Writing Workshop

Mystical

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Writing Workshop

Welcome, welcome!
What do you have there?
A piece of writing you want help with, you say?

Well, you've come to the right place!

This is a shared space for anyone who wants to improve their work, whichever this may be. We can give and receive feedback, constructive criticisms and encouragement, and the tools necessary to improve our work.

We can work on different aspects of creative writing that the actual writing involves.

-World Building
-Character Creation
-Plot ideas
-Setting a scene
-Dialogue

To begin, just share your draft or ideas here if you want feedback, criticisms or suggestions. State what you want help with.

Form:
Written Work/Idea/Link
What you want help with specifically

In addition, I and others can share ideas and tools that can be helpful for anyone in all these different areas, plus prompts to improve those elements.

***

As a word of advice though, if you really want help with your writing, I'd recommend other sites more focused on writing or joining a creative writing course or group. In the meanwhile, thanks for joining the workshop, I hope you find it useful.
 
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Mystical

Isabel
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World Building
Every story or new universe needs some basis for it.
You don't need to think of everything right away, but you do need the basics of the world you're writing about.
Some questions that can help you:

-What kind of world do you want your story to take place in?
-Are there any rules or laws to this world? What are they?
-What is the basic history behind your world?
-Are there any different species or races? how do they interact?


Character Creation
You don't need to have a detailed idea about all of your characters, but it is a good idea to have the basic information about them, and write them with better depth.

Some information you want to have about your character:

-Name:
-Species/Race
-Family
-Brief Bio (past)
-Personality
-Relationship to other characters (how other characters see them+how they see other characters)​
 
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Mystical

Isabel
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Ok, I'm going to start this with a prompt for world building.

So if you want help with thinking about details for your world, you can answer some questions. Like the following:

1-What differentiates your world from ours? You can answer this with two or three sentences. For example, Toy Story takes place in a world just like ours. The only difference is that toys are alive and can move, walk and talk independantly of humans.

2- Are there rules in your world? Maybe different physic laws? If your world has magic is it limited in some way? Is there a consequence for breaking these rules? In the Toy Story universe, the rule for toys is that they must never be seen moving independantly by humans. Unless in very extreme cases, like how Woody and the toys reveal themselves to Sid. (I honestly don't know what the consequence would be for the toys to reveal themselves to humans. Maybe the humans would destroy the toys?)

3- Are there different groups or species in youor world? For example humans and Pokemon, or normal humans and humans with superpowers. In Toy Story, the three groups are humans, toys, and animals.

4- Finally, how do the different groups interact and view each other? Maybe one group hides from another group? Maybe another group is seen as inferior? In the Toy Story movies, toys are seen as playthings by humans. While toys never reveal themselves to them, they don't have this problem with animals. And many toys, though not all, view humans in high regards.


1- My story takes place in a world where many of the creatures considered to be mythic in ours actually exist. Also, scientific technology is more advanced than ours, having achieved direct genetic manipulation and combination of DNAs.

2- The basic laws are the same as is believed for these mythical creatures. For werecreatures, for example, they can only change between two forms. Other, more powerful creatures, such as kitsunes, can use a basic form of elemental magic which would be similar to avatar's elemental bending. As for genetically altered humans, they have some animal features, instincts and senses of the animal (for example a heightened sense of hearing if they have wolf ears) but not much else. Though with some exceptions... but that comes later.

3- Yes. There are humans, and among humans there's The Academy and their scientists. Then the experiments, and then the Mythos, a variety of creatures with additional features or abilities.

4- The Mythos mostly hide themselves from humans, only helping in special cases. The scientists and The Academy, while not 100% sure of their existance, do think they existed sometime and want to make a sort of recreation. They see the experiements as inferior.
 

Luke Strife

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Here's a few things I've learned over my time writing in various manners, hopefully people find them useful.

The main theme I want to explore here is keeping things simple. That doesn't necessarily that you can't create complex webs in your stories, but it is important that everything is anchored in humble, more simplistic beginnings. Not running before learning to walk, and all that.

Locations
Designing a new settlement may sound like a daunting task, but using the theme outlined above, we can break this down into very manageable steps of development. You may be surprised to see how quickly an idea can sprout by using this. So as always, we should start small. Think of the most basic idea for your new place, whatever it may be that you want to create, then just keep asking reasonable questions about it. In this example, I'll be creating a fantasy/low-tech mining town.

