velvetpage: (Default)
My character is going to be fun, and so far she's fun to play. As before, read them in dated order rather than posted order - that is, go back to the first or the fifth depending on whether you read the earlier ones already.

http://velvetpage.dreamwidth.org/
velvetpage: (Annarisse)
Come on, friends list, I need your help! Go to this link and nominate my book for an Ursa Major Award!

I should point out that [livejournal.com profile] bard_bloom's book is on the recommended list, and I'm sure he'd appreciate the nomination, too. Ursula Vernon won't have any trouble getting a nomination.

Of course, in a month's time, I'll send you back to actually VOTE for Dream-Carver. :)
velvetpage: (Default)
"Worldbuilding" is the act of creating a fantasy world in which to set a work of fiction. Some authors worldbuild for years, to the point where their world is extremely well-developed when they finally start writing the books that are going to be set in it. I believe Robert Jordan is one of these; Tolkien is another decent example.

Most authors, however, don't do that. They do something a lot simpler, but that requires more backstory later on. They choose a framework, usually a pre-existing one - say, generic medieval/renaissance sword-and-sorcery, recognizable in three-quarters of the fantasy fiction on the market - and then they build the individual details onto that framework. Instead of wizards, my world will have mind magic. Instead of the usual constant level of corruption, my world has such-and-such to keep the high-and-mighty honest. My world has dragons. My world has elves, only they're not called elves, they're called this other thing. My world has anthropomorphic characters. And so on, and so forth.

This kind of worldbuilding serves a valuable purpose. If the author is using a semi-generic framework, it means they can evoke that framework for the reader, who gets to use their prior experience with the same framework as a route into understanding the book. The semi-generic framework is triggered by certain details - names of weapons, styles of architecture, names of people or places, or landscape features (try writing a fantasy novel set in the high north without evoking either Vikings or Inuit or Russians! Go ahead, try it!) Sometimes this use of a framework is so deliberately historical that you can learn a lot about the framework being used by reading it (see Guy Gavriel Kay for an example of that.) Other times, the framework is loose at best.

The problem I see with this kind of worldbuilding is twofold. First, if the book/series actually succeeds, it invariably requires a lot of backfilling to make the setting rich enough to support the wealth of sequels that eventually get written. Anne MacCaffery and Mercedes Lackey have both experienced that problem over the course of their careers - the worlds in their later Pern and Valdemar series use the worlds in their first books more as guidelines than as canon. Dedicated fans can easily plague your life out wondering how such-and-such a detail in the first book is consistent with such-and-such a detail eight books later. However, any author who manages to get eight or more books out of one world, and have fans that dedicated, doesn't deserve my sympathy so much as my envy. No, the more common problem is the second: what is a good ratio of generic framework to new material? How much can you draw from history or other fantasy books before your book looks and feels exactly like six dozen others published in the last four decades? How little can you draw from those frameworks before your world becomes impenetrable and dense, too far "out there" for anyone to understand without a complex system of charts and maps that no one wants to keep flipping to while they read?

The goal is to achieve a balance, where your readers will be able to visualize the backdrop and understand the comparisons, but will still find your writing to be fresh and interesting.
velvetpage: (Annarisse)
The scene I just posted deals with a major character coming back to the faith of his childhood. (That's the end of the spoilers for this post, I promise.) The religion in question is called S'Allumer. (As the resident consultant for the French language while Ironclaw was in the development stage, I was instrumental in naming it, but the rest of the development of the faith in the Ironclaw world had nothing to do with me.) For those among you who don't speak French, "s'allumer" is a verb meaning, "to light up." The religion venerates light, but in other respects is very Catholic in a medieval sense. Much of the vocabulary and imagery is taken from Catholicism. It's easy to do, because Christianity uses the metaphor of light quite extensively. During our first campaign, while playing Annarisse, I remember taking advantage of a bit of downtime in-game to come up with filks of Christian hymns that I could use in character, changing a few words so they'd fit. I know, heresy. :) But it was fun.

Anyhow.

