Greetings, my fellow weavers of words! I hope you've all had a fantastic few months
without a journal update - and after I promised to stay on top of the monthly (at least) journal update. I know it must be super dull for everyone to have another
journal starting with apologies again, but with any luck this will be the last time for a long while at least!
Admin activity has at least been higher, and hopefully there shouldn't have been too many expired submissions. If anything of yours did expire, submit again and I will do my best to make sure it gets admin attention now - there's a slight problem with amounts of admin votes we need on submissions and join requests and how many admin members seem to be around. I'm looking into fixing this at the moment, but I am so sorry to anyone who's been inconvenienced by this. On a personal level, the past few months have been really terrible for me and for my family too, but - as with last time - this doesn't excuse me not sorting out the admin situation for you guys so that I could take some time out to deal with everything.
Nonetheless, things are getting back on track and we're all starting to move on, so hopefully I should be around to stay now. I'm even putting a note in my diary to update this blog next month!
In case you missed the last blog, I have carpal tunnel syndrome and while I'm hoping we're on the way to it being dealt with (if the hospital ever phones me back, geeeez), at the moment typing is a serious source of pain for me, and has to be done in small doses. I can't promise to be around every day but I'll do my best to check in and deal with group notes on a somewhat weekly basis - and more often when possible. And like I said, the blog update WILL BECOME MONTHLY, even if I have to paper my house with post-its to remind myself... Tips & Tricks Update!
And now that we've got through all my blithering, here's the Tips & Tricks
section! To those of you who are new, or have forgotten those golden days of yore when the admin team managed to keep the journal up-to-date (I would think my nostalgia was inventing things, lambkins, if I didn't have the list of "recent" - ahaha, 2011 though
- journal entries in front of me right now), this is where we pose a question on writing to you, our group members, and ask you to give whatever advice you can, so that we can all try to improve together
Beyond fabulous, am I right? You don't have to be a recognised expert or anything - everyone has experience and insights, however small they may be, and you never know when that little trick you've picked up while writing shopping lists (...about dragons?) will be exactly what someone else has been searching for!
Just before December last year (a mere blink of an eye compared to my last absence!) I asked you to enlighten us all on your approaches to the subject of geography in your stories; how you draw it to your readers' attention, how important it is to you and to the plotline, and - that vital question in fantasy literature - is there such a thing as too many maps?
And we got some really amazing responses! Thank you to all of you who replied, it was so interesting to read your views on a subject that I personally struggle with a lot. I will drop this here to say geography is very important in the fantasy genre, more so if you are writing of a completely fictitious world. It doesn't have to be to great detail (e.g ecosystems, weathering history of rock formations, underlying bedrock, the amount of surface run-off a particular area has after a wet season, etc etc) but enough that it makes sense to someone who is seeing it. Imagine taking a fly-through this world. If something looks really out of place, like it does not belong there then perhaps it needs to be changed unless it's the way it is due to something relating to the plot (such as a river flowing into a volcano).
I also find geography helps with plotlines in a way. If you've been building up a world, you have your mountains, your rivers, your lakes and canyons, it can help to give further ideas to the history of that world to explain why it is the way that it is. Did something happen in that region that caused it to become the way it is; for example a great war was waged in an area with dark magic on both sides that caused a third party to intervene and put an end to the corruption the two sides were causing to the landscape by purging it with fire.
Geography is a necessity but depending on the story and the world it is set in will vary story by story. Another aspect is climate. Using the natural world can help to give stories more depth but it depends on where the story takes place. If it is done so in a singular kingdom/area then the geography of the region may not change very much, but it is still an important factor not to be neglected or the world will feel like a quick backdrop without any real character of its own. However, you may not have to describe too much beyond that singular region if it isn't all too important to the plot. Maybe a bit of mention that there is a world beyond the singular region, but perhaps you won't need to go into great detail over it.. If a world spanning epic, then all the more for geography to be important as you will now be crossing various land formations which can affect the amount of communication kingdoms can have with one another which can then influence their political standing with each other; friendly, enemies, neutral. If two kingdoms are separated by a massive mountain range with treacherous passes, would they have a lot of communication? Would trade flow between the two? How will their relationship affect your plot? It cannot be ignored and if used properly will add a lot to the story.
Also, geography helps to give stories a sort of "wow" factor from time to time. In a fantasy world, anything goes. Literally. If your world involves fish swimming through the sky, then by all means have fish swimming through the sky. It is _your_ world and no one can tell you what is right or wrong about it. However, one thing I have always thought to be of great importance is for everything in the world to obey the laws of the universe it is in. It doesn't have to be our universe where we have our gravity and our sun and all the rest of it. But something that keeps it all together and somewhat consistent so it makes sense in its universe. This goes for geography too, as well as main characters. It's like you do not want your own world to become a Mary Sue of geography.
Granted a lot of geography in fantasy worlds happen to be based of what we know about ours, such as climates, seasons, where rivers are and how their flood plains affect the area as well as things like monsoons and dry seasons and how the monsoon is affected by the rest of the climates of the world, etc. There is a lot to think about, but I you nail it right, it'll give the story a stronger sense of place as well as giving the author more tools for their disposable to make for an exciting read.
Map wise, they can help a lot. If the story spans multiple kingdoms, regions, etc, then a map can help give the reader a visual aid so they can see where the kingdoms lie in correlation with each other so if they get a bit lost within the book, they can refer back to it and go "a-ha! That's where it is." It can also help to further instil to the reader that this world is an established place. But it does have to make sense as a map, as for the rest of the geography of the world; for example if you have a fictitious world but you have oak trees in it, then they need to be where oak trees would be in this world.
