Cover Art and History of Ethereal Seals

That’s right! My cover art for the upcoming novel, Blade of Dragons, is almost finished! Months in the making, it was a pleasure working with the cover artist. She had a keen sense for design, excellent communication, and patience with the numerous requirements I had for the project. I’ll certainly consider her again for future covers.

If interested, check out @ Cheriefox on Fiverr.

A High School Prologue

Looking back, I am reminded of this whole journey when it begun. Some daydreams I had in high school were the start. I had a fierce fascination with shows like DBZ, video games like Zelda, and movies like LoTR and Star Wars. Yes, I was quite the nerd in high school. I joined an online forum to do some fan fiction roleplaying. The roleplaying was inane and childish, but it planted the seeds in my mind for future works.

Roughing the Manuscript

It wasn’t until my twenties that I developed the finer details for the Ethereal Seals series. I had named the series Ethereal Sages since the roleplaying days, but that name didn’t sit with me.

As ideas for the worldbuilding piled up, I compiled them into online archives, which grew by the week. Once I realized the breadth of this project, I tried sewing the threads together into a short story.

I had several chapters by the end. Shocked, I reread them, pleased with the work. I had my friend read it, and there I realized something:

My worldbuilding ideas were good, but my writing skills? Horrid.

But this realm called Atlas was too vast, too beautiful to give up on. I rediscovered a passion for fictional map making, and bought a program called Wonderdraft, of which is still in use. I also began to hand sketch my characters. The creative spirit had consumed me, and I knew I had found what I wanted to do in life.

The Fertile Crescent, where Book I takes place.

Healing and Spirituality

By the time the manuscript had been beta’d and polished, I had gotten into naturopathy and spiritual theory. The more I researched on healing and health, the more I found connections between it and my writing. It was obvious.

The healthier we are, the clearer we can think and create. Moreover, it’s known that each character in a story is a facet of the author. Like a reflection of ourselves. My writing had taken a much deeper role in my spiritual life. I began integrating messages and inspiratory scenes into my story. Gave Ethereal Seals a secondary purpose.

To empower readers with lessons that I had learned from my own life.

Then again, I now realize this is the crux of good storytelling.

Readers want to come away having enjoyed the story, having learned something. What readers crave is a story and a cast of characters they can relate to. The joy, the pain, and everything inbetween. Each good story is a retelling of our own lives; of the legacy humans live on this planet.

Life isn’t easy, and the quests of heroes should reflect that. The courage that heroes display during adversity is what every human—in their heart—desires. A hero is a role model, an archetype of the human being.

But I digress. To read more on the matter, see my articles on Good & Evil and the Hero’s Journey.

Campaigning Ahead

Things have worked out well for the novel, and with the cover art about done, I’ll need to hire a professional editor to work out some chinks in the story. With money tight as it is, I may need to push that back a bit until I can save up.

I also have a series of promotional campaigns planned for my Instagram author page, this blog, and my mailing list:

  1. A buildup to my official cover reveal, which will run one to three months
  2. A buildup to the story publication, an additional couple months
  3. Publication, a burst of promotionals in the first month after release
  4. Tapering off into a “maintenance” promotional to keep the book from fading into obscurity, as many new authors allow

To be honest, I am daunted by this aspect of writing, as social engagement has never been a strong suit. I may consider hiring an agent for freelance authors. This all depends on how kind the economy is to me in the next several months and years.

With hard work, commitment, and a little prayer, I’ll pull this off—and well. Blade of Dragons will be the first in the series of Ethereal Seals, of which the second manuscript is already drafted.

Thank you for reading. It’s through the viewership and support from readers like you that this dream is becoming reality.

A older sketch of Pepper Slyhart, the protagonist of Ethereal Seals; aka, my alter ego.

Interested in joining my mailing list? Members will receive free poetry, special deals, messages to inspire and empower your life, and short stories. You’ll also get the latest news on projects.
Aspectä rey’lief, fair reader, and thanks again for reading!
—Ed R. White

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On Naming Fictional Characters

Good names help both writers and readers move through a story smoothly.”

— Dan Schmidt

Naming characters in a fictional universe may seem like a simple task, but it can stump some authors. How do we approach this issue? Is there a method to naming characters? In this post, I’ll describe how I go about it, plus some helpful tools.

Some authors don’t name their characters in a specific way, instead opting for generic names without any particular rhyme or reason. Fred, John, Alice, Ryan, etc. I’ve found the generic naming system works better with simple, cheap plot themes. Even short stories or flash fiction. These ‘throwaway’ names, as I call them, work here.

A Little Research Goes a Long Way

Names have changed from era to era, at least in the contemporary world. Naming a post WWI character according to their era (e.g. the Depression-era 1930s) will seem more realistic than a 21st century trendy name. You can also go further and look up the root meaning of a name. Name.org is a great resource for that.

Fantasy Names

Other authors opt for unusual names like Legolas, Eragon, or Herä’eth. These name fit more of a niche role, with their uniqueness that speaks of a fantasy universe. That in itself grants the name attention. FantasyNameGenerators is a good website for those struggling to brainstorm.

Comic Names

For more humor, an author can name a character a funny name like Bananas. These comic names spell out the character’s attributes from the start; the author wants to make sure you to know this character’s name means something. In real life, people often name their pets in such ways, as it evokes comfort, warm laughter, or recognition.

Other Uses for Names

Names can influence how your reader views characters, particularly from their introduction. Using a scarier name, like Toothclaw, may evoke images of a bestial man, aggressive, proud, and strong. Others like Hymnfoot have a pleasant and comic feel.

