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Writing Update: Balancing Character Development and the Passage of Time

10 Jan

Hey everyone! It’s been a while since I did a writing update. As part of my goal to finish this book this year and be happy with it, I mentioned that I would keep updating here in order to remain accountable for my progress. So here goes.

I’m happy to say that I’ve been pretty good about writing every day, even if it’s just a few words here and there. Last week I made a huge effort to get Chapter 8 finished, and I did finish it. But I wasn’t happy with it. So I opened a new document and started typing, and I’m happier with the result–but now I’m not sure how to incorporate it!

One of the issues I’ve been struggling with is how to balance character development with the passage of time. To give some context, Main Character is being taken from Point A to Point B by some people she does not like under some unfortunate circumstances. It’s quite a lengthy journey, but of course the journey itself is not the main point of the plot. I need MC to get to Point B, but it really needs to be done in as few pages as possible to make room for some of the more important stuff.

That said, her interactions with Characters B and C on the journey are much more critical now than they were in previous drafts. She needs to get from “I Hate These People” to “I Am Going To Do This Thing That Is Drastic For My Character In Order To Save These People’s Lives.”

I wrote that drastic thing as an experiment to see if I liked the plot going in a different direction, and I love it. The problem is getting there!

In trying to find a balance, I’ve written almost a general overview of what happens during a day on the road, interspersed with specific anecdotes that I hope do something toward developing my characters and their relationships. Example: “Every day XYZ happens. This one time during XYZ, ABC happened which made me feel DEF about Character B.” Only, you know, obviously it’s all tied up in pretty sentences and witty dialogue. šŸ˜‰

Part of me wonders if I should just finish this “bridge” to that experiment that I’ve already written and stop worrying about whether or not there’s enough development and come back to it later–but the other part of me says I did want to be happy with it, and I should work on it until it’s up to snuff! Trying to toss aside that NaNo mindset, I guess.

As a side note, I very happily rediscovered some old, discarded scenes from YEARS ago that I plan on using now (or at least, plan on using the ideas if not the actual writing!). You’ve probably heard it a million times, but don’t ever throw anything out. You never know when it might be useful later.

So. Anyone else have projects that they’re working on or issues that they’re struggling with? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!

The Misadventures of Thor And Loki – A True Story #1

10 Oct

4:00 a.m. – MoreThanOnePage Household

Thor: Hey. Hey. Hey. I need into your room. Hey. Hey.

Thor: Hey.

Thor: Hey.

4:05 a.m.

Me: *get up to let Thor into our room*

4:06 a.m.
Thor: Hey. Hey. I need out on the balcony. Hey. Hey. Hey. Hey. Hey. Hey.

4:10 a.m.

Thor: Hey. Heeeeey. Heeeeyyyy.

Loki: HEY THOR!

Thor: OMG WEPRIUWPEJRP)SURPRISE. WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT TO A PERSON.

Loki: Hey Thor, are we going outside?

Thor: No, Loki. I am going outside. *head bop* You are not. Heeey. I need outside. Heeeeeyyyyy.

Loki: That’s not very kind. *ear bite*

Thor: Bad Loki! *head bop*

4:26 a.m.

Me: OMG. *stomps out of bed*

Thor: Uh oh, we’re in trouble. *dives under bed*

Me: I swear to Zeus, Thor, if I have to get out of bed again… *grumble grumble fall into bed*

Loki: Mew what are we doing under the bed Thor mew.

4:28 a.m.

Thor: Hey!

Me: *turn to see Thor’s face right by my head*

Thor: I need outside!

Me: *mad grab for cat*

Struggle ensues. Human wins by a small margin. Firm grasp on cat maintained. Thor is thrown into spare room. Meanwhile, Loki runs down the hallway thinking he’s getting breakfast. Human falls back into bed.

4:37 a.m.

Loki: Uh… scuse me! Where’s my breakfast?

Me: O________________O

How do you structure your plot?

3 May

Lately I’ve been having an unprecedented burst of creative energy when it comes to The Thesis. This is perhaps spurred on by the embarrassment of a copy being entombed in my university’s library for the rest of time.

You see, I reread The Thesis and wanted to scrap the whole thing. There are people who disappear, names that change, the entire first chapter is soaked in rain which then disappears conveniently before it can cause any problems down the road. But most importantly, the plot is winding, meandering, with scenes that don’t contribute to the overall arc and an ending that doesn’t have much of a point anyway.

Of course, I’ve tinkered around with plot structure outlines before, but I was never very serious about really plotting things out, creating a coherent outline, or thinking about the different steps a plot really should go through to be coherent and satisfying to read. Truth? I hated those stupid plotlines I had to write out for book reports in school, and I can’t get them out of my head.

But structuring the plot, I think, is the key to getting some of these kinks sorted out. I’ve written and rewritten this story over and over again and having no outline or solid structure simply isn’t working. I need to write up a guide to follow to make sure I’m on track and not gallivanting off in the hills with some secondary character whose sole purpose is to have some immaterial side-arc. You know what I mean?

