On Writing - Archive - July 2014

  • Building Grey: Encyclopaedia

    July 30, 2014

    Today's topic is an idea that didn't occur to me until I was almost done with Fallen Throne. But after doing it, I can't imagine writing a story without one. It'll help you remember the history you're creating so you don't repeat it later. You can avoid repetition when naming places and people. It can also serve as the place where you save descriptions for everything that don't quite make it into your story. I'm talking about an encyclopedia.

    Not a literal book, but a file where you save the bits and pieces that make up the details in your story, and I find writing it all down alphabetically helps. Every character, every place, every creature, every book or play or piece of entertainment that gets mentioned. Every time you add something to your story, make a note of it in your encyclopedia

    Not only does this serve for a quick reference if you want to flesh out a particular detail, but you'll have an easy place to store it. For instance, had I bothered to keep an encyclopedia from the start, I would have much fewer female characters that have a first name that begins with A. Aerika, Annika, Anne, Arilessca, Arlene, Alice. I love these names, but in hindsight I think I would of sprinkled in some variety.

    Keeping a reference is also handy because your memory isn't as great as you think it is. What was the capitol of M'lan? What did Khristian name his crossbow? What did I call that layered peanut butter and chocolate dessert from Arcturus? As great as searching my story sounds, skimming my encyclopedia is much faster. It also comes in handy when you name someone new, and can make sure you don't already have someone running around with that name.

    Additionally, the encyclopedia is a great place to flesh out the history of your story without bloating your book. Maybe I want to expand on the tale of a teenage Jenner slaying the great green wyrm, or Aerika's birth father, or Roland's pilgrimage with the one god. You can write as much into your reference guide as you want, without worry of ruining the pace of your current story.

    And finally, once your story is famous, you have a nice tome of information that fans would love to get their hands on, and you've already written it.

    Until next time, always be writing.

  • Building Grey: Geography

    July 28, 2014

    Today I'm going to talk a little bit about geography. Not ours, though that's important too. Geography is important in most stories. Stories generally take place somewhere. If you're writing anything that takes place in the real world, you have tremendous resources at your disposal.

    People all over the world have been compiling information for you to use. You don't need to figure out how long a flight from Los Angeles to Paris is. Or how many miles does it take to get from New York to Atlanta. Most of these resources are a google search away. Be sure to use them.

    If you've got some amazing story, but don't know where it should start, there's nothing wrong with your home town. You already know where all the best locations are. You might have to change some specific names, but all the places are there. Don't sweat the details like this when you don't need to. Let the internet, or your life experiences, help you.

    However, sometimes you are going to places no one has gone before. How far is it from Balthwell to Caulment. How big is the M'lan empire. How many days does it take to walk from the eastern to the western border of Arcturus. You don't need to know every detail, but as soon as your characters start getting around, you'll be creating distances whether you know it or not.

    First off, maps are still your friends. I don't know about you, but I'm no expert on the formation of rivers, mountains, forests and plains. Don't be afraid to lift some ideas from what nature has produced. Their are four main nations in the World of Grey; Ramza, Arcturus, M'Lan and Ouran. I looked at many maps of Great Britain, Germany, Egypt and Ireland, respectively, for ideas on how these land masses would look. Plus when you start writing about the locations you are creating, you have some visual references in your head to draw from

    Even if you decide to go completely original or have surreal landscapes, it never hurts to study up for inspiration. These tools are all about making your work simpler, not more difficult. Sometimes you'll want to sketch out a rough map, just to keep places in check. If it takes four weeks to get to one place, and five weeks to get to the next, just make sure the places are appropriately far apart, so if you ever have people go back to those locations, you already know the distance, and don't contradict yourself. Or just some a record of how long it takes to travel from one point to another.

    I think that's enough for now. Stay well-traveled, friends.

  • Building Grey: The Outline

    July 25, 2014

    These first few posts, I feel like I'm stating the obvious with these tools. After talking to other writers, I find some use certain tools, but not others. I use them all, and I've found them all helpful.

    The first tool is the outline. I'm not talking about just a synopsis of the story you are telling. I'm talking about before your story, after your story, and maybe what's going on in other parts of the setting while your story is going on.

    At this point, you may not even know where your story is going. You have a few rough ideas and that's it. Fallen Throne started as, I want a story where one person starts out protecting someone else. That was it. So I started jotting down what was going to happen on this adventure. Then I asked myself some questions. The characters' motivations, how they came to be where they are. So I started writing backgrounds. Khristian's parents, grandparents. Were they always in Caulment. How did Aerika get to Caulment. Who were her parents.

    By this point, I have questions about nations, lands, kingdoms. I jot down a rough outline of when things get formed. I can flesh it out later, but I have to get it on paper. Or, on file at this point. I never fail to have a good idea, only to forget it days later because I never wrote it down. I'll do another post at some point on why you should have a tablet/smartphone/netbook/recorder with you at all times.

    But I was talking about outlines. Another problem I have is only focusing on one thing. As soon as I have Khristian and Aerika, I want to know where they are going, who they meet, who they marry. Little bits of information that shape their futures, even if those futures will never have story put to page. But it's all useful.

    Don't be afraid to change your timeline. Both as you're making it and as you're writing your story. Everything you create is malleable. Don't become a slave to what you create. And look back on your timeline often. Whenever you get stuck on writing a stretch of your book, you may find you already fleshed out the answer you're looking for. Or you see the perfect place to insert an answer.

  • Welcome to my website

    July 23, 2014

    It took a while to get everything put together, but it's finally in working order.  There's still a few kinks to work out, but the bulk of the hard stuff is out of the way.

    If you found this through a search, then be aware that prior to this site, I was doing most of my updates through facebook and google plus.  I'll slowly be getting all the content I posted over there into my blog here, but if you want to read all of the things now, check out the social network links above.

    But once this site is caught up with my social network updates, this site will update the same as the social networks.  So you can have content delivered to you in whichever way you prefer to read about it.

    Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you enjoy however much time you decide to spend in The World of Grey.