Tag Archives: world-building

Wind and Words – Now Available!

I’m thrilled to announce that the second book in the Stone and String series is now available! (And 99 cents for a limited time!)

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Wind and Words

Wind and Words - Book Cover

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YA Fantasy

Wind and Words is a novella, 23,000 words compared to “Stone and String’s” 8,000 words. I had a lot of fun exploring more of the Cantingen culture, word magic, and string magic. I hope you enjoy it, too. 🙂

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Life magic is not meant to be alone.

 

Everyone is born with two strings of magic. One strand is life, and the other is death.

 

When Edyli escaped the land of the dead after saving her sister, the goddess of death removed Edyli’s death magic. Without that string, Edyli is unbalanced, a “monster” who cannot sleep, cannot die, and without care, will slowly go mad.

 

Banished from her home for refusing to make amends with the goddess, Edyli is surprised to discover a child without life magic deep in the jungle—a child her remaining magic is drawn to, because those who are unbalanced are inexplicably drawn together.

 

Terrified of what might happen if the two of them touch, Edyli seeks answers about the mysterious child. If she can recover the child’s life magic, she might earn back the goddess’s favor and become whole again.

 

But one mistake, and Edyli could live forever in insanity.

You can grab your copy today for only 99 cents! (It’ll go back up to $2.99 in about a week).

Amazon (US) |Amazon (UK) | BN.com | iTunes | Kobo | Smashwords

Add Wind and Words" to Goodreads

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(UPDATE: As of 6/2/2018, all the links should now be working. 🙂

Note: My apologies if you’re in the UK, India, or Germany, and use Amazon. I’m still waiting for them to create the page for Wind and Words there. However, all other links should be working).

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Here’s an excerpt:

A flash of movement caught Edyli’s eye. The hairs on her arms prickled under her wet sari. There were predators in the jungle, and though such creatures would not approach the nearby villages, they might attack a young human who was alone. Since it was night and the sky dark, the predator could be a tiger or other creature that she could not defend against without being able to see. She could, perhaps, use word magic to discern if the creature was a threat or not, and where it came from, but since she could only rest through meditation, she did not desire to use what focus she had.

 

But something about the creature was strange.

 

Normally she would have heard the rustle of leaves or the scratching of claws, or the snap of twigs under the creature’s weight. But what she heard was silence. Utter silence. It was deafening, as if the silence drowned out the sound of the wind.

 

“Who goes there?” she asked, forcing her voice to be loud. Perhaps, if she sounded threatening enough, then whatever was out there would not force her to use magic. “Reveal yourself!”

 

A tiny form stepped out from behind a scraggly tree.

 

Edyli blinked. “Akymi?”

 

The child was the same height and size as Edyli’s little sister, but her skin was a lighter shade of brown and her hair a straight, coarse black that fell below her shoulders. She wore a ragged, plain tunic, long enough to reach her ankles but clearly oversized, as if it had been lent to her. She stared at Edyli, her posture stiff, her hands at her side. Her dark eyes seemed to stare through Edyli, her expression dead. Her black hair fell across her face as she tilted her head, and then she turned her head again so that her hair cleared away.

 

The emptiness in Edyli’s chest ached, pulling her toward the girl as if something tugged at her, calling for her to move closer, to touch the girl’s tiny hands and to make her whole again. The girl raised her arm and stretched her fingers toward Edyli. A whimper sounded in her throat. Edyli tried to step back, fear mounting inside her, but she couldn’t move. The forest around her dimmed, centering on the child. She was the only thing in Edyli’s vision, and the rest of Edyli’s vision was a black, swirling mass, as if she had fallen into a seething whirlpool made from the night sky.

 

Shadikryl fa illdratethdruv shomagi drateth noram.

 

Life magic is not meant to be alone.

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Read Wind and Words today!

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Enjoy! 😀

Sican naketonia quisé das vegra.
(May the gods grant you good fortune. – A saying from the Cantingen Islands)

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Thoughts on Writing – Using a Roleplay Game to Develop a Novel’s Backstory

Now that Distant Horizon is out in the world (Yay!), I thought I’d talk a little about how the story came about–specifically, how a role-play game led to the creation of the backstory of Distant Horizon. Granted, a lot of the campaign stories aren’t visible in the first book,  but they still played a role in the backstory of the world.

