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A Skulker's Tale (forum link) is a series of science fiction/fantasy novels written by Talvieno, and was written from June of 2012 to the present day. Talvieno originally planned for there to be no more than eight chapters, but gradually expanded upon it afterwards to complete A Girl's Broken Mind and A Girl's Tattered Heart. The third book, A Girl's Weary Feet, is currently being written. A fourth book is planned as well: A Girl's Fiery Soul.

The story of A Skulker's Tale takes place at Spearbreakers, a Fortress in West Everoc. The series is told in first person by Vanya Carena. It follows her adventures starting in the late reign of Mitchewawa and ending in the third reign of Overseer Splint.

The series received praise for its realism; it subdues magic in favor of battles and intrigue. The first novel contains practically no magic at all, yet the presence of magic keeps growing for each book. Violence, philosophy, and moral ambiguity are frequently displayed among a set of over a hundred named characters. Major characters are often killed off so that readers cannot rely on the supposed heroes to remain safe and sound.

Plot SynopsisEdit

The story of A Skulker's Tale takes place in the worlds of Parasol, Ballpoint and Eris, although primarily in Everoc. Centuries before the events of the first novel, evil creatures known as Holistic Spawn were created and let loose upon the world. The Holistic Spawn overran the planet until Armok destroyed the universe in The Obsidianizing, prompting Parasol to go back in time and place Syrupleaf in stasis. They also captured, genetically modified, and re-released the Holistic Spawn. The local dwarves responded by guarding their borders with military fortresses such as Spearbreakers, which was founded some five years before the events of the first novel.

The story chronicles the trials and tribulations of Vanya Carena as she struggles to save herself and the ones she cares about from an ever-present threat of seemingly inevitable destruction. In the first novel, A Girl's Broken Mind, Vanya, a skulker, joins Talvi on her adventures as she tries to find out who Joseph is. This eventually leads Talvi into a battle with Mr Frog, and Vanya saves Talvi's life, only to be put in prison. A year later, Urist Okablokum releases her from captivity and she begins working in the employ of Mr Frog. After much work, Vanya, Urist and Hans plan to enter a Ballpoint outpost under Mr Frog's instruction, in order to recover an important PEA. The novel ends on a cliffhanger with the reader uncertain as to Vanya's fate.

The second novel, A Girl's Tattered Heart, begins with the death of Salaia Carena and the apparent betrayal of Urist Okablokum, her supposed love interest. Vanya is then betrayed by Talvi and becomes lost in the caverns below Spearbreakers. When she emerges, she finds herself in the Blood Plains amidst a band of Scythods. She befriends John Smith and Warmaster Scylk and travels with them for a time. Eventually, the presence of Holistic Spawn forces Scylk to abandon Vanya and send her northwards with John, his half-brother, K'bahth, and Klade, an exile. They happen upon Lord Reudh and his party, and continue onwards to Parasol's Auxiliary Squad 48D, where Vanya formulates a plan that Captain Almory reluctantly follows, leading to 48D's Final Battle. The novel ends with Vanya encountering Joseph a second time, after many of her friends have died.

The third novel in the series, A Girl's Weary Feet, begins with Vanya leaving Everoc behind, passing through a Megaportal into Parasol with Reudh's party and two friends from Squad 48D: Katie and Trebor. Soon after arriving, Katie and Vanya are involved in a vehicle accident and almost die, but Reudh saves them. Later, it is revealed that the accident was actually an attack, and a second attack occurs soon thereafter. Vanya is injured in the incident, and Scheck Kenzon, Katie's father, decides to keep Katie at home to keep her safe.

Publishing HistoryEdit

Books in the Skulker's Tale series are posted in the Spearbreakers thread one chapter at a time. This allows readers to participate in the telling of the story.

