[Guest Post] Spirituality and Magic in Sci-Fi and Fantasy

Gods and magic in SFF. Come on and check out this cool guest post I composed. Cheers. 🙂

Richie Billing

I’m delighted to introduce Ed White, writer of creative and visionary fiction, who’s contributing to the blog this week with an insightful post on a significant subject in SFF: spirituality and religion. Enjoy!


The Gods and Goddesses of myth, legend and fairy tale represent archetypes, real potencies and potentialities deep within the psyche, which, when allowed to flower permit us to be more fully human.

Margot Adler

In the realm of sci-fi/fantasy, gods are a curious breed. They represent something abstract—an idea or avatar beyond the reaches of mortal minds. This disconnect from the divine serves as a source of intrigue for the reader, and a subtle impetus for protagonists as they strive towards what no mortal has ever achieved.

Religion also plays a significant role in real-life. Gods and goddesses exist in every culture and region of the world, and there are hundreds of them. The power of…

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What is a Mary Sue?

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“There’s nothing more boring than a perfect heroine!”

—Drosselmeyer, Princess Tutu

 

You’ve likely heard of this term before–I’m sure it’s been written about to death, but here’s my take. A Mary Sue is a female fictional character given a plethora of boons without many (or any) flaws. They come off as flat characters without much potential for growth. A Mary Sue (or Gary Stu for the male counterpart) are often author pets, and the plot or other actors may bend around the needs and wants of a Sue. A figure of this caliber is often unrealistic, as most humans are flawed, and this makes relating to a Sue or Stu difficult.  It is vital in fiction to create a character relatable to your audience. This draws readers in and generates sympathy and a sense of kinship with a fictional hero. Here is an excellent article on Mary Sue traits.

You can garner interest within a character by giving a flaw or two. It could be a personality shortcoming like a short temper or a technical inability to perform an action. Whatever it is, have your characters struggle with it throughout the plot. Give depth to your characters’ flaws and weave it into their evolution. Don’t overburden your characters with defects. Otherwise, they may come off as incompetent actors who can’t move the plot at all.

Here’s a website for testing a character for Mary Sue traits. There are many other types of tests available, but here’s the first I found on a Google search.

While it’s okay if your character has some of these Sue qualities, try to keep the amount moderate. Some authors believe that Mary Sues can have a role in a story. While this can be true for side characters, your main actors should be the most interesting ones; if a Mary Sue serves a purpose for the protagonists or the plot, then it should be fine as long as it’s done correctly.

Here are some ways to add depth to a character:

  1. Play against traditional norms. Give your protagonist a unique quality that sets them apart, but doesn’t raise them up on a pedestal.
  2. Seed secrets within secrets. Utilize thoughts or dreams to evoke intimacy within a reader.
  3. Even if your characters are incompetent, give them agency. Have them act upon the plot and move mountains, figuratively or literally.
  4. Switch narratives. Have multiples main characters each with their own perspective. This adds depth to the plot and its actors. It may even sharpen one of your conflicts.
  5. Have protagonists relate to other characters and build trust gradually. This goes with the above tip, but trust does not happen quickly, sometimes not at all. If you find your protagonist garners a lot of respect and admiration from other actors for little to no reason, you may want to reconsider.

All in all, a Mary Sue can seem subjective to some, but there are hard guidelines to follow that help an author avoid this character pitfall. Be sure to get the opinion of multiple types of readers with different perspectives to ensure your character is as it should be.

Thank you for reading. Love and gratitude to my readers! 🙂

 

Character attributes

DARK SOULS™ III_20160322194541

This post may prove nerdier than others, but I feel it is essential to the character creation process.

Character Attributes

As in video games, specifically RPGs or tabletops like D&D, a character in a story has a given set of attributes. These parameters define what the actor is good at, what he or she may fail at, and perhaps unique modifiers that make the protagonist unique from others. This system is an excellent method to help a character jump from the page by giving them atypical handicaps that other individuals in a setting take for granted.

