Tag Archives: world building

Escaping the storm

I got started at the writing cabin fairly early today. Lisa Burton, my robotic assistant was in a snit.

“I don’t know how to flatten my skull so I can cosplay one of those Boondish people in your story.”

“Don’t worry about it. If they get any lines at all, they’re going to be minimal.”

“I have some adjustable parts so I can change my facial features, but not to that extent.”

“Maybe you can try a hair bump. A big one.”

“It would have to be big, but I might try it.”

“I wouldn’t worry about it. The root monsters get plenty of dialog, and you haven’t tried to dress up like one of them.”

“I suppose that’s true. So what are we writing today?”

“James is wounded, he’s had his vision, and they’re still running from the big storm. They don’t know it, but they’re on their way to Bungo Bungo.”

“What’s with all these names?”

“I’m trying to borrow from the Pacific islands as much as possible. I set Lanternfish in a fantasy world to avoid comparison to another famous Pirate adventure. I’m also avoiding any Carribean references if I can.”

“Got it, so what’s on the agenda?”

“James has to process his vision, then make a new plan without all the data he’d like.”

“Doesn’t that happen in all the stories?”

“You caught me. I think it’s an important part of character building. Because they have the second ship, and all the extra mouths, they’re running low on food. They can’t just pull into McDonalds and fill up. Serang even has them using boards and hand lines to catch fish.”

“That calls back to her own book, so that’s kind of cool.”

“When I was a kid, people used to troll in boats with a board wrapped in fishing line. It’s totally not PC today, but everyone called such a rig a Chinaman.”

“Oh, so you made the connection in your mind that Serang would know about this way of fishing.”

“Yeah, but I don’t come right out and call it that. Besides, it’s a fantasy world, there is no China.”

Lisa left to try bumping her hair to absurd levels, and I went to work. James processed his vision, healed his burns, but not his bad back, and they escaped the storm. They made it to the floating island called Bungo Bungo, and even stepped on the beach. Then I had to give up for the day.

Bungo Bungo is a magical place, and because it moves around, it’s going to have a variety of things from all over the world occupying it. I’m pretty excited to get going on this section, but ran out of gas.

I started the weekend at about 31000 words, added around 2000 on Saturday. Sunday I didn’t do anything. I never broke 40000 words, but I’m thiiiiiis close. That means today came in at just under 7000 words, and that’s the best day I’ve had in a long time.

The magical beer horns sounded, and were chased into the office by a pair of root monsters. Beer sloshed all over the floor. I scooped one up before the monsters made a mess of things.

Something tells me Lisa is going to put the monsters back in the vegetable crisper while I’m at work.

Lisa Burton

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Fun on Matacucu

I closed my iPad and looked across the desk at Lisa in her pirate garb.

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

“I’ve written myself into a bind and need time to think. I managed 1200 words, but it pales in comparison to yesterday.”

“You changed the slaves into natives that practice head-binding. That was kind of cool.”

“Yeah, not a lot of explanation, but it adds to my world building. Do you know people practiced the shaping of infant skulls all over the world, but had no way of communicating with each other about it? It’s kind of amazing they would come up with the same bizarre practice in different cultures like that.”

“Yes, I have full Internet access and looked some of it up for you, remember?”

“Yeah, thanks. I need to do some serious thinking here.”

“How long do you think it will take?”

“No telling, but it makes sense. I passed 30,000, so this is the middle slog. You know how I love the middle slog.”

“What’s the issue, maybe I can help.”

“The pirates captured a treasure ship. They decided to divide the weight between the two ships, and take the galleon with them. She’s a pretty worthless ship and not much more than a merchantman.”

“So, basically, more troubles.”

“Yeah that’s kind of a theme in fiction. They worked through some dangerous waters and are within sight of Matacucu. I need them to approach the temple of the exploding monks, but I don’t want them to learn too much from this stop.”

“Okay…”

“I don’t know exactly what my landing party is going to do there. I want to build my con-man characters up a bit. Readers are due for a real fight scene, because the galleon didn’t put up much of a fight.”

