World Building. ‘Powers’ In ‘The Precipice Dominions’ Series

Setting the Scene

In the last post I wrote a brief overview of some of the challenges a writer will encounter in world building. This post is an account of my own experiences.

Once again I stress this is not a How To….. This was a great deal of fun putting together and honing, thus has more in common with someone’s account of a strenuous holiday. It is hoped the enthusiasm will seep across and encourage other writers to experiment in their own style, at their own pace and in their own direction.

Basic Strategy (employing my own weaknesses or inclinations)

My own imagination does not sit still on a facet for very long and so jars with my experience as a UK Civil Servant leaning for a requirement for order. To avoid these two quarrelling and getting in the way of My Muse ( delicate fellow at best) the world of my stories needed to have a degree of flexibility to aid the narrative. To help me here I called in the part of me fascinated with history, science, the history of science and the social approaches to science, religion and so forth, while trying to avoid detail. The lessons taught to us on the great panorama of Creation from cosmological scale down to the quantum, along with our own jagged historical paths were enough for me. For I needed an easy background to work with, one the narrative could dip into. The stories would centre on a group of individuals the web of relationships and personal challenges, around this would be their various ways of dealing with their world, survival and getting whatever job thrown at them done. This was complicated enough. The detail of the world had to be background.

Sleeves Up Times

Firstly I took this World of ours, or maybe a world so similar as to be nearly indentical. In a cosmos of 14+ billion years in age and at least 50 billion light years in size (I think) the situation of two very similar worlds would be perfectly acceptable; just think of the number of possible worlds in Time and Space. Whether it is this world, or another is not to be answered, great upheavals have distorted the deep historical record. The events take place after a great deal of history has passed. You might care to call it a future of our World, if you care. It is all very open. Again this gave me a great deal of flexibility, as I find rule books somewhat constricting. (my civil service career was a troubled one)

Inviting Cosmological Nature In

The event giving rise to the particular circumstances of this world was to introduce another possible aspect of Cosmological Nature. This I named The Ethereal. Whether it simply arrived in the area of this world or resulted from some incautious physics experiments is lost in various upheavals over thousands of years. Its actual nature is also kept somewhat vague. To take advantage of my own impatience and weakness in sticking to this sort of detail I relied on our current perceptions. This strategy was based on the premise of our own knowledge of physics, chemistry, weather, geology and so forth still being in an area of constant investigation. We simply do not know everything and nor do the folk of these stories. There are no tomes of all knowledge (forbidden or otherwise), lots has been written, about lots of bits and that is that. Just like today.

Powers and Utilities.

Folk can utilise The Ethereal in many ways; a force to move or destroy things, a type of communication and means of travel are the most common. Some folk have an inate ability, others uses complex, usually portable devices. Those wise and honest practitioners are the first to admit, these days they are wary of it. Whether it affects folk or folk affect it is also a complex matter subject to debate. In addition its presence has given rise to realms and pathways which occupy nearly the same place in Time and Space, some easier to access than others. It will also act in its capricious ways; like the weather.

Volume One Of Patchworks Warrior opens with a brief account of recorded history of the world and The Ethereal. Officially it is view with hostile suspicion and titled The Stommigheid (one dictionary I encountered inspired links to the Danish word for ‘folly’- I do a lot of that taking another language and its English equivalent then mangling it- lots of historical precedence). The State-within-a-State The LifeGuard name it The Astatheia, which has connotations of a warning (and I’ve forgotten where I stole the root for that from). The convent-like Libratery to indicate their independence are still terming it as The Ethereal. There are various regional terms none of which are complimentary. There are independents known as the Jordisk (another managing of Scandinavian this one for ‘Underground) and are best viewed as hackers; these having no single viewpoint but operate outside everyone’s laws. In addition there are a collection of crusty guilds collectively known as Mechanicals; these are home to cussed, conservative but inventive folk who believe the only safe way to harness this force is by solid, dependable (usually large) machines, they tend to grumble about and dismiss everyone else in particularly the Jordisk who they feel take too many short cuts . To add to the general variety and confusion, the empire in which these tales are based has officially banned the use of this power; except that all the official organs of the state have to use it to get their tasks done. All these views, contradictions and hypocrisies gives the power an unsettling quality, similar to our ambivalent views about nuclear power (as I write this it suddenly occurs to me where I got the notion from- without nuclear power’s history or detail of course!)

