Term 1, Week 6: MA Creative Writing Summary

Weeks 6 and 7 both work together to present us with the idea of a manifesto for our writing. I have to admit that I never really thought of a writing manifesto but as the week went on, I did begin to feel like it was something I could get to grips with.

The keywords for this week included manifest, beliefs, values and voice – all quite clear attributes for a manifesto-based introduction. They helped provide the thought process that we would need to go through when thinking about a manifesto.

The content for this week did seem to ramp up quite a bit. Firstly there was the weekly video presented by our tutor, Sophie Nicholls. This was really an introduction to the manifesto topic and an explanation about the various sources we could use to view other manifestos. Ironically, we saw a simple manifesto with regards to writing which was simply ‘let go’. Whilst I could relate to this, the idea of having to write a 2,000 word one for an assignment felt a bit daunting. There was also a further video present by guest tutor, Jim Poyner, who had introduced us to his photography and his style of ‘roaming’ in a previous week.

The writing exercises were quite simple but we easily identifiable as being aimed at developing a manifesto. They were all prompts that we were expected to finish, such as ‘I believe..’, ‘I want…’, and ‘writing can…‘. There were also some more thought-provoking prompts, such as ‘what would you have written on your epitaph?’ and ‘If your manifesto had a voice, how would it speak?’.

Supporting materials were mainly website links to various manifestos but there were also a few relating to the Ars Poetica which is poem written by Horace in 19BC that advises us on the art of writing – very similar to how our manifesto could work.

My short story, Steal in the Night, didn’t make it into the workshop critique this week as there were already some works presented by others. Guess I’ll just have to wait for my turn.

Beginning Strong Part 2 – James Scott Bell

Many writers are aware of the importance of getting the reader hooked from the first page, even the first line. Yet, Bell still points out some basic points that (I at least) had overlooked.
If we stick to the three act structure, it’s obvious that we begin in Act 1. Here, we’re expecting our work to do the following;

  • Hook the reader
  • Establish a bond between reader and character
  • Present the story world
  • Establish the tone of the novel
  • Give the reader reason to want to turn the page
  • Introduce the opposition

In this post, I’ll cover the final three points above as Bell takes us through and gives us information and advice as to better approach our goals (the first post is here).

Establish the tone of the novel

This is us, as writers, setting the tone for the entire novel early on in the first few pages. By doing this, we’re not only making a promise to the reader as to what our novel is going to be like, but it ensures that the reader will understand what to expect.

One of the most important aspects of tone is that of consistency. As stated previously, setting the tone is providing the reader with the understanding of what the rest of the story will be about. Readers like consistency and being too inconsistent risks you losing the reader. Bell quotes Jack M. Bickham here with some examples of how you can still stall your reader if you’re not careful;

  • Excessive description – Bell already covered this and uses the quote to simply strengthen his own statement.
  • Backward looks – interestingly, this seems to jar against the advice from Bell about using the ‘framing the story’ element for prologues. However, I personally think this is more around the constant use of looking back.
  • No threat – Bickham suggests that “good fiction must start with – and deal with – someone’s response to threat”. Without a threat there is no conflict.

Compel the Reader to move onto the middle

As with the Three Act Structure, your beginning has to ensure that the reader wants to continue onward to the middle (and end) of your book. If you’ve done things right, you should have given them (1) a compelling Lead with (2) whom they bond with and (3) whose world has been disturbed. This should provide enough for your readers to want to step through that first doorway of no return into Act 2.

There is little else in terms of advice from Bell here which comes across as a bit of a cop-out when it has been promoted to a point of interest within the chapter of Beginning Strong. However, I think the fact that Bell has already talked quite a bit earlier in the book about this and the fact that the next chapter is about the middle stages of a novel, he’s simply reserving his advice for later.

Introducing the Opposition

As with the section on moving the reader to the middle of the novel, Bell doesn’t really add anything more to this section other than giving out somewhat obvious advice.

