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“The Star Pirate’s Folly” Started with Music (The Decemberists)

The Mariner’s Revenge Song

The Star Pirate’s Folly started with a song I first heard in high school over 10 years ago. My posts are getting all nostalgic for simpler times, I guess. My older brother and I used to drive in to school together in a used ’93 Chrysler Sebring with maroon-eggplant colored paint and grey, fake leather seats that had cracked and split from too many Texas summers. I rode shotgun, and he picked the music (mostly).

It was one of those early summer mornings before the sun had time to bake the cool air away. He told me I had to listen to this song, and to the lyrics in particular. It’s a pretty long song, and when we got to the parking lot it was still playing, so we stayed in the car and let the music keep playing even though it meant risking a tardy in first period.

Music: The Decemberists

Artist: Arthur Janz

Impact on The Star Pirate’s Folly

If you listened to “The Mariner’s Revenge Song” and you’ve read the book, you probably saw a lot of parallels. What I tried to do when creating this series was mash together a ton of my favorite things into one story and hope that it came out different enough from any one of them that it would feel like something new while keeping intact the ingredients that inspired me in the first place.

I wanted something like… a female version of the main character from “The Mariner’s Revenge Song” living out the story of Jim from Treasure Island, but set in a universe that borrows from Robert Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars series, and Ender’s Game while also making sure there are plenty of pirates, references to Greek mythology,  some American history–you get the idea.

The worldbuilding aspect is a lot of fun for me, outlining a new idea or thinking of new details I can add to my universe. As a kid reading fantasy and sci-fi books, I always looked up to the authors who could create something unique and impactful. Certain things have always stuck with me, like the beginning of the lunar colonists’ revolt in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (which, btw, is a fucking awesome title). Or Ender’s team of Dragons, fighting against a rigged game. The mice of Redwall Abbey defending their walls from Cluny the Scourge and his horde.

I tried to create moments in The Star Pirate’s Folly that combined my understanding of our own world with the specific details of my world and the emotional journey of a broken girl trying to hold onto her sanity.

Did I succeed? I guess we’ll find out. 🙂

You read it! Thank you so much! Want more? 

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Creating New Stories (with Orson Scott Card)

When I was 16 or 17, my parents bought me an amazing birthday present: I got a plane ticket, and admission into a writers’ workshop in Utah taught by Orson Scott Card.

For me, that was nearly half my life ago! Crazy. Anyway, my dad went with me over the summer and stayed at a nearby hotel in Salt Lake City while I was in the workshop. I remember being one of the youngest people there, but the class had a wide variety of ages. The workshop took place in a large meeting room with rows of white plastic tables–it may have been a classroom, I can’t remember.

Orson Scott Card has been one of my favorite authors since I first read Ender’s Game. I’d seen his face on the back cover of my books, but seeing him in person brought him to life for me. He had short-cropped gray hair and a trimmed goatee flecked with white. Rimless glasses rested on his nose. Throughout the course he stayed very energetic and animated, though I did get the impression that he felt a bit ill at ease in front of the “class.” He reminded me of an English teacher I had in high school.

We started with the basics of creating new stories, since the point of the workshop was for all of us to write a fresh story and have others critique it. Card stood at the front of the class and said he was going to demonstrate just how easy it was to create new ideas for a story by creating a crowdsourced outline with our class. Let me see if I can remember how this went.

Basically, Card asked for suggestions from us for characters, then for motivations for those characters, and then for ways in which we could stop the character from getting what they want. These are the basics of story: people with needs to be satisfied, and the ways in which they are prevented from doing so.

As long as these basic ingredients are there for a story, you will have a character with goals to achieve and setbacks to work against. Even if this is just a turtle stuck in a ditch, slowly working step by step toward freedom, nearly cresting the edge–when suddenly a mighty crack splits the air and a thunderstorm unleashes a torrent of rain that causes the turtle to slide back into the muddy ditch.

It’s not the most interesting story, but it’s got the basic movements of a character –> fulfilling needs –> while encountering setbacks.

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