Surnames

A character’s surname can be as important as their main name. Surnames are family or ancestral titles that imply characters’ bloodline, genetics, abilities, and even predictions about their future.The surname Brightshard has a fantasy ring to it, aye? It evokes images of crystals, magic, and even majesty. Meanwhile, the surname Worldscale also bears a fantasy vibe, but is more dragon-like and perhaps regal in its pronunciation.

  • With Blade of Dragons, one of my protagonists is named Gerald. The name Gerald means ‘Spear ruler of strength’ or ‘Rule of spear’. Gerald’s main weapon is a magical lance, his signature attribute. By using the name Gerald, I empowered his character and added depth.
  • My main protagonist, Pepper, doesn’t have a linguistic root meaning to her name. However, she has a fiery personality, can breath fire, and can summon wind magic that may make you sneeze. With her, I went with a name that was more reflective of her persona and magical aptitude.
  • A third character is named Tarie. In Zimbabwe, Tarie is short for Tariro or Tarisai, meaning ‘hope’ or ‘look’. Tarie happens to be a priest, representing the power of the Light, or hope, on Atlas. He dreams of bringing hope back to the oppressed people of Atlas, to help them see or look upon the Light again. In this way, the name Tarie is based off the character’s aspirations, his dreams.

Other than using the websites I linked above, you can check out ImagineForest, Writerswrite, and ElementalNameGenerators for all your fantasy needs. Here’s an article on additional tips for naming your characters effectively.

1. Genre

We’ve covered this, but you’re not likely to find a name like Legolas in contemporary fiction, unless it’s for intentional humor. Double-check your genre, and the era of your story, to maximize the efficiency of your character’s names. Things get a bit more complicated when you do niche genres, like fantasy-romance. In this case, fantasy names are appropriate.

2. Culture and Backstory Do Matter

Bonus points if you can incorporate world-building and backstory into your characters’ names. This helps tie plot elements together and gives off a wholesome vibe to the story.

3. Sometimes Simpler is Better

There are times when shorter, simpler names are nice because your reader can remember them. Other, longer names may throw a reader off. A dragon with the name Fyre’goras’thyr is certainly a mouthful, whereas the name Fyre works too. Which do you prefer, pray tell?

Character naming is vital in fictional universes. While it doesn’t have to be perfect, it can make or break your characters, the feel of your plot, or the details of your world-building. Taking time to refine your character names will allow them to shine and pull the reader in. Remember, this is but a part of building your story, and it can still be fun when you put your heart into it.


Interested in joining my mailing list? Members will receive free poetry, special deals, messages to inspire and empower your life, and short stories. You’ll also get the latest news on projects.
Aspectä rey’lief, fair reader, and thanks for reading!
—Ed R. White

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The Hero’s Journey in Fiction

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Years ago, I read a fantastic book named The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell. In it, the author details the Hero’s Journey. This is a powerful story element that every writer, artist, or spiritual seeker should understand. It illustrates a protagonist’s adventures, from a safe haven to the darkest dungeon—be they literal or figurative.

The Hero’s Journey is a story mechanic of the protagonist’s journey through the various acts of the story. Typically, there are four acts for each journey.

The first act of the Hero’s Journey introduces the hero. The second and third act elaborates on their ordeals, and the fourth finishes round circle. You may notice certain tropes or definitions used in each act. These are minor plot elements that form the Hero’s Journey. Some are necessary to flesh out the story.

The Ordinary World

The story begins in the Ordinary World, a mundane realm that may be a safe haven or even a prison for the hero. Here, the audience learns about the hero’s life situation, his/her abilities, fears, flaws, and personality.

The Call to Adventure

From the Ordinary World, conflict arises that stirs the hero from complacency. This may be something serious like an assassination or a minor incident like a strange phone call. The hero now has a choice to pursue the source of the conflict and resolve the issue, or remain in his or her realm.

Refusal

Initially, the hero may be hesitant to leave the safe boundary of the Ordinary World. The hero sees the risks involved and what’s to gain if s/he succeeds. Some stories skip this step with a willing or reckless hero who jumps onto the quest immediately.

The Mentor

The hero encounters the mentor, a wise or experienced individual. The mentor trains and/or guides the hero, providing new knowledge about the nature of the quest. This character is more often an elderly person but can manifest as a younger individual or inanimate object such as a legendary sword.

Crossing the Threshold

The mentor guides the hero away from the Ordinary World to the first Threshold—or the point of no return. The hero’s commitment is tested, determining if the hero is ready for the quest. The Threshold is the gateway to a new dimension, far away from the Ordinary World.

Tests, Allies, and Enemies

Now in a world of mystery and danger, the hero learns more about his/her new adventure. This strange world brings a host of challenges, allies, and enemies. Every obstacle is a stepping stone to unearthing the hero’s personality and capabilities. Abilities are sharpened, and pain is endured. Temptations are met, and the hero struggles with his/her inner shadow self.

Approach to the Dungeon/Inmost Cave

The hero prepares to enter the Inmost Cave. Setbacks occur, but the hero endures, priming for the Supreme Ordeal—an inner crisis that demands change from the protagonist. The hero must analyze personal flaws and push forward to complete the quest.

Supreme Ordeal

The protagonist faces a dangerous challenge, often against the antagonist. The antagonist can also be a dark reflection of a father figure, such as with Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, with exaggerated flaws of the protagonist. The Supreme Ordeal is a highlight of the hero’s quest, and everything is at stake. The hero must draw upon all the experience from the journey to survive.

Reward, Seizing of the Sword

If the hero succeeds, s/he emerges as a changed person. The hero also receives an award as proof of victory; this might be a mythic sword, elixir, or artifact, signifying the change in the hero’s life. The hero now prepares for the last part of the quest.