Anyway, back to RPGs. First, define what kind of a character, or class, the actor is. Take your stereotypical warrior: they (usually) have high physical prowess and resilience to trauma. Warriors may not specialize in other fields of ability like magic or stealth, but they have their toolbox of skills to make up for it. Characters like this fit a niche in a company of heroes, whereas others party members address their shortcomings. Having one protagonist do all the work often comes off as lazy and boring. Give your character(s) a challenge that pushes them to their limits.

Leveling Up

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As a character progresses through a story, they level up or gain additional attributes. With games, the hero adds new parameters to their character sheet. In a novel, leveling up is more subtle. The author may demonstrate this as a character acquiring a new artifact/weapon for study, graduating military school, or finishing a spellbook. Regardless of what it is, the development of new experience alters the character’s worldview and the way they handle problems. A rookie fighter may view a few brigands with horror, while a veteran would lean towards courage and confidence. This system of progression enhances characters and leaves a player or reader with a greater sense of appreciation by the end of the story. Typically, characters begin with little to no experience and graduate to seasoned fighters by the end of the plot.

There are exceptions, but player/readers always love to see a no-body rise to greatness. The farmer hero trope is heavily used in fantasy settings, but it still works well. My main OC of Ethereal Seals starts out as a farm girl who trains into a knight by the end of the story, yet she fails at some tasks that others take for granted. There are endless variations to this trope, and putting your own spin on it will only help it stand out.

 

Thanks for reading. Much love and gratitude to my readers! 🙂

 

 

Some thoughts on Spring creativity

cool_hd_spring_wallpapers

We are in mid to late Spring now, but I thought I’d share a couple thoughts I had about what this season is about.

This time of year brings new flowers and with it new ideas and modalities to life. While some see New Years as a starting point, Spring is also an excellent period to begin fresh or check on how the year has progressed. The days are longer and the weather nicer; this makes for ideal productivity and outdoor activities.

“Springtime is the land awakening. The March winds are the morning yawn.”

– a quote by Lewis Grizzard
That said, I’ve developed a few pointers that have helped with my reading/writing life, even while outdoors enjoying the sun:

  1. Take a small notepad and pencil with you, not a smartphone as that will distract you. When ideas arise (which they will) jot them down on paper for later consideration.
  2. If your book/script is your own, don’t feel afraid to make notations or underlines where you deem appropriate. This too can be a medium to incorporate ideas. Reading while outside is an ideal way to enjoy a book, especially when it engrosses you in a quiet and relaxing environment.
  3. Engross yourself in nature’s splendor. Allow the river to whisper its secrets in your ear.  Ground your fears in the bare rock of the Earth. Hear the beautiful inspiration on the wind. Absorb the sun’s intelligent rays. Be mindful of the present beauty around you and the future will magnify your productivity. A scientific study suggested that four days out in nature without electronics improved overall creativity by 50%.
  4. Practice light to moderate exercise (like a brisk walk) through a park or trail. This practice boosts creativity. Other types of exercise such as yoga also show promising results.

Thanks for reading and I wish you all a happy remainder of Spring. Much love and gratitude to my readers. ❤

 

 

 

How long should a book be?

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You’ve probably read other articles like this before, but here’s my take on it.

Although there is no fixed word amount, there are generally recognized guidelines depending on their genre and audience. Younger audiences have smaller attention spans and therefore cater to short, fast-paced books; adults are more tolerable with long manuscripts. Science fiction and fantasy works tend toward a high word count since the writer develops a fictional world. Historical fiction, Young Adult, Westerners, and Mysteries tend towards a lower end of the spectrum–of course, there are always exceptions.

Keep in mind these are generalized word count brackets.

