Thursday, June 30, 2011

Writer Resources

I recently realized that writing a story good enough to get published isn't just about writing an amazing setting, realistic characters, and an amazing plot. A good story has a lot of "crafting", or careful wording to draw the readers in and keep them fully involved in your story, and other writing factors such as point of view and speed of the story.
Although I will be putting links to specific articles, as well as my opinions on them, here are some good places to look for writing ideas.

Craftingfiction is a very good website for fiction writers and freelancers although it tends to focus more on craft than specific genres, such as science fiction.

Writinghood is a blog for writers of any version. Whether you write online, fiction, or nonfiction, you're sure to find something just for you on this site.

Although the site is aimed at getting you to buy one of their many classes, it does have some good articles such as a questionnaire to fill out to help create your character.

Another site designed to sell, this one aims to have you subscribe to a magazine called "The Writer" and has some excellent articles.

A New Direction For A Little While

My apologies but due to increased work hours and extra time needed for school I don't have as much time to devote to this blog. However, instead of merely stopping the blog for a month as I did last time, I realized there are a number of good writing blogs and good sites that have excellent articles for writers. For the next few weeks I will be providing links to articles on the craft of writing, something I have no real experience with as I just recently discovered there is a "craft," as they call it, to fiction writing. I hope you enjoy these links and that they are helpful to you.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

How's Your Movie Showing In Your Readers Mind?

Think back on the book you last read. Where was it set? Can you picture it in your head still? Was the author good at creating that movie in your head while you read or was it slightly choppy reading as they put too much description or too little in and the flow of your mental movie just wasn’t right?
One of the hardest parts of creating a setting isn’t deciding what that setting will be, but in weaving it so seamlessly into the story that the readers don’t realize how easily it draws them in and puts them in the story. Whether you’re working with a real place, a hidden world connected to real Earth, or your own setting all together, using all five senses to transport your reader into a world they may never have seen or imagined before is vital to a readers enjoyment of the story.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Writing For The Five Senses

What is the best way to get your reader into your story? The answer is to transport your reader into your story. It sounds complicated but is really quite simple, at least in theory. The term many teachers use is “show, don’t tell.” Basically that means that you need to create a movie in the readers head or make them feel as if they are actually inside the character’s head, hearing, seeing, feeling, and smelling what is happening around the character. Include all five senses, as well as the mental and emotional reactions of your characters when describing what is happening in your story and your readers won’t even notice that they know the setting as well as the character. They can imagine the wind shifting softly through their hair and the smell of the honeysuckle not far off tainted slightly by the manure from the neighbor’s free range cattle talking to each other faintly in the pasture a few hundred yards off instead of merely reading a conversation between mother and son about school grades that are slipping. Readers pick up a book to escape from their world so you need to be able to put them squarely in another world for as long as they read that book. Do it subtly by using all five senses and good description and it will carry your reader through many hours of reading enjoyment.

Friday, June 24, 2011

What To Remember When Creating Your Fictional Setting

Creating your own world as a setting for your story has its own pros and cons. Although no one can say you got the setting wrong or it didn’t match their opinion of the place they had lived, creating a world means not only creating the planet and its resources but also creating its history and that of any races or countries on the planet. Almost everyone will agree that J. R. R. Tolkien was most likely the best at creating a setting, just look at the in-depth histories he created in Middle Earth and the languages he created for his books, but think also about the creators of Star Trek and the Star Wars movies. Since this blog is written by a sci-fi writer, let’s think about how much thought can go into creating a sci-fi series. If any of you have looked into role-playing in the Star Trek universe you already know of the hundreds of planets and species with set backgrounds there are. Feuds are all planned out and explained by a history of wars. (Think of the Romulans and Vulcans or the Klingons and their family feuds over honor.) In order to create a believable world for your story, you have to know the history, not only of your characters but also of your setting and those around the main characters. Why are the natives unwilling to feed the crashed main characters? Was there a war? Did aliens once come and enslave a large population of the ancestors of the natives? Are the natives hiding a deep secret like an expensive mineral or an important hostage? Is one of your characters carrying a special cultural artifact that will convince the natives to be nice to the nice to the travelers?
So many questions, but the important thing is how you answer each one to create the unique history of each setting and race you create. One last thing to remember is that as soon as two groups meet, history begins. How they meet can be significant as can who they first met. Also, some groups have more history together. For example, in the real world, England and America has a longer history than England and people from Mars will have (if we ever meet them). Longer history can be good and bad. If you’re dealing with a new relationship between races you have fewer prejudices but possibly more assumptions whereas dealing with a long relationship between species can have people fighting to prove they aren’t as bad as the people before them.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Setting Your Story Partially In The Real World

