My World’s History

An editor asked this question: Why do your characters speak the English language?

My first reaction was: Because they do. Because I do. So what? Who cares what language they speak?

My second reaction was to go to my message board and ask the question there and see what people said. I will admit that I thought the reaction would be the same as mine…but it wasn’t!

The replies were mixed but the majority said that if my characters are in a purely fantasy world then it doesn’t matter. The reader assumes the story has been translated from a strange, unknown language into a language they can read.

But… if the characters are from our world, and they find themselves in a fantasy world… then a reason must be given. Mostly everyone said that the first thing (well, no, the first thing would be “where am I?”, the second would be “how do I get home?” and the third…) the character would ask is “why do you speak English (or whatever language the book is printed in)? If they don’t ask the question, then the character isn’t curious enough and the reader will loose interest in them.

OK, this reply proved to be a headache because my main character is from our world! This meant I had to rethink the history of my fantasy world. Why did they speak English? What could be the logical explanation? What was the easiest explanation?

The easiest thing to do is to say “magic did it” but to be totally honest, I feel this is a cop out. I know it worked for other writers (including Stephen Donaldson in Mordant’s Need) but I feel that today’s readers expect more. So I started writing down different options open to me. There was always an issue with each option that I came up with (or that someone else suggested) until… my partner gave me the perfect option and a writer friend helped me fill in the blanks.

After several days of stressing over this issue, I’ve found the solution. Not only will the solution work well for Book 1, it will make Book 2 much better than I planned.

No, I’m not telling you what the option is. You’ll have to buy the book when it’s published but I will tell you that I now have to research Oliver Cromwell. 🙂

The Next Step

I’m happy to say that I’ve completed all the character profiles and I’ve also written one page (for each character) telling the story from each characters point of view. This is handy in trying to work out their individual storylines, what motivates them and where they are going to end up. I found it to be a useful process and learned even more about them and had to adjust their profiles again.

During this time, I’ve also been building my world. With each character, I found something new to be added to the make up of the world. For example, I needed to be able to work out how one of my characters would know an hour had gone by, so I had to research sundials. Now, although the timing isn’t exact because the sun rises at different times of the day and its position changes with the seasons, my character will have his hour so he’d better use it wisely. 🙂

Next step… I want to go through each character’s story and make a list of scenes they need to advance their storyline, then I’ll add the main plot points and then I’ll assign them into chapters. Sounds easy…doesn’t it?!?

Character Profiles

I wanted to start planning my chapter outline tonight but to do that I had to finish the character profiles. The profiles are already done but my characters are being revamped so I have to redo them, rather than just edit them.

I am pleased with myself because I did write two complete profiles tonight. I have one more to do and then I will have the individual storylines to incorporate into my chapter plan, along with the overall plot. Maybe tomorrow I’ll have time to write that final profile and then I can start work on the chapter outline.

It’s late and I’ve been having too many late nights, so I’m going to call it quits tonight. I’ll read until I can’t keep my eyes open and then I’ll be off in dreamland. Good night!

Happy New Year

Half a decade has gone! This is something that amazes me because it’s flown by so quickly, and I have achieved nothing.

2005 will be different to 2004. I will make sure of that. I wasted so much time in 2004 that it makes me feel sick thinking about it. That won’t happen this year. I’m determined to be more focused.

I’ve been working on my planning and thanks to Jeff Mullen, Editor, who has given me a list of questions to help me rebuild my world, I am well on the way to doing it right this time. Last year, I rewrote my manuscript but I didn’t actually rewrite it (I mainly edited it) and now I’m suffering the consequences of my own actions. Why? Because I was too lazy, or I didn’t feel inspired. What does it matter? I didn’t do it right and now I must do it again. This time, except for the first two chapters, I will rewrite the entire story. I am hoping to write a chapter a week and this time I will do it right.

On Monday, I will start revising the first chapter. There…I’ve made a committment.

Writer’s Guide to Character Traits

I’m giving my main character a change of personality and was thinking of making her a loner. This would be ideal for the situation she’s going to find herself in and would be the cause of some major conflict. I’ve been doing some research on “loners” and this is what I discovered (most websites agree with this too):

    WriteCraft Writers- Writer’s Guide to Character Traits

      A Loner usually:
      * Is unemotional or unexcitable
      * Finds comfort in being alone
      * Avoids social relationships and emotional entanglements
      * Is not interested in sex
      * Has few close friends, but may be close to a sister or brother
      * Lacks social skills
      * Appears to be self-absorbed or detached
      * Chooses hobbies, interests, or careers that allow him/her to be alone
      * Is harsh with him-/herself

        A Loner may be:
        * A product of an alcoholic home
        * Predisposed to alcoholism
        * Considered eccentric
        * Could retreat from emotional displays
        * Gravitate to harsh environments
        * Psychopathic

        This could be interesting. It would mean I’d have to revise her history too but that’s fine because, at the moment, this character is dead boring.

        Change of Plans

        I recently had an offer from an editor to read through my completed manuscript and tell me if there were any trouble spots. Unfortunately, he found some. Yet, as a writer, I know that his comments are true and I’m willing to go back and do… yet another… rewrite.

        The editor said that by the end of chapter 3, he was quite prepared to murder the main character. This is not the first time I’ve been told this. Apparently, the other characters are fine but the main character is enough to drive a person to suicide… or murder.

        I’m a serious writer, and while some people will hide in a corner and cry, I will take note and do something about it. The editor didn’t make that comment and leave it at that – he made heaps of suggestions on how to improve the character’s personality. I love those suggestions and after some discussion, I’ve decided that she will be given a complete “face lift”.

        So… change of plan. I was using the snowflake process to plan a new novel but I’m now using the process on this manuscript instead. I started yesterday, and I’m onto step 3 already. This shows that I know the plot and characters well (by the way). I have to work out how I’m going to change the scenes to reflect the character’s new personality. It should be fun!

        I have a positive feeling about these changes.

        Moving on to Step 4

        I decided to add the link to the Snowflake Process to the navigation bar to your right. It’s worth trying.

        I have spent longer than I planned on Step 3 and I’m still not entirely happy with the profiles I have but I will go back and modify them later. I think I need to work out more of the plot first and Step 4 (of the Snowflake Process) will help me do just that.

        I really like the process so far. It’s common sense and find plot holes before you start writing. I’ve discovered more than I bargained for and my characters have been given new personalities because the characters I had couldn’t handle the situations I intend to put them in. These revised characters will learn and grow, and I feel excited for them.

        Anyway, Step 4 requires that I expand the one paragraph storyline into a one page synopsis. That will be killing two birds with one stone – I like that!

        My Progress

        I’m taking my time working through the steps of the Snowflake Process.

        Step 1 was easy enough. I had to write a sentence in up to 15 words showing the overall story. I wrote several versions and then tailored the one that best describes my proposed manuscript.

        Step 2 was much harder. All I had to do was write a paragraph showing three disasters and the ending. I realised I didn’t know the story well enough to write the paragraph so that prompted me to do some more thinking. Now I have the required paragraph, a sturdy plot, personalities for my characters, a rough chapter outline and a sense of achievement.

        Step 3 is where I’m up to now. I have to do a basic character profile by writing in one sentence what the character’s storyline is (which is a different thing to the actual plot). Then I had to work out what motivated my characters, what their goals are and what they will learn by their experience in the manuscript. By doing this I discovered one of my character’s personality wasn’t strong enough and he’s been given a bit of a shake to get him motivated.

        I’ve only written the basic character plan for one character. I have two more major characters and the antagonist to go but it’s not hard, it just requires some thinking.

        No wonder my brain hurts today!