So there is a lot of talk and action involving this power, along with some theorising but very little of the latter. In fact the only time there is great detail arises in Of Patchwork Warriors when a conflicted captain in the LifeGuard, Dekyria is writing up a treatise on how he sees this power affecting the three central characters and speculating on whether they in turn affect it. It is therefore left up to the reader to gain an overall picture from the conversations taking place and descriptions of actions taken by individuals. A learning curve if you like.

Conclusion

This is one way to go about World Building. You may decide you have a better idea. You could think ‘This is not for me’. I am quite content with that.

In the next post I will talk about the politics, local, institutional, geo-political, religious, etc, etc, etc

Fiction and World Building

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Fiction and World Building

Introduction: The Commonality of Writing

Whenever a writer embarks on a tale they are to a certain extent world building. If the story takes place in our ‘Here and Now’ this usually involves taking a scene familiar in day to day life and creating a small world of characters and fitting them in. Therein are many difficulties and challenges all of their own; authenticity, atmosphere, credibility (even in wacky comedy) and all the factors which go to making a narrative whose background the reader can relate to in some way. Therefore in most forms of fiction story telling there has to be an element of a credible creation. Something the reader can comprehend even if this is that situation is completely bizarre.

Otherworldly

When addressing SF & Fantasy this takes on a global and even cosmological scale.

There are those in SF who are versed in taking science facts or speculations and melding complex scenarios in which adherence to some laws of a physics must be adhered to. Others would have a broader view and leave the detail ‘as read’ while concentrating on the social implications (something I can relate to). There will be writers who will tend to ignore physics, some succeed because they have written a very compelling narrative with vivid characters.  Whatever path is chosen there will be a lot of hard work to make the story readable.

Fantasy and Its Own Requirements

Fantasy might see an easier option with a temptation to have wands waved and spells uttered. Whereas in some scenarios this works quite well, again if the narrative is compelling. However if handled sloppily it fails, the reader will know the writer has not been trying. Fantasy requires a certain measured approach and a respect for what might be possible and impossible in the world in question. If this is not adhered to then characters are leaping around the place at their own convenience and all suspense, tension and interest fade. If you are doing parody or satire, this might work even there it’s a tough call and requires a great deal of effort in honing the humour otherwise it comes across as just plain lazy. (a luxury only some established ‘names’ have got away with, I daresay due to the demands of publishers).

In some cases the writer has manage to meld sf with fantasy in a rich and complex scenario while at the same time inserting laws of physics and chemistry. My favourite example being Brandon Sanderson’s ‘Mistborn’ series.

A writer must bear in mind their own limitations, inclinations, weaknesses and strengths when going about this as these will have an unconscious bearing on the creation, after all you will be doing this in your own image (as it were). Of equal importance is the universal maxim for all writers…Remember Who You Are Writing For. By all means have fun but remember you would like someone to enjoy the result.

Fantasy is my own preferred choice. I have a smattering of understanding of some branches of science and this would cause me, personally a  great worry when writing SF just in case I was making some fundamental error. Fantasy gives me more scope to indulge my own peripatetic imagination, while mixing a smidge of science in.

Where this led me will be the subject of the next post.

Writing Your Book- The Plot Thing

Plots eh?

Some folk of a particular type of talent can write a books without a particular plot, as a journal of observation and experience of one or more persons. This requires a particular  type of insight, use of imagery and wide knowledge of language and its nuances. I would not attempt this, not in my current state of writing processes anyway.

Back to Plots….

