A Bit of World Building: Resources

Hello Fiction Lovers!

Today I thought I’d a little about world building and how deciding on a certain climate and landscape combined with the society’s values that live there can vastly influence influence your story, even if only in the background. I also thought that since I’ve been talking more about my current writing recently that I’d continue on that theme.

In A Cursed Blessing for nine months out of the year it is snowy and cold, the other three months have comparatively mild weather. This makes agriculture more difficult but the society is not a hunting and gathering one that follows an animal’s migration. As for the landscape there is a large forest in the south and a few smaller ones scattered throughout the country. The rest of the landscape is more hilly and the whole country is surrounded by mountains. Because, of the society’s fear of their goddess, however, they rarely cut down the trees for fuel or to make things. The cold climate has also caused them to put extra significance on fire and they’ll heat brands with it to mark themselves with symbolic symbols.

All this, I hope, creates an interesting background for my story, but it has also raised some questions that I didn’t have when I first started writing it. Issues such as what do they make their houses and furniture and writing implements out of if they don’t use wood? How do they feed themselves and what do they eat? What animals and plants can survive under such conditions? How does the climate affect the society and religion? Some of these questions I don’t have answers to yet, but I’ll need to know them to fully flesh out the world my characters are living in and make sure there are no logistical errors that will break readers’ suspension of disbelief. Of course, not all the questions always need to be answered but the big ones do such as the problem of food. Everything still has to be believable. Also, you don’t need to worry about the questions right away, but as you write and the world is created it can be good to consider them. Sometimes they can lend a whole new depth to the world and influence the plot in ways you couldn’t have imagined before exploring them.

Resources are important; survival depends upon some of them and wars can be fought over both necessary and luxury resources. Climate, landscape, and society’s values all affect both the availability of resources and the lack of them. They will affect your story, even if only in the background, so they are important to consider once you’ve made decent headway into your story or during the editing process.

Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any questions! I hope you all have a great week!

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If I Had a Magical Power…

Hello Fiction Lovers!

So lately I’ve been thinking about magical powers because in the manuscript I’m currently writing everyone has some type of power. Most people in A Cursed Blessing can light a few candles at a time at will while a minority of the population have individual powers that no one else has. Those with the common power are considered blessed and those with a unique power are considered cursed and are looked down upon. It got me wondering if I could have a magical power if I would rather have a small, useful one that’s accepted and that everyone else has, or if I’d rather have a unique one that I can call my own but makes me an outcast.

I switched back and forth between the two for a while. The rebellious part of me said “of course you’d want a unique power no matter what anyone else thought” while the rest of me argued that “having a power you know is useful, even it’s small, would be a better bet. It’s also a plus if you don’t have to worry about being oppressed”. If I could pick which unique power I got, I think I would pick having a unique power. Being able to unlock everything I touched or influencing plants/the weather or having super healing would be really interesting. However, since I couldn’t, that makes me lean towards being able to light a few candles, because I could just easily get a power that isn’t very interesting or helpful. The more practical side of me wins out.

What about you? Which type of magical power would you rather have and why?

Feel free to respond in the comments and let me know if you have any questions. Thanks for reading and have a great week!

On the Matter of Never Having Enough Time

Hello Fiction Lovers!

This week I thought I’d step away from the more technical side of writing and throw my two cents in about something people love to complain and give advice about: not having enough time to do the things we want to do, the things we have to do, and the things others want us to do. I know I’ve complained about the amount of classes and homework I have, the number of clubs I’m participating in, the lack of weekends because of my part-time job, the cost of procrastinating, and not having enough time to pick up all the hobbies I want to do, read all the books I want to read, watch all the shows that vie for my attention. I complain everyday as well as swapped advice even though I dislike the fact that I do so.

Perhaps you’re wondering why you should care? Perhaps you would like to point out that I’m participating in those very acts right now? In reply, at the risk of sounding pompous, I’ll say that you should care because that focus on time is part of what’s hindering us and I know. There have been nights when I’ve lain awake worrying about the lack of time to take care of all my responsibilities and wants and realized that I wasted more than it’s fair share of time worrying about time and effectively doing nothing but making myself feel guilty. Doing so doesn’t help. I realized, too, that I wasn’t enjoying the activities I was participating in as much because I was always worried about the next thing and how much time everything took. To tell the truth I still am, but accepting that I’m only this busy because I decided to do all these things has helped a bit, brought some of the fun back instead of feeling as though I was slowly being compressed.

