Desert Survival | Writing Help

Dehydration Side Effects:

Your body needs water desperately. Here are just some of the symptoms based on the percentage of water loss in the body:

  • 1-5%: Dizziness, Lack of Appetite, Nausea, Lethargy
  • 6-10%: Headache, dizziness, tingling limbs, slurred speech, losing vision
  • 11-12%: Swelling tongue, skin shriveling, darkening vision, deafness, inability to swallow, death.

Very often in novels and even real life, people in desert situations ration their water. Never, ever, ration water. In real life, people are sometimes found dead in the desert with a bottle full of water because they ration their water and die of heat stroke before the dehydration gets them. Instead, you are better off drinking what water you have in small sips over time. Not rationing, and not chugging.

Water Collection:

  • Solar Stills. Solar stills are a great way to get water. See how to do it here.
  • Digging for water. Often in movies, characters are shown finding plants and digging for water. In truth, it’s not always that simple. Sometimes, the roots of plants reach very far down so you would have to dig for a very long time to find that water. Instead, set a limit on how far to try digging.
  • Following Creatures. Even bees need water. I work at a bee farm, and if the weather gets too hot we have to put out water every day for them or they will die of thirst. If you see a beehive, there is a good chance there is a water source nearby. Follow a bee, and you might find it! The same goes for ants, or even grazing animals.
  • Collecting rain.
  • Splitting Cactus for Water. Many cacti are pretty starchy inside, and some of those that are full of water can make you very sick. Maybe don’t do this one.

Conserving Water:

  • Stay in the shade; especially around noon when the sun is highest in the sky. The heat will only make you sweat off what water you have. Instead, find a shelter for during the day.
  • Do not lay on the ground. The ground can hold heat, so instead put some layers between you and the ground.
  • Don’t Smoke. Smoking dries out your mouth.
  • Don’t drink alcohol. Alcohol can dehydrate you faster.
  • Talk little. Talking can dry out your mouth.

Shelters:

  • Caves. You are not the only one who likes easy shelters; beware of snakes and other creatures. Also, put the fire at the back of the cave. Putting a fire at the front will only blow wind in, making your cave into a smoker. Instead, put the fire at the back of the cave, and the smoke will go along the top of the roof and out the opening.
  • A-Frame. A simple shelter with minimal supplies needed. Even better with a space/emergency blanket which can help reflect heat.

Cold Protection:

People very rarely mention this, but deserts can be brutally cold at night. Some deserts can go from being hot enough to cause heat stroke in the day, to having to worry about hypothermia at night.

Another issue could be seasonal cold. Even Alberta, Canada, has a dessert, and though it is what you would expect from a desert in the summer, in the winter they can get large amounts of snow.

Deserts are not necessarily only about heat; cold can be an issue too.

Food:

You can survive three minutes without air, three days without water, and three weeks without food. Keeping that in mind, you should also know that food takes water to digest. Eating when you don’t have water can dehydrate you faster, so if you do not have water you are better off not eating.

Did I miss an important tip for desert survival? Or did you find this useful? If so, please let me know in the comments section below!

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Arena Fight Plots

 

