NaNoWriMo Prep #16 – Building Your World

World Building MapToday I’ll talk briefly about world-building. Tomorrow I’ll focus on setting, which is basically a more detailed view of the world you’re creating for your NaNo novel.

World-building is just that. Building a world for your NaNo novel. Usually world-building is associated with fantasy or science fiction novels. But even if you’re writing a contemporary novel set in your home town, you still should know as much as you can about it and do research, which is easier than ever to do thanks to the Internet.

For example, you may know everything about the side of town you live on as to where people go to eat, attend school, work or play but what if your character comes from a side of town you’ll not that familiar with? Then you’ll need to research it, visit it or chat with people who do live there.

Here are some articles that can assist you with your world-building efforts.

The Seven Deadly Sins of World Building  – An article that details some of the sins that can happen during world-building such as not considering the basic infrastructure or creating monolithic social, political, cultural and religious groups.

Twenty-Five Things You Should Know About World-Building –  Chuck Wendig never fails to make me laugh and he provides writing information that’s not only totally insane but totally accurate to boot. His post on world-building includes such headings as A Rich Tapestry Or An Unrolled Tube Of Plain White Toilet Paper? and Wait, I Need To Research My Made-Up World?

An Impatient Writer’s Approach to World-Building -I like prepping but I’ll admit I’m still having trouble world-building. Like the author of this post shares, I get impatient. Here is a quote from the article as to Strauss’s approach to world-building.

Before I do anything else, I make sure that I have a firm grasp of my world’s core principles; but the details–the shape and nature of the actual places my plot takes me–aren’t developed until I get to them in the course of writing.

World Building EyeHow Much of My World Should I Build – Lisle suggests that you build only what you need and imply the rest. Sounds good to me. I love a detailed world as much as the next reader, but I also don’t want to drown in details, especially if they’re not essential to the story.

30 Days of World-Building – This one started out as a series of post on a NaNo forum. Although geared more toward fantasy writing, it’s still useful and the author has graciously provided links to free downloads of the document, including pdf, epub and mobi.

So You Want to Build Your Own Fictional World – – The website TV Tropes has set up a page that assists you in building a world. What’s nice about this page is that when you click on the links it takes you to posts on the site about that particular topic and gives you examples and definitions. Of course you want to avoid doing anything that’s been done to death, thus the title “tropes”, but you may get some ideas as to how to twist a trope to make it new and fresh. Remember, there’s really nothing new under the sun, just revamps, revisions, revivals and reimaginings of what’s already been done.

Aliens and Alien Societies – Although this book focuses on science fiction the chapter on Creating Alien Societies can help you create any society, whether it’s human, paranormal or fantastical.

I actually find watching Face Off, Syfy’s reality series in which makeup artists compete for prizes, interesting because the makeup artists have to also explain the concepts behind their creations, i.e. what environment their creatures live in. For example, one of their challenges was to create elemental fairies who came about as the result of a natural disaster, such as a flood or earthquake.


NaNoWriMo Prep #15 – Choose Your Genre

If you haven’t chosen your genre for your NaNo novel or have but you’re looking for information, inspiration on guidance how to write in your genre, check out the books below. Nothing, of course, can substitute for reading widely in your genre, but it’s also good to check out what others have to say about writing in a particular genre.

MysteryMysteries, Thrillers and Suspense

Writing the Mystery – A Start to Finish Guide for Both Novice and Professional – G. Miki Hayden

Writing the Modern Mystery – Barbara Norville

The Elements of Mystery Fiction – Writing a Modern Whodunit – William C. Tapply

Writing Mysteries – A Handbook by the Mystery Writers of America

You Can Write a Mystery – Gilian Roberts

How to Write a Damn Good Mystery – A Practical Step by Step Guide from Inspiration to Finished Manuscript – James Frey

Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel – How to Knock ‘Em Dead with Style – Hallie Ephron

The Weekend Novelist Writes a Mystery – Robert J. Ray and Jack Remick

Writing Mysteries – Edited by Sue Grafton with Jan Burke and Barry Zeman

How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries – Kathy Lynn Emerson

How To Write Mysteries – Shannon Ocorck

How to Write Killer Fiction  The Funhouse of Mystery and the Roller Coaster of Suspense – Carolyn Wheat

