Five worldbuilding tricks I learned from the show GRIMM

Grimm’s final season aired a few weeks ago, and there was much lamenting among its fans. People are hoping for a sequel. It was a fun show for those of us who wanted something a little darker than Once Upon A Time. It was a police procedural show where the hero cop is a Grimm. That is, he has the supernatural power to see Wesen–fairytale monsters who live among us in human form. Basically, it was urban fantasy.

Each week, we tuned in to see some new wesen committing some interesting crime, and to see our sleuth figure it out while trying not to reveal his Grimm secrets to the world at large. Over the course of five seasons, friends became enemies, enemies became allies, and layers of intrigue are slowly revealed as the Royals (the princes and princesses of fairytale fame) try to take over the world. Yet somehow, the human populace at large remains unaware of the wesen subculture, even though their lives are being impacted by the politics of fairytale creatures.

The worldbuilding was great fun for a TV show that pretty much only got off the ground because of the werewolf sidekick. Here’s what I picked up:

If your fairytale monsters live in plain sight, make sure they’re tied tightly to folklore. Ghosts, aliens, Krampus, sewer gators, and the Loch Ness Monster are all various kinds of wesen. Each species has its own motivations and needs that make them sympathetic. For instance, the episode with the aliens mutilating cattle turn out to be a type of bioluminescent wesen whose women have to eat beef ovaries as they get ready to give birth. Oh, and other wesen hunt them for their glowing skin.

blutbad meme

The government makes sense. Over the course of the series, we meet the Wesen Council, a governing body of monsters who make sure that the monsters don’t reveal themselves to humans. The Royals, on the other hand, function like some kind of Austrian mafia. They have far-reaching dealings with humans and their governments. We also meet a secret government organization that tracks the movements of wesen and Royals and tries to neutralize threats.

helloladies-grimm

If your hero has superpowers, make sure they’re explained. Over the course of the series, Nick gains not only the power to see wesen in their true form, but also crazy powers of hearing, strength, and the ability to hold his breath for long periods. But it feels logical, because we see him go through crazy, terrible stuff, and the powers are the side effects of almost being dead. Or something.

Don’t be afraid to jump the shark. Urban fantasy, in particular, seems to revel in this. Whether it’s the wizard in the Dresden books raising a zombie T-rex, or Nick taking off his sunglasses in the middle of a wesen wedding (wesen identify Grimm by their eyes), or a formerly dead character reappearing as a brainwashed superweapon. This genre is all about following the worldbuilding to its logical conclusion. And that means finding the most bonkers, broken thing you can and slapping the audience in the face with it.

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Don’t forget the cozy elements. Every week, I’d chat with my mom about the latest episode. “It was so nice,” we’d sigh. It didn’t matter how grisly the murder had been. That wasn’t why we watched it. We tuned in each week to see if Nick was going to tell his girlfriend that he was a Grimm, or see if Monroe and Rosalie would get together, despite being different species of wesen, or to see if Monroe would trot out some obscure wesen factoid with his typical nerd delivery. We watched to see how Hank, Nick’s partner, handled wesen murders without understanding anything about that world, and if anybody would ever tell Wu, the other cop who always delivered the best one-liners. We loved the character development.

thatssosweetgrimm

I’ve noticed in other urban fantasy that if they can nail these particular elements in their worldbuilding, I’ll typically follow those series through hours of TV or multiple books. Sure, there’s plotholes. But we stick with it because we’re so invested in the characters that we don’t mind.

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Five things I learned from my old terrible fanfics

My kids recently got interested in the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise. This interest waxes and wanes, depending on who is raising chao at the time.

Anyway, this time when they got on a Sonic kick, I said, “Do you guys want me to read you my old Sonic stories?”

Their answer was Very Yes. So I started trying to read them the very first one I wrote when I was 15.

If I knew then what I know now:

melodramatic

1. Melodrama is not plot. I had pages and pages of little random dramas, but nothing really moving forward in the story.

There’s also quite a few loops. Professional writers use them to hit word counts. A character goes out to accomplish something, fails, and winds up back where they started. It adds nothing to the story, but hey, it added 5k more words. This is why fantasy books are so thick.

Solution: cut that fluff and keep that story moving. If I did this with the fanfic in question, it would go from 50k words of wandering fluff to 13k of tightly-written awesome.

kneel_before_your_master
This actually happened in a Sonic game. It was awesome.

2. Bring the Big Bad in EARLY. In that first story, Metal Sonic is the main antagonist. But he doesn’t show up until about the 3/4ths mark. My enthusiastic teen self built the plot like a Lego tower. Let’s add on THIS and add on THAT and who cares if it makes sense? The plot muddles around with weaker secondary villains before finally settling on the Big Bad.

