Gellick in the Hax

Mike GristDawn Rising, Featured Story, Jabbler's Mons, Story Art, Writing 1 Comment

Gellick is the rock at the heart of DAWN RISING, my epic fantasy novel. He is the lightest, most fun character, the one least touched by all the chaos outside in the city- though there is plenty of darkness lurking within his stone chest. He is a Balast, a race that calcify with time, losing all fluctility until they are just motionless blocks of stone, unable to think, speak, or move.

It’s a terrible fate, one that comes young and never lets up, that all Balasts seek to stave off through the Hax- an endless recounting of their life stories in sand, constantly reinforcing all their memories to keep them from fading.

Here Gellick writes his life in the lime-dust of the Hax district.

This is the third artwork I’ve commissioned from the world of DAWN RISING. You can see paintings of the main character Dawn here and of Mare the half-head thief here. Again I commissioned with Bryan Fowler.

As before, we started with a number of study images to get a flavor of how Gellick should look. First was the bulky, hulking nature of Gellick- something similar to these rock-monsters from a table-top RPG game:

Like this but not the same.

Next came the texture of his skin, and his eyes. All Balasts begin life with beautiful jewelly bodies, which slowly corrode and calcify over time. Gellick is only 12, like the others in the story, but his skin is already blackening, though his eyes are still a bright emerald green. I sent this image of volcanic rock with slight shimmering patches to get an idea of his skin tone.

Another reference we drew on for his physicality was the rockbiter from Never Ending Story. I have always loved the story, and the loss felt by the Rockbiter as he realizes his body is failing him. No doubt it went some way to inspire Gellick and the Balasts.

Last is the environment Gellick should be standing in; the Hax. It is an industrial area clouded with the white dust of pounded lime and grindstone, rising out of the Rockshares where Balasts work at mining and rock-smithing. Everything is coated in a constant blanket of white limey rock dust. To that end I drew on a haikyo- the White Stone Mine, which dealt hugely with limestone, and led to every bit of the factory being rimed with it white.

White Stone Mine.

Also since everything is built by these huge blocky Balasts, feeble and precise constructions of wood are out of the question. Instead all structures are stone, in simple Stonehenge like columns and lintels.

Bryan took all that stuff and came up with the image below, which I’m really pleased with. I love Gellick’s eyes, his weird jaw, his glittery skin, and the way he’s kneeling to draw with three-fingered hands in the dust- perhaps taking advantage of a momentary lull in his work pounding rock.

DAWN RISING progress report-

I’ve not been doing any active work on Dawn, though it’s constantly in the back of my mind. Fresh perspectives were provided by the book on Story Engineering I read recently, bringing me to a better understanding of why the story wasn’t as strong as it could be. Perhaps my weakness is movements of the third act. Third Act (when I use it this way, of 4 Acts total) is all about the hero knowing what he needs to do to win, and pursuing it like a Warrior.

In many of my past short stories, and novels, I bypass this stage entirely. By the time the hero knows what he must do, the power to do it is already in his hands- and he must simply make the choice.

That however is not standard story structure. People want to read the battle as the stakes rise between good and bad. In life, succeeding is not simply a question of knowing what you want. You must FIGHT for it.

Fighting requires a bad guy that is present and pushing hard on the hero. DAWN RISING has bad guys, many really, but they weren’t pushing hard. They were in the distance somewhere, applying gentle pressure. Now I know I need to bring them in harder, make them cut to the quick and really TRY to win. Only then will Dawn’s actions have the value they need to have for readers to care.

In the meantime, next up for art rendering is the spoiled little rich girl- Feyon.

See more of Bryan’s work on his website here.

See more art from DAWN RISING here.

See all my published short stories in the bibliography.

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