Friday, June 1, 2012

Change Yourself, Change the World: Violent Meetings

“If you want to keep living in this house you need to understand that I know what’s best for you.” Those were the last words that Jude Corbett told her teenage daughter on that calamitous evening, and as far as Canna was concerned it would be the last thing ever said in their relationship. It was now approaching noon on the day after, and Canna was already miles away from her simple home in Southgate. She walked the long road to Arkhosia alone with nothing but the ragged clothes on her back, a handful of gold in her pocket, and a rusted old sword hanging from her hip. It was a meager inventory to be sure, but Canna wanted to make this trip without the temptation of luxury or the comfort of a safety net beneath her. It was a huge step forward for a girl who had spent the past few years learning the fundamentals of swordsmanship from the drunken vagabonds or ex-soldiers for whatever meager coin she could offer for their next drink. She was no longer a child who needed to hide her ambitions, and now she felt her chance to find her own future was before her—not that one could tell by looking at her.

The violent vixen had her usual grim scowl plastered onto her face, and her passionate eyes were drawn to a narrow state as though she were shooting daggers at everything she happened upon. Travelers of all sorts found themselves turning their attention away from the unruly teenager as they passed by, and not a soul paid her any mind. At least that’s how it was for the majority of her journey, but one unfortunate merchant sought to chance his luck with the dour dame.

His name was Borlin, and he called himself the “Caterer to the Elite”. Though it was a rather debasing title on principle it was one he would eagerly announce so as to endear himself the noble clientele he adored so much. He was a skinny man of unimpressive stature with an unoffending yet unimpressive face that seemed to have been molded by Sehahine herself to be as finely trimmed as possible so that no hair was unnecessary. His brows were thin and curved around to wreath the outside of his beady, optimistic eyes. The narrow mustache parted just beneath his nose were curved into his wide grin, and he dressed himself in simple robes garnished with tawdry jewelry. He sat atop a wooden wagon being driven by a single horse while two men in cheap armor flanked the carriage from opposite sides. These two men were obviously paid protection, but clearly not the best as one man was gaunt and unimposing while the other was brutish but clearly dimwitted as his armor poorly fit his bulky form and yet he still carried himself as though he were guarding royalty.

Borlin was grinning from ear to ear, but in truth he was in a foul mood after finding no one in Arkhosia who was interested in his wares. He left the city not a gold richer than he came in, and now he was looking for any way to turn this trip into a profit. That’s why the glitter of coin flashed in his eyes when he happened upon the lone traveling teen; if there was anyone who Borlin could peddle his goods to it was young human women. He pulled on his horse’s reigns slowing the caravan to a stop before hoping down from his perch and rushing towards his potential buyer. His bodyguards seemed uneasy after taking one look at the fiery haired voyager’s grimace, but Borlin was used to catching the eyes of snobby elitist nobles. A sour mood would not prevent him from a sale.

“Greetings my dear! My name is Borlin, Caterer to the Elite, and may I say that I am humbled to be in awe of your angelic beauty?” Borlin bowed as though paying tribute to an Earl, but Canna continued walking as though the silver-tongued swindler hadn’t spoken to her. Though subconsciously she kept stock of this new annoyance, she didn’t have the desire to focus on him instead opting to continue lingering in the enraging memories of the night before. The merchant, however, was not easy to ignore as many of the aristocrats in Southgate would attest to. “Are you on your way to Arkhosia? If so, I imagine those Dragonborn will be just as enchanted with you as I am, but if you truly want to steal the fire right out of their breaths then you could use some accessories to really leave them awestruck.”

“Fuck off.” Canna was quick and curt in her responses when she found her limited patience tested. She didn’t enjoy brooding over her “bitch of a mother”, but it was certainly preferable to being treated like vulnerable sucker who could be swayed by the well-rehearsed compliments of a low tier salesman. Borlin was understandably stunned when he heard the young beauty’s vulgar response, but he didn’t mind going for the hard sale if he still ended up just a little bit wealthier by the end.

