Writing Exercise: Three Nouns

800px-Sharpened_Pencil

One of the toughest parts of the writing process is getting started on a new project. While the easiest way to overcome white page paralysis is to embrace the “crappy first draft” idea there are other options. Today’s writing exercise comes from WritingExercises.co.uk where you can find hundreds of prompt generators, randomizers, and all other sorts of golden nuggets.

The exercise:

Take three nouns and freewrite

The beauty of this exercise is that it allows the brain to make abstract connections between three unrelated objects which often generates fresh characters, places, and stories. 

Freewriting is best with a timer and an atmosphere free of distractions. I prefer 15 minute chunks. It’s long enough to form a few concrete ideas and begin running with them. Often it feels like nothing but drivel comes from the exercise until I go back and read what’s there and find a few gems that I can use.

Check it out – here’s a handy three noun generator, just for you!

Using Rites and Rituals in Fiction

StarWarsIV_327PyxurzWe’ve come around back to writer Wednesday once more and today we are talking about using rites and rituals in fiction.  When I say rites and rituals, I’m referring to any choreographed set of actions performed by several people that is meant to add importance to an event. For the sake of this post we will use the term “ceremony” to include all rites and rituals and related events. These events include formal religious rites and public occasions such as awards, weddings, anniversaries, coronations, and funerals.

Some ceremonies are simple. For example the Japanese Tea Ceremony is performed by one host and is meant to show respect for the honored guests through a demonstration of grace and good etiquette. This isn’t to say that is is easy, the ceremony takes years to learn and a lifetime to master.

Large ceremonies can require hundreds of well-trained individuals to do their part. The success of the ceremony depends on how well each person can perform their part. A coronation, especially when it is also meant to be a display of power, is a perfect example of ceremony on a massive scale. There is a military presence in dress uniform, a religious order also in ceremonial dress, the members of government, and the people of the country. They all have specific roles to play, symbolic gestures or actions to perform, and often a prescribed set of words to say.

Including ceremony in your fiction, when and if the story calls for it, will do several awesome things for the story itself.  First, it deepens and broadens the world where the story takes place. If there is a ceremony, then it must mean that the world has a deep rich history. It makes everything that much more real.

Second, a ceremony transforms a scene into a formal event and brings with it deeper and more poignant emotional notes. It forces the reader to read closely and think about symbolism and ideas in a more abstract way, which draws them deeply into the story.

Lastly, a great ceremony will bring a sense of awe and wonder. Everything from the costuming to the venue itself is eye candy. The characters will have plenty to react to and their reactions become the readers experience. There should be beauty and mystery paired with decorum and a sense of importance.

Never_003

The Southern Oracles of Neverending Story

A fictional ceremony should contain some, if not all of these elements:

  1. Central focus – this might be a person, object, or goal. All participants in the ceremony are either physically or mentally centered on this item. Everything that happens returns to this item.
  2. Ceremonial dress – clothing, or lack there of, is hugely important to most ceremonies. Be sure to describe it! Think graduations and weddings, there are the robes, the white dress, the robes of the clergy, the stoles and caps of the doctorates.
  3. Unique venue – Special events call for special places and this place will reflect the needs of the ceremony. Weddings take place in churches or specially prepared outdoor locations. Award ceremonies use special halls and public meeting areas.
  4. Prescribed Actions – Perhaps one the key elements of a ceremony is the repetition of the same actions each time. These actions depend of the needs of the ceremony and may include dance, song, chants, specific routes to walk, repeated words and phrases.
  5. Sound – Much of this is part of the prescribed actions, but it bears repeating. Will your ceremony use music, drums, clapping, or stomping? Take time to consider the ambiance. If it is a solemn ceremony it will be quieter, if it is a celebration it will be louder. Sometimes the most noted feature of a ceremony is the silence that is maintained.

How will you use ceremonial rites and rituals in your writing? What are your favorite fictional ceremonies? Share in the comments!

***

For more inspiration, check out some of these unique ceremonies:

Writing Fantasy Profanity

Bantha-ST

Don’t mix up your Bantha Poodoo with your Nerf Herders! Getting swearing right is important.