Don’t Murder Your Mystery – Chris Roerden

How to Write a Damn Good Thriller – James Frey

Now Write! Mysteries – Suspense, Crime, Thrillers and Other Mystery Fiction Exercises from Today’s Best Writers and Teachers  – Edited by Sherry Ellis & Laurie Lamson

RomanceRomance and Erotica

Writing a Romance Novel for Dummies by Leslie Wainger

The Everything Guide to Writing a Romance Novel by Christie Craig and Faye Hughes

On Writing Romance – How to Craft a Novel that Sells by Leigh Michales

Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women edited by Jayne Ann Krentz

A Natural History of the Romance Novel by Pamela Regis

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Writing Erotic Romance by Alison Kent

The Joy of Writing Sex by Elizabeth Benedict

Elements of Arousal by Lars Eighner

Everything I Know About Love I Learned from Romance Novels by Sarah Wendell

Beyond Heaving Bosoms – The Smart Bitches’ Guide to Romance Novels by Sarah Wendell & Candy Tam

HorrorScience Fiction, Fantasy and Horror

Now Write! Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror – Speculative Genre Exercises from Today’s Best Writers and Teachers – Edited by Laurie Lamson

The Complete Guide to Writing Science Fiction – Volume One – Edited by Dave A. Law and Darin Park

Concerning the Heavens – Crafting the Science Fiction Novel by Melissa Scott

Worlds of Wonder – How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy by David Gerrold

Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy by Crawford Kilian

How to Write Horror Fiction by William E. Nolan

Writing Horror by Edo Van Beldom

Young AdultYoung Adult/New Adult

Writing New Adult Fiction by Deborah Halverson

Writing & Selling the YA Novel by K. L. Going

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Writing for Young Adults by Deborah Perlberg

Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies by Deborah Halverson

Wild Ink – Success Secrets to Writing and Publishing in the Young Adult Market by Victoria Hanley

Writing Great Books for Young Adults by Regina Brooks

NaNoWriMo Prep #12 – The Six Stage Plot Structure

Book CoverMichael Hauge is a script consultant and author. His book Writing Screenplays That Sell has been in print for over 20 years. He’s also collaborated with Christopher Volger, author of The Writer’s Journey.

Hague’s plot diagram follows both the outer and inner journey of the character. He also divides the story into three acts with Act Two having a mid-point break.

I’m going to use James Cameron’s Avatar as an example of this plot structure. SPOILERS AHEAD!

Hauge Plot Diagram

Avatar 1In Act One, the story is set-up and a new situation is introduced. Jake Scully, the story’s hero, is a disabled vet. When his twin brother is killed, Jake is offered the job of piloting his twin’s avatar, which plunges Jake into a new situation on the world of Pandora.

As it relates to Jake’s inner journey, he is living fully in what Hauge calls The Identity. The Identity is the emotional armor a character wears to protect him or herself from some wound, whether emotional or physical.

In Jake’s case, his identity is to do as he’s ordered and to operate as the former soldier he still sees himself as despite his disability. The other soldiers look down on him and don’t consider him one of them, especially since, according to Jake, they’re only on Pandora for the money.

The Essence is who the character is when that emotional armor is stripped away In Jake’s case, deep inside he wants to be a hero, a warrior who yearns for something truly worthwhile to fight for. He doesn’t want to fight just for money. He wants something more.

In  Act One the character also gets a glimpse of what they could be if he or she were living fully in their Essence. In this case, Jake’s avatar, the alien body he will pilot using his mind, is a glimpse of who and what Jake will become over the course of the story’s journey.

In Act One, there are also two Turning Points. Turning Point One is  the Opportunity. In Avatar, it’s the offer made to Jake Avatar 2to start a new life on Pandora. The second Turning Point, Change of Plans, is the Turning Point that pulls the character into Act Two. In Avatar, the second Turning Point for Jake is when  he is separated from the other scientists and soldiers and winds up being found by Neytiri.

Not only is Jake now firmly in Act Two but he’s also in a different world, the world of the Na’vi or what Campbell and Vogler call the Special World.

