#writing advice writing reference
Literary Devices Similar to Foreshadowing
There are a number of literary techniques and practices that have some overlap with foreshadowing. Here are a few to keep in mind.
Chekhov’s gun: is a writing best practice often confused with foreshadowing. Russian playwright Anton Chekhov famously said, “If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off.” The refers to the idea that every element in a story should contribute to the whole, and that every detail that “sets up” an outcome should “pay off” in some way. In the example of Chekhov’s gun, that could mean one character shooting another, but an author may also choose to defy that expectation—say, by filling the gun with blanks.
Red herring: Unlike foreshadowing, which is designed to hint at something that will happen in your story, a red herring is a literary device that is designed to mislead the reader, distracting them from the eventual twist. Red herrings are often used in mystery novels, with characters suspected of a crime turning out innocent. (Learn more about red herrings here.)
Flashforward: The opposite of a flashback, a flash forward (also known as flash-forward or prolepsis) brings your reader forward in time for a glimpse at the future. This is different from foreshadowing, as you’re explicitly showing your readers what is to come. Stories that employ flash forwards derive their suspense not from readers wondering what will happen, but rather how it will happen.
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Fantasy Guide to Noble Titles & What they Mean
So I get a lot of questions about what nobles actually do or how much they own or why a certain title is higher than another. Understanding the complexities of nobility and their hierarchy can be a bit of a head twister but hopefully this will help you out. Just for the moment we will be focusing on European Titles because I can't fit all the titles into one post. Forgive my shitty doodles. The diagrams mark out where the particular noble would rule.
These titles have two meanings. In the latter half of the Austrian Empire, it was used to denote senior members of the Royal family such as children and siblings. It is also a non Royal title given to someone who rules an archduchy, a large portion of land with in the kingdom. They are in charge of the archduchy, ensuring it runs smoothly. They are referred to as Your Grace.
Grand Duke/Grand Duchess
The Grand Duke is probably the trickiest of all these titles as there is a dual meaning. A Grand Duke can rule a state as a sovereign like in Luxembourg or they can rule a Grand Duchy (a large portion of land within a kingdom) like the Grand Dukes of Russia. The Grand Duke was below the Archduke and their lands may be smaller. They are in charge of ruling their Grand Duchy, upholding the monarch's laws in their name. They are referred to as Your Grace.
The Duke is the highest rank in most European nations. The Duke rules a large portion of the kingdom- called a Duchy- which you can think of as a county/state. The Duchies are often awarded by the monarch to their children who are not the heir. The Duke is charge with running that portion of land by order of the monarch, handling the over all business of that piece of the Kingdom. Dukes are referred to as Your Grace. There was only one Duke per Duchy.
A Marquess is the next rung down from Dukes. The Marquess is in charge of a portion of land within a Duchy which is called a Marsh which lays near a border. The Marquess is solely responsible for the running of that portion of land. The Marquess is called The Most Honourable (Insert name), the Marquess of XYZ. There could be multiple marquesses in a Duchy if it was near a large border.
An Earl/Count Rules over an Earldom, which is a section of a Duchy but it has less importance than a Marsh ruled by the Marquess. The Earl/Count is the third highest ranking within the Duchy. Often it was the subsidiary title of the heir of the Dukedom, so the eldest son/daughter of the Duke would be the Earl. The Earl/Count of X is addressed as Lord X for example, the Earl of Grantham, is called Lord Grantham. There could be multiple Earls/counts per Duchy.
Viscounts are the Earl/Count's second in command, ruling a portion of land with the Earldom. They handled the judiciary matters of their lands and their barons. Viscounts were addressed as the Right Honourable (insert name) Viscount of XY. Viscounts can also be used as a subsidiary title for the son of a Earl. When Thomas Boleyn was made Earl of Wiltshire, his son George was made Viscount Rochford. There might be multiple Viscounts in a Duchy.
The Baron is the lowest of ranks in the nobility pyramid. Before the mid-medieval period, almost all nobles were labelled as Barons. They ruled over a portion of the land under the Duke, the Earl and Viscount. There were always a huge force of barons with in the Duchy. They handled the minor local disputes of their lands, collecting taxes and monies owed. If they faced a larger issue or crime, they would pass it up to the next ranking noble the Viscount and then it could travel all the way up to the Duke. The Baron of Townville were referred to as as Lord Townville.
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Resources for Writing Injuries
Patreon || Ko-Fi || Masterlist || Work In Progress
General Information | More
Diffuse Axonal Injury
Blunt cardiac injury
Pneumothorax (traumatic pneumothorax, open pneumothorax, and tension pneumothorax)
Penetrating injuries (see also, gunshot wound & stab wound sections)
Heart (Blunt Cardiac Injury)
General Information | More
Carpal tunnel syndrome
Injuries to ligaments
Injuries to tendons
Chemical Eye Burns
Subconjunctival Hemorrhages (Eye Bleeding)
Skin & Bleeding
General Information (Skin Injuries) | More (Arteries)
femoral artery (inner thigh)
thoracic aorta (chest & heart)
abdominal aorta (abdomen)
brachial artery (upper arm)
radial artery (hand & forearm)
common carotid artery (neck)
aorta (heart & abdomen)
axillary artery (underarm)
popliteal artery (knee & outer thigh)
anterior tibial artery (shin & ankle)
posterior tibial artery (calf & heel)
arteria dorsalis pedis (foot)
Abrasions (Floor burns)
In the Head
In the Neck
In the Shoulders
In the Chest
In the Abdomen
In the Legs/Arms
In the Hands
In The Feet
In the Head
In the Neck
In the Chest
In the Abdomen
In the Legs/Arms
Guide to Story Researching
A Writer’s Thesaurus
Words To Describe Body Types and How They Move
Words To Describe…
Writing Intense Scenes
Masterlist | WIP Blog
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Writing pirates: Pirates vs Privateers (part one)
Before we dive into the glamour and destruction of a pirate’s life, it’s important to establish and difference between the crews who operated the seven seas in the 1700s.
A group of men who robbed and plundered the sea, but also committed felonies, robberies and murders in any haven, river or creek where the Lord High Admiral had jurisdiction.
The Lord High of Admiral = The ceremonial head of the Royal Navy (also known as someone who appears to be in charge, but holds very little influence, like most monarchs today)
Jurisdiction: The official power to make legal decisions and judgements
Pirates who preyed on Spanish ships and ports in the Caribbean Sea. To Spain, they were nothing more than ordinary pirates, but for their nations, they were much more than that.
Spain strived to keep all their possessions from the rest of the world, and the rise of buccaneers came apparent when the English occupied Jamaica, which provided them with a base to attack Spanish settlements.
Pirates (and privateers) who operated in North Africa. Their base primarily in the ports of Salé, Rabat, Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli.
(also referred to as: barbary pirates, barbary corsairs or ottoman corsairs)
An armed vessel, consisting of a commander and his crew, who was licensed to attack, seize and loot ships of hostile nations.
The license was issued in form of a document, which was called the Letter of Marque (and Reprisal, LOMAR for short). The letter was written in ponderous legal phrases, and decorated with an elaborate pen and ink flourishes.
The Captain, or commander, of the ship, was expected to keep a journal, as well as hand over ships to the Admiralty court to be assessed and valued. A proportion of the ship’s value went to the sovereign, while the rest was divided between the owners of the ship, the captain, and his crew.
Admiralty court: jurisdiction over maritime law, including cases regarding shipping, ocean, and sea laws
Sovereign: king, queen, or other royal ruler of a country
An authorized privateer, and get this, was recognized by law, and could not be prosecuted for piracy, which in turn caused the system to be wide open for abuse, and most privateers were nothing more than licensed pirates.
Privateers, in simpler words, were basically pirates with papers. They were hired to carry out military activities, and in many ways, their actions mirrored a pirate’s, only difference being, they couldn’t be prosecuted for the crimes they committed.
Also, fun fact! In the 1700s, also known as the golden era of piracy, 98% of the men operating as pirates in the Caribbean and western Atlantic, had formerly either been seamen in the merchant service, the Royal Navy, or even served as privateers.
Not every man suffered the same fate, however. Captain Woodes Rogers, a former privateer, became the first Royal Governor over the Bahamas, and was tasked with the dangerous mission of establishing a well-organized government, that would force every last pirate in the Nassau to surrender. [x]
Today, both privateer and buccaneer are being used as a synonym for pirates, but it’s important to know that in the golden era, they were not the same.
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Differences Between British English and American English
I hope this chart is a helpful reference for all writers. I used dictionaries, checked a couple of language forums, blogs and other people's charts to compile this. It also includes slang. I know that some of them won’t be a completely accurate comparison, but I tried to find the closest equivalent to them.
Please, keep in mind that some of these may vary throughout the years and could depend on the region. For example never in my life have I ever heard of the Water/Drinking Fountain in America (or at least in my area in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, etc.) be called the Bubbler. But apparently its very common in the Midwest of America, in particularly in Wisconsin (also in Rhode Island and Massachusetts for people to actually call it that).
I left it out of the chart because it’s only a few areas that call it that and not all of America. I imagine something very similar to that is likely to happen for those in the UK too, and if so, please share any differences in the words and/or slang in your area.
Note: It’s been pointed out to me that some of these are incorrect, however, like I mention earlier at some point they were once true (like maybe 10 to 30 years ago) and some of them are still accurate, but it just depends on the location. I went more into it HERE.
Remember, I’m only one person, who spent their own free time to work on this, so please cut me some slack. And if anything, I hope to encourage you all to make your own charts, because the current information online is out of date and unclear about where exactly in the US/UK that the words and slang came from.
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We See These Misogynistic Idiots in Our Inbox Occasionally
not to sound like a prey animal on main but i feel like too many people, men and women both, do not actually understand the extent of the strength difference between men and women. it is actually surprisingly easy for a man to kill a woman, in fact it can be done accidentally
The only people who deny it are either blinded by ideology, or have never wrestled with someone of the opposite sex. I had a girlfriend who was extremely athletic, but had only ever played on all-female teams, and her little brothers were very young so she could throw them around. I’m 6’ 4″, and she honestly thought she could hold her own against me.
When I was fifteen, I had a boyfriend who was extremely athletic, but had only ever played against all-male teams. His sport of choice was soccer and his legs were very strong, so he liked to run around kicking other guys in the groin to resolve disputes. (Sorry, Tumblr, he did not turn out to be gay.) One day, we were hanging out at my house and he decided to hug me from behind. I didn’t realize he was behind me, caught his arms moving in my peripheral vision, and nailed him in the solar plexus with my elbow. I did it automatically, just trained instinct. He bowled over, coughing, for a good minute, and continued coughing for roughly five minutes after that. After I determined he was, in fact, okay, I giggled because it was really, rather funny.
We broke up shortly after that. Fifteen year old me figured my body had the right idea about him. The only difference between my incident and yours is I’d been doing Taekwondo since I was six and had plenty of experience working with the opposite sex. I didn’t apply this singular experience of momentarily paralyzing a young man’s diaphragm as a weakness to all men everywhere.
We get MRAs like you every so often on this blog and, honestly, the only men who are wrapped up in the biological/physical differences in male bodies versus female bodies are the ones deeply insecure in their own masculinity. I encourage you to work on coming to terms with yourself and building your confidence in healthy ways outside of comparisons to others. Truly I do, because there are aspects of your ask which are supremely fucked up. We’re going to go over what you said in detail. Not for your benefit, but for the benefit of others.
“not to sound like a prey animal on main”
You sent this on anon. Maybe this is a Reddit thing, but your name isn’t attached so only you will ever experience the full embarrassment of trying to litigate your break-up with a complete stranger.
i feel like too many people, men and women both, do not actually understand the extent of the strength difference between men and women.
This isn’t “too many people.” This is about your ex-girlfriend. If you’re trying to AITA this shit, I can tell you, in no uncertain circumstances, yes, YTA. (You’re The Asshole, for those of readers who don’t hang in that subreddit.)
