My new non-fiction book on building worlds for writers is now available in both print and ebook format. It’s only fifty pages – but those fifty pages are packed with information on how to build your own worlds when writing fiction. Each section steps you through questions that, when answered, will give you a world beyond imagination. You can get it at Amazon. For only six bucks, it’s a bargain. 🙂
In addition to the birthdays, quote and tips, I’m happy to announce the print version of my futuristic romance, Danger on Xy-One, is available from Ellora’s Cave Blush. It’s been available as an ebook, but now will be in print format as well. The publisher is Ellora’s Cave found in their “Blush” line (the non-erotic portion of the site). It is a futuristic romance full of danger, mystery, and, of course, romance. A story in the Hunters for Hire series.
Aleksia Matthews is an asteroid assayer who would like nothing better than to be left alone. Her life is soon turned upside down when a band of ruthless pirates attack her ship. Shemanages to escape, but fears the worst for her brother. Ali swears revenge. Although well-trained by Fleet Security, she knows she can’t do the job alone. When she literally runs into a stranger, Jason Cole she knows she has met the perfect partner — in more ways than one.
Special agent and Bounty Hunter, Jason has spent the past year tracking the pirates who killed his brother Zack and Zack’s family. He’s always one step behind, too late to help the victims. There are never any survivors — until now. It is up to him to keep Ali alive and out of trouble until the gang can be captured, and maybe longer. Buy here: http://www.ellorascave.com/danger-on-xy-one-1.html#
Birthdays: Mark Handley, Michael Resnick, Howard Pyle
Tips and Teasers: Go to your nearest public library and browse the stacks. Check out areas you don’t normally go. What can you find that’s new and different for you?
Thought for the day: “When I sit down at my writing desk, time seems to vanish. I think it’s a wonderful way to spend one’s life.” – Erica Jong.
There are three sections of a story: Beginning (Act I), Middle (Act II), and End (Act III). Many writing teachers have broken these down into other parts such as scene/sequel, and more, but the basic structure remains the same: three acts.
If you write fantasy, paranormal, or science fiction, do yourself a favor and get the book: “The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers” by Christopher Vogler. It is based on Campbell’s “The Hero’s Journey” and is a fabulous way to learn about novel structure. If you don’t write in these genres, get the book anyway, you won’t be sorry.
Here are the tips in a nutshell. And no, I won’t go into detail. Mr. Vogler deserves the honor of being the best source for this information and I will not undermine his sales. 🙂
Campbell and Vogler break each act down into different parts. I will concentrate on Vogler’s interpretation here. His sections include:
Act I: Ordinary World, Call to Adventure, Refusal of the Call, Meeting with the Mentor, Crossing the first threshold
Act II: Tests, Allies, Enemies; Approach to the Inmost Cave; Ordeal; Reward
Act III: The road back, resurrection, return with the elixir
If you look at these through well-known stories, as he does, you can see where the breakdowns are. For instance, he uses the Star Wars movies as examples. We see Luke in his ordinary world with his uncle, he is called to adventure by Obi Wan, he refuses the call by insisting he has to help his aunt and uncle, he meets with his mentor (actually accepts that Obi Wan is his mentor) and crosses the first threshold by leaving the farm. He is tested, meets allies and enemies, goes through several ordeals, and gains the reward of being able to destroy the Death Star. He returns with his friends with new powers and a new life.
Not exactly. It is simple when broken down to these basic units, but it can be decidedly difficult to write. However, by using Vogler’s approach, you may get a better grip on where things are going than if you just go forward with no plan at all.
You can also break the three act structure down into just scenes and sequels. A scene is nothing more than something that is happening. The sequel is what comes after that event. Each scene should contain a goal, a reason for that goal, and the conflict. What is happening in the scene? Why? What will happen if something goes wrong and your hero doesn’t achieve his/her goal in that scene? There has to be an event of some sort. It doesn’t have to be huge, it can be subtle and small, but there has to be a reason for it. The main character for that scene (does not have to be the main character of the story) should have to make a decision of some sort. What happens when s/he makes that decision? It should lead to consequences. This is your sequel. Then build from there. Each event should lead to the next and so on until the climax and end.
