On the Decision to Delay by a Month: A Post-reflection on Book 06

A disclaimer: This post contains no major spoilers for Book 06: THE SONG OF A LITTLE GHOST.

Well…nothing major at least. You can check it out here:
https://www.amazon.com/Adrian-P./e/B019E9NKMW/


Book 06 took seven months, and that makes it the longest I’ve taken to finish a book. I initially planned to release it on mid-June, but I wasn’t satisfied with the story at all. Why? Here are the reasons, and how I solved the problems.

1. THE PROLOGUE FAILED TO SET THE BOOK’S TONE

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To prospective writers out there, note this carefully: PROLOGUE IS CONSIDERED A TABOO BY MANY. This has become an unspoken rule by creative writers as many often uses it incorrectly. Here are the few ways of using a prologue wrongly:

  1. To introduce the novel’s world, universe, and the rules governing it through dumping information. This is a bad prologue; one that casual readers (read: most people) would definitely skip. Why? Because it doesn’t kick-start the plot, and the beginning chapter of a novel is supposed to be the hook, the one that grabs readers to the book from the very first sentence. 

    ExampleOnce upon a time, there was a school of magicians named Hogwarts. Many used wands to cast their magic, and the students were divided into four houses…

    Imagine if that is the introduction to Harry Potter. No surprises. No capacity to awe the reader in the middle of the story. Dumped all the info in the beginning.
    You have to diffuse information about the world throughout the story. This is tricky to do for speculative fiction (Fantasy and Sci-Fi) because there’s a lot to explain about the world. Spec-Fiction readers are trained to be tolerant of long narratives, so info-dumping now and then is fine.

    But even the placement within the narrative has to be in context such that readers won’t realise they’re being info-dumped by the author. Doing this in the prologue is just slapping it in the reader’s face.

  2. Just a plain replacement for Chapter 1. Why name it a prologue? Just make it Chapter 1.
  3. Doesn’t tie-in directly to the story. This is also a form of info-dumping I mentioned in 1).  Unless a straight line of relevance can be drawn directly to the main story, then it is info-dumping of the worst kind: an unnecessary one.
  4. Doesn’t hook the readers.

My mistake in the initial draft is a combination of 3) and 4), but mostly the latter. It was only three pages and it was extremely rushed. I did not take my time to introduce the characters in the prologue and all that’s left after finishing the three pages was a weird after-taste. It was an attempt at hooking the readers, but I slung the hook so fast that the fishing line broke from the abrupt force.

Yeah, weird analogy there–but you get what I mean right? 😀

For those who’ve read my books would notice that I structure the series in Act, Book, Chapter, and Parts. 5 Acts of 5 books each, which has 5 chapters each. This is part of my mission to revive the Greek Tragedy, which is a powerful form of art and literature almost extinguished today by the mass commercialisation of entertainment. A Prologue is an integral part of a Greek Tragedy.

 

2. SEVERE LACKING IN EMOTIONALITY

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The main objective of The Silent Assassin series is a not to escape out of our harsh reality, but to deep dive further into it. I find that a futuristic setting–Science Fiction–trumps other genre as a medium to provide a solid platform of, but the problem lies with the fact that Sci-Fi is a genre, that is, it’s subject to personal preference.

This is the reason why I invested so much in designing characters, and why I insisted that there be no aliens or fantastic creatures: every character has to be human, so that reader’s relatability can be jacked up to the absolute maximum. Don’t get me wrong, I love good alien characters (Garrus best Mass Effect buddy), but it is humans that I want to assess thoroughly in this series.

Even knowing the above, I wrote a completely lifeless first draft. There were twists and turns and drama, but it failed to capture the emotions of the character. I held back on the theme and made a story  that’s “tame” enough as not to offend people.

Then I remembered the purpose of The Silent Assassin series, and in particular this Book 06:

A blatant challenge to the status quo’s morality.

So I decided to rewrite it and go all-out.

I had written the draft using an entirely mechanical method (which is partly responsible for the lifelessness of the end product), and thus, I relied on emotions to rewrite everything. Positive emotions. Negative emotions. Recollecting every memory I’ve had from past to present and paint them on the page using words.

Only then I was satisfied. The characters finally manifested themselves. Here are some excerpts from book 06 that I wrote during these “emotional overdrive”.

