A young and aspiring writer. Currently a college sophomore majoring in Literature & Civilizations, I am trying to write my first novel. This is a place for updates and excerpts for interested readers to check out. I love to talk, about a lot of things, so don't be afraid to drop something in my ask box or send me a message.
I’ve been looking for websites that have African surnames, but hours of searching has yielded only one result. If there’s anyone out there looking to use a PoC in their story and would like to give that character an African name and surname, you can go here: Alphabetical List of African Surnames.
That is the only site I found with a good deal of quality and quantity. If you guys have any others that I can use, please inform me. I’d put a link to a site for first names, but those are easier to find. The surnames really gave me some trouble, though.
Have fun naming your character!
If you want to write fantasy, then a good place to start with your reading is history. I’m talking history anything, from biographies to military histories to books full of a study of certain time periods and locations.
Why? Because if you’re world building (as fantasy authors so often have to), you need material. You need to understand how empires work, how people lived day to day in Roman society, why peaceful peoples get wiped out.
You need to understand how dictators come into power, how the poor have been stereotyped throughout history, and why some societies had so much freedom for their citizens (hint: slavery of some kind).
Basically, what I’m saying is that you need an understanding of how the world works. You can’t just have your world have a highly evolved society and not know how they got there. You can’t have customs for no apparent reason. And a world in chaos got there somehow.
Plus, you can get all kinds of ideas from history. For instance, you can take something as small as the fact that in England during the Victorian and Georgian eras, women would be punished with head shaving, or you can take a big thing like the systematic racism of the Jim Crow laws or the serf system of pre-Revolutionary Russia.
So, before you write your book or your story, bury yourself in history books. Better yet, read history books as part of your schedule. The ideas you’ll get and the things you’ll learn are invaluable.
Just a quick word in regards to the topic about romance in literature and use of love triangles. I’ve seen a few posts talking about how people are tired of seeing them and how they deem them unnecessary.
I’m just going to skip the part where I talk about how it can be a useful device in literature and is popular because of its effectiveness. I’ll also skip the part where I explain the content in the previous sentence.
In regards to the topic of love triangles, I’ll just say this:
Have you ever seen how a relationship works? If you want your characters to end up together, but don’t want it to happen too early in the story, then don’t let it happen too early in the story. Just because two people like each other does not automatically mean they’ll be together. There are a number of issues that can help you avoid getting together without introducing another love interest.
Look at their personalities. What if one of them is awkward and messes up in key moments in the development of the relationship? What if there are people against their relationship and simply try to drive them apart without introducing another love interest? What if the overlaying plot gets in the way of their relationship?
Honestly, there are plenty of ways to stop two people from getting together without having to resort to throwing in another love interest. Please keep this in mind when you are writing a relationship between two characters.
The fantasy genre is one of the most difficult to work with in terms of world building. A very high degree of it requires original thinking on the part of the author, forcing the author to come up with everything from names, to plants, to the way physics works, to how entire cultures work.
While it is true that not every story requires this much information, or at least does not require that one be exceedingly detailed, they all need something of everything.
However, one thing that a lot of them need is History.
Now, I understand that for some fantasy stories the history and mythology of the world affects and deepens the experience of the reader, rather than affect the plot itself. But, that doesn’t mean that there are other stories that can’t benefit from a well-thought out history. Those of you who want to add a unique level of depth to your story and really immerse them in the world without having the story be driven by a historical event can do so.
If you wish to do this for your story, you might want to try fleshing out the history of the world you’ve created. You wouldn’t have to put all of the information into the story, but it can help you practice your story development and world building skills.
You see, real history is not straightforward, despite how some history books might attempt to teach you otherwise. Real history is a combination of different factors acting upon a point in time that results in a shift in society.
Think of it this way: Hitler might have set WWII in motion, but he was not the defining factor. The effects of the previous world war left Germany in a weakened state, with a heavy debt and an economic depression. The treaty that Germany was forced to sign resulted in all of these things happening. [This is just an example, so I’ll avoid all the heavy history details.]