Plots can be straightforward, linear A to C with a detour on B as an optional, or they can be labyrinthian and the inbetweens. At this basic level the type of genre doesn’t impact on the choice. The vital factor is not to lose sight of it. I cannot stress this too strongly, speaking as one who produced three volumes of a comic fantasy in which there were proliferations of episodes, skits and interludes against which could be heard the faint cries of the plot not to be forgotten. Eventually it gave up and went to seek rest. Then when I attempted to write Volume IV as a multi-faceted account of the various factions involved in the world, the plot simply refused to assist telling me I had ignored it previously and would not go through that experience again.

Some folk will plan out their book with a series of stages, the details of which are filled in as the narrative moves towards an already envisaged conclusion. Others have outlines but are willing to move this way and that in the journey. Some of us start out with only the faintest idea, usually along the lines of a few characters and a set of circumstances they have to navigate through, making the rest up as we go along. Then there are all the permutations on these three. Let it be so.

Plots can also be chaotic and there is a valid case for this. If you consider Life and those incidents both large and small which are ‘historic’ or ‘memorable’ you will find a great deal of the unexpected happening and those involved having to improvise, or sometimes just spin out of control under the pressure of the situation.

As evidence I cite this quote:

(No I don’t know why the font size changed WP being quirky again)

“Gentlemen do not be daunted if chaos reigns; it undoubtedly will.” said Brigadier S. James Hill, commanding officer of the British 3rd Parachute Brigade, in an address to his troops shortly before the launching of Operation Overlord—the D-Day invasion of Normandy. This proved to be prophetic.

Therefore the situation can be the plot; think of all good disaster movies (OK I know putting out a lava flow with fire hoses in ‘Volcano was’ stretching it a bit; still a good movie though). Folk thrown in at the deep end.

Since my life seemed to be based on improvisation this is where I tend to go when writing. Thus in my latest the central characters are not alpha-leaders, they take orders, they improvise (there’s that word again) and they ignore orders. The foes are not the deadly dull Perfect Plan Percy/Petunia who sit about god-like until the last chapter where due to some supreme effort they are foiled. As history shows many is the ‘great’ organisation which has floundered on its own arrogance. In this book no one is in complete control, some may have a temporary advantage but the signs are there this is only conditional.

(Annnddd changed again!)

So let there be a plot but it does not have to be tight or linear (again the word). A plot can be ‘How we survived. It is enough. And therein you can give your characters room to grow and interact. Work as you will, with whatever you are most comfortable with. This is where growth starts.

 

The Return of The Wayward Writer

Writing Your Book – The Environmental Issue.

 

Writing Your Book – The Environmental Issue.

Choosing your ground

 

If you are reading this, then there is quite a good chance you have an urge to or are already writing in one form or another.  You may be just starting out, you may have been writing for some time, or you be thinking about writing and are working through several blogs getting an idea as to the commitment involved.

This post and subsequent ones will be about some of the issues involved, the platform used will be my latest project ‘Our Skirmishers of Lace, Steel and Fire,’ I will be trying to avoid:

Preaching for this to be the ‘true and only way’ to write

This being a marketing feature.

These posts are one writer’s experiences, you can take notes, compare or resolve to do the opposite. Whatever. As long as you are writing or starting to write.

Thus said;

A daunting aspect of writing is starting off. Most folk will go through an episode of staring at a blank paper or screen. All the words which were tumbling around in their head have either evaporated and lie condensed in the sub-conscious or are blocked up somewhere along the creative channel. The poor writer in a creative panic, thinking, whispering or muttering: ‘Where do I start?’

Nothing unusual there.

A writer might have a plot line but still can’t get the details onto ‘paper’. If you are on a laptop, by the way and are listening to music do not be tempted to go onto YouTube to watch the music ‘live’; more chapters, ideas and writing time are lost that way than through state censorship.

One way to ease in is to have your backdrop, environment and underlying themes set out as a motivation. Let me elaborate here using myself as a laboratory specimen.

As the years go on, I find myself becoming increasingly picky about subject matter. The moment the words ‘serial killer’ crop or ‘conspiracy at highest levels’ crop up, I am off and away. The former repel me, the latter I have had my fill of. There you go; my choice. Also, after reading so much political and military history there is a tendency for me to go for happy or at least equitable endings.

