Kios: The Landscape Idea

When it came to the landscape for Kios, for some reason I had pictured it to be a mixture of Scotland, Ireland, and England. I had Pinterest boards started. I’d described it somewhat. I liked the idea. But I’d thought it through only a minuscule amount.

And the more I thought about it, the less I liked it. I heard some other writers/readers bemoan the fact that so many “fantasy” books took place in European settings – primarily the countries I just named. Upon further reflection I realized they were indeed correct, and I wanted something different for Echoes.

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Since I’m spending so much time on world building and getting the story “correct” anyway, I decided to go ahead and also change up the setting a little bit. While brainstorming about what countryside to base it off of, I made a mental list of the things I knew I needed to include:

  • At least one border is the ocean
  • One border is a huge forest that no one in recorded history has ever been all the way through
  • Pyria, a land that allows slavery, is another border
  • The country’s big industry is fabrics (etc…) and they have tons of sheep

There were a few more a few more things, but I stopped when I came to the sheep part of the equation. I Googled a little bit about where sheep were the most prevalent, but in reality I didn’t need to, I already knew what topography Kios would be based off of: New Zealand.

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Do y’all realize that there’s 22 sheep for every person who lives in New Zealand? How much cooler can you get? Obviously everything won’t be the same. For one thing, New Zealand is an island, whereas Kios is simply a country next to the ocean. For another thing, although there are mountains in Kios, there aren’t as many as there seem to be in New Zealand. But! At least I have a basic idea of what to start with and build off of.

The architectural practices in Kios are also different than in New Zealand (which, once again makes sense because Kios isn’t an island), but I’ll wait to blog about those for another day.

Have a delightful weekend, y’all!

 

 

Re-Building Kios’ Storyworld (Part 1: What I’m starting with)

When I open up Pinterest on my computer and click on the search bar, my lovely previous searches come up “world building”and “writing prompts” and “exotic places” and “writing tips.” Because, as it so happens, I’m a writer. And, as it so happens, Pinterest is a really great place to learn and plot and be inspired.

The last two days have been fun as I’ve begun receiving feedback back from my beta readers for Echoes. Apparently I need to do more world building in the land of Kios, which in reality doesn’t surprise me at all. I hadn’t thought it through carefully, but after it was pointed out to me, I realized I just took it for granted that the world would make sense.

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The world – as in the physical world has been a jumbled mess in my mind. I know some basic facts about it: They lived in a land were there were hills, rocky outcroppings, lots of green pasture land, and a four-season rotation. One of the borders was a gigantic forest, another was the ocean, and who knew (or cared) about the rest?

The ruling system was fairly familiar to me, because it played a much bigger part in the plot than the landscape did. Sadly though, I didn’t do the best job of portraying it to the readers (probably because I didn’t realize how unusual it actually was). It’s a constitutional monarchy, but with the royalty having a lot of the power – just not all of it. What makes it unusual is that 1) Male and female royalty have the same amount of power, and 2) From the time the heir to the throne is mature enough to take part in ruling, they’re brought into the Judgment Hall and take part in the politics. That means that by the time the princesses in my story are sixteen, their voice is one the people (and the king) listens to regularly.

Another part of the ruling system is the Year of Proof, which happens whenever the king/queen and wisemen of the kingdom deem the heir to the throne educated/ready/mature enough to rule on their own if something would happen to the current reigning monarch. For the Year of Proof the heir to the throne chooses any city in the country, and goes to live there for a year – ruling over it, settling disputes, and connecting with the people. This is to prove to the whole population that they are a fit ruler and have been well-prepared.

The land’s main source of prestige among other countries is their superior skills with dyes, weaving, fabric making, and sewing.

Other things I know about Kios:

  • Slavery is illegal (although that’s not the case in some of the neighboring countries)
  • Echoes (twins) are thought to be cursed, or not fully human
  • Electricity, motorized vehicles, and sky-scrapers have not been invented
  • During the last 20 years Kios has risen greatly in terms of education, economics, and social standing with the neighboring countries
  • Even poor children are given the chance at getting an education
  • Cleanliness is highly valued – the Royal City employes street cleaners, etc….
  • They have a lot of sheep, cause, ya know, fabric
  • For the most part the royal family is in good standing with the people and well-loved
  • Although not extremely prosperous, the country is doing well financially

There are several more things, but that’s what comes to mind right away. Now that I have my groundwork though, I’m realizing I really need to organize this country a little bit better and really make it complete.