Bell suggests that our readers must know who, or what, the opposition is by the time that our Lead makes the transition from the start to the middle. He even goes on to suggest that the opposition doesn’t necessarily have to be fully established at this point, just that it exists.
There are no examples given here, but I would suggest he’s talking about things like;

  • A serial killer in a crime murder novel – we don’t need to know who he is, or what he looks like for us to know he’s our Lead’s opposition
  • A meteor about to crash into the Earth – again, if our Lead is an astronaut or a pilot of a space-ship trying to protect Earth, then we can understand how the meteor is the opposition without having to fully explain what it is, where it came from etc.
  • A love story where the Lead is vying for affection and yet there is another who has similar feelings for the same girl.

As writers, it is also important that we ensure the opposition is a capable foil for our Lead. In that respect, we must ensure that the opposition is as strong, or preferably, stronger than our Lead. Also, we shouldn’t neglect the fact that our opposition should also be given similar attributes to our Lead, such as sympathy and justifications for his actions. We need to ensure that we don’t fully develop a Lead only to pit him against a cardboard cut-out of an opposition.

Your Writer’s Notebook – James Scott Bell

I think it’s fair to say that most writers keep a notebook for when the creative juices start to flow and we’re (usually) well away from the keyboard.  For some of us, it’s a real notebook and, for some of us, it’s a mixture of paper scraps, post-it notes etc. Regardless of the form in which our notes take, we could probably all do with keeping them in some sense of order.

In Write Great Fiction – Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell, there is a small section toward the end on the writer’s notebook. It has some suggestions about how we writers should structure our notebooks to get the best out of them.

Bell suggests using a notebook often as it allows you to ‘write when you’re not writing’.  Furthermore, he suggests splitting the notebook into five major sections;

1. Plot Ideas.  Unsurprisingly, Bell chooses to use this section to keep notes about plot. He suggests utilising free-form notes, ideas and scribbles to ensure that we can capture the information when it appears.  Things like ideas for plots, plot developments, and major scenes can be kept here.

2. Characters. Here we can keep straw-men pictures of our current, and future, characters.  Bell suggests that we store certain information, such as a character’s drive, what they want from the story, and what they care about the most.  This can be quite essential information when you’re struggling to decide how your character should react to at important points in your novel. It can also provide a great go-to point when you’re looking to introduce someone new either in the same novel, or a different one.

Bells also compiles listings of names in this section utilising newspaper articles to generate ‘real sounding’ names. He follows a simple process of splitting the forenames and surnames and keeping them in separate columns so new names can be generated simply by choosing a name from each column.

3. Research. This is quite a broad section and is related to anything that you feel is necessary to investigate as part of your novel writing.  Although Bell suggests that internet and e-mail can be used to generate a lot of research information quickly, he also suggests that much of this is transferred / filed in your notebook to enable the notebook to become a one-stop-shop of your novel whenever you’re away from the desk.  Imagine how frustrating it would be to have an idea and realise you didn’t have the technical information you needed on-hand to take it foward.

Another good aspect of keeping research material in your notebook is that it often inspires new plot ideas which, if all kept in the same notebook, means it’s easier to keep everything in a single place.

4. Plot summary. This is different to notes on plot (section 1) as this section relates to what has actually been written so far.  Here, Bell suggests that you keep a record of what work has been compelted (at a chapter level) and summarise it into a few lines.  The benefit of this is that is can help you see where you are in your story, and what you think you may be heading toward.

If this is kept upto-date, then you should have a full summary outline completed just as you complete your first draft.  This can then be used as a guide when beginning that necessary second draft.

5. Questions. It is expected that you should always be asking questions of your story.  These questions can be about almost anything, including plot, character, or research.  If these are kept in a section of your notebook (and especially if they are answered), they can provide a much richer perspective through which to view your story.

As mentioned above, if much of this information can be kept in a single notebook, then your whole toolkit that you need to work on your book anywhere, anytime, can be within arm’s reach.

Wednesday Website Update #5

With last week being Easter, and me being away from home (and the PC) this week there hasn’t been a lot done on the website recently.

