Fantasist's Scroll

Fun, Fiction and Strange Things from the Desk of the Fantasist.


Build Your World

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Now you have a story and the characters in it, but what about the rest of your world?

Most people think that only fantasy or science-fiction writers have to create a world for their writing, but even writers who create contemporary stories create their worlds. They just create a fictional world based more closely to our real world, which is pretty subjective in any case.  I’ve been assuming that you are following these posts in order this month, but there’s certainly no reason that you should start with a story and not your world.  I know that I often start with a setting when I’m thinking of stories and, especially when I’m thinking of fantasy stories, a map is often a great place to start.  In fact, in How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, Orson Scott Card writes about starting a novel by essentially doodling a map.  And, thanks to the internet, there are an almost endless number of pages about making maps.  Let’s start with A Guide to RPG Mapmaking.  It’s focused on fantasy role-playing games, but everything in the guides and tutorials are applicable to other kinds of fantasy maps.  And, if you like that, check out Observations of the Fox: Map Tutorials for even more details on creating detailed maps.  Most of the techniques there are pretty applicable to any tools you might use, and there are many to choose from, but if you’re serious about making maps and aren’t a professional artist, I highly recommend ProFantasy’s Campaign Cartographer.  It’s not incredibly expensive, and there is a bit of a learning curve, but I think it’s worth the investment in time and money for some of the results.  To see what some of those results can be, with practice, as well as Campaign Cartographer specific tutorials, be sure to visit Ralf Schemmann’s site Maps and More.
And, if you just want some inspiration, check out Fantastic Maps or Fantasy Cartography by Sean Macdonald.

Of course, you may not need a map at all, but want to create some other details about your fictional world to make it seem more real.  For that, I humbly submit’s own World Building resources for your use, which includes, among other things, an on-line Timeline Generator to create a little history that your characters can refer to in conversation.  It also has a link to the incredibly complete Fantasy Worldbuilding Questions by Patricia C. Wrede, who covers pretty much every detail you could ever ask yourself about a fictional world.

As much as I love worldbuilding, in recent years I’ve realized that I can easily get so lost in world and setting creation that I never get around to actually writing fiction!  Don’t fall into that trap!  Make enough world to get your story going and then let the world create itself as you go.  For some more helpful worldbuilding ideas along those lines, take a look at Chuck Wendig’s 25 Things You Should Know About Worldbuilding.  It’s a very up-to-date approach and I found it quite helpful!

So, now you should have characters, setting and plot nailed down and you can start letting that marinate before actually starting National Novel Writing Month in November.  But, come back next week to see what final tools I have for you before you launch your NaNoWriMo project!



Create Your Characters

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Now that you’ve got a story idea, who are the people in it?

Often, a story is centered around a single, strong character, and you’ve already answered that question. But, what if you haven’t? Well, then, maybe I can help.
First, if you need to flesh out an entire character, including a bit of family tree and a biography, I’ll send you back to a site I referenced last week, albeit at a different page. They call it the Name Generator, but, really, if you choose the right options, it will make a pretty complete character sketch.
But, maybe you just need some specific details to fill in parts of your character sketch that seem light or are missing entirely. Again, I’ll send you to a site I’ve referenced before, Seventh Sanctum, where you can find an entire page of character-related random generators. They have everything from complete, generic character generators to genre specific character generators to name and naming specific generators. In fact, they have a full page of random naming related generators, if you’re having trouble in that regard. But, if you want to pick something more specific, you can check the Most Common Given Names, according to Wikipedia. Or, for last names, the Most Common Surnames. Surely, something there will suit.
And, of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t include our very own Funny Name Generator!

Also, if you want to fill your character’s pockets with some random things, has the Daily Carry Generator, for modern settings, and the Fantasy “Pocket Litter” Generator, for, well, more magical settings. And, contrary to my normal habit of hiding my source code, mostly because I’m a very, very amateur programmer and my code is generally junky, I’m giving you all a download link to grab the PHP files for those last two generators. No warranty is expressed or implied by offering that code! Use at your own risk! (But, it’s pretty simple and shouldn’t cause you any grief.)

Come back next week for more world building tools!


Story Ideas

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Need a NaNoWriMo story idea?

