Amber Michelle (myaru) wrote,
Amber Michelle

Fifteen years of writing - and progress, we hope. (excerpts)

I feel like I did this wrong. My selections are much longer than everyone else's. But if you're going to show a progression of any kind then shouldn't you try to pick excerpts that show more than one thing - like dialogue AND description, rather than just one of them? That's why this is long and probably tedious.


Some background:
I started writing online in June or so of 1998, right after I graduated from high school. It is also around this time I decided to write seriously. Before this, I wrote stories for my friends, or to keep myself busy over summer break, but it wasn't something I pursued with any intent - not even a hobby, because I didn't do it often enough. If I had time, I was reading instead. So yes, I liked to write, but until my senior year in high school, I also believed I was going to go to The Art Academy and train for a career as an illustrator. Writing wasn't even on the horizon! I wanted to paint book covers.

I believe my development as a writer really started in 1998, so that's where I'm starting with this meme. You'll see both fan and original work in the samples below, as well as some stuff that blurs the line a bit (e.g. stuff labeled DeM, IoM). I tried to choose work that falls into the middle of the quality spectrum for the time; in a few cases, I was able to get four consecutive years of samples about the same character and storyline, which... I'm not sure if that will help the exercise or not. But don't worry, there's ten years of other stuff to add variety.


"Final Fantasy 7: The Battle Within"
Sephiroth fic, set before the game:
Trumpets blared, confetti drifted down from the heights of Junon's buildings, and the steady drumbeats echoed SOLDIER's footsteps as the entire organization marched down the causeway. People were jammed at both sides of the street, yelling at the top of their lungs and waving at the heroes striding at the front of the line. Laurel Naora, General and founder of SOLDIER, strode at the forefront, flourishing her weapon and crimson-lined cape like she led a group of carnival fools.

"Right flank! Formation!" Barely heard above the clamor of Junon's citizens, Laurel shouted the commands and positioned her sword above her head like a mace, directing them. SOLDIER's ranks folded into a maze of interlocking diamonds behind her. The crowd's cheering only got louder.

To Sephiroth, who was striding behind her as one of the four war heroes, the events occurring around him were blessedly distant. He carried Murasame tightly under his arm, coat and hair flashing in the morning sunlight. They shouted his name, reached past the barricades to touch him, and he bore it all with as much patience as he could. The people were so fickle; one moment they were afraid of him, the next praising him.

"Xenogears, DeM canon: Cyrene post #04"

"Deus Ex Machina" was a story group in which we applied for characters, much like in an RP setting, but instead wrote full scenes and storylines on our own that all wove together into a greater story. DeM was based on Xenogears, but we created "original" characters to replace the canon ones. Cyrene = Queen Zephyr. She still rules Shevat - a flying city - although in this canon she and the other citizens trace their descent directly to Solaris.

Lacan's work was almost otherworldly in its perfection. His brushstrokes were almost invisible, his blending flawless, his pigments holding the very essence of life...... Even with centuries of dust dimming it, the painting held the same vibrancy she had sensed from *him* during their first meeting.

Not for the first time, her mind wandered to that meeting, and the sessions and numerous good times that had followed it. He had always been so nervous around her, even during his last days in her city, two years after his arrival. Yet he had been loyal, friendly...... so different from her own court of nobles and followers. She had spent more than one session just staring at his face while he worked, facinated by him.

He had never noticed.

"Xenogears, DeM canon: Cyrene post #14"
They've just gotten a letter from the Kislev government, which they're formally allied with, thanking them for aid in the war on the surface. But Cyrene never sent any aid! Hmmmmm.

Cyrene tossed the paper across the desk to Synclair, her expression stiffening into the mask she had grown all too accustomed to over the years. It had, for a moment, seemed she had been reading letters etched in fire... She may not have been up to date on every nuance of her Intelligence Service, but she knew when and where they send their agents on the surface, and why. Always why.

And they had never sent an agent to Kislev, with that information.


"What is this? Not a joke, I hope; we don't have time for that sort of thing." But she knew, from the look in his eyes, that it was no joke. "When did that letter arrive?"

"Just this morning." Synclair grimaced, taking the paper and slipping it back into its folder. "Apparently the messenger was detained by the Ethos on his way to the tower... He's lucky to have arrived without any further trouble."

