"So, what're you writing?"
Grunch looked up, seeing a face far above his. "Oh, I'm writing about someone in the future who has the perfect life."
Zhypar sat down next to the lizard. "Really? Is that possible?"
Grunch grinned. "I think so. Basically, the setting is one where disease and injury are quickly taken care of, and where the main character can meet people all over the world and talk with them. He's a writer, like me."
"Oh. So, what's his name?"
Grunch blushed slightly, a curious sight for those not used to seeing a chameleonic lizard blush. "Luke. It means light. I figured, why should anyone else get stuck with an ugly name like Grunch."
Zhypar looked at Grunch. "Well, it's not like being called Sunflower Raindrop Skybird, but I think there's a lesson in humility to be had."
Grunch grimaced. "As if I wasn't humbled enough already."
Zhypar grinned. "Well, at least you're not ugly anymore."
Grunch looked at his tail. "I guess so."
Silence filled the room for several moments.
Zhypar spoke up, "So, this Luke, what's his life like?"
Grunch took an expository tone. "Well, he was born to parents of the society's middle class. The society is a nation, made up of states that gave their sovereignty to the nation. He lives in a desert, but maybe I just added that because I'm a lizard. Anyway, his parents have kept their life-bond, and he has twin younger sisters and two dogs."
"Yes. He was teased from an early age, then he found out he wasn't like everyone else. Their alchemists have found ways to make lightning flow like water, and the uses for such a thing are infinite and diverse. Luke considers himself a minor wizard of such devices, using them to communicate with people all over the world. I didn't mention that there are two continent groupings on his globe, and his nation spreads from ocean to shining ocean on one of them.
"You'd think so, but there's the constant threat of the leaders of other countries using their gigantic bombs to blow his country hither and thither. It really doesn't help that his country is the most powerful, yet has a scoundrel for a leader, chosen by a majority of the people if you can believe that. That's just one of the points of conflict."
"Yes, without conflict, humanity would be lazy layabouts. The fear of death is a powerful motivator."
"Exactly. So, other points of conflict spring from his nearly perfect circumstances. A public education system means everyone can learn, and he leaves it by not doing his work, to get experience in the 'real world'. Hunger has been all but eliminated in his country, and he eats far too much for his own good. His workplace pays him well, he sleeps almost for free in his parents' unused electric conveyance garage, but he complains about not getting enough money. It's almost like he's doing this to himself on purpose, to add conflict to his life."
"But it's your story, if you don't like it, you can change it."
Grunch laughed. "You're a writer, you know how stories take on lives of their own."
"That I do. So, he's human?"
"Yes, and he will never change into anything else. His universe is completely mundane, or appears to be. Anything that seems to be magical or spiritual can be explained by rational, mundane means. As a matter of fact, he's on an limissive list that is based around people not wanting to stay in their original forms, and talking and writing stories about transformations. There's even a shared story setting based on the Keep itself, sort of a ship in a bottle in a bottle."
"Oh, li from lightning, and missive meaning a letter to someone. Limissives are letters placed in the lightning device. Any messages sent to the limissive list are sent at the speed of lightning to everyone else on the list. I'm basing the rest of the list characters on people from the Keep. The best way to get a real story is to keep the conflicts reasonable and rational, and for that, I need characters I can write as if I know them personally. Speaking of which, mind if I create a character based on you?"
"Go ahead," Zhypar answered, "just let me know when you're finished so I can read it."
"Oh," Grunch remarked, "If you have a chance, could you help me come up with some better phrases? Limissives and lightning devices just aren't workable phrases."
"Sure, but right now, I have other things to do. See you around."
Grunch waved as Zhypar left the room, then realized that not once during the conversation had he talked as if Grunch was inferior. "I guess open-mindedness is a good quality for a writer," he remarked to himself, then continued writing.