Something many writers do is that they set their stories in pocket worlds set inside the real world. For instance, J. K. Rowling set the wizarding world in England in a way that we (as “muggles”) can’t see the world the characters live in but it could still believably exist. Many writers tend to create fictional towns in a given spot on the map so they have the history of the region is set, the weather is already set by the real world, and the typical jobs of the town (whether it’s farming, technology, factory, or other things) are decided by what is typical of the area. If you decide to go this route, remember to use the nearby towns as a guide. Having a town built of stone when the nearby towns are built of brick or wood as there’s no quarry around would make you a laughingstock to many readers or merely unbelievable so people won’t buy your book in that area.
Another thing to remember is that things that happen in your “pocket world” often affect the “real world” outside. J. K. Rowling realized that and made a comment when there was a lot of news in her wizarding world that the “muggles” noticed the increased owl sightings during the day and had a newspaper article on it. Anything major, such as an comet landing in your town or a town battle destroying the town, would bring notice from the outside world (such as the National Guard arriving or scientists showing up to take over). That can either be used as a part of your book, such as your characters hiding from the government, or you should have an explanation for why the government doesn’t know, such as news reports on something distracting the government or satellites.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Settings In The Real World

Now that you have in mind where your story will be set, you need to think about that setting as your character sees it and how they will show it to your reader. One huge thing to remember if you choose to set your story in a real place where people actually live now a day is that readers can tell if you get things wrong. Some readers will notice if you say the third house on the street is blue when really it’s yellow or if your character thinks a town is sweet and peaceful when really the town is dingy and filled with gang wars. If you decide to put your story in a real place, you probably want to take an extended vacation there or, preferably, have lived there for a time to understand the mode and habits of the area. (Putting a Georgia accent on a group of people all living in Florida could cause you to lose readers as well.) If your readers find too many discrepancies between the real world they live in and the “real world” your characters live in without there being some explanation, the reading won’t be as smooth and they may merely put the book down and never read it again so be careful how accurate your setting is to the real world.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Is Your Setting The Best For Your Story?

When you decide to start a story, the setting is usually decided by the plot points, the characters, or where you live as you write the story. Sometimes stories could easily be set in Texas in the summertime as Maryland in the summertime or California in winter without changing the story. The question is, would they have been the same? Would Gone With The Wind have been as effective if it had been written in Missouri during the Civil War or in France during their Revolution as it was set in Georgia and Atlanta during the Civil War? Would Grapes Of Wrath have been as good set in New York? Think about your characters, where would you likely find them, where would they probably have been raised to get their personality or chosen to go when they were old enough to chose? Is there a city that lends itself best to your story?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Why Is the Setting Important?

For the past few months this blog has been about creating a thorough setting for your fictional story, knowing the history, having accurate science, and having an accurate surrounding in space(a space station or a space ship). So why have I spent so much time on creating a setting? When I read a book, I do so to escape my real world for a little while. Maybe I just want to fill a few boring hours or maybe my day has been crazy and I just want to relax by being someone else for a little while. Whatever the reason I pick up a book, I don’t want to be sitting in my comfy chair in my familiar room, I want to be in another place living someone else’s dramatic life or having an adventure somewhere outside my window. I assume most readers want a total escape from their world and their lives when they pick up a book. To get that escape there needs to be good characters doing interesting things, a goal that the reader wants to see out to the end, and a setting that holds the reader deep enough in the story to remind them that what they’re reading about isn’t part of their everyday life. If a story doesn’t have those three necessary parts of a book, as well as being written well enough to flow smoothly, the reader will put down the book in annoyance and go find another book to read.
That is why I think that the setting in a book deserves at least as much attention as creating the character within the book. You need to develop a setting well enough to explain it subtly with writing that makes the reader feel as if they are right there with the character in the book. Such writing can be hard to do but if you manage to find the perfect medium between over-informing the reader and not putting the reader in the setting at all, you’ll be halfway to creating a story the publishers will buy and readers will search for.

