At age sixteen, Mink Jollè still hasn’t discovered his Elemental affinity, which is an identity crisis unheard of on the planet Georra. He has endured constant bullying while being held back in school, and his parents have come to employ drastic measures to help him mature. Their current ruse is a camping trip on Rift Ridge, where they test Mink to the breaking point, to no avail. Meanwhile, Mink and his parents run across a Machinist scout searching out a mother lode of ore, who finds more than he bargains for. An immense geode buried deep in the ground is fabled to be the Tear of God, and the first nation to claim it will hold power and protection unrivaled on Georra. The race is on as Mink’s parents stand guard at the Tear of God, sending Mink back to his homeland for help. Defying the odds and surprising himself, Mink succeeds in delivering the news to his people, and is chosen to assist a Team in returning to the site to relieve his parents and acquire the Tear of God for Octernal. Along the way, Mink is forced to rely on his strengths without an Element in order to win respect and ultimately discover his true identity.
This section shows a bit of frivolity during the adventure back to claim the Tear of God. No matter how dire the circumstances, there's always time and opportunity to enjoy oneself. More importantly for Mink, this particular stretch deepens his friendship with Trale. As a writer, I get to add a few more splashes of details about Elemental life, but the focus was letting the characters (and the readers) have a little fun before it's too late.
After a brief consult with Mink, Tolrin offers him some advice that he isn't ready to hear. Mink has based his whole life on the reasonable expectation that his peers reject him because of his inability to determine his Elemental affinity. What Mink had never considered is the way his behavior was being perceived by those who don't know him. This serves as a turning point in character development as Mink begins to receive positive reinforcement for making an attempt to open himself to others.
At this point in the story, Mink is having to answer questions from the High Council. Finally, his uncle Durren, who is a Senior Advocate, has a turn to cross examine him. This part was fun to write and not only served as a recap of information, but gave a lot of new information about how the government works and what it takes to impress Elementalists who are well acquainted with what we would call superhuman powers and paranormal phenomenon.
This is the part where Nyam gives Mink the vision enhancement called, Tunnel Vision. For what Mink is about to do, it's a necessary encumbrance. As disorienting as seeing this way is at first, Mink finds a way to cope fairly quickly. This shows another layer of life as an Elementalist. Certain effects require the use of other effects to make them more effective. We can appreciate how the lack of immediacy for their powers to work creates as much strain as benefit at times.
This excerpt comes from a conversation between Mink and Gyov, his long-time crush. They're at the breakfast table with other members of their Cells, but everyone else seems to be too wrapped up in the debate between science and theology to pay them any mind. Of course the apparent mutual feelings make Mink over-the-moon happy, but readers know that it only makes more complications for Mink. It was harder than I thought as a writer to make the confession/conversation age-appropriate for the characters and also something bearable for readers to get through. It wasn't even until around the tenth draft that I started putting in the dialog from the debate.
Having Mink's parents test him to try to finally determine his Elemental affinity granted me a lot of room to explore the Spirit and Body Elements. In this excerpt alone I am able to demonstrate multiple Body uses. Nyam is able to determine how much damage Mink has taken and heal the damage. What she is doing is very destructive, so she also put an effect on Mink that made it so the damage wouldn't hurt and would be contained. At the end of it all, dispelling her effects returns Mink to his normal state of being. There are many other effects Body users can do, but these definitely show a practical side to the Element. Additionally, the scene has a sort of dark comedy to it. There are some amusing situations involved, and neither character seem disturbed by what is going on. That, in and of itself, is disturbing. What Nyam is doing to her son crosses way over the line of abuse. Even if it's meant to be for Mink's own good, there is a comfort in harming her son that no mother should have. Nyam is more upset by her failure, than blasting craters in and with her son.
During an innocent enough detour, Mink gets jumped by bullies on his way to give Jure's message to the High Council. As much as he can out-think his opponents, his inexperience with using Elemental effects leaves him completely overwhelmed. Not to mention he's outnumbered four to one. In this excerpt, I was able to show many things. It's a good example of how Elemental types affect each other in a fight. It shows similarities in how bullying exists between our worlds, as well as differences in how one kid would attack another. This isn't just pushing around, intimidating, or humiliating. They are out to hurt Mink. Mostly, this passage shows how well Mink can think under duress, setting up a truth of his character that will carry far into the series.
Before Mink and Nyam reached the chamber of the Tear of God, they had to run through the tunnels and subterranean chambers under Rift Ridge. Time being of great importance (and Nyam has no patience), they do so much too fast for Mink's liking. Mink, being harnessed to Nyam's back, doesn't have any choice. To avoid wandering aimlessly, Jure is relaying information from the Machinist scout's memory and Mink is filtering the information with his own. Being opposing Elemental types, Jure and Nyam need Mink to act as a go between with Silent Signal Fire. Not only does this excerpt show how Elemental use works, but also how they work around limitations. The other little tidbit of info here is a reminder of their urgency. Their enemies have the advantage and could react at any moment.
