NaNoWriMo 2023 – Part I: Story

If there was a lesson I’ve learnt from the sluggishness of 2022’s project, it’s to have some sort of plan. So in 2023, I took heed in the advice of the internet hive mind, mostly in the form of blog posts, regarding this so-called ‘Preptober’.

With the existence of this site, I thought it’d be a great opportunity to fill the writing section on what typically goes through my mind in the several months prior to the race to 50k.

Whilst I was working on this reflection, I realised early on it’d end up being a massif write-up (spoiler alert: it’s more than a third of a NaNo project itself!), so I’ve split it into a three parts –

  1. So that you have a baseline as to what I’m talking about, I decided to focus first on the story and its characters. That’s this one.
  2. Next, how the story itself relates to my personal life, as I look back on my own.
  3. Finally, saving the most interesting one for last, commentary and takeaways on the writing experience in 2023.

The “Idea”

I’ve been going at NaNo for almost a decade, so it’s safe to say it’s found itself a really comfy spot in my annual calendar. Early each year (as early as January or February sometimes), I often find myself thinking about what I’m going to write this time around. The sentiment I felt in 2023 was like preparing for another impending doom that I’d much rather grind through day by day in control, instead of suffering through mental blockades.

Most years, this spark comes in the form of a single scene, character pair, or even just a few key sentences – often whilst I’m on some sort of transit, be it bus, train, or car. It had to be an idea that would last me 50k words, yet be specific enough such that I wasn’t overwhelmed by the possibilities.

Previous years

Most of the story topics I’ve written in my previous years stem from conceptualising “what if” scenarios, typically portraying an existing stereotype, then either flipping them upside down or giving it a new spin:

  • (2018) Stereotype: Exorcism, by definition, is the removal of an evil spirit.
    • Observation: It’s also typically forced, and the spirit has malicious intent.
    • Flip: Cooperative, willing possession by a more peaceful lingering spirit, looking for help to bring justice to tie loose ends.
  • (2019) Stereotype: An apocalypse involves some kind of physical destruction, causing society to fight for survival.
    • Observation: The antagonist that drives the disaster could be pathological (modern depiction of zombies, mutants), dangerous (monsters, aliens, etc), or more simple things like status (wealth, crime, technology, etc). Regardless, all of these are obvious to the audience.
    • Alternative: Instead of fighting for life, it’s a fight for the preservation of intelligence. If the only symptoms of a highly infectious disease is intelligence loss, how do people immediately tell and reliably defend against that? (Fun fact: COVID-19 happened in December... was this all a low-key prophecy? oOoOoOo)
  • (2021) Stereotype: Some fantasy races – at least according to the lore of classical fantasy and games like D&D or WarCraft – are depicted as sworn enemies.
    • Flip: In a setting where all of that is now history and the intelligent races live peacefully, what’s left?

Of course, like everything, none of these ideas are original – Rule 21, people. My 2021 project, set in a near-future urban fantasy, was heavily inspired by Ryuusei World Actor[1], and mixed with the occasional check of the D&D 5e Player’s Handbook and Dungeon Master’s Guide – not that I’m remotely interested in the game at all.


Whilst I didn’t intend to lead you, in 2023 I broke the pattern. There was no ‘early-year thought’, no what-if concept. It was more just a bunch of observations.

However – bear with me for a moment. I was gonna go 5D chess meta:

Stereotype: As discussed earlier, in the past, I often used to write on the go with little to no plan. I went wherever the wind took me.


  • When I was stuck, I’d be horribly stuck.
  • During these times, my backup plan would be to ‘branch off’ and write the equivalent of ‘character routes’, exactly how a visual novel might be structured.
  • Most stories were wild and free, their topics influenced by the media that I consumed at the time, or knowledge that I had studied in the past or present.