“What if they learn nothing at all, then wind up in a fight. Your con-man maybe picked up on some valuable information they can discuss later. You can shoot your way out of the harbor and keep it mildly adventurous.”

“That could work, but I need to think about it. I’ve also teased the exploding monks for 30,000 words, and it’s time to see what they are capable of. Readers have earned that now. The only problem is it has to be devastating and horrible.”

“Then write it that way. What’s the big deal?”

“It almost needs to be bad enough to kill off a character we’ve gotten to know. Maybe even a root monster or two.”

Flattop climbed my desk drawers and stood between us. “You would kill modders?”

I clasped my hand over my eyes and lowered my face. “I don’t know. There are lots of you guys and not all of you have names. Then there is a new one people haven’t gotten attached to yet. That’s the problem. Readers love you guys far beyond anything I expected.”

“Modders are helpful.”

“You are, but at last count, I think there were nineteen of you. That’s adding on Shrimp, the new guy.”

“We might get by with only seventy-two.”

“What!” Lisa said.

“They don’t understand numbers. I think he’s trying to be helpful.”

“You’re going to have to figure it out,” Lisa said. “You can do some writing tomorrow, but then you aren’t off again until Wednesday.”

“I know, and there is a big monster just over the horizon. He might even be a god. They’re going to flee from him as much as anything else. I know they’re going to wind up elsewhere and gain some better intelligence on the monks. That’s going to be a big section.”

“I thought the second volume of a trilogy was supposed to be the shortest one.”

“It is, but it’s not looking that way here. After Matacucu, they wind up on Bungo Bungo. That’s a big section. Then they have to wind up in pseudo-Japan, which I haven’t even named yet. That’s another big section. Then they have to fight with their own admiralty, implant some spy’s and a special army into the war, then gain their minor victory amidst tragedy.”

“This isn’t looking like the 90,000 word piece you had planned.”

“I know, and that’s why I need to stop and think. I’m committed to bring this in as three volumes, even if they’re big ones.”

“What are you going to do?”

“I’m going to get a haircut.”

“I could fix you up right here. Maybe a nice pompadour?”

“Thanks, but no thanks. I think I’ll go see Chuck the barber.”

“Chicken.”

“You know it.”

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Not according to plan

I had to leave work early on Thursday. It felt like an allergy issue, and there was a lot of smoke in the air, so it was certainly part of it.

I’ve had allergies all my life, but between Nevada and Idaho, they are different. In Nevada everything was about snot and sneezing. Up here it all seems to be about my eyes. I felt like someone was inside my head trying to push them out of my skull. It got so bad I couldn’t see my computer, and the headache that accompanied them was also a handicap.

I figured that’s all it was, until I got home and started shivering. It was only 100 degrees-plus outside, so there was a problem. I felt feverish until about two o’clock on Friday.

It could be that allergies weakened my resistance, and some bad juju snuck in. It’s all just theory though. Water seems to be the best medicine. More water = feeling better.

I try to avoid hydration, and I know that’s bad. I have an enlarged prostate to begin with, plus I get to enjoy a diuretic for high blood pressure. Combine that with lots of water and I may as well blog from the bathroom.

I dabbled with a Lisa Burton interview Friday night. New fiction didn’t get much effort.

Today was another matter. I managed some decent new fiction. My pirates sailed to the uncharted island to search for a specific man. They wandered in the wilderness for a bit, but eventually found him. He isn’t a very pleasant fellow. He’s hiding on this island on purpose.

It turns out the man doesn’t have what they are looking for, but… There could be another way to deal with the main story problem. They have to cut a deal here, and what can you give someone who has no use for gold? I could tell you, but I want to keep that part to myself.

I managed to weave in another monster who doesn’t appear on the page. Some of this is my attempt at world building. The wild places are truly wild in this story. However, there is another monster here who will make an appearance on the page. Maybe as soon as tomorrow. I designed him myself, and I can’t wait to see how it all works out.

Research and fudging are always interesting in fantasy and science fiction. We’re dealing with navigation issues now, and while I understand trigonometry, I haven’t exercised those muscles in decades.

