Special days – or holidays- in novels are actually surprisingly rare. Very few books take advantage of the summer or winter solstice and other days even though they give you many writing opportunities.
- Putting in a holiday gives readers an opportunity to see how your character interacts with other people.
- Since a lot of attention of holidays are on those running it, people of power are normally right in the spotlight so it can show where your character sits in a position of power.
- Food. There is always food at celebrations, so it gives you a chance to engage the sense of taste and smell for readers, and it also shows what it is the people of your world eats.
- You could use it to show things to come. For example, perhaps a ghost does not disappear after Halloween. Is that hinting of things to come? Is the veil between the ghost world and our own getting thinner?
- It gives opportunity to show thoughts on power. For example: the Kings or Queens birthdays, and also what day they became the king or the queen. Perhaps the people just use it as a day off to drink, perhaps they reluctantly celebrate because they have to, or maybe they go all out because they actually love the king or queen. This is a quick opportunity to show the average persons perspective on whoever is in charge.
Need some examples of what holidays you could have?
Perhaps to mark spring, the whole village goes out and plants seeds on the same day. This marks rebirth and the start of a new year, so to amplify this, if a person wants a fresh start, they can burn everything they own and even cut and burn their hair, and from that day on the villagers must accept this person is a new person. They can not hold grudges on them because they are no longer the person they were the day before.
Another example is harvest festivals. Most places in the world celebrate the last day of harvest had have a great feast. Some even give some of the harvest to some sort of spirit or fair folk.
There are many ways to use holidays to your advantage in writing, and they are an often skipped over tool.
It does not matter if you are writing medieval or modern stories, you are going to need some sort of exchange system. If your character wants something from a man, and that man wants something of equal value in return, what does your character get? Is it currency? Or is it a trade (for example, tomatoes for potatoes)?
If it is currency, the first thing you will need to do is come up with a material for the currency to be made out of; such as coins, paper, or jewels.
Today, we use paper for bills, and because of that, we have had to come up with security measures to stop others from making it themselves. We have holograms, hidden ink, raised text, and more and it’s all because our currency is made out of readily available material.
This problem is why so many novels use precious metals like silver, gold, and copper. If someone were to find a hunk of gold, well it is easy to say that the hunk of gold would be worth equal to the weight of gold coins.
Creating a money system for a world can seem overwhelming, but it does not have to be. Technically, all you need is one coin. For example, in America you can buy anything with enough pennies; anything at all. You want a car? You can do it with enough pennies. It is the lowest increment of money they have, and technically all you need. The only reason why we have coins of higher value is that it is a lot easier to have a dollar than it is to carry around a hundred pennies. So, once you come up with the lowest increment coin, anything else you add is just for convenience.
With money material and increments done, now comes the final step. Make a list of items the average peasant would need(such as bread, clothes, milk), and price them at the lowest value one could buy them for. This will be your base on what things will be worth in your world.
Using the bread as an example, if you say that the absolute lowest price you can buy bread for is 10 gold, then if someone buys bread for 40 gold, you will know that the bread they bought was far higher quality bread than what a poor peasant would buy.
Here are some steps to follow:
- Figure out what your currency will be made of.
- Figure out what currency increments there are (penny, nickel, dollar…)
- Make a list of basic items, and price them at the absolute lowest price they could be purchased for.
- Come up with some currency designs (like a gold piece having the king’s head on it)
- Come up with currency names. For example, 1 cent is called a penny. Does your money have nicknames?
I absolutely adore folklore and I have a habit of binge-watching and collecting videos I find about the subject. In order to help possible writers or just folklore fans out there, I am organizing the videos into a list. I am starting with Ireland, Scotland, England, and Wales, and I may focus on other cultures at a later time. I will add videos as I find them, so be sure to check back!