General Book Types:

  • Flash Fiction: 300 to 1,500 words
  • Short Story: 1,500 to 30,000
  • Novellas: 30,000 to 50,000
  • Novels: 50,000 to 100,000

Fiction Genres:

  • Romance: 40,000 to 100,000 words
  • Mystery/Thriller/Horror: 70,000 to 90,000
  • Horror: 80,000 to 100,000
  • Historical: 90,000 to 100,000
  • Sci-fi/Fanasty: 90,000 to 130,000

Age Groups:

  • Poetry: 5 to 3k
  • Picture Book: 400 to 800
  • Play: 1k to 32k
  • Middle Grade: 25k to 40k
  • Young Adult: 50k to 80k

Ultimately, these listings are a guide, not necessarily a strict rulebook. You can have your long epic fantasy and do well with it. However, for new writers, it is best to start small and work your way up.  Once one’s legacy is built, agents and publishers can reference this track record. This increases the chance it gets published regardless of word count or even prose finesse (if you have enough avid fans who will buy the book, publishers will overlook certain shortcomings, since they know the books will rake in profits regardless).

Another thing to remember is: quantity alone does not a good book make.  You have to earn your manuscript, one word at a time. If a document is 150,000 words long but fills its pages with redundant vocabulary, it won’t read well. Adverbs and excessive prose often slog writing; an attempt by the writer to look professional. As a general rule of thumb, the shorter the word/phrase is, the better. The simpler a manuscript is, the more people can read it, and the more can enjoy it.

Each word in a manuscript should contribute to the book in at least one of the following ways:

  1. Character progression
  2. Plot development
  3. Environmental immersion

There are exceptions, but if you find a word that doesn’t fit one of these criteria, it can usually be removed. You don’t want to be overly descriptive either. Half of the fun comes from the reader’s imagination; give half and let the reader form the rest. This stimulates the reader’s mind, bringing with it a sense of fulfillment. Remember, a book is as much of a journey for the writer as it is for the reader.

Thank you for reading. 🙂

 

 

 

Pantsing versus Plotting

Welcome back, my loyal readers! 🙂

Among writers, there exist two methods of drafting written pieces. One is more exploratory, while the other commands higher amounts of precision. These two routes are known as discovery/pantsing and plotting. Some writers begin a manuscript as a discovery piece, only to polish it with plotting later on. That said, both sides have pros and cons. Pantsing artists are like creative magicians, whereas plotters are organized mechanics. Regardless of which method chosen, either technique leads to a successful piece with proper dedication.

 

magician

Pantsing, the magician

Also known as discovery writing, pantsing authors enjoy greater freedom and flexibility. This technique is ad lib by nature, requiring little to no planning of a given piece beforehand. Pantsing is arguably fun and draws from an author’s imagination. Producing initial drafts with the pantsing method is quick and smooth at the cost of refinement and coherence. If you find yourself a discovery writer, flow with it and don’t worry too much about the precision of your prose in the initial incarnations.

nitori

Plotting, the mechanic

Plotting authors take time to outline their story and characters before they long-write it. While this is time-consuming at first, it sets the organized guideposts needed to direct the novelist along the journey. Coherence elevates, and generally stronger plot and characters result. If you’re an outliner, pay attention to the brainstorming phase.  The more plotting you do initially, the more comfortable the process will be later on.

 

plantgirl

Plantsing, the middle way

Regarded as a hybrid of the two, plantsing combines elements of both free creativity and loose planning to execute a written work. While it doesn’t have the wild of discovery or clearcut order of the other two methods, it mitigates the drawbacks with a semblance of balance.

 

Which method is best for me?

I honestly can’t answer that for you, since any of these techniques can work well. I find that mixing and matching plotting and pantsing works well. Regardless of what you chose, adhere to it and research how other writers implement the specific strategies for each. Plotting is more mechanical and left-brain; pantsing is more for right-brained and creative work. In the end, we’re all children to the art of writing, since there are so many ways to implement this historic art.

 

Thanks for reading!

 


 

What kind of writing do you prefer? Have you any suggestions for this article or ways I can improve my blogging? See a typo or an idea you wish to discuss? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks.

