Tuesday, May 27, 2014

"My name is Coal. Coal Flame." "And you laughed at MY name!"

Yes, yes, I know it has been more than a week since my last world-building post. I think it's because I said I was actually going to try and post once a week. I jinxed it. Silly me.

But here I am now to bless the world with another fantasy worldbuilding post! Aren't you excited?

This post is going to start a sub-series in the world-building series. Originally, this post was going to be about language. I started writing it, but I quickly realized it was going to need more than one post. Language is such an enormous part of culture, after all, that it deserves a lot of time. It can get rather complicated (or maybe it's just my weird brain that makes it that way. I mean, if your fantasy characters are speaking English, do I call the language 'English' or do I think of another name for it? But what if my characters are not speaking English, yet I write the book in English as if they were and never told the reader otherwise? What if I did tell the reader? Do I have to then write the book in omniscient point of view to explain the 'translation' or what???), so I decided to start with something simple. Names.

I wrote a post about names a year or so ago, but that post was more about possibilities on naming characters. Now, I'm focusing on how names can impact fantasy cultures and worlds.

Names can show different cultures

via Pinterest

Once you start writing, it isn't long before you hear the 'show, don't tell' rule. Names can help a LOT with following this rule. If you design a system of naming for the different cultures in your novel, than once the reader picks up on it, it will subtly inform your reader as to what race or culture a character is from. For instance, in Lord of the Rings, if a character showed up named Daisy, I would likely assume the character was a Hobbit. However, if a character named Amoniel was introduced, I would assume the character was an Elf. If I were an extreme nerd (cough, cough) I could possibly even tell if the Elf was Sindarin or Quenya, which would also add to my presuppositions about the character.

Having different naming techniques for different cultures can also help the reader keep the different storylines and cultures straight. For example, in Brandon Sanderson's 'Mistborn' trilogy, by the third book there are many different characters doing different quests in different countries. Having a character named 'TenSoon' who is in his country where people have names like 'OreSeur' and 'KanPaar' helped me remember where TenSoon was and what he was doing.

Names can build character

My parents had a very specific formula when choosing my name and my sibling's names. All of the names had to start with 'K', they had to sound good with 'Browning', they had to have Gaelic roots since we have Scottish backgrounds, and my parents had to like the meaning of the name. I'm glad they did that. It really is shocking how often we live up to our names. 'Kaycee' means liveliness, creativity, and courage depending on which baby naming site you're on. Funny, those three things are probably the aspects I try most to live up to. I try to be loving and kind and selfless etc. too, but for some reason, because certain traits are in my name, I find myself pushing for them most. I don't know if that's a good or bad thing, but it is an aspect of my character, which means that it could be an aspect in a fictional character's personality.

I love what Jenelle Schmidt did in her novel, 'Second Son'. The country Llycaelon has a "rite of passage" type thing. At the end, the man or woman has the option to change his or her name. The people of Llycaelon put a lot of weight on names and meanings. Two of the main characters change their names, and the choices in their name meanings add so much to their characters. They were such pivotal moments in the novel, that I stopped picturing the characters as teenagers and started picturing them as adults at that point. I thought it was a very effective and creative way to show (not tell) the complex changes in character.

And last but not least...

My OYAN is showing... :P

Names need to be easily identified. This isn't exactly a world-building tip, but if you follow it, it will help make your world more realistic. Don't create names of people, places, or things if you can't pronounce them. When I see an unpronounceable name, I tend to skim it and assign random gibberish to the name in my head. I don't take the time to identify or discern the culture or thought behind it. The name Cassa Outcast is way more compelling to me than Xxanthoses Bardelheim, even if both names have the same amount of thought behind him. Long, difficult-to-say names take away from the story, and subsequently, the world within the story. If you are unsure if a name you have picked for a character is hard to pronounce or not, ask someone else, preferably a non-fantasy reader, to read it out loud. If they read it wrong or say they can't, you should probably change it. There's a reason everybody can immediately recognize names like Bilbo Baggins and Harry Potter.