"DeM canon: Cyrene #18"
It turns out that, years before FE9-10 were created, I wrote what is essentially Begnion government fic when I built up Cyrene's cast of supporting characters. She has a senate - here it's the cabinet of high ministers which has been with her since the Nisan War (~500 years), and she has an uneasy relationship with all but Synclair, because naturally they're trying to undermine her power most of the time. Shevat has been relatively safe and peaceful at the time this scene takes place, but they're still on the fringes of a war zone.

The heavy doors of her study closed with a heavy click, seeming to seal Cyrene's doom before she had so much as turned around to face the men who had followed her. Not only Synclair this time; Minister Levine, head of military command, had fallen in behind them on their way from the library to her rooms.

The situation looked yet worse... and she still didn't even know what they wanted from her yet.

"Well?" She spread her hands, eyebrows raised as they paused to look at each other. "You haven't requested this meeting for tea; what new emergency has arisen?"

"Not an emergency per se..." Levine began, folding his hands behind his back. He looked rather uncomfortable - anticipating an outburst of some sort, perhaps? "Merely confirmation of something we've been suspecting for some time. We need to know how you'd like us to proceed."

"Another war is raging over Bledavik as we speak," Synclair continued smoothly, filling in the gap after Levine's request as if he had planned this, and it was a script of some sort. "Solaris has gone on the offensive, and Kislev is losing ground slowly but surely. Reports are sparse - word has it that one of our agents has been captured, but we do not know for certain - he has been silent for a bit too long, however."

"DeM: Elanore #22"
I think Jo handled some of the sister's dialogue, but it's been so long I don't remember which sections she had a hand in. We managed to get Elly and the Fei-clone to Nisan, and were hoping to trigger some traumatic memories. The sister in this scene (Sister Grace) has recognized Elly's resemblance to the portrait of Sophia.

Elanore = Elly.
Marien = Sigurd
Rivian = Bart

Nisan was a strange experience, to say the least. It was as unlike Aave as Elanore imagined her own home city to be, wherever it was - it was lush and green, and the trees lining the walks and looming over the quaint little houses were always ruffled by a peaceful breeze. The tall, sharp rise of the mountain and the cathedral built into it dominated her gaze the moment she stepped into the city, its long shadow stretching over the walks and bridges like a reaching hand.

The peace called to her. She walked beside the Mother Grace toward its confines quite willingly, only half-wondering why it seemed such a hypnotic, enchanting sight, and the rest of the city passed by in a blur.

She was so absorbed in drinking in the view that it was only after a few minutes of walking that she realized she was alone with the sister. "Where is Marien?" Elanore glanced back, falling slightly behind Grace. "Why haven't they followed us?"

"The others will take care of them," the sister replied calmly, pausing with the young girl. "He must make arrangements for the rest of the Yggdrasil's crew before he himself may rest." Elly looked back at her, and she smiled. "I imagine he will also be having a talk with Rivian before they follow us to the cathedral."

"Suikoden: A Gesture of Appreciation"
Set during Suikoden III at some undetermined time during the second half. Percival and Borus are BFFs, of course, serving under one of the game's three protagonists, but... this fic pretty much had nothing to do with anything, and was inspired by RP.

"It'll be your fault if we're found dead in a ditch tomorrow, Percival."

The wagon clattered along the dirt road from Budehuc, axles sqeaking, wagonbed creaking ominously. It was a jarring way to travel under the best conditions, but while the march of soldiers had packed the dirt hard enough to resemble stone, their vehicle was the product of questionable remains, slapped together after the fire to haul lumber and carry what could be salvaged of the harvest. All in all Percival wasn't sure it could be trusted either, but if it could haul wood, surely it could carry two reasonable, unarmored knights to their destination in once piece.

Well, make that one reasonable knight, and two very tight blindfolds.

"Don't be silly, they'd have our heads on pikes at the very least." He leaned back against the rail, trusting good luck to keep him from breaking the thing and fulfilling Borus's prophecy. "Relax, or you're going to tempt fate. The road to Iksay is safe - we've staked enough soldiers on it to have a little security."

"Original: Blasphemy, part -1, or: A Matter of Human Experience"
This is set in a universe that Arcana and I created late in 2003. It resembles common angel myth, but we changed the rules a bit, building the world on the assumption that The Gnostics Were Right, and the god of the Old Testament is an interloper, while the true god, and the true creator (not necessarily the same being) are elsewhere. We split the cast based on who we liked to write; Raziel and Metatron were two of mine.

