2

Sometimes the most obvious things in the world are the hardest to figure out. Like a basic understanding of what is needed in a town.

This is going to be strictly talking about the base physical make-up of a town. Things like the necessities, and basic building-blocks, so you can have some kind of foundation or idea to build off of, for your fictional town.

—-

Step one: Have a basic understanding of three things:

  • Time Period of the story.
  • Size of the town.
  • Location of the town.

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Step two: Have a basic understanding of civilization necessities:

  • Food. Grocery store or Market(s). Restaurants.
  • Education. School(s) and/or Universities. Libraries or Archives.
  • Law Enforcement. Police Station. Jails.
  • Emergency Help. ie- Fire Station.
  • Laws. City Hall or other government buildings. Lawyer’s offices.
  • Medical. Doctor offices or buildings. Hospital(s). Veterinary offices. Clinics.
  • Post Office.
  • Bank(s).
  • Shelter. Houses, apartments, condos, mobile homes, mansions etc.
  • Energy Source (Unless your town is on the grid or whatever it’s called, you could look into solar powered generators for completely remote locations or wind based energy, things like that.) Gas stations.
  • Cemetery. Or some other kind of burial grounds.

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Step three: Entertainment & Lifestyle:

  • Movies/Cinema/Theater/Drive-In
  • Parks (theme or national or local)
  • Shopping Malls/Shopping Centers
  • Night Clubs/Bars
  • Swimming Pool/Rec Center
  • Places of Worship
  • Businesses (factories, farms, auto mechanic, boutiques, real estate, small insurance companies, antiques, pawn shops, bakery, butcher, specialty shops, record store, comic book store… etc.)

—-

Step four: Misc Natural and Architectural/Man-Made Landmarks.

  • Architectural/Man-Made Landmarks -statues, shelter-like structure, memorials, bridges, sport stadium, railways… etc.
  • Natural Landmarks -mountains, fields, types of trees, some kind of protected park, waterfall, lake… etc

—-

Step five: Draw out a map of your town -it really just makes things easier to have something to look at and reference, especially if characters live in certain parts of town or are otherwise separated.

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Things to Remember:

  • Towns need a ‘hub’ or a ‘center’ of where everything is going on, where most of the businesses are, where all the action is. Towns are usually built up around this center, and fan-out in some sort of fashion. (Side note: usually, the closer to the center of town you are, the more “money” is… usually.)
  • Everything needs a route. Don’t forget streets and back-roads and alleyways and stop signs and stop lights -ways to get around. 
  • Does your town have a “historical” section where the houses and buildings are older? Look into different architectural styles that fit your towns historical era.
  • Is this pre or post-apocalyptic? Generally, post-apocalyptic settings focus more on the basic necessities. So while those “step three buildings” will be present, there would (depending on how post-apocalyptic your story is set) be no use for them (or they will be reused in some other fashion).
  • Abandoned buildings/structures like factories, hospitals, and schools are always fun to play with.
  • Where is your town located? Does the architectural style fit in with the time period or region?

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Hope this helped! I tired to get everything I could think of!

Xx

sxtrovert said:

Okay, so I recently began writing a new story (after shamefully abandoning a previous story with over 30k words) and I'm a little stuck on something pretty trivial. There's a scene in which two characters are walking to a nearby location and talking to each other along the way. My issue is that the scene is basically 70-80% dialogue, which I think makes it boring and would have readers skipping lines. Is there any way I can bring the scene to life? Thanks in advance.

Well first off, make a list of all of the information this scene delivers unto the reader.

For example,

  • The reader learns there is a great war brewing in the east.
  • The reader learns that Jo has budding feelings for John.
  • The reader learns that hunters frequently poach the woods, looking for…

Then ask yourself if all of this information really needs to be conveyed via dialogue. I’m gonna stick with those things for my scene to use as an example. It’s not gonna be the best writing in the world, but the purpose is just to show you how to work with scenes where there is due to be more dialogue than there has been previously.

Keep Them Talking

The first point about the war could be relayed through conversation alone since there isn’t likely to be a news broadcast in the middle of nowhere. In this instance, word of mouth is the most likely source for the information, so you don’t have to avoid dialogue at all costs. By all means, use it!