My point is, a lot of the events in history that had an impact on a future generation was caused by a large number of different factors.
Do the same with your story. If a political leader was killed, then how did it happen? Was it a lone gunman, or was a rebel group? If a lone gunman, what was that individual’s motivation? Was the individual betrayed? Was the individual a victim of abuse of power or corruption?
What about the rebel group? What influenced them? Was it politics, money, or power? Did they have righteous beliefs, or did they have a belief in different governing systems? What occurred to unite such different people and have them fight for the same cause?
If you want your story’s background history to be as impactful as the characters, you should treat it as a character as well.
Think of it this way: what if two countries in the world you created went to war?
Would they have gone to war if different political leaders were involved? Would they have gone to war if the people were against it? Would they have gone to war if they were not economically fit to do so?
If the war was the result of years of tension, then no matter what change you make to it, the war would still occur. Yes, when it occurs would likely be different, but that would not change the fact that it would happen.
Do the same for your story: make sure that the thing that sets the story forth is the result of many different people and motivations acting on the plot, rather than just having the plot occur so that you’ll have a story.
Well, progress on the story has been much slower than I’d like. I’ve got quite a few classes this semester, and am working as well, so a lot of my free time has been taken up by homework and catching up on sleep. Though I’ve found that I’ve gotten a little bit more free time these past couple of weeks or so, I’ve dedicated a good bit of it to relaxing.
For, as people have been pointing out to me for the past several weeks, I not only look tired, but I tend to work too much.
I’m somewhat of a workaholic, so I can usually handle large workloads, and anything that doesn’t feel very productive tends to make it even more difficult for me to relax.
Anyway, I’ve been working on the story, but not a lot of progress has been done since I started the semester. Only about a chapter or so.
It’s annoying, as I am fully aware that not much has been written. The only thing that helps me ignore the amount of time that has passed is the fact that I’m so busy that I tend to lose track of the days. Honestly, Halloween snuck up on me like an expert ninja. Thinking about it, I suppose that isn’t necessarily a good thing.
At least Thanksgiving break is coming up, so I’ll have more time to do things. Though admittedly, I have to say that I thought it was this week, and just kept forgetting that it wasn’t.
On the positive side of things, I am taking a creative writing class this semester, so I’ve continued to write and work on stories, just not on this one. Can’t let myself get rusty, you know? Some are ok, and some are in need of work. I have to do final revisions on them before the semester ends because that’s our final: hand in a portfolio of the work done through the semester, all drafts included.
For next semester, I plan to take screenwriting. Not really one of my main interests (prefer to write books than movies), but I still think it’ll be worth it. It’ll allow me to acquire a new set of writing skills to work with.
As I continue writing my story, I find myself wondering how to classify the characters based on archetype. Of course, they are well-rounded enough that they don’t fit into one archetype, but for the most part, we can say they are closer to one than the other.
Let’s start with Calum, a character that will undoubtedly be seen as an anti-hero (assuming I was able to make him be seen that way).
What establishes Calum as anti-hero is not the fact that he goes far enough as to try to kill someone, but rather, that he was always capable of going that far. Had such a situation occurred near the beginning of the story, he would have likely done the same. His cynicism, his pessimism, and his apathy had already been part of him since the start, but his willingness to give in and follow this path slowly grows (not that there was much holding him back).
So, Calum would be more of an anti-hero than Abidemi, but Abidemi’s heroic qualities are blurred out in this world and the situations he encounters.
Abidemi would be more of a hero, but would fall short of the archetype. Yes, he does often do the right thing. Yes, he does try to save everyone, and he is somewhat of an idealist. In addition, he also follows and maintains his moral code.
So why doesn’t he fit the role of the traditional hero?
Because he is mortal. Because he makes mistakes. Because his views conflict with that of others. Most importantly, because he knows all of this. Because he can try to save everyone, but he knows he can’t. Will that stop him? Of course not. But, when he fails, reason comes and sucker-punches him.
