After you’ve attempted blogging and/or website design for as long as I have – almost 20 years, by my count – you lose track of how many websites you’ve started and stopped along the way. Then again, when a site like this is one of your earliest claims to having a small chunk of the Internet to yourself, well…there’s a very good reason it’s only been indexed once. White text and yellow links on a pure blue background? What was I thinking?
Anyway, this latest iteration of my website, which I’ve taken to call “Scrawl Before You Write” because I love awful puns and turns-of-phrase as much as I love video games, is dedicated to a couple of long-form stories I’ve written over the last year-and-a-half.
The first story, Through the Motions, is a project that spun off from a NaNoWriMo draft called Cloudless that I worked on in 2018 about a young painter who acquires magical powers. (Only an excerpt is available because I never bothered to save the whole draft after I completed my run.) While the NaNoWriMo draft had plenty of superhero/magical girl elements to it, Motions is comparatively more down-to-earth as I wanted to try my hand at a slice-of-life story about someone who was trying to understand how to use her powers. It was a two-fold experiment for me to try to 1) create a magic system from scratch, and 2) release chapters on a fixed schedule. I am notoriously slow-paced compared to just about every web serial writer out there (on a good day, I’d probably get about 500 words done, which is hardly enough to release a new chapter every week, and just barely enough to handle the biweekly schedule I’d set for myself), so it didn’t work out for me as well as I hoped it would with my busy work schedule.
The second story, The Ghost of Ochs, came about when I hit a brick wall trying to think of more stuff to write on Motions, and when I’d been playing Fire Emblem: Three Houses almost every day since its release. Plenty of stories and theories have been passed around about the main characters of Three Houses – Byleth, Edelgard, Dimitri, and Claude – so when I felt to urge to start writing fan fiction again, I didn’t want to write yet another story centered around one of them that would be forgotten in a few months’ time. I decided to take a different route and write a story about one of the game’s minor characters. No, not the gatekeeper who stands outside the front door to the monastery (“Greetings, Professor! Nothing to report!”). The character I decided to base my story on was none other than Monica, a character who hangs around for a few chapters in the second half of Part 1, and then just disappears.
(The following section contains spoilers for the game, so if you’re averse to that sort of thing, you might want to skip ahead.)
Monica is a student who attended the Officers Academy (the game’s main setting) the year before the start of the game but suddenly disappeared, and returns to the Academy midway through the school year. However, a few characters, such as Hilda, Hubert, and the aforementioned gatekeeper notice something “off” about Monica’s behavior: 1) she doesn’t show any signs of trauma despite having been kidnapped, 2) she only ever wants to talk to Edelgard (for reasons that are also significant spoilers that won’t be touched on in this post), and 3) even if you selected the Black Eagles near the beginning of the game, she never joins your party or shows up for class – highly unusual for someone supposedly dead-set on finishing their education.
A few chapters later, Monica pops out of nowhere after you finish a mission, only for her to stab Jeralt (Byleth’s father and a former captain of the Knights of Seiros) to death with a cursed knife. Not long after that, Monica reveals herself to actually be Kronya, an assassin working for “those who slither in the dark” (one of the big villainous factions in the game). After Jeralt’s death, Seteth theorizes that Kronya killed Monica before the game began and eventually snuck into the monastery using her body.
(Spoilers end here.)
That eventually gave me an idea that would become the base of my new story: “What might have happened if the person known as Monica wasn’t an impersonator?”
With that question in mind and using what little information the game provides on the real Monica or her noble house, I started writing my story. It begins around Chapter 7 when Monica is discovered and returns to the monastery, only instead of her being perfectly healthy and ready to hound Edelgard right away, she’s at death’s door and most of the outside world thinks she is dead. The first several chapters dealt with her recovery and reintegration with academy life and setting out to calm her father’s fears. While Ghost assumes that Byleth chose the Black Eagles when she came to the monastery, I’m trying my hardest to avoid rehashing the Black Eagles’ Part I and Part II plots beat-by-beat. Where’s the fun in retelling the same story you’ve already played through before, but just with one extra character?
Right now, I’m going to spend most of my time writing and planning Ghost while/until I try to come up with some good ideas to use in Through the Motions’ story. Notifications of updates to either of these can be found here on this blog, and later broadcasted to my Twitter feed (but not my Facebook account, as my friends don’t seem to be as heavy into fan fiction and related things as I am). Until then, feel free to leave comments on any of the chapters of either story either here or at any of the mirrors.