When I was nine, possibly ten, an author came to our school to talk about writing. His name was Hugh Scott, and I doubt he’s known outside of Scotland. And even then I haven’t seen him on many shelves in recent years in Scotland either. But he wrote wonderfully creepy children’s stories, where the supernatural was scary, but it was the mundane that was truly terrifying. At least to little ten year old me. It was Scooby Doo meets Paranormal Activity with a bonny braw Scottish-ness to it that I’d never experienced before.

I remember him as a gangling man with a wiry beard that made him look older than he probably was, and he carried a leather bag filled with paper. He had a pen too that was shaped like a carrot, and he used it to scribble down notes between answering our (frankly disinterested) questions. We had no idea who he was you see, no one had made an effort to introduce us to his books. We were simply told one morning, ‘class 1b, there is an author here to talk to you about writing’, and this you see was our introduction to creative writing. We’d surpassed finger painting and macaroni collages. It was time to attempt Words That Were Untrue.

You could tell from the look on Mrs M’s face she thought it was a waste of time. I remember her sitting off to one side marking papers while this tall man sat down on our ridiculously short chairs, and tried to talk to us about what it meant to tell a story. She wasn’t big on telling stories, Mrs M. She was also one of the teachers who used to take my books away from me because they were “too complicated” for me, despite the fact that I was reading them with both interest and ease. When dad found out he hit the roof. It’s the one and only time he ever showed up to the school when it wasn’t parents night or the school play. After that she just left me alone, but she made it clear to my parents that she resented the fact that a ten year old used words like ‘ubiquitous’ in their essays. Presumably because she had to look it up.

Anyway, Mr Scott, was doing his best to talk to us while Mrs M made scoffing noises from her corner every so often, and you could just tell he was deflating faster than a bouncy castle at a knife sharpening party, so when he asked if any of us had any further questions and no one put their hand up I felt awful. I knew this was not only insulting but also humiliating, even if we were only little children. So I did the only thing I could think of, put my hand up and said “Why do you write?”

I’d always read about characters blinking owlishly, but I’d never actually seen it before. But that’s what he did, peering down at me from behind his wire rim spectacles and dragging tired fingers through his curly beard. I don’t think he expected anyone to ask why he wrote stories. What he wrote about, and where he got his ideas from maybe, and certainly why he wrote about ghosts and other creepy things, but probably not why do you write. And I think he thought perhaps he could have got away with “because it’s fun, and learning is fun, right kids?!”, but part of me will always remember the way the world shifted ever so slightly as it does when something important is about to happen, and this tall streak of a man looked down at me, narrowed his eyes in an assessing manner and said, “Because people told me not to, and words are important.”

I nodded, very seriously in the way children do, and knew this to be a truth. In my limited experience at that point, I knew certain people (with a sidelong glance to Mrs M who was in turn looking at me as though she’d just known it’d be me that type of question) didn’t like fiction. At least certain types of fiction. I knew for instance that Mrs M liked to read Pride and Prejudice on her lunch break but only because it was sensible fiction, about people that could conceivably be real. The idea that one could not relate to a character simply because they had pointy ears or a jet pack had never occurred to me, and the fact that it’s now twenty years later and people are still arguing about the validity of genre fiction is beyond me, but right there in that little moment, I knew something important had just transpired, with my teacher glaring at me, and this man who told stories to live beginning to smile. After that the audience turned into a two person conversation, with gradually more and more of my classmates joining in because suddenly it was fun. Mrs M was pissed and this bedraggled looking man who might have been Santa after some serious dieting, was starting to enjoy himself. As it turned out we had all of his books in our tiny corner library, and in the words of my friend Andrew “hey there’s a giant spider fighting a ghost on this cover! neat!” and the presentation devolved into chaos as we all began reading different books at once and asking questions about each one. “Does she live?”— “What about the talking trees” —“is the ghost evil?” —“can I go to the bathroom, Miss?” —“Wow neat, more spiders!”

After that we were supposed to sit down, quietly (glare glare) and write a short story to show what we had learned from listening to Mr Scott. I wont pretend I wrote anything remotely good, I was ten and all I could come up with was a story about a magic carrot that made you see words in the dark, but Mr Scott seemed to like it. In fact he seemed to like all of them, probably because they were done with such vibrant enthusiasm in defiance of the people who didn’t want us to.

The following year, when I’d moved into Mrs H’s class—the kind of woman that didn’t take away books from children who loved to read and let them write nonsense in the back of their journals provided they got all their work done—a letter arrived to the school, carefully wedged between several copies of a book which was unheard of at the time, by a new author known as J.K. Rowling. Mrs H remarked that it was strange that an author would send copies of books that weren’t even his to a school, but I knew why he’d done it. I knew before Mrs H even read the letter.

Because words are important. Words are magical. They’re powerful. And that power ought to be shared. There’s no petty rivalry between story tellers, although there’s plenty who try to insinuate it. There’s plenty who try to say some words are more valuable than others, that somehow their meaning is more important because of when it was written and by whom. Those are the same people who laud Shakespeare from the heavens but refuse to acknowledge that the quote “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them“ is a dick joke.

And although Mr Scott seems to have faded from public literary consumption, I still think about him. I think about his stories, I think about how he recommended another author and sent copies of her books because he knew our school was a puritan shithole that fought against the Wrong Type of Wordes and would never buy them into the library otherwise. But mostly I think about how he looked at a ten year old like an equal and told her words and important, and people will try to keep you from writing them—so write them anyway.

*sobs for like the umpteenth time this day and reblogs the fuck out of this*

Reblog, Facebook, and sending it to myself so I can always find it…

This brings back so many memories of my childhood stories that I may just weep.

“I wont pretend I wrote anything remotely good, I was ten and all I could come up with was a story about a magic carrot that made you see words in the dark, but Mr Scott seemed to like it.” Are you KIDDING me, that is the most beautiful metaphor about writing and you used the man’s own PEN as the central symbol I’m crying and I can’t even imagine how he felt sdlfkajsdf GOD.




Storium is an awesome collaborative online storytelling game in which you and your friends (or strangers) play characters who interact through a series of scenes, overcoming challenges and writing your own unique story.

The Narrator chooses the world that the story is set in (with choices such as ‘occult pulp horror’, ‘medical drama’ and ‘cyberpunk’), then starts each scene, using cards to give the players challenges to overcome.  The other players then try to overcome these challenges, progressing the story in fun and interesting ways.

It’s a clever storycrafting experience that nurtures creativity, imagination and interaction. 

Play The Full Game, Free (Browser)

@missingrache @akedhi @answersfromvanaheim


This is a jar full of major characters 

Actually it is a jar full of chocolate covered raisins on top of a dirty TV tray. But pretend the raisins are interesting and well rounded fictional characters with significant roles in their stories. 

We’re sharing these raisins at a party for Western Storytelling, so we get out two bowls. 

Then we start filling the bowls. And at first we only fill the one on the left. 

This doesn’t last forever though. Eventually we do start putting raisins in the bowl on the right. But for every raisin we put in the bowl on the right, we just keep adding to the bowl on the left. 

And the thing about these bowls is, they don’t ever reset. We don’t get to empty them and start over. While we might lose some raisins to lost records or the stories becoming unpopular, but we never get to just restart. So even when we start putting raisins in the bowl on the right, we’re still way behind from the bowl on the left. 

And time goes on and the bowl on the left gets raisins much faster than the bowl on the right. 

Until these are the bowls. 

Now you get to move and distribute more raisins. You can add raisins or take away raisins entirely, or you can move them from one bowl to the other. 

This is the bowl on the left. I might have changed the number of raisins from one picture to the next. Can you tell me, did I add or remove raisins? How many? Did I leave the number the same?

You can’t tell for certain, can you? Adding or removing a raisin over here doesn’t seem to make much of a change to this bowl. 

This is the bowl on the right. I might have changed the number of raisins from one picture to the next. Can you tell me, did I add or remove raisins? How many? Did I leave the number the same?

When there are so few raisins to start, any change made is really easy to spot, and makes a really significant difference. 

This is why it is bad, even despicable, to take a character who was originally a character of color and make them white. But why it can be positive to take a character who was originally white and make them a character of color.

The white characters bowl is already so full that any change in number is almost meaningless (and is bound to be undone in mere minutes anyway, with the amount of new story creation going on), while the characters of color bowl changes hugely with each addition or subtraction, and any subtraction is a major loss. 

This is also something to take in consideration when creating new characters. When you create a white character you have already, by the context of the larger culture, created a character with at least one feature that is not going to make a difference to the narratives at large. But every time you create a new character of color, you are changing something in our world. 

I mean, imagine your party guests arrive

Oh my god they are adorable!

And they see their bowls

But before you hand them out you look right into the little black girls’s eyes and take two of her seven raisins and put them in the little white girl’s bowl.

I think she’d be totally justified in crying or leaving and yelling at you. Because how could you do that to a little girl? You were already giving the white girl so much more, and her so little, why would you do that? How could you justify yourself?

But on the other hand if you took two raisins from the white girl’s bowl and moved them over to the black girl’s bowl and the white girl looked at her bowl still full to the brim and decided your moving those raisins was unfair and she stomped and cried and yelled, well then she is a spoiled and entitled brat. 

And if you are adding new raisins, it seems more important to add them to the bowl on the right. I mean, even if we added the both bowls at the same speed from now on (and we don’t) it would still take a long time before the numbers got big enough to make the difference we’ve already established insignificant. 

And that’s the difference between whitewashing POC characters and making previously white characters POC. And that’s why every time a character’s race is ambiguous and we make them white, we’ve lost an opportunity.

*goes off to eat her chocolate covered raisins, which are no longer metaphors just snacks*



In fairy tales and fantasy, two types of people go in towers:  princesses and wizards.

Princesses are placed there against their will or with the intention of ‘keeping them safe.’
This is very different from wizards, who seek out towers to hone their sorcery in solitude.

I would like a story where a princess is placed in an abandoned tower that used to belong to a wizard, and so she spends long years learning the craft of wizardry from the scraps left behind and becomes the most powerful magic wielder the world has seen in centuries, busts out of the tower and wreaks glorious, bloody vengeance on the fools that imprisoned her. 

That would be my kind of story.

Princess Talia was fourteen, her eldest sister was placed in a tower.

Adina was eighteen by then, and so of a marriageable age. She had grown quite
beautiful, though she was more willful than winsome, and she did not care for
the notion of the tower very much at all. Their mother did her best to persuade
her on the subject. After all, the queen herself had been eighteen when her own
parents had sent her to live in that very same tower, to be safely tucked away
until her husband could be chosen, and then ride out to claim her. A tradition
going back ages and ages.

“It was
such a sight,” their mother said, wistfully. “I had been alone for so
long. Reflecting upon the nature of the world, and my place in it, and what it
would mean to serve my kingdom. And the solitude was difficult. But then one
bright morning I saw a vision of a gallant knight riding towards me; and I knew
I would never feel lonely again.”

you had best make certain you pick a strong man to be my husband,” Princess
Adina had replied. “For if I go to that tower you can bet I will spend my
time honing my skills with a blade, rather than staring wistfully out of
windows. And any man who thinks to claim me for a bride by anyone’s leave save
my own will need to defend himself.”

mother had tutted, and their father had rolled his eyes; and when Princess Adina’s
belongings were packed with a very pointed dearth of swords or spears or
knives, it was Talia who slipped a wrapped sabre into the travel wagons, and it
was their middle sister, Devorah, who tied another to the underside of the
first food cart to leave for the tower.

a few weeks had passed since Adina left the castle, however, before word began
to spread of dragon sightings in the south. The king and queen, of course, saw
this is a good sign; and they let it be known that any lord bold enough to slay
the dragon would be granted leave to rescue Princess Adina from her tower. It
seemed all too fortuitous, for surely any man who could defeat a dragon could
handle a willful princess; and Adina could hardly deny
the bravery or skill of any such person.

“It is
perfect,” their mother had said.

was before the dragon reached the tower.

had been present when the messenger had arrived, bursting hastily into the
hall, and speaking in broken tones about barricades destroyed, and mountains
crossed, and ancient enchantments broken as the dragon had forged its way
straight to the hidden princess. Rumours abounded of the dragon absconding with
Adina; though some varied as to whether she had been seen clutched, terrified,
in the menace’s claws, or riding on its back, whooping loudly. (Calling for
help, the court agreed – if anything; the confused descriptions of startled
shepherds were unlikely to be too reliable, under the circumstances, of

matter of rewards changed, of course, and so it became that any brave soul –
lord or no – who could rescue Adina from the dragon could claim the princess
for their bride. Talia worried, but she didn’t worry too much. She was of a
mind that if the dragon was still alive, then it was likely because Adina
wanted it that way; and her sister was, at least, out of the tower she had held
such contempt for.

Not six
months after the incident, a story came back, too, of a renowned hero who had
nearly slain the dragon at its caves in the west; only to be disarmed by
Princess Adina herself, who, by his report, made a very rude and anatomically
improbable suggestion, before knocking him down a mountainside.

king and queen seemed convinced the report was nothing but slander; but Talia
was inclined to give it far more credence than tales of her sister weeping
whole rivers of tears or cowering beneath the dragon’s glare.

It was
around that time that Princess Devorah began sneaking out of the palace at

discovered this one evening while in the midst of her stargazing. If her eldest
sister could be said to be beautiful and headstrong, then it would be easy to
claim that the middle sister was plainer, and yet more charming. She owned a
pale blue cloak, that suited her quite well; but that stood out, too, in the
moonlight, as she slipped away through the palace gardens.

went on for quite some time before Talia at last confronted her sister, who
blushed most tellingly at being discovered.

“I have
found my knight,” she admitted. “There is a doorway in the gardens, and it
opens to the fairy forest. I did not mean to go, the first night. It was only
that I saw the doorway, and I wondered where it went. And I could not help but
think that my own time to be locked away in a tower is coming swiftly, and what
a thing it might be to escape, and that perhaps fate had given me a chance. But
then I got lost in the fairy forest. It was strange and dangerous, and I feared
I had been too foolish for words, until my knight found me.”

saw the lovestruck look on her sister’s face, and felt a great well of sympathy
for her.

folk are strange and dangerous, but Mother and Father are not without pity. If
your knight is as noble as he sounds, perhaps they will understand,” she suggested.

Devorah only sighed, and shook her head.

they would, if my knight were a man. But she is a maiden, as fair as moonlight.
And I would have her no other way.”

sympathy increased tenfold, at that, for she knew as well that their parents
might make some concessions, but that would be a bridge too far for either of
them. As she began to offer comfort, however, Devorah turned it back towards

sister told her, then, of the plan she and her fairy knight had concocted; that
when Devorah was taken to her tower, her knight would come, and open a door
there; and then Talia’s sister would away with her to the fairy realm for good.
The tower would sit empty. The suitor their parents at last settled upon would
ride out to find no one waiting for him.

planned to tell you,” Devorah assured her, and then offered her a single silver
bell. “When it is your time to go to the tower, stand on the highest point
and ring that bell. A door will open, and you can come away with us. The fairy
realm can be frightening, but my beloved will help us, and as well-read as you
are, I am certain you will have more of an idea of what to expect than I ever

Talia took
the bell, and hugged her sister, and thanked her; though she admitted that she
did not know what she would feel, when it came her own time to go to the tower.
But Devorah only said it would be her choice, whichever she made.

indeed, after a year had passed, her sister went to the tower with none of the
fuss nor complaint that Princess Adina had put up. Being as charming as she
was, there were no lack of suitors for their parents to choose from; and it was
not long at all before the king and queen made an advantageous match with the
eldest son of a neighbouring kingdom, just beyond the western mountains where Adina
and her dragon still roamed.

the son came back empty-handed, accusations of trickery abounded. The western
kingdom accused the king and queen of withholding their daughter; and the king
and queen accused the western kingdom of stealing her to some unknown fate. In
the end matters were only settled once a scryer confirmed that Princess Devorah
had not been in the tower when her suitor arrived; and then, the dispute was
settled with the consolation offer of Talia in Devorah’s place.

rulers of the western kingdom demanded their princess at once; but Talia’s
parents insisted that she was still too young. A compromise was reached. Since
the tradition of the family was to ensconce their princesses in towers, and
since twice these towers had been breached and the princesses lost, the king of
the western lands offered a tower in his own domain. There Talia would stay
until she turned eighteen, and was of age to marry the prince.

so, the king and queen would not have agreed, but for the fact that the western
rulers were renowned for their masterful sorcery and spellwork. Should conflict
break out, the armies they could amass would be formidable indeed.

princesses must think of their kingdoms first,” Talia’s mother told her.

And so
Talia did think of her kingdom.

thought of it as she rode with her accompaniment through the mountains, and
when a great dragon’s roar split the air; and when her guards scattered in
fright, or else were pinned down by the claws of a great, emerald beast, with
eyes like flames and wings that sounded of lightning when they clapped. She
thought of it when her eldest sister slid down from the dragon’s neck, and
rushed to hold her, and begged her not to be afraid.

come with us,” said Princess Adina. “The western prince is a monster, and
the rest of his family no better. I would not let a pig marry him, nevermind my
little sister.”

marvelled at how well-informed her dragon-riding sister seemed to be, but Adina
only waved off such questions.

“I go
into town all the time,” she said. “No expects to see a princess who was
kidnapped by a dragon wandering around a market square.”

you spend enough of my coin for them to overlook it, even if they were
suspicious,” rumbled the dragon, though it sounded more amused than anything

are the one who demanded expensive company,” Adina returned.

watched them with fascination, and wondered if they might not be able to fight
an army themselves. But her sister was forced to sadly admit that her dragon
was nearly more show than substance, and that any well-armed force would take
them down with relative ease. Particularly when they could bring magic to bear.

And so
Talia thought of her kingdom, as she declined her sister’s offer, and sadly
sent both she and her dragon on their way. Then she set about encouraging her
guards to come back, and help gather the horses, so they could head out again.

thought of her kingdom all the way up to the tower itself. It was a bleak
spire. Once a sorcerer’s lookout and secluded place of study, according to
their guide; who then helped set up the wards and enchantments. Talia thought
of her kingdom as she bid everyone goodbye. As she made her way inside with her
things, and found that though the place had clearly been cleaned and dusted, it
was sparse and severe and cold. Dark stone twisted up the walls, and drafts
blew through the ragged edges of the window frames. The lights were magic, at
least, but only half of them worked, and there was little in the way of artwork
or decoration.

thought of her kingdom as she selected a room on the highest floor, and
unpacked her things.

when at last it was dark, and she was alone, she did not think of her kingdom.
She thought of herself, instead, and she wished she had flown away with Adina
and her dragon. She wished she could climb to the top of the tower, and ring
her silver bell, and escape with Devorah and her knight. She thought of the
unfairness of being sent to her tower too soon, and even vindictively imagined
having told her parents of Devorah’s escapades, and being spared this fate by
forcing her sister to do her duty instead.

then she felt an awful wretch, for thinking such a thing; and she cried herself
ragged until she fell into a deep sleep.

In the
morning, her mood was grim.

woke to the discovery that the usual enchantments were in place, which was
something of a relief. Princess Talia was educated in matters of diplomacy,
finance, tactics, mathematics, literature, history, geography, and many more
besides, but she had no idea of how to boil an egg. The tower gave her meals in
the kitchens, and warmed the hearth against the cold; and she spent her first
day mostly in that room, with one of the books she’d brought clutched firmly in
her hand, wondering how she was supposed to survive years of this without
going mad.

Or if,
perhaps, the intent of all this business with towers was precisely to drive a
princess mad. It would explain a good deal about her mother.

second night, she cried again, and the one after was much the same; but on the
fourth day, she woke to the grey dawn, and the cawing of ravens outside her
window; and she decided that if she was going to live in this tower for many
days yet to come, then she may as well explore it. She made a point of mapping
out all the floors, and figuring out how to reach the highest part, if it ever
came to it. And she found that the attic was full of old boxes of clothes.
Robes and hats and gloves and scarves, worn things and shimmery things, and a
very impressive collection of walking sticks.

was all well and good, and sorting through it gave her a diversion, at least.
She aired out some of the clothes. They were much too big for her, of course,
and the tower wardrobe could provide her with some very nice dresses. But she
imagined she might tire of very nice dresses, after a while, and some of the
robes looked very comfortable.

real find, however, came the next day, when she discovered the door to the

She had
thought that the spareness of the tower was owed to its lack of usual
occupancy; but when she found the basement, another answer made itself clear –
someone had taken practically everything out of the main rooms, and shoved it
all haphazardly into the basement, and closed the door on it.

supposed she could see, on one level, why someone might have deemed the objects
in the basement unsuitable for a princess. Though she could not fathom why they
assumed a bored princess would not simply go downstairs at some point. She felt
inexplicably insulted at the lack of locks on the door; though this feeling
swiftly gave way to curiosity, instead.

rooms contents had not been kindly handled. She tsk’d over books that had been
dumped in piles, their pages crinkled and their spines twisted. Some heavy
tomes on stands had been left to accumulate dust and cobwebs, and boxes full of
glass bottles had been ungently handled, leaving some to crack and leak
suspicious liquids that stained the floor. Several rune-marked skulls lined a
shelf in the room, and looked to be the only things that had not been touched
much. There was strange furniture, and jars of things like powdered unicorn’s horn, which
told her plenty about the ignorance of the people who had cleaned up this
place, because even she knew that was valuable stuff.

length, she rolled up her sleeves, and set about organizing it, just as she had
done the attic. Though, in this case, the task was much larger. She broke down
into its simplest steps. Step One – the books. Going through the mess, she
picked out all the books she could find, and did what she could for them. Some
were in languages she did not recognize. Even the ones she recognized had
uncommon titles, like A
Beginner’s Guide to Necromancy,
 and The
Lost Art of Summoning, 
and A Comprehensive Bestiary of the
Northern Wilds

books proved not only to be the first step in cleaning up the basement, but
also the world’s most sufficient distraction. Talia found herself paging
through them out of sheer fascination with the volume of subjects available,
and the fact that she knew next to nothing of these topics. Soon enough she had
gathered up every book for beginners she could find, and before long she
discovered that one of the largest tomes was a dictionary, and she unearthed
also a translation guide for one of the unfamiliar languages that seemed common
to the texts.

It was,
then, slower going for the tasks of dealing with the broken bottles in the
crates – in the end she found a pair of thick gloves in the attic, and picked
out the ones that were not broken, and shoved the rest – crates and all – into
one of the empty closets. 

After a
reading a bit more, she then barricaded the closet.

left the skulls be until she opened up the book on Necromancy, and then she
carried them up to a room where the moonlight could hit them. That evening she
had her first proper conversation inweeks as she took a chair into
the room, and waited for nightfall, and then spoke to some quite interesting
and helpful spirits. They were transparent of course, and not all of them were
very coherent. But they seemed happy to be out of the basement, and keen enough
to help her get a better understanding of some concepts from the books that had
been tricky for her.

organized the jars of ingredients, and discovered several discarded cauldrons,
and after some more reading, she went back up to the attic and fetched down the
wizard staffs that she had taken for walking sticks, and put them where they’d
be closer to hand. In a box under an overturned table she discovered a smashed
crystal ball, with a tiny pixie’s skeleton in it; and an unbroken crystal ball
which gleamed and glowed only faintly when she held it up to the stars.

It made
her think of Devorah and her knight. So that evening she did at last go up to
the highest point of her tower, and ring her silver bell.

enough, a door appeared in the basement. She wrapped the pixie skeleton in a
piece of black velvet, and tucked the crystal ball under her arm, and opened
the door.

sister was delighted to see her, though confused as well. It was too soon for
Talia to be in her tower. So it was that Talia had to explain what had
transpired, and when she did, Devorah was overcome. It made her feel triply
awful for her uncharitable thoughts that first evening, to see her sister cry
and offer to go back and take her place. 

have to stay here with your knight,” Talia insisted. “It isn’t all bad.
There are some interesting things in the tower. And if I can talk to you
sometimes, as well as the skulls, I probably won’t go mad.”

blinked back her tears.

skulls?” she asked, in a voice that said she was worried her sister’s mental
state had already faltered.

So then
Talia found herself explaining about the tower, and its basement, and the
crystal ball she had brought, and the little skeleton, too. That made Devorah
cry a bit more, because she was a kind heart, and she had grown fond of the
little pixies in the fairy realm – even the vicious ones. She called for her
knight to come, then, and Talia watched as a silvery figure rode up on a white
horse that looked more like a ghost than a proper steed, however solid it may
have been to the eye.

love looked like moonlight made flesh; slender but sharp as the blade of a
knife, and she bowed with courtly grace. She showed less grief over the pixies
than the princesses did. But then, her expression seemed to reveal very little
at all, until it turned to Devorah. At which point it would soften, and stars
would seem to dance in the dark pools of her eyes.

“Who is
this prince, who is so perilous a betrothal?” the fairy knight asked.

“I do
not know him. I know only his reputation, which had seemed fine enough, until Adina
spoke to me,” Talia explained.

“I know
a little more of him,” Devorah admitted, frowning. “Adina and I went to
one of his sister’s weddings, years ago. You were too young to come along. He
was a horrible brat, but then, he was a child. His father wasn’t much better,

fairy knight looked at the tiny pixie skeletons, and then at once broke the
crystal ball. The wisp of a sprite which escaped was small and quick, barely
there before it was gone again. But Talia didn’t mourn the loss of the crystal
ball. And after a moment, her sister’s knight tilted her head towards her, and
went and drew a small vial from her saddlebags.

is a poison of sleep,” said the knight. “If you drink of it, you will fall
into a trance, and will not wake but for true love’s kiss. In dreams you may
find freedom. I would have offered it to Devorah, had she refused me, and her
suitor proven cruel. I will offer it to you, now. Should the worst come to
pass, drink it.”

tiny vial was silver and elegant. Pretty enough, even by the reckoning of
princesses. Talia took it, with gratitude. And when she left through the fairy
door before dawn, and came back into her tower, she felt lighter than she had
since leaving home.

several months, then, the little silver vial rested in her pockets, as she wore
dresses but also sometimes robes. Talia learned the few benefits of a life
primarily alone, in an empty and unoccupied tower that was locked up tight –
though even her mostly-indoor spirit began to long for the feeling of wind in
her hair, and grass between her toes, she could also parade around the rooms
naked as she pleased. Or clad only in a long robe which railed behind her, as
she sang songs with no one to care that they might be off-key, or that they
were ones she had overheard drunken servants singing.

poured through her new books and consulted with spirits, cavorted with her
sister and the fairies by night, and one morning she woke up and snapped her
fingers in a moment of grand epiphany; and flames darted up at the gesture.

alone, in the long and quiet days, she learned.

months into her stay, Talia discovered how to unlock the tower door. It was a
simple spell, in fact. More a matter of tricking the tower into doing as she
wished. She strolled the grounds, well away from any guard posts, and found
wild vines and strange plants growing in the tower gardens. There was a book of
plants inside, and so she dragged it out with her the next day, and set about
identifying all the growing things she could not recognize; which, apart from
the dandelions, was nearly everything.

dusted off the cauldron, then, and must have burned herself sixteen different
times in attempting to master the various magical recipes involving the garden
plants. And plants from the fairy realm, as well. In one of the big, heavy
tomes, which always seemed to fight her every time she turned the pages, she
discovered a recipe for the sleeping draught which Devorah’s fairy knight had
given her; and by the gleam of a full moon, she gathered ingredients from both
worlds, and set about trying to recreate it.

was difficult to gauge without tasting the end results, though. She was very
sure to label her own attempts accordingly, and dared not drink any of them.

It was
not a bad life. Not at all. It was lonely, at times, but with Devorah and the
spirits, not terribly so. And the freedoms she found were beginning to seem
more and more appealing. As time went on, Talia found herself thinking she
would much rather stay in her tower than see any shining prince approach from
the horizon.

when at last he came, she was ready for him.

time almost snuck up on her, but the terrain visible up from the tower window
was wide and barren, and one night as she went to bed she chanced to see a
campfire burning. And she counted the days in her head, and then fell into a
flurry of activity. She readied a fine dress, and packed up her things. She
slipped the best staff in amongst her chest of clothes, and packed the skulls
in with her jewellery. She slipped the sleeping potion into her pocket, and
emptied out the bottom of the crate containing her shoes and slippers; and she
did away with half of them, and fit as many of the most important books she
could manage in their place. She hid potions ingredients in among her make up,
and her own notes were kept safely in her diary. And every spare nook or cranny
she could find, she stuffed something she deemed worthy; until the things she
had first arrived with had become like a veil for the things she had uncovered

find yourself in that tower,” her mother had once told her.

And her
mother had found her place as queen; and Adina had found a dragon; and Devorah
had found her doorway out. As the sound of hoofbeats grew closer, Talia stared
towards the horizon of the western kingdom. Her fingers toyed with the stopper
of the sleeping draught.

wondered what she had really found.

drink it yourself?
 one of the spirits had asked her, the first night she had
come back from visiting her sister, with the tiny vial in hand. It seems to me that the logical
thing to do, in an unhappy marriage, is poison the other person. Especially
when that opens a door to you taking his kingdom out from under him.

interesting things, her skulls had to say.

And of
course, the kingdom she would marry into was one ruled by magic. Sometimes
princesses must think of their kingdoms first.

With a
wry little twist of her lips, Talia practised her best expression of swooning
relief, and waited for her prince.











Honestly speaking, if AO3′s cold culture had been my first introduction to writing fic? I can’t guarantee I’d still be writing it.

Livejournal was a lot of (mostly bad, towards the end) things, but at minimum it was a community of readers that were excited to read and talk about your work. Their feedback was essential to my early evolution as a fic writer. Absolutely essential.

So I’m not posting numbers in an attempt to whine or look for more attention. I just want everyone to consider dropping some Kudos if you take the few minutes to read the entire story, and maybe leaving a comment if you liked it – especially if you’ve read it multiple times. Many of these writers might not even know how talented they are, since AO3′s not the kind of place that’s very keen on revealing your worth.

But we can help change that, you know? We can all do something about it. We don’t just have to accept it as “that’s the way it is” and shrug it off. That’s how you lose writers. That’s the kind of lonely, quiet environment that makes someone facing a writer’s block instead choose to close up shop. Then you’re wondering why they never continued their epic series, when all they ever got were about 3% of people leaving Kudos and five comments for days and days of work.

And I just think that’s a damn shame. 

I’ve seen this discussed a few times recently, so I think it’s something that’s finally hit its limit with a lot of writers.  I agree that what’s hard about it isn’t just feeling unappreciated, or that readers are uninterested, but the silence that takes away a large part of how fic writers engage in fandom.

I know people are not short on headcanons, and they can write essays on symbolism.  I hope they come to understand these are things writers want to see, and not things they have to keep to tumblr.  If a reader can’t go into detail, a simple, “Great fic!” suffices.  Literally anything to let a writer know you heard them.  It’s appreciated.

Also, it’s so much more fun to feel like you’re part of the community that creates fic, and commenting is an incredible way to do that. I love the feeling of telling someone that I loved what they created, and hearing back from an author is exciting. 

It’s easy to be lazy and just graze from fic to fic, but it’s more rewarding to be engaged.

I’ve been having this problem a lot lately, and it isn’t a “omg whine no one likes me” sort of feeling, but just… for me personally it just feels draining to keep putting out work, to keep committing a little part of your creativity, a little bit of your heart and soul and a bit of your creative stuff out there, and not really knowing if it’s resonating.

And maybe it is just me showing my Fandom Age, but fandom for me was always about community, about engaging other people and writing fanfic was always a part of that, that there was a certain give-and-take with fanfic that you couldn’t have with Real Books or whatever. Which is why even now, long after LJ and fanfiction on LJ, I really still feel compelled to go and answer every comment, to not just simply acknowledge someone had written something nice to me, but to be like “oh hi you like the thing I also like the thing let’s us both like the thing together”. 

And I’ve had friendships that literally grew out of fanfic comments, that there are people whom I consider good fandom friends whom I met because I would flail in their fics’ comments sections and they would flail in mine and we would end up following each other back on LJ or here on Tumblr and it just felt so much more personal then, so much more like I’m writing not just for me but also for someone else’s enjoyment and not just because I really like carpal tunnel. Hell, I’ve sometimes been inspired by the comments to write new fic, because creativity doesn’t come out of the vacuum. It comes out of sharing and sometimes all it takes is someone going “man I loved that and it brought this other thing to my mind…” and suddenly the spark is just there, the “oh that’s awesome/awful I’m gonna write it”

I think feedback nourishes a fandom as much as fanwork does, that “yes! you’re not alone! you like the thing! I like the thing too! have you considered this other thing?!” drives creativity as much as any kinkmeme as much as any prompt call. 

I mean just yesterday, I was feeling exhausted, I was feeling like my creativity had run dry and there was just nothing coming out of the tap, no words no love no spark. And I was exhausted. Wondering if it’s time to give up on writing for a fandom, because I was getting hoarse from shouting into the void. And then I woke up to an incredible pair of messages from a reader, from someone who was reading an older fic of mine who was clearly enjoying themselves. And I won’t say it fixed everything, because feedback is magical but it’s not that magical, but it made me smile. And it reminded me that writing fanfic could be fun, that it could be a way of making things fun for someone else.

And you know, that’s really important sometimes. 

And I always wonder why people don’t bother to comment or leave kudos when they like something – AO3 especially makes it SO EASY. Like the box is RIGHT THERE. The button is RIGHT THERE.

I always get so excited when I see the number of kudos on a fic growing or when people leave comments! We write stuff because we love it enough to spend hours on character analysis and research and basically we’re all major nerds so if you liked it come talk to us! Please! It feels really good talking to someone that enjoyed our stuff. I met an awesome group of people through my fanfiction and now we all talk about that game together and it’s awesome!

If you enjoy the thing, reach out and leave a nice comment and you just might get a friend.

YES I totally agree – most of my mutuals on tumblr have been because they’ve commented on my stuff or I’ve commented on theirs and we’ve brought the friendship over here! So don’t be shy ^.^

I love all of this! Leave kudos! Leave comments! Your writer has spent days or weeks writing that chapter – give them 2 seconds of your time to click a kudos button or take 30 seconds to write a comment. It means so much to know that people are reading and enjoying our stories. And if you’re a fellow fic writer then you know what it means! Make someone’s day and save a fic – leave a comment! Tell your writers you enjoyed it!


Comments are fandom’s lifeblood. Kudos do very little to build community. Comments, by reaching out to creators, show that people care specifically about something, that our fanfics are not just another commodity. Comments inspire conversation and friendships in the way that few other things can.

Comments I remember for years and they can utterly change my mood for the better for the day when I get them. Kudos I forget after I close the email.

So please tell authors you liked something, whether it’s a simple “I liked this” or incredibly detailed. The silence that seems to be the norm now is disheartening.

And before anybody says “you should just write for yourself”:

Writing is a medium that depends on public opinion to survive. That’s the measure of success in writing. If enough people liked your thing to buy/read it, then you are successful. And many, many people who write fic–like myself–do so because they’re interested in becoming published authors. So to them, seeing no comments, no feedback? It means nobody cares. It means they won’t be successful.



I read something this morning that really resonated with me.

Maybe it’s the fandom, maybe it’s the people.

But back when I was between the ages of 12 and 14 I wrote my first few stories and posted them online. Looking back they were terrible abominations of writing, and should anyone come to me and ask if I wrote them I would deny all knowledge whilst sweating profusely.

And yet despite the atrocity of my first few fanfictions there was a plethora of feedback from readers. ‘Write more!’ ‘I really liked this.’ ‘Loved the ending!’ ‘Look forward to more from you’.

There was constructive feedback and insight as well as the views/likes. 

People took an active interest in your words and communicated back to you.

Nowadays as a writer it feels like I’m shouting into the void.

By simply liking a post I understand that you have seen the piece exists. Most often I assume it’s that you’ve saved it to read later, or are merely acknowledging its existence. I have no idea if you read it or not, much less if you enjoyed it.

When you reblog artwork you essentially tell the artist that yes, you liked the piece. You liked it enough to spend an extra few moments putting it onto your own personal space on the web. If you tag it you explicitly communicate how you feel. It’s rare that you would simply like a piece of art, especially if its from your fandom. You want to share it so others can see it and enjoy it.

But most of you wont do that with fanfiction. 

It takes a lot of time to learn to write. It takes a lot of time to write. Writers suffer the same periods of art block, or writer’s block as it’s known to us. We don’t struggle with drawing hands. We struggle with writing what that hand is doing in a way that is engaging. Instead of struggling drawing furniture and rooms and backgrounds we struggle to construct the same image but with our words. 

It’s all relative. Our plight is no harder or easier than an artist but we do not get the same level of appreciation or recognition that an artist does.

In the end what you get is the same thing. An image on your screen. The difference is you have to look a little harder to see what we’ve painted for you. 

So please. Tell the author that you saw it. 

We love words. They are our craft. So give us some back. 

Reblog a fanfic and get it out there so more people can enjoy it.  Please.


How do you reference alien biology in your writing without making it seem out of place? I keep trying to mention how different species metabolise and are able to eat different foods bc it’s a multi-planet setting but i keep getting stuck. sorry for bugging you, thanks, n i hope you’re having a good day! (if not i hope your day gets better)


I treat it like it’s normal.

I know a huge narrative in writing is the Relatable Character, the person the audience can follow along with and “learn” the universe and the culture and the story and so-forth, but uhm…

Why? Why should that be THE archetype in modern fiction?

Fiction used to be about immersion–and there are a few authors who still know this, though they get panned a lot (whether you like horror or not, S. King is a master at immersion). We’d begin a story with characters who were already in that verse, who knew the things, who didn’t NEED to be hand-held.

Obi-Wan Kenobi does not need to be hand-held.

But flamethrower! That’s fanfic, and it’s got an established verse that we know about already!

Yes, but many people still write from the point of view of main characters who have just fallen into the universe six hours ago, and don’t seem to understand how their own lives function.

Harry Potter needed to be fucking hand-held, but JKR specifically set up a story that required that. …Granted, then she continued the hand-holding long-past the point it should have been necessary, but we’ll just ignore that for now.

Too many people pan The Phantom Menace, but you know what it got right? Immersion. We didn’t need to be hand-held on our way through the movie, even if we’d never seen a Star Wars film prior to that. We weren’t introduced to the Republic with this long narrative of its history, we were dumped right into the action and provided the verbal and visual context needed to know exactly what the hell was going on, and what was going on was that Shit Was Breaking The Fuck Down. 

Who were the Jedi? Well, apparently they were hooded people having strange conversations, and were fucking TERRIFYING to the Nemoidians, who promptly lost their shit and get orders to make the Jedi dead. Then the Jedi prove that they have weapons that can CUT THROUGH WALLS so maybe the Nemoidians are just a teensy bit correct to be terrified.

Uh, anyway.

There’s no need to hand-hold your reader (or even yourself!) unless the narative requires it. This is what people *really* mean when they say Show, don’t Tell. There are times when a reader needs to be told, but when it comes to cultural elements in a story that someone should already know?

It’s normal. Treat it like it’s normal…and your reader is going to believe it. So will you.

(Also if you don’t understand how something works for humans, research the shit out of it and then decide how that function would work in your non-humans. Basic biology is a wonderful tool.)

30 Day Art Challenge: Draw all the things


My first challenge, Improvement Hell, was a way to inspire people to draw different things different ways, drawing outside their comfort zone, and most of all to draw every day. I had a few people ask for a follow up. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the sequel: Draw All The Things

Each day has three prompts. Some are specifics, others are vague, but all are geared to spark your imagination and inspiration. Take from them whatever you want. Design a character, an illustration, a collage. Singular or plural. Literal or symbolic.

Casual Mode: Pick and draw one prompt each day

Normal Mode: Combine and draw two prompts each day

Hard Mode: Combine and draw all three prompts each day

Tag your artwork #Draw All The Things for others to follow and be inspired!

  1. Wild animal, Thief, Winter
  2. Jewel, Water, Contrast
  3. Garden, Teeth, Bright
  4. Old book, Pangolin, Clutter
  5. Deep, Earth, Curse
  6. Greed, Glass, Temple
  7. Three, Rain, Shadow
  8. Wire, Bottle, Pale
  9. Sunshine, Track, Abandon
  10. Cliff, Tattoo, Journey
  11. Bone, Laughing, Free
  12. Corner, Scripture, Dusk
  13. Stairs, Amber, Guard
  14. Vast, Alien, Glow,
  15. Jazz, Pen, Urban
  16. Sand, Royal, Red
  17. Child, Fur, Cookie
  18. Tree, Crime, Lizard
  19. Tech, Tank, Silver
  20. Scales, Vibrant, Smile
  21. Naga, Knowing, Tribe
  22. Witch, Jacket, Pattern
  23. Secret, Melanism, Wings
  24. Rogue, Bat, Dysfunctional
  25. Passage, Fox, Chime
  26. Star, Bridge, Mask
  27. Observer, Forest, Unique
  28. Degrade, End, Iron
  29. Vivarium, Gradient, Mix
  30. Imagination, Pencil, Borderless

Good Luck!

(alternately, this can be a writing challenge too, if that is your preference!)

5 Moral Dilemmas That Make Characters and Stories Even Better



Readers can’t resist turning pages when characters are facing tough choices. Use these 5 keys to weave moral dilemmas into your stories–and watch your fiction climb to new heights.

#1: Give Your Character Dueling Desires

Before our characters can face difficult moral decisions, we need to give them beliefs that matter: The assassin has his own moral code not to harm women or children, the missionary would rather die than renounce his faith, the father would sacrifice everything to pay the ransom to save his daughter.

A character without an attitude, without a spine, without convictions, is one who will be hard for readers to cheer for and easy for them to forget.

So, to create an intriguing character facing meaningful and difficult choices, give her two equally strong convictions that can be placed in opposition to each other.

For example: A woman wants (1) peace in her home and (2) openness between her and her husband. So, when she begins to suspect that he’s cheating on her, she’ll struggle with trying to decide whether or not to confront him about it. If she only wanted peace she could ignore the problem; if she only wanted openness she would bring it up regardless of the results. But her dueling desires won’t allow her such a simple solution.

That creates tension.

And tension drives a story forward.

So, find two things that your character is dedicated to and then make him choose between them. Look for ways to use his two desires to force him into doing something he doesn’t want to do.

For instance, a Mennonite pastor’s daughter is killed by a drunk driver. When the man is released on a technicality, does the minister forgive him (and what would that even look like?) or does he take justice into his own hands? In this case, his (1) pacifist beliefs are in conflict with his (2) desire for justice. What does he do?

Good question.

Good tension.

Good drama.

Another example: Your protagonist believes (1) that cultures should be allowed to define their own subjective moralities, but also (2) that women should be treated with the same dignity and respect as men. She can’t stand the thought of women being oppressed by the cultures of certain countries, but she also feels it’s wrong to impose her values on someone else. When she is transplanted to one of those countries, then, what does she do?

Construct situations in which your character’s equally strong convictions are in opposition to each other, and you will create occasions for thorny moral choices.

#2: Put Your Character’s Convictions to the Test

We don’t usually think of it this way, but in a very real sense, to bribe someone is to pay him to go against his beliefs; to extort someone is to threaten him unless he goes against them.

For example:

  • How much would you have to pay the vegan animal rights activist to eat a steak (bribery)? Or, how would you need to threaten her in order to coerce her into doing it (extortion)?
  • What would it cost to get the loving, dedicated couple to agree never to see each other again (bribery)? Or, how would you need to threaten them to get them to do so (extortion)?
  • What would you need to pay the pregnant teenage Catholic girl to convince her to have an abortion (bribery)? What threat could you use to get her to do it (extortion)?

Look for ways to bribe and extort your characters. Don’t be easy on them. As writers we sometimes care about our characters so much that we don’t want them to suffer. As a result we might shy away from putting them into difficult situations.

Guess what?

That’s the exact opposite of what needs to happen in order for our fiction to be compelling.

What’s the worst thing you can think of happening to your character, contextually, within this story? Now, challenge yourself—try to think of something else just
as bad, and force your character to decide between
the two.

Plumb the depths of your character’s convictions by asking, “How far will s/he go to … ?” and “What would it take for … ?”

(1) How far will Frank go to protect the one he loves?

(2) What would it take for him to stand by and watch the one he loves die when he has the power to save her?

(1) How far will Angie go to find freedom?

(2) What would it take for her to choose to be buried alive?

(1) How far will Detective Rodriguez go to pursue justice?

(2) What would it take for him to commit perjury and send an innocent person to death row?

Ask yourself: What does my character believe in? What priorities does she have? What prejudices does she need to overcome? Then, put her convictions to the ultimate test to make her truest desires and priorities come to the surface.

#3: Force Your Character into a Corner

Don’t give him an easy out. Don’t give him any wiggle room. Force him to make a choice, to act. He cannot abstain. Take him through the process of dilemma, choice, action and consequence:

(1) Something that matters must be at stake.

(2) There’s no easy solution, no easy way out.

(3) Your character must make a choice. He must act.

(4) That choice deepens the tension and propels the story forward.

(5) The character must live with the consequences of his decisions and actions.

If there’s an easy solution there’s no true moral dilemma. Don’t make one of the choices “the lesser of two evils”; after all, if one is lesser, it makes the decision easier.

For example, say you’ve taken the suggestion in the first key above and forced your character to choose between honoring equal obligations. He could be caught between loyalty to two parties, or perhaps be torn between his family obligations and his job responsibilities. Now, raise the stakes—his marriage is at risk and so is his job, but he can’t save them both. What does he do?

The more imminent you make the choice and the higher the stakes that decision carries, the sharper the dramatic tension and the greater your readers’ emotional engagement. To achieve this, ask “What if?” and the questions that naturally follow:

  • What if she knows that being with the man she loves will cause him to lose his career? How much of her lover’s happiness would she be willing to sacrifice to be with him?
  • What if an attorney finds herself defending someone she knows is guilty? What does she do? What if that person is her best friend?
  • What if your character has to choose between killing himself or being forced to watch a friend die?

Again, make your character reevaluate his beliefs, question his assumptions and justify his choices. Ask yourself: How is he going to get out of this? What will he have to give up (something precious) or take upon himself (something painful) in the process?

Explore those slippery slopes. Delve into those gray areas. Avoid questions that elicit a yes or no answer, such as: “Is killing the innocent ever justified?” Instead, frame the question in a way that forces you to take things deeper: “When is killing the innocent justified?” Rather than, “Does the end justify the means?” ask, “When does the end justify the means?”

#4: Let the Dilemmas Grow From the Genre

Examine your genre and allow it to influence the choices your character must face. For instance, crime stories naturally lend themselves to exploring issues of justice and injustice: At what point do revenge and justice converge? What does that require of this character? When is preemptive justice really injustice?

Love, romance and relationship stories often deal with themes of faithfulness and betrayal: When is it better to hide the truth than to share it? How far can you shade the truth before it becomes a lie? When do you tell someone a secret that would hurt him? For example, your protagonist, a young bride-to-be, has a one-night stand. She feels terrible because she loves her fiancé, but should she tell him what happened and shatter him—and perhaps lose him—or keep the truth hidden?

Fantasy, myth and science fiction are good venues for exploring issues of consciousness, humanity and morality: How self-aware does something need to be (an animal, a computer, an unborn baby) before it should be afforded the same rights as fully developed humans? At what point does destroying an AI computer become murder? Do we really have free will or are our choices determined by our genetic makeup and environmental cues?

#5: Look the Third Way

You want your readers to be thinking, I have no idea how this is going to play out. And then, when they see where things go, you want them to be satisfied.

There’s a story in the Bible about a time religious leaders caught a woman committing adultery and brought her to Jesus. In those days, in that culture, adultery was an offense that was punishable by death. The men asked Jesus what they should do with this woman. Now, if Jesus had told them to simply let her go free he would have been contravening the law; if, however, he told them to put her to death, he would have undermined his message of “forgiveness and mercy.”

It seemed like a pretty good trap, until he said, “Whoever is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone.”

Nicely done.

I call this finding the Third Way. It’s a solution that’s consistent with the character’s attitude, beliefs and priorities, while also being logical and surprising.

We want the solutions that our heroes come up with to be unexpected and inevitable.

Present yours with a seemingly impossible conundrum.

And then help him find the Third Way out.

I hope this helped! I’ve been really busy today, seeing how my mom had surgery and I’ve been trying to continue writing my novel today as well. I thought I’d squeeze in some more stuff for you guys!

If you have any questions or just want to talk, feel free to visit my ask box!

Tagged for future reference


George R. R. Martin everyone.