Seryth’s Story: Conversion to Novel Format

In this post I’ll show you part of the process in converting Seryth’s Story from its Living Story form into what it might look like in a novel.

Living Story Excerpts

First, I start by pulling up the excerpts that I intend to craft into a scene. For this exercise, I picked these:

Prologue: Born and raised in Westfall, there was nothing more interesting about Seryth than the face he was a half-elf and possessed a rotten temper...
Chapter 1: Seryth's foster father, a quel'dorei Farstrider displaced from Lordaeron during the Second War, kept a small farm on the outskirts of Sentinel's Hill. Each season, or more often if the hunting was good, he'd send Seryth to the Stormwind markets with harvests, hides, or meat to sell. It was during one of these trips Seryth encountered gnoll bandits along the road. The gnolls wrecked his wagon and destroyed the goods. Furious, Seryth pursued them into the woods, and here his powers first began to manifest.

The second excerpt actually goes a little too quickly into the storyline than I’d like for a full-length novel, so I’ll instead focus on the first paragraph of this excerpt and the Prologue.

Setting Translations

After picking my excerpts, I next need to take into account some translations of names and terms for the lore of my novel. I’ve gone ahead and picked out some of the most relevant to show you here:

Westfall = central plains of Tarith

The “central plains” is less a name for this region and more a description of the general area, since Tarith, one of the six countries featured in Talmenor, is much bigger than Westfall and encompasses other lands and climates.

Seryth = Sirith

This is actually the way his name is supposed to be spelled, but wasn’t, on account of that character name being taken when I made him in World of Warcraft.

half-elf = had akor’mar blood

Because World of Warcraft doesn’t have a direct analog to a drow- or dark elf-like race, I had to play a little fast and loose with just what heritage Sirith possesses in the Living Story Roleplay. In contrast, Talmenor-Sirith has a human mother and an akor’mar father, the latter being a kind of cave elf. Unlike in Warcraft, where the local farmers are suspicious of elves because they’ve rarely seen one, in Talmenor, Sirith is regarded with suspicion for being the son of one of the most vicious races known on the continent.

quel’dorei = ilph’mar

Though quel’dorei roughly translate into both ilph’mari and wuyon’mari in the Talmenor setting, Daelin’s implied connection with nature makes him more suited to be an ilph’mar.

Farstrider = ranger or member of Clan Na’ha’Bii

I haven’t really given the local names for guardsmen and military divisions in Talmenor much thought. Farstrider is most similar to a ranger in the fantasy genre, but I’d rather not re-use the word ranger, since I might want to do something different with this group once I’ve fully fleshed them out. It may be I will simply have to use some clever wording to indicate that Daelin was a member of the ilph’mar clan Na’ha’Bii, which more broadly controls the Avaliet military and police forces, rather than giving his profession a specific name.

Lordaeron = Avaliet, Second War = The (Akor’mar) Invasion

Since Daelin is an ilph’mar, the only place he could be displaced from is Avaliet, the homeland of the ilph’mari. The only war that has taken place in Avaliet in recent years is its invasion by akor’mari. I realize now I might need to give this war a proper name, since “invasion of Avaliet by akor’mari” will be tedious to write out as many times as this war is mentioned.

Sentinel’s Hill = Hillet

Sentinel’s Hill and the surrounding farmlands are supposed to be an unimportant backwater in both the Warcraft universe and Sirith’s adventures. For this reason, I won’t pick the name of a major town on the Talmenor map, but instead will make up a name for a new town in Tarith. I chose Hillet, to inspire the connection to hillette, aka “little hill” (I made that up). For those of you who have seen Talmenor’s map, it is probably between Castellea and the dark forest of Bataklik, the latter being the perfect place for Sirith to later have an adventure in, in place of Duskwood.

Stormwind = Castellea

Stormwind is a generic Western fantasy human town in Warcraft, following the archetypes of European castles and knights. Castellea is just the same. Though Stormwind is in a forest and Castellea is in the plains, this shouldn’t matter to the setting besides rewording some passages to do with the scenery.

