Setting

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Not that kind of setting! Ba dun tch! I know, but it’s Monday. Humor me.

Welcome to the last week of NaNoWriMo! If you’re on track you should have 46,676 words by the end of the day. I am not on track so don’t feel bad if you aren’t too. I always skip a few days before catching up in a mad dash. If you are on track, you’re a champ! Well, you’re a champ no matter what.

Moving along! Today I want to talk about setting. The setting is a very important background character in your novel. Sometimes authors can go for pages setting the…setting. 😛 I personally don’t think it’s necessary to go on for pages when you can convey the tone and set it in a few paragraphs. It’s down to word choice.

Placement

I suggest to begin your setting in the first paragraph or sentence. Paint the picture that your characters are in before you even mention them. Mentally build up that painting layer by layer before plopping your heroes down into it. Begin with the five senses: visual, taste, smell, feel, sound, but don’t say those words exactly as I mentioned in my Passive vs Active blog. This is a part of showing, not telling.

Place your setting at the beginning of each new scene or chapter. I also suggest you place it with each change of room or environment. If a character is passing through a single sentence should suffice. If they stop to have a conversation or end up in that room go into more detail. Readers can always fill in some gaps themselves, but the more you paint for them the closer to your vision of the story they’ll see.

Also keep in mind that once you’ve described a commonly used room in detail it isn’t necessary to go over the intimate details again and again. Maybe mention the time of day and weather and how it affects what you’ve already described to the reader.

Interaction

Use your environment to interact with your character. Have them organically pick things up or put them down. If they’re in the kitchen have them get a glass of water during a lengthy and intense conversation. If they’re in a store have them bump into people or go to great lengths to avoid them.

You can use the setting to influence your character’s mood as well. How many times have you read a book or watched a movie and during the protagonist’s trial it’s raining? Being really hot or really cold can put me in a bad mood sometimes, it can your character as well. Do you love rain and hate sunshine? Your character might too. Love the feel of carpet under your bare feet? Your character could as well.

More Than A Place

Your setting is more than a room. It’s the weather, the time of day, and other living beings too. If your character walks into a crowded room and it grows silence upon their approach, don’t tell me that doesn’t set the tone of what’s to transpire. If your character walks into a crowded pig pen, well, that depends on how they feel about pigs. The setting is the feel of the place you’re in. It can be at night in a forest. How would you feel? That crowded room with quiet people staring at you. How would that feel? What’s most important in the setting isn’t the room itself, but the feeling it portrays to both the reader and character. If I walked into our example crowded room the last thing I would notice is the crystal chandelier.

Replace Weak Words

One of the ways to combat lengthy set up is to use stronger adjectives and verbs. Go back to my Passive vs Active blog for more detailed explanation. Don’t ever use “very,” “really,” or “a lot” to describe something. Instead of “really bright light” you can use “piercing light.” Instead of saying “thick fog covered the ground” you could try for “mist engulfed the landscape.” Replace those weak words and try to clean up and tighten your setting paragraph as much as possible.

I love a good setting, but sometimes when I read page after page of description I would think, “Let’s get on with it already.” That’s of course just my opinion. If you want to write pages about how the sun hits your character’s favorite parlor chair, go for it!

Until Next Time…

Setting is an important character in the play that is your novel. Never leave it out or skimp on it, but try not to dwell on it for too long. Just like most steps involved in a well rounded novel it has to walk that fine line. Now, get to your NaNoWriMo! We’re on the last leg of the journey to that shiny new 50k novel. I believe in you! 😀

Dragon Bloode: Covet is out everywhere ebooks are sold.

 

World Building Part 10: Science!

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Happy 21st day of NaNoWriMo! If you’re all caught up you should be at 35,007 words! If you’re not up to that point, don’t feel bad! Even if you only get a few thousand words written this month it’s a few thousand more than you had.