Arena fight stories are nothing new. These storylines are common in martial arts movies, cartoons, and early every superhero comic has some sort of arena fight arc.
The basics of an arena plot are simple; people are put into a fight against each other in front of an audience and there can only be one winner(or occasionally one winning team).
Although many places around the world historically have variations on this, the most common source inspiration for writers seems to be the gladiator games.
Being a good gladiator made you a hero to the people, so combatants were comprised of criminals, slaves, citizens, and even high ranking people.
Both men and women could be gladiators, and there were even gladiator schools. If you were talented, you could get sponsorship, property, and even promoted to be a guard.
If things got boring, traps, such as with wild animals, could be included.
Starting to sound familiar?
In fantasy novels, the most common plot is that a king is holding a competition. It is normally a Colosseum sized arena but can be a maze.
For SciFi sci-fi, is is normally a way to show the darker side of people. This arena can be as large as an island, and the most common theme is using cameras so spectators can watch from home.
I think arena fight plots can be interesting, but only when done right.
I recently read a book where the majority of it was preparing for games, then there were the games themselves….which bored me beyond belief. Why? The only thing at stake was money. Competitors could drop out or lose without a single meaningful consequence. Basically, they could have been playing football. Yes, the book mentioned that “occasionally people die” but certainly not in this book.
I’m not competitive. At all. If you challenge me to a soccer game, I’ll likely lose interest in minutes. So what can you do to catch my interest for arena fights? Add in stakes.
It does not have to be “only one can live” for motivation. You could have a world where there is a ritual where characters have to win the competition in order to be gifted with magic, you could have a prison where characters are fighting to win freedom, and so on!
Many writers say what characters will win, but very few writers mention what will happen if the characters loses.

Creating Holidays & August Updates

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.


Live Updates:

Worldbuilding: Creating Money

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:

  1. Figure out what your currency will be made of.
  2. Figure out what currency increments there are (penny, nickel, dollar…)
  3. Make a list of basic items, and price them at the absolute lowest price they could be purchased for.
  4. Come up with some currency designs (like a gold piece having the king’s head on it)
  5. Come up with currency names. For example, 1 cent is called a penny. Does your money have nicknames?

☘️ Folklore Mini-Doc List ☘️ – Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales

Hi everyone!

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!

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿Scotland:🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿

Locations:

Fair Folk:

Days:

🏴󠁰󠁧󠁮󠁩󠁫󠁿Ireland:🏴󠁰󠁧󠁮󠁩󠁫󠁿

Fair Folk:

Days:

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿England: 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿

Fair Folk:

Days:

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿Wales: 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿

Fair Folk:

Do you know of a folklore video I don’t have listed here? Please let me know!

Sterotyping Men in Novels

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.

Reward Writing

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

Most Common High-Fantasy Enemy Problems

  1. 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?
  2. 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?
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Picking Clothes (For Novels)

Too often clothes for characters are often picked but don’t really fit the character or the scene.
For example, heels. High-heels are everywhere. It’s something that just goes hand-in-hand with the action genre. The sleuth spy meets the mysterious heel-wearing beauty, the hardcore female vampire hunter who chases and gets chased, all in boots with heels. And the most common offender; cop dramas. We are supposed to believe she’s going to go arrest someone and means business, but she wears heels. Now, I will admit, that actress in Jurassic World ran in heels like a pro, but I’m sure her character was craving a set of runners. I get it, heels make women look more attractive, but in a fight or in a run, they are a disadvantage. Otherwise, more athletes would be seen sporting them. If your character is attending a ball or on a day off, go for it. If your character is planning to chase down bad guys, I’d advice against heels.
Put thought into what your character wears, and the results might surprise you. Sometimes what your character should wear is actually the exact opposite of what people would expect for them.
For example, your city thief would be more likely steal without getting caught dressed as a rich nobleman than dressing as an adventurer. The thief would want to dress in something to blend; not stand out. Everyone would be expecting someone dressed like an outlaw to be the thief, so instead be one of them.
Another example is your power hungry woman. Often they are described as suspicious as they actually are; a cruel smile, a cold gaze, and the clothes of someone pretending to be a queen. Instead, if she were smart, she could play the cards without anyone knowing she is in the game. Act shy, dress conservatively and pretend to be as small as possible. That way, when someone shows up dead, who would dare suspect sweet Jane?
Clothes do not just have to be something your character wears; they can be a disguise, a declaration of power, and a secret message. If a man wears a different flower in his pocket every day, that’s a way of communicating a message. If a woman wears all black after her son dies, that indicates she’s still in mourning and the death is a soft subject.
So the three questions you should ask yourself are; think of what is practical to your character, consider what the clothes make the people around think, and the third and final tip is to consider what the clothes say about the characters personality.

Evil People. Evil People Everywhere.

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.