In Act Two, as it relates to the Outer Plot, Jake is making progress on his goal to learn more about the Na’vi. But as it relates to the Inner Journey, Jake is still operating from his Identity as a soldier. He’s been ordered by the story’s antagonist, Quaritch, to obtain military intel on the Na’vi so Quaritch can force them to comply with the company’s desire to mine on their land,

However, one of the functions of Act Two is to move the character along both the Outer and the Inner journeys. As it relates to the Outer Journey, the hero faces more complications and higher stakes in achieving his goals. As for the Inner Journey, the character wavers between the Identity and the Essence.

Avatar 3This is illustrated when we see Jake switch back and forth from his disabled human body to his strong, powerful Na’vi body. He’s also becoming more and more like the Na’Vi and, at the midpoint of the story, or as it’s called the Point of No Return, Jake not only becomes a member of the Na’vi, or the People as they call themselves, but he and Neytiri make love and she tells him they are mated for life.

Jake is now in the second half of Act II, the stage known as Complications & Higher Stakes. We see this when the company invades the grove where Jake and Neytiri made love and destroys a sacred tree. We also see that Jake is fully committed to his Essence, his warrior Na’vi self, when he attacks the soldiers and bulldozers. He’s crossed a line of no return here. He’s made his choice and he’s choosing the Na’vi over the company and his fellow soldiers, although at this point Jake still hopes to find a way for the two to live together.

Hauge Plot Diagram

The Midpoint was Turning Point 3. Turning Point 4 is known as the Major Setback and it’s the point that also turns the story from Act Two into Act Three.

When Jake tries to warn the Na’vi that their home is about to be destroyed, they find out that he was essentially nothing but aAvatar 4 spy, gathering intel for the humans. Jake tries to tell them that over time he came to love not only Neytiri but the Na’vi people, but they reject him and cast him out. Jake now has nothing and is nothing, neither a part of human society or the Na’vi. It’s his dark night of the soul, the Black Moment, and he literally wanders alone in the wilderness.

At this point, the hero may be tempted to retreat back to his Identity. If this happens, the story turns out to be a tragedy. But Jake does not do this. He chooses to become more fully Na’vi and even more of his Essence by taming a Toruk, a dragon-like predator both feared and honored by the Na’vi. By taming the Toruk, Jake regains the trust of the Na’vi, including his beloved, Neytiri. He rallies the Na’vi for battle and we are now fully in Act Three.

There are two major stages in Act Three: The Final Push and the Aftermath. There is also one final Turning Point, the Climax.

Avatar 5In Act Three of Avatar the humans are planning one final battle to utterly destroy the Na’vi. In response, Jake organizes all the tribes of the Na’Vi to fight the humans.

In the climax, the hero and the villain usually come together for one final, decisive confrontation. This happens when Quaritch attempts to defeat Jake by killing his human body and incapacitating his avatar. However, Quaritch is killed and the humans that had wanted to despoil Pandora and destroy the Na’vi are defeated and forced to return to Earth.

The Aftermath not only resolves the story questions but shows the transformation of the main character from Identity to Essence.

In Jake’s case, he not only literally forsakes his human body, which represented his Identity, but his consciousness is transferred permanently from that body to his Na’vi avatar body, the symbol of his Essence.

You don’t have to worry that following Hauge’s structure will cause you to write a NaNo novel like Avatar. Keep in mind that story structure is like a cup. You can pour coffee, milk, water, wine, hot chocolate, etc in it. Structure is nothing more than a skeleton upon which you flesh out all kinds of stories; mysteries, thrillers, science fiction, romances, literary, etc. each one as unique and individual as you are but supported by a strong structure that will keep your story from meandering or falling apart.

Godzilla – Still King of the Monsters

Why has Godzilla endured for so long? Why is there a new Godzilla movie coming out this month on May 16th 60 years after the first Godzilla movie was released in 1954?

I’ll be honest. I was never a big Godzilla fan. I’d seen some of the movies, of course, and I even went to the theater to see the 1998 remake starring Mathew Broderick, but I can’t say I’m a fan.

