Peter Orullian: Five Things I Learned Writing Trial Of Intentions

The heart of grief lies somewhere between one man’s expectation and another’s intent.

Enemies come. But one enemy believes the gods were wrong about his exiled people. And he’s impatient.

Nations arm. But one man finds a realm paying for its gearworks with an awful currency. And he’s angry

Politicians lie. But one leader lies because he would end the days of slums and porridge. And he’s ambitious.

Songs restore. But one woman will train to make her rough song a weapon. And she’s in pain.

Magi influence. But one sage follows not his order’s creed; he follows his heart. And his heart is bitter.

And one young man remembers. He remembers friends who despaired in a place left barren by war. Friends who did self-slaughter. But he also remembers years in a society of science. A gentler place. So he leaves the rest, daring to think he can lead not in battle, but by finding a way to prevent self-slaughter, prevent war.

The heart of grief . . . is a trial of intentions.

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SOMETIMES A LOOK IS ENOUGH

I think, as writers, we often default to having our characters verbally share their feelings. But character communication isn’t simply about what is spoken. In fact, I’ve found that if I stare long enough at a block of dialogue, I can communicate everything that character is trying to say in a simple look. Or gesture. Condescension, for example, or dismissiveness, often work better when the character doesn’t even waste energy needed to speak an insult.

SCIENCE IS COOL, EVEN IN FANTSY FICTION

In Trial of Intentions, there’s an entire society dedicated to science. I have colleges of astronomy, physics, mathematics, cosmology, and philosophy. I spent a lot of time researching in these areas to write with a modicum of authenticity. And this is all inside an epic fantasy, mind you. Those sections are among my favorites, providing a nice counterpoint to swords and magic and all the rest. It has a reason for existing in the book, of course. But beyond that, it felt natural to me; science can invoke that same sense of wonder we often read fantasy to experience.

IT’S OKAY IF NOT EVERYONE IS RATTLING THEIR SABRES

Related to #2, I realized that while I had badass fighters preparing for war, I could have characters with just as much badassery whose goal is to avert war. I grew enamored of the idea that a few might use investigative techniques and rigorous thought and debate to try and find a way to stop innumerable deaths. Of course, along this path I wrote in mortal threats and painful backstory and the price of failure for these folks. But I liked the outcome, having different characters tackle big problems in very different ways. Also, a battle in an astronomy tower. Right?!

YOUR COOL MAGIC SYSTEM IS BEST EXPLAINED THROUGH CHARACTER USE

I’m a musician. I listen to everything from jazz to metal. I’ve had classical voice training. I’ve toured and sung shows in different parts of the world. Etc. And I brought that all to bear in building my music magic system. And then, I dumped a great lot of it on the page in the form of instruction of a music magic student. In revisions, I realized that while I loved these scenes, they weren’t working for the reader. So, I cut them back. Way back. And shifted most of the instruction and/or demonstration of my magic system into scenes where it’s being used. I tell you, it was more fun for me this way, too.

LIFE STUFF GETS INTO YOUR WRITING STUFF

It was always the case that the world I built in Trial of Intentions was a dire place. For some, anyway. For example, there’s a barren stretch known as The Scar, where children no longer desired by their parents are sent. You can imagine the emotional damage of those that live there, reflected and exacerbated by the wasteland in which they live. So, some choose to leave, by way of suicide. But as I started writing Trial, something in the real world happened. A friend of mine made this same choice. I thought I’d passed through the stages of grief okay. But in going back over the book, it had clearly gotten into the words. Trial isn’t about suicide, but I can’t deny its influence, either. A few of my characters deal with the aftermath of having loved ones who’ve made this choice. It gives them a powerful motivation to do the things they do. So, I have to admit that life informs art—sometimes, at least—in more than a casual way.

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Peter Orullian has worked at Xbox for over a decade, which is good, because he’s a gamer. He’s toured internationally with various bands and been a featured vocalist at major rock and metal festivals, which is good, because he’s a musician. He’s also learned to hold his tongue, because he’s a contrarian. Peter has published several short stories, which he thinks are good. The Unremembered and Trial of Intentions are his first novels, which he hopes you will think are good. He lives in Seattle, where it rains all the damn time. He has nothing to say about that.

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