Create your world

Photo by batintherain

Photo by batintherain

One of the basic rules of writing a novel is to create your world. Remember that when you write, you should be creating an emotional journey for the reader. Conflict rouses emotion. So when you are creating your world you should look for conflict. In your world you should ask – what are the opposing factors that will create conflict?

There can be conflict among cultures, political parties, religious groups, ruling powers, guilds, magical factions, environmental factors, etc…You can create a luxurious environment that makes life boring for your protagonist and forces them to seek adventure elsewhere or you can create a harsh environment that tests the will of any person. You can create competition among groups or different beliefs that force people against each other. You can create good and evil in a fight for power or freedom.

The point is that this is your world and you can create whatever you want, but whenever you create something, think about what conflicting creation you could add to oppose it. If you can do this, you are setting the foundations for your readers to embark on an emotional ride.

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Finding A Theme

Photo by Matt - Creative Commons

Photo by Matt – Creative Commons

What are you writing about? and I don’t mean the details of your story. I mean what are you really writing about? What is your underlying meaning? What is your theme? Are you writing about how determination can overcome any obstacle? How true love can prevail? That good will conquer evil? Whatever it is, that is your theme.

If you are not sure what to write about, take a moment to reflect on your values. Think about what is important to you or flip it around and consider what really irks you, and then ask yourself why? It may just help you find your theme.

The Ancient Art of Writing

Photo by Duran - Creative Commons

Photo by Duran – Creative Commons

I have a tale to tell that may seem like it has nothing to do with writing. It may take a while to get to the point, but I think you may find it an interesting read. It is the story of my martial arts training and it all began with a chance meeting.

Gary, was sitting in his council flat watching TV, when he saw someone doing back flips down the balcony outside his window. Not being an everyday occurrence, Gary went outside to see what was going on and got talking to the guy doing the acrobatics. He turned out to be Mr Park, a fifth dan black belt from South Korea, who had just started studying in the UK and was renting a flat on the estate.

Gary had always been into martial arts, and after a long conversation he was invited to start training with Mr Park, who encouraged him to bring a friend. He did, it was Dave, a good friend who was practically my ‘Brother-in-Law’ at the time. Dave went along for a few months and would tell me all about it. He kept on at me to join them, but I was sceptical about the whole thing. It was too much like something out of one of the martial arts movies I watched as a kid. I thought it was too good to be true.

One weekend after a particularly charismatic request from Dave, I signed up as a sloppy novice, and was handed a white belt. There were three students: Gary, Dave and me. We trained every morning, bare foot, in Notting Hill’s Holland Park, London.

Over the coming years we grew, the three of us passed through the ranks and earned our black belts. Not only did we grow from a small group training in the park to a large group training in our own club. We grew from novices learning the art, to accomplished martial artists teaching the new, less experienced, members.

Like Martial Arts, writing is a craft, a skill that can be mastered if you are willing to put in the time and effort. The more you write, the more you grow. You need to take the time to learn the fundamentals and from there you can develop your own style. I myself am still in this growing stage and hope to gain my black belt in prose in the future, so I will concentrate on getting the fundamentals right. I will work on the four basic elements of writing a novel: Establishing a theme, Building a world, Building the Characters and Building the Plot.

And if I can master the basics, hopefully, one day I will be called a Master.

 

Thoughts on a page

Photo by Renaud Camus

Photo by Renaud Camus

When I first started to write a novel I had no idea of the skills and mechanics involved in creating a good book. I was blissfully ignorant about the amount of thought and effort that really went into creating a great story. Fortunately for me, I had a belief. I believed in myself and I said “I can do that.”

Whether we are writing for the masses or our own private pleasure, I think we must all believe in ourselves. I would like to reinforce that by saying “If you are doing it, it’s because you can.” The skills and techniques of writing can be learned, but the hardest part of writing for many of us, is actually sharing our work. Our writing is not just empty words on a piece of paper, it is a glimpse into our soul. We need to let go of the fear of showing people who we are and what we believe in. If we can master that, then we can truly create an amazing story.

