Beautiful People–August

It’s time for this month’s Beautiful People! I decided to focus on Corithazon (Cor) from King’s Bluff this month

“You have what you want in your grasp. Not many men can say that,” Corithazon’s voice, though low, was intense. “If I stood in your shoes, I would fight with every last bit of strength I had to keep it. I wouldn’t just roll over and play dead.”

19057b8735b1789fa30e5bdd2691cca71) What does your character regret the most in their life? Corithazon regrets not being there more for his youngest sister Sylve during their childhood years. He blames himself a bit for the person her loneliness caused her to become.
2) What is your character’s happiest memory? Most sorrowful memory? His favorite memories often involve endless childhood games of hide-and-seek in the palace gardens. To him, memories like these are the idyllic “good old days,” when nothing had yet come between the four siblings. Cor’s worst memory is of the day his younger sister Nenith fell off a horse as it jumped a fallen tree. The few seconds it took to reach her were the longest of his life.
3) What majorly gets on your character’s nerves? Corithazon can’t stand when people don’t take serious things and responsibilities seriously, or when people don’t seem to see that there is a serious part to life.
4) Do they act differently when they’re around people as opposed to being alone? If so, how? Considering that one of Cor’s pet peeves is people who can’t seem to take life seriously, and the royal court is filled with such people, he definitely acts differently around people than when he’s alone. He has to mask and hide his disgust of people’s superficiality, and so often comes across as arrogant. When alone, however, or with people who can actually see the serious side to life, he is gentler and kinder.
5) What are their beliefs and superstitions? (Examples: their religion or lack of one, conspiracy theories, throwing salt, fear of black cats.) I haven’t developed religion for my fantasy world. However, Cor strongly believes in honour and duty.
6) What are their catchphrases, or things they say frequently? Other than “Sylve, that’s enough,” or “Sylve, stop…” he hasn’t really developed any at this point.
7) Would they be more prone to facing fears or running from them? Corithazon can be very stubborn and refuses to be bested by anything. He would consider it the epitome of cowardice to run from his fears.
8) Do they have a good self image? Since he often looks down on those around them because they look at life as one big party, his self-image can be too good and self-righteous.
9) Do they turn to people when they’re upset, or do they isolate themselves? As a future king, Cor does not want to seem weak to those around him. He typically isolates himself and solves his own problems or privately turns to Nenith.
10) If they were standing next to you would it make you laugh or cry? Well, Cor isn’t exactly funny, but I’d say laugh is the better of the two answers, since I definitely wouldn’t be sad to see him.

A New Beginning, a New Adventure

finishNote: this is an annotated post. Follow the weird symbols to read my attempts at jokes, explanations, and lists of useful things.

It’s hard to imagine that almost a year has passed  since I finished the first draft of King’s Bluff. I certainly never expected that preparation for the second draft would take a year. But God often reveals surprises around the bends of our life-paths.

For a period of time, I was too exhausted from a crazy amount of university coursework to even think about writing. As I relaxed*, two alpha-readers** read through my document and did a fantastic job tearing it to pieces for me. When I finally felt mostly human again, my Story Helper*** and I spent months brainstorming how to patch my torn up manuscript back together, fill in holes, and strengthen it.

During this brainstorming period, I also read a small whack of writing-craft books,**** researched§, and bought reference books§§. I now have a stack of index cards, a stack of reference books, and I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface. Yet it’s far too possible to spend one’s time reading about writing and never writing. So I’m leaving the coursework behind for now and re-embarking on fieldwork§§§.

In May, June, and July, I spent time organizing and re-outlining the new material from all those many brainstorming sessions§§§§. By the end, I had 102 scenes, over double my original 50!

Last night, I, at long last, began writing again. I now have a 1000 word, totally new, prologue under my belt. I am so glad to be back with my story and characters again. I am afraid, yet hopeful. Afraid that my craft will prove itself unable to handle some of the challenging twists that are now built into the tale. Afraid that busy-ness will stall my writing. Afraid that I’ll forget something/make more problems. But hopeful, hopeful because my God is faithful. Whatever happens is in His plan. He will work all for good, and so I step out, trusting that He will.

I’m off on a fresh adventure. Will you follow me…one last time?↨


*Read: ran around like a chicken with its head cut off, with small periods of collapsing.

**Jeremiah Stiles and Juliet Lauser.

***Jeremiah again!

****Revision and Self-Editing for Publication (James Scott Bell), Characters, Emotion and Viewpoint (Nancy Kress), Beginnings, Middles, and Ends (Kress), The Plot Whisperer (Martha Alderson), The Writer’s Guide to Character Traits (Linda N. Edelstein).

§ The Prince (Machiavelli).

§§ The Emotion Thesaurus, The Positive Trait Thesaurus, The Negative Trait Thesaurus (all Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi), and A Writer’s Guide to Characterization (Victoria Lynn Schmidt).

§§§ Sorry, pre-service elementary teacher-self manifesting itself there.

§§§§ Keep your eyes open for more “Outlining Your Novel: Zoe Style” posts to see the rest of the process!

