A Spew of Ideas: Sibling Plots.
Sibling plots other than incest and the usual crime-fighting brother-sister team. Generally sibling relationships are not as popular as compared to romantic relationships or friendships, but I do find sibling plots interesting. I’m on a creative spew (for lack of a better phrase) this week, so I thought I’d share with you guys some ideas I have. Contains plenty different themes, along with the usual triggers: death, physical and mental impairments, substance abuse, & abuse. Most themes are conflict-related, because what’s a plot without conflict? Feel free to contribute to this by sending me asks! Criticism is welcome. More under the cut:
- Two siblings with hearing impairment develops their own unique way of signing to each other, much to the chagrin of the rest of their family.
- A younger sibling desperately tries to gain the friendship and attention of a much older sibling who treats him with mild disgust and annoyance.
- A pair of twins relish their strong bond that had held them and will continue to hold them together for years to come.
- An older sibling tries hard to gain the approval of their younger and critical sibling.
- Twin siblings struggle to form separate identities on their own when everyone else around them insists on treating them as one entity.
- A person attempts to pick up their life after a horrible divorce, but their sibling is less than supportive.
- A person attempts to do [anything you want], but their sibling, in all good intentions, is pulling them down with negative and discouraging comments.
- A teenager is kicked out of their house by an older, adult sibling after their father passed away.
- Two adopted siblings embark on a mission together to find their biological parents.
- Triplets realise, despite what their parents say, that they are made in a test tube as part of a trial science experiment, and each of them reacts differently to that news.
- A person found out that their partner has been cheating on them with their younger sibling and conflict ensures.
- A person shelters their sibling from law enforcement after multiple criminal acts.
More under the cut:
Translate as many as you need, but I can give you some tips that can help you a lot when writing sentences and phrases.
Here is what you should definitely translate to have on hand:
- Verb endings
- Common words
One thing you should do is create pronouns and how they work with verb conjugations. Let’s say that mwi is the pronoun she. The verb tinolit means to run. Now let’s say we want to write “she runs”. You can do a lot with this depending on your language:
You can write a literal translation without conjugating the verb:
- Mwi tinolit
You can conjugate the verb and get rid of the pronoun due to the verb already implying the pronoun:
You can add something to the verb without conjugating it to show the pronoun:
Of course with different tenses, you might have to further conjugate the verb depending on the culture’s perception of time. If we wanted to say “she ran”, it could be:
- Mi’tinoliten or (looking at example 2)
- En’tinolam or (looking at example 1)
- Mwi tinoliten
You should also make a list of verb endings. In our word tinolit, the -lit is the ending and this is what we modify when conjugating the verb. We can make -lit a regular verb ending, along with a few other endings. Let’s choose three common verb endings: -lit, -let, -lot. We can also introduce irregular verb endings, but you don’t have to do that.
Once you’ve got your basic verb endings, you should come up with verb endings for certain tenses. Make a list of all of these. When it comes time to create a sentence with a verb you don’t have, all you need to do is pick a verb ending, make up a prefix, and, if needed, attach your pronoun.
Common words would include articles, prepositions, interjections, determiners, and conjunctions. Coming up with words for these beforehand can cut down a lot of time on making up full sentences in another language.
The syntax (word order) is something that you should determine right away. Here is an example of how to keep track of it:
- Fictional Language: [insert a fictional language with Yoda’s syntax]
- Literal Translation: Luke, when gone am I, the last of the Jedi will you be.
- Modified Translation: Luke, when I am gone, you will be the last of the Jedi.
Keeping tack of literal translations can help you practice with the same syntax and you can refer to other sentences you have created to keep consistency. Look at the syntax of various languages to get some ideas. They don’t always have to follow the syntax of the language you write in.
Bonus: Untranslatable words can be a fun little addition to your world and can add to realism. A lot of people use words from other languages in their everyday speech to convey feelings succinctly. They can be used as interjections too. If you use untranslatable words, just one (or two or three) will do. Creating too many will confuse readers or reduce their effect. You need to explain what these words mean at one point in your story so that readers are aware of what they mean.
Above all, translate all words and sentences that you use in your story.
