Hi! It’s me! The creator!

This one’s going on Twitter once I’ve written it.

For those of you that don’t know, Lily’s Amazing Life (formerly Lovely Lily Lives) is a serial fiction I’ve been writing for over a year now.  I wrote the character with the deliberate intent to be relatable, immersive, and most importantly, as realistic a character as I could possibly make her.  To that end, I gave her a twitter, a YouTube channel where I vtube as her sometimes, ways to communicate with her directly if you choose, and a few other things.  I’m actually not entirely sure why, but this was really important to me.  I wanted to make a character that I could detach from as much as possible, and had as much of her own life as possible as well.

This proved to be difficult – doable, but difficult.  Because, you see, I’m a middle aged male.

This has caused several challenges, some of which I could work around, and some of which were pretty much insurmountable with current technology.  And some of which weren’t related to technology at all.

The first challenge boiled down to technology.  Because I’m not a teenage girl, in order to bring her to life, I had two options.  Hire an actual female to do animation and voiceovers, or to try and do it myself.  Because I’m a sucker for punishment, I tried the latter.  And it worked – mostly.  I found myself experiencing many of the same difficulties trans people do – that of passing.  Because in a real way, when I animate her, I’m trying to pass as a teenage girl.

I have yet to get the voice right, and I have yet to get the mannerisms quite right.

The technology just isn’t quite there yet.

The technology I really need, which I imagine trans people would like as well, would take my voice, keep the intonation, break it down into its component phonemes, and put it back together as the voice of a teenage girl – keeping the expression and intonation but destroying all of the unwelcome things that I put into it.  That technology doesn’t exist.  So I have to work with what I have – software that changes the formant and pitch.  This… doesn’t work well.  I may yet need to hire an actual woman or girl to send me videos to animate from.

… making that request will be a challenge.

This brings me to the second challenge – and probably the most disappointing and stupidest of them all.  Because the parallels to passing as trans aren’t just illusory, they’re very real.  They’re real enough that when I show people my work product, they think I’m a pervert.  I’m not saying trans are perverted (I’m not saying they’re not either, I’m not making a statement on that at all) but I’m saying that people think I am for much the same reason those same people think trans people are perverted.  I’ve actually encountered some social ostracization when I show them this work.

That’s…. disappointing.

I’m not trans.  I’m not pretending to be a girl for any reason other than art.  That’s all it is.  Seriously.  I’m being an artist, and making art.

When I write Lily, I become Lily for just as long as it takes to write her diary entry, and then I press publish and close the laptop lid, and I’m right back to my old self.  Lily is, to me, a separate personality.  I try to make it as real and immersive as I can, but at the end of the day, I’m not her, and it boggles my mind that this could confuse people.  I want people to read (or watch) Lily, to love her, to want to get to know her, to follow her – but at the end of the day, she’s not real and there’s no confusion on that fact.

And maybe some day, she’ll make me a little money.

After all, that’s the end game, after all.

Hi! It’s me! The creator!

New year, new Lily.  I decided to rebrand her.  The site is now Lily’s Amazing Life, and the new domain is live.  Don’t worry, the old one will still work.  And I’m not planning on significantly redesigning her site for the time being, other than changing the name.  A change is needed, but not at the present time.

The reason for this is complicated.  The truth is. I never really liked the original domain or name, Lovely Lily Lives.  I mean, it did have some nice alliteration, which was cool, and it did succinctly express what I was trying to accomplish at the time.  But I never liked it.  It seemed a bit…  Not quite what I was trying to go for.  But I had to come up with something, and it was good enough.

But I got to thinking.  I would have preferred something like Lily’s World, but that domain was taken, and I went through a few other domains as well, trying to find one that suited her more, and I finally though of “Lily’s Amazing Life”, which I really like a whole lot better.  It reflects what the story is – a “documentation” of her life from the start of the diary until such time as it ends.  Unfortunately, Lily is a common name, and lots of people already snarfed the better ones.  But this one is pretty good.  If I write a book, that’s probably what I’m going to name it, or something very similar.

Other choices I rejected (for lack of domain names) was Lily’s Diary, Lily and Friends, and a couple of others.  I actually would have preferred Lily and Friends, but couldn’t get the domain I wanted.  Lily’s Amazing Life is fine.

Moving on…

Hi! It’s me! The creator!!!

So the story’s moving along, I guess.  Lily has her cousin Ai visiting from Japan, and they’re showing her all the sights and introducing her to all the food…  Ai’s a bit confused by how we do things (and she has a point – why would we want that Buc-ees?) but generally she’s having a good time, and Lily’s family is making her feel like a part of the family, which is good.