Writing Process

The excerpts I picked actually contain a lot of information within them. They introduce Sirith, his temperament, the setting, Sirith’s foster father, some history, racial tension, and how and where Sirith and Daelin both live. It’d be boring to show this all through exposition, so instead I am left to create a scene that somehow pulls these all together.

Now, my fiction style is to write mostly on feelings, letting meaningful character interactions or fantastical setting descriptions guide me. As far as character interactions go, Sirith and Daelin are a difficult pair to write blind for, since Daelin is fairly unflappable and Sirith is not inclined at this point in the story to do anything worse than grumbling his way through chores: not really an interesting dynamic. Sirith’s temper is also a difficult thing to show without coming up with a whole new scene involving a whole new character.

Instead, I turned to setting descriptions to start off with. The Tarith plains were based a lot on the prairies around my home. The two most interesting traits of prairies to me is the movement of clouds across the sky and the muted colors of different grasses. The former leads better into hinting at more ominous things to come, as Sirith can watch a storm coming in.

Once that description had run its course, I sorely needed some kind of interaction with another character. Enter the rumor-mongering of the women. Finally, since I needed to add Daelin in there somewhere, Sirith comes inside to meet him and be informed of the next step of his adventure.

Without further ado, then, I present to you the final product:

The Prose

Clouds scudded fast across the skies of Tarith. You could see a storm a long way coming, long before it ruffled the heads of the wild prairie grass, rattled through the corn and bean stalks, pelted its rain across the sod and thatch roofs of Hillet. The little farming village was tucked in between two rolls of the plains, out of sight and out of mind of much of the world.

Sirith sat atop one of those sod roofs, watching the storm come in. He was supposed to be out tending to the neighbor’s cows, but he didn’t much like the neighbor, seeing as how the neighbor didn’t much like him. The colors of the storm danced in slow motion to the west, shades of blue, gray, yellow, and violet puffing and narrowing, casting streaks across the sky that were quickly erased again. They darkened all the while, as the arm of the storm blocked out the sunlight.

Sirith didn’t mind so much. The deepest storms made the prairie as black as duskfall, driving the roosters into crowing frenzies to call their flocks back to roost. Mothers would call for their more human children to come home too, but Sirith ignored them, on account he didn’t have a mother.

“Wild as the ilph’mar that raised him,” muttered one of the village wives as she stepped quickly up the path past Sirith’s sod cottage, tugging her white linen shawls close as if the rain was already falling.

Sirith squinted his eyes and pretended he hadn’t heard.

“You’d think Daelin would keep a better watch on him,” replied the woman’s sister, hurrying after her.

“Oh, but don’t give that old ranger so much fault!” the first woman replied. “Battle fatigue, they call it. I heard the miller talking. The wars displaced so many from Avaliet. It’s a wonder the man hasn’t gotten more scars on him than those on his face – and in his heart.”

“Just taking that boy in would be enough to give someone battle fatigue!” The sister laughed, an unkind cackle that was punctuated by a rumble of thunder. The wife gave a little shriek, and now, both laughing at her surprise, the women hurried away.

Sirith ducked his head and slid off the roof, the yellow grass stalks growing from it softening his way. The topic of his foster father made him testy. Everyone had sympathy for Daelin the veteran, but hardly any for the foster son who had to put up with him.

He unlatched the door of his cottage and pushed it open. The inside was dark, only lit by a few windows, which Daelin normally shut against the wind. Now they were open, the one with the broken hook in the corner slapping against the house with the rising wind. Daelin must have forgotten or, more likely, simply not cared, as detritus from the farm fields scudded inside and whisked around the little two-room interior. Sirith irritably crossed over and pulled the offending shutter closed, then the others. His eyes adjusted quickly to the darkness, as all mar’s eyes did, though his were better than most.

Daelin was an ilph’mar, one of the elfin races of the northwestern forests, his skin a nutbrown and his red-brown hair streaked with white. Sirith was an akor’mar, similar in size and build, but his skin was a light dusky gray, his hair a funny silvery color that yellowed like pewter when he was in the sun too long.

 That was the human in him. If he had been a full-blooded akor’mar, he would be much darker, and he certainly wouldn’t live anywhere near Hillet, he thought viciously as he slammed the last shutter shut.

