Posted in Blog Post Museum

The Importance of Being Earnest: The Fiction Writer’s Purpose

musemThis post is part of a blog museum, archiving old writing from a previous blog.

 

Rose asked a question that I set aside, just for this article:

Personally, I’m looking for something that reminds me why I wrote in the first place since I’ve recently come to a crossroads in my life. If you can write stuff about the spirit of writing and what writing really means…

This is where I ultimately wanted to spin this series. Why does a writer write? What’s our purpose?

When Logic Gets in the Way

gotpurposeI’m a creative person. But I’m also a technical, logical person. This is good for the day job (technical writer), but not always so good for the creative side of things. I often get stuck on whether something I’m doing or creating has a purpose. I measure something’s worth based on the outcome and what it can do for other people. This includes my writing.

I suppose many writers are a bit like that. We search for an audience and hope our words have meaning for someone else. But what do you, as a writer, do when your logical side tells you to “stop that silly scribbling” or whatnot? How do you personally tackle the question of whether your writing has purpose?

I think this is especially difficult when you feel like your work hasn’t found an audience (or maybe it’s found an audience that tends to be shy to respond and identify itself). That’s the tough thing about being a creator. You never know whose life you’ve touched because, often, the important changes you’ve made within someone else are invisible to you.

In that way, I suppose looking for a purpose in your writing requires you to have faith in your message, especially in the beginning.

Authors’ Answers

I decided to do something a little different for this article. I had a few answers when I asked myself “What’s the purpose of a fiction writer.” But I wanted to do some extra research and brainstorming before I wrote this post.

So I took the question and posted it up on the Writer’s Forum in the Kindle Boards. For the most part, I got a lot of really good replies (from a lot of writers I haven’t met before, so these are totally uninfluenced answers).

The take-away I got from this is that authors tend to agree on a writer’s purpose overall. Some of these purposes are to:

  • communicate moral codes
  • maintain traditions
  • feed the human imagination
  • entertain
  • inspire
  • make people think
  • experience places and situations normally not accessible
  • create and spread myths
  • teach
  • create an emotional response
  • tell the truth unencumbered by the facts
  • sort through the author’s life
  • allow the author to find comfort
  • explore the human condition
  • explore the effects of humans on the human condition
  • provide an outlet to driven authors who simply can’t NOT write
  • provide perspective on reality
  • heal and reassure others
  • provide a means for an author to communicate to a reader
  • offer shelter from the hardships of life
  • help people stay sane
  • get in touch with something higher and bigger than ourselves
  • connect human beings together

Wow. If that’s not an inspiring list of reasons writers need to keep writing, I don’t know what is!

Talk to Me

  • Can you see a few points above that fit the purpose of your stories?
  • Are there things on this list that you never even considered your work could do?
  • Are there things on the list that you might want to focus on more when you write and edit your work?
Posted in Blog Post Museum

Shy Writers: Sharing Your Work

musemThis post is part of a blog museum, archiving old writing from a previous blog.

 

In the previous two posts of this series, I touched on the fears writers have that may keep them from sharing their work and how to deal with the different kinds of feedback and criticism. This time around, I want to focus on answering the original question, which was how to work up the courage to display your writing to people on the Internet. Some of the replies answered along the same lines as I would.

proudwriterFirst, I would start small. Find someone you trust to be your beta reader, someone who is going to provide you solid feedback that helps you to improve your work. If you can find more than one person and have a small group of writer support, that would be great, too.

Believe it or not, after revising my work, I feel more confident that it’s in better reading shape than before I’ve made any changes to it. Having feedback from other writers or readers helps you to polish your work. And once you’ve polished your work into something you’re proud of, it’s not so scary to post it to a larger audience later.

If you have the opportunity, try to take a writing workshop in your community or in your school. This was a mandatory part of my writing degree and it really helps to work up your confidence. It really helps to learn that most of the other people taking the class are as nervous as you are when it comes to sharing writing! Plus, the act of giving and listening to other writers’ feedback helps you to develop an eye for better self-editing and makes you a stronger writer over all.