'Things are tense now,' said John.

He had his back to me, his gaze trained on the sun as it rose behind the distant mountains.

'They've closed their borders for fear of invasion from the north. There's no way we're getting through that passage today.'

Just don’t make it black and white. Tease information, so that the reader can draw their own conclusions. I don’t have to say, ‘there is a war brewing in the east’. John looking eastward and speaking of closed borders and invasion makes that clear enough.

Undertones

The feelings of one character towards another are things you can layer underneath the scene. Rather than getting a character to shout, ‘I hate you!’ or ‘I care about you!’, try and show their brewing hatred - or affection - in other ways.

He looked thin and frail, and the wound at his arm still seeped through the precarious bandage I’d tied the night before. Pulling my jacket tighter around my waist, I hid the torn part of my shirt out of sight.

'We should keep going,' I said. 'There's a town not far from here -'

'And what if we're seen?'

'You can't carry that injury for much longer. It's already infected.'

'Then I'll lose my arm.'

'Don't be ridiculous.'

I shoved him hard, knocking him a step off balance. It would have been more fitting for me to keep the distance between us, but I closed it with a sure stride. I teased the bandage at his arm and re-tightened the knot…

Rely on Your Setting

You say your characters are walking from A to B, so what kind of things around them can speak on their behalf? I listed that in my scene, there are hunters around, poaching the woods for something specific. It’s not likely that John or Jo would know everything about the landscape or what is to come, so they can see it or hear it instead, right?

Already, I have a fair bit of dialogue in my scene, but it can be broken up with description or internal monologue to keep it from coming across as a ping-pong dialogue segment.

Where the track had once been uncertain, a pathway of flattened grass opened up beneath the tree boughs. John shielded his eyes from the jabbing rays of the sun. If I hadn’t kept my gaze low, I might never have caught it. With no time to explain, I wrapped my arms around his waist and dragged him a few steps back.

'Idiot,' I seethed. 'You almost lost your foot as well as your arm!'

He broke free of my hold and stared ahead, aware of the toothed, metal trap concealed well by the long grass.

'Hunters?' he wondered aloud. 'It's unusual for them to be this far out.'

I shivered. ‘Let’s just get out of here already.’

'Yeah,' he agreed. 'Rumour says they're raised in darkness. They see in the night better than they see during the day.'

I caught a laugh in my throat, then stifled it. Hurt softened his expression for a brief moment, before he continued to walk on ahead. I trotted to keep up…

My examples aren’t the best, but I hope you can see now that dialogue segments can still be kept interesting (this being the operative word when it comes to my quick writing, but you know what I mean, ha ha!) without it all being supported by talking alone.

To recap:

  • Use the five senses. Sometimes taste is a difficult one to put in there, but make sure your characters are taking in the world around them as they walk through it. Give your reader a strong setting, so that they can visualise the world you have created and also learn through the dialogue and the things your characters perceive.
  • Break up the dialogue. Without indicators or any kind of movement between characters, your reader might struggle to keep up with who is talking and when. This in itself should keep the scene from being too dialogue-heavy.
  • Subtext. Try not to have the dialogue too black and white. Make your reader work for their information, and also use the opportunity to show them some character development and character interactions. This will keep the dialogue pieces interesting and also motivate your reader to pay attention as they learn new things about the characters and their feelings for one another.

I hope this helps you out…! Best of luck.

- enlee

2

I’ve played with ideas of writing something set in a space station, but as I am not an astronaut or other kind of space traveler, I had no idea what I would be ‘working with’ while setting up my station/lab/habitat. 

So I did the only thing I could think of and googled until my eyes bled. Here’s what I found. I may have missed some things, so forgive me, but I did try my best.

These can be also integrated into spaceships, scout ships, cargo ships, habitats, some kinds of other planetary research base…etc.

—-

Basic Overview

A space station, also known as an orbital station or an orbital space station, is a spacecraft capable of supporting a crew, which is designed to remain in space (most commonly in low Earth orbit) for an extended period of time and for other spacecraft to dock.
A space station is distinguished from other spacecraft used for human spaceflight by lack of major propulsion or landing systems. Instead, other vehicles transport people and cargo to and from the station.

