Tag Archives: Morgan Freeman

Worldbuilding part 2: Geography

Map of Eynier Valley for HTB copy copyOne of the problems I have in my fantasy world is knowing where I am, how I got there and where I am going next.  Somehow it’s less of a mystery to the reader if I have some idea of the what world I am writing about looks like.

Many authors use locales that either currently exist or once existed in the real world.  This is a good way to do it, because your world is already well defined for you, and most everyone knows that Portland, Oregon is about 170 miles south of Seattle, Washington.  You are safe using currently existing terrain.

When we write a fantasy story, we start out with a great plot, but we are making the physical world up as we go along, and it evolves as the story does. This can be dicey unless you are really good at remembering what you said 3 months ago.  Epic fantasy often involves sending the hero off on a quest – and this means he/she will journey far from home.

Knowing where the protagonists are going, and when they’ll be there is crucial because readers notice inconsistencies; at least I do when reading other authors’ works.

I begin by drawing a sketchy map when I first begin the story. It is just a scribble at first, but this way I have an idea of where the towns are in relation to each other. I do it in pencil so at this stage nothing is finite; they are only approximations–artistic guesses.

Map of Neveyah, color copyAs I write, my map evolves with the story, becoming more complex as the topography becomes more clear to me. In the World of Neveyah, I began with a pencil sketch, and that evolved into a relief map that gave me the opportunities for injecting tension into the tale that I needed. It also provided me with a detailed explanation of where the resources were, so that funding my country was not an issue.

If you are writing epic fantasy, it is unlikely the hero will have a GPS to guide them.  By scribbling a map while I am setting the original story down, I know I have originally declared Armat is the nearest town to the portal, in Neveyah.  This is important because when I am really pounding out the words, I don’t always remember exactly what I wrote 22 chapters ago. Going back to make corrections is a  tricky business, as it is hard to know for sure if you have caught all your small errors in regard to places and the distances between them.

  1. Map your world:
  • How big are the continents, and what is their shape?
  • Are there inland seas? If so, are they fresh water seas like the Great Lakes?
  • Where are the oceans? Where are your port cities located?
  • How large is your protagonist’s country?
  • If they travel, what type of terrain will they be crossing?
  • Does your protagonist’s country have near neighbors?
  • What about mountain ranges? Mountains, swamps, rivers and oceans are all important when you are adding local color to your background.

The physical environment affects the hero’s journey.  Mountains are difficult to travel in, as are swamps and deserts; and these environments will greatly color the story.

Wheel of time mapA map doesn’t have to be too detailed; it is only a bare-bones reference for you as the writer, and possibly for the reader later. Of all the books I have read, the books whose maps I have referred back to most while reading them are those in the Wheel of Time series, written by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson.  The map is not too detailed, but it does give you an idea of where Tear is in relation to Amadicia – both of which figure prominently in the travels of all the main characters, and it remains accurate through the entire series.

The thing is—maps, unless they are drawn by satellite GPS–are inherently wrong in regard to actual distances and such. All they can do is provide a general idea of where the cartographer thought things were.

But what about sci-fi—how do you build an entire planet that may or may not exist?

This is where I brainstorm the possibilities: I spend hours on the internet researching the physics and the possibilities of each and every technological thing that appears in my work. Morgan Freeman, Michio Kaku and Stephen Hawking are my invisible friends, but the best hard facts are found through scouring the internet.

  1. Locate your planet:
An example of a system based on stellar luminosity for predicting the location of the habitable zone around various types of stars. Planet sizes, star sizes, orbit lengths, and habitable zone sizes are not to scale.

An example of a system based on stellar luminosity for predicting the location of the habitable zone around various types of stars. Planet sizes, star sizes, orbit lengths, and habitable zone sizes are not to scale.

Situate your planet around its sun in what we arm-chair physicists refer to as “The Goldilocks Zone.” Life may exist in the most challenging places, but we humans can only exist in a narrow range of temperatures, in a world with a nitrogen/oxygen atmosphere, and where water exists in abundance. We need a magnetosphere to protect us from lethal radiation. We also need to be situated around a friendly-to-us kind of star, or a G-type main-sequence star. A K-type main-sequence  star may also support our kind of life, as may others, but we know the G-type will for sure. A good-sized moon is also optimal to stabilize the planetary wobble, but not having one opens the plot-possibilities of severe climate stresses due to an unstable orbit.