It started in 2010…

Actually, no. Let me go back just a tiny bit further. It started with tabletop role-playing that involved a group of friends in college. We all lived in the same dorm, so we met in the evenings to play various games with different people taking the part of gamemaster. At times we had several games running throughout the course of the week. How late they went into the night depended on how early we had to get up for our first class the next morning.

I was introduced to RP games through the Savage Worlds system, starting with a fun-though-inevitably tragic (the sacrifice of my favorite giant zombie dog, Snuffles…) zombie apocalypse. I had intended to watch the other players while completing my physics homework, but before the game began, I was intrigued by the various miniatures and the gamemaster’s premade characters. He had extras, so I asked to join in.

The rest is history. I eventually decided to run a few of my own games. After the first failure (where I’d had a whole story plotted out… which was, of course, destroyed as players will destroy any plot by not going the intended direction), my primary games were a Star Wars game (I amassed quite a few of the RPG books and had them spread out across the table or floor during these games for reference), and a couple superhero games.

For the superhero game, I, Isaac, and a group of friends brainstormed what powers we might have. We placed the powers into four categories, then rolled a D4 (four-sided die) and a d10 (ten-sided die) to determine what our powers were. We fiddled with the system a bit (the base we used was Savage Worlds), and did a bit of “winging it” when determining how the powers worked.

Soon we had a team of well-meaning but absolutely terrible superheroes who caused far more destruction than good. One of them obliterated a bank robber’s head with sonic scream. (*Sigh. You were supposed to take him alive.*) One nearly electrocuted himself at a hidden night club after attacking a dancing mech. (Your job was to buy a special edition teddy bear from a vendor there, not assume the whole place was hidden front for a Japanese mafia.) One bent reality… (And he was the most sane of the group). The other kept getting distracted because he wouldn’t stop flirting (But hey, we need NPCs (non-player characters) who can help out with questions, right?). Needless to say, they drove their team leaders crazy… once by driving their car right out the top of the Super Bureau’s headquarters.

In relation to Distant Horizon, I can firmly say that these guys are part of the reason that the supervillains were able to convince everyone that the superheroes were the bad guys. But that story arc came later.

In a different campaign that ran about the same time, the superheros were a smaller team, and rather more effective at their missions… including to the point where they were sent to recover a set of special pendants that had strange powers, including the ability to slow time when four of the five pendants were in close proximity. *Cough.* These pendants make an appearance in Distant Horizon, as the most powerful members of the Community now have them in their hands.

In a different shorty-campaign that used the same power set but was run by my husband (mostly because I’d just had my wisdom teeth removed and I wasn’t in the mood to do much talking or heavy thinking), a group of airship pirates stole an airship and went through a few too many portals in attempt to uncover a precious jar of blueberry jelly… which might not have actually been blueberry jelly. They might be the reason the Community exists in the Distant Horizon universe. There was a lot of tweaking to that story arc, though the blueberry jelly reference remains.

In most these cases, there are a lot of seemingly random events (okay, it was probably pretty random even at the time), but it provided a rough basis for a background… one which Isaac later twisted and developed as the basis for Distant Horizon.

That being said, there’s a lot of stuff from the original campaigns that are not being included in the novels for the sake of plot and consistency, but overall, the games were a lot of fun and helped to build a semi-consistent world of powers. We could see which powers were broken (a much later campaign that used alchemy/enchanting proved where that needed a lot of fixing), develop out how different factions might interact, and then extrapolate from there to consider where it might go next. And now we have fodder to reference in regards to the origins of the world which can help enrich the setting.

Now, you won’t see much of these plots in the first book. Most of the characters are far enough removed from these events that all you’ll hear is an occasional reference. Still, it helped build the power system and let me drop clues that will become more relevant in later stories and companion novels.

Once I finish Little One’s story, (a Distant Horizon prequel I plan to work on after Glitch and Fractured Skies have been released) then you’ll see a lot more references to these campaigns. I had quite a bit of fun placing in those Easter Eggs in the rough draft. But that one also has a more quirky (though dark) tone than some of the other stories set in this world.

