Sunday, February 17, 2013

Beta Reading and World Building

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Anyway, getting back on track. Since my last post I FINALLY got around to reading both ChibiSunnie's Valentine's day entry "My Oh So Special Someone" and DarkAngel1326's two stories that she sent me back in like January!

Chibi's story was ADORABLE and I'm thinking it's yet again a strong competitor. Everyone is in character, the story is sweet, and it's a pairing not too many people write about. So make sure to check it out and let her know what you think. Here's the link again:

"My Oh So Special Someone"

DA sent me a revised version of her Soldier Story and I sent back a few more notes. I'm not sure where she is on polishing the story up, but I feel like we'll all be able to read the story soon.

I've actually been debating sending the story to my mom. It's that Nicholas Sparks-esque story that she LOOOOOOVES. However, it's a bit of a tear jerker - which, let's face it, she also loves, but she'll still yell at me for - plus it might remind her of my dad a touch too much.

For those of you who don't know, my father lost his battle with cancer when I was 13. It's still weird to know that I've had a single parent longer than both. Anyway, the last family trip we all took a little more than a month before he passed was to Disney World. In DA's story a young boy's last trip with his father before the man shipped off to Vietnam was to Disneyland. Also, the name of the soldier just so happens to be my father's name. All the more reason why this story is extra powerful to me and all the more reason I both want my mom to read it, and fear the backlash of her weeping over it.

DA's other story that was waiting patiently in my inbox was a drabble she wrote about her Of Blood and Honor main character 33. A simple little tale about 33's reaction to his missions to burn down whole villages. I can't wait to see more progress on the character and world building of this tale - which seems to be growing in to a full book series at this rate!

Sidenote about DA... she snuck in a Valentine's Day story as well. She didn't make it in time for the contest, but she did manage to post the first chapter last night. I really enjoy it and recommend the read for some fluffy goodness.

"Stories from the Winds of Hillwood"

When I finished my extensive beta reading I also made sure to spend some face time with Omnibladestrike. Haven't heard THAT name in a while, right!? Well, the poor guy has been in a massive writing funk, one that made him want to scrap his story and start from scratch YET AGAIN, as well as made him seriously wonder if he even had any writing talent.

I helped him out the best I could, but deciding if writing is really what you want to do in life is purely a soul-searching experience. No one can tell you if you can or can't. Only you can figure that out. I feel like I should write a full blog post dedicated to that, but I'll wait for a week where I don't have so many updates to talk about. That is, of course, unless you, Dear Readers, would greatly appreciate said post ASAP. If you guys are questioning yourself and need an inspirational/insightful post about the subject feel free to let me know and I'll get cracking on that.

In the meantime, check out my Handy Links For Fellow Aspiring Writers page. I just updated it on Friday, complete with a whole new category for fantastic blogs about writing that I've found.

Anyway, back to Omni. Poor guy has been dying to talk to me about his story for a while now, but every time he visited he either spent the whole time playing Magic: The Gathering with Hubby, or I had my own writing to work on, or he was helping us move. I'm not entirely sure why he didn't just call me or visit with the sole purpose to talk to me about his story, but regardless the poor kid waited months before we finally had our little heart-to-heart this week.

There still needs to be a bit more tweaking in my opinion. Things still don't exactly mesh with each other, but I think he's getting a much better handle on what he wants to do with his story. I think his biggest roadblock is that he's been working on this tale since like middle school and he wants to hold on to a lot of that original story - even the parts that don't quite work anymore. It's a noble effort, but his creativity and abilities have matured so much since then. He knows what works and what doesn't. I feel like he should just drop what doesn't work instead of constantly trying to rework it until it does work. I had to do that with Amara and a lot of the background I did with her way back in 2004. It's hard to do, but the pruning process really does need to be done. Once he manages to do that, I think he too has a nice book series on his hands.

Speaking of Amara, after discussing fantasy world building with both DA and Omni - as well as trying to help DA out with creating a village name - I became reinspired to work on world building Gyateara. So I broke out my 3-ring binder filled with different D&D campaigns as well as notes on the world I was building for Amara. I had two countries named: Kerizmar - the country that most of Amara's adventures would take place - and Gancrock - the country where Amara was born. The majority of my world building thus far was in Kerizmar. To help DA figure out the best way for her to come up with names for her villages and such, I composited a listing of all the cities I came up with and how I came up with the names. I called it "The World of Gyateara and how it was named.... OOOOOOR.... a lesson in how bad I am at naming things".

A large chunk of the city names I couldn't remember how I came up with them, and my notes on how I came up with the names was missing from my binder. However, there was still a vast majority where my name-creation notes were still available. Most of the names were simply me trying to describe the location of the place and then tweaking the name so it didn't sound like that was what I was doing.

For example, here is an exact note that I had on a Gnome village:
Gnome -> David the Gnome -> Forests -> Animals -> Forest Thief -> Forthee -> Forthy

It's mostly just a train-of-thought freewrite. In the end I liked the description of that particular location of gnomes being the "corrupted gnomes" territory. I then took elements of the words "Forest" and "Thief" and merged them in to "Forthee". I then worked the word in my mouth a little until I spat out "Forthy". Thus the village name was born.

As I worked on my extensive list of locations, and compared notes with the map that I created - in an attempt to remind myself how I came up with some of the names - Hubby saw my little pet project. We got to talking about all the work I had put in to Kerizmar back in 2008/2009. He was shocked at the number of locations I had and the vast population I was trying to distribute between all the communities. I had made Kerizmar a bit bigger than Pennsylvania but was still trying to squeeze in roughly 30 cities and a population of  8-million. Since there's over 8-million people in New York City alone, I thought these numbers were about right for a medieval country about the size of PA. Hubby thinks otherwise.

This is a perfect example of what I was saying about Omni's need to let some things that don't work go. Even though I put extensive hours in to researching general D&D population break-down, the rough population of medieval Britain, and made sure to measure out the distances between towns to make sure they weren't too close or too far from each other.... well, Hubby still thinks it was a bit overboard. I was so afraid of UNDER populating my country that I went a bit too far in the opposite direction. So now I must also practice pruning. Drop some of the villages with crappy names - such as Forthy - shift some other towns in to a different country, rework the populous, and rename all of my natural landmarks. Since I was originally building Kerizmar as a D&D campaign setting I had all of the major mountains, deserts, lakes, seas, and rivers named after D&D deities. Now that I'm trying to switch Kerizmar and the whole of Gyateara in to my own original world I need to drop any and all references to the D&D-specific deities.

It's a long trial for sure, but Hubby should be helping me out this time. In the meantime, I can still use my limited world building knowledge to help DA name locations, and use my trial of pruning to help encourage Omni to do the same.

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