Tag Archive: fantasy writing


So this is only the second year that I have been a participant of the A to Z challenge. I had this feeling last year after completing the challenge, that it was one of the best decisions I ever made, for both myself and my blog, to participate. And this year I have the exact same feeling.

One was my posts. Actually, choosing to do fantasy writing, I got to think about what I know, and what I can give out as advice to other writers and people that read this blog. There are some things that I am good at as a writer, there are some things where I am learning, and of course there are just some bits which I am terrible at. But overall, I’ve got to see what fits into those categories, and that is invaluable. I am really glad I did this, rather than another year of dragons. That’s not to say I don’t still absolutely love dragons, but I got so much out of this year, it was worth turning away from dragons.

Maybe next year I’ll go back to dragons. But this year was all about writing.

And reading of course. One of the reasons that the A to Z challenge is so great is because there are loads of other blogs out there doing it, and you get to go explore and find those amazing blogs. And, because the list stays up all year, I can use that to go find more amazing blogs all year round! Although of course we do slow down after April.

I talked to people I have met before, and people who I haven’t. I’ve been reading interesting, creative, and some not-so-good blogs. But you read those ones to know which ones are the goods ones, and treasure them a little bit more.

I love that I have people who come back, my regulars as they are, I really do love building up that connection with people, it’s so nice that there are people who like or care about what I write here that they come back to see what I’ve written in new posts, and that is so special to know, it really is. And every year that I do this challenge, I discover more people like that, and more blogs for which I can be that person, because if it’s special to me, then it’s special to others.

My posts could have been shorter, which does make it easier for people to read, which is something I might bare in mind for future years, although writing is a fairly wordy topic (I have the best/worst puns). And there is something to be said for writing and scheduling posts in advance rather than writing on the day, but I was only late one day, and I do like writing things everyday, so I’d just use the time for other writing projects.

All in all, an excellent year, I shall definitely be back for the next one.

A-to-Z Reflection [2015] - Lg

Z – Zeal

Toothless Letter ZWhat is one of the most important things about writing? You’ve got to enjoy it. What is the point of investing energy, time and your precious tears in something that you just don’t have energy and enthusiasm for? You have to have zeal, be zealous, zealously pursue your writing goals. I think I ran out of zeal derivatives now 😛

The point is, a reader can tell. A reader can tell if you were bored, if you weren’t all that interested, if you have no passion for the subject or topic. It’s easy to tell. And there are so many other writers out there, one who will have passion for what they are writing, that readers will just go elsewhere, because they will get a better experience.

Of course, not every day has to be a perfect writing day. Dragons know I’ve had days where I sit down and every word is agony, and some days I hate what I’ve written with a passion. It happens.

But underneath that all? I love writing. It’s what keeps me coming back day after day, that I love writing and I want to write, and I love what I write (most of the time).

And that’s it!

26 posts, one month of April flown by. It’s been great, I’ve had so many wonderful visitors, and I have loved visiting other people as well, there are some amazing bloggers out there and I relish this month because I get to meet you.

I hope that people have enjoyed what I’ve been writing, and I hope to keep discovering more blogs next month 🙂

Y – Yearbook

Toothless Letter YSometimes known as an annual it’s a book that is published once a year, and there’s one in particular that I am thinking of. Relevant to writers, of all genres, not just fantasy. Red and yellow cover. Lots of information that is really, really useful? I am of course talking about the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook.

This yearbook is a “comprehensive, up-to-date directory of media contacts and contains a wealth of practical advice and information” – taken from the back cover of the book itself. And the about section tells me that it has been published every year since 1906, making 2015 the 108th edition of the book.

In it are a lot of articles and content that actually give lots of helpful advice on stuff about dos and don’ts, how to find agents and publishers, and other such interesting and relevant articles, often from successful writer’s giving back to the community.

