Posted in Method of Planning, Planning, Steampunk, World Building, Writing

Why is Steampunk so Awesome?

I have always been fascinated with the concept of steampunk. Aside from the environmental concerns that I won’t be going into (because in spite of the idea that to use machines that require steam you usually have to burn coal, steampunk is just an idea, and not an actual practice), I very much like to think about modern day items that could be powered by steam. There’s also the amazing look of dials, pistons and lots of copper pipe, and another big part of the allure is the Victorian era style that goes along with it.

What is it about steampunk that I find so appealing? Sure, there’s the aesthetics as I’ve previously mentioned, but steampunk is also a cross genre concept with it’s feet firmly planted in both the fantasy and scifi. It comfortably sides with fantasy where it feels a natural extension to the magic and make believe of another world, like a steam powered saddle for horse (think rockets, guns, the ability to make tea on the go, that kind of thing), a dragon or the unfathomable enormity of whatever creature you think requires this tech. On the side of scifi, it enhances the classic Victorian era of horse and cart, with mechanical creatures transporting their riders, or giving users access to the internet via a steam powered laptop.

Steampunk laptop. Cumbersome, but how cool!

Though I couldn’t say what first attracted me to steampunk, I know it’s been a fairly recent addition to my interests. I have always admired Victorian era fashion, and when steampunk elements are added it creates an even more stunning ensemble.

I was running errands at my local shopping centre which has a lovely little jewellery shop called Raymond’s Jewellers when I found this gorgeous piece and couldn’t resist. It was created by Veronese Design and reminded me so much of Peng’s gun as I’d described it in The Ancient Wish, I just had to have it.

Peng’s Gun

When I first began planning The Direbright Series I wanted to create a world that used steampunk as its technology, but wasn’t necessarily a story about steampunk. You’ll be excited to learn I am diligently working on book two: The Cursed Gift.

I don’t tend to work on my novels chronologically (I’ll let you know my style of writing in another blog entry), however I have completed the first few chapters which will help shape the plot for scenes I’ve already written as ideas and the direction I wanted before I started with Chapter One.

What do you think about steampunk? Let me know in the comments below:

Posted in Creatures, Method of Planning, Planning, World Building, Writing

3 Steps to Creating Your Own Unique Fantasy Creatures

My all-time favourite genre to write is fantasy, followed very closely by sci-fi. I read a lot of it too, which might seem obvious, but sometimes I find others’ perceptions of fantasy aren’t to my taste. Mind you, it’s always a good idea to read a range of genres anyway for inspiration, to help with ideas, and to hone the skill of writing – as all writers should.

Sometimes when I’m reading fantasy something I’ll find a bit disappointing is when I come across the same, almost stereo typical creatures in those stories, because even though the writing and the story might be great, the author lets it down with a cookie cutter set of creatures.

Dragon
Ever a favourite in fantasy – the dragon – but all too often a ‘bad guy’

I’m done with evil, aggressive dragons that are the overall threat to the heroes, beautiful mermaids who sing like angels, sweet unicorns that are shy and hard to find, and fairies that live in flowers and nurse sick animals. Of course, I’m well aware that not EVERY single fantasy book mentions these creatures, and I’m also aware there are many fantasy books that DO in fact buck the trend, which is awesome. What I’m talking about, and the point of this post is to create your OWN unique creature that doesn’t have a predetermined set of characteristics to manipulate how it looks or behaves. Your very own animal, be it humanoid, can fly, swim or run extremely fast, is from YOUR imagination and it’s completely your own creation.

There are three aspects to consider when creating your own one of a kind totally unique creature:

Step 1: What is its purpose?

This needs to be your first question when creating your own unique fantasy creature. Why? Because otherwise, why are you including it in your story? There’s little point creating something so out of this world interesting only to have it lolling away in the background. It’s going to be front and centre, so it needs purpose.

Is the hero going to ride it? Be threatened by it? Have to rescue it? In creating its purpose you’re bringing it into the plot, which means it may as well be interesting.

Step 2: Where does it live? Or more importantly, where did it originally come from?

The second factor when creating a fantasy creature is the kind of environment where it would be found naturally. This is where you need to refer to your world building.

Environment
The environment would play a big part in the overall looks of your creature

You may have all the imagination in the world, and it is very tempting to just go for broke, but it does pay to consider the environment of your creature because it helps make it even more believable. If you’ve created a creature that lives in trees, you might consider giving it claws to grip branches, or long finger like appendages to hold on, or some kind of sticky slime that enables it to cling in some way. You don’t have to railroad yourself to a strict set of rules, but do consider where the creature would naturally live in ‘the wild’ because this is the environment it’s ‘evolved’ to live in. Yes, it’s a fantasy world, but again, it makes it more believable rather than everything just runs on the magic of the place, so anything goes!

