In one sentence is the spark of a story. Ignite.
Mission: Write a story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a memory about this sentence. Write something about this sentence.
Be sure to tag writeworld in your block!
The superstitions revolving around teas and their rituals, along with certain aspects of cake are at times forgotten.
The supernatural use of tea:
- Protection - dry tea leaves were sometimes scattered on the front-door step of a new home to protect it from evil spirits.
- Tea can be used to predict strangers - If a single stalk floats on top of a cup of tea, it means that a stranger is coming - a hard, woody stalk indicates a male visitor and a soft stalk, a female. The length of the stalk tells you whether he or she will be tall or short. To find out when they will come, lay the stalk on the back of the left hand and hit it with the right. However many hits it takes to knock it off tells the number of days before they will stand at your door.
- Fortune telling with tea leaves - To tell fortunes from tea cups, the tea must be brewed with loose leaf tea and poured into the cup without using a tea strainer. The person whose future is to be divined must turn his or her cup three times in an anticlockwise direction. To do this the cup should be held in the left hand and turned by the handle. Then it is tipped upside down to drain off the last few drops of tea. It is a bad sign if there are a lot of leaves left in the bottom of the cup. But it is a good sign if the leaves are scattered evenly over the bottom and sides. The fortune teller then analyses the pictures and images that are visible in the leaves in order to foretell the tea drinker’s fate. If the leaves are deposited in the bottom foretell the distant future. The sides of the cup represent the not-too-distant future, and leaves that lie near the rim predict imminent events.
Common tea herbs & their properties:
- Chamomile - It is connected to the element of water. It helps cleanse the throat chakra. It promotes calm and tranquil energies, as well as a peaceful sleep.
- Vanilla - It is connected to the element of fire. It is used for confidence, love, and prosperity.
- Thyme - It is connected to the element of air. It is thought to help evoke the ability of clairvoyance, as well as psychic development.
- It is a bad omen if boiling water was poured into an empty pot - that is, if the tea-maker forgot to put in any tea-leaves.
- If the tea was weaker than intended, a friend will turn away from you; but if it came out too strong, a new friendship was on the horizon.
- It is unlucky to stir the pot prior to pouring - it will result in a quarrel. It is also ominous to stir tea with anything other than a spoon.
- To spill a little tea while making it is a lucky omen.
- To put milk in your tea before sugar is to cross the path of love, perhaps never to marry.
- Tea spilling from the spout of the teapot while being carried indicates a secret will be revealed.
- Undissolved sugar in the bottom of your teacup means that there is someone sweet on you.
- If the tag falls off the teabag while it’s in your cup, you will lose something within a week.
- The Ancient Greeks were the first to write Happy Birthday on a cake in edible writing - relating to the worship of the moon goddess ‘Artemis.’ Her birthday was celebrated by eating moon-shaped honey cakes with candles on the top. It was said that bad spirits were attracted to celebrations so it was very important to wish a person a ‘happy birthday,’ blow out the candles and read any wishes inscribed on the cake as a kind of magical protection.
- Many believe that candles blown in order to make a wish are only fulfilled if they areblown in one breath. It is said by some, that the smoke from blown out candles carries their wishes to the Heavens.
- The tradition of a wedding cake comes from ancient Rome, where revelers broke a loaf of bread over a bride’s head to increase the chances of fertility.
- Legend says single women will dream of their future husbands if they sleep with a slice of groom’s cake under their pillows.
- Eating the crumbs of a wedding cake will bring you good luck.
- In the 18th century, newlywed couples would try to keep the cake until their first anniversary to prevent them from marriage problems in the future. This is one of the reasons why cakes in the 18th century were made of fruits and blended with wine.
- People tend to save a piece of Christmas cake for New Year because not doing so is said to bring bad luck in the subsequent year.
- Cutting a Christmas cakes before Christmas Eve is said to cause bad luck.
- The dumb-cake was made at midnight on Christmas Eve is prepared in complete silence by the bachelors and spinsters. One who made it left their initials on the upper surface of the cake. If the silence remained unbroken, the future partner was believed to come and leave their initials on the cake. If one walked backwards to bed after eating dumb-cake, a dream about a future spouse was sure to visit them.
Other cake superstitions:
- A Victorian superstition states that placing a piece of fruit cake under one’s pillow will cause a dream of their future spouse.
