495. Adam’s Story: The Point of View

For anyone new to Adam’s story, here’s an introduction.

Up to this point, I have spent the Adam’s Story series discussing elements of my story project. Today’s post, the last of the series, is a little different. It discusses not a planned element, but a possible one: a shift in the story’s point of view.

The Lance Eliot saga is framed by another story. A frame story is a narrative that sets the stage for another narrative. It’s a story within a story. (Cue the “BWAH” sound effect from Inception.) The Lance Eliot saga is presented as a manuscript written by Lance himself shortly before his death, and published posthumously. His fantastical adventures are framed by the story of Lance trying feverishly to finish his account of them.

Lance shall remain the author of his own story. What may change—I haven’t quite yet made up my mind—is not who tells the story, but when he tells it.

Shall Lance’s story remain a memoir, or become a journal?

Journals can be a great storytelling device.

In previous versions, Lance’s story was a memoir written entirely during his last days. It occurred to me recently that I might make it a journal kept during his adventures. Instead of writing three novel-length narratives at the end of his life, Lance could spend those final weeks compiling, editing, and organizing notes and journals that he had previously kept throughout his travels.

Changing the point of view offers potential benefits. It might make the story more immediate and immersive. It would no longer be the reminiscences of a man safe in his own home—it would be the writings of a man on a perilous adventure. The reader would be right there with Lance… in theory, anyway.

This change would also explain how Lance remembers word-for-word conversations and other details so perfectly: when he writes them down, the memories are days, not years, old.

On a more pragmatic note, I think it would be easier for me to write Lance’s story as a series of journal entries. It would help keep me immersed in his travels. Besides, keeping a journal, even a journal of fictional events, isn’t that different from blogging. I have a little experience blogging.

I’m attached to the old point of view for the Lance Eliot saga, but intrigued by the possibility of a new one. What do you think?

How do you think Lance should tell his story? Let us know in the comments!

486. Adam’s Story: The Themes

For anyone new to Adam’s story, here’s an introduction.

Every story means something. Patterns of meaning are called themes, and give stories greater depth and significance. The meaning of a story can be obvious, ambiguous, or deviously difficult to pin down. Heck, some people devote their entire lives to figuring out what stories mean; their profession is known as literary criticism, and it’s often a strange one.

Themes have a way of creeping into stories, insidious and ninja-like, sometimes without the author noticing. As I worked on previous versions of the Lance Eliot saga, I began to see motifs and patterns that I hadn’t planned. I was able to develop only a couple of them. It was too late to explore the rest.

I’m planning to rewrite the Lance Eliot saga from the beginning, which will allow me to explore its ideas more deliberately.

Here are four themes I plan to develop as I rewrite The Trials of Lance Eliot, the first part of my story.


Lance Eliot’s journey to the fantastical kingdom of Guardia is apparently a pointless mix-up. He was summoned instead of Lancelot, the legendary knight of Camelot, due to a careless mistake. Now he’s stranded in Guardia, torn between amazement and annoyance, and convinced his journey is meaningless.

Is it?

I preceded an earlier version of the Lance Eliot story with these words from Geoffrey Chaucer: “Alas, why is it common to complain of God or Fortune, who so often deign, hiding their foresight under many a guise, to give us better than we could devise?”

Is there a greater purpose behind Lance’s adventure, or is he struggling against the aimless workings of a blind universe?

Anything out there?

I believe every story means something, but Lance isn’t so sure.

Before his journey to Guardia, Lance studies literary criticism for one of his college courses. He doesn’t take it seriously. Literary criticism appears to invent meaning where there is none. Like the dishonest tailors in “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” it points out things that aren’t really there.

Is anything there? Is there any meaning or purpose in the universe? Lance doesn’t know, and his unexpected adventure sure isn’t helping.

Overcoming self-destructive tendencies

At first, Lance Eliot is not brave, selfless, or virtuous. As a matter of fact, he is cowardly, selfish, and pessimistic. He also has a drinking problem. Lance is a far cry from Lancelot, the pure-hearted hero.

Lance Eliot, our… hero?

Tsurugi is broken. Once a legendary soldier, he is now a war criminal, working for a rogue general as an alternative to execution. Tsurugi seems to have given up on everything: his nation, his future, and his soul.

Paz gave up a quiet life to wander the kingdom as a professional gambler. Her miraculous luck has brought her a lot of money, but luxuries as friends and family are more than she can afford. Paz travels alone, homeless, always on the defensive… and her luck is bound to run out someday.

In their own ways, these unlikely traveling companions have given up on their lives, and given in to self-destructive tendencies. Guardia faces annihilation. If our heroes want to prevent the kingdom’s destruction, they’ll have to start by preventing their own.


Guardia is a kingdom of glass. It exists in a delicate balance, suspended between two warlike empires, keeping a fragile peace. Its strong navy and military, along with its defensible borders, are all that prevent Guardia from becoming a battleground for its powerful neighbors: a kingdom reduced to blood and ashes.

Paz was named for this peace. She has spent years traveling across Guardia, and doesn’t want to see it trampled by armies. Peace can’t last forever. What will happen when it fails?

Yeah, probably.

Three of the story’s main characters, mentioned above, are searching for a different kind of peace. Lance wants to find meaning or purpose in life. Tsurugi lives in a haze of grief. Paz is restless and unfulfilled. Other characters, whom I won’t mention yet, look for peace in darker places.

