Monday, October 20, 2014

Worldbuilding: What Are Your Constants?

Hello again! I took a bit of an impromptu blogging break there while I did some traveling and some beta'ing. Apologies for being absent in the comment trails of late.

Both the travel and the beta read were awesome experiences. Part of the travel involved watching last Sunday's game at a really great Packer bar in NYC (Go Pack!).

Being from WI, Packer games are sacred weekly traditions in the fall, where everything pauses until the game's over and the final score pretty much determines the state's mood for the next week. As always, this got me thinking about writing, and I wondered how to work this depth of loyalty and fandom into written worlds.

It can be profoundly powerful to create this kind of constant for your characters. The sport, tradition or aspect that's always there, that always brings people together, even when everything's falling apart.

Think of Quidditch in the Harry Potter series, for example. It's a huge part of each book (even and especially when it becomes absent), and in the face of worldly stakes and the fight to defeat Voldemort, people still care, and care deeply, about their favorite Quidditch teams. This detail makes Rowling's world that much clearer and real to us. It's also a chance to reflect the mood and tenor of the story without needing to be in an all-stakes battle.

The force of constancy in your world doesn't have to be a sport. I'd argue that in Chronicles of Narnia, for example, it's family. For the seafaring nation in one of my earlier novels, it's a summer fishing festival. But no matter what you choose, I think it's important to identify a force like this, because things will go bad for your characters and they will need something to hold onto.

So, go on. Create that James Earl Jones moment for your world.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Writing Poll: Crossing Genres

Monday, September 15, 2014

Seasons a'Changin' & Books a'Readin'

In my hometown just south of the Frozen Tundra, Autumn made its presence known last week. I'm not okay with it  accepting it in inches, and it got me thinking about the power of changing seasons in our novels.

Reflect the Mood or Theme
A classic use of seasonal change is as a mirror to the book's plot or theme. Got love, laughter and lighter topics? Spring and summer are perfect settings. Cue autumn leaves and winds when dramatic turning points emerge, and get ready for events to turn bleak and desperate for the characters once "Winter is coming." (I couldn't resist.)

Incite (or Delay) Action
Hand-in-hand with the thematic expression of seasons is a more practical side. What does the change in weather mean for the reality of your book's action. Heavy snows or hard summer rains can delay battles or close roads, while autumn often means harvest time and festivals. Whatever the change of season means in your book, make the most of it. Use it to push the characters into action. What options don't they have in this new season that they did before? What new options emerge?

Limit (or Expand) Geographic Scope
Just like cold and weary troops have to fight differently in the winter, your characters have to think differently about how they'll travel and what they can access in each season. Do falling leaves obscure a much-needed path? Does a frozen pass or swollen river mean your MC can't cross for days or weeks? Or, maybe she CAN cross the ice to a region that's never been accessible before. That happened with Apostle Island sea caves on Lake Superior last winter because of the record cold.

Mix Things Up with Fresh Descriptions
Seasonal change doesn't have to bring huge variations in your book. It's fun to play with the little things, too. How is the clothing different, the food, the customs? The list goes on. Get with the season and enjoy it!

The Read Shelf

I realized it's been a while since I shared my reading list. Lately, I've been gobbling up Veronica Rossi's UNDER THE NEVER SKY series and Jim Butcher's CODEX ALERA series, and THEY ARE BOTH SO FANTASTIC! The other book in the mix is K.A. Stewart's A Snake in the Grass, which I reviewed here. How about you?

Monday, September 8, 2014

In Which I Dispense Advice & Links

In case you're not on Twitter or not following me yet (Look right! Look right!), here's a fun recap of some character & worldbuilding pearls I shared last week. Two of my favorite topics in the writing world!

Hope these give you at least a few fresh ideas. There are lots of other truly great resources on both these aspects, so look around and talk with fellow writers.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Fall Goals and Review at Fantasy Faction

Happy post-Labor Day everyone! Hope you all had relaxing weekends and are ready for the craziness of fall.


Sort of.

I had a grand writing plan for the second half of the year that essentially had me drafting two more novels, but I think I'm morphing that to drafting one new novel and editing a second. I'm excited for both of these, so it should be a fun way to round out the year.

How about you? What are you planning for the fall? Writing? Life? Amazing trips?

Jesse James Dawson Review

Speaking of amazing trips, my latest guest post is live at Fantasy Faction so travel on over and take a look (See what I did there?). I'm talking about K.A. Stewart's wonderful Jesse James Dawson series. Urban fantasy fans - it's a must!

Here's a peek:

I discovered K.A. Stewart’s Jesse James Dawson series several years ago when the first installment, A Devil In The Details, hit the shelves. Featuring demon-slaying samurai family man Jesse, the storyline and characters were a breath of fresh air in the crowded and often over-amped urban fantasy market. Jesse puts his own soul on the line in order to win back others’ from the demons. Sort of like betting at poker, except the cards are swords, the cash is souls, and the other players are demons! I loved the action, wit, and strong character relationships (not to mention a certain mysterious demon pal)...Read the full review at Fantasy Faction.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Writing Poll: Cover Designers

Monday, August 18, 2014

What I've Been Up To and A Question

Shawnee Bluff Winery Overlooking Lake of the Ozarks

Hello! I've been scarce in the blogosphere the last few weeks. What have I been doing, you ask? Well, I...

  • Vacationed at Lake of the Ozarks with friends. Our boat stalled! Adventures abound!
  • Repainted the apartment
  • Dug up some fascinating research while brainstorming my next WIP. No, not actual digging, but how cool would that be?!
  • Saw Guardians of the Galaxy. Yes, it's as good as you've heard!
  • ...And read a lot. Boy, do I need to get caught up on Goodreads.

It's that last one that raised a question for me, and I thought I'd throw it out to you guys. I noticed a trend in myself while reading a few books lately. I kept liking characters I'm pretty sure the author didn't want me to like! 

This wasn't a "we love to hate them" villain scenario either, aka Loki. In both instances most recently, the characters I liked were key secondary characters--flawed to be sure, yet often friendly foils to the MC--but the MCs for various reasons didn't like them. Vocally. And repeatedly. Did not like them, denigrated and put them down.

As a reader, I feel like I was *supposed* to not like said characters. I know that's what these authors were going for, and I know they succeeded in part because several reviews and comments bear that out. BUT, for me, the MCs' attitudes made me dislike THEM instead of disliking the secondary characters I was supposed to. I think it felt especially strange because these (unrelated) books happened to fall one after the other in my reading pile, and it made me wonder if I was somehow missing the strength of the MCs or misinterpreting something.

I'm a character reader. I'll take fascinating characters over a fascinating plot or world every time. And suddenly it felt like I was cheering against the MCs in these examples. I'm sure it's just a matter of these particular books and these particular MCs not speaking to me, but it was an extra bummer that the secondary characters who were so well-written and multi-faceted were slammed so much by the MCs. It was a seriously confusing dynamic, and odd to have it happen multiple times in quick succession.

Anybody else have this experience? Have you been a fan of a character the MC disparages?

How has YOUR summer been going so far?