“Sere from the Green” Chapter Four Commentary

WARNING!  THERE WILL BE SPOILERS!

As I always note:  this post will make so much more sense if you’ve already read at least the first novel.  Books make great gifts  🙂

Sere from the Green [front cover]The main reason I started writing was because I was sick of reading stories that didn’t have any characters I could relate to.  I wanted even more kickass women.  There was another reason storytelling appealed to me.  I have fine and gross motor skills.  I can’t even draw a straight line without the aid of a straight-edge.  I’ve always had an extremely vivid imagination and could dream up the most beautiful images.  My mind was always filled with these vivid, beautiful pictures.  Some frightening, some unique, different worlds and places.  I tried so hard to translate them into some kind of visual, but I was never able to.  No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t draw these pictures.  It was extremely frustrating.  One day, while reading a book, I had a light bulb moment:  what if I tried describing these images and worlds in my mind, translate them using the tools of a storyteller.  I did and was surprised to see some form of what was in my mind take shape on the page.

Another thing that led me to writing:  communication has never been my strong suit.  I feel like stories can serve as a kind of dialogue.  It’s a way for author and reader to communicate.  So I write to speak and hopefully be heard.

Anyhow, that’s today’s insight into the author.  Onto the commentary.

Page 47

At last, the reader is brought to the Meadows, home of the guardians.  I’m actually really pleased with this setting.  The Meadows has its own mythology (including a creation story).  When I’m between novels, I’m often working on this ongoing project that will hopefully one day be a complete history of the Meadows.  It’s constantly evolving.  It’s always a good idea to have a project or two on the side.

I loved starting this chapter with Jet looking at a map (which I will find a way to draw one of these days).  The Meadows has always been a second home to him.  Jet has always had an enormous amount of respect for the guardians.  No other shape shifter is quite as comfortable with the guardians as he is.

Chapter four was one of the most difficult chapters to write because I had to establish who the guardians are as well as Jet’s ties to them.  One of the harder aspects of writing is figuring out how to get information to the reader without being as dull as dirt and burying them under a mountain of exposition.  This is probably why first novels are so difficult to write:  an author must establish the characters and settings without droning on and on.  The reader needs to care about these people, otherwise, why would they bother continuing on?

Page 48

I always cracked myself up with the image of young Jet being spooked by the silent messengers.  Messengers are somewhat eerie figures in the Meadows.  Quiet does tend to be rather unsettling, doesn’t it?  (I want credit for not making a god awful disquieting pun there 😀 )

Electra is finally introduced!  Electra and Isis were the very first characters I ever created.  God, I can’t even remember when I thought up these two.  It seems like they’ve been with me in some form or another for as long as I can remember.  Electra is definitely her mother’s daughter:  strong, comfortable with her body and sexuality, very self-confident.

This particular scene was originally written as Jet watching Electra working out and then waiting for her to meet up with him in the gardens.  This was a bit too voyeuristic and it really didn’t reflect Electra’s character too well.  This scene gives the reader a better idea about the relationship between these two.  The change also gave me the opportunity to give more information about guardian culture.

Page 49

Dammit!  I forgot I had used the term “realm.”  The Meadows are actually different lands, which may seem insignificant, but it’s an important detail!  I’m actually getting super annoyed with my younger self for the amount of repeated words.  What the fuck, Lauren!?

Lilly is co-leader of the protectors.  I can’t emphasize this enough.  She has just as many responsibilities as Jet (her role isn’t a symbolic one).  When I was figuring out shape shifter culture, I knew I wanted there to be co-leaders instead of just one leader and a leader’s spouse.  Both have equal standing and power.

Page 50

I don’t really agree with Jet’s actions in this chapter, but I understand them.  Authors don’t always have to agree with their characters (in fact, they shouldn’t), but they should always understand their motivations.  You always need to know why your characters do what they do.

Jet has always been surrounded by strong women and will frequently consult with them.  In fact, I think the second book in the series is one of the few times the readers sees Jet interact with guardian men.

One of my favorite personality traits is curiosity.  It’s a trait nearly all my friends have.  I freaking love curiosity.  Many of my protagonists have this trait, or, if they don’t, they appreciate it.  Electra and Isis are both very curious characters.

Page 51

Electra’s first reaction upon Jet’s revelation is asking him whether he’s her father, a small moment that I’ve always liked (at the risk of sounding full of myself, which hopefully isn’t the impression I’m giving with these commentaries).  It’s a bit of wishful thinking on her part.

As I’ve mentioned before, a lot of “The Shape Shifter Chronicles” revolves around questions of identity and what makes us who we are.  Electra’s been thrown for a loop and is now trying to figure out how these revelations will affect her sense of self.