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There are many others, but I can’t show them all here, can I? 😀

IN CONCLUSION

I have hard set date for Book 06 which was mid-June, but I delayed it to end of July because the initial draft didn’t feel right.

I’m slightly radical in this, but in literature (or any kind of art, really), a piece that you yourself don’t consider perfect should never be published. We are inherently biased towards our own work; so if we ourselves are unsatisfied with it, can you imagine how others would react?

Delay your work’s completion for as long as it takes if your goal isn’t commercialisation. A work is only complete when you truly feel it’s complete.

And always tell a story taken from the depth of your psyche. A writing is only as good as the amount of soul it has absorbed from its writer.

 

AP

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A New Interactive Website

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Check out The Silent Assassin series new website! Its a rich interactive site full of additional complementary contents, such as detailed analysis of The Crowned Confederacy and The Cypriot Brotherhood.

For those seeking deeper immersions into The Silent Assassin universe:

https://projectsilentassas.wixsite.com/thesilentassassin

 

Avengers IW Review (No Spoiler)

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I decided to write this review because as a writer, I consider this film shockingly good. I never thought I’d ever say this about a Marvel film.

The previous Marvel films I praised a lot, Captain America Winter Soldier and Civil War, didn’t even come close to the praise I give to Infinity War.

THE GOOD

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  • Antagonist with complex characterisation. Unlike most of Marvel films, Thanos is more than just a generic villain with a vision to conquer/destroy the world. His motives for doing what he does is actually extremely well-justified. Given the power, situation, and emotion, as a person I might actually embark on the same journey (perhaps for a less radical end-goal, but nevertheless within the same framework).

    I cannot stress this enough, but both the main protagonist and the main antagonist of a great story must have character arcs of themselves, and in the process, must be extremely complex. This is the pitfall of many films (not just the superhero genre).I’ll come back to this topic later, because I have a huge criticism in this characterisation aspect of the film.
  • Not a brainless film. Again, unlike most Marvel films, Infinity War actually got me thinking and pondering a lot throughout the run time. Not just once I caught myself muttering “What the hell is going on?” and “Why did XXX do that? For what reason?”This just shows how much thought is put in the writing: how complex the knots holding the plotlines together are.And if you know me personally, you’ll know that this is an extremely huge praise for me to give.

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  • Controversial theme. This is related to the first point I made. I was shocked to discover that a Marvel film actually went all the way to share the antagonist’s world view and justifies it (actually justifying it properly, not some lame motive you can shrug instantly for being cliche). Here I thought it’s supposed to be family friendly!Well it still is, but the theme is actually quite messed up when you philosophically ponder through.
  • Great graphics. They improved the CG a lot. CGI characters look much more realistic here.
  • Unexpected cameos. Yeah, I can’t really say anything about this without betraying the “non-spoiler” nature of this review.Image result for infinity war
  • No happy ending. This I cannot stress enough as a good aspect of the film. Stories with happy endings might satisfy our crave for “positive vibe”(?), but tragic dramas are where all the life lessons lie.And I applaud Marvel for this. It’s one of the longest Marvel films so far, and they respect the audience enough not to let the film be just another escapism entertainment.Well that, and they want to sell tickets for Infinity War part 2. Can’t say anything more 😀

THE BAD

Criticism is always the exciting part, isn’t it?

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  • Too. Many. Protagonists. I understand that this is an ensemble project, but the absence of a main main protagonist is robbing a lot of emotional tensions out of the window (more about this on the next point).The closest thing you’ll get to a main protagonist is actually Vision. Watch the film, and you’ll understand why.
  • Potentially amazing emotional scenes are poorly executed. Which is such a teeth-gritter, because these scenes can be extremely powerful when some minor adjustments are made, such as timing and pacing, but it just didn’t happen.Again, this is also a consequence of having no main protagonist. The audience isn’t given the time invest themselves enough in the shoe of one particular character, so we can only involve ourselves as an observer, not a participant, to whatever event unfolded.
  • Some scenes are rushed. But it’s probably impossible to lag the pacing any further, since there are so many characters and the film is already more than two hours long.

