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World of WarCrafts: Blizzard fan fiction runner-up Meghan O'Hara

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What is it that makes a Forsaken a Forsaken, and what keeps him from giving up and letting go? A few weeks ago, we interviewed 2010 Global Writing Contest runner up Celine Taillefer, whose story In the Blood told the tale of Blood Queen Lana'thel and her place in Icecrown Citadel. This week, we have a story of a different kind, one that explores the link between Scourge and Forsaken and what happens when that link is broken.

In the story Fresh, author Meghan O'Hara tells the chilling tale of once simple farmer Henry Walker and his development from mindless fiend of the Scourge armies to Forsaken priest. It's an eerie, well-written exploration into what exactly keeps an undead man sane and what drives him to continue waking up and moving on day after day. But beyond that, Fresh is an unlikely, strange and beautiful love story and a look into the interaction between the undead and the powers of the Light.

World of WarCrafts: Hi Meghan -- congratulations on your win! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Meghan: I can barely believe I'm typing these words, but I'm a homeschooling housewife. That's a fairly recent development; I used to be a graphic artist. I actually did the old WoW webcomic Hammer of Grammar under my character's name, Auden. I'm married to Gweryc, the infamous melee hunter. I started playing WoW around Christmas 2005, just long enough to feel entitled to shake my staff at whippersnappers near the bank and croak about how back in my day, we had to run from the Crossroads to Thunder Bluff uphill, barefoot, and carrying a spore emulsion on a timer.

How did you get into writing?

I've loved to write for as long as I can remember. I noticed that Celine Taillefer copped to her Mary Sue Sailor Moon fic, so I guess I can admit that I wasted eighth grade filling something like 12 spiralbound notebooks with the epic saga of my friends and their torrid trysts with the New Kids on the Block.

Other than copywriting, all the writing I've done has been amateur. I had a bizarrely popular online journal for a decade or so but closed it under pressure from family and friends who were unhappy with the level of exposure it was getting. I've had a lot of uncomfortable conversations with my dad, but I don't think anything's ever going to top him finding out about my nether piercing from a client who read about it in Newsweek.

I have vast acres of fanfic online, although Fresh is the only Warcraft story I've written. Everyone keeps telling me to write original fiction and try to get published, but I secretly enjoy the challenge of working in someone else's universe. It suits my brain, which forgets my own phone number but can yank out minute details about Xander Harris at a moment's notice.

I love how you worked with the subject of just how hard it is for a Forsaken to wield the Light. I know Blizzard mentioned this in passing in the first Creative Development Q&A -- was that the inspiration for Henry's story, or was there something else that inspired it?

Wow, yes -– Ghostcrawler's post was exactly what inspired the story.

Without spoiling too much, we can tell you that wielding the Light is a matter of having willpower or faith in one's own ability to do it. That's why there are evil paladins (for example, the Scarlet Crusade and Arthas before he took up Frostmourne). For the undead (and Forsaken), this requires such a great deal of willpower that it is exceedingly rare, especially since it is self-destructive. When undead channel the Light, it feels (to them) as if their entire bodies are being consumed in righteous fire. Forsaken healed by the Light (whether the healer is Forsaken or not) are effectively cauterized by the effect: sure, the wound is healed, but the healing effect is cripplingly painful. Thus, Forsaken priests are beings of unwavering willpower; Forsaken (and death knight) tanks suffer nobly when they have priest and paladin healers in the group; and Sir Zeliek REALLY hates himself.

Once I read that, I couldn't help thinking about what could possibly drive a Forsaken to do that to themselves ... and to wonder what other effects it would have.

Fresh is amazing -- and it really highlights the mind set behind a Forsaken. Can you tell us about why you chose that particular subject and about the development of the story?

Well first, thanks a lot, and I'm really glad you liked it! My first character ever was Forsaken, and in a lot of ways, the content in Fresh grew out of my experience playing her. When I bought WoW, I knew nothing about the universe, and I completely misunderstood what I'd heard about the Forsaken. Reading that they'd broken off from whoever this nasty "Arthas" person was, I assumed that meant they were good.

I adored the idea of noble, intelligent zombies, facing discrimination because of their appearance, fighting for their right to retain the homeland they'd had when they were alive. I've always been a sucker for an underdog story. It wasn't long before the quest content pimp-slapped me with how wrong I'd been. I'd had a working concept of my character as pretty decent overall, and there I was poisoning puppies and living in a city that considered "bloated corpses on hooks" a fetching window treatment.

To avoid re-rolling, I decided that my necromanced decaying organic matter was a beautiful, unique snowflake and basically good. Anything I came across in game that supported the idea that some Forsaken weren't evil -– their inclusion in the Argent Dawn, Leonid Barthalomew the Revered, the storylines of Trevor and High Inquisitor Fairbanks -– I researched for pleasure. Ghostcrawler's post was very relevant to my interests.

Eastern Plaguelands contained my favorite vanilla quest lines by far. The stories of the Fordring and Redpath families made me cry no matter how many alts I did them on, and I was so impressed with how Blizzard had managed to convey the incredible tragedy of what had happened in the zone. I started really thinking about what it must have been like for the rank and file of Lordaeron to go through that period -- not just the invasion and their time as members of the Scourge, but the aftermath. What was it like, the moment when the Lich King's control broke? How did they realize what had happened to them? Did they try to go home, did they try to find their families? The possibilities were so horrifying.

That was what really interested me -- the idea of John Q. Average having his insanely boring life interrupted by something so extraordinary.

Was Fresh created specifically for the global writing contest? How long did it take to complete?

Fresh was written specifically for the contest. The basic idea behind it had been kicking around in my head for a while, but (shameful confession time) I actually wrote the story in a dead heat the night the contest ended. I'd been so busy that I'd given up on entering at all, but Gweryc convinced me to at least give it a shot and swore he'd tank the children so I could concentrate. I guess it took me about eight hours. I finished and submitted about five minutes before the contest cutoff point, and only then had time to do a read-through. That was when I saw the gigantic plot hole and the hideous typos and was convinced that Metzen was going to use it for toilet paper.

If you were given a chance to write about one particular moment in Warcraft history, what would you pick?

Oh, wow, that's really tough. I guess I'd go with prehistory ... One of the most interesting parts for me of reading the War of the Ancients trilogy was the brief, tantalizing glimpses of the not-yet-dwarves Earthen and early tauren, and it seems like it'd be fun to explore.

Do you have any advice to aspiring entrants into the next Global Writing Contest?

Eight hours before the contest ends is not a good time to start, unless you like panic attacks.

Actually, I guess my biggest piece of advice would be to read as much supplemental material as possible. Wowpedia, the books, and at the risk of sounding like I'm brown-nosing, the Know Your Lore column here. Even if it doesn't give someone an awesome idea for a story or a cool piece of detail that makes their story seem more real, it just enhances the game so much.

Thank you so much for your time Meghan, and congratulations again on your win!

If you'd like to read the full version of Fresh, Meghan has made it available for public viewing on her Wordpress blog. For more excerpts from winning authors, you can check out the official Blizzard website with the list of winning stories.

World of WarCrafts spotlights art and creativity by WoW players, including arts and crafts, fan art, WoW-themed recipes, comics, cosplay, music and fan fiction. Show us how you express yourself by emailing anne@wowinsider.com with your not-for-profit, WoW-inspired creations.

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