In the real world, not only do most people genuinely believe there’s a greater strength difference than men and women than actually exists, but they don’t realize that after a specific threshold natural advantages (whatever natural advantages exist and different body types have different advantages) cease to make a real difference. Physical strength is one of those. The general population actually puts too much importance on “natural advantages” over training and practice. That happens when people fail to grasp their own ignorance. (People, perhaps unironically, like the person who sent this ask.)I’ve done martial arts for most of my life, strength differences don’t matter to me because I know how to nullify my opponent’s strength. Violence is a lot more complicated than strength v. strength, and also a lot simpler. Force isn’t generated by the upper body alone and force application has nothing to do with the size of a person’s biceps or what they can lift. If flat strength mattered, bodybuilding would be more than cosmetic. The reality is bodybuilders struggle to draw bows. The reason for this ignorance is simple, as most cops will tell you, most people haven’t been in a fight since high school (if they’ve ever been in a fight at all.) This results in a skewed perspective in a society that already trains a skewed perspective on the gender divide from birth. Gender roles are socially manufactured, sorry.
In the professional field, nobody talks about strength because (surprise!) strength doesn’t actually matter. Martial combat is all about learning to utilize the advantages of your own body while stripping your opponent of theirs. You fight with the body you have. Want to fight? Learn to work with what you’ve got. On a practical level, that’s the end of the discussion. The rest is semantics.
Women do martial arts. They practice against men and women. That’s the end.
“it is actually surprisingly easy for a man to kill a woman, in fact it can be done accidentally”
I know this is going to come as a shock, but it is surprisingly easy to kill anyone accidentally. That’s a human thing. While you may feel otherwise, society actually labels women as acceptable targets for masculine aggression and so they are more likely to be on the receiving end from an abusive partner. This doesn’t mean women aren’t abusers, some are, and the treatment of women by society at large means even fewer female abusers get recognized. Male violence against women is unfortunately common. That doesn’t make women weaker. In fact, it gets us into a discussion about societal training and victim blaming for confirmation bias that I don’t feel like getting into.
I’m really hoping you didn’t accidentally kill your ex though. The fact you chose to include this line in your ask is pretty telling about where your mental state is.
“The only people who deny it are either blinded by ideology.”
People who know what they’re talking about don’t deny it, they say it doesn’t matter if you know what you’re doing. That’s the difference. However, this line is pure projection. You are blinded by your own ideology. I know this because you came here to argue with me, a third degree black belt who did martial arts for thirteen years. You didn’t stop and consider that my lived experience regarding this subject might be slightly more extensive than yours. Also, you’re relying on confirmation bias to support your point.
Your ideology as expressed in the ask you’ve submitted gears itself toward denying that any natural advantages exist outside of those gifted by size and the upper body’s musculature. Which is, sadly, incorrect. Biologically, it is true that male and female bodies aren’t the same. Historically, in Western countries, we haven’t truly explored the advantages gifted by female bodies, we know remarkably little about female bodies in general. This is largely due to the fact that society is geared toward maintaining male as default. Science knows more about how to give you an erection than it does my period.
However, the gap isn’t as massive as some would like to believe. Different isn’t less.
There are quite a few countries outside the West where the concept of women fighting isn’t alien, or even up for debate. Their history is filled with female rulers, female politicians and power brokers, women going into battle, and practicing martial arts. They’ve even founded martial arts. Europe’s is too, they’re just a little more difficult to locate.
“Women can’t fight” is a cultural invention. Pop culture still largely supports a majority white male default, but that isn’t reality.
“or have never wrestled with someone of the opposite sex.”
Your only example for this is limited to a singular instance, so we’re going to take this with a grain of salt. I can tell you’ve never wrestled with anyone who knows what they’re doing because you put way too much importance on height, specifically being taller than your opponent. Height is actually a detriment against someone who knows how to manipulate it into a particular disadvantage, one that gives an advantage to the biologically female body, we’ll get to that in a second.
Female martial artists regularly practice against men, usually men of all ages because there just aren’t enough participants to break down evenly by sex/gender. If they start young, they’ve been practicing against larger opponents for most of their life. (The same is true for young boys too.)
“I had a girlfriend who was extremely athletic,”
So, being athletic doesn’t mean jack shit. That’s true for both genders. The type of muscles you develop heavily depends on the type of sports you do. In addition, the vast majority of people are completely reliant on their upper body. The upper body strength contest is where men have a natural advantage, they’re better at building muscles in the upper body where women build up muscle more quickly in their core and their legs. Depending on how tall the man in question is, he’ll also start with a leverage advantage. He’s going down, while his shorter opponent is going up.
Both these advantages are nullified by martial arts and completely non-existent against someone who practices wrestling. I don’t mean “wrestling” as in grabbing someone and hauling them around the yard, or professional wrestling which involves professional stuntmen performing choreographed fights, I mean wrestling the sport. This will be covered in the grappling side of martial arts like jiu-jitsu, judo, etc.
Anyone who practices wrestling will perk up when you say, “I’m 6”4” and rub their hands with glee. They all know it’s the short wiry fucks you’ve got to watch out for.
Glee was my response at hearing about your height, by the way.
“but had only ever played on all-female teams, and her little brothers were very young so she could throw them around.”
I find it hilarious that you and your ex engaged in the exact same tactics when it came to the fake wrestling and you came away thinking there was a real difference between you. All your anecdote proved was two humans engage in the same natural behavior. Which is why we tell our that training matters. Neither you nor your ex have any idea about how to utilize your lower body or attack your opponent’s center of balance. Or, you know, leverage. That’s completely normal for untrained people.
In comparison, every one of my boyfriends except Starke have all failed to hold on to me in any meaningful fashion. I had an ex who always tried to playfight and pin in bed. Did it work? No. The answer to this one isn’t strength, it’s knowledge and technique. I know how to grapple and practice wrist releases, he didn’t. I don’t need to be stronger when I can be bendy and slippery instead. There’s no need to force anything.
“I’m 6’ 4″, and she honestly thought she could hold her own against me.”
So, let me explain what happened with your ex. She played sports, which is a confidence builder, especially if you’re good at it, and she’s gotten a lot of dopamine hits from adrenaline. Adrenaline makes you feel good, it makes you feel strong and tough. Both built an overweening sense of confidence that ultimately proved false. That’s a human thing, not a gender/sex thing. This happens all the time to men too. Plenty of guys who scrap in high school think they know how to fight. They don’t. Hell, in the scenario provided, she’s not any different from my high school ex who liked to kick other guys in the balls. He only kind of knew how to use his legs because soccer, and only in the way soccer taught him. (His kicks were cringe.)
Height is physically intimidating to most people, but only because they haven’t spent most of their life physically tackling taller people. The irony is that tall people have a whole slew of disadvantages that make them more easy to deal with than humans of average size or those who are short. In male bodies, the center of gravity is higher due to hip position. The center of gravity in biologically female bodies is lower, meaning they have an easier time maintaining their balance.
Taller people have to get much lower to the ground to maintain stability, they’re easier to knock over, destabilize, and throw. Their limbs are also longer which makes it much easier to perform joint breaks. Humans with high levels of muscular definition provide you with visual lines straight to all their pressure points. Pressure points are more difficult to locate in biologically female bodies due to the subcutaneous layer of fat.
If you don’t believe me, I encourage you to join any judo or jiu-jitsu dojo. Have fun learning how difficult throwing a five foot, ninety-pound girl can be. (Damn you, Kristen.)
The sexes aren’t as different as you’d like to believe. The real problem for you is your lack of self-confidence, especially when it comes to your masculinity.
What does it matter that your ex believed she could overpower you?
Why does the fact she had confidence in herself and her own abilities bother you?
Why did it irritate or anger that she didn’t automatically acknowledge your (supposed) superiority?
Why do you need to feel superior?
Healthy relationships are built on mutual regard, understanding, and respect. You obviously didn’t respect your partner’s passion for sports or see it’s value, so it’s not surprising you broke up. All girls who practice sports have heard the whiny bullshit about how they’re not as good as men, how their achievements are meaningless because they’re not men, and how they’ll always be second class. You’re not telling your ex or me anything we haven’t heard hundreds of times before. Thousands, probably.
You know who I never heard that bullshit from? My martial arts instructors. I’ve trained with a lot of men over the years and it never came up, not once. There was no, “boys are better.” They never needed to put down others, exert their superiority, or exclude in order to feel confident and comfortable with themselves. They didn’t need the clubhouse. And, honestly, neither do you.
Let it go.
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We See These Misogynistic Idiots in Our Inbox Occasionally was originally published on How to Fight Write.
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some writing advice nobody asked for
- figure out why you write. is it a hobby? is it something you want to become your career? do you have intentions of going to print? then you'll have a better idea of what advice you need.
- experiment with scheduling versus writing whenever you fancy it. i'm reading on writing by stephen king right now for uni and he says that he sets himself a goal of writing 2,000 words a day. he gives a lot of good advice about writing but i won't put it all here because then it won't be my writing advice lol, but one thing he says is to get into a room with a closed door and no distractions (unplug the tv, turn off your phone/wifi etc), sit down, and do not leave that room until you have your 2,000 words. i did this in the final week of writing my novel and it worked wonders, even though i'm not usually the kind of person to start a writing session with a wc goal in mind!
- don't show people the first draft. this exists solely for you. show them the second, or maybe the third. the first draft's job is just to exist, not to be by any means brilliant. don't introduce unnecessary pressure or doubt by showing people the rough work (unless obviously this is your agent/editor because it's kind of what your job together is)
- try not to get too bogged down by the driving plot or clear arcs/ideas at first. people will tell you different things, so really it's about figuring out what works with your personal writing style, but in my experience i start with a vague idea or atmosphere, maybe a character or two. when i start with a central plot point (i.e. "i want this group of students to end up involved in a murder"), even if i do stick to that, the plot will grow and expand itself as you write. what began as the big, main, central part, becomes just one little part of a huge, rich plot. it's true when people say that books like to write themselves - your final draft will most likely look absolutely nothing like your original plan or even your whole first draft, and that's what i absolutely love about the craft.
- and finally, listen to more radiohead. alternately put "something in the way" by nirvana on loop. just trust me.
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how to properly structure a query letter!*
[An optional brief introduction, no longer than 2 - 3 sentences, perhaps where you elaborate on the #ownvoices of your manuscript, or pointing out certain things in your manuscript that the agent asks for. I reiterate that this paragraph is optional. Unless you have a very specific reason to be querying this agent—for instance, if they tweeted an MSWL for a heist novel and you’re querying a heist novel—there is no relevance, so don’t include this paragraph.]
[The first paragraph of your summary introduces the world, the main character, and their Normal. For instance, Cynthia lives in the times of a pandemic and works to continue living in their new normal. Every day, Cynthia chooses to get up and keep living and making the most of their situation while trying to find something to do to be useful.]
[The second paragraph of your summary introduces the plot. To continue with the above idea, Cynthia has been tasked with trying to find a cure to coronavirus, but all they have to work with in their home is duct tape, tangerines, Tylenol, and a never-give-up attitude.]
[The third paragraph introduces stakes, aka what will happen if Cynthia doesn’t discover a cure with the resources they have at home. Luckily for them, however, a woman named Jane they had a one night stand with needs a place to crash after she was evicted. Cynthia agrees to let her stay as their roommate, especially because Jane brings with her the missing ingredient to the cure for coronavirus, a magic bean she stole from a giant--but there’s only one magic bean. If Cynthia and Jane can’t find a way to make more beans, they might be sent to the realm of giants forever.]
[The closing paragraph goes like this: Complete at 89,000 words, THE MAGIC BEAN is an Adult contemporary fantasy with potential for a companion novel. I believe it will appeal to fans of Erin Morgenstern and Naomi Novik. Briefly explain who you are and share what you’re comfortable with about yourself—I say I’m 26, headed to grad school for archiving, and that the book is #ownvoices for genderqueer representation. Also mention if you have any connection to the publishing industry. I mention who I was previously represented by, why we amicably parted ways, and that I’ve mentored in many writing contests.]
