Setting

In writing, one of the key elements to making a story great is determining where your story takes place. The location, the culture, and the people in that culture are key when figuring out what happens in your story.

The setting is, in a lot of ways, the most important thing in your story. In a lot of ways, it impacts your characters more than even the plot itself. Without setting, what is to determine how your characters feel about religion and politics? Setting can also define how the characters in question dress. Do they wear cloaks? A turban?

I say all of this because knowing where your story is set is an important thing for you to know even before you write the first word. If you’re setting your story in the real world, it’s key to figure out where. If it’s fantasy, do you have two parallel worlds set in the same place like Harry Potter, or do you have a single world set apart from our own like in Lord of the Rings? In both those cases, some world building is required, but in Harry Potter, some knowledge of the real world is also required.

When it comes to world building, you make everything up from the culture to the religion. But if you incorporate real world settings in the mix, research is mandatory.  The bottom line is that if you want a setting for your world, you need to know everything you can about that setting before you even type the first word.

If you like what you see, don’t forget to reblog and follow. See you guys next time.

–N.L., 2017

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Is a Lack of Profanity in Fiction a Sign of Weak Writing?

Earlier today, I had an experience in one of my Creative Writing classes that I have chosen to share. It was in playwriting class, and it was my turn to be workshopped. While the majority of the class took no notice to the fact that my play had zero profanity in it (rude words yes, profanity no), one student felt it was odd that my play’s cast swore none of the time at all. To be honest, she even seemed bothered by it. So, I’ve chosen to use this experience as a means to talk about profanity in fiction.

Is it poor writing when your fiction has little to no profanity?

I don’t think so. I can only speak for myself, but the worst words I’ll use are “crap,” “heck,” and “darn.” That’s verbally, though. Occasionally, I’ll slip a real dirty one in there, but I’d be lying if I said that’s how I talk in real life. My mouth is as clean as a whistle. But that being said, I don’t think it’s a poor choice of diction to exclude certain words when you’re writing fiction or some other form of Creative Writing. I think often times, people rely far too much on profanity to get the point across.

The point is simple. If you choose to include characters that cuss, make sure every word out of their mouth counts. Too much of that stuff can reflect poorly on you as a writer. And please, don’t be so narrow-minded that you catch yourself thinking that a lack of profanity is weak writing. It’s frankly a stupid mindset, and there are plenty of writers out there (myself included) that don’t generally use language like that in their books. I won’t judge if you do it, but for Zeus’s sake, make sure every word counts.

If you like what you see, don’t forget to reblog and follow. See you guys next time.

–N.L., 2017

Description for Non-Characters

In the real world, we see things. It could be anything: cars, houses, trees, the sun, the moon, birds in the sky, or dogs on the ground. For us writers, it is imperative to find a way to describe those things.

This is different than describing characters, since eye color/hair color and slightly less important features cannot be used to describe the thing. For example, a car is not a person. It has a color to its paint job, which is similar to eye/hair color, but it goes far deeper than that. What is the make and model of the car? What kind of tires are on the car? Are there dents on the frame?

You get what I’m saying? The point is, there are a lot of things to point out if you’re going to do your job properly. The most important thing to remember, however, is that there is a such thing as too much description. The car example may work if it’s from the POV of someone who knows about cars, but that same person may not be as savvy on the various sub-genres of fantasy fiction.

A book lover would know those things like the back of their hand, but a car salesman would go in and see books about magic, knights, wizards, and elves, while a book lover knows there’s a lot more to it than that.

In a nutshell, your POV character (or your narrator) will describe things to the reader as they know things. Always keep that in mind.

If you like what you see, don’t forget to reblog and follow. See you guys next time.

–N.L., 2017

A Few Things I Learned From Playwriting and Screenwriting

First of all, I know I said this post would come out yesterday, but life happened. But now that that’s out of the way, I want to discuss some things I’ve learned this semester in my creative writing program, specifically in a pair of playwriting and screenwriting classes. In one of my previous blogs, I said that my CW program hadn’t helped me as a fiction writer, and this was perfectly true, but I’d like to amend that thought and say it was mostly the fiction classes that hadn’t helped. Truth be told, if you want to be a better fiction writer, learning to write scripts is the way to go.

The reason for this is because screenwriting and playwriting dive far deeper into how stories are told. There is terminology at use in both fields (which are basically two sides of the same coin) that help the writer help to structure their character’s motivations. They are called superobjectives. These are basically what the characters are after, and every single character in your novel should have one. The bottom line is, what is their goal? In Star Wars, you can even argue that Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker have opposite superobjectives. Darth Vader wants to turn his son to the Dark Side, while Luke wants to bring his father back to the Light. In a nutshell, what does your character want?