But what it is most useful, and famed, for is the comprehensive and up to date list of publishers, both UK and abroad. Each entry tells you the name, web and emails address, addresses, and what type of books they publish, fiction, non-fiction, subjects, genres, ect. It really is very useful. And it does magazines as well. There’s also a section for poetry, one for television, theatre, and even art/illustration.

9781408192450After that it moves onto agents, again with contacts details, what type of literature they work with, and if they are good, authors they have worked with as well. So again, the famed references that this books is golden for come into play.

Some I didn’t realise was that it has a section on societies and competitions that run throughout the year, whether that’s for writers or artists of all varieties. And flicking through one of the old copies my library has, I can also see it’s got sections on copyright laws and finance to help writers with the nuts and bolts type of stuff that comes with writing.

I’ll admit, I’ve never bought a copy myself, I just browse through library ones. This is mainly because I’ve never got a book to the place where I thought it was good enough to find an agent/publisher to send it to. But hopefully that will change in the near future. Fingers crossed 2015 will be the first year I buy a copy for myself in!

X – Xanaduism

Toothless Letter XLook! I found a really posh word for X! Xanaduism: academic or literary research that attempts to find the sources behind works of the imagination, especially in literature and fantasy. Named after a noted study of this kind of John Livingston Lowe’s Road to Xanadu in which he analyses Coleridge’s Kubla Khan.

What does that mean in literary terms? It’s the study of sources of inspiration. Particularly for books.

Idea for books and novels don’t just spring out of nowhere, that’s why we have a word for it – inspiration. Something happens, someone says something, we see something happen, and for some reasons it lights up this little spark in ours brains, and our imagination is away.

So where can you find inspiration? Oh lots of places.

  • Books/films – maybe you see a plot you like, but think of somewhere else you can put it, another city, another time frame, different characters (it’s not plagiarism, it’s re-imagining, and consider there are only 7-20 different plots (depending on who you ask) every story will have similar themes or plots to another, it’s all about how you tell it.)
  • Blogs/Forums – online can be a great source of inspiration. I’m a member of NaNoWriMo, and there are entire threads devoted to swapping and throwing out ideas for other writers to use in their own work.
  • Overheard dialogue – okay, for me I tend to overhear my characters talking in my head, but it counts, since it inspires new scenes of developments to occur. Other places for good conversation are public transport, coffee shops, parks, all sorts of busy places. Sit down, and listen out.
  • Getting out somewhere different – cementing your butt to your chair is all well and good, but if you’ve been sitting at the computer for three hours and the cursor hasn’t moved, change the scenery. Go for a walk, get some fresh air, do something different for half an hour. I clean the flat when I’m stuck, and usually when I’m done I’ve shaken loose my brain and can force those fingers to type again.
  • Dreams – this is my big one. I dream in colour, and I dream in fantasy. Seriously, I cannot have ordinary dreams like driving or being late to work or stuff. I play manhunt with aliens in their spaceship, I fly across the mountains trying to hide from hunters, the dream I had last night involved two worlds with portals between them and a snow queen that was determined to keep them shit for her own benefits. So many of my novel ideas have come out of dreams.

Is that an exhaustive list? Of course not. The ways in which we can be inspired are as countless as the things they inspire.

Anyone got any tips they use to get the inspiration up and working?

Inspiration-After-Open-Heart-Surgery

W – World Building

Toothless Letter WI’ve talked a lot about it in other posts, by mention or otherwise, but here it is. The world in which your story takes place. Also called setting.

Every story has a setting. It can be your home town, a tiny village, a big foreign city, another world, a parallel world. Real or fictional, every story happens somewhere, and world building is all about the where.

If you write fiction set in a real place, great, you’ve had some of the work done for you. But by no means all. You as the writer need to know the places that you are writing about. Go visit, use google maps, buy travel guides, get to know the place more intimately than you need to for the story. Small details really help to build the picture.

And even if you are setting it in a real place, is everything going to be exactly the same? Are all the shops along the high street as they are in reality, or is one of them a trendy piano bar? Does one of them have a secret basement? Is there a building actually home to an ancient ghost fighting family rather than the rather pleasant accountant that actually lives there.

