The South Side

Do Not Disturb Writer At Work I feel like I should begin with an apology for not posting sooner.  But, see, I’ve been writing two novels, and I’m trying to relearn Latin, and I just really haven’t had anything to say that I didn’t say in my last post.  So.  Consider me thoroughly ashamed and desperately sorry.

A few updates before I really start ranting:



  • The every-other-day writing arrangement wasn’t working, because I simply couldn’t get into either book enough to make quality progress.  Therefore, I’ve switched to a fairly relaxed regimen in which I try to switch books every week, but don’t always.  This seems to be working rather well.
  • I have recently begun to indulge two of my obsessions: Latin (which isn’t very relevant) and Irish Gaelic (which I promise will be at least slightly relevant in a moment).  Yes, I have a thing for languages with little practical use.
  • One of the factors that reignited my passion for Irish and made learning it into a tangible goal is a YouTube user by the name of TG Lurgan (I swear to God this will be relevant in a moment.  Pinky promise.), which is the account for an Irish-language summer school, Coláiste Lurgan, which covers pop songs in Irish.  They are awesome and I love them forever.

So.  Novel #2 is the pursuit of my endeavors this week, and it’s coming along so well I just want to dance.  I’ve added 730 words in just two chapters (which is better than it sounds, with my track record), and I’ve added a fair amount more worldbuilding than was present before.  I feel like this is really making my story come alive in a way it couldn’t before.  I’ve also noticed that my writing style is significantly darker this time around, but I suppose that’s an expected difference between the writing of a middle schooler and that of a high school graduate (yes, I’ve been working on it that long).

One particular aspect that’s been subject to a lot of revamping is the South Side of Betelmere (my protagonist’s city).  The South Side functions as the slums of the city, and it’s also where my protagonist spends a lot of time.  It used to be a rather flourishing part of the city, but by now it has been mostly abandoned, left to decay and the rule of the thieves and the beggars.  It is further south than the poor part of town that also houses the black market, and mainly serves as housing for Betelmere’s poorest and most wanted.

As a result, mainly, of the decay (but also just sheer idiocy in planning), the South Side is something of a maze that very few can navigate, although my protagonist is quite accomplished at doing so.

I’ve always been able to picture the South Side perfectly, but only recently have I been able to really describe it and give the reader anything resembling a sense of it.  In addition, I’ve recently found that, instead of my protagonist regarding the place rather reluctantly as a morbid sort of haven, I’ve come to the understanding that it functioned (and continues to function) as the only thing resembling a home she has ever had, she is actually quite comfortable within its walls—happy, even, if cautiously so.  I’m really pleased with the contrast that this creates between her emotions and the setting/description.  Hey, look at that.  AP Lit did come in handy.  Who’d have guessed it?

In addition, I’ve expanded it a bit more to reflect the social hierarchy that is present in the South Side.  Though filled, undoubtedly, with criminals and beggars, there is a clear distinction between the desperate and the insane.  As such, the southernmost part of the South Side has been deemed “the Ruins,” and it is this most dangerous and terrifying part that houses the hags and “leering nightmares” shunned even by the other residents of the South Side.

So.  This brings me to what I earlier swore would be relevant: Irish Gaelic and TG Lurgan.

When I was much younger (not really in years, more in maturity), I went through a mildly terrible phase, largely created by character questionnaires, in which I attempted to find a theme song for every character in every book I’d ever written (which, at the time, was a grand total of 1 1/2), and even occasionally for my friends or, indeed, myself.  I’ve since gotten past that phase and, because life is ironic, have been much more successful in finding theme songs since.

I recently (as in, in the last 2 or 3 days) developed a not-so-minor obsession with a song posted by TG Lurgan.  It’s a cover of Sia’s song, “Chandelier,” which I’ve never been overly fond of, but holycowIlovethiscover.  And I’ve been listening to it on repeat for two days straight.  Yes, it’s probably safe to say this obsession is slightly unhealthy.

(Please be aware that the video, while totally appropriate, is slightly disturbing, even if it does feature some really cool Irish dance.)

So, having written two chapters while listening to this song, I have decided that this song captures pretty much everything that the South Side is.  Not necessarily the lyrics (because aside from “hAon, do, tri,” I really couldn’t begin to say what they mean), but the sound of it.  It’s so dark and mysterious, and so passionate, and…Yeah.

So.  That’s where my brain is.  Anyone else writing/obsessing over a cool story?

Cara Kennaway


6 thoughts on “The South Side

  1. Hi, I’m your terrible friend who hasn’t been on your amazing blog in two months and never saw this post.

    But… great post. I’m really excited to hear about all the developments happening (or, that is, the developments that were happening two months ago) (so sorry I’ve been gone so long) with the South Side, because when I first read the book I remember thinking I’d really love to see more of it – both of its layout and culture and of Alexa’s relationship with it.

    Keep on writing! It sounds like things are going beautifully! (Or at least that they were. Two months ago.) (Slams forehead against desk in shame.)

    1. Alright, your groveling was sufficient. I have made the magnanimous decision to forgive you. At least mostly. :-D

      I think the South Side chapters came out really nicely, actually, so thanks for the excitement. For a more current update, I ended up skipping about three chapters that I’m just not all that fond of–I’ll come back to them when I’m in the right headspace–but for now I just moved ahead. I’m now at the all-important Chapter 16 (the big reveal), and it seems to be going really well.

      What did you think of the song/video, incidentally?

      1. Phew, that’s a relief.

        It’s great that everything’s going so well! I admire your ability to skip ahead and work on things out of order. I’ve always been way too sequential for that kind of thing and end up indefinitely stuck in places I wish I wasn’t stuck in (although maybe the skipping around is easier in editing than in initial drafting; I’ve never actually gotten to the hardcore editing stage of writing with a story [*hangs head in shame*]).

        I see what you mean about the video being a little unsettling, and, like you, I’ve never liked the song very much. But viewing both the song and the video as things that related to the South Side not only made me like them both a lot more, but also sort of made my mental image of the South Side clearer.

        That’s the main reason I like finding music that reminds me of characters or scenes in my stories. I don’t necessarily hunt them out like you say you used to, but if I happen across a song that brings my book to mind, I can lean back and listen to the song and play scenes from the book in my head. In the past, it’s helped me get more excited about working on stuff and sometimes led to me understanding my characters and stories better. I’ve even gotten new ideas that way.

        So basically what I’m rather long-windedly saying is, well done finding a song that inspires you, and I don’t think it’s necessarily “mildly terrible” to try to find theme songs for characters (or, as the case may be, city slums) (Veronica Roth does it, you know). And I’m probably never going to be able to hear that song again, in any language, without thinking of your book (which is good, because, like I said, I like it better that way).

        1. I actually can’t usually skip around either–especially not while drafting. I have to say, it is a little easier (read: possible) at this stage, though, since I already know where the story’s going (hi, I don’t plan my stories, how are you?). I may change a few parts in the part I skipped when I do come back to it, and I may have to account for that later in the story, but this is by no means my final draft. After this, I still have to edit what I rewrote.

          You should try editing sometime. Maybe now, in your writing hiatus, would be a good time. Seriously, it’s better than you think it will be (but that could just be me and my weird perfectionist nature).

          And I’m glad that the song helped you picture it better, too! It did the same thing for me. It wasn’t so much the act of trying to find songs that was mildly terrible, it was more the fact that I would actually seek out such songs, waste a lot of time on busy work, and still end up without anything that was really helping me. So. There’s that. :-D

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