My name is Marlena. I’ve always considered myself a bit of a black sheep in the culture I live in, but I still try to be involved in it. I have gone through many trials, and I used art and writing to get myself through it. It is such an important aspect in my life, and I love it dearly.
With that little introduction out of the way, let's talk about one of my favorite aspects about writing, fantasy creatures!
Creating creatures for a fantasy world can by simple, and yet complicated at the same time. It isn’t just about making something that looks interesting, or is a simple obstacle for characters to overcome. It’s about making something that could truly live. Something organic that will reside in your fantasy world. I have three steps that I follow without fail each time I create a new creature.
1: Think about where it lives.
An environment shapes everything about the things that live there. Such as how they eat, move around, behave, and just survive in general. A humid bio will produce creatures with less hair. A mountainous one will require creatures with a lot of mobility. Creatures in a deep cave will need special ways to see in darkness. All of these things need to be considered, and researched. Go look at the places in our own world and the creatures that live there. What abilities do they have? Our world isn’t as mundane as we sometimes think, and the animals of it have done amazing things to adapt.
Do you want to be a writer? If the answer to that question was yes, there are two things that authors and writers universally say make a good writer, and those two things are:
First, be a reader. If you’re not reading, you’re not going to know what people like, what structure looks like and how it works, how to comprehend the text. Find what you like, and what you dislike, this is how you learn what your passion in writing is. When you read, you know what the rest of the world is missing, and you write that. Writers need to read. They need to read a lot, they need to read everything. Find your grasp on the art. You will find in your writing that you will lose your words, that you will hit that feared “writers block” if you’re not reading. In the words of William Faulkner, “Read, read, read. Read everything - trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just as a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write…”
Read to be inspired.
Second, be a writer. Maya Angelou said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.” When you can’t think, write. When you can’t speak, write. When you can’t sleep, write. Carry a notebook with you. Sleep with it, eat with it, travel with it, let it extend your arm and open your mind. Give life to those pieces of cheap paper, or that blank, white screen. When you can’t write, read some more. Let the cycle bring you fully around. This is writing, this is the art that we as readers and writers gladly become slaves to, because writing bears our very souls to the world. “When writers die they become books, which is, after all, not too bad an incarnation.” (Jorge Luis Borges)
And now, I bring to you a third tip that I’ve come to believe will make us better writers and readers.
Go to a writers conference. This may sound silly, you may push back and reject that thought, but before you do, let me explain. Meeting someone with the same mindset as you is rare, but here you have hundreds of people who are on the quest of questioning and learning the same as you are. You want to learn about the industry? The difference between self publishing, and traditional publishing? How about using a little of both? What’s a pitch? You’re telling me I have to give an agent a single sentence to describe this entire book that I’ve written, and hook them in that sentence in order for them to even consider my manuscript? Well, how do I do that?
Want to learn how to write a true super villain? How about learning to write a child, or from the perspective of an animal? How about the perspective of your toothbrush? Ladies and gentlemen, reading and writing go hand-in-hand with continual learning, and what better place to learn than among your peers? I challenge you to go to a class, or two, where the authors of your favorite books are teaching you how to create a believable magic system, and tell me you didn’t learn something. Ask them questions. Make new friends, and ask them questions. In the end, the purposes of attending a conference far outweighs the reasons not to. Network, get to know new people. Pick up the business cards, and check them out. “Find something you're passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.” (Julia Child)
Remember, read your heart out. Write until your fingers and minds are numb, and fuel that passion being surrounded by those who love what you love.
Have a good week, all! Until next time.
For a list of upcoming conferences, see: https://writingthroughbrambles.weebly.com/writing-conferences-2018.html
For some of us, writing is a breeze. Our plots practically create themselves, and our characters come to us with clear motivations all on their own. Then after that, the story flows effortlessly onto the page. Frankly, I’m not in that category of writers, and I think it’s safe to say that most of us aren’t. Writing is a hobby, a job, or a passion for each of us, and at some point it’s going to be a struggle.
There are so many ways to get stuck while writing. What can you do if it happens to you? It can be so hard to push through these points, when our ideas stagnate and we can start to feel a loss of our original infatuation with the project. Too often we try to solve our story problems by staring them in the face, hoping if we push against the wall long enough it will eventually turn into a door. But sometimes, it’s better to try a more roundabout approach, looking for solutions in places that aren’t so direct. One of the places we can find those solutions is in our characters. The stronger our characters are, the more they can help us get unstuck in our writing and move forward.
It might not make sense at first to think that having stronger characters can mend a myriad of issues, but let’s look into it a bit: If your character is too flat, they won’t do much for your story, and they might end up being the reason you get stuck a lot of the time. On the other hand, the more you learn and know about your character, they can push many parts of the story forward and give you a solid plot, as well as illuminate information you may not have known you were missing, like setting details or realistic interactions.
So, now that we’re thinking about how knowing our characters better can improve even things that don’t seem to have anything to do with them, how can we get to know them well enough for them to help us out? You can always start by taking personality tests for them on Facebook, but those will only get you so far. You have to dig deeper!
READ THE BOOK:
I'm excited to spotlight this sci-fi book that's coming out February 6th, 2018! I was lucky enough to be a beta reader for Colonial Prime and I loved it. Then, I read it again as an advance reader and loved it even more! Pre-orders for the Kindle are going on right now, so check it out!
Here is the pitch from Kevin's website:
“Captain Amara Corrin, hero of the late Solar Wars, commands the first colonial fleet. Full of hopeful dreamers looking for a new home, world-weary ex-soldiers, and those just seeking escape, five ships set out from Earth with the hopes of humanity behind them. But Amara soon finds herself with more trouble than she can handle. The Council, Earth’s new governing body, has saddled her with their political rivals, exiling them to a place where they could do them no harm.
Struggling to find balance, Amara appoints a fresh-faced first officer with a hidden past, Nathan Esquina, and tries to figure out a way to keep her son, Jaelyn, free of the political machinations of those aboard the ship trying to destroy the rocky peace upon which they stand. When a message from Earth lets them know that the Council has fallen, Amara, Nathan, and Jaelyn land themselves in a pitched battle where a single mistake could end not only their own lives, but those of every person aboard their colonial mission.
MEET THE CHARACTERS:
Though Amara has been hardened by war, she’s never ruthless or antagonizing. She’s exactly the kind of person I would want in charge of colonizing a new planet. Her competence in her professional life however, doesn’t always transfer to her personal relationships. As tensions on board the ship climb, those very relationships she struggles with could become the only thing that will help her survive.
13 year old Jaelyn doesn't like attention. Unfortunately, as son of the ship's captain it's hard to lay low. He spends his time hiding away in the gardens, but this ship is too small to truly escape getting sucked into the forefront of the adult's problems.
Nathan volunteered to join the colonial fleet to get away from his father. He needs a fresh start, where no one has heard of his reputation so he can figure out who he is, and what why he has such a mysterious gift for mechanics. As the distance between Earth grows, his father's problems haunt him, infecting his new haven with the exact same problems he wanted to escape from.
We're all writers, we're all moms, writing our way through the "brambles" of life and our stories.