Isaac and I have continued to use role-play games to develop stories and worlds, but I’ll have to go into more detail about that in another post. For now, I hope you’ve enjoyed this one. Have you ever used RPGs to help flesh out a story?

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Thoughts on Writing – Developing a Fictional Language (Maijevan)

Lately, I’ve been working a bit on my conlangs (constructed languages). I started out with the Cantingen language (a “word magic” system used throughout my The Wishing Blade series). I’ve been developing it over time, adding words here and there as required and every once in a while going on a spree to flesh it out.

While going through my latest round of edits on The Shadow War (book two of the series), I double-checked that my attempts to create sensical sentences were correct. Most weren’t, and I had to rewrite many of the instances where the language was included. But I had a chance to flesh it out even more in “Stone and String” (tentative title), a short story based on the Cantingen Islands. I’m super excited to be working on that soon, as I’ve just about got all the feedback from the people I’ve asked to beta-read.

However, that short story led me to thinking about other places in the world of The Wishing Blade that I might want to develop further. Namely, Maijev. It’s a large city in the land of Cirena, but unlike the rest of the kingdom, it has a reputation for being anti-mage and isolated. Mages usually avoid the place because there’s something about the area that burns at their skin if they try to use ribbon magic (word magic is unaffected) and generally makes them uncomfortable.

I’ve gone back and forth on whether or not they should have their own language. Would they only speak that? Probably not. But it did seem possible they would have one for when they didn’t want to be listened to by outsiders, so I started considering how it would sound.

I’ve based the appearance of some of the character’s names from Maijev on Russian names, and as such, used that as a starting point. I looked to see what differences there were between Russian and English (such as the lack of vowel sounds and the concepts of perfective and imperfective aspects). Then I took that and ran (in other words, what I’ve developed thus far of the Maijevan language probably doesn’t look a thing like Russian. I haven’t studied the language, so I don’t know much about it).

Anyway, I started out by writing a few notes about Maijev’s general culture, which could affect the language.

  1. They don’t acknowledge the gods, at least not separately, though they understand that they exist. They might categorize the gods the same as immortal monsters (gods/immortals should be same word)
  2. Magic is cursed. Or, if not “cursed” per se, it is considered something akin to “evil”
  3. Whatever it is coming from the ground that burns mages is what keeps them safe
  4. Competition is encouraged/fierce.
  5. High possibility of strong family bonds? (Might explain why the lord of the city adopts a mage for a son… never mind that he sorely distrusts mages)
  6. They acknowledge a feudal-like caste system
  7. They’re fascinated with technology/science/academia. (While the rest of Cirena is fascinated with magic and what magic can do, Maijev has more-or-less started into the age of the industrial revolution).

I decided that their language system would be very rigid and precise. It’s a phonetic language, and for the most part, you can tell exactly how to pronounce a word based on the spelling. Also, the sentence structure is organized in a specific format:

(Subject) (Negative, if negative) (Perfect/Imperfect) (Tense) (Verb)

I also decided on a few additional rules:

  1. No articles.
  2. Adjectives and adverbs use same word. “Quiet” and “quietly” are both digaev) but placement determines which it is.
  3. When there is more than one adjective or adverb, it is separated by “and” (vo).
  4. Adjectives are placed immediately after the noun in question.
  5. Adverbs are placed immediately after the verb in question.
  6. Verbs are not conjugated. A subject of some form should always be given to show who is acting.

Thus, “The small and quiet dog was digging.” becomes Nitilver vreg vo digaev ni miski natch.

  • nitilver – (subject) dog
  • vreg – (adjective) small
  • vo -(conjunction) and
  • digaev – (adjective) quiet
  • ni – (imperfective aspect) – shows the action was not completed
  • miski – (past tense) shows that the verb happened in the past
  • natch – (verb) to dig

Now, I’m considering removing the past tense word miski and simply replacing it with ni (imperfective – incomplete action) or gadi (perfective – completed action), but then, that would remove the ambiguity if someone didn’t use either aspect. But, if they like having a rigid society, perhaps they don’t have an ambiguous form. Haven’t decided yet.