The Road Back

With the quest completed, the hero begins to travel back to the ordinary world, which is the opposite of the call of adventure. Instead of worry or pain, fulfillment and satisfaction arise. The quest is not done, as the last challenge awaits the hero.

Resurrection

The hero faces a test or battle against the antagonist at the Final Threshold. This ultimate tribulation challenges the hero, requiring all the experience they’ve gained from their quest. Failure may result, leading to the hero’s death, a dearth of all hope, or even a severe injury that mars the hero.

The protagonist is reborn from the flames of demise, returning as a new person, transmuted into the true hero. Now cleansed of past flaws, the hero is equipped to end the adventure.

Return with the Elixir

The adventurer returns to the Ordinary World as a changed person—physically, mentally, and spiritually. Using the reward from the Final Ordeal, s/he improves upon the Ordinary World. A new era of peace and reflection results. The prize may be multifaceted, manifesting either as a damsel in distress, a powerful relic, or a shift in the climate of the realms.  At this point, the hero finishes the journey, but things will never be as they once were.

Others Variables in the Hero’s Journey

There are extra elements in the Hero’s Journey, such as sub-journeys that stretch throughout a trilogy. Sometimes, the hero cannot return to society as they are, instead choosing exile.

How The Hero’s Journey Relates to Readers

The Hero’s Journey occurs in every good fiction. It’s a retelling of human life, the growth of a person into a mature and wise individual. It is also a blueprint from which anyone can appreciate the heroic archetypes and make changes for a more prosperous, happier life.


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Aspectä rey’lief, fair reader, and thanks for reading!
—Ed R. White

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Fictional Terms in Ethereal Seals: Crystal Technology

Crystals are a fascinating subject for me. Ever since college, I consumed books and articles on crystals. I also examined more esoteric material, the supposed energy properties of gemstones.

With geology as one of my side hobbies, I decided to incorporate it into Ethereal Seals.

Elemental crystals are used as storage containers for magic (Shifting) and technology. The ether can build up in crystals. This forms charged gemstones , which can operate machinery or perform Shifting spells.

The Uses of Crystal Technology

Atlasian culture makes heavy use of Elemental crystals. Everything from convenience tools to military weapons see use. Below, I’ll list the more predominant ones.

  • Ration Crystals: conjure food and water that doesn’t last long
  • Vi’lances: power lance-like weapons that shoot fireballs
  • Etheric stabilizers: power large machinery like spaceships or buildings
  • Crystalweave: forms clothing that repairs damage and removes smells
  • Etheric translocators: teleports users to a designated location
  • Crystal glass pads: thin, flexible slabs that can display digital information (much like phones)
  • Vir’gols: advanced, sapient weapons or tools powered through denser crystals

The Costs of Crystal Technology

While Shifting and using magic draws lifeforce from the Shifter’s spine, crystals mitigate this. Instead, crystals take the brunt of the stress. Any Elemental spirits alive within the gemstone experience great pain.

Imagine being trapped in a prison your whole life, strapped to a generator like a battery?

This adds a moral dilemma to using crystal technology. The protagonist, Pepper Slyhart, realizes this, and her perspective of crystals changes through the story. Crystals are also more limited in their uses compared to Shifting.

The Elements in Ethereal Seals are based off the Aspects, gods that rule over the universe. Crystals usually take after a certain Aspect. These being:

  • Fire: destruction and cleansing
  • Water: healing and preservation
  • Wind: movement and space
  • Earth: growth and form
  • Spirit: abstract and astral
  • Light: radiation and healing
  • Shadow: free will and concentration

A Shifter can insert crystals into a vir’gol via slots in the devices. Upon interfacing, the vir’gol can draw upon the crystal like a battery and funnel the Shifter’s spells. Much like a wand.

Most vir’gols have sapience, which allows them to speak freely. They can also do telepathy with their masters. Once a crystal is removed, drained of ether, or damaged beyond repair, the vir’gol loses its awareness. It dies.

Vir’gol Pacts

The connection between Shifter and vir’gol is called a Pact. A Shifter makes a Pact by inserting the crystal and activating the device. An oath is spoken, binding the Shifter to the weapon (and therefore the crystal) until the oath is fulfilled.

Some Shifters form a Pact subconsciously, only to later realize and strengthen it. To break a Pact isn’t easy. It causes emotional upheaval in the Shifter, in addition to nausea, lightheadedness, and confusion. The vir’gol is also disrupted and its crystal damaged.

Cursed Vir’gols

One exception to this in the story is Myrnight, a cursed vir’gol that feeds off its masters energy. In this case, the vir’gol forms a parasitic relationship with the Shifter. Cursed vir’gols are rare and quite powerful, often at the expense of one’s sanity.

Crystals in the world of Atlas are useful, widespread technology. While there are serious costs to using Elemental crystals, they are a powerful tool for Shifters.

The plot of Ethereal Seals plays heavily on the moral predicament behind crystals. It also influences the protagonist’s journey, creating scenes of tension and character growth.


Interested in joining my mailing list? Members will receive free poetry, special deals, messages to inspire and empower your life, and short stories. You’ll also get the latest news on projects.
Aspectä rey’lief, fair reader, and thanks for reading!
—Ed R. White

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Book Review: Divine Summons

During my break from non-fiction research, I stumbled upon this jewel on Goodreads. I was impressed by the strength of the prose and the story. Rebecca P. Minor did a pleasant job at it. Let’s delve into the details, shall we?

Premise & Worldbuilding

Divine Summons has a classic fantasy atmosphere with elves, dragons, monsters, and magic. I’m a sucker for fantasy tropes, and the immersion had me sold within the first chapter. Traveling between elven cities, ancient caverns, and dark forests, the story never turned stagnant. There’s plenty of lore that kept me intrigued, not to mention the splendid battle scenes and dialog.