It’s funny how the story has developed, honestly.  I made a few very conscious choices when I started writing Lily.  I mean, yes, she has her own character and it has developed largely autonomously, but there are a few things that were deliberate.  One of those things was:  larger events in the world, political, etc., don’t affect or bother her too much.  I mean, sometimes they impinge, but for the most part, she doesn’t really care.  That is, in large part, the exact opposite of me, but that’s deliberate.  I get enough of that in my real life, when I write Lily, I just want to write a girl who’s enjoying life and having fun.  I can’t do that if she’s like me, because, well, I generally don’t.

But I made a few unconscious choices as well.  These are choices that seem to have become clear after I’ve written this for months, but I didn’t intentionally set out to make those choices.  probably the most glaring is: there aren’t many males in the story.  I mean, yes, there’s David and Dave, the owner, maybe her benefactor, the guy running her trust (not anymore)… but they’re all ancilliary characters.  It’s not that they’re bad people for the most part, this isn’t an anti-male story, but it’s more that it’s a female-centric story.  And that’s actually probably pretty true to the character.  She’s a girl.  Her life doesn’t revolve around men.  She has her sisters and her friends and her mother…  and those are the people she mentors or looks up to as role models.

I didn’t set out to do that.  I didn’t write this story to take care of some SJW boner.  I mean, that should be clear in that I’ve steered clear of things like LGBTQ+ASDFGHJ stuff, or race relations (to some degree, I mean, Sabby is black and there are things that naturally arise from that choice), or anything like that.  But the choices exist to further the story, not to check off some kind of quota thing.  And, well, Lily’s a girl.  Her life revolves around girls, not the men in her life – though that is changing just a little bit.  Boyfriends tend to do that.

Another thing is, I do take inspiration from things I read on the net, current events, that kind of thing.  She runs into a few karens.  That’s mostly because I listen to a lot of karen stories on YouTube, and… man, they’re awful.  Notice that all the karens are women.  There are male karens, and maybe I’ll introduce one at some point, but they tend to be more sexist and bullying.  Writing that kind of thing isn’t fun.  But sometimes I guess you have to write things that aren’t fun, right?

The long and short of it, this is, I guess, a conservative story.  Not overtly so, and deliberately not overtly so, but Lily has a strong family, her family isn’t perfect but has a strong sense of values, her friends aren’t perfect and make mistakes but everyone’s heart’s in the right place, and at the end of the day, that’s really the story I wanted to write.  A girl who is just trying to make her way through life with the family and friends she loves, and that love her too.  And isn’t that what makes her so endearing at the end of the day?

When I started writing this story, I deliberately wrote a character that I knew I wouldn’t like or want to hang around with much.  She’s so extroverted and fun-loving, it would make me really uncomfortable.  But as I kept writing her, she grew on me.  I kind of look forward to writing her now.  She’s a breath of fresh air in what seems to be an otherwise awful world.  She’s got the kind of beautiful heart that you always hope your daughter will have.  And I don’t think she’ll ever lose it.  Maybe someday I’ll write another story with a significantly more damaged girl.  But that’s not going to be Lily.

260,000 words so far and still going.

Hi, it’s me.  The creator.

And this might be the hardest storyline I’ve ever written.

First of all, there are no trigger warnings.  Lily is a seventeen year old girl, and is dealing with a lot right now.  That wouldn’t cross her mind, and it wouldn’t be true to the character.  I’m putting a link to this post in the banner, and even that’s pushing it.

Lily has a… flaw.  Not a huge flaw, but it’s something I had to figure out how to deal with.  She doesn’t really understand adversity.  What had happened to Crystal was bad, she thought, and she was glad that the homeless guy got prison, but she didn’t understand.  She’s never been truly impacted by death (that she knows of), once she had lost her memories, everything was pretty much all new, and her life has been pretty good.  She’s never had to face her own mortality – or that of her friends.

She needs this growing experience.

Truthfully, I was considering killing off Crystal.  But I don’t think I’m going to do that.  I don’t think it’s necessary, and I’ve put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into these characters, and I think an author needs a very good reason to do something like that – and I don’t really have one at the moment.  But I seriously considered doing it.  Unfortunate, but true.

I think this is going to change Lily.  But how could it not?

Hi! It’s me! The creator!

Well, I did it.  I brought Jack to Texas.  On balance I think it was a good move, though it’s also very challenging to me, because I’m in territory I’m not familiar with.  See, I’m forty-mumble-mumble years old and Lily’s relationship is already more advanced than any I’ve ever had.  Jack’s not perfect, but he tries, and he’s pretty darn perceptive.  It took me quite a while to figure out what Lily would value more than chocolate.  After all, she pretty much lives for the stuff.