On the plus side, I’ve gotten a lot of the main pages updated with the templates needed to hold the information that I want to present.  I’ve also began to put links and notes in each page to remind me what needs to go in here and where I can find it.

On the negative side, it is slowly dawning on me just exactly how much information that I’m going to be adding to the website over the next few weeks, especially if I’m going to be sticking to my end of April deadline.  A rough guess is a good four hour’s work needed on each page, and I have over 60 pages.  It doesn’t take a mathematician to work out how far off my current deadline I am at the moment.

Much of what I’m putting on the website is going to be around what I learn on my journey to finish my novel to draft format, so I can’t expect everything to be there at first – I just need to make sure there’s enough there to keep things ticking over until the rest of the content appears.

Still, every journey begins with a single step.

Older updates can be found on the website project page here.

Wednesday Website Update #4

Last week I reached the point where it was time to begin adding the content to the website – this week, I’m still working through it.  Similar to this blog, my website will contain descriptive elements from many of the writing books / courses that I find, as well as a catalogue of my journey as I complete the first draft of my novel. 

Well, even though I have quite a backlog of information to use as an update now, I’m beginning to realise that a lot more of this content will have to be trickle-fed to my website on a periodic basis – basically as it’s developed.

With that in mind, I figured that I should at least work toward getting the bare-bone content / description up on each page (of which there are now sixty-six) by the end of this week before I take the plunge and start to beef up the detail.  This should give me the whole month of April to get the site ready for a May 1st release.

In terms of pages, I’ve begun to develop a new section on map-making.  Why?  Well, I’m heavily invested in the Fantasy genre and just felt that this is a topic that should be covered.  Also, I’ve been working on a map for my own world of Monecia in my downtime and thought it may be worthwhile cataloguing the research that I’ve been doing as I bring this world to life, especially as I’ll be covering so many other elements of world-building.

The work that I need to put in over the next few weeks is quite daunting and I know that it’s going to take time away from actually writing the first draft itself.  However, I can’t keep juggling things and never completing any of them so it has to be time to start ticking things off the lists instead of adding to them.

That’s it for this week!

Older updates can be found on the website project page here

The Three Act Structure – James Scott Bell

In continuing going through James Scott Bell’s book, Write Great Fiction – Plot & Structure, I’ve reached the point where he talks about The Three Act Structure (I’ll call it TAS from now on).

What is it? Well, basically it’s splitting your story up into three specific sections, or Acts, usually the beginning, the middle, and the end (who thought it was that easy?). If you thought that wasn’t difficult, guess what? You probably also follow the TAS in your day-to-day life;

  • you’re born (Act I),
  • you live (Act II),
  • you die (Act III).

Want something a bit less general? How about an average day?

  • you get up (Act I),
  • you work (Act II),
  • you sleep (Act III).

The book does cover some higher level thoughts about how mystical the number three is, and how a triangle is the strongest shape in nature, but generally the TAS is used because it works.

How does this relate to my writing? As with any structure, there are some parts that need to be adhered to. I wouldn’t call them rules as such, possibly suggestions. If you can learn to keep your writing within the ‘suggested’ structure, you have a better chance of your reader finishing your novel. The TAS has been tried and tested many times and, whilst there are opportunities to be flexible with your writing and remain within the constraints of the TAS, the further you move away from it, the less chance you’ll have of holding your reader.

In the TAS, Act I is where you will normally present the problem; something is lost, someone has died etc. Act II is how your character deals with the problem; you search for something, you investigate a murder. Finally, in Act III, the problem gets solved, the murderer is caught, and the book can end.

clapperboard_ACT1

Bell suggests here that there should be at least four tasks that Act I needs to undertake;

  • Present the story world. That is, describe the setting or context.
  • Establish the tone the reader will rely upon. Set the readers expectations on what kind of plot is about to develop.
  • Compel the reader to move on to the middle. If you don’t do this satisfactorily then the story will stall – I think everyone has at least one book on their shelf that they just couldn’t get into..
  • Introduce the opposition. What is it that is going to prevent our lead character from succeeding?

