World-building: Common Mistakes in Speculative Fiction – Guest Post by, Diana Peach…

Just in case you didn’t get your fill of World-building, I’m over at The Story Reading Ape’s blog with another installment. Swing on by if you want to learn about what can go wrong! Happy November!

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

World-building is a balancing act between alien complexity and Earth’s familiarity. If authors make characters and settings too alien, they risk confusing readers and interrupting the reading experience. But the other side of the coin – applying Earth qualities, standards, and cultural norms to non-Earth planets and societies – isn’t any better.

We’re so used to Earth and the way we live and behave, our customs, values, and social rules that they become invisible to us. They become the “givens” of human life, and often, we attribute them to other non-Earth worlds and cultures. Our ways of life are rooted in thousands of years of history. Other planets have different historical trajectories that produce alternate ways of life that feel normal to the characters.

Here are seven things to look out for when world-building:

Your society doesn’t “function”

Did you ever read a book where none of the characters work…

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Guest Author Friday – Diana Wallace Peach and Kari’s Reckoning

Debby Gies over at D. G. Kaye Writer was kind enough to feature “yours truly” over at her place. Debby is a proficient blogger and her site is full of interviews, reviews, wonderful tips on writing and blogging, and shared articles of interest. If you enjoy memoirs, her books win high praise – I’ve given her a few 5-star reviews myself! 

She also puts together a wonderful feature, and I’m delighted to be hanging out at her kitchen table with a big cup of coffee. If you can spare a moment, stop by for a visit and say hi! On to the interview:

Who Has a New Book?

I’m thrilled to welcome today’s featured author, friend and guest, Diana Wallace Peach. Diana is a dynamo author who writes and produces books at lightning speed these days. She has disciplined herself well with the time she commits to her writing, yet manages to make time to blog about all things writing on her blog Myths of the Mirror.

Today we’re going to get to know Diana and learn about what inspires her writing, and I’m going to be asking her about the ‘book writing break’ she is threatening to take, to find out if that can actually happen… (Continue to Debby’s site).

 

I love THAT

that

For the past few months, I’ve been engaged in the writerly task of editing four books. I do this full-time for about 14 hours a day, divvying the tasks up into four categories: 1) borderline boring, 2) terribly tedious, 3) downright dreary, and 4) mega mind-numbing. That way I can mix them up for a little variety.

One of the editing passes that I undertake is the arduous process of “enlivening my words.” I use the search function on Word to look up dull words and one by one swap them out for more interesting ones. At the tippity-top of the humdrum list is “was.” An exceedingly handy verb but not a writer’s best friend. I allow myself an average of one “wuz” per page. This means looking up about 600 wuzzes and switching 300 of them out. For 4 books, I’ll comb through approximately 2,400 wuzzes.  Ack!

I have 33 wimpy, weak, crutch words that I put through this process, none as dreadful as “was” though “had” ranks right up there in second place. It takes forever.

I’ve completed all my swaps except for the last – Word #33: THAT.

For some reason that I can’t explain, I just love that word. I could write that word in every sentence that I write. And that’s a problem. Plus that’s a word that’s hard to replace without completely changing the way that a sentence is written. I know that other writers can figure that out without that much trouble, but that’s easier said than done. For me, that’s an editing step that takes tons of time that I could use to make other changes that would improve my work.

Good Grief. Ha ha.

Okay, I gotta cut this out so I can cut that out. Wish me luck – only about 3,000 to go.

Why Books are Living Things

Pixabay image - Arthur Rackham

Pixabay image – Arthur Rackham

In contemplating what to write about today, I’ve decided to go a little off the deep end for the bewilderment of my readers. We writers can be a touch eccentric, and in order to perpetuate the characterization, I thought I’d chat about stuff I don’t know. That’s the fun of fantasy after all.

Those who’ve browsed my website know I love the idea of myths. To me, they’re the stories that define who we are and form the narratives of our lives. In my experience, perceptions alter our reality. We use perceptual narratives to filter our experiences, to guide our decisions, and create meaning in our lives. In essence, who we are, beyond our physical presence, is created based on our values and choices, how we perceive ourselves and how others perceive us. In a way, we are the embodiment of stories; our lifetimes expressed in epic myth.

So, where am I going with this? Hang on, I’m getting there. One more piece of information and you’ll see.

While studying for a degree in a pastoral counselor, I took this great class called “The Spirituality of Relationship.” In essence, it described a relationship as a new entity, a created presence with a life of its own that requires nurturing and an investment of time to thrive. The discussion provided a new way of looking at loss posed by divorce. For, although children may retain healthy connections with both parents individually, they grieve the loss of this third presence, the un-tangible creation, the relationship.

