World Building Part 12: Names

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Happy Monday! And Happy New Year! I know that was last week, but at least now I’m able to think clearly. XD Today’s blog is World Building with names. It will be shorter than my normal world building blogs, but names are an important factor in your story and shouldn’t be overlooked.

Where To Start

Begin by making a list of what names you need. How many characters or places? If you’re world building you can do this before your story begins. Otherwise, you may have already named your character and where they live. Jot down what names you lack and consider how important they are to the story.

Simple, But Unique

I love fantasy and science fiction, but sometimes even I can be put off by a name that seems like the author smashed the keyboard. I try for names that are simple, but unique. For example, in my own novel I use the names Arik, Malik, and Raerik for the dragons. The “ik” ending actually has to do with their culture, but otherwise those names aren’t overwhelming. Some would say Arik is common like Eric, but it’s pronounced differently. More on that later, the point is to try for something that’s different, but not so unique readers stumble over it while reading. Of course, as always, if you want your names to be the number one used name in the world or something impossible to pronounce, it’s your story! This is just a suggestion.

Main Characters

The name of your main character(s) is probably the single most important one in the story. If you choose a common or average name, maybe look into its meaning. If you choose a new name, or something truly unique, go for something that’s still easy to say. Think of your own name! Ask your parents how they came up with it. Take as much time to consider the name of your main character like you would a real child. Because that character had parents who did the same. Derived from the name can come the difficulties of childhood like nicknames and trouble spelling and so on. Which in turn leads to further character development. Were they named after another family member?  Who picked the name? Were they named after a religious figure? Are they a junior? Do they have a middle name? What about surnames? Do they have both of their parents’? Names will vary by language, culture, country, dialect, and even religion. For example, if the mother picked the name and she’s extremely religious she’s more likely to have chosen a name out of a religious text. Take the time to think about who named your character as much as the name itself.

Supporting Characters

I suggest going through a similar motion with your supporting characters as you do the main. Perhaps not as in depth, but you never know when a minor character turns into a major player down the line.

Minor Characters

These are the characters who are the shop merchants and brief mentions in your tales. I did a blog post on them last year and you know me. I like to go into depth. However, I personally give my minor characters average names for my culture. I live in the United States in the south. So I will use names such as Thomas, John, Sarah, Mary, etc. By those names you can see common names in the south are taken from the Christian Bible. I do, however, name everyone. Even if I don’t mention the name in the book itself, everyone who interacts with my characters has a name, a brief background, and even a family tree. You never know when you’ll need it.

Country, Language, Cities, Etc

When naming a country, or language, or any location or cultural staple consider its origin. Who founded the country? What’s the legend behind it? Take a look at this Wikipedia article about places named after people. See some you recognize? Think of your own town, country, and language. What are the origins of those names? Be ready to explain that of your own world.

Holidays/Festivities

When naming your holidays and festivals and other celebrations, remember it doesn’t always have to be complicated. Holidays in our own world are usually named after the religious figure it celebrates or the event in history it’s to remind us of. If the holiday is based around a hero or recent event it’s not overly complicated. For example, Independence Day, Bastille Day, and Boxing Day. As for festivities the real world keeps that simple too. How many times do we simply tack the word “dance” after the holiday name? Valentine’s Dance. Christmas Dance. Festival of Lights.

Pronunciation

After you’ve named all your places and people and languages think of how to pronounce it. Not just how the locals and natives do, but how do foreigners? An example I can think of is the small town of Ruidoso in New Mexico. It’s pronounced Roo-ee-do-so, but a lot of Texans call it Riadosa. It’s a bit of a joke by now and you can even buy bumper stickers in Ruidoso that say “Riadosa”.

Take a moment to make a list of your names and put a phonetic pronunciation down next to them. Say them out loud in a casual conversation…with yourself. But trust me! If it’s awkward or difficult to say you may reconsider. These are names that are supposed to be spoken commonly. Then again, if the culture of your character and place is very different from your own native language then hey, maybe the more difficult it is for you to personally pronounce the better. XD

Inspiration

If you have no idea where to start you can always try online baby name books. There you can find unusual names with specific meanings, or if you’re going for an average name you can still find out its brief history and meaning. And I personally will use Google Translate to put in a word and use that for names. For instance, if I want to name a character “horse” I’ll put that in the translator and go down the list until I find a translation I like. So the name will still literally mean “horse”, but it will be something different.

