Writerly Notions: Worldbuilding & Copying

I’ve realized why my writing often lacks a “spark”. Most of the writing sources I follow or consume (and how my mind interprets them) indicate that fantasy — culture, customs, history — are just copies of this world. And copies are just reflections. More to the point, it’s hard to believe a copy-world is real on its own terms. Which makes it hard, I’d wager, for others to believe in fantasy world that doesn’t feel real, that is only a copy.

On one hand, I want to create real imagined fantasy, advice and convention tell me I have to copy. But if that’s all I have to do, why would I write at all? (If I wanted to do historical fantasy, that would be great, but I think I lean more toward imaginary fantasy. That is, fantasy that isn’t heavily historical.)

Once I started trying to “get serious” about writing a lot of the spontaneous imagination dropped out. While research is necessity for good writing, if the initial groundwork is just trying to copy the exact replica that is (or might be) the inspiration for a fantasy culture, will that seem real?

For me, a lot of rooted worldbuilding comes from percolating off nature and creating myth (the moon is a dragon’s eye, four bats created the world). Or if not nature, than fairy tales. And if not fairy tales, than just…ideas? (flurma birds that roost on the tips of crystal trees where fluff grows, whose plumage turns blue before they migrate)

The trouble is figuring out  what this-world culture I’m inspired by and taking conscientious actions. Often with humans, I do know, but that’s in a copy-&-paste way, rather than deep roots. (Other than one or two fantasy human cultures.)


Writerly Notions: What to do?

So I’m in a bit of a muddle. (Also, don’t mind me, I’m just clearing my thoughts.)

What should I work on? Okay, scratch that. Should I write the final section of my long, long, long overdue demon mythology story, even if I’m not 100% sure it actually makes sense, nor do I know what’s happening? Or should I try to make it all fit together?

And see, that’s the hitch. A lot of ideas I’ve had post 2010 (Romance of Three Jewels, The Painting Story, NIAR, 12D + Bluebeard) actually have structure. Story structure. Conflict. Character arcs. Story stages. Do I know every detail? Probably not. Do I have enough to see how the plot connects and how my characters will grow and get from one story stage to the next? Oh, yes.

But I have at least three major projects that came before 2010. And it’s a pain because they’re not, well, as well structured.

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Maiden of the Mist

Day 26: Feb 26

Water sprouts, crystallizing into ice so every splash now glistens, a translucent silver petal. These ice flowers fill a field of underground springs. Constant mist glides imperiously across the rumpled earth, born by the heat below the surface and the chill which prances, neverending, in the air. Barely anything lives here, or very few things wish to live here very long. But still, those who wander past or make seasonal homes nearby swear they have seen a figure, like a maiden draped in flowing tattered robes, wandering through the mist. Ghost or guardian, no one can say. But it turns the springs into a haunted place, so less and less humans come.


I have renewed these in lieu of the Refugee Ban in the USA. Inspired by the-cassandra-project and their Every Day Challenge, I am writing every day to raise money for the Urban Justice Center. You can donate here or please spread the word. Thank you.

The High King

The Chronicles of Prydain

by Lloyd Alexander

“quote that stands out, represents the book or chapter in my sense of it” (Author, pg).

I had many feelings.

Some of the characters’ response to Elionwy (esp. Dallben)

Rhun’s death, I knew it was coming

Coll’s death

Fflewddur’s harp, artist, sacrifice, friendship, beauty

gwyaiath that Taran saved in The Book of Three


what does it mean to be a king (or any ruler)

why does Elionwy have to give up her enchantments? or rather, why is her wish to remain with her future romantic male partner the driving motivator for her decision, while for Taran it’s his promises to those who have died? He chooses to stay because of duty and sense of responsibility; Elionwy chooses to stay because she’ll be with her man.

Also – Dallben’s quote “all girls…Taran like all men will be puzzled by women’s innate mystery magic” is sexist, heternormative, and cissest.

similarities to The Lord of the Rings — everyone is departing by sea, all magic is vanishing, they’re going to a wonderful enchanted land where no one dies (also, boo that Flewddur has no choice), the Fair Folk are closing their gates

contrast to the myth of the Isles of the Blessed

other myth comparisons – Hen Wen with pigs in Branch Four, Gwydion’s nature, Arawn’s role, Pyderi’s personality

Fate, destiny, choices, weaving your own life



source edited for better definitions

  • wordpt.of speech. 1. definition


“TEXT” (pg).

Works Cited:

Alexander, Lloyd. The High King. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1968. Print.


The Birth of the Firebringer


by Meredith Ann Pierce

When Alma created the world, most of it she made into the Great Grass Plain, which was not a flat place, but rolling like a mare’s back and covered all over with the greencorn and haycorn and the wild oats, knee high, so that when the wind stirred it, billowing, it looked like a mare’s winter coat blowing (1)

I loved the opening and ending and the tone it lent to the entire book.

I loved the subtle way it developed. I love her writing. I love how she takes mythological creatures and gives them culture. And on top of that, there is a sense of beauty in all the creatures, even the “bad” ones (the wyverns).