Sources

http://www.katekrake.com/forwriters/why-the-pantsing-vs-plotting-writing-process-debate-is-irrelevant/

https://allthekissing.com/2018/04/plotting-vs-pantsing-vs-plantsing/

https://shortspark.com/plotting-vs-pantsing/

Images

news.toyark.com Dark Magician from Yugioh

legion34.com Nitori Kawashiro from Touhou

pinterest.com Miscellaneous plant monster-girl

 

 

Meditation and the Writer

Writing is a complicated affair that takes many hours of study and execution to develop. Some describe writing as a tedious affair, a sweet-torture if you will, while others engross themselves in it. At times, the process stagnates, and authors turn to tips online or in books for solutions. Some novelists go for walks or trips to the store, still thinking about their next best story or article. While this does work to a point, it doesn’t complete the equation. These are external references that assist in the writing process, but there is also the internal. This step into the interior side of the coin is often less-traveled by writers, but it’s ever as important.

The external side of writing focuses on drawing from the right or artistic brain. Reading is a great way to feed information into your psyche. Still, these are both external or conscious activities. Even creative ideas are logically procured from the brain onto paper or a screen; these activities take energy, and they draw from the subconscious mind.

The subconscious or subliminal mind is where all memories and the information from the external gathers. To correctly balance out the interior and exterior minds, rest is needed; not necessarily sleep, but an interval of peaceful non-thinking. Most refer to this practice as meditation.

When a writer enters this realm, the clouds clear and the creative subconscious regenerates. It purifies old stagnant thoughts and transmutes them into lucid variants, sometimes genius in scale. The more one meditates, the stronger their Will, and the less they are distracted by social media alerts and so forth. Meditation increases the gray matter of your brain.

Tips:

Here are some tips and methods to begin this practice, if you feel so inclined:

  1. Relax – Let go of whatever your ego wants you to think. Drink deep the chalice of stillness and mindfulness. Fight against the urge to think about anything, even your story. Regulate your breathing or chant mantras to redirect your concentration. There are dozens of ways to implement meditation.
  2. Time – Between writing, reading, family obligations, and a day job, it’s especially challenging to find the time to meditate. Our busy society discourages this–yet, without time to rejuvenate the subconscious, burnout is inevitable. Block out part of your day dedicated to meditating, even if it’s only 5 minutes a day. Your subliminal brain will thank you. Some people meditate better at night when the rest of the world sleeps, others in the morning. Find an ideal time that works for you.
  3. Space – Establish a quiet area where you won’t be disturbed. Be sure it’s comfortable and dark. If you need to, ask your living mates to not enter for a designated interval. Defend this personal space from any miscellaneous disruptions, if possible.
  4. Dedication – Meditation, like writing, doesn’t come quickly. With your routine established, stick to it. Some days may feel unproductive, while others will. Work your way up to 20 or even 60 minutes a day if possible.
  5. Tools – Implements like music, essential oil fragrance, or colors can enhance meditation. Everyone is different; experiment, and find what works best.
  6. Write After Meditation – The brain enters a different state after prolonged relaxation. During this period, creativity and productivity may be at its highest. Take advantage of this episode to work on your piece or jot down notes. Many legendary writers such as Shakespeare utilized this to produce their masterpieces.

In ancient India texts, the act of writing corresponds to the fifth chakra Visudda, also known as the throat chakra. Your throat has a compact bundle of nerves at the neck. These contribute to the acceptance and expression of originality of voice. The main obstacle of the fifth chakra–which most writers struggle which–is doubt and negativity. Through meditation, confidence is restored, and the nerves purify.

The fifth chakra works with the second one at the navel, called Svadhisthana, or the sacral chakra.  This energy center controls pleasure and creativity. When the body isn’t producing sexual energy for biological reproduction, the life force goes towards the abstract, or creative ideas. Blockages in this chakra result in creative stagnation or exhaustion. Through appreciation of one’s body, mainly through healthy eating and meditation, the nerve endings restore back to their creative-inspiring state.