He is aware that he can’t save everyone, no matter how hard he tries. He is aware that others will strongly disagree with his view of what’s good.
None of this will stop him from carrying out his mission. He will always strive to do the right thing and try to save everyone.
The thing is, he is the hero who is aware of how much blood is on his hands. By knowing that, he moves away from the traditional path of the hero, for the traditional heroes rarely question if what they are doing is worth it, while Abidemi sees the trail of blood and can’t help but question it.
Recently, I stumbled upon this article titled "I hate ‘Strong Female Characters.’" Give it a read if you want. It’s not bad. Honestly, it got me thinking about my story and the characters in it.
First off, it made me wonder whether the female character in my story was well-rounded enough. After all, the last one I wrote cried often, didn’t know martial arts, didn’t consider herself “badass,” and often thought about her love interest. However, it would be very difficult to argue that she wasn’t a well-rounded character. (I had previously written a post about this, so I’ll just insert the link if you want to explore this part further.)
The character for this story is capable of defending herself, doesn’t cry very often, and is physically stronger than the male characters. While there are other qualities, I still got to thinking that perhaps I hadn’t done as good a job in developing her as a character. Honestly, I have my doubts, but it’s mostly because this story doesn’t fully show how deep and complex a character she is. So, I think I’ll wait until I write her out more and see how she appears on the page, and if I don’t feel satisfied, then maybe I’ll make some changes.
Another thing about the article was that it mentioned the common ratio of 2 men for every 1 woman. I realized that my story had more men than women, so I started thinking about this as well. I wondered, could I genderbend any of the characters in the story to fix this?
The short answer: no.
The longer answer: not in this book. The characters are well-rounded, so whether they are male or female doesn’t alter that fact. However, genderbending any one character would not only force me to do the same to other characters, but it would alter the story and many of the major themes.
So then, what can I do instead?
I had planned a couple of sequels to this story, and of the characters that would be found in those, one can be genderbent effectively without altering the flow of the story. So, I’m seriously considering making that character a female instead. His background, attitude, and outlook on life would remain the same regardless of his gender, and his role in the story would be unaffected by this change as well.
Well, those are my thoughts on that article, and my reflection on my story.
Well, once again, I’m posting an update. Rather, it’s more of a reminder that there have been no updates. Had my computer getting repaired for almost a month, so I didn’t have any way to sit down and continue with my story.
The most important observation I made during that time is that without having something to work with, ideas just flow into my head by the truckload, leaving me with a notebook full of notes and story ideas that should keep me busy from now to kingdom come.
Seriously. I got ideas for short stories, novel length stories, and even for a movie (for an anime, so don’t get too carried away on that one).
I also found myself (unwittingly) thinking about my story and the way it had been going so far. I realized I would need a timeskip, maybe two, but this first one would be a few chapters into the story. I’m thinking nine weeks or so. The characters need time to become stronger before their first confrontation with the antagonist of the story. Time skip or not, they obviously won’t win (the story would be too short, then), but they would need to be able to put up more of a fight.
The only changes brought about by this time skip would be that some of the events thus far take place a little later (i.e., some of the things in chapter 5 would take place in chapter 7, etc)
In any case, most of what is written remains the same, and no vital changes would arise in the plot.
That aside, I’m currently slowed down because of preparations for college. Getting things boxed up, shipped out, and/or packed has distracted me quite a bit. Hopefully, once everything is done and I’m back in my dorm, I’ll be able to settle in and sit down to write.
Don’t you just hate it when you get stuck with a scene? I do, and there’s one I started working on this week that I got stuck in. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what to add next, or what to write.
At first, I thought I was just having some sort of writer’s block, so I tried to push through it. Nothing. I spent an entire day staring at the monitor, writing a sentence and erasing it just as quickly.
Then, I decided to do what I normally do when I get this stuck with a scene: I skip it and move on to the next one. Usually, that works, but not this time. I was having trouble writing the next scene because I couldn’t figure out the preceding one, and that mattered.
