Month: November 2018

Welcome

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Welcome to the untidy corner where I toss my random thoughts and crib sheets.

My suggestions for writing military women originate from experience I share with under two million women in this country. While perceptions and social interactions in the military can be related to gender, the work and some of the traits can be gender agnostic. Even though I point out traits and experiences that can be similar for military women, remember that soldiers and veterans are still individuals with a unique personality.

The barebone notes I capture from MinnSpec workshops target attendees of the workshops for use as a memory aid. If based out of the Twin City area, consider attending the workshop events to obtain more detailed information. MinnSpec hosts two workshops a month, one in Minneapolis, and one in East Saint Paul. Sorry that ESP stands for East Saint Paul and not extrasensory powers.

The remaining posts contain random musings unrelated to writing.

Monster Bits and Bobs – ESP Workshop Notes

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The detail of your monster depends on several questions. As with any worldbuilding, there is a balance between building relevant story information, and getting too sucked into your world to write. Judiciously use bits and bobs from these notes.

  • What part does the monster play in your story?
    • How large of a part does the monster play in your story?
    • Is it a character?
    • Does it illustrate danger?
    • Does it interact with your characters?
    • Is this monster the only non-humanoid in the story, is the story full of monster?
    • Is the monster in conflict with your characters?
  • Does your monster have a solid shape?
  • Is your monster a shapeshifter?
  • What is the intelligence level of your monster?
  • What does your monster consume? How?
  • What does your monster create? How?
  • What is the environment where your monster evolved?
    • May not need to be hyper realistic, but shouldn’t conflict
      • Sodium based monsters in a water world
    • Is the monster out of its natural environment? What is the impact?
  • Do they use magic?
  • Are they magic?
  • Do they use technology?
  • Do they contain technology?
  • Do they move?
  • How do they travel?
  • Basic needs, food, shelter, reproduction
  • Can use occasional made up words to draw attention to a creature part, too many make illustrating context difficult

Your monster can have none, one, or more of each some features.

  • Exterior
    • Feathers
    • Mucous
    • Hide
    • Shell
    • Carapace
    • Scales
    • Slime
    • Gills
    • Hair
    • Exoskeleton
  • Distinguishing characteristics (for individuals)
    • Blemishes
    • Pustules
    • Scars
    • Tattoos
    • Missing bits
    • Differences in symmetry and coloration
  • Sensory
    • What senses do they have? How do they use them?
    • Eye
    • Eye Stalk
    • Tentacle
    • Pseudopod
    • Nose
    • Ears
  • Mouth
    • What is the use of the monster’s mouth?
    • Beak
    • Tentacle (when the base of the tentacles is within the mouth)
    • Lips
    • Teeth
    • Suckers
    • Tongue
    • Mandible
    • Fangs
  • Limbs
    • Arm
    • Leg
    • Wings
    • Trunk
    • Tentacle
  • Forelimbs
    • Can be prehensile
    • Paw
    • Pincers
    • Hand
    • Hoof
  • Extremities
    • Fingers
    • Toes
    • Claws
    • Talons
    • Hook
    • Fishhook
    • Stinger
      • Can be used to deliver secretions
  • Protrusions
    • Horn
    • Bone
    • Tusks
    • Antler
    • Spikes
    • Tail Spikes
    • Fin
  • Secretions
    • Potentially stored in a sac, or created in a gland
    • Mucous
    • Acid
    • Poison
    • Silk
    • Spittle
    • Oil
    • Ink
    • Slime
    • Musk
    • Any material
  • Emissions
    • Thoughts
    • Sound
    • Spores
    • Heat
    • Smoke
    • Cold
    • Dust
    • Emotions
      • emanating the monsters emotions
      • supplanting your emotions
    • Anything gaseous or lacking substantial form
  • Other
    • Face
    • Head
    • Tail
    • Trunk
  • Recommended book: The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

Related: Character Descriptions – ESP Oct

Build a World in 1.5 Hours – MSP Workshop Notes

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Led by Abra Staffin-Wiebe

There are a lot of different approaches. The amount of building and the time it occurs at depends on the type of story an author is writing.