And then we come onto the non-real world. I write fantasy, so I have to build whole worlds from the ground up. We’re talking geography, climate, terrain, cities, towns, styles of buildings, cultures.

So I have a list of things I need to think about.

1. What does the story/plot/conflict need from a location?

Do I need a city or a rural location? Do I need forests or plains? Am I focusing on a small area, such as a single town, or is my character going to travel so I need to build up multiple places? Is there anything special?

For instance, in Eidetic, I needed something that was a challenge but needed a reward. I’m not sure when exactly the idea of labyrinths/mazes came forward, but once I had that idea, I built the world around them.

worldbuildingThen you need to think about the ‘passive’ stuff of location. Climate – does it rain a lot, is it hot, are there three suns so you only get sunset every 67 hours? You do need to think about this, because readers will want to immerse themselves in your settings, and you need to know what the place smells like after it rains to get them there.

2. Think about the people.

Once race? Multiple races? What about nations? And even if you have one nation, there are bound to be minorities, sub-groups and other things. How do they interact? What beliefs do they hold? In any society, get three people in a room and you’re likely to hear four different opinions on the various topics.

And then you have the day to day things. What do people eat? How do they get their food? What do people do to earn money, or do you have a completely different economy that relies on something other than money?

If might seem boring, but you do need to think about the big parts of life, and then how they affect people in the everyday. Economics, religion (I’ll admit I sometimes ignore this one), social issues. What are they and how do they crop up in your story?

3. History

Linking in from the last point, what is the history of the setting? If it’s earth, brilliant, you’ve got most of it. If it’s alternative earth or not earth at all, then you’ve got more work on your to do list.

What are the big things that have happened to your world. Has there been war? Religious turmoil? Political outmaneuvering? Evil overlords ruling for years?

History is actually really important because you’re writing a story, a story in which change is probably about to occur. History sets the stage for that change. Why are things the way they are now, and why is the time ripe for things to change? It’s set in history, and flavoured by all the things I mentioned with people above (religion, society, economics). What are the background reasons that stuff can happen right here, right now.

4. The laws of the world

Does physics actually have a place in your world? Are the laws of physics as we know them now present? Is there magic in your world, and how does that interact with non-magic or other rules of reality.

I talked a lot about magic in another post, but it does also come into world building because the world does need to function as a cohesive whole, and if you have magic that simply comes along and breaks everything because you didn’t think about the consequences then it gets old really quickly.

what-is-world-building

Unless the point of magic is to break everything but there are horrible consequences for the user, that could be fun.

But the point is, there need to be laws and rule, and you need to know them. Even if the laws have nothing to do with magic. Maybe water isn’t affected by gravity on your planet, so rain and waterfalls fall upwards, meaning that there is a constant water crisis, which they make up for with abundant tourism. You can go wild, just remember to be consistent (and if you have an explanation, that helps!)

5. Details!

But above all, try to give things detail. One dimension gets boring, especially if the reader picks up on them. It might take you hours of world building to get the level of detail that you need to write that one scene where the lightning storm rages around the floating city as the social elite maneuver around each other for the election, but the payoff of investment from the reader (and your own satisfaction as writing a damn good setting) is great.

There you have my quick guide to world building. As a fantasy writer I do a lot of building up from the ground of worlds, so I have pages and pages of notes about worlds I have built up, and other’s that I’ve built as I went along. Either way is good for me.

V – Violence

Toothless Letter V“Pack your bags. We’re taking a trip.”

“Oh, where to?” Sebastien asked.

“I’ll tell you on the way.”

“What should we pack for?

“Violence and rescuing.”

Violence, fighting, a good scrap. If you’re writing fantasy, chances are that at some point or other there is going to be some violence. Especially if you’re going for the classic sword and sorcery sub-genre. It’s right there in the description ‘sword’, that there is going to be some fighting and your readers will expect it.