What have I learned thus far about creating a fictional language?

  1. It was helpful to create a list of phonemes and sounds first. That way I could create words without worrying that I might use a sound later that I don’t want to include in the language. Conversely, once I started working with it, I realized I wanted to include a couple extra vowel sounds.
  2. It was also helpful to create the sentence structure and rules system before trying to create sentences. Now I know a bit more about what words the language even uses, and won’t be stuck rewriting sentences later.

However, I’m not a linguist, and I could be doing these things completely wrong (I wasn’t familiar with how imperfective and perfective aspects worked before I started toying with this idea).

And it might not even matter, because, as Isaac (my husband) pointed out, the Maijevan and Cirenan languages should be at least somewhat related. So I need to go create the Cirenan structure before I do much more work with Maijevan. On the bright side, since this time period is far from the “original” use of the language, and Cirena is a much more travel-oriented community, I might have it pull a few stunts from English. That is, itcan borrow words from the other languages, and have a few more “irregular” rules. *Shudder.*

But, given the mythology of their world… well, we’ll see what happens.

I hope you enjoyed this post. Have you tried creating any fantasy languages of your own? 🙂

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Thoughts on Writing – How A Deleted Scene Turned into A Short Story Idea

Hello, again! I realize I’ve been silent for awhile, and I thought I’d give a quick update. See, I’m sort of between projects. Distant Horizon is being read by a proofreader, and I’ve gotten notes back for The Shadow War… and I apparently have a few plot holes that need to be addressed before  I can make much progress. That, and I finally finished the beta-reading project I’ve been long overdue on!

But that left me in writing-limbo. It’s not like I don’t have a bunch of projects to work on. (Trust me, I’ve got plenty of rough drafts begging to be polished). But I didn’t want to start anything big until my two main projects were finished.

And, well, I’ve been reading a lot about short stories and the concept of short stories and then I kind of decided… why not write a short story while I’m waiting?

It started with edits to The Shadow War. One concern had to do with the numerous point of view shifts. There are two characters in particular who had scenes, but, upon second look, I realized might not add much to the story itself (Never mind that I thoroughly enjoyed them).

My first thought was to take one of those scenes (since I rarely delete anything, I copied them into a separate document before removing them from the book) and flesh it into a short story from the point of view of one of the antagonists or semi-antagonists.

Problem with that was two-fold. First… spoilers. All the spoilers. There would be no way around it with the scenes I wanted to write. Second… background details that I wasn’t ready to explore. There’s a highly-detailed world behind The Wishing Blade, and not all the details have been worked out. The ones pertaining to the main plot are mostly in place, but some of the ‘how did this character get here‘ have not.

So I pushed those ideas out for now (Someday I want to write a novel or novella that looks at the antagonists of the series. I could have so much fun with their stories).

Instead, I started looking at areas in the world which interest me, but have nothing to do with the main story. Or, well… are only vaguely related. In this case, the Cantingen Islands. Remember that word magic conlang I’ve been working on? It features heavily in the rough draft of the third book, but from an outsider’s perspective. But I’ve wanted to do more with it, and actually take a look at their mythology and culture.

Enter the short story idea for Stone and String (tentative title). My goal was to write a short story between 5,000 to 10,000 words, with a cohesive beginning, middle, and end. And that goal has been achieved, completing the story at 8,000 words!

The story takes place in the Cantingen Islands, around the time of Magic’s Stealing but not tied to any of the main characters. It explores word magic to a degree, but focuses heavily on their afterlife, as the main character is a young girl who trades her death magic for a chance to see her little sister after an accident kills her.

The story is off to beta-readers now, but I’m hoping that edits go smoothly and I can publish it here in the next couple months. Hopefully it will tide readers over until I can finish The Shadow War.

If people enjoy it, I may write more short stories following the particular character. If not… well, it’s a stand-alone, so it won’t leave anyone on a cliffhanger.

Now, the caveat is that I plan on releasing the short story through Kindle Select so that it can be placed in Kindle Unlimited. Which means, at least for a few months, it won’t be available outside of Amazon. I’m curious to see if it might bring new readers to the series.