Architecture (space station subsystems)

  1. Structure
  2. Electrical power
  3. Thermal control
  4. Attitude determination and control
  5. Orbital navigation and propulsion
  6. Automation and robotics
  7. Computing and communications
  8. Environmental and life support
  9. Crew facilities
  10. Crew and cargo transportation

—-

Atmosphere Revitalization Subsystem removes carbon dioxide and most trace contaminants while monitoring oxygen and nitrogen levels.

Atmosphere Control and Supply provides oxygen and nitrogen, gases used in experiments and for other purposes, and atmospheric pressure.

—Temperature and Humidity Control circulates air, removes humidity and maintains the ISS atmosphere within a constant temperature range.

—Water Recovery and Management Subsystem will recover and recycle water from the sink, shower, urine, the Space Shuttle’s fuel cells, and condensation. A Potable Water Processor refines waste water into drinkable water. Water quality is monitored by a Process Control and Water Quality Monitor.

—Fire Detection and Suppression Subsystem consists of smoke detectors, alarms and shutoff systems, portable fire extinguishers, gas masks and oxygen bottles. Two area smoke detectors are provided in each pressurized module, and one is installed in each rack requiring an Avionics Air Assembly (circulation and ventilation equipment).

[x]

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  • Sleep Bays
  • Galley/Meeting Room
  • Kitchen/Storage
  • Latrine/Shower
  • Recreation
  • Observation Deck

  • Pilot/Navigation 
  • Command Room
  • Communications
  • Research Labs
  • Medical [Storage/Clinic/Secure Holding]

  • Environment Suit Storage
  • Life Support [Oxygen Recycler/Temp Control/Water Recycler etc]
  • Mechanical Room
  • Dock/Airlock
  • Engine Room
  • Flight Deck

—-

Space Shuttle Terminology

Orbiter: Part of the shuttle that carries astronauts and cargo; its sleek, winged profile is visible during landings.
External tank: Huge fuel tank that supplies oxygen and hydrogen to main engines during launch.
Solid rocket boosters: Two rockets flanking the orbiter that burn solid fuel during first minutes of ascent and then drop off, parachuting into the ocean.
Main propulsion engines: There are three, all located at bottom of orbiter.
Flight deck: Located just behind orbiter’s nose.
Cargo bay: Located at center of orbiter’s fuselage.
Payload doors: Two curved doors atop the fuselage.
Heat-resistant tiles: Tiles that line the orbiter’s belly to protect it during the intense heat of returning to the atmosphere.
Insulating foam: Heat-resistant foam that covers outside of external fuel tank.
Body flap: Control panel hinged to back of fuselage to help control during descent.
Delta wings: Two triangular wings allow orbiter to glide to earth without the help of engines.
Elevons: Panels that help give control to wings.
Vertical stabilizer: Orbiter’s tail fin.
Main landing gear: One set below each wing, each with two tires.
Nose landing gear: Third set of landing gear beneath the orbiter’s nose.
Forward control thrusters: Small rocket engines studded around orbitor’s nose that help maneuver in space
Heat sensors: Devices arrayed all around the craft to measure temperature.
Orbital maneuvering system: Two engines mounted in pods outside the back of the fuselage, for power when entering or leaving orbit.
Reaction control system: Set of engines on each side of back fuselage, used to control motion while maneuvering out of orbit and returning into the atmosphere.
Split rudder-speed brake: Panel on the vertical stabilizer that splays apart to increase drag and slow the craft during landing. Moved together, this part acts like a rudder to control motion.

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Things to Remember:

  • This is your own creation so do what you want with it! These are more realistic things that can be found when dealing with travel/living in space. Your world is your own.
  • If you haven’t already, watch Firefly, Battlestar Galactica and other sci fi series/movies that can give you in insight into the feel of how this all can work together.
  • Draw out the layout to your base/station/ship. It doesn’t have to be perfect and pretty, but it helps with things like, getting from point A to point B, seeing how far away characters are from one another and stuff like that.

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Happy writing!