When it comes to translating fictional languages to the reader, there are a few things you can do.
- Greetings: You don’t always need to translate greetings or farewells. If two characters meet, bow, and say “Lito” to each other, the reader will assume it is a greeting based on context. They don’t need the literal translation.
- Full sentences: If you use full sentences in another languages, you don’t have to translate them if the reader isn’t meant to know what it says. If you want to translate them to the reader, you can use a character as a translator or you can write the translation in dialogue (usually in italics) if the POV character understands the language.
- Glossary: Some writers include a glossary of their language at the end of the story. This works best when you only use a few words and phrases of your made up language. A glossary isn’t going to allow an accurate translation of full sentences if you use them because the reader doesn’t know conjugations and syntax.
- Common Phrases: You can find lots of ways to translate simple phrases to the reader. You only need to do it once. After that, you can use this common phrase and variations of it without needing to translate it.
- Mention in Narration: You don’t have to write out the language all the time. If the POV character can understand the language, mention within narration that they are speaking a different language and write the dialogue in whatever language you write in.
Question 1: Soldiers
Anonymous asked you:
I’m writing an army novel and i need some help with the psychical traits of soldiers, do you have something?
Being in good shape. That’s pretty much it for physical traits.
Question 2: Mixed Character
Anonymous asked you:
In my story, the main character is mixed (her dad is white and her mom is black) and her mother is the antagonist. She has two best friends, one of them is black (girl) the other is white (guy) and her love interest is white. Do you see any controversy that could possibly arise from this? Thanks a ton.
Unless you write something offensive, no I don’t see any controversy.
Question 3: Irish History and Names
Anonymous asked you:
i remember you answered a question awhile ago about irish history/names and stuff like that but i cant seem to find it in your tags. can i get a link to it or can you tell me what tag it should be under? thanks!
Here you go! There’s probably more stuff on Irish names (Anglicized or not) in the names tag.
Question 4: The I Problem
Anonymous asked you:
I looked through your POV tag but I don’t quite see an answer to my question. I apologize now if it’s there. I want to write my story in first person but find I’m either using “I” too much or too many “-ing” words in lieu of I (which I hate to do). Is there any way to find a happy medium or should I just scrap this POV? Thanks in advance!
I don’t have it on the tags page, but here are posts that can help you with this.
Question 5: Palaces
Anonymous asked you:
Hey, I really love your blog! I was just wondering if you had any resources relating to palaces, particularly the layout? Thank you!
Here is the difference between castles and palaces, which might help. As for the layout, it can be anything you want. Look at some real life palaces for inspiration or help. You can take parts of real palaces and fit them together to make your own layout.
Question 6: Gay Characters
Anonymous asked you:
This might be a stupid question, but is it unbelievable/odd if 90% of my main characters are queer? I didn’t mean it to happen, but I also don’t want to change them.
In certain settings, no it’s not unbelievable. It doesn’t really matter anyway, especially if the intended audience is the gay community.
Question 7: Cross Dressing
Anonymous asked you:
Is a girl posing as a boy an overused kind of thing? Also, do you have anything on cross dressing or anything of the like?
It’s definitely overused (even though it happened frequently throughout history) in terms of the character dressing as a boy because girls aren’t allowed to do something. You can get away with it more if she’s not doing it out of choice, but rather to survive or sneak around. This doesn’t mean you can’t write it though. Just make it interesting. Other than that, I don’t have anything on cross dressing.
Developing a Character: The Memory Book
In writing, a character is often defined by what they treasure, what they fear, and overall, what they’ve experienced. Even if your character’s saving the world or trying to win the girl, that isn’t what they’ve been doing their whole life, correct? If you feel your character(s) are a bit cliche, it can sometimes help to spice up their stories with very specific detail. And that detail, in many cases, can be seen in the midst of a memory.
For best results, you can write each memory out as an individual story. Just be sure to add as much detail as you can, after all, that’s what makes your character unique from the rest!
Here’s ten experiences that you should know about your character (and how to construct those experiences) to truly connect with him or her.
