Thursday, April 23, 2009

Workshop: Making a first impression

In my first workshop, I began by summarizing what people had sent to me, in part because I hadn't established the posting standards I would use for the workshop. Then I went into knowledge sets, otherwise known as technology sets. (This will sound familiar for David and Catreona). Today I'm going to approach this from the angle of making a first impression.

For those who have never heard me use the expression before, a knowledge, or technology, set is a group of concepts that seem to go naturally together. Spaceships and talking computers, for example. Or cell phones and computer viruses and iPods and television. Or stone châteaux, torches, and swords. There are tons and tons of these, sets of concepts linked together by the associations of the words that evoke them. If you want to check out my knowledge sets post from the first workshop, it's here. You might also find interesting my discussion of semantics and word meaning associations, here.

The trick with these sets is that they are very strong, and sometimes it only takes a word or two to evoke them. So when introducing your world for the first time, you want to focus on words that evoke the technology set you want, and you want to avoid any that send readers' expectations astray. If you need a particular concept, but don't want its associations, then you have to defeat those expectations as soon as possible.

Here's an example from my Varin world. Whenever I start talking about the caste of the nobility, I have to watch out. Why? Because nobility evokes medieval knowledge sets in fantasy readers. Caste is less directly indicative, but the simple word nobility has incredible power. I have to make sure that I insert an obvious reference to high technology (electric lights, etc.) as soon as possible to defeat the unwanted medieval set.

How fast do knowledge sets take hold? Here's another example, the first sentence of my forthcoming Analog story, "Cold Words":

I scent human outside the door: our linguist, Parker.

1. By the time you get to the word "human," you already have aliens in mind, and that brings you spaceships, and that brings you everything that goes along with them.
2. "Scent" is a word associated with hunting, so I've also accessed a knowledge set that suggests the human might get eaten - and I don't want that. So I add "outside the door" in order to defeat that knowledge set, and place the protagonist in a building.
3. The phrase "our linguist, Parker" has the word "our," which suggests that there is a relationship between the protagonist's group and the human in question. "Linguist" specifies the nature of that relationship. "Parker" is a modern-day typical last name, which finalizes the placement of the world in a place directly related to present-day Earth.

This is just to give you a sense of what can happen in the space of nine words, and to give a bit of background for how I'll approach your work today. I encourage you to go back and take a look at my post on knowledge sets, particularly. What I'll do now is try to find the most world-evocative words or phrases in each of your pieces, let you know what they're telling me, and what you might want to work with.

From Khajidu's excerpt:

"Gods" suggests a place where multiple gods are worshipped, or at least revered in some way. This is not a phrase I've ever heard used in an Earth context, so my first thought is "fantasy world." The name "Xodull" confirms the fantasy world setting. The word "shitting" throws me off a little. Not that I haven't seen the word "shit" used in fantasy before, but it always comes across to me as very local to Earth, and the way you have used it here seems almost British. After that comes "concert." There are lots of different kinds of concerts, but the type is unspecified, so I can't choose medieval or renaissance orchestra, or rock concert. I'm still looking for hints. "Canal bank" gives me a setting that isn't obviously high-technology, but can't rule it out. After that I notice "evolution" treated as an unknown concept - but based on what comes before, I'm actually surprised to hear them mention something scientific like that at all. The word "evolution" is very much Earth-associated for me. "Sailor's necklace" is an unfamiliar term, and a great opportunity to give readers more about the technology of this world. I wish I didn't have to wait until "relationships with their ships" to get a hint. "Sky-Hierarch-Elect's husband" is incredibly specific, and very interesting. I want to see it earlier if it's relevant, and to understand better who such a person might be and how he might relate to our two protagonists. "Orlêzh" seems to be a type of location, but since it's not English, we get no associations, so please give us some hints in the surrounding text to let us know where you're going.

