Fantasist's Scroll

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


Reading, Research & New Worlds

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

When I get an idea for a constructed world, or “conworld”, it’s usually based on something I’ve read. That usually happens because I try to make as much of my “fun” non-fiction reading do double-time as research. Now, that’s easier than it sounds! I usually like reading the research I’m doing. For instance, I’m reading a book about Japanese history and culture during the Edo period called Edo Culture: Daily Life and Diversions in Urban Japan, 1600-1868 by Nishiyama Matsunosuke. I’ve also read similar books about China right before the Mongol invasion. And, don’t rule out kids books, either. They do a fairly good job of giving a snapshot of a society or time-period.

I didn’t always do research, though. I used to just write. (Some days, I think that way was better!) But, one day while talking to a friend who also wrote, he asked me how I did my research. Research? I write fantasy fiction, why would I do research? Well, that got me thinking about what I knew and didn’t know about the time-periods and places I wrote about. Suddenly, I realized that I didn’t know anywhere near enough about how culture and society works. So, I started to do research.
I try to take a page from Musashi’s A Book of Five Rings, though, and “Learn from one thing, five-thousand things”. For instance, when I read historical fiction, like Laura Joh Rowland’s books about Sano Ichiro, I learn about Edo-period Japan. And, I hardly even notice that I’m learning. Ms. Rowland has done a bunch of research for me and integrated it quite nicely into an engaging story. But, then, I’ll follow that up with my own research, like the book I mentioned in the opening of this blog entry.
I also try to research technology and science in general. And, I mean all science, too, not just chemistry and physics. Biology, in particular, is useful to me in creating fantasy worlds. If I want to build a better dragon, I need to know all about lizards of all kinds, not to mention general large-animal physiology and biomechanics. Also, if they’re going to fly, I need to understand the rudiments of aerodynamics. Really, the list goes on and on.

My point here is that research can be never ending, so the trick is to make it fun. Write about things that you wouldn’t mind doing research about. Find creative ways to teach yourself what you need to know. Never pass up a novel experience that might help your writing seem more real.

And, most of all, keep writing!


Time, and the Lack of it

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Dog which is in the evening time.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

I haven’t been so good at keeping this site updated lately, I know. That’s due mainly to RealLife interfering. I started a new job last week and it takes up most of my day. See, I do this for fun, not profit. And, I have two other websites besides this one. I try to work on my writing, but with the reading I want to get done and family and all, there’s not much time.

So, I try to make the best of it. For instance, this update is being done from work during lunch. The first half of lunch, I just read some in a rather dry book, which I’ll mention in another update. Then, I talked to the Boss a little and now I’m doing a quick update.
I’m not sure how other people manage to maintain a family and a job and still find time to write. Maybe it’ll be easier as I get used to the schedule I’m on right now, but I’m getting 6 hours, or less, of sleep a night as it is! Well, maybe writing when I’m tired will let me tap into my subconscious more than I do. God knows, my writing needs all the help it can get.

In any case, that’s what’s been keeping me from updates on this site. Look for more entries soon!!
In the meantime, keep writing!


Updates, Home and Away

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

Well, I’ve been a busy bee this week. I have a couple of updates, both on and off

On this site, I’ve updated the Cartography page. I added in a neat map that illustrates an idea I had for a world creation myth. I imagined a god stamping out evil, in a way, by smashing the chief evil spirit into the world-covering ocean. Where the god’s hand pressed into the ocean floor, mud stuck to his hand and was pulled up through the ocean to form continents and islands. Then, the evil spirit tried to force his way back into the world, forming a volcano. So, to keep the source of all evil in check, the god creates human kind to guard over the breach in the world. In response to that, the source of evil creates his own race to fight the humans. Viola! A creation myth for a fantasy world!
In any case, to illustrate that, I did up a map. It’s free of any labels, but the basic idea is pretty well displayed. The map and idea, incidentally, were inspired by the cover of a game called Kahuna, which is a strategy card-game set in a fictional Hawaii.

Off this site, I have posted two constructed language templates. They’re geared toward creating phrasebooks for a conlang. The first, which I actually did some time ago, is a sort of “phrasebook for tourists”. It covers all the basics like simple greetings, small-talk, how to order in a restaurant, and getting directions. All the kinds of things one might find in a tourist guidebook.
The second phrasebook is meant to jumpstart some ideas about slang in a conlang. Of course, slang is very culturally specific, but I threw out some fun ideas. I hit things like street “jive”, cool vs. uncool, gambling and crime, and sex. Believe it or not, most conlangs don’t actually seem to include stuff like that. I guess because most of us take an acedemic approach. So, I laid out some basic topics, suggested a meaning, added in a literal translation and left a blank for a conlang translation. We’ll see what the reaction is, if there is any reaction at all.
The files have been posted to the Yahoo!Groups LangMaker2 list, which is available here. Unfortunately, you will have to sign up for Yahoo!Groups, and the LangMaker2 Group itself, to get the files. Eventually, I’ll put up conlang page here on and post them for download there.

Until next time, keep creating new stuff!


More Mapping, more or less

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

Well, I heard from Rob Kuntz over at Pied Piper Pubishing. The snag was really just another project that took temporary precedence over the one I was working on. It’s hard to figure stuff like that out when you’re freelancing sometimes. Of course, the fact that I’m in Houston and Pied Piper is in Wisconson doesn’t help much either! Regardless, we’re up to date on what’s going on now, so I’m sure it won’t be too much longer that I’m working on the next set of maps. I’ll make sure to have an update when the product is ready to go.

