Friday, February 24, 2012

19th Century Remedies?

I found a very enlightening article on the Steampunk Blog, Xerposa all about 19th Century Remedies

Nothing quite like a tonic to cure you ... or kill you.
My favourites would be either the Male Impotency Belt, the Hysterical Paroxsysm gentle massage for Hysteria, and last but not least, Mrs. Winslow's Soothing Syrup for Teething Children. But who am I kidding? All of the remedies are real eye-poppers. So grab your coffee and click on over to the Xerposa Blog, which is a pretty neat place to be lurking on a Friday morning. Especially when it's raining. Like it is here.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Robots, Zeppelin's, and World Building, oh my!

We were talking about the characters in my current story-in-progress while at the dinner table recently. My son, who I think should have said "robots" as his first word instead of "fish" since he loves them so much (unless of course he meant clockwork fish which would entirely make sense) anyway, his eyes lit up at the subject of designing a metal man. Because, as we all agreed, how can you know what a character looks like if you don't have a good picture in mind?

I know many authors use celebrity photos as a source of inspiration for the physical look of their characters, but in the case of a Steampunk story, there aren't many gentleman walking around (or any) who have brass rivets and metal skin to use as a model for a romantic hero. So, here we go then. World building.

I love world building. It is just so exciting to think up different ideas for "how things work" and research the snot out of sometimes obscure subjects that I would never have come across had I not been inclined to inquire about them in the process of creating the foundation of a story. Yes, it takes a long time to gather all your facts, and, yes, it can be frustrating sometimes when certain elements don't fit together as well as you would have liked, but lets face it, anything worth doing, is worth doing well, and that includes world building.

So what does a metal man look like, whose innerds are made of clockwork gears and steam powered gadgetry?

Well, my son grabbed his pencils and paper and came up with this design:

A "hex" apparently is the charm which makes the automaton alive, and I love the brain cable which travels the whole way through so the metal man can move. He really put a lot of thought into how it might all work.
And then because he was still so excited, he drew a few airship design as well, including, of course, lots of active guns, and the puff-puff of a steam engine.

Who could not love such enthusiasm? I am wondering if my love of world building isn't just an adult version of the same creative fantasy we enjoy as a child. Because my eyes shine like my son's do when he gets inspired to draw, and my heart races as I settle at the keyboard to jot down my notes.

So, how far would you go in the creation of a story-world? How much detail do you think is necessary to make a fantasy world believable?

For my part, I have spent well over a year researching, amongst other things, automatons, armor, steam powered propulsion, alchemy, Victorian society, gemology, and of course dirigibles...and as much as I have discovered and used to mold the aspects of my story together, it never feels I know enough.

By the way, if you ever wanted to know what the inside of a real dirigible looks like and know some useful facts about their travel applications, an amazing book I found in my Internet travels is called, Zeppelin; the story of a great achievement (c1922) and it can be downloaded for free here: 

Do you think there there can be "too much" when it comes to researching for a book concept? Or is knowing your subject in depth the key to a well built world?

Friday, February 3, 2012

Know What You Write.

Today, I was thinking to blog about World Building, or Steampunk, as both are subjects close to my heart, but settled on the topic of "journey's" instead. Why journey's, you say?
Well, there are all kinds of journey's in life. Going on vacation is a favourite type, of course. So is starting an exercise plan. Quitting smoking. Becoming a parent. Yeah, that's a biggie, eh? A journey that never ends. But there are emotional journey's we go on as well as the physical. Like the roller coaster anxiety of writing a test. Getting married. Going through a divorce. Whatever the situation, in all journey's, who we were at the beginning of the journey is different than the person we are at the end.

Writing a book is a journey. Which is one of the reasons I started this blog, in the hopes that the ideas I stumble across on my personal journey of writing down the stories in my head, may be of use to others. I have been writing seriously now for five years. Learning and practicing the art of putting together a story, and along the way, I had to sit down and think about what it was I enjoyed most about the books I read. I mean, how can I set out to write a book if I don't know what  kind of story I find most pleasing myself? What truly grips me in a book and keeps me turning the pages until 3 am, or 4, or even later, knowing full well I'll be hitting the coffee pretty heavy the next day as a result?

The answer is simple. Regardless of genre, a good story to me, is one which takes me on a journey. I grew up reading sci-fi and fantasy. Loved, from an early age, going to far-off imaginary worlds and places where I would see new and fascinating things through the eyes of the characters. But it was always the emotional journey, the choices the characters made along the way and the things they learned about themselves as a consequence, that really made the stories gripping. As I grew older, I discovered other genres: historical fiction, romance, mystery, horror. But always it was the stories where the characters went on a journey, both of body and soul, that made me never want to put the book down.

Diana Gabaldon is absolutely masterful in her scope and ability of writing a journey. In Outlander, Claire travels through time to find her true love and true self, a journey made exquisitely believable by the ofttimes painful choices Claire makes. Life is never easy, but its that very hardship which makes the achievements and joys so worth fighting for and cherishing.

And in stories, the idea is exactly the same. It doesn't matter the length or genre; as long as there is a journey that can involve the reader emotionally, the story will be successful in keeping the reader doing what we all want as writers...reading.

What are some of your favourite books? How important is the journey in them?