  • I planned to go into 2023 more prepared: characters, story world, chapters – all outlined top-level at the bare minimum.
    • Instead of character routes that veered into erotica – my guilty pleasure, ‘easy way out’ of a word count target slump – it’d be smarter to incorporate some of it into the main story (or maybe not... there tends to be a mixed reaction on this).
  • By far, the key theme for this project was a classic piece of writing advice: it’s a whole lot easier to derive a story based on your own experiences. So, the story was gonna have a huge focus on symbolism.
    • Various characters in the story reflect parts of my life. I go into more detail on this in my retrospective.
    • The overall story world is a commentary on the people that I’ve met – family, school, work, friends and meetups, or even the arcade scene – both the funny, the yikes, and the cringe (which, as you can probably imagine, the last in both of those are aplenty).
  • I quite enjoyed writing stories in an urban fantasy setting, so rather than think of something completely novel all the time, I’ve decided to stick with an existing world.
  • It’s easier to talk about something that’s happening right now. 2023 was the year of AI, digital currency, and the dwindling job market. Some of these concepts I’ve taken the liberty to de-cringe and portray in a more productive or serious light.

See? I promised you it’d be all relevant.


When, and if I get down to planning, typically I like to figure out what I call the triple five. After all, we might as well stick with an existing digit; NaNoWriMo is 50k words. The ‘triple’ represents pitches that can be explained in:

  • 5 seconds (the ‘elevator pitch’ or ‘story line’, approximately 5² = 25 words)
  • 50 seconds (a big paragraph; about five sentences for the intro, three acts, and ending, if we’re following a three-act structure)
  • 5 minutes (a mid-length synopsis)

To this day, I haven’t even started working out what my elevator pitch is going to be. Usually, that’s because it’s determined closer to when the story is more complete. Except, it turns out, by the end of the 50k words, I had only covered about half of what I planned to write, and maybe 5-10% of the overarching story. This was no short one-shot novel... this was practically a web series!

So instead, here’s a slightly edited (and longer than) 50-second summary of the NaNo plan.

the five ‘sentences’

Hyphen (as she calls herself) earns a comfortable living freelancing jobs on the ‘grey-web’ NetWork inside a city governed by the Council, who runs an AI system that has replaced most manual labour in society. In Hyphen’s off time, she can be found bumming around a café-slash-speakeasy hacking workshop Taeswer.

Whilst on a job, she obtains a memory drive after witnessing the gruesome death of a fellow NetWorker, thrusting her into the middle of a lethal conflict between the Council and secret radical anti-AI group |1⟩ (“Acetone”), both of which could threaten the smooth running of the NetWork.

When Hyphen learns the drive contains malware presumably to disrupt the Council’s AI, she finds herself targeted by undercover NetWorkers, along with setting the entire city’s AI against her.

Hyphen, with the assistance of Taeswer’s crew, attempts to plant the malware into a Council facility, but doesn’t realise this was a trap the Acetones forced the crew to direct her into, where the Council was eventually waiting to subdue her.

In a seemingly twist of fate, the Council drones turn on each other, allowing Hyphen to escape. She tails the Acetones to confront whoever was behind the conflict, hopefully prolonging the future of the NetWork.


I like to think character design and interactions are one of my stronger points on the skill radar of creative writing – this is truest when it’s compared to, say, action scenes. After all, about three quarters of my planning notes consisted of the character guide.

The finer details of the story were mostly derived from how I’d picture these character interactions to play out, so I figured it’d make sense to start by discussing them.

You can find how these characters relate personally to me or the people I’ve met, in my retrospective.


The female main character in the city of the Eighth. Unsure of what the distant future holds in a place where anything goes, she enjoys and holds dear the present moment to its fullest.

  • Specialty: Hyphen, by all practical means, is human, save for a distant succubi heritage. This nevertheless grants her various interesting abilities:
    • Via a sort of ‘meditation’, she can hijack and change the immediate thoughts of other people to her advantage, e.g. diverting one’s attention to allow her to sneak past them; causing drivers of a car chase to veer into another. She sees thoughts as physical cloud-like orbs, to which she can telepathically interact with through gestures.
    • Manipulate one’s dreams, e.g. to indirectly inspire/guide someone, or perhaps mentally wear someone down if used maliciously.[2]
    • Other capabilities I haven’t explored.
  • Personality: Careful yet carefree, Hyphen is typically reserved, but can switch to being outgoing when the time calls for it.
    • Her actions are sometimes chaotic and unpredictable, all so that she can thwart the Council’s AI systems, which were trained on people’s behaviours. Friends and NetWorkers often call her the “Plan C” girl, as she achieves her goals by doing things in unconventional ways.
    • Due to her succubus bloodline, some of her more... arousing dreams can be intense – which she sees more as a curse than a blessing. As such, her hormones and often misinterpreted thoughts can get a little too excitable for her liking.
  • Everyday life: Advancing technology and the Council’s AI all contributed to the decline of jobs, so Hyphen has resorted to underground ‘bounty’ work.
    • One of her ambitions in life is to prove/live the belief that people are still essential in an AI-developed world.
    • However, she also realises that without the AI unfolding the way it has, her current gig might’ve not been a thing.

