Stories within your story: Creation

It was a beautiful Easter weekend! I spent time with family, listened to leaders of my church speak at a general conference, and ate a lot of food. Scout wasn’t super into the egg hunt, but she was more than happy to eat the candy Daddy found for her.

I was explaining to someone this weekend that, although Easter is now widely viewed as a religious holiday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, many of the widespread Easter traditions (e.g. Easter eggs, Easter bunny) come from its origins as a pagan festival.

It took me back to my days at Intercultural Outreach, where I read and researched about all kinds of cultural traditions, both modern and ancient. The most common cultural tradition touched on was the creation myth. We all came from somewhere, and every culture has its own explanation of where that somewhere was.

The same should hold true in the worlds that you create in your writing. So as you create your own cultures and worlds within your stories, consider this:

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What is the prevailing creation myth in your novel’s culture? What does your character believe regarding this creation myth?

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Never Eat Sour Watermelons

I am directionally challenged.

It’s okay, I’ve long ago accepted it. I still get lost sometimes in the town where I grew up. It was close to two months before I would drive anywhere by myself here in Washington. When picturing a map in my head, I’ve got north and south down pat, but I sometimes have to remember to Never Eat Sour Watermelons before I get east and west straightened out.

The problem is not solved in my imagination. When planning a story, I can churn out characters, plotlines, inner struggles, outer struggles, worlds, creatures, whatever you want.

But when you ask me where it all takes place, all action grinds to a halt.

I have to get a paper, pencil, and eraser and work for a good amount of time before I can figure out how my story works geographically. Map the country, map the castle, map the village, map the forest, map the island, then hang all those maps up on the wall and stare at them until the images are burned onto my eyeballs and are hopefully seeping back into my brain, where I can transfer them into the words of the story.

And don’t even get me started on distances traveled. Figuring out how long it takes to get from here to there is one of my biggest headaches in the writing process.

How do you work out the specifics of your story’s geography? Is it something that comes naturally to you, or do you struggle with it?

Forgotten Religion

I find it interesting that religion is so often forgotten in fantasy books. Whether you (or your character) are personally religious or not, there’s no question that religion plays an enormous part in society as a whole, and a story that fails to address that aspect of life often feels a little rickety to me.

That’s not to say that all books need to be religiously themed, but even a passing mention that establishes the beliefs of the people in your world lends tremendous credibility and detail to the story. Thus, the writing challenge for the week:

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Write a scene that shows the role religion plays in your character’s life.

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Tradition!

Growing up, Thanksgiving meant my family, my grandma, and three or four families of aunts, uncles, and cousins cramming into a house and eating on fancy tablecloths and fancy dishes and fancy silverware. There were always the adult tables and the kids table. And let me tell you, the kids table was the place to be on Thanksgiving. Though I shunned the title of “kid” by the time I was twelve, I always took it back when Thanksgiving rolled around. I was among the youngest of the cousins, and I would join my brother and several cousins for olive fingers and games and general misbehavior that would have been frowned upon at the adult tables. We stuck to the kids table through our teen years. Thanksgiving dinner wouldn’t have been the same without it.

Traditions like these can really bring a story to life. One of my favorite parts of writing Demon’s Heart was figuring out traditions for various life events and how they differed from region to region. It adds depth to both specific characters and the world itself. So here’s my challenge for the week:

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What’s a long-standing tradition in your character’s life? Write a descriptive scene with your character’s thoughts and feelings as the tradition is happening—or during a time when the tradition has failed.

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What? Monday’s gone already?

Here we are, halfway through Tuesday, and I’m still not sure what happened to Monday. But the week is rushing along, so I’d better get the writing prompt out. This week is going to focus on world-building—something that is more prominent in fantasy and sci-fi, but is also an important part of a real-world novel as well. It may be more world-defining than world-building, but they’re similar concepts.

I attended a panel at a conference once that was basically three old guys complaining about how nobody thinks about economics in world-building. So here is my economic prompt for you:

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What is the main source of income for your country/city/town/village? How does your character fit into that equation? A normal worker, or an outlier? Work your character’s relation to the main economy into a scene.

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