Eventually, however, I came across something that inspired an outline of a first chapter to a story that changed so much that the original concept was gone by the time I even put pencil to paper on the first draft.
On Christmas of 1996, my sister and I received a Nintendo 64. I endured a lot of teenage stress over whether or not it would happen, since it was a launch year, and N64s were about as easy to come by as digging for diamonds in the back yard. So I was elated until about a month later, when I picked up the January 1997 issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly, a popular video game magazine at the time. In it was a preview for Final Fantasy VII. I was heavily into Final Fantasy VI (or III at the time) on the SNES, so this was a disappointment to say the least. Because FF7 would be exclusively for the Sony Playstation.
"Did I back the wrong Console Horse?" -15 year old Me
Not only had the graphics improved leaps and bounds, but the story sounded so cool. This preview was a review of the demo disc that came packaged with the Playstation game Tobal No. 1. It took players through the first scenes of the game, where ex-SOLDIER Cloud Strife and Barret, leader of a resistance group called AVALANCHE, broke into a Mako energy plant to set a bomb.
It was a carrot dangled in front of me. I was obsessed with FF6, so not being able to play the next game drove me batty, to put it mildly. I hid this from my parents. I knew they weren't about to spring for another console months after having to do what I was sure were unspeakable things to get their hands on a launch N64 (my theory involved them hijacking a plane from Japan and killing at least two men). I also didn't want them to feel bad by changing my tune so quickly after letting them think they surprised me (I actually knew about the gift months before Christmas, but that's another story). I also did not want the deaths of those Japanese pilots to be in vain.
The description and pictures of the game's opening left an indelible imprint in my mind that could not be denied, so one day when I was in English class I started an outline for a story, which turned out to be my own take on the assault on the Mako reactor. My scanner isn't installed at the moment, but here is an accurate MS Word representation of that sheet of notebook paper. Red numbers are marks I've made which I will address below:
I promise I stayed inside the margins... mostly.
(1) What's the Kladhol? Hell if I know. Perhaps this is the earliest reference to the Elemental Stone, but who knows. Every name I wrote here was just testing the waters and trying to come up with something catchy. The name of the first book went through several iterations as I searched for something that sounded good. At one point it was also titled Jade Eyes, Cloudless Skies, and The Judgment Hour (which is actually an awesome title, but it didn't fit the story that eventually came out).
(2) I've never named the world that The Law of Eight takes place in, and I had forgotten the name Partore until I read it here. Asolia eventually became Tormalia... or more likely I wrote Tormalia on my original map and couldn't remember what I had called it, since I was in school and my map was at home.
(3) On the original paper, it is very obvious that I originally wrote charactErs, erased it, and put charactOrs. Score one for teenage me.
(4) Eris eventually evolved into Nerris, though I dropped the nicknames. His age is listed here at 31, but he went through a couple of ages. He was 24 in my original draft, but was aged up to 26 eventually.
(5) The most obvious difference is that my eight assassins were eventually whittled down to four. Watane's role as the young, emotionally headstrong one eventually evolved into Chalis.
(6) The society's elder, at the old, wizened age of 36, was eventually replaced by the 60-something Rade.
(7) No one had yet told me that "Saber" and Sabre" were the same thing.
(8) This role was eventually filled by Mikaren in the final draft.
(9) Obviously the sides in this were changed to the leader of a rebellion sending assassins to the King of Yagolhan. Bayonia's name was changed to Chei-Dao and made into a Chinese-inspired society.
(10) I liked the idea of one member of the team securing the escape route, and that stayed all the way to the final draft.
Once he was out of sight, Nerris turned away from the barracks and headed to the east. Mikaren had gone this direction, to secure their safe passage from the Aeternica. -Secrets of the Stonechaser, Chapter One
As for weird things like "most dedicated member" or "most homicidal member," who knows what I meant by that.
Obviously I never got the chance to finish, either because of class ending or the teacher telling me to shut up and pay attention... I don't know why I would have been talking out loud as I was writing... but I shelved it for a while and by the time I started earnestly outlining the book, the concept had completely changed in my mind.
I still liked the idea of beginning with a bang. In a fantasy setting there is no real equal to blowing up a power plant, but my assassination idea sufficed well enough. Originally the idea for the novel series was tentatively called The War of Eleven Nations. Much like the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand started World War I, these events would have kicked off a war, with a bunch of kingdoms getting involved and the story would have mainly been about the alliances and betrayals and battles the characters got caught up in.
Thanks for joining me as I delved into the creative mind a bit and shared a little of the madness behind the method. Don't forget, Secrets of the Stonechaser is available right now, exclusively at Amazon.