clapperboard_ACT2

Act II is really the middle of your story. It’s the bit that covers all of the confrontations , where you begin to weave your sub-plots, and also where the real ‘meat’ of your story is. Picture a sandwich – we all love bread, but it’s the filling inside that makes a sandwich what it is. In this Act, Bell suggests that the following should be addressed;

  • Deepen character relationships. Make sure your characters blossom and grow in this section.
  • Keep us caring about what happens. If this isn’t done correctly, your reader will lose the ability to care about the outcome which often ends in the book being put down.
  • Set up the final battle that will wrap things up at the end. Your Act II can rise and fall many times but you should always be working towards that grand finale. No Deus Ex Machina here!

clapperboard_ACT3

Act III is the ending. It’s here that we bring all of our resolutions to an end; if something was lost, it’s generally now found, if someone died, we should now know who did it. Just a few things here that Bell suggests;

  • Tie up all loose ends. Act II was where you weaved all your sub-plots to give your story a much greater feel to it. Well, Act III is where you need to make sure you’ve covered everything off now.
  • Give a feeling of resonance. If you’ve managed to portray a sense of deep meaning to your story in Act II, then Act III is where you get the chance to keep that feeling going long after the last page has been turned. Ever finished a book and left it in your lap for a few minutes whilst you just sat there with a smile on your face? Well, that’s resonance and someone just nailed Act III.

Bell does a very good job of portraying what he talks about with examples from both films and books. However, for all of the examples used in this section, I personally found just a couple of his diagrams gave me a better understanding of what he was trying to portray.

Bell states that the TAS actually comes from film and drama and, as such, there is a formula devised that allows it to be used to its fullest extent. That is, the transition from Act I to Act II should take place around 1/4 of the way through the film, or thirty minutes into an average two hour film. It’s quite clear from the diagram but the transition from Act II to Act III should happen at a similar distance from the ending, around 3/4 of the way through, or ninety minutes into an average two hour film.

film structureWhat is interesting here is that Bell suggests the formula should be changed within a novel, seemingly because of the differences in time taken to watch a film, or read a book.

Here, Bell’s formula is that a novel’s transition from Act I to Act II should be around one-fifth in, after the first sixty or so pages of a good novel. The distance from the end of the book for the Act II to Act III transition can remain the same at one-quarter, however Bell does suggest this can be slid to the right slightly.

novel structureBy doing these changes, you are making sure that your novel won’t drag at the beginning and also that your rise toward the grand finale of your novel is well paced. If you know roughly the length of your novel and you want to try sticking to the TAS formulation then you can work out when you should be moving away from the beginning toward the middle and, similarly, when you should be tying up those subplots and working toward that feeling of resonance.

A point to note is that Bell does touch on the use of Mythic Structure, or The Hero’s Journey, and expands on how it fits quite nicely within the template of the TAS. However, he only covers it lightly, and uses Star Wars as an example (which is one of the most famous). Due to this, I’d rather pick this particular topic up at a later date and probably collate a few things before I take that particular plunge.

In the meantime, I’m going to start watching a few movies with a stopwatch and see if I can spot the transitions between the Acts.

Plots Made Easy – the LOCK System

I’m currently reading Write Great Fiction – Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell and I’m finding it a great mixture of tips and advice that is backed up with plenty of film and book examples. Even though I’m going to summarise quite a few of his points over the next couple of weeks, I’d definitely recommend buying this book for yourselves. Support the writers that support the writers 🙂

Behind every locked plot is a story waiting to get out.

The LOCK system is a set of principles that have been developed from analyzing many plots – James did the work so you don’t have to (although I’d recommend reading your next novel with the LOCK system in mind and see how it relates to that book’s plot.)

LOCK is short for Lead, Objective, Confrontation and Knockout.

Can he kick it? Yes, he can!The principle behind Lead is simple; every strong plot must have a strong lead character that is both interesting and draws us in. The lead character must be able to carry the plot throughout the novel and be compelling. After all, the lead is often the main reason we continue to read the book; we want to see if he succeeds or fails. We can only do that if the lead has drawn us in and has compelled us to stick with him. That’s not to say that our lead should be perfect – if written well, we can accept imperfections as we all know no-one is perfect. However, we shouldn’t display too much negativity otherwise we risk the reader failing to empathise with him.