[Final closure: Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you!]
[My phone number and, though optional, my twitter handle]
*i’ve been in the publishing industry for nine years now, have mentored many authors who went on to be published by the Big 5, and worked in writing contests to help writers, not only with their manuscript, but with their pitch and query letter and comps etc. i know what i’m about 😉
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Writing Royals Part 2
The last part was all tips about how to write royal characters, and my apparently controversial opinions on certain things, like corsets......Anyways, I have two more tips I wanted to share about writing royal characters, and some questions I use when I’m about writing the people surrounding the royal family: the royal court!!! Every country with a monarchy or any similar system is gonna have a royal court around them. These people included advisors, favorites, ambassadors, and servants. Getting the dynamic of your royal court perfect often depends on how you write these characters, so here we go!
Homegirl, Where Are Your Guards???
There is nothing that bothers me more than when a royal character is like in the middle of a war or their people are rebelling and they’re like, “ugh, I hate having all these guards around me. I just want to be free!!!!!” Which, okay fine, having a bunch of people follow you around and stand outside while you pee, and generally watching your every move does not sound fun at all, but getting offed doesn’t sound fun either. If your character’s country is in the middle of a war, and even if they aren’t depending on the country, they are going to have guards around them all the time. In Tudor England, guards would sleep in the King’s room even if he had company because people were always trying to assassinate each other. Even if your royal character has magic or powers or something, they still probably need guards. If your characters have been royal all their lives, they probably will know their guards very well and know how to sneak away from them for that oh so coveted night in the town as a commoner. But, even though royalty probably did feel claustrophobic with all those guards surrounding them, especially in the Victorian era right up until the end of World War 1, everyone’s biggest fear was being assassinated. People were getting offed and assassinated left and right, so take that into account when your character oh so desperately wants to leave the palace.
Above the Law, Cause You Are the Law
I’m pretty sure that has been the motto of like almost every medieval to late Renaissance European monarch. Don’t get me wrong, there have definitely been good, benevolent monarchs who actually care about the needs and requests of their people, but then you get to Henry the 8th, and you’re like....., but that’s how it was back then, and even to an extent now. Royalty and nobility get away with so much shit that would send a normal person to prison, just look at Prince Andrew. Having all of that power and prestige, combined with being in charge of a country and being pretty much exempt from a lot of things can lead your royal or noble characters to have an inaccurate sense of right and wrong. Using Henry the 8th as an example, pretty much half of the things he decided in his life can be summed up with, “it’s okay when Henry does it, but if anyone else does it, then I’m offing them” That can create really good conflict if your royal character is forced to finally face the consequences of some of their actions, despite having gotten away with everything since they were a kid.
So, now that we’ve got your royal family figured out, it’s time to get into the royal court. Here are some basic questions that I asked myself when I was writing my royal court for my current, wip!
How big is the total court?- And when I mean court, I don’t just mean the nobles, I mean like everyone, the cooks, gardeners, everyone. I know I’m using Tudor England a lot as my example, but y’all know the Tudors and Henry Cavill own my heart. Anyways, Henry the 8th’s official household could have up to 800 people at one time, and anyone of his various Queens could have another 200 people at their disposal. That’s a lot of people.
What factions exist within the court?- In the words of James Madison, factions forming is pretty much inevitable. Inevitably, people are gonna have similar interests and agendas, and those people will often band together to bring down other people who have the opposite agendas as them. Royal factions are some of the best ways to add some intrigue and spicy conflict to your story.
Where does the court meet?- All royal courts center around the Monarch, but where does the monarch live? Does the Monarch move around throughout the year? In my wip, all the Sovereigns live in their own territories during the summer months, but during the winter months, they all live together at Brookshire. The location of your court can play a big role in how power is consolidated in your world.
Who all is in the court at any given time?- This questions is probably one of the most important questions when you’re building your royal court. The people close to the monarch who protect them, love them, or spy on them. These people, in some scenarios, might have more control over the country than the monarch themselves. They might scheme to control the monarch, marry them, or kill them.
For your convenience, here is a list of people that might be at a royal court at any given time sourced from: https://ryanlanz.com
The monarch(s) – Regardless of what titles you give them, this person or duo is the center of a royal court; she defines the rest of the court. If the monarch consists of two people they are most likely either married or siblings, sometimes both depending on the culture and age.
The monarch’s family – people related to the monarch by blood, adoption or marriage fall into this category, and these people might or might not have their own titles and additional positions, though not necessarily always officially. Consider how younger royal siblings might be sent places to be married off, and be expected to function as ambassadors without the pay, or the many hats that a dowager queen might wear in her “retirement.”
Ambassadors – these men and women come from other kingdoms but they’re vital to functioning on a wider scale. They communicate their lady’s desires, intents and goals, as well as bring her insider news from the courts where they are appointed. When things are going well, they command a lot of respect and power, but if their two countries are on the outs, their lives are almost certainly in danger. Keep in mind too that ambassadors are likely to have their own households, and there might be a junior ambassador in play as well.
Nobles – At any given time, a royal court is bound to be packed with the country’s gentry, there to doing things such as discuss business, introduce a child for courting, serve the crown for their appointed time or because they are so active in politics because they make their home wherever the Queen does. Unlike ambassadors who are primarily going to be focused on inter-country negotiations, noblemen and women will have their own agendas to further their families, and while you’d like to think that they’re all loyal to the crown and their country, sometimes their own ambitions might get in the way.
Court Fool/Jester – We like to think of the court fool as someone who is, genuinely, a fool, but that’s often not the case. The Fool is a useful tool for the monarch because he distracts the court, and more often than not acts as a spy, passing along tidbits of overheard information or sightings–after all, who pays attention to the simpletons?
Courtiers – Courtiers are different from nobles in that they are people whose talents or ambition have brought them to court seeking the next rung on their ladder, rather than people whose daily business has brought them to the Queen’s presence. They are here to make a name for themselves, and can almost always be counted on to act in their own best interests, unless motivated by an exceptional force. These types are often at court on their own dime.
Resident military commanders – Military commanders are not likely to be regular fixtures at court, as they’re needed with their forces. But the highest ranking among them are going to be in nearly constant contact with the monarch (or the monarch’s representative, as is sometimes the case) and that will often necessitate being physically present at court.
Guests – Whether from outside of the country, rich or poor, landed or not, the royal court is ALWAYS going to have guests, and a well-established court is going to have provisions for housing and caring for a large number of them. A person’s station and/or possible value to the crown might determine wherein a castle they are housed and how they are treated, but if you write in a few guests consider that their perspective could be useful in defining the court as a whole.
Semi-permanent guests – These guests are people who don’t necessarily belong at court, and while their stay might be lengthy, it is well established that it will not be permanent. Examples of these kinds of people might be businessmen appointed to oversee some long term prospects, or the children of foreign nobles who have been sent to another country to be educated.
The monarch’s favorites – These could be really good characters for you to develop in depth. They’re essentially wild cards, and as they are favorites of the Queen, they have the potential to be outlandish or scandalous, hated or misunderstood, but the love and blind eye from the Queen keeps them nearby… tethered.
Royal lords and ladies – It will be rare for any ruler to find themselves alone; their personal attendants live to see to their needs and are never going to be far from hand. These politically powerful positions are likely to be jostled over a great deal, especially if the monarch is young, and might overlap somewhat with the royal favorites. Sometimes these people are lifelong companions and sometimes they are placed strategically close to the monarch for certain goals but regardless of how they came to be there, they are likely to share in the fine things, wealth, power and danger that surrounds a royal.
Sponsored artists – Sponsored artists could easily be labeled courtiers, except that it wasn’t usually their idea to come to court, and they’re not there for their own ambition. If the wealthy of your world are at all inclined to supporting the arts – drawing, painting, writing, performance, design, etc – they’re likely going to want to show off their investments, so in this regard these artists are usually nothing more than accessories. Though being a court is always a good way to increase one’s sales.
Guards – Any court is likely to have several levels of protective personnel, all the way from those hired by the royal household to keep the general peace and take care of grunt work to personal, more elite bodyguards. This is another varied group that can include any number of peoples, skill level, objectives and professional capacity, but everybody who’s anybody is going to have one or two. Eunuchs might also fall into this category–those maimed men who have been conscripted in guarding typically women whose virtue is deemed vitally important.
Servants – Another highly varied group, but no less vital to the functioning of a royal castle and court. Servants might hold roles such as cooks, head cooks, librarians, messengers, laundresses, seamstresses, housekeeping, tasters, children’s nurses, ushers, grooms, heralds, and gardeners. If you world isn’t very progressive, some of these roles might also be filled with slaves or bonded servants.
Harem members – This again will depend largely on your story itself, but if the King or Queen is going to be flitting from bed to bed, there’s likely to be a group of bedmates hanging around for royal pleasure. Whether or not this group is well respected or received (or even publically visible) is up to you.
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I ended up spending a lot more time on this than I ever intended and yet not enough.
A person asked for advice on how to write intersex people and I can’t claim to have the answer to that, but it made me want to draw some intersex fantasy people: big bruiser/tank human, mage dark elf, and bard orc.
The thing that separate intersex from, say, non-binary is the body. Some have no idea until they might try to have a baby and find out they can’t, while others grow up knowing they’re different even if they don’t understand why. Depending on the culture they’re born into they might see it as a gift, curse or feel neutral about it.
Gender works a bit differently for intersex people. For example, a child is born with something that looks like a vagina and is raised as a girl, but as they grow up it develops into a micro penis. If the person feels like a woman despite looking more like a man when naked they will usually consider themselves cis. If they feel like a man and always felt weird about being treated as a girl they might consider themselves trans despite their male looking body. It’s largely based on how they were raised instead of how feminine or masculine their body might be. This of course also plays into what sexuality the person see themself as having.
I was recently introduced to the concept of intergender which is a person who’s gender identity is related to them being intersex. I personally really like this because while I have something described myself as non-binary it didn’t feel right because despite not feeling fully female or male I also felt this gender identity was very much related to my body.
Something that’s also worth considering is how the culture in your story might view intersex people. This is all up to you. They might know about it but insist on the person picking a gender to live as, or they might insist the person is not just a third sex but also a third gender and either way the person might have gender norms forced upon them (even if it’s a “third gender” if they consider themself male or female). In a lot of cultures castrated men were considered a type of intersex so that kind of people might form bonds with people who were born intersex.
But yeah, read up on the medical definition of intersex and what kind of symptoms that follow. It’s very easy to find intersex people telling their stories, and besides that I personally think you should just write your character as more than “the intersex person” because as fun as it is to have a big strong or bearded lady it takes more than a body to make an interesting character. Now go! Be creative! :D
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how to create a high fantasy politics reference doc (with a template and guide!)
political fantasy is an extremely fun genre to write in, that is, until you have to actually write the politics. in this semi-requested guide, i'm going to explain to you how i virgo-planned my way to a horribly detailed—though also horribly helpful—political reference doc for my one and only wip, a treatise of tyrants and thieves.
if you too would like to use a similar format to what i did (though consequently you will have to change it to fit your own worldbuilding), i have a template on dropbox paper right here.
as a sidenote, i do recommend already having built up a decent amount of your world before jumping into this; this document is meant to help flesh out pre-existing content in such a way that is really hard to do with a wip that's just starting out.
Generally speaking, when I first began writing this doc, I was mostly doing so in relation to the government of the country wherein my WIP takes place and its relationship with other countries (or nations!), with its own people, and within itself. This then lead to my three, aptly-named subcategories; External, Internal, and Personal Relations (I'm very creative as you can see.)
These three subcategories became my main headers, and all of my organization took place within a Dropbox Paper doc—as I am partial to the cleaner interface and very easy creation of a table of contents—but using Word or Google Docs works just as well. With that, and a lot of pain and suffering in the form of preexisting worldbuilding, I started to flesh all the info out.