Xx

Southern Gothic Genre

Definitions

Gothic Fiction: Gothic fiction (sometimes referred to as Gothic horror) is a genre of literature that combines elements of both horror and romance. As a genre, it is generally believed to have been invented by the English author Horace Walpole, with his 1764 novel The Castle of Otranto. (Wikipedia)

Southern Gothic Fiction: Southern Gothic is a subgenre of Gothic fiction unique to American literature that takes place exclusively in the American South

Books of the Genre

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

As a Southern Gothic novel and a Bildungsroman, the primary themes of To Kill a Mockingbird involve racial injustice and the destruction of innocence. Scholars have noted that Lee also addresses issues of class, courage, compassion, and gender roles in the American Deep South. (Wikipedia)

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

[The novel] addresses many of the social and intellectual issues facing African-Americans early in the twentieth century, including Black Nationalism, the relationship between black identity and Marxism, and the reformist racial policies of Booker T. Washington, as well as issues of individuality and personal identity. (Wikipedia)

The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

Written in Charlotte, North Carolina in a house on East Blvd, it is about a deaf man named John Singer and the people he encounters in a 1930s mill town in the U.S. state of Georgia. (Wikipedia)

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

The novel narrates main character Janie Crawford’s “ripening from a vibrant, but voiceless, teenage girl into a woman with her finger on the trigger of her own destiny.” [The novel is] set in central and southern Florida in the early 20th century. (Wikipedia)

Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor

The story of Hazel Motes, a twenty-two-year-old caught in an unending struggle against his innate, desperate faith. He falls under the spell of a “blind” street preacher names Asa Hawks and his degenerate fifteen-year-old daughter, Lily Sabbath. In an ironic, malicious gesture of his own non-faith, and to prove himself a greater cynic than Hawks, Hazel Motes founds The Church Without Christ, but is still thwarted in his efforts to lose God. He meets Enoch Emery, a young man with “wise blood,” who leads him to a mummified holy child, and whose crazy maneuvers are a manifestation of Hazel’s existential struggles. (Publisher)

The sections below were taken from this PDF document.

Characteristics of Southern Literature

  • A focus on Southern History
  • Significance of family
  • A sense of community and one’s role within it
  • A sense of justice
  • Religion and the burdens/rewards religion often brings
  • Issues of racial tension
  • Land and the promise it brings
  • A sense of social class and place
  • Southern dialect

Southern Gothic

  • Uses the macabre, supernatural, grotesque, and ironic to examine the values of the South
  •  Known for its damaged and delusional characters
  • First popularized by Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Ambrose Bierce
  • Portrays a world in ruins
  • Often deals with the plight of those who are ostracized or oppressed by traditional Southern culture
  • When southern gothic authors examine the human condition, they see the potential to do harm.
  •  Morality is in question for many characters.
  • A major theme for southern gothic writers hinges on innocence, and the innocent’s place in the world — they are often asked to act as redeemer.

Elements of the Southern Gothic Genre:

Freakishness

In most southern gothic stories, there is a pivotal character or someone close to them who is set apart from the world by a disability or odd way of seeing the world. You won’t meet very many “normal” characters in the writings of William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, Truman Capote or Carson McCullers—and this is by design. This fascination with the outsider is in many ways used to show readers not only the individuality of the southern culture, but also to connect each reader to their own unique “freakish” nature.

Imprisonment

This is often both literal and figurative. While many southern gothic tales include an incident where a character is sent to jail or locked up, there are also several gothic characters that live in fate’s prison without hope of parole.

 Violence

Southern gothic writers covered a period in the South’s history when violence was particularly prevalent. After the bloodshed of the Civil War, and the period of reconstruction that followed, racial tension and fear ran high in many small southern towns. This plays its part in many of the stories of this genre.

Sense of Place

It wouldn’t be southern gothic if you didn’t feel like you’d been thrust in the center of a dusty, peach-scented, lonely downtown where porch-bound widows rock gently on creaky rockers, rusty pick-up trucks drive by filled with grimy farmhands, the general store is run by the town drunk, and flies and mosquitoes circle glasses of ice-filled lemonade. The sense of place is strong—awash in calm, pregnant heat, lost dreams and wayward souls.

How to Introduce a Setting

The important thing to remember is that you do not need to spend paragraphs in the beginning of your novel introducing your setting. Only give your readers what they need to know right away to understand the story, then you can gradually introduce the other aspects of your setting over time. Focus on where your character is, what is important about the setting at that moment, and how the setting either hinders or helps your character in that scene.