This worry–obsession–with time stems somewhat from my culture of things always needing to get better, quicker, faster. It makes it difficult to enjoy the moment and remember that not every moment of everyday has to be productive. We–or at least I do–need downtime to recuperate, think through things, breathe so we don’t end up pushing too hard and breaking. There is a balance to be found and I am still working on finding it, especially since I tend to like to binge things (binge watch, binge read, binge work). It’s not so much the matter of not having enough time as learning to be selective, know what’s important, not be a pushover. It’s understanding that time isn’t a commodity that’s continually slipping through my fingers, but something I should be glad to have at all. It might sound cliche, but I think if I started appreciating time more instead of complaining and worrying about it, I’d find I suddenly have more of it.

Thanks for reading and listening to my musing. Let me know if you have any questions and feel free to post your thoughts in the comments. I hope you all have a great week!

POV: A Spectrum

Hello Fiction Lovers!

This week I thought I’d talk about point of view (POV). For those you who don’t know there are three main types of POV: first person, second person, and third person. First person tells the story from the character’s point of view using “I” while second person makes use of “you” and talks directly to the reader, placing them in the story. Third person tells the story from an outside perspective and is more likely to use “they” and/or name the characters outside of dialogue.

Most people tend to think that first person is the most intimate between reader and character while third person is the most distant, and second person is often ignored. I used to belong to that group until recently when a teacher pointed out and showed how there is actually a range of distance between reader and character that can occur in any of the POVs. A character in first person could just list off the things that were happening and leave it to the reader to interpret their importance, or third person you could delve into a character’s mind and know them even better than the character knows. Both can be interesting if done right and, of course, there is all the space to mix and match in between the two extremes or do the opposites of the examples.

Distance is not decided by the POV, but rather how much insight we are allowed to see into the characters. Is it just action after action without any adjectives to tell us the character’s take on events–like a movie where we have rely on what we see and hear to understand what’s happening? Or do we, as readers, get to know everything the character knows with all their biases and beliefs put forth for us to shift through and understand? Neither way is better than the other, and both can be useful depending on what story–not to mention character–you are trying to tell.

Nor should we just continue to ignore second person. Yes, I will admit that the POV can make it hard to vary up the start of the sentences and it can be hard to keep up for longer pieces, but there are stories that could have more impact if told in second person. It can be done right and well. It can also be a good exercise if you like you’re writing in rote and need to do something different from what you’re used to.

So please put more thought into POV than just first person=intimate and third person=distant because there is more to POV than that, and understanding that point can help you find out the best POV and distance on the spectrum for your story. Also, branching out from what you are used to is a good way to get better at writing–that way you can learn more about what works for you and what doesn’t.

Thanks for reading and I hope you all have a good week! Please let me know if you have any questions and feel free to post any thoughts you have about POV in the comments.

Drinking Age in Fiction

Hello Fiction Lovers!

Since I turned 21 today and now am legally allowed to drink, it got me thinking about drinking age in fiction. It’s not a big thing, but I realized in a lot of fiction novels it’s something that never really gets brought up. Either everyone is drinking, just having a beer in a bar, or it’s not even mentioned. Everyone gets treated as an adult or child, it seems like, and if you’re not a child it seems like you’re drinking to some extent without anyone having much to say on the subject.

I just thought it’s be nice having a few quick scenes, either in a bar or character’s home or elsewhere, where the characters talk about the drinking age and how it affected them. How they abstained from drinking alcohol, but have some hilarious stories about what their friends got into while they were drinking, or how they approve/disapprove of the drinking age. How they circumvented the rule or what happened when they got caught. Or even, perhaps, about the fact that they don’t have a drinking age and they feel sorry for the people in the next country over who do. It could also be interesting having a place where no one drinks.

Really, I think, I just want a few more scenes learning about characters as they talk about smaller things that affect them or they grew up with, instead of the high stakes of whatever the story is about. I want to see them as existing outside the current story line and talking about smaller things such as the drinking age that the reader can relate to can help with that. That’s not to say that’s how all your dialogue should be, or talking about the current plot is bad, but sprinkling in comments or small conversations about other things can be nice as well.

Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any questions! Feel free to post your thoughts in the comments.

Importance of Setting

Hello Fiction Lovers!

Today I thought I’d talk about something that came up in one of my literature classes. We were discussing Winter in the Blood by James Welch. If you’re interested it’s a literary fiction book about a Native American dealing with a feeling of disconnection and his life on a ranch–or so far as I can tell having read the first third of the book. However, in class we spoke about an even smaller section–the opening scene–for the whole 50 minutes. Most of what we talked about had to do with the importance of place, and how the setting and it’s tone that first scene sets up is integral to the story.

I won’t regurgitate what was said in class specifically about the book because I don’t know how many of you are familiar with it, but the essence of what was said applies to any story, I think.

