Building a World

It started with a short story, which turned into a novel roughly based around Irish history, which then plummeted straight into an epic high fantasy.

No, seriously, that’s how this whole Swans novel was birthed.

And now I’m smack in the middle of world building for this fantasy novel, which I have to admit is harder than I remember it being.

I remember doing this before, I really do. I even remember liking this part before. I have a whole notebook full of family histories and medieval crests I had drawn up for one of my trunk novels and I distinctly remember having fun with that one.

Today …

Well, I can’t say that I love this part, but I do enjoy little bits of it.

A lot of my concentration has been on the political aspects of the world, which is probably why I am dragging my feet through it. I sincerely dislike politics.

Politics make people ugly.

Just one glance through social media these days and I can prove that statement.

SO …

I decided to try a different twist on political world building.

I’m building it two-fold, from opposite ends of the spectrum. I’ve started with my antagonist, who happens to be in a position of power, and gone through a list of the reasons why he is in power and what that power means he can do by way of plot.

And on the opposite end, I’ve got the poorest of the poor, the seemingly powerless character, and have been listing out the reasons why she is so powerless. What/who took that power and what that leaves her with.

Because this is a new thing for me, and because it seems to be working, I’ve opted to give an example so that any fellow authors out there who are struggling with world building might give it a go. If they want, of course.

The list goes something like this::

Character A – Antagonist. Highest echelon of society. 

Why is he so revered?

This one’s easy, he’s the King’s cousin and with the King’s children missing/presumed dead he stands to inherit the throne.

What does this mean he can do?

Well, he has control of the guards and the prisons. He also has a lot of money, so even if said guards need to be subverted for propriety sake, he can bribe men into working for him.

What can threaten his power/position?

The King’s children coming back would severely cut his power reserves.

If several of the nobles banded together they might be able to sway the King.

What can he do to make sure those threats are never realized?

… Well, this would be getting into PLOT. But you can see how it works.

I think it’s important to note here that I’ve actually started with my antagonist this time instead of my protagonist. Understanding who this man is has given me a stronger hold on the story structure.

The only thing to remember here is that I have to spend an equal amount of time on the protagonists. If I don’t, then I’ll have a terribly lopsided story.

January Round Robin

When I was in the sixth grade my teacher gave us an assignment that would change my life forever. She began by reading an excerpt from a Fantasy where a person was climbing a mountainside, desperate to get to the cave near the summit.

Only then she stopped.

The assignment was simple; we had to write a page and a half continuing the story. What was in the cave? Who is this person climbing and what are they trying to accomplish?

I took to the assignment with zeal, possibilities exploding in my little sixth-grader head as my pencil did the nearest approximation of cursive writing across the page. Only, I couldn’t stop at a page and a half. Before I knew it, I had an entire notebook filled with the adventures of Amanda Call, a princess warrior from a mythical race of beings whose only purpose in life was to complete tasks divvied out to her by her Wizard.

SAM_2191Its title was A Quest of Bravery and I still have it on my bookshelf today. It’s just a little thing and my cursive was atrocious back then, but seeing it always makes me smile. It reminds me of that moment in the sixth grade when I realized that magic really does exist.

That’s the moment I got started with writing and that magic has followed me ever since. I sense it every time I start a new book, all those endless possibilities swirling around in my head until I find the one that needs to be said, the one that highlights something important about what it means to be human.

That’s why I write.

That’s why I can’t stop writing.

Every book teaches me something, be it about the craft of writing itself or about some aspect of humanity that I struggle to grasp. I think that if I ever stopped writing, it would be tantamount to saying I knew everything and had no need to learn more.

So every book becomes a quest for me, a journey that I must take to better understand myself and the world around me. It’s hard work and sometimes I want to quit, but I’ve found that the harder it is, the more rewarding the ending will be.

Check out what got my fellow authors involved in the craft of writing and what helps them move forward!

Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Margaret Fieland http://margaretfieland.wordpress.com
Heather Haven http://heatherhavenstories.com/blog/
Dr. Bob Rich http://wp.me/p3Xihq-SK
Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/
Victoria Chatham http://victoriachatham.blogspot.ca
Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Marci Baun  http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Rachael Kosinski http://rachaelkosinski.weebly.com/
Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/
A.J. Maguire  https://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/  (YOU ARE HERE)
Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com

Weather and World Building

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So much snow.

It seems that Mother Nature has decided to kick off 2017 with a laugh. My son has not been back to school since leaving for Christmas break and we’re both getting a trifle antsy about that.

I got stuck in the snow twice already and we just got even more, which is just … glorious.

But as with everything, this brings to mind writing problems and techniques. Specifically weather patterns.

Weather has an impact on characters and setting and even plot in a novel so it’s important to pay attention. Currently I’m world building for a novel tentatively titled Swans, which is a High Epic Fantasy … if you want to get technical.

