7 Deadly Perils of… Underplanning

Time to kick off another brand new series!

‘7 Deadly Perils’ is going to be a series of short, snappy posts about different aspects of writing and the seven possible pitfalls/disasters that you may encounter. The aim is to try to give you some useful advice in an easily digestible format. When working through my novel-in-progress I tend to come across various problems/ideas/thoughts all at the same time, depending on what I’m currently focusing on. The want to be able to share all that stuff with you while it’s still fresh in my mind is what led to this series’ creation.

So, I hope you find what is about to follow useful. Once I have a couple of these ‘episodes’ out there, I may even compile them together under their own category.

7 Deadly Perils of… Underplanning

  1. You will lose your way.
    Sensible Side of Your Brain: Buddy, I think we should turn back. We probably took a wrong turn somewhere back there.
    Stupid Side of Your Brain: No! If we keep going straight through this field, we’ll get there quicker!
  2. The purpose of your story will not be clear.
    Gandalf: You must carry this burden, Frodo Baggins. You must destroy the ring.
    Frodo: Uhh, why?
    Gandalf: Honestly? I have no idea. Probably just so it’s not left lying around.
  3. You will make things up. These things will not make sense.
    And then he was falling; falling to his death. But then a dragon swooped in and caught him on its back. ‘Phew!’ the walrus said. ‘That was a close one!’
  4. Your plot will lack cohesion and depth.
    I don’t have a piece of comedy gold for this one. Just say the words ‘cohesion’ and ‘depth’ over and over while gently caressing your half-finished manuscript.
  5. Your characters will be Pinocchios.
    Character: I’m a real boy!
    Reader: No you’re not, get back in your cardboard box… the same cardboard from which you are made!
    Character: Nooooooo! *sob sob*
  6. Your story will have no believable conflict. Your characters will experience no inner conflict.
  7. You will give up.
    Author: Well, this story about a magical wizard school and the boy who goes there isn’t going anywhere. Time to consign it to the bin. I’m gonna write a story about casual vacancies… whatever they are!

Next Time: 7 Deadly Perils of… Overplanning!

From The (Fantasy) Web Today

Here are a few articles that grabbed my attention today. I was especially interested to see a few here on planning and outlining a fantasy story, which is something I’m working hard on at the moment. Hope you enjoy!

 

Building a Wiki For Your Novel

Recently, I’ve been working on a new method of fleshing out the finer details of my novel-in-progress. I like to call it a Wiki, even though it’s not necessarily hosted online anywhere. I spent a couple of hours looking at various wikis for such worlds as Westeros, Midkemia, Warhammer 40K Universe and Middle-earth. I looked at character pages, location pages and other miscellaneous pages for objects, historical events etc. Now, I love looking through wikis, Wikipedia being my favourite, and I love the way that the information is presented. It’s easy to read, quick to find important information and fun to explore.

Here’s a nice example from A Wiki of Ice and Fire:

Jon Snow

Jon Snow is the bastard son of Eddard Stark, by a mother whose identity is a source of speculation. He was raised by his father alongside his true-born half-siblings, but joins the Night’s Watch when he nears adulthood. He is constantly accompanied by his albino direwolf Ghost. At the beginning of A Game of Thrones, Jon is fourteen years old.

Character and Appearance

Jon was raised by father Eddard Stark, alongside his true-born half-siblings. Eddard always treated Jon the same as his trueborns and Jon got on well with his half-siblings, particularly with Robb and Arya. Jon always had issues with his bastardy and eventually chose to join the Night’s Watch, where the circumstances of his birth were of little importance.

Jon has strong Stark features. He has a lean build and a long face, with dark hair and grey eyes.

History

Ned brought Jon back after he returned from Robert’s Rebellion and insisted on raising him with the rest of his family. Jon got along with most of the Stark family, but Catelyn always considered him an outsider and his presence served as a constant reminder of her husband’s infidelity.

Yada yada yada…

As you can see, there are nicely defined sections, the information is concise but descriptive and in just a few paragraphs we already have pretty much a decent character profile. Depending on which character I am dealing with, I like to have an additional section on Equipment & Attire, too. As I write the wiki page, my character is growing and forming in my mind and I can gradually add more details about them as I go along. As I develop my story’s plot, I go back to the wiki and add the individual characters’ progression through the plot. Check out the example below:

Recent Events

A Game of Thrones

When the family encounters the direwolf pups after Gared is executed for deserting the Night’s Watch, Jon takes the albino pup, as it is an outcast from its litter. Jon’s position both inside and outside the family subtly chafe him over the years until, when he nears adulthood, he joins the Night’s Watch.

Tyrion Lannister accompanies Jon to the Wall, and their friendship is fostered by their shared position as noble outsiders. Jon is initially resented by the other Watch recruits because of his noble background, but he eventually learns to fit into the crowd. His actions towards his fellow recruits exacerbate the lasting enmity from the caustic master-at-arms, Alliser Thorne. Jon also protects Samwell Tarly from bullying by some other recruits.

Lord Commander Jeor Mormont appoints Jon as his personal steward and squire in order to groom him for command. During a wight attack on Castle Black, Jon saves Mormont’s life and receives serious burns on his hand. Mormont gives him the Valyrian steel bastard sword, Longclaw, of House Mormont, and has a direwolf head engraved onto the pommel in honor of House Stark.

Although Jon has learned to fit in with the Watch, he has difficulty separating from his old life. At the outbreak of the War of the Five Kings, he tries to desert to join Robb’s army, even though the common penalty for deserting the Night’s Watch is death. His new friends bring him back, however, and save him from this fate. Jon finally decides to honor his bonds and abandon his Stark past.

I go through a similar process for non-character pages. Let’s take an example from the LOTR Wiki on the Rangers of the North:

Rangers of the North

The Rangers of the North, also known as Watchers or simply Rangers, were the last remnant of the Dúnedain who had once populated the Northern-kingdom of Arnor.

The Rangers usually wore grey or dark green cloaks with no identifying ornaments except a six-pointed cloak-clasp in the shape of a star. Another identifying feature was that all of them wore a green longcoat. Equipped primarily with swords and bows, they were quick, versatile, and experienced riders.

History

Characteristically elusive and enigmatic, the Rangers spent most of their lives in the wild, visiting towns and villages only on rare occasions. The Rangers were led by Chieftains. These Chieftains could trace their lines back to Isildur himself and his father Elendil. Though the Chieftains were designated figures of authority for the Rangers, the scattered people had no official headquarters or capitol after the disintegration of Arnor and possibly lived in temporary camps scattered about the wilderness…

Etc. etc. etc…

The pages for events, organizations, weapons or ideas are much shorter than that of a character’s, usually. They contain less sections and sub-sections because characters are usually much more complex than objects, places and concepts. Usually.

Once I’ve completed the individual wiki pages I like to combine them all into one file and keep it on my hard drive with my other project files. If I ever need to look something up or add a detail to my world, I just open the wiki and do what I need to do.

At some point over the next month I’m going to put together my own method of making really nice antique fantasy maps in GIMP, a free Photoshop clone. I guarantee you won’t want to miss it!

~ James

Plotting the Fantasy Novel #1

Hi all, as I will continuously be posting on the subject of plotting a novel, I have marked this post as the first in a possible series.

I wasn’t planning to post anything today, but I was getting stuck into some work on my novel’s plot and I thought I would share an article that I was reading today on the subject. It can be found right here.

I found this very useful and hopefully you will get something out of it too!