From Colin F.'s excerpt:

"Barkeep" and "beer" for me evoked a technology image from Earth's past, and thus the name "Lanuz" brought me to the conclusion that this is a fantasy world. "Mechanic" surprised and interested me, bringing me to the conclusion that this might be an industrial-revolution setting. If any of this is wrong, I would suggest adding more specific details to place each element. "To Order," was fascinating, but not followed up. Maybe you could give an internalized reason why Lanuz would be giving such honor to the concept? "Strange equipment" is the first hint I get that Lanuz is not at home in this setting - I'd like to see this more up front. "Nerve endings" surprised me, because I don't ordinarily expect a "mechanic" to have sophisticated medical knowledge. The "torch" fits with industrial age, but the view outside the window gives us "armored helm" which sounds medieval-ish, "metal horse," which sounds rather Steampunk. Then there's "sword," which again sounds medieval-ish. I come out at the end rather confused. Given what you've described, which is that there are two time periods involved, and that both are declines from past human colonization of a planet, I'm looking for more specifics. I'll go into this in more depth as the workshop progresses, but you should try to use Lanuz as your vehicle for the reader's understanding. What he knows should be what the reader knows, and even if he doesn't know about the Earth connection, he should have an awareness from the very beginning that he's in a foreign place, hurting and needs help, but everything around him is unfamiliar, and he doesn't know what kind of help he'll get.

3. Jeanne Tomlin
The name "Wrai" tells us this isn't a real world. I immediately notice "window-cracking" as a metaphor for breaking and entering - and I like it. It definitely takes us away from the more generic associations of, say, "thief." "Sharista" fits with Wrai. "Dice" are emotionally evocative but very flexible in their time/place association. "Executioner" immediately gives me the black-hooded guy with the axe, and makes me think of medieval technology. It also makes me think of death, so I'm not sure it's quite the right word for someone who cuts of your hands only. "Flogging" gives me a similar old-English feel. "Leather and homespun" works with this as well, and so does "inn," and the "muddy street." As we discussed, you might look for another name for Shelton so that we don't tip over into thinking this is a fantasy England. You say that these people fled from another place in order to settle here. For what reason? Ethnic, religious? Their origin might give you a direction for how they'd name their towns. The word "workers" stood out as too generic. This is a great opportunity to show critical elements of your world. What kind of workers are they? Can you add one or two words to tell me? "Manse" was interesting in that it is non-standard, but I wasn't sure of the shape of these places. Are they the same as the brick houses? "Carriage" moves the time period up considerably, maybe to the 1700's. "Summer wine" feels very English/faery to me. "Hickory-wood" seems very English also; I'd avoid "hickory" because it is not a generic-sounding wood, and will evoke Earth or a fantasy equivalent. I'll stop listing words because they're all rather well-aligned with one another. You're definitely getting a fantasy-Earth-England-1700's tech thing going here. If that's not what you want, then you might look for places to defeat it. Add in something early on that is unique to your world, so that people's expectations are deflected slightly. You might want to check out this post for ideas for your naming/language issue.

4. David Marshall
The first word I notice here is "ancient beyond imagining." That evokes Egypt, or ancient magic, etc. - the word "ancient" has a very specific meaning in our world. "Telepath" is something I associate with modern stories. "Tequila" puts us somewhere in relation to Earth, and "Veil" tells us we're not on Earth - but note that we have nothing so far that unequivocally places the current time period. "Beer"/"liquor"/"tequila" are all Earth things, but still could be stuff she gets from across the Veil, and we know nothing about the circumstances under which she crosses it, except for "smuggles." So far she could be a goddess who lives outside of the Earth universe an happens to like alcohol. "SoundPod" is a very science-fiction-y coined word, and "Lingerie Valkyries" is very Earth, too (so is "Valhalla"). Evidence is mounting that she is on Earth right now, probably in some Earth future. But can she be on Earth and not on Earth at the same time? Evidently so, but we get no information as to the relation between the two places. The Veil could be a dimensional border, or it could be a time-travel barrier - we don't know. "Voidwatch" is interesting, but not terribly informative; I have to assume because of "watch" that it is related to some kind of police function. "Cybergirl" gives me another hint that we're on future Earth, making the idea of the Veil as a time-travel barrier more persuasive. This may be why I have little idea what our protagonist means when she talks about the "Thin Red Line between Reality and Chaos." She could mean that the Voidwatch wear red uniforms (ref. The Thin Blue Line) - she could mean that the appearance of the Veil is red. We don't know. I want her character, and her knowledge of the world, to be more present in this excerpt. I'll discuss that a bit more later as we move forward.