You should note that the country AToTaT takes place in a country called Vsyhna (vuh-sen-uh) and its government is referred to as the Dual Courts. This is also a forewarning, for the fact that I will probably be talking about my own worldbuilding quite a bit, if not only for purposes of giving proper examples!
So without any more notes from me, let's properly jump into this thing.
The external relations between the Dual Courts and all the other governments within Ashvayr (the continent that Vsyhna is a part of), of which there are eleven, can be described in one of the following ways:
✅ = Allies
⚠️ = Allied by treaty, with tensions
❎ = Not allied, but no real tensions
✴️ = Not allied, but with tensions
⛔️ = Enemies
All of these relations should be taken with a grain of salt, and also adapted to fit your worldbuilding, of course, but as a general consensus, most governments will have one of those relationships with another. The emojis are used so that it's easily identifiable (I'm also insane, let's not forget), but emojis don't replace discussion.
Within each section, I discussed the relationship between these governments but also gave a quick list of bullet points that explained important moments in recent history that have created those tensions—or lack thereof—the current political state in each country, certain cultural tidbits, and cultural differences between Vsyhnians and others.
Generally, this isn't the stuff you want to get lazy with, and while it is fine to say something like "Oh they live across the world my mc's won't know this." It's better to have the ability to even subtly suggest other people, cultures, or ideologies. It deepens your world, and more than this, can be super interesting to readers. You should also note that this information should affect your characters in some way, otherwise the politics are going to be very boring (as they don't relate to anyone.)
This alternated between something as complex as gender politics, to things as simple as cuisine or trade goods. Indeed, you don't have to cover every base with these descriptions, arguably, this is the part you should spend the least amount of time on (unless you're braver than a U.S. marine and do, in fact, wish to take on international relations), but you should cover every important base.
For a slightly more simple example, let's look at the Empire of Sansryn. I wrote: "The Empire of Sansryn ⚠️ is an archipelago that is composed of two main ethnic groups; the Sansrynians, who occupy the northern half of the islands, and the Tarimese, who occupy the southern half of the islands." Then continued to briefly describe the relationship between Sansryn and Tarim.
The next two paragraphs were designated to a) their relationship with Vsyhna (which as you can see with the ⚠️ emoji is not great) and b) their relationship with other countries around them, not forgetting why it's so poor in the first place, which, spoiler, has to do with a number of social issues.
Also in the case of Sansryn, one of my side characters is half Sansrynian, which is something I noted mostly for the purposes of clarifying this character's relationship with this part of their identity and culture.
Realism is, quite frankly, optional in fantasy (or rather, you define what "real" actually means) but I do tend to strive for realism within AToTaT's politics, if not only because it's fun. When delving into (rightfully!) complex issues—like ethnic conflict for example—it's necessary to do your homework (and hire sensitivity readers afterward) if it's not a topic you are familiar with or related to. However, that exact process is not something I will be discussing in this post and I encourage you to do your own research.
You also want to take into consideration how these countries are related to each other. For me personally, I almost exclusively did this for the two current conflicts (i.e. actively disputed treaties, current armed conflicts) within the world, but I did briefly touch on how those relationships came to be, as you can see above.
Internal relations is where things start to get more complex and also more specific to the world my WIP takes place in. For this section, you need to have already realized a great deal in regards to major political institutions (if you have them!) and most importantly, cultural attitudes.
I split my internal relations section into seven sub-sections, which included: Social Cleavages, Justice System, Garrison, Navy, Cults vs. Church, Crime, and Trade.
For a Wikipedia definition, a social cleavage is "a historically determined social or cultural line which divides citizens within a society into groups with differing political interests, resulting in political conflict among these groups." AKA sexy, sexy plot tension.
The social cleavages of Vsyhna mostly revolve around social class (in-world called "rank"), an urban/rural divide, and nationality, which I note as being "considerably not a social cleavage." It appears I should have listened to my Wikipedia-defined advice. That said, rank was described at length for its importance to the religion, general structure within government, linguistic flavor (dialects!), and laws. It's one of my largest social themes and connects to almost everything within the book, including the magic system.
Speaking of magic, as I didn't mention it within my seven sub-categories above, I should note that however magic works in your society should also be included. In my case, it's heavily intertwined with religion and social class (access to the information that allows people to use magic, I mean) and so I didn't feel the need to clarify its role with an entirely new section, but how you do this is entirely up to you. It's also up to you to include a magic system, as in reality, you don't necessarily need one. I also have a completely separate Dropbox doc for most of these things anyway (re:knowing stuff before you jump into this.)
The justice system is something I find is often not immediately thought about when it comes to fantasy, but from a very general point of view, this also encompasses subjects such as law codes, the punishment for breaking those codes, and what trials look like, if you have them. This can tell us much about your culture, what they value, and more importantly, how much they value it.
For example, continuing with my themes of classism, sumptuary laws are a large part of Vsyhnian society, i.e. laws that forbid the usage of certain goods to lower classes. Given that it's illegal for someone of lowborn status to have, let's say silk, it creates a) a prime criminal market (trading "illegal" goods), b) a need to crack down on this market, and c) further severs the relationship between upper and lower classes, given that the fairness of the justice system is then put under scrutiny. Indeed, the fact that it's the Church that controls the justice system, you have a similar tension in the department of faith, and I haven't even begun to talk about how the treatment during trials differs.
I often find military to be the greatest emphasis within quite a lot of political fantasy, that being, the mobility of large land armies or prowess at sea. For me personally, I find this to be rather boring (both on accounts of reading and writing) so I did come at this with a lens of interest in the personal relationships of these people and actual organization within the military. Mostly, I used what I knew from external relationships and current conflicts to create something that could be used later on if I needed it, as it's not heavily featured (at least not in the first book!) Treaties, blockades, relationships between commanding officers, and relationships with piracy.
On notes of realism, I went with the very classic These Island People Have A Great Navy, as, historically, they tend to.
We should all know by now how important religion, or lack thereof, is in epic fantasy, and while I could go on about this for several hours, this is a political relations doc, so I focussed on the tension between sects of the main religion. How different leaders within the religion interacted with other members of government is a topic for personal relations, however, if not only because they're heavily featured, and there are several (about nine actual descriptions.)
This culminated by way of cults vs. the Church, differing ideologies within fundamental concepts of the religion, and generally how they're seen by Vsyhnian society (and—you guessed it—social class.) As an example, I wrote, "All of these organizations consider the Holy Book Rovnokh to be canon and true within their faiths, though it is the Codex Drkha that is often disputed in validity. This is the result of their own written dogma, which may convey entirely different personalities and oblation tales, or emphasis on a very specific aspect of the mortal godchild then how they are presented in the Codex."
It is important to consider, before even delving into differences, what the fundamentals of each sect or division within your religion are speaking on. Think of the historical context that may have brought about such a concept, or even fuzzy lines within canon texts. Here's another example, "The seventh mortal godchild is not mentioned within the Codex and therefore not considered a valid mortal godchild, though Vrah’s appearance in the Holy Book and the Children of the Bone’s own text—which are older than the Codex—say otherwise. 'Vrah' is more used as a term to describe magic and not at all a person, when it is mentioned in the Codex."
Crime and trade, as you can imagine in a society plagued by rules that dictate trade—and in many cases make the trade of certain items a crime—is quite important. As I hinted earlier in the justice system section, the "illegal" trade of certain goods, which goes against sumptuary laws. That said, crime happens for a number of different reasons, and I took the time here to think about partner organizations, illegal magic producers, and gangs.
Crime can actually be an excellent tool of worldbuilding, if not only for the fact that it is so specific to the country and history it resides in. Why does something need to be stolen? Fabricated? Spied on? And who is getting the most out of it?
Trade was something I rather lazily did with the above Vsyhnian roadmap—I don't plan on discussing economics at all, nor following merchants as they move goods though the country.
I want to note once more that all of this is extremely relative information; what you need to write about to create political tension is entirely up to you and your story. As a general bit of advice, however, it is helpful to ensure that everything can come back around to your characters—if not now, then at some point within the series or story as a whole. Politics can become boring very easily, especially when not personal.
For our final and most interesting section, I did two, somewhat important things before actually writing anything out; that being creating two charts. The first is a political alignment chart, the second is a chart that defines the different positions of government. While again, this is totally relative, this is what I came up with:
Take the time to think about and research other forms of government, what each "branch" might do, and how they do it. More importantly though, think about how the culture and religion would, can, or do influence the government, and how the government has responded to such action. Look to history especially!
The charts allowed me to very easily place my main characters, their families, and all the previous groups of people (gangs, cults, social classes) into categories that can then, more or less, directly define their relationships with one another. This made the process that I will now describe to you a little less tedious.
I divided this category into three sections: Nobleborn Houses (that being houses of great import and high rank), the Prelacy (leaders of the Church), and Others of Note.
There are ten nobleborn houses, however, I only did mass amounts of details for five of the most important. I should also note that two of my four main characters are a part of two of these houses, and it's for that reason that I felt I needed to be as in-depth as possible. For Houses, the organization went something like this:
A general description of the house, its history, and how it rose to power, as well as what they generally control within the government or country and how long they've had this position.
Try to be as diverse as possible within these descriptions—cover a lot of different bases and don't be afraid to do it! A family rising to power as a result of the money they, for example, gained from growing roses says a lot about the culture and commerce of a particular country.
What the people think of this family, given all social standings and occupations. Naturally, when I say all, I don't mean think about what every carpenter thinks of the royal family, I just made sure it was a general consensus!
Opinion of the Other Five Houses:
This, I tended to keep as short as possible, but like the external relations above, I wanted to know what and how the relationship was what it was. For several, I already had an idea, but for...so many more I did not (hear the pain in my voice? there's pain in my voice.)
Opinion of the Remaining Houses:
Shorter than even short as possible, but the same idea as before.
Probably one of the more important sections; I listed out all the members of the main part of the family, that is, the immediate family of the person involved in government (or main character.) This not only defines your side characters—of which there are bound to be many—but also clarifies the conflicting motives of the people in charge. And they should conflict, hopefully with the motives of your main characters. Extended family was discussed when important, such as prominent aunts, uncles, or grandparents, but for sake of simplicity, lengthy descriptions were kept for parents and children.
I also included charts after this about minor houses sworn to these noble houses, but to be completely honest, I didn't fill out most. That said, I did repeat this process for all five houses, and the good news, is that after you talk about the relationship with one of the other five, you're done completely, so, yay one less bullet point each time. Also, don't feel pressured to have a name for everyone or everything! In fact, I mostly skip over names of people unless I really have to know them in text, far more characters are simply [BROTHER] or [PARENT], though this could be a laziness thing. Or a conlang one.
A worldbuilding note: I also included house colors, sigils, and heads in this instance, as well as their connection to certain magical oaths.
For the remaining five nobleborn houses, I only listed house heads, sigils, and colors, if not only because I described their relationship with everyone else, earlier. That said, I also included house heir and extra notes, if I needed them.
The Prelacy was organized slightly differently, as important members of the Church, they don't necessarily have family members interacting with them. Instead, I focussed on backstories, their relationships with the Arkan (the monarch, sort of), and once more, motive (and personalities, given that I don't give side characters a full oc profile.)
As shown in the chart above, there is one High Vokhsv and six Vokhvs that work under them; the former had a more in-depth section of text, however, the six got just about as much detail as the lesser five noble houses.
My last and final section was short and sweet (thank God) and covered two topics very briefly, that are so world-specific I won't even bother explaining them. That said! That's what this section is for; anything else that you might have missed.
I won't lie, the personal relations section was probably the most time-consuming part of this entire doc, but in the end, it did pay off. The entire thing took about from the 22nd of February to the 18th of April, and came out to around 30k. Do I suggest you also write this much? Not unless you feel like you need it. I don't really plan out plot, so for me, this was my plan, hence the length and detail.
