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Banespawn last won the day on April 10

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  1. Are you building this stuff on World Anvil? I just started using it and I'm slowly building up the details of my world. I'm never really been in the habit of keeping notes, at least not in any organized fashion. Mostly I keep everything in my head. Actually having to write it down though in a coherent fashion helps to not only spark ideas, but identify holes.
  2. Most or all of you are familiar with Brandon Sanderson, and you probably know about his Cosmere. If not, the basic idea is that most of his stories happen in the same universe, even though they may be on different worlds with completely different sets of magic. He has things which tie them together and the most important aspect of that is probably the gods. I have been trying to do something similar with my stories, but in a loose way. I don't want to come up with something that is going to limit what I can do in other stories. I was thinking about gods earlier and I had some ideas that allowed me to tie two of my biggest stories together in a cool way. Basically, instead of gods being immortal and all-powerful, they are born, live and die just like regular people, except their lives are measured in eons. One story/world is based on the life/creations of one god while another is based on the birth of a new god. Gods are all part of the recycling of life in the universe. I don't want to go into too much detail and spoil it, but I really like what I came up with. This framework for the gods likely won't play a part in every story, but it might inform some of the world-building, which I think is cool. Is anyone else doing something similar? If so, how are you tying the various worlds/stories together? Is it the gods? Is it some element that isn't found in our universe? Is it some force or being that threatens all the worlds? Is it some character who wanders in and out of all the worlds? Something else?
  3. Congrats on both and welcome to the community!
  4. This happens to me too. Sometimes I'll start a forum post looking for feedback/help on something that has been giving me trouble and I'll find other holes that I missed or I'll figure out something to fill a hole. I usually don't end up submitting the post. Actually having to put it into words that someone else can understand has a tendency to reveal the rough edges.
  5. I'm not a huge fan of protagonists who are gods, half-gods, reincarnated gods or whatever. I haven't seen it too much in published works, at least the ones I've read, but it seems to be fairly common with newer writers of fantasy. The characters usually end up being too powerful and I like to limit the power of my protagonists. That said, I do have one character who becomes sort of a god. I'm still working on exactly what that means, what he can and can't do, and what his arc will be. It's all part of the magic system, though.
  6. Every story starts with an idea and I generally don't brainstorm those. Those are ideas that come to me out of the blue, triggered by whatever I happen to be doing at that moment. Maybe I misread something and that triggers an idea. Or maybe I'm watching a movie and expect it to go a certain way. It doesn't, but that triggers an idea. The initial ideas for stories are all around us. It's just a matter of recognizing them when they appear, which I believe becomes easier the more you write and think about writing. Some of those ideas live in my brain for a very long time, dormant and waiting for me to try to turn them into a story. Others, I actively think about and try to expand upon. That's where the brainstorming comes in, because an idea is just that, an idea. It's usually very far from a fully fleshed out story. I'll turn the idea over in my mind, think about what sort of character would fit (if it's not a character idea) or what sort of setting would fit (if it's not a setting idea). This process can take anywhere from hours to years since I may not think about the idea every day, and coming up with enough good ideas to turn it into a story is really hard. Sometimes inspiration strikes me when I'm not looking. Other times I have to worry the problem like a dog with a tick until I figure out what I need. The most important things, IMO, are being able to recognize what the story is missing, and which parts are working and which are not. All of the brainstorming in the world isn't going to help if you can't identify the plot holes.
  7. Another thing you can do is write blurbs for your favorite books, then go and read the blurbs for those books and see how they compare.
  8. Honestly, the best advice I can give for writing a blurb is to read the blurbs on your bookshelf to get a feel for what they include and how they are structured. I thought it would be interesting to look at two popular novels and analyze their blurbs. The first is A Game of Thrones, book 1 in George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. This isn't actually from the back cover, but from the inside sleeve. The back cover just has author citations. The blurb on the sleeve consists of 3 large paragraphs, but the 2nd and 3rd paragraphs are marketing summaries and not part of what would be included in a back cover blurb, so I'll just include the 1st paragraph. Most stories have one character who is more important than the others. Game of Thrones has one family that is more important than the others, but the concept is the same. Whomever your most important character is (if you have one), your blurb should probably focus on that character. Odds are that this is the character who will be introduced first in your story. The first two sentences give us the setting, while the third introduces the threat of the White Walkers. The fourth sentence introduces the human threats. In the fifth sentence, we are finally introduced to the most important family and the key member of that family (the one who will be most directly involved in the inciting incident). The last sentence gives us the inciting incident, gives us the stakes, and provides a hook. The blurb for The Way of Kings. the first book in Brandon Sanderson's Stormlight Archive, looks very different. If you've read the book, you know that there are three separate characters, each with their own story line, plus other characters who get POV time. In this case, there is no "most important character". It's really like 3 separate books all in the same world, with all of the stories being tied together at various points. The blurb has been written to account for this. This blurb doesn't focus on the inciting incident (there is more than 1). Instead, it gives us some history of this world, while providing a high level view of the conflicts to come. Each character (the 3 main ones and the assassin who starts the story) only gets one sentence, but they are very effective. The surgeon who had to become a soldier. The assassin who doesn't want to kill. The scholar who is a thief. And lastly, the warrior who no longer wants to fight. Notice how the last 2 sentences give us the stakes and provide a hook for the story. The ending should always be the hook. The blurbs are different, yet they both accomplish the same things. If you can write a blurb that introduces your world and characters to the reader, and hooks the reader into buying/reading your story, it has done its job. Take a look at the books on your shelves and read the blurbs. You'll see that they all do basically the same things, though not always in the same way.