Join or create a writer’s critique group online. This is similar to the writing workshop idea. I’ve considered founding one of these in the past, but have just lacked the time to get something like that off the ground.

Once you have a bit of confidence, try something a little larger.  Join a writer’s online forum that allows you to post and critique work or ask for help. This can be a place to step it up some by sharing your writing in a writing section of a forum for only the forum community. Once you get feedback there from multiple people, and continue honing your work, you’ll find yourself becoming less and less nervous about showing your work.

Join public RP groups if you enjoy role play online. This helps you to write and share your writing with other people and become less nervous to display your real writing over time. Basically, anything that makes you flex your public writing muscle will over time give you confidence.

Just keep in mind to choose your editors, groups and forums wisely. As with anything online, there will always be a few people who come around just to hurt other people’s feelings and cause drama. This is when you have to go back to determining if an  individual’s feedback is worth letting your feelings get hurt, or is genuinely something that can make your writing stronger.

Q&A

What other things have you done to work up your courage in showing your writing online?

Do you have any experiences with writing groups, and if so, any suggestions on how to find them, what to look for, or what to be careful of?

Posted in Blog Post Museum

Shy Writers: Dealing with Feedback

musemThis post is part of a blog museum, archiving old writing from a previous blog.

feedbackAs I stated in the previous post, one reason writers may be afraid to share their work is a fear of rejection or criticism. While no one wants to hear people bash in their writing, the truth is, feedback, editing and proofing is all part of the process. That doesn’t mean all feedback is created equal, though.

Listen to any professional writer, or even your writing professors, and they will all tell you that to be a published writer, you have to have thick skin. Pretty much every published writer (even your favorite author) has been rejected — sometimes many, many times — before they found a place that accepted their work. This has, up until now, been one of the most difficult parts of the publishing process. I say “up until now” because with the dawn of the digital era, writers can now skirt around needing an agent or a publisher and go directly to online eBooks and print on demand.

To learn and grow as a writer, you have to be able to disconnect from your work enough to see the value of other people’s feedback. You have to be willing to scrap what doesn’t work, edit what does work, and polish things to a gleaming shine. This sometimes means making difficult choices and going against your emotions. It sometimes means having the courage to let other people into your world so that they can help you make it better.

Types of Feedback

There’s a few different kinds of people who give feedback, some more useful than others.

The I Like It. These are people who probably really do like your work, but don’t know how, or don’t feel qualified, to offer suggestions for changes. They try to be a good friend, though, and encourage you to keep going by telling you what you hope to hear – that your work is good and someone likes it. However, that doesn’t help you make it better. If you have friends like this, don’t get too frustrated with them. Just recognize they’re probably not going to be the ones to go to if you want serious suggestions. (Though sometimes if you ask a few “why” questions, or for very specific feedback, you can get a bit more out of them!)

The Trollface. These are guys who never like anything and rarely have anything nice to say. While there might be something useful in their drivel, I’d take it with a grain of salt and not try to sift through the garbage too much. Chances are, they’re not trying to help and only trying to bring you down.

The Nitpick. These are people who can get annoying, but actually may have good points for you to consider. They often pick about every little fault they find (which can be annoying), but some of these faults may be good questions to ask yourself about your story and characters. If you deal with a Nitpick friend, insulate yourself and know that you don’t have to change every little thing that someone else suggests.

The Balanced. These people are hard to find! Not only are they honest about what they do like (and tell you why they like it), but they also are honest about what doesn’t work in your writing, and are not afraid to tell you. They are really trying to help you make your writing a better piece and tend to offer you good suggestions from a reader’s perspective.

In the end, you as the writer must decide what is best for your story.

At the same time, don’t dismiss an idea just because it hurts your feelings. Try to be open to ideas that other people offer you without losing your own identity. Writers have to create a feedback filter and learn to identify what will make the work stronger in the end. Writers also have to create soul shields and not allow the writing sprit to be crushed when you deal with people who simply have nothing better to do than criticize.