Now my point comes together…

I believe, on an energetic level, that books are more than paper and ink or digital symbols. On some level, our creations are new entities with the ability to enter into relationship with others on a personal and emotional level, just as we do. Books and the people who inhabit them can open eyes, stir the heart, elicit a deep sense of longing or grief, outrage or fear. I’ve fallen madly in love with protagonists, profoundly altered the path of my life, made new choices, expanded my understanding of the world, all through my relationships with books. Some have stayed with me since the day I read them, hovering like spirits over my head.

What if, when we create worlds and characters, we create something that exists? How do we know that the myths we fashion in our heads don’t coalesce into something real and measurable? Simply because we lack the brain capacity and technology to perceive and quantify, doesn’t mean something can’t be. History chuckles at the folly of those shortsighted assumptions.

I’m intrigued by paradigms, the perceptual boundaries we cobble together to rationalize our experience. I love the idea of not knowing. I bask in the notion that we scarcely use a fraction of our brains and possess only the tiniest inkling of how the universe works. Our perceptions are so small, so limited, that to me anything is possible.

Other than a photo and a bio (based entirely on my myth of myself) you have no idea whether I’m a real person, right? In a way, I’m a manifestation of our combined imaginations. It’s possible that my characters are just as present in the fiber of creation as I am. I think so. I know them better than I know most people; I’ve interacted with them, lived with them, learned from them, laughed and wept with them. They will likely outlive me too. Cool, huh?

Well, I’m a fantasy writer after all. I can imagine you nodding your head sagely at this bit of information or muttering under your breath, “This woman is three tines short of a fork.”

All I can say is, “Welcome to my world.”

*** This post originally appeared on Chris Graham’s blog: The Story Reading Ape. ❤ ***

250 Words per Hour

words-per-hour

pixabay

Not long ago, my muse gave me an ultimatum (here) – Write or Else!

So I’ve been writing, keeping up my end of the bargain and then some, writing 6-10 hours a day, 5 days a week. I start at 5 a.m. and write until about 3. Then 3-4 hours of blogging. It’s been a challenge especially when the holidays started revving up.

For me, writing that many hours means letting other things slide like getting dressed, showering, brushing teeth, eating, cooking, laundry, holiday shopping, dishes, and vacuuming. Coffee is about all that gets accomplished with religious fervency.

This morning, a couple of people stopped by unexpectedly to have me sign some paperwork (our area is getting high-speed internet in 2017!). We stood outside in the sleet because I just couldn’t bear to usher them into my disaster area. When I went back inside, I walked by a mirror and noticed that my clothes were on backwards and inside out. Seams showing and the tag of my shirt flapping at my throat like a teeny white necktie. Ha ha. Yeesh.

But I also finished the first draft of the fourth book in my next series. I write about 250 words per hour. A first draft takes me about 400 hours. Subsequent drafts, maybe another 400 for a total of 800 hours per book. Four books? That’s about 3,200 hours.

Now really? Tell me. What writer has time to worry about whether her clothes are on front forward and right-side out? What do you let slide?

Creating Rich Characters – Prompts

steampunk-1809590_640

While my days are spent grinding out my WIP, I thought I’d share an old post about writing character bios, specifically about using prompts to expedite the process.

The prompt-list below looks more complicated than it is (a result of explanations and examples). For some prompts, a word or two is sufficient, while others require some contemplation. Unsurprisingly, I force my main characters to endure the entire process; incidental players get a pass with a mere smattering of details, and everyone else falls somewhere in between.

Ultimately, I believe that this pre-work pays off, not only in rich characters. To me, the process of writing flows with greater ease. My characters are immensely cooperative in telling their own stories when they know who they are.

The External Character

woman-1801830_640Physical Description: Appearance goes without saying, but add at least one remarkable feature: glass eye, cleft chin, crooked teeth, chewed nails, scars, moles, beady eyes, or rumbling voice. Remember, even beautiful people are imperfect.

Gestures, Mannerisms:  A distinguishing physical habit not only defines a character but makes him memorable. A character may habitually pick his teeth, clear his throat, rub his jaw, trace an old scar, purse his lips, fidget with a button, wink, spit, raise one eyebrow, stroke a beard, belch…

Quirk: A distinctive behavior that goes beyond a gesture: Won’t eat anything green, corrects improper speech, loves bad puns, doesn’t like to be touched, is afraid of heights, always misses the bus. There are numerous lists of quirks on the web.

Attribute, Trait: People have a blend of traits. Pick one or two for your character that stand out. Maybe she’s stubborn, lucky, picky, impatient, naïve, or flippant. Lists of attributes are also readily available on the web.

Skills, Abilities, and Interests: No real person is great at everything, and neither is your well-rounded character. Does your character have an education or special training? In what skills does he excel? Where is he lacking? What does your character do for a living? What does he do during down time?

