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.


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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?

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.

Did Medieval People Have Hobbies?

I recently came across a forum of a person asking what sort of hobbies medieval people have. Well, all the replies, every single one, went something like this; “Medieval people lived in a more barbaric society and had to think about only survival.”

Well….I have some theories about the opposite of that. You see, I used to be an Air Cadet, and in those cadet’s I took all the survival courses I could. Time and time again during those courses, the officers stressed the importance of camp crafts.  Basically, when your camp is all set up and you have nothing to do, you find something to do to keep your moral up. It does not matter if you make yourself a coconut friend; it is still doing something.

So, if someone in a survival situation can have moments of free time, that makes me wonder about medieval people.

According to this article, medieval people had more time off than the average American today, but it is also common knowledge that games like chess, dice, and shinty, are all deeply rooted in history.

Medieval people were also more nature dependant. If it is winter and you are a farmer, you can not farm. If it is a thunderstorm and you herd sheep, you are not going to want to put them out to pasture just in case it spooks them. If it is night, you can not just go flick on the outside lights, so you are done farming.

This all together leads to more time off. More time off means more people trying to fill the time; aka hobbies.

Now, I am no historian, but I would like to learn, so if you have a argument otherwise, I would love to hear it~!

Medieval Themed Hobbies

These are not to be confused with medieval themed occupations, this one is a list of hobbies your characters might enjoy on free time.  
“But, Cheyanne,” You say, “Medieval people lived in a primitive time and did not have free time.”  Well, according to this article, the average American works more hours than a medieval peasant ever did. Citing the article, “records from 13th century England show many families only worked 150 days a year on their land.” So there were days off work. On top of religious days, medieval peasants also had to build their lives around daylight hours, growing season, and even the weather.
So yes, in short, medieval peasants did indeed have free time. To help fellow writers out, I came up with a quick list. All these just came off the top of my head, so I apologise if a few are not historically accurate.
  • Playing an instrument (Example: Hurdy Gurdy)
  • Acting in village plays
  • Watching plays
  • Listening to music
  • Singing
  • Carving wood
  • Sculpting
  • Embroidery
  • Horseback riding
  • Hunting (Royals/Nobels Only. Example Here)
  • Painting
  • Puppeteering (Example Here)
  • Watching soldiers train
  • Training
  • Gambling
  • Drinking
  • Flirting
  • Board Games (Examples: Chess, Tables/Backgammon, Nine Men’s Morris)
  • Stealing
  • Story telling
  • Song writing
  • Poetry
  • Playing sports (Example: Shinty)
  • Fighting
  • Dancing (Example Here)
  • Swimming
  • Exploring
  • Falconry (For Royals. Example Here)
  • Making/Flying Kites
  • Shopping
  • Doll Making
  • Knitting
  • Sewing
  • Horseshoes (Throwing horseshoes at a target)
  • Archery Contest
  • Watching Jousting

If you can think of more to add, please let me know!

Rich People Brag (Writing About Castles)

Life Updates:

 

I have been doing NaNoWriMo, so apart from writing and working, I have not had much going on at all. Boring, right?


Writers Corner:

Newest Video:

Commonly in movies castle walls are just shown bare. Doing that in a book might not actually put off the feeling you want for your novel…


Featured Writers Resource:
  • Springhole.net a collection of helpful generators; such as a coin description generator, Magic secrets, character motivation, and more.

 

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Mead!

Here is a bonus video! I am trying to make up for next month(which may not have many videos due to NaNoWriMo), by pushing out more videos than normal if I can. This one is about mead. Mead is often a drink of choice in high fantasy novels, but it seems like authors often don’t know what exactly mead is…

Magic (NaNoWriMo Prep Video #1)

Life Updates:

Yesterday was Thanksgiving here in Canada, and it has already started snowing here. It will likely melt soon, but it feels like it is going to be an early winter here in Canada.

There is one benefit to the snow; it makes me less likely to get distracted from my writing by good weather.


Writers Corner:

Newest Video:

Here are three questions you should try to answer if you are writing a novel with magic.


Featured Writers Resource:
  • Ambient Mixer. This one was given to me by R.M.Walsh. It is a sound mixer where you can turn on or off the certain sound effects you need.

My Writing Journal:

 

I am a pantser. 100% guilty. To those who do not know; being a “pantser” means that you “write by the seat of your pants” without a outline. Unfortunately, I have come to realize that when I “Pants” my way through a novel, the first draft is in shambles. It will need heavy edits, and countless rewrites.