But the main books will continue to be available through multiple channels, as I prefer not to have all my eggs in one basket.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this post! Have you tried using Kindle Select, or had luck writing stand-alone short stories? 🙂

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Thoughts on Writing- Developing a Fictional Language

A while back, I wrote a post about creating a fantasy language. Today, as I’m continuing to plot for The Wishing Blade series, I want to expand on that idea. What things should we consider when developing a fictional language?

I’d say part of that depends on the purpose of the language. If you’re only going to have it show in one or two scenes, a word here or there, you might only need to create those few words and consider how it sounds regarding the culture of the people who use it.

If, on the other hand, you plan to write whole paragraphs in it, have miscommunication issues (or spells that backfire–as with the Cantingen word magic in The Wishing Blade series), or use it explain part of the culture or mythology, you might want to go a little more in detail in regards to how the language functions, even if your reader never sees most of it.

I’ve been skimming through articles, trying to get an idea of things to keep an eye out for, and this article in particular has some great suggestions as to what sort of things to keep in mind when creating a language. Things such as the range of sounds your language has, how words are stressed, and how to change words from present to past tense.

I already know that I’m not going to have a perfect fictional language and there are going to be imperfections. But, having a set of rules that are relatively easy to follow, as well as a dictionary of sorts, should help to alleviate that problem.

Starting out, I took all the phrases I’d already written for the first book and broke them apart, figuring out what each word was and entering that into an Excel file. (As a side note, I just discovered that it will sometimes enter suffixes for you if you have the same word ending row after row in the same column–conjugation got faster!) Then I considered common words that I might run into: colors, directions, verbs, nouns, elements…

Once I had a general list, I started double checking to make sure none of them had the exact same sound (since word magic is based on pronunciation), and that words that have the same sounds have the same spelling, so I could picture it correctly.

For example, I wrote out the cardinal direction and created versions for both Cantingen and Cirenan words:

English || {Cantingen} || Cirenan
North || {Chudé} || Chud
East || {Nuré} || Nur
South || {Sidé} || Sid
West || {Dre} || Dreh
Dimension || {Dribé} ||
Southwest || {Sidé si dre} || Sid-Dreh

(Note: ‘si’ is the equivalent of ‘and’)

Since word magic has a concept of there being different realms and dimensions, I also included that word in the Cantingen language regarding directions (though I’m still working out the details), but did not include it in Cirenan. You can see how the two languages are related, obviously having branched off from one or the other.

I’m still working on grammatical rules, but I’ve figured out thus far that verbs will primarily be regular conjugations (thus making it easier to read because the endings for a verb will always be the same.

Subject {-suffix} || Conjugated Verb (dacin – to destroy)

I {-a} ||  dacina (I destroy)

You (Person) {-at} || dacinat (You destroy)

You (Imperative//Magic) {-an} ||dacinan (Magic destroys) (Note: This is the form often used when a word mage is commanding magic to do something)

He {-on} || dacinon (He destroys)

She {-ol} || dacinol (She destroys)

They {-eht} || dacineht (They destroy)

It {-tra} || dacintra (It destroys)

(Note: Word mages probably wouldn’t use this particular verb in their spells because it’s too vague.)

I’ve been debating adding additional suffixes for goddess and god, essentially a “formal” version of he/she and they. Haven’t yet decided on that, though.

Originally, when I started creating the Cantingen language, I planned on them having a very specific set of words, and no more than those words. The idea was that they would sometimes have to create convoluted phrases to mean something very simple.

Problem is… that’s really convoluted. (And something I may be fixing in the current draft of The Shadow War.

For example, let’s look at this phrase as it currently stands:

Be la niitan musieh shodo li dohlé’jute trorlat si fora lel sarana si tasse lel urell duhan so mitora en eh chi rov’wida so nocho Pellmer chono la be.

Simply put, it’s a portal spell to the grassy plains of Pellmer.

The spell itself isn’t that simple.

Here’s a part of the English translation, with asterisks denoting breaks between words:

(Open)*Create*all and any*transfer-passage*as window-door*12 feet high and six feet wide* direct-front*of my seeing*to*any-safe*grass-field*of*Pellmer*(Close)

That’s… not easy to read at all.