So, I wondered what was going on and spent another fruitless day with two scenes that weren’t going anywhere.
I decided to take a break from it. I had reviewed the outline, and I knew there was some sort of problem that wasn’t clear to me. The scene was there and there wasn’t any of the usual problems from writer’s block. I had what I needed, and knew what I wanted, it just wasn’t working right.
I took a two day break, and then looked back at the scene, trying to figure out the problem.
I have to say, being stuck may suck, but the feeling when you realize what the problem is and how to solve it is great.
The problem was that the situation that I wanted and the situation that was occurring were incompatible.
Liam is sort of a reactive character. He doesn’t like to fight, he prefers peaceful alternatives, and will not fight unless he has to. The scene I was working on involved him having to fight. Problem was, Demi and Calum are the characters that don’t hesitate to fight, and the three of them were together.
As long as Demi and Calum were with him, he’d have no need to fight; they would take care of it. As such, the only solution was to separate Liam from his friends, forcing him to fight for his own survival.
Long story short, I learned two things today. First, when you get stuck on a scene, sometimes you’re doing everything right, and all you need is to back away from it for a few days and look it over. And second, sometimes you need to focus on the kind of person your character is. You can’t just force them to do something they would never do, in a situation they would never voluntarily be in.
Well, that’s it for now. Just wanted to give a quick update, and share this bit of information for those of you who might be having some trouble writing a scene.
(A short excerpt of my novel. A nice little scene that I think a lot of you might enjoy.)
Demi lied down in the corner of an empty room, a roll of bandages lying on the floor beside him. Next to it was a small candle, illuminating the small part of the room he was inhabiting. The jumpsuit was a full outfit. Taking it off meant he had to strip down to his underwear, and the small flame near him was ineffective at warding off the cold.
He put his hands up to face, unable to see them well enough in the dim lighting. They were trembling, a dark liquid dripping down onto his left thigh. His chest tightened, and he could barely control his breathing. He was starting to hyperventilate, and it was taking all the mental power he had to regulate his breathing and try to calm himself down.
He directed his attention back at his right thigh, where his hands had been moments earlier. He looked at the small hole that had not been there before, and leaked the same dark liquid that covered his hands.
Demi stared at the bullet wound in amazement, his mind lost in space as it attempted to recollect the events of the rally.
'The crowd… It was so loud in there, so much going on. All that adrenaline… Still, how could I not feel it? Look at it… I should have dropped to the floor the moment it hit me, but I kept running, unaware of it. How could I not have felt it?'
He bandaged the wound on his thigh, removing the piece of cloth he had tied tightly above the wound to minimize blood loss and the possibility of discovery. He sighed and threw his head back, closing his eyes for a moment. Thoughts raced through his head, and he felt angry that he had not felt the bullet wound him. The only thing that brought him a slight amount of comfort was the thought that no one had discovered that he was injured.
'Could it be…?' he thought, opening his eyes and reaching for his jumpsuit. He pulled it out of the darkness and into the dim lighting of the candle, causing a small vial full of red liquid to roll towards him.
'You!' He picked up the vial and inspected it closely. It was a vial that he had obtained on his way to the weapon smith, a vial that contained a mixture similar to the one he drank while on the cargo ship.
'Was it you? Did you numb the pain?' He wondered how long the effects of the pain-killing medicine lasted, and thought back to the last time he drank some.
'I think it was before I went to sleep last night… Could it be?' He decided to test out a hypothesis. He clenched his hand into a fist and, with as much strength as he could muster, brought it down upon the wound.
Nothing. Nothing at all. He didn’t feel a thing. His eyes fell back on the vial.
'About twenty-four hours. That's how long it lasts. There's only enough in this vial for three more days. After that, it'll wear off. Three days. That's how long I have until the pain reaches me… Just three days.'
He looked down at the injury, seeing the bandages slowly soak up blood.
'I need to fix this. I need to figure out how to fix this.'