Writing Lily is easy most of the time, but it’s not easy all of the time, and last night was a time where it was difficult to write her diary.  Sometimes that’s because I’m trying to force the character into a role she doesn’t want to be in, true, but I think that was because I was trying to force my writing into a role I wasn’t comfortable with.

But we got it done in the end.  Lily’s happy, and we can move on.  Their relationship isn’t entirely physical, of course, but I want it to deepen further, and that requires a little more than just the physical stuff.  Though Lily is learning how nice that can be, for sure.

There are still quite a few stories to be told.  Lily has some high school left over, and I think this story is going to be finished at around the time that she graduates and/or starts “real” college.  That is quite a while away.  I think I’ll be sad when that time comes.  Lily has become a part of my life – every night before I go to bed, I sit down to write her diary.  I often don’t know what she’s going to say.  I think I’ve said that before.  I kind of… “channel”… her a lot of the time.

It’s maddening that I miss some details.  Like I just realized that I haven’t decided when Emiko’s birthday is, and I’d better do that soon.  And Aika and Mika need birthdays as well, and I’d better do that soon for the same reason.  Birthdays are important.  They could be ignored when she didn’t know them at all, but can’t be ignored now.  I’m ashamed to admit I forgot Jack’s birthday too.  I was able to fit that into the story, and it *ahem* worked out well, but still.  That annoys me.

Well, that’s enough for now.  I sure wish I could figure out how to market Lily better.  I’ve utterly failed at that, and I’m near to giving up on that aspect of her development.

Hi! It’s me! The creator!

Today is my birthday!  I’m forty-mumble-mumble years old.  And for my birthday I got myself a kinect.  And I got it to working with my windows pc!

I actually managed to successfully animate Lily through full body tracking!

It’s hard, though.  I have a few things I need to do.  First thing I need to do is pretty much dedicate a room to computer stuff, because I need a lot of space to move around in.  It seems that you can’t be too close to a kinect.  Also, some form of hand and face tracking is also necessary.  I think I can figure out the face tracking.  The hand tracking is a different story, and might require a glove or different piece of hardware.

Still, even if it comes to nothing, it’s really interesting technology.

There are other challenges as well.  The voice is very difficult to get right, even using a voice changer.  I can make it almost-but-not-quite convincing, there’s still a bit of a tell that I can’t seem to get rid of.  It’s not clear.  The technology just doesn’t seem to be quite there.  What I really need is technology that can separate my voice into its phonemes and reconstruct it as an entirely different voice.  But that technology does not seem to be available yet.  The other challenge is that this is a significant acting experience, and I have no experience at all acting, especially as someone the opposite gender.  It strikes me as incredibly ironic that technology that would be designed to aid male-to-female trans people would also very much assist me here as well – and I’m as straight and “cis” as they come.  Also, the kinect does not let me turn to the right or the left – that really confuses it for some reason.

On the one hand, I feel a little weird for even pursuing this.  I mean, a forty-mumble-mumble years old guy trying to animate a sixteen (oh wait, seventeen now) year old girl?  But on the other hand, I know my intentions – it’s really just because I don’t trust anyone else with my vision and I don’t have the money to hire an actress.  I wouldn’t mind doing that, tbh – a real life live action lily would be really cool – but that is such a pain that I’d just rather do it myself if I can.  This is an art project and nothing more, just a really involved one that requires yanking me quite far out of my comfort zone to be anywhere near successful.

But whatever.  I guess I’m learning useful stuff, such as it is.

 

HI! It’s me! The creator!

Lily is seventeen today.  I haven’t yet posted today’s entry, so I won’t talk a whole lot about it, except to say she had a good birthday.

Lily is so hard to write sometimes.

I had a bit of a scare today.  I read that Japan isn’t allowing people to come to Japan without a good reason that isn’t tourism, and that threatened to invalidate the entire Japan storyline. I almost had to just retcon the whole thing and say “well, in Lily’s world, she could go” but that seems like such a copout.  But then I remembered that she did have a reason – visiting family.  The whole tourist thing was just a side effect.

But that’s why Lily is so hard to write.  I try to make her world as realistic as I can, and sometimes it’s not possible.  For example, no one in her family has gotten COVID, though there was a bit of a scare a while ago.  That’s because I just don’t want to write that.  It’s too dark right now.  And besides, it’s kind of waning off, at least the really serious kind, so maybe I can get away with that.

I keep writing Lily because I want to, but in every other way, she’s an abject failure.