After reading a great deal a writer (or writer in situ) will have a sneaking whisper in their head ‘Yeh, fine, but I think I could do better’; nothing wrong with that just so long as you keep the feeling under control and don’t publicly savage all writers rather than write.

A writer may also feel they have a voice and just want it to be heard/read.

Putting those aspects all into my head and mixing them up this is the universe which began to form, the one most comfortable for me to write in. In this instance ‘comfortable’ does not mean cosy or easy, the usage refers to the most productive way the words come out.

In my case. Firstly being a Calvin (Calvin & Hobbes) type-dreamer I am hopeless at writing about the normal world. I am at my ease when writing fantasy for being incurably impatient researching science to create a credible SF background would just not work for me. Give me a place where laws of physics and chemistry are working which have not yet been uncovered or fully realised. But may I stick with some of continuity!

My familiarity geographically is with northern Europe, as this book is set in another time after monumental events this gives me some leeway to juggle about with peoples, places and locations. Thus, a great deal is given up to the readers imagination.

As stated above since everything is geared towards a certain type of ending it is easier to move along while creating ‘bumps’ in the road, in fact flooding out the road on occasions, or putting in a divert.

My own interests have always been in matters military, my work experience has been in the UK civil service thus I approach neither subject with a rigidity or clichés. The principal characters are also the ones at the bottom rungs, so they are focused or trying to carry or survive orders.

I like romance as a feature of a story. Setting this in a narrative is not a problem, avoiding the cliched predictable, highly unrealistic settings, interactions and terrible descriptions are! ( more about that later…later I said!)

Evil does not triumph in my books. Evil has one hell of a (‘hell of a’!..you gotta laugh folks, I got dozens like that!) time in my worlds, in fact my challenge is having the thing hang around enough to create a feasible contest. The main methods of destruction and unhappiness in my worlds are. (A) The well-meaning authoritarians who think they know best (B) The folks whose plans are not very good (C) The opportunists waiting for the ‘main’ chance (D) The thoughtless idiot (E) The unforeseen collision of plans.

I personally cannot write very long without some sort of humour creeping it. This may take the form of a satirical comment on today or some of the lazier troupes of Fantasy writing. It can be bawdy or downright slapstick. It may be knockabout verbal. Being a male as we never grow up it could be very, very juvenile. Since all these happen in Life anyhow, I have no problems with putting any of them into the narrative.

And finally, tying in with the ‘evil’ thing as those who have read my posts know I have no tolerance level for cruelty, bigotry, and violence on the weak, so I work out a few ‘issues’ without being too obvious and straining the narrative.

The above are therefore my ways of giving myself a setting I can work with, to enable me to concentrate upon plot and characters. Some of the facets I have listed in fact encourage me to get on with the work, because I do so want to write about them; the problem being not to rush into these or keep repeating unless there might be good cause (a really valid ‘might’). Thus, there is my environment to work within.

If you take a ‘Living World’ analogy it can be seen there are many environments in which Life flourishes. Therefore, what is my favoured environment, might well be another’s arid desert, frozen tundra, crushing sea bottom depths or any other comparison you might care to make which will stifle your creativity. The important facet being you create your own in which your own flora and fauna of a book may flourish.

Keep on keeping.

The Return of The Wayward Writer

Of Protagonists, The Unexpected and The Go-Figure (Adventures in the World of “Our Skirmishers of Silk, Steel and Fire”

One of the advantages of having no illusions about ever being a great success (as opposed to dreams and wishes that is) in writing is one is able to experiment and not be afraid whichever what-way matters go. Once more, dear reader and fellow writer, feel free to take out notebook and notate either ‘Hey I must try that’ or ‘No, must avoid that’ or ‘Oh boy that is so not going to work for me!’. To repeat my blog is all about pitfalls, wrong turnings, but best of all ‘Wow! The blessed thing actually worked! Who’d thought it??’ So gentle follower let us take another sojourn, shall we?Williamterriss7

Many successful and also good writers (the two do not necessarily go together) will hold fast to the idea of there being at least one strong protagonist. To have a hero or central character who forges though a book with no particularly effective opposition is not going to work. (unless the writer might be the latest Commercial Thing- which we are not are we?)   This is a good point and is undeniable.