So with our town, we've established that its main function is to extract rocks from the ground. For this, it needs to be in a prime location. Let's say it's at the foot of a mountain. Quite the rocky landscape, sturdy enough that the people can dig into the land without things collapsing on their heads. Immediately you're faced with numerous questions, and we're just going to give a bit of a think about it, answer them one by one. As we answer each new question, we create several more, based off the information we've created from the previous ones. Sometimes we'll just have statements in place of questions, as we realise that certain things must be true given the previous information.

What kind of material is this mine extracting? - Mostly iron, but there'll also be a lot of stone as a consequence.
- Well I suppose that also means that we've got a lot of building material for houses and other structures, so that takes care of where people will live. Which also means we'll need labourers to be used as builders or even just as some kind of hauling work.
Well if there's people, what are they eating? - We're at a mountain, there isn't much properly arable land around here. But one thing that we might have is a decent water supply. Mountains tend to collect water some way up, due to the water cycle condensing the clouds. Alternatively we could also have a water spring nearby. Either work. For this I'll go with a natural stream. Our hunters will be able to kill a few mountain creatures such as goats, and we can import bread and other foodstuffs (or at least in their most basic forms so that we can process them however we want, so that will also necessitate having a baker and butcher).
-Where there's water, there's also vegetation. We'll need a good supply of wood to help bolster our mineshafts and support our houses. We're going to need lumberjacks if we're going for locally sourced trees. There'll also be all sorts of animals in the woods that we can hunt or tame, or fruit that we can forage for.
-If we're hunting mountain goats, we may as well take some as livestock so they can be reared, milked, and have easily contained offsprings so we can secure food creation for years to come. We'll also need food for them, so this also links back into the previous point about importing foods. The first few animals will live off the same things they always have, but as we grow our population of beasts we'll need a greater supply than what this harsh landscape can provide. So that's means we need livestock farmers.
Why are we mining? - To sell the goods and make money.
-Given that it's getting metals out of the ground, we should probably also have a smeltery to purify them. Otherwise we'll just be hauling tons of rocky ores to our buyers and unless they're in the modern age with huge trucks/lorries, they probably won't be very efficient at delivering them. And even then, it is still in our best interests to purify them down as they still weigh less in the end anyway.
-We'll also need some of that aforementioned water as part of the smelting process. Especially if we open up a smithy here as well.
-Our first miners and builders will use tools that they've brought with them, but as we become more established our smithy will be able to make new ones as we inevitably break them, if we can't repair them.
Who found this place? - An entrepreneurial prospector most likely came across this place while seeking a prime location to set up, not content to stay in his hometown. Maybe also to sate some of his wanderlust, so perhaps he used to be a bit of an adventurer in his youth before settling down for a bit before growing discontent with the lifestyle. After discovering the first few good chunks of iron, he set up a base camp to get started, and then invited more of his family and friends with him. They would then do the same.
-We've now also got our beginnings of a management structure as well. As the settlement grows, some kind of meeting place like a town hall will be needed to discuss the running of the place and to resolve people's needs.
-Speaking of social needs, are they a religious people? If they're practicing, they'll want some place of worship, or at least a place to give tribute like a shrine or a church.
Are we safe? - There are going to be natural predators of the animals we're hunting. They're probably going to attack us at some point too. If we're in a fantasy world, we probably also have to be worried about monsters. We need soldiers or at least some kind of militia to protect the town. For this we'll want a border wall of some kind, be it stone walls or a wooden barricade, or a combination of both. Watchtowers would be a good idea too. At least it won't be too costly, since we can use part of the mountain as defense. Sure we may be backed into a corner during a full raid, but at least we're a lot easier to defend than a place in the middle of a plains.