Solution: have Metal Sonic actively oppose the heroes from the start. He’s terrifying. Let him terrify the reader.

cast-of-thousands

3. Casts of thousands work fine for epic fantasy, but not for smaller-scope urban fantasy. I had eight main characters. Count ’em. Eight. And I really only liked four of them. So that’s who got all the character development.

Poor Tails. I apologize for always leaving you out in the cold. You get more love later in the series, I promise!

Solution: cut everybody not necessary to the plot. They can stay home and have an adventure next time.

idiot_ball_by_seekerarmada-d5irhmw

4. The idiot ball: don’t give it to anyone. Ever.

This is when a character who has been competent up to this point does something randomly stupid to move the plot along. Horror movies are full of these.

“Don’t go into the house alone!”

“Why are the lights out?”

“I’m going to ignore the spooky sound coming from the back of the house.”

“We know the bad guy attacks girls when they’re alone … let’s go hunt for him and leave our girl alone!”

Solution: Characters have to do things that logically follow. Sure, people are stupid in real life. But this is fiction. It has to make sense. Give the characters some freaking survival instincts.

mary-sue

5. You know that perfect character who is perfect and never gets scared and has all the answers and is better than all the other characters? She’s called a Mary-Sue. She’s the author’s self-insert into the story.

:tears out hair:

Solution: Give her some freaking FLAWS. Let her make MISTAKES. My GOSH. I hate this character so BADLY. And she’s MINE.

I apologize to everybody who waded through my old stories. They’re awful and painful and … :whispering: … still available. I’d take them down, except I still get the occasional message from a fan who remembers them fondly.

Long story short, the kids and I skipped the first five stories. We’re just going to hit the ones where new characters get introduced. We’ll see if my writing gets any more succinct as we move forward in time.

When chickens turn evil (or just hungry)

Once upon a time, I had chickens.

We raised them in our backward, and they laid eggs for us. One of my favorites was an Arucana (Easter Egg) chicken named Benadictine, after another chicken story from Readers Digest. She laid olive-green eggs, and she was a stinker.

One time my brother and I had let the chickens out on the lawn. He went and made himself a ham sandwich.

chicken-story1

Benadictine wanted that ham.

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So she sneaked up on him …

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… and pecked the ham out from between the slices of bread.

My brother was not happy.

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He stormed inside and made himself another sandwich. Meanwhile, I laughed myself silly.

Benadictine ate that whole slice of ham, and was very happy about it.

Minecraft as history – the Pilgrims

The kids and I have been studying American history. To make sure they understood the events of Jamestown and Plymouth, I couched it in Minecraft terms.

So, you log in to a new map with some guy. He’s never played before.

“Okay, you start out by punching trees to get wood blocks,” you say.

“Nope,” he replies. “I’m a gentleman. Work is beneath me.”

“But,” you say, “when it gets dark, the zombies come out.”

“You do it,” he says.

“I’ll gather my own resources,” you say, starting to feel miffed.

So you punch trees, get wood, make tools, and start gathering stone and coal. The Gentleman wanders around, looking at the scenery and picking flowers.

By night, you have a shelter built. He has nothing. The zombies come out.

  
“You have to let me in!” he yells from outside.

“No!” you reply. “You should have gathered your own resources!”

Everything goes quiet. The sun comes up, and the Gentleman has vanished.

But as the sun is going down, he appears with a sword and a bow and arrow, kills you, and takes your stuff.

That’s what the gentlemen in Jamestown did to the Indians. 

The Pilgrims at Plymouth, on the other hand …

You log into a new map with your Pilgrim friend. They immediately begin punching trees. They chat pleasantly as they gather stone, mine coal and iron, build furnaces and shelters.

Within a few days, your map looks like this.

  
And there you are. When it comes to being a pioneer, you want to be a Pilgrim, not a Gentleman.

My writing process in meme pics

I was tagged by Bethany on Facebook. Since it’s kind of a long meme, I told her I’d answer the questions on my blog.

Basically, it goes like this: List seven things about your writing process. I thought it would be funnier if I answered them in meme form.

Step 1:

idea-magic

Step 2:

idea-is-awesome

Step 3:

badass

Step 4:

scary middle

Step 5:

disturbing

Step 6:

party

Step 7:

critique-group

Annnnd that’s how it goes. 😀

Jurassic World’s raptors aren’t feathery and that’s okay

Ever since the Jurassic World trailer came out, people have been throwing a fit about it. Particularly scientists, those all-knowing folks who look closely at fossils and say, “OMG it had FEATHERS.”

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“The dinosaurs don’t look like dinosaurs” they shriek. “They still look like LIZARDS. We want BIRDS.”

Well folks, filling a theme park with giant carnivorous ostriches wouldn’t sell many tickets. Especially since this is a SEQUEL. And you kind of have to, you know, use the same monsters as in the original movies. Admittedly, these monsters look much spiffier than they did in 1993.

jurassic-world-poster

No scientists are squawking about the GENETICALLY MODIFIED D-REX, the star of the movie. Which, going by the buzz, means we finally get the rad dinosaurs from the Lost World book that could turn invisible.