As a matter of fact, yesterday was the first time I’d seen the 1954 movie, which featured Raymond Burr who, interestingly enough, appeared in scenes that had obviously been spliced onto the original Japanese version.,The film does show its age but, for all that, it was still quite compelling. While watching the scenes of Godzilla lumbering through Tokyo leaving mass destruction in its wake, I couldn’t help but think that, instead of being focused on “wiping out the vermin, us”, to borrow a quote from Pacific Rim, Godzilla seemed kind of lost and confused. I know, weird, but that’s what I felt.

There were scenes that I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Gulliermo del Toro borrowed for Pacific Rim. For example, Godzilla rampages through a train yard and there’s a similar scene in Pacific Rim when the mecha Gypsy Danger is battling a kaiju that’s come ashore.  And, while watching the 1954 Godzilla, I couldn’t help but think of the horrific devastation that occurred only nine years prior in 1945 when atomic bombs were dropped on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which is I’m sure what motivated the filmmakers.

As has been noted in a recent NPR article about Godzilla, when the monster is finally defeated, there is a certain pathos to its destruction. Of course, as we all know, Godzilla rises again and again and again and subsequently goes on to appear in over two dozen films, with the newest version debuting this month.

Plus, there was this rather odd animated version  which came out in 1978.

I still haven’t yet decided if I’m going to go see the new Godzilla movie. I was totally underwhelmed by the 1998 version. Maybe I will. But, if I don’t, I’m sure I’ll catch it on Blu-Ray. Netflix is currently showing a slew of Godzilla movies, so if you’re jonesing for some Godzilla flicks, you can check them out there.

11 More Great Science Fiction & Fantasy Pets

My post yesterday about Data’s cat, Spot and Captain Archer’s dog, Porthos got me thinking about other animals in science fiction/fantasy movies and TV shows.

Here are eleven more of my favorites in no particular order:

1.  Einstein – Back to the Future 

Doc Brown’s dog Einstein was so beloved by the good doctor that it appears every dog he had, no matter the time period, he named Einstein.

2. Hedwig – Harry Potter

Loyal and fearless to the end, Hedwig was Harry’s companion through most of his years at Hogwarts.

3.  Ein – Cowboy Bebop

In the futuristic anime series, Cowboy Bebop, Ein (short, I’m sure, for Einstein) is a genetically enhanced Pembroke Welsh Corgi, who is very intelligent and immensely cute.

4. Hellboy’s cats

In the comics and the movies, there’s no doubt that the demonic looking Hellboy is a cat person. He loves cats. I mean, seriously LOVES cats.

5.  Jonesy – Alien 

Speaking of cats, is there any cat that was so loved by its owner? In the first movie of the Alien franchise, Ripley risks her life to go back for Jonesy even while there’s this acid-spitting, 8 foot tall murderous alien running about the ship. Now that’s devotion!

6. Toto – Wizard of Oz 

Not only does Toto get the plot going in Wizard of Oz (Dorothy runs away from the farm because that mean, dog-hating Elmira Gulch tries to take him away from her) but he’s loyal and brave and oh so cute.

8. Podo and Kodo – Beastmaster 

1982’s Beastmaster probably won’t go down in the annals of movie history as a great film, but it did have Marc Singer running around half-naked and he did have some really cool animals. He was, after all, master of beasts. The cutest, however, were his two ferrets, Podo and Kodo. They were like Toto. Brave and loyal and pretty cute to boot.

9. Tribbles – Star Trek

Tribbles, cute and fuzzy as they are, never really got on well with Klingons. They tended to go into a shrieking hissy-fit whenever one was around. As for the Klingons, they considered the troublesome creatures mortal enemies of the Klingon Empire and sent an armada of ships to destroy the tribble’s homeworld.

10. Gizmo – Gremlins

Another cute, fuzzy, adorable creature that proved to be quite troublesome. In the movie Gremlins, the father, after giving Gizmo to his son as a gift, tells him the three things he must do: (1) Keep it away from bright lights. (2) Never get it wet and (3) Never, ever feed it after midnight. Yes, you know what happens.

11. Direwolves – Game of Thrones

In Game of Thrones, all five of the Stark children get their own direwolf. So does Jon Snow, though he’s not a Stark, although he does have their blood. Rob has Grey Wind, Sansa, Lady, Arya’s direwolf is named Nymeria, Bran’s Summer, Rickon’s Shaggydog and Jon Snow’s Ghost. If you’ve been keeping up with either the books or the television series, you know the fates of some of these adorable pups. And that’s all I’ll say about that.