Mix it Up: People are multi-dimensional. Villains can have redeemable qualities. They may rescue animals, love old movies, grow roses, or play chess in the park. Likewise, heroes have their flaws. They drink too much, have hot tempers, always run late, get easily flustered, or are slobs.

Don’t Overdo It: Creating a one-eyed, belly-scratching, kind-hearted, hypochondriac swordsmen with a penchant for chocolate is fun, but most characters will require much more subtlety.

The Internal Character

woman-1596954_960_720Backstory: Each character has a formative life that shaped him. What was the character’s childhood like? How strong were/are his family ties? Where are his parents and/or siblings? What significant event of the past shaped who the character is today? What was the character doing before the first page opened?

Secrets: A secret impacts a character’s attitudes and behaviors. It adds interest to the story because it can create tension or mystery in interpersonal dynamics. What is the character’s secret that no one else knows?

Goals: What does your character desperately desire? A protagonist’s overarching goal will often drive the story, and conflicting goals between characters may be a major source of tension. Consider that the main characters will have goals related not only to the main plot but to subplots.

Obstacles: What is the main obstacle that stands in the way of the character reaching her goal. This may be a nemesis, a personal flaw, or a condition of the culture or world. Remember that villains aren’t the only ones that can stand in a character’s way. Obstacles can be large and small and there are usually lots of them in the protagonist’s path.

Active Pursuit of Goals: At some point in the story, the character moves into an active role in overcoming obstacles and achieving goals. What triggers the change for the character? How does the character take or attempt to take active control?

posing-1022162_640The Big Fear: This is the one that terrifies – betrayal, loss of control, inability to protect loved ones, failure, death, aloneness, disgrace, insignificance, poverty, aging. It may drive the character’s goal or be an obstacle he must overcome. Fears have a basis in experience – where did this fear come from?

The Mask: A character’s mask is directly related to his fear. The mask describes how a character compensates for the Big Fear, or hides it from the world. For example, a character fearful of betrayal, may act overly independent or refuse to get close to others. Often the mask comes undone during the course of a story and the character is forced to face and perhaps overcome her fear.

Cross-Character Relationships: Another way to add interest and tension is by creating similarities between conflicting characters, and differences between companionable characters. What might the protagonist and villain have in common? Perhaps they both love horses, appreciate fine wines, or fear water. Along the same lines, how might the protagonist and his cohorts clash? One curses constantly and the other finds it offensive; one might play an instrument poorly while his companions cover their ears.

There you have it – my prompts. I hope this is helpful. Let me know if there’s something I missed!

 

**Images from Pixabay**

Sunday Blog Share: Sally’s Cafe & Bookstore

A special blog share this Sunday. If you’re a blogger or writer, Sally Cronin is a woman to know – a talented author, tireless blogger, and generous supporter of indie authors. Her blog is Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life.

Sally is running several Christmas Promotions for us this year. Here’s a brief description (with more info at the bottom of this post):

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore has over 100 authors along with buying links, covers, and website or blog link. Note: if you have a new book that hasn’t been promoted in the last year, let her know so that she can do a full promotional post.

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore Christmas Update  starts in late November. Sally will be featuring a number of authors at a time with one of their books and the latest review sourced from Amazon.

Smorgasbord Christmas Reading is a straightforward promotion of your book, open to all authors.

Bloggers Around the Christmas Tree is an opportunity for bloggers to showcase their talents and bring new readers to their blogs. Send Sally your links to posts about any aspect of this huge celebration around the world.

I had the great privilege of showing up on Sally’s Cafe & Bookstore Christmas Update.

On to Sally’s Post:

My thanks to those of you in the bookstore who have let me know your updates and news. I will feature your updates as they come in and also work my way through the bookstore finding new reviews and sharing them.  Contact me on sally.cronin@moyhill.com if your book in the store has a great new review we can showcase.

The first update is from D.Wallace Peach who has brand new covers for her Dragon Soul Quartet having moved to self-publishing.

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You can buy the complete series at a special price of £7.28 but here is Book 1 in the series.

About Myths of the Mirror

In the distant mountains of the Mirror, exiled skyriders fly dragons in the old Way, merged in flesh, blood, and bone. Twenty years past, they fought for the freedom of the valley’s dragons … and lost.

Imprisoned in the stone lair, the captive dragons beat their webbed wings and thrash serpentine tails. They tear their flesh and batter their bodies against the black bars of their cells, iron grating against iron. The once peaceful creatures howl…

(Continue reading: Sally’s Cafe & Bookstore Christmas Update) But before you go…

Be sure to click on Sally’s menu item: Christmas 2016 Smorgasbord Promotions Blogs, Books, Gifts, Short Stories for a full description of her promotions and what she needs from you to include your books or stories.

And

The Sorcerer’s Garden is FREE today.

Happy Holidays!