However, with an outline, there is less mistakes, and more opportunity for things like foreshadowing. Because of this, I am working my way to be able to call myself an “outliner.”

Want to know something that has surprised me? I have strayed from outlining for a long time in fear that it would ruin the fun of writing for me, but it actually is doing the opposite. I am more excited to write these scenes that I have thought up, just because I know they are coming.

So, I am going to keep up my outlining work.

Wish me luck!

dl

Dogs in Novels Rant

ellamae-backLife Updates:

To start adding a little extra to my posts on my website, I am going to be compiling a newsletter. On it, as you can see, it will have my latest video, a featured writing resource, and a little insight on my writing life.

In the future, I am also considering doing features of books and perhaps other things. I will also post art I create of my characters, such as the one of Ellamae Holt to the left.

I hope you all enjoy the newsletter! Please let me know if you have any suggestions.


Writers Corner:

Newest Video:

Too often, dogs are used as a plot device in novels and movies. It makes me a little mad….


Featured Writers Resource:

Writers Knowledge Base – This website is a search engine specifically for writers. Because it is just for writers, it is unbelievably easy to search and find any resource you need without having to scroll through pages of unrelated content.


My Writing Journal:

Lately on the way to work I have been listening to marketing podcasts. I mean, it is an hour long bike ride both ways, so I might as well do something productive with my time, right?

I have been listening to a few different ones, but I am noticing a pattern. They all stress the importance of a powerful book lunch, and they all stress the importance of having at least three books out.

Everyone has dreams of becoming popular on their first book, but most the writers I have been listening to say that did not start getting noticed until they had at least three books out. After that, readers started taking them seriously.

However, they still stressed a proper launch. I have been listing the major points I keep seeing, so here they are just in case they might help a fellow writer out:

  • Do a cover reveal. This is great for marketing and builds suspense.
  • Have a website. And consider paying for it.
  • Book Trailer. Either pay someone or make your own book trailer video.
  • Un-boxing Video. Do a video or photos showing off the physical copy of your new book.
  • Have Advanced Copy Readers. Send your book to willing bloggers, YouTubers, and other people who would be willing to read your book and review it before it is technically out. This will give you a head-start when it does actually come out.
  • Have an Online Presence. Some of the people I was hearing about stressed Facebook, others twitter, another Tumblr. Find your favorite social media and focus on it(and set it up to automatically post on others). Post something a few times a week.
  • Do a Giveaway. Nothing attracts people like free stuff. Include something they can not get themselves for even more attraction; such as throwing in some items related to your book. I have even seen authors throw in things like a feather-quill.

I hope this helps! I will keep my research up for more tips.

 


dl

Food in Medieval Times Based Novels

High Fantasy books nearly always have their characters eat the same things. Peasants eat breads with cheese, or simply dried breads, and royals are ALWAYS eating massive amounts of meats. In reality, it was not really like that.

For example, the peasants ate honey, fish, bread, ale, pottage, fruits and veggies, dairy, herbs, nuts, foraged foods, and occasionally meats(like cow, chicken, pig, sheep). There is a lot of foods that can come out of those ingredients; including things like pies. So, you should not just limit someone to bread and cheese, because they would have eaten more than that.

The most common food for peasants would for sure be pottage -which literally is just whatever you have on hand thrown into a pot- but even peasants had their festival foods.

My suggestion to writers is to come up with an ingredient list(or use the one I mentioned) to come up with recipes. For example, you could search “honey recipes” and look through them to find recipes that fit your list.

As for the rich people, they ate more than meat. Yes they did eat a lot more meat than the peasants, but they also ate other dishes too.

A documentary  I greatly recommend watching is Clarissa and the Kings Cookbook. It follows a woman making recipes from a medieval-era cook book. One dish in particular in this cook book that might surprise you is “salads.” That’s right, kings were eating their veggies.

Rich people had the base amount of ingredients available to peasants, and more than that. They had the spices, the teas, and the wines, and all those other ingredients to make meals a lot more exciting.

They made gingerbread’s, they made salads, they made honey and wine broiled pears, and so on and so on…

The list of things that the rich people made is really big and amazing. So, you should not limit the nobles and the royalty in your novels to just meat on the bone, because that does not make sense.

I guess my whole point to this post is to say “please expand your imagination when it comes to food in your novels.”  It never was as simple as bread and cheese for the peasants, and a hunk of meat for the royals, so think bigger.

Here are some links to some medieval recipes to help inspire you….