- Loch of the Kelpies
- The Elfhame at Cleeves Cove, North Ayrshire (Home of the Fair Folk)
- The Witch’s Rocking Stone, Craigs of Kyle
- The Warlock Laird of Auchenskeith and the Witch of Auchenmade
- Saint Queran’s Holy Well, Islesteps, Dumfries
- Doon Hill
- Wraith of Lynn Glen
- Kelpies: Link One, Link Two, Link Two
- The Redcaps
- The Changeling
- Kelpies, Unicorns, Selkies, Cu Siths & Changelings
- Blue men of the Minch(Storm Kelpies) – No Link
- Fairy Basics
- The Changeling
- Banshees: Link One, Link Two
- Irish Fairy Lore
- Kelpies: Link One, Link Two, Link Two
- Selkies(Seal Women): The Selkie Bride(story) , Selkie
- Dullahan(Headless Horseman): Link One, Link Two
- Pookas/Phooka/Puca(Shapeshifting Trickster): Link One
- Merrow (No link yet)
- Dearge-Due(Irish Vampire): Link One, Link Two
- Sluagh (no link yet)
- The Redcaps
- The Changeling
- Black Shuck/Barghest
- Asrai (No link yet)
- Boggart (No link yet)
- Knocker (No link yet)
- Grindylow (no link)
- Unicorns, Griffins, Centaurs
Do you know of a folklore video I don’t have listed here? Please let me know!
Now I know talking about male stereotypes is going to be controversial, but just hear me out. This is not really going to be about why the stereotypes are bad in relation to society, it is going to be about why it is bad in relation to your writing.
If all the men in your novels think and act in the exact same way, you are developing a pattern of predictability that could bore readers.
One really common stereotype is the bad father. The first example is the softy of a dad. He loves his daughter to pieces, but does not put his foot down when his wife(either the mother or the step-mother) is mean to his daughter, or simply leaves for work and leaves the daughter alone with the evil mother. If your wife is treating your daughter badly and you don’t do something to stop it, you are a bad father.
The second example is the father who sells his daughter off to be married. It’s not really so much the marriage that is the stereotype, but how the father acts about it. He treats his daughter as if he is selling his TV off at a garage sale. If he was actually hurt about her having to marry off (be it for political reasons, or whatever else) it would be more surprising.
The biggest offenders of male stereotypes might just be dystopian and fantasy novels. This is because they live in a harsh world, and, arguably, you are more likely to survive in a harsh world by having a harsh personality.
On the romance side of things, in order to show that the love interest “is not like other guys” the writer first makes it look like every other guy in existence is a horrible person. She goes off on her own and is immediately attacked, just so either the male can rescue her, or so that he can be there to comfort her after she kills them all.
There are guys who have a set of unwavering morals that will not change no matter what the outside world becomes. There are thieves who think stealing is ok, but would never even consider murder. There are guys who love animals and would not hurt a fly. There could even be murders who would not even consider stealing something.
Even if being a “cruel and horrible person” might be the logical answer to a bad world, sometimes people do not think logically. Sometimes, their own set of morals sticks with them.
I have briefly talked about most strangers characters come across being evil in another video, so I am not going to dwell on this, but I can say this, male and setting does not always equal evil.
Another issue is the cardboard cut out personality. He is strong, handsome, talented, into sports, thinks of girls as objects and so on and so on. You know the stereotype I am talking about. This actually happens quite a lot in cop dramas; the guys have the same personalities, except sometimes, when they writers are being really risky, they make one of the guys a jerk. *gasp*
What this does is makes your characters boring. You’ve followed the cut-and-paste male character so closely that you might as well have made a novel about clones. The only flawed character in this situation is often side-characters there for comic relief. You know, that guy hiding that we are supposed to laugh at while your male character fights everyone? Yeah, that one.
Now, my mom’s friend in college was a guy called Tiny. He was huge; supposedly the tallest and scariest looking man in the school. Well, Tiny was going to an agricultural school because he loved flowers and wanted to open a flower shop. To me, Tiny sounds like a fascinating novel character because he completely destroys stereotypes.
Long story short, try to think differently. Analyze your male main characters -or the male characters your characters come across- and try to see if you are falling into common(and predictable) stereotype traps.
Want to know how to make writing feel like a video game?
When you are playing a video game, they place little goals everywhere. “You know those clothes you accidentally sold? Kill 30 chickens and you get to wear pants!” Or “get to this main plot point, and you MAY get to romance a character.”
