Posts Tagged ‘world-building’

Space Case

 

I’m currently working on a whiz-bang space opera adventure story. I’d say it has a variety of inspirations, though it most heavily reminds me of Firefly + the seamier side of Star Wars Indiana Jones in space. Or something like that. I’ve probably heavily oversold the idea at this point. I really don’t care because it’s so much fun to write!

The weird part is that I originally developed this concept within a shared setting. So now I’m doing a lot of revision, removing intellectual property that doesn’t belong to me and having a great time coming up with new world-building material to fill in the gaps. I’m loving the story more than ever because now it’s truly mine. If I want to use jump drives and a form of subspace communication, I can! If I feel like painting a backdrop of fallen empires and space cowboys, that works. And if I want to include espers, alien pets, and bug-eyed monsters, that just makes it more fun.

Hopefully I’ll have these revision wrapped up soon so I can move on to the part of this process I dread the most: The Query.

Wish me luck!

 

Writer’s Boot Camp

So I’ve been working my way through Holly Lisle’s How to Think Sideways course. I’ve previously found that her methods mesh well with the way I think, and this big “survival school for writers” course is no different. Most importantly I’ve discovered some key issues with my past process. Wanting to stay safely in my comfort zone, or have the end product turn out perfect, for example. Both hamstring the creative process, and keep me from completing projects. Or worse, I turn out stories that I’m not proud of and no one wants to buy–or read.

I also have a habit of leaping at the first vague concept that enters my head and trying to write it out by the seat of my pants without really questioning where the idea is going or what makes it special. Surprising to perhaps no one other than myself, it’s difficult to write a story about “somebody who’s special because something and saves the world or crap, I dunno, good stuff goes here.”

Ooh, shiny!

Ooh, shiny! Isn’t my setting beautiful? Let me tell you the story of Ixmitplatl, the God of Flatulence and Rainbows. No really, it’s kind of a funny story…

Occasionally I have the related-but-not-quite-opposite problem of getting so lost in an orgy of world-building that the actual story never materializes. Or, should a story spontaneously develop, it’s so weighed down with chunks of exposition to show off the Shiny Cool Setting that no one can read it without passing out from boredom.

So I’m taking it slower, trying to refine ideas before I commit to writing them, weeding out the ones that aren’t going to go anywhere, and locking in on the necessary  details that make a story extraordinary without detailing the cultural significance of what Character A ate for lunch. Honing ideas in preparation for writing is probably a much better use of my time than flailing around creating three pantheons of gods with six related languages and a plethora of weird social conventions.

Not that I’ve ever done that. I mean, come on, how much of a nerd do you have to be to actually make up verb conjugations for fun? Or write up a ten page essay on how the Great God Jahir of the Squin Empire differs from his aspect as The Highfather Johar of the Tentarin Archipelago. Ha ha, no sir, that’s not something I would do!

Ahem.

Striking that balance between the too loose, generalized story concept and the over-planned story bible without a plot is getting easier. At least I’m recognizing those tendencies, and locking that shit down before it gets out of control. This is a learning process, and a very necessary one.

I mean, would you like to read about a girl who happens to have some cool powers who is going to save the world because the cool Macguffin chose her?

OR

Would you rather read about the last necromancer’s reluctant apprentice who defies the law and sacrifices her standing as a reputable mage in order to restore Nature’s balance before the wall between Life and Death crumbles forever?

Yeah, me too.

 

State of the Writer

See this? It is your nemesis. Fear it.

See this? It is your nemesis. Fear it.

I’m still alive and kicking, despite being constantly sore due to a harebrained “get in shape” scheme called going to the gym. By the way, if somebody hands you a kettlebell and says “deadlift this fifty times,” hit them with it and run for your life. However, if the word “windmills” enters the conversation, you’re probably already too far gone to escape. Just accept the inevitable suffering as the price of your past sins.

Aside from the pain of healthy living, I’ve been dealing with the pain of creative drought. Not that I was lacking in ideas. I just haven’t had the time and/or energy (sometimes I have one or the other, but rarely both) to pursue any of those ideas since school started for my boys. Ironic, eh? For years I’ve been repeating the mantra, “I’ll have time to write when both boys are in school.”

Sure, right. The first month of school is a one-way ticket to Crazytown.

Surprisingly, it’s not actually twice as difficult to get two boys dressed, fed, teeth brushed, and out the door with two packed lunches, all their assorted homework, permission slips, fundraising forms, and remember special days.

It’s purple day! But you don’t have a purple shirt, so…here’s a purple sticker. Look, kid, I’m trying.

It’s actually three times as difficult. Plus the bonus extra credit difficulty of riding our bikes every morning, no matter how sore Mommy is, and perhaps it becomes clear why I’ve been lagging on the creative end.

Now that things are settling down a bit, I have a short story out on submission. So far it’s racked up four rejections. I like to tell myself that story submissions are like house hunting: You don’t always find your home on the first try. So I bundled it up with love and sent it off to a new place this morning. Godspeed, little story.

Could this be a city in our new project? Maybe!

Could this be a city in our new project? Maybe!

This past week I started on a joint project with my husband. He had the idea to work together on a world-building project with an eye toward creating a setting for use across multiple media: Stories, tabletop RPG modules, maybe even some form of app (an area he’s been dying to get into). It’s interesting how the creative process changes when you’re working with a partner. Especially when their process is nothing like your own.

For me, creating a setting is like lighting a string of firecrackers. I have an idea, which sparks another idea, and another, and “Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if” and “Oh, I know how to explain that!” Pop-pop-pop, one loosely-related idea after another until I’m exhausted and have to put it away. His brain goes over things much more slowly, and he tends to focus on one subject at a time. Between the two of us, I have a feeling we’re going to produce something pretty cool.

Or we’ll reach the point where we can’t stand the project and throw it all away. Either way, it’s fun for now!

 

“Woman with kettlebell” image courtesy of Ambro at freedigitalphotos.net.
On Writing…
Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I'll try again tomorrow.~Mary Anne Radmacher
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