Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

November 9, 2009 -- 11:41 p.m.

I've been busy playing catch-up on some blogs I've fallen behind on lately. Here's some old entries that I feel are of note. I think most of these are links from Nathan Bransford's round-up, so give him the credit.

The Rejectionist blog held a contest for writing the funniest form rejection. The winners are here. Let the musical zombies of awesome be heard.

A comprehensive study of the price wars by Nathan Bransford, who explains why some people feel cheap books are be a bad thing, especially for new authors and independent booksellers. Well, we'll see how it all plays out. There have been book sales before without the world ending.

Publisher's Weekly decides that they don't need to wait for December to announce the best books of 2009.

Author Natalie Whipple offers tips for finishing that horrifying first draft.

Likewise, Janet Reid offers advice for the equally terrifying query letter.

And screenwriter Johny August offers seven things he learned from playing World of Warcraft.


TITLE: The Wall Fell
TYPE: Setting

Twenty years ago, the Berlin Wall fell.

There is power in stories about separation. Because though people fear death and pain, they also fear being seperated from their loved ones and their families. I've always been amazed when I watch shows like Survivor how intense the reunions with the contestants are with their families. I mean, they've only been separated a month, and yet they sob like children lost in a mall. Part of that, I suspect, is the reality television head space, but there's more to it, I think. I've always been a person of solitude, so I doubt I'd react that way. I am more comfortable on my own than with other people. But who knows?

Think about cultures. Alien cultures in sci-fi and fantasy literature usually have great distinctions, because they are "planets of hats," with just enough definition to make them alien and strange, or very familiar. A planet full of Nazis or communists or warriors. To some extent, this is just because of the limitations of form--hard to paint every culture in broad strokes with only a few pages of description. After all--it's not as if we need to know that the fierce blue-painted warriors are also advanced connoisseurs of escargot. That gets sidelined by the plot, for good reason.

But the strange thing is, often there's no such thing as "culture creep." Planets are divided by space and nations in the fantasy world are divided by distance and travel methods, so there may be some explanation, but usually there are similarities between different peoples, even those who hate each other. Loan words in the enemy's language, similarities in government, etc.

I want you to think about whatever speculative cultures you're working on. What stops culture creep? What stops cross-pollination and acts as a wall between your peoples? Is it a desire for purity? Governmental restrictions? Are there cracks in those walls, people while relish the culture of their enemies at the risk of being labeled traitor? Nobles, especially conquering ones, often have a separate culture than their subjects. What are the walls that keep them apart? I read once a book where the theory was that people are defined not by who they are but by who they are not. I am not a popular girl. I am not athletically gifted. I am not one of those contemptible fools that surrounds me. Their sense of what they are not is stronger than their sense of what they are.

Is there any way you can play on the separation anxiety of your hero? Most stories involve journeys, both physical and internal. What walls stand between your hero and his people? What makes him an outcast? Can he break through those walls?

If you don't quite understand what I'm getting at--I certainly don't, I tend to ramble when I get philosophical--do this instead. Create a culture separated by a wall. Who built it? Why? Do the two peoples want to reunite or stay apart? Why? What will be the consequences if the wall comes down. Despite the jubilation when the Berlin Wall fell, I bet it also caused thousands of personal conflicts as people reunited and found their expectations shattered. Who does the wall falling hurt? Who does it help?

Get writing.


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