Maybe you don’t. Maybe you’ve been thinking about this for a long time and you’re ready to start writing.  If so, you’re golden and this is post is all academic for you.  If not, this post is all about helping get you started.
First of all, you have time before everything kicks off, so if you haven’t read it, get No Plot, No Problem, which was written by the creator of NaNoWriMo and serves as a guide for a month-long novel writing experiment.  Getting through this book will help you get focused on what kind of fiction you want to write and what you feel makes that genre great.
Secondly, I completely sympathize with you if you’re having a problem nailing down a story idea.  When I was in school, my favorite exercises were the creative writing exercises.  Why?  Because when the teacher gave me a title or a theme for the story, those constraints automatically gave me a direction, a framework on which to build my story.  Now, when the story ideas are totally open-ended, I find myself floundering lost in the vast ocean of possibilities.  One way to help reduce those endless possibilities is to go back to some external constraints.  And, that’s where the internet’s vast collection of random generators comes in handy.  Some of those are what I’m actually sharing with you this week, to help you get started.

The first place to check out is the mother-lode of all random generators, Seventh Sanctum.  They have a whole section especially devoted to writing.  It’s pretty awesome.  They have everything from simple story ideas to whole writing exercise challenges to plot twists and a whole lot more besides.  They’ve really got your bases covered and I’ll most likely mention them again in this month-long series of posts.
If you’re writing science fiction, you definitely want to check out SciFi Ideas – Ideas and inspiration for science fiction writers.  They seriously have the most amazing collection of random generators with a science fiction theme to them.
And, if you want to generate both a book title and section titles to help inspire your science fiction novel and keep you writing, hop over to the Space Adventure Title Generator and you can almost outline your entire book, albiet pretty randomly.  Still, having those constraints and guides to keep you moving forward might be just what you need to keep going when the writing gets tough.
Finally, if those aren’t enough, you can check out’s very own Story Starter random generator, which is based, in part on an exercise from the great book The 29 Most Common Writing Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them) by Judy Delton.  If it makes any difference to you, that generator was at one time heavily featured in several grade-school creative writing curriculms.  It’s pretty simple, but effective.

I know those links were a little heavy on the science fiction, but that’s just where I am with writing right now.  And, the other stuff I’m going to share this month will, I hope, make up for that geeky focus.
Stay tuned!


Get Ready for NaNoWriMo

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning.
The moon is Waning Crescent

I thought I’d try something new this year; early preparation.

To be clear, though, I’m not going to attempt NaNoWrimo this year, because I’m way too busy right now. However, in previous years, I would often post things to help people who were doing NaNoWriMo during the month of November, when the event occurs and this year, I thought I’d start early to let anyone who was writing get their prep out of the way.  So, here in the earliest stages of planning, you hopefully have an idea what you may want to write and, while you’ve been thinking about it for weeks or months, maybe you haven’t captured those thoughts.  In the past, I’ve used dozens of notebooks of every shape, size and description to scribble down every stray thought I may have had about whatever project I had in mind.  The only problem is, I could never seem to get the ideas all gathered together and into a useful format.  That’s where Evernote came in.
I started using Evernote because of the Getting Things Done method for staying organized.  It’s a great system and, naturally, it gave me a way to collect all my ideas so I had easy access to them and one tool that people used in the GTD system was, Evernote.  (For some more details on that, and a great introduction to the GTD system, check out David Allen’s setup document for Evernote.  It’s well worth the $10!)
Once you’ve checked out Evernote, then go read their article Prepare for NaNoWriMo with Evernote.  It’s got some great ideas for how to capture your story and character ideas via Evernote, which you can then reference on your writing computer or your smart phone.  It’s pretty awesome!
And, if that wasn’t enough, they even have some great creative writing templates you can integrate into your personal creative writing notebook.

Trust me, it’s never to early to start planning and you will not regret using Evernote once you start!
So, let’s gear up for a month’s worth of creative writing resources in preparation for National Novel Writing Month!


Place Names

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Dog which is in the evening time.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Specifically, subdivison names.