This world and the fantasy world can blur in books and meld together when bringing in various elements such as flora and fauna.
I like hearing about the world through description and also by the characters discussing various places. The description can give me a sort of fly-through feel and then it can get really detailed if it's needed for the plot line/s. I like reading about fantastical worlds so the more established the world is the better. If characters are discussing it then the author needs to think about why their characters are talking about particular parts of the geography to their world; is it plot related? Does it crop up when discussing certain plot related animals/plants/things while they are trying to find the solution to a problem and it is just within their work flow to do this?
Also, giving a world its history, including history for kingdoms/regions and geographic features/landscapes, can really give the author, as I mentioned earlier, a lot of extra tools at their disposal to help their story along.
First off! Welcome back! Glad you're not dead! Second off! I just want to say that Geography is something that I think is actually fun to look at! I've seen several writers have maps of worlds they created especially from eragon my favorite dragon book! I'm not giving any advice here since I know little about map making and things like that, but if possible I like seeing names of locations that are old english or some extinct language that nobody recognizes. Basically that would take a bit of research but that's part of a writer's job! They got to research things before they start writing. Again, welcome back and try not to dissapear again! At least, not until I've posted some stories that I am currently working on...... Which will probably be ready on 500 or so years.
[Admin note: I'M SO SORRY, I DISAPPEARED AGAIN, but thank you so much for the welcome back!]
I haven't been writing much fantasy lately (Eww, college applications; woot, sci-fi novel that's already 10k!) but when I do, there’s always at least a little mapping involved. I recycle the same basic setting a lot (predominantly forests with lots of little creeks and not so many lakes; little clusters of mountains rather than a large, coherent mountain range, and a coast to the east – kind of a much greener, less settled version of the place I actually live) for my generic fantasy setting, keeping a mental note of about how far and in what direction the characters are travelling while I plot and making it more coherent when I write. For urban fantasy, I generally do the same sort of fleshing out on a smaller scale. Internal consistency is the most important factor.
Outside of pure geography – knowing roughly where your civilizations are and what their general themes are is extremely valuable. You should have more than one culture in your world, and knowing what civilizations and cultures (including migratory cultures, like the Roma, or subcultures like Jewish folks or immigrants from other places) are in each region and how they interact can lead to some interesting, realistic plotlines without too much effort on your part. Looking at real world history can lead to great ideas…
I'm typing this on an ipad so it will be brief! Most of my tales take place in the "real" world, that is the one that we mostly agree upon as being "our" world, and then I throw a few pieces of fantasy into the gears just to see what comes out. I realize that this might cause some of you to quickly make a sign of the cross and declare: "That's not fantasy, that's science fiction!" The thing is, I write about winged girls and centaurs, so I feel pretty confident that what I write classifies as fantasy, even if it may be somewhat fringe. If pressed, I would call it urban fantasy.
I always create maps, or, when writing about actual places I've been, take photographs. If I haven't been there and it is important to the story, I will use Google Maps or some other tool to research the place. I am fanatical when it comes to continuity, and as a result I always have a layout of where the action takes place. Here is an example: Tanita's Bus - interior view
If a site has historical significance, I may throw that in as well; I like fiction that educates me, so I try to do the same for my readers. I will usually begin a scene at a new location with a brief description, with possibly one or two minor details. I enjoy mentioning a small detail and then ignoring it for several chapters until it takes on a new importance later on. I may have the characters interact with the environment, and describe the scene through their actions, or occasionally I will have a character comment on or describe an item or place.
Once again, thank you to all of you - your comments are really useful, and including links and real world examples was a brilliant idea too. I really appreciate the time you took to pass your advice along to the group, and I hope someone out there finds it useful (besides me, that is, because seriously there is some good advice here, I am delighted!)
Don't forget to suggest any topics you think we should cover in these T&T sections! That one part of your current project proving an obstacle? Or is there just an interesting question on your mind? Why not direct a question to the group? And if it doesn't seem to fit in a T&T section, there's no reason I can't make a new journal to open up your problem to the group for advice
Let's all help each other!
For now, let's see: The theme for the next Tips & Tricks section is...
Have you ever tried to work in a writing partnership, with one or two or even 729 other people? Maybe you've filled NaNo with a friend, or you're a member of one or more RP forums? Perhaps you've worked on a project with non-writers, like visual artists or musicians or even business clients or publishers? Having more people on a project can be great - more heads means more ideas brought to the table, and you can bounce thoughts off each other and make them better. Everyone has different skills and working together means combining them. A group environment might push you all to improve together and bring out your best and most talented work. But can collaborating on a writing project also be a hindrance? What if you disagree on the direction your work should be taking? Can there be too many ideas at once? Maybe your writing styles seem to clash or your approach to writing is so different. Or perhaps your problems are more mundane - different time zones, one or more people disappearing unexpectedly, someone losing interest in the story... Have you ever collaborated on a writing project? Do you think it's a good idea? Does it make a difference whether your collaborator is already a close friend or if they're more of a business partner (at least at first)? What advice would you give to authors - new or experienced - who are considering working with someone else, or are having difficulties in a current partnership?
If you've never collaborated on a project, would you consider doing so? And if you've worked with others on a project that didn't involved writing (e.g. visual art, teaching, etc.), is there any advice you could give that might also be applicable to collaborative writing too?
As always, just use the above blurb as a starting point; you can cover anything that the prompt brings to your mind!
LET'S DO THIS THING, MY PRECIOUS FIRE-BREATHING KITTENS!