Town Line Tuesday: Creator of Worlds

Magic and technology, kingdoms and queendoms and distant planets, alternate universes and mysterious galaxies, magical creatures and alien races, to name but a few of all the little pieces that go into building elaborate fantasy and sci-fi worlds. World-building is a key part of writing fantasy and sci-fi, it’s a fun and creative process but also a necessary one—even magic worlds of make-believe need some sort of rules and structure, without them you’ve got nothing but chaos and your readers won’t be able to follow what’s going on let alone suspend disbelief the way they should. Still, while world-building is a lot of fun when it’s all in my head—seriously I could spend all day lost in imagining worlds of my own design—I’ve found that getting it onto the page is…less fun. The problem with putting the world-building on the page is that it, by very definition, needs to be done through exposition (the placement of often very wordy explanations of important background information into a story) and honestly, I don’t much like reading exposition let alone writing it. Don’t get me wrong, exposition, while annoying, is very important and I do actually find its contents interesting (most of the time anyway) it just has a way of completely bogging down the story.

 

I’m currently reading Ready Player One by Ernest Cline and let me tell you, the first six chapters were a pain to get through. The prologue explaining the contest was one thing, it set up the premise of the story nicely and it was all necessary information at that point in the narrative. The next six chapters however…well as interesting as I find the OASIS and I have to admit the background about Halliday is certainly necessary for Parzival’s solving of the puzzles but nothing happens in those six chapters. Parzival goes to school and does almost nothing there and the rest of the sixty-odd pages are nothing but exposition. Maybe it’s just me but personally I’d prefer the author trust the reader a little more to figure out what’s going on through context and small bits of exposition spaced out throughout the novel and interspersed with action rather than dumping everything on us all at once at the start of the story. Maybe you like your world-building all at once at the beginning of a book because when you’re finished, once you’ve earned the action after slogging through all the background muck, you at least know what’s going on and you can sit back and enjoy the ride. But I’ve got to say, I actually don’t mind being somewhat confused at the start of the book, I relish figuring things out on my own and the twists and turns in the plot that slowly reveal the secrets of the world I’m immersed in keep me coming back for more when pages upon pages of exposition exhaust me to the point of wanting to walk a way rather than keep trudging forward.

 

This reading preference really shows itself in my writing, I like to play things close to the vest, revealing things only when the plot demands it. Sometimes this dislike of heavy exposition and descriptive language works to my disadvantage as I sometimes struggle with making sure scenes are as descriptive as they need to be but it’s something I am constantly working on. As for world-building in The Demon of New Salem, since the novel takes place in our world—albeit our world with magic—the primary pieces I have to worry about building are my fictional town of New Salem, creating lore for the Supernaturals, and of course creating a system of magic and rules for how magic works and doesn’t work—which is what I am currently trying to work out during my writing sessions at my local coffee shop. It’s funny how given that magic is something that doesn’t exist, and can therefore theoretically operate any way I want it to, has me spending quite a bit of time researching… I’m sure my Google search history from my last writing session looks like that of a novice Wicca. Unfortunately, since magic isn’t real, it hasn’t been super helpful, but at least it helps to get some idea as to what plants and incantations supposedly do what so I have a place to jump off from when creating my system. Now to figure out how to put the pieces I have worked out to paper without falling into the trap of wordy and complicated exposition. It’s all about balance I suppose.

Town Line Tuesday: SupernaturalsOnly

In honor of Valentine’s day, I thought it would be fun to create a fake dating profile for Daphne. This ended up being way more involved than I originally imagined and I might go back and edit this at a later date (it’d be awesome if I could somehow get artwork for a profile pic at some point) but for now, enjoy!

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Town Line Tuesday: Context? What Context?

I thought it might be fun to post a short random quote from what I’ve written of the novel so far with zero context. I determined this quote using a random number generator to decide what page and paragraph to pick from. I’d like to say I got this on the first try but I had to go through a lot of “he nodded” and “she shrugged” and long rambling possibly spoiler-y paragraphs before I found one that was short and worked well enough out of context. If I decide to do this again later I’ll have to figure out a better system. But for now, from page 28 paragraph/line 4:

 

“Do I get mauled to death by a werewolf or something?” Hannah joked.

Town Line Tuesdays: Intro

“This is a really bad idea,” she says to herself, standing before the sign that marks the town line. 

Welcome to the first-ever Town Line Tuesday! What’s that you ask? As I’ve mentioned before, I’m in the process of writing a novel. My first novel in fact. Like many young writers (at least I assume I’m not alone in this), I’ve got a slew of half-started works on my laptop hard drive dating back to my teenage years that for one reason or another (weird half-formed ideas, overly complex plots, plots that are too simplistic, boring characters, etc.) have been abandoned and left to gather dust. The Demon of New Salem, as I’ve tentatively dubbed this project, is different not only because I’ve grown since my first stumbling attempts at writing but also because it haunts me in a way that the others didn’t. This story completely took over my entire college career to the point where I developed a serious case of writer’s block for anything that didn’t involve my main character. Daphne Pendragon, the aforementioned protagonist, is a ghost that follows me wherever I go, simultaneously a comforting presence and an annoying one. I can’t watch TV or read a book without thinking about how Daphne would interact with the characters, when I come across problems in my daily life I often wonder how she would handle them, she’s a constant reminder of this thing I’ve set out to do. All that being said, those previous abandoned attempts taunt me, tell me I’ll forget about Daphne just like I’ve forgotten them. So, to answer your question, Town Line Tuesdays are going to be a place for me to discuss The Demon of New Salem and, hopefully, hold me accountable to actually finishing this novel.

I’ve decided to call this series of posts Town Line Tuesdays because in The Demon of New Salem, the town line that surrounds the fictional town of New Salem, Oregon plays a critical role in the story (plus, you know, alliterations are fun). New Salem’s town line defines the town in more than just the literal it-defines-the-physical-shape-of-the-town sense. It is the mysterious and magical boundary that separates New Salem, a supposed haven for Humankind from the rest of the world where Supernaturals–creatures such as vampires, werewolves, fairies, demons and angels–run rampant as the denizens of New Salem would put it. The town line makes New Salem what it is, it is the town’s very backbone though its origins and the whys and hows of how it works are shrouded in mystery. For Daphne, who is neither human nor entirely supernatural but something in-between, the town line is where she must make a choice: turn around and return to the life she’s built for herself–an admittedly tenuous and unstable one but a free one nonetheless–or cross over the line and face the town that raised her, built her, and ultimately exiled her and maybe find the closure she needs to finally stop running

I’ve gone back and forth on whether or not to do this kind of post, terrified of putting my ideas out there and no idea of what I would even talk about here if I did. Like Daphne, I stand at the town line, safety behind me and the unknown before me and–like Daphne– despite the illusion of choice I’m left with only one thing to do: cross over. I still don’t know exactly what will be discussed in these posts, maybe some small excerpts, maybe some character insights, maybe some world building, probably some discussion about my process, the obstacles I come across and how I get through them (writer’s block sucks y’all), but I’m excited (and scared as all hell) to invite you on this journey with me.