About 15–20% of my NaNo project delved into the discovery and reasoning behind her thought manipulation capabilities via her dreams, by speaking to her ‘self’ in the mirror, who acts independently of herself and guides her. This is based on the oft-spoke confirmation test that if one can’t see their reflection in the mirror, they know they are dreaming.

She is the personification (?) of Hyphen’s succubus origin, capable of controlling Hyphen just like how she would with anybody else. The other ‘self’ often makes Hyphen perform some sort of sexual activity, with the intention to release her own thought orbs, so that her other ‘self’ can demonstrate and prove an explanation.

The other ‘self’ talks about how intellectual entities like information and thought are transferred from one being to another in space; what energies compel this interaction of knowledge to occur, and where does it happen? She theorises that it’s due to the planes of existence beyond the physical realm, and that Hyphen’s ‘meditation’ technique used to visualise and manipulate thoughts is actually a textbook example of planar travel.

At the end of these kinds of big brained dreams, Hyphen is heavily inconvenienced, both mentally, and often physically. As she likes to put it:

I still get nightmares about sleeping in on high school tests, but at least by the end of it you wake up and realise you’ve already graduated years ago.

This is more like you’re left with homework to figure out back in the real world... but it’s also accompanied by a racing heart and a sensation in your belly that rubs you the wrong way for a so-called nightmare, if you get what I’m saying.


Owner of a café appropriately named Taeswer. To the uninitiated, it may be confusing why he’d name it such. However, when you understand they hold Tae’s Tech Tuesdays to help customers with their devices, and that there’s a secret hacking workshop at the back to ‘jailbreak’ and unlock consumer tech, it makes complete sense. Taeswer is a portmanteau of the founder’s name, and “answer”. It has nothing to do with the zappy gun, other than it hinting at the electric scope of their assistive services.

  • Specialty: Tae has no supernatural specialties. Rather, that is his specialty compared to all the other characters; he’s the only true human in the gang.
  • Personality: Tae is patient, polite, and well spoke – it’s the trick behind his male idol-like presence in his café. His nature of equality and benevolence to achieve it shows through in his shop’s mission to “make tech free (as in beer) and great again”. He believes things, like the Council’s AI, should be built for the people, not for the tech.
    • He takes advantage of his demeanour to pretend to be clueless about sensitive topics. This is partially so that he can keep the hacking workshop under cover.
    • Despite his looks as a barista, he knows his fair amount of hardware know-how.
  • Everyday life: Working in a café, Tae meets people from all walks of life, and maintains connections within his own internal network that he’s built upon.
    • Previously being Hyphen’s boyfriend, his current attitude has without a doubt been influenced by her. He agrees with Hyphen’s ‘acceptance of mistakes’ mentality, and doesn’t judge people based on their past actions. Rather, he prefers to focus on the provisional intentions one plans to make, something Tae strongly believes is what ultimately, and only, matters.
    • Tae expanded his tech workshop into the grey-net business through a series of events that started when he took Audrey in (see later below), who at that time had stumbled upon his café whilst ‘fighting’ for her life.

Tae was the next character I had planned after Hyphen. Whilst I had a concrete person in mind on who to model after Tae, I had no idea what his role was to be in the story.

As they say, every character should be a main character – or, better phrased as the inverse: “no side character ever thinks they’re just a side”. Tae at that stage was just a barista who had connections, and an ex-boyfriend of Hyphen, with no special traits in this urban fantasy.