Approach sharing your writing as a learning experience or another form of brainstorming. Let your writing be fluid and always ready to change, never set in stone.  Don’t take feedback personally and learn to identify people who honestly want to help. Those are the people you want to keep sharing with – just make sure you let them know how they’ve helped you and how you’ve implemented their ideas!

Don’t let fear of criticism be the thing that keeps you from opening the doors to other people. If your favorite authors have lived to see many rejections, know that you’re not alone. It’s those who keep writing despite the rejection that eventually make it.

Q&A

  • Do any of your favorite authors talk about their experiences and rejections before becoming published?
  • What sort of feedback helps you most in your writing? Do you keep an open mind when editing your work?
  • What sort of feedback do you give other people?
Posted in Blog Post Museum

Shy Writers: The Fiction Author’s Fears

musemThis post is part of a blog museum, archiving old writing from a previous blog.

 

In a previous article, I asked if authors had any concerns about the move to digital publishing. Quinis asked a very good question that I wanted to examine in a full-blown post series:

How did you get over the hurdle of showing your work to anyone and everyone?

forever-aloneI don’t know if most people around Sygnus realize how terribly shy I really am. Maybe it’s because I’m chatty in comments and posts online. But the truth is, I don’t talk about my creations, writing or art with people who aren’t a part of the website community. Most people IRL have no idea I’m a writer, artist, webcomic/webmaster/geeky gamer girl (well, if they stumble upon this blog, I guess they know now). I’m terrified to show someone face to face my stuff . But posting things online? Not so scared. I can’t tell you why.

Writers (especially shy ones) have it hard. On one hand, we create things with the express idea to share our creations with others. On the other hand, we pour our hearts and souls into our characters, plots and creations, so much that we fear displaying our work should we have to experience the disappointment of rejection. This rejection can be in the form of other people’s criticism (even helpful criticism can be scary sometimes) or the form of having no one pay attention at all!

So let’s take a look at what we’re afraid of and how to face these fears!

The Root of All Fears

So how do you get over the hurdle of showing your work to a vast audience online? The first thing I’d do is ask yourself WHY are you afraid of sharing your work with other people? What do you feel you have to lose?

Completely normal fears about sharing writing include:

  • My writing sucks (and no one will like it).
  • My writing is unoriginal (and no one will like it).
  • No one will read it even if I post it (Forever Alone).
  • People will think my ideas are stupid (and no one will like them).
  • People will think I’M stupid because of what I write (and no one will like me).
  • OMG… I just re-read what I wrote a month ago and now I think it all stinks (and I don’t like it)!

Let me tell you a secret. I think most writers, even writers you think are good at the craft, have been hit (hard!) over the head with one or more of these self doubts. I have. Every single one of those thoughts has afflicted me at some time or another. You’re not alone! 

Our writing reflects a deep, sometimes secret, part of ourselves. It takes a lot of courage to open the doors and let other people in. We don’t know if others will understand our stories, our characters, and ultimately us. That’s a scary thing to face!

Another scary thing to face is criticism, even when it’s helpful feedback. In my next post, I’ll talk a little about how to deal with criticism. Then, I’ll work on a post that gives some tips in breaking the ice and working towards overcoming the fears that keeps us from sharing our writing with others.

Q & A

  • Have you ever felt any of the above fears as a writer?
  • Do you have additional fears or doubts that you can add to the list?
  • What did you do to overcome these feelings?
Posted in Blog Post Museum

Q & A: Hand to Hand: Neglected?

musemThis post is part of a blog museum, archiving old writing from a previous blog.

 

I was wondering if you could give me tips on how to write hand to hand combat. I know I should be more specific, so I was think outside of the realm of weapons and more into the realm of grappling and martial arts. I know a few things, but it’s not enough to help my figments. We would appreciate your help!

Rose

I consider hand to hand a very personal type of combat — after all, you’re bashing faces and making pain with your own body. That’s a lot different than busting butts with a weapon. When you go in with just your fists, the way you fight tells a lot more than just your battle skill.

If you want to write believable hand to hand battles, you may need to study what you’re trying to write. This might take some time, but you will certainly learn things about combat and about your figments that will carry over to writing battles of all kinds.