Today let’s go over building up Science in our new world. Whether it’s applied or ignored, science, or lack thereof, plays an important role in society. I’m sure I’m forgetting something in here, but as usual I’ll go back and add anything I may have left out. Let’s get started! 😀

How Archaic/Advanced

How advanced is your society? Is it a fantasy setting with peasants drinking from the well or a science fiction with your characters living in a spaceship? Whatever the case there needs to be science and technology to go with it. You don’t have to be an electrical engineer to come up with an explanation for how your water recycles and filtrates on your spaceship. The internet is the world’s knowledge at your fingertips and worst case scenario, you can always ask an engineer for help somewhere!

Religious Influences

How prevalent and influential is religion in the scientific community? What are accepted theories by religious leaders? Are there any? Does the local religion shut down any scientific teachings in schools? Do they forbid certain things to be taught because it conflicts with the teachings of their religion? Sound familiar? How does this apply in your new world? How do the highest branches of religion and science collide or work together?

Medicine

I plan on going into more detail in another World Building blog for medicine, but for now let’s see how it fits into science. How advanced is your medicine? Also consider why your medicine is so advanced. It’s common in times of war that medicine advances quite a bit compared to peaceful times. Sometimes a scientist makes a startling discovery because their loved one suffered from a specific ailment. Consider what medicine exists and why it does.

Military Applications

Weapons, machines, armor, you name it and science is behind its creation. For example, the H-bomb was built by scientists. How does the military weaponize your science? Consider also the application of medicine on the go. Are there any secret projects being worked on? Are any of the people working on new weapons having conflicting guilt? Are there some working on weapons and armor to save lives rather than to end them? Are these inventions on a mass scale in the hands of every soldier? Or is there just one or two and in the hands of the top brass only?

Exploration

Explorers abounds! There’s a reason these people were minor celebrities in the old days. Just think of Pixar’s UP! and it calls to mind that era. To me exploratory scientists are still celebrities. What parts of your world are undiscovered? Are there any ancient civilizations beneath the farmer’s fields? Is the spaceship your character on like the Enterprise and exploring new life and civilizations? Sometimes the reason the human race has branched out to each corner of our little planet is in the name of exploration. What science has enabled them to do so? What has helped them to live in impossible environs and to push further?

Environmental

This can include the study of weather and seasons. Do they have a weatherman? Are there tremors in the valley and while the local populace believes it’s the anger of the gods, one woman believes it to be natural causes? What do your scientists know about the planet and how it works? Do they know what causes natural disasters? Or do they live in fear of the gods?

Astronomy

Studying celestial bodies, whether to worship them or understand them, has been around for as long as we have. Our fascination with the heavens is the center of many things religion and science. What does your world know about astronomy? Do they have telescopes yet? Or are they in a spaceship passing by the planets we can only dream about? Do they understand gravity or what stars are made of? Do they know how the moon(s) affects the tides in the ocean? And do they use any of this understanding to their advantage?

Scientists & Branches

Take the time to name some specific scientists in your world. An example of one is Newt Scamander from the world of Harry Potter. Not only did J.K. Rowling write an entire textbook by this person, but in doing so opened a whole new possibility for stories surrounding him. It’s a perfect example of the more you build the more organic other stories of the world will come to you. Think of the most brilliant discoveries for your world and accredit each of them to a person, be they scientist or not.

What branches of science are there in your world? In our own we have natural sciences, formal sciences, and social sciences which then all open up into dozens more subjects. If your world has magic there will be a scientist or expert for that if it applies. If you have a whole new field to introduce, there will still be a speicalist in that field.

Authority

Who decides what’s accepted and what’s not? Is there a board of certified peers? Who is the deciding voice on what’s real and what isn’t? Who leads the group of scientists on the local or global or solar scale? Who do your scientists making discoveries and writing papers report to? Who’s approval do they seek? Are there any journals, schools, publications, or boards that make a conglomerate of scientific approval?