So there you go! If you thought this was confusing, just wait until you read my next post on language! >:)

*Title is from Ember Flame by moi. :P

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Interview with Jaye L. Knight!

Today I had the honor to interview Jaye L. Knight, author of the newly released fantasy novel Resistance. I can not express how excited I am to read this novel! The synopsis is intriguing, the cover is gorgeous, and I have read several excellent reviews for it. 

About the Novel

“Don’t you know? Animals like you have no soul.”

Could God ever love a half-blood all of society looks upon with such fear and disdain? Jace once believed so, but when a tragic loss shatters the only peace he’s ever known, his faith crumbles as the nagging doubts he’s tried to put behind him descend on his grieving heart. With them come the haunting memories of the bloodstained past he longs to forget, but can never escape.

Taken from home at a young age and raised to serve the emperor, Kyrin Altair lives every day under a dangerous pretense of loyalty. After her unique observation skills and perfect memory place her into direct service to the emperor, Kyrin finds herself in further jeopardy as it becomes increasingly difficult to hide her belief in Elôm, the one true God.

Following the emperor’s declaration to enforce the worship of false gods under the penalty of death, many lives are endangered. But there are those willing to risk everything to take a stand and offer aid to the persecuted. With their lives traveling paths they never could have imagined, Jace and Kyrin must fight to overcome their own fears and conflicts with society as they become part of the resistance.

About the Author

Jaye L. Knight is a 25-year-old independent author with a passion for writing Christian fantasy and clean NA (New Adult) fiction. Armed with an active imagination and love for adventure, Jaye weaves stories of truth, faith, and courage with the message that even in the deepest darkness, God's love shines as a light to offer hope.

Jaye is a homeschool graduate and has been penning stories since the age of eight. She was previously published as Molly Evangeline. You can learn about her latest writing projects at

The Interview!

Kaycee: How did you first begin writing?

Jaye: My mom gets credit for that. She has been writing since her early teen years. When I was little, I would see her working on her stories and collecting character inspiration photos from magazines. I guess it really sparked my interest because I started writing down my own little stories at eight years old and have never stopped.

Kaycee: What is your favorite part of the writing process?

Jaye: Working with my characters. I just love character dynamics and relationships. Interesting interactions between characters, especially when there’s conflict involved, are some of the most fun parts to write. And I love getting to know my characters. It’s very fulfilling to get to know a character inside and out to the point where they feel so real.

Kaycee: Which character do you believe is most like yourself and why?

Jaye: That would be Jace, the main character in Resistance. The obvious difference is that he’s a guy and I’m a girl, but our personalities are very much alike. He’s more intense than I am, but I think we react to our struggles and surroundings in similar ways. It’s very easy for me to get inside his head and experience his emotions. So, basically, he’s the more intense male version of me.

Kaycee: What was the inspiration for 'Resistance'?

Jaye: Jace was where it all started. Without him, Resistance wouldn’t exist since the whole series is essentially to tell his story. His character came from a surprisingly small spark of inspiration. I was reading DragonQuest by Donita K. Paul and came to a scene where my favorite character was discovered to be half-blooded. To have this spark such a huge story was definitely God working because writing about a half-blood was not anything new for me. I had already written about two Half-Elves in my previously published fantasy trilogy Makilien. What I hadn’t done was write about a half-blood who was despised by society. That is the idea DragonQuest sparked. Jace just came alive in my mind and the rest of the story and characters grew around him.

Kaycee: What impact do you hope 'Resistance' will have upon readers?

Jaye: One of my favorite things about Resistance and the rest of the series is all of the different themes and issues I’ve been able to explore, some of which I didn’t even realize would be such a big thing when I started. Though it is fantasy, I wanted it to be relevant to issues we’re facing today. I hope it can inspire readers to have the courage to stand up for what they believe even if most of society is opposed to it. And most of all, I hope it will help them see how much God loves the most broken, damaged, and flawed people and how He can work in their lives.

And...a Giveaway!

