Writing Prompt: Celebrate your Character’s Favorite Holiday

Winter is my favorite season, and Christmas is my favorite holiday, and so at this time of year I invariably find myself wanting to write wintry and Christmas-themed scenarios, even if my current WIP has nothing to do with either one.

I think it’s a valid writing exercise, though. Writing about a holiday that may or may not actually figure into your story is a great way to develop more details about your characters and world. Does your character hate Christmas and everything festive? Does your character celebrate Hanukkah but always wanted to put up a Christmas tree? How does the time period, nationality, and culture of your character affect their winter-time celebrations? Does your character live in a fantasy world with a holiday of your own creation?

Try writing a scene or a vignette about your main character(s) celebrating – or avoiding – their traditional winter holiday. It doesn’t have to fit into your current story – just write a scene and see where it goes! You might learn a lot about your characters and your story’s world!

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Magic versus Technology: Setting the Rules for Your Fictional World

Today the terms “fantasy” and “science fiction” are becoming broad, catch-all terms that encompass a wide range of sub-genres. Most people don’t just write fantasy, they write urban paranormal romance or YA epic fantasy. The same with science fiction: there’s everything from space fantasy to steampunk to retro-futurism. This is a good thing, because the person who likes fairytale retellings with a dark urban flair may not be a fan of epic high fantasy. There’s room for all of the sci-fi, fantasy, and speculative sub-genres, and all their mash-ups and cross-overs, too.

But even with all of the genre-crossing, I believe it’s still important to define whether your world is magic-based or technology-based.

This does not mean that anything with magic is automatically fantasy, nor does it mean that anything with technology more advanced than the steam engine is science-fiction. I believe the distinction lies is how the world of the story is governed. More to the point, it’s how you as the writer establish the rules of your world. A magic-based versus technology-based world has more to do with the culture of the characters and how they interact with world around them, and less to do with whether the characters wave magic wands or fly around in space ships. Continue reading

Retrofuturism, Historical Fantasy, and Dieselpunk Tech

 As you may know, I’m currently writing a historical fantasy series. It’s set in the 1920s, and the title character Mrs. Jones has assorted adventures; magic, a touch of the paranormal, and a lot of “futuristic” retro-technology are key elements in her world.

I wrote a post last year giving some tips on how to write convincing technobabble for science fiction stories. This blog post is in a similar vein – but it’s for writing “historical technobabble.”

“Retro-futurism” is technology or other sci-fi elements that might have existed in the past, but didn’t. And so, to offer some tips on how to write retro-futurism or historical sci-fi, I’m sending you over to a guest post I wrote on The Old Shelter blog.

Read on to find out all about Retrofuturism and Dieselpunk: How they Work in a 1920s Setting!

On Being Thankful

With Thanksgiving approaching for those of us in America, I’ve been thinking about gratitude. Gratitude or thankfulness I believe stems primarily from two aspects: perspective and choice.

When I think about gratitude as a matter of perspective, I see children. I remember back quite a few years ago when my south-east coast town was in the grips of a hurricane (not uncommon). This hurricane had brought more rain than wind, and the city was rapidly flooding. Driving home from work, I drove through a flooded intersection where the water was much deeper than the previous few flooded intersections, and my car cut off. There I was, stranded in a neighborhood far from my house, with a dead car that was about to start filling up with water any minute, and no cell phone. (Yes, cell phones had been invented, but I had not invested in such technology yet).

I had a lot to be thankful for in that moment, though it didn’t feel like it. I was alive. The person whose house I’d stalled in front of let me come inside and dry off and use the phone. When I finally did get home, my house was not flooded. But what struck me the most in that difficult and unpleasant moment was the neighborhood children. Continue reading

Why I’m Writing Short Stories Instead of Novels

I’ve always considered myself a novelist. I love long involved stories, the more epic the better. As a kid I loved The Chronicles of Narnia, then I read The Lord of the Rings and others (The Silmarillion, etc.) I love a thick novel with a thick plot (like The Historian), and my favorite TV show is the sprawling sci-fi epic Babylon 5.

And so, I began writing what I loved reading. In middle school I had an epic fantasy series that I wrote on for several years (I’d planned to make it a seven book series, and wrote first drafts of about two and a half books). When I first started this blog a few years ago, I was working on an epic fantasy trilogy inspired by the folktales of Finland.

While I have not given up on either fantasy series, both have been temporarily shelved and I’ve started writing short fiction. Because of my love of long epic stories, I never thought of myself as a short story writer. Continue reading