I’ve been working at deleting my previous Echoes storyboards on Pinterest (because they were rather vague), and starting over with all the details. So, stay tuned, and within the next few days I’ll (Lord willing) be posting more about where the country is after some brainstorming sessions.

Beta Readers – Thank You!

The responses I received from wannabe beta readers for Echoes has been nearly overwhelming and totally delightful. I blogged on Noveltea a week ago today asking for beta readers, then followed that up posting on Goodreads and my Go Teen Writers Facebook group.

It’s amazing to me how writers rally around each other and help out with beta reading, brainstorming, reviewing, and encouragement. Multiple times last week I wanted to dance around my office thrilled at the fact that I get to be a writer – that I fit in with this group of people and can lend and receive help and encouragement along with the rest of them.

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As I sent out email after email to beta reads last week (19 beta readers in all!) I nearly cried for joy at all the people who are not only willing, but happy to spend their time helping me. Being a writer isn’t always easy. There have been times when I’ve been so overwhelmed or discouraged that I’ve wanted to quit. But being a writer is important. And having people around you to remind you of that fact is priceless.

Receiving the feedback from beta readers isn’t always easy. Who likes to hear that what they’ve written has horrible plot holes, that the characters are unlikeable, or that the story just lacks the “oomph” it needs to succeed? But I know from experience that receiving feedback is incredibly helpful. I’ve learned so much from my beta readers – not only about my books, but also about how things I perceive as coming across one way might come across to another person.

In addition to all the writerly good that comes from beta readers, there are multiple friends I’ve made through beta reading. I’m still in very regular contact with at least four of the beta readers who read When Life Hands You Lymes, and would consider all of them to be my friends. It’s a wonderful feeling.

Today I am thankful to be a writer. Today I am thankful for all the beta readers who are working on Echoes. Today I am thankful that I can be part of a writing community where people are helpful, encouraging, and kind.

Thank you – all of you – for being a part of my life and my writing journey!

 

Creating Characters That Don’t Blend Together

When I began writing the first version of Echoes when I was in my late teens I wrote over 50,000 words before I realized I had a big, big problem.

The book was told in dual narration between identical twins – and they sounded identical. The chapters switched back and forth between narrators, but if I just randomly started reading somewhere, unless names were used I had no idea who was narrating. Which pretty much means that one of the narrators was completely unnecessary.

I was excited about the premiss of the book, but I was able to take a step back and realize that my writing experience wasn’t equal to the plot in front of me. So I set the book aside for several years as I worked on learning the craft of writing better, and came up with some pretty cool plot twists.

In November of 2015 I was able to write Echoes again, and this time the identical twins were still twin-ish, but they are unique. Now when I open the book at a random place I can tell which one is narrating within a sentence or two of reading. So, today I thought I’d share some tips for how to create characters that are alike, but don’t blend together.

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How to Create Unique Characters

  • Give them different goals to accomplish – or if they’re both striving for the same goals, give them different “whys” for wanting to accomplish that goal. Nicolette and Raquel are striving for the same goal, and although they might profess to have the same “why” as you get to know the characters more you realize that their real “whys” are quite far apart from each other.