Remember that your setting also includes people and their ideologies. People interact with the setting of your story in a specific way and it should be explored. 

Here are a few ways to practice introducing your setting:

  • Pick a place you’re familiar with and write down details you think are important.
  • Imagine that you need to describe that setting to someone who has never seen it before. What would be important? What would be worth mentioning? Focus on these points.
  • Write a paragraph of that setting you would find in an advertisement. Why would people be interested in it? After that, write a negative review from someone who has visited that place. Why don’t they like it? What might be bad about that place?

Setting is not just about location, it’s about everything that can be experienced in your scene. What time is it? What’s the weather like? Is this place creepy? Is it warm and inviting? It helps to focus on the feel of a place, not just it’s physical location. 

Hope this helps!

Using the 5 Senses to Create Setting

This post is actually going to be quite simple, yet sometimes it seems we miss the most obvious of things, doesn’t it? I’ve discussed character development briefly in a previous post (3 Tips For Creating Believable Characters), but another important element to a great story is……SETTING! Yes, it is the literary element that I drill into my students’ heads as “time and place.” However, setting is so much more than just those two elements! How do you create a believable setting? How do you use words to create a vivid picture in your reader’s mind? I’ll tell you a tip I teach to my students: IMAGERY!

What is imagery, you ask? It is just as it sounds, creating an image. But how does one do that? With your 5 senses! Let me elaborate.

1. See: This one is obvious. What does the setting look like? Sure, you can write that it is Shakespeare’s time late 1500s or you can describe it. You can say: "The blonde, lithe woman pulled her long, red skirt out of the way as a horse and carriage clomped down the dirt road on its way to the Globe theater for tonight’s performance." I just created a picture in my reader’s mind as opposed to simply giving the time and place.

2. Hear: Instead of saying: the glass fell to the floor; you could say: the glass clattered to the floor. Is it raining? Does the rain pound against the roof? Is the wind howling? Birds singing? People crying/laughing/talking? Be specific.

3. Touch: The fabric was rough beneath her fingers. BORING! How about the fabric was a coarse burlap that scratched the skin or the fabric was a smooth silk that wrapped her skin in cool luxury? Don’t forget temperature is also a touch sensation: hot, cold, burning, tingling, so on and so forth.

4. Smell: This one can be a bit tough sometimes and may require thinking out side of the box. For example, when describing a library think of the things of which books (old) are made: fabric, leather, paper—they may smell musty or dusty or musky. When describing a person describe their smell to the reader: smelled of stale cigarettes and cheap perfume or smelled of fresh-cut grass and laundry. Smell can really make a place or person come alive.

5. Taste: By far a favorite of the senses and maybe one of the easier to write about. Sweet, salty, bitter, tart, sour? The ice cream was cool, syrupy, and sweet as it melted down his throat. Or maybe the fear rises up like something bitter in the back of someone’s throat?

As you can see taking the 5 senses into account when writing will really help with creating IMAGERY in your reader’s mind’s eye. It will help establish setting, create more vivid characters, and enable your writing to be more descriptive. I hope you found this post helpful! Happy writing!

BDAY FRENZY | etsyfindoftheday 4 | 10.2.14

opal slice and diamonds halo ring by tulajewelry

opal is one of several october birthstones, so it’s always been a favorite of mine … and this organically-shaped, super-sparkly opal-and-diamond ring is totally my style. tulajewelry, i love this baby as much as your diamond slice rings!! swooning.

anonymous said:

I want to develops my settings so it won't seem likeim rushing through the chapter but also isn't dripped with sugary description any advice please?

Ah… this is always going to be a tricky thing to give a definitive answer on.

Usually, I stick with mentioning what is important and what the character/narrator is likely to, or needs to notice.

That probably sounds very confusing and not like a good answer at all. Mainly because it isn’t - what I do might be totally different to what somebody else does…

Keep it Simple

If you have a narrator who embellishes things or has a very poetic way of speaking, then sugary descriptions might be the right thing to do from scene to scene. Generally though, I think it’s less overwhelming for the reader if the description is simple and concise, especially if you have a lot to say and not very many words to say it in.