Rename

After you’ve named all the names and have your people and places figured out, take a second, third, fourth, and fifteenth look. Rename if you must. Rename if you even suspect. I personally have a name bank. If I find a name I really like but have nowhere to put it, it goes in the bank for later use. If a name just doesn’t seem right, rename it. If you still like the name you replaced put it in your bank! I renamed Alperin six times before I settled down. It’s worth it.

Until Next Time…

That’s it for today! I hope this helps with your world building as always and I only make suggestions. It’s your world, you do what you want! Something else to remember (before I forget) is that when real holidays or names are long we as humans have a tendency to abbreviate. So if you think of a long name for your country or character, shorten it so that it fits into the natural flow of language.

Thanks for stopping by and see you next time!

Dragon Bloode: Covet is available everywhere ebooks are sold.

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Mystery Blogger Award!

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I was nominated for the Mystery Blogger Award by jrose88! In the sea of blogs, thank you so much for considering me! 😀

The Mystery Blogger Award…

  • is an award for amazing bloggers with ingenious posts. Their blog not only captivates; it inspires and motivates. They are one of the best out there and they deserve every recognition they get.
  • is also for bloggers who find fun and inspiration in blogging and they do it with so much love and passion.
  • was created by Okoto Enigma.

Guidelines:

  • Display the award logo on your blog.
  • Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  • Mention the creator of the award and provide a link.
  • Tell your readers 3 things about yourself.
  • Answer 5 questions from the nominee.
  • Nominate 10 – 20 bloggers.
  • Notify your nominees by leaving a comment on their blog.
  • Ask your nominees 5 questions of your choice, including 1 weird or funny question.
  • Share the link to your best post.

Three Things About Me: 

1.) I’m directly related to F. Scott Fitzgerald. I use it as an excuse to be a writer all the time! 😀
2.) I’m looking to learn how to play an instrument to help with my anxiety and to give me something positive to focus on. I haven’t decided what to play yet. Any suggestions would be appreciated!
3.) I speak intermediate Mandarin (mainland China), Japanese, and beginner Russian. I dabble in French as well. Although to be fair it’s been five years since I was in college, so I think I’ve lost a lot of it. XD I can’t wait to go back. I love language. Whether to write, read, or interact with other people. I’m on Duolingo often.

My Nominees:

1.) Lavendar Thoughts: One Woman, One World (http://lavendarthoughts.annlavendar.com/)
2.) Hello Jagger! (https://hellojagger.wordpress.com/)
3.) Author Anne Coffer (http://distinguishedbananaheart.tumblr.com/) (Although I don’t think hers is up and running yet)

I know! I know! I need to get out more, even online. XD

The Questions I Have To Answer: 

1.) What’s the book you always wanted to read (or should have read) when you were younger but couldn’t because you never found it/it didn’t exist? Like, what would you have felt truly represented you?

A book I regret not reading is 1984. It wasn’t due to difficulty more than simply finding the time. I read so much, but every time I start something new I never think of it. Now that I’m using it to answer this question maybe I’ll remember. I’m a monogamous reader. I only do one book at a time very intensely!

2.) Are you good with directions? (I’m not.)

Yes! I usually have a sense of which way is North and I have no trouble following directions. Unless the person giving them is vague. O.o I’m definitely the person who can beeline for their car in the parking lot.

3.) Starbucks, yes or no? Explain why. 

For writing? No. I do much better in a library or my own home. I get self conscious very easily in public and I find I can relax much better when tucked away. Plus I sometimes stick out my tongue when I concentrate. XD As for their products, I don’t do coffee (I know, only writer in the world who doesn’t drink coffee or wine), but I do enjoy their cream based frappacinos.

4.) What are you the most hopeful about for 2017?

It’s hard to say. I’m hopeful about everything, but expecting the worst in some things. I suppose I’m hopeful for some inner peace. As strange as that may sound.

5.) Weird question: Do you have a favorite airport? (Mine’s SeaTac.)

That’s a tough one! I love SeaTac myself, but I think that’s more in connection to my love of Seattle as opposed to the airport itself. I do like the way DFW is set up and I’m most familiar with Denver. Dang, hard to say! I guess if I have to choose it’s DFW.