So there are some things that you should remember when writing violence.

1. Make it realistic, and I don’t mean movie realistic

If you can, go along to a martial arts club, or watch some professional fighters. I do kickboxing myself, and I have to say, that real fights are quite a lot different from the fights in movies, and in the more over the tops novels. It is worth getting the feel for real fights, because it will help you write them.

2. Hey, get into a fight yourself if you can

No, don’t start a bar brawl (unless you really, really want to), but there is no substitute for feeling for yourself what it is like to be in a fight. I know what it’s like to feel that first rush of adrenaline, because it happens whenever I spar. I know what it’s kickboxing1mainlike to get hit in the face, because it’s happened to me (a lot, I really need to work on my defence). I know what it’s like to have your knees buckle from a kick, because it’s happened to me. I know what it’s like to feel so angry you lash out, because I have slight anger issues (there’s a really good reason I took up kick boxing in the first place 😛 ). So if you can, go along to a local club, and get into a fight. It gives you really good insight.

3. Keep it short

Did you know that most fights last for a maximum of thirty seconds? Seriously, fighting is exhausting, and unless you character is in a competition or training, the fight is going to be over very quickly. Most streets fights only have a few punch thrown before someone backs out and the fight is over. So if it’s going to last a long time, there needs to be a darn good reason for it. Because in real life, anyone fighting for more than a minute is going to need some sort of special training to have that stamina. Or it’s a epic battle, because those do last for hours.

4. Let the reader’s imagination do the work

As with other things in the book, don’t over describe the detail. Put in the big moves, the punches and kicks that mean something, and throw in a good chunk of emotion and feelings, but don’t give them a blow by blow commentary as if you’re a commentator at a boxing match. Let the reader use their own imagination to give the fight embellishments and nuances. Draw them into the fight, don’t bore them.

5. Give it a point

Violence without a point is stupid. Really it is. Fighting means a high chance of people getting hurt, no matter who it is that is involved, so why is your character fighting? Are they fighting for the love of a girl? Are they trying to take over a town? Has another character wronged them in the past, and they see that they are about to do something similar and decide to stop them with force? Whatever the reason is, make sure there is one, because fighting without a point is the same as a scene without a point – they both belong in the recycle bin.

And there you have my quick guide to violence. I have quite a few fights in my novels, so it’s something that I do actually have a fair bit of practice writing. So I hope this helps any of you out there who maybe don’t have as much experience writing them.

Can’t believe the A to Z challenge is coming to a close, how are other people doing?

P.S. No that photo is not me, but it IS the club I train at 🙂

U – Undecided

Toothless Letter USo I had my word picked out for today, because I did have all my words picked out, but then I sat down at the key board, and tried to think of what to write on that word. And I came up blank.

So I went to an online dictionary, browsed through, found nothing satisfactory. I came home, asked my partner, tried to run with his suggestions, got nowhere.

U is a hard letter. I am undecided on what to write today.

And, whoops, there we go, accidentally found a topic.

Undecided can apply quite a lot when I am writing. Indecision is probably a better word, but we’re on a theme here. Often I will have two, or sometimes more, options for what happens next in a story, and I find it really hard to choose which one to go with. What direction do I take the story in, direction A, direction B, sleep on it and see if direction C emerges which is better?

Example: I’m editing chapter 2 of Mechanica Awakening, and I’ve got this scene on the train. I was torn between two options: cutting it or keeping it.

So what did I do? I used my soundboard.

I call him that. He’s a real person, one of my friends, and I talk to him all the time, and he is great for bouncing all my ideas off. I give him the current topic of indecision, often describing the scene and any options involved, and he give me his opinion and often helps me to choose between any options that are involved. He also proofreads stuff for me. He’s excellent.

Considering I often have quite a lot of undecided stuff in my novels, I use him a lot.