If I finish the Lance Eliot saga, perhaps I’ll find a little peace of my own. Here’s hoping.

The Divine Comedy

Around the time I began working on the Lance Eliot saga in earnest, I read Dante’s Divine Comedy for the first time. I couldn’t help but notice some similarities, and decided to make them deliberate.

The first part of my story, The Trials of Lance Eliot, shall roughly parallel Inferno, which chronicles Dante’s journey through hell.

Y’know, Dante doesn’t look very heroic, either.

I hope to hit a lot of the same beats: the dark wood, Beatrice’s early influence, Virgil’s guidance, the final encounter with the Devil, and the escape to safety beneath starry skies. As its title suggests, The Trials of Lance Eliot will put its hapless protagonist through hell.

National Novel Writing Month just started, and while I’m not participating this year, it reminds me of a painful truth: The Lance Eliot saga is going to take a lot of work. Lance won’t be the only one struggling! As long as I’m on the subjects of hell and writing, I’ll conclude with a quote I’ve seen floating around the Internet:


Pretty much.

484. I ♥ Majora’s Mask: A Halloween Special, Part 2

This post concludes a two-part Halloween special. You can read Part 1 here!

Let’s pick up with the characters.

The characters

As I mentioned in Part 1, the characters in Majora’s Mask are incredibly well-developed, thanks largely to the game’s three-day cycle. Many characters have their own stories that play out over the game’s span. As the player repeats the cycle, she can get to know these characters, and can even help them.

Over the game’s three-day span, the innkeeper waits faithfully for her lost love to return. Her lover hides in shame, unable to break a curse on his body. The circus troupe leader finds out that their event is canceled; unable to face his troupe, he tries to drink away his sorrows. An orphaned rancher loses her younger sister to creatures from the sky. The postman delivers letters to the very end, shaking in terror, unable to break his dedication to deliver the mail come rain or shine—or fiery death.

I could go on, and on, and on. The characters in Majora’s Mask are staggeringly well-developed. Heck, I haven’t even mentioned the mask salesman: the only character who seems to know exactly what’s happening.


Yeah, he’s creepy. If the player watches the moon crash into the earth, the screen fades to black, only for the salesman to chuckle and ask, “You’ve met with a terrible fate, haven’t you?”

The time travel

Besides the falling moon, the land is afflicted by terrible woes, all caused by an imp wearing a mysterious mask: Majora’s Mask. The swamp reeks of poison. The mountain is caught in a deadly cold snap. Murky water fills the ocean, driving away the fish. An ancient curse fills the valley. Everywhere the player goes, things have gone wrong.

Fear not! This is a Legend of Zelda game! The player can save the day! In addition to resolving the major crises mentioned above, the player can help people on a smaller scale. Remember the characters I mentioned a few paragraphs back? The player can reunite the lovers, comfort the circus troupe leader, protect the rancher’s sister, rescue the postman, and help many more.

Here’s where things get nihilistic.

I’ve discussed the game’s three-day cycle. At some point, the player must rewind time to the dawn of the first day. Guess what happens to the people the player helped? Yep—they are back where they started. Everything resets. Whatever good the player did is undone. The only person to benefit is the player himself, who keeps whatever reward he received for helping others. Those he helped? Nah, they’re screwed.

This Sisyphean cycle reinforces a sense of helplessness. Nothing the player does really matters. Everyone is doomed anyway. Besides, the player can’t help everyone in a single three-day cycle. While she helps certain characters, the others continue to suffer. She can’t help them all.

This hopelessness makes Majora’s Mask a surprisingly dark game, especially for the Legend of Zelda series. It also makes the game’s eventual happy ending all the more cathartic and satisfying.

The unsettling moments

On top of its nihilistic tone, Majora’s Mask offers plenty of creepy moments, and even a few scares. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil them all. I’ll spoil just one.

The cursed valley of Ikana is populated by corpse-like monsters and vengeful spirits… and one little girl. Meet Pamela.


Adorable, right? Pamela is a sweet girl. She lives with her father, a paranormal researcher, in a cute little house shaped like a music box. It even plays a cheery carnival tune to drive away those pesky undead monsters. How nice!

Then, one day, something goes wrong. Something goes very wrong.

Pamela’s father gets a little too, um, wrapped up in his research. His daughter shuts him in a wardrobe in the basement. Right around this time, Pamela’s music box house stops playing its music. Monsters begin circling her home with slow, lurching steps. She locks the front door. There are monsters outside, and a monster in the basement.

Fortunately for Pamela, this is right when the player arrives to save the day… assuming the player isn’t busy saving the day somewhere else on this particular three-day cycle. (If that’s the case… rest in peace, Pamela.) The player reactivates the music box, drives away the ghouls, and sneaks into the house when Pamela isn’t looking—only to find a monstrous mad scientist in the basement.

The scene itself is pretty scary. When the player looks at it from Pamela’s point of view, it’s much scarier. It’s scariest to realize that she (presumably) dies a horrible death every single time the player spends the three-day cycle helping other characters.

This is the kind of thing that scares me about Majora’s Mask. I don’t find more traditional horror games all that scary. Jump scares? Zombies? Whatever. Majora’s Mask takes a more insidious, Lovecraftian approach, and it scares me more than practically any other game I’ve played.

The humor

Majora’s Mask balances its bleak tone and occasional scares with surprising amounts of heart and humor.