“Ah, my dear I hope I didn’t offend. I only stopped my carriage because when I saw your pure features hidden behind such shabby clothing my heart broke.” Canna stopped dead in her tracks and turned her attention to the beady-eyed merchant.

“Are you saying my clothes are shitty?” Already the fiery haired bruiser could feel the muscles in her arm tensing.

“No, well…” Borlin found himself sorely tempted to comment honestly on the dirty, bland vest this young woman wore, but bite his tongue to continue his pitch. “Not at all. I only wish to further compliment your awe-inspiring visage with some of my own, humble wares. Perhaps a fine gown, or a sterling silver necklace to hang from your beautiful, thin neck. Yes, those would be magnificent on you! You would truly be an angel!” These were the same words that Borlin would use to seduce any young woman into purchasing his trinkets and silks, but for Canna Corbett is was a rage invoking reminder of her mother’s attitude.

The previous evening was one defined by anger and bitterness—one of the few common traits shared between the Corbett women. Jude had finally discovered the truth about Canna’s mysterious late night escapades and forbid her daughter from dealing with those dangerous sorts. When Canna asked if she could receive proper learning in the art of the sword her mother scoffed at the very idea, and the two began to argue over the future of the fiery haired ruffian. Ultimately, to Jude her daughter’s opinion was immature and misguided; a woman possessing her beautiful features should be worried about making herself an appealing wife and not how to abruptly shorten her life in some misguided attempt to follow in a fool’s footsteps. Though Leon’s name was never brought up between the two it was clear Jude still only thought of her brother-in-law as a doofus idealist who wasn’t content dragging just his own life into a pit of misery and misfortune, however to Canna he was the only inspiration worth believing in. Learning how to fight was going to be essential in her goal of crossing over the wall, but Jude was not going to lose a daughter to that same hopeless notion. The final statement Jude uttered was a promise: if you want to live here, you need to accept that your mother knows what’s best for you.

Canna saw her worth as miniscule at best—at least in comparison to her little brother, Darek, whose immense talents were just waiting to be cultivated for immeasurable profit. The only thing Canna assumed her mother valued in her eldest daughter was her looks which in almost every way mirrored Jude’s own, but Canna had grown to see her delicate features as a cruel mockery of her actual feeling and attitude. She hated looking like a frail beauty when she only saw herself as a soldier, and as Borlin continued to compliment her appearance as though she was some exotic enchantress just brought those frustrations back to the surface. Her right hand had started to clench into a fist; curling and uncurling as if to temper out her rage but the reality was her frustration only grew with every moment that passed by. Borlin continued trying to employ his charming words to make a sale, but he made one fatal mistake when he reached up to touch the cheek of misleadingly innocent damsel.

“My dear, with looks like yours complimented with my majestic wares you could leave the entire Arkhosian aristocracy with their mouths agape!” As he said those words he gently reached his hand up to pull back the teen’s thick crimson tresses so that he could better envision the jewelry he’d accent her features with, but just as their skin touched he felt an overwhelming pressure coming from his wrist where the vulgar teen had just locked her grip. Borlin’s immediate reaction was to let out a pathetic whine, but the stubborn merchant was desperate to make some sort of profit off this venture.

“Okay, so we can skip the pitch. How about a discount then? I will give you twenty percent off ev—“ The unfortunate merchant’s plea was cut short as Canna threatened him through gritted teeth.

“Don’t touch me, and don’t try to peddle me any of your crap. I don’t want some fucking gown sown from the pubic hair of some harpy or whatever tall tale bullshit you’re trying to sell me on. I don’t want it, and I definitely don’t want to deal with some third-rate merchant and his goober bodyguards.” Canna’s venom soaked words wounded Borlin who always considered himself an honest merchant. Pushy, perhaps, but fraudulent? He took offense to this woman’s words and intended to defend his honor and pride using the tools of his craft. He gave a quick hand motion to halt the advance of his bodyguards before attempting to counter this stranger’s bold, slanderous claims.