Bear this in mind if you’re, for example:

  • Throwing a present-day character into a past/future/alternate world where the differences will be massive;
  • Introducing the reader to a whole new universe including new customs, races, geography, etc;
  • Taking your main character into another world that exists alongside the current one (for example, how there was a ‘Wizarding world’ and ‘Muggle world’ in Harry Potter).

It’s way too easy to think, ‘I have to describe everything now!’ but chances are, your reader can live without witnessing creative greetings between your self-created races for a few more pages. So focus on the here and now and describe as and when it is necessary to do so.

Walk in their Shoes

If you have a tendency to rush from one end of the scene to the other, step back for a moment and put yourself in your character’s shoes. You’ve created the setting, so you’ll know exactly what kind of things they’re likely to walk past as they move from one point of action to another.

Make a list of all the things they might see and then weave it into your writing, like so:

'I can't believe we just -'

She pushed her hands into her hair and cast a look of disbelief to the bough-protected sky. Her fingers were still grey with dirt, her face a patchwork of grass stains and mud scratches. Somewhere along the chase, she had lost a shoe, her heel ground deep into the edge of a slick bog.

'Watch your step.'

With a gentle skip, she planted herself onto safer ground, a stone that set the beginning of a paved pathway into the forest. She glanced my way.

'Looks safe enough.'

'I'm not sure.'

I turned back towards the ascending rooftops of our village, the hill now more like a mountain from the distance we had covered.

'Maybe we should go back.'

'And get into trouble all over again? No thanks.'

She dusted off her dress and ducked under the tendrils of an old willow, examining the endless rows of trees, full of a wonder that I couldn’t feel beneath all of my fears. Obscured by the wilderness, I was forced to follow her, or risk being caught at the mouth of woodland, the stale loaf still tucked beneath my arm.

'Hey, wait up…!'

Her laugh echoed back in the dusky gloom, almost drowned out by loud birdsong. Every breath I took was thick with pollen, until we reached a sun-drenched clearing…

That’s not the best writing in the world, but I hope it at least serves the purpose of showing how you can sew in details of the setting alongside the action.

Strike a Balance

Sometimes, you might need to rely on blocks of description. Not everywhere is a talking zone, but try to break up your detail on the setting with inputs of thought or dialogue. That way, it doesn’t get too description-heavy, and nor does the scene move too quickly.

I hope this helps…

- enlee

letsloseourmindtonight said:

How do I choose a fighting style for the characters I write? By personality, body type?

I choose fighting styles for my characters primarily in three different ways, these variables allow me to narrow down my search so that I understand what it is I’m looking for. They are:

Setting.

Profession.

Access.

I know, probably not what you were expecting. Most of the time, I’ve seen askers on our blog get too hung up on “the best” for their character. As if a certain style might suit them better if they are X centimeters high, weigh such and such, and are gender X or Y. Choosing a martial art isn’t picking stats in an attempt to game the system. Your story isn’t a video game and it’s not a tabletop RPG. Just like you, your character is going to be at the mercy of forces outside of their control i.e. where they live, what they for work, and their social class. So, your middle class sixteen year old Caucasian girl in 2014 New York learns shotokan karate instead of taekwondo. Does it matter? Probably not.

However, your middle class sixteen year old Caucasian girl in 1800s New York practicing taekwondo and fighting in the underground boxing arena on the side might look a little strange since the martial art only officially came into existence around 1960 (though it’s roots date back much further). While karate is much older, it was a secret carefully guarded from foreigners until US soldiers returned after World War II. Even then, it didn’t achieve popularity in the United States until 1950. Like the other Japanese martial arts, it’s roots date back much further in the US but was carefully guarded and taught only to other members of the immigrant community.

What would this character be fighting with then? The obvious remaining alternative: western boxing (1800s boxing, not modern boxing).

So, let’s break it down.

Setting:

Setting is, well, your setting. Say you’ve chosen to set your tale in China during the ancient Qin Dynasty from 221 to 206 BCE. Maybe it’s historical, maybe it’s fantasy, either way you now have a starting point from which to launch your research. Though you the author get to sit up in the sky making choices for your character, from back story to the future, the character themselves doesn’t have that option. They have to work within the limits of what their setting allows. Regardless of how perfect it may be on a character level, you can’t just plop Western boxing into a setting based in 206 BCE China. It would be anachronistic and wouldn’t make any sense.