Nope, all that matters is that the raptors and gallimimus don’t have feathers. Yep.

six-foot-turkey

Nevermind that the velociraptors in JP are technically utahraptors, and only a couple of fossil fragments of them exist–therefore we don’t know if they had feathers. (Seeing as their smaller cousins did, we can assume they did, but we don’t KNOW.)

The point is, Jurassic World is a movie. Likely a GOOD movie. With the sorts of lizardy dinosaurs people expect from the series. Scientists can go off and make another season of Walking with Six-Foot Turkeys, if they’re going to whine so much.

Thanksgiving and a meme

Well, Thanksgiving is over, and my fridge is full of delicious leftovers. I’m pondering a turkey pot pie in the near future. Our day was spent with my hubby’s family, and it was very pleasant.

Blood elf priest, level 11. Oh yeah, check out my tattered duds.
Blood elf priest, level 11. Oh yeah, check out my tattered duds.

It’s been a quiet weekend of rest and relaxation. My son and daughter spent the night at their grandparent’s, so Ryan and I got to have our first date night in about two years. It was lovely. Just having the two younger ones along felt like nothing. I’ll be glad to have the other two back, though. The house feels empty without them.

World of Warcraft has tempted us back into its octopus-like embrace. We bought our son a copy, and he and my daughter rolled worgen druids. So they’ve been running about the countryside as dogs that change into cats and bears. It’s hilarious. My hubby and I rolled blood elves on another server with his friends, and we’re running around the newbie zones, making everything more fabulous with our very presence.

I’ve also been tagged by multiple people for a Facebook meme. But Facebook doesn’t show you any posts from longer than a week ago (despite everything being saved forever in Facebook’s Gravemind), so I figured I’d do the meme here on my blog, where I can find it again.

The Eight Terrible Titles game rules are as follows: ”Scroll through your manuscript. Let your cursor fall where it may and bam–you’ve got yourself one terrible title. Repeat this seven more times. Let the good times roll. Tag eight others.

This is from my work in progress Regency shifter romance, which I’m writing as a sequel to Turned.

1. Bone-Cracking Embrace
2. Turned To Her
3. Her Trunk Stood
4. Forbidden to Set Foot Outside
5. Until Her Arrival
6. Outside An Inn
7. Hire a Tailor
8. Direction The Werewolf Had Gone

These have been fun, because just by looking at the selections, you get a feel for what everyone is working on. Mine is very Beauty and the Beast, heh heh.

And now, since you read this far, here is a pun for you.

pun-hawk

Gateway Christmas music

Every year, I find myself easing into Christmas music a little bit at a time. It always starts with very mild stuff that might not be Christmas music at all. It’s like how they hook people on drugs.

First, I start with Eden’s Bridge Irish Christmas album. Particularly this cynical, cutting song about Christmas’s materialism:

From there, I venture into Trans-Siberian Orchestra, which is a bit stronger on the Christmas flavor, but still not quite there:

By this time I’m starting to feel the need for something stronger. I might start dropping some Amy Grant. Some years I go straight to some heavy Michael W. Smith and Steven Curtis Chapman.

Pretty soon, before I know it, I’m high on Christmas.

cat-pic-i_must_murder_it

Godzilla-zon vs Hachette-turtle

The war between Amazon and Hachette is escalating. I’m sure by this time next year, nobody will remember this, so summary for posterity:

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Amazon wants Hachette (a big publishing company) to sell ebooks at 9.99 or lower. Hachette wants to sell at 14.99, or thereabouts. They’ve been deadlocked for months.

It’s like watching Godzilla-Amazon fighting a giant turtle.

Godzilla-zon: Flaming fireball of REMOVE BUY BUTTON FROM YOUR BOOKS!

Hachette-turtle: (closes shell tighter)

Godzilla-zon: Claw swipe of EXTREMELY SLOW SHIPPING!

Hachette-turtle: (snaps at opponent’s ankle) C’mon, just give us what we want.

Godzilla-zon: (roars to onlookers) THEY ONLY PAY THEIR AUTHORS FIFTEEN PERCENT ROYALTY!

Onlookers: Ooo, ahhh.

Hachette-turtle: (bites Godzilla-Zion’s leg) IF HE WINS, GODZILLA-ZON WILL EAT YOUR ROYALTIES AND YOUR CHILDREN!

Godzilla-zon: LIES! (Drops a huge pile of Kindle Unlimited on top of lesser monster Scribd)

Onlookers: Apple-bot and Google-beast, save us!

Godzilla-zon: ONLOOKERS, FIRE UPON HACHETTE WITH WEAPONS OF PUBLIC DISGRACE! I CAN’T OPEN THE SHELL ALONE!

(Onlookers do lesser battle among themselves)

How will it end? Who will triumph? FIND OUT SOON!