Characters

Taken from a (mostly) first-person POV, the story conveys excellent character emotion, dialog, and prose flow. The cast of characters provided conflict, worldbuilding, and comic relief details. One issue was the shifting from first-person to third-person POV throughout the story. Most readers would gawk at this—and I certainly did—but I overlooked it in favor of a story that held me fast.

Magic System

A soft magic system governs this story, with whimsical, flashy outcomes and unspoken costs. The god, Creo, governs the faith-based school of magic in this story. Albeit, the magic performed some ex deus machina in some scenes, which came off as unsatisfying for me. The author could have worked the magic better into the conflict and story, rather than have it as a lever to fix plot or character-conflict issues.

Conflict

Tension and pacing were solid, despite the subpar execution of the magic system. The characters found themselves in plenty of horrid situations. The expositions and inner struggles were well done, and complemented the strong cast of characters. Immersion had me turning pages, particularly the fight scenes, which were excellent. Battles were endowed with plenty of details, but never too many to make them cumbersome.

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The Good

The characters, pacing, tension, and immersion painted an addictive story. Details on lore and worldbuilding enhanced this, providing an enjoyable read from start to finish except for a few scenes. Battle chapters were excellent.

The Bad

The shift between first-person and third-person POVs felt jarring and marginalized the main character. Some of these third-person POVs were somewhat unnecessary, congesting the pacing and story with minor details. The magic system came off as a prop to save the main character at worst, and a flashy addition at best.

The Ugly

The story had a few graphic scenes, but that was it.

Divine Summons was enjoyable, despite its shortcomings in its magic system and POVs. The rich worldbuilding had me hooked, and the sword fights and dialog scenes were pleasant. I’ve already started on the second book, and it reads stronger than the first, so I am hopeful. For any fantasy lovers, Rebecca A Minor has a great series that’s sure to delight readers who can overlook its blemishes.


Interested in joining my mailing list? Members will receive free poetry, special deals, messages to inspire and empower your life, and short stories. You’ll also get the latest news on projects.
Aspectä rey’lief, fair reader, and thanks for reading!
—Ed R. White

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Beyond Sitting: Postures for Better Creativity, Health

As writers, we often sit in front of a laptop or a book to hone our craft. Whether its reading, writing, or something between, the art requires a significant amount of sitting. However, sitting for lengthy periods can strain the nervous system and thought process. Over the years, I’ve discovered several postures that have helped me endured long writing sessions.

Why not write, read, or scroll the internet while training the body? Is this possible?

The Problem with Chairs

When we look at the design of a chair, what it does to our bodies, whoever designed it was either a fool or a sadist. Chairs—and their cousins, throne toilets and car seats—put the body in an unnatural position.

Granted, the human body can sit fine in a chair…for brief amounts of time. Problems arise when we sit for long periods. The human body wasn’t designed to stagnate, but to move; to dance, sing, explore, and discover.

The Effects of Sitting

When we sit:

  • muscles get weaker in the lower body
  • metabolism slows, testosterone drops, and fat accumulates easier
  • cardiovascular and cranial health deteriorates (think stroke, dementia, brain fog)
  • the risk of disability skyrockets, and blood circulation grows sluggish
  • the bowels constrict, leading to constipation, diverticulitis, colon cancer, and more
  • childbirth is long and painful (what is considered normal in the West, but strange in third-world countries)

And that’s to name a few. Now, before we go swearing off the ritual of writing, art, sketching, reading, or whatever else we do; there is hope.

Solutions to the Chair

“You really don’t understand human bodies until you realize how important these postures are.”

Rosie Spinks

As mentioned above, there’s nothing wrong with sitting in a chair for, say, 20 minutes. But mixing in some varied resting postures will stimulate nerves, ligaments, blood vessels, lymph—that will strengthen both our bodies and minds.

After my previous post on creativity, I thought I’d elaborate on how best to optimize it. It’s hard to enjoy a sore back, or that feeling of stiffness from long periods of sitting. With biohacking as one of my passions next to writing, I’ve listed some of my favorite sitting postures. Feel free to add your own modifications to these.

1. Vajrasana, Rock Pose, Thunderbolt Pose

Vajrasana, otherwise known as thunderbolt or rock, stretches the lower body as you rest. You perform this pose by kneeling and sitting on your feet. This shifts the weight away from the back and onto the knees and ankles. This pose is excellent for concentration and creativity. You can make the pose easier by placing a cushion between your buttocks and your feet.

I’ve written several articles, stories, and blog posts while in this pose. It’s reliable and powerful.

2. Malasana, Garland Pose

Malasana, also known as garland squat or resting squat, is excellent for the hips and lower body. After long bouts of sitting, I usually do this pose to stretch any stiff joints. You come into a deep resting squat and allow your pelvic floor to relax towards the ground. Press your elbows between your knees. This can be a tricky pose for most people to do after decades of sitting in a chair. You can place a blanket under your heels to make it easier.

Many people in the world still sit, rest, play, and eat in this posture for hours. Definitely one of my favorites, as the benefits of this biohacking pose, or squatting in general, are numerous.

3. Headstand

Inversions are incredible for the body, especially the brain. Headstands/handstands improve focus, balance hormones, boost creativity, among other things. I use a wall to support myself, but eventually I’ll progress to unassisted headstands. Headstands are best done during breaks during long sitting sessions; doing a headstand while typing wouldn’t be advised.

The awe and euphoria of a headstand cannot be expressed in words, and it’s led to some major boosts to creativity. Not to mention, it helps me problem solve plot and character issues in my stories and in real life.