This is plotting.
For now, I’ll just leave you with these basics. I’ll go into more detail later on. But do yourself a favor and look for Vogler’s book. It is an excellent one.
Homework: Watch a movie. Or two or ten. Figure out the structure and apply it to the above. Can you figure out where each part happens?
This is a class I teach in a variety of workshops. I was going to place the tons of information I’ve gathered for my classes here, but the outline I have is twenty pages long – and that’s just the outline. It’s much too involved to include here, so I’m going to give you the absolute best place I’ve ever seen for world building. Science Fiction Writer’s of America is one of the best sites to visit for information. Not only is the world-building information great, but so is their Writer Beware blog and more. No matter what you write, this is one of the best places possible to visit.
When you are world building for your story, whether it’s fantasy, science fiction, speculative fiction, or even a historical, gather the information, but don’t dump it all into your story. Like characterization, all that background is for you. You’ll use some of it, but you won’t use it all. But it will show in your writing because you’ll write like you actually know the place. It will come across naturally instead of forced.
When creating your worlds, don’t forget the physical as well as the note taking.
When I was creating my world for “Akashan’te”, I happened to be on vacation with my family at the shore. All that sand. So I started building my lands. The kids got in the game and we grew the world, and several more. Since I couldn’t very well bring the beach home, I took lots of pictures and, when I got home, sketched it out. You don’t have to have the ocean and beach nearby in order to create your worlds. Clay works well. Or papier’ mache. Or blocks. Or anything that gives you perspective. Think about the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and how the main character sculpted his mashed potatoes. I don’t recommend the later scene where he built the mountain in his living room, but a smaller version will work. Have fun with it.
So this week, take a look at the site for SFWA and grab some sculpting tools and have fun!
What do I write?
You’ve got your space all set up, or you know where you’re going to go to write. You’ve got your supplies. You sit down and you look at the blank page…and you blank. What do you write?
This is the first big challenge. A lot of people claim they want to write, but when it comes to actually doing the work, they back off. They don’t have a clue where to start or what to write. The blank page, whether paper or a computer screen, can be intimidating.
One of the first things you need to figure out is what genre you want to write in. There several major genres and dozens of subgenres to choose from. Let’s start with some of the main ones (Note: since I’m talking novels, I’m talking strictly fiction here)(second note: this is by no means a comprehensive list):
- Adventure (aka Action-Adventure) – these are stories where the main character does something risky in order to obtain something. Examples include Indiana Jones, Die Hard, Jackie Chan
- Comedy – something inane, lighthearted, witty, designed to make the reader chuckle. Examples: Marx Brothers, Lucille Ball, Jackie Chan (an example of a combination of two or more genres)
- Fantasy – contains magic and/or supernatural beings/devices. It is magic based and not technology based. Dragons, sword and sorcery, witches, etc. Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, etc. (C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, J.K. Rowling)
- Horror – a story meant to shock or scare the reader. Anything by Stephen King fits this genre, but the father of all is Edgar Allen Poe. Also check out Mary Shelley, Dean Koontz, Anne Rice.
- Mystery – focuses on a problem, usually a murder, to be solved. Includes many subgenres like true crime, crime and cozies. Agatha Christie books, James Patterson, Mary Higgins Clark, Perry Mason, Carl Hiaason, Elmore Leonard – all good mystery writers.
- Romance – a story about the relationship between two main characters. Though romances run the gamut of subgenres (romantic suspense(mystery), futuristic romance, paranormal(fantasy), sweet, snarky, etc.) the main focus of the story is the development of the relationship and not the underlying genre. Norah Roberts, Susan Wiggs, Katie MacAllister, Kathleen Woodiwiss, Beatrice Small and more.
