Closing Remarks (Brevin)

Well, folks, it’s been a great run, but here marks the end of the Worldpen blog. I can’t believe it’s been three whole years. Wow. I regret nothing.

Just to say this at the top because I know that now-a-days people have no attention span and stop reading after the first few lines, if you have any questions or things you want to mention, just put them in the comments and I’ll respond to this. This is my solemn pledge upon the blood of a horned eagle-demon (they’re very rare and the bonds they create hold strong). But to more interesting things.

To sum up my reason for having to end this–it was time. I’m in college (which is awesome, ya’ll should definitely try it) and time is a precious commodity. I just don’t have to time to commit to making Worldpen as fabulous as it should be. So here it lies in glorious state, a monument unmarked by decline. My time will be going to worthwhile things, I assure you.

I believe I’ll be taking a bit of a hiatus from blogging, unlike Josiah. I haven’t quite found my place or what I want to do, but when I do, I’ll let you know. I’m not gone from blogging forever–I just want to have my purpose straight. Like Josiah said, the blog will stay up, just revert back to a regular .wordpress blog.

Josiah did a great job of answering potential questions, so I’ll leave that mostly to him. But I will look back at a few moments of Worldpen I especially treasure. The Top Ten Fantasy Cliches that was our single most viewed page. The Magic Building Series that was probably my favorite series of all time. The short story contests so awesome I’m going to let you search them out because hyperlinks are exhausting. And Josiah’s well thought-out, carefully constructed series’. But the last word must got to my old guilty pleasure: mannerpunk. (That was a joke. I do not read mannerpunk).

To wrap up: Josiah, you’ve been awesome. We made something great here. I’ve learned a lot, both from you and from this whole experience. Joshua, you’re a beast. Jacob, you’re fabulous. Keep making amazing pictures.

Thank you all so much for reading, commenting, entering our little story contests, and making Worldpen something special. You, readers, one and all, rock.

Like King Arthur sleeps soundly in his den

until merry England needs him again,

I submit this blog to powers that be,

to sleep, to rest, for all eternity.

Farewell!

Creating Convincing Cultures: Key #1 Values

The first key is looking at the values of the culture you want to create. Many of the values we take for granted in our culture (Western American) are translated to our stories—whether or not they should be there. Concepts of time, individualism, wealth, and family are just a few of the many ideas that writers often translate universally to their cultures—and make differences to be things like different weapons.

shadow-in-doorwayValues and assumptions of how things work are the very basis of a culture. Differences between cultures in real life make intercultural relations (international relations too) extremely complicated. There are constant misunderstandings, not because of language barriers, but because of value clashes—neither side understands the other.

Not only is playing with cultural values key to making a convincing culture, but it’s also a good mental exercise—it lets you get out of yourself and your usual mindset to see things from a different perspective. And that perspective makes the best stories.

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Beginning The 2nd Draft

As I’m currently working through a second draft of one of my stories, I feel this post.

Teens Can Write, Too!

Hi everyone,

My name is Aisha, and just like you, I have been following this awesome blog for ages, which is why I was so excited to get the honor of posting on here.

You guys have already heard from Mark, who talked about beginning the query process, and today I want to take it back even further: to the second draft.

And with NaNoWriMo being almost over (not that my word count is anything to judge by), lots of us are going to be left with heaping piles of first-draft-yuck. I know from personal experience that going back and looking at the first draft of your novel for the first time can be a horrible feeling:

  • ‘Put thingy here’ – really, Aisha? Really? WHAT EVEN IS “thingy”??
  • Wait, who is this character? Why are they even here? And why did they suddenly disappear on page 20?
  • It’s so…

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Beginning Querying: A Horror Story

Very good points. I had a very similar story–lots of no answers. And frankly, I didn’t deserve answers. But I did recently get a “fix it and resubmit it sometime” and so I’m working on revising and rewriting–and next time hopefully it’ll be more positive.

Teens Can Write, Too!

Hi, readers! I’m so thrilled to be joining the Teens Can Write, Too blog with my archnemesis John and the lovely people of Ch1Con, and I’m super pumped to write our first post! I’m Mark O’Brien, and I’m going to tell you a horror story: my first querying experiences.

I was fourteen when I began querying, but it was a small, naive fourteen, and I was no prodigy. Not that I knew that. My first novel (which, I kid you not, was a “literary YA” that was about as literary as a sack of potatoes and was entitled Cream and Sugar at the time of querying—it’s now affectionately referred to as the more accurate Words That Burn) was perfect and gorgeous and I didn’t even need to edit, I just needed an agent to read my query, recognize the genius, and offer me representation because it was so freaking…

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Creating Convincing Cultures: A Few Thoughts

I was planning on discussing values in other cultures, but I feel like a more relevant post would respond to the comments that came up after last post. I’ll get back to my plan next week.  images

All the comments had extremely insightful ideas and I would encourage you to read them. But in the mean time I’ll address a few of the points they brought up.