4. Deadhang

A simple stretch that isn’t a yoga pose as much as it is a calisthenic exercise. Hanging from a bar, as if to do a pullup, has great benefits. For one, it decompresses the spine, good after long periods of sitting. A few seconds is enough to reap the benefits; my calisthenics mentor suggests at least 30 to 60 seconds.

5. Spinning

When you were a kid, you probably played ‘merry-go-round’ with a partner. Spinning clockwise promotes vitality, and children know it all too well. It helps remove any stagnation that may have built up during long bouts of sitting. Begin slowly, maybe 8 revolutions a day. I do about 13, my palms facing downwards to ground myself, and will gradually progress to 33 revolutions.

6. Inclined Bed Rest

Even when I sleep, I stretch my body. Sleeping at an incline does wonders for the brain and spinal cord. It reduces pressure on the organs and improves sleep, while allowing the lymphatic system to drain. Elevate the pillow-side of the bed a few inches to get the benefits. Since adopting this practice, my creativity has seen tremendous improvements.

7. Rebounding

Jumping on a trampoline or rebounder is fun, and excellent for the lymphatic system. It comes as no surprise, as we all hopped on beds when we were children. Rebounding, along with headstands and spinning, should dramatically improve one’s spatial awareness and blood flow to the brain. A biohacking miracle. Better circulation means better creativity, more energy, and stronger ambitions to complete that creative project in mind.

A Final Word on Resting

There are many resting postures, and the above list isn’t exhaustive. It gives us a starting point to stretch our bodies and keep our muscles, joints, and circulation toned while in our offices.

The key is diverse, fluid motion. To feel human.

The human spine wasn’t designed to sit in front of a desk for hours each day. Nor were the eyes, or the shoulders and wrists. We evolved as hunters and gatherers moving from one location to another. Breathing fresh air, absorbing sunshine, and connecting with the earth. Sometimes we walked, otherwise we squatted, but our lymphatic system and blood require change and motion to function. The more blood flowing, the better we can think—and create.

Once we master the secrets of our ancestors, we’ll rediscover the gifts innate in us. The storytellers of old may return, and with it, captivating tales, strong minds, and healthy bodies.

Remember, have inspiration in all things, from taking a walk to writing a story, journaling, biohacking, or painting a canvas. After all, we are the authors of our own life stories. When we lie on our deathbed, let’s remember all the fun we had: the creation, the movement, and the joy that comes with it all.

For to train the mind, but neglect the body, leads to disaster.


Interested in joining my mailing list? Members will receive free poetry, special deals, messages to inspire and empower your life, and short stories. You’ll also get the latest news on projects.
Aspectä rey’lief, fair reader, and thanks for reading!
—Ed R. White

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What is Good and Evil in Fiction?

Humans have always struggled with the question: what is good, what is evil? A primordial dilemma, evil paints the picture of villains, antagonists, darkness, violence, and oppression. No one likes evilness, but what is being evil in fiction? Is wickedness a subjective phenomenon of the ego?

A Story of Black and White

With the Hero’s Journey, the protagonist is drawn on a campaign, fights the antagonist, and finishes the quest. The antagonist may be a villain, or another force trying to foil the hero. There are many types of heroes as there are villains., but heroes are not always good, and villains may not always be evil. This spectrum of good-evil paints a more realistic picture as seen in human nature, and helps connect with readers.

Ergo, the good versus evil conflict often adheres to a black/white trope. To make distinguishing characters easier. Evil characters prefer hurting or manipulating others for personal gain. That said, an antagonist shouldn’t be evil just for the hell of it. That paints a dry, undeveloped antagonist.

Shades of Gray

While heroes are virtuous and villains cruel, protagonists move the plot towards a goal and the antagonist opposes it. A hero could be an antagonist, and the villain the protagonist. Think Infinity War, where Thanos, the protagonist, achieved his goal of getting the Infinity Stones.

In the olden days, stories always had the hero as the protagonist. Everyone wants to see goodness win, right? Well, that gets old. Fast. With the rise of anti-heroes, everything isn’t so black and white anymore. Readers connect with anti-heroes so well because they reflect the mixed nature of humans.

Anti-heroes are a curious breed due to their methods and personalities, which are a lot more chaotic than most heroes. They often jump between good and evil polarities at will, as long as it serves their goals. This makes them a strong protagonist, shoving the plot forward continuously. Traditional heroes may come off as bland, unrealistic, or predictable; but their adherence to virtue makes them likable and appreciated.

Meanwhile, the antagonist force may be a dark god, a federation to preserve tradition, or an organization dedicated to eradicating a certain species from a world.

Good and Evil in Worldbuilding

Plot is, in essence, a tug of war between two opposing forces. Light vs. dark, good vs. evil, freedom vs. security, knight vs. dragon, unstoppable force vs. unmovable object—and so on. There are a variety to pick from for a story. A traditional good vs. evil may come off as cliche and underdeveloped. Involving more depth, more reasoning behind the motivations of each force, is helpful.

Ask:

  • What does the protagonist want to achieve? How will he do it?
  • Why is the antagonist opposing him? What methods will the antagonist use?
  • How could a reader classify the relationship, the tug-of-war, between these two forces?
  • Is the protagonist a force for good? Whose good?
  • What does the antagonist wish to protect from the protagonist?

With the relationship between the two forces established, use it to create tension and drive the plot. If either the protagonist or antagonist receives too much slack, the plot—or the rope in the tug-of-war—will go flaccid. Of course, the protagonist must eventually win, but not until the end of the Hero’s Journey.

Case Study: Pepper Slyhart

As the protagonist of Ethereal Seals, Pepper has traits of the typical hero: sympathetic, courageous, and ambitious. But, she is prone to anger, reckless behavior, and shortsightedness. Society often looks down on her, given her half-dragon genetics, and she falls into depression and brooding. Given her chaotic good character, she has a tendency towards extremism, sometimes hurting or neglecting others in the process of achieving her goals. This places her slightly towards the anti-hero spectrum, but not quite in it.