Thank you so much for reading! I hope you enjoyed this far too long breakdown of my political reference doc of my WIP, A Treatise of Tyrants and Thieves and good luck with your own process, writing, and research <3
Some links I found helpful:
The template link, once more.
Brandon Sanderson's 2020 creative writing lectures (YouTube)
Designing a fantasy legal system (Worldbuilding Stack Exchange)
Unpacking Folk Tales/Motif Index (Uni. of Alberta)
Real Inequality in Europe since 1500 (Journal, PDF)
Public Diplomacy in Early Modern Europe (Journal)
The Spy Chiefs or Renaissance Venice: Intelligence Leadership in the Early Modern World (Oxford Brookes Uni., PDF)
Branches of the U.S. military (SOU)
those who were interested.
@chovansjtsjina @zielenheil @lord-fallen @ninazeniks @viesceral @introverteddumbass @wisteria-eventide & anyone else, feel free to reply, send an ask, or dm me about questions!
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8 Rules for Writing Fiction: Tips to Guide Your Writing Process
Protect your writing process. Every single writer will tell you how important it is to stay organized and devoted to your daily work—this will help you get through the rough patches you’re likely to encounter. It can be extremely difficult to get published, and rejection is the norm for most writers. Coping with it will require a balance. You’ll need humility to accept that your work can improve, but you’ll also need a blazing confidence that will allow your creative inspiration to continue flowing.
Find your space. Some authors like to carve out intensely personal space. Authors need to write, no matter the distractions: Jane Austen wrote in a busy family parlor, E.B. White wrote in his crowded living room. Ernest Hemingway and Kurt Vonnegu all worked in the early mornings to limit distractions. Maya Angelou famously rented hotel rooms to get away from daily nuisances. Try to find a space that works for you. It should be free of distractions (a definition that will depend upon your tolerance level) and provide a source of inspiration to you.
Make your writing flow. Some authors are sticklers for the placement of apostrophes, others swear by modern, free-form structure. Regardless of which you align with, your writing should still flow well and be easy to understand. Cut out any superfluous adjectives and adverbs (a likely result of an overly enthusiastic dive into the thesaurus in search of just the right word) and try to eliminate passive voice in favor of active voice. Make your writing more active by looking carefully at your word choices, getting rid of generic words and clichés, and choosing concise phrasing.
Experiment with narrative point of view. Point of view is the “eye” through which you’re telling a story. Most novels are written in one of two styles: First person, which involves a narrator who tells their story. (“I ran toward the gate.”) Or third person, which is the author telling a story about a character. (“He woke up that morning.”) While first person narration can provide intimacy, it is also limited by the perceptive abilities of the character. This can be useful when creating an unreliable narrator or when creating red herrings. Third person narration is a more flexible choice. It allows you to switch between characters’ points of view. You can even zoom in and out from complete omniscience (a narrative voice that has access to all information in the novel) to what’s called a limited or “close” third point of view (a narrative that adheres to a single character).
Believe there’s no such thing as writer’s block. Writer’s block is often an overwhelming feeling of being stuck. You’ve written part of a novel, maybe you’ve even finished an outline, but you just can’t move forward. Every time you sit down at your desk, your mind goes blank, or you can’t decide what to do next. This experience is common among writers, and there are ample tools for working through it. Take a break from the work, do something else for a while, and return a few days (or week, or months) later to view your draft with a fresh eye. The most important rule is to keep moving, whatever that means for you.
Focus on character development. Character and event are inseparable—a person is defined by the series of events that happen to them. In a novel, a character interacts with events over time. Your job as a writer is to learn about your main character by observing how they interact with the world around them. Characters—like real people—have hobbies, pets, histories, ruminations, and obsessions. They have a backstory. It’s essential to whatever you’re writing that you understand these aspects of your character so that you are equipped to understand how they may react under the pressures of events they encounter. Ideally, your characters will be distinct enough to be memorable, but for all those minor characters who are emerging in your novel, it’s good practice to provide hints that will help the reader distinguish who each character is, so they can remember their various story arcs.
Find balance in the types of sentences you use. In all writing, there are two types of narration: scene and dramatic narration. In scene, you show the characters performing an action or having a conversation. This tends to speed up the pacing. In dramatic narration, you simply tell the reader what the characters did, but the event remains “offstage.” This type of narration can slow the story down. To keep pacing from feeling monotonous, it’s a good idea to vary the two modes of writing. For some writers, that means breaking up long flowing sentences with sentence fragments on a paragraph-to-paragraph level, while others switch tones between chapters.
Get your story down on paper. Focus on getting through your first draft from start to finish, and remember that you can always go back and change things later. If novel-writing feels too intimidating, try writing a short story instead. (Though short stories can be deceivingly more difficult to write than novels since they require a concise and extremely economical narrative containing all the elements of a novel—in a fraction of the space.) You can begin with the first chapter, or you can use an outline—you can choose to approach your story in any order that feels right for you. You will inevitably make changes to your original plan along the way, and this is a good thing. If tracking your word count feels empowering, set up daily goals. If you prefer to let your words of prose flow in a self-determined fashion, be kind to yourself and respect whatever output comes.
Article source: here
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Writer's Guide: Guns
I'm not the biggest fan of guns but I need them in my new WIP. Guns are probably one of the most used tools within most medias, besides being one of the most misused tools. So how can we write them? (my other post on guns focuses on the damage guns can do to a body so go there if that's what your looking for)
Part of a Gun
Action: The action is the brain of the gun. It is the part where you load, fire and eject the casings.
Stock: The stock is the handle of the gun. It is made up of the butt and the fore-end.
Barrel: The Barrel is the nose of the gun, the point where the bullets are fired from. Once a bullet is fired, it travels through the barrel and out the muzzle.
Muzzle: the muzzle is the hole the bullet exit from.
Bore: The bore is the inside of the barrel
Cylinder: The Cylinder holds the rounds in a revolver. It rotates as the gun is fired, pumping bullets into the chamber.
Grip: The Grip is where you hold gun.
Hammer: The Hammer on a revolver is a pin like instrument that strikes the primer which fires the bullet from the gun.
Clip: An clip stores the rounds of ammunition on a single line-like device that can be placed into magazine.
Magazine: The Magazine is a container that is spring activated, which can be detachable of fixed. It holds cartridges for a repeating firearm.
Trigger: The Trigger is what you pull yo fire the gun
Trigger Guard: The trigger guard is the loop that fits in front of the trigger to shield it from accidental firing.
Bullet: is the projectile that exits the gun.
Cartridges/Shell: This is the case, primer, propellant and projectile (bullet). The bullet sits in the cartridge case.
Shotshell: Are rounds of shotgun ammunition, containing pellets rather than a bullet.
1. Keep the muzzle pointed downwards (not near your feet or others) when not using the gun.
2. Unload gun when not in use
3. Always check the safety.
4. Be sure of your aim. Don't fire blindly because you'll end up wasting bullets and you might hurt somebody
5. If the gun is jammed, don't look down the barrel to see why it's blocked. Point it away from you, open the action and remove the blockage safely.
6. Keep your barrel clean. Any excess cleaning fluid even dirt can mess up your shot or even cause blockages that can burst the barrel
7. Don't alter your gun in any way on your own. Even if you're a self proclaimed expert, don't touch the gun. You can fuck up the intergrity of the weapon.
How to Hold a Handgun
1. Your dominant hand should grip the gun, high along the back strap (back of grip). This will give you better leverage and handle the recoil better.
2. Place your other hand against the other side of the grip. Four fingers should sit snugly under the trigger, while your index finger should rest against the trigger itself.
How to Hande a Rifle/Long barrelled Gun
Hold the rifle with two hands, hold the grip of the rifle with your dominant hand. Your fingers should wrap about the base of the rifle, under the trigger guard.
Your non-dominant hand should be wrapped firmly around the base of the grip. Holding the gun right will help reduce recoil and ensure better control.
How to fire a Gun
Align your sights. Your gun has a sight at the front and at the rear. Aim and align your sights through these points. There should be equal space between the sights.
Set your sight. When you’re aiming a gun, you’re you are looking through the front sight, the rear sight, and your target. When you're aiming at the target, it will look blurry. The sights should but clear.
Press rather than pull the trigger. You should squeeze it, applying constant pressure until the weapon fires.
Things every Writer should know about Guns
Hollow Point Bullets are not more deadly than full metal jacket bullets. Though a hollow point will cause damage, full metal bullets are actually more likely to over-penetrate and move when with the flesh, causing a more devastating wound.
Guns are really loud. How loud exactly? Most heavy duty guns could cause hearing loss. It simply isn't possible for two characters to have a lovely chat while firing weapons.
Rifles with scopes make it easier to shoot but they won't make a beginner a sudden genius marksman. Scopes help but they don't perform miracles.
Shotguns shoot shells not bullets.
Your character should not tuck a just fired handgun into their waistband or else they will get a nasty burn.
Silencers or better yet, suppressors do not silence your shots. They actually lower the sound by a few decibels.
Don't have your character fire gun sideways. They will fuck up their wrist and look stupid while doing it.
Most rifles and shotguns aren't pump action
If you drop your gun, if won't fire itself.
The clip and magazine are two different things. They can't be used as synonyms.
When somebody is shot, they don't go flying back. They crumple on the spot.
The exit wound of a bullet is larger than the entry point.
Most beginners will have trouble with recoil. Bloody noses and black eyes are common is one doesn't know what their doing.
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Character Development : A Collection of Resources
Patreon || Ko-Fi || Masterlist || Work In Progress
Resources For Creating Characters
Resources For Describing Characters
Resources For Writing The Mafia
Resources For Writing Royalty
Commentary on Social Issues In Writing
Guide to Character Development
How To Fit Character Development Into Your Story
Tips on Character Consistency
Designing A Character From Scratch
Making characters for your world
Characters First, Story Second Method
Understanding Your Character
Tips on Character Motivations
31 Days of Character Development : May 2018 Writing Challenge
How To Analyze A Character
Alternative Method of Character Creation
Connecting To Your Own Characters
Interview As Your Characters
Flipping Character Traits On Their Head
Character Driven vs. Plot Driven Stories
Tips On Writing About Mental Illness
Giving Your Protagonists Negative Traits
Giving Characters Distinct Voices in Dialogue
Giving Characters Flaws
Making Characters More Unique
Keeping Characters Realistic
Writing Good Villains
Guide to Writing The Hero
Positive Character Development Without Romanticizing Toxic Behavior
Tips on Writing Cold & Distant Characters
Balancing Multiple Main Characters
Creating Diverse Otherworld Characters
Foreshadowing The Villain
Masterlist | WIP Blog
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Stumbling upon your blog must be my lucky lucky day 😊 I've looked through your FAQ and didnt see anything addressing a pantser plotting a story so... Hopefully this ask is ok! If not, I'm sorry to bother. I'm a pantser, not a plotter but I have an idea for a long fic. How should I go about it without losing interest..? Maybe interest isn't quite the right word. Cause one time I had an idea, I plotted it with beats but then lost interest / got too intimidated by it... Thank you in advance!
Plotting for Pantsers and Pantsing for Plotters
For those of you who don't already know, when it comes to beginning a new project, the writing world consists of two very different groups of people: plotters and pansters.
Plotters meticulously outline their stories from start to finish, and although they benefit from cohesive, streamlined work, they often hit a wall of writer's block and lose creativity from over-plotting.
Pansters just go with the flow, and despite the freedom that allows them to write whatever they want and boosts writing motivation, their stories often suffer from lack of cohesion and can take a while to get to the point.
In order to make a long project, such as a fanfic or a novel, as successful as it can be, you need to be a mix of both.
You need to plot in order to make sure you don't over/underwrite and can optimize your narrative, while also leaving room for flexibility that allows you to make your own creative decisions and prevent writer's block.