So, just like a meta-film that ran past its schedule and ended up being about the process of filming said failed film, I figured I’d shift the responsibility to another character to see if they could grant that extra substance to Tae’s personality.

Based on my writing history, the third character to be written down on paper somehow always ends up being my best one, so using them as a driver for Tae would be big brain strats, right?

An easy way to start brainstorming that is to change the café’s mission. As I initially had it, Tae already had this secret workshop, since it was baked into the Taeswer name. What caused Tae to jump in on this shady hacking business, if it seemed to go against his innocent-looking nature?

I downgraded Taeswer’s former mission to simply be “cuppa meets tech” – and so it was established that Tae’s Tech Tuesdays had always been a thing. It’s just that somewhere down the line, this hacktivism business got mixed into the bag...

And, boom. Plug, socket, connect. We’ve now got an impetus to break Tae’s status quo. It’s his call to action – I hereby introduce said third character:


A knowledgeable girl whose brain was way ahead of her slow, laid back lifestyle. Once spoilt for choice on what to pursue in her future given the options afforded to her as dux potential, her decision on tech was set in stone after a rebel attack on her school cost her – and her classmates’ – lives. All she wants now is not necessarily vengeance, but answers... to a lot of things.

  • Specialty: Audrey has the undead equivalent of Hyphen’s demonic ancestry. She remains unaware of her true nature other than having established a hypothesis.
    • She has the capability to escape death, although she doesn’t know how, and she wouldn’t dare to risk experimenting into it. On the day she stumbled upon Taeswer, she had (presumably) died trying to save her classmates, but an unknown phenomenon brought her back to life again.
    • Her death in the massacre caused something similar to an ‘ability points reset’ of her brain: her non-essential knowledge had been completely wiped, ready to be filled in with something that instead mattered to her. Whilst this unusual boost of the accelerated mind carried her throughout her final year at school, she realised none of it really mattered, and letting go and focusing on one thing in the present was better than holding on to everything in the past.
  • Personality: Pint-sized young adult with a terse mouth and deadpan sarcasm, although a truly kind girl at heart.
    • Opinionated and does things her way, but for good reason. Just like Tae is aware of his demeanour, Audrey is too of this, and occasionally uses it to her advantage.
    • She believes in causality and the golden rule. If she has the capability to right the wrongs of the things she can control – in this case, anything typically involving the Council’s AI, or a design flaw, or limitation in a piece of tech – she will entertain it.
    • Only removes her laziness ‘limiters’ when shit hits the fan. As formerly a character who took the back seat in life, the rebel massacre was her final wake-up call. Her ‘serious mode’ self has undoubtedly saved Hyphen’s life multiple times whilst she’s out doing jobs in the city.
  • Everyday life: Much like Audrey herself, she has brought renewed life to Tae’s café, working as a genius hacker in a team with aligning purposes.
    • Her end goal is to only find the truth behind the rebel massacre; the lives of her friends that have been lost cannot be simply paid off with equal death. Rather, it “isn’t her job” to mete justice, but rather let the fruits of the rebels’ actions speak for themselves.

Audrey is super chill. Rather, it was the major incident of the rebel massacre that only reluctantly fuelled her to step up her game.

Explaining her lax doesn’t do it justice. Here’s a slightly edited excerpt of Audrey in (in)action, in one of the better scenes I thought was worth sharing. For context, ‘I’ is Hyphen, and she’s just handed over a phone to Audrey at the workshop, to see if it can be hacked into. It’s not looking like it’s gonna be straightforward, but...:

“...That’s alright. I have,” she rolls her eyes with a sigh and nod as she slapped a hand on the corner of the table, “ways.”

Audrey swings herself around to a tall stacked-compartment shelf, not that dissimilar to the public coin lockers. Arms raised above her head on her tiptoes, she rolls her fingertips and shuffles out a laptop from a compartment inch by inch.

I ask for another thing. “Would you also happen to know what this is?” Reaching into my shirt pocket, I produced the thumb-sized device.

Whilst carrying the laptop with the power brick on top and its cable drooping along on the floor, begging for a tripping hazard to occur, she lifts her head to examine the thing in my hand.