For those into David Hawkins’ work, Pepper calibrates only in the 200s and 300s in the scale of consciousness. Her habit to dip into anger, fear, desire, and pride makes her unpredictable and dangerous to friends and enemies alike.

Mapping Out Good & Evil

On the chart above, we see the theory on emotions and states of consciousness. Note the level 200, where courage begins and pride ends. Now, for the sake of argument, let’s say emotions that calibrate below 200 are ‘evil’. This paints villains as individuals stuck in states like shame, guilt, fear, and pride. If so, evil characters in fiction are those suffering from these demented states. Heroes would associate more with the upper states of consciousness; those above 200.

David Hawkins states that 200 begins a transformation in consciousness, from self-serving to all-loving. This doesn’t mean individuals never fall back below 200, but that they will establish around their average level of consciousness. As a plot progresses, heroes should, therefore, rise in consciousness. Villain may fall back, as their flaws remain unresolved.

In this context, evil is a form of unresolved inner conflict, whereas good is an upward driving force. The hero serves as a reflection of the villain, and vice versa, as both parties still have some element of good and evil within them—no matter how small. That’s human nature. Fiction is a story about life, about who we are on this planet.

And that, my friends, is why I’ve fallen in love with it.


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Aspectä rey’lief, fair reader.
—Ed R. White

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Poems in Fiction—Worldbuilding—Ethereal Seals Poetry: Eulogies of Deliverance

Poetry triggers interesting reactions from readers. Not only is it a jump from storytelling long-form, but it invites rhythm, a detail of creativity not seen elsewhere in the story. I always found poetry bits to be fascinating—or tedious if they were too long and poorly done—in a story.

My theory is the poetry activates different parts of the brain. It’s nothing short of refreshing and invigorating, particularly when changing back to the storytelling prose. Used right, poetry adds many things to a manuscript, such as:

  • worldbuilding
  • insights into the protagonists; their reactions, views, and inner struggles
  • gives readers’ a “break” from long-form prose
  • invites higher details of creativity
  • perfect medium for foreshadowing, adding tension, among other plot devices

A fantasy without poetry feels dry and incomplete. If looking to spruce up a fantasy world, try incorporating some poems. This isn’t to say that sci-fi or contemporary fiction can’t have songs.

Be creative.

Stretch the mind and unite it with the heart, the soul. RhymeZone and Hemingway are great tools for poetry. Also read other forms of poetry to get inspired. Shakespeare is always a good choice, but try genres that reflect what type of poetry. Check out this post on Haiku, a form of East Asian poetry. Yes, there are myriad ways to express a poem, and the strength of poetry is only limited by one’s imagination.

Here’s some poetry from my WIP, Ethereal Seals. The poems are songs given by priests to the dead and dying to ease their passing. For more information on life and death on Atlas, view my post on Life and Death in a Fantasy Universe. Enjoy! 🙂


Deliverance Eulogy I

Rest easy, my brothers, my sisters

For many starturns, you endured the pain of Umbra’s blisters

May the Earthmother protect your spirits unto the Celestial Heavens

So that you too may meet the divine Seven

Oh, how we wail at the torment you received

And in our hearts, we are all so grieved

Rest easy, my brothers, my sisters,

For it will not be long, and you will be at peace

Deliverance Eulogy I I

My brothers, my sisters; we wail for your loss

Though the Shadow is gone, victory comes with its cost

Our tears shall forever water these sands

Hearken our words, the divine hymn we place unto your hands

Find your Deliverance unto the Celestial Heavens

So that you, too, shall unite with the Seven

Be blessed in the higher planes

Where, for eternity, you shall reign

Aspectä rey’lief, departed souls, departed knyghts

For we bless you with this song, an eulogy of the Aspects’ might


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Aspectä rey’lief, fair reader, thanks for reading.
—Ed R. White

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Describing Sounds in Writing

brown and black gramophone

When we think of the word sound, the last thing we may associate it with are words and phrases. However, sound and writing go hand-in-hand. Recently, I learned from a writing class how important sounds can be for strengthening prose—what a shocker!

In this article, I’ll discuss the various definitions and techniques that are often used. Many thanks to Mark Nichol for the awesome advice!

1. Alliteration

Alliteration is the pattern of multiple words in the same phrase with the same consonant sound. Here’s an example:

“Squaring our performances with our promises, we will proceed to the fulfillment of the party’s mission.”

Notice how performances and promises ring together? It provokes the reader subconsciously, so to associate those two concepts together and highlighting a theme of success. Process and party could also be associated.

“They have served tour after tour of duty in distant, different, and difficult places.”

In this passage, distant, different, and difficult highlights the arduous adventure being described.

2. Assonance

Similar to alliteration, assonance involves the repetition of certain vowels, especially in stressed syllables, but with different consonant sounds.

 “Men sell the wedding bells.”
Go and mow the lawn.”

In the above examples, sell and bells followed by go and mow are what highlight the assonance.

3. Consonance

Can you guess what this term implies? That’s right, the repetition of consonants, particularly at the end of a word.

“Their maid has spread the word of their deed.”
Cheer and beer go with sorrow and tomorrow.”

Here, you have maid, spread, word, and deed. Cheer and beer with sorrow and tomorrow make another pair. The word pairs doesn’t have to rhyme, only share the final sound—rhyming comes later. 🙂

4. Onomatopoeia

When you have words that translate as sound effects, this is onomatopoeia.

“A splash disturbed the hush of the droning afternoon.”
“Her heels clacked on the hardwood floor.”