I know there are tons of books on this subject, but for a quickie I took to Google and found some promising links:

The 8-Point Plot Arc (quite like the look of this one: simple, yet satisfying)
Three-Act Structure
Six-Act, Two Goals

Then, of course, there are a few other plot-related help sites like the 11 Plot Pitfalls and How to Add Subplots. But I want to know: Do you struggle with plot? How do YOU structure your plot? Do you structure it intentionally at all? What resources have you used, and what worked for you? Any books on writing plot recommendations? Please leave me your comments below!

Worldbuilding Day 16: Limits of the Speculative Element

22 Jan

Day 15 was all about resources for worldbuilding. The website gives a pretty comprehensive list of some great resources to use if you’re interested in finding more worldbuilding tools, so check it out!

Day 16 deals with the limits of your speculative element. That means establishing rules for magic, or boundaries your creatures can or cannot cross, and setting out the repercussions.

I imagine magic in this world acting like another system within the body–a second circulatory system, for instance, with “magical” veins running alongside the blood-filled ones. Magic is mostly inherited. People with two magical parents are very likely to have magic than someone with only one magical parent, but Ā children of magical parents are not necessarily guaranteed to have magic themselves (example: Gareth). Magic is a recessive gene, and so will sometimes crop up among children with non-magical parents who might have had magical ancestors, but this is rare.

There are different types of magic:

Human: able to affect different parts of the human body, whether healing, helping to sleep, incapacitating, dictating movements, knowing thoughts, etc.
Animal: As above, but in regards to animals.
Natural: able to enhance the powers of plants, help things grow, mold rock, open the seas, cleanse water, etc.
Spiritual: Able to communicate with spirits. Extremely rare.

Within each type, there are different levels of magic. I like to think of it like this: people have “little” veins of magic or “big” veins of magic. Those with little veins of magic might appear to have a talent for something: a natural wizard with a smaller gift might always have the winning pumpkin at the fair, for example, but unless they’re well-trained, they wouldn’t know that they were even doing magic.

People with bigger veins are the problem. Without training and control, magic can come out unbidden–it doesn’t take necessarily take concentration on the wizard’s part. People with more magic to expend tend to have bigger accidents before they can get their power under control.

A person must be in physical contact with the object being magicked in order to work magic. However, after the magic has been done, the effects can last a long time without physical contact.

Education and training can make a wizard use his/her gifts more effectively, but it can not increase their power. It is like an artistic gift; some people are born to paint, and other scan study painting and become better at painting, but they’ll likely never become as good as people who have a natural gift.

When doing magic, wizards slowly but surely deplete the magic-blood in their veins. This can happen at the same rate for people with big and small gifts. People with small gifts are typically incapable of doing things people with bigger gifts can, but smaller workings take less than bigger workings do. However, people with bigger magics are accustomed do doing bigger workings–therefore, two wizards with different levels of gifts going about their average day will usually become exhausted at the same time.

When a wizard depletes their magic, the after-effects can be headaches, exhaustion, vomiting, fainting, or death depending on how far they’ve pushed themselves. Well-trained wizards know their limits and are able to stay within reason on the average day. To recuperate, they are prescribed with sleep, bed rest, and diets high in protein. If pushed to their limits, they typically recover some ability in two to three days, but it can take a week or two before they are at full strength.

Worldbuilding Day 14: Education

21 Jan

Yes, I am skipping a day. Day 13 is about plot hooks and I’m pretty well sorted with plot; this exercise is just an attempt to enrich my descriptions and make the world seem more “real.” Anyway, Day 14 is about education–what sort of education is available in your world?

Bellador:

Bellan children have use of school houses that were set up in King Roderick’s father’s time. In that generation, a law was passed mandating school attendance for all children from the age of 7. This was partially to keep the population educated in reading and numbers, but also partially to keep an eye on children at a time when they might start to display magical abilities. In the country, school houses are generally one room, with one or two teachers educating students on all different levels. In larger cities, a school house will have multiple rooms, or there will be multiple school houses, and children are sorted according to age and/or educational level (someone struggling with reading would be placed with younger children, for instance).There are often more teachers in cities, often allowing for a smaller student-teacher ratio.

Students learn reading, writing, history, and arithmetic. Around age 12, as long as they are performing well in other subjects, the children’s days are split. In addition to the above subjects, boys start learning about military tactics in the morning, while girls perfect skills like sewing and cooking. In the afternoons, they are placed in an apprenticeship. Usually this apprenticeship is with their parents, but sometimes children are exchanged between parents if they seem particularly interested in something else, or parents pay others to take on their children, if they have the money. Some examples of apprenticeships include farming, mining, metalworking, shopkeeping, and military training. At age 14, most students are in their apprenticeships full time. At age 16, they are considered full workers and can continue working for their apprenticed employer or find work elsewhere.