Okay, let’s break that down even further.

The open (Be la) and close (la be) statements signify the start and end of a spell. Required for word magic to work properly.

niit is the word for “to create,” with niitan being the imperative telling magic to create something.

musieh – all and any (mu si eh) – English equivalent to “everything”

shodo – passage

li – in the form of (as a)

dohlé’jute –  dohlé (window),  the apostrophe symbolizes “of” or possession, jute (door) –

trorlat si fora  – ten and two (12)

lel sarana– (lel) measurement akin to feet, sarana (referring to height)

si – and

tasse – six

lel urell – (lel) measurement akin to feet, urell (referring to width)

…And so forth. I think I may want to break it down just a bit more and make it easier to work with. I mean, those poor word mages have it bad enough just trying to pronounce it right.

Eventually, I’d like to go through the language sometime with IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) and mark all the sounds to keep it consistent, plus design a script that the Cantingen word mages use based on the common sounds.

For now, I’ve got various conjugations created, and I’m trying to work from there. To fully flesh out the language, I’m considering trying to translate English phrases so that I can create words I might not otherwise consider.

For example, I spent about an hour or so taking a passage from The Shadow War, translating that intro a structure the Cantingen language would use, and then translating that into the Cantingen language (after double-checking my glossary and coming up with new words.

This is what I came up with:

Original Passage (English):

Siklana kept reading. “Listhant gave Diandae permission to open a portal into ‘the Old Realm,’ where Ruetravahn retrieved his words of power.” She paused. “This could mean that word magic isn’t really a split from Old Cirenan, but something altogether different.”

Passage rewritten to match style of Cantingen language (Still in English):

Siklana continued to read. “Listhant permitted Diandae to create a portal to the Old Realm. In the Old Realm, Ruetravahn retrieved the Words-of-Power.” Siklana stopped reading. “This scroll I am reading uncertainly explains that the Words-of-Power are something inherently different from the Old Cirenan language.

Passage in Cantingen language:

Siklana ahaolsho shi. “Listhant mocon Diandae niitol Dribékre. Da Dribékre, Ruetravahn glaton Shadi.” Siklana shiylagsho. Keh mishia uuhtrafo Shadilakosha clisé Quisrena’Casikre.

Now, the fun part of this was trying to read the passage aloud, based on the rules of pronunciation I’ve come up with. Each vowel is pronounced separately, with the exception of two vowels which are the same. For example, ‘aa’ is held longer than ‘a’ by itself or next to another vowel (or maybe it’s inflected more… I need to do more studying of phrases regarding language construction). Many of the consonants sound “harder.”

Needless to say, my reading didn’t go smoothly. Could be because I haven’t practiced it, or could be due to my current pronunciation rules. I’m considering adding in more letters and vowels that are smoother when I add additional words, as I originally pictured it being a much more flowing language, which would have made it easier for word mages to perform spells. Right now, there are a lot more stops and starts and broken sounds.

Once I work out a bit more of the language, I’ll probably go back through the second book and make sure that the phrases there still make sense. I’ve already been going back and correcting a few of the mistakes I’ve seen.

I hope you enjoyed this post. 🙂 Have you ever tried creating your own language for a story you wrote?

 

Related Reading :

http://www.councilofelrond.com/subject/how-to-create-your-own-language/ – An article with a lot of useful things to consider when creating a language

https://www.facebook.com/groups/Linguistics.and.conlangs/ – Facebook group that discusses conlangs

http://www.wired.com/2015/09/conlang-book/ – Article talking about the creation of Game of Throne’s “Dothraki” language

http://www.stormthecastle.com/mainpages/for_writers/using-invented-language-in-your-novel.htm – Ideas to make it easier on your readers if you use a conlang

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Thoughts on Writing – Considering Attire in World Building

Last weekend Isaac and I went to Planet Comicon as volunteers, and we had a lot of fun! During our off time, we got to see some cool panels, spent money in the vendor room (Always have a budget… it helps), and saw a neat cosplay.