  • Give them different personalities. Is one of them easily excitable? Make the other one level-headed. Is one of them kind and gentle? Make the other one abrupt and insensitive. Is one of them forgiving? Make the other one bitter.
  • Give them different ways of viewing the world. One of them might see the world through rose-colored glasses while the other might think everyone is out to get her. One of them might see a rainy day and inwardly cheer that she can go dance in the rain, and the other one might see the same day and outwardly fume about the humidity and noise.
  • Give them different love languages. (Love languages include 5 things: Gifts, Acts of Service, Physical touch, Words of Affirmation, and Quality time. They are the way a person feels needed or valued – not only in a romantic setting, but also with friends, family, and life in general.) In Echoes Raquel is a physical touch person, which means she’s always hugging her sister, patting someone’s back, squeezing a shoulder in thanks, etc…. Nicolette is more of a Words of Affirmation person and is always expressing gratitude, and very rarely uses words in a saucy way like Raquel does.
  • Give them different talents. One of them can be athletic, while the other one is more into the logical side of things. One can be a fantastic cook while the other one is an artist. No matter what talents you choose for them, make sure that they stay consistent with who the person is. An artist will notice things throughout the book that a chef wouldn’t notice, and so on….

There are also various other things like giving them different quirks, disabilities, or physical traits that set them apart. For my characters, they’re identical twins, so I wanted them to be alike. I just had to make sure they weren’t too much alike.

What about you? What are some ways you’ve discovered for making characters different from each other?

Where Kios Came From

Working on Echoes reminds me once again of the start of the world in which the series takes place.

I was sixteen that year, and for some very odd reason, I developed a fascination with the thought of being a slave in the medieval ages. Pretty much every time I did anything that year, in the back of my mind I narrated it from the viewpoint of a slave named Helena who was cheerful no matter what the circumstances, and a favorite among the other slaves. Of course she was also a princess in hiding (cause like, duh, what other kind of medieval slave is there?). Only, the plot twist was she didn’t know she was a princess, and it was the other main character’s job to find her and tell her the truth.

As you can imagine it was an extremely interesting summer for me. I remember one afternoon I was working in the garden and I wasn’t feeling the best, but I forced myself to continue because after all, as the slave Helena I didn’t have a choice. There was also a time when our neighbor invited us over, and I stayed home and worked at filling up the goat’s water buckets. Lugging the heavy buckets back and forth while everyone else took a break seemed like a very fitting task. Another time I was carrying firewood into the house and continued even when it began raining – rushing back and forth as if my life depended on it. It was fantastically fun, and one of my teenage summers that stands out the most in my life. My family kindly didn’t think I was too crazy.

By mid-summer I had developed a plot line, and worked steadily on the book until I finished the first one, Dusk, in October of that year. Of course I dug right in and over the next year or so completed Star Glow and The Coming Dawn, the rest of the trilogy.

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Although I now realize those books have epic plot-fails and aren’t exactly destined to become bestselling novels, I still find the world I created to be delightful. The country the first book takes place in is Turglar, with the surrounding countries being Pyria, and Brock.

I was eighteen when I began plotting for the Echoes book (although it was originally titled The Guardian’s Secret – a title I might still use for another book in the future). It was exciting for me to realize that Kios (the country Echoes takes place in), was also a neighboring country to Turglar. And then to make it even cooler, the queen of Kios was originally from Turglar. Her name, Lena, came from a street child from Pyria who had done amazing and daring feats for the people of Turglar, and became one of their natural heroes.

As the years have passed other countries have developed in that world – like Isles Daya. Isles Daya is an island kingdom with happy, carefree people, and a castle that is so close to the ocean that the princess has an enclosed slide that goes from her chambers straight into the ocean.

There are multiple ideas swimming around in my brain for multiple different trilogies – each one taking place in a different country and different time period. It’s a glorious amount of fun.

What about you? If you could create a realistic literary country, what are some of the features it would have?

 

Echoes – Exciting News

In a land where twins are outcasts, identical princesses masquerade as one girl – Rylie, heir to the throne; a secret not even their father knows. 

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Kios has long been called barbaric by neighboring countries due to their practice of sentencing whole families to the City of Outcasts when echoes (two children at once) are born.

A political marriage brings kind and wise Queen Lena to the country. Due to her insight and endless work, the Echo Banishment Law has been revoked, and even King Dalan publicly proclaim echoes harmless. What few people realize is that King Dalan’s words are merely lip service – he is terrified of echoes due to superstitions that have ruled Kios for generations.