The Five Questions I’m Asking:

1.) Who has influenced your life the most in a positive manner? Someone you know like a teacher or mentor.
2.) Where have you always wanted to travel? And why?
3.) What was the make and model of your first car?
4.) Do you play any instruments? If so, what?
5.) What was your first word?

My Best Post: World Building Part 2: Religion

Until Next Time…

I have a case of holiday hangover! I can’t make myself do hardly anything productive. Oh dear, but fear not! A regularly scheduled blog is on its way next week. Thanks again jrose88 for nominating me for the Mystery Blog Award!

World Building Part 11: Medicine

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Happy Monday! First I just want to say, Happy Anniversary! I didn’t even think about it last week, but it was the one year anniversary of this blog. That’s always exciting. I want to thank everyone who’s stuck with me through the year and I look forward to 2017 like you wouldn’t believe. 😀 As I’m sure we all are.

Moving on!

Today we’re going to dive into part 12 of World Building: Medicine.

Technology

How technologically advanced is your civilization? And remember that technology isn’t a blanket affect on the world. Different countries and cultures will have varying degrees of advancement based on what’s available to them and their own wealth. Other technology, such as electricity and running water, can greatly affect how and when medicine is made and administered as well as sanitary conditions. Do they have microscopes and computers? What kind of tests can they run? How do they diagnose patients?

Laws

What laws are there to protect your citizens and those who administer treatment and medicine? Are there malpractice laws? Are there laws completely protecting doctors and any abuses they may practice on others? Are there caps on how much a customer can be charged for treatment? Are there minimums? Does the law protect the people from scammers?

Ethics

Laws and ethics usually tie in together, but ethics can also be determined on a personal basis. While one doctor may not have a problem with experimenting on children another will refuse. And of course there’s always the ethic of breaking the law as well.

Authority

Is there a conglomerate group of doctors or shaman who determine the laws and ethics? Who makes the big decisions as to what’s accepted and what’s not? Who decides if a scientist’s discovery will be added to the regimen of lawful treatments? Who gives their stamp of approval on medicine? Are any of them corrupt? Are they paid off by companies or families of wealthy doctors to say their way is the best? To say their pills are the best? Do religious or other government officials who have no education in health care have any say? Do they ever turn down treatments because of their personal beliefs?

Religion/Spiritual  Influences

If your world has a living involved deity then consider what sort of divine interventions may take place. What rituals or prayers will invoke that deity to act? What other factors would the deity consider before answering prayers? Will they look at the person’s moral fiber or something else? How do they determine who is saved and who isn’t? Do they save nonbelievers?

Herbs/Potions/Pharmacy

What is the physical medicine of your world like? Is it like ours where things come in the form of shots, pills, or liquid drinks? Do they have potions brewed? Do they use herbs to create salves instead of gauze and antibiotic cream? Are there tonics made from strange bodyparts or hard to find mold in a cavern at the center of the planet? Also, keep in mind any interactions between medicines.

Snake Oil

Consider what medicines, supplements, and home remedies that a large portion (not necessarily majority) of the population believes to be true that don’t work. What claims are made about these items? Do they cause harm? Are they placebo? What false medicines are mainstream in your society and how do they affect overall health? Who are the practitioners? Scammers? Or people who truly believe it works and are doing what they think is best? Who benefits from selling these concoctions and beliefs?

Establishments

Where are the places your people go to for care? Is there a hospital? A healer’s hut? Do the doctors go to the patient? In addition, what are the places your scientists of medicine study in? Make discoveries in? Are there labs? Clean rooms? Their bedroom above an inn? Are there places governed by the local authority that people know they can go to and be properly cared for? What are the reputations of these places and how did they get them?

Schools

Where do those who administer treatment and medicine learn their craft? Are there schools and universities? Are there apprenticeships? Are there rivalries between these places? Competition?

Science

There are varying degrees of those involved in the care of our health. You have scientists in a lab making discoveries as well as the general practitioners who administer the advice and medicines those scientists discover. The information taught at schools of medicine has to come from somewhere. Think of how detailed the information your health field professionals have is. If your story is in an archaic or fantasy age then perhaps instead of a clean room in a lab your scientists are those who work in their own study with beakers. Does your culture know about DNA? Do they know all of the “ologies”? (Yes, I totally made that word up) What I mean is, do they know hematology for example? If they do, how? What are the means in which those were discovered? How advanced is your medicinal science? This is in direct relation to technology.