Shout out to him – he knows who he is 😛

What do other people do when they are undecided on something?

undecided_by_benheine-d36roy4

T – Timeline

Toothless Letter TOften skipping along hand in hand with plot, timelines are about the order in which things happen. Plot is the events of the novel, timeline is when these events happen.

Timelines are defined as graphical representations of a period of time where important events are marked. Timelines for novels often include all the events of a plot, whether that be the main plot events, or the sub plots, and often both. Character developments, setting changes, I put all types of stuff on my timelines, after in different colours to help distinguish between different plots, of whether something is character or plot.

Here’s one of my ones.

IMG_20150423_180331

This is the original timeline for Black Dawn, a book that is now getting a complete re-write. I’ll probably re-do this timeline at some point, with colours, but this is the first one I found in my stack of writing stuff.

In there I have chapter numbers, when character are first introduced, major developments between characters. I have the major plot points, and minor plot points, I’ve even got some one liners that I thought of and really wanted to put in the book. And you can tell that I was writing it in a hurry because I’m having trouble deciphering the handwriting, and I can peer at the original!

Planners probably use them more than I do. Mainly I use timelines when I haven’t got all the pieces of a novel in one coherent string, like when I have all the major and some minor plot points but not always the bits in-between. Whereas I can imagine that they are a very powerful tool when planning a novel as well.

I can see them being especially useful is there are any types of flashback, or time hoping going on. A couple of my novels have big jumps in time, either months or years, whereas others might visit the past in flashbacks, so whilst the novel might visit them at various places in a certain plot order, the timeline would help someone order them from the point of view of the character, or sequential time.

Thinking about it, I probably need to do a timeline for Archmage. There is just a lot going on over many years, it probably would help me to get everything straight.

Do any of you, my wonderful readers, use timelines for your novels?

S – Supernatural

Toothless Letter SNo, not the TV show. Although that is a great showcasing of many different types of supernatural creatures.

We’re going to talk about supernatural in the general sense. What’s the difference between fantasy and supernatural? Honesty, not a lot. the two terms are used interchangeable, and there really doesn’t seem to be any defined difference between the two. Supernatural tends to be a subcategory of fantasy, since fantasy is a broad term anyway, and from most of what I’ve seen, supernatural is a term applied to more realistic or modern works involving non-humans and magic. Elves and dragons in a fantasy kingdom? – Fantasy. Werewolves and Vampires in modern day London? – Either, but I’d tend to go for supernatural. I also find that supernatural covers the things that we believe could exist today, ghost, poltergeists, zombies, undead, those sorts of things.

And of course if you throw paranormal into the mix, it gets even more murky.

So what might you find if you look into the box labelled supernatural?

Ghosts: Think seances, ouija boards, mediums, all manners of things that we can use to talk to the spirits of the dead. This is one of the big questions – is there life after death? – and if you’re looking at ghosts then the answer is probably yes. Most people can’t see them, and they have trouble interacting with the real world, hence why you can either uses mediums, people who are attuned to the dead, or interfaces such as ouija boards to try and communicate with them. Also the start of many a horror film.

Spirits: Spirits are different from ghosts in that they were never alive. They might inhabit and work in similar ways, but a ghost is an echo of a dead person, whilst a spirit is a representation of something that was never alive, a tree, a rock, a stream, a car. Look to japan for a lot of interesting tales and mythology about spirits.

Angels/Demons: Creatures that may look humanoid (or not) but are linked to the thought of heaven and hell. Typically, I know demons can be played around with a lot, and there are many different incarnations of them, but they started out as being from hell. They have powers, beneficial or harmful, and are very invested in humans and the world.

Werewolves: People who can shift into other forms, usually a wolf, or wolf man, but sometimes other animals. Usually tied to the phases of the moon, or the moon affects them in some way, they tend to be very physical, angry creatures. But, with everything, they have been tweaked in various places by various authors. Normally written as opposed to vampires, although I’ve never heard a good explanation as to why.