1. What is your character’s happiest memory?
It can be something as simple as the time they skipped school to play a card game, or the last moment they had on their home planet. Even if it’s trivial to us, show us why it matters to them, and it’ll be important in our eyes too.
2. What is your character’s saddest memory?
Pretty much the exact opposite of the last one. Let us know why this is so shattering to your character, and try to be creative! If a parent or friend died, it’s understandable that that’d probably top the sadness charts, but be careful. What can you do to make a moment like that unlike too many other melodramatic “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO” scenes in media? Give us enough details about both your character and their loss. Make us lose what they do.
3. What is your character’s scariest memory?
This is a great way to create and establish a lingering fear or even a phobia. Even if your character has an outlandish fear, if you give us a completely legitimate backstory behind their fright, it’ll make it all the better.
4. What is your character’s most embarrassing memory?
This is super fun to come up with and even more fun to write a scene to. Don’t spare any humiliating details here.
5. What is your character’s most prominent childhood memory?
Good or bad, simple or complex, a full scene or just an image, a snippet from your character’s childhood really shows the reader (and the writer!) what the character values in life. This also helps to show how a character might’ve changed, in maturity or emotion, since their childhood—and why that change could’ve occurred. Even more backstory right there, even more development!
6. Give us a shot of your character’s daily life.
Before being sent on a quest for the sacred bacon palace, before starting a road trip to drive all the way to Alaska in two days, before any conflict kicked in whatsoever, your character had a life. Even if it’s boring as can be, how did it go? You could even make a to-do list out of this! As simple as it sounds, it can help show how your character prioritizes, common interests and hobbies, what stresses them out, and even tiny details like their favorite foods!
7. What’s a memorable moment your character shared with others?
This could make for a fantastic scene, and definitely develop your character in so many ways. A scene with interaction, whether it be with a crowd (perhaps a party) or one-on-one (speed dating fiasco, anyone?), would allow you to see how your character acts around people, how they exchange dialogue, and what kind of people they prefer to be around. You may even develop a new character for your bigger story!
8. What’s a memorable moment your character experienced alone?
Sure, it’s the reverse of the last one, but it still opens so many doors. In this intimate and secret environment, your character may be much more open emotionally and socially—or the opposite. This allows you to experiment with thoughts and even establish guilty pleasures. Environment affects a solitary character, too! Be detailed!
9. What’s an interesting romantic/sexual experience your character has had?
Even if romance isn’t applicable to your story, a scene like this (if you’re comfortable with writing it—it’s okay if you’re not!) will allow you to see a more intimate side to your character. You’ll see them vulnerable, and therefore, probably get more out of them than in other experiences. This may also establish why they like/dislike certain people, depending on the person they share this moment with (if they share it with anyone at all). This can even help you explore sexuality. Make it funny or serious, you don’t have to be explicit! However, you do have to be specific. Make this special, different than any other kissy-kissy goo-goo love scene.
10. Show us your character’s bedroom.
While this isn’t exactly an experience (although, you can make a scene occur here, if you want to!), a character’s bedroom often tells more about their personality than the character itself does. This image probably requires the most specificity. Are those little league trophies on the dresser? Even more detailed, are they dusty? Clean? What kind of posters are on the wall? Is that a chocolate stash under the bed? How about that broken keyboard, how long has that been there? A bedroom can describe everything from a character’s interests to their motivation or laziness, and even their past and secrets. Give us everything.
Answering these questions, whether in short sentences or full scenes, can reveal so much about a character to even the writer! Don’t think too hard, and don’t try to make it perfect. Let the characters do the work, and let them tell the story! They’re the ones seizing the moment—it’s just your responsibility to snap the photo.
Write outside of your comfort zone and just keep practicing. Over time, your style will change.
You should also try free writing. Write without paying attention to grammar or punctuation. Write the way you think, use contractions, use slang, skip from one idea to another in the same sentence, forget about starting new paragraphs, use active verbs, be informal. This can loosen up your ideas and your style this way.