Pacific Rim – A Slow Burn

I didn’t see Pacific Rim, directed by Guillermo del Toro, when it came out last summer. I had wanted to. I had planned to. Giant robots and even gigantic monsters! Anime fan that I am, having loved Neon Genesis Evangelion, I should have been first in line.

But I didn’t go see it. I finally got to see it later last year and, well, in all honesty, I wasn’t all that impressed.

But, and here’s a big but, I’ve seen the movie since then and it has slowly, ever so slowly, burned its way into my collective unconscious. I still have some problems with it, namely, that scientist guy with the extremely annoying voice and his equally annoying lack of comedic talent. But the rest of the movie I now love.

I love the look of it, the characters featured in it and, most of all, the massive fight scenes between the Jaegers, the gigantic human-controlled mecha and the Kaijus, monstrous creatures who have invaded our world from a breech in the floor of the Pacific Ocean.

I do wonder sometimes why some movies don’t quite hit the right nerve when we see them at  a particular time and then, when we chance upon them again, we find we like them after all.

Pacific Rim is what it is. A big, gorgeous SF spectacle of humanity fighting to survive when faced with what appears to be an unstoppable and unbeatable foe. I also like the multi-cultural look to it. It’s set in Hong Kong and the characters are from different nationalities, although since the breech is in the Pacific, it does focus on the countries that border the Pacific, e.g. China, Russia,  the United States, Japan and Australia.

I especially liked the character of Mako Mori, a rookie Jaeger pilot, played by Rinko Kikuchi. Mako lost her family when she was only a child in a Kaiju attack. She is determined to avenge their deaths. Mako is strong, but Kikuchi brings a touching vulnerability to the character that is sometimes lacking in “kick-ass” heroines.

Her mentor is Stacker Pentecost, played by the always impressive Idris Elba, who was a standout in Thor as Heimdal. Pentecost is very protective of Mako and we find out why during the course of the movie.

Charlie Hunnam plays Raleigh Becket, who starts out as a rather cocky Jaeger pilot who, after experiencing a tragedy early in the  movie, must learn to face his own inner demons.

Ron Perlman is also in the movie and he’s, well, he’s Ron Perlman. What more is there to say? He plays Hannibal Chau, a black market dealer in Kaiju organs. His part isn’t terribly essential to the plot, but it’s always a delight to see Perlman. I’m not surprised he was in the movie, as he played Hell Boy in Guillermo del Toro’s movie of the same name.

Another big plus is the great soundtrack by Ramin Djawldi, who has done such an impressive job with the music for the HBO series Game of Thrones.

Now, initially, on first viewing, I would have only given this movie two popcorn boxes. I’m going to give it three popcorn boxes now, however, because there are still some problems  that, honestly, could have been left by the wayside, i.e. the annoying scientist guy, who was really only in the movie to provide exposition about the Kaiju. Actually it’s probably more like 3 1/2 popcorn boxes, but I don’t have a half a popcorn box icon. I probably need to make one at some point. 🙂

popcorn, movies, films, reviews, movie ratings

popcorn, movies, films, reviews, movie ratings

popcorn, movies, films, reviews, movie ratings

Defiance, Game of Thrones and a Con

Started watching Defiance Season 1 through my On Demand cable service. I’d heard about it, but hadn’t really gotten a chance to see it. It’s no Firefly, but what is. It does have that western/science fiction hybrid feel to it, you know roving bands of tribal aliens, the settlement on the edge of the frontier, the lawman, his deputies, the prostitute and her brothel, etc.  But so far, I’m enjoying it. I see the season premiere is  June. I’ll be all caught up with Season 1 by then.

Defiance – Syfy Channel

Game of Thrones premieres on Sunday. I still haven’t order HBO yet. All I need to do is use my remote so hopefully I won’t forget before Sunday.

Oh, well, the show must go on. *sniff*

Oh speaking of Game of Thrones, PBS has a video up where a scholar of medieval literature takes a look at the show. And, no, it’s not as dry as it sounds. Check it out here!

Going to be at OddCon today and this weekend. If I attend any interesting panels or see anything interesting I’ll post it.