Creation of a Redwall Survivor Application

I’ve been meaning to put this together for a while, but, well, life, you know.

As of this moment, we’re in the final hours of voting for Mossflower Odyssey IV: The Beasts In The Crater. Over the last couple weeks, everyone has been reading and reviewing the top 30 applications sent in and voting on their favorite of each category. Ten categories, with 3 apps apiece (except that two categories only had two apps, so technically, it’s top 28….) all judged and weighed and debated on by the audience.

We’ll know the official cast for MO4 soon, then the story will really begin!

I wrote three apps for MO4, though much to my surprises, only one of my apps got in. Since I’ve been somewhat disappointed, I thought I’d share my favorite app and also share the process I used to create it. Every author has their own system and way of doing this.

This is simply mine.

Bear in mind that this app did not make the Top 30 cut, but I think I worked the hardest on it.

I started out by using How To Write Flash Fiction That Doesn’t SUCK, a free course offered by Holly Lisle.  Since in her flash fiction course, she’s walking you through writing 500 word flash fiction, I figured that’d be just perfect for coming up with a 750 word application. I brainstormed for a while, going through the worksheets, but really struggled with the ideas.

Eventually, I had two of the concept sentences kind of merge in my mind. They were:

  1. A usurped horde leader is imprisoned and about to be executed.
  2. An exhausted refugee struggles to find shelter from an oncoming storm.

With those powers combined, I came up with: A usurped horde leader struggles to find shelter from an oncoming storm.

Next, I switched gears, because I wanted to find out more about this horde leader, specifically species, since this is set in the Redwall universe of animals, after all.

So out came the notebook and I started brainstorming.

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I wrote Horde Leader, drew a line, then wrote Species. From there, I drew lines to every vermin species that came to mind, and added more lines for reasons why or why not. The last line I drew, going down, was Bird Species. Something about that peaked my interested. Perhaps because the first Redwall book I ever read, Mattimeo, featured a bird horde leader. I went online and did a search for “birds in Great Britain”, then narrowed it down to “birds of prey”.

When I saw the first picture of a male Hen Harrier, I fell in love. I switched to a red pen (as seen above), and continued on brainstorming for a bit longer, toying with names and background. While I did this, I also pulled up pictures from the internet and put them into Scrivener.

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Scrivener itself was a bit of an experiment, since the program was new to me, but it proved very useful to organizing information on my characters. I was able to pull up a bunch of images and even download a PDF file on Hen Harriers from Wikipedia.

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With my background worked out, I was able to start writing my first draft for Sarek.

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My first draft finished with 1069 words. By the way, I love Scrivener’s on-screen word counter, which is nearly visible at the bottom center of the picture above.

Next I printed it out and used an abbreviated How to Revise Your Novel (also by Holly Lisle) setup to go through my draft and polish it up. I took pages of notes…

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And took a red pen to a printout of the draft. One of my two-year-old twins tried to help with a black one.

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Then typed it all back into Scrivener, with a few more tweaks here and there to fix rogue spellings and get the final word count below 750.

With my word count at 748, I then fixed the formatting and sent it off. With one app done, I then started the brainstorming process all over again and came up with two more apps to send off.

Unfortunately, Sarek didn’t make the cut for “A Beast Driven by Revenge,” but I’ll include the app below for anyone interested in reading the final product.

Category: The beast driven by revenge
Species: Hen Harrier
Age: 29
Gender: Male

Sarek flopped down by the shallow puddle and eyed the layer of scum across the top of it. He dipped his beak in anyway, then tipped his head back to allow the water to run down his parched throat. He grimaced, then bobbed his head down for another mouthful. The sun beat down on the hen harrier’s plumage, his white and gray feathers ragged, muddy, and bloody. He turned his head, using one yellow eye to glare up at it. “Kek-kek-kek,” he rasped. “You’re too hot for spring!”

When his next swallow delivered more mud than water, Sarek climbed to his talons and hobbled off. He held his wings out to cool himself, cringing to see the black feathers of his wingtips cut so jagged and short.

As he limped along, the sun dried the mud and blood on him. He gave his wings a few experimental flaps. His right shoulder twinged and he suppressed a wince. No beast nor bird stood around to witness his pain, but old habits lay rooted deep. Steadying himself, he flapped harder, hard enough that he should have gotten some lift.

He did not.

It did help to loosen the mud from his plumage. He started preening himself, running his hooked beak over one shaft at a time. Dirt coated his beak and tongue and he coughed at the taste of his own blood, as well as that of the traitors he’d fought last night.

The air grew hotter and heavier as he tried to restore his feathers to form. After a bit, he raised his head, looking east. Hazy heat waves distorted the land before him. On the horizon, dark clouds rose. Lightening flashed through them.

“Curse Azer and his egg-cracking traitors,” Sarek said. He looked around. Grounded as he was, he saw nothing to offer shelter from the storm.

He turned his back on the clouds and focused his gaze west. He squared his shoulders, then launched up with tremendous flapping. From the pitiful altitude he gained, he scanned over the green flatlands, eyes questing for some sort of shelter. He hit the ground moments later, one wounded leg buckling. Panting from pain, he rose to his feet and flapped up and out again.

The wind picked up and he heard the first rumblings of the thunder behind him. He used the wind to flutter further each time, still questing for refuge. Unlike the marshy swampland from which he’d been driven, no thick, towering groves grew here.

The air grew colder and the sun vanished from overhead. Sarek struggled on, fighting to keep himself from flipping tail over talons by the strengthening wind.

Fat drops of rain pelted him. His feathers took on moisture. More and more fell. Wings trembling from exhaustion and too sodden to attempt a mockery of flight anymore, Sarek resorted to a hobbling run as the rain sheeted down around him.

Something struck his shoulder and he squawked involuntarily. He whirled around to fight whoever had pecked him. He saw no bird, but several hail stones thudded into the ground near him.

Sarek ducked his head and ran fast as he could through the rain and hail as stones beat on his already bruised and sore body.

The ground dropped away beneath his claws and he fluttered instinctively before hitting the ground hard enough to lose breath. Moments that felt like eternity passed until he managed to suck in air and stumble back to his feet. He looked behind him at the steep vertical sides of a gully. The ground hung out here, stubborn tufts of grass clinging to the top.

A hailstone hit his head near his right eye and he made a final, ungainly scamper toward the scant shelter offered by the overhang. He huddled there, out of the worst of the storm, though a swelling rivulet of water ran by his feet. He drank from it, wetting his dry throat, then moved to a nearby rock, to stay out of the rising stream.

Thunder boomed overhead. He hunkered down and glared out at the storm.

“Mates dead. Chicks dead. Driven out by the lowliest in my army!”

He looked at the flight feathers that Azer the traitor had cut and broken in the night. It would be a season or two before his next molt. Until then, he was as grounded as a chick.

But feathers would grow back. Then Sarek would find Azer and make him beg for death!

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