Part of good fiction is bullshitting your way through these parts. Nobody wants to read about trigonometry. My job will be to make it sound painstaking, dangerous in the course of this story if it comes out wrong, give a bit of description, and forge ahead with results.

I also struggled how a man with a wooden leg would fare on a sandy beach. I kind of want this guy involved, so I decided the sand was wet packed enough that he could get around. Good thing there were no dunes just off the beach.

88,000 words and counting for those keeping score at home. I would kind of like to hit 100K on this one. All of my recent stuff has come in pretty short, and fantasy lends itself to more word count. I have a hunch my target won’t be a problem.

After they leave this island, there will be some experimentation, some fantasy mathematics, and we’re heading right into the big finale.

Now it’s time for more water. Does beer count as being mostly water?

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Not exactly truffle dogs.

We just got back from camping. We spent two glorious days in the wilderness without wifi or cellular service. All of the campsites were full, including a couple bushwhacker style ones we enjoy. This time we wound up far back in the woods. We only saw one other vehicle pass by in two days.

The dogs actually got to play off leash. They do this every day in the back yard, but around other campers I always control them. They really enjoyed the forest, and never tried to roam out of sight.

We hoped to find morels. This is the weekend we usually go, but I told my wife we were going to be too late this year. The seasons seem like they’re three weeks ahead of other years.

We had a huge western thunderstorm friday night. I have to admit I love these. Sitting in the camper during a deluge, or under the awning just clicks with me. It knocked down the pollens too, and I appreciate that.

Storms usually bring on fungus blooms, and this one did. Just not the morels. I found this one though. It’s very picturesque, but I’m pretty sure it’s one of the deadlier Amanita species.

We went to my wife’s favorite spot to search for morels. Unfortunately, there were none to be found. We’ve never been skunked here before. Frankie was more interested in finding the right stick to chew up. She doesn’t like them on the ground, but if they protrude from a log or a tree it makes her day.

Otto was just happy to follow dad around and look at whatever dad found.

This was the view about a mile from camp.

It looks like there should be buffalo out there, but not in Idaho. Unless it’s the border of Yellowstone.

We grilled up three lobsters Saturday night and ate like kings. They weren’t big ones, and we split the odd one between us.

Mosquitos were out in force, and we’re going to have to replenish our Deet supply before we go out again.

I managed a little writing time. Words flew from my fingers like never before.

The crew managed to escape the giant jellyfish, which the root monsters named Big Boogah. (Yes, Boogah means just what you might think it means.) They escaped in dramatic and adventurous fashion too. There were many who played a role, including some quick and dangerous thinking, and one feat of strength that impressed a few crew mates.

My pirates managed a big party to celebrate escaping the jellyfish, and the tropical storm. They’re headed for calm seas now, but they aren’t going to find them all that calm.

They uncovered a thief aboard the ship, held a mini Courts Marshal, and dealt with the perpetrator. Chamberpots were redistributed, and I must remember to use the term thundermug. This sounds like an appropriate word for the root monsters to use.

There is something going on with this story that I can’t quite put my finger on. Some stories use world building to gain a long popularity. I’m talking Star Wars, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, and the Harry Potter stuff. I feel like I’m getting close to that ground here.

My crew has many broken characters. I’m only giving glimpses into their pasts, but it feels like enough to entice readers to want more. Readers will get a peek at a vast world that can let their imaginations roam after they’ve read the story.

I’ve been accused of white room, or white page syndrome before. My personal goal behind the scenes is to flesh out more of the setting, and I think it’s working.

On the other hand, I’m having a hard time finding a midpoint for this one. This is usually where the bottom falls out, the big plan is a failure, and they have to regroup somehow. Don’t get me wrong, some of this is planned out, but it won’t happen until closer to the end of the story. (I’m going with it for now.)

My next event will involve another sea battle, but some unusual evidence will turn up. I’m going to have to do a bit of research into brass cannons, and how big they got using brass. Obviously, steel is stronger, but brass was pretty popular.

Then I’m going to take them to Serang’s country to pull off a bit of a con game against their enemies. This will let me build more of her sad story into the tale, but only bits and pieces enough to carry the story. Of course a bit of color and pageantry should also be in the mix.