  9. There are normally many different governments in each story. Sometimes the type of government will be critical to the plot, sometimes not, but I always try to design the government in a way that makes sense for the setting and culture. Where do they live? What drives them as a people? What challenges do they face? In one story, Natani lives in an isolated tribe of about 200 people. Their biggest obstacle is survival in a harsh environment. There are no armies, no wars with other tribes. They have no need for an elaborate government to manage 200 people. The three elders are chosen by the people, yet even the elders must contribute to the survival of the tribe. The men must hunt and the women must work the fields and bear children. There is no room in this society for lords or kings. In another story, Ak is heir to the throne. The primary conflict centers around the power behind the throne and Ak is a pawn in that game. The bad guys want to kidnap him, to use him against his father. For the story to work, Ak has to have political value, so a monarchy with inherited rights makes sense. If he were simply the son of an elected official, Ak's value as a pawn would be less. Obviously his father would still place a high value on him, but Ak as the heir and only son gives him greater value still. Also, Ak's father would be in less of a position to meet the demands of the kidnappers. If he can't give them what they want, then Ak becomes less important and the plot falls apart.
  10. I guess some people dislike prophecies, but I like them. I rarely use them, but I like to read them as long as they are handled in a clever way. The prophecy in Harry Potter was kind of meh (in the movies at least...didn't read the books).
  11. I've been doing some brainstorming for a story and got to thinking about how rare it is for natural disasters to be a significant part of the setting. Sanderson uses nature quite a bit, though more in the background outside of his Stormlight Archive. Stuff like hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and volcanoes aren't often seen in fantasy. Even less so avalanches, mudslides, floods and wildfires. I guess these tend to be viewed as isolated events and not something to build a setting around, but looking at our world, there are lots of areas that experience each of these things on a regular basis. Still, I suppose they could seem random if the story isn't built on them in some way. Like you've got a war between two armies and suddenly there's an earthquake. That would feel pretty random and arbitrary. I'm really trying to push hard toward the strange with this story, so I'm trying to make nature a big part of it. Thus far I've got two areas where nature plays a role. The first is a vast tundra, in the middle of which lives one of the protagonists. Her people live within a small oasis of land where winter is held back by their "god", but that power is fading. They have legends that tell of the green lands beyond the tundra and the protagonist will need to find those lands if she hopes to save her people. The other area is one I'm still figuring out (I'm working on the map now), but I'm thinking that the southern west coast will be a heavy hurricane zone, similar to the southern US east coast. There are gods who raise cities to shelter their followers and protect them from the storms, but anyone living outside those cities or traveling between them would be at risk. I may put a Mississippi-like river in that area and have it flood on a regular basis. These aren't huge plot elements like the storms in Sanderson's books, but I feel like they give the setting a bit more character and diversity. I'm going to keep digging into the setting and see what else I can come up with. So what are some ways that you have used nature in your stories/settings? Are they more background, or do they play a role in the plot?