↨ Brownie points for anyone who recognizes that references. (And no, it isn’t the last time. Can’t I have a little poetic license?)

Outlining Your Novel: Zoe Style (Part Two)

In part one, I wrote about how I laid out my six-foot plot map for my novel. So, after this map is drawn out, what is the next step?

The basis for this step actually happened prior to step one as I did my read-through of the first draft. As I read each scene, I filled out a sticky note with the chapter number, pages numbers, and a descriptive, but short, title. I left these sticky notes on the first page of each scene.

NOTE: Use new sticky notes that are actually sticky, otherwise they’ll drive you batty later.

After drawing the skeleton of the map, I pulled out my draft with the sticky notes in it. I then removed the sticky notes one by one and put them in order along the map. Scenes that were primarily reflective went on top of the line (the “realm of the protagonist”), while scenes that were primarily descriptive went below the line (the “realm of the antagonist”). At this point, it is important to know what your critical scenes are (see part one), and to make sure that their stickies end up in the correct place. Other than that, the spacing of the stickies is really rather arbitrary. This is the result of step two (sorry, I didn’t realize the picture was so dark when I took it):


(Idea once again came from Martha Alderson’s The Plot Whisperer)

Beautiful People–July

484bbcce9358bd3861b5cc3ae3f4d629Well, it’s time for Beautiful People again! I thought I’d tackle Atharielle (or Ree) this month. So here you go: a little about my MC’s sister!

1) What’s their favourite food? (Bonus: favourite flavor of chocolate!) Atharielle’s favourite food would probably be butteries, fresh from the oven. Simple, but delicious. Her favourite flavor of chocolate is milk chocolate with raspberry filling.
2) What do they absolutely hate? Atharielle despises injustice above all things. Right and wrong are extremely black-and-white to her, and she is very vocal when she feels that injustice is being done. To her credit, her hatred causes more than words. When her uncle’s actions caused many people to go hungry, she refused to eat any more than they had available to them.
3) What do they enjoy learning about? She enjoys reading about practically anything, but, like many people in her country (Nalycia), is particularly fascinated by history. She’s read most of the trade books in the palace library about Nalycia’s history and has started on the history of Entlaunia (the country just to the north)
4) Who is the most influential person in their life? Up until his death, the most influential person in Ree’s life was her father. His ideals and beliefs of right and wrong greatly shaped her own. She admired the strength that it took to accomplish his little rebellion against her uncle’s stranglehold on the kingdom. Since her father’s death, she has continued to be guided by his memory. If not for her falling out with Alaen, her brother, following their father’s death, he probably would have taken their father’s place in Ree’s life.
5) What is their childhood fear? As a child, Ree was afraid of people being angry, especially men. Whenever she was around someone who was angry, she inevitably ended up hiding behind her mother’s skirts.4bc4def230c54d71e8a6d55f24c734bb
6) What is something they have always secretly dreamed of doing, but thought impossible? Though she loves her home and would never dream of leaving it for long, she has always dreamed of visiting another country, just for a little bit.
7) What is something he is impractically afraid of? She is afraid of being all alone, both spatially and relationally. Though she tends to be quiet, she finds comfort in even just knowing others are nearby.
8) Are they a night owl or morning person? Ree is more of a morning person. She loves to watch the sun come up or go for a horseback ride before anyone else is up–or both.
9) Do they say everything that pops into their head, or leave a lot unsaid? This really depends on what mood she’s in. If she is angry or upset, she tends to say everything that pops into her head as she thinks it, but she is quiet and very careful of others’ feelings otherwise.
10) What are their nervous habits? Ree’s nervous habits can include pinching her lips together and setting objects down with greater than usual force.

The Fantasy Chameleon

Around two years ago, I wrote about the necessity for the fantasy writer to avoid shoving his worldbuilding in the reader’s face. Unfortunately, it’s usually easier to talk about something than it is to actually do it. To the writer of light fantasy, this worldbuilding-shoving is perhaps an even greater danger. Unlike epic fantasy, light fantasy is typically not filled with epic quests, swirling magic or strange creatures, yet something must differentiate it from Ruritanian fiction. Something must say to the reader, “No, this couldn’t have happened in your world.” This differentiation often comes from everyday objects that exist in the fantasy world and do not exist in ours.

However, having these objects creates the temptation to wave them at our readers to help them see how clever we are. We want to shove them under the readers’ noses and yell, “Look! I don’t write Ruritanian! Don’t mix me up with that bunch! This is light fantasy. See? SEE?!” Instead, the elements must be woven into the narrative as seamlessly as possible. I am finding that a good rule of thumb/question to ask is this:

If you removed the object from the novel, would it render a single scene unnecessary?

In other words, are there any scenes that revolve specifically around the object, and after which it practically disappears? Or, if it affects part of the plot, does it seem like an excursus, or a meaningless addition? Could the plot go in the same direction if the object was not there?

I once read that a good way to introduce things that are not familiar to the reader is to have the POV character discover it. In my own writing, however, I have found that results in a meaningless scene revolving around the object. Perhaps a better writer could pull it off.

