Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Why Don’t You Have Any Pants On?

This isn’t a nudist colony; put some clothes on your characters!
Rebecca Mikkelson, CBD Authors 4 Authors Publishing
Oh, Sweet Baby Jesus, congratulations to us. We’ve finally made it to the end of this worldbuilding series, and if you’ve read this whole thing, you deserve a gold star. Two gold stars, even. I wanted to make this my last post in my series because often, clothing is the last thing that authors think about for their characters. Poetic, right? I thought so.
What do people wear?
What we wear is a reflection of our personality, and what our wants are...most of the time. There are always exceptions to the rule, like having to wear a school uniform or living in a time period or country that has religious restrictions on the type of clothing people—women, especially—can wear.  
Names of certain types of clothes can be a little tricky. When you go into specific articles, you can either do a fantastic job of describing it so there’s no question as to what the character is wearing, or you can name it. For the latter option, I would highly recommend adding A Dictionary of Costume and Fashion: Historic and Modern into your library.
Is it era-appropriate?
This is mostly going to be for the people who are writing historical fiction or historical fantasy, but it can be useful if you’re making up your world and having it set in an era based on Earth’s history like myself. First, you’ll need to figure out what century your story will be set in, be it the late 1800s during the Victorian or in the Renaissance in the 1300s.
My recommendation for an amazing visual guide—sometimes you don’t know what you’re looking for until you see it, you know?—to putting realistic clothing in your world is What People Wore When. This book has served me, and others, very well. If you want the basics of what not to do in your fantasy world (or real-world Historical Fictions!), I’d give Medieval Underpants and Other Blunders: A Writer's (& Editor's) Guide to Keeping Historical Fiction Free of Common Anachronisms, Errors, & Myths a read.
Girl, that dress was so last season. 
Do your characters care about fashion trends? If they do, you’re going to need to figure out if they’re going to be the same fashion trends that we see in the real world, or if you’re going to be making them up all on your own. Maybe your fashion trend is going to be golden brassiers with flowing gossamer dresses that end in a cathedral train. Would it be ugly? Sure would. But beauty standards are determined by the masses following suit, not one person's opinion on how ugly a thing might be. And that’s also not to say that there aren’t ironic trends, where the wearing knows that the fashion is hideous but wears it anyway to fit in. 
Another thing you’ll need to consider about fashion trends is what happens if someone doesn’t follow them. Will they be a social outcast? Will anyone care? Only you can prevent forest fires decide.
Social Status
The richness of our clothes often reflects the wealth that the wearer has. So what are going to be some indicators in your world that someone is of a higher social class? Will they have lace collars that are made by nuns in the mountains who hand rear silkworms like they’re heaven on earth? Or will they have a jacket or dress made out of handmade velvet that can only be produced eight inches per day, costing $250 per yard? Do they have a dress dyed with the ridiculously rare and expensive ultramarine? Are they dripping with jewels?
On the flip side, how is someone shown as poor? Do they have holes in their clothes? Do they wear clothes made only of muslin? Is there a certain style of dress that the poor wear, such as plain day dresses rather than fancier dresses that require hoop skirts or bumrolls? Something as simple as length of fabric is a big indicator too since more fabric means a greater cost. Certain types of fabrics that are affordable to the masses? Do they only have simple silver or gold wedding bands when they marry instead of lavish precious stones—or have no jewelry at all?

Traditional Dress

I left this out of my talk about culture in You’re Not From Around Here, Are You?  so that I could talk about it here. These are going to be outfits that people wear at religious ceremonies, like a white robe at a baptism or a lehenga at an Indian wedding. 
So what traditions will you have a specific dress for? Will you have coming of age ceremonies where a teen becomes a woman and wears a wedding dress for all to see she’s marriageable—similar in a way to a quinceaƱera. Will you have solstice celebrations where men and women have certain clothes to wear and certain ways to do their hair? Do your religious orders have ceremonial robes that they were day-to-day or only on high holy days?
Knowing your traditions and what people wear for them will help make your world richer and more relatable to our everyday lives. 
This is also something that I left out in another blog post—This Means War! in case you were wondering—because it was already astronomically long, and it would fit better in this post anyway. However, this section isn’t going to focus solely on military uniforms, but uniforms in general. 
So what do people in your world need uniforms for? Do you have schools that only wear uniforms for their everyday wear so that all the students have to think about are their studies? Does your military have all one uniform, or do they have a daily working uniform and a dress uniform? Several dress uniforms? What colors are they?
Does your police force have a certain uniform, or do they wear normal clothes to do their jobs with a pin indicating their profession? Do your sports teams that have uniforms? What about prisons? Though, for some of these, it’s less a matter of whether they exist, but whether you need to mention them in your story.

