Mar 31, 2016

Using tarot to help with writing

I give a tarot card to each of my characters when I first create them. That helps me keep their personalities separate. Now I found a different, and far more obvious, use for them: making decisions.

I have a tarot app on my tablet that gives me a card everyday. (I use it to refresh my memory of the card meanings.) Normally I don’t have time to look at it in the morning and just skip out of the alert, but today I had a few minutes after I got to work so I checked it. And it gave me the answer to the question that had been running through my head about my world building since I woke up and all during a long drive. Awesome!

I'm trying to sort out the transportation for the main country in my fantasy series. I’d decided against animals because it felt unnecessary. The technology and magic (one and the same, really) exist to make almost anything possible, but I couldn’t pick one option. I have wagons as my main characters’ homes and decided these hover, yet couldn’t decide if that was from metalworking magic with magnets on the road or woodworking magic that treats flat land like water and floats slightly. But how to propel? Pedal? Fans? Or do I use textile magic for sails that work regardless of winds? It’s an island nation with rivers- could I take advantage of that? Or even use the sails on land vehicles like the wagons? The problem was that I liked all of these ideas (and a few others) and picking one particular type was too hard! And what about public transportation, carts, and other things? What powers those?

All this ran through my head as I got stuck in traffic this morning. Then I saw this card. My answer is quite clearly: use all of them. Have the artist/inventor mages work together to create options! And if any are silly, that’s probably better since I’m writing a lot of humor in this series.

Long story short, I need to start using tarot cards when I get stuck! Sometimes the answer is right in front of me and I just need to be pointed to it. I mean, I own four or five tarot decks. I may as well use them! I would definitely recommend this method if you're stuck. Just pull out one card from the deck (or use an app like Tarot Illuminati that gives you a daily card complete with meaning and story based on the card) and see if there's any meaning in the card that gives you an answer. The Three of Pentacles basically means "teamwork",  "crafts", "skill or talent leading to great results", and "productivity", which was just about the most obvious answer I could have asked for. You don't need to be knowledgeable about tarot- google gives great results when you type in the name of the card. It's sort of like doing a reading, but super simplified. :)

I'd previously used tarot to keep track of my characters' personalities (by assigning each of them a card), so I'm learning that tarot can be really useful for writing, particularly when I'm terrible at making decisions!


Mar 29, 2016

Apparently tonight I'm giving myself a pep talk

Today I was looking through older drafts of Colorweaver (Book 1) to see if there were any scenes I wanted to salvage and piece together for this draft.

Me: You know, some of these scenes were really good. I wonder if I should have kept the original direction of the story.

My logical side: NO. No no no! There's a reason you changed the plot and world building! Some of the lines may be good, but the story itself wasn't what it needed to be. Remember? That's why you changed it in the first place!

Me: But that version seems more serious, like a real fantasy novel. People want serious fantasy novels now.

My logical side: To hell with what's popular! And I believe the words you're looking for to describe those drafts are "stereotypical" and "flat". Your villain was more cardboard than a pizza box! You have a good thing going with your silly characters. Your antagonist now has motive and a personality.

Me: ...My antagonist is clumsy, barely understands the concept of clothing, and gets stuck as a two and a half foot tall bramble bush with wings and claws for half the story.

My logical side: Which supports "silly", "personality", and "motive". Just roll with the ridiculous. Believe me. It's where your heart lies and your words flow.

Me: Even if Sol just started making jokes about his own butt? And Adair is about the least competent and heroic protagonist in the history of ever?

My logical side: Trust your dorks.

Me: I hope you're right. Tomorrow I write the food fight scene.

My logical side: It shall be a food fight to go down in the history of fantasy novels. It shall be remembered.

Me: Yeah, because most other authors have actual fights.

My logical side: Then what do you call a main character getting killed off if not an actual fight?

Me: A chance for him to make a short joke when he's possessing Adair and then a way to prank their friends.

My logical side: Now you're getting the point! You can have serious, just keep the humor. You've got this.

Mar 26, 2016

(Re)Casting my characters!

Someone on the FB NaNo group suggested searching Pinterest for character inspiration pictures. Oh my gosh, this was way more effective than google searching! A lot of these still aren’t quite right, but they’re pretty close. Let me go down the list here for the characters who play the biggest parts in book 1.