“I assure you my dear that Borlin, Caterer to the Elite, is not in the market of selling fables as products! I am a legitimate businessman looking to shop my fine stock to only those worthy of such magnificent merchandise! I am not a cheat, I am not a crook, and I am not a scoundrel my dear, and I take offense at the very notion!”

Canna had given him a way out even if she didn’t deliberately make that clear. Had the verbose charmer simply ceased his speaking and left the violent vixen alone then they could have gone their separate ways without incident, but Borlin had wasted the last bits of her patience defending his name. Canna could think of only one reasonable reaction to this offense, and that was to pull her left fist back before launching it into the unprotected face of the pesky salesman.

Borlin had never been in a physical confrontation before in his life, and never was that more evident than how quickly he dropped after just a single shot to his frail, narrow nose. The sickening crack of bone filled the air as Borlin fell like a sack of flour (followed with an appropriate thud). His two escorts were quick to jump into action following this brutal display, but the ruffian teen was more than ready to brawl with two bargain-rate bodyguards. The thinner sellsword jumped into the fray first attempting a quick knockout punch of his own, but even at her maturing age Canna had still been in enough melees to know how to avoid an obviously telegraphed fist. She leaned just gently enough to avoid the blow, but she would ensure his foolish error would not go unpunished. With his arm stretched out he had no way to defend the nimble scraper from grabbing onto the sleeve of his shirt and using it to pull herself in closer. This extra bit of momentum helped make her next punch even more devastating. The lanky guardsman dropped to his knees clutching his now bleeding lip while trying to keep the most remote sense of balance. The ground spun beneath him as he tried to gather his bearings, but one errant movement later he found himself face down on the dirt road trying to recover his perception.

Canna was two-for-two and relished in the accomplishment until the lumbering brute delivered a punch to the back of her head. Canna dropped to all fours as her senses flared and scrambled to gather control. A sharp ring echoed in her ears as her eyes slowly focused two identical pebbles into the original image. Her hands clenched at the dirt in her fingers before reflex and instinct told her to roll out of harm’s way. That quick reaction prevented the bulky guards man from subduing her before she could recover, and now Canna was tasked with unleashing her fury on one more misfortunate grunt. This thug, though dim, was a physical specimen to behold. He had over a half foot advantage on Canna, and his measurables continued to impress after that. He was burly with big heavy paws and a sizable gut that made body blows ineffectual annoyances. If one got the impression that this man could rub two sticks together and make a spark he’d likely be more sought after as a guardsman, but even with his intellectual limitations it was clear he was a threat against an unprepared opponent. Squaring off against most opponents his size would be a frightening hurdle to surmount, but Canna had faced men his size before and come out on top—even if she had more than her fair share of embarrassing defeats as well.

Canna started to eye her opponent over looking for a weak point to attack. Her eyes were naturally drawn to his legs as she wondered how many solid kicks to the knee it would take before he would fall over. However, before she got too deep into a strategy she watched the oaf reach down to the sword hanging at his hip with a vacant expression on his face. Canna had her own blade to match his if it came to it, but she had no desire for this encounter to end in a death. Instead she would take a risk and charge right into his range hoping to settle this dispute before any sword needed to be drawn. It was luck, or perhaps fate, that saved the red maned mauler from another humiliating defeat as her foe struggled to pull his blade from its scabbard. He tugged on his weapon twice hoping for some sort of give while neglecting to realize that his massive right paw was holding onto both the blade’s handle, and the scabbards preventing the two from becoming separated. Canna took this opportunity to attack leaping into the brute’s range before striking his unprotected elbow from below to force his joints to dislocate.