5. Catreona
The first word I see here is "well shaft," but wells can exist in all sorts of places, so I don't know where I am yet. I notice "thanked the Lord" and it suggests Earth religion - a hint about our protagonist, but it doesn't say much about the location. Not until the word "humans" do I have an idea that there might be aliens involved. This is confirmed by "Strlinkmr" later in the same sentence. "Colonists" tells me this is an Earth colony on an alien planet, which gives me spaceships, and all the technology thereunto appertaining. But we don't see any of it in the environment, which seems very distant. Then she withdraws from it, giving us even less. "Black hole's event horizon" fits with the alien planet idea. She remembers (vaguely) the "Black hole of Calcutta," so she has studied Earth history. Her description of it seems to repeat the description of her current situation, and doesn't add a lot. "Keith" and "Tuesday" tell me that the universe still has standard Earth names; totally fine. "Prosperous little farm" makes me think of an American or English homestead, and I need details to show me how farming on Strlinkmrlad differs from that on Earth, because surely it does. "Concourse" is a curious word, but I don't know what it means. "Spaceport" fits with the alien colony image. My biggest concern here is that I have no sense of the environment at all. It seems completely generic to the "alien colony" idea, and I know nothing about the Strlinkmr except that they're impassive and similar to one another. I need visuals; I need details. Cindy's experience needs to be unique and personal to her, and grounded in her understanding of her world.

I welcome your comments. Please ask for clarification if you need to; if you think that I've missed something, explain it to me and we'll try to see how it can be fitted in. For those who want a peek into the future, I'm going to be laying my eleven world questions on you very soon. They are here: look specifically at second set, the close character-based versions of the questions, and feel free to start getting thoughts.

More soon...


  1. Thanks for the comments. Absolutely I want to give the correction impression from the start.

    Some thoughts and comments of my own.

    "Executioner" immediately gives me the black-hooded guy with the axe, and makes me think of medieval technology. It also makes me think of death, so I'm not sure it's quite the right word for someone who cuts of your hands only.

    An executioner might carry out any physical sentence, not only a death sentence, but I'll see if I can think of another term. One doesn't come immediately to mind, but that is an interesting point.

    "Flogging" gives me a similar old-English feel.

    I'm not sure if you're saying that only the English used flogging as a punishment? It wasn't confined to England.

    You say that these people fled from another place in order to settle here. For what reason?

    Interesting point. They fled because they were serfs to the mages who held the power. Although mages exist in this land they are still regarded with extreme suspicion because of that history.

    The word "workers" stood out as too generic. This is a great opportunity to show critical elements of your world. What kind of workers are they?

    "Manse" was interesting in that it is non-standard, but I wasn't sure of the shape of these places. Are they the same as the brick houses?

    Manse simply means a large elaborate house. In other words a manor house. There is more description when Wrai breaks in.

    "Carriage" moves the time period up considerably, maybe to the 1700's.

    No, actually it doesn't. There were medieval carriages. I'd use an earlier term, but I'm not aware of one for a covered, horse pulled conveyance.

    "Summer wine" feels very English/faery to me.

    That's odd. There are summer wines you know. That is basically what a Beaujolais nouveau is. I don't want to use French terms. I might change the reference to young wine or new wine if it's distracting though.

    "Hickory-wood" seems very English also; I'd avoid "hickory" because it is not a generic-sounding wood, and will evoke Earth or a fantasy equivalent.

    I don't want to use generic terms. I find them unevocative. And hickory is hardly known only in England--it is found pretty much all over the world from North America to Indonesia. Nor do I want to make up names for woods. I avoid calling rabbits smerps.

    I'll check out your link for ideas. As you say, I do want to start off with the right impression.

  2. I left out my comments on the "worker" homes that Wrai passes. There are many kinds of workers in this world, just as there would be in any world. Since Wrai would neither know nor care what particular kind of workers live in those houses, it would be a PoV violation to comment on that. I am a bit of a stickler (or try to be) when it comes to PoV. I don't do info-dumps and I stick very closely within my character's frame of reference. So that just wouldn't go in there. :)

  3. Thinking about the term "carriage" I had initially intended to use the word "litter" there but felt it would give the wrong image too. In fact, medieval carriages were closest to horse drawn (sometimes people drawn but horses were probably more common) litters. So I might go back to that term to give a good picture.

    How would "a canopied litter slung between two horses" work for you?

  4. ONE last post -- sorry for making so many but you did set me to thinking. It's actually the name of a town in the US but I rather like Berea for the name of the town here. It has a not-England sound to it which I think would really help.

    Still trying to think of another term for executioner for someone who carries out a sentence and just can't think of a thing.:)

  5. Executionor is indeed the correct term.

    Trying again since my first attempt didn't go through:


    I am shocked to find that you do not know what a concourse is. Airports have them. Often museums have them. They may also be outdoors, as here. A concourse is a place that is traversed, a place where people congregate and walk. Distinct from a square, quadrangle or plaza, yet like these in being a pedestrian area, often in the midst of buildings or other distinct places within a circumscribed locale. Doubtless Webster's can give you a specific definition.