- Science fiction – uses technology. If there is no science, there can be no science fiction. You might have a dragon – but you’d better have a plausible, science-based reason for it being in your world. It can include apocalyptic, post-apocalyptic, dystopian, alternate history, alternate universes, aliens, genetics, plagues, military, social science fiction (concerned less with technology and more with society – think 1984), space opera, cyber-punk, steampunk and more. Examples: Star Wars, Avatar, Wild Wild West, Star Trek, Firefly
- Thriller – usually something that involves spies, espionage, dark crimes, disasters, etc. where there is a constant sense of impending doom or physical threats. Silence of the Lambs can fit this as well as any Tom Clancy book, Ludlum’s Bourne series, etc.
- Western – any story set in the American west, usually involves ranches, cowboys and girls. Authors include Zane Grey, Louis Lamour.
- Literary (also known to some as “Women’s Fiction” – though I might argue with this) – usually have strong female protagonists (heroines) overcoming personal issues. Not always with a happy ever after ending. Authors include Fannie Flagg, Nicholas Sparks, Anne Rivers Siddons, and more.
Each of these can be combined with each other or with other sub-genres to make dozens of different types of stories.
For instance, in mystery, you can have cozy mystery (think Murder She Wrote) where there is a body (or two, but rarely more), an amateur detective (someone who is not a cop/detective/etc.), and a mystery to be solved. There is rarely gore or violence. They are light, quick reads. On the other hand, a straight crime mystery usually has a professional detective or cop as a lead character, the possibility of multiple bodies, violence, gore. They are edgier and darker than a cozy. Both of these can be set in contemporary times, but they can also be combined with science fiction for a futuristic mystery, or placed in a past century for a historical mystery. Or they can be westerns, or psychological, or urban…you get the idea.
Action/adventure can be science fiction in nature (Terminator movies). Urban fantasy takes place in the here and now. You can pick any one or combination of them to write what you want – just be forewarned that not all sub-genres will sell well so if you want to write something marketable, keep this in mind.
Most writers tend to write in the genre which they read the most in. And you’d better be reading! So what do you love? What kinds of books take up the most space on your shelves (or in your electronic reading device)? That will probably be the genre you are most comfortable writing in.
Homework for this week:
Decide on a genre and make notes on what is needed for that particular area.
I recently reviewed Karen Duvall’s book “Knight’s Curse” for my Crystal Clear Reviews site and liked it so much, I went to the source herself and asked her for an interview, which she graciously agreed to:
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I live with my husband, three cats, and one spoiled dog in Central Oregon. I run a freelance graphic design business, however lately I’ve been writing more than designing, which I prefer anyway. J
You have a new book out, what’s the lowdown on Knight’s Curse?
KNIGHT’S CURSE is an urban fantasy starring a heroine named Chalice, who is half angel and half human, with superhuman senses. She’s enslaved by a group of sorcerers who use her special skills to steal cursed artifacts. To keep her in line they bond her to a homicidal gargoyle and the only way to break the curse is to kill the beast. Problem is, gargoyles are immortal. Her fallen angel father gives her the secret for killing the beast, but freedom is expensive. Chalice must pay for hers with either love or death, or both. Publisher’s Weekly has listed Knight’s Curse as a Top 10 Pick for Fall 2011.
What is your process from “Hmm, that’s an interesting idea” to “Done!”
I think about the idea for a few weeks before I actually write anything down. And the idea usually begins with a character, so I create a backstory for her and other players to offer me an idea of where they from and what motivates them. I sketch out a general summary with a beginning, middle and an end, then I write the first couple of chapters to get a feel for the story. After that, it’s kind of like adding pieces to a quilt, designing and fitting it all together. After the first draft of the manuscript is done, I go back through it to make revisions. However, I also do a fair amount of revising as the story progresses.
Do you belong to any writer’s groups? Which one(s)?
I belong to Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, a professional organization for writers of commercial novel-length fiction. I also belong to Romance Writers of America and Horror Writers of America.
Do you have a crit partner or pre-readers? What do they help you with?
I belong to a great online critique group through Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. We’ve been together for years. They help with everything from characters and scene structure to grammar. They’re an invaluable resource.