Here's how to do it. It's all in the outline.
Unfortunately for pantsers, all long works should have an outline so you know what points you have to hit along the way.
Unfortunately for plotters, it's restricting and unnecessary to have every single detail planned to a T.
A simple "here's whats going to happen in this chapter" should be enough. It doesn't have to be long. Hell, it can just be one bullet point! But as long as you have a general idea of what needs to happen, you can make the rest!
This leaves enough structure for plotters but enough wiggle room for pantsers!
Introduce Character A
Talk with Character B
Foreshadow Character B's betrayal
See? This is a very, very loose idea of what's going to happen in this chapter.
In fact, this is just a list of all the things that HAVE TO happen to make the story go forward; you can still add your own things to it to make it your own!
Tell yourself what is going to happen. Not how it's going to happen.
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Debunking 6 Myths about Steadfast, Flat-arc Characters
Steadfast/flat-arc characters are characters who don't drastically change their worldviews over the course of the story. In contrast, a change character will do largely a 180 flip in worldview from the beginning of the story to the end of the story.
For example, in the fable of the Little Red Hen, the Little Red Hen never changes her worldview about hard work. But in A Christmas Carol, Scrooge completely changes his worldview from the beginning of the story to the end of the story.
In the writing community, there are a lot of misconceptions of the steadfast/flat-arc character (at least from my experience), which I'm going to talk about, debunk, and clarify today in this article. This information will still be useful to writers who have no interest in writing a steadfast protagonist--because nearly every successful story features a key character who is steadfast.
irst, though, we need to visit our familiar pit stop on writing terminology. The most common term for this character is the "flat-arc" character. But it is not the only term. This character has also been called the "steadfast" character, which is what Dramatica Theory calls it. While "flat-arc" is more common, I prefer "steadfast" for a few reasons:
- It conveys that the character must struggle to hold onto something (after all, one is only "steadfast" when there is opposition)
- "Flat-arc" sorta sounds like there isn't really any growth or movement, which isn't exactly accurate.
- For much of my experience in the writing world, protagonists who don't have much of an arc have been frowned upon or treated as "lesser." The term "flat-arc" reminds me of that.
This is completely preference. You may use whichever term you want. Today, I'll be switching between the two.
Now, you can have positive and negative steadfast characters. A positive one will hold onto a true worldview throughout the story, while a negative one will hold onto an inaccurate worldview. For the sake of this article, I will be focusing on the positive one, which is more common, and may do a future article that focuses more on the negative version.
Now, let's talk about some of the misunderstandings and myths about the positive steadfast character.
My (Helpful) Personal History with Steadfast, Flat-arc Characters
Despite wanting to work in the writing industry since I was seven, I entered the writing world like anyone else: naive.
I had an idea for a story I wanted to write, with a protagonist that drew inspiration from some of my all-time favorite protagonists.
What I didn't know, and what no one could explain to me, was that all these protagonists were steadfast/flat-arc characters. And that's what I wanted to write.
I took writing classes, went to conferences, read books, and tried to soak up any piece of advice anyone could give me. But for some reason, some of the information didn't seem to work into my story or apply to the favorite stories I was drawing inspiration from.
This led to a lot of questioning and challenging of "writing rules" on my part (though that was mostly internal). I was told over and over again (if not in these words) that I needed to have a change arc protagonist. It was implied, over and over again, that protagonists who didn't have change arcs were static, simple, lacking depth and dimension, and were just boring. Of course, there was always the occasional acknowledgment that 007 or Indiana Jones were successful. But I didn't want to write 007 or Indiana Jones. I still wanted to go deep into character.
Well, over the years, I unwittingly switched my protagonist from a steadfast protagonist to a change protagonist. I've only fully realized this recently when reviewing some of those favorite protagonists from years ago.
Not to be dramatic, but I feel a little cheated and let down by the writing world because of that. Even recently I went looking for resources on steadfast/flat-arc protagonists, and frankly, found very little. And of what I did find, 95% pulled from the same source material. I mean, it's great, but we are obviously lacking with this.
I tell this story, not for therapeutic reasons (okay, let's be honest, some of it is totally therapeutic!), but because I know there is someone out there who is struggling like I was. Someone who can't get their story to work because they are trying to apply change-arc advice to a flat-arc protagonist. This doesn't work. But you can't see that, because the people you are learning from (who have sincere intentions), don't fully understand or acknowledge steadfast protagonists.
For example, a writing book that has been making waves (that I looove and definitely recommend) is Story Genius by Lisa Cron. This book is amazing! And so helpful!
If you are writing a positive change protagonist.
It will not help you nail down your steadfast protagonist. Because its principles are founded on the protagonist changing.
So if you are trying to apply it to the wrong type of protagonist, you are going to get frustrated. . . . or switch your protagonist's type.
Unfortunately, I myself have been guilty of perpetuating some inaccurate advice, but only because (like most people), I didn't know better. This also tends to happen because by far the most common protagonist type is the positive change protagonist. There are lots of resources on it. There are lots of people writing it.
But this doesn't mean that the steadfast protagonist is wrong. It actually doesn't even mean that he is boring, static, or one-dimensional, nor that he doesn't grow, struggle, doubt, or change at all. He just doesn't do a direct flip in worldview. Instead, he proves his worldview true (the thematic statement).
Let's debunk some myths I've heard in the decade or so of being in the writing world.
Myth #1: Flat-arc Characters Don't Grow
The most common myth you are likely to run into, is that steadfast characters don't grow. This is inaccurate. The steadfast character doesn't drastically change her worldview. The positive steadfast protagonist has a worldview that will be proven true by the end of the story, which creates the theme. (In contrast, a negative steadfast protagonist has a worldview that will be proven untrue.)
This doesn't mean the character doesn't grow in some way.
For example, you may have a flat-arc character who becomes more competent. Maybe he learns to become a great marksman. Or maybe she learns how to navigate law school (Legally Blonde). A steadfast protagonist can gain any kind of skill, even some that are less obvious, such as learning the art of manipulation. In Moana, Moana must learn how to sail.
You may have a steadfast character who learns to become more proactive/assertive. It's not exactly unusual for a flat-arc character to not want to get involved in the main conflict in the beginning. He may be a reluctant hero. He may need to learn to not stand by but to stand up for what he believes in, by confronting the antagonist directly. In Disney's live-action Cinderella, Ella must become more assertive to fully thwart her wicked stepmother.
A steadfast character may grow in experience and wisdom. In Wonder Woman, Diana must experience and understand the real world in order to fully wield her truth against the antagonist.
A steadfast character can grow in pretty much any way that doesn't totally flip his or her worldview.
Certainly, there are flat-arc characters who don't grow at all, like 007, and that is fine, and you can write successful characters like that. But that doesn't mean that none of them grow whatsoever.
Myth #2: Steadfast Characters' Worldviews Remain Completely Static
Explained most simply, a positive steadfast character has an accurate worldview--understands the true thematic statement--from the beginning. This doesn't necessarily mean she has a perfect understanding of it.
The character's worldview may need some refining. It may not be whole or complete. Or, as mentioned, above, it may need more wisdom (discernment) behind it.
These things can only be realized with real-world experience--in other words, the tests and trials of the middle of the story.
While this concept may overlap with the prior, it's slightly different, as not every way a steadfast character grows will be linked to his or her worldview. They may be two completely separate things. But they can also go hand in hand.
For example, while Cinderella knows kindness will help her through trials (the thematic statement), her worldview needs some refining. She must realize one shouldn't let others take advantage of that kindness. She needs to stand up and be assertive with her stepmother.
In Arrival, Louise Banks knows that communication can help us understand another perspective, which enables us to avoid confrontation. However, through the story, she gains a greater, deeper, more complete understanding of that, as she learns the heptapods' language--which has the power to unit humanity and species across time.
In Wonder Woman, Diana knows from the beginning that we should fight for the world that we believe in. However, she gains more wisdom in that regard, after experiencing the gray moral complexities of humanity--does humankind deserve a better world? Only after she comes to terms with this, is she able to embrace the true thematic statement with eyes wide open.
Sure, some steadfast characters have completely static worldviews, but many of them don't.
This concept can become all the more complex when we consider secondary themes.
First, as a quick recap, the positive steadfast character has an accurate worldview--the "truth," as some like to call it--this is also the primary thematic statement. This is the truth the story is arguing. The positive steadfast character starts the story with this.
In contrast, a positive change character will start with an inaccurate worldview--the "lie," as some like to call it--this is basically the "anti-theme"--the opposing argument to the "truth." The positive change character will change to the "truth," the accurate worldview, the true thematic statement at the end.
However, many stories have more than one theme. Many stories have secondary themes.
Because of this, it's possible for the positive steadfast character to be steadfast in the primary theme, but be a change character in the secondary theme.
For example, Diana is steadfast in the primary theme, which is the argument that we should fight for the world we believe in (as opposed to the argument that we should allow humans to suffer the world they "deserve.")
However, in the secondary theme, she is a change character. The secondary theme is about whether humankind is innately black and white or whether they are innately gray. Diana begins the story believing they are innately black and white (innately good, if not for the antagonist), but learns the truth: humankind is innately gray. This is an arc of disillusionment. This feeds into the primary arc and primary theme.
I have an article on secondary themes in the works, but it's not complete yet. For now, know this:
Many stories have multiple themes. A steadfast protagonist may or may not be steadfast for every theme (or "worldview" if you prefer). But by definition, they must be steadfast for the primary theme (obviously).
Again, more on that in the future. However, this is why you may see writers argue over whether a particular character has a change or flat arc, and why the same character may get categorized differently--it depends entirely on what thematic thread the person is pulling. One may, in fact, argue Diana is a change character, because she arcs in disillusionment, while another may argue she has a flat arc, because she believes the primary thematic statement from beginning to end.
No worries if it sounds a little confusing. In short, a positive steadfast character's view may grow or shift in some way, but it never does a 180 flip in the primary arc and theme.
Myth #3: Flat-arc Characters Always Stand Firm
Just because the steadfast character has an accurate worldview and belief system (knows the "truth"), doesn't mean she never wavers or has doubts about it.
In most flat-arc protagonist stories, the character will have her beliefs tested through the conflicts of the middle. As the antagonistic force gets stronger, the character may experience doubts and powerful temptations (which may include conflicting wants). At some point, it may even seem that her worldview might be wrong. This, along with the cost of adhering to the truth, is almost always the meat of her internal journey. If you want your steadfast character to have a rich inner journey, this is where it's at.
For other steadfast protagonists, the internal journey isn't a major plotline (like 007). This means we won't see many (if any) moments of him having a worldview struggle.
Ultimately, at the end of the story, the steadfast protagonist will hold onto her accurate belief system. This is what makes her steadfast. But that doesn't necessarily mean she never second guesses it.
Myth #4: Steadfast Characters are Simple and One-dimensional
While a steadfast character is probably more likely to be simple, they aren't necessarily. Complexity isn't strictly tied to character arc.
What makes something complex is dichotomy. It's boundaries. It's layers of identity. I talk about this in my free booklet "Core Principles of Crafting Protagonists." But I'll review briefly.
Complex characters are most easily created when we smash together seeming contradictions.
- An outlaw who is law-abiding
- A soldier who refuses to hurt anyone
- A vampire who doesn’t like drinking blood
. . . for example.
Once you’ve smashed together contrasting features within the character, the gray area can be explored to find complexity. Why would an outlaw be law-abiding? How can someone be a vampire and not like blood? (These are more obvious examples, but they prove the point.)
Complexity can also be created by considering the character's personal boundaries--what it takes for him to consider doing something he wouldn't ordinarily do. We all have thresholds when it comes to our values. For example, I may have a character who proclaims that he never lies. But when the pressure gets high, I may show him lying to save the life of a loved one. This will reveal that he cares more about his loved one's life than about always being honest. In other words, he's not as simple as he first appeared.