And so on. Wow. That's a lot of information we've learned by just asking basic questions about the place. I've emboldened all of the important parts that we've discovered about our town. You can keep going for as many jobs and buildings as you think is reasonable for this place. As you can see, rather than saying these functions exist just because we desire them to be there, they now exist as a necessity for other tasks. As such, the town has grown naturally and it feels more believable as a result. But that's not all. No settlement is perfect, there will be problems along the way. Conflict is what tends to drive most of our stories, and there's plenty to be found here. Perhaps there's a disagreement within the family as more people join this budding community. Maybe the miners have dug too deep and uncovered a wicked evil beneath the mountain and now they refuse to continue their work. Maybe missionaries from rival religions have turned up, and are causing the locals to anger as more people convert, taking potential tithes away from their church and also causing them to worry that they may potentially anger their patron god. It could also be that in their rapid growth, their accumulating wealth is so attractive that they get problems with the occasional brigand and mugger on the roads, harassing their trade caravans. Perhaps it's a combination of several of these at once, depending on how peaceful or hostile you want this town to be. Rather than having forced stories to occur, they've blossomed naturally as a result of our brainstorming. Now we have a location that is brimming with potential storylines, so whether you're adventuring in a D&D campaign or writing something as part of a larger novel, we have a good and believable location to take part in our stories.

But maybe you've gotten a bit impatient and started with a big idea already, but don't know where to go with the idea next? Even the most gigantic megastructure had a start point. Where was the first brick laid? Who decided this was the perfect place for this city to be here? How did it defend itself during its building? How did it get so wealthy as to be able to afford to create such a massive sprawling metropolis?

This tip can also be applied to non-settlements. A druidic shrine that based itself in the wonderful view of nature's splendour. A mage's tower, which chose its spot due to converging magical leylines. An abandoned watchtower outpost, once needed for its tactical position to keep watch of the surrounding area, rendered obsolete by the now-frequent patrols by soldiers in the region. And so on.

Next up, I have some tips for building believable characters, but this post is already long enough so I'll leave this one as it is. I hope these help!
 

Mystical

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Thank you, Luke! I'll try to use that. I think that's a thing I'm experiencing problems with right now. I hope I got your process. well enough. Your mining town sounds nice and compelling for sure.

The place I'm having trouble with is an academy that works as a mix between a facility/lab for experimentation and a sort of living/teaching place for these experiments.

Who created this place and why?
Ah huh, I hadn't thought about this too well. But in my head there were these tales and myths that told of creatures with abilities thought as magical. Some of these creatures could switch between one or more form or posesed abilities and characteristics of more than one animal or living thing. Most people believed they were only that: legends. But others, with a sense of vision, ambition and greed, wanted to create their own powerful beings. So they needed an isolated place, far from civilization to keep the common people from finding it and the experiments from escaping.

So they created this big bilding in the farthest edge of a forest.

It is advertised as a home for troubled children and teens, a sort of reformation academy.

But not all of what they are doing is legal.

So the containment cells and experimentation grounds were built underground.

How was it built?

After the perfect location was found, these visionaries and scientists needed funds. Most funds came from a couple who were rich and ambitious themselves. They weren't told the whole story, only a distorted version. But that comes later.

Hmm. Ok, I'll leave this for now, but I do want to keep on adding information.
 
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These are probably going to be far less funny to me in the morning, but lately I've been getting up in the middle of the night and writing down odds and ends about a fantasy world, and I guess this is as good a place as any to post them.

I don't do a whole lot of reading, like at all, so I don't know if any of these are solved questions or not. Especially the last one.

- dragons can command the traditional elements (fire, water/ice, electric) instead of just fire and are basically supercharged black mages

- would you be able to have the scientific revolution without also having the industrial revolution? a while ago someone on worldbuilding told me that magic being part of the equation would lessen the demand to have an industrial revolution, but would it also have an effect on the scientific one?

- you can have one wish granted, and there are no restrictions, and people have used this in the past to do terrible things, but you wish for something relatively mundane like "to learn to swim" or "to go to the moon" or something (but not something trivial like "a sandwich" or "a puppy")

- if a bunch of wizards and knights and rangers played dungeons and dragons would they use classes like "accountant" and "plumber" and "teacher?"

- two groups of people have separate groups of gods, and yet for the purposes of the fantasy world, they're both very real and can shake your hand and set stuff on fire and whatever, what happens when they meet face-to-face?

- what would be the best place to hide something important in a town/city where you've lived your entire life? (preferably somewhere more narratively interesting than "behind the big drain in the basement of City Hall")?

- if someone with a really ordinary job (lawful neutral/good) like being a baker or something marries someone with a really zany one (chaotic something) like a rogue, what is life at home and family reunions like?

- what are good ways of defeating someone who's invincible, or in other words, an implementation of the paradox of what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?

I don't normally write stuff and I don't currently have a way to thread this all together anyway but I've started thinking it might be kind of fun to actually do that.
 

Mystical

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This has been dead for a while, but I thought of a new writing tip.

