Creating Realistic Settings

Part 3 Settings

Welcome Back! 🙂

Hopefully by now you have your general story idea and a few characters created and ready to go. To me, the setting is the most fun. You have numerous options. How creative do you want to be? Are you starting with an existing setting like London, Australia, San Francisco, or Midwest US? Will you be creating an entire planet on your own? Make sure you ask yourself these types of questions before getting started. But, most importantly, write down everything you brainstorm!

So you’ve got a handle on how in-depth you want to go for your setting. What’s next? Depending on whether you have an existing location or creating an entirely new world will change the process a bit.

For Existing Settings

Choosing a location that already exists like a city, state, region, coral reef, or Sashquach hang-out (yeah, maybe not that one but who knows?) is a great start for a new writer that doesn’t want to take a significant amount of time to create. It also is a great option for post-apocalyptic, romance, and a few other genres.

One thing you will have to do is research. If you have never been to your chosen location, a decent amount of research will have to be done. Not only do you need to know the physical attributes of your setting (sight), you will want to focus on the other 4 senses as well. This will help create amazing descriptions as you introduce various environments in the story.

Sense of sound will be the next step. This doesn’t necessarily require you to look up audio for a busy city (although it may), but you will want to ask questions about what your character will hear. For example, The Wanderer Trilogy is set in a post-apocalyptic Midwest state. And while I don’t need to disclose which state it is, I do know that Midwestern states generally get all four seasons in a year. As for noises, the question I must ask myself is “How many people/animals inhabit (X) setting?” Whether Eva (my MC) is inside her shack (only inhabited by her with occasional secondary characters (SC) coming in and out), or inside a Gang compound (houses hundreds of armed guards as well has hundreds of slaves) – I have to be aware of the bustle of people, the clicking of loaded guns or cracking of whips, and even the chirping of birds or rustling of leaves in the wind. You’ll want to be aware of any sounds/noises you want to convey and write them down.

The next relatively easy sense is touch. What do the buildings/structures feel like? What are they made of? Are they old? New? Have they been warped or changed by the elements? How about the ground? Seasons? Temperature? Everything physical plays a part in this sense of touch. If your environment is a desert, the feeling of hot, dry air will play just as significant a part as the rare but inviting rainfall. Think about how the age of your buildings change it’s texture. An example of my novel is how wood warps after 500 years of spring rain. The city withstood a bombing all those years prior so many of the buildings near the center have been reduced to rubble. The continual storms and other weather patterns will continue to effect what remains of the buildings, long after the bombs detonated.

Whew! Two more to go! You can do this!

Smell and taste? How do you integrate that into your settings. And why bother? Well, these two senses will be used more sparingly than the other three, but they are important when used properly. When your character is hungry and their neighbor is baking a pie with the windows open, sense of smell and taste would be important to convey the level of hunger. You would want your character to be able to smell the pie so well that they could taste it on their tongue. That could make their stomach growl. See? Using the senses conveys the hunger without actually saying “They were hungry.”

In settings where you already have an existing location, these 5 senses are very important. There is research required (especially in regards to the society and subcultures within the city/town/state/etc. that you choose).

Unique Settings/World Building

There are a few things in this section that may or may not be helpful if you are utilizing an existing setting. I found this handy-dandy list of things to focus on in World Building –

world building

Some of these may or may not be relevant to your story, but it definitely gets the juices flowing!

Now, it isn’t just enough to jot down one or two sentences for each point above. You have to dig a ten-foot hole and jump in head first. Smash into the mud and worms of it all… okay I’m done 🙂

Anyway, with each of these topics, expand them! Write multiple types of religions/spiritualities for #15 and pick the best one later. Give yourself more options to single out when you go to outline your novel. And don’t stop at the #17 listed above. That’s just a place to get started! Remember, you are building an entire world or region. Different languages have different dialects which have different slang.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself for each topic:

  1. Language:
    • Does everyone speak the same language? Different languages completely? Dialects between the regions? Slang? Pronunciation differences? Accents?
  2. Origin Tales
    • How did your people/creatures migrate to their region? What is the origin of their magic? How did they adapt to their climate? Does their religion/spirituality change as they migrate?
  3. Folklore
    • Are there specific areas that your cultures do not venture because of curses? Do each regions believe the world was created differently? Any stories passed from generation to generation?
  4. Family Tree
    • Who are your MC’s family? Friends? Other Kin? The Royalty Family Tree? Coat of Arms? Any family rivalries?
  5. Jobs/Professions
    • Depending on the time period, this could change. What type of jobs are needed in your society? Blacksmith or lawyer? Knight or Pizza Delivery Person? How do their jobs impact the story? How does it impact the environment?
  6. Gender Roles
    • Are your people more conservative? Are you switching up the gender roles? Women in the armies and men as homemakers? Or is your society more of an egalitarian culture?
  7. Clothing/Costumes
    • Pant Suit? Jeans and a Tshirt? Renaissance dresses with corsets? What about animal hides?
  8. Weather
    • Is the weather in your story normal? Perhaps something catastrophic happens. Maybe non-stop storms?
  9. Flora & Fauna
    • What type of foliage grows in your city/village? What about animals? Any unusual or unique animal/plants? Do your people use them for medicine or remedies? What about poisons?
  10. Food
    • Are your people fishermen or hunters? Do they go to the store? Does their heritage change their food preferences? How does the culture celebrate holidays with food? Is any food sensual for relationships?
  11. Geography
    • Is the environment mountainous? Perhaps a desert? Maybe a beautiful forest or a beach? How would that change their clothing/food options? How would it change your character’s appearance (more tan because they see more sun, etc.)?
  12. Annual Rituals
    • Think about their religion or spirituality, what or who do they worship? What type of rituals would be celebrated by the village? Are their regional or worldwide holidays? Are their costumes, special foods, or sacrifices associated with these celebrations?
  13. Technology
    • Is this a technologically advanced civilization? How does the overwhelming technology play into people’s daily lives? Can the technology turn on them? Can it make them go crazy? (Don’t just think about computers or cell phones. Think about medicines, vehicles, and foods.)
  14. Animals
    • See Flora & Fauna. Are animals domesticated for food or pets? Do the people ride them for transportation? Can they fly? Where do they live?
  15. Religion/Spirituality
    • Are your people religious? Do they conform to an existing religion like Christianity? Are they Atheist? Do they worship animals? How do they perceive death? Are there wars or battles about whose god or gods are real?
  16. Magic
    • Is the magic energy finite? Can those who use magic replenish their energy? How? Is it elemental magic or elemental manipulation? Can only certain people do magic or can everyone? How does magic change their society?
  17. Politics/Power
    • Is there a council or government? Are their royalty? How do they govern? What about corruption or tyranny? Is the general population free or suppressed? If they are suppressed, will their be an uprising?

The setting development may take some time. And while my last post about character creation said to ‘stay somewhat vague’ the setting development is the opposite. Every single nuance needs to be written down because, if it is not consistent, your reader will catch it. The setting remains fixed (unless there’s a huge event like a meteor) while the characters change. Don’t get discouraged, be creative!

Next post in the Let’s Write a Novel Series will be about Outlining Your Story! I hope it’s getting exciting as you get closer to the 1st draft! I’m excited to see what you’ve been working on! 🙂

Friday Writing Prompt

day 3

My mother told me that it happened on the day I was born. The entire planet, my homeland of Tralkea, illuminated in a brilliant light. My people turned to the night sky and saw brilliant purple, green, and blue auras. The Council sent carrier birds to the other regions to see if any child was born. According to the prophesy, there were only five births that day. It is said that on the night which sky shines with ribbons of light, the children who are born will be granted special abilities by the heavens.

I never believed it until I met the others.

On my eighteenth year, the Council sent word to the others who were born on what they deemed Aura Tralkea Sim – Tralkea Aura Day. We were all instructed to meet in the capital city of Hokin to display our abilities. Problem was, I hadn’t discovered mine yet. My entire village told me that my time would come, but it never did.