While within the character arc, a steadfast protagonist will largely adhere to the accurate worldview, even when the pressure kicks up, this doesn't necessarily mean she can't find herself being pressured into unusual behaviors outside of it. For example, just because Job will stick to his faith in God regardless of what is inflicted upon him, doesn't mean he won't be pushed to complaining when the trials get intense. Difficulties reveal deeper character.
Finally, a character can be made complex by differentiating layers of identity. Identity gets down to how someone is defined, and no one is defined the same way from all angles. For example, who the character thinks he is, and who he actually is, will likely be different in some way. Who he believes he is and who society believes he is may be, in fact, opposite concepts.
While these elements can feed into character arcs--or rather, The Character Arc--they don't necessarily have to. There is no reason a steadfast character can't have some complexity.
Myth #5: Flat-arc Characters don't have Ghosts/Wounds
This isn't a myth I've heard very much, but I do feel like there are some misconceptions when it comes to the positive steadfast character and ghosts/wounds.
A "ghost" is a past, significant, often traumatic event that motivates the character to adopt an inaccurate worldview (the "anti-theme" or the "lie" or the "misbelief"--depending on your preferred terminology). In the industry, this is also sometimes called a "wound." You can learn all about ghosts/wounds in my article, "Giving Your Protagonist a Ghost."
But in a positive steadfast protagonist, this is often flipped just a bit. The ghost is often a past, significant, sometimes traumatic event that motivates the character to adopt the accurate worldview (the "theme" or the "truth" if you prefer).
For example, Cinderella's mother, while on her deathbed, tells Cinderella to always be kind. This motivates Cinderella to do just that.
Of course, not every character will have a ghost addressed in the story.
For the positive steadfast protagonist, the ghost may be largely resolved.
But not always. They may not have complete closure and peace. And it's possible they are still traumatized by the event.
Sometimes adhering to what is true can be nearly as haunting as having regrets. It's just that the haunting will come from either the cost of the truth, or, a lack of power--a lack of control--during the ghost. Generally speaking anyway.
In The X-Files, Fox Mulder, in the overall story and theme, is a positive steadfast character. The ongoing theme is an argument of belief vs. disbelief. (The motifs, "I want to believe" and "The truth is out there" speak to that.) However, Mulder has an unresolved, traumatizing ghost: his little sister was abducted by aliens.
This event cements him to the thematic truth of belief and motivates him to investigate anything unnatural. But this happened at the cost of his sister.
Sometimes the trauma comes from not being able to do anything, just as Mulder was powerless to stop the abduction.
Other times it may come from not being able to stop a loved one from choosing the inaccurate worldview--the "lie," "anti-theme," or "misbelief." The steadfast character may be haunted by the outcome of someone else choosing the lie.
So, just because you are writing a steadfast character, doesn't mean she can't have a traumatizing past.
Myth #6: Steadfast Characters are Boring
I have sometimes heard writing instructors discourage students from creating steadfast characters because they are "static and uninteresting." By now, you probably can see for yourself that this doesn't check out.
In reality, any kind of character becomes boring when poorly written. Sure, steadfast characters may need to be handled a little differently (they can easily become annoying when mishandled, for example), but this doesn't mean audiences aren't invested in them. A steadfast character can be just as exciting, meaningful, inspiring, and complex as most change characters.
I mean, I don't think most of us would call Diana, Fox Mulder, Moana, or Louise Banks boring.
In the future, I'll be breaking down this largely misunderstood character type some more. I mean . . . some of us have got to do more about the lack of resources out there, right? I don't want another person who wants to write a steadfast protagonist to be "tricked" into switching it to a change one. If you want to write a steadfast protagonist, this is me giving you permission.
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The Butterfly Effect: Pitfalls of Converting Your Fanfiction into an Original Work
The disclaimer I’m going to put at the beginning of this post is I know fanfiction vs original fiction is a touchy subject.
Fanfiction exists, I’ve written fanfiction, I’m not making any value judgements on fanfiction as a hobby, a passion, or a craft learning tool. If you like writing fanfiction and aren’t interested in converting your works into original fiction for publication, this post isn’t for you. If you’re the sort of person who feels threatened or delegitimized by discussions about the benefits and weaknesses of fanfiction as a tool for learning craft, this post isn’t the place to throw your tantrum. Got it? Good. Let’s move on.
One of the lies you’ll hear when you’re thinking about transitioning any fanfiction work you’ve written into an original work such as a short story or novel you can send on submission is that there’s no difference between fanfiction and an original work and that the conversion is easy.
They’ll list off all the authors who have admitted to writing fanfiction or converted their works from fanfic into “real” fic like Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments vis-à-vis Harry Potter, E.L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey vis-à-vis Twilight, even trying to nail JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings vis-à-vis the entire tradition of European folklore with extra special helpings of Beowulf, Norse, and Celtic myth. These arguments equate inspiration and adaptation to fanfiction without any contextual nuance. “Everything is really just fanfiction anyway,” they say. Which? No.
It’s important to understand that these arguments are defensive by nature and exist more to reassure the person making the argument than to convince anyone else. It’s an argument meant for the echo chamber and the ears of those who already agree, a defensive knee-jerk reaction, and an expression of insecurity. This can be confusing if you’re genuinely trying to make a conversion because the defensive discourse surrounding the “legitimacy” of fanfiction will ultimately point you in the wrong direction.
There are very important differences between fanfiction and an original work that have nothing to do with your writing’s quality or your skills as a writer. The relevant pitfalls are structure and, most importantly, context.
Fanfiction is in the name, the work is designed to exist supplementally to the work it’s based on and cannot stand on its own without its point of origin. The entire genre is referential by nature, you’re not just using another creator’s work as inspiration for your own work, you’re writing stories in that creator’s world. It’s more akin to tracing than fanart, which is where fanfiction acts as an excellent learning tool. You can learn a lot about drawing and drawing well from tracing. You can learn a lot about writing and writing well from fanfiction, whether you’re working within the provided template, practicing other styles outside your own, or taking the work apart and restructuring it in new and different ways to fit your imagination. Fanfiction’s problem when transitioning to an original work is in its contextual reliance on another narrative. You’re using a complete creation as your launch pad, there are going to be problems baked into the very bones of your narrative you may not even be aware of; even in a completely different story which only uses the characters of the original work like your Coffee Shop AU.
At the end of the day, fanfiction is all about playing in someone else’s sandbox and, no matter how cool the castle is, everything you’ve built is full of their sand.
The professional form of fanfiction is tie-in fiction. With tie-in fiction, the work is written with the expectation you’re already aware of the property the story is based on and its world, meaning you know many of the rules, foibles, characterization, and world building coming in. This means, none of it needs to be explained to your reader. You can skip it. This is a serious problem if you’re trying to convert a fanfic into an original work. A lot of the steps you could skip as a fanfic writer cannot be skipped with original fiction because an original work lacks the benefit of prior understanding. As I said, the issue for an original work conversion is in the bones of your fanfiction rather than the surface read. This has nothing to do with a writer’s skill, but rather their intention when they originally started writing and all the aspects of a work they accidentally brought with them when they copied.
If you go back and review each of the examples I listed, you’ll find those works can all stand on their own merits. However you may feel about the authors or the quality of the work itself, none of them require prior knowledge from having read the original source material to understand the story, the characters, and their world. You don’t need to have read Beowulf to understand The Lord of the Rings. You don’t need a Cambridge scholar’s understanding of European myth in general to enjoy The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit, though it may enhance your experience and the same is true for The Lord of the Rings vis-à-vis the entire fantasy genre. You don’t need to know Robert Jordan was deconstructing The Lord of the Rings and the Chosen One trope to enjoy The Wheel of Time, just like you don’t need to have read Pride and Prejudice to enjoy Bridget Jones’s Diary. That’s the difference between inspiration and fanfiction. One is a complete work capable of standing on its own merits outside of required prior knowledge and the other is inherently tied to the prior work in the very fundamentals of the text.
The necessity of context is why you can’t just palette swap the surface of your fanfiction and call it ready for publication. We need to go deeper. When drafting and rewriting, the butterfly effect is real. When you change one thing, whether it’s events in a single scene or a single decision, much less an entire character, you alter your narrative’s internal logic. Internal logic is what your plot runs on. It’s the basis on which all your characters are making their decisions (Why you? Why now?) to propel your narrative forward. In a palette swap of a fanfiction for an original work, you no longer have the characters you were previously using for your plot. Their world is different and, as a result, they are different people. Your reader no longer has the benefit of prior knowledge regarding the character’s history, their characterization, and no expectation for how they’re supposed to behave. The butterfly effect kicks in.
Let me give you an example, you’ve written a piece of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine fanfiction with Julian Bashere in the starring role. He’s trapped on a prison planet controlled by The Dominion with Miles and Kira (and Ducat.) The scientists in charge of the prison planet want his help unlocking the secrets of an ancient alien technology that’s been lost to the ages. Julian is torn between his love of science and his hatred for the enemy, all the while his friends are secretly plotting an escape behind his back.
Okay, we’ve decided to make our changes. We now have Not-Julian in an industrialized fantasy setting trapped on a fantasy prison island reminiscent of Australia and Alcatraz. No one has ever escaped from it. He’s a freedom fighter captured by the ruling regime after they conquered his homeland, and we know he committed some sort of horrible crime but the details are kept secret. He’s in love with Not-Miles, and Not-Kira is a complete stranger. The scientists in charge of the facility want his help unlocking the secrets of an ancient fantasy technology that belonged to a long dead race of a previous era. He’s no longer torn about helping them and is focused only on his own survival. All the while, his lover is being blackmailed by a complete stranger and secretly plotting an escape behind his back.
Have you noticed the problems with the narrative’s internal logic yet? Why do the scientists need Not-Julian, who is just a freedom fighter?
The problem for this setup is that Julian Bashere is not just a Starfleet doctor. He is a minor celebrity within his field and considered one of the greatest scientific minds of his generation, meaning it makes perfect sense within the narrative for even highly advanced alien races to turn to him or blackmail him for help. If you take that prior knowledge away without adding any additional justification that supports his level of involvement within the plot (like not just being a brilliant and famous scientist, but also being a specialist) and let it run… it no longer makes sense, especially the degree of access to sensitive information Not-Julian gets within the narrative as a result. In fact, the decision to keep this the same makes your narrative worse. Now you no longer have a narrative running on internal logic, you have external logic. External logic is when the justification and reasoning for a character to know what they know comes from outside the story. The narrative’s justification for Not-Julian’s position is now “because he’s our POV and main character.” That’s bad writing.
This is the butterfly effect. You wrote your story for one set of characters as the driving force of the action and now those characters are different people. They live in a different world, have different stimuli, different needs, and potentially completely different backgrounds. It’s the same as when you do an adaptation but change important key details at the beginning and keep the same end result. You weaken your narrative because the chain of events which justified that ending is now broken. How does your story as written make sense? It doesn’t. Unless, you start from the very beginning and do all the important detail work in the building blocks to reorient the character and their world into a new, harmonized existence.
This is where an old axiom becomes very important:
Bad writers copy.
Good writers steal.
A lot of fanfic writers hear the first section “bad writers copy” and immediately think it pertains to them, and it doesn’t. (However, if “bad writers copy” did just make you feel defensive then your brain’s gone and told on you. Congrats. You’re copying.)
The difference between JRR Tolkien and fanfic is that JRR Tolkien stole. He stole flagrantly, he stole shamelessly, and he made all of it his own within the context of his narrative, his characterization, and his worldbuilding.
If you want to convert a work, you need to steal. You need to take someone else’s property and make it wholly your own. There are lots of ways you can achieve this, one of the easiest is actually going harder toward the original property rather than running from it. You don’t need to change everything if the world your characters exist in remains mostly the same. In the case of Star Trek, there’s an entire genre influenced by its existence.
Okay, let’s go back to Not-Julian. How could you restructure the scenario to keep your narrative’s goals mostly in line with your original fanfiction? Let’s see.
