Monthly Archives: October 2012

Characters and Tropes – Part 2

Alright, let’s begin where I left off. Last time I touched on character description, and how we can bend tropes to make them unique without trying to look like we just want to be different.

I kind of charged into this without much of a plan, but let’s start a second part here. Story lines and ideas are always being repeated, so why haven’t all of the books been written? The answer? The characters. No matter how many times a story is told, the characters will almost always be different to some extent. If the heroes are the same, maybe their companions are different? They grow in a different way? Maybe they learn a new lesson?

Tropes are there as tools as much as blocks. Think of it like a sword. A double-edged one. If you aren’t careful, you can hurt yourself. However, once you learn to use it though, it’s a powerful tool towards your goals (As long as they include maiming, cutting, or skewering the other guy).

The point (eh, eh? I’m on a roll) is to use what you know. If you know classic/generic story lines, use them. Fairy tales? Go for it. Murder mysteries? WRITE THEM!!! (If that’s what you want.) This is one of those reasons I like reading in my genre, and writing my favorite. Once you start to see the patterns, you can tell just what to bend to make it your own.

Bending is what got us from Norse mythology to D&D. How, you might ask? In the best way possible. Wagner, the composer wrote a piece called Der Ring des Nibelungen. This piece shares many themes and ideas with Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. While he denies it, there are enough similarities for people to consider the works as inspired by it. Now, Tolkien’s work was the original inspiration for D&D. Of course property rights, and a law suit gave us the modern D&D we see today. There you go. Norse->Wagner->Tolkien-D&D1->law suit->Modern D&D

The moral? Don’t be afraid to experiment or use a trope. The difference is in how you present it.

With that, let’s continue. NaNoWriMo starts in less than an hour from my posting this. Best of luck everyone!

~ Underdog


Characters and Tropes – Part 1

Wow… I finally missed a post just after 3 months without missing a beat. I feel proud, and ashamed at the same time. Maybe it’s a sign I should post a bit less frequently, with more meaningful content… or something. I dunno. Personally? I blame the proletariat. It’s always the proletariat. I’m kidding, though if I wasn’t would you know?

Well, enough with that. No excuses for it. So what’s today’s topic on the wheel of things I can ramble about in front of a small audience?

Characters! Characters are in every story after all – unless you’re writing about the tragic misadventures of a flowerpot or something – and with NaNo closing in fast, just behind Hurricane Sandy, it’s something to talk about. Characters, not the flowerpot.

What about characters though? Excellent question voice in my head. Excellent question. There’s a lot of places to go with this.

Physical descriptions? Recently my friend Musings of a Steampunk had a post on this topic. I did have an example in my comment on telling it through actions rather than a lump description.

||She stared at the man with dark, gray eyes, looking up at him. A quick glance at his muscles, and she knew she was out matched in a direct confrontation, so she did the next best thing. She ran. As she crossed the city, the thief made full advantage of her body, slipping into the smallest passages with ease. When she found her way to the rooftops she was able to make her escape. Like an acrobat, she made even the most death-defying jumps with a swan’s grace, and landed with cat-like reflexes.||

Though in this matter, to each their own, I suppose.

I’d like to talk about is tropes for a moment. The woodland Elves, the mining Dwarves, etc… The problems most people face with these tropes is in how they use them. They either follow them to the T or make blatantly obvious changes that say they wanted to be different, but couldn’t put in the effort.

Of course both methods can be done really well. For example, keep Elves the same, but make them ugly instead of fair. Why not? Maybe the Dwarves mine for metals because they are expert dentists? Do Hobbits actually exist, or are they just little people? Bad? Yes. Definitely. However, it puts a new spin on the classic without trying drastically to be different.

A lot of this is trial and error though, so more often than not, it’s almost better to think up something new, borrowing elements from the tropes that exist in your racial creations. One of my favorite trope reversals comes in L.E. Modesitt Jr.’s Recluce Saga. Black Magic stands for Order while White stands for Chaos. Darkness is a term associated with Order and Light is with Chaos. It’s just a simple reversal, but it does wonders for the world and bringing new life into the characters in it. Meanwhile, there are “good guys” on both sides of magic, and it’s the lust for power that corrupts one further.

I kind of charged into this without much of a plan, but let’s start a second part here. Story lines and ideas are always being repeated, so why haven’t all of the books been written? The answer? The characters. No matter how many times a story is told, the characters will almost always be different to some extent. If the heroes are the same, maybe their companions are different? They grow in a different way? Maybe they learn a new lesson?


And that was the power dimming. Hopefully there’s a few ideas in your heads now. I’ll have to pick this up tomorrow or Wednesday.

Keep Writing, and if I don’t see you soon, good luck starting NaNoWriMo!