    As used in the present case, the concourse is an open pedestrian space, perhaps analogous to a pedestrian street. It is paved. It is a major element of the..."town" is not quite the right word; settlement might be better.

    *scratching head* Providing the details you request might be tricky. A farm, for instance, is pretty much a farm, whatever planet it happens to be on. I could perhaps include some brief description of the Strlinkmr captors... One fact that doesn't register with Cindy till afterward is their curious immobility of face and altogether too accentuated sameness. Not quite sure how to emphasize these points when, first, our viewpoint character is in distress and does not herself fully register them, and second at this point the reader has no basis of comparison between the captors and, so to speak, ordinary Strlinkmr. This is the point at which I want to begin (enter?) the story. So, I'll have to work out a richer way to introduce the Strlinkmr. Hmmm...

    You say a great deal of the material is generic, yet you don't like the specifics when Cindy withdraws into herself. This confuses me. What is it that you want? It wouldn't be appropriate to bring the action, such as it is, to a screeching halt in order to provide minute details of the planet's climate, flora and fauna, orbital and rotational periods... Now that I think of it, perhaps I don't draw the reader into Cindy's world sufficiently. But, at the moment I can't quite see how to do so more effectively. I'll need to think carefully about how to beef up the descriptions and atmosphere without slowing down the action.

    Yes, Cindy is Christian. My human SF characters are usually Christian, ofthen Catholic. They have brought or inheritted their faith from Earth. This is perfectly normal and natural to me. I do not believe that Science and Christian faith are inimical. Being a colonist on a distant planet does not destroy my characters' faith. It may change that faith, allowing the holders of the faith to grow, to see possibilities and implications they never saw on Earth, but it certainly does not cause them to abandon their faith. Perhaps this is something unique I can bring to the field of SF; or, if not totally unique, at least unusual.

  6. There are quite a number of SF works that involve how space travel affects faith. I do agree that merely leaving earth wouldn't make one's faith go away. There was a fascinating winner in the Writer's of the Future contest about a planet that was totally Islamic. (I didn't buy the argument that they'd been driven from earth but that's a different point). But dealing with facing Mecca to pray and other matters were interestingly dealt with.

  7. Jeanne,

    Yikes! Facing Mecca from another planet would sure be tough. 8)

    As soon as I wrote that sentence, of course, I thought of several faith and SF type stories. As you say, simply leaving Earth is not sufficient reason for checking one's faith at the door. And, some level of Catholicism informing my stories and characters is pretty much a given for me, though it's far less obvious in Fantasy.

  8. Looking at the current discussion on my writers' mailing list, I am reminded that not everything in a novel needs to be frontloaded. Unlike a short story where per force space is limited and the reader's attention must be tightly focused, in a novel or novella, there is plenty of time for ideas to unfold, for the reader to make discoveries about the world and the characters.

    Just a thought...

  9. I think, though, that Juliette is right that you need to establish a correct context. The reader wants to know very quickly whether it's a fantasy and if so at least the general type of setting or a near future SF or distant future/other world SF and the general type of society you're looking at.

    That doesn't mean you have to give them the details but it's jarring to get a picture of a medieval society and two pages later realize you're in deep space. :-)

  10. To clear up the executioner thing, I looked up some definitions and from Wikipedia: "The term is also extended to administrators of a severe physical punishment that is not prescribed to kill, but which may result in death."

    I think that the context makes it clear that the executioner is removing hands and not a head.

  11. Thank you all for engaging with me on these topics; this is getting very interesting.

    Jeanne, I really feel like I'm starting to get a feel now of how well you know your world and your characters, and this is going to be very helpful. When I suggested replacing "executioner," I was actually thinking not of another earth term, but of the lovely way you used "window-cracker" early in the excerpt. It's totally up to you, of course, but doing something like that would give the meaning you're looking for without the immediate black-hood image.

    I think one of the things I'm running into is that once I've got the "England" idea in my head, I tend to compare the following words against it. So while "flogging" is definitely more widely applicable, it is not inconsistent with that model. I think that colors much of my impression of the words that follow also. This is probably something where a key detail here or there would knock me back on track.

    I definitely agree with you in not wanting to go generic when you could be specific, and not just re-naming something that performs the function of a rabbit. In my Varin world I call apples apples for exactly this reason.

