So, I tossed a meatbone by the porch and waited. Nothing happened, so I snuck up-side the place and checked a window. It was so damned dark that I couldn’t case the inside, but it had an empty feeling, if you know what I mean.
Anyway, since no dog came for the bone or my ankles, I went round and checked the chimney. It was dead cold, and I just knew my luck was in.
I was right, too. The door wasn’t even locked, which did worry me a little, but it was worth risking. I opened up my lantern and set to work.
Tag Archives: writing
This year, I am participating in Voice Week, a writing contest invented by BeKindReWrite. This contest involves writing about the same situation from the perspectives of five different characters (or narrators/perspectives) and posting one a day from November 4th to November 8th. Each piece can only be around 100 words long, and in that space I am supposed to establish a unique voice that tells you something about the character. I have a hard time adapting my vocabulary to voices, so this ought to be a good stretch for me. Also, you can go to the main page linked above to read and comment on the work of others who are also participating.
The scene or situation which I took on was an empty house. I hope you find it entertaining!
They give me assignments no one wants, and this seemed no different. I shouted at the edge of the yard, according to local custom, and no one shot me, but no one answered, either.
Cautiously, I mounted the porch and shouted again, identifying myself. There was no answer. By this time, I was actually curious. I knocked, and then slowly opened the door.
Once out of the moonlight, my eyes adjusted to their native dark and I saw an empty, but orderly room. I thought that finally there might be something interesting going on. They gave me the assignment, they were not going to take it from me.
I am not a cartographer.
In high school, my geography teacher did well by her students. I know that there are seven continents (if you include Antarctica, which I do), I have a general idea where most countries, seas and oceans are, as well as the locations of many land-features such as the Alps and the Mohave desert. Our final assignment in geography was to create a relatively detailed and accurate map of the world with certain features labeled from memory. It was very hard, but rewarding.
You are probably wondering where I am headed with this ramble. As with most things I ramble about, it connects to writing.
Most people who read fantasy are familiar with the attendant maps. Some even read while referencing the maps to see where they are. A friend recently confronted me with the lack of… I don’t know a word for it. Directionality? He did not have a good idea of the layout of the story’s geography, and it bothered him.
It has been bothering me for a while, too. I have a general idea of the area and the world, but I need more. Like a student in a life-drawing class, I need to understand the skeleton of my subject before I can draw it convincingly.
I need maps.
I need maps that only I can make, and I am not a cartographer. I have been putting it off because I am afraid of backing myself into a corner, making a map that is somehow “wrong.” What if it is, unconsciously, too like Earth? What if it is too off the wall and ceases to make sense? What if the rain-shadows aren’t where they are supposed to be (yes, I think about things like that)?
But the truth is that I need the framework. The better I know the territory, the world, the more convincingly I can write the characters’ interactions with it. Flopping about in vague mush isn’t going to get me anywhere. Is the story in the Northern or Southern hemisphere (getting my head around Southern-hemisphere mechanics is daunting, but tempting), how many continents are there? What influences the weather-patterns? Where are the trade-routes?
What is an author to do?
In looking for a starting place, I came upon this blog:
This lets me know that others have already blazed this trail. There are already tools, such as Campaign Cartographer 3 by ProFantasy. Personally, I really like playing with this free fractal map generator: http://donjon.bin.sh/world/
There are resources for cities and dungeons, too.
But it seems to me that these are only places to start, and most likely other writers out there have discovered other useful resources. And so, I give a shout-out.
If you know any good resources for creating maps of other worlds, let me know in the comments. I will do a follow-up post including them. If you, like me, are intimidated by this problem, at least we can commiserate and then encourage each other. If, on the other hand, you are an amateur (or professional) cartographer, I would love to get your input!
Just a tidbit for today. I think my characters are trying to kill me.
Last night, no less than five character and plot points resolved themselves in my head. While I was driving.
My fellow authors might know the “grab your notebook” impulse that took hold of me, but I was good! No writing while driving. I kept my hands on the wheel. On a good day, my brain has a hard time holding onto three ideas for more than a few minutes. I reduced the thoughts to their essentials and repeated them to myself.
When I reached my destination, the first thing I did was open my notebook and pen. By that time I only remembered four of the points.
In the wee hours of this morning I woke to a tornado warning. In the distance, I could faintly hear the sirens. I dragged my quilt into the closet and sat with my dog. Asher, my gray cat, was cool and calm, so I wasn’t greatly concerned.
And there, in the closet, in the middle of a tornado warning with wind and rain driving against the house, I remembered the fifth point.