Conclusion

Avengers: Infinity War isn’t a typical escapism entertainment. It is a tragic drama with plenty of thought-provoking aspects unexpected from a superhero-genre film. Most of it’s pitfalls came not from the core of storytelling or commercial aspect of the industry (which most superhero movie often guilty of), but from the intense restriction and condition of an ensemble film with limited screen time.

We need more tragic dramas in the pop scene like Infinity War. Unlike typical escapism entertainments, it has the capacity to teach, and unlike non-fiction, it doesn’t divorce the lessons from the human components.

 

Hands down the best film in the cinematic universe. Kudos to the writers.

Self-Analysis: Why Book 05 is Better than the previous Four.

The question in the title is something I’ve been pondering for a while. Sure, I might be getting “better” at writing (whatever that means), but that is not exactly a satisfactory answer. If I did something right, I need to make sure to capitalise on it for the upcoming volumes.

So I spent a few days re-reading the five volumes, and discovered the following attributes unique to Book 05: When Sea Burns.

NOTE: I’ll try to be as spoiler-free as possible.

#1 ) The climax of the first act

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Brotherhood Fleet Voina’s Main Commanding Officers (Left-to-Right: Bobbi Braun, Denis Khristoforovich Lavrov, Horlix Aurellus Leonard, Karina Pribylova)

Everything that the series is building up, they materialise on this volume. From the prologue of Book 01, to the deceptively insignificant details peppered throughout the volumes (which turns out to matter a lot), are finally forming a bigger picture of what the universe and the series is all about.

Even to those who has not read the previous books, these details turns out to form a very solid background story. It is solid, because every “background story” actually happened in the previous books—not merely an author’s after-thought to justify the plot.

#2 ) It qualifies as a standalone book

Like I’ve pointed out in above point #1), there are enough solid details and background stories to actually support the volume as its own story. This is why some reviewers who’ve only read the book for the first time are able to appreciate it in depth.

#3 ) High point of character development

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Jonathan Mills pinning Audi towards a wall cave

If you’ve read the books, you would’ve noticed that Audi Prabian’s attitude towards life, humanity, and the world in general, is radically different from the beginning of Book 01. This is continually shaped by the events of Book 05 by his encounter with the antagonist, Denis Khristoforovich Lavrov.

Furthermore, the protagonist’s character undergo multiple shocks as a result of his interactions with the other main characters, namely Nagisawa Chizuru, Jane Drake, and Jonathan Mills.

#4) Personal and Direct Conflict Between Protagonist and Antagonist

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An excerpt from Book 05, detailing exchange between Denis and Audi.

Unlike the previous books, the protagonist is not fighting the antagonist simply because he wanted to stop his army. Audi’s conflict with Denis is personal. Both see each other’s person as a threat to their world. In fact, Audi couldn’t care less if The Brotherhood loses or wins, only that Denis is finally defeated.

This adds a personal stake to the characters, as every feeling from hatred to respect are concentrated solely on one individual, instead of an abstract vastness of an entire army or nation.

#5) The Antagonist is not “evil”

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Denis is as far from evil as you can get. He is a man with a tragic past, which helps form his motivations, fears, and convictions. His motivations and convictions allowed him to march forward and eventually led to a clash with the protagonist, but his fears kept him from becoming less than human.

Flip the point-of-view, and Denis actually qualifies as a hero and protagonist.

#6) The favour of the battle is heavily skewed towards the antagonist

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Audi Prabian has no time to get injured.

 

In Book 01 and Book 02, Audi has the support of Nagisawa Corporation. In Book 03 and Book 04, Audi has the backing of the entire Crowned Confederacy Military Sector.

Not so in Book 05.

With only three companions, Audi must fight against Denis and his entire Brotherhood army. It only makes matter worse that Denis wields one of the strongest “superpower” in the series. So, even a one-on-one battle is still quite a bit of hell to go through for a powerless Audi.

#7) The Superpower “Bionika” unveils its colours and varieties

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The War Maidens, Brotherhood Fleet Voina’s Elite Force. (Left-to-Right: Henrietta Dubrovskaya, Bobbi Braun, Jenica Temnikova, Galya Shvanova)

Bionika superpower is something that the previous four books kept veiled and hidden. Almost everyone (except Jane Drake) who possesses it tried their best not to wield them. However, Book 05 changed all that.