Oh, Jack’s moving to Austin.  You might have read that.  That was my way of resolving the problem I’d discussed in the last post.  It was either that or write him out.  Maybe a long distance relationship works well in real life, for the right person, but in a story like this, it does nothing and just serves to bog the story down.  I didn’t want to put Lily through that for now, so I am moving him to Austin.  At least that opens up some story possibilities.  I hope, anyway.

Someone asked me today what her favorite color is.  I said “let me ask her”, and that’s such a weird thing to say.  But eventually, I think the answer is lavender.  The more you know…  My favorite color is purple, but she really likes pink too, so I split the difference.

But Lily really is a failure.  I’ve been writing her for over a year and still afaik only maybe two or three people read it.  I’ve made a good product that no one likes.  I guess all I can say is I’ve got something I can be remembered by.  Maybe.

I’m hungry.  But I guess I’ll let Lily have all the chocolate.

Hi! It’s me! The Creator!

So yesterday I made the first Lily YouTube I’ve made in a while.  I tweaked the voice, and I got rid of the little snicker in favor of a higher pitched giggle.  I like it better, but the snicker kind of made its way into her character, and I actually have to actively stop myself from doing it.  I’m not a very good actor.

In fact, I made a mistake in editing.  It’s not one that’s easily fixed, but I’m probably going to leave it.  The reason is that she’s a 16 year old who’s not the greatest at editing.  Even if I could have done better, well, she’s entitled to a mistake every now and then.  That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.  At least, until my perfectionism gets the best of me and I fix and reupload it.

Truth be told, I don’t like her YouTubes the way they are.  Yes, they’re kind of a work in progress, and her body model is much better than it used to be.  Also, I’ve been actively working on the voice.  While these things could stand to be improved even more (ultimately, I don’t think I will ever be quite capable of doing her voice justice without a lot of technological help I haven’t figured out yet) they’re not why I’m not comfortable.  It’s because they’re not entertaining.  I’ve been doing them as an offshoot of her diary, and that’s perfectly valid, but all she does is talk about her day.  Maybe that’s what a sixteen year old will do, but…  I’m not happy.

This is, truth be told, the biggest weakness of the Lily project, and the one I’m having the most difficulty in surmounting.  Lily is a great story.  The few people who read it regularly love it.  I’ve created a character with her own life and personality, and she is cute and lovable and all those things.  But the story is the entertainment.  By which I mean, making YouTubes that are based upon her story just doesn’t work well.  The story stands on its own, but the YouTubes on top of it is really just nothing but an interesting technological experiment.  Essentially, it’s a medium I’m not coming anywhere near to taking even the slightest steps towards full advantage of.

Whilst the YouTubes are kind of an important part of my vision for her (and one of the first things that I had envisioned doing, even before the story), I’m not sure how I can make them work in their current form.

I’m also starting to regret a little bit including Jack into the story.  He’s there and I’m not going to get rid of him – or at least I don’t plan to at present.  It would be an interesting and heartbreaking story to write, but I just don’t want to do that to her, or myself, right now.  But that closed off a whole bunch of possible storylines, and while I’ve been keeping even the Patreon content part PG-13, I’m still not sure I didn’t make a huge mistake in giving her a nascent sex life (if you haven’t read the Patreon, and since there are no subscribers of course you didn’t, she refuses to go “all the way” until marriage, but they’ve done a bit of fooling around and, well, he gets the job done).  It’s something a teenager her age would do.  It’s not something I’m quite as comfortable with Lily doing.

But maybe I’m just being a bit fatherly.

The hardest part about writing Jack, though, is that there’s not much for him to do in the story.  His job is basically to meet up with her every now and then, give her chocolate, and otherwise just be there in the background and do nothing.  Basically, a somewhat useless character that I have to go through hoops to have her spend time with.  This was a terrible decision and I’m afraid I’m going to have to do something drastic to correct it.

Basically, I just have some very mixed feelings on the whole thing right now.  I’ve invested a year and over 200,000 words into Lily.  I’ve invested a lot of time and a significant amount of money into making this project succeed – and I haven’t at all.  And I’ve tried to branch out into media that make it almost impossible for her to succeed in current form, so…  I don’t know what to do.  I don’t know how to move on from here.

I am actually considering budgeting for an actual voiceover artist, writing a script, all that kind of thing, making some use of after effects and other editing magic, and seeing if that helps any.  But this has its own set of problems.

Maybe I’m just not cut out for this kind of project.

Hi! It’s me! The creator!

I just brought a new Lily body model online.  It addresses quite a few issues that have been bugging me for a while.