    POV-centric is perfect, and it's what I love to do myself. But I would argue that you could add maybe one or two words, show Wrai's contempt and disregard for the workers, and thereby both advance our sense of Wrai's character and let people know that the particular identity of these workers is not important. Character judgment of objects can really work as an excellent guide for the reader's attention, and this would be a good spot for it.

    I like the slung between horses idea; it's quite visually specific. It sounds like medieval quasi-English is something like what you're going for, so the strong impression I'm getting is only just a little off. I wish I had a silhouette or some sense of the manse's size at first glance, but I'm quite happy to wait for the details. Berea would be a great name for the town.

  12. Jeanne,

    I agree completely about the "workers." At the same time, a thought has occurred to me.

    Here in New England we have a lot of mills (what in other parts are called factories, I believe), all shut down now. And, in mill towns there are millworkers' houses. You can tell they are millworkers' houses both by the construction, how they look, and by their proximity to the mills. Perhaps there might be something analogous in your world? Perhaps workers in a particular speciality live in a particular part of the town, or in homes of a particular type.

  13. Juliette,

    Something you said to Jeanne got me to thinking.

    Cindy and indeed most humans on Strlinkmrlad feel totally comfortable with Strlinkmr, totally unthreatened. That is why what the captors do is so hard to believe; it is diametrically opposite to everything humans on Strlinkmrlad know of the indigenous species' behavior. This disbelief and shock contributes to the natural effect of a crowd of confused, increasingly frightened humans being herded into a small, confined space.

    I need a way to convey all of this succinctly and without going outside Cindy's POV. Hmmm...

  14. Catreona,

    I did some research on the options and I've decided to switch comment moderation back on but take off the captcha for the rest of the workshop. If I start having trouble with spam, I may have to change it later, but for now that's the solution I'm ready to try.

  15. Actually the country is closer to medieval Italy than to England, Juliette. None of those things were particularly specific to England. Perhaps you got that impression from the rather English sounding town name, but that was just a convenient place-holder.

    No good term comes to mind for an executioner. (Lopper occurred to me but it sounds too funny--accurate but funny.) ;-)

    As far as the people, I mention that the streets are dark and empty except for one couple so I don't really see think he would think about them much one way or the other. That can and does come up in later passages.

    Thanks for the suggestions and comments.

  16. Actually, I don't have a problem with the "black-hood" image, particularly. The executioners would at times do beheadings. (Or perhaps hang, draw and quarter which was an English specialty) Black hoods were mainly used in France where being an executioners were socially ostracized. This wasn't particularly the case in England.

    But if I think of a good alternative, I may use that too. I'm open-minded on the subject.

  17. Catreona,

    I'm sorry if I wasn't as clear in my comments as I meant to be. What I was trying to say was that when I see the word concourse, I get multiple meanings in my head - indeed, the very ones you have listed. Given that I have no supporting detail in the surrounding text, I don't know which one to choose, and that makes it hard for me to feel solidly grounded. The very information that you provided about the current case is exactly what I'm looking for in that spot.

    Maybe you could give readers an additional hint by mentioning what it is the family farms on their plot - something native, perhaps, that would have an interesting name?

    I think the issue of the difference between these Strlinkmr and others Cindy has seen is quite critical. As it appears now, she seems to believe they look the same, but it's hard for a reader to gauge why. An expression of confusion on her part, with a minimal reference to the difference with Strlinkmr she's met previously, would be all you need to clarify this.

    I've taken another look at the material that follows her mental withdrawal, and it does give some good information about the colony history, and it does explain the attack and the events that followed it. I guess what I'm wondering is why this needs to be backstory. The fact that it's reported makes it less immediate and visceral - and it's potentially very involving stuff. What I'd really like to see are some of Cindy's perceptions and judgments of the place she's in - information about the current location where the action takes place. If she's disoriented, that's fine, but at the moment she seems pretty calm.

    I noticed her faith because it stood out as something distinctive about her. It is in no way a criticism. It stands also in interesting contrast to her surroundings. This offers you a great opportunity to make this world concrete and real, by showing her perceptions and judgments in this context.

  18. Yes, Catreona, I like those thoughts about Cindy very much. They seem very promising.

  19. Thanks, Juliette. Your clarification is very helpful.

    Thanks for the (temporary) removal of my nemicis. 8)

  20. Jeanne,

    I forgot to say: I love the phraise "summer wine." It is very evocative if not downright poetic to my ear. Please don't change it.

