Writing Weekend #9

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We haven’t don’t this for a while! So let’s try a writing prompt for a change. Get those creative juices going again.

Your prompt is simple.

Scenario: your character is waiting in line at a grocery store and it has been a long one. He or she is the next person in line. The cashier has finished scanning the other person’s items when….she pulls out a stack of coupons. Yep, she’s an extreme couponer.

So what does your character do in the face of a longer than expected wait? Roll her eyes and sigh? Pull out his phone and text? Does she say something? What is your character thinking? Is he understanding? After all, everyone wants to save some money in these hard times.

You might be surprised at what you discover. If you want, link your writing back to my blog and leave a comment. Happy writing!

Writing Weekend #8

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By now, you have learned the basics of world-building. For your weekend writing challenge, re-read some of the questions I’ve asked in the previous posts (Setting, Rules, HistoryInhabitants). If you haven’t answered them yet, do so now. If you have, combine those answers to start building a world for your story. Push yourself to discover new things and create a lush world full of details. Readers will be wowed by the thought and research you’ve put into it!

World-Building 101 Bonus: Setting as a Character

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For my previous world-building posts, check out these links:

Inhabitants
History
Rules
Setting

You can thank Stephen King for this post. I recently read “The Shining” and if any of you are at all familiar with the book or movie, you know the Overlook Hotel is a bad place to be. The basic premise of the novel is this: Jack Torrence, his wife Wendy, and son Danny are to take care of the Overlook during the winter months. It’s located so high in Colorado that when it snows there is no way in or out, thus the need for a caretaker. While there, they experience strange and disturbing events related to the hotel.

How does King do it in a way that is believable?

Anyone who has read the novel knows the amount of detail that went into creating the hotel’s sordid past. At multiple points, Jack finds himself pouring over old records as if he can’t read it fast enough. The history of the hotel reveals more about the murders that have occurred there, the many owners it has had, and the failed attempts at running it.

King doesn’t start the novel flaunting all of this at us, though. He’s subtle about the details he brings into play so that when the hotel “comes to life”, so to speak, readers are prepared for it. We accept that the hotel is basically alive and wants to kill the people who are there. Of course, the building itself is not malicious. It’s the “inhabitants” (AKA the ghosts of those murdered there) that are. Because the ghosts are so much a part of the hotel, the building itself seems to come alive, thus becoming a character on its own.

Want to give this technique a try?

Treat your setting as you would one of your main characters. You give them a name, a history, a life before your story. Do the same for your setting. Your’s may not be filled with ghosts out for blood. It might be so rich in history that it comes alive for readers in an entirely different way. The details are what make it. They’re the backbone not only of the world you build, but of the story itself. If you can spend the time and effort in building a believable world for your story, you will be amazed at how real it seems to your readers.

This Girl Totally Got Published

I’m on a roll with short Monday posts! Actually, this one is exciting news, as you can tell from the title. My poem was published in Germ Magazine! It’s an online publication started by New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Niven (All the Bright Places).

My poem is titled Chocoholic, and if you enjoy my Wednesday humor posts, you’ll like this poem. Totally true story about my obsession with chocolate. So please go read and share it! I appreciate any and all support!

Chocoholic by Stephanie Wooten Koreneff

World-Building 101: Inhabitants (Bonus Writing Weekend #7)

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Terribly sorry that this post didn’t go up yesterday. I literally had no downtime to write it, so here it is one day late:

For the previous world-building posts, click these links:

Setting
Rules
History

After talking about the basis for your story’s world, I’m going to talk about inhabitants. These are the people that live in your world. Depending on your story, you might already know a lot about them.

Stories set in the real world or worlds similar to ours have inhabitants ready-made for your story. All you have to do is watch people around you, study their language, watch how they behave, etc. This is also appropriate to do if your story is set in the real world, but some characters have superpowers or magic. It may be important for them to try to blend in.