Thanks for sticking it out with my worldbuilding series. Join us next week when we give some tips on taking an author photo. 

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Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Author Interview: Madison Wheatley

Thanks for talking with us today, Madison! Shall we dive right in? What inspired you to write Ambrosia?
Well, not surprisingly, I thought of this story while at the gym. My husband and I had recently joined a local YMCA. It was winter break, and we didn’t have much else to do, so there were days when we spent hours at the Y without intending to. Exercising was hard to start, but once I got into a “groove,” there were times I didn’t want to stop. My mind wandered a lot while I was in that state, and while running around the track, I thought, “What if I couldn’t stop working out?” So as I worked out that afternoon, the pieces clicked together for Ambrosia. I started planning a story about a girl who gets sucked into a magical gym and gradually loses her memories of the outside world. 

I think the gym is one of the best places to brainstorm—especially if you forget your earbuds. Are there any themes, symbols, or motifs in your story? 
Different themes will stand out to different readers. For me, though, the strongest theme in this novel is that of the consequences of burying one’s past. Crystal, the protagonist of Ambrosia, carries a load of regret and shame on her shoulders, especially when it comes to her ex-boyfriend’s death. Since his last words to her were a dig at her weight, she blames all of her pain on her body. This self-hatred is what causes her to obsess over Mount Olympus in the first place, and it’s what she must overcome if she has any hope of escaping. 

As for symbols and motifs, water is prevalent throughout the novel. I was a swimmer throughout childhood, and some of my favorite memories have involved water, so water shows up in a lot of my fiction and even some of my poetry. No surprises there. There are other symbols in the novel as well, but I’m not going to go over them. I’m an English teacher, after all, and if I start talking about symbols, before you know it, I’ll have typed a five-paragraph essay in MLA format, complete with works cited page. I’m more than happy to talk with readers about any symbolism they find interesting, though! 
We can be the same way when you get us on a subject. Let’s switch gears a little bit: who is your favorite character?
I’ve grown to love Crystal. I didn’t always feel that way. There were times I wanted to grab her by the shoulders and give her a good shake. I mean, it drove me crazy how she sabotaged her own happiness. However, beneath Crystal’s cynical exterior is an undercurrent of hope. Throughout the novel, this hope flickers and wanes, and at times, Crystal tries to snuff it out entirely. But it’s there all the same. I mentioned themes earlier, and the power of hope is another theme that ties the novel together.

I had fun writing the secondary characters, too. From Sasha—the over-excited receptionist at Mount Olympus—to Rory—the charming fitness enthusiast whom Crystal crushes hard over, each character has some little quirk that makes them fun to work with. 

Speaking of Crystal, she struggles a lot with self-confidence. Is this something you struggle with? 
Yep. I didn’t always struggle. As a kid, I had no shame; I was boisterous and rambunctious and didn’t care what anyone thought. As I transitioned into my teenage years, though, things changed, as they often do for teens. For a variety of different reasons, I became hyper-aware of myself. The opinions of my peers meant a lot to me, and it seemed that no matter what, I couldn’t seem to measure up. I was anxious, bigtime. 