It was a sound strategy, but not a flawless one as Canna lacked the immense strength necessary to shatter such a sturdy bone in just one hit. Regardless it was effective enough to draw that guard’s attention away from his sword and give Canna the only advantage she needed. The violent vixen delivered a quick, stiff kick to the brute’s right knee which on the surface seemed ineffectual, but as Canna dodged his clumsy grapples and counters with more solid kicks to the same muscle the cumulative effects started to become apparent. Her bulky foe took a step towards his dainty target, but when he placed pressure on his right knee the support for his mighty girth gave and the titan fell to his knees. That one difference was all Canna needed to connect with a strong right hook to the brute’s jaw. A loud, unnerving crack followed the attack, but the brute still displayed the same vacant expression he had before the attack leading Canna to think that maybe her gambit had been ineffective. However after a few motionless moments her opponent leaned forward and collapsed to the floor in a loud thump leaving the teenage combatant as the only one still standing.

A few heavy breaths followed the carnage as Canna spit a wad of blood onto the road beside her. She groggily shuffled over to Borlin’s unprotected cart and started to rummage through the contents until she pulled out a small silver flask emblazoned with the seal of Southgate. She popped the top and took a quaff from the container only to twist her face in disgust as she realized the contents. “Wine.” She grumbled with a glare before shaking her head in frustration and begrudgingly taking another swig. The fine elven wine was rich in earthly flavors and a strong essence of majesty, but to Canna it was overpriced swill that did an awful job at removing the thick taste of blood from her mouth. She rinsed her mouth with the lavish drink, but vehemently spit it out onto the roadside just moments later. She shook her head before tossing the flask back into the carriage and turning her attention back the road ahead. She was about to return to her trek before her manners got the better of her and she reached into her pocket before pulling out a couple pieces of gold and throwing them to the ground nearby the defeated merchant. “For the wine.” She said that without knowing if Borlin was even conscious anymore, but she didn’t particularly care. That fight helped clear her mind of the previous evening’s unpleasantness, and now she could turn her attention completely to Arkhosia, and the many opportunities that would await her within.


This was probably the least vital piece of Canna’s backstory and I debated about skipping it entirely since it doesn’t do too much for Canna’s character as a standalone piece. However, I decided to go ahead and make it for three reasons. Firstly, I wanted to do a scene that showcases Canna’s violent attitude because I don’t think it has gotten across as a major flaw in her character. Canna has a few big flaws that will be looked into with great detail in time, but Canna’s very short temper was sort of the catalyst I had when constructing her personality. See, I created Canna on the idea of having someone who would be very quick to violence and anger when their patience is tested despite knowing there would be potentially severe consequences to that attitude. It felt like a fresh mindset compared to past characters, particularly against Vega who was super friendly and understanding. If Canna met Bomar she would beat the shit out of him—or knowing LordKaT she would attempt to before it was revealed that Bomar is actually the avatar of Bahamut or something.

Anyway, the concept of running into a pushy merchant when you’re alone is an interesting concept to me because it feels like one of those scenarios you’d use to test the diversity in the personalities of your characters. It’s kind of like those personality tests where they ask you what you do when you come across a broken down bridge and you have to figure out a way across and what you answer will decide which color Power Ranger you’d be, but for me I try to ask how differently my characters would react to the same situation. For example, Vega would listen to Borlin’s entire pitch, and probably get suckered in and buy something. Eli on the other hand, might just engage him in conversation and just try to use it as an opportunity to spread goodwill and the words of Pelor. Sayid would probably get eaten by zombies. Different solutions from different characters, and in the case of Canna I wanted someone who would not tolerate the bullshit and would immediately start getting violent. That’s the main trait I built Canna’s character on, though you would never know because Peter’s NPCs are always some damn agreeable and harmless. Perhaps if they were a bit more irrationally douchey things would be different.