It was a rare occasion upon which Raziel left her library.  There were always other angels there seeking her help, and her assistants, while competent, weren't always up to the task.  It wasn't in their nature to be.  She understood that, and it was no sacrifice on /her/ part to remain within those walls with the papery whisper of books sliding off their shelves, and the musty scent of ancient paper to keep her company.  Time not spent helping guests was used for studying, or writing.

There were few secrets she had not been privy to.  Her book was legend even among the angels, and half the time she wasn't quite sure how to feel about that.  They always /watched/ her when she left the library, and their eyes inevitably strayed to the book in her arms.  Everyone wanted it.  Information about almost anything could be found between its covers.

But 'almost anything' was the problem.  There was a small bit of creation the book did /not/ contain, and that problem was what led her to leave the safety of her home and venture into the university's garden to follow a path few dared to tread.  Oh, it looked peaceful enough, and the sparkling gravel bordering the stone path was pretty, but the angel waiting at the end of it - the poor, unsuspecting angel - wasn't someone she felt at ease visiting.

//Hello, Metatron.  I'm here to drag you down to earth for a few hours.  You don't mind, do you?//

"Original: The Sealed Door"
An AU of my own story, written for a challenge month at [community profile] 31_days. This is the beginning, so there's not much to explain, except that it's fantasy. Big surprise.

Peculiar things were whispered about the boy Kamion's birth.  The stones of the temple sang, they said.  The moon hid her face from view.  Many were still torn on the matter of those omens; were they good, were they bad?  Temple tradition said one thing, and the legends of the land said another.  Cut off from its southern kin, the current masters of the church, conquerors in the beginning, were now as torn on the matter as the native population.  The old priest his father took council with, always shrouded in a snowy cloak, and usually very forthcoming about such things as old legends and magic, had remained mysteriously silent on the matter.

Kamion himself had never believed the stories.  Stones didn't sing, and the fading of the moon was a natural thing, happening over and over again in a plodding, predictable monthly pattern.  They worked him as hard as any of the other children, and pounded his mind into a gibbering mess with their classes.  He wasn't any different from the others.

But he was a frail child, and his condition got no better with age.  He rarely fell sick.  On occasion he sleepwalked, inspiring nervous whispers and odd looks - legend said sleepwalking was an evil thing, wrought by spirits who learned to wrest control of the living.  Again, he didn't believe.  He was good with healing prayers, and thought he would be even better at magic, if only they'd let him try.  Mages were strong-minded people.

He was fifteen when he fell sick with a fever for the very first time, and he swore the air hummed around him.  The very stones seemed to vibrate, like an oversized tuning fork struck with a baton.  And he couldn't help but wonder if this is what they meant when they said the walls sang.

"Original: A Dance of Sparks"
This is set in a world in which an immortal race - basically elves, mixed up with dryads a bit - is strictly segregated based on how much of the original blood they have. Designations like full-blood, half, and quarter are all-important in their society. But they're cut off from their source, which means they're cut off from their immortality, so there are always ambitious people going to look for it. Quintaris is one of these, and her research indicated that their Source is an ancient tree, and that people who haven't been cut off from the Source share their souls with trees. They're supposed to be pretty far on their quest to find that information, at the point this fragment takes place.

/Fascinating./ Quintaris kept her touch light, only the tips of her fingers brushing the rough-woven bark of the tree. Dry leaves crunched underfoot when she crept closer. "You see? It's burning inside, just like I thought it would."

"But I don't feel anything." Yumiel's hand dropped to her side and Lillana, hovering at her shoulder, grabbed it in her own.

Quintaris sighed. Was it the half blood? Or maybe just a lack of perception, something that could be trained into the girl if they worked hard enough. She was a quick enough study in matters of culture and etiquette. "This tree is hiding a node of energy - what we've been calling 'sparks' for lack of a better term." The bark shivered and shifted beneath her fingers, like a cat shifting its fur after being pet, and she pulled her hand back hastily.

"Does it know we're /here/?" Lillana whispered. "Mama said--"

"Enough with what your mother used to say," Quintaris snapped. "We're here to gather /facts/, not to run from her superstitions."