Naming things can be one of the most difficult tasks for an author.  Whether it’s naming people, places or things, the endless work of finding just the right name, one that sounds realistic and fits the circumstances, can be trying work.  For me, place names are the hardest to do well.  No matter what the setting, naming towns and streets can be challenging.  As it turns out, it can be challenging in the so-called “real” world, too.  Back in 2013, Gizmodo mentioned a book titled Real Estate Subdivisions by Stanley L. McMichael that, among other things, included a list of more than 750 potential names for your subdivision.  The article also included links to a Real Estate Subdivision Name Generator on-line.  But, personally, I was fascinated with the idea of that crazy book by McMichael, published in 1949.  I chased it down, eventually, and I wasn’t disappointed.  Besides the list of names in the appendix, there are also fascinating chapters on everything from planning your future subdivision to setting up a home-owner’s association to deed restrictions, including restrictions along racial lines.  Thankfully, we’ve come a long way since then.  But, still, the names of places remain.
Just because I’m a sharing kind of guy, I typed all those names from that appendix into a single text file and I’m giving you all a link to it here: Subdivision Names Text File.
Some of the names sound a bit odd, but others are actual names of places I’ve been.  In fact, several of the “suggested” names in this book are places in the Chicago area where I have or had relatives living!

In any case, I hope you find the file helpful.  I might add, too, that if you add “Street”, “Lane”, “Court” or “Avenue” to almost any of the names in that file, they’d make fine street names!


Traveller Library Data Wiki

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

So, it’s been a long time since I wrote here, but this is the best place to share this.

Back in the early 80’s, I played a great science-fiction role-playing game called Traveller.  It was relatively simple and straight-forward and didn’t even require fancy dice, just regular 6-sided dice like everyone has.  It had a fairly generic feel to it, which some people found annoying, but really opened things up for the game master to let loose and develop a setting.  Of course, there was a lightly sketched background setting that was considered “official”, but it was fairly generic.
Anyway, I loved the game.  Recently, there was a ridiculously inexpensive sale on the scanned PDF documents from those original books.  Two of them were ones that I had never owned before, but only seen in bits and pieces.  Namely, “Supplement book 08-Library Data A-M” and “Supplement book 11-Library Data N-Z”.  Skimming through these really brought back memories!

A lot has changed since those good, old days of table-top gaming and there are a whole raft of fun tools that add a new dimension to gaming.  In the old days, one of my favorite things was always the various encyclopedias of in-game information, like those two supplements.  Now, one of my favorite things are wikis, like Wikipedia.  And, for some of my more creative work, I’ve really enjoyed using “personal wikis”, that never leave my desktop or private network.  (In fact, I wrote about just that on one of my other sites that’s updated more often;!)
Well, the other day, it occurred to me that I should combine the two!  So, I have, and I’m offering it here for you to download for free, per the very kind copyright restrictions of Far Future Enterprises: Traveller Library Data Wiki.

Now, this is not the same as or even derived from the excellent Citizens of the Imperium Traveller Wiki, but it’s also completely private for you and your players to edit as you please.  Also, per the requirements of Far Future Enterprises, this is being offered free and must remain free if you add to it and share it!  I did this mainly as an obsessive-compulsive exercise in data normalization in a private wiki, though also as a labor of love because I just can’t resist beautiful, well-organized, hyper-linked data about a reality that doesn’t quite exist except in our imaginations.
As faults go, this one isn’t bad.


Service Dissconnection

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Monkey which is mid-afternoon.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Oy vey!  It’s been a long, long time since I wrote here!

Frankly, it’s been a long time for a lot of reasons, but, mostly, because my creative endeavors have moved in other directions.  For one thing, I’ve been doing more photography, which you can find here, as well as working on at least two other sites; Diary of a Network Geek and something a little more personal,

But, I’ve also been working at my day job a lot.  And, that, of course, combined with a general malaise and chaotic busyness, have all led to a pretty negative impact on my personal spirituality.  I’d like to say I’ve been seeking that, but, frankly, I’ve just been a little too burned out for even that much personal growth.

So, as a result, this blog, this site, this entire creative idea has languished.
And, honestly, it probably will continue to languish.  If not for the history of it, and some of the back-end server details that no one cares about besides me and my webhost, I’d have shut the whole thing down a long, long time ago.
In any case, if you want to see what else I’m up to, check out one of those other sites.



Changes and Unexpected News

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Dragon which is in the early morning.
The moon is a Full Moon

The conlang scripts may not have been the problem after all!

Perhaps, when we do track down the issue, I’ll be able to reenable some, if not all, of my conlang apps for your future enjoyment! Be sure to watch this space for news!!

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