An Interview with S. Elliot Brandis

S. Elliot Brandis

S. Elliot Brandis

This softly spoken engineer spends half of his time dreaming up new worlds for us to enjoy through his writing. S. Elliot Brandis is a talented author who has just published his post-apocalyptic Sci-fi novel – Irradiated.

Elliot also has a recently released short story─18/20, in the anthology, 18. I have been fortunate enough to catch up with him to talk about his writing and what makes him tick. This is what he had to say.

 

Allan Walsh: Hi Elliot, your story 18/20 in the anthology, 18, is set in a post-apocalyptic world. I’ve read a few of your stories to date and noticed this is not the only one with a post-apocalyptic theme. Is this a topic that stimulates your creative writing?

S.Elliot Brandis: Hi Allan! You’re not wrong—I love dystopians, both as a reader and a writer. I see myself more as a Speculative Fiction writer than a Science Fiction writer. Is there a difference? Well, it depends who you ask, but when I sit down to write a story I don’t think What will happen with science in the future? but instead What will become of mankind?

And, for me, this tends to lead to dystopic visions. 18/20 shows a society on the brink of collapse, while Irradiated is set long after the fall. Creatively, these settings open up so many different possibilities. You get to create a world from scratch, as close to or as far away from modern society as you like. To me, this is the fun of fiction. I get to build worlds and create new lives.

 

Allan Walsh: In your new novel, Irradiated, there appears to be a connotation towards the wild west. Was this intentional and if so, are you a big fan of westerns?

S.Elliot Brandis: I think this is a very natural, organic connection. I didn’t sit down and try and infuse western elements into my novel. I do, however, think there is a huge overlap between a low –technology post-apocalyptic landscape and that of the old American frontier western. You take away petrol and electricity, made the landscape harsh and sparsely populated, and suddenly it begins to invoke the feeling of the ol’ west. Every confrontation comes with the potential for danger, and people can get away with being a little more, well, wild.

Am I a fan of westerns? Not particularly the old spaghetti western movies, but I do love stories with a good southern feel. Cormac McCarthy’s Border Trilogy is one of my favourite pieces of literature.

 

Allan Walsh: Both Irradiated and 18/20 have well developed and utterly evil antagonists. Where do you draw your inspiration for such despicable characters?

S.Elliot Brandis: I know I created her, so I’m probably not the fairest judge, but I freaking love The Queen in Irradiated. She my favourite character, of all my creations.

I think the trick to writing the bad guys is that you have to make them think they’re the good guys. Nobody is evil just for the sake of it. In The Queen’s mind, she’s saving and protecting her own people. And when the stakes are as large as that, you can justify the brutality of your actions.

The other thing I try and do is make the good guys the bad guys, sometimes. My protagonists often do despicable things. They kill, they lie, they deceive. It’s what makes them ring true. Nothing is black and white. My novel is a big melting pot of grey.

 

Allan Walsh: I remember when you first joined Vision Writer’s group, you were already a well-established writer. How do you think Vision has helped you to further your talent as a writer?

S.Elliot Brandis: At the risk of surprising you, I have to disagree. When I joined Vision, I wasn’t established at all. The story you all critiqued, The Worst of Paths, was the first complete story I’d written in about ten years. I’ve written limitless reports, two thesis, multiple blogs, and all sorts of things, but that was the first time I’d sat down and completed a work of pure fiction.

How has Vision helped me? It’s given me incredible confidence. I can’t quite explain it, and it probably sounds a bit wanky, but I feel I have a natural aptitude for fiction. The kindness and support offered to me by members in the group shifted my mindset from this is what I want to be to this is what I can be. It requires a lot of hard work, but that’s what makes it worth the while.

 

Allan Walsh: Your style of writing is very literary. Which authors do you admire and have they encouraged your writing style.

S.Elliot Brandis: I find it very difficult to define what makes a work ‘literary’. I’ve heard my work described this way quite a bit now, but it’s not something that I deliberately set out to do. When I write, I listen to the rhythm of the prose, the feel of the words, and do what feels right in my mind. The result is what you read.

