A Writing Journey

Posts tagged ‘creation’

Advanced Worldbuilding

Here we are, deep into worldbuilding. If you’re like me, you are ready to take it to the next level. I’m excited to work on these steps for my next novel (after I finish book 3 of Lacey’s story). Before I get to far ahead of myself though, here are the previous steps to worldbuilding that I’ve discussed in Beginning Worldbuilding and Intermediate Worldbuilding: make maps, think about religion, decide how your people look, language, and politics. If you haven’t read my previous posts, take a gander.

1.History

Every world, every person, has a history. If you haven’t thought about the history of your cities, nations, or world, now is the perfect time to do so. Even if you’ve already written most of your novel, you can look and decide how your people got to where they are. Think of it as learning about their history (much like children learn history in school) rather than creating it. Some questions to ask when discerning the history of your world: who is in power and how did they come to be in power? Who are the minority groups and why are they minorities (are they immigrants or displaced people, or do they have a unique heritage)? Who are the disadvantaged groups of people and why are they disadvantaged?

2.Marriage Customs

That people have partnerships and get married is something we assume in books, for the most part. We read about mothers and fathers, husband and wives. But how did they get to be husbands and wives? Are there complex courting rituals? Do people have elaborate wedding ceremonies? For inspiration here, I suggest looking around at cultures in our world. Not things like “what do they do in Spain,” rather “what do they do in the depths of the Amazon or in the heart of the Sahara.” The more far-flung you get, the more interesting results you will find.

3. Water and food

Farmers are stock characters in fantasy and markets are stock settings. A step further: wagons are stock transportation (unless you are on horseback). We readers can assume that food is grown by farmers and bought by all manner of people – but if you want to get into the nitty gritty details, you should think about how it’s done. Does the government buy crops and resell them? Do people all have their own gardens/herds/flocks for basic needs and sell the excess to others? Do they have a bartering system or, perhaps, it is a communist-esque system where they all share everything equally out of the goodness of their hearts (hello, plot conflict)? And that’s just for food. What about water? Are there wells throughout the city? What happens if the well goes dry? Are there rivers your people can drink from or are the waters dirty? Who is in charge of fetching the water from its source? Who guards it from enemies? All of these things can be significant to the plot, if you let them be. Or they can add realism.

4.Hygiene

Do your people bathe regularly? Where and how? Bathhouses are going to make for different social norms than private baths in homes. (Think open vs. closed, respectful of privacy vs. potentially lecherous.) It also matters because if people bathe regularly, the water system is much more important. Perhaps they build aquaducts in order to supply bathhouses, or perhaps they leave it up to individuals to fetch their own water and therefore they either don’t bathe regularly or have private baths. Do the rich bathe more than the poor? Does this mean water is a commodity?

5.Superstitions

Don’t let a black cat cross your path. Break a mirror and have 7 years bad luck. Don’t walk under a ladder or open an umbrella inside. Silly superstitions. And yet we recite them whenever someone does one of those “unspeakable things.” Give your characters some superstitions – things that apply to either them or their society as a whole. Make them convinced all their bad luck is because of X, and either make it so or show their foolishness. Have fun with this one, but if you include it in the actual story, make sure it’s plot relevant.

He’s a black cat, but I don’t think anyone would complain about him crossing their path!

The following are even more things to think about (we can call it expert worldbuilding). Now, I’ll be the first to say I have not effectively gone this far into worldbuilding yet. It’s part of my learning process and part of my next novel, in which I will be writing about a characters in a nation that is recovering from war. Thus, the following worldbuilding considerations will be important.
1.Waste

2.Fires

3.Natural Disasters

4.Wars

5.How are things built? And how are large objects (trees, stone, etc) moved?

Take flight, enjoy, and share any other pieces of worldbuilding you find particularly helpful!

Take care,

Emily

Every Character is Their Own Hero

Writing fantasy (or any genre, but it seems especially true for fantasy) takes a lot of characters. Because I write fantasy, I’ll be talking about that and largely ignoring other genres. Sorry!

I saw a chart recently that listed the characters introduced in the first chapters of some popular books. They were all upwards of 20 characters. In fairness: that does not necessarily mean 20 named characters make an actual appearance. Some of them are mentioned by other characters, some of them are unnamed. When it comes to fantasy, there are a lot of characters to keep track of and remember. In chapter one of QFS I have 10 named characters, one unnamed character, and 3 groups of characters (“others,” “diggers,” and “healers”). I don’t think info dumping 20 characters is a necessarily good idea, but it depends on how long the chapter is. If I doubled my chapter length, 20 would, I think, be a good fit.