Personality & Philosophy

Photo by By clear_image@sbcglobal.net
Photo by By clear_image@sbcglobal.net

If you’re thinking martial arts, don’t just think about action and movement. Consider it an extension of the warrior’s personality and philosophy. Many martial arts have codes and ideas that warriors uphold — some may be a bit more stringent than others. That’s when becomes a mindset more than just a method of battle. If you are developing a hand to hand style for a figment you know well, keep that in the front of your mind. Study the styles of martial arts that exist in your world and find a philosophy that seems to fit the character you are writing for. Consider morphing it into your own school of fighting, perhaps.

If you don’t know the figment well, choose a style that interests you and see what you can learn about that figment’ s philosophy and personality based on that. How much do they follow or stretch their code when they fight? Do they like to go against the grain? Do they like to spice it up in battle and keep the opponent guessing? Or are they like those darn Smash Brothers button-mashers who stick to the moves they know best and repeat them over and over and over… *huffs*

Resources to help:

Study Movement

Once you have a good idea of the philosophy behind the combat style, do some video searches. Watch marital arts practices, drills and competitions on YouTube. Just make sure you’re watching the authentic stuff. Also watch the screw-ups — all warriors who aren’t as cool as me will make mistakes sometimes. Watch the mistakes and figure out how they might fit into your writing and make your fights interesting.

Plan the Environment

Just like any other type of battle, your hand to hand fights aren’t being fought in a vacuum. Set the stage before you write the fight and decide what props surround your warriors. The better you can imagine it, the more options you can give your warriors. Is there terrain that makes it easy or hard for them to fight? Are there buildings and structures they can use to duck and hide or bounce off of? What’s the weather like — does it help or hinder the fight? Don’t be afraid to let them fight dirty — dirt in the eye, throwing something at the opponent, using something as a temporary shield.

Storyboard It

Once you have an idea of the style and the environment, consider drawing a short storyboard. This can just be frames of stick figures acting out the battle on paper. It gives you an idea of the flow and helps you create a timeline of events in a battle. This can be especially helpful if you have a long battle or a series of battles to plan. It also prevents you from coming up with a really cool move and forgetting it later when you try to put it into words. Just remember to stay flexible with the storyboard and don’t get overly involved. It’s a planning tool, not something set in stone.

Resource to help:

Writing It

When you write a hand to hand fight, consider all the senses that come into play in the battle. Unlike a fight fought with weapons, you don’t have all the clangs and slashes and bashes of metal. But you do have parts of the body coming into contact with the opponent’s body. What does that feel like? Bones breaking and organs bleeding? The nasty clammy skin of some guy from the other side of the bar who hasn’t washed in weeks? Can you smell him? Can you taste sweat in the air? What kind of damage are you taking? You feel the muscles working hard?

Really jump in the warrior’s shoes and make it a personal battle. Keep sentences short and to the point to speed up the action. Choose language that fits with your fighting style. Is it ruthless and bloodthirsty? Is it measured and precise? Is it honorable and patient? Is it defensive or aggressive? You’ll be surprised how much detail you can still squeeze in there if you consider the type of words you choose.

Hope that helps you out, Rose!

Posted in Blog Post Museum

Q&A: Mapping Your World

musemThis post is part of a blog museum, archiving old writing from a previous blog.

 

I have a question about cartography, actually. You see, I think my story could be a whole lot easier to write and much more realistic and interesting if I knew specifically where everything was, instead of ‘village x in the east gets attacked and the heroes flee back to the capital’ sort of vagueness. But I’m not sure how to start. I have a bunch of rough map drafts, but a lot of things on them are quite arbitrary and could move around at a whim. Flairé would help me out if he could, but his memory is so hazy it’s not really very helpful.

How should I go about this?

Thank you!
Illinia

middleearth
J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth

Hey there, Illinia — thanks for the great question! As a matter of fact, map-making was something I’ve wanted to touch on for a while. So I appreciate you giving me the chance to talk about it.