As I was world building I came to a mountain range and at first I envisioned tons and tons of snow because … I’m currently surrounded by the stuff. But then I remembered that scene from Lord of the Rings where they’re climbing the mountain through the snow and Legolas is leaping lightly on his elegant elf feet and snow is matting in Gandalf’s manly beard and …

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Nuisance looking quite unsure about the snow

Yeah.

I think just about every fantasy novel takes a walk through waist deep snow on a summit somewhere.

Well, not every one. But certainly a lot of them. And while it might be a beloved cliche, it’s also something I want to try to avoid. I don’t want readers thinking; Same old, same old. Girl hasn’t got an original thought in her head.

So!

I changed some of the weather patterns for the novel. Not tons, but enough to make it different (I hope).

Problem Characters and How to Negotiate

Since beginning Usurper I have had one character in particular who troubles me; Evaliana Auliere Dyngannon.

Nice long name, I know. She goes by Liana, for obvious reasons. Who wants that mouthful every time you’re being spoken to?

Liana and I constantly have issues, which I know makes me sound insane but I’m an author so I’m allowed. (I hope.) But when push comes to shove, every time I try to write in her point of view I end up hating the scene.

Loathing the scene.

It’s too shallow.

There’s not enough oomph to the character.

I don’t know her the way I know Trenna (her mother) or Nelek (her father) or even Kaden (her brother). She’s this … anomaly outside of her family.

Or inside it, however you want to look at it.

She is … angsty.

And I hate angsty.

Seriously, I avoid angsty with all my power.

But as I’m going through this edit I’ve come to the understanding that … I’m going to have to deal with angst. In order for Liana to be a three dimensional character on the page, she has to be allowed to explain why she’s so … arrrgh! About everything.

So …

I keep her scenes fairly brief.

I just have to. For my own sanity.

Until she grows up and gets over herself, she has a limited word count. (This is part of the reason I don’t do the Young Adult market all that well, can you tell?)

In return, I let her angst all she wants for that limited word count.

And then, once the angst has been written/edited/dealt with in some manner, I get chocolate.

Boom.

Those are my negotiations … with my fictional character … who only lives in my head and on the page …

Yeah, I know how crazy it sounds.

Year in Review – 2016

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Empty Cork-Board!

That’s right people, we’ve nearly made it through one more year. And it was an election year at that!

Which … let’s be honest … I’m terribly surprised we managed to survive. I think we can all agree that this year’s election was just plain ugly to watch. But, hey, we managed to get through.

And that means it’s time for my Year in Review!

This is one of my favorite posts to do. It’s where I take a look at what I projected to have completed 365-ish days ago and what I hope to do next year. It’s … sort of New Year’s Resolution stuff but focused on writing.

Because if I don’t have goals I end up playing Star Wars the Old Republic and reading a ton of books.

Which … consequently … has been my whole December, but I did that on purpose. December is my month off.

So! What did I say I was going to do this year?

1)  Dead Weight – the sequel to Tapped is slated for work to begin starting January 1st.  

Check! Totally did that.

2) Primal – This is a new-adult-paranormal-romance novel that I’ve been kicking around for years. I’ll begin work on it sometime in June, after I’ve completed the draft for Dead Weight.

… Well … Primal was revamped into Ashwood, which I completed for NaNoWriMo this year. So, technically, I can put a check mark here too.

3) Residual Haunting – Will be completed in 2016. ‘Nuff said.

Derp. Nope. I didn’t go near Residual Haunting all year long. Big red XX in that box. I actually forgot I meant to do that this year.

4) Usurper – Is currently being edited. It may drag into the first two weeks of 2016, but not much further than that.

I did do this. But it needs another edit before I’m comfortable with it. So … I’ll put half a check-mark.

5) Persona – Is going to go onto Kindle Scout. 

Big check mark here too. Persona DID go to Kindle Scout. And there it languished in obscurity because I am just horrible at asking people to vote for my things. It is now out for review with one agent and one publisher and I might try five more places before going ahead with publishing it in the Indie market.

What did I do this year that I didn’t project?

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Nuisance in the tree. 

Well, I wrote a novelette called Torven and a short story called Ava and began world building a new fantasy called Swans. And I got a new kitten for the kiddo who continues to try climbing our Christmas tree. And I started a relationship with a very good man who doesn’t mind my crazy.

All in all, I’d say 2016 was a very successful year.

What do I want to do in 2017?

1)  Final edits on Usurper – I have this scheduled out for January through March.

2)  Dead Weight – Editing, editing, and more editing. I hope to have this novel out for sale in the Fall.

3)  Swans – My new novel for the year. High epic fantasy. I lurve it already.

4) Ashwood – Beginning edits in the Fall.

5) Inmate 87101 – This would be the third installment of the Tapped series. I want to have the outline completed by the end of the year.

