Exercises for Fantasy Writers – 1

I’m starting a series on writing exercises which will all be linked down on the tab above on the “Writing Exercises” section. These exercises will consist on three simple questions per  post which you should answer in topics or as a short essay. There will be no logical cohesion between the three questions and this will help you have more flexibility while jumping in different parts of your story.

Tip: – Never skip one of the questions. These are specially made for you to find the plot holes in your story or the missing spots in your worldbuilding. If you can’t answer one of the questions immediately, start working on the answer, connecting all the dots you need until you reach a final conclusion. There should be no thing such as “oh, I’ll just skip this one”.

  1. In a scale of 1 to 10, how pleasant (or oppressive) is the world you are building? Describe how you would feel if you were subjected to the same social behaviors, natural catastrophes, or any other negative afflictions. If the world you are building has different major societies, answer this question to each one of them. Are your feelings similar to the ones of your characters?
  2. How many different “major” emotions are you trying to portray through your main character? If you have already a plot draft, are there situations in which we can see the hero act violently, cowardly, generously, etc? Is the hero dominated by a single emotion or does he/she have more depth of character?

Tip: People have many different emotions, even if they have a strong and biased personality that makes them adopt a very cohesive behavior. You can make some biased secondary characters but the hero is someone who interacts constantly with the reader— as such, even if your main character is a very rational person, he/she will probably be emotional and desperate in some point in your story. This is important because it’s a “wow” moment and will suddenly unveil a whole new side of the character that the reader has never seen before.

  1. If you could choose a country, civilization or culture (fictional or non-fictional) which one would adapt the most to the world you are building right now? Is your world themed in a way that resembles Ancient Rome or Ancient Greece? Does it resemble Japan or other oriental cultures? On the other hand, have you used a fantasy inspired visual ground to edify your world? Do the people in your story live in the trees like Tolkien’s elves? Do they live in the mountains, like Tolkien’s dwarves? Are the colors, the fashion and the mannerisms of the people in your story somehow influenced by these cultures? If so, in a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you want to identify your story to one of those cultures? Looking back on what you’ve written or thought so far, do you think that you’ve accomplished your goal? If you haven’t, what can you change  in your story to reach it?

Happy writing!

Writers and Their Journals

One of the best tools a writer can ever have? A journal. A must read from the perspective of many writers.

Writing on the Pages of Life

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There are various ways to keep a journal, and a variety of reasons why a writer must keep one.

Poet, essayist and playwright Shiela Bender poignantly remembers a day during Ron Carlson’s writer’s workshop in the summer of 1994. It was the day when Carlson went around the room and asked each person to describe the his/her writing journal. On her turn, Bender had to confess that she kept a box where “scraps of paper on which I have written things – bank deposit slips, napkins, other people’s business cards, other stuff.” When asked how she uses the box, Bender replied that she goes through it every now and then when she’s in between projects or when she’s stuck on something she’s doing.

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Brandon Sanderson’s Writing Lectures

“Brandon Sanderson (born December 19, 1975) is an American writer. He is best known for his Mistborn series and his work in finishing Robert Jordan‘s epic fantasy series The Wheel of Time. In 2010, Sanderson published The Way of Kings, the first book in a ten book series called The Stormlight Archive. Sanderson worked as an editor for the semi-professional magazine Leading Edge while attending school at Brigham Young University, where he now periodically teaches creative writing. In 2008 Sanderson started a podcast with authors Dan Wells and Howard Tayler called Writing Excuses, involving topics about creating and producing genre writing and webcomics.”

Source: Wikipedia

Here are the links to the amazing writing lectures by fantasy author Brandon Sanderson. You can find it here on youtube, on the channel Write About Dragons. Either way, I’m posting the lessons below so you can find them and reference to them easily.