I fancy maps, myself. I feel that creating a map of your fictional world is not only a great tool for reference, but a great process for learning more about your world. Putting a map down on paper helps to make things more solid in a visual way while promoting geographical consistency in your world. There’s nothing worse than writing a piece and accidentally contradicting yourself location-wise simply because you haven’t nailed down a map for your own reference!

I’d say, the first step is to have fun with it. Don’t take it too seriously or it’ll become something more overwhelming than it needs to be. You mentioned having rough drafts, and I think this is a great way to approach map making. You are world building… and like everything that you build, it will develop in stages, possibly over periods of time. So don’t get frustrated with yourself for not having all the answers from the get-go.

A map doesn’t have to be a work of art, either. Draw some upside down “V”s and you got a mountain range. Some squiggly stuff works as a forest. A patch of dotty land is a great representation for a desert.

wheeloftime
Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time Map

Start with what you know. Nail down the location of your major cities and big points of interest for your story. Just suck it up and put some dots on the page.

Consider what climate and land-type surrounds your people and their settlements. Or vice versa — sometimes the culture and the people will tell you what sort of climate they should live in. Do you have sea-fishing peoples? Great excuse for creating their own little sheltered bay… or stormy ocean. Do you have folks in the desert? Throw a dangerous desert surrounded by tall mountains that harbor that one safe oasis of life.

Consider the traveling distance between locations. Have you already written about some of these places in your story? Go back to your scripts and see how much time to took to move from place to place. That will give you an idea of how close or far away to put your major locations on your map.

Allow the flexibility for future expansion. Know that any map you create is a work in progress. You and your characters are always going to make new discoveries that you can pencil into your map as they come. Give yourself some space to do that… there’s nothing more “blah” than a world where you already know it all!

Eddings-Marked-Maps
David Eddings’ Marked Maps

Developing the map can go either way. You may learn more about the landforms as your characters travel through these places. Or you may wish to have the basic climate and landforms already drafted on the map to help give your journey a foundation. Maybe a bit of both.

Check out maps of stories you enjoy and study them a bit. It’s always good to have references on hand. See as a reader what you felt worked or didn’t work in those maps and use the best aspects to help develop your own.

Here is a great little article that helped the development of Dreigiau maps. May you find some of this information here, or there, of help!

Posted in Blog Post Museum

Genetic Creativity

musemThis post is part of a blog museum, archiving old writing from a previous blog.
23andMeLogo_MagentaLimeSo today I spat a ton of my DNA in this little plastic tube, sealed it up and will mail it off to 23andMe tomorrow. Doesn’t sound pretty, I know. But that’s apparently how they run DNA testing.

Not that I know a whole lot about DNA testing — it was my birthday present from Syn (when it was on mega-sale for DNA day). She got her own DNA tested earlier this year and found some really interesting things about her history, ancestry and her genetic make-up. She says there’s even a gene that tells you how creative you are in a genetic sense. Very cool!

It’s a curiosity to think that people can be born with a creative gene. It makes me ponder if there are different kinds of creative genes — genes for those who love to write as compared to those who love to draw, make music, design crafts or build things with their hands. Or if it’s all a certain gene-type that says “Yo, you’re creative! BAM!” and then your upbringing and environment helps to guide you toward what sort of creativity you have.

Just curious ramblings! I’ll have to do some research to find out. Or maybe some bio-wonder could drop a line and tell me how it works!

Either way, my spit is in the mail tomorrow. Yummy!

Posted in Blog Post Museum

What is a Figment?

musemThis post is part of a blog museum, archiving old writing from a previous blog.

 

Figment  [fig-muhnt] , n. [L. figmentum, fr. fingere to form, shape, invent, feign.]
An invention; a fiction; something feigned or imagined: just a figment of the imagination.

fantasygothic
Fantasy & Gothic Fair by ♥siebe ©

In a writer’s heart, there are normal characters… then there are REAL characters. Characters who become more than just a plot device or collection of random biographical data. Characters who endure the test of time, survive the rising action and extend beyond the happy (or not so happy) ending. These are characters that remain with their Authors for years, even decades. They develop and grow, sometimes slowly… sometimes unobserved. And they become a part of that Author’s life.