  • In a complete repudiation of my man card, her bust is smaller.  It was not as big as it could be, but it was also bigger than was strictly necessary.
  • She is now wearing tights rather than stockings.  That works better with her dress.
  • I’ve reduced her body proportions and adjusted her dress to be a little more flattering.
  • I’ve reduced her hand size and reduced the length of her sleeves.
  • She has a new hairstyle
  • I’ve slightly changed her nose shape, and a few other things.

I did this because, in spite of the fact that I am a guy, I’ve been going for realism ever since I started this, and that, coupled with the fact that new versions of VRoid have a few more things to tweak that weren’t present previously, meant that this was the right time to make these modifications.  I’ll probably be redoing her gallery pictures this weekend with the new body model.

Lily is, first and foremost, a work in progress.  She is very different, both in tone and appearance, than she was when I first created her, and she will continue to evolve.  I hope the evolution is in the right direction.

 

HI! It’s me! The Creator!

Lily is about to head home from Japan, I’ve already got those posts written and scheduled.  She has a lot to say and a lot to talk about, but right now she’s just concentrating on doing all the stuff needed to get home, so I think on Saturday she’ll have a nice long post about what it was like to leave, etc.  Right now she’s just too excited to get home.  You know how it is.

This story arc was… rewarding.  And very, very hard to write.  No, it wasn’t hard to write because I was short on ideas – I could have extended her trip to a month, or two months, and not really run out of ideas.  It was hard because I put a lot of myself into this particular story arc.

It’s a strange thing about me – this doesn’t happen all the time, but in travel story arcs like this, I go along with her.  That happened when she went to Orlando – her having to leave Jack was the hardest thing I’ve ever written, I think – and it happened this time, but for different reasons.  The truth is that I didn’t so much write Lily taking a vacation, as I gave Lily a vacation and went along with her.  Air travel is stressful for me, vacations are stressful for me, and I experienced a lot of the stress that I would experience if I went along with her.  I also experienced a lot of the fun as well.

You see, when I write scenes like that, I don’t start with an idea.  I start with an image.  I have an image in my mind of something she’s experienced, and then I write the image.  For example, when she went to Osaka to see the Sky Building.  I had an image of her going up the escalators, of her looking out the windows, and she reacted to that image.  It’s awful complicated and I’m really not sure if many other authors write this way, but I do.  I built the environment around her, and then let her react to it, and she never disappoints.  She’s just so much fun!

She’s coming back from Japan, and has a lot to write about, and the next story arc starts very soon.  But I feel like I went to Japan right along with her, and I pretty much never left my abode.  It’s, umm… actually a little disconcerting.  I don’t understand myself, and particularly so when I’m writing Lily.

I’ve…  grown kind of fond of Lily.  When I started writing her, I didn’t really have any idea in mind of what she would be like.  I set the parameters:  She was a 16 year old girl (actually 15, but she didn’t know that), she had lost her memories, and she had the kind of innocence that only someone who had lost all their memories could have.  But other than that, she developed organically.  Most of the story arcs that she’s experienced over the past year were kind of “spur of the moment” – I didn’t plan them, but they worked out so well.  I actually think I’d rather she didn’t have a boyfriend, but she wanted Jack, and how could I deny her?  I didn’t plan her to be half-Japanese – actually, if you look at the early body models, she was caucasian.  As her half-Japanese identity fleshed out, her body model changed to match.  (didn’t hurt that I’d learned how to use vroid better and got some decent skins).  And as she got to Japan, she was given more of her heritage, and I’d not actually planned that.  Though it worked out perfectly.  The point being, that she’s grown organically, and I really have grown to be fond of the girl she’s turned out to be, and I only want the best for her.

That doesn’t mean she’s not going to endure adversity.  In fact, this entire story is about her enduring adversity.  But I’m only going to throw things at her that will help with her development and forward the story.  At the end of the day, I could no more hurt her than I could my own child, and I find that to be a very unusual state of mind.

Believe me, it would be easy to.  I consider and discard different ideas of things to throw at her – and some of them are rather ghastly – multiple times a day.  But at the end of the day, it’s not that kind of story, and I’m not that kind of creator.

As I was writing the posts that chronicle her return from the airport, I was stressed that she would make it back fine, even though I knew she would make it back fine, because whether she does or not is entirely within my control.  I…  cannot figure that out.

But I guess that makes for a good story, right?

Oh, I forgot to mention.  Everything she experienced in Japan is as authentic as I could make it.  Every destination (except the unnamed ones like the garden and shrine near her grandparents’ home) was real, the weather was real, the flights were as accurate as possible, even the cultural references were real.  I hope that didn’t go unnoticed.

Matane.