Noble children are generally educated by private tutors, learning most of the same subjects as their untitled counterparts.

Ā 

Kedron

Education is a new thing in Kedron, where previous Emperors and Kings didn’t want anyone to learn anything that might make the people question their decisions. One of the first things King Farram did was institute mandatory schooling for everyone. Children begin their lessons at age 5, learning the usual things like reading, writing, history, and arithmetic. However, from a young age they are also taught magical theory, which causes many of them to come to terms with their own power before it gets too dangerous. For those who aren’t able to use magic, they are taught techniques to block magic used on themselves. In addition, both girls and boys are given weapons lessons and hand-to-hand combat lessons; this was a controversial move, but one that has caused the people of Kedron to trust their king.

Classes are typically held in one room school houses in the country, while cities have large buildings dedicated to learning, serving all ages and abilities. As their magic develops, those with magic take extra lessons with someone who specializes in their type. Those with magic are also required to take several additional years of study. Many choose to do this in the capital, where King Farram maintains a school within his own palace. Students pay for their lessons and accommodation here by working in the palace. Anyone who can’t practice magic typically joins up with their family business or the military.

Many of the noble children are still educated by private tutors, but the royal children went through the large city school, just as other people living in Ahala did.

Worldbuilding Day 12: What If?

20 Jan

I found today’s exercise a little difficult. It challenges you to askĀ what if? about your speculative element–that is, magic, technology, whatever is a little “different” about your novel than in the real world. In askingĀ what if, you should be able to pinpoint what your speculative element changes about your world. The example given is aliens with chip implants, so that they could get something like an internet feed to their brains. This changes things like people wouldn’t have to carry cell phones or brief cases and they could never get lost.

The struggle for me here, I guess, is pinning down the speculative elements. There are all sorts of different magics in my world–a mere talent for something is often considered lesser magical ability by some. In most societies, it’s deeply embedded in the culture. So I’ll start where it’s weird:

Bellador Declares War on Magic: Anyone who practices is forced out or killed. As a result, Bellador turns to “science.” By doing things the hard way, Bellador is slower to develop but often produces more quality products that are more accessible. For instance, with the right knowledge just about anyone can make a poultice to dress a wound; they don’t need to go to a healer.

Sarians Are All Mental-Magic: Sarians communicate by sharing images and thoughts with one another on a sort of telepathic network. As such, they don’t have their own language and are a silent people. Because of this, they are very musically inclined, preferring to fill the air with sweet sounds. Their inability to speak makes humans fearful of them.

King of Kedron Can Still Perform Magic: the King of Kedron historically used magic to suppress his people. While the current king does nothing of the sort, people are still wary of him because he used his magic to depose his father, and they worry he will turn on them.

Er… I don’t know if I did this one correctly. However, there you go, a few examples of my take on this.

Worldbuilding Day 11: Focus In

19 Jan

Yes, I know, I know, I’m so far behind! Honestly, I think what happened is I looked at this one quite late at night, shook my head, and went to sleep (why? because I did that thing where I didn’t read the directions all the way through and it looked a lot more daunting than it was, that’s why). However, to make up for my lapse in the challenge, I have beenĀ writing. And by writing, I mean writingĀ story. And that’s quite a big change from recent weeks, so I still feel rather accomplished.

Anyway, today’s challenge is to flesh out a single category: history, economics/politics, OR language. Not all of them, like I first thought. As my story is rather political in nature, I’ll be doing economics/politics.

Kedron:

The Esteycor family has been ruling Kedron for many generations, largely due to their magical abilities which made it possible to corrupt the people and their advisors. When the Empire crumbled, it was thought that the Esteycor family would fall; however, a distant cousin was able to win the throne, cementing their place at the head of state.

The line is still in tact, however after King Farram deposed his father and did away with the scheming advisors who had hoped to snatch the power out from under him, he’s made progress toward instating a parliament to make legislative decisions. Parliament members represent much of the country geographically, though they are chosen by a small group of elders in each county rather than by the majority. Needless to say, this still causes problems, but has gone a long way to making the people trust and respect the King.

That said, the move has also made him a lot of enemies: namely, those lords and ladies who had something to gain by forcing legislative decisions through that favored them. As such, the political atmosphere in Kedron is heated at best and bubbling over at worst. There is a huge divide between rich and poor which Farram is attempting to heal, with very little help from his fellow nobility.

Bellador:

Under King Roderick’s father’s tender care, the country started seeing a huge economic boom, leading to a surge in the number of people who might be considered “middle class.” As this continued into King Roderick’s reign, he has a lot of friends amongst the people and is well-loved. However, he also has a large number of enemies due to his strict no-magic policy, which has led to families being torn apart. His government is also far more insular, and other countries are suspicious about what he’s up to–not to mention jealous about the wealth he’s accumulated.

As such, there are forces nudging at his border and forces trying to nudge out of it. To top it all, he has left his daughter relatively ignorant about the goings-on, despite not being oblivious to it himself.Ā 

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