Once more I have to admit, villains are my weak spot, they are there to be humiliated or slaughtered. Morally, elastic types who drift between ethical and legal borders, not so bad with those. Real fearsome, terrifying, evil folk…..not going to have a good time in my pages, if they do hang around it’s only to suffer…So sue me.200px-Advokat,_Engelsk_advokatdräkt,_Nordisk_familjebok

Anyway, a solution to this dilemma and to give my characters more to do than just than having a fun time or a challenging romp? Ah there was the rub! (Pause for Shakespearean interlude of silent staring off-stage).Othell0-8_2-1924-Jago

Now speaking for myself I read a history, mostly military, and after reading a lot of this it began to dawn, very little every goes to plan. In fact, after many amendments to the original we have the military saying, ‘No plan survives contact with the enemy’ (the original is much longer and slightly turgid). Thus, it occurred to me in the real world would you have a seemingly all-powerful and cunning protagonist whose plans went along so smoothly until the last few heroic efforts of the central characters?…. Nah! Great military geniuses and shrewd political operators were often wrong footed by the unexpected and had to adapt… if they were that good at their job!

To get around my prejudice (yes, it is a prejudice, must admit it) I thought about the many events in history and how these overwhelmed the participants maybe permanently, maybe temporarily and set the protagonist as The Situation the world was in.

To re-cap or to introduce. The World, which is ours set in a future at some stage was overwhelmed by a force which has many names (Ethereal, Stommigheid to name but two). Its true nature is not to date revealed, however can be utilised by machines, mind or physical effort, but NOT, NOT controlled. Think of an ocean or a river, think of water. Now in this future the World may be split or have given rise to other satellite worlds as a result of the arrival of this force, which is subject to its own relationships to the Universe and using the Water analogy there are tides (aka tydes- just liked the ‘y’) and storms. The stories are taking place at one of these junctures.

The first volume……..

Patchwork (See Amazon Kindle for your copy of ‘Of Patchwork Warriors’)

understanding-anger_183x90_184933693(if he does that again, I swear….)

set up the central characters, a familiarity on how this force affects the world and also an insight into some of the life forms other than what we might think of as human. This second volume looks into how the coming turbulence is affecting the plans, strategies and intentions of disparate folk, organisations, and races. The principal theme here is that no one is control, there are no superior beings, everyone is in the same boat, most just don’t realise it, they are floundering, or adjusting all the time.

Thus my central characters are working in constantly shifting states, whereas they remain true to reach other. The often comic and wacky Karlyn is drifting or being driven closer to learn about her background; Every Soldier Arketre is being shunted up the ladder of responsibility and getting some tough orders. While Trelli is still continuing her journey of discovery and adaptability to her new ‘powers’ although her journey parallels her two comrades she has a more ethical dimension to cope with. Not that matters are any easier for Karlyn and Arketre whose actions are decisions are always overlaid by their emotional and physical love for each other. They, all three are facing the ramifications of actions by several agencies and individuals, who themselves are linked in some case.

Yeh, great fun. The challenge is to keep the whole business fairly easy to follow. No one cares for a book which has them going ‘Huh?’ Confused person on Brexitand then flipping back through a few chapters to find out who was what, doing which then. Nor do they like to read a narrative interrupted by a brief resumé of that character’s actions another few chapters back. Lavery_Maiss_AurasNope it all needs balance. AND making sure the central characters aren’t swamped by everyone else’s business.

In fact, at times writing this novel seems to have parallels to writing a history. The basic facts have to be there, the important characters must be given their full due, but attention must be given to those lesser folk who turn up and spoil everything AND there are always circumstances outside of any player’s control; usually weather. (smart folk should always take into account weather, it happens)

This makes for a degree of flexibility too, as you never know who will rise to the occasion and who will get overwhelmed and fall out. The only spoiler I have three is the continual presence of the three centrals Arketre Beritt (solider), Karlyn Nahtinee (adventurer and enigma) and Trelli (Professional Name Currently Trelyvana Waywanderer, and she’s regretting choosing it. The Everyone of the saga).