Not even a second later, she resumes walking... without bothering to pick the cable up.

“That’s like showing me a drained, cooked cake of instant ramen,” she puts the laptop onto the table, “no flavouring,” places both hands atop the gear, then looks at me square, “and then asking me to identify its brand” – furrowing her brows.

“...” I blink a few times, close my eyes, and bring the tips of my fingers of my free hand up between the space of my eyes. “Uhh, oddly specific yet I totally understand, but sure.” I leave the thumb drive next to her table with the robotic arm setup that she was operating prior to me walking in. “I’ll just, um.”

She winks and nods. “Yeah, you do that.”


If Hyphen is the grey-web freelancer who works for nobody and everybody, carrying the thrills of being rich one month but possibly shit broke the next, Karax is the complete opposite. He’s the welfare applicant with a goal to earn a secure salary in a secure business – such as, the government.

  • Specialty: Karax is a Grasken, a warrior-clade better known for their loyalty and (presumably strange) advocacy for peace. Through centuries of evolution, Grasken today look more like oversized humans, although their figure still have some clearer tell-tale signs of orcish origins.
  • Personality: A gentle giant, Karax pursues the goals of living a comfortable, professional life.
    • Securing his finances is his first priority, in a place where it’s becoming increasingly difficult to do so.
    • Like most other orcish races, Karax is conscious about his self-image. Whilst he may have been a bit lax in his high school years hanging out with Hyphen and the rest of the crew, he was serious with his studies.

I wasn’t able to plan or manage to get that far into the story during NaNo, but my intention was to make it so that Karax eventually gets a job in the Council. Hyphen would then use her connections with Karax to obtain a backdoor into the inner workings of the government.

Within the Eighth, races that have been known in history for fighting are called ‘warrior clades’. In a typical fantasy world, this would cover orcs, trolls, and the like. They have a history of short temper, and still hold remnants of their strength.

Karax is one of those who strives to break the stereotype. This contrast is especially emphasised when he is lined up with Hyphen: she works a risky 24/7-available job on the ‘front lines’ exposed to direct combat; he would prefer a 9-to-5 office job that uses his brain instead of his brawn. It just so happens to be that the roles, which most people would associate with their respective races, have been switched.

The audience is first introduced to Karax when Hyphen bumps into him queuing up in a long line at local social welfare centre Serv8. He’s like most other students in real life, looking for assistance with paying off uni fees.

For those who don’t know how government funded allowances work, the gist of is that, at least in Australia back in my time, if someone wanted one from the government, they need to be either studying full-time or looking for work otherwise.[3] The rules are strict to prevent exploitation; there’s a lot of dishonest people out there who use government benefits as an opportunity (excuse?) to avoid work.

As a result of these rules, Karax ended up spending his first years of student life working the odd job not progressing his career path, and so is looking to change that for the future, preferably sooner than later.


Seneira, just like Karax, is a fellow student and teammate in this game of job seeking. For it not for a certain incident all too familiar to those obliged to visit their local social service centre, Hyphen and Karax would’ve never had the chance to meet this peculiar individual.

  • Specialty: Seneira is an Aucylix (pronounced something similar to ‘or-kel-lek’), a rare warrior-clade race known for her kind – as in, being a female. Whilst she looks like a smaller human girl, comparable to elves, there are a few things that set her apart:
    • As with all warrior-clades, her strength and battle prowess betrays her looks.
    • Female Aucylix also have a distinct protrusion on their backs, similar to a tail.
  • Personality: Seneira, having grown up in a multicultural society, is selfless and quite meek.
    • The fruits of her short-tempered reactions when provoked are often what causes her to inadvertently get herself into trouble, realising after the fact. Outsiders usually see this as a split personality.
    • Outside of her warrior side, she behaves much like an offline teenage girl: enjoying soft/fluffy things, has great fashionable sense, always up to date with trends of music, food, etc.

The majority of warrior-clades, relative to humans, are larger and stronger – and of course, with that, associates danger or safety, depending on how one looked at it.