This is but a fragment of the information out there. Feel free to investigate the source links below. Writing bears an imprint of our soul, one that we transmute from the abstract (spirit) to the concrete (words). The physical and astral unavoidably connect, and neglecting one over the other cannot work for success. Take Shakespeare’s word for it:

“He doth entreat your grace, my noble lord,
To visit him to-morrow or next day:
He is within, with two right reverend fathers,
Divinely bent to meditation,
And in no worldly suits would he be moved
To draw him from his holy exercise.”

William Shakespeare
The Tragedy of King Richard the Third

Lastly, I recommend this book: Autobiography of a Yogi, the story of an Indian master and a writer full of unconditional love for the world.


Sources:

https://www.2knowmyself.com/subconscious_mind/conscious_mind_vs_subconscious_mind

 

https://www.copyblogger.com/writing-meditation/

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3184843/

 

https://thewritelife.com/writers-meditation/

 

http://www.chakra-anatomy.com/sacral-chakra.html

 

http://www.chakra-anatomy.com/throat-chakra.html

 

https://chopra.com/articles/5-ways-to-improve-creativity-through-meditation

 

http://www.swamij.com/quotes/william-shakespeare.htm

 

http://yogamasti.com/us/the-science-of-the-chakras/

 

6 food nutrients essential to writers

A reader gave me the idea to write this article, as it is often missed by other writers and bloggers. I’ve mentioned tidbits in my past posts, but I’ll now attempt to clarify. Writing takes a fair measure of creativity and ingenuity to execute well. With experience and knowledge, great works can flow from a writer’s fingertips. However, there’s another facet to the equation: one’s health.

When we think of creativity and the ability to write, the brain first comes to mind–pun intended. The brain is a hungry organ, consuming a significant portion of nutrients hosted by the body. If inadequate supplies reach the cranium, our thinking slows, and we may lose motivation or confidence (just to name a few symptoms).

Here’s a list of nutrients that ensure our mind works at its best:

  1. Protein – The body breaks down this macronutrient into amino acids, which serve in hundreds of chemical reactions related to the brain, specifically neurotransmitters. These transmitters help parts of the brain communicate. They control your ability to focus, remember, and stay motivated. Animals products that are raised humanely and organically are good sources of protein. If you’re a vegan, leafy greens like kale and spinach combine well with almonds, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds.
  2. Fat – Oh no! I said the f-bomb–well not the swear word, but the three letter one. Please humor me for a moment. Over half the brain builds from fat globules. People who consume low-fat diets are at risk for depression, suicide, and poor creative function. We’ve been taught to view fats–particularly saturated fats–with anathema. While not all fats are created equal, the best come from organic family farms. Plant oils such as sunflower or peanut spoil easily and should be stored in dark glass containers. Good sources of fats are avocados, olive oil, hemp oil, whole raw milk (if you can stomach it), ghee, coconut oil, fish, nuts, and seeds.
  3. B vitamins – Coined the ‘happy vitamins’ since they improve your mood. You’re body/brain needs a broad spectrum of these micronutrients to function. The biggest one is B12. A dearth of B12 induces brain fog, memory issues, and depression, among other things. Source proper B12 supplements in the form of methylcobalamin, not cyanocobalamin, as the first absorbs better (since your body converts cyano into methyl anyway).
  4. Vitamin D – It’s difficult to absorb enough of this vitamin from the sun. Without D, the brain cannot develop itself properly. Choose D3 over D2, as again, with B12, D3 is closer to the organic substance our bodies utilize from the sun. Vitamin D absorbs best when taken with fat (avocados are an excellent choice).
  5. Magnesium – Even with vitamin D, sufficient fats, proteins, and B vitamins, your body requires magnesium to finish the chemical cycle. Magnesium plays a part in over 300 reactions in the body. Sufficient supply leads to increased focus, relaxation, and higher energy. Good sources of this nutrient are leafy greens, nuts, seeds, avocados, raw cacao, and meat. I personally use a magnesium chloride spray and absorb it through my skin, as the intestines poorly incorporate magnesium.
  6. Water – The brain holds a lot of water, and it takes only a slight decrease to cause memory and attention issues. Over three-fourths of the US is chronically dehydrated. Aim for half your body weight in ounces to drink daily. Like fats, not all water is equal–be sure to get a filter for your faucet and shower. Tap water clumps together, reducing its bioavailability to the body. Using magnets can help detangle the hydrogen-oxygen molecules. See the links below for more information.