Immerse yourself in the world of Ilyon! Fill out the Rafflecopter form below for a chance to win an autographed copy of Resistance (Book 1 in the “Ilyon Chronicles” series), a Resistance-inspired necklace crafted by the author (Jaye L. Knight), a Better Homes “Warm Rustic Woods” candle, and a wolf paw leather bookmark from Lodgepole Leathercraft. This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you, like me, can't wait to read the book and would rather read it now than wait for the giveaway to end, you can buy it for your Kindle HERE. (Although I'd enter the giveaway too. I mean, look at all the epicness you could possibly win!)

Also, be sure to check out the other blogs participating in the blog tour! You can find a list of the blogs HERE.

Thanks for letting me interview you, Jaye! I can't wait to see what God does through you and through Resistance! :)

Friday, May 16, 2014

In Defense of Anna

As I've said before, I'm a Disney nerd. I've been loving Disney since before I was capable of expressing my own opinions (which is pretty darn early). After 'Lord of the Rings', my next favorite movie is 'Beauty and the Beast'. My dog's middle name is 'Flynn' after my favorite Disney guy. I seriously love Disney. So of course I went to the theater to see Disney's 'Frozen'...twice.

I never wrote a review on it because I would simply be repeating what everyone else was saying. Fantastic animation, amazing story, IT'S ABOUT SISTERS, as good as 'Lion King', evil prince charming YES, blah blah blah.

But after reading so many of those reviews, I feel like I need to write something on the subject because these peasants people clearly don't understand anything about fully appreciate Anna. These people praise Elsa for being so "deep and emotional". They love her because she "doesn't need a guy to save her! Yay!". They cheer and applaud her "independent spirit" and "bravery". At the same time, they hate on Anna calling her a "typical Disney princess" (what the heck is that supposed to mean anyway?) and "weak" and "reliant on men" and "sappy". I am graciously not going to share links to these blogs, but search for Frozen reviews and I'm sure you'll find them.

Okay, maybe I should first explain why this bothers me so much. Re-reading the above paragraph has made me realize that I sound overly passionate about an animated fictional character. I'll explain.

I like Anna way more than Elsa. Anna is everything I wish I could be: friendly, outgoing, carefree, personable, courageous, optimistic, fun-loving, extroverted. Anna is also everything my sister is. I've code-named my sissies Merry and Pippin for the Internet. Merry acts EXACTLY like Anna. She's fun-loving and adventurous and makes friends easily. She loves to laugh with people and at herself. She's not afraid of her own awkwardness which just makes her seem less awkward and more fun, while I am so afraid of making a mistake I become impersonal and awkward. She's kind and patient with people, even when she gets picked on or irritated.

She's also a romantic. While I do like some romances if they meet some stipulations and help me learn more about characters and writing, Merry will jump on any ship and make herself the captain immediately. Thirteen-year old me cringed and groaned at even the mention of dating, while thirteen-year old Merry proudly shouts to the world that she is on Team Percabeth, and Captain Swan, and "Oh my stars, Peeta and Katniss had better end up together or I'm gonna be so mad!".

I used to make fun of people who liked romances, thinking they were not as intelligent or strong. But I see now that I was terribly wrong. Merry has confronted bullies who were picking on new girls at church, Merry has stood up to her own best friends when they were treating her wrongly and questioned them about it, she talks to strangers and adults without a problem and even volunteers to order at fast-food restaurants because she knows her shy big sister would rather not but is too proud to say so. Merry is braver than I am and she likes romances. I used to think that was an impossible contradiction, but it isn't, and I accept that now.

So basically, when people call Anna "shallow", "weak", and "dependent", I get angry because if Merry were an animated character, she would be Anna and I will not stand for people picking on my little sister.

In 'Frozen', the first thing that made me truly respect Anna was the fact that she never grew bitter. Even after being shut out by her sister for seemingly no reason, even after being constantly rejected by her older sister, after growing up lonely and friendless in a castle, and after her parents dying in a storm and receiving no comfort from Elsa she remains optimistic and strong. Think about it from her point-of-view. Elsa looks like a grade-A jerk now, doesn't she? How many nights would Anna have spent wondering what she did to make Elsa hate her? How many times did she gather the courage to knock on Elsa's door, knowing rejection would be coming? Yet, Anna still consistently thought about her sister. She tells Kristoff, "See, she wore the gloves all the time. So I just thought she had a thing about dirt!". She was watching Elsa, trying to figure out how to know her.

