World Building, Character Creation, and Knowing When to Start Writing Part II

OriginSome time back in July, I wrote the first part of this topic.  You can read it here.  I can’t believe it took me until January to write the first draft of the pilot, which was what inspired that post – world building, etc.  (I was such a lump last year.)  I know I was excited by the idea, and the research phase did take some time, but it is clear that I lost my way and floundered for a while before I made the effort.  I remember just being clueless as to some decisions I needed to make.  There were so many things that didn’t seem right, and that derailed my enthusiasm.

My biggest hurdle, oddly enough, was in regards to my protagonist.  I had backstories and loads of ideas in place for all the other characters, but something about her was off.  I finally decided to do research on character development, in the hopes it would shine a light on her.  Here is a link to a few of the things I discovered, which may help you too, if you’re ever struggling.  Before I begin a story, after some research, I’m pretty sure of my characters, so this hurdle was new for me.

I mean, how could I not know who she is?!  She is the reason I’m writing the story.

I finished the rewrite of the pilot a couple of weeks ago, and it got me thinking that I never did come back to this topic, and I wanted to share a few things I learned along the way.  I had planned on continuing this topic some time closer to the original post, but now, who knows what I intended all those months ago..?!

Everyone develops a strategy for their writing over time.  We learn what works for us and what doesn’t.  I am not a fan of outlining, but I tried do create a rough outline so I knew what I wanted to hit within the pilot and where I wanted it to end.  This is one of the first times it sort of worked for me.  I have so many ideas for this story, and not writing a full length feature made it clear that while I needed to touch on some ideas, I only needed to allude to others.  Writing just one episode means leaving a lot open for later, and that is something I was not used to doing.  Also, by creating the rough outline, I had an idea of where I needed to interject the subplots, so that made it easier to see the holes.

ItsOnlyAFirstDraftTired of dragging my heels, I finally made it a point to write the first draft, regardless of how much information I was still lacking, and this was a huge step forward for me.  I’m one of those who painstakingly writes each word.  I tend to rewrite while I’m writing, and this causes a lot of lag time.  I wanted to pound out the first draft as quickly as possible (I think I wrote it in 3-4 days), then I would know what I was missing and how to proceed in my research and decision making.  So here is a suggestion for something I have never done before.

Knowing there were still things that needed names, or language issues, because I’m writing about aliens, I used asterisks or parentheses around words I knew would need to be changed in the rewrite.  I still didn’t know the name of the galactic order so I generically used the word Empire (thanks, Star Wars) and put an asterisk next to it.  It allowed me to continue the flow knowing it wasn’t a decision that needed to be made right then and there.  I did the same with alien terminology and location headers within the screenplay; anything really that I didn’t have an answer for right on the spot.

The other thing I learned was a way of introducing nearly a full cast in one scene.  I’ve never done this before, and I had to think of an activity that would showcase their individual personalities in a short amount of time.  During research mode, I wrote up note cards on each character which included where they were from, their race, occupation, positive and negative traits, and some background info.  This helped me to see how they would each respond in a given situation.  The first draft included a generic scene where all the characters were introduced and described, but I knew it didn’t work.  I put a big asterisk next to the scene and moved on.  Before the rewrite, I thought about the different kinds of group activities that could take place, but it was one thing in particular that made the difference.

I had been limited in my thinking.  World building includes a number of topics to take into consideration – there’s government, military, religion, customs, and trade, all of which I had thought about, but I hadn’t thought about entertainment.  What did my characters do for fun?  How did they blow off steam?  It didn’t take long after that to figure out their new introduction.

Crane'sWar - JulianFaylonaMy last insight is this.  Fantasy and sci-fi, in particular, allow for a number of freedoms in their stories, but it also offers writers the opportunity to highlight social and political issues under this guise.  Just another topic to consider while you’re world building.  Is there something going on in the world that you want to talk about?  Setting your story against an alien/fantasy backdrop may offer you the freedom to share your insight.  This is something I learned years ago, when I decided I didn’t want my first story to be just a fluff piece.  I utilize my fantasy and sci-fi worlds to highlight the current state of humanity, the deterioration of the environment, and the pros and cons in the advancement of technology.

There is a lot to think about when creating a world from scratch, and I’ve just touched on a few.  It’s a lot of fun because it truly is a blank slate, and this is one reason research is so important, but don’t let it become the sole focus for too long.  Keep your momentum, and try a variety of tricks to help you get that story out as quickly as possible.  You’ll have plenty of rewrites to work out the details.

I’ve been trying to keep an eye out on Pinterest for writing tips as well, so click here, for some more.  If you’ve learned any tricks along the way, please share and let’s help each other make great stories!

Happy Writing!

