I broke down and watched The Voice like Dean Wesley Smith has been telling writers to do for years now. The interesting thing about it is after I wrote down the writing lessons I picked up from it, I wandered back through my email archives looking for a manuscript I'd emailed myself and discovered some things that my beta taught me and they ran along similar lines.
The Voice: Go all in. Lay everything out there. Lose yourself in the moment.
in_the_blue: Get down and dirty and write it all out.
The Voice: Overfeel, not overthink. Own the moment.
in_the_blue: Don't apologize.
In short, it took me this long to get a handle on what in_the_blue was actually telling me. There is one story that was her favorite of the Vardin shorts I wrote before I did the 365 challenge (which was a nightmare for my novel-writing skills apparently, though it did wonders for my shorts), and that was Portrait of a Butterfly. She told me it was unapologetic for the characters and their motivations and the hierarchy of Vardin came alive and took over.
I'd like a whole lot more of that, where something I wrote without trying to cater it to the uninitiated came together in a way that came alive.
There is a simple concept so intrinsic and fundamental to Vardin society and its root cultures that I only now, upon rereading all three stories in Gone Hunting, realized I have yet to convey it in writing anywhere and that it is such a fundamental law, tradition, societal code, and aspect of who they are that it is the basis of many of my characters' decisions there, including Rhiannon and Miraia, another whose family's reaction to her marital choices puzzled the one person I bounced them off of.
That code is this: outsiders must become family before they are trusted with the knowledge of the gifteds or are considered members of Vardin society. They must have what is called 'cahnten,' an inner circle of friends and family by whom any Vardin individual is measured.
Outsiders can become insiders and are given very specific avenues into how to do so, but Vardin's is an insular culture, so anyone who does not become an insider is neither trusted as one nor treated as one. This particular rule came out of life and death wars and slaughters in their history where too many died over this issue for their people to ever take it lightly.
As a side note, they don't consider mindreading an alternative as mental gifts are to be used on others with permission where possible, with knowledge and open communication where impossible, and by force only in life or death situations and war. Rhiannon wasn't at war.
Miraia broke the rules at a whole different level: she married a man and refused to make him a "son" of her household. In short, she refused to make him family and an insider. She had reasons, but that's not the part that puzzled the one I was talking to. The family's reaction was entirely overkill by our cultural standards. She had just broken a law that would result in her being disowned or worse and talked them into exacting a blood debt instead as if she had killed a son of the house.
It only makes sense in the context of a culture with intense insider/outsider rules for leaving, entering, or crossing those lines. It doesn't make sense in a culture that is simply protecting a secret. It only makes sense in a culture that is a secret.
I have three different writerly skillsets and intense practice of one makes it very hard to slip into another apparently. I write poetry, I write shorts, and I write long chaptered fiction. I can mix up the first two fairly easily, but the last two don't get along so well. I used to write a ton of chaptered work and kept on it too, then my life blew up and I switched to shorts as a temporary thing to keep in writing practice. Didn't work. Why? I had a very hard time writing chapters after that. After a second life blow up, I almost lost the ability altogether.
At least I get that now and have an idea of how I'm going to approach Nano. I suggest, thecatisacritic, that you don't read my Nano posts because I am going to be yakking about how I work this project for my own personal information in the years ahead, and you've already told me you don't want to know about it if anything goes wrong. So heads up.
This rambly post brought to you by "I felt like writing out my pre-Nano/Yuletide/trovia's gift/collab wrap-up" feelings. Hope I didn't bore you too badly.
First Nano prep post coming soon.