Stories set in previous time periods require research, as said before. You’ll want to know how those people talked, how they dressed, how they behaved, how they got around. If your story is about a real witch during the Salem witch trials, you’ll need to research those so your reader (who may already be very knowledgeable about the subject) will be engrossed in your story. Going into a book like that, readers want to know that you did your research. They don’t want to know more than you because they don’t want to see historical errors.

The amount of research needed for historical stories is similar to the amount needed for stories set in different cultures. Unless you’ve lived there, you probably won’t know all the nuances of Japanese culture despite how much Anime you watch.

If you’re creating a world completely from scratch, your inhabitants can be whoever you want them to be. They can have magic or superpowers or be like normal people. But even though you have more free reign, looking at the people around you and studying their behavior will still benefit your book. What is it that make your people happy? Sad? Stressed? And then how to they show these emotions? People are people, regardless of where they live, and readers want see believable emotions.

Bonus: Writing Weekend #7

For the previous writing weekend challenges, check out these links:

Setting
Rules
History

Here are your questions to help you think about the inhabitants of your story:

1. What type of people are they? Mythical? Magical? Real-world? Some combination?

2. What is their main method of transportation? Walking? Driving? Flying?

3. How do they get their food? Do they have to hunt for it? Do they buy it?

4. What do they eat?

5. How do they make a living?

6. What language do they speak?

7. What are their customs like (regarding visiting friends/family, eating, holidays, etc.)?

8. What is their religion, if any?

9. How do they react to their form of government? Are they satisfied? Rebellious? How do they express this?

10. Do the children go to school or are they taught useful tasks by parents/mentors to prepare them for life on their own?

Thanks for following my world-building posts. I hope they have been helpful. Come back next week for a bonus post on world-building!

Writing Weekend #6

Last weekend’s writing challenge was about rules. The week before that dealt with setting.

Your writing challenge for the weekend is about the history of your story’s world. It’s relatively straightforward. You can freehand some information about it, or use these questions as a springboard for more ideas:

1. How did this world come to be?

2. Where is it located?

3. What language do the people speak?

4. What is the form of government? How did it come to be?

5. What is the class-system like?

6. What wars have been fought? How have these shaped the world? Were they civil wars or wars fought with other countries? Did they win or lose?

7. Are there historical landmarks? What kind are they?

8. What kind of laws and punishments are there?

9. Is it a prosperous country or a poor country?

10. What kind of currency is there?

I hope these questions help you in thinking about the history of your story’s world. Join me next week for my post about the people of your world!

World-Building 101: History

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Last week, I wrote about rules and the week before that was setting. This week, it’s all about history.

As a writer, chances are you excelled at English and history in school. Creating a world for your characters, be it real or imaginary, requires history.

If the world you are writing about has a history, that makes it much more real to the reader. It explains how this place came to be and why things are the way they are. Think back on your World History classes in school. Did you find it enlightening to learn about different countries and their cultures? Your readers will feel the same way.

Want to make the world pop for your readers? A well thought out/researched history is the way to go. It makes your world real to readers. From that, you develop government, laws, culture, the type of people who live there and how they go about their day. Life in America is drastically different from that of people in India, for example. Our laws and cultures are unique to the location. Even in America, several cultures exist. Think North and South, Midwest and Pacific coast.

If your story is based in the real world, the history of the location is already set. All you have to do is research to make sure you have a clear understanding of it. Of course, there’s the alternate-reality option where you take a real location and alter the history to create something new. In this case, it’s still important to learn the history so you can figure out the best way to mold it into your story.

If your story is based in a location that you’ve made up, you have free reign over the history. Anything is possible in a world you make up. This might not always be the easier option, though. Readers want to understand the place. They want logical reasoning for why things are the way they are. Is your world controlled by an insane dictator? It needs to be explained why that is so. For this reason, it may be helpful to write down key points to your location’s history so your facts are consistent.

Whichever your story requires, make sure to have your facts researched/thought out and consistent. For some, inconsistent facts may very well be the reason they put down an otherwise amazing story.