Friday, April 30, 2010

Worldbuilding, Sort Of

I've been both a reader and writer since about first grade; since then, I've read tons of books, many fantasy. Something about that - though I am usually highly scornful of cliches, I do not mind medieval settings at all. I don't really care much about the lightly sketched cultures of some books I've read (not naming names because I can't think of any right now), about the inconsistencies that I'd surely find if I looked closer.

That's not a good thing.

As a writer of fantasy, I need to pay more attention to worldbuilding. My current project is let off the hook for now because it's set in the future (another setting that I worry will be cliched soon, what with Sleator's Test, the Hunger Games, and such), but with the ones that I have lined up fully half of them started out as medieval. One, since it's a fairy tale reworking, can stay. Another I'm doing serious worldbuilding in, and with names like "Adak Empire" and "Jepalefr" I don't think we'll be seeing any knights in shining armor.

The one about a society based on card suits may have to have Kings and Queens and Jacks, but I'd like to make it really outlandish if I can. Another one feels like it could be set in the present-day equivalent of a society with magic. Honestly, I have no idea on that last one. And then I have my urban fantasies, which I'm going to smash together into something. Steampunk or modern? I'm undecided on this one, too.

Something I'll probably have to watch out for is knowing what is necessary to "build" and what isn't. With the one I'm doing serious work on, I have about 10 countries/political entities that I have yet to plan out well enough, a couple hundred years to fill in on the timeline, and still no idea what the plot/characters are, and sometimes I'm actually scared to work on it because of no rational reason.

...which is why I'm glad I have my crazy story, which, it turns out, is actually the eye of the hurricane. Funny how things turn out, hm?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Chapter Nineteen

...of my crazy story. It's done! Longer than 18 by a couple hundred words. I think I must have listened to "Ich Will" at least five times while writing the last scene. Good motivational music, that. Did anyone know that listening to music you like will help you concentrate?

Anyways. This has been a rather educational chapter. First of all, things go bad. A couple of people die/will die because of events in the scene. I'm worried that all my [spoiler] scenes are starting to feel repetitive, so for the next chapter I'll start out from the POV of someone in an entirely different situation. Crazy though it sounds, I think I may have to make up some new characters (you know, to add to the 100+ named that I already have?) because I have not written from [highly important location] since its people [spoiler event].

How else has chapter nineteen been informational? I've come to the definitive conclusion that I am not a strategist. Not in chess, I already knew that, but not in writing either. Meaning that when I finish and get around to revising this thing, I'll have tons of work to do. Worldbuilding, cultures (I can't wait to get the Dark Sector cultures rolling), plotting out the mainland path. The main storyline (read: the only one I've focused on thus far) needs some support from the WAR storyline, which has pretty much been neglected.

I've also learned that projecting my relationships to others onto my characters doesn't really work that well. After all, I've never conspired with another person to [spoiler], and I don't remember what it's like to have a hatred-rivalry with someone who actually is worthy of respect. And anyways, I'm not [spoiler]. It works better if I pretend to be the character and write some pages in first person from their POV before editing it back into third person.

There are still many things I need to work on:

-transitions. Mine are...quite sloppy. I got a comment about bad transitions on an essay I received back in school, actually.

-balancing characters. Also known as figuring out how people interact.

-coming up with original events in a closed system. I realized that scene 86 and 88 both had people react similarly to vaguely similar events. Happily, this particular example is partially justified in that they deal with two different views of rivalry.

-not overusing words/phrases. This is a big one for me.

-writing emotion. A guy thinks he might have killed someone else. The guilt/tension should hang over the rest of the scene like a cloud of flies around a carcass. It doesn't.

-move the story forwards in more than the chronological sense.

Hopefully I'll hit some really good fight scenes early next month. I can only imagine that writing about person A beating up on person B will be cathartic during STAR testing.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


Recently, we've been looking at poetry in language arts class. I used to write a lot of poetry in fifth grade (most of it bad) and while I don't scorn it like some people I know do, my personal experience has lent me a certain perspective.

Couplets: I dislike this form. Two lines is too brief for me, except when it's not.

Freeverse poetry: this was my form of choice in elementary school. No rhyme scheme, no rhythm scheme - the latter point is what really annoys me nowadays. When there are no rules, it is easy for the quality to drop sharply. Half of my old poems make me wince because, when I read them, the awkwardness of sound is just that bad.

Haiku: these are pretty easy, but as with couplets I usually can't stuff an idea into seventeen syllables. In fifth grade I wrote a pretty good multistanza haiku about tapeworms. Related is the tanka, which is 5-7-5-7-7. I remember writing two as a starter in seventh grade history.

Sonnet: my introduction to this came in seventh grade language arts. To date, I've written two. One was a mashup of iambic pentameter lines about the Apocalypse; the other, which I like a lot, was written for algebra class and is about linear equations and math in general. Of all the forms, this is the one I'll most likely write if I decide to start writing poetry again.

As a whole, poetry is far from my favorite medium to write or read. Analyzing poetry in language arts is actually kind of fun, but I would not actively seek out poems on my own. Maybe it's because there are so many bad poems out there, full of affectations and dripping with saccharides that would make a dentist cry.

There are, however, some poems I really like. "Invictus" by William Ernest Henley. "Solitude" by Ella Wheeler Wilcox (I wrote an essay about this, actually). "The Fool's Prayer" by Edward Rowland Sill. If a dentist cried over these, it would be from being touched.