  21. I can definitely see how the conflicting technology sets would be confusing. I'm glad the fantasy/industrial-revolution thing came across though. That's really the blend I'm going for. Although, the industrial-revolution to me sounds more like the technology is being developed and is up and coming when in fact it is rather more like things are in a decline. From the medieval-like era that Lanuz comes from to the modern era that this excerpt is set in a large amount of time has passed. The technology level was built up to something more like present day Earth and a bit beyond that. After a time things began to fall apart and the world is in a general state of chaos. The technology isn't so much lost, it's just not really being made anymore. So people get by using whatever they come across.

    As for the confusion, I agree. I think what I was going for was that Lanuz was himself confused. The reader shouldn't be. The reader should sort of get that what Lanuz is seeing isn't the reality of things. Lanuz sees a man wearing an armored helm and riding a metal horse because that's the closest analogy that he can come up with. In his confused state he doesn't see the reality that it's actually a man riding a motorcycle wearing a motorcycle helmet (mainly because he doesn't know what those things are). But the reader should get that, and obviously it doesn't come across that way. How do I fix that while maintaining Lanuz's confused point of view? It's a similar thing I did with the "torch". Allen is actually using a welding torch to cut into the metal of Lanuz's arm. But Lanuz refers to it as a torch because that's the closest thing he knows.

    Couple other things:

    Yes, Allen is a bit more than just a regular old mechanic. Though I wouldn't say he's anything like a medical doctor. I guess you could say he just tends to understand how things work mechanically. If that includes neurology then so be it. He probably sees it more like electrical conduit though. I'm sure most of that doesn't really come across though.

    As far as the comment on "Order," this was my attempt at establishing a sense of a sort of belief system. Generally, the people of this world don't believe in a god or gods. They see the world in states of Order or Chaos. This is kind of related to an underlying theme in the story. The world itself throughout its history is either in a state of general order or chaos. In effect, Lanuz, like his predecessor (all part of the back story) will eventually usher in a new era of long lasting order. In this scene, and I realize now that I completely failed to do this, I was working at showing how in Lanuz's time they still generally believed or had hope in Order. What I was planning on doing, and in all the rush of getting this piece submitted, was to have the bartender scoff at the toast. Obviously, in the modern era things aren't going too well, so they don't believe or have much of any hope in Order anymore.

    Also, I think I'll probably have to revisist the whole Earth connection thing. I might need further clarification from you, but if you say we'll get into it more later then that'll probably be a better time for it.

    Okay, I think that's all for now. Thanks again for the extremely insightful comments.

  22. Thanks Catreona. I'll give serious thought to keeping it. I liked it myself. :-)

  23. Inserted a couple of sentences into this paragraph. Does that give a bit more context?

    The initial curses and frightened cries had already become snarls and screams of agonized, rending pain as the strong trampled the weak in their attempt to reach the single window. I had glimpsed it as we, some fifty or sixty confused and frightened humans, entered herded by about a score of Strlinkmr, with a curious immobility of face and altogether too accentuated sameness. Only later did I remember these telling details. Now, all I could concentrate on was the amazing and horrifying reality of what they had done with, I had to assume, full understanding of what would come of it.

  24. Juliette,

    I've been trying my hand at a slightly unreliable narrator. "Ancient beyond imagining" is just Jasmine being overly-dramatic. The time-period since she lost her full telepathic ability is actually only two years. Maybe I can make that clearer to the reader by having her complain that it seems "ancient beyond imagining, can it really be a whole two years already?"

    All of the other words have pretty much the relationship to Earth culture/time periods that you thought.

    The Thin Red Line does indeed bear that relationship to the Thin Blue Line. Haven't decided yet what colour uniforms the VoidWatch wear, but that will determine the final colour of that Thin Line :)

    The VoidWatch protects timelines from each other, and from the Very Bad Things that live in the Void between timelines.

  25. Juliette,

    My characters live in a fantasy world whose tech level is just before the industrial revolution. They revere four gods (in fact two gods and two goddesses) who created the world together. They have a democratic regime, where four hierarchs, one for each god they revere, are elected for life. One of them has died recently (how she died is relevant to the plot) and Xodull's wife has been elected to take her place. The story takes place in the country's main city, Orlêzh.
    The 'shitting' expletive is due to the people there having taboos about excrements, rather than sex like in the real world.
    My characters belong to a music band, whose organization is a bit similar to today's rock bands (they are four people, they write their own songs...), but the music is different from real-world music. These bands are popular because they are similar to the group of four gods who created the world.