  1. Setting impacts a story and shapes it. (If you want to set a tone of death and despair you aren’t very likely to set the story in a verdant valley full of bunnies, are you?)
  2. It gives insights into the character(s) based on what they notice. (Are they the type of person to know the exact breed of horse with them or are they more interested in the wind and the sounds it’s making? What type of tone do their descriptions evoke?)
  3. Sense of place. (Does the character feel connected to the area around them or do they feel out of place? Separate?)

The setting will impact the characters and how they act as well as how the story plays out. The impact comes as much from logistical things–weather, what’s physically there–as from the tone it sets and other more abstract things that can get attached to it. That’s why it’s important that the reader can picture the setting in their mind instead of just a bunch of white space. Setting grounds a story and gives it a foundation to work from. It can raise the stakes in a fight or otherwise, provide context, give the readers something to connect to, and create interest by giving the characters something to interact with. Setting isn’t just a backdrop, and if you treat as such you’ll be missing out on something that could greatly help your story gain meaning and interest.

Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any questions! I hope you all have a fun week!

 

Starting Smaller

Hello Fiction Lovers!

First of all I would like to apologize for not getting this posted yesterday. Between classes starting and the eclipse I was busy enough that I forgot to do so. However, it did give me an idea to write about this week.

Often it seems the idea that “bigger is better” is pretty prevalent in fiction books. The stories of kingdoms and nations rising and falling, saving the world/universe, fighting off evil in epic proportions are stories we see time and time again. I understand why readers like them so much–I like them too, after all–but sometimes it seems we focus so much on the grand tales that we forget that stories can be smaller. Stories on smaller scales don’t equate to being more boring or less interesting–it just means instead of affecting the lives of a hundred or more people, it affects the lives of ten or so people. Perhaps instead of traveling across the world/universe the characters stay in a local setting, or perhaps instead of starting off with a dramatic death (assassination or natural) or someone becoming the chosen one, the story begins with a walk in the woods.

It doesn’t take a lot to change someone’s life and start a new story. Yesterday, two simple things happened that changed how my life will go for the rest of the year: my schedule changed and two things lined up doing something they’ve been doing for years. The solar eclipse might sound grand but they do happen every 50 years or so I’ve heard. The thing that made this one special is proximity, and because of that proximity a crazy amount of people paid attention to the sun and the moon and talked about them for months–when they normally wouldn’t give them a second thought. One small thing–the sun and the moon lining up–created a story in local setting and no battles of epic proportions were needed. Classes starting also created a more exciting narrative for my life than being on my computer all day. A quick change for one person, but it was impactful none the less.

That isn’t to say that you should go write stories only involving school life and eclipses, but sometimes it could be good to have more stories that start with a single, simple event and then stay relatively small. I think I like stories like that as well, because it puts more emphasis on the characters and their relationships than all the grand events happening around and to them. The characters are what make the story to me, and that’s why stories with less grand plots can be just as interesting as those with grand narratives. Both types of stories can be amazing in their own right. It is good to remember, though, that even the most epic of things can become mundane with familiarity, and playing around with that can be interesting as well.

Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any questions! Feel to post your thoughts on this in the comments and I hope you all have a good week.

Science and Magic

Hello Fiction Lovers!

First, I would like to apologize for not getting this posted yesterday, but I didn’t have access to the internet, unfortunately. As for this week’s topic I thought I’d talk about the relationship between science and magic  I’ve noticed in fantasy books.

Often, it seems that science is almost omitted from fantasy with only the inclusion of medieval technology or during the few times more advanced scientific understanding is included it’s at odds with magic. I believe that this comes from a belief that magic and science can’t coexist, and I think that belief comes from the stigma we’ve experienced in our world. The social norm seems to rise up science and eschew magic as we use more and more technology. But in fantasy things don’t have to be the same as it is in our world.

I think it would be interesting to see more fantasy books where science and magic work together or where science is a variation of magic (and vice versa). They don’t have be separated, but could help explain each other or be viewed as the same thing.

I’ve been taking an astronomy class and it’s been interesting to see the change in how people used to view the sky and stars as a different place, but now we understand that the stars are like the sun and everything is pretty much made from stardust. There’s something magical about that isn’t there? And there’s plenty science still doesn’t know such as how the universe began or what dark matter actually is, and perhaps in using the two together magic could explain those things. New scientific discoveries and using more technology doesn’t have to mean the end of magic, it just means that maybe we can understand magic in a new way as well.

Of course, if you just want to use magic or science or some new process that’s fine too. I’ve done so myself and it can be interesting and create worlds very different from our own. But perhaps when magic and science do come up in a work together they don’t always have to be at odds. I think it would be a fun thing to explore.

Thank you all for reading and I hope you have a great week! Let me know if you have any questions and feel free to post your thoughts in the comments.