I’d like to say that that anxiety has gone away, but it hasn’t. I’m working on it, though, which I know is something a lot of people my age can relate to. Crystal has gone through a lot of issues that I haven’t experienced, but her insecurity? I get that. Writing Ambrosia didn’t “fix” my self-confidence issues, but it did help me to explore them, which was cathartic in its own way. I hope that it will do the same for readers. 
We hope it can do the same for the readers, too! The gym is named Mount Olympus, and they have a drink called Ambrosia. Do you have a love of Greek mythology?
I find mythology in general fascinating; it’s something that my husband—a huge history and mythology nerd—love to bond over. Before I wrote Ambrosia, I didn’t intend to reference Greek mythology as much as I did, though. At first, only the concept was connected to it; the story was loosely based on the tale of the Lotus-Eaters in The Odyssey—an account of how Odysseus’s men were entranced by a magical flower that kept them from wanting to leave the island where it bloomed. But then, one thing led to another. I thought, “Ambrosia is a good name for this magical beverage.” By that point, naming the gym Mount Olympus seemed like the perfect way to tie it all together. 

That certainly does tie it all together. Tell us, who are your favorite authors? 
First, let me get a little nostalgic. As a teenager, I devoured novels by Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti. They instilled in me a love of thrillers, and without them, I’m sure I wouldn’t have written Ambrosia in the first place. 

Throughout adulthood, there have been many authors that have inspired me as a writer, authors whose work boasts complex characters and strong themes. Some examples include Neil Gaiman, Blake Crouch, Tomi Adeyemi, Toni Morrison, Patrick Ness, and Gillian Flynn. 

Last question, and we’ll go ahead and wind this down. What can we expect next from you?
I’m working on a modern fantasy novel. It tells the story of a naiad-like creature—here I go again with Greek mythology!—from another universe who’s trying to learn the truth about her magical origins. I’m currently in the pre-writing stage, and I’m looking forward to knocking out a full draft during NaNoWriMo 2019! 

That sounds really interesting; we’re looking forward to it! Readers, don’t forget to join us for the launch party this Saturday for an opportunity to win a free print copy of Madison’s book!

If you can’t wait, you can get your copy here.


By Madison Wheatley

Two words have haunted Crystal for years: fat pig.

So when a handsome and athletic stranger promises that his gym will change her life, how can she say no? With its cutting-edge facilities, beyond-friendly staff, and endless free samples of Ambrosia, their signature energizing sports drink, Mount Olympus seems too perfect to be real—and maybe it is. Crystal needs it all, but is she willing to lose more than just weight?

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Wednesday, October 2, 2019

It’s the Arts, Darling

Art and entertainment within your world
Rebecca Mikkelson, CBD Authors 4 Authors Publishing
Art is an expression of who we are as people at any given time. It is how we communicate with others, through song, brushstroke, or poetic prose. There’s a huge variety of what can be used for the purpose of entertainment. So what will that look like in your world?

The Arts

All art isn’t just paintings from old dead men hanging up in museums. Sure, you’ll have that, and you’ll need to know what styles they're painted in, the kinds of colors are typically used, and other mediums art can be made in, like plays, operas, television, and movies. 
Physical arts
Your physical arts are going to be your paintings, sculptures, monuments, etc. Essentially, anything that is made by physically doing. What is this going to look like in your world? 
Let’s talk about paintings first. Some colors are extremely rare or dangerous to make, so what will your artists do in those situations? Will they have patrons to provide for them, or will it be added to the cost that they charge their clients for their work? We’ve had many different periods and styles of art throughout history, my favorite of which is during the Baroque period when Caravaggio uses Chiaroscuro. So, in your world, will you have art from bygone eras that your artists will strive to be like, or will everyone paint how they want, when they want?
Next, let’s talk about sculpture. It’s equally as old, if not older, than paintings. There are two kinds, though: additive and subtractive. Subtractive will be your carvings in wood and stone. Totem poles are one example, beautiful works of art that tell the history of people. Your additive sculptures will be works made out of clay, where layer upon layer is added, or parts of the sculpture are attached or enforced with metal.
But with either of these mediums, how are they going to be taught? Will artists only be true and respected if they’re members of a prestigious art society that abides by certain rules of creativity and style? Does it matter how one learns as long as they’re good at what they do?
Media arts
You might argue that visual media isn’t art, but it’s an art form in and of itself. Creating a scene in a TV show or a movie that evokes feelings is a powerful thing. In your world, will you have people who specialize in this? Trained actors who entertain the masses? Cinematographers who study for years in order to achieve the perfect shot?
Another thing you’ll want to think about if you do have actors and filmmakers is how they’ll interact with the general population. Will paparazzo hunt down actors to show pictures of their everyday life just because someone wants to see it? Will they just be everyday people whom everyone appreciates for their skill but doesn’t harass? 
Performing arts
These are going to be your plays, musicals, and operas, all of which need a lot of skill to present. So how will your performers learn? Are there drama and performing arts schools? Music guilds to teach the ways of song making? Are composers taught what they know, or do only prodigies create music for your world?
Also, who can see these types of performances? Are operas only for the rich, or can every social class enjoy them? Do opera singers come regularly to perform at great houses or palaces? Do the poor have their own troupes that tour the country and make a social commentary about what’s happening in the political sphere so the common people can understand what’s going on through comedy? If you do have these troupes, does the government allow them to make social commentary at the politicians’ and/or monarch’s expense without fear of reprisal, or do they have to bring news to the people at their own risk?