The innkeeper’s grandmother is perfectly sane, but feigns senility in order to avoid eating her granddaughter’s lousy cooking. A cutthroat thief prances daintily instead of walking, even when fleeing the scene of a crime. The local mapmaker, Tingle, is convinced he’s a forest fairy… despite being merely a thirty-five-year-old man wearing red briefs.


Majora’s Mask is frequently surreal, but not always in spooky ways. Its weird touches are sometimes endearing, even heartwarming, providing comic relief in a story that might otherwise be too dark.

Everything else

There’s so much I haven’t mentioned. This is a game with pirates, spirit foxes, Yorkshire Terriers, aliens, bobblehead cows, and a monstrous mechanical goat. Majora’s Mask is the very best kind of bonkers. It’s also designed with the same brilliance and loving care as the other greatest Legend of Zelda games, despite taking only one year to make.

This follow-up to The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time had to do the impossible: live up to expectations set by a game considered by many, even to this day, the best ever made. Majora’s Mask did the impossible. It’s better than its legendary predecessor.

I consider Ocarina of Time the greater game of the two. It broke new ground. It was amazing first. However, Majora’s Mask is the better game of the two. It’s superior in practically every way.

It’s also pretty freaking scary. Happy Halloween, everybody.

483. I ♥ Majora’s Mask: A Halloween Special, Part 1

Halloween is nearly here. All across the United States of America, pumpkins are carved to look like severed heads. (Halloween is a weird holiday, man.) Horror movies flood theaters and fill bargain bins. ‘Tis the season for scares. Even the US government is participating—this year’s presidential election is positively frightening.

What better time could there be to discuss the scariest game I’ve ever played?


I’ve wanted to write about this game for a long time—more than a year, in fact—but never found the right opportunity. With this blog ending in a couple of months and Halloween just around the corner, this seemed like the right time. I began writing. When I realized my ramblings were too long for one blog post, I decided to split it in two parts and call it a Halloween special. Every blog needs a holiday special at some point, right?

On the surface, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask doesn’t look like a scary game. Its visual are bright and colorful. Its world seems like a generic fantasy setting populated by generic video game characters. Heck, the game received the most child-friendly rating from the ESRBEVERYONE. (To be fair, the recent 3DS remake got a slightly higher EVERYONE 10+ rating, which is still pretty mild.) Don’t be fooled. This game is creepy as all heck.

Majora’s Mask is a game in the Legend of Zelda series, which consists mostly of lighthearted, well-crafted adventures. Zelda games are known not only for their legendary (no pun intended, I swear) quality, but also for their humor, charm, and kid-friendly action. Majora’s Mask is different. It has all the charm and humor of other Zelda games, but without their positive tone. Its tone is one of bleak, gnawing nihilism.

Believe it or not, I love this game. I ♥ Majora’s Mask. Can we put that phrase on a bumper sticker? Let’s put it on a bumper sticker.


Why do I love this game? Oh, let me count the ways.

The moon

Most Legend of Zelda games follow a predictable formula: an evil sorcerer endangers a damsel, and the hero Link must save the day—generally by going on a quest to obtain the Master Sword, a holy weapon. Various Zelda games play with this formula, but seldom stray from it.

Majora’s Mask completely abandons the formula. It doesn’t task the player with rescuing a princess. Nope. The player must prevent a freakin’ moon from crashing into the land and annihilating literally everything. For reasons never explained, the moon has a face, which is frozen in an expression of rage. It’s a surreal touch, and kinda creepy.


As days pass in the game, the moon draws nearer and nearer the earth. Every time the player looks upward, there it is, a looming reminder that the end is near. Characters in the game react to their inexorable doom with a convincing range of emotional responses: apprehension, denial, panic, grief, resignation, defiance, and getting drunk on milk.

The player has only three days to stop the moon. Fortunately, the player is given the power to rewind time… only to watch the moon fall again, and again, and again. Characters repeat their cycles of grief and panic. And if the player doesn’t travel back in time before the moon hits the earth, well, it ends badly.


I hope you don’t mind watching a celestial body annihilate an entire land and everyone in it. Game over, man.

The masks

As its title suggests, Majora’s Mask makes masks an integral game mechanic. By wearing different masks, the player assumes different forms, each with its own set of powers.


The plant-like Deku form lets the player glide through the air. The rotund Goron form gives the power to roll around like a runaway tire, and the sleek Zora form zips through water with graceful ease. These mask transformations would be cool as mere game mechanics, but each one also represents a story.

Each mask transforms the player into the likeness of a character who died with regrets. The Deku child became separated from his father and died alone. The Goron died in an unsuccessful attempt to save his people, and the Zora perished trying to save his true love’s unborn children. The player earns each mask by healing its owner’s soul and easing his regret; when the spirit rests in peace, the mask is left behind.

It’s a beautifully macabre twist on a game mechanic that’s already pretty sweet.

Come back on Friday for Part 2 of this Halloween special!

480. Adam’s Story: The Politics

For anyone new to Adam’s story, here’s an introduction.

I’m tired of real-life politics at the moment, so why don’t we talk about fictional politics instead?

If we have to discuss a bad political situation, let’s at least look at a fictional one.

In previous versions of the Lance Eliot saga, the politics of my imaginary kingdom were simplistic. This time around, I want to craft a more complex political situation for Lance and his companions to navigate.

If this sounds boring, don’t worry! The Lance Eliot saga shan’t be a political thriller, but an adventure story with a sprinkling of political drama. I’m still planning dragons, swordfights, and Other Cool Stuff that I won’t discuss yet; it shan’t all be politics! I just want to create a setting for Lance’s adventures that’s more believable than a generic fairy-tale kingdom.