This kind of character has become what I call a “Figment” — a living fragment of ourselves that plays out across the page. Figments develop minds of their own, complete with hopes and fears, likes and dislikes… and very often they let the Author know only as much as they feel like sharing at the moment.

Does this sound familiar to you?

Do you believe that your fictional heart and soul is ruled over by one or more characters who have become figments?

I’m here to tell you that you are not alone! You are not weird to have characters who have become more than just words on a page. Writers, often the greatest writers, across the years have experienced the exact same phenomenon as this!

I discovered my first figment at the age of 14. I didn’t realize what I had found until many years later… when that character simply refused to fade away into the rosy glow of pre-teen memories. In fact, that character (now figment) is still part of my life today. It was through this figment that this and many other online projects and websites were founded. It was through this figment that I met my best friend and creative partner. It was through this figment that I discovered more figments… and in doing so, started down a road of self-discovery.

Of course, I couldn’t see where it would all lead to then. But that’s the way good things work in life.

Do you have a figment of your own?

Who was your first and when did you discover they had become more than just a character in your life?

Posted in Blog Post Museum

Troubles With the Plot Climax

musemThis post is part of a blog museum, archiving old writing from a previous blog.

 

I’ve written a couple stories, but I always get stuck at the climax. You know, the part where everything ties together and the big “happening” happens. The big decider of everything! At least that’s what I think it is. When I hit this climax, I write slower and slower, and I can’t keep track of the flow. It seems the more I plow through the climax, the harder it gets to tie everything together, until soon I’m intimidated by the challenge of making it work, and I end up putting the story away unfinished.

I know you’ve finished Darkstar, and there are tons of mini climaxes in Wayrift, and probably Dregiau, too.

How does working through the climax of stories work for you? And how do you not let it scare you away? Do you think I have too big of projects?

I would love to know what you have to say on the subject, because I have enjoyed your stories and mangas, and learned a lot of good ideas and info from your writing articles, particularly your character development series–and the articles about fantasy weapons ^^

Thank you for your time, even if you don’t answer the question, it’s nice knowing I can ask!

Sincerely,
stormcloud

Thank YOU for the question! I really had to sit back and think about this for a little while and sort through all the climatic situations I’ve written in my stories. Wayrift and Dreigiau tend to have the most of these since Wayrift is an ongoing comic and Dreigiau is broken up into many books… each of which has their own climaxes.

While I haven’t had a lot of trouble writing climaxes for Dreigiau in the past, this year in NaNoWriMo, I plan on writing the final climax for the entire story. And I have to say, for a writing project that has gone on 7-8 years, it does appear to be a daunting task for me, too!

luccidarksword
How am I ever going to resolve this?

I suppose that I have a few questions regarding your own work. You mention that you end up writing slower and slower and eventually just quit. Normally, for me, it’s quite the opposite — when I’m writing a climax, I know I’m working towards the “good stuff” and I’m pumped to write… I write very quickly. But that’s ONLY if I have a really good sense of how I’m going to tie everything together.

For your writing, do you feel if perhaps you are trying to sum up too many things at one time? Are you overwhelmed by the task of weaving all the plots into one central point in your story? Are you attempting to write your climax on the fly, or do you take a bit of time to map it out on paper before you sit down to the keyboard?

Here are some thoughts on this — as I don’t know what applies to you, I don’t know which will be of help. But hopefully something will be!

Map It Out

Get a writer’s notebook if you don’t have one already — a notebook you save JUST for scribbling plot points and writing notes for your stories. I have one for Darkstar (which is now retired, but existed for about 10 years!). I also have one for Dreigiau (which is considerably newer, of course).

There is no way that I could write what I write without sitting down ahead of time and brainstorming all over paper. Having a brainstorming writing partner to bounce ideas off is also very, very helpful if you can. Often, you’ll find you will talk your own plot-knots out without them ever really needing to do anything but offer a few ideas.

I start a few months ahead of NaNoWriMo (which means I need to start pretty soon!), I sit down with my notebook and ask myself a very broad question: “What do I need to accomplish during this year’s time of writing?”