However, the side-effect of going to Planet Comicon and NakaKon is the resulting desire to write and draw comics. (Originally we had planned on writing The Multiverse Chronicles in comic book form, but that didn’t happen. We kept the idea of doing illustrations, though).

Long story short, Isaac and I were trying to get Photoshop CS6 installed on his new laptop (and the program wasn’t quite cooperating), so I had some downtime while chatting with the Adobe representatives. Since my mind was side-tracked with the idea of how to convert one of our later planned series, Exiles, into a comic book format, I decided to try sketching one of the main characters.

This was the result:

Exiles Character Concept Art

When I looked at her armor, I realized it really didn’t quite… work (I’ve never been particularly good at drawing armor). It didn’t fit what I had pictured. So I started looking up modern day outfits. The real-life Special Forces uniforms didn’t match the in-universe uniforms, so I looked a bit more to SWAT teams for inspiration. Had Isaac help with the visors… (my first attempt at their helmets looked like something from Hunger Games), and then we looked over both uniforms.

This was the result of the uniform sketches:

Exiles Special Forces Uniform Concept Art

Ultimately, our conversation concluded with us discussing that their outfits should match the reason they need that outfit.

For example, the reason our in-universe Special Forces look like a SWAT team is because when they came about, they were dealing with people who had super powers. People who could throw fireballs or used super strength. People who might use swords just because they had a super skill that made them extraordinary with a blade.

These guys needed to be equipped to deal with powers.

For that reason, Isaac and I considered that the original outfit I drew might not be that far-fetched, at least for certain teams. Having a form of armor around their arms and shoulders would be seriously helpful if they got into melee combat… and might protect against burns. They probably wouldn’t want to have a bunch of pouches on the outside of their uniform (do you really want your equipment easily accessible to someone who is telekinetic)? In fact, their outfits might be modular. If they expected to go up against a certain kind of adversary in a certain situation, they could adjust accordingly.

Look at historical “knights in shining armor” and consider that chainmail was more effective at blocking certain types of weapons and strikes than others. Plate armor also came with certain advantages and disadvantages. If you didn’t take this sort of thing into account (or couldn’t), you were at a major disadvantage. There’s an interesting discussion about the effectiveness of chainmail here.

However, those considerations meant that our newer sketches still worked. In areas where super powers are unheard of (the Community), our Special Forces would be more likely to wear the bulkier outfits with all the pockets and gear that would be effective against ordinary assailants. But if they were going up against a group of rebels, they might be more cautious of what they wore.

When you are developing your world, keep the clothing of your characters in mind. What would they wear for practicality? What, if removed from the equation, might create a problem for them?

For example, in our Exiles story, none of the outfits our main characters have fit them properly. They snatch the clothes from a shipment of cargo, wear what they can, and have to make do with what else they can find, at least for a little while. It’s a problem they have to solve.

You can use the attire of a character to enrich the world, and the culture of that world. Why are they wearing what they’re wearing? Is it because they can afford to? Can’t afford not to? What is available to them?

Have you considered the attire your characters well as part of your world building? Can you think of any examples of outfits that fit really well (or not at all) in their story’s world?

Also, if you want to watch an interesting review of real-life body armor versus armor from science fiction (Halo), The Game Theorists did an in-depth video on Youtube. Found that interesting a while back, and Isaac remembered it today when we were reviewing our concept art.

I hope you enjoyed this post. 🙂

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Thoughts on Writing – Referencing Other Books For Writing Style

One of the things I’ve found helpful when writing specific scenes, especially if I’m aiming for a certain tone or voice, is to read a book with a similar style. For example, in the latest scene I’m editing for The Multiverse Chronicles, I’m working on part two of an episode that has a certain pterosaur’s point of view. In the previous episode (Episode 13: The Test – Part One), the curious pterosaur has been captured by “mangy humans.”

This is the first paragraph from one of the earlier drafts of the intro to Part Two:

 

For days, the mangy men dragged the young pterosaur around the island with their floating hut. If she could keep up, she was rewarded with fresh fish. If she failed to keep up, the pain of the chain around her neck motivated her to try harder. Eventually she got fast, and then the men started taking her to a small village on the main land.