1.) Adair: arcane painter/cartographer whose illusion magic works through art. (Magic is called “weaving” in these stories.) Cheerful, friendly, and sweet, if a little naive. Trans boy. Obsessed with food, particularly pies and desserts. Terrified of heights. Technically the main character of the series and the leader of this misfit bunch of carnival performers.

2.) Blythe: knife and blade performer for a carnival troupe when she isn’t being their healer. One of Adair’s sentinels. As much warrior as healer, she’s strong-willed, quick at making decisions, and just as quick to speak her mind. Has a soft spot for those in need. Doesn’t fear much of anything, except maybe one of the other dorks doing something stupid that she’d have to rescue them from.

3.) Firedrake: fire dancer who’s more than a little obsessed with dragons and costumes. Agender and uses they/them pronouns. Tries to come off as snarky, sarcastic, and serious, but is as much a dork as the rest. Enjoys pranking people. Has fire and mind-manipulation magics that tend to aid the pranks. Blythe’s sibling-by-choice, although both are constantly wondering what they were thinking when they made said choice.

4.) Etri: sometimes thief, part time fire and knife act with the troupe, full time sentinel of Adair. (This is a triad culture; sentinels are the bodyguards/spouses to artists.) Stoic, loyal, intelligent. Socially phobic introvert. Has magic that snuffs out light/fire and turns him into a shadow. Doesn’t naturally have black hair: what goth boy has is an aesthetic.

5.) Sol: fire-breather and fire performer with light magic. An inventor who’s always coming up with bizarre ideas that sometimes work, sometimes backfire spectacularly. He’s something of a genius ditz: brilliant at inventing things, a completely inept goofball the rest of the time. He’s Etri’s identical twin and they intentionally play off each other’s sun/moon, light/dark theme.

6.) Talan: the antagonist who doesn’t realize that he’s the antagonist. He didn’t mean for this to happen! Why’s everyone trying to catch him? He’s not human, so he’s not quite adjusted to being human, both in terms of the body (he’s clumsy and used to being about three times smaller) and in dealing with human culture. Dray’s boyfriend. (Talan is younger than Sol, but similar enough in appearance that guards trying to catch Sol mistakenly go after Talan.)

7.) Rosalie: the reluctant villain. Eight years ago Rosalie was sent on a task along with another priestess; Camille controls light elementals, Rosalie controls shadows. Their task was almost complete when Rosalie found herself questioning her orders. If she has the courage, she can choose another path, but courage was never one of her strong traits.

8.) Wysta: Blythe’s mentor and former teacher, Wysta is the carnival troupe’s lead healer. She’s a former Protectorate, so her shaved head is a sign of giving up the life of a warrior and becoming a carny instead. Braids mark status as a Protectorate and it’s a ritual to cut off the braid when you pick a different path in life. Usually they let their hair grow back, but Wysta keeps her head shaved as a personal style choice.

Mar 12, 2016

GNU Terry Pratchett

“Do you not know that a man is not dead while his name is still spoken?" - Going Postal

(First lines from the first book The Color of Magic)

(Last lines from the last book The Shepherd's Crown)

 Today marks a year since Terry Pratchett passed away. I can't even put into words just how much Pratchett and his books mean to me, but I'll try.

Seeing all the memorial posts on Facebook made me tear up and realize that his passing is still a difficult thing to deal with. Pratchett was my hero. His books got me through a lot of hard stuff over the years and gave me so much hope. They reminded me that there's always good and humor in the world even when things look bad. Especially when things look bad because no matter who you are, you can make a difference. That optimism isn't a bad thing to have, even if it is coupled with a healthy dose of realism. ;)

His books also gave me what a lot of other authors don't seem capable of writing: optimism, humor, and hope, the same things that helped my life so much. It sadens me so much that I won't have more Discworld books to fill that literary void, but with over 40 books just in the Discworld series, Pratchett gave us something we can enjoy over and over again. He left behind a huge legacy of amazing writing and that's something I can't forget. There won't be new books, but I can always return to my old friends and feel like I'm home. I realize now that Discworld has been my home even more than Middle Earth and that's saying a lot!

Pratchett was also my biggest influence in wanting to become an author. I doubt I'll ever be as great with words as he was, but I'm going to carry on writing and do my part to contribute more optimism, humor, and hope into a world that so desperately needs it.

GNU Terry Pratchett. "A man is not dead while his name is still spoken." Your name will forever be spoken and your words forever loved.