Education

What universities or places of learning can your future scientists go to? Are they establishment or legacy schools? Do they teach the old ways or the new? Are they ever evolving with scientific discovery or frothing in archaic notions? What are your institutes of higher education like? A haven for exploration or a place in which to learn old customs? Of course there can be more than one. Consider having the top five on file. There can be rivalries between the schools of thought. Are any of them backed by government or religious authority? Instead of a school perhaps there are specific mentors students must study under.

Entertainment

What inventions and science have furthered the entertainment industry? The printing press allowed for the common man to get his hands on literature. The radio allowed for listeners to enjoy radio shows, news, and music from their living rooms. Need I even mention television and movies?

Tools & Labs

What instruments do your scientists use to get their work done? What do they use to measure and record? Do they have clean labs like now or do they work in a rented room above the inn? What do your scientists have to work with? How does that influence what they’re able to create and discover?

Controversy

Scientific controversy can come in many forms. Sometimes a scientist is brilliant, but because of their controversial background or past mistakes their work is completely disregarded whether or not it’s right. Sometimes a scientist can bamboozle the public into believing something that isn’t true with a false study. Sometimes scientists just want to make money and sell snake oil by the millions to give society a false hope. What unscrupulous scientists are there in your world? Do people automatically believe them because they possess a doctorate in something? Do they have a degree in biology but claim to be an expert in electrical engineering?

Hypothesis vs Theory

What motions do your scientists have to go through for their work to be accepted? Peer review? Publication? Approval from the authority mentioned above? What sets their work from hypothesis to an accepted theory? What sort of hoops do they have to jump through? How many studies with consistent results does it take? Does it only come from their work or do they have to be in the right social circles as well?

Martyrs

Do any scientists get jailed for their theories? Are they burned at the stake for saying the Earth revolves around the sun? Do they clash with the local government or religious leaders? Do they become political prisoners after refusing to work on a bomb? Do they stand up to big corporations? There are many ways your scientists can clash with authority and end up on the other side of the bars. If not end up dead as a result. They can become martyrs and heroes in their own right. Society isn’t always receptive to new and different ideas. History proves that.

Transportation

Wagons, spaceships, and cars are all inventions. Harnesses and saddles and reins for horses. A scientist doesn’t have to come up with all of the inventions, by the way, as everyday people make new things all the time. Think about it, if your society hasn’t discovered metal crafting their wagons and wheels and ships won’t have the same or as many working parts as those that have. Their efficiency would suffer as well as durability. Where science is in your society can affect everything.

Magic

If you have magic in your world consider whether it can have a scientific application to it. Now, of course magic can be a chaotic beast that’s hard to control, or a precise application of an element. I plan to go into more detail on magic later, but for now consider if there are any experts in magic and what their role is. Is there documentation and procedures or does one have to have a mentor that can help the character find their own process?

Public View

How does the public view science? Is it popular? Do they fear it? Do they hate it because it doesn’t agree with their principles or religion? Do they worship it in place of a god? Are your scientists heroes or villains in their world? How does the average person view you science? Consider that views can change from country to country and culture to culture.

Pseudoscience

What are subjects that may seem like real science but are fake? In your new world, perhaps herbs do nothing but act as a placebo. Even magic can be a “fake science” that dupes people into giving them their money. What are your sciences that have charismatic defenders, but in fact falls short of any hard evidence or data?

Ethics & Studies

When your scientists, or whoever, conducts experiments is there an ethics committee or someone to oversee the protection of subjects involved? What are the rules, if any, that keep mad people from experimenting out of sadistic need rather than scientific discovery? What regulations are in place for studies and experiments? What code of conduct? Do your subjects, if sentient, have to sign waivers? Are there any animal cruelty protections for those who aren’t sentient? This can also vary by country and culture.

Profit, Patents, & Copyright

Consider the legalities of science, especially if it’s in an advanced society. Some scientists profit from their discoveries and inventions while others have forgone the patent because they just wanted to help the world. Consider who has a patent or holds copyright on what.