“Quiet,” came a commanding voice from the corner of the room. Sirith looked over, picking out the crouching form of his foster father next to a candle and a book. The ilph’mar frowned at him, the expression deepening the creases in his angular face.  

“It was going to blow the rain in,” Sirith protested.

“Hush!”

Daelin was clearly in one of his moods again. Sirith knew better than to argue, instead dragging over the basket of mending and fiddling with one of the ripped socks inside. One weakness of mar night vision was that details become lost in a sea of silver-gray, and Sirith had to rely more on the sensations coming through his fingertips than on what he was seeing. The cottage interior settled into silence, even while the rain began to patter on the roof and ping off the tools stacked on the deck.

“You forgot to bring the knives in again,” Daelin observed, not looking up from his book.

“They get wet anyway: every time you skin a plainsdeer with them.”

“They last longer when they are kept warm and dry,” Daelin returned sternly.

Sirith groaned and shoved himself to his feet, dumping the mending on the floor. He was halfway to the door when Daelin called him back.

“It’s too late now. Don’t let the rain in.”

“I wasn’t going to,” Sirith muttered, settling back down. He tried to find his place in the stitches he had been making on the sock, only to find he had sewed the top shut. He began ripping them out irritably when Daelin spoke again.

“In three weeks, the rains will freeze.”

Sirith bit back a sigh. Daelin was always saying things like that. Everyone assumed it was because he was an ilph’mar, much more connected to nature than the humans the two of them lived among. To Sirith’s displeasure, “everyone” was often right.

“So?” he asked.

“There’ll be time to make one last trip to Castellea before the roads ice over. I’ve arranged for you to bring Colson’s crops along with this summer’s hides.”

“I get to go to Castellea? By myself?” Sirith’s breath caught in his throat. Twice a year, spring and fall, Daelin made the trip to Castellea to trade the season’s surplus to the humans. Unlike the human farmers, Daelin kept to the ilph’mar way of hunting to fill their bellies, and it meant their cottage filled up with hides, bones, horns, and excess dried meat each year that were mostly useless to them but which the humans seemed to prize. Most years, Daelin accompanied Sirith or went by himself, but this time it sounded like Daelin was letting Sirith go alone.

“I think you are old enough now,” said Daelin simply. He turned a page in his book.

Sirith swallowed trepidation away. It tumbled into his belly where it mixed with rising excitement. Castellea was less than a week’s journey away, and most years it took them a few days longer to sell all their goods. The trade town had been growing steadily, as farmers from all over came to market their harvests. More exotic goods could also be found, as merchants travelling between the coasts of Tarith used the place as a much-needed stop-over. For Sirith, who rarely left Hillet, Castellea’s market day was the crowning event of his life, and it could only be better this year if he wouldn’t have Daelin’s crusty supervision while it happened.

“I’ll expect you back before the first snow, of course,” Daelin continued. “There’s something sour on the air coming up from the south. It’ll be a hard winter.”

Sirith nodded, ducking his head to hide his grin. Outside, the storm grew louder, and the broken shutter broke free again. Daelin got up this time to attend it, though he paused midway in closing it. He stood for a long moment, sniffing the outside air.

Sirith squinted as drizzle and more detritus swirled into his lap. A black feather with a white spot in the middle – a magpie feather – caught in the folds of clothing in the basket next to him. He reached for it, smoothing the vanes.

Daelin was watching him now with his amber eyes. He shut the window, adding a length of twine to the broken hook holding the shutters closed, then crossed over to the firepit sunken into one side of the sod house’s floor. The fire he kindled there brought light and warmth back to the room.

“You’d best depart tomorrow,” said Daelin, continuing speaking as if there hadn’t been a candlemark’s gap between this sentence and his last. He took the feather from Sirith’s hand and tossed it into the fire. When Sirith scowled at him, Daen muttered that it was a bad omen, and sat down with his book again, his back facing Sirith.

Sirith looked into the firepit, consoling himself that by this time tomorrow, he’d be well on his way to Castellea and his first adventure on his own.

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