Hello everyone! I have returned once again and, hopefully, I’ll be back to a weekly status with my blog posts. A major change has occurred in my life last month which is why I have been absent for the last couple weeks. I’m not ready to talk about it right now but I hope you will bear with me over the next couple of months of so. With that in mind, here’s this week’s article!
Most of the authors I know are considered introverts, one who prefers the company of others through the internet as opposed to Face time with people in person. In addition, they also prefer the company of fictional characters whether it’s reading books or writing their own stories. From this, the concept of the god complex is born; we see ourselves in control of a little world born of our own imaginations as it it put into words on the page.
What a Wonderful World
One of the first things a writer does is Worldbuilding for his story. Everything from towns and stores to mountains, rivers and the sky itself. All of these items, that we usually take for granted in the real world, must be considered even before our MC (Main Character) sets foot on the page. A map is very useful in designing both town and the countryside.
For a town, you want to know if your MC has to pass ‘Old Man’ Bradford’s farm to get to the local tavern. And, if so, he is there to give your MC a hard time about their contribution to the community. This could end up as a “running gag” so that each time your character heads to the tavern, he’ll most likely encounter the farmer. If he doesn’t, you might want to explain why not, for your reader will assume the MC passes by there every time. Of course, if they don’t, you’ll need to explain that they skirted the farm by going the long way around just to avoid the confrontation. If you don’t make a map, you may have end up having your MC pass several businesses located in the exact same spot as the farm was when the story began.
For the countryside itself, you want to know where the neighboring towns reside. Last thing you want to do is write that your MC is headed North to reach the town of Burford when you previously mentioned that is was South of his hometown. And were those mountains in chapter 7 spoken about in chapter 2 or did they simply spring up overnight?
For my trilogy of The Askinar Towers, I never intended to fill up all four towers with every world and realm that could be imagined. With approximately 100 floors apiece; some floors having a seemingly endless number of doorways, this would take way too much time to do before even writing book 1. Given my desire to cut corners sometimes, I would have most likely cheapen a bunch of realm descriptions just to finish.
Instead, I created the realms my MCs would visit, and made a note of what floor it was located. Although every floor wasn’t “fully furnished” with worlds and rooms, there was enough for the books so that readers got the idea that a lot of worlds were possible. Having written flash fiction found at my Tumblr page and the blog entries for the Floor 17 Cafe, I have added additional realms and worlds not referred to in my trilogy. Each of them are referenced in my listing of floors for the four towers.
Old Man Bradford and other NPCs
Being a former Dungeons and Dragons gamer, I sometimes find myself referring to characters as PCs and NPCs. PC (Player Characters) are the characters controlled by the players and usually are the MCs in a novel. NPC (Non-player Characters) are those controlled by the DM (Dungeon Master) and include everyone from the local barkeep to the main villain of the story.
Your NPCs help bring your story to life especially when you MCs come into town. As we noted above, ‘Old Man’ Bradford is a farmer who apparently doesn’t like the MC, plus his farmhouse is en route to the local tavern. A back story for him and other NPCs will help you flesh out who they are, where they come from, and what makes them tick. The background information may never see the light of day in your story, but it’s information that will prove valuable to you, the writer.
Not every NPC has to have a name but their presence is necessary to show that the town operates all the time and not just when your MC is in the area or goes through the town. Even on the road, you MCs will encounter people going back and forth from one town to another, or a simple farmer in his field as your characters pass by on the way to the next town. This gives your world much needed life and shows the reader that people don’t just appear when your MCs do.
For the small village of Greenblade Valley, featured in book 1, I once tried to account for every NPCs presence and where they would be on a certain day at a certain time. This became too much of a headache and was generally unnecessary. If you give a sense of NPCs inhabiting the houses and business of the local town, it will show that there is life. Referring to something simple as smoke coming from a chimney of a house or the sound of a hammer on an anvil at the blacksmith’s shows that people live there all the time.
Character Motives or “Why won’t they listen to me?”
Looking closer at the god complex, most writers consider themselves to be both omnipresent and omniscient in their stories, and yet things don’t always go as planned. There are times when characters strike out on their own, doing and saying things that the writer had not intended to do or say. Just because you have an outline for your story; getting your MC from point A to point B, doesn’t mean that they will stay the course and follow your plan. Perhaps they want to visit points C, D, and J before they arrive at B.
Going back to our example of Old Man Bradford, perhaps your character has had enough of his scathing remarks, yet wants to visit the tavern. So instead of following your plan of going past the farm, he decides to walk straight to the center of town, divert around the blacksmith’s forge to the back of the church and then across to the tavern. Of course, as writers we can get even with our MCs misbehavior by having Father Rutherford appear at the door of the church and give your MC and “earful” concerning the evils of drinking. Twenty minutes later, he’s sitting in the tavern brooding over a glass of water because his conscious was seared by the good Father. And all he originally had to do was pass Bradford’s farm and listen to a couple scathing remarks which took less than five minutes.
But don’t think for one moment that this will cure your MC’s wandering problems. It may just cause them to further avoid certain people and create a more lengthy journey to avoid both Old Man Bradford and Father Rutherford. And if you have a group, such as an adventuring party, the possibilities of them going different directions will increase! A party of six could break off into three groups of two and have mini-adventures that you didn’t plan, all the while venturing towards the main objective.
The best solution is to allow it to happen and see where your characters go. Maybe they can encounter an NPC with vital information that you previously didn’t know how to deliver to them without it just being handed to them. Or, they might stumble across the main villain’s lackey who has loose lips when he is drunk. These “rabbit trails” created by your characters may end up being more helpful than you originally expected.
If you believe in your world…
There’s a quote that goes, ‘If you don’t believe in your own world, then neither will your reader. When you are “playing god” and creating your world and your characters, make them as believable as possible. That’s includes those of us who write Fantasy. If you have a character who is a three hundred pound samurai who travels on a sled that is pulled by twelve feral Chihuahuas, then believe in him and he’ll be real to your readers as well. (Note to self: Create a character that is a three hundred pound samurai who travels on a sled that is pulled by twelve feral Chihuahuas).
If you take the time to created the world and your characters, and truly believe in them, then you’ll have a worthwhile place for your readers to escape to and enjoy being there throughout the course of the story.
So, have any of you had issues with characters who don’t want to follow your outline? Or have you erred in send an MC one way when a town was the other way? Feel free to share you comments below and thanks for reading this article.
For a similar article, here’s one from Victoria Grefer about writing experiences.