 

What? Where? Why?The next principle is Objective. Here we take the lead character and give him something to do, something to want, something to avoid. Basically he needs a desire. This desire should be what drives our lead on which, in turn, drives the plot on. The objective presents the desire to the reader than then poses the questions; will the lead character fulfil his desire? Or will he fail? Objective’s can involve both life and death, they can relate to achieving a particular goal, or just resolving a situation; any one is fine as long as it ties back to the lead character.

 

Get  through that, why don't you!Confrontation is next. Here we have our lead character, he is compelling and we want to know more about him. We’ve given him an objective – will he save the day? Will he get the girl? However, what the plot needs now is confrontation. We want to pose that question against the objective, and then put that at risk be it via some kind of conflict. After all, if we know the lead character can simply achieve his objective with no risk, where’s the fun in that? We need our lead to have to work for his objective; we throw obstacles in his way, we have conflicts along the way; there are ups and there are downs.

 

fist-308801_640  Finally, we have Knockout. James’ refers to a boxing match in his book when he talks about something having knockout power. Everyone hates a draw, so you need to make sure your book ends in a knockout! At this point in your plot, you’ve drawn the reader in, lead him through a journey of confrontations as the lead character works towards achieving his objective. The last thing we want to do is disappoint the reader right at the end. There are some stories that don’t end as expect but, if they are written well, then it can be done. However, most readers will expect a grand finale.

 

As I said above, this is really just a brief summary of the LOCK principles.  James Scott Bell goes into these in more detail in his book providing a number of examples.  He also goes into greater detail for those plots that have more than one lead character (I’ll cover that bit when I get to it).

If you want to know more, Amazon (UK) sell the book here

A Public Flogging

Sometimes in life, you need to give yourself a kick up the backside. Search long enough on my blog and you’ll find quite a few of these types of posts where I adopt a “Woe is me” pose and wax lyrical about how I’m failing.

Why? Well it’s because I set myself feasible goals, then surround myself with obstacles that prevent me from achieving them. I choose to cross a river, find myself a boat and then proceed to beat holes into it before I set off. I’m also pessimistic by nature; if I’d gotten halfway across the river when the boat began to sink, I’d turn around and head back!

I give these obstacles fancy names as to distance myself from them; writer’s block, procrastination, blank-page syndrome etc. I constantly read “write, write, write..” yet I’m often reading it not doing it.

Take the title of this blog, amuteforamuse. I set it up as a driver to get the first draft of my novel doing it – back in 2013. The title came to me when I convinced myself that my muse just didn’t speak to me at all. The gargoyle from the image on the right-hand side of my blog actually sits on my desk and bears much of the brunt when I’m struggling to write – true to form, he has never spoken a single word.

It’s now 2015 and I’m still working on that first draft. But I’m not just working on that; a website, a world-building project, a sci-fi and fantasy reading list, a writing and publishing reading list are all vying for my attention. This year I’ve even started buying and selling sci-fi and fantasy books on Ebay to supplement my upcoming University fees. Due to this, I often find myself working on the one task that feels least like work, which means A Treasure Found, is getting lost amidst the crowd.

One of the main reasons is that I’ve become afraid of my own story. I can portray the plot, the world, the characters so much better in my head than I can in my writing at the moment. I envisage whole scenes in my dreams and yet they fall apart on the page. Like a child, I tell myself that if I can’t see it, then it can’t hurt me.

My writing will flow, and it will stall; I’m only human. But I need to make a change, I need to patch up that boat and get it back in the water. I don’t want sympathy; this post is called “A Public Flogging” not “Group Hug”. I know everyone has problems in life and they certainly don’t need mine.

I’m going to finish this post with a writing tip from an author who seems to have battled his inner-demons and is willing to tell others how to do it, Chuck Wendig. If you’ve also found yourself looking into that raging river aboard a sinking ship then I whole-heartedly suggest you visit his site. It isn’t for the light-hearted and his words care little for bruised feelings but often the truth is like that.