I’m off tomorrow. No idea whether it will be a writing day or not. I kind of hope it is.

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Let’s all speculate, Part 1

I'm back at the campground after a day of trooping around. I took some cool pictures to share with everyone, and they get my creative juices flowing. They were taken with my phone, so quality might vary.

We got to Craters of the Moon National Monument while it was still cool this morning. If I were more dedicated, I would have gotten there for sunrise when the light is best for photography, but sleeping in was nice too. Since there are photos, I'm going to break this into two posts to spare you on loading time.

As we drove over, my wife turned on the radio. My truck displays the song title, but only has so many characters. Sometimes a title runs off screen. We started our day laughing like idiots at this:

Yeah, we're that kind of couple.

We stopped off at the visitor's center to get a map. We wanted to see as much as we could. My wife walked the puppy while I stopped inside.

They had those neckerchiefs with some kind of plastic sand inside them. You soak it in water, it swells up and acts like a swamp cooler. I bought one for Otto, and it works great.

Speaking of Otto, the canine ambassador for the bulldog breed had fun greeting people outside the visitor's center. I held the leash so my wife could use the restroom. People stopped, pictures were snapped, and his little butt wiggled like crazy.

This volcano involves continental drift, and plate tectonics. The hotspot that caused all this is now under Yellowstone National Park. This doesn't mean Craters is out of the woods. It appears to erupt every 2000 years. That's the blink of an eye in geological terms. It's actually 100 years overdue.

This volcano acts more like the Hawaiian kind. It leaks, it fountains, it leaves behind interesting features. There are multiple lava flows from various eruptions. I think the surface of Yellowstone must be harder than Craters, because there is one hell of a caldera in Yellowstone. It's more like the Cascade volcanos that atomize everything with a huge explosion.

The National Park Service takes good care of the place, and the campground looks great. Too bad it isn't open yet.

Great is subjective, but I'm talking about the new asphalt and touched up picnic tables. Craters of the Moon actually looks like this:

I'm an old desert rat from way back. I find beauty in desert environments. This old tree could be a marker along some journey a character has to make. An author could make it resemble something, it wouldn't have to look exactly like this.

One of the tricks to a place like this is to “look small.” The vistas are wonderful, but sometimes the more interesting thing is right under your nose. This kind of lava flows, makes a skin on top, and flows again. It leaves some interesting features:

It actually looks like roots or some kind of wood. Does anyone else see the monstrous fingers of some beast woven together?

Maybe your character is following up some local legend, finds this and decides the monster is no more. Oh how wrong he is…

This stuff even forms what looks like knotholes.

I thought this one was pretty interesting. Lucifer's taffy pull anyone. Again, you have to look small or you'll walk right over this kind of thing.

The NPS seems to have it in for cute bulldog puppies. We brought his leash and harness, bags to clean up after him, and even a wagon in case the rocks were too hot for his feet. Every trail is paved, but no dogs are allowed. I had to limit myself to the short trails and hurry up while my wife watched the puppy.

She really doesn't get into this like I do. I'm kind of a volcano junkie. She was content with the beautiful vistas and blue skies. Let's look at one of the broader images. I took several, but this is where the iPhone has its limits.

Nearly a hundred miles of razor sharp rocks. In some cases the rubble is the size of a pickup truck and piled so tightly you couldn't walk through it in a million years. If you tried, you'd need extra boots, bandages, and some decent insurance.

Does anyone get the idea of Mordor here? Check out this next one for a closer image of the rubble.

This window formed as one of the cinder cones collapsed over the centuries. Random thought: need a fantasy obstacle? How about a Wind-Doe? The cinder cone reminded me of the surface of the asteroid in the movie Armageddon.

I took a short trail to look down a cinder cone. Check this out:

This hole is about 30 feet deep. The lava fountained, when it cooled it left the hole behind. Vermithrax Pejoritive was the best dragon name ever. Can you see this as the opening to her den? Can you see this whole area of devastation surrounding her den?

Walking back, the sun was shining perfectly into this small hole. It's as deep as my arm. (Sorry about the shadow in the image.) Is this where the mechanism to the hidden door is? Maybe the first volunteer has a bad encounter with a rattlesnake or a scorpion.