Maybe I am too blasé about tornadoes. I left my refuge and got my notebook.
I am not alone in this.
I have heard other writers express the same feelings time and again. Many writers battle these extremes.
Sometimes we feel our work is good, even great. Then we are either overcome with fear that it is trash, or we “know” it is trash.
I am at the low ebb of this, and have been for a few weeks. It is disheartening even though I know, in my mind, that it is a cycle. My heart knows nothing of the kind. I am never satisfied with my work, but this is something darker than dissatisfaction.
My muse is active enough. The little monster is happily chewing away at my surroundings and then latching onto me with its sharp little teeth until I write out the results of its feasting. I can only hope those results aren’t shit.
But how does one know? There are great writers, both from the past and the present. There is also a lot of mediocrity, and this has increased as the dissemination of information has proliferated. Yikes, that was verbose. I had a point in there somewhere… oh, yes. Some of those mediocre writers, at least, must have believed that their work was great.
If they could not fairly evaluate their own work, how can I?
Oh mother, I owe you so much for raising me on good literature, but it is a double-edged sword. I know greatness. I have stared at pages, retracing words again and again in wonder. In order to even put pen to paper, or finger to keyboard, I had to tell myself that it was enough to write, that I did not have to compare myself to Wodehouse, Solzhenitsyn, Austen or Shakespeare.
That sufficed when I wrote only for myself and for those who were curious to look over my shoulder. The creation of something to be let loose on the world requires more, doesn’t it? The last thing I want to do is unleash more mediocrity.
There is pride tangled up in this as well. I don’t want to be mediocre.
Then again, perhaps the greats were in doubt, as well. Does anyone really know, truthfully, whether their creations are worth reading? The helplessness is depressing. Do I have to spit out what I can and trust humanity to sort out the rest?
…Yes. Perhaps I do. The only other option is to bury it.
In reply to that option, I will quote Tycho, from Penny Arcade. He is talking about reactions to offensive materials, but the same principle applies, I think, to mediocrity:
The answer is always more art; the corollary to that is the answer is never less art. If you start to think that less art is the answer, start over. That’s not the side you want to be on. The problem isn’t that people create or enjoy offensive work. The problem is that so many people believe that culture is something other people create, the sole domain of some anonymized other, so they never put their hat in the ring. That even with a computer in your pocket connected to an instantaneous global network, no-one can hear you. When you believe that, really believe it, the devil dances in hell.
More than likely, no one will be interested in this, but I am and therefore I shall post it. Also, my promised posts on Dwarves are not ready yet, so this will have to do.
I took the exam twice. Once for the first “high fantasy” story I ever started (at the age of 12 and still ongoing for my own enjoyment) and my current work in progress which, if I can finish, I will try to publish some day. The first set of answers are in red, and the second in blue. There are places where I can tell I have progressed. Overall, though, I do not see a huge difference in the answers.
I can tell a difference between the stories. I’ve learned lessons about plot, clichés, characterization and prose. I find it interesting, and a little discouraging, that I have not changed much in essentials, though.
I guess there is no merit in change for change’s sake, and as I am not dissatisfied with my answers, I will try not to worry about it.
- Does nothing happen in the first fifty pages?
- Is your main character a young farmhand with mysterious parentage?
Mysterious parentage, yes, farmhand? No. Nope.
- Is your main character the heir to the throne but doesn’t know it?
Not a throne, but a strategic military position. Nope.
- Is your story about a young character who comes of age, gains great power, and defeats the supreme badguy?
He’s not that supreme, really… hmm… tricky question. Loosely?
- Is your story about a quest for a magical artifact that will save the world?
13 artifacts, actually. What can I say, I have attention-deficit issues. Nope.
- How about one that will destroy it?
- Does your story revolve around an ancient prophecy about “The One” who will save the world and everybody and all the forces of good?
No prophecies here. There’s a prophecy tangled up in all of it, but not one of that kind.
- Does your novel contain a character whose sole purpose is to show up at random plot points and dispense information?
Not sole purpose, but… yeah. Not that I know of. I need to watch out for that, though.
- Does your novel contain a character that is really a god in disguise?
Not a god, but a dragon. Er… dragons. Nope.
- Is the evil supreme badguy secretly the father of your main character?
Ugh… No, No and NO! It would be a little weird for a female to be someone’s father… And no, she’s not her mother, either.
- Is the king of your world a kindly king duped by an evil magician?
There is no “king of the world” but the Hastaren Emperor is a puppet… Nope.