"Complicated provenance: A Clockwork Snare, chapter 1"
This is set in the world of Valkyrie Profile, but the majority of characters are original - every single important one, at least - with only Jelanda and Lawfer making appearances from the canon cast. It counts as an AU, and yet so much of it is original material that I could easily change the names and have a legit novel. So I don't know what to call it.

Kytha created the Raeger character, but my interpretation here is about as different as it can be and still resemble the original.

The piece she'd chosen was meant to accompany other instruments, so Raeger imagined what she could as she played. Full orchestral performances were rare in Artolia, and she'd only seen one once as a child, during a trip to Flenceburg with her real mother. She'd had family there, and supposed that was still true, but her father refused to fund a trip there. Too close to the border with Crell Monferaigne, he said. Too expensive. Lucy wouldn't want to go - 'Lucy,' the one Raeger had called Mother since five. She preferred it when Father didn't name her at all.

Raeger played until she hit a snag, then went back to play the part she missed again, and then again. Ingild had loved writing long, difficult passages, and she wasn't so good at keeping up with them sometimes. It was easy to loathe the creation of the thirty-second note and everything that lay beyond, which she most certainly did, but she went over it until she began to get it right, until the wood feeding the fire crumbled to ashes and the flames flared for a moment before shrinking. She was up to throw another chunk of wood in before she thought, and only paused when there was a sharp, staccato knock at the door.

'Come in,' was on the tip of her tongue, but the door opened before Raeger could utter a word, and Elise came bounding in quickly, and leaned back against the door to shut it. Her shiver spoke volumes, but not as sharply as the draft that came in after her.

"I thought I heard you in here." Shaking her ringlets out and tucking a silk ribbon into her sleeve, Elise hurried over to the harpsicord bench and dropped onto the bench without a scrap of grace, shivering again. "Ingild? Ugh." She gathered the music in a messy stack and dropped them onto the table, rifling through the folio. "Let me see..."

"Saiunkoku: A Wolf Among the Roses"
This was written for the crackfic challenge at the Saiun comm - it's a noir-ish AU in which Ensei is a private investigator hired by the Kou clan to look into a little problem of theirs. Saiunkoku is set in a world closest to the Han Chinese court (I think? Maybe Tang?), so the tone change is definitely cracktastic.

Reishin pulled a fan from his belt and spread the blades with a flick of his wrist. "We have some connections with the assassin known as the Black Wolf," he said.

Ensei couldn't stop his eyes from bugging. "The-- You mean--"

"Yes, that one." The lord's lip curled. "Someone has discovered this, and is attempting to blackmail me. Your job is to find the evidence he claims to have in his possession and destroy it. If possible, learn who put him up to this, though there is little doubt of that to my mind."

"You know who? Or suspect." The other man nodded, and Ensei scratched his chin. "What does he want?"

"Shuurei's hand in marriage."

Ensei let out a low whistle. Yeah, that was a killer. The Kou princess was a high class woman, and whoever grabbed her would have the family in the palm of their hand.

"Original: The Lady of Primrose Mansion"
This is set in the Heian era, though I will probably move the timeline a bit earlier when I start a new draft. In this section the main character, Yugao, is a child, chasing a cat out past the confines of her room - outside of supervision, more importantly. The chase leads her outside, where she is definitely never supposed to go, and she runs into two guests she's definitely not supposed to see.

I didn't see father at all, but two men I didn't know. Mother didn't consort with my father's guests. My nurse and the other maids served food on occasion, but they wouldn't say anything to me except Lord Konoe was a handsome one and did you see how he flirted? at his age! -- all quite useless information. These two were in court dress, tall hats pinned to their heads, white outer robes, and red kimono peeking from underneath. The younger one was on the steps to the verandah, and his father - their features were alike - was a few steps back, his fan open. Perhaps he was gazing at the barren branches of our maples before I interrupted them.

"You battle a powerful foe," the younger said, stepping up. "Do you need help?"

My face felt hot. The winter air was stifling. "No."

The kitten's hind legs found purchase on my layered collar and leaped from my grasp. I heard him land somewhere behind me and spun on my knees to watch him disappear in the shadows to the north, back to our rooms. I got up and ran after him, the young man's laughter pursuing me into the shadows.

When I caught up to the little troublemaker I pulled him into my arms again and carried him back. "I can't believe you. Look at how you've embarrassed us both!"