- If food is being served at tea-time, the person to take the last piece of cake from the plate will be the first to get married.
- Tipping over a slice of cake while serving a guest is said to bring bad luck.
- The ancients gave cakes away on days of new beginnings and celebrations, believing they had some magical way to guarantee fertility, good luck, riches and drive away evil.
Whether it’s spiders, heights, socializing, public speaking, deep water, patterns, or even themselves, most every character you’ll ever write will face some debilitating fear or phobia. In today’s article let’s take a look at what fear is, how it differs from a phobia, and how you can best write these factors into your characters believably. We’ll be discussing:
- What causes fear
- Physical signs of fear
- Internal sensations of fear
- Mental responses to fear
- Cues of long-term fear
- Signs of suppressed fear
I see a lot of posts about how you’re supposed to or not supposed to describe people (especially POC), and the biggest problem that I always face when I see those is that I cannot describe people. Part of it is just me, but I assume I am not the only one who looks at these and thinks “blond” or “green-eyed” or “African-American” are the only types of descriptions I know how to use. Because of this, I have some suggestions about how to describe people when you’re bad at describing people.
Write about how they make the main character feel. This obviously works best when it is written from first person, though it can also work if it is subjective/limited third person point of view. This, of course, should not be limited to “she turned him on” or “she couldn’t believe how sexy he was.” That gets really old, really fast. Maybe they remind the MC of someone. Maybe whatever they’re wearing looks like something a relative used to wear. Maybe they look innocent, or scary, or tired, or scared. Maybe they calm the MC down. Maybe they make the MC nervous.
Pick a few key descriptions to highlight. Maybe your MC tends to notice eyes, because they themselves have unusual eyes. Maybe they notice whether the person has long hair, because they always loved long hair, or short hair, or asymmetrical hair. You can pick hair color, hair texture, hair length, skin color, clothing type, nail care, existence of glasses, or virtually anything else you can think of. That being said, it should be both relevant and something that the main character would notice.
Along with that, “Asian” or “African” or “Hispanic” or “White” are not adequate descriptions. Even if all you give is approximate skin pigment (pale, tan, green-tinted under bronze (though you do need to be careful with using materials or foods in skin descriptions), brown, dark, etc.), it is more useful than descriptions like that, because within each of those quote-unquote ethnic descriptions, there is a huge range of variety.
Describe an action that they are doing. Again, this should be a relevant action, because otherwise it just shows up as foreshadowing when it’s not really foreshadowing. Maybe they’re playing with their hands. Maybe they’re sitting in a chair knitting. Maybe they’re eating a bagel. Maybe they’re eating falafel. Maybe they’re waiting in line for food, checking their phone. It can tell a lot about their personality and state of mind.
Describe a distinctive feature. Asian is not a distinctive feature. A set of freckles that are a lot darker on one side of the face than on the other is. Color-changing nail-polish is. A large birthmark is. Wearing jeans and a t-shirt when everyone else is wearing tuxes is.
You should probably use some combination of these, so it doesn’t seem like you’re just picking out some distinctive feature of each one of them. It can get fairly repetitive. Along with that, you can also bring up features over a span of time, as the main character notices the things about the person.
This post is specifically about gender distribution issues of bodyguarding in stories. I will make another post later about bodyguards later.
In stories, when you see bodyguarding, the general thing that you see is men being the guards. Some of the reason for this is general sort of gender inequality, and also, it depends a bit on the time period and technology level of the story.
However, there are some very good reasons for men to be primary bodyguards. They don’t hold up to as much in modern times, but they did more before the invention or widespread use of the gun. These are physical and physiological reasons, such as the fact that men tend to be taller and generally broader, which makes them more intimidating. This is because if you are bigger and broader, you weigh more and have a longer reach. Especially when you’re using things like swords, knives, etc., longer reach was really useful, because if you can stab the other guy without him being able to stab you back, it helps a lot. Generally, longer reach was a good thing.
Obviously, this could be compensated for. Both average-height to shorter women and shorter men had techniques, like using a longer weapon, being faster—so you can get the person before they get to you, working out. It can be compensated for, but before long-range weaponry became convenient—aka the gun—and if you don’t have magic in your stories, it generally tends to make more sense to have a guy being a guard. Obviously, part of this is the idea that men are considered scarier, which does have more to do with cultural gender norms, but there are some pretty good physiological reasons to have men being bodyguards at a time period with that technology level.