5. Repetition

Repetition is, well, repeating a word or phrase to emphasize the message of a passage.

“When we arrive at the store, we will buy something. When we buy something, we will pay for it. When we pay for it, we will take it home.”
“When I find you, I will catch you. When I catch you, I will cook you. When I cook you, I will eat you.”

These examples creates a percussive effect on the reader’s mind to push the meaning of the passage.

6. Rhyme

This one should be a given, or else the writer may be forgiven (hahaha ehem…). Poetry often makes use of rhymes, but normal prose can too!  In fact, here’s a nifty tool I discovered that helps with rhyme words. Enjoy.

7. Rhythm

With rhythm, the prose is altered to create tempo.

“The eager coursing of the strident hounds
And the sudden pursuit of the mounted men
Drove the bounding prey ever on.”

Here’s an example taken from Dr. Seuss:

“I’m Yertle the Turtle!
Oh, marvelous me!
For I am the ruler
of all that I see!”

Shorter tempo creates a faster rhythm, and vice versa. With the proper rhythm, sentence length, and prose structure, a writer can add depth and even emotion to prose.

When we describe sounds, we lean on the other four senses (touch, taste, smell, and sight) to paint a picture. Here’s a list of ways to describe sound in writing. Credit goes to Amanda Patterson.

Words Describing General Sounds

  1. audible – a sound that is loud enough to hear
  2. broken – a sound that has spaces in it
  3. emit – to make a sound
  4. grinding – a sound of one hard thing moving against another
  5. hushed – a sound that is quiet
  6. inaudible – a sound that is difficult to hear
  7. monotonous – a sound that is always the same and never gets louder or quieter, or higher or lower
  8. muffled – a sound that is not easy to hear because it is blocked by something
  9. plaintive – a sound that has a sad quality
  10. rhythmic – a sound that has a clear, regular pattern
  11. staccato – a sound where each word or sound is clearly separate

Describing Pleasing Sounds

  1. dulcet – soft and pleasant
  2. lilting – a sound that has a rising and falling pattern
  3. listenable – easy to listen to
  4. mellow – a soft, smooth, pleasant sound
  5. melodic – beautiful sound
  6. musical – sounds like music
  7. pure – a clear, beautiful sound
  8. rich – a sound that is strong in a pleasant way
  9. soft – quiet and peaceful
  10. sonorous – a sound that is deep and strong in a pleasant way
  11. sweet – a pleasant sound

Describing Noisy Sounds

  1. at full blast – as loudly as possible
  2. almighty – used for emphasising how loud something is
  3. brassy – a sound that is loud and unpleasant
  4. deafening – a sound so loud you cannot hear anything else
  5. ear-splitting – extremely loud
  6. explosive – a sound that is loud and unexpected
  7. howling – a continuous, low, loud noise
  8. insistent – a continuous, loud, strong noise
  9. loud – a sound that is strong and very easy to hear
  10. noisy – a sound that is full of noise
  11. percussive – a sound that is short, like someone hitting a drum
  12. piercing – a sound that is very  loud, high, and unpleasant
  13. pulsating – strong, regular pattern
  14. raucous – rude, violent, noisy
  15. resounding – a sound that is loud and that continues for a while
  16. riotous – lively and noisy
  17. roaring – a deep, loud noise
  18. rowdy – noisy and causing trouble
  19. sharp – a sound that is sudden and loud
  20. shrill – a sound that is loud, high, and unpleasant
  21. thundering – extremely loud
  22. thunderous – loud
  23. tumultuous –  a sound that includes noise, excitement, activity, or violence
  24. uproarious – extremely noisy

Words That Help You Show And Not Tell

  1. babble – a gentle, pleasant sound of water as it moves along in a river
  2. bang – to move, making loud noises
  3. beep – a short high sound or several short high sounds
  4. blare – to make a loud and unpleasant noise
  5. blast – to make a loud sound with a car horn
  6. bleep – a short high sound or several short high sounds
  7. boom – to make a deep loud sound that continues for some time
  8. caterwaul – an unpleasant loud high noise
  9. chime – a high ringing sound like a bell or set of bells
  10. chink – a high ringing sound when knocked together, or to make something do this
  11. clack -to make a short loud sound like one hard object hitting against another
  12. clang – a loud, metallic sound
  13. clank – a short, loud sound
  14. clash – a loud, metallic sound
  15. clatter – a series of short, sharp noises
  16. click – a short sound like the sound when you press a switch
  17. clink – to make the short high sound of glass or metal objects hitting each other, or to cause objects to make this sound
  18. cluck – to make a short, low sound with your tongue
  19. crash – a sudden loud noise, as if something is being hit
  20. creak – if something creaks, especially something wooden, it makes a high noise when it moves or when you put weight on it
  21. drone – to make a low continuous noise
  22. fizz – a soft sound that small gas bubbles make when they burst
  23. groan – a long, low, sound
  24. growl – a low, unpleasant noise
  25. grunt – to make a short low sound in your throat and nose at the same time
  26. gurgle – the low sound water makes when it is poured quickly from a bottle
  27. honk – to make a loud noise using a horn, especially the horn of a car
  28. hoot – to make a short loud sound as a warning
  29. mewl – crying with a soft, high sound
  30. moan – a long, low sound
  31. neigh – to make a high loud sound like a horse’s neigh
  32. peal – if a bell peals, or if someone peals it, it makes a loud sound
  33. peep – if a car’s horn peeps, it makes a sound
  34. ping – to make a short high sound like the sound of a small bell
  35. pipe – to make a very high sound, or to speak in a very high voice
  36. pop – a sudden noise like a small explosion
  37. putter – a short, quiet, low sound at a slow speed
  38. ring – to make a bell produce a sound
  39. roar – to make a continuous, very loud noise
  40. rumble – a continuous deep sound
  41. scream – to make a very loud high noise
  42. scream – to make a very loud high noise
  43. screech – to make a loud, high, and unpleasant noise
  44. scrunch – to make a loud noise like something being crushed
  45. sigh – a long, soft, low sound
  46. squeak – to make a short, high noise
  47. squeal – to make a long high sound
  48. squee – to make a loud high noise because you are excited or happy
  49. thrum- to make a low regular noise like one object gently hitting another many times
  50. thud – a dull sound when falling or hitting something
  51. thump – to hit against something with a low loud sound
  52. tinkle – to make a high, ringing sound
  53. wail – to make a long, high sound
  54. wheeze – a high sound, as though a lot of air is being pushed through it
  55. whine – a high, loud sound
  56. whirr – a fast, repeated, quiet sound
  57. whisper – to make a quiet, gentle sound
  58. whistle – to make a high sound by forcing air through your mouth in order to get someone’s attention
  59. yelp – a short, loud, high sound, usually caused by excitement, anger, or pain
  60. yowl – a long, loud, unhappy sound or complaint