Step 3: What does it look like?

This is the really fun part because this is where you can ultimately go for broke. Once you’ve determined the creature’s purpose, and the environment it’s initially come from (remember, it doesn’t have to stay there  – consider your purpose), then you need to consider it’s features.

You don’t have to stick to convention here, if it’s a creature that lives in a tree, there’s no harm in giving it colourful scales to attract a mate, or fins to assist in flight direction. It might have fur to insulate against heat, but sheds it and absorbs the chill of winter through its skin. Whatever you decide, you can allow your mind to generate a truly unique creature of your own choosing.

Hedgehog Dog
The best part is thinking about what your creature actually looks like

Once you have your creature remember the point isn’t then to write page after page of description for it. Your reader has the ability to fill in the blanks, you just need to give the general idea and let THEIR imagination fill in the rest. Remember, further description can be added throughout the rest of the story, but what you initially want to do is implant an image of a creature unique to the story that a reader is going to suddenly feel attached to, and will be glad the hero rescued (rode, or needed) it all those chapters ago when it fulfils its purpose.

Lizard Horse
Be adventurous, just remember its purpose and environment

Be sure to consider these points during your world building, or when thinking about the type of creatures you would like to fill your fantasy novel with. Once you’ve mastered the basics of purpose, environment and features you‘re well on your way to creating a whole zoology of creatures totally unique to the world you alone have created.

Next time I’ll explain ways on how to give an unusual name these creatures so they are easy to read and pronounce!

If you have other ways of imagining fantasy creatures, please let me know in the comments below!

Posted in Digital, Method of Planning, Writing

How to Digitally Organise the Planning of Your Novel

I’ll openly admit to being the first to rush out and buy a new notebook when an idea for a novel bites, but where paper is precious it’s always good to consider the alternatives available to writers when planning that best seller.

Before you begin planning out your novel, it helps to know the system by which you can organise it. Novel planning is another skill to learn as a writer, and since I find the ‘one size fits all’ doesn’t work for writing, then it helps to put out a few ideas on how you can begin to world build, wrangle your characters, and note down those scenes or snippets of dialogue.

There are no doubt more ways you can do this, but I’ve used both of the ways I’m about to describe which I hope help you to digitally organise your novel planning.

Microsoft Excel

Yes, I’m a Microsoft user (no affiliate), but if you’re a Mac type, then these ideas can be used in Numbers, or any other type of spreadsheet creating program you have.

Excel is a way of organising your novel plan into a streamlined dataset which can make it a lot easier to find and locate and refer to particular areas of your novel.

For example, rows can easily be divided up into separate chapters, and columns can be divvied up into scenes, events, plot lines and even timelines of when what has to happen.

Novel structure in Excel
Use Excel to organise your novel by chapter

Excel is also a great way to revise your novel. You can highlight cells to refer to different aspects, for example, when your protagonist is at a turning point, about to make a decision, or meets up with another significant character. Or, you can use this method to track your Hero’s Journey, allocating a different colour for each of the characters they will meet and when.

Novel structure highlighted in Excel
Highlight cells to show events or character arcs

Then there’s the ability to use separate worksheets. I like the idea of whittling down my novel to each chapter. So using a separate worksheet for each chapter, then setting up each scene in the columns and rows so I have a much closer view, and greater detail of what is happening.

Again, highlighting is helpful and keeping a Key at the start to keep track of everything helps too.

Key in Excel
Use a key to define the highlight colours

You can make this as simple or elaborate as you like, it’s entirely up to you.

Microsoft Visio

Not everyone has access to Visio since it’s a Microsoft platform for flowcharts and process maps etc. And I believe Edraw Max is the Visio equivalent for Mac users (happy to be corrected here). I like to use it as another digital means of planning a novel because I can move squares of information around the page.

I set up my file into separate chapters – similar to Excel, then I use a series of rectangles to note down each point that has to happen (or in the early stages of planning, what might happen) within that chapter.

Novel Structure in Visio
Use Visio to plan out your novel

Visio is also great because I can then move the rectangles around if a scene’s structure changes, and I can add further shapes to write notes.

Notes in Novel Visio
Add notes to the Visio plan for any revising

I also add images to my file, because sometimes it helps when writing the description of a setting, or a character if I have a visual representation of what it looks like.

Pictures for Novel Visio
Add pictures for reference to help with descriptions and setting

You can add pictures for reference in Excel too.

That’s just 2 ways you can organise the planning of your novel. I’m aware they’re both Microsoft platforms, but they’re what I have and what I know. Either of these methods can be adapted to any other platform. Don’t forget there are online options for these two types of platforms which will do the same job for organising the planning of your novel.

Next time I’ll be looking at more analog methods, ways you can organise your novel planning without the need of a digital device.

I hope this in some way helps you with your novel planning. Please let me know in the comments below!