On other mapping fronts, I’ve been messing around with the Campaign Cartographer 2 / Hârn Mapping Project, or the CHMP for short. It’s a toolkit designed to work with Campaign Cartographer by ProFantasy Software. It’s really cool, even if Hârn isn’t your “thing”. (Though, if you’re a role-playing gamer and haven’t looked at Hârn, it’s worth your time.) This toolkit was put together by dedicated fans who wanted a unified look and feel for their maps that faithfully recreated the look and feel of Columbia Games Hârn. They did a great job and it’s a great tool! Currently, I’m trying to create a decent gargun lodge. (Garguns are Hârnish orks.) I’ve actually gotten one, but the map is so slow to load that I’m not satisifed with the end result. So, I’m still working on it.

In still other areas, I’ve been doing some hand-drawn mapping as well. I have a world concept that needs a map. The kicker is that I’ve been having a hard time doing this directly in a digital format, so I’ve gone back to paper for “inspiration”. It hasn’t quite worked out yet, but I haven’t given up either! Some of the maps if penciled actually look pretty good. When I get one I like enough, I’ll scan it in and make a Campaign Cartographer map out of it. Then, I’ll have some blog entries about world building!

Until next time, keep writing!


MICE or Authors?

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

What is MICE? Well, it’s an idea that Orson Scott Card talked about in his book How To Write Science-Fiction and Fantasy. So, what does it stand for? MICE stands for Milieu, Idea, Character or Event, and it describes the four basic kinds of stories that occur in speculative fiction. Let’s break them down!

Milieu stories are about the world the author has created. They’re all about exploration and seeing wonders. What matters is the journey through the world of wonders. Card gave the examples of Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels and Clavell’s Shogun. What matters in both cases are what the main character sees and experiences and, to a certain degree, how that changes them. Remember, this story’s main focus is the world in which the characters exist. Other things are secondary to exploring that world. If you’ve built a really detailed world from the ground up and want to show it off, this may be the kind of story you want to tell.

Idea stories focus on a particular concept or question that the main character wants to solve. Notice, it’s about the main character, not the author. As an author you may have an idea that you want to get across or explore, but if you use the Idea story to do that, you have to make your characters care about the idea. A prime example would be the murder-mystery, where the main character is a detective trying to solve the question of “Who killed Mr. Body?” Characterization is not as important in Idea stories as it is in other kinds of stories. What matters is the Idea, or puzzle, to be solved. If you’re writing this kind of story, you might read up on mystery writing, as well as fantasy and sci-fi.

Character stories are about just that: the characters. But, more than that, character stories are also about the changes the characters go through during the course of the story. Putting an interesting character under some kind of pressure and watching them react can be both challenging and rewarding. These kinds of stories can generate some really touching tales. Coming of age stories fall under this category, but so do mid-life crisis stories. Think Death of a Salesman or, for a fantasy example, Lawrence Watt-Evans’ With a Single Spell. Remember, the Character story is about character. By that I mean that the story is driven by the characters and how they grow and change. A character must change in some way during the course of a Character story.

Event stories are about some great and earth-shattering event. They quite often include Character stories or Idea stories as sub-plots. These stories are about a big event of some kind that changes the world. The story, then, is about what happens leading up to the event, or how the world changes after the event. A science-fiction example is the “Wild Cards” series of shared world books edited by George R.R. Martin. In those stories, the Event was the release of a micro-organism that changes a significant number of the population into super-powered beings. Another example might be The Day After, which is a movie about what might happen after World War III.

So, in a nutshell, any good speculative fiction story should fit into one of these categories. If you’re writing a story and can’t figure out where it fits, you might need to re-think how you’re telling the story.

Until next time, keep writing!


Writer’s Block

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

Okay, so I’ve got writer’s block.

It’s not a crime. It’s more like a disease. An insidious, creeping disease that steals my creativity and locks me away in a horrible nightmare of sad, soggy prose. My problem isn’t that I don’t have ideas galore for stories. And, it’s not that they aren’t original and interesting. The problem is, when I go to put them on paper, they sound different than they did in my head. There’s something missing. I have no idea what it could be, because I write basically like I speak. It flows naturally and easily, but when I read it, it sounds flat and dull in my inner ear.
Maybe it’s because I’m trying to write fantasy stories in a world that I haven’t fleshed out enough. Maybe I’m not seeing my characters and world clearly enough. I’ll be damned if I know. If I did, I would be writing fiction right now, not this blog. In fact, I started making entries here in the hopes that it would get my creative muse flowing and let me get back to the stories. So far, that hasn’t really worked out, but hope springs eternal.

While trying to smash my writer’s block, I’ve been reading. I’ve been reading history. Mainly Chinese and Japanese history. Those “Daily Life In…” kind of books. It’s really interesting for me, a Westerner, to see how advanced those ancient civilizations really were. Ancient China was far, far more advanced in many ways than Europe during the same time period. Sometimes, I sit and try to puzzle out just what happened and how we, the West, got the technological edge over Asia. It’s a strange, convoluted thing. And, ripe with story ideas.
The other subject I’ve been reading is writing. That is, I’ve just finished re-reading Orson Scott Card’s How to Write Science-Fiction and Fantasy. In fact, I’ll probably do an entry tomorrow about the MICE “rule”. It’s fairly usefull for speculative fiction authors. It helps keep persepctive.
And, finally, I’ve been reading fiction in between the non-fiction. Mainly, I’ve been re-reading Lawrence Watt-Evan’s Ethshar series. They’re really nice books that deal with normal, everyday problems in a fantastic setting, but they don’t get too nasty. I mean, they’re realistic, but I wouldn’t hesitate to reccomend them to my 10-year-old daughter.

So, until the next time, keep writing!

Powered by WordPress
Any links to sites selling any reviewed item, including but not limited to Amazon, may be affiliate links which will pay me some tiny bit of money if used to purchase the item, but this site does no paid reviews and all opinions are my own.