# Title Pages Chapters Words
1 A Girl's Broken Mind 239 26 100,000
2 A Girl's Tattered Heart 199 20 70,000

The First NovelEdit

Talvieno had originally intended for the story to end after eight chapters, following when Talvi took her revenge on Mr Frog, her onetime love, for drugging her and throwing her into The Hospital. It seemed artificial to Talvieno that Talvi would keep a journal of these exploits in such vivid detail as he desired, and thus, he created Vanya as a temporary narrator. He had challenged himself to create an elf that the readers could come to care for and accept, despite Bay12 denizens being notorious for harboring animosity towards them. He has said he feels he was successful in this.

There was a long gap between the eighth chapter and the ninth, when Talvieno decided he wanted to start writing again. Talvi herself wasn't involved in any interesting situations, and rather than fabricate one, he decided to continue Vanya's plot. It reached much farther than he'd anticipated, and he eventually found himself telling an evolving tale. He had originally planned the original Mr Frog to arrive after Salaia's death, for instance, but circumstances dictated by the other players forced him to rethink this idea.

The rest of the first novel was written quickly, with cameos by other player characters and several chapters co-written by Hanslanda. Talvieno wanted to make sure he kept everyone else as involved in the tale as possible, to pique interest. He feels he was successful in this, but also feels he failed at continuing these policies in the later books, despite cameos by Reudh, Mr Frog, Urist and others.

The Second NovelEdit

Talvieno took a short break after finishing the first book to plan out where he would take the story next. When he started again with the chapter "Salaia", he received a great deal of attention, both praise and criticism. Some people criticized his killing off a main character, saying it was abrupt and pointless, while others found it emotional and worth reading. Salaia's death had been planned from when he'd started the ninth chapter, however, and he'd attempted to leave hints that it might happen, but failed in this endeavor to all appearances.

Following the controversial beginning, Talvieno led Vanya onto the Blood Plains and introduced the Scythods, a race of creatures transported to Everoc by Ballpoint Technologies for use as enslaved soldiers. Talvieno's goal here was partially to create a sentient, wholly alien species that the players could eventually come to accept and appreciate, in the same manner as he did with Vanya herself. He was also advertising his Scythod mod and trying to help Vanya come to terms with her sister's death.

Talvieno paused again before writing out the chapters about Auxiliary Squad 48D because he was worried whether or not killing off so many characters at once was a good idea. He spent half of the second novel setting up and establishing the characters' personalities to define how they would act during 48D's Final Battle, and attempting to help the readers come to care for the characters before he killed them off - at least to an extent. At the same time, he was continuing Vanya's story and helping her to forgive Urist for killing her sister.

As he wrote, Talvieno encountered the problem that people were not reacting to his characters as he'd initially intended. He'd not expected the readers to hate Urist for killing Salaia in order to save Vanya's life, nor had he expected John Smith's rude attitude to alienate him from the readers. While John's problem was minor and relatively unimportant, Talvieno worked for the next two books to help the readers come to accept and forgive Urist for what he did.

Talvieno's inclusion of magic in the later chapters of the second novel was a subject of great debate and criticism among his readers, many of whom felt it was too flashy, or not described clearly enough. Talvieno created the Diavallen in order to combat some of this, as well as laying out detailed rules for Prayer Magic. This appeased the player base to an extent, although Talvieno was loath to use magic much thereafter.

The Third NovelEdit

Talvieno took another short break following the completion of Auxiliary Squad 48D's final battle, and then continued, allowing Vanya to explore Parasol. He soon discovered that the readers didn't appear to find the story nearly as interesting while it was separate from Spearbreakers - a logically predictable fact, as the Vanya story was part of the Spearbreakers thread. It wasn't much longer before Talvieno discovered that he, himself, did not find writing apart from Spearbreakers as interesting, and he began working to get Vanya back to the fortress.

As he wrote, he quickly discovered that simply returning her home would be terribly uninteresting to read about, and made the decision to expand upon the science fiction aspects of the universe by having someone attack Vanya and her new friend, Katie. It was not something he'd originally intended, but it seemed to work well with the other things he'd planned, in his opinion. The ending of the third novel had been planned ever since Talvieno and Hanslanda had collaborated with each other, and he was careful to work towards that as well.