It could be that the best way, then, to include these objects is to make them so ordinary that the reader doesn’t necessarily even notice them the first time through. Blend them into their surroundings like a chameleon. To use Sherwood Smith’s Crown Duel as an example again, Smith has a number of objects that firmly place the book in the light fantasy genre: cleaning frames, fire sticks, and summons stones, to name a few. Yet these objects are so perfectly ordinary and everyday that the reader accepts their existence right off the bat, without the assistance of POV characters’ effusions. In Crown Duel, the reader learns about the objects as the characters use them to go about their everyday life. A character walks through a cleaning frame instead of taking a bath and then goes on with his day. The reader is not subjected to a whole scene of: “The cleaning frame was so amazing. One step, and he was clean. He ran outside and smeared dirt over his face and walked through the cleaning frame again, marveling that the grime magically disappeared.”

So in creating these distinctive objects, the correct question to ask yourself is not “What funky thing can I put in my world?” but

What real world object that is already in use in a scene can be replaced by something unique?

Perhaps this could be a new kind of poison that an assassin uses to murder someone. Or a different food that is served at a meal. Perhaps something could happen automatically (e.g. a door opening) that usually needs to be done manually or via technology in our world.

Even with objects that are incorporated into scenes, though, we still need to be careful. A pink and purple polka-dotted chameleon does not blend very well into a forest. One further question is useful to determine whether or not our object is properly camouflaged.

Does the character think about it?

No gushing over the object, please. No turning it over and over to consider it. The character should use the object without a second thought. It is no surprise to them, why should it be to the reader?

So find unique objects, use them to show the reader that you aren’t a Ruritanian writer. But do camouflage them like a chameleon. You don’t really want them to stick out like a peacock in an Arctic winter.

Outlining Your Novel: Zoe Style (Part One)

As I was chatting with a friend a while ago regarding my novel progress, I began describing my new outlining process, and she suggested that I blog about it so that other people could see my process. I thought I’d describe my new system step by step as I do each one.

For the first step, I cut off a six-foot length of white tablecloth paper. I then drew the diagram below (this one is computer-generated; I forgot to take pictures of the original)

Plot Planner

The long black line is the overall plot line, the contours of which mirror the shape of every novel’s tension (or what should be the shape of every novel’s tension). The red lines indicate the dividers between acts. Each of the blue points is a critical scene that should exist in every well-written story, according to the novel structure authorities.

I drew all this out on my piece of paper with markers, so that I had a six-foot map of my plot.

So what does one do with this six-foot long piece of paper? That’s step two. 🙂

(Note: idea came from Martha Alderson’s The Plot Whisperer)

Beautiful People–June I have decided to join the fun of Sky and Cait‘s Beautiful People. Because you can never know your characters too much, right? For this month, I felt like focusing on Nenith.

1) What is their full name and is there a story behind why they got it? Her full name is Nenith Jadain. The Entlaunians name their children according to their dreams for them. Nenith is the female form of a male name (since lost) which means “fearless one.” Unfortunately, name meanings don’t always match the child’s personality.
2) How old are they, and when were they born? Nenith is sixteen, and was born in 1419, according to the Common Calendar.
3) Describe their physical appearance. (Bonus questions: 1. What is their race/nationality/ethnicity? 2. Do you have a picture of them? If so, include it!) Nenith is an Entlaunian, similar to a real-world Frenchwoman. Her eyes are a deep purple, and her hair a deep brown. Her slim, short frame, and pale skin make her seem more delicate than she is, and her round face often causes people to think of her as child and shelter her.
4) Describe your character’s personality first in one word, and then elaborate with a few sentences. Empathy. Nenith is a bleeding heart, always able to see when people are in emotional pain. Her gentle manner, while not fixing their problems, often makes them feel better in spite of themselves. Whether or not an action will hurt someone is one of her main considerations when forming an opinion or choosing a course of action.
5) What theme song(s) fit their personality and story arc? I haven’t found a perfect one yet, but Sunas’s Bushes and Briars is close.
6) Which one of the seven deadly sins describes your character? None do, perfectly anyway. Nenith’s greatest fault is her fear, which perhaps links to pride. She’s afraid to put herself in situations that could go bad or make her look bad.
7) If they were an element (fire, water, earth, air), which one would they be? Definitely earth. Nenith can be depended upon to be solid and firm, yet has a gentle way about her.
8) What is their favorite word? Her favourite word, in terms of concept, would be genuine. Based purely on sound, ethereal.
9) Who’s one person they really miss? (It could be someone who’s passed away, or someone they’re not close to anymore, or someone who’s moved away.) Nenith misses her sister Sylve, the child Sylve, to be specific. She misses when they were best friends, when they were inseparable, before Sylve changed and allowed unfounded jealousy to slip between them and pry them apart.
10) What sights, sounds, and smells remind them of that person? The little things remind her of the way Sylve was as a girl: pressed wildflowers that they gathered together, two little girls running hand in hand, children’s laughter, and the stuffy smell of closets.