Alpharse is the setting for a future novel that grew out of a short scifi story. I’ve done a certain amount of prep for it: it’s a colony world, still in the terraforming process, and human habitation is still either underground or in the Asteroid Ships that originally brought the colonists to the system.

It’s located across the galactic arm from my protagonist’s home world of Lorann, and to travel the quickest route involves crossing an area of the galaxy inhabited by the Ernsaa, a race of methane-breathing beings who don’t want anyone coming near the worlds they claim. Thus, the closest route is now closed to them and it now takes twenty years real-time to get from Alpharse to Lorann even with the technology available to them. This means the colonists are on their own and can expect no help.

  1. Consider the Uninhabitable (by humans) Terrain:
  • What is the surface of the world like at this time?
  • What makes it dangerous?
  • Can humans breathe the air yet or must they wear protective suits?
  • Are there native organisms, or was it a young world when it was first colonized?

In regard to the maps you are drawing for your story: if you choose to incorporate your map into your book, that is an awesome addition—but for the love of J.R.R. Tolkien—don’t put maps in your books that have nothing to do with your story.

Candar Map. Recluce series, L.E. Mdesitt Jr.I have talked about this before: one of my favorite series of books, written by L.E. Modesitt Jr., has a huge failing–the maps suck!  In Fall of Angels, The Chaos Balance, Magii of Cyador, and Scion of Cyador, all of which take place before the world of Recluce is dramatically altered, the main characters are traveling all over the continent to places that don’t exist on the maps provided in the front of the books! The series span several thousand years, and the cities and geography changes radically, but the maps are stubbornly stuck in the timeframe of the first book in the series, Magic of Recluce, which actually details the last years of the story.

There is absolutely nothing on the map in the front of the book that pertains to the time frame of Scion of Cyador. Lorn, the main character, travels all over Cyador! I can only assume the crappy maps and the many typos and inconsistencies in several books of Modesitt’s Recluce series are the fault of his publisher, one the Big Boys of Publishing, TOR, who has done a great author a terrible disservice by not addressing these issues before publication. Despite the typos and stupid maps, I love Modesitt’s work and highly recommend it.

In conclusion, situating and building the physical world your characters will live in takes a day or two of your time, but once you have it all together, your work is so much easier. Taking notes and adding to your map and your style sheet as you go will keep your work consistent and make the setting of your story real to your readers. When you, as the author, have only a mushy idea of what sort of world in which your characters live, you will inadvertently write contradictions and inconsistencies into your work, so do your homework from the outset.

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Filed under Adventure, Books, Fantasy, Humor, Literature, Publishing, Uncategorized, writer, writing

Prepping for NaNoWriMo: Building the Novel

alien-worlds from NightTransmissions.com copyrighted material private use onlyI have found that prepping well for NaNoWriMo really gets me in the mood to write.  I start with  the idea of the novel, and write a blurb for a book I would like to read:

UNDERGROUNDERS Prep-sheet

GOAL – 60,000 to 70,000 words

Short synopsis for proposed Novel:

A retired fighter pilot and leading researcher in the field of adapting plants to alien environments,  Professor Elena Brend has been invited to continue her work at the University on the distant colony-world of Alpharse.

But all is not as serene as she had been told–the ecology of Alpharse is both fragile and dangerous.

Handsome shuttle-pilot, Braden Langley wants more of Elena’s life than she is willing to give and she will have to make a decision that could break two hearts.

Two factions within the community now fight for dominance as Alpharse is cut off from the rest of the human worlds.

Can Elena survive in this new world of power, politics and brinkmanship?

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Where does this mayhem all take place? This is where I brainstorm the possibilities: I spend hours on the internet researching the physics and the possibilities of each and every technological thing that appears in my work. Morgan Freeman, Michio Kaku and Stephen Hawking are my friends, but the best hard facts are found through scouring the internet.