  • Stories in the current world don’t need much worldbuilding
  • Alternate history stories require a lot research

Two common approaches

  • Build the world after writing the story
    • Sometimes there are questions that you don’t know you need the answer to until after you have written
    • Usually requires revisions to the story
  • Pre-construct the world before writing
    • Deep pre-construction delays writing
    • It may also box you into a corner if the story goes in a direction contrary to the rules of the world
    • High danger of infodump
  • Building as you are walking down the road is usually faster
    • You don’t have to wait to write
    • A con is that you can can miss opportunities
    • Often has a fair amount of post world building and revision

The rest of the session consisted of a targeted exercise calling out high level points to consider, then drilling down a specific path based on choices made by the group.

The general plot for this exercise followed this path: comfort to rags to riches. This type of quest won’t cover much ground. Quests usually cover a lot of distance

  • Inhabitants
    • Human
    • Human+/Humanoid
      • Cyborgs
      • Androids
      • Distant descendants
      • Chimera
      • Drug enhanced
    • Inhuman
      • Aliens
      • Dragons
      • Octopi
  • World type
    • Earth
    • Earth+
    • Like but not
    • Very different
  • Weather
    • What is their common dramatic weather? tornados, hurricanes
      • Useful for plots that extend over a long period of time.
    • Do seasons exist?
      • Using seasonal transitions as story transitions can advance the plot and tell you something about the world without infodump.
  • Genre
    • SF
    • Fantasy
    • Horror

Magic and Technology are distinguishing elements of speculative fiction. Both have similar to answer.

  • What is the type?
    • Magic type
    • Technology level
      • Preindustrial
      • Industrial Revolution
      • Modern
      • Future
  • What are the limits?
    • What are the practical limits?
      • What is and what isn’t possible?
    • What are the legal limits?
    • What are the limits that technology cant provide?
      • How long do people live?
      • What sicknesses can they heal?
  • What are the costs?
    • Resource costs
    • Personal costs
    • Moral costs
  • What is the source
    • Where does it come from?
    • How is it produced?
    • Who controls it?
  • How is it distributed?
    • Equal distribution doesn’t make for interesting stories
    • Golden Compass
    • Bladerunner
    • Mad Max Fury Road

Questions about the main character

  • What is society’s influence on our main character
    • influencers
    • legal arbiters
  • Consider methods of rise and fall
    •  Marriage
    • Wealth
    • Reputation
      • Loss of reputation as a means of fall means people in charge control the resources
    • Politics
    • Documentation/Identity Theft
    • Inheritance
    • Land crabs
    • Legal
    • Military
    • Recognition
    • Ceremonial
    • Religious power
    • Natural disasters
    • Radioactive spiders
  • Family structure
    • Poly
    • Nuclear
    • Multi-generational
    • Matrilineal
    • Patriarchal
    • Creche
    • Single parent
    • Communal
    • Clones
      • Mono-cloning everything is a clone of one
    • Radioactive spiders

One or two sociological differences from our lives interest readers

  • Ethical
    • Stealing
    • Lies
  • Taboos
  • Treatment of dead
  • Treatment of children
  • Treatment of elders
  • Gender/sex
  • Family hierarchy and marriage
    • Marriage
    • No Marriage
    • Pair bonding
  • War
    • How do they wage war?
    • How do they make peace?
  • Property ownership

As you write, there are opportunities to add world building

  • When someone meets first time
    • Greeting rituals
  • Family interactions
    • What does the family expect?
    • What would disappointment?
    • Where are the rivalries in the family?
    • Readers want to see family support as well as family conflict
      • Makes characters more relatable
      • Makes the fall harder
  • Meal times, manners
    • Food
    • Customs
      • Who eats first?
  • Fights
    • Rules of honor
    • No rules
    • What happens when someone breaks the world?
  • Clothing
    • Multiple types of materials indicate wide trade
    • Colors, reasons for colors
    • Cost
      • What is expensive?
      • What is cheap?
    • Why do people wear clothes?
      • Protection
      • Modesty
      • Status
  • Ceremonies
    • If short plot, no need
    • If long plot, fun to add, shows passage of time
    • Provides a way to bring people together who might not otherwise interact
  • Religion
    • Cultural beliefs held with fervor
    • Don’t have to involve a god

A re-plot point will occur after the worldbuilding decisions relevant to your story are made.

Resources mentioned