With the Brotherhood coming at full force, the mightiest of its Bionika wielders came forth. From Denis’ space manipulation to Bobbi’s gravity manipulation, the battlefield becomes something entirely different. As a powerless person, the protagonist must use his wit and strategic maneuver to triumph over these unnatural forces – and that’s actually quite fun to follow.

 

Concluding Remarks

Book 05 isn’t without criticism. One reviewer actually expressed her disappointment on how the core writing techniques isn’t as great as the other elements of the story. I took notice of this, and I’ve decided to take a little contemplation and self-improvement lesson on this.

Another point is the expectation that follows from people who’ve read Book 05. Book 06 is coming in the middle of this year (June 15 – actual middle of the year, and in the middle of the month itself), but I need to make sure it doesn’t fall short of expectation. It’s going to be a challenge, since the battle will be less explosive and more of an intellectual one.

But on the bright side, people on Instagram and Pixiv are highly receptive to the antagonist of Book 06: Charlotte Payne. So that, I will make sure to capitalise.

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Never Do To Impress; Always Do To Express. — A Writer’s Reflection Piece.

 

Autumn 2009 marked the birth of The Silent Assassin series, and its parent was boredom.

I entered an old building in my university campus with a friend. He carried a backpack like everyone else, which made me the oddest folk of the bunch. Since childhood I’ve always hated backpacks and the freedom it deprived off my shoulders, which brought me to a fated meeting with messenger bags. It burdens only one shoulder, and the weight hangs freely on the side. Sure, it lacks backpacks’ capacity, but what need of capacity when I live in a campus dorm just few metres away?

“Have you tried today’s questions?” he asked as we entered the classroom.

I nodded. “It’s not hard, but Material Science topics require quite a bit of reading.”

That’s right. I was an engineering student, a degree I bailed several years later in favour of economics, but not without snatching several wisdom off the discipline. That was a late afternoon class, and I’ve studied everything the tutor had to say. I’ve no reason to show up, had attendance not been marked and compulsory.

The aircon’s hum was particularly loud, the kind of hum that siphons our willpower to stay up. But I can’t sleep. It was a small class, the tutor would surely notice if I dozed off. So I opened my notebook and started doodling. I remembered the faces of friends, old and new, and started grouping them into two different factions. These people are horny bastards so they’re in a team, I told myself as I drew stick figures of several friends. Fighting against them are these…other less perverted bunch only when compared with the former ones.

Through the half-hour class, I ended up creating two factions at war with another. Each faction has a leader assigned and unique governance systems. I thought little of it. It was a fun doodling session. I knew I was bored.

But I didn’t know what’ll come up from this boredom.

That was the birth of The Silent Assassin series’ two defining civilisation: The Crowned Confederacy of Mankind and The Cypriot Brotherhood. 

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From Joke to Lifetime Project

The Silent Assassin begun as a satire of my friends. Even the titular character was named so as a tribute for the corresponding person’s skill of picking up in nightclubs without anyone else noticing. “Silent but deadly,” as another friend described him while echoing a laughter.

However, my discovery of the works of a Japanese writer changed all that.

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Gen Urobuchi introduced me to philosophy.

Urobuchi was widely known as the George R.R. Martin of anime. His works are dark, violent, and gritty, but what makes him different from other gory writers is the depth of theme he explored in each of his works. More than the violent death of characters and often twisted universe he created, Urobuchi attacked ideals and notions that most people took for granted, and showed that these values and common senses are built upon assumptions that are at best folly.

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Through Urobuchi, I delved into the works of philosophers, particularly Socrates and Friedrich Nietzsche. Combined with my academic study in Engineering, Economics, and Finance, I discovered that there are so many things, too many things, that people have been taking for granted. The millennial thirst in the entrepreneurship and startup scene, the way corporation works, even to the silliest down-to-earth topic like romance. A lot of common senses we incorporated into decisions are based on fallible assumptions, and that’s damaging the way society develops.

And that’s how I turned back to The Silent Assassin series.

I noticed that The Silent Assassin series provide an extremely good premise to explore these topics. I have a main protagonist who loathes the world for what it is, and other main characters who represent different values in themselves, living in a world where two major civilisation with opposing ideologies are about to clash.

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This is the reason why I decided to push The Silent Assassin series to its limit.

“Why don’t I just write non-fiction? Why through narrative?”