- Does “a forgetful wizard” describe any of the characters in your novel?
No, indeed. My wizard is quite present, thank you. Nope.
- How about “a powerful but slow and kind-hearted warrior”?
Securen insists that he is not slow. I have to agree, though Millace is giving us a wry look. Nope.
- How about “a wise, mystical sage who refuses to give away plot details for his own personal, mysterious reasons”?
Erhm… yes. Nope.
- Do the female characters in your novel spend a lot of time worrying about how they look, especially when the male main character is around?
- Do any of your female characters exist solely to be captured and rescued?
No! Grr. Possibly one, but I am working on her.
- Do any of your female characters exist solely to embody feminist ideals?
No. No. That would be self-defeating.
- Would “a clumsy cooking wench more comfortable with a frying pan than a sword” aptly describe any of your female characters?
- Would “a fearless warrioress more comfortable with a sword than a frying pan” aptly describe any of your female characters?
Does a distant tertiary character count? If so, then yes. World domination for the win! One that comes to mind. Both her and the character mentioned above are of the same people-group. None of their people are very into frying pans. Hmm…
- Is any character in your novel best described as “a dour dwarf”?
- How about “a half-elf torn between his human and elven heritage”?
- Did you make the elves and the dwarves great friends, just to be different?
- Does everybody under four feet tall exist solely for comic relief?
- Do you think that the only two uses for ships are fishing and piracy?
What are ships? Oh, I wish!
- Do you not know when the hay baler was invented?
I do not, but it’s moot.
- Did you draw a map for your novel which includes places named things like “The Blasted Lands” or “The Forest of Fear” or “The Desert of Desolation” or absolutely anything “of Doom”?
What are place-names? How about Fort Landham or Blackhorse Cove? I’d love to use “Shake-rag Hollow,” but as it’s a real place, I resist.
- Does your novel contain a prologue that is impossible to understand until you’ve read the entire book, if even then?
I wrote one, but I don’t consider it part of the book. Not a prologue, exactly, but a beginning chapter that is a little disconnected from the next couple. About three short chapters in the pieces make sense. Hopefully.
- Is this the first book in a planned trilogy?
I have no idea. Do you? I hope not.
- How about a quintet or a decalogue?
Meh? I dunno… ask me later.
- Is your novel thicker than a New York City phone book?
It will be. Oh, it will be. It might be…
- Did absolutely nothing happen in the previous book you wrote, yet you figure you’re still many sequels away from finishing your “story”?
That would require knowing where the breaks in the story should be, but probably. Let’s just say “I hope not.”
- Are you writing prequels to your as-yet-unfinished series of books?
No. I’m simultaneously writing two books that are about some of the same characters only with a 10-year time difference. If that counts as writing a prequel, then yes.
- Is your name Robert Jordan and you lied like a dog to get this far?
Who is Robert Jordan? (oh, those were the blissful years!) HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA no.
- Is your novel based on the adventures of your role-playing group?
My brother still won’t let me play. Nope.
- Does your novel contain characters transported from the real world to a fantasy realm?
Not exactly. Nope.
- Do any of your main characters have apostrophes or dashes in their names?
- Do any of your main characters have names longer than three syllables?
Dandelion. If you count “Necromancer,” then yes, but he prefers “Master.” I swear it’s not my fault; he refuses to tell me his name…
- Do you see nothing wrong with having two characters from the same small isolated village being named “Tim Umber” and “Belthusalanthalus al’Grinsok”?
Someone needs a lesson in linguistics. Hehehehehe! Ahem… extenuating circumstances aside, it looks pretty weird to me.
- Does your novel contain orcs, elves, dwarves, or halflings?
Yes, yes, yes and no. Do dead ones count? If so then possibly, yes, yes and no.
- How about “orken” or “dwerrows”?
Uhhhh , what? I love the word “dwerrows.” Just sayin.
- Do you have a race prefixed by “half-“?
- At any point in your novel, do the main characters take a shortcut through ancient dwarven mines?
Oh, I hope so, but not yet. No shortcuts. Some of them practically live there. So I am Moria-obsessed. Sue me. ;)
- Do you write your battle scenes by playing them out in your favorite RPG?
Battle-scenes are haaaaaard! And my brother still won’t let me join his RPG. No, I whimper to my friend to tell me what I am doing wrong. Unfortunately Grad-school has her in its grips, so I am all alooooooone!
- Have you done up game statistics for all of your main characters in your favorite RPG?