Everyday Living

Lastly, how do the scientific developments in your community affect it? Is there always clean drinking water and therefore a healthier population on average? Has a marvelous person developed an advance food replicator that has eradicated world hunger? Has a mad woman created a machine that extracts all water from the air and dominates who can and can’t drink? Science can cause either the post-apocalypse or utopia of your world.

Until Next Time…

I love science. Even in a world that may seem underdeveloped it has its place in the background. For more inspiration on science and those who are behind it, check out the series Cosmos (both new and original), StarTalk with Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Scientific American to get started. There are thousands of resources to check out, but those are good for someone just getting into it. If you’re doing science fiction many physicists discuss the future and what technologies may or may not be available in the future if you need inspiration with some science to back it up. Michio Kaku is a theoretical physicist who has several books out where he contemplates future technologies.

Also, for an example of how science can go horribly wrong when ethics aren’t involved, look up Nazi human experimentation and Josef Mengele, but only if you have a strong stomach. It’s not light reading or for the faint of heart. It can be disturbing. It’s dark and inhumane. 

Science is, for the most part, a wonderful thing. Most scientists and inventors work to make the world a better place to live and believe in. Now, keep up that world building and keep up that word count for NaNoWriMo! I believe in you! 😀

Dragon Bloode: Covet is available everywhere ebooks are sold.

 

Added 12/12/2016 World Building Part 11: Medicine

Added 01/09/2016 World Building Part 12: Names

Scene & Chapter Workshop

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Happy Monday! I know. I’m sorry. I should be shot for that. It’s day fourteen of NaNoWriMo and you should be at 23,338 words! Almost halfway through your new (or revised) novel. Don’t feel bad if you’re not. Mostly because I’m not that far either. I have a bit of catching up to do, but moving on!

Today let’s talk about building a scene or chapter. Now, some people may have one scene a chapter and others the whole chapter may be comprised of one scene only. Whatever your style, let’s work on what makes a scene tick.

The W’s

Who, what, when, where, and why are the five questions you often heard in primary school. There’s a reason for it. Before you start your scene take a moment to answer these five simple questions. When building an outline place the answers to these questions at the top.

Who’s in the scene? Even if the reader doesn’t know it’s helpful for you to. Name everyone, even if you don’t have a name for them yet. You can say “milk man #12”, but be sure to identify everyone with a speaking or interacting role with your main character. It helps to keep track of minor characters for reference later on in case you need them to fill another role.

What happens in the scene? Write one sentence explaining what takes place. Try to be a little detailed though. If you write “Ben and Jerry talk” then it may be better to say instead “Ben and Jerry talk about firing their accountant.”

When is the scene taking place? This can depend entirely on the format of you novel. If it’s a journal be sure to include the date and year. If it’s a regular novelization, be sure to note the time of day. If it’s a string of events where you jump around it’s even more important to make a note of when it takes place within that timeline.

Where is this happening? The answer to this question can be as broad or detailed as you like. It all depends on your predetermined setting. If it’s in a castle or another large complex building, it may help to say which room. It can be the library or the study or the west wing. Remember it’s organic for characters to interact with what’s around them. The more detail you place in the setting the more natural it is for Dave to sit on a couch in the living room than if the reader assumes he’s in the kitchen. Jarring your readers from organic movement can interrupt flow and take them out of the story.

Finally we get to why. Why is this scene taking place? Is it necessary? Ask yourself if the scene actually moves the story along. Determine the scene’s purpose. It’s okay to have a lull scene if it’s imperative to moving things along, but otherwise it might not be necessary. If Ben and Jerry discuss firing their accountant, but the accountant isn’t important to the story at all, what purpose does it serve? Remember though, for a scene to have purpose it doesn’t have to move things along. A scene can serve the purpose of character development. It can serve as a medium to show your readers what kind of person your main character is. If you have a scene early on in your novel showing Margaret helping an elderly man cross the street, then it won’t be surprising if later on she helps someone else out.

