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Mechalarum Page-a-Day: Page 28 - Education

Education is one of those things that's often overlooked in fictional tales. Often, either the story prominently features advancement of the human mind (Harry Potter!), or the characters are assumed to already know everything they'll need to know.

In fantasy and science fiction, it's an especially useful tool. The reader gets to learn about the author's universe in an organic way, right along with the characters.

Of course, there can only be so many books set in boarding schools (well, there can be infinite books set in boarding schools, but I'm sure people will get tired of them eventually, right??) But just like in real life, education doesn't have to stop when you forever leave uncomfortable desks and chairs behind. The Citadelians have incorporated lessons into the music they listen to. It's a theory I'd love to see in practice more (supported by Johns Hopkins, no less!) I already get songs stuck in my head all the time. Wouldn't it great if, instead of the Macarena or that other super catchy song, I had the periodic tables or physics formulas stuck in my head?

You're welcome.

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Mechalarum Page-a-Day: Page 27 - Worlds Within Worlds

I used to spend pages and pages describing my environments in grade school. A decade of technical and web writing beat the tendency to ramble out of my system, and honed my ability to get to the point. As I edited Mechalarum, I realized that I'd all but forgotten to root it firmly in time and space.

The details of my world are still somewhat roughly etched - I want the reader to paint their own mental pictures, instead of having to squeeze my visual cues into the frame. Part of it is impatience - I want to get to the meat of the story, the character flaws, the battles, the plot twists. As time goes on I imagine I'll have more time, focus and skill to work in these details. For now, scenes like this provide lush scenery in an otherwise linear world (perhaps fittingly?)

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Mechalarum Page-a-Day: Page 26 - Hygiene

If a person wants to obsess over the minutiae of daily life, she's more likely to play The Sims than to read a book. Still, tapping into the execution of the base human daily tasks most of us share is a great way to flesh out a story.

You'd think that scenes of bathing and grooming would be overlooked in an action/adventure/speculative fiction. In truth, these scenes can be some of the most iconic, and in fact play a central role in the greater story. I haven't read the books yet, but the bathing scenes in Game of Thrones speak louder than their banality would suggest. An image of Alanna bathing before her grand trials in the Song of the Lioness series is burned into my brain. "Autowash" takes on a whole new meaning when combined with Leeloo's confused shiver and Korben Dallas's googly eyes in the Fifth Element.

My point is, you can say a lot with a little soap and water. Or lack there of, in my case.

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Mechalarum Page-a-Day: Page 25 - Pop Culture

It's impossible to avoid referencing popular culture when writing, even if you're creating a science fiction or fantasy story that has nothing to do with our modern times.

It's especially telling when you see or read "old" scifi. They have magical devices that let them speak with anyone at the press of a button! The computers show pictures in color! They treat all races and genders with respect! (How novel.) Everything from technology to interpersonal relationships to language (groovy, yo) changes quickly or slowly with the times.

Since you can't beat them, I say join them whole-heartedly. "Myth-cracking" is obviously a reference to a popular, nerdy show from the early 10's. In this case, it's an especially important nod, as I'm using it to set the scene of the "news broadcast" that frames the rest of the story. News-broadcast-framed stories have also featured in several examples of recent pop-culture media; and so the referential cycle continues. But when the reference is gone from the popular conscious, the story will inevitably change.

Also, on a meta note, sorry for the delays in posts this weekend! Took some time to chill out from all the book launch activities :)

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Mechalarum Page-a-Day: Page 24 - Memories and Dreams

The best stories are slices of time from fully-formed worlds. Dramatized, for sure. Larger than life, of course. But time goes on, both before and after the series of events that make up the particular hero's journey. There's no real beginning, and no true end.

Weaving details of the past and future into a novel is an interesting challenge. If your narrator is close enough to the characters to get inside their heads, thoughts and memories are hugely useful, as long as you make sure to avoid too much telling (vs. showing). Conversations, especially with new characters unaware of past situation, are another great tool (though infodumps are a common trap). Sidetexts can be a fun way to flesh out your world's history, as long as you don't rely too heavily on them in the main story.

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