Something else I learned about is the MDQ: the “major dramatic question.” As my professor said, it is the major question (usually asked 10% through the story) that the story depends on to be driven forward. To go back to my Star Wars example, the MDQ could be “Will Luke turn his father from the Dark Side?” It is a question that can be asked in questions beginning in how, what, when where, why, who, and so on. But according to what my prof has said, it is best asked with a “will” question.

The bottom line is that, while fiction writers will not benefit much from a CW program if they’re focused on fiction, there are other types of classes out there that will teach writers the structure of a story in far more detail. That means that classes such as playwriting and screenwriting can actually make you a better writer of fiction, depending on which university you’re going to, of course.

If you like what you see, don’t forget to reblog and follow. See you guys next time.

–N.L., 2017

Something About Physical Description

It’s time for a confession: I suck as a blogger. I’ve been so stuck in working on a short story that I’ve lost all motivation on working on this blog. However, I hope to change that soon. But for today, I’m going to discuss a subject that every fiction writer needs to know about, and that is how to describe your characters.

Everyone has a unique look about them, so each of your characters should as well. Very rarely will you come into contact with two people who look exactly alike, even identical twins. With twins, one will likely wear their hair differently or not dress the same as the other, so of course it is key to give every single person in your story a unique look.

With my characters, I focus in on eye color and hair color, but there’s a lot more to it than that. Does the character have dimples? Freckles? How tall are they? How much do they weigh? All of these are important questions to ask when deciding how the character looks, but how do you get it across on the page? For me, it all depends on how the writing process goes. Sometimes I’ll imply things, while other times I show it in passing. Sometimes, I’ll dump a brief description and pencil in more info later.

One of my favorite ways of conveying description, however, is to give a character some movement that is somehow important to their physical features. Take the example that follows from my WIP:

“How far is it?” Jocelyn asked, combing her fingers through her curly red hair.

It’s easy to do, and you don’t have to dump the description on the reader. It’s a bit difficult when trying to introduce a lot of main characters at once, but it’s still my favorite of all. The best thing about it is, you can do this with the eyes and other physical features.

I hope this helps.

If you like what you see, don’t forget to reblog and follow. See you guys next time.

–N.L., 2017

 

Dialogue

Everyone has a unique voice, whether you be from Boston in the U.S. or Ireland in the U.K., but how can a writer use this fact to make dialogue that is unique from character to character? Well, there are lots of components to this, which will inevitably have to be covered in future posts,  but at its most basic level, dialogue stems from how people talk.

If you want to write realistic dialogue, it is important to note that there are three major components to speech: phenology, morphology, and syntax. Phenology is basically how people pronounce certain words, morphology is the choice of one word over another that basically means the same thing, and syntax is all about overall word choice.

For example, if someone says “worsher” as opposed to “washer,” you’ll know this is an example of phenology where they’re talking about a washing machine. Different people pronounce these words differently depending on their geography. Morphology works similarly in that you’ll say something different depending on where you live, except you’ll use a different word as opposed to the same word that’s pronounced differently. Fireflies are a good example of this. Where I live in the south, firefly is the accepted word, but in other places firebugs or lightning bugs are just as acceptable. Syntax is a little more complex, but it’s self-explanatory, so I won’t go any further on that.

The point is, we’re all going to talk differently, and it’s your job as a writer to convey that in how your characters talk. Geography is very important in the real world, because different kinds of people settle in different places, and therefore different accents and even dialects develop. If you want to create realistic dialogue, even in fantasy, these are all things to keep in mind.

If you like what you see, don’t forget to reblog and follow. See you guys next time.

–N.L., 2017

Excerpt: Seeds of Resistance

This is a bit of a surprise post. I wasn’t going to say it until later, but I’ve chosen to go ahead to reveal that I’m working on bonus content to add to the print edition of Kingslayer. This is an excerpt, and the full first chapter. Any feedback is welcome, but I’m mainly posting for your enjoyment. Enjoy!

***

Since leaving Liverpool, Jocelyn and I watched as the rolling hills of the Gililands passed by our compartment window. We were aboard The Runaway Express, which was fitting since we were fugitives from the Empire. If we were seen, we were as good as dead. But we wouldn’t stay on the train long; after all, we were nearing the industrial city of Issylot.

“There’s been a riot in Saxony,” Jocelyn said, turning the pages of the daily newspaper.

Of course, this wasn’t a surprise. Tiberius ruled the Isobellian territories with an iron fist. If there was a riot (like Jocelyn said), then all it meant was that people were getting tired of the Black King and his Imperial Knights.

After a moment, I looked over at Jocelyn.

Slender body, hazel eyes, red curls. Throw that together with a pair of rosy cheeks, and you’ve got one heck of a beautiful wife. To be honest, Jocelyn looked upset by the news of another riot, and I couldn’t blame her. I just wish there was something I could’ve done.

“How many were killed this time?” I asked, biting into a half-eaten apple from the night before.

“Thirty-seven,” Jocelyn replied. “That’s the worst one to date.”