Ah, the story of Roan (pronounced “rone” and rhymes with “phone”).  I was thinking about the nature of evil (as well as thinking about how much is genetic, how much is environment, and how much is choice).  The label of “monster” was something I was interested in.  Roan is a boogieman to shape shifters (they’re almost afraid of his freaking name).  Roan did a lot of incredibly reprehensible things in his life (assassins aren’t exactly going to be fine upstanding citizens), but there’s a danger in not attempting to understand the motives of dangerous people or why they do what they do.  Labeling someone a monster is easy.  Understanding (but never excusing) monstrous actions is difficult, but important if we want to prevent such things from happening again.

I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of the black sheep of the family (and how it affects family dynamics).  Roan came from a fairly well-known family of protectors but went on to become a notorious assassin.  This back story is explored more in “Through Storm and Night.”  God, the Deverells are fun characters to write.  I can’t wait to talk more about them.

Page 52 – 53

Electra’s world has been turned upside down.  I tried desperately not to make this scene overly dramatic, which proved to be incredibly difficult.  In one version, she just turned and walked away.  That exit proved to be way too awkward and abrupt.  She does ask an interesting question about what this revelation makes her.

In my opinion, Electra is completely justified in her anger.  She’s not the kind of woman who enjoys being used.

The High Council of Guardians is mentioned briefly.  They’re the heads of all the lands and they interpret the laws of the Meadows (also they sometimes decide on penalties for broken laws).

The queen of the women guardians, Adonia (pronounced “ah-DOH-nee-ah”), is introduced.  Adonia is probably the most powerful character in this series.  She’s very old, very wise, and incredibly savvy.  She respects old laws and traditions, but pushes for progress as well.  Adonia is often the voice of reason.

Page 54

Okay, I didn’t realize how jarring it is to have a relatively peaceful scene right before a huge argument.  My bad.  The next scene is just a tad too emotional.  I would definitely tone it down if I were to rewrite it.

Phoenix is awesome.  She’s meant to be similar to Shae (I was really playing with the idea of mirror images and mirrored lives).  I recently wrote a scene with Phoenix and another guardian that cracks me up every time I read it.

Page 55 – 57

I have a list of guardians who dislike Passion and the reason why.  The Muses don’t care for Passion because they don’t think she takes her position seriously, which affects their job.  Originally, I toyed with the idea of having Aphrodite confront Passion (those two hate each other).  There’s a whole background to that particular conflict, which just didn’t fit into this novel.  Hopefully I’ll have a chance to explain it in a future novel.

Artemis has always been my favorite deity.  As an aromantic-asexual woman who is also an animal lover, she was one of the very few characters I could really relate to.  I actually have a tiny statue of her behind my desk.  To this day, she remains one of my all-time favorite characters.

Artemis and Passion have always had a very contentious relationship.  Artemis is a very rigid character, though this gradually changes over the series.  She’s not a bad person and I regret that she comes off as a little too cold in this book.  There’s a reason why she’s so inflexible and harsh on Passion, which will actually be revealed in book five (I’ve already started a rough outline of that novel, because this author doesn’t know how the fuck to take a goddamn rest).  Artemis does change quite a lot as the series progresses.

Page 58

Ah Jensen, another character who I love (probably more than I should.  Ooo, that sounded a little weird, didn’t it?).  I will have so much to write about him starting with book two.  People who have already the other two books are familiar with the character.

It’s important to note that Electra agrees to help purely for Isis’ sake.  She doesn’t like the idea of this woman being left in the dark about who she is (sister or not, she has a right to know who she is).  Electra has a really strong sense of morality.

Thus concludes the commentary on chapter four.  I’m trying to do these daily, as you may have noticed.  I don’t know if I’ll be able to this weekend, since I have my last con of the year.  If you’re in the Illinois area, come on out to Windycon and say hello!

Comments and questions are welcome.  Spam is not (fuck off, spammers). 

Until next time

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About Lauren Jankowski

Lauren Jankowski, an author from Illinois, has been an avid reader and a genre feminist for most of her life. She holds a degree in Women and Genders Studies from Beloit College. In 2015, she founded “Asexual Artists,” a Tumblr and WordPress site dedicated to highlighting the contributions of asexual identifying individuals to the arts. She has been writing fiction since high school, when she noticed a lack of strong women in the popular genre books. When she’s not writing or researching, she enjoys reading (particularly anything relating to ancient myths) or playing with her pets. She participates in activism for asexual visibility and feminist causes. She enjoys speaking about genre feminism, a topic she is quite passionate about, and hopes to bring more strong heroines to literature, including badass asexual women. Her debut novel was "Sere from the Green," the first volume in her ongoing series "The Shape Shifter Chronicles." The sequels, "Through Storm and Night," "From the Ashes," and "Haunted by the Keres" are also available. All books can be purchased through Amazon, CreateSpace, or Smashwords.
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