It was a terrifying experience at first. The other Chosen entered a large circular room where Hokin could see them display their brilliance. When I first laid eyes on them, I was shocked. They all looked so similar to me… or I to them. Three women and two men total. Every one of us had a pink-pale complexion, pointed ears, and piercing green eyes. The only difference was our hair. My father told me that the aura over my house when I was born was blue, the same color as my hair. It must have been the same for the others. One thing was certain, we were all strikingly beautiful.

The Council instructed the first of the Chosen to show their ability. A woman stepped forward, proclaimed her name as Ashura and made a stringed instrument appear. Her deep purple hair was pulled back away from her face as she laid her chin on the wood, producing a bow in her other delicate hand. With one fluid motion, she began to play. As she pointed the violin to individuals in the audience, they stood up and danced for her. Then, as the tone turned melancholy, they began to fight one another. She was the puppeteer and they were her puppets. But before one would harm another, she released them from her spell. The people were pleased with her powers. Beautiful but deadly.

Next was the other man, aside from myself. His name was Radushik. I had met him before and had witness his powers. Unlike Ashura, his powers were that of a healer. He crouched down in front of the Council and touched the ground. Suddenly, a crack formed and the most beautiful flower arose from the stone. It’s petals were gold and glinted in the starlight. He plucked the flower with one hand and pulled a knife from his pocket with the other. The crowd watched as he cut his thigh. A large wound opened up on him as he yelped in pain. His mother, who was in the crowd stood up to run to him when he raised his hand. A crushed up gold flower changed into a paste and he applied it to his wound. And then, there wasn’t even a trace of a wound except the blood on his trousers.

Lucky for me, I elected to go last. I spent the entire time terrified that they had read the prophesy incorrectly. Perhaps there were only four Chosen, not five. However, I looked almost exactly like them. But there had to be a mistake.

The other two women revealed their abilities with ease. One could produce and manipulate fire – an element I thought only to be destructive. But the woman named Manui showed me that it could also be beautiful. The last to perform before it was my turn was a woman from the coldest region on Tralkea. Her name was Kaskaedynn and she was telepathic and telekinetic. And of course, she had read the thoughts of the entire crowd, including me. From one end of the crowd, she relayed everyone’s thoughts. When she reached me I begged her not to tell them that I did not know my gift. She must have heard and feigned a slight headache. It was a short-lived relief.

Finally, it was my turn. At first, I wanted to run. But where would I go? My family would be shamed. I had no clue, even if I had a gift, what it would be. All I had in my pocket were little wooden pawns with faces and hair on them. They were my favorite toys as a kid. I even put hair on them. Everyone was watching. Waiting. I can feel my face getting hotter by the moment. The children were starting to boo.

I looked at the other Chosen who watched me intently. I introduced myself. “Tyr” Slowly, I pulled out my pawns and placed them on the ground, making it up as I went. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. I took a long time getting them to stand in a perfect line on purpose. After what felt like days or probably weeks, I stood up with my hand over the little wooden figures. Part of me wanted to run again. Or cry. But suddenly, I felt something. It was a weird tingling sensation in my chest and my head. Creeping towards my hand, a light floated down to my childhood toys. No one, not even me, knew what would happen next.

The pawns changed and grew. They turned into armored creatures, all of different shapes and sizes. No one had ever seen anything like it before. It terrified me to watch these innocent toys form into creatures of war. Some were human-like, others were beasts. All of them were brandishing different weapons and stood at attention.

“We are ready to serve you master of war.” So that’s my ability? I create armies and have them do my bidding? Well, it wasn’t what I expected. Neither was the standing ovation that I received. 

Writing Prompt 3

Monday Prompt!

writing prompt 2

This writing prompt has some mature content. Discretion advised!

My Elder told me that I surpassed his expectations in completing my contract. It’s been a long time since I ended the life of an elderly individual. My usual targets are adult males, but they typically don’t fetch as high of a price. I would never believe that my next contract would be the first time I really… really screwed up.

This day is ingrained in my mind. It almost made me question my loyalty to the Brotherhood. Almost. The contract came in the same way it typically does, through a cryptic note in the mail. Only the Brotherhood has the cipher and it changes constantly. Anyway, the target was unusual, an eleven-year-old boy. At first, I refused, but my Elder was convincing.