~ Underdog

Hell Week – Thursday

I’ve dubbed this hell week in my life. Mostly due to the insane scheduling that has somehow risen up from the depths of hell to fill my life with unbelievable amounts of places to be all at once. A better me would choose to write a story about it. The real me chooses to hide in the closet waiting for it to go away. It won’t. Not yet at least.

Instead, I complain here, among people with better things to read. Though, really, I just wanted a break from NaNoWriMo prep with little else to do besides stream some Merlin on Netflix… Chalk one post for the no category section of this blog. I had to write something, but I’m honestly trying to enjoy a few hours to myself.

On Dreams?

Recently, Musings of a Steampunk wrote a post about getting a Dream Journal. Usually, things like that fly low on my radar of interest. I do dream from time to time, but I never remember them. Even when I do, I tend to pass it off as either weird and just a dream, or as something vague (vague is being polite in this case) that I should just forget. Unfortunately, I have my senses opened up pretty widely these days. A lot of things are requiring my attention, and I’m actively looking for information and ideas for NaNoWriMo.

Thus, it should be no surprise, that for the first time in a while, I’ve had a dream I want to explore. Forget that I already had my NaNo stuff mostly together. Nope. This dream, I can only remember one piece of it, and yet, I want to explore the story some more. Maybe add to it. Resolve it even? But I’m not sure how, or when, or where. If I just take notes, will the image be so clear in a few months when I can get to it? Or should I toss things aside and use NaNo to charge blindly into this?

Odds are it’ll be set aside, but one can wish they had a few clones to do these things.

Diversity In Fantasy

Programs to Help Organize your Book

Love this list! Figured I’d share it on chance it gets to a few more people.

dreampunk geek

Last week my friend Dar spent a good deal of time showing me some great writing programs she has used in the past to organize her books. Here is what I learned:

yWriter: A free program which is available to help you organize your book and then write it. It gives an easy interface that has all your relevant book info available at your fingertips. Character profiles, locations, a list of items. On top of that it breaks your book down into chapters, and then scenes. You actually write your book in the program instead of a word processor and it helps you stay organized with what you have entered in. I am using this tool to organize my NaNo book.

Sample Screenshots of the program.

WriteItNow: This one isn’t free. I’m not purchasing it because it has the same functionality as yWriter, but Dar did highly recommend it. It…

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More NaNoWriMo Prep

World building ahead of time when you don’t know where you want to begin writing can be a nightmare. After all, this is a novel writing session, and most world building can take forever. Unless you are writing  within our world or someplace similar some will need to be done, and even then if it’s a fictional town, and whatnot, it’ll pop up again. Can you afford to just slap something together and hope it works out for the best? Maybe? It’s true that there will be a good amount of that as you try to make the 50k word mark.

In preparation then, I’m putting down details, minute or not, that I’d like to remember. Religions, Cultures, Countries, Cities, People, Guilds/Factions. If any idea strikes me at a given moment, I’m ready to jot it down. It’s necessary to an extent, if only so I have something to draw on.

Now, I know what some of you are thinking. Why not make an outline? Because I try and tend to trip up keeping them together. I find mapping main events to be easy, but the connections in between always catch me, so I just have to write and write. Whether it’s a story at the end or not will remain to be seen.

Underdog’s 3rd Attempt at NaNoWriMo Beginning Checklist (This is a joke… mostly)

   X    Convince yourself you can do this

   X    Start laying out plans for the Novel

   X   Scrap plans

   X   Start taking notes and ideas down instead

___ Forget from October 31st-November 1st

___ Celebrate brother’s birthday on Nov. 1st

___ Panic around 5:00 PM (Nov. 1st) that it’s NaNoWriMo

___ Stare at computer screen and surf internet until about 6:00 PM

___ Start Writing

Time for another kind of preparation

Can’t do a post today. I’ve got to attend a wedding tomorrow! (Not mine.)

Tools to Help Prepare for NaNoWriMo

In preparation for NaNoWriMo, here are some tools to help get ideas going. While they may be a bit geared towards fantasy, I find that most tools can be re-purposed.


Naming People and Things:



A Bit of Everything

Starting Fresh and Planning Ahead

For NaNoWriMo, it’s better to start fresh. I’m more than happy to take up the challenge, though I’ve noticed a few inherent flaws with my plan, and that is that they include life. Between work, and a social life, I can’t exactly hermit up. Thanksgiving falls in here as well as a few birthdays and the beginnings of Christmas shopping.

That said, I’ve taken most weekends out of my writing plans. Given life, I can expect there will be some days that I won’t write either. Usually I make it to 7-10k words when I attempt this. Ambition drops off quickly, and forcing this novel becomes a chore. So, with that, I estimate at least 2000-2500 words per day will be needed to finish anything. Do I dare try?

I think I do dare, though I’m off to a bad start with 2 birthdays in the first week. I’d better make sure the plans are solid before charging in head first.