Do you edit as you go or write first, then edit?
I do both. I edit as I go because it helps cement me into the story. But I always have to go back to fix things about the story that may have changed towards the end, or things I just missed.
Do you write anything other than this genre?
Everything I write has some fantasy or magical aspect. I’ve written a supernatural thriller, a paranormal mystery, and a romantic suspense with mild paranormal elements. I also wrote a steampunk alternate history novel that’s my current favorite, but it hasn’t found a home. I have an idea for a paranormal romance series being considered by my publisher so I can’t talk about it yet.
How much research do you do before you start to write?
It depends on the story, but since I pull a lot of my ideas from real life, I do a fair amount of research for everything. My supernatural thriller had aspects of futuristic medicine, so I did a crazy amount of research for that one. I enjoy research. Even KNIGHT’S CURSE required some research as I explored a variety of curses and charms that I put my own spin on. I write the way I cook: I never follow a recipe to the letter. I have to make it my own.
How do you feel about this race to self-publish backlists?
It’s probably a good idea. I have only 2 books on my backlist, and I’m only thinking about self-publishing those at this point. The issue I have is that I’m a writer, not a publisher, and I don’t want to get caught up in that end of things because I know it will take energy away from current writing projects. But that’s just me. I know a lot of authors are experiencing success with it and I think that’s awesome.
How important do you feel having an online presence is to an author?
I think it’s extremely important. I’m still building my online presence so it’s thanks to blogs like this one that help introduce me to new readers. I’m a very social person, but I’m far better at face-to-face meet and greets than connecting through the Internet. I really enjoy interacting with people and though Twitter and Facebook kind of offer that, it’s not the same as shaking hands and giving hugs. I confess I’m a hugger. Hugging my computer screen is a cold replacement for the real deal. J
What’s a typical writing day for you?
I switch on my computer as soon as I get up in the morning, check email, check Twitter, and then check a site related to my design work. I open whatever writing project I have in progress and read through what I’ve written the day before. I check my notes to see what my plans were for continuing where I left off and start writing. I’ll write for hour-long stretches, sometimes less, then move to research, email, blog, design work, then back to writing again. I realize it’s kind of an A.D.D. approach, but it works for me. The flipping back and forth refreshes (or resets) my story-brain. I try to stick to a goal of writing 1000 words a day, but I’ll go over if the mood strikes, or under if it doesn’t.
Who/what do you like to read?
I go through phases and read a variety of genres, but it’s usually either Urban Fantasy or Paranormal Romance. I’m a slow reader and rarely read while I’m writing. I’m in between projects right now and am at the tail end of judging some paranormal romance contest entries for my local RWA chapter. It’s been exhausting. I’m thorough when I judge and probably spend way too much time providing comments on entries, but I know how important feedback is to an unpublished writer. I want to help as much as I can.
What are the links where readers can find your books?
Wow, KNIGHT’S CURSE (trade paperback & ebook) is literally available everywhere. Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Walmart, Booksamillion, etc. Harlequin’s channels of distribution are amazing.
What are the links where readers can find you?
I’m everywhere, too. Ha! J I’d love more followers on Twitter @KarenDuvall and I can always use more friends on Facebook http://facebook.com/karenduvall2 and at GoodReads. Find me on my blog http://www.karenduvall.blogspot.com and I have a website http://www.wix.com/jkduvall/knights-curse
Look for book two of my Knight’s Curse series, DARKEST KNIGHT, on store shelves in spring 2012. The third book has a working title of KNIGHT TO REMEMBER, but that might change. It isn’t finished yet. Then I have additional surprises I can’t talk about, so please follow my blog for future updates. J
Our official Grand Opening celebration kicks off October 27th at The Haunt! Please join us to meet some of our authors, staff, and learn how you can win a Sony e-reader, as well as other prizes!
Though my new book, Crystal Keys : The Emerald Key, isn’t out yet, I’ll be offering previews of this urban fantasy. Come take a look at what we have to offer.
CAPTIVA PRESS is a great place to find exciting new books.