It’s writer Wednesday and today we are going to delve into the risque topic of fantasy profanity. Well, ok, it’s not all that risque. In fact, the reason many people like fantasy novels is that there is rarely ever any swearing.

Instead, we enter the world of alternate swearing. In a fantasy world there are different beliefs and different cultural practices that lead to different terms being considered profane, just like different English speaking countries have distinct swear words. Saying ‘bollocks’ or ‘bloody’ in the US barely gets an eyebrow raise because most people don’t know what they mean.

Using standard swearing in a fantasy novel doesn’t make sense because you wouldn’t expect an alternate civilization to develop the same swear words. When they are used they pull the reader from the narrative – a big NO NO.

Let’s see how these titles handle swearing –

Mazerunner, James Dashner: (I’m talking about the book, not the movie) The Gladers those who live withing the maze use ‘shuck’ and ‘clunk’ ans their stronger swears.

  • Clunk is a direct replacement for sh%t and comes directly from the sound made when using the rustic bathroom – and yes, this is explained in the book.
  • Shuck rhymes with fu%k for a reason.
  • Other slang includes: shank, slim it, slinthead, greenbean, jacked, and bloody.

Wheel of Time, Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson: There are a plethora of these, for the complete list, check out the wiki. These words are tied directly to the world where much of the protagonists history includes blood, fire, and magic. The most popular swear words are the following:

  • Flaming used much like we use ‘damn’ and expresses anger or hatred toward something or someone.
  • Blasted a slightly stronger version of ‘flaming’
  • Light used as an exclamation similar to how we use ‘god’
  • Burn (me, you, etc) is also similiar to damn and is used when people are upset
  • Blood and Ashes expresses anger and disgust.

Star Wars Universe: While this is sci/fi the same rules apply – it’s not our world or culture so the swear words would be different. I was actually surprised at how many of these there are, for a complete run down, including origins and definitions, check out this article.

  • F-bomb substitutes: crink/crinking, farkled. kark/karking, kriff/kriffing, krong, Skrog/skrogging, snark/snarking (no relation to today’s snarky).
  • S-word substitutes: druk, dwang, Holy Sith!, shab, shavit.
  • Other Insults: Bantha poodoo, e chu ta, hutt-spawn, laserbrain/blaster brain, lurdo, nerf herder, schutta, sculag, sleemo, son of a blaster, stoopa, vong.

Needless to say, there are many ways to handle swearing in your world.  The more deeply embedded into the culture and world, the better these insults will be.  If your world has a lot of water elements then there should be some water related swearing and insults, wethead, salt and slime, salty, bilge, etc. A desert culture would use a different set that evoked images of heat, dry, and stench.

Whatever you do, make it meaningful. Random words used as swear words won’t affect your reader nearly as much as words that have a history and a purpose.

Happy Writing!

Writing Exercise: The KISS Principle

It’s Writer Wednesday here at the blog and today we are going to discuss the KISS principle.

KISS stands for Keep It Simple, Stupid.

I’m not calling any of you dear readers stupid, rest assured. Only the smartest of readers and writers end up here. The KISS acronym has been around since the 1960’s when it was used as a design principle in the US Navy.

Some have morphed the acronym to these more suitable alternatives –

  • Keep It Short and Simple
  • Keep It Small and Simple
  • Keep It Simple and Straightforward

Choose the one that works best for you.

A handful of writers fall into the “If it’s complicated, it’s better”  category, thinking that if a plot has twists and surprise reveals on every other page then it must be an awesome read. Yes, there are readers out there that love a book like this. There are also readers who seek out My Little Pony Fan Fiction. Different strokes for different folks people.

The point is, a complicated twisted plot line that’s hard to understand and hard to follow is going to be a hard book to read and recommend.

Today’s exercise is the following:

Take a complex and confusing scene and remove three elements that are not necessary to furthering the plot.

Here’s a touch of inspiration for you:

The_Little_Prince_meme

Writing Update – May 2015

It’s been a few months since I’ve posted an update so here we are.  I’m excited to say that I finally finished the current draft of my epic fantasy, Stonebearer’s Betrayal. This draft has been long in coming, over a year, and it feels so good to finally be seeing a finished product.