Even a traditional western medieval setting can be totally new and surprising if the author writes it as it really happened. You have to keep in mind that they viewed religion as their only way out of a crapsack world…By bringing out details like this even an old, boring setting can be revitalized. ~Joshuaberkau

We as writers tend to romanticize everything–even northern European peasant lifestyle in fantasy novels. We don’t like to talk about the lack of sewage in the cities, the crippling labor children went through, the harsh penalties for the slightest crimes, the lack of medicine (leeches are not medicine), the fact that traveling through forests in the rain kind of sucks (no waterproof anything), and the universal lack of hygiene. The church was inseparably connected to the feudal system and taught the divine right of kings.

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Creating Convincing Cultures: The Four Keys

In stories we love to read about fantastic places and people. Fantasy writers in particular seem to have a skill in developing exotic and awe-inspiring cultures. Cultures that make us take a step back and think.

But too often we settle with a simple western medieval setting. There’s a king, maybe some dragons, a wizard academy, etc. But it’s still a monarchy, there’s still thatch houses, the winter is cold and threatens crops, people fight with straight swords, steel armor, bows, and horses. There are the cold north mountains and the elven forest, but it’s all pretty Europe-y.

Let’s not do that.

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Saving Your Ideas

As a writer—as a person who looks to write and fill stories with depth, heartrending conflicts, and masterful settings—you’ll know what I’m talking about when I mention flashes of inspiration. You’re watching that movie for the tenth time and BANG! You get an idea for a scene, a character, an organization, a location. Or you’re at the museum and the rock (geology, bleh) looks a bit like…BANG! Idea for magical item. Etc.

 

These little things, these little flashes need to be saved. The problem is that though they happen often, we lose them. We forget, move on, or just get distracted and out they go.

 

Here’s the thing. Stories are especially fun when they are wonderfully complex. And that complexity doesn’t come in one sitting. It comes over time; from the sum of experiences and flashes that are bigger together than separate.

 

Part of the problem, I think, is timing. We can’t choose when we’re hit with inspiration. What if you have a great idea for a medieval spy group but you’re in the middle of a sci-fi story with no fantasy stories in sight? The idea goes nowhere.

 

You need to do two things to solve the problems of bad timing and forgetfulness.

 

The first you’ve probably heard before. Carry a notebook and pen around with you at all times. Get a little reporter’s pad and jot down those cool names you see on tombstones. Draw a quick sketch of that stain-glass window (both happened to me recently). When you’re bored in the car, jot a few ideas as you speed by the countryside. Fill that baby up with ideas. Keep it on hand for those flashes of brilliance.

 

The second part is also simple. I want you to go to your desktop and make a text document (Word or whatever you use). Name it: Cool Things to Use Sometime. That’s it. Now, when you have a spare minute, put all your ideas from your notebooks (you’ll probably end up having more than one) in it. Give each idea a title and short description. Some  ideas might be for fantasy settings. Some might be sci-fi. Some might not fit well into any category. But write them down.

 

The purpose of such a document is to be a catalogue of ideas that you can pull out when you need them. When you’re writing your story and don’t have an immediate idea of what the religion of such and such a town is, look in your little file and see if there are any ideas pertaining to the Priesthood of the Blue Road Sign or whatever. Or you need a name for a caste of assassins. Check in the folder. Turns out a few weeks ago you read about the Vatican in the newspaper and it mentioned the Swiss Guards and how they function. You had a little idea and jotted it down. Just translate that over.

 

When you’re writing a story, there will always be gaps the first time around between the setting, conflict, and characters. So whenever you need filler or need to figure out a little detail you haven’t fleshed out yet, just open the doc and browse. (If you want to go overboard like me, you can make table of contents for your document so you can find ideas easily.)

 

And that’s how to save your ideas.

 Crafting a City – Government  

It’s surprising how complex governing ever a small town is. Granted sometimes it is unnecessarily complicated with bureaucracy and such, but even simple overseeing a town without excessive regulations is still a complicated task. It takes an army of officials, paper pushers, accountants, clerks, button pushers, etc, to run a city, much less a nation.

 

I know many of us like the Evil Singularity—the Dark Lord in his castle cackling evilly while his soldier rob and push people around . Well I’m here to tell you that’s not how it works. If there’s one thing that we’ll never be rid of (besides death and taxes) it’s the bureaucracy.

 

There is a jail (or gaol). It holds the drunks, the people who aren’t paying their debts, the killers, the thieves. It’s not a fun job to be the jailer—but someone has to be. And when the bad guy steps into the throne he doesn’t just go away and let everyone go.

 

There is a court. Soldiers can be arbitrary, but even evil rulers need people who can mediate disputes and lay of “justice”, in whatever form that may be. Sometimes things aren’t simple and need evidence or are between important people.

 

Taxes. Believe it or not, it doesn’t work with soldiers walking from door to door and taking money. If people don’t pay that happens. But how do they find out? Census people and paper pushers.

