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November 18, 2012

I Hraet You -- A Reconsideration

You know, I’ve been thinking.  (Cue the ear-splitting wails of a million virtuous maidens.)

Warning: real talk imminent.

I Hraet You is a thing that exists, and has for a while.  Longer than you might expect; I tossed around the idea for a couple of years.  I’ve proudly admitted that part of my M.O. for coming up with new characters (and by extension the stories around them) is figuring out what superpowers I can give them.  That much should be obvious if you’ve seen what I’ve been doing here on the site; the fact that I’ve taken hundreds of words explaining the nuances of each character’s combat potential should be a hot tip as to how my mind works.

But I came up with a different idea one day.  What if there was a guy with a non-combative superpower?  A peacemaker, or something similar to it?  The concept gained steam quickly -- and as soon as I had a moment to myself, I jumped on it.  I came up with a character who, while seemingly scatterbrained, was actually a mastermind of the highest caliber.  His ability?  The power of suggestion; any command he gave (in his eyes, as “the work of providence, as an angel of justice”) had to be carried out by its listeners.  The thing was, the character himself was a drifter and something of an idiot -- and the results of his commands weren’t as much one-to-one actions as they were tricks to move people to action.  For example, he’d tell some goon to charge at him, and then goad him into an attack by a slew of attacks and appeals -- forcing him to believe if he didn’t attack, he’d face far greater consequences.  It was going to be a “is he or isn’t he empowered?” situation, where you don’t want to believe that he’s an angel because he acts like the kind of guy you’d see wearing a dunce cap and sitting in the corner.

For whatever reason (i.e. because I had a bigger and better project in the works), I put that story on the shelf…but not the concepts therein.  I liked the idea of a verbal fighter, or a mentalist; I wondered if there were better, more exciting things I could do with it and the world therein.  So that story ended up melting into my mind…or put in chrysalis…or whatever metaphor you prefer.  The important thing is that the concepts were planted -- okay, yeah, let’s go with that metaphor -- and ultimately they started to bloom about a year ago.

I Hraet You started as a NaNoWriMo project.  It seemed like a fun little diversion at the time, and I was under the impression that, yeah, I could turn it into something big.  I made it through about seven or eight chapters, did some nice setup, and then…just stopped.  It was a combination of a turn of events (which always seems to happen when I go for NaNo glory), a realization that that other project still needed work, a realization that I didn’t really know where to go from there, and…well, boredom.  “This project’s not going anywhere,” I said to myself.  “It’s all fluff, no substance.  Good for a laugh, but I can and have done better.”  So I put that away, too.  And it was only by way of putting content up for Cross-Up that I figured, why not?  I could fill up a day or two if I’m starved for content.  Maybe spin out a chapter or two, and leave it at that.  (I did pretty much the same thing with Four Dudes Go to Hell.  Has anybody even noticed that that stopped cold?)

And here I am, having written 55 chapters and a full-on story arc -- one that I intend to continue sometime next year.

The weird thing is that at several points, I felt like I wasn’t writing I Hraet You because I wanted to; I was writing chapters because I had to.  I said “updates twice a week,” and then that ended up becoming “updates every Monday and Thursday”, so you could say it was out of obligation.  That’s both a good thing and a bad thing.  It’s a good thing because I wanted to make good on my word, and deliver to the tiny, tiny fanbase that I have/had.  And I genuinely wanted to keep writing and continue the story.  But it’s a bad thing because I felt at times I had to drop everything else to work on it -- to say nothing of the fact that at times (that stretch of chapters where Lloyd is completely absent), I thought to myself, “Oh man, this was a bad idea” or “I just have to lower my head and charge through.”  If you have to force yourself to write something, that can’t possibly be good for the story, right?

But you know…I think ultimately, that’s actually a good thing.  I had problems getting through that stretch because…well, I think that a number of other factors helped too (like writing a string of posts for The Dark Knight Rises that took way too damn long).  But honestly?  I think it’s because somewhere along the line, I started to like Lloyd.

Don’t get me wrong -- I always liked Lloyd as a character, as I do all my characters and all my stories (before I get older and realize they’re kinda lame, and frantically work to edit them and make apologies for my past self).  But I think it was around that midway point when I realized that the story works best when Lloyd is around; he’s the main character, the proof of ideas, the hero put though trials, and the mover and shaker of the plot, villain notwithstanding.  He had an energy and personality to him that started to get kind of infectious.  I wanted to keep working with him, and not only make him better, but make his story better.  Putting Gaston in the story -- or just a villain in general -- certainly helped; it added focus.  It made the story more than just a string of gags and hammy acting.  I wouldn’t call the story legitimate -- not yet, at least -- but it felt like the effort I put in finally started to mean something to me.

