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Posts Tagged ‘science fiction writing’

Photo by Jason Scragz

Photo by Jason Scragz

From ear piercing to tattoos to plastic surgery to scarification, body modification has long played a significant role in worldwide culture, and still does today. It’s a nearly universal practice; historically, tattooing, scarring, piercing and the like have been used to mark rites of passage, to enhance beauty, to denote tribal or other affiliations, for spiritual reasons, and, especially in current Western culture, for self-expression and even shock value. On the other hand, body modification is still a taboo in many circles. To some, any kind of body modification that isn’t medically necessary is considered a desecration, a dishonoring of the sanctity of the body. In short, a form of self-mutilation. And, of course, there’s a wide range of opinion and feeling on the matter.

Considering the long and widespread history of body modification, and its cultural significance, this should be a fertile area to explore in fiction, especially for speculative fiction writers. Do the people who inhabit your worlds modify themselves? How? Why? Is modification a subculture or counterculture? Or is the absence of modification uncommon?

If you write contemporary mainstream fiction, consider your characters’ attitudes toward modification. Do your characters practice any sort of modification? What are their attitudes toward the common types of modification, such as piercings or tattoos? Are they likely to encounter the more uncommon types, such as scarification? What would their attitudes to such kinds of modification be?

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Ah, the Tarot. Images from movies and TV and books, of a Bohemian or mystical individual, laying

Robin Wood Tarot, magician

Robin Wood Tarot, Magician

cards out in an arcane pattern, telling us how our lives will progress, whether we will find love or win the lottery.

There’s both more and less to the Tarot than that; basically, it’s a series of cards with artwork depicting images of archetypes. Which is, of course, why they’re popular, and why they seem to apply to everyone’s lives. We won’t get into how, why, or whether the cards work on a personal level, though; we’re going to examine how Tarot can be used in fiction writing.

Because the Tarot are archetypal, they depict issues, traits and situations that are nearly universal.

Rider Waite Tarot, Fool

Take the Fool, for instance. The card shows a young man without a care in the world, with his head in the clouds, totally unaware that he’s about to step off of a cliff, and unheeding of the dog yapping about his feet, trying to warn him of his danger.

Who hasn’t been in this situation? We’ve all had moments of youthful foolishness, not knowing or not caring that there’s danger at our feet. Rather, we’ve been too wrapped up in the idea of adventure or love to notice any warnings the people and the world around us have given.

Each card of the Tarot is like this: each depicts a universal character, trait or situation. In fact, one view of the Tarot is that it is an outline of the Hero’s Journey, beginning with the Fool as the Call to Adventure, and ending with the World as the Hero’s Return. As such, the Tarot makes a very handy tool for writers. It can help generate material, or it can help flesh out existing stories.

Try this today: go to a free Tarot reading website, such as Facade, and choose a one-card reading. Read what the card means, and write. Let the card be a springboard for a warm-up or for a new story, and freewrite for ten minutes or so.

Soon to come: Using the Tarot to create characters.

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My computer died a couple of days ago.  Well, it didn’t completely die, but the video card did.  I didn’t lose any data; I just can’t see any of it.  Fortunately, my father-in-law owns a computer store and loaned me one until I can replace it.

For the two nights I didn’t have a computer, I felt like I’d lost a limb.  I sort of wandered around the house, not knowing quite what to do with myself.  I didn’t realize that the technology I’d thought of as simply another useful tool had come to play such a huge part in my life. 

I started thinking about technology, then in relation to writing.  Of course, technology plays a huge part in a lot of speculative fiction, whether in the highly advanced technology of futuristic science fiction, or the alternative technologies of secondary-world fantasy.  But technology doesn’t have to be vastly different from what we use now and today for it to be significant in fiction writing.

In what ways do your characters use current technology?  What roles does technology play in their lives?  How much of your plot and setting depends on it?  What happens if the technology they depend on doesn’t work?

If you could tweak one piece of existing technology to better suit your needs or desires, what would you do?  How would it affect other people’s lives?  If you could invent something that doesn’t currently exist, what would you create?  How would it change your life?  Your family’s life?  Your city, or your nation, or the world?

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