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JPC Allen Writes

Inspiration for Beginning Writers

Monday Sparks — Writing Prompt: How Would You Use This Scene?

seaplanew-1149100_1280Since August is the last full month of summer, I will post prompts that can be associated with the season during the month.

How would you use this scene? For a mystery? An adventure? Science fiction? Family drama? Because my mind seems to have a criminal bent, I would use the discovery of the plane for a mystery. Perhaps the three divers uncover a treasure that bad guys are after. Or maybe they find an object they don’t realize has value. The bad guys pursue them and they don’t know why.

I could do a dual mystery — one set in the present, and one set in the past, when the plane went down. Jamie Jo Wright specializes in this kind of mystery.

Let me know how you would use this scene!

Writing Tip — Writing in Time: August as Writing Inspiration

willoww-2568232_1280Although this is one of my favorite months, as my family and I try to cram in some last few moments of summer fun, August as writing inspiration doesn’t provide me with. many ideas.

Where I live, no major holidays or events occur in August. School will start for my kids — not that we’re talking about it or even thinking about it — but I think school should start in September, so that’s when I’ll write about it as inspiration.

August, more than December, feels like the end of the old year and the beginning of the new. It’s the last, full month of summer. Summer vacations and pursuit end as school and all its associated activities gear up.

The month can be a symbol for a character coming to the end of some major life event — a relationship, a job, some kind of goal that’s he has met or failed to meet. The character can be looking forward to or dreading this change in his life . The golden evenings in August are the perfect setting to end a story on a bittersweet note. It also works as a setting for character who is reflecting on past events.

Is August more exciting where you live? How would you use August as writing inspiration?

 

Writing Tip — Genres of Science Fiction & Fantasy

fantasyw-2801105_1280Since I just returned from vacation, my post today is short. If reading about speculative fiction this month has inspired you to give it a try, I recommend reading this article on genres and sub-genres from Inspired Prompt via Science Fiction & Fantasy.

What I like about this post is that the author list novels written in each style. That is so helpful in understanding what readers expect in each sub-genre,

But even if you haven’t read much in the area you want to write about, get writing! You can always revise your work as you learn about the rules of your chose sub-genre.

Since the name “speculative fiction” is an umbrella for so many different kinds of storytelling, the author of the post couldn’t cover them all. I noticed “steampunk” is missing. For examples of this, try Michelle Levigne’s series Guardians of the Time Stream.

What other sub-genres are missing?

Monday Sparks — Writing Prompts for Speculative Fiction

fantasyw-2704453_1280For my last prompt of the month, I chose this picture. I like the contrast between the girl who is dressed in clothes from our time and the setting, which looks futuristic. I also like the hazy sunset. It seems appropriate for a story set in July or August. How would you write this scene from the girl’s POV? Here’s mine:

“A whisper of a breeze signaled the coming of night. As the police jets patrolled the city, the broiling sun slid to the horizon. In fifteen minutes, I’d be free. At least for a few hours, sneaking into the cracks and crevices in this city where the patrols either didn’t know about or didn’t go and no cameras watched. I checked my phone. Time to go. I got up and walked over to the street lamp. I wrenched aside a loose metal panel and set my phone inside. Now I was invisible in the city. I went to the door and ran down the steps.”

Writing Tip — Guest Blogger, C.S. Wachter

IMG_1297 (1)My last guest blogger for the month on speculative fiction is C.S. Wachter. Her series is epic fantasy. And she also uses initials for her pen name! Welcome, C.S.!

Me: What comes first when developing a story—characters, setting, plot?

C.S.: The story seems to come to me as a vague notion to start. An impression. The Sorcerer’s Bane (my first book and book 1 of The Seven Words) started out one afternoon in August 2015. After coming home from meeting with a couple neighbors who encouraged me to write, I sat down at my laptop and typed a couple sentences: “Travis Illk was a seasoned world skipper. He had traveled the skipping lines—those mysterious wormholes between the seven planets of the Ochen system—into and out of all seven worlds for the better part of forty years.”  Those few words set my world framework (seven worlds, all distinct, joined by wormholes). They also set Travis up as the kidnapper who would work for the demon-possessed sorcerer, Sigmund. At that point, I wrote the prophecy that would set the tone for all four books in the series. I followed my nose. It was like the story already existed as a unified whole and I just needed to dig it out of my brain. As I moved forward through the story, more was revealed and at about the half-way point, the final pieces of the puzzle fell together in my mind. I know this is rather a disorganized way to go about writing, but it works for me.