I’ve tried to steal my brother’s manuals. So far, I’ve only nabbed the monster compendium. Ooo! Displacer beasts! Um, no, but that’s an interesting thought. Where’s my GURPS manual…
- Are you writing a work-for-hire for Wizards of the Coast?
What is that? Heh, no.
- Do inns in your book exist solely so your main characters can have brawls?
Um… yes. Sadly, no.
- Do you think you know how feudalism worked but really don’t?
Probably… Who does know? Honestly? I’m not sure the feudal societies knew. The society in my writing at present isn’t feudal. Problem solved? Yes. More problems created? Oh my heavens, you have no idea!
- Do your characters spend an inordinate amount of time journeying from place to place?
How about all the time? Literally. What else is there? I’m trying to avoid that.
- Could one of your main characters tell the other characters something that would really help them in their quest but refuses to do so just so it won’t break the plot?
Erm. Yes. One of them could tell the others oodles of stuff, but they are on opposing sides, so… I guess “just so it won’t break the plot” doesn’t apply.
- Do any of the magic users in your novel cast spells easily identifiable as “fireball” or “lightning bolt”?
Does it count if a dragon does it? If “dire necromantic spells” fit into this category, then yes. Otherwise, probably not.
- Do you ever use the term “mana” in your novel?
- Do you ever use the term “plate mail” in your novel?
No. Why? Uh, no. Plate armor isn’t a factor, though. It’s not very practical in subtropical rainforests or damp caverns… or foothills, mountains, forests… need I go on?
- Heaven help you, do you ever use the term “hit points” in your novel?
Uh, no. Hahahahaahahahahahahaahahaahahahahahahahahahah *dies*
- Do you not realize how much gold actually weighs?
It’s heavy, right? Oh yes.
- Do you think horses can gallop all day long without rest?
Nope. Nope. The problem is calculating their endurance over rough terrain… help? Please?
- Does anybody in your novel fight for two hours straight in full plate armor, then ride a horse for four hours, then delicately make love to a willing barmaid all in the same day?
*Rolls eyes* no. Ah… no, nope, no and no.
- Does your main character have a magic axe, hammer, spear, or other weapon that returns to him when he throws it?
Nope. One has a halberd that stands on its own. Does that count?
- Does anybody in your novel ever stab anybody with a scimitar?
Scimitar! I have a scimitar! Well, it’s just a cheap imitation, but still! I haven’t seen any scimitars in-story so far. Is stabbing people with scimitars a stock-fantasy thing? Aren’t they more for slashing, anyway? And yes, I still have that cheap-imitation scimitar. It hangs above the headboard of my bed.
- Does anybody in your novel stab anybody straight through plate armor?
No, that’s ridiculous. Wow. Um, no, but I can think of two characters who probably could.
- Do you think swords weigh ten pounds or more? [info]
Some do, some don’t. Depends on the kind of sword, no? There aren’t many swords in this story anyway. Let’s talk crossbows.
- Does your hero fall in love with an unattainable woman, whom he later attains?
My “hero” is a heroine, and no. Well, of the triumvirate, the main one is a heterosexual female, so “no,” for her. For the other two, it depends on your definition of “unattainable,” but I am going to venture “no.”
- Does a large portion of the humor in your novel consist of puns?
Ugh, no. Still no!
- Is your hero able to withstand multiple blows from the fantasy equivalent of a ten pound sledge but is still threatened by a small woman with a dagger?
She is the small woman with a dagger, and she wouldn’t withstand a sledgehammer or a stabbing. Sledgehammer would definitely do her in, but a small woman with a dagger could, as well. Still, I wouldn’t want to try her in a fight.
- Do you really think it frequently takes more than one arrow in the chest to kill a man?
- Do you not realize it takes hours to make a good stew, making it a poor choice for an “on the road” meal?
No… excuse me, I need to do some editing. I cook now, so yep.
- Do you have nomadic barbarians living on the tundra and consuming barrels and barrels of mead?
Nope. Sadly, no.
- Do you think that “mead” is just a fancy name for “beer”?
It’s made from honey, right? Beer is not. No! The horror!
- Does your story involve a number of different races, each of which has exactly one country, one ruler, and one religion?
No, save in one instance. No, save for that one instance. It is still around, but there’s a good reason for it.
- Is the best organized and most numerous group of people in your world the thieves’ guild?
Not so organized, really. *shifty look* what thieves’ guild?
- Does your main villain punish insignificant mistakes with death?
I haven’t seen him do it, but I wouldn’t put it past him. There are two. Of one, I would say: not when he’s lucid… of the other, no.