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1.       ALPHARSE

Alpharse is a colony world.  Humans have begun leaving the Solar System, and have successfully colonized the worlds of fifteen stars near to Sol. The star systems inhabited by humans have remained in contact with each other, but are autonomous and entirely self-governing due to the constraints of distance.  Now humans have begun colonizing a new world, spreading out from Lorann, to Alpharse.  Humanity’s presence on Alpharse has only been established for two hundred years.  Alpharse is still in the terraforming process, and human habitation is still either underground or in the Asteroid Ships that originally brought the colonists to the system.  It was a leap of faith to choose to colonize any new world.

Alpharse is located across the galactic arm from Lorann, and to travel the quickest route involves crossing an area of the galaxy inhabited by the Ernsaa, a race of methane breathing beings who don’t want anyone coming near their worlds. They don’t care who they are, or why they are there, they just don’t want anyone in what they consider their space. The closest route that was a four-month perceived-time trip  is now closed to everyone.  Thus, with the arrival of Professor Elena Brend and the crew of the Barge, and asteroid-cargo ship carrying medical supplies, Alpharse is a two-year perceived time trip from Lorann, but it is 20 years real-time.

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CAST OF CHARACTERS:  Who are these people and why should I care about them? I like photos, and have a fairly good idea of who my characters look like. SO, I make a bio of them, a personnel file, complete with pictures of actors who most physically resemble them and who could play them well.  In this case, enter Jamie Lee Curtis and Bruce Willis.

jamie lee curtisProfessor Elena Brend:

  • Physical description: 5’8’, perceived-time age 55, real-time age 168. Works out daily. Has iron-gray hair worn in a short cut, not military short, but for ease of keeping neat. Is a cyborg—left leg is a grafted prosthesis.
  • Occupation:  Colonel, Retired. Experienced 33 years as a Warbird Pilot in the Lorann Space Corps.  Forced into early retirement from the Corps due to prosthetic leg. Leading researcher in the field of biosomes – breeding and adapting plants able to thrive in alien environments. Not too keen on promoting plants that require radical adaptations, but a strong proponent of plants that are able to easily adapt without destroying the ecosystem.
  • Hobbies:  hopping-up an anti-grav speedster in her garage. Loves flying low and too fast over dangerous ground. 
  • —————————————————————————————–
  • bruce willis
  • Colonel Braden Langley, Ret.:
  • Physical description: 6’2, works out daily. Lean and muscular.  Perceived-time age 57, real-time age 198.
  • Occupation:  Colonel, Retired. Experienced 45 years as a Warbird Pilot in the Lorann Space Corps.
  • Hobbies: cooking, hanging around watching Elena work on her speedster. Also enjoys flying low and too fast over dangerous ground.

2.       THE ENVIRONMENT:  I draw maps and describe the environment my characters are living in. What does it smell like? What is the most compelling view? What is the worst part of town?

For this tale I will have to consider:

The Cities: Where do my protagonists live? Do they cohabitate? What do they love about their home(s)? What do they find inconvenient?

The Agriculture: In this tale, agriculture is the central topic of conversation, as planoforming is still an ongoing process and will be for at least another 1000 years. WHERE does agriculture take place at the time of this tale? On the surface? In controlled environments? A mix of both?

The Society: Who are the movers and shakers? Who has power, and who wants it? What lengths are they willing to go to gain that power?

The University: Again, what is the internal environment? Where does Elena work and what does her lab look like?Who has power?

The Uninhabitable Terrain: What is the surface of the world like at this time? What makes it dangerous? Can humans breathe the air yet or must they wear protective suits? Are there native organisms, or was it a young world when it was first colonized?

Each of these environments will come into focus during the course of this tale

3. THE PROBLEM: This is where it gets sticky. I have created a detailed 3 page description of the plot as it stands now, but in the end, the plot description will change quite radically as the tale unfolds.

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Will I somehow miraculously get this tale written during November? After all this work I don’t know.

I have also just had a complete revelation in regard to Valley of Sorrows, the third book in the Tower of Bones series and I may  put Undergrounders on hold until that is done.