Cut, Paste, Combine

This is a tactic I find myself using when writing my own novels. I’ll have several scenes and eventually realize they’re drawn out, a bit long, and can really slow down the flow of the story. I still will find the content necessary, but not in the same capacity. If you have a scene where a brief conversation takes place, can you cut it out entirely and replace it with paraphrasing in the next? For instance, instead of having the scene where Ben and Jerry discuss firing their accountant, perhaps in the next Ben and Jerry are having tea with their mother and mention it in passing. We then know the accountant was fired, but don’t have to read through the conversation. Why take pages to say something that could be paraphrased in one sentence?

This doesn’t apply to pivotal or climactic scenes of course. You don’t want to tell the whole story, but show. However, you don’t need to show simple things like checking the mail or talking about where to eat. The only time I suggest showing micro-actions is for the purpose of character development. To show your readers what kind of person they are. So whenever possible, cut out lull scenes that serve no real purpose. Especially if the point of that scene can be added in another briefly. You can also add these organic micro-actions to the scenes that are pivotal if you want them included without clogging up your story arc.

Put It Together In Order

This is merely suggestion. As always. Start with your character within in the setting. I try to open up with that in the first sentence of a new scene. My good friend Mary would always yell at me about not setting the character and place at the beginning of a chapter or scene. At the time I didn’t understand, but with experience now I do. It wasn’t through my own writing I realized it, but in reading the work of others. It took me a bit to understand that I didn’t like it when I didn’t know where we were and who we were reading about. So, begin with your character and where they are and, if applicable, what they’re doing. The rest is up to you. Well, actually it’s all up to you. As I said this is a suggestion.

Building Your Chapters & Parts

Something else to determine is how you’re going to divide up your book. If you figure it out early it’ll make scene building and story arc creation easier. It’s easier to set up a pace if you have a sort of guideline. So, are you going to do chapters? Is your novel in journal format? If it’s in a journal format, perhaps you can consider doing the chapters in years. A chapter for 1789, 1788, and so on. If not, it can be done by character age or month depending on how slow or quick your timeline is. If it’s a regular novelization, you have many options. In my own novel I have parts. In each part I have scenes which could be regarded as chapters or almost mini chapters. I personally call them scenes.

What’s the difference between a scene and a chapter? A scene is like a happening. A chapter is an arc in which those happenings occur. Chapters are smaller arcs within the larger of a part. And of course then you can have parts to arc into the entire story. Is that official? Heck if I know, that’s just how I think of it. It’s a matter of building. I like to think of things in those terms because they’re less overwhelming. If you only have to build a scene at a time it’s a less daunting task. If you only have thirty minutes in a day to write, then building a scene rather than an entire story seems more manageable.

Until Next Time

I think other than telling you what to actually write, this is as much detail I can go into for scene building. It’s a matter of organization of your content. We went over what you need in the scene, if the scene is necessary, how to tighten up your scenes, and how to build your chapters and parts. It is Monday after all and my brain capacity caps out much quicker than normal. I hope this helps and as always, these are suggestions. I will never assume my way is the best way, but hope that maybe it can open up your creative or organizational process to other ideas. Anything to keep you writing!

Dragon Bloode: Covet available everywhere ebooks are sold.

Story Arc Workshop

We’re a week into NaNoWriMo! How’s your novel going? If you’re following the 1667 a day word count, you’ll be at 11,669 by the end of today!

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As a side note I have no idea who to credit for the above image. If you do please let me know!

Today is going to be a story arc workshop. We’ve gone over outlines…a lot. I think I mention them in almost every blog topic. What can I say? I’m a recent (relatively) convert to outlines and I’m a big fan. Story arcs are different than outlines, however, but are still a way to build your story from the ground up. It’s another approach as well as a map to see how everything flows from one event to the next. To plan out story arcs you need to think about your entire story. Arcs serve a purpose in that they give your readers a climax, time to relax, and a wrapped up ending.

I’m going to cover how to view and possibly fix your current story arc and how to create a basic one if you’ve only just started with an idea.