LECTURE ONE

Lesson One – Intro to Sci-Fi/Fantasy Writing

Lesson Two – Ideas are Cheap

Lesson Three – Class Goals and Format

Lesson Four – Gardeners vs. Architects

Lesson Five – Writing Group Essentials

LECTURE TWO

Lesson 1 – What Makes a Good Plot

Lesson 2 – Plots by Outlining

Lesson 3 – Plots by Discovery

Lesson 4 – YA Genres

Lesson 5 – Adult Genres

LECTURE THREE

Lesson 1 – Intro to Prose

Lesson 2 – First Person Viewpoints

Lesson 3 – Third Person Viewpoints

Lesson 4 – Description I

Lesson 5 – Description II

LECTURE FOUR

Lesson 1 – Sympathetic Characters I

Lesson 2 – Sympathetic Characters II

Lesson 3 – Show us the Character

Lesson 4 – Giving a Character a Life Beyond the Plot

Lesson 5 – Character Creation Examples I

Lesson 6 – Character Creation Examples II

LECTURE FIVE – Guest Lecture by Eric James Stone

LECTURE SIX

Lesson 1 – Networking Via Convention

Lesson 2 – Some alternative to cons

Lesson 3 – Meeting Editors and Agents

Lesson 4 – Three Goals of Meeting Agents

Lesson 5 – Pitches

Lesson 6 – Some Questions and Statistics

All rights reserved to Brandon Sanderson and the youtube channel in which these videos are posted. Below are the covers of the Final Empire Triology by Brandon Sanderson.

~Happy Writing!

Supplies for Productive Fantasy Writing

Writing isn’t just about typing on a computer or scribbling some sentences on a notebook – it’s a wholesome process, a consuming project, a work of art that needs supplies and careful preparation to achieve its perfection. There are slow writers and there are fast writers – but the one thing that makes a good writer is constant production. I am talking about sticking to a plan and a schedule and having a work station that provides maximum inspiration and efficiency.

  1. Buy a cork board or whiteboard. Having one of these near your writing desk is crucial for productive writing. I keep my writing plan (more about this on a later post) on the top of my board and I fill the rest with important information that regards the book I am working on – a printed world map; a bunch of artwork that portrays my characters and landscapes; quotes and dialogue excerpts; my writing goal for the week, etc.
  2. Carry a good notebook around. I keep a Moleskine with me all the time and whenever I come up with an idea I will quickly write it and pin it to my board later. It’s important to safeguard the random ideas and thoughts regarding your book – these are what I call immediate thinking – these ideas are very different from the ones that you are forcing out whenever you’re brainstorming; they will always be much more creative and intelligent.
  3. Keep a dictionary nearby. If you prefer the old-school 1500 page tome, be my guest. However, in my opinion, google translate works as a charm nowadays and I always keep it open on my desktop whenever I’m typing. It’s fast, mostly accurate and efficient. What more could I want?
  4. Have a printer at hand. If you don’t have a printer at home, simply create a folder in your computer to store all documents that need later printing. However, if you do have a printer at home, make sure it’s close to your writing desk. Fantasy writing, as mentioned in previous blog posts, requires a lot of worldbuilding and the better way to quickly access your work and write some notes and modifications is to actually print them and study them.
  5. This is also a good time to invest in a good binder and some plastic dividers.

I normally use my dividers to separate writing and worldbuilding topics concerning the story I am working on. There are five primary subjects, but you can add as many as you wish.

a)The first divider usually has the basic information on my story – timelines, maps, appendixes and terminology.

b)I use the second divider to gather all information concerning the world my characters live in – this is actually basic information, like climate, language, customs, religious practices, holidays, etc.

c)The third divider is all about History – for each one of my novels (and when I mean novel, I automatically point towards the concept of the world the novel surrounds) I have a rigorous historical background that normally involves the creation of the world I describe and goes through the evolution of mankind and other magical races until we reach the timeline of the story line. This should be as detailed as possible – it’s pure, concise worldbuilding. Even if you don’t show all of it (and you should never, ever, show more than 30% of this historical background throughout your book), it will feed your imagination and offer you a sense of cohesion.

d)My fourth divider is about the story line itself. I try to detail it in the best way possible and I make shorter and lengthier versions, depending on the quantity of detail I would need. I make a single page plan with a rough plot line and then I start developing chapters, adding as much detail as possible.

e)The fifth divider is all about characters –back stories, physical descriptions, portraits, interviews, psychological traits, you name it. It will all be needed whenever you need to give a certain character more or less depth.

6. If you think music inspires you, plug your headphones in your laptop or buy some mini-columns and create a playlist with songs that can act as soundtrack for your story. Basic examples for fantasy writing are the soundtracks of Lord of the Rings, God of War, Final Fantasy saga, the Gladiator movie or the Avatar movie.

~Happy Writing!