Other forms of entertainment

There are other forms of entertainment that aren’t happening en masse as the above arts. These are going to be things like reading, playing chess, cards games, etc.
Clearly, this is going to be an important topic for you. You’re here because you’re writing a book and want to know a little bit more about worldbuilding. But is reading popular in your world? Are your books going to be mostly histories written by scholars? Are you going to have fictional works in your world? Long-form fiction hasn't always been prevalent as it is today because of the sheer expense of owning a book. Before the advent of the printing press, books were made by hand. Depending on the setting of your story, only very few will have the finances and privilege of owning a book of any sort.
Games help us pass the time, and, depending on the game, hone our minds. Sometimes, the games will even be pertinent to the plot and how it works, much like in Kristen Britain’s Green Rider series. Karigan eventually has to win a game of Intrigue in order to save her own life and the lives of others. 
Video Games 
These types of games will feature more in your sci-fi or sci-fi fantasy works that are set in a time period where video games are viable forms of entertainment.  These can either be used to unwind or be professions as they are in today’s world. There are many who professionally play video games and even get sponsorships the same way you would in the world of skiing and other single-player sports. 
How many people have we heard of who have gambling problems? Well...probably not a lot, but books, TV shows, and movies do have characters who are down on their luck because of a gambling problem. Now, you don’t have to have an unsuccessful, down-on-their-luck gambler in your world, but it is definitely a historied form of entertainment. These will include everything from card games and dice to betting on which team wins in whatever game someone is watching. 
So, what kind of games, if any, do you plan on having in your world? Something entirely new that you’ve made up? Familiar card games like Go Fish, or strategy games like chess? Who will play them, and will they be period specific?
Bread and Circuses
This is a slightly different beast but deserves mentioning nonetheless. Bread and circuses, according to Merriam-Webster, is a palliative offered especially to avert potential discontent. In other words, an appeasement by the government in giving food and entertainment to avoid any violence and uprising. These would be things like gladiator games where the poor were given bread so they had something to eat and keep them entertained or free public jousting tourneys where food and beer were plentiful. 
Go, Team!
Oh, look, the person hit the ball thing and people are cheering! How, uh, sporting?
Normally, this would go under games, but it really does tie into the idea of bread and circuses very well. Sports, such as football or the ancient Mayan game of Pitz, bring the masses together in a camaraderie unlike anything else. They provide structured and controlled outlets for natural urges toward violence and tribalism. Older sports were also used to keep warriors in peak mental and physical form since they usually involved martial skill and strategy.
What also ties into the bread and circuses is all the food that’s sold or made at these sporting events. These are things quintessential to some sports. Take baseball for example—you can’t go to a baseball game without getting a hotdog to enjoy while watching your favorite team play. And at football games, tailgating is almost a sport in itself to see who can make the best ribs or have the most fun at their pre-game bash. 

Join me next week for my final post in this worldbuilding series when I talk about clothing.

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