The Lance Eliot saga takes place mostly on Fyrel, an hourglass-shaped continent in the world of Gea. The northern and southern landmasses are joined at the equator by an isthmus. This strip of land, bordered by ocean on the east and west, is the kingdom of Guardia: a gateway between the northern and southern lands.

I’m working on an updated map for Guardia. For now, here’s the map I used for previous versions of the Lance Eliot story.

Guardia is bordered by two vast empires: Tyria to the north, and Sanguin to the south. These world powers expanded over centuries to completely conquer the northern and southern landmasses. Only the ocean and the little kingdom of Guardia separate them.

For such a small nation, Guardia is remarkably defensible. Its northern border is largely blocked by mountains and dense jungles; the southern border consists mostly of mountains, deserts, and dangerous marshes. The south is also bordered by a narrow strip of territory known as the Noman’s Land: a lawless neutral zone.

Thanks to its place between two empires, Guardia regulates trade and traffic between North and South. Money, goods, merchants, and travelers—all carefully supervised—flow through the kingdom like sand through the neck of an hourglass. Guardia’s economy, built painstakingly over centuries, depends almost entirely on trade.

The healthy economy funds a strong navy and military to protect the kingdom. Guardia exists in a delicate balance, suspended between two warlike empires, trusting neither, but depending on both.

Tyria and Sanguin are both eager to expand, but conquest is earned by war, and Guardia is the only avenue through which war can be fought. As long as it remains free, shielded by its hostile terrain and strong military, Tyria and Sanguin can’t attack each other.* These empires are locked in a cold war. If either declares war on Guardia itself as a prelude to further conquests, the other empire will immediately fight to defend it.

It’s sort of like the Cold War, but without the nukes.

Guardia’s status as a merchant nation, protected by its military and impenetrable borders, are all that prevents a world war.

None of this has anything to do with Lance Eliot. He doesn’t really care—he’s just a college student in a little Indiana town. Guardia’s politics are not his problem. Gea isn’t even his world. His journey to Gea was a mistake: a supernatural screw-up by someone who tried to invoke Lancelot, the hero of Camelot, but got Lance instead.

Lance Eliot was summoned to Guardia on the order of Eisen, a military leader forced into early retirement by Demas, the King. Eisen retreated to the city of Faurum and founded the Guardian Peace Committee. The purpose of this secret society is to maintain Guardia’s independence, preventing war between the North and South.

King Demas has reigned for decades, keeping the peace with both empires, but rumors have reached Eisen that the King is considering a secret deal to surrender Guardia to Tyria in exchange for personal favors. If Tyria annexes Guardia, Sanguin will retaliate, and war will erupt.

If the King is not stopped, Guardia will become a battleground: a land of blood and ashes trampled by armies.

Eisen doesn’t have a lot of resources. The Guardian Peace Committee has only a small military force of its own. (This includes Tsurugi, a disgraced soldier in Eisen’s service.) With few options, Eisen employs the supernatural gifts of a young woman, Maia, to search beyond Gea for someone—anyone—who can help.

Lancelot can help, right? Right?!

Enter Lancelot of Camelot. By all accounts, this legendary knight of Earth possessed both martial prowess and political savvy. If Maia can use her powers to summon Lancelot and break the language barrier, perhaps he can offer Eisen support, or at least some advice.

Of course, Maia makes the mistake of summoning Lance Eliot instead of Lancelot, and the rest is history… or shall be history once I get around to writing it.

*Neither Tyria nor Sanguin can wage war with the other entirely by sea: it’s far too costly to transport entire armies, with provisions and war machines, hundreds of miles in boats. Apart from the dangers of sea travel, any force small enough to travel in ships would be quickly outnumbered in enemy territory, unable to retreat. The only viable strategy for waging war is through Guardia.

474. Adam’s Story: The Lore

For anyone new to Adam’s story, here’s an introduction.

Today we take a look at the lore and mythos underlying my story project. Let’s start at the beginning—the very beginning. There’s a lot of fictional history and made-up legends here, so brace yourself!

Lance Eliot finds himself stranded in the kingdom of Guardia, which lies upon the equator of a world called Gea. The origins of this fantastical place are shrouded in uncertainty. Only legends and fragments of history have survived, preserved in folktales and the sacred writings of the Vigil, Guardia’s predominant religion.

Over time, Lance learns more about the lore and history of Gea. (That’s pronounced “HEY-uh,” by the way.) Its recorded history goes back only centuries; beyond that, only myths and religious accounts remain.

According to the scriptures of the Vigilant religion, there exists a being of infinite wisdom and power known as El. (The Vigil ascribes further titles to him, such as El Enthroned and He Who Is.) El created many worlds in many universes, and Gea was one of these worlds. It doesn’t exist in the same universe as our Earth, but in one connected to it—a sister universe, so to speak.

Looking good, sis!

Gea follows our laws of physics, with the addition of a metaphysical force known as aer. This natural energy pervades everything. (It’s similar to our own concept of qi, and to a lesser extent of magic; Lance speculates these may represent a distorted understanding of aer.) Gifted individuals known as aerists can channel aer to perform supernatural feats. These include sending or summoning objects—or people, as Lance learns the hard way—from one universe to another.