There are hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of martial arts in existence all over the world. If you try to look at them all, all at once, without putting value on where they’re from, what they do, and who they were developed to fight, you lose the subtle but key parts of what makes that specific martial art function.

Always start with the setting. Research the martial history of the period, even if it’s modern day. Look at your available options. If you set your story in Chicago, research the history of martial arts communities in Chicago. Look up martial arts schools online, find out what’s popular, or what groups work in the parts of the city where your story is set. Depending on the different places where major immigrant communities settled, you’ll find a different spread of available martial arts and a wide variety of teaching styles.

Martial arts don’t just pop out of nowhere. They have a history and the opportunities to learn them are based on their availability to your character. It’s also a great place to start figuring out if the story you want to write is going to mesh with the reality of what you have to work with.

It’s the fastest, simplest, and easiest way to start thinking about and generating internal consistency and make a decent stab at the beginning stages of avoiding cultural appropriation.

Narrowing your field of research is always the first step.

Profession:

A soldier learns a different way of fighting from a police officer. A teenager engaging in recreational martial arts as an after school curricular isn’t going to fight like a spy. That much is obvious, right? But after you choose your character’s profession, you have to couple that with your setting. A cop in 1990s New York is going to learn different things from a cop in modern day South Korea or England. Whether or not they even carry a gun is going to be questionable. Their police work, manner in which they deal with criminals, and style of combat will be based around their different laws, gun regulations, martial history, and a thousand other variables. Even the differences in gender norms will govern a significant part of the character’s profession and how they are perceived (or even allowed) for doing what they do. Even within precincts in a single city, the firearms issued to servicemen can be different.

You may assume all cops carry Glock 17s, but that isn’t actually true.

By choosing your setting first and profession second, you narrow the scope of your search even further because you’re eliminating excess variables. You can say: my character is going to be X, what does X learn?

You may be wondering: but my character is a teenager. Well, what that means is going to depend on their setting. If it’s modern day middle class US, then their occupation is: student. Meaning you have to limit your search to martial arts which allow students under the age eighteen while also factoring in their school schedule, social life, etc. It’s important to remember there are only a certain number of hours in the day, they have to balance this extra portion of their life against the stuff they already have to do (school, family obligations, possibly a job). It’ll help keep your head in the real world and not pile on too many conflicting traits.

Access:

This is what your character has access to. A character who is a noble will have access to types of training your peasant, commoner, or merchant’s son will not. A character in metropolitan San Francisco may have their pick of martial arts styles from all over the world. A character in San Francisco during the Gold Rush? Not so much.

Access determines what your character can learn to do. From your previous setting research, you’ll have a good idea of what those things are.

Some things it’s important to remember:

Martial arts classes cost time and money. If a family is under financial stress, those things deemed “unnecessary extras” are often the first to go. Your character has to have the luxury of time to learn, the access to the particular skill set you want them to learn (which means you have to figure out how they got it), and the money to pay someone to teach them or barter something else away to earn it.

Overburdened with hungry children, your character’s parents sold him into the service of a passing knight so that he might become his page/squire/servant ala a less pleasant version of A Knight’s Tale. While this may not have given Will the training, it did give him access to what he needed when the time came to fulfill his dream. If he’d stayed in England, he’d never have become a knight. Instead, he would have most likely become a thatcher.

It’s not enough to just want more. You have to find a way to get it.

Using these three, you’ll not only be able to choose a martial art but also build that martial art seamlessly into your character’s backstory and also help you work on your setting at the same time. It interconnects all those things so that by the time you’re done, you’ve already laid the groundwork you need to begin writing. You’ve also eliminated the parts of your story which don’t make sense because you’ve grounded your mind and your character in your setting. Your character and their fighting style reflect the world they live in. The way they fight will be a direct response to the dangers they face. After all, each of us is the sum total of our experiences.

All those  birds downed with a single stone.

Or you could reference this post: Fight Write: Choosing Your Martial Art and this post: Fight Write: Art, Sport, Subdual, and Lethality

Happy Writing!

-Michi

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