At sixteen, princesses Nicolette and Raquel, known to the world as Princess Rylie, have one goal in mind – see live to see the day when echoes have equal footing. Spurred on by the desire for the king to know their true identity, and to carry on the work Queen Lena was unable to finish due to her untimely death, the princesses are willing to risk everything to see their dream accomplished.

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Echoes is the first book in the Kios Trilogy, and comes in at just over 50,000 words. Told with dual narration by Nicolette and Raquel, the story is realistic fantasy (as in no magic) with a medieval flair.

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And now for the excitement! The plan (Lord willing) is to have Echoes ready for beta reading by the beginning of next week. *cue happy dance* This series is one I’ve worked on (with breaks) since I was 18, so I’m pretty thrilled about moving it to the next level. It’s also probably my favorite story I’ve ever worked on, so I can hardly wait to get feedback from some of y’all.

I’m pretty open to varying amounts of feedback, which means if you want to point out every grammatical error I’d be thrilled with that. Or, if you’d rather stick to the basics and talk about how much sense the plot made or point out inconsistencies, I’d be dancing in delight over that, as well.

I’m planning on sending the book out by March 20th, and I’m requesting the feedback to be returned by April 20th (although if you can’t fit it into that time frame, just let me know!). If you’d like to beta read (or even to just get more information) you can email me at: aidylewoh@gmail.com

Thank you so much, y’all! I can’t wait to hear from you!

And now, one last thing before I go…. Here’s a snippet from the story to give you a glimpse at the writing style.

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“Girls, are you decent?” The sound of Keagan’s voice made all three of us turn toward the closed door.

“If you mean are they fully clothed the answer is yes,” Marina answered as I opened the door. “If you’re referring to their level of early morning communication I’m afraid an affirmative answer would be pulling the truth a bit too taunt for comfort.”

Keagan grinned. “They do look fetching this morning though, don’t they?” Keagan picked up a second brush from the vanity and hit it on the palm of his hand. “This devise is what turns that scary beast,” he pointed at me, “into that sophisticated lady?” He aimed the brush at Nicolette. “I daresay, I should take these to the market and try to get a fair price for them. I’ve seen many a lass who could use one of them.”

“Did you come in here with a certain intent? Or just to mock the fine ladies of Kios?”

“I have not mocked any fine ladies.” Keagan tossed the brush back onto the vanity. “And maybe my intent was to save Marina from the tongue lashing I know you’re all to eager to provide in the early mornings.”

“Humph.”

“Princesses,” Keagan’s eyes went back and forth between us, “have you decided which one of you will attend the banquet tonight?”

“Aye.” Our answer was in unison, an occurrence that was fairly common among us.

“And?”

“I’ll be attending.”

“I thought that’s what you would decide.” Keagan gave a decisive nod of his head.

“How?” Marina finished Nicolette’s hair and stepped back to look at the two of for a moment before motioning me into the seat Nicolette had just vacated.

“How…?” Keagan asked.

“How did you know which one answered you?”

“Because I saw her lips moving?” Keagan quirked an eyebrow.

“Nay, I mean you said that was what you thought, can you truly tell them apart?” Marina was forever confusing the two of us even after living with us all of our lives. Sometimes we played up Keagan’s ability to tell us apart to bring Marina to a state of great annoyance.

“They act differently.”

“They are simply abiding, not acting.” Marina’s brushing was non too gentle as she began my hair.

“Then they abide differently.” Keagan shrugged.

“How so?”

“They breath with different cadences.” Keagan’s words were spoken with a straight face.

“Their breathing…?”

“Tis so,” Keagan nodded, wide eyed. “I used to lie awake at night wondering why they seemed so different to me and at last I came to the conclusion it was because Nicolette sounded like puff, puff, puff and Raquel sounded like puffpuffpuff.”

“You’re as childish as either of them.” Marina looked chagrined for a moment then laughed, “Really though, are you going to teach me how you can tell them apart?” Marina finished the simple knot on my hair and together we exited the dressing room.

“I know not, Marina.” Keagan put his arm around my shoulder and his other arm around Marina’s shoulder. “It’s instinct I suppose.”

“Did you come back to the dressing room the comment on our body oder?” I peered up at him with a straight face.