If Your Basic Story Is Finished

As an outline, rough draft, or otherwise.

To begin, and this may seem silly, let’s think of what an actual arc is. It’s this:

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As you can see there’s a beginning, climax, and ending. This is also an incredibly basic arc. Most novels will have an arc that looks closer to a heart monitor. Like this:

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An exercise I suggest is to get a piece of paper and a pencil and go over your completed outline. Make three lines. A lower, middle, and higher line to represent lulls or lows, climaxes, and scenes that move along the story but aren’t a by the seat of your pants moment. Make a dot for each scene or chapter on those lines in order like this:

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Sometimes it can really help to have a visual representation of your story’s highs and lows. You can see how to create a better flow for your story this way as well. So, you see how your story currently is. Consider why it might look that way. Do you like it this way? If so, awesome! If not, now is the time to fix it! Even if you’ve already written it, there’s no time like the present. Just keep in mind if you have a climax once a chapter it can wear a reader down. Think of cheesy soap operas and how every episode there is a shocker! It gets old after a while and even predictable if you do it too much.

So where to begin? First, are you writing a series? Is your novel a stand alone story? Sometimes you have novels that have both. An underlying main story happening in the background while in the forefront your characters deal with current issues. It’s always good to plant from the beginning. Yes, I meant to say plant. I mean plant the building blocks of your series finale at the beginning. If you’re writing a series then your story arc will want to look similar to this:

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Taadaa! To me this is a thing of beauty. Of course your novels don’t have to look like this ideal shape of an arc. They can look however you want. You may want to begin your novel with an action sequence that gets the reader involved immediately. Which would look like this:

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Or you may want a traditional beginning in which you build upon your world a bit before getting the adventure started.

If your arc looks like this:

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Or this:

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Or this:

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You may want to reconsider your scenes and chapters. I won’t say it’s wrong though! Sometimes it can take an entire novel to set up the events of the second and third novels in your series. However, if you want readers to pick up that second and third book it’s best to have highs and lows to balance it out.

If Your Story Is Just An Idea, A Place, A Person

If you haven’t gotten your story written out in any form, a story arc is a great place to start. Some people use brainstorming. I use note cards and arcs. So, to begin, what is it you’re starting with? A scene? A person? Get out a piece of paper, or using your new super cheap and giant whiteboard, and draw a simple arc.

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Think of where you’re starting. If it’s a scene, where in the story do you think that scene is? How would you rate it compared to the rest of your potential story? Is it a climactic fight? A confession of love?

If it’s just a person, where are they? What do they do? Build up their character sheet first. Fill in some blanks.

If it’s a place, who lives there? Does anyone live there anyway? What does it look like? Why does it look that way?

Begin with your who, what, where, when, and why. It’s obvious, it’s simple, but it’s effective.

Now, put those onto your blank arc. I would start with the beginning, the end, and the most climactic moments. If you don’t have all of those, that’s okay! Just put down what you have so far.

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Once you have the basic bones of your story. What next? Fill in between the gaps. You can continue to do this on your arc, or you can move to another medium. My favorite is to use index cards. I’ll write down all of the important scenes and place them in order on my dining room table. It’s another physical representation of your flow and timeline. Continuing on your arc on paper is the same thing. If you finish up on your arc paper, perhaps you can move on to index cards for more detail. Then eventually to a basic written outline.

The important thing to remember so that you’re not overwhelmed is to build. It’s okay to start with one brick or one idea. Ripple outward until you fill the whole pond.

Until Next Time…

I apologize for my obvious drop in sanity as I made the above images. XD

Next week I’ll go into building a scene to help further your story development. As always these are suggestions which work for me. If it’s easier for you to build your story doing a hop over a pit of lava on May 27th each year, go for it! Find whatever works for you, but the point is to keep looking and keep trying new things. Keep it up and if you’re doing NaNoWriMo I believe in you! Actually, I just believe in you anyway.

Dragon Bloode: Covet is out everywhere ebooks are sold.