The people of Gea are not indigenous to it, or even to its universe! An ancient event known as the World-storm transported thousands of people to Gea from past ages of Earth. (This might accounts for some of the missing people across our own history.) These interplanetary castaways were the ancestors of Gea’s people, and gleams of our own cultures and languages can still be seen in theirs.

The cause of the World-storm is not known. The Vigil claims it was a miracle by which El brought new life to Gea. Secular scholars theorize irregular movements of aer or cosmic rifts between universes. Whatever its cause, the World-storm left Gea with a faint connection to Earth, to which we, here on Earth, remain mostly oblivious. However, some of Gea’s realities are echoed in the mythologies of Earth, such as dragons and other monsters.

Here there be dragons.

The writings of the Vigilant religion, known collectively as the Book of El, yield no further insight on the creation of Gea or the cause of the World-storm; after these early chapters, its history leaps forward centuries to the founding of the kingdom of Guardia, whose history is mostly corroborated by other texts. The only clues about the intervening dark ages come from myths and legends of dubious historical accuracy.

An ancient myth claims Gea, among all other worlds, was created for a unique purpose: Gea is a divinely-appointed vessel, a cosmic container for… something.

Over centuries, many questioned the nature of that which is allegedly hidden deep within Gea. Poets, prophets, and philosophers speculated, but to no avail. Some claimed Gea contains a treasure of immeasurable worth, or a cache of heavenly wisdom. Others, less optimistic, believed Gea is not a vessel for treasure, but a prison for some powerful demon or devastating catastrophe. Theories abound, but there are no answers.

Other myths tell stories of the dark ages of Gea, filling its blank pages with legends and fairy tales. One such myth claims that a race of celestial creatures ruled Gea long before the World-storm brought human beings to the planet. Ruins dot the landscape of Guardia, predating the World-storm, but nobody is sure of their origin.

Who built these? I didn’t build these. Did you build these?

The Vigil emphasizes the importance of guarding Gea, especially Guardia, from harm, hence the religion’s name. According to the Vigil, El entrusted the kingdom to the gods or archangels known as the Twelve Seraphs. These divine servants are honored in Guardia with shrines and festivals; each Seraph is considered the patron of specific groups, in the manner of patron saints here on Earth.

Guardian folk tales often represent the Twelve Seraphs and their dealings with mortals. Of particular interest to Lance are the stories of Dove Thistle-head, a folk hero who supposedly planted gardens and groves all over Guardia, and outsmarted even the Seraphs in her quest to help Guardia’s people.

Lance is skeptical of Guardia’s myths and religious writings, but remains interested in them. Who knows? There might be some truth in them somewhere. In the end, it hardly matters—Lance has bigger things to worry about!

470. Adam’s Story: The Characters

For anyone new to Adam’s story, here’s an introduction.

Here’s a look at the five most important characters in my story project, with GLORIOUS CONCEPT ART by the talented Sabina K! (There’s also a bonus picture from JK Riki!) I’ve been excited for this post for a really long time, and today is the day I finally get to share it with you. Here we go!

Lance (TMTF version)

Lance Santiago Eliot is a college student in the little town of Crossroads, Indiana. His plans to go home for Christmas are rudely interrupted by a journey to a strange new place: the kingdom of Guardia, a land of magic and monsters, teetering on the brink of war. Lance isn’t exactly pleased by this unexpected adventure. He isn’t a hero. He’s a timid guy who hates shaving, plays video games, and loves coffee—a beverage that doesn’t seem to exist in this other universe. The sooner he can go home, the better… but getting home might be harder than he expects.

Fun fact: Lance Eliot is Ecuadorian American, and fluent in both English and Spanish. He uses Spanish mostly for cursing, though.

Eisen (TMTF version)

To all appearances, Eisen is a former military leader living out his retirement in the luxurious heights of Faurum, the Golden City of Guardia. Lance knows better: Eisen is actually the Chairman of the Guardian Peace Committee, a group plotting the overthrow of Guardia’s king. Eisen claims it’s the only way to prevent all-out war, but Lance isn’t convinced. After all, Eisen gave the order that brought Lance to Guardia, so Lance has a hard time trusting him. Eisen prides himself on his neat appearance, dressing in the old-fashioned suits and uniforms of his military days despite the warm climate. Although he smiles constantly, he seems more polite than sincere.

Fun fact: Eisen always wears dark glasses, even indoors. He claims they prevent his chronic headaches. They give him a slightly sinister appearance.

Note for veteran readers: Eisen replaces the Kana character from previous versions of Lance Eliot’s story.

Maia (TMTF version)

Maia is an aerist: a person born with the ability to channel aer, a cosmic energy Lance defines as “basically magic.” Maia is technically an aerist in training, but she’s getting there, really! She’s already mastered Linguamancy, the discipline of tongues, and she’s working really hard on Vocomancy, the discipline of summoning. I mean, she summoned Lance to Guardia all the way from Crossroads, Indiana! (She was actually under orders to summon Lancelot, the legendary knight of Camelot, but got Lance Eliot instead. Whoops!) Maia is upbeat, friendly, and easily excited, but seems to have a hard time taking anything seriously.

Fun fact: Despite her childlike personality, Maia is exceptionally intelligent and well-read. Her interests range from contemporary fashion to ancient lore and history.

