Ian D Scofield, Writer

Fantasy/Science Fiction/Thriller and Freelance

Aleria

Aleria: Worldbuilding 101 Exercise/Contest

A group that I belong to on Scribophile recently had a worldbuilding exercise/contest. Users were encouraged to try their hand at building a world. The caveat? The piece can only be 300 words long total. It was an interesting challenge and there were some great entries.

I tried my hand, here is what I had:


With Cailin’s hand in hers, Alyssa crested the large, grassy hill that hid Aleria from view. Her mouth dropped open as she took in the valley below and the stone fortifications that held one of the most magnificent medieval cities in the world. Stone walls wrapped around a city with fields encircling the walls. Buildings made from brick, stone, and wood alike could be seen in the distance lining the streets of this massive city. Aleria, the home of Magic.

“How has this remained hidden for so long?” Alyssa asked those who surrounded her.

“For one, it is a very well-kept secret,” Cailin answered as he started to gently pull Alyssa down the other side of the hill. A tugging feeling hit Alyssa’s stomach as she started to step down. “You feel that? That is the other reason it has managed to stay hidden for so long. It is very well warded.”

Shao Island was a small town, so were a few of the other places that Alyssa had lived but none of them had fields like the ones she passed through on her way to the main gates. Growth of all kinds bordered the roads into the massive city.

Wooden gates with wrought iron adornments loomed in front of her, three or more times her height. Alyssa felt a pang of sympathy for whoever had to open and close those doors, they must weigh a ton.

Once through the tunnel, the gates opened onto a marketplace filled with vendors and shops selling just about anything. Alyssa couldn’t keep her attention in any one place. Nothing in the modern world could compare to such a city, and she had only just taken her first few steps through the gates.


If you have read some of my past work on Purple Fire, then you know that this work is about it. This is a sample from some of the changes I am planning for this year’s NaNoWriMo. While I was quite happy with this, this was a quick draft and something that I enjoyed writing. When NaNoWriMo comes this will change but Aleria will be different from past writings about it.

Writers Block

The Protagonist’s Pep Talk

While I didn’t win the writing prompt contest over at Reedsy, I had a lot of fun writing this piece on writer’s block.

Sitting at my desk, my hands hovered over the keyboard as I struggled to come up with a paragraph, no a sentence. Maybe even a word for my story. Inside my head my characters were vivid, I even had an ending picked out for my story. What I didn’t have is a now. What was happening to my characters? 1 month to write a story and my dreaded enemy reared its head. Every writer’s dreaded enemy.

Writer’s Block.

In the past, it has paid its visits like it has to all writers but I couldn’t afford that now. I was halfway through the month and all I had to my story was a few pages. With how many times I had been through this story I finally thought I had something here. The beginning that I had crafted this time was perfect. Everything else had to be perfect too. Maybe I was finally ready to move on from rough drafts.

Something needed to change and it needed to change yesterday. Then, in the corner of my eye, movement caught my attention and I looked up from my keyboard contemplation to the hallway outside my door. Nothing was there. No one should be there, I was home alone after all.

    Attention back to the keyboard the letters formed words in my head but nothing that made sense. Cailin, Chelsea, Taylor, Becca, all of these characters I knew them so well. Why couldn’t keys start mashing? Why couldn’t I get something down on “paper”.

    A knock on the door frame brought my attention back up to the hallway.

“Can I come in.” The voice was one that I knew in my heart and mind but not one that I had ever really heard.

“Um…” I started to respond.

“That wasn’t really a question,” Chelsea said as she entered the room.

Standing taller than me by a few inches, with a physically fit body, and impressive tattoos, Chelsea was intimidating. She was also just like I had always pictured her. A white dress that fit her perfectly, muscles complimenting her physique. The twin to her brother Cailin, she was the action-minded, stubborn twin. She cared but she had her own way of showing it. She was my creation though and there was no logical explanation for her to be standing in front of me. My heart skipped a beat for every author loves their characters.

“We have to talk,” Chelsea stated in a serious tone as she took a seat at the desk across from mine. “This story that you are writing is important to you, yes? You have been writing it for so long that I think that should be obvious.”

I nodded. “Since middle school, I have been working to tell the stories of you and Cailin but I haven’t had it right.”

“This time you are close to telling it the way it was meant to be told. The way it should be. But you have to stop sitting here feeling sorry for yourself. Sorry that you can’t think of what to write. Your job is not to think, it is just to write. If you think too hard, then you are cutting off your imagination. Just let it flow from you.”

I looked at her like she must be kidding me. How is it possible to not think about something and just let it happen?

I thought about that then realized that I was thinking about it. That was counter to what she had said to do. Looking up I found that Chelsea was staring at me with those piercing red eyes that she normally kept reserved for those moments that she was trying to make an important point.