BUT. I’m not about to spend a whole post talking about how many characters appear when. I bring it up only to make a point about how many characters we writers must take into consideration.

In fantasy we usually have a core group surrounding our main character. Sometimes they are a single unit and any division is a big deal, as in Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. In others, the MC has a group, but flits in and around them more (as in the Farseer Trilogy). And all around the MC and their core group are the Other Characters.

Those others may get a few speaking lines, a brief appearance to illustrate a point, move the plot forward, or to contribute to realism. Our MC only sees one aspect of these others – a one-dimensional snapshot that is, often, of little importance. What if we flip our point of view? What if that other character looks at our MC and sees an irritable, crabby, person, intent only on their goal with no interest in the lives of those around them?

Every character, named or not, recurrent or not, is their own hero. We hear this all this all the time. There is difficulty in accepting it our writing it out because we ourselves are limited to our own viewpoint. We can’t hop into another person’s shoes and know their lives (even though we can empathize, it is NOT the same as understanding who that person is on the inside of their mind). We are all different “I”s. When we don’t accept this “everyone’s a hero*” mentality, our supporting characters are flat. And flat is boring.

How, then, do we combat this? Back story. When we create our MC’s and secondary characters, we give them elaborate histories that elucidate their motives and actions.

Okay, step back a minute. I know I have a complex history that informs my behavior. In my life, I am the MC (we’re all the MCs of our own lives). Around me are my family, my boyfriend, my friends, my co-workers. The people I have direct contact with everyday. I know that they, too, have complex histories, even if I don’t know every aspect. There are also people I interact with at my work place that I see once or maybe a few times – but I know nothing about them. There are people on the street that I pass everyday but never speak to. All the people at the grocery store – I may recognize the cashier but I don’t know her name, even though it’s on a name tag. They all have stories too. They are all a MC. They, each and everyone, have a complex history that started before they were even born. (Yes, our ancestors’ stories directly inform our own.)

Let’s jump back in to novel-land. Every character that our MC encounters has a rich background, just like every person that we encounter does. Does that mean we have to right an in-depth back story for every single character we write? No. It does mean we should give it thought. It means that if we have a character that has more than a few lines, more than a scene, we should really think more about who they are. Because everyone really is a hero in their own eyes.

Write on,

Emily

*in their own way! Thanks, Captain Hammer

The Beginning

On my way home from work today, I had story ideas swirling about in my head. Nothing concrete, nothing I want to pursue just yet. It got me thinking about “what if magic was the norm in an otherwise modern world?” In all fairness, this isn’t a particularly new theme for me, though the modern world part is. But in thinking this I realized something about QFS (yes, it’s still always coming back to that. Someday I’ll have something new to talk about!).

I’ve told myself and everyone who cares to know that the origins of QFS began in my freshman year of college, when I wrote a short story. But today, walking in the beautiful sunshine and thinking about magic, I had an amazing moment of enlightenment. Long ago, I wrote a few scenes for a story in which a princess (I was probably elementary or middle school, so don’t judge my princess) was the only person without magic in her society, but because of her rank her failing was tolerated.

Jump ahead to 2010 and we get Lacey Wentwether, a young woman who, living in a magic-centric society, is without this power. Admittedly, Lacey is no princess and her lack of magic is a sore spot as she is barely tolerated by many and actively discriminated against by some.

The point of this is that the root of my story, at least part of it, took hold long before I realized. Any story can do this. Any idea can have seedlings, inklings, beginnings in the smallest thoughts. So even if an idea goes no where, don’t lose hope. It may come up again, it may be central to the story that crops up sometime in the distant future.

Keep writing,

Emily

Take a Breather

I’ve been having some pretty intense happenings in my life the past couple of weeks. And so I took a short writing break. I’m not one of those people who insists you must write a certain number of words or pages every single day. Heck, I don’t even think you need to write every day.

Scandalous, right?

But here is my reasoning:

If you force yourself to write when you a)are not feeling it, b)are stressed about other things, or c) are stuck with your project the writing WILL suffer and for most people, poor writing is a major emotional set back. I know when I have forced myself to write in the situations listed above and then come back to my writing* it distances me in a bad way and I stay away from writing for an even longer time.