Tsurugi (TMTF version)

When Lance leaves Faurum, Tsurugi accompanies him as an escort. Lance is both intrigued and irritated by this silent soldier. What mysteries lie behind that blank face and those shifty eyes? Lance’s speculations are soon interrupted by ugly facts: Tsurugi is a war criminal working for Eisen as an alternative to execution. Tsurugi seems tired, even broken, yet hasn’t lost his edge—his military prowess is legendary. Lance suspects there’s more to his story, but Tsurugi isn’t talking.

Fun fact: Tsurugi wears a military uniform with one unusual addition: a red bandana, which he often wears around his face. The bright color is very poor camouflage for a soldier, but Lance knows better than to question it.

Paz (TMTF version)

Paz is a professional gambler, and she’s eerily good at it. She travels alone, making money in pubs and saloons all over Guardia, and hitting the road before anyone can ask too many questions. When asked why she never seems to lose, she insists she’s “just lucky.” Experience has taught Paz to act tough around strangers. In good company, however, she’s friendly and kindhearted. Paz has mastered many survival skills, including self-defense, but doesn’t have much schooling. After all, if you’re lucky enough to profit from every hand of cards and roll of the dice, do you really need a formal education?

Fun fact: Paz has picked up all kinds of hobbies to keep herself entertained on her solitary travels. In addition to cards for solitaire, she always has a book or two in her pack; when she finishes one book, she trades it for another in the next town she visits. Paz also carves trinkets and figurines out of wood. Since wood is neither expensive nor hard to find, woodcarving is the perfect hobby for a traveler!

Note for veteran readers: Paz replaces the Regis character from previous versions of Lance Eliot’s story.

Courtesy of JK Riki, here’s a bonus picture of Paz:

Paz alt (TMTF version)

That’s all for today! My next post in this series may cover the story’s lore or geography, or maybe some of its less important characters. I’ll work on it.

Thanks for reading!

(Before concluding, I want to thank Sabina and JK once again for their time, patience, and amazing talent. Working with each of you was a pleasure and a privilege. Thank you!)

460. Adam’s Story: The Premise

For anyone new to Adam’s story, here’s an introduction.

We begin with the basics today. The finer points of story planning really ought to wait until I’ve said a thing or two about my story’s fundamental premise.

Here we go.


Death! What a cheerful way to start a story.

Lance Eliot is dying, and he’s not terribly happy about it. Death is unexpectedly complicated. (Seriously, have you ever tried it? The legal paperwork is horrendous.) As he resignedly puts his affairs in order, Lance sits down to write a memoir of his adventures. He doesn’t expect anyone to believe it, but his story deserves to be told, and he’ll tell it if it’s the last thing he does… which it probably will be. Man, death is a nuisance.

This is his story.

Long before his death, Lance Eliot is a college student in the little town of Crossroads, Indiana. He’s eager to go home for Christmas break, but one thing stands in his way. He must confront a professor nicknamed the Skeleton—a gaunt, ill-tempered instructor of literary criticism—and plead for a passing grade in his class.

After a torturous discussion of Dante’s Inferno, Lance escapes the Skeleton, staggers to the nearest coffee shop, and buys a drink. Then, with no warning whatsoever, he disappears from Crossroads and reappears in a strange new world. Lance is lost and alone. Worst of all, when he vanished, he left behind his drink.

Spiritual coffee

Never mind Lance dying. Losing his coffee is the real tragedy here.

Lance eventually learns that he was transported to this unfamiliar world by an arcane power called aer… or as he puts it, “basically magic.” He’s now stranded in the kingdom of Guardia, a tropical nation tucked between two vast empires. Its society is antiquated, but not primitive; Lance later compares it to the Renaissance.

In some ways, Guadia seems too fantastical to be true. Aer, that mystical power, is channeled by a gifted few known as aerists. Stories abound of El Enthroned, the Greater God, and of his servants, the Twelve Seraphs. Dragons exist, apparently. Lance is skeptical, and not exactly pleased. “I’m stranded in a fantasy novel,” he grumbles. “Great.”

His mood only worsens when he learns why he was brought to Guardia. The kingdom stands upon the brink of annihilation. A young aerist, eager to help, tried to summon Lancelot, the legendary knight of Camelot… but got Lance Eliot instead. It’s hard to say who’s more upset: Lance Eliot, or the people who got him instead of the hero they wanted.

Now trapped in Guardia, Lance must face many trials to find a way home, and he’ll have to do it all without coffee. Even if he manages to get back to Crossroads, he’ll still have to face the Skeleton. Lance would frankly rather face the dragons.

Thus begins begins the story of Lance Eliot, which is also kind of my story. I did name this series of blog posts Adam’s Story for a reason, y’know. The next post in the series will probably focus on the setting or characters. We’ll see.

Thanks for reading!

456. TMTF’s Top Ten Dragons

A while back, TMTF ran a top ten list of hot guys in fiction—guys who are literally hot, I mean. As I made the list, I was strongly tempted to fill it with fire-breathing dragons. I eventually wrote about other fiery characters, saving the dragons for a future top ten list.

That time has come. Today is a day of dragons.

Well, I won’t let this introduction dragon—sorry; drag on—any longer. There’s no claws, um, cause for further delays. These dragons hail from tails, I mean, tales of all kinds, old and new. (Heck, am I ever ember-rassed—embarrassed, I mean—by these dragon puns. I thought they were clever, but the scales have fallen from my eyes… so to speak.)

Feel the heat, ladies and gentlemen, as TMTF presents…

The TMTF List of Top Ten Dragons!

Be ye warned: Here there be dragons, and also spoilers.

