Here’s a very quick post to let you know that I’m going to be participating in NaNoWriMo 2016– also known as National Novel Writing Month again! I’m planning to write a total of the usual 50,000 words, but I plan to do that between drafting two short stories and starting the first draft of my next novel.
Pretty much all of the writing I’ve done has been prose– that’s how most of you know me, right? Former fanfiction writer turned novelist (with a couple of short stories thrown in for good measure).
But recently, I tried something new. You see, one of my critique partners, Alex Brown, co-created an audio drama podcast called The Bridge that I am O B S E S S E D with. And The Bridge has a few mini episodes that stand apart from the main story arc.
Alex invited me to write one.
I was intrigued– because hey, this was sort of an opportunity to write canon fanfiction for a thing I love! But I was also nervous. I’d never written any sort of a script before.
But anyway, the endeavor led me to reflect on the unique challenges of writing a script– in my case, basically a monologue– when compared with novels and short stories. And, it led me to think a little of how they’re alike as well:
Voice is always important, but when your medium is literally a person’s voice, it’s possibly even more important that you nail the character’s voice.
In prose, you can have paragraphs upon paragraphs setting the scene and action. In an audio script, you have to leave the listener’s imagination to do a lot of the heavy lifting. But you can help them along a little bit with sound effects of shuffled papers, footsteps, and the like.
Similarly, all that fun internal dialogue we’re used to creating? Yeah, that’s out the window. A lot depends on your dialogue, stage directions, and the voice actor’s delivery. You have to trust that listeners can glean shades of emotion from what they hear. They need to give weight to their pauses. (Thankfully, my first experiment in this medium was with an actor who totally got this)
You know that old writing tip that suggests you read your work out loud to check for rhythms and redundancy? To be honest, I’ve only done that when I’m workshopping specific passages in my books, but dude. I can not stress the importance of that enough for the audio drama medium.
If you’re a metaphor fan (like me), there’s not a whooooole lot of room to get that out of your system. I mostly used the stage directions for mine. But we do use metaphor in our day-to-day dialogue when trying to describe things to others, so there’s still some room for it.
I’d imagine the challenges present themselves as even greater when you’re writing an episode with a fuller cast, but as I wrote a mini-episode for a single character, things were a little different for me.
Once upon a time, I was a baby author, daunted by the task of world-building for my fantasy novel.
The majority of my writing had been fanfiction. The stories I created were set in worlds other people had established.
I had to think deeply about the world I presented in my Threats of Sky and Sea series if I wanted readers to believe my world-building; to truly immerse themselves in the world and story.
As my friend Angel said, after reading an early draft of Threats: Do all of these world-building details need to be included in the book? Not necessarily.
But should I, as the writer and world-builder, know them?
A version of this post originally appeared on my old blog, Almost Grown-up, but with a completed series under my belt now and gazing off into the horizon at my next upcoming project, I wanted to revisit and expand upon it.
The questions I ask myself when I’m world-building:
Do you know the general layout of your world? Do you have some sort of loose map of it in your head? Where do different places lie in relation to others?
How does the location of different landmarks and countries influence their trade?
How does the climate and terrain differ in different regions of your world?
What are the weather patterns like? Are certain locations more vulnerable to certain elements of nature?
What plants grow in which areas? Do any of them have any special properties?
What wildlife is common in which areas?
Are your names based upon certain cultures?
Do they translate to something?
Does the name fit the world and cultures you’ve built into it, or will it your reader find it jarring?
How are troops obtained? Through conscription or voluntary enlistment?
Who are the country’s allies? Why are they allied with them? Are the allies happy with the arrangement?
Is the country at war, or close to it? Why? With who?
What are the key military fighting techniques?
Are there any noteworthy weapons or transports?
What branch of the military excels? Do they have a particularly strong army, navy, etc.?
What about previous wars, alliances, and treaties? What prompted them? How did they influence interacting cultures, countries, and warfare?
Is there any sort of public education, or is schooling reserved for the wealthy?
How about books? Do “peasants” and the middle-class have access to them, or are they solely in libraries– at schools and in wealthy estates?
Is it common to know how to read?
What are the basic tasks and facts people learn as children? Does it differ between genders? How about between social classes?
Are studies valued, or looked down upon culturally (generally speaking)?
Is the government a monarchy? A democracy? A republic?
Who are some past noteworthy rulers or government officials? Who do the citizens remember now? And why are they remembered?
Is there an essential governing document (like the U.S.’s Constitution)?
Is it largely a patriarchal or matriarchal society? Or does it attempt equality?
What’s the currency?
How is incarceration determined? Is there any sort of court system?
What about capital punishment? Are people regularly executed– and what are the capital crimes? How about the method of execution?
What are the most important laws of the land? What laws are particularly unique to your world?
Related to the above topic of government, does religion have a place in the government or is there a separation between the two entities?
Are religious practices mandated by the state? Do those who don’t comply– or those who have a different belief system– face persecution?
What do people believe in this religion? What myths surround it?
Is the religion monotheistic? Polytheistic?
Are there holy texts? Scriptures?
What practices or services do worshippers attend? What’s entailed in them?
Who are the religious officials?
Are there particular holy days to note?
What denotes status in this world?
How does courting work?
What traditions are there surrounding life milestones (birthdays, weddings, births, deaths…)?
Are there particular superstitions?
What are the fashions like? The trends? What influences (modesty, climate, status) does it have?
What’s the architecture like?
What’s the food and drink like?
Are there any special festivals that people attend?
What are the typical gathering places for inhabitants of the world when they have spare time?