I would like to point out:

When first beginning you have to sort of play around with your writing rhythm. I’m talking about when you write, not how you write. When I was a kid I was a “write all the timer” with no breaks and no time to breathe (or let my writing/creativity breathe. I got older and I was a “write when you’re inspired gal.” I know many people curse the “inspired” thing – but from my experience that is where the best writing comes from and (honestly!) nowadays whenever I write I am inspired, whether or not I was when I made the decision to sit down and write. Now I write when I feel ready (again, I know there are all those memes and quotes about not waiting until you are ready – they are great for beginners, and sometimes useful for others, but overall, a writer does have to be ready, they have to have thought about what they’re going to write and be ready to write it) and when that happens, I feel good about it and can write (sometimes) for hours.

So no, I don’t write every day. What I do is think about writing every day. Most of the time I think about my current project (Lacey and her adventures) but I also think about other ideas (most which I doubt will be developed into anything concrete).

Don’t take anyone’s word as absolute truth. I don’t care if it is your favorite author, one of those “great” authors, your English professor, or me. Find what works for you and do that. If it doesn’t fit what you are told is “right,” just remember that when it comes to creativity there is no right way to do things, so long as they get done!

-Emily

*I’ll admit it doesn’t always go this way. Sometimes I still write something worth using.

I know I said…

It just so happens that I am really terrible at following my own rules. For instance: I said I wasn’t going to start working on book 3 for a while. I said I was going to at LEAST finish transcribing SOTD onto the computer. Well I just couldn’t resist. I’ve got about a third/half of the outline for 3 done, as well as the first ten pages. To be honest, I was going to write just the first scene tonight but it turned into most of the first chapter. I would keep going but between writing and crochet my hand needs a break!

I’m fairly excited for book three – I’m excited that it’s finally coming to a close (even as I say that I laugh at myself. It will be at LEAST a year of writing the first draft, and many more months editing and reworking. Besides, I haven’t even gotten past the first draft of book 2!). So even as I laugh, I am excited. I’ve known how this story will end for about three years now. Yes, some things have tweaked and changed in that, but the ultimate ending will still be the same and I CAN’T WAIT!

Do you have endings that you just can’t wait to write?

You know, I think part of my excitement is that I have been working on this story, in it’s many forms, since 2010. I wrote the first short story that inspired it all back when I was finishing my freshman year of college. It seems like so long ago now, and a lot of the story and world has changed since then. But some things have not. The main cities bear the same names as first I gave them, there are still mountains that house ancient ruins, the character in that short story has played a minor role in the first two books and will blossom in book 3. (Seriously, I am excited that his story still plays a part in the over all tale.) There is a deep sense of contentment that comes with knowing that I’m almost there. And it’s contentment with energy. I am energized by being so close to the end.

I think, after I finish 3, I will take a break in another world for a while. It’s a little early to say that for sure, but I think I need to let it all rest, to go and explore another strange land – to be an adventurer again rather than a native.

Of course, thinking about the end of this trilogy has also got me a little bittersweet. Again, I know it is premature, but I really am almost there. I’ve been through so much with these characters, this world. I can’t imagine what life will be like when I pack them all up in boxes and move on. When their stories are finished, will I keep thinking about other parts of their lives? Will I want to write them again? I wonder how I will be able to leave them. They are like my friends, and I will miss them.

But not yet! Because I still have plenty of time with them. 🙂 So for now I will be content with that.

Write on, my friends.

-Emily

Poetry Corner – All Things

Look around yourself –

Light and love surround you

Even when you can’t see it.

You are cradled by the universe –

A child of the stars.

When you weep creation weeps with you.

Your smallness doesn’t mean you

Are insignificant –

In contradiction, you have great power,

Purpose and strength –

A water drop shapes

The face of the mountain.

So too can you change the

Shape of the world.

Stardust spins within you –

When you change yourself

The universe changes with you.

Connecting everything is the

Past and future –

You are the grass,

You were the stars,

You will be the mighty tree.

Nothing is lost –

Only changes form.

Take care, fellow travelers.

Creating Wholeness

I recently read a book – a fascinating book – called “Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament” by Kay Redfield Jamison. This is a book that I would strongly recommend to any sort of artist*, if only to spread awareness.

One of the points of this book is that creative people create to help heal themselves. This seems to be a pervasive thought in memes and quotes from writers. On Pinterest probably half of the quotes about writing are about healing oneself. Which brings me to my favorite quote (of the moment) from Madeleine L’engle:

The discipline of creation, be it to paint, compose, write, is an effort towards wholeness.

So when you are feeling low, remember this. Remember that creating something might just help you.

Take care, fellow travelers.

*The book focuses largely on writers, but does discuss other creative types as well.

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