Monday, June 6, 2011

15 Things To Think About When You Create A Fictional Space Station

The purpose of your fictional space station influences a lot about the structure and ability of the station.
Engineering systems are needed to keep the station active all day and all night.
Defenses are important when it comes to protecting the station and the ships docked with it.
The command center keeps the station operating at the highest level possible without confusion.
Docks keep the ships moving supplies and people flowing on and off the station in an orderly fashion.
Utilities keep the residents in sanitary conditions.
Medical keeps everyone healthy and heals those that are sick or injured.
Everyone needs sleeping quarters, whether they’re a family or single, humanoid or alien needing a different atmosphere.
Schooling is important to children and adults trying to advance faster in their job.
Currency is a necessary evil in this universe and you should know what your station uses.
Where the residents get their basic supplies is important so they don’t run out.
How they get specialty items and what vendors you let on your station can depend on the culture on station.
What restaurants and bars are on station can depend on the type of station you have.
How people relax on your fictional space station can really affect the moral on the station.
Casinos can be a one stop shop for relaxation.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

How Is Gambling Viewed On Your Space Station?

Another way to relax that almost always makes its way where people are is gambling. If it’s not legal, than there is probably an underground game somewhere on station, whether they play for actual money or not. If it is legal than you can bet there is at least a set game with a regular buy in. More likely than not, if gambling is legal there will be a casino of some sort. It may be an underground one the station security pretends to ignore while quietly monitoring the seedy group of people through hidden cameras there or it may be like Quark’s in Star Trek: Deep Space 9 which was the center of social life on the station. Quark’s was the only bar, restaurant, and entertainment complex on station, according to the series writers, and everyone stopped in at one time during the day or night. Security also kept a close eye on the goings on in the casino to keep order and see what scam artists the casino brought in that week. As unlikely as it is that the station would only have one restaurant, bar, and entertainment area, the creators were smart enough to know that they needed at least one area and most of the episodes included Quark’s in one way or another. It may have been a drink at the bar and a conversation with Quark, who not surprisingly was the station gossip and confidant, or it may have been a conversation between friends over dinner or even an episode based in the holodeck. Whatever the story line was, you’d have troubles finding an episode set on station that didn’t involve Quark’s and people enjoying some time off. It just goes to show how important a good relaxation spot is to a story.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

How Do Your Characters Relax?

We’ve talked about the workings of the station, where your residents get their basic supplies, their special supplies, and where they eat. But how do they relax after a long day at work? After all: all work and no play make people very dull and unhappy. People relax differently, some merely need a good book and comfortable place to read. Other people need activity and it would be smart to have some sort of sports complex. In a previous series I wrote about how to put sports for all ages on a space ship which may give you some ideas on how to integrate sports and physical activity into your designs for your station. Some people prefer to relax by putting in a good movie and sitting down with a good snack while others prefer to sit with friends and chat or drink alcohol. Everyone is different and what they may want one day may not be how they want to relax the next night.
The many Star Trek series created what they called a “holodeck” which could be used for anything from sports games to training programs to fantasy rooms of any type. It was a great way for the crew to relax as well as group bonding sessions. It also had it’s bad side, as do all inventions: people could become so addicted to the fantasy of having everything exactly as they wanted it that they no longer wanted to deal with reality.
However you decide to allow your crew and residents to relax, remember to allow your characters in your story to relax as well.