“You see,” he reminded. “We only end the lives of those who deserve it. This ‘child’ has his own crimes to atone for.”

That comment hung in my mind until after I had entered the boy’s room. The clock read 12:07am. His parents were asleep. That was what I counted on. What I didn’t count on was his sister, aged ten.

“Are you the one who’s gonna stop my brother?” she whispered. “He hurts our littlest sister and he’s hurt animals and other people too.”

“You can’t stay here,” I said. “I can’t let you watch.”

“But he touches Ashley. My sister. He hit me with a hammer. On the weekends, he kills animals. And one time, he killed a person. But I never told anyone… I’m scared and my mom and dad don’t believe me. I want to make sure he’s gone.”

This young boy fit the bill. Understand, the Brotherhood is a global group of trained assassins. We never kill without a reason. All of our targets commit horrible acts against humans. Sexual predators, murderers, you name it. I have seen it all.

That is why my New Year’s Resolution was to complete more contracts. As long as I am alive, I will be justice.

This isn’t what I typically write as the subject matter makes my stomach turn a bit. However, isn’t that what being an author is about? Sometimes, one has to get out of their comfort zone. Part of the job of a writer is to delve into subjects that make society uncomfortable sometimes. For the next writing prompt, I will be a little more lighthearted 🙂

Monday Madness

 

Creating Believable Characters

If it scares you,it might be agood thing to try.

Welcome back! Today, I’m going to show you how I create characters for my novels. I wrote this as Part 2 instead of the creation of settings. Why? Welllll… you probably already got a lot of setting creation completed when you were searching for inspiration (Part 1). Plus, I believe that environments can change significantly with your characters. Characters are malleable to a point, but they take on a certain life that is inflexible, whereas a setting is created to fit the characters. Stay tuned for Part 3 where I offer insight into Setting Creation.

So, how does one create an entire human being out of thin air? Well that’s an author’s gift! Guys, Gals, and everyone in between – not everyone can do this. You have the ability  to create and entire story with your own flair. Don’t downplay this gift! But understand that it can be difficult as well. I hope to make it a bit easier 🙂

One thing that almost every author can agree on is utilizing people you know to create characters for your novel, novella, short story, etc. Especially with your first project, you are experimenting with techniques. The story itself is where you spend the majority of your time. Wouldn’t it be easier to have character foundations already created? Duh – of course it would! And hey, no one says you can’t make a character after yourself. Whether that’s the main or a supporting character, it is really your choice.

As for me, my main character for The Wanderer Trilogy, Eva, is created from certain aspects of my personality as well as traits that I wish I had or did not have. It definitely helps me ask important questions like “What would Eva do in this situation?” “How would she react to finding this out?” – Makes my life much easier when I can put myself in her shoes and it also causes the character to be much more tangible.

Secondary characters in The Wanderer Trilogy are based off people I know. Again, I use certain aspects of their personalities, not necessarily the entire package. Trust me, it is so much easier to focus on the story line when you create from existing individuals. Start paying more attention to your friends and family for interesting and unique characters!

That’s one option.

Another place to search for character inspiration is public places. If you are really good at ‘people watching’, this could be the best option for you! A coffee shop, the local shopping mall, a park, pubs/bars, a fast food restaurant, etc. – all great places to bring a pen and paper for character inspiration. They key here is… don’t make it creepy. You may get a few questions or odd looks if you’re sitting right next to someone and writing down their gestures or physical traits. Yeah. Don’t do that. Another tip, don’t discriminate! Write about as many people as you can. There may be a trait that you dislike at first, but that could quickly change when you sit down to write.

Once you master the early steps of Character Creation, you will be able to make humans, elves, and robots from scratch. No people watching. Nothing. Repetition is the best way to learn and find out what works for you.