Guide: Take a “Vacation” to Recharge Your Creativity
Anonymous asked: my writing has become very stiff and….fake, it doesnt flow like it used to, and I find everything I write is just awful. Any advice on how to get rid of this rigid writing?There could be two possible things going on: 1) you’re not inspired by what you’re working on, or 2) you’re in a creativity rut. Unfortunately, when this happens you can’t always force your way through it. Sometimes you need to set aside whatever you’re working on for a little while and take a little “vacation” to recharge your creativity. Luckily this is easier than it sounds! Take a few days or ideally a week or two and do any of the following:
1) Start an inspiration journal
Go out and buy a pretty journal if you don’t already have one, and maybe buy a special pen (or set of pens—I love Sakura Gelly Roll pens) and use it to record all the things that inspire you. These can be quotes, bits of poetry, favorite movie or television scenes, observations, descriptions, words, snippets of overheard conversation, pictures from magazines—literally anything you want!
2) Get out and see the world
You don’t have to go on vacation or even go out of town to see the world around you. Take a long walk, go to a new store or restaurant, go sit by a lake at a pretty park, sit at the mall and people watch, go rummage through the shelves of a local book store, or visit a local attraction like a museum or amusement park. Really observe your surroundings. Try to describe what you see in your head as if you were putting it into a novel. Pay attention to what people look like—what do they wear, how do they move, and how do they act? Listen to what people say and store it away for later use. Record your favorite observations in your inspiration journal.
Poetry, short stories, classic literature, fun books—read it all. Reading is one of the best ways to recharge your creativity, and it’s one of the best ways to learn about writing.4) Listen to Music
Put your iPod on shuffle and sit in a dark room or take a walk. Start a free account on Pandora and find new music to listen to. Really pay attention to song lyrics and look them up if you need to. If something inspires you, write it in your inspiration journal.
5) Watch TV and Movies
Consuming other writers’ stories is a great way to recharge and find inspiration. It’s so easy and relaxing to put on a pair of comfy pajamas, pop some popcorn and pour yourself a favorite drink, then curl up in front of the TV for a couple of hours and let yourself get swept away.
6) Do Something Crafty or Artistic
Even if you don’t have an artistic bone in your body, give yourself permission to play with color and lines and shapes for a little while, even if the end result isn’t museum-worthy. Buy some inexpensive canvas and a starter set of acrylics and brushes and try your hand at painting. You can even pull up tutorials on YouTube if you’d prefer a little guidance. Purchase a kids’ art kit at your local craft store or look for free project sheets for ideas. Look online to see if you have a paint-your-own ceramics or pottery store. Or look for a bead shop where you can go and make your own jewelry. Sign-up for a craft class at your local craft shop or ask your mom or a friend to teach you how to knit or sew.
7) Start a Tumblr Inspiration Gallery
Create a tumblr gallery and use it to re-blog inspiring pictures, quotes, and articles.
8) Do Writing Prompts
Writing prompts are a great way to exercise your creativity without the pressure of a regular writing project. I have a bunch of prompt sites listed in this post.
9) Listen to This American Life online or on NPR
This American Life is a weekly radio program that features stories that revolve around a theme. They explore a wide range of subjects, and you never know where a story will take you. It can be a great form of inspiration.
10) Do Some Armchair Travel
The internet makes it super easy to see the world right from the comfort of your own home. You can take a spin on Google Earth and look at user photos of different places, or use Google Street View to “walk” around any location you can imagine. There are lots of web sites that give you 3D and panoramic tours of various places, like Globe Genie which will drop you in random places. GeoGuesser does the same thing but you have to guess where you are. ;) Official web sites of various locations often have great galleries, video tours, and other ways to explore from a distance. Many museums offer on-line exhibits as well. An alternative to internet travel is to go rummage through travel books at the library or a bookstore.
After a few days or a week or so, give your writing another go and see if it’s better. If not, take a look at some of the posts on my master post list to see if any can help you get out of your rut. Good luck! :)
Being a science fiction creator is the most amazing adventure — you get to invent whole new worlds, brand new futures, and fantastic technologies, and you get to tell the most incredible stories about them. But it’s also a tough and heartbreaking career path, whether you’re in books, comics, movies or television. Here are 10 things that every brand new science fiction creator ought to know at the start.