It occurred to me just now, while answering a comment about the scene I just posted, that I'm fighting a common trope of modern fantasy novels. Pretty much every generic medieval/Renaissance fantasy world has something called the Church. Often there's a suggestion of a Sacrificed God, just to drive home the analogy with the force of a stake through the brain. "Hello! I'm not calling it Catholic, but that's what it is! See, I can prove it! There's a sacrificed God! Mercedes Lackey does this. So do a few of the Dragonlance books, IIRC. Terry Pratchett does it, though admittedly tongue-in-cheek. Even Ursula Vernon's new book does it. And in most of them, the Church of the Sacrificed God is, if not outright evil, then at least a cover for much of the evil that goes on. It seems most of the worshippers and pretty nearly all of the priesthood are insular, domineering, power-hungry, and phobic about some group of "others," and often more than one group of "others."

I can't remember very many instances in any of those books where there were good characters who believed in the faith and got solace, and peace, and joy from it. I remember a couple of spots where the author countered their own "The Church is Teh Evil" with a, "Yanno, they're not ALL bad" plot point, but that's about as good as it tends to get within the sword-and-sorcery genre.

I'm tired of it.

Churches are human institutions. Humans make mistakes. They do stupid, or nasty, or power-grabbing stuff from time to time. Sometimes they do those things pretty consistently. But not everyone within such an institution is doing those things. Some of them are there for good reasons. Some of them are trying to lead pious lives in tune with God. Some of them are trying to help. Some of them are even succeeding in that help. There are people who are unaware of the politics surrounding the institution, who believe it, and experience peace through it, and help others out of allegiance to it.

I have been fighting this particular element of the sword-and-sorcery genre of which Ironclaw is a sub-genre. There are evil priests in the books - it's one of the main plot points in Dream-Carver. But there are also good people striving to do right through their faith and because of it. Redemption comes about in many ways in my writing, and the faith is one of the vessels for redemption.

Woohoo!

Jul. 25th, 2007 10:15 am
velvetpage: (Default)
Thirty-three thousand words and change, in four weeks! I've never done NaNoWriMo, because November is stupidly busy for me with, like, my job, but by the end of this month I will have written nearly the target amount for NaNoWriMo, while looking after two kids full-time. Furthermore, while it's a draft, it's a good draft. There will be no complete rewrites. There will be touch-ups and additions and scenes that change location in the book, but I've never seen the point of "getting it on paper" only to go back and rewrite three-quarters of it. (Yes, this is a big part of the reason why I've temporarily abandoned the dolphin book. I have no heart for rewrites.)

I'm going to get dressed and take my kids to the mall for a while. Maybe I'll buy myself a non-food-type treat to congratulate myself on "well begun is half done" job.
velvetpage: (Default)
re: redemption in writing

Let's see. In most books, there are at least two complimentary plot lines - one for the events of the book, and the other for the relationships. At the climax, the two should come together, and the characters use their relationships that they've been developing, and the traits that have been portrayed through the relationships, as the basis for their decisions that result in the resolution of the event conflict. The climax of the relationship plot line should lead to a massive, counter-intuitive choice for most or all of the main characters. Their history leads the reader to believe they will do A, even though they've been getting closer and closer to doing B - but B is what they need to do to solve the event conflict. You're on the edge of your seat wondering if they'll make the RIGHT choice or the one to which they are predisposed.
The redemption comes in eschewing the old them, and making the choice based on the character growth they've experienced. Without the character growth, you've got, at best, a fable. With it, you have the capacity for literature.
velvetpage: (warm dice)
Lieutenant-Commander Kathleen Bell, acting Chief Medical Officer, FSS Bellerophon, private log.

Read more... )
velvetpage: (fairy dance)
(Note to readers: I am not enough of a Trekkie to know a lot of terminology that a Medical Officer would probably know, and I'm not a doctor, either, so I'm faking an awful lot of this. Feel free to gently correct minor details. Also, please note that several of the events mentioned here are embellishments on what happened in-game. I forgot to do them last night, and realized in the middle of the night that they made sense to do and were implied in some of the things I said I was doing. So they're going into the character journal.)

Log date whatever-it-is, Starship Bellerophon, Acting First Medical Officer Kathleen Bell's private log.

It's been too long since I did a character journal. )
velvetpage: (Default)
Well, it feels like it, sometimes.

More accurately, it's a story from the last halcyon days of high school. In those days, in Ontario, there was a fifth year of high school, designed as a university-prep year. I went to France between grades 12 and 13, so when I got back, I still needed to do that final year but most of my friends had left the school in favour of the local university. Meanwhile, while I was away I developed a long-distance love-by-letter by the name of Piet. By September of that year (1994) we'd been dating for almost two months.

