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Richard Novak

Valley of the Stars - Setting and Premise (Part 1)

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Valley of the Stars – Setting and Premise

Note 1: The literal setting of the story, to include the year and actual location, will be mostly invisible in the written aspect of the story; thus, the children who hear the story read to them will be able to imagine their own interpretation of the setting. In the art, however, there will be clues for the parents that aren’t spelled out in the prose. I intend for these clues to constitute a second story known only by the parents about what really happened before the beginning of the book. I present both versions of the setting below. Be advised, this is a bedtime story for children as well as a bedtime story for adults in some ways.

Note 2: As I’ve said, my writing is character-based. However, I’ve always considered the setting to be a character in many ways, and in this story the setting is incredibly important, so I’m going to list it first. And since I’m talking about the setting, I’ve decided I may as well get into the premise and basic outline at the same time. Traditional characters will be posted soon.

Note 3: This story is designed to be told over the course of 3 nights.

Part 1 (Children): Taryn Snow lives in a small town nestled in the foothills of tall snowy mountains. Taryn has a friend who lives in the woods outside of town, a huge black wolf with green eyes; this is Odin. Each night, Taryn and Odin go to a meadow above town and wait for the stars to come out. With the nightly appearance of the stars coincides the blooming of beautiful flowers in the wilderness around the town. The flowers are luminescent; from a distance, it appears the valley is full of stars. On this particular night, Taryn and Odin notice a large square of the night sky is devoid of stars. As a result, most of the flowers don’t bloom, and the ones that do appear to be ill, wilted. The flowers are used for medicine, so the lack of stars has a direct impact on people. Taryn, however, wants the flowers back simply because she loves the valley, the forest, and everything in it. To her, the flowers are life. In her mind, taking the flowers is akin to a kind of murder. She brings an example of the wilting flower home, but the town council doesn’t want to take any action. Taryn hears the legend of the King of Stars, a person who, long ago, tried to steal the stars from the sky to literally gain power over people. Taryn naively believes she can simply find the King of Stars and ask him to return the stars so her flowers can bloom and the valley can live. Taking only the bare essentials and a silver knife her grandfather used to own, she and Odin set out to find the King of Stars. Early on in their journey, Taryn and Odin meet a strange gunslinger dressed in black; his name is Cole. He too is on his way to see the King of Stars. Unable to persuade the stubborn Taryn to turn around and go home, he decides he should travel with her and Odin to provide protection. Taryn learns the King of Stars is much further away than she thought. Taryn sees the King of Stars in the forest, but it appears to be a projection of some sort instead of his physical self. The three later come across a church group in a very small village; these people provide some food and shelter for our protagonists but decline to join their quest. They take the stance of non-intervention. Taryn, Odin, and Cole are also confronted by some of the King’s followers as they near the sea, which they must cross to find the King. The followers, wearing white masks under purple cloaks, are a type of collectivist cult, and not only want to stop Taryn, but they also have a strange, keen interest in her grandfather’s knife. The three of them get away from the King’s followers (Cole actually kills some of them, implied but not shown) and eventually make it to the ocean where they board a large airship, the Oceana.

Part 1 (Adults): Taryn Snow lives somewhere near Placerville, California. Although it’s between the years 2070 and 2100, there are no obvious signs of technology anywhere. People travel by horse or on foot, houses are heated and lit by lanterns and fire. As Taryn leaves the town, certain visual clues will suggest a major event of some sort knocked out all technology many, many years earlier, and the world never recovered. Instead, the world reverted to a simpler time. They’re accustomed to it by now; it’s not a dystopia. It’s comfortable. People are not starving or being hunted by corporations.

There are three groups aside from Taryn, Odin, and Cole: the first group, the town council, represents those people who won’t face reality and think things will get better by simply ignoring the situation or hoping for a good outcome. This group is lead by the mayor who wears a ring that indicates (later in the story) he was actually doing the bidding of the King of Stars. In other words, he was planted there to keep people from action.

The second group is the religious village where people simply pray things will get better, once again deciding not to take any direct action.

The third group, the cult, is much like the Occupy movement; they too are doing the direct bidding of the King of Stars by actively trying to prevent anyone from taking action against the King of Stars. They also wear the ring.

The King of Stars, of course, represents a power-hungry maniac willing to subject everyone in the world to his whims for the sake of more power. His character is a real person we’ve all seen; more on that later. And no, it's not Obama. The King of Stars is the destroyer of freedom and of life for the sake of his own.