They do this because, even if you are only 5% into the game, these goals make you feel like you are accomplishing something. These small rewards drive you onwards despite the fact your only a tiny bit in.
So how does this tie into writing? With reward writing.
I have heard of many writers working in timed increments, so, for example, twenty minutes of writing to give you ten of a video game. Yeah, that does not work for me. At all. I don’t have the self-control to stop a game mid-way through just because a timer goes off.
So if you are like me, how can you try reward writing?
The first step is come up with a list of rewards. Make sure they are things you really want. Once you have those, you need to chart out stages in your word-count. For example, “if I reach 5000 words, I get a new mug” or “if I reach 10000 words, I get a movie ticket.”
Another way to do it is to mix punishment. Didn’t meet your goal? You have to make something healthy. Did meet it? Yay! You get to order in food! Didn’t meet your goal? Boo, you get water. Did meet your goal? Yay, coke float for you!!! And so on and so on.
There are two important tips though, the first is that you have the importance of the rewards increase with the word count. That way, when you get to the middle -which is where most writers give up- you have extra motivation.
The next is to make the word-count goals reasonable. If you make them too out there and you miss the goal several times, you may lose your motivation to write at all.
Interested in knowing my writing rewards? Here it is! My goal is approximately 1000 a day, so 7000 a week. My rewards are set weekly, ending with a word count of 56000.
- 7000 – Buy a book
- 14000 – Buy Two Comic Books
- 21000 – Gym Membership
- 28000-Still picking…
- 35000-Still picking…
- 42000-Still picking…
- 49000-Still picking…
- 56000- Buy a Kayak
- Killing everyone. The enemy has an evil army and is killing everyone for world domination. But what happens when he wins? They are just killing everyone and taking no slaves, so who will be left to do everything? Will he make his evil goblin bake him cake? Will another one spend his days nurturing a crop of watermelons? Or will he sulk because he clearly didn’t think this plan through?
- Evil Creatures. An easy way to make an enemy is to say they are all evil creatures. Now, I love Lord of the Rings as much as the next nerd, but it gets a little old to believe that “oh, they follow him because they are all evil,” and that is that. You can have a war-hungry enemy, but it would make it seem more real if you give the army a reason to be war-hungry. Are they promised better farmland? Will they get power? Riches? What’s motivating them to listen to the king? Why do they care if they win?
- The faceless army. Too often writers only concern themselves with the heroes of stories and that makes an entire army of boring look-a-likes and the evil leader who we don’t meet until three books later. Give some of your enemies a name; show us that his army is as passionate as he is.
- No clear plan. They are supposed to be a smart enemy, but show us that! Show us them damming up the river upstream to stop water from getting to the good guys. Show us them spying, scouting, and giving false information. There can be more to an enemy army than facing off on in a field.
Predictability is something is something we all try to avoid as writers, but it’s something a lot of writers fall into in a goal to create conflict. Conflict makes stories interesting, so writers try the most common ways to do that and instead end up with an entirely predictable situation.
In dystopian novels, if your characters come across another group, the group will most likely try to kill your characters for supplies. In fantasy novels, the main character is seeking refuge in a farmhouse, and the farmer sells the character out to protect his daughter.
These situations happen over and over again in books, movies, and TV shows, to the point where we expect it to happen.
If I am watching a dystopian post-apocalyptic movie where a guy comes across an old granny calling for help on the road, I know it is going to be a trap. It will not be a surprise. So, what you have to do to actually make your conflict a surprise is to find the perfect balance between good strangers and not so good strangers.
For example, imagine a main character is tired from being on the run from some evil dudes, so he stays in an inn and falls asleep. Well, that is when the bad guys attack. They come up to the inn-keeper and ask her if she has seen the main character. She shrugs and says she does not know; simply because she has a code of protecting her customers. They go to attack her for more information, and old granny the inn-keeper goes crazy on them with an axe.
That would be way more surprising to me than if she had simply said “Don’t kill me! He is upstairs!”
However, this is also a line you have to be careful not to cross. If all the people your main character come across are good, you end up with the same problem as when they are all bad. So, you have to find the perfect balance between the two.
If you do it right and your characters come across a group of strangers, your readers will not know if the strangers are going to turn on the characters and attack because you have set this standard that they might actually be good.