Map it out on paper – what does your climax need to accomplish? Write down all the different conflicts that are hanging in mid-air. Really think about it — take it character by character if you need to.  Then decide which are super important to tackle RIGHT NOW… and which can wait until an aftermath or another point in the story to be considered… or what may never be fully resolved (life is like that).

Prioritize your story conflicts. Number them from most important to least if you need to. But get it organized and on paper so that you can visually see it and work through it.

Design your climax around the most important/interesting conflicts — identify them, acknowledge them, then decide which few are the most important or would be most logical to handle first.

Remember, climax does not equal resolution. Resolution is what comes after all is said and done. It’s simple enough… but so easy to blur the lines and think that your climatic scene must resolve the issues. If that’s the case, then you may be bogging yourself down by trying to accomplish too many things at once.

Letting the Something Happen

Climax is a result of the tension of the story — sometimes it is action, but it can also be very powerful emotion.  Don’t ever ignore the emotion! As you said, it’s a breaking point — you’ve built up and built up and now it’s come to a point where something must happen.

Let the Figments do their Something
Let the Figments do their Something

So, stand back and let the something happen. Let your figments have it all out… they’ve probably earned it. If you’ve got a clear idea of what your conflicts are (from mapping them out), don’t worry about dictating what happens. Your figments know exactly how they feel about what’s been going on and now it’s their turn to vent!

Don’t worry about what it sounds like as you write it. Just put yourself in their shoes, feel their feelings, give them the stage and let them go at it. Some of the most surprising outcomes have come  in my writing when I quit worrying about how the climax should work to resolve the issues… and simply let my figments live their breaking point with honesty, for better or for worse.

You can always edit it later.

Climaxes Don’t Have to Be Limited to One Chapter

If there’s one thing I am famous for, it’s cliffhanger endings. Sorry, readers. I know I drive you up the wall with them, but I always look for a snazzy way to finish up a chapter that keeps people asking “What’s going to happen next!”

I’ve learned that sometimes an important string of events can’t be contained effectively all in one chapter. That includes climaxes — there’s only so much climax a reader/writer can digest before we have to take a breather. But sometimes, a story really needs to touch on a string of conflicts… action leads to reaction… and a true climax causes one thing after another to play out.

It’s okay to let your climax carry over more than one chapter. If you look at Darkstar’s Chapter 11… I’d say many of those sections were actually one, long, ongoing climax that hit the breaking point for one conflict after another. It was very, very tricky to figure out how it was going to all come together — I had to spend a good bit of time mapping this ending out. But there was no way that I could have crammed all of that into one chapter effectively.

Take a moment and see if  you’re trying to do too many things in your climax in too little space. Give yourself and figments some room to breathe. You don’t need to draw it out unecessarily (this is not Dragon Ball Z). But also don’t constrict yourself and rush the climax just to earn the resolutions.

Have some fun with it. 🙂

Beware the Necron Syndrome

Who is this guy... and why am I fighting him again?
Who is this guy… and why am I fighting him again?

For those who aren’t sure of the reference, Necron was the final boss in Final Fantasy IX. That was fine… except… no one in your party, including you as the player, had ever heard of Necron or knew of his existence until the very moment you had to fight him at the end.

So… um… what sort of impact does it have when your climax is focused on a so-called plot-twist that has no emotional value to the characters at all? At that point, I was like, “Well, I have to beat this guy to see the ending. I guess I better slog through this.”

But there wasn’t really an emotional pull to winning the battle — nothing like if the final fight had been a long-time plot nemesis or established bad guy. When you get to beat up a bad guy who just really deserves it, you walk out of that fight feeling exalted! Yes! That was an awesome battle! That was such a cool climax! Finally, we took that guy down!

The same can be said of dropping a brand new conflict on the characters right at the moment of climax. Sometimes, I suppose, it could work… but only if it makes sense and is what everything in the plot was leading up to.