The main thing everybody brings up against Anna is that she agreed to get married after knowing Hans for half a day. How was she supposed to know any better? She probably spent a lot of time reading books and looking at those pictures on the wall. All of those would have portrayed love as an overly romantic, at-first-sight kinda thing. She didn't have any friends to talk to, who would have "fallen in love" with the most perfect guy and then would have been dumped. Her parents died when she was fifteen, which would have probably been around the time she started thinking about crushes and boys so they never explained it to her. Her more rational big sister never spoke to her. And then here comes this guy who seems to be just like her, he looks like a prince charming, and he can sing a romantic duet with her. What else was she supposed to assume?

I don't know how people can accuse Anna of being "weak" and "shallow". Anna portrays extreme maturity when she says "tonight was my fault. I pushed her...". It wasn't her fault that Elsa freaked out, yet Anna was willing to accept that, even though she doesn't agree with Elsa concerning Hans. Anna then courageously sets out into the blizzard to try to save Elsa and Arendelle. Anna repeatedly risks herself to save those she loves. She tries to reason with Elsa at the ice castle even when a snowstorm is swirling around her, she cuts the rope that Marshmallow was holding to save Kristoff. She tells Olaf to leave her so that he won't melt. And finally, she throws herself in the way of a sword swinging towards her head to save Elsa. Anybody who says Anna is weak clearly did not pay much attention to the movie.

Some people make fun of Anna for enlisting Kristoff and Sven's help. "Oh look, she needs a guy to help. How independent of her". Of course she needed help! This girl had never left her castle before, and now she was about to trek up a snow and blizzard covered mountain that clearly would be hard for anyone, even Kristoff. Anna knew her limitations and weaknesses. She knew she would need help to find Elsa, and she found someone who she guessed would be able to help her, a mountain man. She didn't ask Oaken to help, she asked Kristoff. And later, she listens to advice from the trolls and is willing to admit that she was wrong about Hans. That shows a level of maturity and intelligence that I find impressive.

Along with that, people don't like it that Anna and Kristoff end up together at the end. Again, they think it is just because she needs a man to save her. I believe it is mostly feminists who say these things. And here's what I think. I think it is extremely hypocritical and derogatory to condemn someone else just because their happy ending is different from yours. Feminists say that women need to "be independent!" but then when a woman falls in love and gets married (only when it's to a man, I might add), feminists cry foul and accuse the woman of being dependent. If Anna's happy ending came in the form of falling in love and getting married, so what? Why is that such a bad thing? Anna has already proven that she is fully capable of being brave, mature, and selfless, why can't she fall in love? Why does the idea of marriage cause feminists to cringe when, in general and from what I've seen, it takes a whole lot more strength and fortitude to remain married than to remain single? (I'm NOT saying everyone should be married, or that people who are married are stronger than single people. God calls people to both. I'm simply saying that getting married doesn't necessarily make you weak or dependent, as society would have everyone believe).

To me personally, Anna is way more admirable than Elsa. Yes, Elsa shut herself away to protect her little sister, and she ran away to live alone to try and protect everyone, but then when Anna comes to try and offer some hope, Elsa doesn't listen. She panics and ends up hurting her sister. She then forcibly makes Anna and Kristoff leave out of stress, still refusing to listen to them. To me, Elsa doesn't really become likable until the very end of the movie, when she finally has learned to control her powers and begins to mend the bond that was torn between her and Anna (Brave reference for my fellow Disnerds! XD).