Halfway through the third novel, there was a three month long pause between chapter releases, partially because Talvieno felt he needed a break, partially because of an unexpected occurrence of "writer's block", and partially because of things happening in real life. He plans to continue Vanya's story and finish the Timewar himself after Splint's turn.

Planned novels and futureEdit

The fourth novel exists only in Talvieno's notes at the present time. It will deal with the attack of Ballpoint on Spearbreakers and Parasol, as well as Parasol's attack on Eris and defense of Spearbreakers. Mr Frog gave Talvieno permission to end the Timewar himself through the use of his characters, and Talvieno has already planned out how it will happen. Following the completion of the series, Talvieno toys with the idea of writing about Vanya's future, but it is currently nothing more than idle speculation.

Inspiration and writingEdit

GenreEdit

Having read Asimov, Tolkien, Arthur C. Clarke, H. P. Lovecraft, H. G. Wells, and other authors, it is possible that these are influences on Talvieno's work. He refuses to classify his writing as any one genre, however, and maintains the belief that science fiction and fantasy can mesh smoothly with one another, while still being able to be classified as drama. He also believes that no good work of fiction should be able to be classified as a single genre at all, and should contain elements of romance, comedy, mystery and so forth.

Writing processEdit

As Talvieno had never envisioned the series as reaching beyond the first eight chapters, which he had expected to last only three, he was never fully aware of the full scale of what he was undertaking. As his plot thickened, he devised methods for keeping track of what he was doing, the chief among these being notebooks and long *.txt files, which he still keeps to this day. This helped him lay out the plot and keep track of all the characters, to attempt to get rid of any potential plot holes before he released each chapter to the public.

Talvieno's favorite time to write is in the morning hours after 7 AM, and he's stated that he feels unsuccessful in his work if he writes at a later time than this. It typically takes him two to four hours of brainstorming to plan out a chapter in detail (which is normally spent outside), two to four hours to write it, and another two to four hours to proofread and edit it. Following this, he sends it to his brother, Orodogoth, who reads it over carefully and points out everything he can find wrong. Talvieno fixes these points before he releases it. Talvieno has usually written three to four chapters ahead of what he's posted in the thread; however, at the moment he is down to only two.

Narrative structureEdit

Talvieno himself is unsure what his books are modeled after, although he's certain he isn't doing anything original. The story starts with a tight focus on the life of Vanya Carena, written as her journal, as she writes about her adventures from a later date. Writing is something she particularly enjoys, hence why she keeps the journals. Each journal entry, or chapter, is written in chronological order, and there is a segment at the beginning of each where the second person narrator, Dr. Urist Jones, writes his thoughts on what he's read, as he is supposedly reading the story along with the reader. Talvieno plans to give Dr. Jones a position of importance in the final novel.

Talvieno tries to keep his readers engrossed by including an intense, revelational, or unexpected moment in each chapter. On occasion he ends with a cliffhanger, but he attempts to allow each chapter to come to a quieter close. This is primarily to keep his readers from becoming impatient between the releases of each chapter. However, dividing the individual chapters into books is much harder for Talvieno, as he writes them as a continuous story. He has acknowledged that this isn't the best practice for writing full-length novels, but he believes it works best with what he's doing.

Vanya's adventures are separated largely into a series of "arcs", for instance, the Talvi/Frog Battle arc, the Prison arc, the Employment arc, and so forth. These are separated much more clearly than the individual books, and almost all of them end with a cliffhanger or major twist, which Talvieno intends to keep readers interested despite the change of pace between each. Main characters are killed off so that the reader will not rely on the hero to come through unscathed and instead feel the character's fear. However, he also acknowledges that Vanya herself cannot be killed, and that he hasn't written quite enough for it to have as much of an emotional impact as he would have liked.