"Original: The Golden Sigil"
The novel I worked on for 2010. This story is old - high-school-old, something I came up with when thinly-veiled Catholic Church references and time travel were not cliche to me. The setting is a temple school in a country which was conquered and stripped of its culture over several centuries. Amira has been doing research on the (forbidden) native alphabet with her friend, and in this scene a stranger everyone in the temple knows as "the exile" is trying to give her information that will help their studies, though of course no one is supposed to know they're doing it.

The alphabet is magical, and the excerpt is modeled on a story about the Hebrew alphabet from The Zohar, but like many things in this draft, it is not presented very neatly.

"Take it, or I'll deliver it myself."

She snatched the paper from his hand. "And if I don't give it to her?"

The man turned his back to her, hands tucking into his sleeves again, and strolled away from the row of lights, back toward the shadows behind Sophia's wings. "She'll figure it out."

If she'd figure it out anyway, Amira wanted to say, why bother with a note-- and why give it to her, rather than leaving it in their room, or tucking it into one of Ceri's baskets down at the infirmary, where she was sure to find it? His white robes made his figure hard to follow, and she only knew he disappeared into the shadows northwest because the moon had risen and cast a sliver of white light past the towers to limn the edges of the ivy leaves curling their tendrils into storage crades and cracks in the stone. There shouldn't be an open doors back there, but the same could be said of suspiciously-dressed visitors in the dormitory. Amira stared at the bone-white paper, the precise folds - as if someone had pressed them with their nails - and unfolded it to read, hoping the man was watching.

Aleta shared none of their flaws. Beta always preceded deception. Kafta could not shed the taint of mens' deeds done in her name. Daleta could not lift her gaze from her own sadness--

Amira's brows knit. The alphabet? The narrative went from beta, the first, to teta the twenty-sixth, and then back to Aleta, who Amira couldn't place in any of the stories she'd had copied from Johan's library. Were they names for archons - ceremonial names, perhaps? Or was the story related to the scroll they'd just acquired, which Amira hadn't had time to examine yet?

"Tales of Symphonia: Weak Link"
Set during the game, but I don't think I had any idea when.

"We'd have gotten back sooner," Genis was saying, looking up to watch a heron fly over them on awkward wings, "but Raine had to copy the inscription, and she rewrote it three times. She got that bump on her head because she was trying to read while she walked."

Mithos didn't have to fake his laugh. "My sister once tripped over her own feet trying to get to a rare strain of elfroot. I believe you."

They talked about sisters and their weird habits until they got to the shore and jumped the fence to sit under a tree some way off, where they wouldn't be bothered by seagulls. Pine needles prickled his hands and poked through his clothes when he sat down and leaned back against the trunk. He used to like the thick sap smell of pines, but the day was so hot even the tree felt warm, and the scent was as cloying as rotting fruit without the crystal to dull it.

"Silmarillion: Rival"
One of many scenes I ditched for a reason, but this is the most inoffensive part... I guess. Maglor overheard comparisons between himself and Daeron while out on errands about the camp near Himring, and kind of banged things around a bit when back in the tent he shares with his brother. He is understandably distracted. :P

"The miners still haven't located the markers left by our scouts," Macalaure said, repeating what the blacksmith told him earlier. "They worry the signs might have been disturbed by orcs."

"Curufinwe will be unhappy," Maitimo said, sheathing his blade and folding the cloth. His brow remained aloft, and he slanted a glance back to Macalaure. "I didn't expect you to take it so hard." He frowned, and tried to make it severe. Instead of an apology, his brother snorted and leaned over the wooden chest where he kept his clothing. "Carnistir throws things about, brother, and Tyelkormo grumbles and yells. You? Never. So spit it out-- what made you angry?"

"Nothing," Macalaure said, and didn't think it came out too quickly. At least, his brother didn't look up again. He appeared to be refolding something. "I'm not angry."

"You're just upset."

"You know what I mean!" It came out almost tremulous, dangerously close to a whine. Macalaure sighed sharply and stalked over to sit on his cot. "Stop teasing me."

Maitimo lifted a hand, smoothed his hair. Again, he smiled at the resulting frown. "Tell me how your day went, then."


This took forever. :/ Not touching 2013 yet.

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Tags: #04, #14, #18, #22, public: writing
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