On the first night of the rescue mission, Mink discovers that his life-long friend Pulti has also been invited along. This continues on the subplot of the love triangle, but also demonstrates some more details of Elemental use, specifically in regards to the Body Element. Pulti has been heretofore unaware of the details of Mink's journey. This is an opportunity to recap some important points, but rather than spend too many words rewriting the story, I get to fold in some new information and fresh perspectives. Pulti's presence, along with Blin's, also affords me the chance to show a mix of Mink's former interactions with the new. I opted not to use any flashbacks because the pace of the story needed to stay on track.
Elemental use on Georra has more to do with function than battle. Just like any tool, the Elements can be used for battle and become quite dangerous, but that's not their purpose. This excerpt further demonstrates that. Here the group has been laboring for the greater part of the day into the night to create a pass through the mountain range on the way back to where Mink found a Tear of God. Sapo's Elemental use is shown to be restorative and then Alre's helps them continue on in spite of darkness. This scene also shows more of how chants work, even in combination.
On Georra, every Elemental type has its own Movement effect. Sledding for Wood users, and Slip Skate for Water users. This excerpt shows both of them as Mink's Cell is getting ready to set out. It's important to note that not all Movement effects increase speed, or are even about moving the user's Body. I will, however, go ahead and tell you that the Primary Elemental Square users' Movement is slower than the Derivative Elemental Square users' Movement. This scene also shows the chant for Slip Skate. The Penbik twins are able to keep their Movement effect active because it only works when they Unify with their Sleds (scooters in this case), but Sapo has to Dispel her Movement effect when not in use and perform the chant when she wants to start it. This all shows aspects of Elemental life without pausing the action for exposition. Very little of the Elementalists' effects are for combat. It's just their way of life.
In this passage, Nyam, Mink's mother, teaches Mink how to use her Body Movement effect, Quick Legs. Quick Legs is a self effect, but through direct contact with the Tear of God, Nyam was able to figure out a way to add implementation to the effect. Mink obviously has more training to do, but I like thinking about this scene through Nyam's perspective. She's spent at least the last twelve years concerned about her son's lack of Elemental affinity, and now she gets to teach him how to use one of her most useful effects. Even though there are more character, relationship, Elemental use, worldbuilding, and plot development aspects to this excerpt, it's really just a gratuitous share for Mother's Day. Happy Mother's Day to you lucky ones. May you all have the opportunity to share some privileged knowledge and a few tricks to your children.
Here readers are introduced to the other members of Mink's Cell. The treatment Mink receives here is no different than he has dealt with most of his life. Knowing Mink was going to have to spend the next few days with these people and trying to win them over to his side, I wanted characters that felt distinct and fun to play with. Each character (even regarding the twins as two separate people) wound up being so rich, I could simply have Trale' give a look, Sapo a movement, and/or Mouke' a comment and add a lot of tone to a scene without slowing down the story. Efficient writing really contributes to the success of this book.
Part of the difficulty in writing an adventure story that takes the main character out of his/her comfort zone is that rounding out the culture of that comfort zone doesn't get much space on the page. It helped to give the other characters a life outside of the story. The more clues and references to the greater world I could use, the more the world took shape while the story was happening, rather than instead of. This particular excerpt is the moment when Mink gets pulled back into destiny after an interlude of denying his involvement. The exchange is amusing, but it underlines Mink's self-deprecating humility keeping him from respecting his role in the world's events. He is less the reluctant hero, and more the oblivious hero, more willing to give credit to those around him.
A major side-effect of Mink's Elemental lack is an absence of self worth. It affects his perspective not only on his role in the discovery of a Tear of God, but also in his hopes for romance. Though the story is told from Mink's viewpoint, I needed to write all the clues for the reader that Pulti desired Mink, but credibly leave him oblivious. In this particular excerpt, I wanted to pause and show the toll the journey had taken on Mink so far. It takes place very close to the halfway point of the story. In most narrative structures this is where the "campfire scene" takes place. I opted for a party instead for the hero to regroup and find his resolve to continue.
It is important to me to have the reader know how the Elementalists live. The more pages I can spend following Mink through his country, the more their culture becomes clear. Yet, everything is filtered through Mink, so it needs to be written from the perspective of a life-long resident. I believe it's informative enough without having to pause and explain differences between their world and ours. Sometimes, you just can't help but paint the landscape. Having Dreh take Mink to the Capitol gave me many opportunities to write more details of the Elementalist country, Octernal. I could have just had them make the trip in one sentence, but where's the fun in that?