Character developmentEdit

Regarding the named characters, Talvieno attempts to give each a history interesting enough to write about in a standalone story, should he feel so inclined. This is not so much because he planned to, but rather an attempt to keep his characters well-rounded, giving them depth and purpose. Each character, even if only mentioned once, has a detailed backstory that he keeps in *.txt files. This backstory is subject to change until written down in the story itself. He also attempts to give each character a secret that can be revealed at some point if he desires it, and alludes to it at various points so that readers can make assumptions if they notice it.

Talvieno deliberately ignored the writing rules to never give two characters a name starting with the same letter. While this can make it somewhat easier for the reader to differentiate between them, he prefers to have the characters' personalities speak for themselves, and establish their place in the story and the reader's mind through their actions. Instead of these rules, the character names are designed to be, for the most part, unique, which he believes helps readers just as much. These unique names are created to match where the characters live, and to an extent, their personalities. Katie's name, for instance, was intended to convey a sense of familiarity, while Saemin Lo Diel was intended to provide a sense of the otherworldly. This is partially due to the fact that Saemin Lo was born on an asteroid-based mining colony.

Talvieno has said that he enjoys tormenting his characters, simply because a happy story isn't as interesting to read as an emotionally turbulent one. While he doesn't become emotionally attached, per se, he does become emotionally involved with their lives to the point that the most dreadful events are sometimes difficult to write. He has occasionally experienced a feeling of guilt at what he does to his characters as well. Salaia's death, for example, drew tears as he wrote it.

Each of the characters is viewed from a different perspective over the course of the story, if possible. Mr Frog, for instance, was portrayed as both an archenemy and a friend. Urist has been portrayed as a lover and a hateful murderer. While their actual personalities do not change to match these varying perspectives, Vanya's viewing of them does, as she changes her mind about various people. This allows her to be wrong sometimes, and helps keep things fresh, with the reader not being able to immediately assume that Vanya is correct about something.

Katie Okablokum, Salaia Carena, and John Smith tend to generate the most feedback from the readers. Trebor is currently Talvieno's favorite character, with his sharp wit making him much more fun to write. Katie is also enjoyable, as tormenting her bubbly personality can prove amusing at times. Solnay Hylcelon is the most difficult, as Talvieno finds her personality relatively flat and uninteresting, and he feels he erred in giving her the backstory that he did.

ThemesEdit

Talvieno believes that magic should be used moderately in the Epic Fantasy genre, and he attempts to make the story feel more like historical fiction and present-day drama, both to give the reader something to relate to and to make it feel more realistic. Realism is a theme he's always attempted to convey, no matter what the circumstance, and while he occasionally plays with strangeness, he always returns to the familiar. Although the amount of magic has gradually increased over the story, the series is still to end with less overt magic than contemporary fantasies. In Talvieno's eyes, literary effective magic needs to be well-defined so as not to give a feeling of invincibility to the characters possessing the abilities. While he admits that this is possibly not the best method to approach the problem, it is the one he finally settled with.

A common theme in traditional fantasies is the battle between good and evil, which Talvieno rejects for not mirroring the real world. Orcs and righteous elves are not things he finds worth writing about, instead creating gray characters. Just like people's capacity for good and evil in real life, Talvieno explores themes of betrayal and redemption. While most characters have something they see as their ultimate goal, they don't always drive towards this unswervingly. He also explores writing all groups and characters that could be seen as "good" or "evil" from multiple viewpoints so that the other sides of their morality can be explored.

Sexuality, although rarely explored, is often lightly touched upon, as Vanya explores her sexual feelings. While Talvieno prefers not to include anything sexually graphic in A Skulker's Tale, he dislikes the thought of avoiding it entirely, and occasionally writes brief segments about Vanya's undressing or modesty when unclothed. His opinion is that if someone wants to read into it, they can, but that's as far as he's willing to go. It is not his intention to provide erotic material, but he does occasionally utilize it for emotional effect.

ReceptionEdit

someone else write this.

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