However, one could argue that deceiving looks is yet more dangerous, as there is no fear to instil in the first place.

Such is the case with the Aucylix – a rare warrior-clade race that, ambitiously speaking, is the antithesis of that impression. So much so, that the female counterpart of these folk, what the Aucylix are known for, have even garnered the attention of elves for their beauty.

At the time Hyphen had bumped into Karax in line at Serv8, Seneira was the girl in front. She had brief showtime in an early part of NaNo, by overhead throwing a man (think high striker, but in this case not with a hammer) who exhibited aggressive behaviour – a sight all too common in such a place – and got on the nerves of Seneira after overhearing a racist comment. Then, after seeing the consequences of her actions albeit a bit too late, Seneira insisted upon Hyphen and Karax that she hand herself in for technically indirect damages.

In this story, we have a lot of ambitious people. Hyphen and Audrey had a mission in this world perusing their fantastical powers. Tae, although ordinary as a person, wound up contributing to efforts against the normalisation of AI. Karax has a solid plan living and securing a comfortable future.

Seneira, however, just wants to chill – something completely reasonable for anyone her age, yet in a time and place where doing that seems to be proving ever impossible.


For every community there is, there always exist the names of a few local legends. Within the NetWork, Hyphen, of course, is known for her odd choice of a username, ‘-’. Equally as mysterious is another named ‘ ’. What has it going for Hyphen, though, is that she also has a sizeable reputation to her name.

Others are known for their specialties; Malley belongs in this category.

  • Specialty: Malley is an Evisan, a demonic race known for their early-developed intelligence but especially their eyesight. Hyphen likens a male Evisars’ intelligence to a female Aucylix’s strength, in that both have the guise of looking young.
    • He has made a name for himself on the NetWork for his preference to choose jobs involving scouting, sniping, or anything requiring work carried out at a distance. Not only is his eyesight fantastic, he has the appropriate skills to complement them too.
    • Perusing demon tech, he carries a matter displacing gadget that stores and recalls gear kept in a separate, stable dimension of existence.
  • Personality: When it’s not related to the NetWork, he’s got the vibe you’d expect a well-behaved twelve year old kid to be.
    • Given that they work the same job, Malley sees Hyphen like a sort of big sister – and perhaps rightfully so, given they both have demonic ancestry...
    • He has an appetite that would rival the warrior-clades. Rasektun Bay, home to houses and eateries of said race, is a common spot for Malley to drag Hyphen around for lunch, often leaving her fuller than she wished for.
    • Possibly influenced by his surrounds and warrior-clades, who are the opposite of the fussier eaters that are the elves, he has no interest in gustatory appreciation – yet.
    • Mischievous and sometimes odd, he pays little concern for his shenanigans when carrying out his work. Although, Malley likely only ever behaves like this in front of Hyphen as his endearing way of trolling her.
  • Everyday life: Much like Hyphen, Malley lives job to job on the NetWork in self-sufficiency for his everyday life. Whilst he wishes he was able to engage in more interesting activities (hence why he bothers Hyphen every time they chance upon each other), regardless, he is content with doing things that result in a net benefit for the world.

Malley is the fit for the ‘kid living in an adult world’ trope, and I’ve covered this in various ways. He’s a sole resident of the Eighth. He’s dressed immaculately, reminiscent of a child whose parents are particular with their sense of style. He juggles a double life as a school student (it’s a pure act, though) and a NetWorker. As a result, that means he’s also exposed to the more violent and dramatical matters on said job board.

Sometimes, he has to take a breather from all of that, and he’s able to relieve that pressure by accompanying Hyphen whenever both have the time.

I wanted to establish their closeness, connected via the common similarity of their elite presence, through a sibling-like relationship. They’re in it together, and they both look out for each other, in a NetWork hidden with secrets. One introductory chapter was all I could fit into my NaNo’s draft for, but it was a fun one to go through.


The secondary driver to my stories are settings. Some of the other chapters in my NaNo project derived inspiration from a particular scenario or location:

The Algorithm [x] Series

One of the first characters I brainstormed during my planning was a virtual streamer, Para:Lune, who had come to Taeswer as his offline resort from his popularity on the internet.[4] However, with the existence of the so-called ‘algorithm’, now unrestricted from being an online-only buzzword due to the advent of the Council’s AI, staying hush and hidden in reality is downright almost impossible. The Algorithm chapter series goes into his story by exploring these concepts.