The next step is expanding the minor notes that you have made thus far. Personally, I don’t hold myself to too much detail because I like being flexible. Sometimes the plot can change a big thing about a specific character, so I just let it happen and jot down the trait later. The Internet has quite a few templates for characters, but here is what I use:

  • Basic Information
    • Name
    • Age
    • Family/Friends
    • Main Character? Secondary Character?
  • Physical Characteristics
    • Includes stature, complexion, unique traits, attire, weapons (if applicable)
  • Personality Characteristics
    • Includes unique gestures, sayings, specific quotes to use in the novel
  • Notes
    • Anything else I can think of

And that’s it. No, really. That’s all I use. When I write, I feel like the plot forms better characters if they aren’t held to a specific mold. You don’t want stagnant, cardboard characters like Bella from Twilight (she’s always used as an example for bland characters). Dynamic characters are much more realistic and will make your novel a thousand times better. Whatever it takes for you to create a multi-faceted character, do it! I’m a huge advocate to doing whatever works for you (if you haven’t guessed by now). Just like your characters, you do not fit in a one-size mold.

Another invaluable resource for character inspiration is Pinterest. (You’d think I own Pinterest by the way I talk about it :/ ) Seriously. Search “[Your Genre] Character Inspiration” and you will not be disappointed. There are thousands of photos to help visualize your characters.

Let’s recap… Character Creation does not have to be difficult. In my experience, using myself or people I know as the base of a character is a great way to start out. If no one you know “strikes your fancy”, go to a public place and search for inspiration there. And if all else fails, use the Internet! It is totally up to you how much detail you plan out. But don’t sell yourself short and force a specific cookie-cutter character when you start your first draft. In the end, you must let the words flow out of you. So be flexible and believe in your craft!

Friday Writing

January 2017 – Pelky Sisters

Happy Friday!!! I came across this great WordPress Blog called Pelky Sisters with over 365 writing prompts. I am going to spend a couple days per week using their writing prompts and offer a prompt of my own! My hope is that you – my lovely reader and future published author – find motivation and inspiration in 2x the prompts! 🙂

Post your short stories below. I would love to read them! Don’t worry about it being perfect as I am just writing off the cusp too.

Write a New Year’s Resolution most rational characters would consider a negative life change. 

We were instructed to write our individual resolutions on a piece of paper and toss them into the fire. The school said it would ‘lift our wishes to the heavens’. Too bad there is no God… But, I guess, the only reason I wrote a truthful New Year’s Resolution was because it was going up in flames.

As I walked past the fire pit and tossed my scrawlings into the flickering lights, I stopped. Stared. Letting the flames lick my college-ruled looseleaf paper. Don’t worry, I thought. No one will ever see what is written here. No one could ever know what I do and what I have done.

My Brotherhood is an ancient group. We have always existed and yet never written in history. I was one of the first girls they trained. And they will never admit it, but the women are much better at their jobs. They take us all when we are little. Train us. Make us unbeatable. And then, they throw us back into society and force us to integrate. “It’s for the best,” my elder told me. “You still need to be able to function in this world. We both know that you are an amazing student to me. Your contracts will still be sent as usual. But you must do better.”

The words on that paper felt like a vow to The Brotherhood, my family. My New Year’s Resolution is… My New Year’s Resolution is… My handwriting lingered in the coals for a moment. I looked around to see if the students behind me could read it in the embers. Lucky for them, they couldn’t.

After I drove home, my elder was already waiting for me. A bunch of us live in the same home and no one seems to question it. The Brotherhood taught us to be quick and silent when we leave for our contracts. And the same can be said for carrying out the job. My family greeted me at the door. Lucy just got back from grade school and the others had already showered, changed, and readied for their respective evenings.

“What is your New Year’s Resolution?” my elder asked. At first, I didn’t say anything. My mind was on my target for the evening. I had received a contract the night before.

“Are you listening to me?” he said. His eyes flashed in anger. “You did not write that down did you? What if someone read it?”

“They wont,” I replied. “Writing it down made it feel permanent. Plus, I only wrote something vague.”

“What did you write?”

My New Year’s Resolution is to perform my job better than any before me.”

“That makes me feel a little better.”

“See? No one would know I am an assassin…”

And now, it’s your turn! Feel free to use either prompt (OR BOTH)!

Friday Writing! 1