A World that Breathes

6:00 AM

I've been planning this post for several months because I love any excuse to talk about world building. BUT. I'm an editor for the Project Canvas blog (which you should totally follow, like, thirty minutes ago), and there's a post already up on the blog, and a post that I recently edited, and they're both about world building. *sheepish grin* 

SO. I was racking my brain trying to think of a new spin I could take on the very broad topic of world building. 

So here's a question for you.

What does world building look like when it's done right? 

I don't know if you've ever read any of Shannon Hale's books, but I would recommend reading Book of a Thousand Days RIGHT NOW so that we can flail together because #GENIUS

I'm also super pumped because I'm getting to visit the world of my old WIP since I'm writing the sequel and THEY GET TO TRAVEL and I am so so pumped for this. 

Anyway. What are some good factors that make a setting truly come to life? What makes a world breathe?

#1: It's detailed.

You know all those world building posts that talk about how you need to do a bunch of brainstorming and get down all the little, seemingly insignificant details so that your world comes to life?

They're right.

Don't be afraid to ask lots of questions. Read posts full of them. Jill Williamson's book, Storyworld First, is AMAZING to get your brain gears turning. 

Do the work. You'll definitely be able to tell because it will bleed into your entire story.

One thing about Shannon's story that I liked is how not only was everything very detailed, but there were "little things" that made the world come to life. One of those was the different idioms characters had, carried over from their homelands. That was really cool to look at. 

#2: It's real. 

It's easy to go a little crazy with world building. Sometimes a little too crazy. And while creativity is great, you have to make sure you're still making a world that people could live in. A world that you could climb into a walk around in. 

In order to make a real world, however, you need to look around you. Study other countries and cultures. See how they tick, what makes them work. What kind of government they have, what kind of arts and recreational activities. Study what kind of people live there as a result, and think about how the world they live in might have influenced who they are, how they act, how they dress, speak, think, etc. 

Book of a Thousand Days was really good about painting the picture. You could see how the main character was so largely effected by her culture. Her people really influenced who she was and how she thought about herself, and it was stunning to see what power a setting has over everything.

#3: It's immersive. 

This is the overall top point of this post. Your story world needs to have a lot of aspects, but overall, your reader needs to be immersed. Your characters need to be immersed. It needs to be a world that you could go visit.

Your entire story is effected by story world. What your characters do, what they say, how they dress, what they think. Their internal struggles are effected by the culture of the world and the lies they have, their goals are effected by what society has to offer. 

Your story world is where your characters live. So it only makes sense it's what shapes them, and it's what directs their lives. 

It's what they have to work with, after all.

I hope you enjoyed today's post! I wish I could have made it a bit longer, but I just got back from a Thursday/Friday trip and I am, quite frankly, exhausted. If you have any thoughts or questions about stuff I didn't address, I'd love to chat in the comments with you! 

I love world building so much, and I really encourage you to go researching for some good world building posts. There are so many out there! (especially on the GTW blog)

Is your nano project/WIP in another world? What's your favorite feature of your story world, and how did you come up with it?


Finding The Story Your Idea Deserves

6:00 AM

You know when you get an Idea?

And it's so cool. And you're super excited and you start getting all these amazing components to go along with it and it's going so well and your creativity is just seeping into the grains and going absolutely wild and THERE ARE SO MANY IDEAS and you are crazy pumped about the story?

But then you realize ... you have a bunch of super cool concepts, but you don't have a plot.

And then, not only do you realize you don't have a plot, but you realize ... you're kind of afraid to find one. And, instead of realizing this and going, "Pshhhh that's stupid" and shrugging it off and creating that epic story idea, you end up getting really stumped. And you want to hide from your story.

But you love the idea! But ... you also can't think of any more ideas to go with it. And you still don't have a plot. And you really want to write it--maybe even for nano--but you can't because you don't know what you're writing about.

Do you get what I'm saying?

I've had this happen to me before. This actually happened to me with my WIP, The Dream Walkers. Like, DREAMS?? DREAM WORLD?? DREAM GIVERS AND MARSHMALLOW CLOUDS AND OCEANS AND CLOUDS AND FLYING CHILDREN AND SUPER AESTHETIC SETTING AND JUST GENERAL AWESOMENESS??? How can I create a plot that matches the awesomeness of the setting?

I was afraid. I was afraid I would "waste" this idea that I KNEW was brilliant.

I was afraid I wouldn't give this idea the story it deserved.

Generally speaking, you begin a story because you're excited about the idea. If you're doing nano, it's probably a big deal the story you picked to work on next month. You've probably been brainstorming characters and creating a setting and pondering theme and searching for plot, if not for several months before now, at least some this month.

If I had to guess, I'd say you're pumped for it. And who wouldn't be? New story! New idea! Or idea-you've-had-for-ages-and-are-finally-getting-to-write idea! Excitement! Fun! YAY!