Before we begin, a quick note: I considered including Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwock on this list, but it’s clearly not a dragon. It’s a Jabberwock. There’s a difference… I think.

10. Elliott (Pete’s Dragon)


In this classic Disney film, Elliott is the dim-witted but well-meaning protector of Pete, an orphaned boy. Elliott communicates in good-natured grumbles, mumbles, and clicks. He can also turn invisible, which allows him to hide from grownups (and made less work for the film’s animators). Nearly everyone assumes Pete’s dragon is an imaginary friend, but that doesn’t stop him from being a faithful one. A remake of Pete’s Dragon will soon be released, but its oddly furry Elliott won’t replace the lovably derpy original.

9. Trogdor the Burninator (Homestar Runner)

Trogdor the Burninator

Have you ever wanted to draw a dragon? It’s easy! Just follow Strong Bad’s simple, step-by-step instructions—and witness the creation of a beloved Internet icon. Trogdor the Burninator began on a sheet of notebook paper as the letter S, followed by teeth, “spinities,” angry eyebrows, and a beefy arm “for good measure.” This silly sketch quickly spawned a cheesy death metal song and a couple of browser games, and went on to become one of the Internet’s most enduring memes. Strong Bad puts it well: “When the land is in ruin … only one guy will remain. My money’s on Trogdor.”

8. Ran and Shaw (Avatar: The Last Airbender)

Ran and Shaw

There are basically two types of dragons. The Western dragon, rooted in European folklore, is a fierce beast. The Eastern dragon, born of Asian mythologies, is nobler and wiser. These dragons are that second type. Ran and Shaw are godlike creatures who guard the secrets of firebending, an ancient martial art. They are silent and mysterious, helping only those who prove themselves worthy, and adding to the fascinating lore of my all-time favorite show.

7. Mushu (Disney’s Mulan)


I just declared Eastern dragons wise and noble, but Mushu is an exception to the rule. This tiny dragon is sent to aid the heroine of Disney’s Mulan by the spirits of her ancestors. (They meant to send a bigger dragon, but Mushu went instead.) This irreverent spitfire is full of bad ideas, but his heart is in the right place. Forget Malificent. In this story of war and loss, Mushu makes us laugh, and earns his place as Disney’s best dragon.

6. Spike (My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic)

Spike the dragon

This young dragon is a dude in a world of candy-colored ponies, and he knows it. He survives as any self-respecting male does when surrounded by emotional females: he makes sarcastic remarks. Behind the snark is a kid who is in turn earnest, selfish, thoughtful, and insecure. In a couple of unexpectedly deep episodes, Spike comes to terms with his identity: neither a pony nor a typical dragon, belonging to neither group, yet finding acceptance in both. And did I mention his deadpan snark? Spike may not be the most consistent character ever written, but I like him.

5. Eustace Clarence Scrubb (The Voyage of the Dawn Treader)

Eustace the dragon

By the time the Dawn Treader, a ship battered by wind and waves, reaches the safety of a deserted island, Eustace Clarence Scrubb is sick of everything. This ill-tempered brat abandons his fellow passengers and goes for a long walk, which ends with a nap on a dragon’s abandoned treasure. He awakes, in the fine tradition of Gregor Samsa, transformed into a monstrous vermin—a dragon, actually. This outward change is horrifying, but prompts a positive inward transformation. As a dragon, Eustace finds his humanity, and eventually regains his human form in a scene that echoes the redemptive grace of Jesus Christ. Eustace may be only a temporary dragon, but he’s quite a good one.

4. Hungarian Horntail (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire)

Hungarian Horntail

In the Harry Potter series, the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry is notable partly for training witches and wizards, but mostly for child endangerment. (A troll and a three-headed dog in the first book alone? Really?!) By the fourth book, Hogwarts has made child endangerment into a formal competition with the Tri-Wizard Tournament, in which teenagers face giant freakin’ dragons. (No wonder Harry Potter is controversial.) The spiked Hungarian Horntail is the deadliest of these, giving Trogdor some serious competition in the “spinities” department. I love how the various species of dragons in the Harry Potter books seem so believable, with different breeds having different countries of origin; the Hungarian Horntail is the coolest by far.

3. The Dragon (Beowulf)

We’re dipping into the classics here with the unnamed dragon from Beowulf, the Old English epic. (I recommend the poem; it’s fairly short, and modern-language translations are surprisingly readable.) After conquering a couple of frightful monsters, Beowulf finally meets his match in this dragon, and dies shortly after killing it. This beast made literary history. According to Wikipedia, it’s an early archetype of the Western dragon, establishing classic traits such as hoarding treasure and breathing fire. John Gardner’s novel Grendel adds its own interpretation of the Beowulf dragon, depicting it as a nihilistic philosopher. Huh.

2. Toothless (How to Train Your Dragon)


Toothless is basically my cat, but even more adorable. He can also fly and shoot concentrated blasts of explosive energy, which I’m pretty sure my cat can’t do. In the film How to Train Your Dragon, the Viking lad Hiccup defies his culture by refusing to kill this injured dragon. The dragon, which Hiccup names Toothless, rewards his compassion with fierce loyalty and adorable affection. In the original book, Toothless is actually kind of a jerk; this is a rare case in which the movie is way better than the book. Toothless is cuter than your average dragon, which makes him pretty much perfect.