And that’s it! Those are my writing projections for 2017. I’m totally jazzed about it and I can’t wait to start.

I hope everyone else has something they’re looking forward to getting done in the coming year. If not, well, have a good year anyway. If you do have some writing goals then …  Good luck to you! I’ll see you all in 2017!

 

Prologues and Epilogues Round Robin

Every single one of my books has had a prologue of some type during the rough draft phase. I’m not even kidding.

Sedition  had a prologue in Nelek’s point of view that showed the destruction of the temple housing the infamous Ebony Blade – the cursed weapon that ultimately saved (and lost) the day for the book.

I loved that prologue.

I agonized over that prologue.

I felt that it added depth to the world I was writing in, set the tone of the book, and introduced one of the major characters while also showing the political strife taking place.

BUT …

If you’ve read the book then you know that … it’s definitely not there.

Ultimately, it was pulled because I had read several arguments against prologues. “Start where the story starts!” Was the mantra that was fairly shouted at me. And because I was a beginner at this whole writing thing (Sedition being my first published work) I allowed myself to be swayed.

If I had it to do over again, I would put the prologue in there. Because, if I’ve learned anything in the past several years, it’s that stories come in all shapes and sizes, and there is no one formula that is going to fit YOUR book. So if the prologue is done right and it’s doing what it’s supposed to do – introducing tone, world, character, plot – then by all means … use the dang Prologue.

They were invented for a reason.

They’ve been used throughout the history of literature.

They can still be used effectively today.

Now then … I will recommend that people just coming into the writing scene avoid prologues.

Why?

Because there’s a lot to be said about learning exactly where your story really starts. Writing is a craft and like any other craft in the world, you have to hone your skills. And a LOT of those skills have to do with your beginning, with those first few sentences in the first chapter.

Epilogues?

As a reader … if I’ve gotten to the end of the book then I most likely enjoyed said book and will relish the idea of a few extra paragraphs detailing how they might have lived happily ever after or some-such.

As an author … Again, I have only used them in rough drafts. My final chapters tend to be epilogues in their own right and there’s no need to expand the text.

Check out what my fellow authors think about Prologues and Epilogues for this month’s Round Robin Conversation …

Margaret Fieland http://margaretfieland.wordpress.com
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Dr. Bob Rich http://wp.me/p3Xihq-QS
Marci Baun  http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/
A.J. Maguire  https://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/  (YOU ARE HERE)
Victoria Chatham http://victoriachatham.blogspot.ca
Anne Stenhouse  http://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Connie Vines http://connievines.blogspot.com/
Rachael Kosinski http://rachaelkosinski.weebly.com/
Kay Sisk http://kaysisk.blogspot.com
Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com

Writing Lessons – 2016

With my NaNoWriMo project completed it’s time to start wrapping up the year, and what better way than by reviewing all the things I did right and wrong in regards to writing this year?

While writing is by its very nature a solitary craft, I’ve discovered that the lessons learned by other, more prominent writers, can sometimes help me improve. So with that in mind I’ll go ahead and share with you, dear reader, the lessens that 2016 has taught me.

#1) Novelettes are fun. 

In fact, I’d never even heard of a novelette until I started writing Torven. The little story was too big to be considered a short story but too small to be a novella. While it might look a little silly in paperback form because … I mean … it’s barely a pamphlet … There is the potential of combining many of these little stories into one volume. Which I might do in the years to come, I just have to write more.

#2) Thorough Outlines Work

… Sometimes.

OK, it depends on the story. And it might not work for some authors but it certainly seems to work for me. All the agonizing that I tend to do during the second and third drafts gets dumped into the month-long construction of the Outline, which allows me to tackle the plot from many different vantages until I come up with some really good twists and such.

#3) Collaborations Work

For my NaNoWriMo project I had help making the outline. And in fact I intend to keep using that help when it comes to the male POV because … I’m a girl and while I do tend to stick close to my characters to help me flesh them out on the page, I’m still … you know … a girl.

#4) I enjoy writing Fantasy

Given that my career started with a fantasy novel (Sedition) this shouldn’t come as much of a shocker, but still … I’ve been writing other genres for so long now that when I sat down to write Torven it was a real joy to write. That’s not to say I will stop writing in the other genres, just that I know I delight in these sorts of books so I will be making an effort to focus on them a bit more.

#5) I really can write a first draft in 2 months

It’s hard, but I can do it. So I’ll be fixing my writing schedule to push myself that direction. Editing will take longer, of course, but I can get the skeleton of a story down in 2-3 months and that’s not bad. So long as I have the skeleton to work with, I’m good.

And that’s it. That’s what I learned in 2016.

Apart from … you know … the stuff my 8-year-old taught me such as Pokemon (Holy Hannah, why is that so popular?) and Minecraft (again, I do not understand the appeal) and how to dodge a kitten who seems intent on ambushing us around any given corner.