Anyway, I ended up going through last year's November NaNo. It was supposed to be a prequel to my longest-running series, the Aster Quartet, focusing on one of my favorite characters, Doli Lin Greya. Epic guy, if I can blow my own horn for a moment. Among the best I've ever written.
It was really painful going through If I Fall Away. (Working title - one of Doli's theme songs is February Song by Josh Groban, which contains the line 'Forgive me if I slip away,' which I modified to If I Fall Away for reasons unknown to myself.) Painful because, one, the plot was really, really badly done. Writing in deliberately short chapters does something to my writing, apparently, because this plot was just all over the place.
Two - my dialogue was, by and large, really, really spectacular.
Any of my writing friends will tell you that I don't compliment myself often, so I'm really confident in the dialogue that I wrote for Doli's book. I think it's because I was so much in the characters' heads - especially Doli, here going by the name of Avi, and his best friend, Tomi. I know exactly what happens to these chars and how it affects them, so, even if the plot was poorly executed, I still have a blast going over some of the repartee between Avi and Tomi.
Avi and Tomi climbed past the grass and collapsed in a heap. Avi let his fingers drift over the freshly cut grass stubs; the scent of hay hung in the air. “Must have mown it lately,” he mused.
“They did.” Tomi crossed his legs and slumped forward, elbows on his knees. “I saw them.”
“Didn’t help them?”
“I was too busy dodging the Duo.”
Daraq and Vycaris. Avi nodded. “Understandable.”
Tomi grabbed a handful of grass and ripped it from the ground. Avi winced but didn’t say anything. “I just don’t get what they want from me,” Tomi snapped. “What don’t they understand about ‘let me think it over’?”
“Obviously.” Tomi pulled one piece of grass from his hand and ripped it between two fingers. “It’s stupid.”
“Stop humoring me.”
“You’re the Prince, my lord.”
Tomi threw the grass at Avi. Laughing, Avi tried to duck, but the blades fluttered down all around him, a few blades drifting down the back of his shirt. They tickled and scratched on the way down and Avi clawed at his back, trying to get them out. “Ouch!”
Tomi stared at him a moment, then burst into laughter. “You’re so pathetic.”
“So you say ‘ouch’?”
Preya, the hyper-High Colitar’s friend, was gone. So now it was just Avi and Jai.
He swallowed and moved toward the tomb. It came as high as his shoulders, solid and sure. When he touched the polished stone, a chill traveled up his arm to the back of his neck. He twitched and took his hand back.
“Was that for missing the funeral?” he asked softly. “Sorry. I didn’t want to.”
He blinked and added, “Not that I wanted there to be a funeral at all. But... I guess it was inevitable. It just hit me pretty hard.”
The tomb crouched, silent, in the moonlight, immovable.
Avi sighed and collapsed on the bench. “I am so tired, Jai... Great-grandfather?” He shook his head. “That’s just strange.”
Avi looked up. In almost the exact spot he had stood himself was Tomi, bleary-eyed and clutching a black jacket around himself against the cold.
Avi stared at him. “Does everyone like congregating in the graveyard in the dead of night?”
“No.” Tomi arched his brow and came to the tomb. “I didn’t realize two people qualified as ‘everyone.’”
“There was...” Avi stopped. “Never mind.”
“A few ghosts keeping you company?”
Preya’s pale face and pure white wings came to mind. “Not exactly.”
“Well, that sounds intriguing.” Tomi lowered himself down onto the step. “But what’s even more intriguing is why in the world you’re out here.”
Avi touched one of the tomb’s stones. “Just needed to... think.”
“We thought you’d be in bed for a long time.”
“I’m fine.” If ‘fine’ translated to ‘even the water in my body feels like it’s sharp and pointy,’ then yes, I’m perfectly fine.
“Mm, I’m sure.”
Come to think of it, Tomi usually did seem to hear his actual thoughts.
“How was the funeral?”
“It was... nice. Grandfather would have liked it. Simple.” Tomi drummed his fingers on his knee. “Everyone – Father, Mother, Vycaris, Daraq, Konna – they all said a few things. I did, too.”
Avi was in the farthest mood possible for wanting to lighten the situation, but he couldn’t help it. “You cried, I assume.”
“I’m surprised this tomb isn’t smaller. Don’t waterfalls erode stone over time?”
Tomi opened his mouth to reply, but his solemn expression cracked open to reveal a wide grin. “Idiot.”
“You played along. That makes you a bigger idiot.”
“Eh.” Tomi leaned back against the tomb. “Probably.”
“Oh. Oh, oh, ow.”
Something smacked Avi’s shoulder, dragging him from the ocean of sleep he had been drowning in. Startled, he scrambled backwards and fell off the bed.
Avi stared at the greenness beneath him. Grass? What in... Then he looked up at Jai’s tomb, and it came back to him.
Tomi hadn’t lost his balance, but he looked close to it, stretching his arms and legs in several directions, while his face contorted similarly. “I am so sore,” he grumbled. “Whose idea was it to fall asleep out here?”
“I don’t think it was a conscious decision.” Avi rubbed the back of his neck, where it felt like a vampire (possibly a stone vampire shaped like a tomb) had perforated his skin with edged teeth. “But I’m blaming you.”
“Ha!” Tomi tried to stand, but fell back against the tomb and only just caught himself. “Oh, the pain.”
Avi snorted. “You’re pathetic.” Then he attempted to rise himself. A few seconds of trying left him in much the same position as before.
Tomi burst out laughing. “And he says I’m pathetic!”
Stiff muscles shrieking, Avi scrabbled at something, anything, to help him get up, but there was nothing handy. He scowled. “Oh, help me up.”
“Me? Oh, no.” Tomi’s hair bounced up and down as he shivered in pent-up laughter. “I’m too pathetic to do anything.”
“Then I blame you when someone comes to dump dirt over me and erect a tomb in my honor!”
Tomi wandered over, grinning enough to split his skull in half. “You blame me for a lot.”
“You’re guilty of a lot,” Avi grumbled, finally managing to get into a crouching position. “I swear, bad ideas do come back to bite you in the—“
“Good Lynne, what time is it?” Tomi peered up at the sky. “It must be past lunch.”