The best part is, there I am wandering about the house doing my share of chores, when suddenly I get a ‘Hey! ‘They’ would do ‘that’. Of course ‘they’ would,’ interlude, which was not planned, but bubbled up from the whole brew.

I just love writing by the proverbial seat of my laptop. The first draft was OK, but now the real fun has begun.

So I thus end with a familiar refrain. You can think about this approach. You can shake your head in sad despair at my hapless ways. You can recoil in horror and sprinkle your laptop screen with sacred coffee (or tea) at such heresies. Your choice.  Just do me one small favour.

Keep writing. Never, ever give up on your writing.

Wishing you Good Journeys People!

Winning Back Your Novel (Adventures in the Writing of “Our Skirmishers of Silk, Steel and Fire”)

Re-rewrites, Highlights and Reality-Bites (A journey through writing of The Skirmishes of Lace, Steel and Fire-Part II of a Fantasy )

WARNING: Some images you may find disturbing 245px-1271754717_william-e.-gladstone

(No, not that one!)

Some writers understandably hate doing the rewrite. I can see their point. They’ve put all their effort into forging this narrative together, worked hard and heavy through all manner of issues and had to squeeze out the time to write amongst all the other demands made by Life. Victorian writingThen, what to they get as a reward? Typos, syntax problems, holes in the plot, main characters not coming alive and that’s before we even start to think of listing all the problems.Me

Me? I enjoy a rewrite. Taking the journey with the characters, knowing where they are going, how they are getting there and all the fun which goes with it.WIN_20180727_19_28_15_Pro

Hold on! What did I say?WIN_20180727_19_28_44_Pro

Look again sunshine!

Oh Frib! I’ve done it again. Gone and literally lost the plot.WIN_20180727_19_28_27_Pro

Y’ see this can be a bit of a problem when you are having so much ‘fun’ with describing all the adventures, banter, relationship interactions, personal hopes, fear and so forth, which you decided would be vital to brining the characters alive (Or in my case, help them travel from their world to ours).Handel_GF
The book now reads like a series of unconnected sketches and vignettes, as if it were some sort of comedy skit show with moral message.Illustration from 'Le Theatre' magazine, 1900s (litho)

Dearie me. All these lovely folk wandering from one circumstance to another and surmounting all manner of problems. And there’s no plot to indicate as to why they are doing all these things! Melodrama -idiot manOK a few minor characters turn up and make ominous statements of heavy portent then vanish again and someone leaps up with a seriously dangerous weapon, be it physical or ‘magical’ (crude word, it’ll have to do) only to be cleverly defeated, but sadly this does not make for a plot.

I had a sneak of bad feeling, WIN_20180727_19_28_23_Prowhen at towards the end of this volume the central characters were left stalwartly together basically affirming their friendship, loyalty and love to each other then effectively saying to the whole world ‘Bring It On’ to go riding off into, literally, sunrises.

Yeh that’ll work……If it was a Musical.
300px-Witchcraft_at_Salem_Village

So it is time for some serious crafting. Time for a serious discussion with myself….WIN_20180727_19_28_18_Pro

Here is the work. There, over there are bits of the plot. Now, go through the whole thing and weave those bits into one long thread which should run through the book.

But I might lose some of my favourite little vignettes.

Well that’s too bad.

This is not as much fun as it used to be.

It’s because you are taking things seriously.

Oh My! This means hard work!

Do you want folk to read the fribbin’ book or not?Lavery_Maiss_Auras

If you put it like that….Confrontation

And there we are everyone. Remember never lose sight of your plot. InventionsIt may change a bit, could even do a complete lurch in a way you did not expect.

9780393956238_p0_v1_s260x420cartoon-guy-laughing-pointing-bent-over-31869170

Whatever, but at least keep it on the horizonrunning training

 

All the best with whatever you are currently working on.

 

Launches, Re-launches. No time to sit back on my haunches (OK. You try and find a better rhyme)