Posted in blogging

Hiatus

The Written Vixen has been my project for three and a half years. There are so many things I want to do with my little corner of the internet.  When I started this year, I had a lot I wanted to do for the blog. I’d planned on starting an author spotlight, updating my icon and some of the older blog posts. I’d planned on doing another serial post, much like I did with Seventh last year.

Unfortunately, while having plans and dreams is good and well, I haven’t made much progress on actually reaching those goals. Part of that is a direct result of trying to do everything all at once and inevitably, having to let some things fall behind. That’s the nature of responsibilities and obligations. At times balancing the things that have to get done and the things I want to get done doesn’t end up going so well.

Which is why I’m temporarily taking a posting hiatus. Note that this is only a hiatus for new posts. The time I normally spend creating new posts is instead going to be used to finally go through and update all the little things that have bothered me—I love my fox logo, but she’s tired and needs a little TLC, as do a few other minor things.

So for the next couple of months, there won’t be a new post up on the Written Vixen. Don’t worry, I’ll be back. Consider this a long coffee break.

Looking forward to seeing you all on the other side!

A.J. Helms

Posted in worldbuilding

Worldbuilding: Maps

At some point in my life, I want to arrange a home office that contains a map of every fictional world I love. Tolkien’s Middle Earth, Paolini’s Alagaësia, McCaffery’s world of Pern. An entire wall dedicated just to the maps of fictional worlds. I love the look of fictional maps.

And there’s no better place to find fictional maps than in worldbuilding. if you’re doing any worldbuilding, you might be asking yourself if you need a map.  How you determine if you need a map will vary greatly from creator to creator. For me, that’s usually asking myself some questions.

  • Are there multiple locations?
  • Are any conflicts reliant on location?
  • Are there specific features that affect the scenes in that location?
  • Am I, personally, having a hard time figuring where settings are in relation to one another?

Typically if I answer yes to all of those, I’ll at least do a quick map sketch. Your process for determining if you need a map may look different. Sometimes maps are just fun to create, without anything else behind them. Sometimes creating a map is just an unnecessary headache.

If you do decide you need or want a map: Go for it! There’s dozens of ways to create a fictional map. You might want to try out several different methods to find the one you like the best.

Hand drawn: The classic method is of course, drawing or sketching a map. You can most certainly use paper, or you can try using a digital art program to create it. (Tip: If you’ve never used a digital art program, check out Gimp. It’s a free photoshop alternative with a fairly low learning curve).  The beauty of hand drawn maps is that it’s okay if they’re on the rough side and there’s several dozen tutorials across the internet to help you create your map. You can also check out a map creation software or commission an artist to create one for you.  

Generated: In some instances, you might want the map before you start writing or designing the story. For that, try a map generator. If you’d like a ready-made map try out Azgaar’s fantasy map generator. If you’re willing to put in a little more work, there are options such as the polygon map generator which give you just the land mass. This lets you either create your own names for landmarks and locations, or you can pair it with a naming generator. Although generators give you a cleaner look with less upfront work, be mindful of the restrictions on use: not every generator allows use for commercial works.  

Regardless of how you choose to create your map, it can be an enjoyable process. Take some time to play with the different options and find the one that works best for you.

I’d love to see your fictional maps! Drop me a comment below if you’ve got one you’d like me to check out.

Posted in General

Twisted Tales

In cultures all over the world, there are timeless stories. Often these are oral stories we might hear from parents or grandparents. Most of them have a moral bend—instructing the listeners to be kind, to have compassion and to stay hopeful. A lot of these stories get lumped in under fairy tales.  

There’s a lot of reasons why fairy tales and children’s stories remain so popular. Their elements show up even in modern storytelling. This isn’t just aimed at children’s movies either—the entire romance genre and its respective subgenres hinge on having a happily ever after. Even Star Wars has a call to fairy tales in its opening crawl: A long time ago, in a galaxy far away.

Depending on the fairy tale, you may know how easy it is to twist them. Red Riding Hood is a classic example of this—in some cases Red is gobbled up by the wolf and only saved by a passing woodsman. In others, Red fights back and frees her grandmother from his stomach by using a woodcutter’s axe.

The same can be said in many other fairy tales. Cinderella either gets help from the mice she feeds, or from her mother’s spirit. Her awful stepsisters aren’t immune either. Rather than breaking the shoe by forcing it on their improperly sized feet, older versions have them cutting off parts of their feet to fool the prince.

This should tell you how easy it is to twist a fairy tale. What if rather than harming themselves to fit the shoe, the sisters had tried to create another glass shoe? What if Gretel hadn’t freed her brother?

And, in the modern age where we know things like computers and cars and many other wonders, what happens when you change the genre of the fairy tale?

Can you imagine a sci-fi retelling of the Goose Girl? How would a vampiric Cinderella work? Would Snow White be able to solve the murder of the seven dwarves?

Also, consider swapping the characters. Could Rapunzel find an escape from the Giant’s Beanstalk?  Would the sister of the six swans be able to outsmart the wolf of the three little pigs?

Fairy tales have been getting twisted and turned about since they were first told. How would you twist these classic stories?

Posted in Exercises

Exercise: Alphabet Sentences

Part of writing is figuring out how to string sentences together. It sounds super easy, any seasoned writer can tell you there are times where figuring out how to start the next sentence is a monumental task.

That’s exactly the aim of today’s exercise: giving you some practice with difficult to start sentences.

As an exercise: Write twenty-six sentences in alphabetical order. The first starts with A, the second with B, the third with C and so on. If you want to make this even more of a challenge: write a story completed in those twenty-six sentences.