NASA trained astronauts here for the moon landing. They gave up when it proved too tough. Those with “The Right Stuff” couldn't handle it. Lava fields don't actually resemble meteor impacts anyway, but it gives you an idea of how harsh this area is. It's also filled with little yellow sulfur butterflies and wild flowers.

This environment can work in many kinds of stories. Imagine running for your life in this kind of place. You might just say, “Go ahead and cut my throat it will be more merciful.”

Captain Jack and the Modoc Indians hid out in a similar place in Northern California. They evaded the US Cavalry for years by using secret trails, and lava tube caves. The trail to the caves here was over a mile (each way) and that isn't fair to Otto or my wife. We enjoyed the vista from the trailhead and moved on.

There is also an area where the lava flowed over trees and left perfect casts of them when they burned out. Mt. Vesuvius did something similar to living humans.

These environments are real places. That adds credibility to your fiction. Need to look for old Snuffy's secret gold mine? Maybe your Western needs an impenetrable robber's roost. Need an area of devastation around your dragon's den? How about access to the underworld in your Greco-Roman fantasy?

Maybe you need an alien planet. I'm sure landing here would damage your space ship.

I've been getting back into pulp stuff lately. Someday, I might write one about a lost world. This would be a great place to follow the map and find the entrance. It would be easy enough to discover some dinosaur remains that looked like those ropy lava flows. What world building skills would you take from a place like this?

I reduced the size of the pictures and I hope that made them easier to load. Tomorrow's post is going to be from here, it's going to be completely different, but still allow for some speculation. I'll tag them under the Idea Mill category if you want to find them again.

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My writing Saturday

It didn't work out exactly as I planned it. Does it ever, really? If you plan on tearing it up, it slows and stalls. If you plan on a light day, it winds up being 6000 words.

I started somewhere in the neighborhood of 6:00 AM. Yak Guy made some mistakes and learned what he did wrong. He's thinking about deeper subjects and making progress. He insulted someone who didn't deserve it, and can't defend himself. Now it's time to go back to the city.

This story involves transportation by animals. Things take time, and it should not be rushed through. However, I've established that fact pretty clearly, and it's time to jump over some things for the sake of the story. While establishing the facts of this world, I wove in a bunch of philosophy and dialog to keep it from being simply landscape. Now, I'm jumping ahead to keep the journey moving.

It's time to introduce the next major arcana character. This one is called The Emperor, but in my story he is The Lord. Rather than make him The Lady's husband he is her father. That way I can keep things interesting for Yak Guy.

My daughter passed her boards, and took a week off with friends to go to Sun Valley. She has a few more school hours before she can get her license. She decided to get up about 6:45.

If my daughter had an Indian name it would be She Who Cannot Stop Talking. This means the writing came to a screeching halt. I'm really okay with it. I love my daughter, and don't mind spending time with her. I'm sure her first big girl vacation was exciting to her.

I managed less than a thousand words today, and tomorrow is looking grim. I decided to go down the research rabbit hole. The Research Sirens kept me occupied for a long time, and one bit of knowledge leads to desire for another, and another. This time it was silkworm propagation. I haven't quite figured out what I'm going to do with it all, but it's a neat bit of world building that isn't common in stories.

Note to self: Research Sirens would be great in stories about the writing cabin. Now I have to do more research into sirens so I can have them show up. This should be fun.

It's all writing to me. Even this blog is writing. Research needs to be done, and it's productive in my eyes. I wish I could claim a higher word count, but so be it. I'd rather worry about planting things in my story that will pay off later.

My wife had to return something at the mall, and I tagged along. I needed some legal tablets, and a few more notebooks. The tablets are to make notes for the tax man, and the notebooks are for me to use in my writing. Of course I stopped off for a pint at Old Chicago. Have to feed that writer's brain somehow.

We managed date night with supper at P. F. Chang's. Not my most favorite, but my wife loves it. We picked up The Last Witch Hunter on DVD. We loved it in the theater, and decided we needed to own it. That's how I'm spending the rest of my evening.

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