How do all of these answers change when considering different regions of your world?
Looking for more world-building advice? Try these posts:
In Episode 4, Jen chats with blogger Megan Rutell of pageflutter.com about her Instagram challenge, #pfsixwordchallenge for six word stories. Show Notes: Megan’s blog, Page Flutter | #pfsixwordchallenge Sewwhatalicia.com The (Urban) Legend of Ernest Hemingway and Six Word Stories: “For sale, Baby shoes, Never worn.” “The Bullet Journal: What It Is and Why You Need It” on Page Flutter Bydawnnicole.com Bullet Journal bloggers who posted about the challenge: Tiny Ray of Sunshine | Decade Thirty Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert Examples of six word stories: Shari Slade, romance author’s, response to the #pfsixwordchallenge prompt “Dream come true:” “Bleeding and broken, still she danced” Cherri Porter’s response to the #pfsixwordchallenge prompt “Mix-up:” “Confirm wetnurse babies. Human next time.” G.Thomasmartin’s response to the #pfsixwordchallenge prompt “The Gift:” “Their grief. Their joy. Organ donor.” Megan Rutell is the blogger behind pageflutter.com and the creator of the Instagram challenge #pfsixwordchallenge. She’s […]
In Episode 3, Jen chats with writer Angel Cruz about how the writing and editorial process works in online media, how she began writing for online media outlets to begin with, and comparing/contrasting those processes with how she writes fiction. Show Notes: Angel Cruz’s former book blog was Mermaid Vision Books Angel Cruz is a contributor for Women Write About Comics, Book Riot, and YA Books Central. She is the non-fiction diaspora editor for Rambutan Literary. Some of her pieces have also appeared on The Learned Fangirl, Chicago Review of Books, and The Tempest “Boy band scholar,” a phrase describing Angel, coined by Women Write About Comics editor, Claire Napier Angel’s Women Write About Comics colleague, Ardo Omer Last week’s “Thursday Book Beat,” the column Angel writes for Women Write About Comics: “The Thursday Book Beat: Cursed Child, Criticism, and Community” “The Music of Hamilton: WWAC Shares the Songs […]
In Episode 2, Jen talks to YA author, Sarah Nicolas about maintaining two pen names in different genres and Sarah’s alter ego, romance author, Aria Kane. Subscribe, rate, or review on iTunes | Write Magic community | Write Magic Newsletter | Write Magic Facebook Show Notes: Dragons Are People, Too by Sarah Nicolas Sarah Nicolas’s piece on Book Riot: Why I’m a Romance Evangelist Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheets: From his book, Save the Cat Jessica Brody on applying Save the Cat beat sheets (which originated as a screenplay technique) to a novel Sarah Nicolas’s piece on Book Riot: Why I Sacrificed 45% of My Salary to Work in a Library Keeping Her Secret by Sarah Nicolas will now be out August 15, 2016. Hotel Paranormal series – Lucky Break by Aria Kane Sarah Nicolas Sarah Nicolas is a 31-year-old YA author […]
So, no one told you life was gonna be this way. *clap, clap, clap, clap, clap* Your job’s a joke. You’re broke. Your love life’s DOA. Is it possible the Friends theme song secretly describes writers? Today, I want to revisit a post from my old blog, Almost Grown-up, to talk about some basic writing rules-of-thumb… with the cast of Friends. Because I think its proper home is here and, to be honest, any post with Friends references is a better post, in my humble opinion. 1. If you’re a pantser, like me, beginning a new draft can feel like this: And that’s okay. 2. That can sometimes lead to a little of this: But that’s what revisions are for. 3. The thesaurus is a wonderful tool! But be sure not to overdo it. 4. PACING matters 5. Get into […]
I’ve been listening to podcasts like crazy lately. The podcasts that I subscribe to are my constant companions in the car, on runs, while I get ready, while I cook. And then, I thought, man, it would be really great if I could talk to a bunch of different writers about their processes and mediums and all of the cool things they’re doing. And then, I thought… I totally can do that. And it could be a podcast. So! Introducing the Write Magic podcast. Write Magic is “a podcast about writing in all of its forms.” This first brief episode is an intro as I talk about what I want the podcast to be. It outlines a little more how I decided to go for this idea and where I hope this goes. Write Magic Episode 1 Show Notes: Podcasts I mentioned: Elise Gets […]
Sometimes, as a writer, you find yourself stuck in a writing rut. Hey, there’s no shame in that. We’ve all been there. But when you’re in a writing rut, it can be tough to break out of it. Especially if you’re feeling uninspired when it comes to the project you’ve been staring at, day in and day out, for God only knows how long. Lucky for you, my dear writer friend, I have an idea on how you can bust out of that writing rut and even get a cute little decoration for your desk out of the deal. You will need: 1. a container of some sort I used a mason jar, because it’s what I had handy. But you can use a small bucket, a decorative bowl, a vase… Don’t be afraid to get creative with it! 2. […]
“You wrote a book? Where can I find it?” It’s one of the top questions I receive when people that I meet face-to-face learn that I’m an author. I tell them a couple of titles and that they’d be sure to find the books on Amazon as e-books, paperbacks, and audiobooks, depending on their preferences. “Oh,” I add, “And don’t be put off when the last name is different. Ellision is my pen name.” Their blinking is as loud as a record screech. They ask, “Wait. Why did you write under a pen name?” Why did I write under a pen name? (By the way, this is another one of the most common questions I get.) There are a lot of reasons, actually. I think of my pen name as the name of my business. I wanted a slight degree of separation […]