How do you introduce a new scene. You don't want to describe everything at once with no action. Chances are your readers will get bored, tired, or won't be able to remember every detail. But you also don't want to abruptly start a scene with a lot of action and no description! So one way to do it is too mix both. I've realized many authors do this, but in different ways. I like the way JKR does it, where she focuses on different aspects of Harry's room, for example, and then adds bits of actions here and there. The way the descriptions are presented is also important. In general, I would recommend to try to mix a character description with their personality or with the background.

Don't have an example right now but may write it later.

@Dragonite I noticed we never replied to your idea. Late but did you want feedback? If you still want it I can help ^^
 

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@Dragonite I noticed we never replied to your idea. Late but did you want feedback? If you still want it I can help ^^
Oh if you want, it's mostly things that I think about when I don't feel like thinking about more important stuff. Most of them spilled out of a conversation I had ages ago about what JRPG characters would do if they were real and the rest snowballed from there, so I don't really have a really deep philosophical stance on it or anything.
 

Mystical

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All right. Challenge accepted.

- dragons can command the traditional elements (fire, water/ice, electric) instead of just fire and are basically supercharged black mages

I've seen this used, but not this way. I would be curious to see what you came up with! Would dragons have an inner strength, maybe, like stamina or can they use the energy from the outside?


- would you be able to have the scientific revolution without also having the industrial revolution? a while ago someone on worldbuilding told me that magic being part of the equation would lessen the demand to have an industrial revolution, but would it also have an effect on the scientific one?

I'll admit history is not my strength, but in this case maybe you can have the magical equivalent of the industrial revolution. Though the IR came as a result of WWII, didn't it? Hmm. Are there any non-mages in your world? Maybe there are aspects mages can't solve and so non-magicians need their own creative means of solving their problems.


- you can have one wish granted, and there are no restrictions, and people have used this in the past to do terrible things, but you wish for something relatively mundane like "to learn to swim" or "to go to the moon" or something (but not something trivial like "a sandwich" or "a puppy")

What or who grants these wishes? And if people have used it foe terrible things, what's stopping people from doing wonderful/beneficial things? Can everyone get only one wish? Do they wish for superpowers or magic?


- if a bunch of wizards and knights and rangers played dungeons and dragons would they use classes like "accountant" and "plumber" and "teacher?"

This sounds funny, but also why would they want to play DnD? In other words, what about that version of the game seems fun to them? (edited)


- two groups of people have separate groups of gods, and yet for the purposes of the fantasy world, they're both very real and can shake your hand and set stuff on fire and whatever, what happens when they meet face-to-face?

I guess that may depend on the nature of the gods, which in turn could depend on the nature of the people who believe in them.


- what would be the best place to hide something important in a town/city where you've lived your entire life? (preferably somewhere more narratively interesting than "behind the big drain in the basement of City Hall")?

The straighforward answer to this is somewhere secret or somewhere protected by obstacles. For example, what about a dragon cave?


- if someone with a really ordinary job (lawful neutral/good) like being a baker or something marries someone with a really zany one (chaotic something) like a rogue, what is life at home and family reunions like?

I'll have to think about this xD but it may depend on how each side thinks of the other and how lawful/chaotic each side is.


- what are good ways of defeating someone who's invincible, or in other words, an implementation of the paradox of what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?

Well I imagine they may cancel each other out, as in both would be destroyed or both become weaker, at least.
 
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Dragonite

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This is kinda fun, some more than others anyway

- dragons can command the traditional elements (fire, water/ice, electric) instead of just fire and are basically supercharged black mages

I've seen this used, but not this way. I would be curious to see what you came up with! Would dragons have an inner strength, maybe, like stamina or can they use the energy from the outside?

tbh I wrote this post three months ago and don't entirely remember what the original idea behind this specific one was, but odds are probably came from skyrim: you have Frost Dragons and Not Frost Dragons, and it doesn't seem too much of a stretch to throw some electricity into the mix - or whatever other element you want. Admittedly I can't think of many actual applications for this. Maybe if you made friends with one you could have them charge your car battery or something.

- would you be able to have the scientific revolution without also having the industrial revolution? a while ago someone on worldbuilding told me that magic being part of the equation would lessen the demand to have an industrial revolution, but would it also have an effect on the scientific one?

