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If you asked me whether I'm happy with the manuscript so far--I'd say yes. It's surprising because I've learned to expect the unexpected, but it's turned out much as I expected it would. The exception is the ending which has changed somewhat radically from what I'd envisioned earlier.
What have my latest inspirations been? One inspiration has certainly been the Final Fantasy video game series--specifically Final Fantasy XIII, which I recently finished. The imagery of that game is just amazing. It's inspired me to take some of my written scenes "to the next level" in terms of visual description.
This is a bit of a tangent, but that's one thing that has always disappointed me just a bit about Tolkien's writing. He never describes his magic in vivid detail--or maybe it's better to say that the magic in his world isn't very visual. I guess that's alright (and I would never presume to criticize a master writer!). But as a reader, I do like "special effects" in magic. So I have made sure to have some good special effects in some of the climactic confrontations in Hemlock IV.
I am also pleased with how the character arcs are developing. That's one thing that's been nearly effortless in writing this series. The characters have just fallen into place. I'd like to think that's due to some sort of serendipity, but since that assumes that I've actually done well writing the arcs, I will leave that to the reader to decide.
I'm feeling strangely cold and impartial as I preside over the final fates of certain characters. Not everything is roses and Shangri-La at the end of the story. Some characters fare worse than others, and I feel strangely detached about it. I have grown attached to these characters. Like Paul Atreides, I've asked myself "Where are my feelings"? I'm hoping it's some natural function of remaining neutral as the story evolves organically. Maybe, after a few years, I'll regret certain things about what I've written for these characters. What I can say is none of the main characters have ignoble fates. That's worth something, right?
I am anxious to complete the final chapters and move to the next phase which is beta reads. I will do my best to keep things moving because I know the wait has been too long!