Character is… (Part 2.5) – Gestures and Mannerisms are…

This is the sixth in an ongoing series of StoryCrafting/StoryTelling posts I’m publishing for my own benefit; explaining something helps me determine if I’ve truly learned it or am simply parroting what others have offered. I learn my weak spots, what I need to study, et cetera.

Previous offerings include:

Great Opening Lines – and Why! (Sept 2020’s Great Opening Lines)

I wrote in Great Opening Lines – and Why! (Part 3 – Some Great Opening Lines) that I’d share more great opening lines as I found them.

This month’s great opening lines deal with youth and how we as adults reconcile our youths.

“My room is cold.” – S.M. Stevens’ Horseshoes and Hand Grenades
So simple and so powerful. Four short words and we’re already inside the character, have a sense of isolation, deprivation, futility, victimization, … Wow. Not since Anne McCaffery’s “Lessa woke, cold.” in Dragonflight has so simple an opening been so evocative.
Continue reading “Great Opening Lines – and Why! (Sept 2020’s Great Opening Lines)”

World-Building – Process

What goes into creating a world and sharing it with the reader?

Aside from blood and sweat?

Research
Research everything. You may not use everything you’ve learned, but your increased subject matter expertise will come through in your writing and (probably) you’ll have more confidence in what you’re writing. One of my greatest joys is having veterans and specifically helicopter gunship captains contact me after reading The Augmented Man to ask where I served and/or where I learned to fly. Anthropologists and other social scientists constantly read my work and ask if I worked with one culture or another. Such questions let me know my research paid off; when experts talk with you as if you’re an expert, you’ve done your job convincing the reader they’re in good hands reading your work.

On the other side of this, I’ve heard authors say that when they get to a point in their writing where something occurs they don’t understand or know or aren’t sure how something happens, they write “[XXX]” (or something similar) and move on, looking things up later.

Such writing shows (in my opinion).

I’m told that my work is so tightly written that it’s tough to remove stuff without throwing everything else out of whack. It’s like Story-DNA. Sure, you can switch a genome here or there, but that one genome and its placement affect the entire story. You may change hair color from chestnut to dark brown but now you’ve got three fingers that look like toes and a penis growing out of the middle of your forehead.

I stop writing when there’s a piece of something – tech, location, language, culture, anything! – in which I feel my knowledge is lacking.

And I always feel my knowledge is lacking.

Revealing the Story’s World
Reveal as the story requires. That’s the author’s job. Don’t front load, don’t back load, definitely don’t waste the reader’s time or stretch their patience, and always keep them moving forward through the story. This is something I wrote about in World-Building – Getting Readers Interested in Your World.


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World-Building – Miscellaneous

Something is crucial to your world-building if your story is dramatically changed when you remove that thing.

 
Not everything tied to world-building is major. Except when it’s a central element to a story, meaning removing it dramatically changes your story.

That noted, here are some miscellaneous world-building items to be aware of.

Fun (Sports, Leisure, Music, Free Time Activities)
“Fun” is based on culture and language. A funny joke in English bombs in Mandarin and is completely flat in Hopi. All “leisure” time activities will be culture based, and much of that will be predicated on climate/weather.

However, leisure time concepts may translate well. Fishing is both a vocation and avocation on Earth. Imagine a water planet or a planet where the dominate life is aquatic in nature. They may go mammaling. Transpose everything from this world’s fishing to that world’s mammaling and you could have a fascinating first-contact story.

A telekinetic culture may have sports like ours but players will be heavily penalized if they use telekinetics. They may be allowed to bludgeon opposing team members with their hands and feet (if they have them) but hurling rocks at them telekinetically results in a 3-game penalty.

Music is heavily culture based, but beyond that we have “music” because our environment supports the transmission of longitudinal (compression) waves. Western music is based on the thirteen notes but non-western music systems vary on the number of notes and variation is reflected in the difference in tunings and instruments themselves. Other worlds may support lifeforms with hearing vastly different from ours, hence their music will be vastly different. If those cultures developed in environments that don’t support longitudinal waves, is there music at all? Or what would they have that we’d consider “music”?

Leisure time activities tend to be sensory-dependent as a rule (hence music would be different if the other culture’s ears weren’t designed to detect longitudinal waves). A Jovian would “paint” using radium-based “paints” as their “vision” developed on a planet where our visible spectrum couldn’t penetrate the clouds and the planet radiates like a sun-in-the-making; they wouldn’t have eyes like ours, or what served as eyes would be radiation detectors (perhaps Geiger counter like stalks?).

Life forms


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World-Building – Belief Systems

Belief systems are part of the anthropologist’s triad – culture, language, myth (belief). These three are so intertwined I can’t imagine studying one without drawing deeply of the others. Our personal library contains ~300 books on different belief/faith/mythological/folkoric systems. If you count ebooks, the number goes over 1,000 volumes (and note my bias there).

But what about using belief/faith/mythological/folkoric systems as part of your world-building?

Margaret Atwood postulates a radical cultural change brought on by an exaggerated belief system in The Handmaid’s Tale, and that culture’s language evolves to sustain the belief system. Probably the best known blend of culture, language, and belief system is in Tolkien’s Trilogy. Brian Aldiss’ Helliconia series does an excellent job of blending these elements, but it’s all predicated on Helliconia’s weather (and perhaps you’ll appreciate how intertwined everything is when one builds a world from scratch).

Create a mythology only if such is necessary to move the story forward or is integral to the plot.

 
But again and to me, it comes down to “create a mythology only if such is necessary to move the story forward or is integral to the plot.”


Greetings! I’m your friendly, neighborhood Threshold Guardian. This is a protected post and requires either General Membership (free) or a Subscription (various levels). Members and Subscribers can LogIn. Non members can join. All posts are free to all members save certain posts in the My Work category. Enjoy!