. I had written before, but not like this. This was basically my life’s work.
So it took me a long time, but from the start of the year until May, I wrote at least 750 words a day (you can thank the website, 750words.com for that!) And by the very end of my Junior summer vacation, I finished writing New story. That was the document title, and you can probably tell the quality of it just from said title lol
For the next few years, I played around with editing, eventually realizing that the only good editing for this book is entire re-writes. So, in the highest labor of love, I re-wrote. Sentence by sentence, scene by scene. I had my father read through my first re-write, which was mostly draft one. And 951 pages later, he told me how great some of it was. He also said how very long-winded the descriptions were. So much so that he frequently got lost trying to follow my thought process.
I cut down, re-wrote and re-wrote some more. Eventually, I produced Grazing the Sky, a dimension-hopping race against time fantasy-adventure-romance. You can see more on my profile if you’re interested in the story (I’m here to write about the characters, not plug their story! lol)
A few things I find endlessly fascinating when it comes to my bbies:
– I love my characters so much that I’ve literally cried over how passionate I am about their story and them in general (it was for a speech. I bawled lol)
– Zidane has changed so much in seventeen years, inspired by Tribal (a loud-mouthed romantic with a rat tail). My Zidane’s last name is actually Lesyee (pronounced Lee-sigh), and he’s half-Razalek and half-Spiro. Razaleks are tall, elf-like energy-manipulators; Spiros are born from beasts, keep the tail, and have quite a few neat things up their sleeves upon near-death. Zidane’s mixed blood leads to him having multiple but subtle deformities. His attempt to get rid of his Spiro blood and fix said deformities is what spawns the plot of Grazing, if you take the timeline back far enough.
– Side note on copyright: it’s fine if you’re inspired by something, and even though FF9’s Tribal was in all of my mental scenarios for years, I had eventually changed him so much that he became original, something known in the legal world as transformational copyright, which I think is really cool!
– What I think is one of the most interesting things about my characters (and my creation of characters in general) is that they’ve grown and aged with me, usually a bit older. When I was nine, they were around twelve; when I was 14 and writing the first draft, they were around 16-17 (Lance, the main protagonist, starts out at 16). Now that I’m 23, I’m drafting the third book and my characters are 23. I’m guessing that when I’m like forty, they’ll be forty, too! haha
If you’ve reached the end, congratulations lol. Does my story ring true for you? Let me know in the comments if we share any similarities–I’m happy to know!
Read Grazing the Sky on Wattpad. Updated every other day.