It scarcely resembled anything he had imagined of wyverns from the singers’ tales: white and sinuous, yes, but not noxious, not hideous. Very lithe and supple, rather –almost…almost beautiful (156).

But that’s part of the message, I think. It’s big, it’s broad. I really like it.

I love the developed world, the nuances, the idea of stolen land.

Oh, I loved the “children of the moon” bit and the correlation between the moon and Alma. I also especially liked the milkweed plants.


It just really resonated with me. I really loved this book. Highly recommend it.

Although it does have a trippy out of body experience, and the conclusion with who Firebringer is, is kind of obvious I thought. Especially with his strong hotheaded behavior.

But I really couldn’t guess who the narrator was. The sudden shift from third person to first person was a little jarring.

One of my personal favorite scenes was when Jan and Dagg get lost and see the pans dancing and storytelling and fire-making.

“The pans were coming into the glade.

They moved in a long file, a whole band of them, and made themselves into a Circle… And then, within the Circle under the moon, three pans began to dance. Goat-footed, high-stepping, they moved and swayed.

“They dance,” Jan murmured, with a start of surprise.

Dagg shook his head. “Only the unicorns dance.”

But it was so” (92).

It was the first time Jan began to realize there was more cultures and ways of seeing than just the Circle’s way. That and that maybe what the Circle claims is true is questionable.

“Jan shook his head again, but kept his tongue. It WAS speech, he was sure of it. Then that legend of the pans in the old lays must be false. The goatlings were NOT speechless, had not turned away the Mother’s gift. The discovery astonished him” (93).

The other reason I liked the scene was the way it very smoothly presented the idea that just because someone seems “primitive” or the stories you hear claim someone is, doesn’t mean they or their culture is. Communication, beauty, and value in a specific culture, ethnic, or species (in the case of the book) is unique to that specific culture, ethnic or species group. It should be seen as beautiful for its own sake/as it is.

But this tale marks only the first night of my telling. Come to me tomorrow evening, and I will tell you the rest. (234)

What to write?

11 December 2016:

A couple weeks ago, I wrote a lot of my thoughts and feelings down. It felt as if I was pushing myself to really think and consider things: how I felt, what I felt, my situation, who I was, what I believed.

I didn’t post any of it; I never post those kinds of reflections. I have a writing document, or a journaling word document. It’s where I can work through thoughts and confusion and realizations. Or at least it feels like I am. I don’t have to worry if the paragraphs fit together, or if it makes sense, or if it has a unified topic, or if it is writerly or witty or just good writing. I don’t have to worry about if my feelings sound good. I can just focus on what I mean or what I feel.

Almost two weeks ago, I posted a verbatim one about my purpose and why I write. I hadn’t written anything since then.

Today’s the seventh Anniversary of The Princess and the Frog. It’s the only Disney movie that directly influenced my writing. That winter soon after it premiered, me and my immediate family went to Walt Disney World and stayed at resort near Animal Kingdom. It was an awesome place. (It was connected to the safari/savanna so there was a waterhole area outside where you could view animals; we saw a giraffe drinking on the last day.*) But it was really out of the way.

More importantly there was a lot of PatF stuff being promoted. So, the African décor, animals, PatF, and the Christmas lights and spirit mashed up in my mind to deter and take over the second book of my Aladdin-lyric story.

That’s a really bad working name, but it’s the best I can think of to explain it.  Essentially, I wanted to take the cut lyrics from Disney’s Aladdin and see if I could create a compelling story out of it. Or more precisely, if I could take a lazy character and a spoiled character and see if I could make them compelling. By the end, it had begun to deviant from that idea and sink into a strange fog focused on the early stages of my Dreams. Then PatF came out. And I got two new characters that changed the plot.

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Fairy Tale Friday: Little Tiny

Andersen’s Fairy Tales

by H. C. Andersen

This was an old Christmas present from my mom that I re-found at the beginning of the year. It’s a lovely old book, probably from a used book store. There’s a handwritten note in it dated to June 1961. And while I have other books with a lot of the same stories, there’s something adorable about this one so I’m going through reading all them. 

Little Tiny (pg. 62-77)

“The poor child was very unhappy at the thought of saying farewell to the beautiful sun” (73).

It’s Thumbelina! I was not expecting that from the title.

I’ll say upfront that I kind of love this fairy tale. I don’t think about it often, but when I read it, I couldn’t help mythologizing it and automatically seeing it as a mythology and story root for my writing.

Also lovely description of the tulip with its “red and golden-colored leaves” (62). Being compared to a tulip makes me think of Persia, which makes me think of a particular set of islands in my writing…

Toads don’t live in water; they’re not aquatic. Well, they are amphibious, but they live more on dry land. The way these toads are described sounds a little too wet. But wait! If Andersen’s referring to the common toad (I’m going to start calling it the witch toad), it’s says here that live in wooded areas near marshes. And the toads here live “[i]n the swampy margin of a broad stream in the garden” (63).

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