Anna is likable from the very moment she appears on screen, shaking her sister awake and whispering "Do you wanna build a snowmaaaan?" Her exuberance and her relateable awkwardness make her endearing. Her bravery and hidden maturity make her admirable. Her sacrifice and undying love for her friends and family make her a hero. Anyone who says otherwise needs to stop watching endless replays of 'Let it Go' and instead try paying attention to the words in 'For the First Time in Forever reprise'. Or better yet, watch the movie again and this time pay close attention to Anna. The dramticness of Elsa steals the show the first time you watch it, and that's okay, but the subtlety of Anna is truly what makes 'Frozen' as good as 'Lion King'.

So what do y'all think? I would love to hear from Elsa fans why she is so popular. I hope I didn't sound like I was hating on Elsa. I like her. I just don't understand why people find her so spectacular. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

"Long ago in the quiet of the world, when there was less noise and more green..."

My school has finally started to slow down! Hurrah! Now I have more time for blogging! :)

To keep me blogging consistently I'm going to write a blog post, at least once a week, on fantasy world-building. World-building is probably the thing I have the most trouble with when it comes to writing. When I wrote 'Ember Flame', I didn't bother with world-building at all, which lead to a lot of problems when it came time to edit. So don't take what I say about world-building as gospel! In fact, if you have any tips or suggestions, I would love to hear them! I need all the help I can get!

For me, 'world-building' encompasses many aspects of a fantasy world. Not only does it mean the landscape, but it also means the currency, the politics, the weather, the clothes, the races, the technology, and the magic (if there is any). Since I want to ease into this, let's start with the most obvious meaning of world-building: landscape.

Landscapes are one of the most fascinating additions in a fantasy story. They can vary so much and have so much potential. Landscapes can have as little or as large an affect on the story as the writer wants. The landscapes can be real (for example, the Misty Mountains from 'Lord of the Rings' could exist in the real world) or fantastical (The Dead Marshes couldn't exist in the real world).

For me, I have found that it is helpful to draw a map of the entire fantasy world, even if my characters will never visit all of the different places. Story D takes place entirely in a little town, but I have a map of the many countries that exist in the world. It might come in handy, it might not. Maybe a character will mention his or her country and the direction it is in. Maybe I will never use it. Still, since world-building is not my talent, it's better to be safe than sorry. I highly suggest drawing a map of the entire world while you are outlining your story.

Okay, so now you've drawn a map. What I usually do is try to add various landscapes to different countries. Not only will it make the story more interesting if your characters have to travel, but it can also add different dimensions to your characters.

One of the funniest and oddest aspects of humans to me is how defensive we get over "our" weather or land. It's typically about the place where you were raised, but not necessarily. My mom is a Florida native, and while she dislikes cold weather, she is fascinated with autumn. She went to Georgia Tech for college and during the autumn of her first year, she saw her very first leaf colored a bright red. She kept it and dried it. Later, she went to a football game in North Carolina, during the autumn, and saw the Carolina blue sky. She loved it and years later, my dad's job got transferred to Raleigh and even after my dad was laid off, they stayed. My mom is willing to joke about Florida (in a good-natured way), but you mess with North Carolina? Nope.

Anyway, my point is that characters get defensive about certain types of land and weather. This can add dimensions to their personalities. It can also affect their physical attributes. For example, I am absolutely pathetic when it comes to winter and snow. I basically curl up in a blanket and try to hibernate like a grizzly bear, growling at anyone who approaches me unless they have hot chocolate. But put me in summer and I'm a happy snowman! I just spent nearly two hours tanning by the pool this afternoon and I've never felt more happy and energized. Science has shown that people adapt to their surroundings. People who are raised in warmer climates handle warmth better, and people who are raised in colder climates handle cold better. Pretty cool, right?

Ember from 'Ember Flame', though she would never admit it, feels more confident and safe in forests and woods. She outwardly complains about woods and forests because of all the emotional pain Grel caused her, but deep down inside she knows that the woods are her home. Hail retreats to Heesen, a frozen island in the middle of the ocean, to hide from the Pull. He could have gone anywhere to hide, but he feels safer in an area unpleasant to most of the inhabitants. Besides, the cold never bothered him anyway. Their home preferences can tell you a lot about their personalities.