The characters seemed to write themselves. At one point, a character I had envisioned as part of my protagonist’s support group turned out to be the exact opposite, a major part of the enemy’s team. I didn’t know it until I started typing. The first words out of his mouth were so negative. I just let him go in that direction.

Me: What are some unique challenges to writing speculative fiction?

C.S.: One challenge was placing the story in a world that is relatable while still creating a unique universe. I coined a couple words but kept that to a minimum to imply ‘different’, then used those terms in ways that would make them easily understood. 

Another unique challenge for me as a Christian was to remain faithful to the bible while presenting Christian truths without mentioning God, Jesus, or the Bible. My protagonist is a chosen Light Bringer. The One (God) speaks to him. It was important to me that I portray the One as a personal being who is not silent. That he speaks and acts within the worlds of Ochen, and that needed to flow out of the story itself, so it didn’t feel forced or phony.

Christian speculative fiction is a small niche market, but it’s growing. The challenge is to increase this market by helping others to understand that speculative fiction can be a viable way to weave Christian truths into an exciting story. People are touched by stories; they are reached on a visceral level non-fiction can’t reach. Non-fiction has a role, and it’s vital to the Christian life, but fantastical stories can create memories in ways non-fiction can’t.

Me: What do you do to renew your inspiration when it is running low?

C.S.: First, prayer. Every day. Writing is a gift from God and I thank him for that daily. I ask for guidance continually. When I’m going to sleep, especially if I’m uncertain what direction to move in my story, I pray for inspiration to come to me while I’m asleep.  

Take a break and go for a walk. It’s not unusual for words or images to come to me when I’m out walking my dog. I always have my phone handy and write in Notes often.

Reading books. I read a range of genres from non-fiction and philosophy to classics to speculative fiction. But I read most in Christian speculative fiction because it speaks to me and stimulates my imagination.

Me: What advice would you give to someone who wants to write speculative fiction?

C.S.: Read voraciously in your genre (especially authors who have a reputation for writing well). Speculative fiction has so many sub-genres it’s important to understand the differences between them. For example: Space Opera has a whole different feel and voice than dystopian. Fairy tale re-writes are very popular now, but you need to understand the genre and how to appropriately switch up the story to make it fly. Magical realism is a whole other field because it must be set in the world as we know it but with subtle changes that must be believable even if fantastical.

Join an online group like Realm Makers Consortium. Friend others who are writing speculative fiction. Go to conferences. Join a critique group. I’ve tried some of the larger groups online and if that works for you, use the experience. I know others who have found great support that way. For me personally, meeting regularly with just a few people is more productive.  

Let your imagination soar. Write fast and furious; allow your story time to take off and grow. When it’s written, then take the time to edit slowly and carefully. Trying to edit while writing can plunge you into a never-ending cycle of re-writing without moving forward.

And—last but certainly not least—have fun with it. Take joy in the process of creation.

Learn more about C.S. in her bio and links listed below.

C.S. Wachter lives in rural Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, with her husband Joe, one German Shepherd, and three cats. She and Joe have been married for more than forty years and have three sons, one grandson and one granddaughter.

Ms. Wachter earned her degree in Performing Arts and English Education from Rowan University in 1975. She compares developing a character’s perspective to preparing for an acting role. As a life-long lover of books, she has read and enjoyed a variety of genres. However, after reading J. R. R. Tolkien in middle school her favorite has been, and remains to this day, Fantasy with a Christian perspective.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cswachter/

Website: https://cswachter.com/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17719497.C_S_Wachter

Click below for Amazon links:

Amazon author page

The Sorcerer’s Bane

The Light Arises

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