Tag Archives: world building

Stick a Fork in it and Call it Done!

Welcome Friday! Casey here.

I’ve been deep in the writer’s cave plotting my next two books. Doing the usual things.Thinking about my new characters. Asking the burning questions like: What do they want? What is holding them back?

Steampunk OwlNot all that different from nagging talking to my sons – What do you want to do with your life? Do you plan on living in my house forever?

I’ve also been asking – what happens next? What can I do to make their journey as difficult as possible? Not so much “how” will those things happen. I save that part for when I do the actual writing. Then the characters become real and their actions are driven by the barriers I toss in their paths.

Just thinking about the word “plotting” brings to mind a different word – scheming. Muwhahaha! Like a hand-wringing, moustache-twirling villain. Okay, minus the moustache. But I think you get my point.

As a writer, you really are contriving an entire story out of thin air – creating a whole new world that didn’t previously exist. Totally cool and frightening at the same time. And once the story is published, then that world is shared with your readers. They bring their own expectations and realities. Your world isn’t only in your head anymore.

It’s a big responsibility, which is why I spend more time on plotting, character creation, etc. than I do writing. I’ve learned the hard way that planning ahead works best for me.

But with planning comes the ability to know when to stop, put a stake in the ground and

Isn't she pretty?
Isn’t she pretty?

say, “this is what the story will be.”

Again, also a scary step. That means committment to the ideas you’ve set forth and implementing them.

Yes, it means that you need to let go of all the “what ifs” and move ahead with the story you’ve concocted in your head. To not become distracted (or perhaps, seduced) by those nagging plot bunnies.

Have no fear! I know I am not the only Scribe who has started a book (or even written the whole thing) and scrapped it later. That is not a bad thing. It can make you a stronger writer and the book better (as long as you know when to let it go – but that is a different blog post).

But, in order to get there, you have to start writing and finish that first draft. You just do. Not to go all “Mom”, but if you want to be a published author, you have to know when to let go of the idea phase and move to the writing phase.

What has your experience been? How do you know when to start writing? Have you ever started too soon and ended up in a corner later? How did you get out?

Happy Groundhog’s Day!

Hiddey Ho Scribblers!  J Monkeys here.  Today is one of my very favorite holidays – Groundhog’s Day.  I love these slightly off kilter holidays.  No gifts to wrap, no people to cook and clean for, just some fun.  Someday, I’m going to spend February 2nd on Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania for the big event.  

Now just in case you’ve spent your life under a rock, or are not familiar with kooky American traditions, legend groundhog-dayhas it that if a groundhog (a rodent that lives in a burrow type thing underground) sees his shadow when he emerges on February 2nd, then he will go back to hibernating because we’ll have six more weeks of winter.  If he doesn’t see his shadow, then we’ll have an early spring.  Our official groundhog is, of course, Punxsutawney Phil.  Apparently, in years when February 2nd falls on a weekend day (like today) Punxsutawney sees upwards of 20,000 people crowding their otherwise small town for the event.  Other years, they get somewhere in the neighborhood of 13,000 people.  Someday, my family will be five people in the crowd.

By the way exciting times for today: Phil has predicted an early Spring.  After the cold snap we’ve had the last weeks, I’m looking forward to it.  This week, we had a terrible tease of a day.  The early morning hours of Thursday brought us torrential rain and hurricane force gusts, followed by nearly 60 degrees at breakfast time.  Not to worry, it was snowing pretty hard by breakfast yesterday.  Sigh.  New England weather – what a hoot.

patriots' day reinactmentAnother one of these cool holidays is Patriots’ Day.  This is really just a holiday in Massachusetts, although since it’s a state holiday (schools & banks closed, that sort of thing – most especially the post office) when it falls on Monday the 15th of April, the entire country enjoys a brief (day-long) respite from filing the annual income taxes. 

I lived in Boston for a couple of years, and I did celebrate Patriots’ Day in its intended form in 1999.  I arose well before dawn, and trekked to the the Lexington Town Green to watch the Redcoats march in and the Minute Men repel the attack.  It was WICKED cool.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get to follow along to Concord because I had to go to work and get fired.  I worked for a New Jersey company with a satellite office in Boston.  They didn’t appreciate the day properly.  Maybe they were just jealous that Longfellow never commemorated a New Jersey event in poem.  But it was cool to be there, and when my kids are old enough to be studying the American Revolution in school (just a few years away) we’ll be taking a road trip to Bean-Town, you can be sure of that!