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The Dragon Age Obsession Saga Continues…Part 4

InquistionPosterAs I’ve now finished a second playthrough of Dragon Age: Inquisition, I felt it was time to wrap up this series of posts.  Here are posts one, two, and three which are in regards to starting the game and importing a history, character creation, and dialogue and romance options with companions to bring you up to speed.  I am unable to discuss any of the DLCs because after the first one was released, Bioware decided not to release any others on the XBox 360, so I haven’t purchased any of them.

The anger I have about the gaming industry’s ploys to wrangle more money out of their gamers is real.  I was not ready to fork out $400 for a new gaming console, but if I want to know the rest of the story, that is exactly what I’ll have to do, and because you all know I’m passionate about this story, I’m going to do it…very, very soon.  ARGH!  As this post is not a rant on that, I’ll save that for fuel for another day.

This post is about the grand scale of the story of the world of Dragon Age.  Inquisition is part three and a culmination of the events in the previous two games where story lines and characters come together.

Origins-WardenShieldIn Origins, game one, your protagonist is from one of six “origin” stories (2 human story lines, 2 elf, and 2 dwarf)  in which each avenue ends with you becoming a Grey Warden, an old order of warriors chosen to fight a specific evil known as darkspawn and their archdemon, an old god twisted by their tainted blood.  They live underground and are rather hideous, similar to Tolkien’s orcs.  The presence of an archdemon is a time referred to as a Blight and when the Grey Wardens are needed most, as they are the only real solution to ending a Blight.  In this first game, there are a number of obstacles to overcome while you try to unite the country against the impending threat, and there is treachery around every corner as the Wardens are declared traitors after an initial battle against the darkspawn.

There are a number of characters who you meet in game one that will progress forward through each game, some of them taking on major roles in Inquisition.  Same can be said of characters from game two.  Fun fact: if you’re game one character is a human mage, you will be related to the protagonist in game two.

DA2In game two, you are a human whose family has escaped the Blight and traveled across the sea in search of a safe haven.  The entire game takes place in and around the city of Kirkwall.  Although many people didn’t care for this game, especially in comparison to Origins – you could only play as a human, there was a lot of repetition in the floor plans, and the primary single location of the city as the backdrop – this is where game three is setup; the conflict between the mages and the Templars.  Without giving too much away, one of your allies takes drastic action that incites a war between the mages, who are considered dangerous and are required to live in prison-like societies called Circles, and their captors/overseers, the Templars.

Fun fact: there is a Dragon Age 2 DLC that introduces you to a powerful darkspawn named Corypheus.  It was Hawke’s father, a mage, and the Grey Wardens who imprisoned him.

DAIGame three begins 10 years after the events of game one.  Your protagonist is found as the sole survivor of a terrible, cataclysmic tragedy where a resolution to the Mage-Templar War was supposed to transpire.  A conclave was called at the Temple of Sacred Ashes in Haven, a village you will have discovered in game one.  With no memories of what happened and a strange mark upon your hand, you are considered responsible for a number of the current problems, including a giant hole in the sky; a Breach in the veil, the line between reality and the spirit world, is the source of a demon invasion.  An old form of justice, an inquisition, is formed to solve the many problems that the world now faces.

Everything you’ve learned from the past two games will pay off as you make your way through Inquisition.  The things you know about the Wardens are relevant.  A relic you found in game two has resurfaced with a vengeance.  You will see old, familiar faces (Hello, Flemeth) and meet interesting, new ones (Well, hellooo Solas).  The world of Dragon Age is vast and all encompassing, and you will discover how well it’s constructed.  I instantly became devoted to the series because it combined things I love such as fantasy, medieval times, old world orders, magic, dragons, romance, and adventure, and then went above and beyond to make it a fully fleshed out universe.

As I’ve tried to end each of these posts with some relevance to writing, you will find, if you choose to play, how key world building is and character development.  It’s key to think multiple steps ahead, whether you’re writing a single story or a series.  How do people know one another?  This may reflect in how supposed strangers speak to one another upon meeting – there may be a history there.  What is their religious affiliation?  How do they feel about the history of their people?  Their government?  What consequences do their actions have later?  This is a good one to consider, especially in a serial.  Actions taken by a character may have unforeseen consequences that may be fun to explore later.  Think of the domino effect.

Consider epic tales like Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones.  I would count Dragon Age among them.  There is so much more going on than the happenings of one person, and you get to live it first hand, well, vicariously through your character.  Your decisions have bearing on the world around you and shape it.  You become a leader in each game; you build loyalty and friendships or enemies.  You get to save the world, and maybe the boy too.  😉

Aren’t these a few of the reasons we write?

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series of posts as much as I’ve enjoyed talking about it.  I could do so much more.  I’m continuing my fanfiction shortly, so if you’re not inclined to play, you can follow along the journey of my Origin character as she tries to save the world and the boy.  I will continue to post them here, as well as on Wattpad and Archive of Our Own (which I just realized needs to be updated).

Have a great weekend and Happy Writing!