If I do change course now, I will have to scrap everything I have done to date on VOS, some 75,000 words, but this idea that came to yesterday is stuck in my head and I can’t get it out until I write it.  The whole book has to be rewritten, and now I’m obsessed with it.

*doh*

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Stephen Hawking, Morgan Freeman and the Randomness of Squirrels

Stephen_Hawking.StarChildHere in the wild world of blogging, we spend many hours writing posts, only to find when we read them a day later that our personal editing skills are somewhat deficient, especially if one wings it, as I frequently do.

I’ve been told it’s a technical problem with my keyboard–something about operator error–but I disagree. The incidents of inappropriate self-editing are usually accompanied by the sightings of random squirrels and shiny objects. I’m sure it’s something to do with extra-dimensional  doppelgängers and particle physics as it seems to happen on a sub-atomic level, so I blame Stephen Hawking, Morgan Freeman and Michio Kaku. After all, if their documentaries weren’t so darned interesting and educational I would never be assailed by these thought of “what if….”

As I was writing this post, I was suddenly bowled over by a passing squirrel who casually reminded me that even worse than a badly edited post is the number of times I forget to properly tag my posts.

If you have a blog, and you are not having much luck attracting people to it, it could be as simple as you haven’t discovered the importance of ‘tagging’ your posts.

Many of us have WordPress blogs and many of us have Blogger Blogs. I have both, so I have a basic understanding of how some things work in both formats. Each one has its positive points.  One thing they have in common is that blog posts must be tagged in a way that attracts the eye if you want to attract readers from various search engines such as Google, Yahoo or Bing.

Tagging is an art I’ve not quite gotten the hang of in regard to twitter, but I’ve figured out what works for my blogs.prnt scrn bif

Blogger is simple. The right side of the dashboard has a section that refers to tags as ‘labels’. On my Best in Fantasy book review blog which is blogger, I label each post with the Author of the book I am reviewing, the series the book is a part of if that is a factor, and the other labels say book view, epic fantasy, and anything else that pertains to the book. This could be a ‘Dungeons & Dragons theme,’ or even ‘Society for Creative Anachronism,’.  I will use even just the label ‘humor’ if appropriate. You don’t want to use more than 9 labels. Because it is a book review blog, I just post once a week, whatever book I read that week that I really liked, and then tweet the post and sit back and let it perk along on its own. That blog is pretty much a self-maintainer, as long as I remember to assign ‘labels’ to each individual post.  Then I tweet the post and my work is done on that blog for the week.

prn scrn tag and dragThe blog you are currently reading is a bit different because it is WordPress. It is a two-step process but it is simple once you figure it out. First go to the right hand side of your dashboard. Underneath the “Publish” button is a drop-down menu labeled “Categories.” Decide what categories most clearly represent your post and assign them.

Posts for Life in the Realm of Fantasy usually fall under one or more of these categories:  Adventure, Fantasy, Humor, Writing and Vegan Lifestyle.  DON’T FORGET TO DO THIS OR IT WILL DEFAULT TO “UNCATEGORIZED.”

That is bad, because then your blog will fall into a giant heap of uncategorized blogs with nothing to show what they are about. If you are writing about the potato famine, you want to make sure your category is Irish History, and so on.

Just as important as the categories in a WordPress blog are the TAGS.  The drop-down menu for the tags is located just below the categories. THIS IS CRITICAL! Select keywords AND themes that are mentioned prominently in the post, or that people who are Googling a subject might use in their search. This post’s tags will be:

fantasy, humor, literature, 
tagging and labeling blogs, 
writing, 
Stephen Hawking, Morgan Freeman, Michio Kaku,
Squirrels

According to what I read on the internet (so it must be true) the best rule-of-thumb is to not use more than nine or ten tags for a blog, and never more than three tags in a tweet.

So back to squirrels and particle physics.

According to Particle Physics for Dummies, we still do not understand 95% of the universe.

220px-Michio_Kaku_in_2012It comforts me to know that Morgan Freeman, Michio Kaku, and Stephen Hawking are just as confused as I am.

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