During the spring semester, I took a course called Writer's Craft. It was an OAC (that is, university-prep) writing course, and it was taught by the most eccentric teacher in the school, called Mr. M, or more commonly, the Tyrant. He had a glass of water on his desk all the time, long before bottled water had become fashionable; he dressed in threadbare, button-down, short-sleeve shirts, year round, in his glacial basement classroom; he had his desk on the pedestal at the front of the room and all the student desks arranged in a semi-circle out from it, so students had to crane their necks to see him; and he liked to shout quips at people, following them with a loud guffaw that made him more than one enemy amongst the students.

Every OAC class had a Final Project that was generally spoken of in hushed, despairing tones. All of these were generally due about three weeks before exams, depending on how much of an oral presentation was required for them, and it was not uncommon to see students juggling posters, cue cards, videos, and sometimes guest speakers, for two or more presentations within a day or two of each other. As university prep went, it was quite effective. The final project for Writer's Craft with Mr. M was to choose an author from a long list he had, read and study at least two books by that author, and then write a story in the style of that author. The list included some very well-known people, some who should have been well-known but weren't, and some that didn't deserve much beyond a space on the shelves at the local used bookstore. On that list were Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, and about two dozen others. I had no real interest in reading most of them, but I had to choose one.

Having recently gained access to Piet's library, and encouraged by him, I decided to do Raymond Chandler, author of "The Big Sleep." It was a good book. I enjoyed reading it, even while finding the note-taking to be tedious. I was quite diligent at it, though. I read with a pencil in one hand and a notebook on my lap, noting turns of phrase, vocabulary, setting details, plot twists - anything I thought I'd be able to use in my story.

Piet suggested one or two other books for research into Chandler and his writing style. One of them was a collection of essays, some of them autobiographical, by Chandler, which contained one of the more memorable pieces of wisdom I've ever used: he said that all great literature had in it an element of redemption. Ever since, I've tried to make sure all my characters had that, and it has never failed me yet.

The other main piece of non-fiction that I used as a resource was a roleplaying game called Justice Inc.

Many of you are familiar with it. At that time, I hadn't ever played a roleplaying game. I knew about them, mostly from Piet of course. I had long since gotten past my narrow D&D-is-the-devil's-tool outlook shared by so many at my church, and I was willing to be convinced. Piet pointed out that many RPGs (at least, the well-researched ones) contained a surprising amount of real information about the eras in which they were set, and they often differentiated clearly between what they'd found in history books, and what they'd made up. Justice Inc. was a superhero game set in the 1930's. It was an excellent source for setting and slang, and fit perfectly with my subject. I couldn't have gotten away with using it in any class where sources had to be academically credible, but Mr. M was not that kind of teacher. He liked seeing people make use of unusual sources, though he would roast anyone who did it poorly.

My project got an A. Mr. M praised it to the skies. In that class, it was enough to solidify some bad feelings towards me, but those had always been there and it was the last three weeks of high school. It also solidified my relationship with Piet. We had learned that we had similar tastes, and the ability to pick information from unlikely sources.

I was reminded of this today, by Piet's explanations about Dentists and Drugstores in Depression-era pulp fiction. You see, several major plot points in my story happened in a drugstore, including an important anonymous telephone call and a meeting over a couple of sodas, late at night.

In my story, the druggist was one of the main suspects. He wasn't guilty, though. The worst he did was traffic in some morphine.
velvetpage: (Default)
Two needles.
Three skeins of yarn.
Pink.
Fingering weight.
One pattern.
Two skilled hands.
One loving heart.
One tiny baby.
A sister to three others.
A sixth grandchild.

One failing heart.
Two failing kidneys.
One funeral.
Many lost stories.
One tiny pink dress
Made of three skeins of
Fingering weight yarn.
One box
Many treasures
Stored by a loving mother.

Many years.
Another baby.
Daughter
of a sister
Of that baby
Who inspired
A tiny pink dress.
One family portrait.
One new grandfather.
Four siblings, now adults.
One baby girl.

In a tiny pink dress.

Dedicated to Maude Page, 1918-1998.

*Three years ago, my older daughter wore this dress. Tonight, my second daughter will wear it for another family portrait.

Poem.

Aug. 8th, 2006 09:10 am
velvetpage: (fairy dance)
A little something for the [livejournal.com profile] august_writing community, that I thought I'd post here as well.

Maudlin mommy poetry )

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