Book Review, WordSmith Musings, writing

Whatcha Reading? The Fellowship of the Ring: LOTR

I love a good adventure as much as the next gal but The Lord of the Rings series has to be one of the most well-known ones of all-time. Somehow, despite having watched the movies a dozen times, I’ve never actually read the books. My husband and some close friends have and finally I decided to pick up the large red book sitting on my bookshelf.

It has been a great decision.

The Fellowship of the Ring is an intriguing tale and the extended depth (or existence) of characters has been my favorite part. I am only halfway through (we’re about to head to Moria) so I can only speak to that part.

In the movies, two of my favorites were, of course, the silly, quirky, but ultimately brave Merry and Pippin. Tolkien has fleshed them out and given them much more in-depth personalities than I ever realized.

Merry, while still a fun hobbit, is actually quite the responsible fellow. Frodo doesn’t flee quite as quickly as I thought and instead “moves” to Buckland to throw off suspicion before he leaves for good. And who does he have help him buy and set up his home? That would be Merry. And when Frodo begins acting strange months before, who helps form the group of four hobbits who will keep him safe and look out for him? Again, Merry was integral in that. When he goes to the Prancing Pony, he doesn’t join in the revelry and it was actually Frodo who ends up dancing on the table tops. Merry stays in because it sounds like quite the ruckus and he actually discovers the Black Riders in Bree while on a quiet walk.

I wouldn’t have guessed that I would enjoy such a responsible version of Merry, but it has given him a depth I love. He is courageous and still light-hearted, but he isn’t foolish.

Pippin, on the other hand, is still the silly hobbit that we know and love. But, we get to see his big heart, his courage, and his loyalty to his friends so often that I couldn’t help but become even fonder of the fool of a Took.

As is often common (almost always), these books are proving to be even better than the phenomenal movies. I’ll let you know when I finish, but I hope you get a chance to read it yourself!

I’m reading the whole collection, which you can find here. If you just want to check out the Fellowship of the Ring, you can find that here.

Tips and Tricks, WordSmith Musings, writing

World Building Made Easy: Notebook AI Review

Today I’m reviewing Notebook AI, a world building site for writers, RPG players, and anyone else interested in creating a world.

Maybe some of you have heard of Notebook AI. If you haven’t, let me tell you more. (If you have, skip to the next paragraph for my review). Notebook AI is a website that allows you to create a world and detail it out there to keep everything organized. You are able to create individual universes, in which can live a myriad of different things. In the free version, you can add unlimited characters, including their look, nature, socialness, history, family, inventory, pictures, and notes. You can add unlimited locations and unlimited Items, all with a large list of descriptors to help you visualize and categorize these parts of your story. The premium version adds in other categories such as creatures, jobs, governments, magics, and other helpful world building tools. On top of that, you can write within the program or add documents. In the premium version, they are also working on an AI that analyzes your writing for readability, clarity, and themes.

Now, you may wonder if Notebook AI is worth it. In my opinion, YES!

PSA: The links I have included have a referral code (aka if you sign-up, I might get a small profit), but honestly, whether or not you click that or type it into google, I highly recommend this program. Seriously, if you have qualms about referrals, check it out yourself and sign up for the free version. I recommend this on its merits alone.  Read below for the pros AND the cons of it. (I like to try to see both sides).

I began with the free version months ago and I felt like I got a chance to learn about my characters more in depth. They have numerous promptings under each category and I feel like I gained the ability to create a much more rounded character. And one that I can remember later while I’m writing. For a long time, I had a word document with each character listed out and a long blob of text to describe them. Every time I needed a small detail, I’d stop and read for five minutes, completely interrupting my flow. This fleshes it out and makes the information easy to access.

The ease of access is the second reason I would recommend it. It is organized well. You can get to each of your characters, locations, etc easily, it’s user friendly, and it encourages you to keep adding things from the home page. It has been phenomenal having everything in one place where I can quickly jump to. “What color was his hair?” “Was that scar on the right cheek or the left?” “Did that pommel have rubies or sapphires?” I have those answers and I didn’t spend twenty minutes searching my story  to get them.

Another great feature, which I mentioned above in my description, is the writing portion. You can upload documents and write on them right in the program. And for premium users, you’re able to have an AI analyze it for you. I learned how many times each character’s name appeared, who the story seemed to focus on, the themes it could see. And this is still being tested so it isn’t perfect but it gave me a good outside perspective of my story that I sometimes have a hard time getting elsewhere. Who else is going to tell me that the current emotion felt most often by my characters is sadness? It also let me know the readability of my story by age range which was helpful to gauge my audience when I begin to look towards publishing.

Finally, in the same writing section is a feature called ‘prompts’. You can go to that and it’ll just prompt you to answer more questions about the world you’ve already built. “Who was Amel’s father?” “What year was Callaway City founded?” These things that you may not have had an answer to right when you created it but you can now think about and create. It’s a really fun way to spend an hour, just beefing up your story. (For me, it tends to be a killer way to get past writer’s block while staying in the story).

As with every program, this one isn’t perfect though. There are a few flaws that I’ve noticed and I don’t want you to go in blind. First, creating multiple universes is easy (five in free version and unlimited in premium) but it can sometimes get confusing. Each character, location, item, etc is tagged with a certain universe. But when you go look at the ‘Character’ sheet, it doesn’t automatically sort that out for you.  Each section helpfully allows you to search by universe and other tags. But you have to choose to sort or otherwise you just get one long list of every character in every universe. A few of my characters have accidentally made jumps from one to another because I wasn’t paying enough attention.

Second, some of the really cool features are premium features. The extra world building pages (creatures was the one I really wanted) are all premium. Free does give you unlimited characters, locations, and items, which sustained me for many months and through a lot of short stories. But I finally did have to bite the bullet and go to premium for the extra content. The AI function is also a premium feature which wasn’t really in my original consideration, but I have loved since discovering.

The plus side of premium is that it is only between $7-$9 a month (depending on if you’re billed monthly or yearly). Seriously, you can skip two lattes a month and be able to enhance your worlds. Completely worth it to me (and I really love lattes).

So, to sum everything up, I recommend Notebook AI. It is a helpful tool for writers to assist as you build, maintain, and add vibrancy to your stories. It has been revolutionary in my writing!

Sign up here if you’re ready to try out Notebook AI for yourself.

If I missed any pros or cons, please let me know. Again, the links are referrals for me (so if you like this review, I would ask you use them) but if they throw you off at all, check it out for yourself and enjoy the more vibrant world you’ll get because of it!

Thanks!