Secondly, I wanted to include an action sequence since I haven’t really touched combat writing since I stopped role playing on One Piece forums, and I wanted to see how I could do. I was reminded how much fun it is to visualize fight scenes… and how much of a hassle it is to write them. As you’ll notice I’m very hyper-critical of myself and I personally hate writing combat scenes because I always feel they come off monotonous. There’s just a big necessity to always establish where the various parties are and as such you have to call back to them which means using the same name or terms over and over which was drilled into me as a big no-no. I suppose I could be more vague in my description, but I hate vaguely describing an action scene. It reminds me too much of a poorly drawn manga fight (Naruto) or that bullshit “shakey-cam” in movies (The Dark Knight) which rob you of the enjoyment of actually visualizing a fight scene. Perhaps I will improve with time… or I’ll learn to stop caring. One or the other.

Thirdly, and most importantly, I wrote this piece because quite frankly I wanted to. I wanted to tell this story and see how it comes off. All the stuff with Leon had a sad factor to it because ultimately you knew Leon left. This however is different, and before the same feelings returns once I introduce Cormag in the next entry I wanted to see if something without a negative emotion hanging over it can still be entertaining in my writing style. See, with Juliet and Caitlin I wrote one piece backstories that felt traditional, but with Canna I wanted to try a more “LOST”-esque approach because quite frankly… that’s what backstories should be. LOST looked a character throughout their life and not just in the one single moment that defined them. LOST could have just said “Locke is the way he is because he’s crippled” but that doesn’t explain the immense pain he suffered having his father steal his kidney, or the bitter ironic twist that he grew up being told he would be special until it was all he believed which were both told over multiple seasons. If I were to tell my backstory it wouldn’t be in one piece either because more than one event has shaped who I am, so I’m trying a similar attitude with Canna focusing on three “arcs” that correspond to the three most important people in her life: Leon, Cormag, and Avandra. I wanted to tell a more complete story, and by that attitude I decided I wanted to tell this story.

This entire experiment is something I want to do, and that is primarily why I’m doing it. I’m not posting these for profit as I barely make fractions of a cent off the average article—this is just something I love to do. That’s why I want to tease something larger. See last entry I asked for opinions (good or bad) on my writing style because it would reflect a project I might work on. Well surprisingly… no one commented, but I decided that I’ll give it a try anyway because why not? So, hopefully before the year ends I’m going to be launching a new blogspot where I will be posting a fantasy adventure novel series. I haven’t figured out many of the specifics, but I’ve got ideas brewing and I want to take a crack at the numerous stories, concepts, and ideas I’ve got brewing in my head. I’m not sure where this will take me, when it will start, or what it ultimately means, but fuck it I listened to Kevin Smith talk about starting his Fatman on Batman podcast for months and he actually launched it so I’m tired of pumping up dreams that never happen. Adventure Fantasy Novel in 2012. New York Giants podcast in August. I might even start working on a show where I get plastered and play League of Legends or TF2. Baby steps though.

Finally, before I head out I want to address something I neglected to mention in the commentary for the last entry, and that is the title of this series. Leon name dropped “Change Yourself, Change the World” last week and I wanted to speak on that. First, writing that moment totally reminded me of the title drop in The World Ends With You (which everybody should play). Second, I should elaborate on the title as there’s a bit of history to it. Originally I wanted to call the series Crimson Anger, but Gav alerted me to the fact that it could be misinterpreted as a series about Canna’s menstrual cycle instead, so I changed it to Change Yourself, Change the World. That phrase comes from my very good friend Raymund Ong who a few years ago was diagnosed with cancer. He survived due to his invincible spirit, overwhelming willpower, and all around outRAYgeous awesomeness. He’s an outstanding human being who had dedicated his life to helping others with their physical fitness and eating habits, so not enough buckets of win can be thrown in this dude’s direction. In addition that phrase, the “Change Yourself, Change the World” mantra is actually something he’s having tattooed on his back. When I was left thinking of a replacement title for this series that phrase popped into my mind, and although I didn’t love it at first, I realize now how appropriate it is for Canna’s character. So there’s the story peeps. Everyone give a round of applause to Ray, the sexiest, most aRAYzing guy you’ll ever meet who will tenderly hold you before fucking your brains out, and then going right back to cuddling.

That’s it for me this week guys. Peace.