I’m a huge reader, and love science fiction. Despite what some people believe, the best science fiction is incredibly well written. Kurt Vonnegut, H.G. Wells, Arthur C. Clake, John Wyndham, Hugh Howey… they’re all fantastic writers of prose. Even Douglas Adams has a rollicking rhythm that bleeds off the page. I also think that every writer should read a wide range of fiction. I don’t pay much attention to genre and labels, and read anything that interests me, from any era — Irvine Welsh, Jonathan Safran Foer, Cormac McCarthy, Hunter S. Thomson, Michael Chabon, and so on, so forth. I think having a broad base of influences has helped my own work immensely.

 

Allan Walsh: It looks like you have been busy with your writing recently, with stories in two anthologies and the publishing of your new novel. What can we look forward to seeing from you in the future?

 

S.Elliot Brandis: I’ve just published Irradiated, and am working very hard on the sequel, Degenerated. I actually started writing Degenerated back in February, and have recently typed out the final page. At the moment, I’m carefully rereading and reworking the manuscript, a page at a time, before sending it to my editor in June. If all goes well, I’m hoping for a July/August release. From there, it’s onto the third and final book.

After, I have a few ideas I want to work on. I want to write a story about the computer on board a long-distance space flight. You know how the AI is always made into the villain? The crazy, monotonous on-board system that goes crazy and kills them all? Well, I want to make them the good guy. I also want to write a novel about an android, struggling to survive after the fall of man.

So many ideas, so little time to write them.

 

Allan Walsh: It’s been a pleasure talking to you Elliot, thank you for taking time out to speak with me. I look forward to seeing what great things lie ahead for you in your promising writing career.

 

S.Elliot Brandis’ story 18/20, can be found in the anthology 18, here and his new novel – Irradiated, here. To find out more about S.Elliot Brandis and his work, check out his website here.

What to do when your stuck for ideas.

Picture by tsaiproject - Creative Commons

Picture by tsaiproject – Creative Commons

I got to thinking today about what my next blog should be. What useful information could I share with other writers out there? And then I thought to myself, hang about, what if my fellow bloggers have an amazing piece of info they could share with me?

So I find myself asking all the writers out there in the digital world, what is the best piece of advice, the best writing tip, that little nugget of gold that you have come across on your writing journey’s?

And for all you avid readers, what piece of advice would you give to a writer?

Long Road Ahead

Picture by Jon Rawlinson.

I have strayed a little bit off topic lately, so let’s get back on the road. Now where was I? Oh that’s right, my Writers’ group. This is how it works. We meet once a month to critique each others work, there is the occasional gathering for birthdays and stuff, but in general a handful of us will submit a piece each month that will go under the scrutiny of the group.

Recently, while I’ve tried to hold down my full time job and keep up with the demands of everyday life, I have not had time to submit anything but my short story for the anthology our group just released. It’s been a case of: write submission, submit for scrutiny, get feedback, bite tongue and cry other feedback, pull self together, edit, submit for copy editing, read suggested edits…’pause for breath’…huff and puff over suggestions, cool down, accept/reject recommended edits, sign contracts and send to print. Somewhere In between there have been reviews of Cover design, page titles, font, formatting, testing on devices, etc.. Thankfully we have a talented group who put a lot of effort into this, a select few probably deserve a medal for their work.

On top of all the work I have been putting into the anthology, I have also been trying to build my author platform. If any of you have not done this before, let me tell you – it is a lot of work and needs continuous attention, at least in the beginning anyway. So if it is on your list of things to do, start it sooner rather than later.

After all the hard work, the book was finally ready and we published the e-copy on 9th May. We all let out a deep breath and relaxed…There have probably been a few bottles of grog cracked open in celebration too, and maybe a few cheers, and maybe even some colourful streamers. I may have even done a little jig, but I’m not admitting to that…no, no, no.

This is the first step in my writing career, I consider it a baby step upon the long road ahead, but a step forward none the less. I have learnt a great deal in this process from the help and determination of others with a passion to do what they enjoy – Write.

So in closing, I would like to say thank you to all involved, you know who you are – now let’s get back to writing!