This is all well and good, but you might be wondering what it has to do with writing.  Well, here it is:

Today’s secret: when you are creating a new world in your writing, as many of us do, don’t forget to give it some important holidays.  Even towns can celebrate something that nobody else does.  Make something up like Pickle Harvest Day, Grape Squishing Day or Scissor Development Day?  There’s a town in the northeast of England that this year will be celebrating 776th annual Sheep Fair this year.  776!  Now that’s dedication.  Seriously – here’s a link to the 2012 festival.  I’ve borrowed it for my current WIP.

Today’s question: what’s your favorite little-known holiday?

A Legend In Your Own Mind

Happy Friday! Casey Wyatt here. In five days, my novel MYSTIC INK, will be published. And it got me to thinking about myths and legends. The story is based on the idea of the Gods of Old living among us mere mortals.

Like all writers, I love to play the “what if” game. The possibilities are endless and it’s a lot of fun. Eventually, you have to stop playing the game and get down to the business of plotting the story. And along with it comes world building. Essentially creating a mythology or “rules of the world”.

No matter the genre of the story, they all have to have these rules. And once established, as the author, you’d best stick with them. As a reader, there is nothing more annoying than when an author bends or breaks the rules of their universe.

Drives me bonkers!! I’m all for thinking outside of the box, but the story has to make sense and follow the rules you’ve set forth. A story is like a contract between you and the reader. So if you say, the heroine is allergic to strawberries, you can’t turn around a hundred pages later, and have her eating strawberries with no side effects. Or, if you are in a world where vampires shun the sun, the vampires shouldn’t be walking around at noon in broad daylight.

Rule bending can take many forms. Even minor things, like continuity gaffes. Ever read a book where the hero’s eyes go from sparkling sapphire to a rich brown? (Okay, maybe in paranormals that can happen, but in romantic suspense or historicals, it doesn’t work – gaffe alert!).

And don’t get me started on the “deus ex machina” or “God from the machine” move. This is the first cousin of rule bending. It’s when, out of nowhere, something (be it an object or person) suddenly appears in the 11th hour and saves the day. A popular example, the eagle in The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, who plucks Frodo and Sam off of Mount Doom in the nick of time.

So here’s my plea to writer’s everywhere (which includes screenwriters!), please be consistent and follow your own world’s mythology. Be truthful with us and don’t break your own rules for convience’s sake. Even if you have all these details straight in your head, it doesn’t mean the reader can see inside your brain. They can only experience what you have presented on the page.

And for readers and viewers alike, go easy on us writers. We do our best to ensure continuity, but it’s not always easy. Years can pass between writing books, so bear with us, if we don’t always get our own universes correct.

So Scribes fans, how obessed are you with continuity in books and movies? Do you cut your favorite authors slack or do you throw down the book in disgust at flagrant violations of a world’s rules? What’s your favorite (or worst) “deus ex machina” moment?

I’m the Author Goddess…

Happy Friday everyone! Casey here.

I am the Author Goddess, therefore, I rule the universes that I’ve created. The characters are my minions. They exist to do my bidding.

I tell myself this all the time. And it’s true.  Sort of. I am the creator of their world. Sometimes benevolent, sometimes a dictator.

Writers all do this. We fabricate new worlds with new rules. Even if it’s the “here and now” world, we still add our own spin to it. We make the facts fit the story as we need to tell it.  We ask our characters to do things normal people often can’t or won’t do. And most of the time, the characters go along for the happy (or miserable) journey.

Occasionally, they resist or flat-out refuse. They stamp their feet and demand to go in a different direction.

A rebellion in my carefully crafted plans. How dare they? I’m the Author Goddess. They must do my bidding.

Right?

Not really.

Sure, you can ignore your characters and force them to follow your “master plan”. But, just like in real life, it’s not right to make someone do something they don’t want to (making the kids clean up after themselves doesn’t count). When in this situation, instead of indignation, try going along for the ride.

Let the character take you on the journey they want to go on.  Travel their path and see it to the end. They could surprise you and even open the story up in ways you never imagined.

What kind of world builder are you? Benevolent? Mean? How do your characters rule your world?