The Face Of Medicine

Who are the people involved? Are there doctors? Medicine men? Healers living in a hut on the edge of the village? Who are the ones your people see when they have an ailment? What have those individuals gone through or proven to earn those titles? A doctor of course went through years of schooling to get her title, as some shaman or those similar may have been born into the role. Are they revered or feared? Who helps them? Do they have nurses? Assistants? Perhaps a doctor’s husband is her helper. In addition, consider specialists. Even if it’s a broad spectrum you can still have specialists in an archaic society. It makes sense that some doctors know more about certain parts of the body than others even if there’s no official name for it.

Legacies

Consider legacy families of medicine, such as the shaman example above, as well as celebrities in the world of health care. Does the king have a personal physician who is well known? Did someone make a life changing discovery that changed the quality of life for your people? Who is well known in this field? Consider those who would be well known to the general populace as well as those who would be well known only by those in the field.

Magic

If applicable, never forget magic! Who can cast this magic? Can anyone with magical ability do so or does it too need to be learned? Are there those who are more naturally gifted in medicinal magic? Do they have their own schools and apprenticeships? Are they the only ones who heal wounds and cure the sick or can anyone? Are magic healers at odds with those who use physical remedies and tonics? Is it possible their magic is provided by a higher power?

Money

How does the economy affect medicine? Are there any establishments that are exclusively for those who live below the poverty level such as charities? Are there ERs or similar clinics where someone can’t be refused because of inability to pay? Can only the wealthy afford health care? This is also affected by what type of government your people have. Is there a single payer health care system and so everyone has equal treatment? Do your people barter for treatment? Do they exchange gold? Is there any form of insurance? Do profits and big companies or powerful families affect what’s available? What’s supply and demand look like for life saving medicine? Does an overnight stay in a hospital cost your people a small fortune? Do people die due to lack of money to pay for life saving treatment?

Quality of Life

Health can greatly affect quality of life. Consider any disabilities your people may have and how they’re dealt with. Consider the availabiltiy of medicine and longevity. For example, the life expectancy for women in the US is 81 years of age and for men 76 years of age compared to the average life expectancy of 54 and 49 years of age in 1916. Due to many factors including access to running water, better sanitary conditions, and medicine this isn’t surprising.

Until next time…

There is, as always, more to medicine than listed here. Hopefully this will get you thinking on the right track to continue fleshing out your world and the people in it. I have more world building blogs in the works and I look forward to seeing you in the new year. The next blog will be Janurary 2, 2017! I’ll be taking a two week vacation to enjoy friends, family, and the holidays (as well as meet a couple of deadlines). Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

Dragon Bloode: Covet is available everywhere ebooks are sold.

 

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

Organic Relationships

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It’s Tuesday! The first Tuesday after NaNoWriMo to boot. I finished with a strong 57k. It’s the first year I’ve completed it on time and I have to say I feel pretty good about it. Moving on, today’s blog topic is inspired by a book I’m reading right now. I won’t say what book it is because my complaints will give away spoilers, but it has definitely given me some fuel for today’s topic which is organic relationships.

What’s my complaint? Forced relationships. Forced. So forced. Like jamming shredded hot meat through a paper towel tube forced. It’s doable, but it’s hot. Sticky. Misshapen. Not pretty. Perhaps revolting. Definitely not appetizing.

The book I’m reading now has a wonderful story. A wonderful setting. A wonderful antagonist. A wonderful everything. I would love this book and everything about it if it wasn’t for the forced romantic relationship. It has ruined many moments for me and I just read the most awkward, unnatural sex scene ever. I don’t mean unnatural in a perverted way, but in that I just can’t believe either of those characters are willing, much less wanting, to copulate with each other. I can’t bring myself to pick it back up. I don’t know why the romance is in there. It’s not necessary. It doesn’t drive the story at all, it’s such a strong plot. The author doesn’t even justify it with lust. Or just…aaaaaaaaaaah!

Anyway, as you can see I don’t want the same thing to happen to you. Or to me for that matter. It’s difficult trying to simplify the human psyche on relationships into a blog, but here I am. Trying anyway. We can spend years approaching the psychology of human relationships and their multifaceted dynamic, but today I think it best to try to answer a few simple questions instead.

Is it natural? Is it necessary?