  12. If you've been studying the craft of writing for any length of time, you've no doubt heard the advice to avoid info-dumps. What I want to talk about today involves not only how we accomplish that, but how we make the decisions as to when and where to dole out those nuggets of information. The common advice is to parse out the info a little at a time, when relevant, but the art of doing that is as much about what you don't reveal as what you do. There are two basic types of information: Things the POV character knows but the reader doesn't Things neither the POV character nor the reader know Inexperienced writers often run into trouble with the first one, as they try to hide things from the reader that the POV character knows. It can certainly be done and is often a good way to create some mystery, but it fails if the reader ends up feeling cheated by the writer. As an example, take Luke and Darth Vader. Luke finds out at the end of Empire that Vader is his father. It's a powerful reveal because of everything that came before it, but imagine that it was something that Luke knew all along. Suddenly, the reader feels cheated instead because there were plenty of times prior to that where the information should have come up, but wasn't revealed because the writer was hiding it. In Obi-wan's hut, for example. When it comes to hiding/revealing things that the POV character already knows, writers need to be careful that they aren't cheating the reader. A good way to handle it is to break the information into smaller chunks and reveal them a bit a time. Here's an example from my story: The litter bearers took a different route back to the palace, one which Ak would have enjoyed but for the growing fear in his belly. While planning and executing his escape, the consequences of discovery had occupied a remote corner of his mind and were easily ignored. Now they charged to the forefront. He wrung his sweaty hands, the outside world forgotten as he thought of and discarded one excuse after another to explain his absence. The archives? No, that would be the first place Taval would look. The kitchens would be searched next, and Old Natta, the palace cook, would surely refute his story. That left only one place: the crypts. He would say he’d gone down alone to visit his mother’s tomb. Taval would believe it, and Father, who rarely spoke of her, would be all too willing to accept the lie. The context here is that Ak has snuck out of the palace and is trying to think up a convincing lie should he get caught upon his return. The lie he chooses does a few things. First, it reveals that Ak's mother is dead. Second, it reveals that Ak's father still hasn't gotten over her death. And third, it reveals something about Ak's character/maturity (for the record, he later finds himself unable to speak the words and instead tells the truth, hopefully redeeming him in the eyes of the reader). What this doesn't do is reveal to the reader that his mother died when Ak was just a baby. Nor does it reveal that she was killed by their enemies (which is an important detail for understanding his father's motivations). Those details aren't relevant to what is happening in this scene. That is another mistake I often see people make. They will stick those details in there even though they aren't needed yet and really don't fit at this time. This is a case where withholding that information is the better option. I've given the reader part of it. Later I reveal the other parts, when they become relevant. These little bits of information are the reader's reward for turning pages. With things neither the character nor the reader know, it is generally easier to deal with. There's no chance that the reader will feel cheated because the reader usually finds out when the character does, if not before. When writing in 3rd person, it is common for writers to reveal information to the reader that the protagonist doesn't learn until later in the story. In 3rd omniscient, this could be the narrator revealing things to the reader that haven't happened yet. Or it could be the narrator revealing the thoughts of other characters. In 3rd limited, this is handled by having alternate POVs. We see what a secondary character is doing and know it will impact the protagonist, but the protagonist has no idea what's coming. How you choose to present this information to the reader has a huge effect on the story, as it will dictate both POV and scene choices. Do you use an alternate POV and create a scene to give the reader information, and thus create suspense? Or do you wait and reveal the information to the reader only when the protagonist learns it, thus increasing the impact on the reader? How would things be different if we had learned that Vader was Luke's father before Luke did? It wouldn't have been quite as impactful, but the confrontation between them at the end of Empire would have had an entirely different feel. Okay, I think I've droned on enough about this subject for now. I would like to hear other people's thoughts on it. How do you go about controlling the information that you give to the reader? How do you divide that information up and decide which bits you are going to give the reader now and which bits you are going to give them later?
  13. I've always pronounced it Mee-asma.
  14. If we're talking back cover blurbs, I feel like it's something I'm good at. I tend to follow a bit of a formula when writing them. I have the setup, which provides the reader with just enough info about the character at the start of the story, then something about the inciting incident that will change the character's life. Both parts need to work together to hook the reader. If you've read the snippet I posted in the QOTD#51 thread, you'll recognize the first character listed here: Being born female in a male-dominated society where starvation is a way of life can be a death sentence. For Natani, it would have been, if not for the sacrifice of the Elder Petla, who chose to Follow the Wind in search of the fabled green lands beyond the frozen tundra. Now Natani, faced with a similar decision, will have to Follow the Wind herself if she hopes to save her people. Moebien is a warrior of the Kae-Fen. He longs to emulate the greatest of the Kae-Fen warriors, the legendary Tebbittan ta Aru, who was said to have once faced a hundred to one odds and emerged victorious. But Moebien's quest has born little fruit, and pieces are moving within the Empire that seem destined to lead to war. Moebien will need all of his wits and warrior training to navigate the changing landscape. Gan didn't believe in much, least of all the self-proclaimed gods who raised cities from the earth to house their many worshippers and provide for their every need. He chose to live alone, separate from the sanctified masses, content to build his own house, grow his own crops and fetch his own water. Unfortunately for Gan, the gods aren't satisfied with that arrangement. I'm intending for this to be a multi-book series, but there's a lot I haven't figured out yet. I'm pushing the world-building heavily toward the strange, but that is causing problems with Moebien because his backstory is rooted in a more traditional setting. I've already axed one character and replaced him with Gan because he no longer fit the world, but I don't think it will come to that with Moebien. There's enough there that works with the setting that I should be able to figure out how he and the Kae-Fen fit into this world.