- Is your story about a crack team of warriors that take along a bard who is useless in a fight, though he plays a mean lute?
A bard? What? OOTS! Um, I mean, “nope.”
- Is “common” the official language of your world?
Nope, I have invented an inanimate version of a babelfish! Hahahahah! Wouldn’t that be convenient?
- Is the countryside in your novel littered with tombs and gravesites filled with ancient magical loot that nobody thought to steal centuries before?
That depends on which countryside. That no one thought to loot? No. That no one dared to loot? Let’s just say that only one person, in the course of the story, will even try.
- Is your book basically a rip-off of The Lord of the Rings?
Um… little bits, but overall no. Nope. I love Tolkien too much for that.
- Read that question again and answer truthfully.
No dark overlord, no band of stalwart companions on a mission to save the world, no war for all the free-peoples of Arda. I think we’re safe. It’s good not to be hasty. *re-checks the calculations* Nope, still not Faux Tolkien.
BeKindRewrite took up a writing challenge from me, and here is the result! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
I wrote this piece for Jubilare, who figured out a way to redeem her awesome points. She gave me a writing challenge. The prompt: “The Mysterious Case of the Marshmallow Mushroom Forest.” No other stipulations. This is what I came up with. I hope you like it, Anne!
The story you are about to read is fiction. The names have been made up to protect no one, because none of the characters actually exist.
The Mysterious Case of the Marshmallow Mushroom Forest
This is the kitchen. Suburbia, USA. A canvas of bacon grease, Kool Aid stains, and Cheerio dust. A place where juveniles come to sneak M&Ms and adults come to swig whiskey when one too many episodes of Spongebob has made them forget they never bought any. A place for cooks, Pinterest addicts, and me.
I carry a bowl.
It’s Tuesday, March 15. It’s a sunny day…
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Three posts so close together! Apologies! I know I said that I would come back slowly, and despite appearances, I am. I cannot help what is on my brain, though, and this is the only forum I have, at present, in which to express myself. The posts on Canada and ballooning will come this weekend, but for now, I am calling for your assistance.
I cannot seem to find the right voice for the stories I am currently writing, and I have come to the conclusion that I need help. Help from friends and family, or even kindly strangers.
I need reading material. Muse food. Specifically, I need good ghost-stories.
No horror genre, please. It’s the chill along a lonely road that I want, not sickening terror or shocking violence. I cannot put my finger on exactly what I am looking for, so variety is best, but I know what I don’t want.
It’s good story “voice” that I am seeking. Nothing I have used before is working, and I need input to develop something that will work. I know, in my bones, the feel that I want, but how to convey it? How do I immerse my reader in the mood of a good ghost-story and use that backdrop to accentuate life?
So have you any suggestions for material? Pointers? Ideas for me to mull?
Book Meme 2012
Week 9: Book(s) that you would bring on your honeymoon. (ie; so intrinsic to your life that it MUST be shared with your life partner as soon as possible. Or just fun to read together.)
For honesty’s sake, if I ever marry I doubt any books will accompany me on my honeymoon. I am a bibliophile, but there is a time and a place for the love of books!
While going over this question in my mind, I realized that there are many books I would wish to share with my life partner as soon as possible, but he would probably not get as far as marrying me without being introduced to them. One book, the Bible, he ought to know before even meeting me. Unless I am mistaken, though, this question is aiming for something very deep and personal.
My hypothetical future husband would not get very far before meeting George MacDonald, P.G. Wodehouse, J.R.R. Tolkien, Jane Austen, Shakespeare, Ellis Peters, or any of my other dear literary loves, assuming he did not know them already. But all of these I would share with any friend. What, then, is so intrinsic to my life that it must be shared with him as partner to my life? What, in short, can he not do without if he would truly know me well?
The only answer is deceptively simple.
He must be introduced to my writing.
In fact, when I think about it, my own work would be the only literature to accompany me on my honeymoon for the simple fact that I am never without it.
I crave someone so close to me that I could open the worlds in my heart. Up to this point in my life, and perhaps forever, no one is allowed into that place. It is holy ground to me. If he should also have such a holy ground to share with me, so much the better.
I would be surprised if other writers do not know what I mean by this. Surely I am not alone. There is something precious and intimate in the source of my writing, and in the writing itself. It alone, of all my literary loves, is intrinsic to my life. Any man who would dare to love me would find that I come with a universe, and there is no separating one from the other.
Heaven help him.
Here are the links to the rest of this series, in order:
1. Motley Crew
10. Packing Lightly