As mentioned above, take a look at the relationships your character has and ask if they’re natural. If they’re natural and organic then necessity isn’t really an issue. You only need to figure out how prominent it is to your story. In some stories it may be what drives the plot, in others it may be a subplot handy for determining obstacles for you character. If the relationship is necessary, ask if it’s natural. If it isn’t, make it so. Shape it so that it is. If the meeting feels forced, change it. Or if the meeting is forced, make it so that the force is within the confines of your story’s world and not you. A blind date would be an example of this.

If you’re writing a romance, whether as the main or sub genre, then the relationship is pivotal. If the relationship is unbelievable then so too will your book be.

The book I’m reading is a fantasy adventure. The romance isn’t necessary. Is it necessary in yours?

What kind of relationship?

Relationships are more than just romance, of course. You have family, friends, and acquaintances and thousands of variables of each. Let’s focus on not only organic romance, but friendships and family dynamics as well. I’ll go into more detail below.

Six Degrees Of Separation

There’s a theory that every person in the world is separated by only six individuals. This can be fun to use when you think of the relationship between a villain and a hero. Heck, it’s fun to think about in your own life. You’re separated from the Queen of England by only six people according to that theory. You can have just as much fun trying to connect all of your characters.

Justification & Time

If the relationship must exist then there’s nothing you can do about it. Especially if it’s a plot point to drive your story onward. Your duty as the author is to make it believable. It’s your job to set the tone and justifications as to why and how this relationship works. Those reasons can be varied. Some examples are lust, forced to work together by elements within the story, they remind the character of another loved one, etc. If you’re writing a fantasy there is always the option of spells and magic as well. There are mind control options. And the old pretending to love someone until you do cliche. Sometimes when people are desperate they cling to someone in an attempt to cope with their situation when normally their judgement would make them more cautious. There are so many ways and reasons to justify relationships there’s no reason not to place them.

Another factor to consider is time. Have they spent enough time together? Whether talking about two friends at a summer camp or a Romeo and Juliet together at last. How much time has really passed? Now in the case of Romeo and Juliet there were many outlying factors that contributed to their believable, though rushed, romance. Their age, their attraction to each other, and the forbidden element to their love. In my own marriage my husband and I dated for three years before tying the knot. In someone else I know’s marriage they dated for five months before getting married. It can vary and everyone is different. There are those who got together after two weeks and their marriage lasted a lifetime vs those who were together for years and split up. Consider what variables make that happen. Consider the personalities involved.

What is love?

Baby don’t hurt me! No more. OOOOoooooOOoooo! All right, fun 90’s dance music aside, what is love? Really. Not only must we consider the varying degrees of love we have to consider the types of love. You have healthy love. Jealous love. Venomous love. Obsessions. One-sided love. Mutual love. So many variations. And of course the relationship could have all of these, some of these, or none. We are complicated creatures. Every emotion in the spectrum can be felt about our friends or significant others. Which one dominates the relationship?

Family

Your own family dynamic probably determines how you feel about family. If you grew up in a loving environment then you probably think of family as a safe haven. People you can run to when you’re troubled. If you grew up in a conflicting or dangerous environment you wouldn’t feel the same as your counterparts. If one grows up with no family then they can go either way. Or neither. I’m not here to determine the underlying reasons for your own personal feelings towards family, but to make you aware that characters can have the same range of emotions when drawn up in three dimensions. Consider that if nothing else your family members are the earliest relationships in your life. If they’re absent they are still something one expects to be there and an anger at that absence is plausible. Or going the other direction the character could feel blessed not having to deal with the complications of family. It’s not black and white, cut and dry. Nothing is simple about family dynamics.

Romantic

It’s easy for us to fall into our own romantic ideas and interests when creating a love interest for our main character. We may mirror our own desires in our characters. It’s all right to an extent. After all, we only know how we think and no one else. We’ll put characteristics on people we don’t like that we ourselves find repugnant. We also have a tendency to make the romantic interest of our main character perfect. Don’t. Everyone has flaws. Your character’s ability to accept those flaws is part of what makes their relationship real. And don’t make the flaws not really flaws. If their main flaw is to be too kind, make a it a real thing. They’re gullible. Easy to walk on or take advantage of to the point that it’s difficult. They withstand abuse. If they’re clumsy make it real. They have scars. Medical bills. They have to miss work as a result of an accident. Are these things that your character wouldn’t mind? Would it drive them nuts?