Vampires: Blood drinking, good-looking, fast, strong, and most importantly, overdone. Next!

Zombies: The walking dead, shamblers, connoisseurs of brains. For some reason (often plague) the human race gets infected, dies, but keeps on walking around and wanting to eat people, particularly their brains. This sub set of creatures has also had it’s fair share of limelight, but isn’t quite as overdone as vampires. Yet.

Other monsters: The boogeyman, yeti’s, the loch ness monster. There are loads of things with powers attributed to them that are just unique beings. Fun to play around with, since they is less rigid backstory to most of these and it’s great to play around with old myths.

Telekinetic

Metaphysical phenomenon: Humans with something extra. Telekinetics, pyrokinetics, clairvoyants, mediums, all the powers that can be wielded by a human mind come under this category.

Witches and Wizards: More modern interpretations (drop the hats and the robes, and occasionally the wands) such as wiccans, pagans, druids and others can be considered supernatural forces as they harness the powers of nature and fate. I quite like this category personally, although it is hard to get some of the details right sometimes, not being a practitioner myself.

And into that you can add anything that cannot be explained by the natural laws of science, which makes it beyond, or super, natural. Which is probably quite a lot!

What would you add into my list?

R – Research

Toothless Letter RResearch. All those hours on google or reading books, trying to find out facts that you can use or twist into your book.

All writers have done it, even if it is a quick google search for something. Why do we do it? Authenticity. It’s all very well creating a whole big world, but if you don’t have grain of truth and familiarity in there, then you’re likely to lose the reader.

I actually do a lot of my research on the second draft, or the first edit. Probably because I pants the first one, and if I really need to look something up I do a quick search and take the first result, making a note to come back later and double check things. Research does tend to interupt the flow of my writing. Maybe that’s why this editing is taking me so long.

What can you research? Anything really. Let’s take my current editing in progress – Mechanica Awakening.

The first thing I had to check when I came back to it was titles and proper forms of address. I’m dealing with nobility, or varying levels, so I need to know how someone would address a Duke in conversation, to their face, in reference. How does one address the children of a Duke? What is the actual hierarchy of nobility so that I can get the relative importance of various people’s positions right? How does someone with a military title fit into that hierarchy? I found this fantastic website for it, and now all I need to do is make sure that the forms of address are consistent through the book. Related to this there has also been a lot of research into coming of age in victorian society, since that forms a fair chunk of the plot for the first part of the book.

human head icons of science and gearsThe second thing I did was to go on google maps and take a long wonder around france. The novel is steampunk, so set in victorian like era’s, but rather I choose to go for more of a French influence in the setting. This includes names, such a Daphne, Esme and Rhydian, as well as places, La’vere, Reimess, Connaught to houses like Ariador and Terlais. Most of the places and houses are names that I have created, however, I’ve used a lot of symbols and letter combinations that you would find around France, by browsing the maps and then getting creative. I’ve also picked a town and used parts of it in the setting itself, for the home town of the main character, when I needed to describe an outing. I won’t say which one, but having a image of an actual french town hall and town helped me to build the visual imagery in my book.

What else. Oh, weapons. I’m familiar with swords, but I needed some research on guns that are appropriate to the setting, since one of my characters uses guns. This involved more browsing of steampunk boards and photo’s, since realistic guns aren’t quite in fitting with the theme I’m aiming for.

At one point they go to a scientific fair, so I’ve done a little research into what that would have been like in victorian times, since they were quite popular, and then just updated all the inventions to be in line with that of a steampunk level of technology. And looking up steampunk inventions as well to get some ideas. I’ll probably do more on this when I come to actually editing the scene.

Lots of pictures and examples of steampunk and victorian clothing are also in a file on my memory stick.

I am sure that there are other things that will need to be researched as I go along as well. But all of this is done to add a little something into my book, even if I only end up writing a line about it, it’s needs to feel real.

Anyone got any websites or other resources they find themselves using a lot?

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