Blog · On Writing

Sickles and Sixpence: Deciding Your Fantasy World’s Currency

I’ve talked once about deciding on your fantasy world’s religion, but there’s another question I’ve been struggling with: money. Moolah. Coinage. Currency, whether it be in bills or beans or other shiny things.

*very* shiny things

There are two facets to fantasy money important to consider in world building — what counts as currency/trade in your fantasy world, and what do you call it?

Obviously, unless your plot deals intimately with the economic structure of your fantasy realm, you’re not going to want to inundate your readers with this kind of detail. Readers want to know about your characters, their troubles and the big ol’ exciting plot, not exchange rates and other economic jargon. 

But, think of Harry Potter. Going to Diagon Alley for the first time and getting money from his Gringotts vault is a threshhold-crossing moment for Harry. He’s brought into this  unfamiliar but amazing magical world, given a purse of gold coins, and told to go buy stuff. We learn so much about wizards in that chapter — we see their cauldron shop, the owl emporium, the shop that sells their custom-tailored Wizarding robes. And legitimizing the whole experience is a brief, comically confusing rundown of Wizard money:


“The gold ones are Galleons. Seventeen silver Sickles to a Galleon and twenty-nine Knuts to a Sickle, it’s easy enough.”
JK Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

And suddenly, as a reader, we’re right there in it. We want a moneybag of tinkling, glittering gold galleons. We want to buy our wand and school books and get fitted for our robes. Even a brief mention establishing your fantasy world’s currency can go a long way to legitimize the world. It’s a little detail, but a fun one, and one you can make as unique or imaginative as you like.

Continue reading “Sickles and Sixpence: Deciding Your Fantasy World’s Currency”

Blog · On Writing

3 Reasons We Get Writer’s Block — And How To Beat Them

It doesn’t exist.”

“It’s laziness.”

“It’s in your head.”

“What you need to do, is just start typing.”

The internet has a lot of opinions on writer’s block, from dismissing its existence entirely to ineffectively proscribing blind clacks at a keyboard as its remedy. For someone in the thick of the brain fog and creative stall that is writer’s block, I don’t think either of these mentalities — that what they’re going through isn’t real, or that all they need to do is just write something down — is really going to help, because I don’t think writer’s block is simply a matter of  mental fog or stubborn procrastination.

I think it comes from something far worse — and far easier to fix.

First off, what kind of writer’s block am I talking about? I don’t mean the beginning writer staring at a blank computer screen unable to think of anything to write a story about. That’s not really a writer’s block, that’s just a writer’s beginning. Writer’s block, to me, is when you’re entrenched deep in the middle of a manuscript, you were writing with great speed and excitement and quality, and then suddenly — you’re not. You can’t explain it, but you’re knee-deep in mud and either unable or unwilling to try and pull your feet out. You unconsciously avoid writing, you edit the same few paragraphs over and over, you look at the scenes you’ve yet to write and have no idea how to put them down in words. Your brain is mentally stalled, and you’re terrified, because you have no idea what you did wrong. To me, that’s writer’s block as I’ve experienced it, and, luckily, I’ve picked up a couple ways on how to break through it.

Every instance of writer’s block I’ve ever suffered through as stemmed from legitimate sources of concern, as far as novel-writing goes. Either:

  • I’ve gotten overwhelmed with what I’m doing
  • I didn’t plan well enough ahead, or
  • I’m not acknowledging that I’ve done something wrong

These realizations — that you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, that you’ve written yourself into a fog you can’t see out of, or that something has gone amiss in your writing and you didn’t accomplish what you were trying to do — can stall a writer for weeks, or even months. Because these things feed on our insecurities as writers; they poke you in the ribs and whisper you weren’t ready anyway; you’re not good enough; you should give up. Ignore that little voice. Everyone gets overwhelmed, everyone could’ve planned better, and everyone makes mistakes.

So let’s look at each of these problems and how to fix them.

Continue reading “3 Reasons We Get Writer’s Block — And How To Beat Them”

Blog · On Writing

Using Harry Potter to Kick Characterization in the Ass

Harry Potter gave us tons of useful tools and spells we can use to evaluate our own original characters, see if they’re as well-rounded and fleshed out as we think. Take a character from your novel and think about the following questions. Writing down detailed responses, even expanding your answers into scenes, will help kick your creativity into overdrive, and might teach you something about your characters you hadn’t realized until now:

What Hogwarts House would your character be in? What traits do they have that match the House perfectly, and what traits clash? Would the Sorting Hat decide their House immediately or hesitate?

What would their Patronus be? What memories would they call upon to produce the spell?

What would be their favorite classes at Hogwarts? What about their least favorite? Continue reading “Using Harry Potter to Kick Characterization in the Ass”

Blog · NaNoWriMo · On Writing

Countdown to NaNoWriMo: To Plan or To Pants

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Do you guys plan your NaNo novels, or ‘pants’ them? (As in, work from a detailed outline, or fly by the seat of your pants.) There are definite benefits and detractions from each practice.

Pantsers may find themselves stuck halfway through the month with no idea where to go next. At the same time, planners run the risk of over-plotting their story — micromanage too much and you lose the excitement of writing and get burnt out!

Planners might emerge from their writing caves on December 1st with a more structured story than pantsers, but the pantsers’ unrestricted spontaneity might’ve uncovered some absolute gems in their writing that the planners never strayed far enough from the path to find. So, which is it? Do you plan, or do you open your laptop November 1st and see what happens?

Or is the key a healthy median? My advice is for anyone, pantser or plotter, to write something down before November 1st. Whether a quick jot of ideas or a detailed chapter-by-chapter rundown, establish some idea, however vague, of where you’re headed this month. Then (and I say this particularly to you fellow micromanaging planners), put it away! Enjoy the spontaneity of the pantser in the moment, and if you get stuck, lose motivation, bring out the planner’s road map and check where to go next.

Some more posts on planning and pantsing:

Pantser? Planner? Percolator? @ the NaNoWriMo official blog

Novel Planning For Pantsers @ The Struggling Writer

From Story Pantser to Story Planner @ Storyfix

Pantser? Planner? Prep? @ the NaNoWriMo official forums

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