I never really got into hashtags, but the more I learn about marketing the more I have been trying to change that. Hashtags are a great way to make yourself seen in the world of social media, and, as I have learned, some are fun too! To help navigate through the complex world of hashtags, I made these list and decided to share it to help my fellow writers out there.
As a general rule, only use 1-2 hashtags per tweet.
General Recurring Hashtags
These are not limited to writers, they are common all across Twitter. They are a great way to get more active on social media and get your name out.
#ThrowbackThursday , #FlashbackFriday , SundayFunday , MondayMotivation, #FF / #FollowFriday
Recurring Writing Hashtags
Need something to post about? Browse these common writing related tags for ideas.
#WriteTip , #WritingTip , #AmWriting , #Wordcount , #AmEditing , #IndieAuthors / #IndieAuthor / #IndiePub / #IndieLit , #WritersLife , #YALitChat , #YA , #WriteChat , #WritingPrompt / #StoryStarter , #WIP / #WorkInProgress , #WordAThon , #1K1H , #WriteGoal , #WroteToday , #NovelLines
These are great for joining the social media community. Use them to make connections and meet new people.
- #LitChat – created by CarolyBurnsBass, this hashtag takes place on Mondays, Wednesday’s and Friday’s.
- #WritingWednesday / #WW / #WritersWednesday – Talk about your novel
- #ManuscriptMonday – Same as above, I believe.
- #FF – or “Follow Friday.” This is a way to share a user or a website you enjoy with your followers. If you never share people, why should you expect them to share you?
- #TeaserTuesday – Share a bit from the manuscript you are working on.
- #SampleSunday – Same as above.
- #IndieThursday – Share an indie author you have read, give indie author tips, and more.
- #FantasyChat – Tuesday’s. Answer questions, ask questions, build followers.
- #BookMarketing – A great tag to learn more about marketing, or to share what you know.
Utilizing Trending Hashtags
Checking what is trending is a great habit for finding content; you can use to get your name out there. Here is a list of writing themed hashtags that commonly trend.
- #NaNoWriMo – or “National Novel Writing Month” this always trends during November as writers try to write a novel in a month.
- #CampNaNoWriMo – Same as above, but in the summer!
- #WordWars – This always trends during NaNoWriMo. Use it to find someone willing to compete with you in writing. Write as many words as you can in a set amount of time.
- #WriteSprint – same as above.
Use these very little, if at all, to advertise your own book. Instead, use these to share your reads and connect with people.
#LitChat , #FridayReads , #MustRead , #Bookworm , #WhatToRead , #BookBuz , #NewBook , #AmReading , #BookFeature , #BookReview
For Instagram, you can go hashtag crazy. Because I can’t stand things looking messy, I normally separate the content from the hashtags with an underscore line. ____
#bookstagram #book #books #reading #newbook #booklover #bookworm #booknerd #bookaholic #bibliophile #bookaddict #instabook #booklove #youngadult #ya #lovebooks #instareading #ilovebooks #novel #novels #teenlit #noveladdict
#write #writer #writersofinstagram #writers #writerslife #writerlife #writersunite #writergram #writersoninstagram #writersociety #writemore #writerofinstagram #writeabook #author #authors #authorsofinstagram #authorlife #authorslife #novelist #book #story #novel
TIP: You can set up your YouTube videos to automatically tag themselves. Go: Youtube settings – view additional features – upload defaults. Do not forget to add your own name into the tags.
- #AuthorTube – a community of writers who vlog about, you guessed it, writing. This group was created by Lily Meade and Claribel Ortega.
- #AuthorTuber – same as above
- #WordBound – A prompt driven writers community created by Kristina Horner. Get a prompt, write about it, then vlog about your experience using this tag.
- #NaNoWrimo / #CampNaNoWriMo – writers attempting to write a novel in a month. Take on the challenge and it gives lots of content to vlog on. Some writer vlog every day of NaNoWriMo talking about issues and progress, while others talk about their prep work for it, and what they learned during their NaNoWriMo experience (a wrap up video). If you do these, be sure to remember the tags!
- #WriteTube / #WriterTube – another community of writers
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