An antagonist from one of Gen Urobuchi’s story sums it up perfectly:

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In other words, stories are the most natural way of conveying ideas without risking losing the human component, as many non-fiction books and online articles are prone to fall into.


But everyone gave me a red flag about writing, all the way from close friends to randoms on internet. Some friends told me: “You should do something cool to attract chicks instead of writing and drawing, why don’t you try hip hop dancing?”

At the time, that advise was a powerful one since I was in a difficult phase in my love life. But not long after, I met up with my childhood friend whom I know for almost two decades. He told me one of the most powerful advice that changes the way I see the world:

“Never do anything to impress others. Always do something to express yourself.”

This quote seems simple at the time, but its resonance lasted until this very second. It’s a quote that empowered my decision to continue writing, and moreover, it became a core foundation of the philosophical idea I’m developing through writing The Silent Assassin series.

The biggest irony, though, is the fact that my friend was trying to justify his genuine passion for hip-hop dancing.

Thanks dude. Never got the chance to express my gratitude for this. 😀 

A Journey of Perpetual Learning

Life is not without difficulty. There’s been several ups and downs since I first conceptualize the series in Autumn 2009. People come and goes. The world hits left and right. Even my writing journey knows how to pummel back and forth.

People won’t care what you write if you have no name.

People won’t care what you write if they have no time.

There’s been several times I’ve questioned the purpose of me doing this. What’s the point of writing if nobody’s going to read it? What’s the point of writing if nobody’s going to care about it? What’s the point of writing if nobody’s going to give some sort of praise for it?

And that’s where I stopped.

That’s when I recalled what my childhood friend told me.

“Never do anything to impress others. Always do something to express yourself.”

I had forgotten why I write in the first place. It’s an expression of thought, not an attempt to impress the world. It’s a mission of purpose, not to attract attention. Every time I lost hope, every time I lost the energy to study and continue writing, I kept reminding myself: Never do to impress. Always do to express. Never do to impress. Always do to express.

This gave me the energy and willpower to go through interdisciplinary studies. Using my academic background in Engineering, Finance, and Economics, I translated these sciences into subjects of philosophy, sociology, and history. The unique combinations of these disciplines allowed me to analyse deeper into the abyss of society’s construct, and allowed me to fight off biases that people usually have concerning these topics.

I kept myself a small notebook filled with maxims and short thoughts, which I carry everywhere I go. Whenever I became lost, I kept referring to this notebook. One time, it even saved me from giving up on love. Sounds corny and melodramatic? It is, I admit. But ask me personally, and I’ll tell you how simple and realistic the tale truly is.


Concluding Remarks of a Self-Reflection

Do not write if you don’t want to live in hell.

Here are some facts about writing you need to know:

  1. You need to have patience. Nobody would instantly care about your writing the moment you put it out into the world. It’s meant to be a long-haul.
  2. You need to have perseverance. People would put you down for writing and telling you it’s useless and not profitable.
  3. It’s nothing close to ‘cool’ and ‘dandy’. Nobody’s going to look at a guy who spends his time sitting in front of laptop whole day and spends his weekends reading and walking around with a notebook then think: “That’s hot.” And please don’t be a writer if you’re still a virgin, you ain’t going to lose it. Try music or business consultancy.

Writing is not for people who have some random idea they want to write and share for a bit. A cliche saying goes: “Everyone has a book in them.” But as Christopher Hitchens put it:

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The difficulty of journey in a writer’s life will automatically filter out people who are not made for writing. You want to profit from writing? Too bad, writing is a heck of a bad business model.  You want to impress people into thinking you’re cool for writing? Too bad, it’s not. You want to turn writing into a hobby? You can, but stay at a level where it is a hobby, for anything further will grind you to dust.

But write if you want to change the world.

Without the writings of ancient Greek, India, and China, medieval Islam will never develop their sciences and falsafah. Without the writings of medieval Islamic Science and philosophy, European Renaissance will never have occurred. Without the writings of European renaissance pioneers, the modern science and social science would never have been born.

Write and think, if your goal in life goes beyond self-preservation and self-enrichment. In a world where wisdom is dwindling and shallow individualism is rising like today, we need more people like you.

Educate people. Soothe them from life’s stress. Share your insight. Create characters people can relate to.

Never do to impress. Always do to express.

Adrian P.