This article isn’t exhaustive, as I expect there are many more to add to the list. I hope this article gave some insight into how vital self-care is for a writer (or anyone really). Feel free to research the topic further using the links below. I’d love to hear any additions you can make. Thank you for reading and good luck. 🙂


Sources:

https://bebrainfit.com/brain-nutrients/

https://healthyfocus.org/methylcobalamin-vs-cyanocobalamin/

http://www.dana.org/Cerebrum/Default.aspx?id=39412

https://jonbarron.org/article/magnetizing-water

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What/when/how do we read?

Reading on a routine basis is essential for one’s writing skill. That said, what’s the best media to consume and how? Here are a few points to consider:

  1. Genre – Some proponents say to stick to your style. For example, if you compose fictional horror, you should read only those types of novels. Others say that perusing anything will help with the writing process.
  2. Media type – There are media sources to consider. Most often these include novels, movies, video games, manga, comics, and so forth. Some people find that specific media work better for them, while another may claim that novels are best.
  3. Time and place – You should identify the ideal time for your reading. Different people absorb specific material at choice times better than others. The environment may have an impact on the reading session.
  4. How much – Another subjective parameter that varies between people. Regardless of how much you read, maintain a steady schedule that’s in balance with your other duties. Keep track of your progress and set goals.
  5. Time management – Make a list of reading and writing goals for the day. Fulfill them in an appropriate order to the best of your ability. If you can’t get to everything, pick up where you left off the next day. Keep your schedule steady and ongoing (but break when you need to). You can devise your own method like this and find what works best for you.

It’s entirely up to you how you enrich yourself. Experiment with different types and see what works best. You don’t have to be a conformist who reads only books; try blog articles (like this one) or skim over something you’ve never considered before. Keep a journal and record your progress. The results may surprise you. Cheers.


How do you read and when? What types of media do you consume and how much? I’d love to hear in the comments below. Thanks for reading. 🙂

 

Creativity and the Spark

I have a confession: I’m a drug addict. No, I’m not addicted to drugs or alcohol or Netflix. I’m addicted to creativity and productivity, particularly writing and reading. I’ve been seduced by the high this grants. It makes you feel beautiful inside and out as if all’s right with the world. Having taken other substances, I can safely say it’s the most organic type of high.

Months ago, I worked at Walmart, and one of the gimmicks of orientation was writing down your spark, or motivation to continue one’s work. Whatever it might be, employees frequently referred to their spark to goad their performance higher every month.

That said, I haven’t been a writer and blogger long, but I’ve encountered writers who see their craft from varying perspectives and sparks. There are some who view writing as a chore–something they have to do for either financial or professional obligations. Others see it as enjoyment, a means to vent imagination. Then there are those who do it from an altruistic standpoint. This spark varies between every writer, but it is the fuel that keeps the artist engrossed in their craft.

I mostly write to fulfill myself–to release the creative demons that lurk within my heart. Every day they beg release. There is a warm satisfaction to finishing an article or writing/editing an original chapter of a novel. I cherish my characters and readers, sometimes considering them old friends. Human imagination is a beautiful gift. Sometimes you forget basic necessities like eating or sleeping.  To quote a famous inventor:

“I do not think there is any thrill that can go through the human heart like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success . . . Such emotions make a man forget food, sleep, friends, love, everything.”

― Nikola Tesla

What is your spark? Are you also seduced by the rewards that creativity brings? Leave it in the comment below if you feel inclined. Thanks for reading everyone!