After a failed rebellion against the Federation of Planets, freedom fighter Jackson Ran is sentenced to the prison moon of Azkabar; a place from which no one has ever escaped. Together with his lover, Mac, and their CO, Kendra, he’s destined to spend the rest of his life mining duranium for the enemy. However, Doctor Jaybrin of the Federation soon arrives to make Jackson an offer.
Once Jackson was a star scientist studying the technology of the lost alien race. Jaybrin needs Jackon’s help unlocking a key genome keeping the Federation from accessing their surviving weapons technology. In return for Jackson’s help, Jaybrin will use his influence to provide Mac safer work, better meals, and living quarters. With Mac’s health taking a turn for the worse, Jackson can’t refuse.
As Jackson grows closer with Jaybrin, Mac and Kendra plot their escape from Azkabar. A plan Mac knows he must keep from Jackson now that the love of his life has become the enemy.
Reminder, this was our fanfiction:
Julian Bashere’s trapped on a prison planet controlled by The Dominion with Miles and Kira (and Ducat.) The scientists in charge of the prison planet want his help unlocking the secrets of an ancient alien technology that’s been lost to the ages. Julian is torn between his love of science and his hatred for the enemy, all the while his friends are secretly plotting an escape behind his back.
The narrative of the new original work remains very similar to the DS9 fanfiction, however, many of the key details which allowed the narrative to function remain the same. The themes and goals of the work are the same, and it doesn’t scream Star Trek. You’ve just got a sci-fi novel.
One of the downsides of fanfiction is that it can lead to authors feeling illegitimate, even delegitimized, like their work isn’t as valid because they’re using another person’s creativity as a launchpad. This sense of illegitimacy overwhelms the author’s original goals and can lead to them running from their story, trying to make it as different as possible to cover up it’s fanfiction origins. That’s the one direction you shouldn’t take.
It’s important to remember we’re all influenced and all inspired by the media in our lives. We can even begin to feel reliant on others for our creativity. Remember that the goal of converting your work from fanfiction to original fiction is for your work to stand on its own without being reliant on contextual knowledge or outside structural support. It doesn’t have to be good. (It could be.) It doesn’t have to be successful. (It could be.) It just needs a self-contained existence. You don’t need to be ashamed of your novel’s origins. Recognize that while your story needs to change, it doesn’t need to change drastically. If you read the works I mentioned and the original fanfiction back to back, you may notice that on a surface read they do feel remarkably like a palate swap. Yet each one is capable of standing on its own merits. Why?
These works didn’t stray that far from their authors’ original intentions. They were given the grounding in worldbuilding and characterization to allow a reader with no prior knowledge or fandom background to jump straight in.
A self-contained existence is the real dividing line between fanfiction and original fiction.
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The Butterfly Effect: Pitfalls of Converting Your Fanfiction into an Original Work was originally published on How to Fight Write.
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Can I say something about my experience with chronic pain representation in fiction?
A trope that is very common with characters who live with chronic pain is a well-meaning able-bodied person always encouraging (and often nagging) them to rest or to use mobility aids or use pain relief/remedies etc, and the disabled character keeps resisting their help or advice.
This isn't inherently a problem, and I do like seeing it/writing about it from time to time. If you interact with people who live with chronic pain, this is very likely to be something you experience, because people usually feel as though they want to help and don't quite know how. However, one thing that is very rarely explored well is a character's motivation for resisting that support.
Sometimes, the side effects of pain medication are unbearable. Especially when we are used to the pain, it can be easier to maintain that equilibrium than to gamble with side effects that may be worse than the pain or may be simply more difficult to cope with or more obstructive to what we are trying to do.
Sometimes, a mobility aid is just plain cumbersome. I rarely use a walking stick on stairs, because it is awkward, I have to concentrate on not tripping over the stick as well as my own feet and all in all the benefit just isn't worth the trouble. If I know I'm going to need two hands free to use an umbrella or open doors or use my phone while I'm walking, I may choose not to sacrifice one of my hands to use a cane. That's my judgement, and it is more accurate than an outside perspective.
Sometimes, especially for people with fluctuating and/or global pain conditions (like CRPS, ME etc), using a mobility aid like a walking stick will simply shift the pain from the leg to the arm. Again, our judgement here will always be better than that of a nondisabled person.
Often, and this is the most important one to me, drawing our attention to back our pain when we desperately need to ignore it is often incredibly unhelpful. This part is more nuanced and by no means one-size-fits-all, but it is something that people who have never experienced chronic pain will never understand fully, so they need to be aware of it in writing.
It is not the same as an acute (temporary) injury like breaking a bone. You can't just imagine the last time you were injured and then imagine what it would have been like to have been injured for longer. It's a completely different ball game that requires completely different coping mechanisms.
We don't push through pain because we're being professional martyrs for the sake of it, we push through because we have things we need to do that won't get done otherwise. We don't have the luxury of acknowledging pain all the time, because if I tried that I would have been spending every waking moment thinking about it for years. Some of us are never, ever pain-free in our entire lives.
So please, when you're writing about characters in chronic pain and their interactions with nondisabled folks, please consider that nondisabled advice isn't always right, that we know our bodies better even than doctors will, and that nagging disabled people to change their own behaviour without their consent may not be as helpful as you think.
Above all, remember to give us representation where we have agency and motivations completely unrelated to our disability, because we do.
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How to show that a character is bi/ace/pan/gay/lesbian/aro etc when worldbuilding doesn't let you use those words
So first of all, this is a post brought to you all by popular demand, as it was the top-ranked topic in this survey: https://forms.gle/qN4zsEX3oCy1Btwq7 (if you want to voice opinions for future posts, please hop over there and fill it out - it only takes like a minute)
Getting into it, I will acknowlege that yes, technically you are the one who is doing the worldbuilding and thus, there is nothing you technically cannot do with it. This post is mostly made for people who have a certain vibe going with the universe they've constructed that doesn't support words that feel very modern-day or have those kinds of modern connotations to them. (other such words might include things like millionaire, HIV, rylon, etc).
Step 1: break it down.
Each of the orientation labels listed above (as well as other orientation labels I didn't include) are designed to be a shorthand to communicate an experience or facet of someone's identity. That means if you take away the label, there are still words to describe it. So maybe your worldbuilding doesn't have the term pan in it, but it does include people who are attracted to others without regard to gender. Maybe your worldbuilding doesn't have the term aro, but it does include people who are interested in are interested in friendships, and/or sleeping with people, but don't really have any intent of finding a partner.
For each character's orientation you want to include, figure out what the definition is, and use the words that exist in your world to describe it.
Step 2: show it.
Because most media plays into that "straight by default" worldview, unless you show that your character is cononically queer, readers are going to assume that they're straight (and no, avoiding it on page, and then just saying "wait actually they really are queer" after the fact is not the way to go about this - it is a form of queerbaiting).
You have a couple options when it comes to showing a character's orientation thatyou can mix and match.
The first is showing their attractions/relationships, or referencing past attractions/relationships they've had. If a character is a lesbian, she may have had a girlfriend in the past. In fact, she might even have one now. Show it. If a character is pan, maybe they've had relationships with people of different genders.
The other thing is pretty much just getting a character to say it.
"oooohhhh does protag have a crush????" friend teased. Protag swatted them "shut up. you know I don't get crushes."
"I dunno. The whole boy/girl thing's never really been a factor. If they're cute, I'm done for."
"I know her," she said, "we used to be together."
Another thing I've found is that using terms like bi or ace sometimes feel off, but using the full word - so bisexual or asexual - has a tendancy to fit in a lot better. I'm not entirely sure why, but my guess is that it feels a lot less slangy.
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Ah, royalty, Kings, Queens, princesses, Henry Cavill as the Duke of Suffolk in the Tudors, what’s not to love about fictional royalty. I think almost every WIP I’ve ever written has somehow involved royalty. There’s just something about writing royalty that I’ll always love and find interesting. But, especially for my current WIP, writing royalty has involved a whole lot of research that has been fun if not a little tedious at certain times. So, here are some of my most useful tips and tricks about writing royalty in your story.
Yes, They Actually Work
I mean unless you’re making a character choice that your royal character pawns all of their work off on their secretary or First Minister or Steward or whatever, then royal people actually do work. Especially in countries where they have absolute power and aren’t helped or overseen by a parliamentary council or something of the like. Then, they really have to work. In countries where the monarchy is more a figurehead then yes they definitely don’t do as much work, but in my WIP, where the royals have pretty much most of the power, they all have to do a lot of work. Between all the scenes of plotting and romance and murder, I have scenes of them reading reports from ambassadors, signing treaties, looking over expenditure sheets. That’s one of the things that bothers me about a lot of books featuring royalty. The authors go on and on about how busy all the royal characters are and how good they are at ruling, but then they never show them actually working. And, I understand that might be boring for readers, but maybe at least mention it once or twice. If your royal characters don’t want to get like ya know executed or deposed or something, then they probably want to have some hand in running the country and doing the work.
But Do You Actually Wear A Ballgown All Day?
I’m thinking no, but please, prove me wrong. Even back during Queen Victoria’s times or the times of the Romanovs, the royals didn’t wear their beautiful full length, full-court dress ballgowns all day, every day. That’s just impractical and unrealistic. If your royal character is at their family’s private home for the summer or winer or whatever, then they’re probably not wearing a whole bunch of fancy clothes. All the fancy dresses and crows and tiaras we associate with royalty and nobility, were basically their Sunday best clothes, not clothes they would wear every single day. Now that’s not to say that their causal clothes probably wouldn’t still be expensive and well-made(but not always, the Romanov grand duchesses were known to wear cotton dresses when they were in private during the summer). And, y’all, I swear if your story takes place during a time period when corsets are used please do your research about them, and any clothes or time period for that matter. But, specifically, as someone who knows a lot about corsets, every time, I read about a character absolutely hating their corset and thinking its so uncomfortable, I loose ten years of my life.
Homegirl, where are your guards???
There is nothing that bothers me more than when a royal character is like in the middle of a war or their people are rebelling and they’re like, “ugh, I hate having all these guards around me. I just want to be free!!!!!” Which, okay fine, having a bunch of people follow you around and watch your every move does not sound fun, but getting offed doesn’t sound fun either. If your character’s country is in the middle of a war, and even if they aren’t depending on the country, they are going to have guards around them all the time. In Tudor England, guards would sleep in the King’s room even if he had company because people were always trying to assassinate each other. Even if your royal character has magic or powers or something, they still probably need guards. If your characters have been royal all their lives, they probably will know their guards very well and know how to sneak away from them for that oh so coveted night in the town as a commoner.
Better Give Me That Title
First person to name what song that’s from gets......nothing but bragging rights. Anyways, titles are probably one of the biggest components of royalty. Who gets a title and who doesn’t get a title causes lot of friction in royal families. The siblings of the monarch, may want their children to be titled, but the monarch might be unwilling to title potential claimants to the throne. Are titles exclusive with only a certain number of titled individuals allowed at each time, or does the monarch freely hand out titles to all of their favorites? Both options have happened historically, but you just need to find out which option works best for your story. In my story, there are only a certain number of duchies and counties per territory, meaning there are only certain number of Dukes/Duchesses and Counts/Countesses per territory. That makes the nobility an even more exclusive group because there’s always a set number of peers and the titles pass down between families.
They Are Still People
This is true with any character you write, but especially with royal characters, a lot of authors have a tendency to write them as people whose only personality trait is being royal which having meet no royal people in my life could be completely true, but I don’t think it is. I think because of the way they were raised, being royal is a large part of their lives and maybe the most important part but they still should have a personality and other interests outside of being royal. There are countless stories of royals in history being forced to give up their true passions, hobbies, and interests because they had a duty to rule their country. That doesn’t mean those passions just magically went away though. Your character will still have them, and some nice internal conflict could be showing them and their desire to idk knit come into conflict with their duty as the Leader of their country.
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