“I don’t think you realize what is at stakes. For you, this is just a story. Me on the other hand, this is my life. With each word, you are breathing life into my world. Each new person that reads your story learns about us and gives us more life. We need to be read.”

“How are you even here right now?” I ventured to ask.

“I am here because you believe in me. You think that I am real, if only in your mind.” She answered. “I may only be real to you but I am real.”

“Of the characters in my book, why did you come to me?” I asked.

“Because I am who you needed right now. The right woman for the job, you might say.” Her voice had dropped to something more caring.

Not knowing if I was crazy or not I took another look at this girl who had been part of my writing for years. Her story came into my head as I looked at her. I started to type without looking at the keyboard, a skill that I had mastered years ago. Then as the story flooded my head I had to look down at the keyboard and up to the screen to make sure that I didn’t get ahead of myself.

A few pages down and I looked back up to the office chair that she had been sitting in. The chair spun around slowly, Chelsea was gone. A pang of sadness hit at me, I would have loved to get to know her more. To talk with her some more.

“I will always be there.” Came her voice, faint as if my hallway continued on for ages.

When she said it though, I knew it would be true. She would always be with me, she had always been with me. My fingers went back to their job and a moment later, so did all of my attention. Passion flowing out into the keys as I set to work on the middle of my story. Breathing life into what might just be the final draft.

 

Said Alternatives

Get Rid Of Said

Recently I have been far more active on Scribophile than I have been in a while. In fact, my level went up to Typesetter. Throughout my writing, I try to keep it changed up and have a variety of words. One of the most challenging words I have encountered is said. He said/she said.

I was reading someone’s piece on Scribophile and almost every single time there was dialogue contained said. It made it hard to properly engage with the story because I could only guess at how people were saying each piece. Being a culprit of this myself, I of course provided feedback that he should try to show us how each character is speaking.

But what words do you use instead of said? It all depends. You want to find words that convey the conversation. Here are a few that might come to mind:

  • Whispered
  • Asked
  • Answered
  • Responded
  • Began

These five are all better words than said but at the same time, they are all words that appear frequently, especially the top three.

Let’s get a little more creative than that. One of my favorite replacements for said is “bellowed” because it can be so versatile depending on the character speaking. It can be a little overused though. Here are some creative word choices for said.

  • Interjected
  • Agonized
  • Inquired
  • Prodded
  • Spat
  • Spluttered
  • Countered
  • Consoled
  • Declared
  • Jabbered
  • Justified

Now that I have given you some more ideas, let’s talk about two more important items to keep in mind when it comes to dialogue tags. First, remember to be creative and stay to the nature of your story. Not every dialogue word has one meaning. You can use them versatilely in a story for multiple meanings.

A good example of this is “shouted”. Depending on how you use the word, shouted could mean excitement, anger, or even sadness. Context is key.

The second point that I want to bring up is dialogue tags are not always needed. Dialogue tags serve a purpose from time to time but you should use them with discretion in mind. Most dialogue speaks for itself.

“Get out of here you god damn roach.”

That sentence is a good example of where you could go without a dialogue tag if you wanted to. Context permitted, you wouldn’t need it at all.

Take all of this to mind and keep an eye out for more writing tips and education. I am going to try and put out short articles like this once a week or once every other week. Today I submitted a short story to another contest. Once the contest winners have been announced I will post a really great story that is related to both Purple Fire and writer’s block.

What Happened To NaNoWriMo 2017?

As you may have noticed it has been dead silent since about halfway through NaNoWriMo 2017. It isn’t because I just gave up on my book. I got sick, sick enough to call out of work, which is unusual for me. I almost went to urgent care. Even though I returned to work, all I did was sleep and work.

For the first time, I didn’t finish NaNoWriMo. That being said, I took the month of December to complete a whole new draft of Shao Island (the name is going to change). Shao Island has long been a favorite of mine and I will be continuing to work on it this year.

NaNoWriMo 2018 will see some big changes to Shao Island as last year changed a good amount of it too.

In the last month or so I have created a short story based on Shao Island titled The Unwanted Shadow. I have been through a few edits on Scribophile for the first two sections and hope to submit it to a writing contest/journal/thingy. That is why it won’t appear on here for now.

Just today I submitted a flash fiction piece about Alyssa (one of the MC of Shao Island) seeing the magical city for the first time to a flash fiction world-building content on Scribophile. This will be coming up on here after the fifteenth or whenever voting finishes.

Shao Island is officially becoming Purple Fire. I needed to make a change to the series because not every story is happening on Shao Island itself. This will make book one Purple Fire Book One: Shao Island.

This is just an update for now. More content will be coming out shortly on the blog!

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