The next step is to put the final polish on the chapters and send them off to a few trusted beta readers. I have to be honest, it’s been a long time since I’ve let anyone see anything more than a scene or two and I’m a little scared about the feedback I might get. At the same time, it’s super exciting to know that I’ve gotten this far.

I did sneak in a little short fiction writing for a contest that one of my local writing groups hosted. I’m proud to say that my flash fiction piece, This is my Destiny, won first place in its category.  I wanted to try my hand at a historical fiction piece with a speculative fiction twist for another anthology but it didn’t come together. There are a few other deadlines in the future that I’d like to prepare pieces for, but for the most part I think I will focus on my novel.

LUWOC first chapt 2015 certThe next big thing is the LDStorymakers Conference in two weeks. I have a chapter entered in to the first chapter contest, which again scares the crap out of me. I’d love to win, validation is always a good thing. I will also attend the intense Publication Primer where a professional editor will ream my first 10 pages to shreds along with the other four people in my group. It’s the best way to grow as a writer, but man it can be rough. It takes thick skin and lots of perspective to be able to not take things personally.

Hopefully by the next update in a few months I’ll have my initial beta feedback on my novel and will be well into the final editing process and then  – gasp! – it’s time to start sending it out! EEEK!

Until then, happy reading!

The Finish Line is in Sight

back to school sign owlNext week marks the magical and wonderous time where I send the oldest two children back to school. This is the first year when they will both go for the full day and I can’t contain my excitement.  The last six weeks of summer vacation have been exhausting, the house is a mess, and the unending chorus of “I’m bored!” has grated me down to my last nerve.

I’m looking forward to spending more uninterrupted one on one time with my youngest. With the other two around it’s been hard to focus on just him because brother and sister come and need me to do something, or want to do what we are doing, or start arguing and force me to divide my attention.

I’m also hoping to find more writing time.  With all three in the house it’s been too chaotic to sit at the computer and focus.  At the beginning of the summer I had finally reached the part of my draft that didn’t need extensive renovation. Not being able to work on it has been sheer torture.

Writing with a two-year-old in the house will still be a challenge, but it’s got to be easier than having all three rattling around.

Heck, I might even finish the Man in the Cupboard series!

Meet the Cast: Alystra

picture-of-judi-dench-in-the-chronicles-of-riddick-large-pictureSo far, in the Meet the Cast series of posts,  we’ve met the hero, villian, and the hero’s friend.  Today we are going to explore a vital member of the supporting cast.

In the society of the immortal Stonebearers there are three towers that govern the three distinct areas of the world.  Alystra holds the high seat of the mountain tower. As senior of the three leaders of the towers she also holds power and influence over the other two.  It is her duty to command and protect the Stonebearers within her order and through them ensure the safety of the mortal world.  Both Jarand and Bremin are members of her order.

As leader she must embody the Stonebearer ideals, which include; grace, loyalty, duty, mercy, and humility. She must be resourceful and fair.  If a Stonebearer of her order has broken his oaths, she must determine their fate.

If I were to chose an actress to play Alystra, it would have to be the esteemed Dame Judi Dench.  In all of her roles she displays the perfect blend of power, control, and restrained passion.  Her characters also display a certain vulnerability and depth that makes them even more appealing.

 

 

 

 

Meet the Cast: Bremin

JeremyIrons

For every hero there is the friend who makes it possible for him to succeed.  In the Stonebearer’s story one of the most important members of the supporting cast is Bremin.

Bremin is the clever, quick-witted, sharp-tongued friend to our hero, Jarand.  They’ve known each other for over three hundred years.  He has traveled the world many times over gathering knowledge to aid his fellow Stonebearers.  If there is a plot against them, he will uncover it.  In his travels he has also become very skilled in healing, picking locks, setting traps, and plenty of other skills, making him an extremely useful fellow to have around.

Bremin does have a weakness, he is very limited in what he can do with his power.  This fact has made him very humble, but also bitter.  He compensates for his weakness with his knowledge.

Out of all the characters in the book, Bremin was the easiest to find a face for.  Jeremy Irons is the perfect fit.  He comes across as someone who knows a lot but won’t offer his opinion until it is asked for.  He also projects a profound depth to his characters.  The fact that he also has played similar characters in several fantasy movies seals the deal.