Finally, Taryn, Odin and Cole represent action, the willingness to act and the belief they’ll succeed. Taryn and Cole have different motivations and different methods (Taryn will talk while Cole will kill), but their end goal is the same: returning the stars.

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Seing as how this is a story for children, you might want to replace cole's gun for a dart gun. This means that the childrens book remaines more or less murder free, and lets them come back later in the book as another obstical.

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Thanks for the recommendation Joojie.I've considered that myself and I've concluded Cole will keep his firearms, but the descriptions of the killing will be left to the imagination for the most part. I think if I word it right I think it'll be fine. One of the reasons I want to keep the guns in there is to draw a clear distinction between Taryn and Cole. She tries to avoid problems, Cole goes right through them. I'll keep the option open though, in case I get stuck.

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I was intrigued by your projects direction/goal, as I've had the same desire and goal to create a story for my children. (This desire predated my exposure to Rand, and actually to my children as well) But I'm very much more an visual artist (a designer for 8+ years) and have not had a great deal of experience (or luck) with writing- And as others on your previous thread pointed out, it's nearly impossible (and, I guess in a sense, very much disrespectful to the craft) to "use" a form of art to "force" a idea...

[For the record I have successfully used my illustration skills to communicate my ideas to "write" a story with images, but it has, in the past, frustrated me that I cannot use words to do that as well]

I can tell by your writing that you have a very well developed sense of written word communication--- Your succinct yet rich description/introduction to your story not only enthralled me, but integrating both the "adult" and "child" portions created a very strong visual for me to enjoy. (Ah, the joys of imagination) -- I am curious as to how much writing/dialogue will be present- i.e. picture book or book with illustrations? (sorry if you've discussed this before) Regardless of age, I find that simplicity lends itself to effective communication- (not "dumbing it down" but definitely not like Harry Potter.. or, even though I was captivated by it, Atlas Shrugged -I'm STILL trying to absorb and integrate it all!) - Despite age (but in this instance age being especially important) adding too many details or descriptions, can muddy and draw away from the story- (Not saying that is what you're doing, just overly curious as to what form the story is going to take)

I think since reading Atlas Shrugged, it's been difficult for me to find any form of communication art- i.e. painting, design, book, poem, music, etc. that so enthralls me, entertains me, that communicates to me that the creator of said art did it for the sake of ones own passion, for the sake of communicating oneself to the world. I can see that you're going in the right direction, as even though this is a way for you to communicate your passion for life (and your philosophy that supports it) to your children, and the world, you are doing it for that reason- for yourself. If you don't loose that passion, I can see that this story has great potential.

Critical comments/observations- neither positive or negative, just things to consider-

I do find the story very much a hero journey; possibly unique if the hero, as female, is handled correctly. [Think Dagney vs Bella] I like the combinations of characters, as i understand the audience you are trying to convey your message to, i can understand the appeal of Girl, Wolf, Gunslinger. I will say that the characters at this point seem very typical of current young adult/pre-teen fiction and mythological influences- but as I expect that the story will be Directed by the Character of Taryn and her virtues [and supported by those of Odin and Cole], these so called 'stereotypical' characters won't be so much that- i.e. it won't particularly matter that they are 'girl,' 'wolf,' or 'gunslinger.' The reason i point this out is be prepared for the "oh this is just like X" or various related responses from people in general, and that you, yourself may stray into your characters 'stereotypical-ness'. (at this point this observation is simply cautionary)

I like that Cole uses a gun. It would be how and when he uses it that really matters. (Think of the particularly great scene outside Hank's Factory, when Francisco very skillfully uses his guns, and why he is using them) Q- is it hard to show him using the gun (or the implication of using the gun as you alluded to) only when he is physically threatened? or is he using it when the threat is implied? i.e. when the cult members intercept Taryn, Odin, and Cole, does Cole kill only because they are going to be killed?

Also- What is Odin's Role? I understand that it nice to have a companion, but why does Taryn have Odin? I don't mean what is the explicit reason he's a character in the story, but as a writer, why did your include Odin as a character? I, personally like the imagery of a big, fluffy, but definitely dangerous, wolf as a companion to my child on a journey of this type, but why does your story need Odin? (I can kind of understand Cole's role as a opposite expression of the same virtures of Taryn).. You may answer this in your next character posts, but that was one of the question that presented itself to me right at the start.

For the first time in a while with a piece of art, I'm looking forward to the next description/installment.

Edited by C.Aoyagi

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