True, I thought.

“I just wish there was somethin’ we could do,” Jocelyn said. “Don’t you agree, Vensyr?”

I didn’t give a verbal answer. I finished the apple and tossed the remains out the nearby, opened window; then I gave my wife a nod of the head.

When we arrived in Issylot, Jocelyn and I left the train station as quickly as possible; then we moved into the nearest alleyway. The city was a bustling metropolis, with airships and skyscrapers as far as the eye could see. It was good to be back in Jocelyn’s hometown. After all, it had been years since our last visit, plus there were lots of places where we could hide from the Empire.

“Where you want to go?” I asked, looking at Jocelyn.

“How about the tavern in the Business District?” she replied, pointing down the alley with one finger.

This was a natural choice, since the local tavern belonged to Jocelyn’s cousin. Whenever we came to visit, he always let us eat for free. Once we arrived and took our seats inside the bar, we both received a plate of dragonloaf with a choice of our favorite beverage. Jocelyn went with a glass of wine, while I settled on a chocolate, peanut butter milkshake.

Not a single Imperial Knight was present. And since we were covered in darkness (with nothing but a light to cover our faces), Jocelyn and I felt safe lowering the hoods of our cloaks.

Clearly, Jocelyn was starving. She practically inhaled her dragonloaf the moment it touched her lips.

I tried not to laugh. It was quite the sight to behold.

“That looks yummy,” Jocelyn said after a moment, eyeing my milkshake.

“It is,” I said simply, taking a small sip.

“Can I have a sippy-whippy?”

I grinned. “You have your own drink,” I said, looking over at Jocelyn’s wine.

“Pwease!?” she asked in a babyish tone of voice, crossing her arms and puckering her lips.

I rolled my eyes. “Jocelyn, knock it off.”

“You hate me….”

She’s acting like a five-year-old, I thought, shocked by my wife’s behavior. Still, she was a cute little thing, which is why I chose to give in.

“Here,” I said while handing her my glass. “You owe me one,” I added with another roll of the eyes.

“Thank you!” she told me after taking a sip. “I wuv you forever an’ ever!”

“Love you too,” I said, amused.

After we finished our meals, Jocelyn pulled out her newspaper and started to read. She was fixated on the paper for the better part of fifteen minutes, occasionally turning the pages with circular photographs.

“Hey Vensyr?” she said, looking up from the paper.

I looked at her, not saying a word.

“Sara Willington’s been sighted,” Jocelyn continued. Right then, a group of Imperial Knights entered the tavern.

I stared at Jocelyn. The Sara Willington—daughter and heir of the late King Michael Willington—sighted? This was a big deal, and not because the Black King wanted her dead. Rather, it was a huge deal because the princess hadn’t been seen or heard of in nearly thirteen years: not since her parents were killed.

“Sighted!?” I said in a whisper. “Where?”

“Alma Defa,” Jocelyn replied, passing the paper to me. I blew out the candle between us so the Imperial Knights who just came in couldn’t see our faces in the dark corner of the bar. It wasn’t easy, reading without the light of a candle, but the task seemed manageable nonetheless.

And so, I read the paper aloud:

Princess Sara Willington (age 15) was sighted in Alma Defa last night. She should be considered armed and dangerous. Anyone with information leading to Her Majesty’s arrest will be awarded 50,000 gold shillings.

I reread the article several times. It was short, yet Sara’s mugshot covered half the front page. After a moment, Jocelyn took up the newspaper and stuffed it in a pouch beneath her cloak.

“It’s interesting. Isn’t it, Vensyr?” Jocelyn said.

“What’s interesting?” I asked.

“The location, more than anything. It is Alma Defa, after all. The Empire’s Supreme Court is there. But why would she go there of all places, when the Emperor himself wants her dead?”

Jocelyn’s guess was as good as mine.

I looked at the tavern’s front door. At the moment, the owner of the bar was servicing a couple whores and a half-drunk midget. Each of them seemed to be getting their fair share of wine, yet the Imperial Knights that just came in were as sober as a priest before mass. In fact, to tell the truth, the gentlemen standing in the doorway looked as if they were looking for something.

Or someone.

I didn’t think much of it at first, but then as they made their way through the bar, I knew better. They weren’t just looking for someone. They acted as if they’d seen someone, namely me and Jocelyn. Do I even have to say it? They must have seen us enter the freakin’ building! Why did we have to lower the hoods of our cloaks? I thought, but now wasn’t the time to complain. I had to warn Jocelyn, and together we had to escape.

“Hey Jocelyn, does this place have a back door?” I asked, trying to remain calm.

Jocelyn pointed to her left. “Why you askin’?” she replied. I cleared my throat and motioned toward the approaching knights. Jocelyn looked to see them and immediately understood. “I’d say our welcome here is officially worn out,” she said.

And less than a minute later, we were out the back door.