But often, dropping a new conflict just for the sake of a plot-twist isn’t nearly as effective as finally hitting the breaking point on the already established conflicts. It can cause more trouble and confusion than it’s worth. So watch out for it!

So in Summary, my suggestions are:

  • Map out your conflicts – get an idea of what your most important conflicts are and focus on those for your climax
  • Climax doesn’t equal Resolution
  • Let the figments do their something – let them be the one to dictate how the climax unfolds
  • Don’t squish your climax into one chapter if it needs more room to breathe
  • Don’t drop additional, unneeded conflicts on your characters at the moment of climax – it usually adds more confusion and frustration and may have little emotional impact (or even earn the opposite of what you’re shooting for)

Hope something in that helps, Stormcloud. Feel free to leave comments if you need to brainstorm further. 🙂

Posted in Blog Post Museum

Writing Laws of Magic in a Fantasy World

musemThis post is part of a blog museum, archiving old writing from a previous blog.

 

griffonMagic… it’s a common thread throughout fantasy worlds. Though it’s given many different names and many different sources, it results in people who can develop extraordinary power to do things that ordinary people cannot. From card tricks and rabbits-in-hats to the power of flight, healing, tossing fireballs and shape changing, magic has a seemingly endless range of accomplishments. However, as tempting as it is to develop a world where magic is limitless, often it is the laws that you place on magic users that give depth and meaning to their power.

We are always so enthralled by imagining up all the things that magic can do… it may be unusual to stop and try to figure out what magic cannot do. Yet, as common as the concept of magic is across fantasy worlds, it is the limitations and structure that an author places on these unseen forces that can set their “brand” of magic apart from everyone else’s.

Here are a few suggestions on how laws and limitations on magic can be used to develop a foundation for a unique system for your world:

The Chosen Ones. Is magic rare in your world — are there only certain people that can tap into it? If so, why? Is it based on race, gender or place of origins? Maybe only children have a certain kind of power and not the adults? What determines if someone is magically gifted… and what are the social results of these chosen magic users (for good or bad)?

Everyone Has A Little Bit. Is magic so common in your world that it’s seen as completely normal? If so, does everyone have their own unique ability… and what do they have to do to learn it? What do they do with this ability… does it become like an occupation? What happens if someone is magic-less in a magic-ful world? How is society different because the plentiful presence of magic in everyone?

Magic Comes In Types. Magic in this world is based on strict typology. It can’t do everything, but it can do particular things within a certain, specialized area. Maybe magic is created through music or voice. Maybe magic is created through crafting of runes and special written languages. Perhaps there are mind-sensitive people who can use the power of thought in special ways. There may be those who can bend the elements of the world to their will. It doesn’t matter what type you choose to use as long as magic users are bound by the rules of that particular specialization.

Magic Only With Outside Aid. Magic exists in this world… but requires the use of items or more powerful beings to channel and use it. This opens up doors to lots of questing for special items and the possibility of mis-use if these items were to fall in the wrong hands. Maybe magic only comes from a certain source? If so… what is this source called and what do people have to do in order to gain power from it?

Magic With Consequences. Think about the Three Wishes and Genie in a Bottle stories. You’re given the possibility to wish for anything you want – that’s similar to magic in a way. However, you have to be very careful what you ask for… because the consequences of your wish coming true may be more risk than you’re willing to take. Magic can work like that as well. Perhaps your magic users have to be very careful of unplanned consequences every time they cast their magic. This could make for a lot of fun scenarios!

The Lawbreaker. Sometimes, rules of magic can be put in place so that you can create a character specifically to break these rules. When this character rises above the limitations that everyone else seems to be bound to, they prove themselves to be more skilled and powerful than the norm. It’s a great way to use limitations to highlight certain legendary characters… or to develop your own new legend by exploring how rules can be overcome.

There are lots of ways you can choose to structure your system of magic – the above are just a few samples. What kind of laws and limitations do you use in your world? If you haven’t nailed down a structure, it might be fun to sit down and brainstorm some concepts of how your magic works – where it comes from, what it can and cannot do, and who is able to use it. You might just find that laws (and breaking laws) are a lot more fun than you knew!