Once the gun is invented, you do still tend to see more men bodyguards. Some of this is for some of the reasons that I previously explained. I mean, you can physically guard the person better. I mean, if you’re going to stand in front of the person and take a bullet, it helps if you’re larger than the person. The bigger they are in relation to the person being guarded, the easier they are to physically cover.
But assuming, if you having a woman with the same sort of gun training as a man, and approximately the same level of experience, then it really just comes down to determination and aptitude and things like that. So, in the gun age, it makes a lot more sense for women to also be bodyguards, because things like the reach difference make less of a difference.
In terms of who is being guarded in a story, that comes down a lot more towards gender roles and things like that. If you have an ambassador or somebody like that, they would be guarded regardless of gender. Who is appointed to that role in the story, however, depends a lot more on gender norms.
Women are almost always shown as being guarded by men. A lot of this also tends to turn into a romance. A lot of this obviously depends on the genre that you’re reading: if you’re reading a romance novel, this will almost inevitably happen. Even in YA, this happens a lot. Part of this depends on the age difference. One thing that you see a lot of in YA is for teenagers to be guarding other teenagers, which is not always the smartest idea, considering the likely lack of experience and training. But that’s a separate issue.
Almost never do you see women guarding women, unless they’ve either known each other for their entire life because they’re friends, or because they have some blood relation. “Friends” can extend to some form of woman 1’s family always guard’s people from woman 2’s family. This can also appear when there is gender-neutral bodyguard training with gender-neutral guard-ees, like in Vampire Academy, but even then the main character ends up guarding her best friend, who is also a girl. In general, if a woman is guarding a woman, it either because of blood relations/prior friendship or culturally-enforced gender neutrality.
Occasionally, you see men being guarded by women, and then it usually also turns into a romance.
Women tend to be guarded because of who they are. It’s often because of title and/or heritage and/or family that has been married into. It very much ends up being “she must be guarded because she’s Lady _____” or “she must be guarded because she’s the mistress of Lord _____, and if she gets hurt, he will turn into a dragon and eat everyone.”
Every once in a while, you see a woman who is a great healer, if you’re in a world with magic, who is being protected for that, but it often seems to end up that she has some secret titles and is important for reasons other than her magical prowess. Every once in a while, a woman is guarded for her applicable worth to society, but it usually just turns out to be because she has some sort of title or special heritage.
Men tend to be guarded because of what they can do. Occasionally, you will see a man being guarded for their title or rank. Much more frequently, though, in stories and probably in real life too, you see men being guarded for their ability. Men who are being guarded often appear like this: He is a very powerful magician who for some reason has no offensive magic, he is a brilliant scientist, he is a great inventor. Men are a lot more likely to be guarded for ability or additional or applied worth to society.
There are two types of people who are being guarded. There are the people who are at risk because they are important, and there are the people who are at high risk because they are victims. In terms of victims, you tend to see “the woman who witnessed the murder that can bring down the mob boss,” which, of course, happens in real life. Every once in a while, you will see “the male soldier who can expose some travesty that the government committed”, but they probably spend the entire time fighting against being protected, and probably escaped from the protection a dozen times, and then probably save the day and defeat the people trying to kill them.
If there’s going to be a protected scientist because they built something cool, it’s almost always a guy. Men are more expected to be to be able to look after themselves, so if you do see a man being protected, it’s usually the “wimpy” scientist who is really good at quantum physics but can barely tie their shoelaces. Women are also generally not expected to amount to anything, which is a large part of the reason that you don’t usually see women scientists/inventors being protected.
If a male scientist is being protected, he’s probably totally scatterbrained and either portrayed as asexual, because apparently male scientist equals asexual, or he has some sort of puppy love that usually involves him having been seduced by the evil woman who is obviously a seductress. If a woman scientist is being protected, she is probably incredibly sexual and always wants to sleep with their bodyguard.
Another major issue is who “beats the bad guys” in stories with bodyguards and people being guarded. In general, if a man is being guarded, they are much more likely to kill/incapacitate the person/people trying to kill them. If a woman is being guarded, almost always, her guard will kill/incapacitate the person/people.