I'll admit history is not my strength, but in this case maybe you can have the magical equivalent of the industrial revolution. Though the IR came as a result of WWII, didn't it? Hmm. Are there any non-mages in your world? Maybe there are aspects mages can't solve and so non-magicians need their own creative means of solving their problems.

The parts of the industrial revolution that I find most interesting is mainly the pre-Edison half, when steam power was the hot new thing and that sort of thing. It seems easier to make steam power and magical shenanigans play nicely together more than electronics and computers, probably because electronics are basically magic anyway as far as I'm concerned and I always imagined there would be some sort of interference - in fact, I think one of the ground rules in Harry Potter was that magic just makes electricity stop working, which was one of the mechanisms for keeping Muggles away from hogwarts.

I'm particularly torn on modern medicine. Like, would you learn what people are made of way sooner because you'd have better ways of figuring that sort of thing out, or would it happen way later because for the most part you could just wave your wand and no more plague?


- if a bunch of wizards and knights and rangers played dungeons and dragons would they use classes like "accountant" and "plumber" and "teacher?"

This sounds funny, but also why would they want to play DnD? In other words, what about that version of the game be fin Juan to them?

It sort of hinges on the question of "what do wizards do for fun," I think, and dnd is just the most humorous because it's sorta recursive. I guess you could play basketball in midair on broomsticks but there's like a quintillion different things that muggles do for fun so that probably wouldn't be the only thing. If setting people on fire was your boring day job, you probably wouldn't come home and do it on paper again, right? Would you start craving stories about people who do the most mind-numbingly banal things imaginable because getting eaten by a four-headed spider is already reality?

- two groups of people have separate groups of gods, and yet for the purposes of the fantasy world, they're both very real and can shake your hand and set stuff on fire and whatever, what happens when they meet face-to-face?

I guess that may depend on the nature of the gods, which in turn could depend on the nature of the people who believe in them.

if this was real life the answer would almost certainly be "the Second War of July 1543," because at that point they would have just given up trying to come up with names for them, but that also happens to be the most boring outcome I can think of and nobody would want to read about it. So back to the drawing board, I guess?
 

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Wrote this as a scene setup.
Rain fell heavily, dark clouds casting shadows upon the ground, big raindrops splashing heavily on the already damp ground and vegetation.

Down among the forest, two tall hooded figures made their way between the shrubs and branches, a smaller one following a short distance behind. The rain made a constant sound like a very long shush. The crunch crunch of their footsteps against the damp earth followed them.

"Please…" the smaller slender figure whimpered, arms wrapping around itself.

"Silence, girl." The person in front commanded, turning to look at her from the corner of his eye. The lack of lightning did not allow a look at the man's features, but the strain and tightness in his tone showed impatience. The girl fell silent, arms still wrapped around herself, shoulders slumped as an attempt to hide from the world. From her bleak situation.
Thoughts? Anything you liked or disliked?
 

Luke Strife

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A few things.

The repeated use of the word "heavily" is a bit distracting. You're better off finding another descriptor for that, to reduce redundancy and increase the reader's focus. And another, "crunch crunch" doesn't sound like it takes itself seriously enough. "Crunching" would have worked just fine, though would "damp earth" really be crunching? Maybe a little more detail is needed here to give mention to pebbles or other stones along the road, if the characters are following one.

I'm a little confused by the wording in some places, are there two characters in this scene, or three? From reading it in order it sounds like there are three in total with two in front and one in the back. However the "the person in front" implies that there is just one man leading the girl, because the third individual is not mentioned. I'd suggest changing this to "one of the men in front", or something along those lines. Furthermore, writing that he turns to look at her, followed by "from the corner of his eye" is a little jarring as I expect him to be fully turning to face her, only for my brain to autocorrect the situation as I finish the sentence. It would better if you described him giving only a partial turn, or only rotating his head, so that it doesn't feel like he's about to make his entire body face a new direction.

The only other thing are minor grammatical word choices, like I'd change "as an attempt" to "in an attempt".

It's a spooky scene and it feels quite forboding going through it, I'm curious to see what's supposed to happen next so I definitely have to give you credit for that. Writing the appropriate setup for a scene is difficult, so I understand if you may find it a struggle (especially with English not being your mother tongue, and also tension is quite the tough challenge to get just right), but I hope you don't think I'm only trying to rip this apart. I hope what I said makes sense. I look forward to seeing a revision of this excerpt!
 
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