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  2. I'm honestly quite surprised that you haven't been getting much in the way of feedback on your Change the Worlds - though my lack of participation in the comments section probably hasn't helped either.

    Suffice to say I've been enjoying these posts quite a lot. The kind of work you put into fleshing out your characters is astounding, and to know that you have such ambitious plans related to not only this, but other endeavors, is quite awesome. Keep it up, bud; really looking forward to what follows.

  3. neochick here, I just wanted to leave a quick comment to say that I have been loving the CYCW series alot. Canna is probably my favourite of your DnD charcters and that is probably largely in due to how fleshed out she is from these pieces. I look forward each week to reading more from the series.

    This piece itself was alot of fun to read because even though it wasn't a big event in Canna's life or anything, it showcased alot of things about her (fighting style, personality etc). Can't wait for the Cormag arc ^_^.

  4. As far as your overall writing quality, I think you are definitely above average in terms of setting up a scene, telling a story, and character interactions. Action and fight scenes are fairly good, but they are not as strong as your other writing. I don't just want to give generic praise and give advice as best I can! :)

    I am by no means an expert at writing, but from this scene I see that you did a great job of keeping 3rd person omniscient narration from ruining the suspense of the moment, see: Canna getting punched in the back of the head. But places where I think you could improve would be pacing/flow and the specific descriptions in the fight.

    What I mean by pacing and flow really boil down to breaking up the big paragraphs of action into smaller chunks and making it work out a bit easier to follow. As a writer, there is always the desire to fill in all the white space like you're patching a wall or something but action scenes play out differently from normal narration. The way I've seen and tried to write is similar to how dialog works: break up the action and in some cases break it up as if the two combatants are taking turns. It looks less substantial with lots of 1-3 line paragraphs but I think it plays better with the pacing of a fight and the way your eyes actually read. When you have smaller paragraphs, each one has a more specified scope and breaks up the translation to imagination into smaller bite-size chunks rather than choking on a big mac.

    Additionally: fights are faster paced than normal scenes, so having more shorter paragraphs leads the eyes faster and makes it *feel* faster. The pacing is entirely up to the context + circumstances. It takes a lot of practice trying various scenes and paces to get the hang of it, and this is where other books, stories, and possibly even manga would come in handy. Observing how different authors and stories handle it can be a great asset.

    The only potential flaws in regards to handling the descriptions that I might say you could work on would be to vary the amount of colorful wording and allow certain sentences to be more direct, shorter, and have a narrower focus. In the more important blows, you use imagery that is primarily sound based and --at least to me -- it feels like when a show or movie cuts away and only lets you "hear" that action, I think it may work better with more sensory descriptions. One of the places where change may benefit would be in the fight against the big brute:
    "The violent vixen delivered a quick, stiff kick to the brute’s right knee which on the surface seemed ineffectual, but as Canna dodged his clumsy grapples and counters with more solid kicks to the same muscle the cumulative effects started to become apparent. Her bulky foe took a step towards his dainty target, but when he placed pressure on his right knee the support for his mighty girth gave and the titan fell to his knees. That one difference was all Canna needed to connect with a strong right hook to the brute’s jaw. "

    You could try and slow the pace and spread it out to build some suspense if it was written like:
    "Canna swept a low roundhouse kick at the brute's right knee and a dull throb of pain shot up her leg, her attack seemed ineffectual. When he clumsily tried to grapple, his knee was met with more solid kicks.

    The impact was beginning to take its toll. She put some distance between them and when he gave chase, his knee buckled and flew out beneath him. Canna moved in for a finishing blow, the kneeling man was still occupied with the pain of his knee smacking the ground and being forced to bear his weight to react.

    With the strongest right hook she could muster, hoping it would bring him down. After returning to a ready stance, his motionless body fell forward."

    That is all I can think to say or suggest, and I hope ANY of this is helpful. I dont mean any of this to be offensive or tear you or your work apart! I mean all of this to be constructive, if possible.

    Thank you for your time!