In general, you should try to aim, if you have long-range weaponry, to have more women guards who are guarding people that aren’t their sisters/best friends. The one caveat to that is that it has to fit within the story you’re writing. If she has no weapons training, she shouldn’t be a bodyguard. If the setting is such that women can’t get weapons training, generally don’t have women bodyguards, unless they pretended to be male while going through training or got training from someone who ignored the cultural norms or lives in a different country/kingdom.
There are a number of stories that have infectious diseases play a major role in the plot. It’s a great plot device, if used well—it forces isolation, people to work together, fear, panic, and death. The problem comes when authors don’t understand how diseases work. It is true that fantasy author do have more leeway when it comes to what they can do with their diseases, but there are still some basic points that should be kept in mind.
Infectious diseases come in the form of either viruses or bacteria. In fantasy, magic is a third choice, which will be covered later. In terms of general writing, unless you’re writing a medical thriller or something of the sort, you don’t need to know a whole lot about the differences between the two. There are some differences that are important to note, especially if you are writing about a time since the invention of vaccines and/or antibiotics. Vaccines exist for both viral and bacterial pathogens. That being said, some of the early vaccines were for viruses; the first vaccine was for smallpox. They are generally used as preventative measures to keep people from getting certain diseases, and some may require boosters to stay effective. Antibiotics (or antibacterials), on the other hand, only work for bacterial diseases, and they either kill the bacteria or inhibit its growth. This means that they will not work on things like the flu.
If your invented disease is magic, clearly these rules don’t apply. What that means, however, is that you shouldn’t have your doctors using antibiotics to fight the magical disease. They can attempt it if they don’t know that it’s magic, but as soon as they figure out that it’s not bacterial, they should not try to use it. Similarly, it would probably be incredibly difficult if not impossible to vaccinate against something caused by magic.
Infectious diseases spread in certain ways. This doesn’t mean that all diseases spread the same way. A few possibilities are as follows: though physical contact, though ingestion of infected water or food, through sharing of fluids, or through the air. Many of these are obvious. For sharing of fluids, this can include blood, seminal or vaginal fluid, or saliva.
Magical diseases are, of course, different. For one thing, as opposed to regular diseases, magical diseases can be set to specifically target or spare people, depending on the magic system of your world.
Drug-resistant bacteria are a real threat. To spare you the details, the more an antibiotic is used, the more likely it is that large sets of the bacteria will become resistant to it. This can appear in a number of different ways, with bacteria being resistant to varying numbers of drugs. Some are only resistant to one can be treated by simply switching to another drug. The bigger problem comes with things like XDR-TB (extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis), where the strain of TB is resistant to not only the first line drugs but also the second-line drugs.
Vaccines aren’t 100% effective. Boosters (getting a second or third shot of the same vaccine) help with this by boosting the immune reaction to the virus or bacteria, but even with this, there is never a 100% guarantee that someone who received a vaccine cannot catch the disease. Along with that, not everybody can receive vaccines for various reasons. These reasons can include weakened immune systems, such as those of people with TB or HIV/AIDS, as well as people with egg allergies. The second reason is because many vaccines are harvested in chicken eggs. Herd immunity helps with this problem. The basic idea behind herd immunity is that, if enough people have immunity, the disease won’t spread to those who don’t have immunity.
There are many controversies around vaccines and around disease prevention or treatment in general. In some religions, there is a feeling that vaccines and the like are circumventing God’s work and that, if God wanted someone to live or die, it should happen without other people getting involved. In some Muslim countries or communities now, there is a feeling that American doctors who are providing vaccines are instead trying to sterilize them.
Not all cultures are or always have been as knowledgeable about diseases as first-world countries are now. This may seem obvious, but it is important to remember for writing about any time or place with different levels of scientific knowledge than ours. Words like “bacteria” and “virus” might not be used. Vaccines may or may not exist, depending on when and where you’re writing about, as they were first invented (or at least finalized, as I’m using the introduction of the smallpox vaccine as the start date) in 1798. There have throughout the years and cultures been thoughts that bad smells, an unbalance of the humors, the theft of the soul by an evil spirit, or numerous other causes to have been the cause of disease.
If you are thinking of implementing a specific disease into your story, you should obviously research that disease and how it works at more depth. The important thing to remember is that you should attempt as much as you can to get this correct. Magic is an okay excuse if you have magic as the reason for your disease, but you should still know about how diseases work before writing about them.