I AM THE COMMANDER OF THESE WORDS
I AM THE KING OF THIS STORY
I AM THE GOD OF THIS PLACE
I AM A WRITER, AND I WILL FINISH THE SHIT THAT I STARTED
AMEN.

Worldbuilding Basics #5 – Castles

Okay lad, you can stop running now, I see you’ve got stamina. However, if you want to be a runner for the Castle Guard, then knowing where something is, and what it does, is often just as important as how fast you can get there.”
– Kenderrin Largo, Captain of the Guard, Derrinus Castle.

Moat / Ditch. This is one of the first lines of defence for any castle. As a ditch, the defence is little more than steep sides to prevent defenders ease of access. As a moat, it is often filled with deep water to prevent sappers from tunnelling under the walls or just as a physical boundary. Ever tried swimming in plate armour?

Ramparts. These are steep banks of stone or earth that slow down attackers by forcing them to climb over them, often whilst dodging arrows.

Drawbridge. It is said that the entrance to any castle is its weakest point. In peace time, the drawbridge provides access across the moat for travellers and merchants. In times of war, large iron chains pull the drawbridge back to prevent any enemies from reaching the barbican.

Barbican. This can be seen as an outer defence to a castle, jutting out from the main walls and comprising of a gateway and, possibly, a portcullis. Further to that, barbicans are sometimes connected to the main castle through a road, called the neck, as it forces the enemy into a tightly-packed area.

Gateway. Any castle worth its salt has a strong gateway. If your walls are too thick, expect this area to get a lot of attention. Make sure that you have large timbers held together with iron nails to create formidable doors that can be barred shut from within.

Portcullis. If the strong gateway isn’t enough defence, a castle should install a portcullis as a further means of protection; a spiked barrier that can be lowered to protect the wooden gateway from a battering.

Bailey. In its simplest form, this is the area within the walls of the castle. But it’s much more than that; it’s the life and soul of the castle.  Expect to find everything in here that a castle requires to function; living quarters, livestock, stalls, stables, forges, workbenches, and so on.  Basically, it’s where all the domestic side of the castle lives.

Well. Every castle needs a well, and the best ones are those that are dug deep, and never run dry.  In times of war, a castle can hoard as much food and livestock as it can, but once the well runs dry, or is infected by some kind of enemy action, out-lasting a siege becomes almost impossible.

Chapel. Everyone needs somewhere to pray and, in a castle, this is it. When it’s peaceful, we thank our gods for protection, in times of war, we beg them for it.

Keep. This is the heart of any stone castle. It’s usually the building with the thickest walls and the least windows as it is often the last line of defence for those within the castle grounds. Inside you will find kitchens, halls, and living quarters, similarly to the Bailey but for the commanders and royalty. Sturdy and often self-sufficient, think of it as a castle within a castle.

Arrow Loops. You’ll see plenty of these around the castle; simple slits in the stone wall that are designed to allow archers to fire upon the enemy with little chance of return fire. I say simple, but they are rather ingenious. I hear some castles have different shaped slits to loops to allow different configurations of archers or crossbowmen.

Tower. Rising higher than the castle walls, it’s easy to see why towers are needed in a castle. But did you know that round towers are sturdier than square ones? It’s to do with the way the corners in a square tower can weaken the entire structure if damaged during an attack. Outside of sieges, it’s the place where the guard / barrack usually reside and, with all those stairs, one of the places that castle runners hate.

Bastion. Now some castles will have towers, some will have bastions, and some will have both. A bastion is simply a kink, or angle, in the castle wall which enables a greater level of ranged defense. They often allow more space than a tower which, in turns, allows more defenders.

Curtain Wall. This is simply the outer wall of the castles that surrounds the bailey. It also connects all of the outer towers, the barbican, and the bastions to form a single, stone-built, defensive unit, otherwise called a castle. As a runner for the guard, you can expect to spend most of your time running along here.