The Algorithm Knows, the only chapter of the series that I wrote within NaNo, sees Hyphen enter a store where a group of schoolboys were browsing items whilst chatting amongst themselves about a game. During a moment where they stepped aside to allow Hyphen to pick up a jar of olives, one of the boys took out his phone to demonstrate a video platform’s algorithm that recommended Para:Lune, however not before an ad plays.

The ad in question... was about the thing Hyphen had in her hands: same brand, same jar of olives. Of course, the reality is that it’s sheer coincidence, but the brain always tries to seek connections. The schoolboys can’t help but wonder to what extent are they being watched, and how one would go about ‘defeating’ the algorithm.

Hyphen responds, stating one could start by thinking about someone else’s actions (i.e. predict their behaviour), then, by extension, thinking about one’s own actions. As Hyphen ponders upon whether she really wants the olives, she gives up on it, and instead hands them to one of the boys along with some spare change in her pocket to cover the cost. Walking away, she finally adds that once someone has thought about their own actions, they should then actuate the opposite.

My primary purpose of this mostly irrelevant scene to Para:Lune was to reveal Hyphen’s way of thinking. It explains the effectiveness of her “Plan C” method: if she can constantly surprise an intelligent being (like in this act of generosity), then surely she could surprise a predictive AI.

Trouble-A-Shooting Chapters

In another moment of write what you’ve experienced, there was one weekend during October where I was caught up in a three hour conversation with my mother as a result of her abysmal literacy in technology.

The problem was simple: say you have a horizontally scrolling bar of ten things, and you can only see the first five or so – where are the others? As I wanted to phrase every conversation with her regarding technology as a lesson (teach a man how to fish, right), I couldn’t exactly give her the direct answer. What I wasn’t expecting was that no hint, no matter how obvious, sent the message across.

I’ve faithfully recreated that conversation by assigning the digitally challenged to a character who comes by Taeswer’s tech workshops as a frequent customer, then threw the crew (Tae, Audrey and Hyphen) into the mix, seeing how they would interact.

It’s an interesting outcome, I’ll say that.

Other Parts: Action, Creepypasta

I tend to think my action events are interesting and thought-provoking, but as a result of that, they’re unrealistic and hard to visualise. There’s not much I can really talk about in this matter.

The only other chapter that I haven’t already covered is a creepy moment where Hyphen gets an odd half-request, half-warning from Acetone via a hacked video message through an ATM she was just using – except that it’s synchronised with the cutting out of the telegraph poles’ lights as well, leaving the evening surrounds pitch dark.

Now that I’m reviewing this article, I’m not so sure if explaining the story this way really helped you understand the overarching plot. To be fair, I didn’t progress much on the plot in the first place... however, I’m confident that you now have a good grasp of each character and their backstory.

With that, I think I’ve made it pretty clear how 2023’s story was themed around my personal experiences, something that I’ll be covering in the next part of my NaNo experience for that year.

let’s get comfy, shall we? →

[1] Perhaps you’ve heard of Classroom of the Elite. The light novel is written by the same author.

[2] A proposed storyline I wanted to write as an extra, if I finished my 50k early, involved Hyphen back in her high school days dealing vengeance for a bully victim. She’d do this by fabricating an assault case against the bully to get him into deep trouble... through the elicitation of a wet dream. You can probably figure out the chaos this crazy plan ensues.

[3] Of course, there’s other rules too to avoid students double dipping money – like, if income was earned, its value gets deducted from a threshold. Once the student reaches and/or exceeds it, their payment is likewise reduced and then eventually cut once they earn ‘too much’. After all, the whole point of this is to find a job that pays better; the allowance is just an incentive for putting the effort in.

[4] Originally, I had wanted to make the character female so I could delve into the reasons why streamers, especially girls, don’t show their faces. However, this was starting to get a bit stereotypical, and it’s not like the guys are immune to these issues too.