 

I could go on with more small examples. But let’s add one more level a little higher up.

 

My guess is that if you’re writing fantasy that your nations are monarchies, oligarchies or something similar. Again, you might think that managing a large city in elder days was an arbitrary thing. Again, not the case. Villages—of peasants—had elders or headmen that were the first level of management. They helped work things out. Above them? Lords—actually, the Lord’s clerks and paperpushers. Did they fill the grain quota? We’re a few sheep down—did anyone see anything? All questions needed to be asked. Can we dig a new drainage ditch? Sewage? Fence off a new field?

 

In towns and villages it was much the same thing as the village. Usually there was some sort of division of city quadrants and upstanding citizens from each division would represent their area’s concerns to a city council. Bear in mind that this does not mean democracy. These could easily be king chosen people.

 

I guess is this had one overriding point, it is that you have the freedom to make your city as complex as you want. You certainly don’t have to go as far as I’ve described and filled all these positions with characters with backstory. But what you can do is have a general idea of your city’s power structure and bureaucracy—and then from there insert relevant characters into the story.

 

This can be especially effective when you have both politics rampant in your city as well as some sort of a civil war. The representative from the slum (a rebellious lower-class person) has access to the entire sewer system control (or something like that). Instant undercover transport system, escape routes, etc. Or insert an accountant with a love of exotic wine. Get access to that and the shipments of arms are written off as lost at sea—and the rebellion is armed.

 

Play around with different city government ideas. Different styles will work better with various cultures and situations, but one fact should remain constant. Bureaucracies drive everything.

Crafting a City – Central Park

I have recently had the privilege of spending a good deal of time in the fine city of Boston. While there, I noticed many things that changed how I look at cities—sometimes in a good way, other times in a less complimentary light. I don’t know if that last sentence made sense. The point is, cities are a lot more complex than some of us—especially if you’re a suburbanite like me—think. In this series we’ll be looking at a  few nooks and crannies that sometimes escape our notice as well as a few suggestions and story ideas as we pass them.

 

Humans need green—even if it’s only a splash. That’s why there are (fake) plants in offices. That’s why there are flowerboxes (remember those?) on windowsills. And it’s why cities have parks. It’s a natural place for people to congregate especially in the hotter summer months, and place were children tend to gravitate no matter the season. Note: make sure you have season in your story. No matter the setting or time period, season should make a difference in your stories.

 

You’ve seen pictures of the rolling hills of Boston Commons or Central Park filled with picnickers and sunbathers. There’s a Frisbee game over there, a baseball one over there. I know many Worldpen readers (myself included) enjoy the fantasy genre. Sword and Sorcery. So you may be asking yourself—what place has this in a land of magick and mages?

 

A lot, actually. Hyde Park in London was opened to the public in 1637. Boston Common was opened in 1634. And even before that, similar areas were opened by kings and queen in the hopes of gaining the good will of their people.

 

We’ll get into other ways leaders should be interacting with their people in your stories later, but for now, let’s focus on this.

 

What’s the value of having a park or some sort of public area in your story? Well, for one thing, it makes a great place for people to gather. Executions, festivals, speeches, parades—all these require some sort of public venue. A park can provide that. Depending on your character, it can also be an excellent stomping ground for them before they go off on their adventure. A pickpocket could roam the crowded area and pick pockets. Your beggar can beg. Your gymnast can gynamstic (Microsoft word says that its not a verb but I think it is). It’s a good meeting place at night for your spy.

 

Now you might be thinking I’m going overboard listing the virtues of having a park in your story. Fine, maybe I am. I’m a worldbuilding type of writer—I like to have my maps drawn, my cities diagrammed and know exactly what’s goin’ down where. But regardless, when you’re building your cities, a park is both realistic and useful. Not only for the above reason, but also for backstory. Name the park after a famous hero of legend.

 

“Oh this park? This is the park of Grantua the Hammer—famous defender of the North Ridge. What’s that youngster? You’ve never heard the story? Kids these days. Well, let me tell you….” And enter epic legend/backstory relevant to the plot or to character development. You could even put a few statues in your park. The Path of the Twelve Guardians or something.

 

There’s a lot more I could rant about but we’ll stop there for now. Look for another aspect of the city next week!

Action Romance: Obi-Wan and Siri

They lay in the cave. Their Masters had been gone for three days—with no communication. Were they even still alive?

The two padawans had been told not to leave, but they were low on food and the nights were increasingly cold. They couldn’t just wait. Their lives were at stake. The bounty hunters were still out there, trying to kill the boy they had been tasked to protect.

Obi-Wan shifted on the cold stone, staring into the darkness of the ravine. Hours of lonely watch had passed. He was beginning to regret volunteering for the job, but Siri had looked so exhausted after a day of trying to console their charge.

There was a footstep behind him. He twisted, but relaxed as Siri appeared from the darkness, on of their two thin blankets around her shoulders.

Her voice was low. “I thought you might be cold…”

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