1. Smaug (The Hobbit)

Smaug [alt]

Yes, Smaug is number one on this list. Of course he is. Inspired by the Beowulf dragon, Smaug is the ultimate example of his kind: cruel, vindictive, petty, vicious, powerful, and scary as all heck. After destroying an entire kingdom, he haunts the land for many long years. The entire story of The Hobbit builds up to Smaug, and it doesn’t end with him: Smaug’s death ignites a battle between three armies, which is interrupted by legions of goblins eager to claim the dragon’s hoard. Even in death, Smaug causes all kinds of horror, and I consider him the greatest dragon ever imagined.

Who is your favorite dragon? Fire away in the comments!

454. Adam’s Story: Introduction

A new series of posts begins today. As this blog stumbles doggedly toward its final post, I’m planning my next big personal project. I want to rewrite a story. I speak, of course, of the Lance Eliot saga: a trilogy of fantasies, and a dream I’ve chased for more than a decade. At this point, I have no delusions of grandeur, fame, or literary excellence. I just want to get the damned thing written.

Sooner or later, every creative person reaches a point at which he just wants to scream and shake things—preferably sharp, pointy things. (Art by JK Riki.)

A while back, when I wondered whether to discuss my story here, nobody raised any objections, so here we are. I’m not sure how often I’ll publish posts about the Lance Eliot saga, but they won’t take over TMTF or anything. This blog’s regularly scheduled nonsense shall continue!

I’ve decided to title this series Adam’s Story. I considered longer titles, like Adam’s Story Project, and more specific ones, like The Lance Eliot Saga, but settled on a title that’s short, sweet, and personal. After all, Adam’s Story refers to more than a story I want to write. It is also my story, the story of Adam, who has spent (or misspent; the jury’s still out) an alarming number of hours making up stories about a guy named Lance Eliot.

I’m actually really excited to write about the Lance Eliot saga, for at least five reasons.

  1. It will let me work on two things—this blog and story planning—at the same time, and with the same effort. How efficient!
  2. It will provide, I hope, a smooth transition from writing a blog to writing the story itself.
  3. It will force me to be a bit more disciplined. I can’t write about an aspect of the story until I’ve made sufficient progress in planning it, so I won’t be able to skip steps or cut corners!
  4. It will allow me to express my enthusiasm for the Lance Eliot saga, and to spread awareness of it. Every bit helps!
  5. It will allow me to share some of my ideas. Even if I’m not able to finish the Lance Eliot saga, at least I will have gotten some of its details out of my head.

I’m currently rereading the latest version of the story’s first part, the one I published a few years ago, and it… needs a lot of work. Heck, it needs a lot of work.

This is a picture of me throwing away the torn-up pieces of my story’s published version. Hold on, my mistake, it’s actually that version’s cover. How… apropos.

The new version won’t be anything special, but I hope to make it much better than previous ones.

Will I publish my story? I don’t know. I haven’t planned that far ahead. I’ve stopped calling the Lance Eliot saga “my book project,” and begun referring to it as “my story project.” I should probably write it before I think about publication, and I should probably plan it before I start writing.

As I plan the Lance Eliot saga, each post in the Adam’s Story series shall focus on an aspect of it. Relax, there won’t be any huge spoilers here. That said, there will be small spoilers, but nothing past the story’s earlier chapters.

Here are some of my ideas for posts about my fantasy and its world.


I have to lay out the basics at some point, right? There won’t be any massive reveals here: just the early stuff!


There’s obviously a character named Lance Eliot. This post shall share a few more.


The setting is changing from previous versions of the story. I hope to make it more unique, with more details from personal experiences, and fewer generic fantasy elements. (There shall still be dragons, though. I can’t bring myself to leave them out.) The geography is changing a bit, too.

Goodbye, old setting. We hardly knew ye.

I guess this means my dad and I will need to make a new map. It’s a good thing he’s a patient man.


Earlier versions of the story didn’t really delve into politics. I want to change that. The simplistic political scene of earlier drafts shall be replaced with a tenser situation, finding such diverse inspirations as the Cold War, The Chronicles of Narnia, and Final Fantasy XII. Lance Eliot’s story shall be an adventure, not a political thriller, but I’m excited to give it some political background.


Like the story’s politics, its lore shall be more nuanced this time around. In The Lord of the Rings and his other fantasies, J.R.R. Tolkien imagined the God of Christianity in a fantastical context. I plan to do the same, taking cues from the later Old Testament, and borrowing ideas from Greco-Roman mythology and the Legend of Zelda series.


I really struggled with the concept of magic as I wrote earlier versions of the Lance Eliot saga. At first, I fought to reconcile magic with a Christian worldview, and I think I’ve figured out that part. Now my struggle is to invent a kind of magic that isn’t too vague, generic, or unbelievable. The magic in my story isn’t actually called by that name; for now, I’m calling it aer. What is it? Why aer? You’ll just have to wait and see.

Literary criticism

Yep, this is a theme of my story… but not really. Literary criticism, for all its usefulness, can be a bit silly. Nah, its purpose in my story is to lead to something else… but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Dante’s Divine Comedy

I plan for my story’s three parts to parallel, however loosely, the three parts of the Divine Comedy. The first part of my story shall borrow from Dante’s Inferno, and it’s going to be a hell of a ride. (Alternatively: It’s going to be a damned good time. I can’t resist these puns, guys. I’m so sorry.)

I may cover more aspects of the story; I don’t know. Today’s post covers pretty much everything I have planned for now.

That said, this story won’t plan itself, so I’d better get back to it.