And that’s really a hard thing for me to do -- to look at a story I make and think, “Hey, maybe this isn’t so bad.”  I’ve been dreaming up stories for thirteen years now.  I spent about two years writing a story, and then another two editing it just to make it “good.”  I’m still not convinced I can even write a short story, especially not a good one.  But I was reading through IHY from the start one day, and outside of a few minor edits I couldn’t help but think “Huh.  This isn’t bad.”  And I actually made myself laugh a few times.

I know that I try to throw in a lot of jokes here on Cross-Up, but let me be upfront: I don’t think I’m funny.  At all.  Random and quirky?  Yeah.  But I’m convinced that my average of good jokes to flat ones is pretty low.  Imagine my surprise, then, when I’m not only reading and enjoying and laughing at something I wrote, but I’m also not shuffling to hide it behind a waterfall or something.

Why?  It’s not (entirely) a question of effort, because I put effort into everything I do.  I think the thing is that, somewhere along the line, I started to like IHY.  A lot.  I can see that, particularly in the later chapters.  It’s goofy, but there’s substance to it.  These characters become nearer and dearer to me each time I write about them, rather than one-shot circus attractions for people to point at and laugh.  Lately, I can’t help but find myself searching my mp3 player for songs that suit the story, so I can better visualize scenes.  I’m planning further ahead than I ever thought I would when starting out.  Lloyd actually has a backstory -- and a shocking one, at that.  (I’ve already hinted at it a few times, but…well, who knows what’ll happen?)

I guess what I’m getting at is that I’m taking the story “seriously” now.  I did before, make no mistake about that (I’ll be damned before I phone in something I write).  But suddenly, I find myself more excited about it than I’ve ever been.  I know I put it on hiatus, but a part of me wants to keep writing, and keep posting.  Even the stuff coming up in the second saga is stuff I’m looking forward to, and not just because I want to get into the madness in later sagas.  I feel like I’m not doing myself a service until I finish Lloyd’s story, because now more than ever he deserves a conclusion.  I didn’t put much stock into him at first, mostly because he’s a baby compared to the characters I’ve dreamed up and tweaked for a huge portion of my life…but now?  I actually think I need to make a reconsideration of his standing.  He’s not just some side character to scribble down and cast into the wind.  From this moment on, he’s a genuine hero.

I feel like I owe Lloyd and IHY.  I feel like it’s thanks to him and that story that I appreciate my own writing more.  I appreciate that I have a respite against the things that I hate in the media these days, and helps me zero in on the things that I love more than I ever thought possible.  I appreciate that it’s given me an opportunity to develop my skills as a writer -- if not my technique, then at least my creative vision.  I appreciate that, arguably, I’ve become a better writer because of it.  Since each chapter is split into roughly two-thousand word chunks, I’m that much better at getting ideas, characters, and visuals in a smaller space.  Maybe now, I can actually write a good short story.

And you know what?  Because I owe Lloyd, I feel like I have to return the favor.  And that’s exactly why I have to -- I WANT to let people know that I Hraet You is a thing that not only exists, but should be read and enjoyed by anyone who wants a good read.  Granted it’s far from perfect, and in my perfectionist eyes it never will be -- but it’s good enough.  More than good enough.  And I want to share what I’ve done, and what Lloyd’s done, with as many people as I can as quickly and as thoroughly as I can.  Is this a way for me to build a platform as a writer?  Undeniably, and as such you can say it’s inherently selfish of me to go so far with this thing.  But it’s a writer’s job to make stories, and share them with others.  And that’s exactly what I’m going to do.  I’ll write, and Lloyd will act, and together we may be able to get some laughs -- and much more -- out of people all around. 

So that’s what I’m planning on doing with the story.  It’ll be on hiatus, but you can bet that the story’s far from over.  And I’ll do what I can to spread the message -- and with it, the love.  I Hraet You is Lloyd’s essence -- and my own -- in written, digitized form.  It’s silly, random, flawed, and at times incomprehensible…but it’s also earnest, dedicated, spirited, and endearing.  It’s something that I like, and something that plenty of others might like too.  A bit of a guess on that last note, but I think it holds water.

There’s only one way to find out for sure.  Let’s see if love really does triumph over all, Lloyd my man.

(...Just pretend that art is the best thing you've ever seen in your life.)


  1. Soul searching is a necessary step towards your goal as a writing hero. Acknowledging your weaknesses, playing against them, and sometimes embracing them will only make you a better person.

    Nice read, and for the record I find myself chuckling more than once with all your posts. That includes Lloyd's adventures of course. Don't beat yourself up over struggling with conflict. It's hard to make those cohesive. You can see that from all the games you review.

    *tightens karate headband* The write is everything.


  2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rhnXWJmKbU4