Speaking of Heesen, fantasy landscapes don't always have to be realistic. That's why it's a fantasy. Sure, you don't need to make everything unrealistic, but sometimes, a little touch of impossibility can add a lot to a novel. Heesen shouldn't exist. It's literally an oversized iceberg. Why the heck would anyone turn that into a country? What economical value could that place possibly have? Isn't it dangerous? Wouldn't the water cycles flood it once every decade or so? I know the lore and answers to these questions, but I probably will never share them in the novels because it would take away from the story. However, little touches of history and mystic can give a sense of, ironically, rationality to an irrational place. In the real world, you don't step foot in a different country and instantly either someone explains to you the entire history of the country, or the flood of information comes to your mind. I've seen both happen in fantasy novels.

Well, those are my thoughts on landscapes in fantasy world-building. If you have any tips, I'd love to hear 'em! Like I said, world-building is not my favorite. If you want to read some novels that have extremely well-written worlds, I'd check out Brandon Sanderson's 'Mistborn' trilogy (not a Christian novel, suggested for 16+ because of violence and themes), Jill Williamson's 'Blood of Kings' trilogy (Christian, suggested for 13+ because of themes), Jenelle Schmidt's 'King's Warrior (Christian, suggested for everyone), Gail Carson Levine's 'Ella Enchanted' (suggested for everyone), and, naturally, J.R.R. Tolkien's 'Lord of the Rings' (suggested for everyone).

Have a great day!

(Quote is from J.R.R. Tolkien's 'The Hobbit')

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Pushing your Characters

One of the hardest things about inventing characters is inventing his or her breaking point. It's hard because a) I don't want to know my characters' breaking point because I don't want to hurt them and b) my characters are stubborn. Most of their breaking or snapping points are pretty extreme. 

What do I mean by breaking point? I mean the thing that can make your character completely snap. It makes the character stop acting like him or herself and causes them to do things they would never do otherwise. Sometimes it's a good thing. In 'Ember Flame', something awful happens to a person Ember loves very much, and it forces her to confront her feelings towards Elethor (God), which have been ambiguous, at best, up until that point. The results turn out good. But other times, it's bad. in 'Hail Frost', Hail sometimes makes questionable moral decisions because of certain people being hurt or in danger. That's bad. 

I don't use the 'breaking points' for all of the characters. I don't use the emotional 'breaking points' for the villains usually because 'breaking' typically makes a character look weak. I don't want my villains appearing weak. I do use it for Valin though, but that is only because when he emotionally breaks, he becomes violent and cruel. That's good, for a villain. 

I'm not sure if this post is making much sense. Maybe I should clarify myself a bit better. 'Breaking points' can create three different reactions in characters: a positive reaction, a negative reaction, and a neutral reaction. A breaking point that causes positive reactions causes the character to make the right decisions. Perhaps it is for the wrong reasons (revenge, anger, etc.) but the character will do the right thing despite it. Here is an example of a breaking point in Once Upon a Time causing a positive reaction.

Henry's coma causes Emma to finally believe in magic, which then results in her intense effort to break the curse. That's positive.

Neutral reactions are reactions that are not particularly bad or good, they are just reactions. The new Star Trek movies offer a perfect example of a neutral reaction of a breaking point. 

Spock's reactions to the bullies is completely uncontrollable. He simply reacts. He's not trying to do anything good or bad, he is simply being emotional.

Negative reactions are always fascinating, especially if it is a "good" character. Finding the breaking point that can make a good person do something bad, or even evil, can cause a lot of strong conflict in a novel- emotionally and physically. Here is a negative reaction from Doctor Who. The Doctor has just lost Rose Tyler, a friend he was in love with. The loss and loneliness causes him to brutally murder the Racnoss' children where before he might have found a different way to make them leave earth.

Sorry this post was so choppy. Some of my classes have ended, so I have a bit more time for blogging, but my brain is kinda scattered. I have an AP English test on Friday, and then I have to begin studying for the SAT. Sigh. Can I just go be a hermit somewhere? Just me and a Netlfix subscription? That would be great. Anyone have a secluded cave or hut for rent?