 

Curious about what the antagonists were actually doing, I asked Isaac what he was picturing the antagonists doing (partially because I wanted to know more about the boat). He gave me a bit more detail, and I ended up taking a 700 word scene and turning it into a 1,600 word scene. (Remember what I said before about my tendency to go into detail? This is especially true when I ask him questions about a small scene, then run rampant.)

When I first tried figuring out how we might flesh this out, the imagery that came to mind was an old book. If I have my classics right, that book is Black Beauty, which I vaguely remember as a story about a horse’s life as he’s passed from owner to owner. Though I could be mixing up horse stories, I seem to remember a scene with a cruel or uncaring master, which is similar to what I wanted for this scene.

While I didn’t have a copy of Black Beauty on hand, the Goodreads page for this book had a nice-sized preview which gave me a feel for the writing style, voice, and things I might look for. In fact, reading about the horse’s “breaking” reminded me of handicapped horse races, which involved using weights to slow horses down (I was a fan of horse-racing computer games).

Thus, I wondered if the antagonists might be able to use lead weights to burden our pterosaur protagonist, intending to build her strength so she would fly faster. (Originally, they started up their steamboat and dragged her around the island, making her keep up. But when the pterosaur is mentioned later in the story as being able to fly up to 80 miles per hour without a rider, and a quick Google search revealed that an average steamboat speed was 30 miles per hour… our antagonists had to improvise.)

 

Anyhow, the first paragraph turned into something like this (still needs polishing):

 

After the young pterosaur’s capture, the mangy humans kept her chained to their floating hut. At first, she fought the chains. She snapped at the chain and flapped her wings, but the chain held fast and the boat was anchored, and she found herself pulled from the shore and into the water. Though the humans at the hatchery had kept her enclosed in their dome, they never bound her with a dirty, ragged chain, which tore at her skin and mangled her scales.

 

She was not a happy pterosaur.

 

Later that evening, the weathered man with straw-colored hair approached her with a pile of hemp rope in his hands. She shrieked at him and flared her wings, but he just smiled, revealing a set of broken teeth and grit in his wrinkled skin. The pterosaur snapped at him—let him see that her teeth were not broken! He only laughed. He dumped the rope on the sand and returned to his hut.

 

Shortly thereafter, the two men cornered her. The jeered as she tried to thwap them with her wings, and too soon they had cast a net of rope over her head. Her beak caught and her claws caught and her crest caught, too. She struggled, but the only result was to become further tangled. No escape.

 

Now that she was tethered, the weathered man knelt beside her and bound her beak so she could not bite, tied her claws so she could not scratch, and finally, strapped a leaden pad to her back.

 

They removed the net.

 

Furious, she tried to launch herself at them, only to stumble and collapse in the sand. How heavy were these weights, which prevented her from standing. She shrugged her shoulders, trying to at least sit upright. No such luck, for the weights held her down.

 

A fierce whistle pierced the air and a gust of steam rose from a metal pipe above the floating hut. What a terrible noise!

 

Then suddenly her chains lurched and she was torn into the ocean. Salty water splashed into her eyes and nostrils.

 

The floating hut moved, and the weights dragged her deeper. Her mind screamed that she could not fly, nor swim, so long as the chain held her fast. She sank, still flapping her wings, splashing.

 

This goes on for a bit before we see the end of the original paragraph with the pterosaur in the village, but hey… we get a lot more personality from the characters, more of the world, and more emotion. However, there might be some trimming in the near future. We’ll see what our beta-reader says.

The scene might not feel exactly like Black Beauty, but it isn’t meant to. I was looking for inspiration. Reading sections of a book with a style you want to mimic helps improve similar scenes as those books can give insights into the style of writing, voice, and terminology you might need.

I’ve used this technique several times. Reading Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and Something Wicked This Way Comes for the rough draft of Little One, various horror stories for Glitch, and Steelheart for final touches on Distant Horizon.

You don’t want to match the voice exactly, but seeing what other books do or don’t do well can teach you tricks to use in your own writing.

I hope you enjoyed the sneak peek of the next episode of The Multiverse Chronicles. 🙂

Have you found any books to be helpful in developing the stories you’re writing?

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