Parapet. The parapet runs along the length of the curtain wall. For guards like me, it’s for protection from the enemy. For runners like you, it’s to stop you from falling off the edge! It doesn’t just provide protection from the enemy either, I’ve spent many a cold night tucked up with a flagon of ale behind those parapets whilst the cold, ice wind howls around me.

Crenels. Many castles have additional stonework added to their parapets, called crenels. These are a further line of defence which allow arrows to be fire out, and a solid piece of stone for protection when they get fired back. Did you see that fancy pattern on the top of the castle wall as you approached? The intermittent gaps in the top of the wall? That’s the crenellation of our parapet.

Worldbuilding Basics #4 – Land Travel

Now that we’ve drank some wine and discussed distances, I think it’s time to talk about the various forms of land travel on which your journey may depend.  Is that a cheesewheel in your rucksack by the way?  I’ve got some bread in the back.”

Nag’s Shanks. Let’s put this one to bed; ain’t no such thing. If someone tells you to travel on Nag’s Shanks, they mean you should walk. If I had a copper coin for every fool that came into my stables wanting to see a Nag’s Shanks, I’d be a rich man. Beware this ruse as it’s known as different things throughout the realm; Nag’s legs or, more often, Shanks’ Pony.

Walking. Ah, the bane of my business. Thank the gods it’s so slow! On a good day, expect to trek about three miles in an hour, depending on your terrain and what you’re carrying. I’d always play it safe and bank on around fifteen miles on a good day. Naturally, that would take in time for rests, food, and setting up a camp, if required. You do know how to setup a campfire, don’t you?

Running. I ain’t seen nothing funnier than someone setting off on a run thinking he’s going to be in the next town in no time at all. Expect to do about six miles per hour for a healthy chap (like yer’ self) and drop that further if you’ve got some backpack or holdall to weigh you down. Either way, you’ll probably be wishing you’d never set off after an hour or so. Remember what I said about walking?

Ox-Cart. Sometimes, when I look in the eyes of an ox pulling a cart, I imagine it’s begging to be set free. A cart pulled by two of these sad creatures can actually be slower than walking, but that’s usually because of the huge weight that they’re often dragging along. Oxen require very little maintenance and are tough beasts but don’t expect to be doing more than around two miles an hour with a fully laden cart. Of course, a kind owner would install more oxen when pulling heavier weights but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll travel any faster.

Wagon Trains / Caravans. It ain’t much faster than walking, truth be told; around four miles per hour. More often than not, when you travel in a caravan, you’re either paying for comfort, or for practicality, not for speed. The other bonus is that horses are hardier beasts than men and will often travel for longer in a day. On some of the more established trade runs , you may manage around twenty-five miles, but you’ll probably be eating on the go unless the horses need to be grazed and watered.

Camel. Don’t see too many of those around here, they prefer the sandier climates. However, these animals can move, don’t let anyone tell you different. At an average pace, a camel can reach around seven miles per hour for much of the day, with the endurance to put in a sprint that can cover twenty miles in a single hour. They can go even faster, if required, but only for shorter distances. If you ever know of anyone willing to sell one, send them my way.

Donkeys, Mules and Hinnies. As with oxen, these are often bred for carrying and, as such, are usually laden down with goods. However, it isn’t unheard of for one of these diminutive creatures to be treated with a little more respect and have nothing other than their owner to carry. In this state, these tough animals will walk around at four miles per hour, trot around eight miles per hour, and break into a gallop of around twenty miles per hour. Obviously, those figures need to be reduced if there are goods to be carried.

Horse. Now, you’re talking to a stable-hand and I’d not normally lower myself to speak of a horse in such a broad term; there are so many breeds of horse that I’d be doing you a disservice if I didn’t pass on all the details (and the prices if you’re interested), but I see that’s probably for another time. When out travelling on a horse, you can expect to walk at around four miles per hour, trot at ten miles an hour, and gallop at anything between thirty and forty miles an hour. A lot of this depends on the fitness of the horse and the terrain so, on average, I’d expect to cover around thirty miles in a single day.