This excerpt is rich with goodies. Has everyone heard "show, don't tell?" This is my favorite show of how Fire augments Body users. I don't really need any more explanation than this, but I also peppered the story with reminders. This section also plays as an important underline for how impossible it is for Mink's family to accomplish their goal. The odds aren't just stacked against them. What they need to do can't be done.
I still think this is one of the standout images in the book. There aren't a whole lot of Elemental effects. It's just some immense cavern, poorly lit by Mink's glow crystal. But, it still wound up becoming an awe-inspiring visual.
At last (coincidentally in Chapter 8), the Tear of God is witnessed in all of its glory. I'd say words could not describe its immensity, but... they kinda did. Quite well, I might add. As a writer, I found it difficult to work the characters into a natural-feeling pickle that would make their situation unwinnable. The size and location of the Tear of God was an important fly in the ointment. I always found it interesting to ask characters to do something, and then make it absolutely impossible to do it. It's more fun that way.
As Mink's parents prepare to verify or debunk the discovery of a Tear of God, Mink expresses his abject disbelief that such a thing could exist. He ultimately has no choice but relent to the plan. His opinion is one that bespeaks a current trend in their country of Octernal where scientific understanding has eroded religious credibility. The Tear of God itself will be shrouded in debate throughout the eight books of the series, so I had to be careful in how I defined and revealed it. It's important to me not to lie to my readers, nor string them along a path only to set them up for the okie-doke at the end. Ergo, I needed to be sure that all eight books were planned to a point of reliability and all details regarding the Tear of God would ring true and consistent.
Here, Mink's parents have to work out a solution for beating the Machinists to the punch. Mink is obviously disturbed by the direction the conversation is going, but choices seem very limited. The debate over when it's necessary to kill another person, even your enemy, is just as fraught and murky on planet Georra as here on Earth. By this point, I feel the characters in the story are developed enough to throw them a curve ball and force them into an uncomfortable place. Their ensuing reactions and decisions propel the plot, rather than have them dragged along by it. As a reader and a writer, I always feel this is more engaging. To say the least, it ushers in a point-of-no-return that causes ripples throughout the series.
This is the first time Mink has ever seen anything of the Machinists, bitter enemies of the Elementalists, in person. His introduction is one of their vehicles, an Out-World Gripper, capable of driving and parking on near vertical surfaces. It's important to note that Mink has no idea what he's looking at beyond it being some sort of specialized transportation. He has no idea how common or rare it may be. Whereas the rest of Mink's country feels that machines make people lazy and weak, Mink's lack of an Element gives him reason to be drawn to the idea of using machines. He quite simply craves a way to gain more independence, common among sixteen year olds anyway, but that much more profound in Mink.
Abuse is one of the darker themes in this book. Writing it in a way that was credible to both Georra and Earth was difficult enough to force several drafts. I felt it was important to make the characters mostly oblivious to the abuse they were participating in. The kind that escalated in a slow burn for Mink's "own good." Additionally, I couldn't break away from plot and action to stand on a soapbox and preach to the converted. My goal was for the abuse to be stylized without becoming glorified. Even these darker moments needed to add to the reader's understanding of the world and family dynamics, develop character, advance the story, and captivate imagination rather than repel.
This bubble comes after both parents fail to determine Mink's Elemental affinity. It has a good feel for family dynamics and shows familiarity among the characters even though they are covering new ground together. Also, more details of Elemental use are revealed in actions. Without going into too much detail, I had to squeeze every drop of family life out of these chapters without stopping the story to do so. World building, character development, and plot advancement working simultaneously while avoiding exposition. This is what keeps writers up late at night. It's not always as easy as it looks.
The two most unique concepts of Elemental use in the book were Spirit and Body. We don't regard them as elements, but Elementalists have held them as two of the Holy Elements for over thirty-thousand years. It worked out great to have Mink's parents represent them and demonstrate the possibilities (both positive and dangerous) of such power. I really had way too much fun developing the sense of reality to a near indifference over abilities we would consider superhuman. And yet, it was important to show where the lines were drawn. Of even greater importance, I gave Mink a perspective that probably echoed our own discomfort with what was happening with him, making him more relatable to the reader.
One of the challenges in starting the book at this particular stage of Mink's life was trying to balance out the extreme measures of the current testing by interjecting as much history of the typical, and more acceptable, methods Elementalists used to determine the Elemental affinity of their children. I further like this excerpt because it underlines the lack of choice in a very subtle way. Everyone on this planet is born into an Element. They can only accept it and grow within that Element. In Mink's case, the more than decade-long search for his affinity has left him essentially at odds with the fabric of existence.
One of the objectives from the very start of the book was to build the world in a way that read as it should from the perspective of an inhabitant, but also give clues to the larger world condition. I think this passage accomplishes that in a wonderful way.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish