Family Trees: Get to the Root of Your Characters

I’m in my dream class on mythology right now, and our professor had us make a family tree for the Mesopotamian creation story. The tree is a vertical line of boxes for several generations, not exactly what you’d call healthy by our standards. But there’s only so much you can do when you start with one or two creator deities emerging from primordial chaos. It was interesting to hear the reactions of everyone who’d never exactly been exposed to the type of godly incest that occurs in most creation myths.

I can’t say I’ve written any families as strange as the Mesopotamian gods, but I certainly have written families. It’s kind of a requirement, really–a character must come from somewhere. When I plan out a character’s family, I can’t usually get very far without drawing some sort of visual aid. Sometimes it doesn’t really matter who your protag’s great-great-great grandmother was, but in the Book of the Dead (my current project), it does, because that character is in the book. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to . tick the generations of grandmothers off on my fingers.

Family Echo is a cool online family tree maker that can probably help some people out with that, if you want to see everything very neat and orderly. It’s very customizable, and has an option for a nonbinary gender as well as adding character details/info. So go crazy! I might make some mythological trees on it, now that I think about it. I’ll post the chaos on my tumblr blog if I do.


Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day! It’s a good day to recognize that we are entirely dependent upon our planet and its resources, and if we don’t start making some changes we won’t like the results. It’s also a good day to remember that people worldwide are already suffering due to climate change, especially people who have the least power to facilitate the changes we need to make. Climate change affects populations disproportionately, and its effects cannot be separated from all other socioeconomic factors.

Rant over. In honor of Earth Day, along with some mindfulness, have a very, very cool resource: Planet Maker. This insanely cool site allows you to design a planet according to your very specific specifications. Awesome for worldbuilding.

Happy Earth Day!

A Compendium of Dictionaries

Here are some very cool dictionary-like resources for your enjoyment. For finding things like synonyms, rhymes, and words on the tip of your tongue. Go crazy.

Reverse Dictionary : enter a word or phrase to get results

Synonym Finder: find some synonyms

Similar Word Finder for the word you just can’t quite remember

Rhyming Dictionary that is seriously hardcore

Uncommon ‘A’ Words for all your uncommon ‘A’ needs

Dictionary of Obscure Words, which I have investigated here

The Shorter Thesaurus for finding short synonyms

Obscure Words

Many books like to complect obscure, tonish words into their stories and use them crebrously. By the end of it, the reader just feels smarter, their facund vocabulary munified by at least one.

Here’s a good resource for finding that recherché word that will become forever associated in your readers’ minds with your story. The Logorrhea is a dictionary of unusual, lautitious, cacologous words. Now you can bloviate to your heart’s content.

Some select words to mabble this post:

  • Fabaceous: bean-like
  • Rumbustious: boisterous
  • Tarantism: the irresistible urge to dance
  • Deipotent: having godlike power
  • Hepatoscopy: divination by the study of animal livers

The Final Frontier



I don’t write about space very much (read: at all). But if I did, I would liberally use The Space Educator’s Handbook.

If you can get past the frankly painful web design, this is a darn useful site, provided by NASA no less, for anyone teaching space stuff…or, in our case, writing space stuff.

Can’t get past the yellow-on-space-print background? Here are some specific useful links:

Aerospace dictionary, so you can learn everything from ablations to zeniths.

Sci-fi/Space technology, complete with handy scientific laws, necessary tech, and reference manuals.

Astronomy information, about planets, cool questions about water and life elsewhere in the universe, and theoretical situations like playing sports on the moon.

There’s a ton of info on here, if you can brave the asterisk page breaks and pages of bolded text. Use it wisely.


Writing Fear


Fear. Pounding heart, searing breath. Vision blurred, chest tight, trembling, shaking, a buzzing head. Short, staccato sentences. Tight language.  Maximum impact word choice.

When you write fear you have to amp up the emotion. The best I’ve ever seen it done is in Kathy Reich’s Virals series, the only time I can remember reading a book that got my heart pounding and my body panic-electrified for real. It’s more than describing a character’s physical reactions, it’s making the reader feel the same terror that your protag does. It’s a moment where the reader will either be drawn further into the story or experience a disconnect from the emotion, withdrawing slightly from the narrative.

Here is a post by a great blog that touches on the more physical symptoms of fear a character might experience. It’s not something that I’ve seen talked about a lot, but it’s an important part of writing an effective scene. I’m still working on writing fear effectively. If anyone has any further resources, feel free to share.