But eventually, you have to move past that state of ecstasy and infatuation. You have to face this unpleasant thing called reality. And the reality is that finding a spectacular plot for your concept is not easy. It's tough. 

Finding the right story idea can often feel like searching for water in a desert. You're slugging through the endless waves of sand, your entire body is sweating and you're gross and sticky and hot. You feel a rush of excitement as you see something sparkle in the distance, but as you run towards it, it stays just out of reach. And you realize it was just an illusion the whole time. A mirage.

And that's a risk we run in every story. Following the mirage first, before finding the real oasis.

What do we do then?

We edit. That's what editing is for.

But for now, let's look at some ways to find that plot in the first place.

Tip #1: Let your characters lead.

There's a reason I kicked off this mini series with a post on characters. They're really important because, when created and fully developed, they will drive your story. You'll be sitting there, agonizing over your plot when suddenly BANG. Your characters break down the door and charge, carrying your story with it. You snatch up your notebook and race after them, yelling after to hold on! wait! come back! you weren't done with that idea yet!

Tip #2: Be creative.

This seems like an obvious one (and it kind of is) but I'm serious. Think outside the box. Think about other books in your genre or books with similar components to yours, and try to create a plot that's polar opposite to them, or has hints of them to spice it up, or just to avoid their influence all together.

Sometimes, not going with your first idea is a good idea. I heard a piece of advice once that went something like, "Discard the first idea you get. And the second. And the third. Then, only when you surprise yourself, you can write that."

And that's a good thing to think about, especially if you're crafting plot twists.

Tip #3: Just do it.

To condense the long list of advice I have for you on this topic into three tips is quite a feat. But I think this encompasses everything.

You're not going to feel perfectly and fully confident in every scene you put into your story. You're going to have a little doubt, a little insecurity, a little unease.

That's normal.

And you've got to push through it. Just do it. Write the book. Pick and plot thread and write it if one won't come to you. Grab it with both hands and wrap a leash around it and make it work for you. Often, that's what it takes to get our stories up and running.

You've got to be a little bold. And it's scary and uncertain, but I know you can do it. <3

Do you struggle with creating a plot? What tips do you have for finding a great story for your idea?


A Character to Root For

6:00 AM

So for October, we're all (well most of us) getting ready to write new books in preparation for the ever famous NaNoWriMo. If you're unfamiliar with this, YOU MUST ACQUAINT YOURSELF. Nano isn't for everyone, but it's super fun and usually very productive.

So I like to do a little sort-of-not-really-series on the basic foundations of writing.

Post one, hence the title, will be on characters.

I could do an 8 week, daily posting series on characters. I could do an 8 month post series on characters. In fact, I could probably go and create and entire blog dedicated solely to creating and developing real characters that people will love and cherish.

But today I'm going to touch on just a few aspects of characters that make them ones we want to stay with. Character we root for. How we create characters, how we help them become their own person, and what we do with them once they've formed.

I want to make a quick note. I am going to highlight three aspects of character that I find make me root for them. When I posted about making your scene emotionally gripping, having a character to root for was one of the key aspects of that.

But how do you do that? How do you craft a character that people will want to read about?

#1: Make them interesting.

No one wants to read about the next door neighbor taking care of their cat for 8 weeks. That's not unique, and as a result, really not captivating.

I just read the first book of The Reckoners trilogy by Brandon Sanderson. I loved it so much, and one of my favorite aspects of the books was David, the main character. I didn't really connect to him on an emotional level, but man was that guy fun to read about! He has so many quirks that make me just want to grab him and hug him, or better yet--sit and watch his movie for a while.

#2: Make them sympathetic. 

Even if they seem a little dull, if your character makes people cry or threatens to wrench their hearts right out of their chests, they're likely to keep reading anyway. When you  have a character that you really feel bad for, a character who has captured your heart, you're not going to put the book down anytime soon. You have to see how they survive!

#3: Make them relatable. 

If all else fails, do your best to make them relatable. Most characters should be relatable on some level, but if you character is kind of dull and completely unsympathetic, a relatable character can often make the difference between someone picking up a book and leaving it on the shelf.

They don't have to be relatable in a huge way. It could be a common quirk they have, or a certain phrase they use. More often though, you'll fin the most power in lies they believe, and other struggles they are battling. I actually bought a book one time because from what I read of the blurb, I knew I would benefit from the main character's story.

Even if you already have a pretty good idea of who your character is, I would reccommend checking over these three aspects. A character readers will root for is so important. It can make the difference between reading the story, and not reading.

I'll share a piece of why I think the MC of my nano novel is relatable! I'm going to be writing the second book to my YA Fantasy series, and my MC (Rissa) is sympathetic. In book one, she lived in a really tough situation. She was hopefully fairly interesting and relatable, but her situation making her sympathetic was what I really think will make readers want to finish her story. They want to see her rise above the challenges she faces and conquer.

What about you? Are you doing nano this November? If you are (or if you're not!), what trait does your character have to make them a character to root for?


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