Writing sound is a fun process that adds depth and life to prose. Becareful not to overdo it, though. We should make sure sounds make sense, have a purpose, and relate to our writing. In more serious genres, less is better. Poetry and inane novels (like Dr. Seuss) can get away with it more.

Thanks for reading, and Happy New Years!


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Aspectä rey’lief, fair reader, thanks for reading.
—Ed R. White

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Writing Sidekicks and Side characters into Fiction

Everyone knows Robin from Batman, or Samwise Gamgee from LotR. How about Han Solo from Star Wars, or Luigi from Super Mario Brothers? These beloved sidekicks are treasured by many for the legacy they leave, what they help the hero create. That isn’t to say sidekicks lacks their own hero’s journey. Many sidekicks develop character arcs—and even series unto themselves.

Developing a Sidekick

“Behind every hero, there is always a wisecracking, obnoxious Nincompoop!— Samos on Daxter

During the hero’s journey, the protagonist encounters companions to join the quest. Sidekicks are different. A sidekick fulfills a role of greater significance than a companion. They often have their own powers, story arcs, POV scenes, and inner tribulations. A sidekick helps lift the hero up and adds to the story sometimes serving as a foil to shore up the hero’s lack.

Interestingly, sidekicks are often of the same gender as the protagonist. If of the opposite gender, sexual tension typically arises in the form of a romance subplot. A sidekick often knows the protagonist better than most characters and can offer new ways to relate to the hero.

Sidekicks come in many forms. Some are competent, others are not. They help drive the plot and the protagonist’s arc. When heroes fall down, sidekicks are there to pick them up. Unlike the hero, a sidekick can afford to die, although at great expense—and usually towards the end of the story. Sidekick deaths should be carefully planned, for it will create a void in the hero’s journey.

The role of the sidekick in literary fiction is sometimes hard to describe. They may be the friend or mentor of the hero; they may be the narrator & nominal main character of the story whilst the hero gets the credit and is more interesting (King’s “The Body for example) Some of them always save the hero’s bacon (Jeeves & Wooster) & others are just plain loyal. —CQSteve on List Challenges

The Many Roles of Sidekicks

Some heroes are amoral, confused, or simply need guidance. Unlike a mentor, who takes a big role in the protagonist’s development, sidekicks are closer to adjuncts. Sidekicks often provide:

  1. Comic Relief—to contrast a hero’s temper, lack of morals, or as a foil to better emphasize the protagonist’s qualities.
  2. Perspective—providing a different look at the hero. The sidekick may have a unique relationship with the hero, some trait that helps the sidekick stand out. They can also add useful POV scenes that reflect on the hero.
  3. Conflict—creating soft tension that provokes thought in the hero or the reader; opportunities for character growth.
  4. Plot Inertia—moving the story along should the hero ever stagnate.
  5. Subplots—adding to the worldbuilding or depth of the plot.

Case Study: Ashia Worldscale

In my novel, Blade of Dragons, Ashia Worldscale fits the role of sidekick. She offers plenty of comic relief to offset Pepper Slyhart’s brooding episodes. Ashia also aids Pepper whenever the Dragonsoul, a draconic curse, seeks to control her. As a relative, Ashia had played a big role in Pepper’s childhood arrangements, saving Pepper and her father from the enemy.

Ashia and Pepper get along as sisters, with the latter having few if any friends. Ashia is peppy, upbeat, and always willing to pick Pepper up, should she ever fall into a malaise. Ashia also has her own subplot with the antagonist, threatening to assassinate her entire family and unmake her nation’s legacy. Quite a tall order.

Unlike Ashia, who is energetic and bouncy, Tarie Beyworth is a gentle, soft-spoken foil, who is more romantically engaged with Pepper. His plot is tied into to the main villain, as seen in later books. When I wrote the three characters, I had Pepper as the heroine, with Tarie and Ashia as supporting characters. It’s no coincidence that the three grew up together, in a sense. With Ashia’s long Dragonite lifespan, however, she served more the role as nanny early on—with Pepper’s mother having vanished, and Tarie an orphan.

It makes me reflect on the numerous aims behind Ashia’s character, how she started out purely for comedy relief in draft one, then expanded onto additional roles. I’m no expert, but having multi-faceted characters, particularly sidekicks, is always a plus, and I find it delighting in stories.

What are your thoughts on sidekicks? Have you any favorites? What do you feel goes well with a sidekick’s persona? Leave your answers in the comments below. Cheers!


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Aspectä rey’lief, fair reader.
—Ed R. White

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