In real life opposites don’t necessarily attract despite Paula Abdul’s advice. Sometimes they do but it really depends on what those opposite attributes are. Sure if someone is relaxed and the other more uptight then it can balance out. One motivates the other while the other helps their partner to relax. (I’m the uptight one in my own relationship.) It can work, but not always. If one person is kind and loving while the other is abusive and mean it may not last long. Sometimes relationships with opposites do last for ages while others fizzle out after the fire of lust is gone. It entirely depends on what those opposites actually are. Can someone who is unhygienic live with someone who is very neat? Yes. Technically. It depends on other factors. Such as the patience of the two individuals involved. If they’re both patient with each other then it can totally work. If one of them has a short fuse perhaps not.

I don’t condemn the book I’m reading for having romance. Romance is nice and I quite enjoy it. I condemn it for having an unbelievable romance. I was immersed in this wonderful world and ripped out of it and jarred by the fact that these two people who hadn’t gotten along and one was in fact quite abusive to the other are suddenly in love. What? Just what? It came from nowhere.

Love and sex drive billions of dollars in our own real world economy. There’s a reason for it. Sex, if not love, always sells. I can see why the author thought to include romance in her story. It’s not that. It’s that she didn’t fulfill her duty in making it organic or believable. Romance can also be a powerful force to drive a character to accomplish a great feat, but it doesn’t have to be shoehorned into every story. It doesn’t have to be present on every person’s mind. It isn’t in the real world.

Friendship

Just like with family and romance you have healthy friendships and poisonous friendships. The proximity of friendship varies as much as any other relationship and should be considered when you decide how far your character will go for a friend. In my own life I have friends I would take a bullet for and others I would mourn them at their funerals. Is it mean? Yes. Is it honest? Yes. Friendship can affect character reactions and motives as much as any romance or family dynamic. Any factors that you can apply to those can be applied to friendship with perhaps the exception of the sexual attraction you’d find in a romance. Then again, maybe not. Friendships can be one-sided with give and take scenarios as well as romances. What kind of friendship does your character have? Does your character have any frenemies? Think of the dynamic between Frodo and Sam in The Lord Of The Rings. One could argue either way that it’s a healthy or unhealthy friendship. Your own experience with friendship can affect your view on this.

Acquaintances

I would put anyone not within your character’s circle of family, friendship, and trust as an acquaintance for simplicity’s sake. This can be someone they knew as a child to the guy who runs the donut shop down the street. They know them by name. They know broad spectrum facts about that person. A good indication is do they know their birthday? If your character doesn’t know their birthday then they can be put into that grouping. As with the other relationships the degree of closeness depends on many factors.

Relatives

Not family, but that group of people you’re related to but have no other connections. You don’t talk. You don’t write. You don’t spend holidays together, but if you were to mosey onto ancestry.com your names would be on the same page. Relatives do have a stronger bond to you than strangers or acquaintances. I’m sure if I were to approach one of my second or third cousins in a dire situation they would take me in. A person who works the donut shop might not. It’s something to consider.

Past Relationships

Consider the relationships your character has had before the beginning of your story. No matter how prominent or forgotten, they can affect how your character reacts to affection. They determine how trusting or open your character is. They can affect how your character approaches any relationship. Family can determine coping abilities. Romance can determine motivation. Friendship can determine trust. All are examples and not set in stone. Make a shortlist of your character’s current and past relationships in short form. Just to have an idea of their experience in social situations.

Until next time…

I apologize for the late post. I had a bit of a cold yesterday and felt like my face was stepped on by an elephant. And yes. I do my blog posts on the day. I’m a world class procrastinator! 😀 I also apologize if this started off as a rant. I love the book I’m reading. I love most things about it. In fact, other than the romance there are brilliant examples of family dynamic and friendship. So despite my complaining I’ll no doubt finish and give it a high rating. My reaction, or overreaction, is an example of how we must be careful not to jar our readers from the world we’ve spent so much time building because of a simple thing.

Now, am I saying you have to answer these questions for all of your character’s relationships? No. Just consider them for the ones that are prominent in the story. It never hurts to get those details figured out because relationships affect our personalities and reactions to situations just as much as any other factor.

Dragon Bloode: Covet is out everywhere ebooks are sold.

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.