There And Draft Again

A Fellowship of Fantasy Writers

2012 Fantasy Round-up! December 31, 2012

Hello Readers!
As all of you know, it is the eve before the New Year. I originally was going to write a post about voice in fantasy, but I got the flu and had to delay my post. Due to this, I’ve decided to do a 2012 Fantasy Round-Up. I was inspired by several posts in which other bloggers tell about their year in writing and I decided to give you the year in Fantasy Writing!

1.) One of the biggest successes of this year for fantasy writers was the success of the Young Adult Epic Fantasy Novel, Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo. Many believed the fantasy genre was a thing of the past, a genre that only appealed to a narrow field of readers. The success of Shadow and Bone disproved this thought and kindle hope in the hearts of fantasy writers everywhere! Congratulations to Leigh Bardugo and cheers to the fantasy genre!

Shadow and Bone

2.) I would be a terrible fantasy writer if I didn’t give a nod to the huge success of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit movie this month. The movie has hit record numbers worldwide, bringing in nearly $690 million. This should also give hope to budding fantasy writers, showing there is still a huge market for fantasy if one knows how to tap into it.

The Hobbit

3.) The second season of Game of Thrones outstripped the first season in viewer ratings, raking in at least 4,000 viewers per episodes, 1000 more than the first season on average. The last episode nearly hitting 5,000 viewers, making it one of the most viewed fantasy television programs.

Game-of-Thrones-HBO-

4.) Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass and Rae Carson’s Crown of Embers were both released this year and gained fairly popular reviews.

5.) There were no huge moves in the adult fantasy world, other than the fact G.R.R Martin’s series, A Song of Fire and Ice continues to be one of the most sold books on Kindle. This is notable for us fantasy writers because it shows that there is still a market for fantasy novels out there and people who wouldn’t necessarily read fantasy are picking up new fantasy books.

This is my year round-up! Feel free to add any notable going ons in fantasy in the comments. I would love to discover what you were most excited about!

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World-Building Resources (Part 1) December 27, 2012

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 1:32 am
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When I set out to create this particular blog, I had a list of books I planned on recommending to you all that are great resources for world-building. As it turns out, I’m a pantser even when it comes to blogging. Because as I went on vacation with my husband for Christmas, inspiration for one of the best and cheapest world-building resources ever came to me: Nature.

 

What is the one thing that all fantasy worlds have in common? There has to be some sort of nature, some sort of plant-life for the inhabitants of that world to survive off of. And this is, to me, one of the most important aspects of world-building. You don’t need to spend five pages describing a leaf, but it is very important that the reader be immersed in the world your characters are traveling through. Tolkien and Rowling both did amazing jobs with this. Their worlds were so vivid they might as well have been characters in the books. I feel like I know Middle Earth and Hogwarts better than I know my own backyard. Why? Details. And because I don’t go in my backyard a lot, but I digress.

 

You see, my husband and I set out on our Christmas jaunt and he decided to surprise me by taking me on a hike through the woods where The Hunger Games was filmed. No, The Hunger Games has nothing to do with my manuscript and would hardly fit in the epic fantasy genre, but it is yet another example of an author who knew what she was doing with world-building. Oddly enough, my mind wasn’t on Suzanne Collins or her books while we traipsed through the woods where the movie was filmed. I found myself in awe of the sites on this hike. The views were amazing and so magical I would (and probably will) use them as inspiration for my series.

 

Which is what led me to this blog. Usually, when doing research for world-building I turn to books and the internet. I have a whole slew of pictures of castles and rolling green hills and oceans and lakes. But in all my hours of surfing online, I’ve forgotten one very vital thing I would like to remind you all of today.

Triple Falls, NC

Triple Falls, NC

If you are looking for a magical world to help you build your own, sometimes you need to look no further than the one you live in.

 

Sure, surfing the net is fine. And books are a great help (see my recommendation below for a great one to get you thinking about the plants in your world). But if you really want to know what it would be like for your character to hike by a river or through a vast forest of trees, then try it out for yourself. Not only will you have experience to use in your writing, but you’re bound to find inspiration as well.

 

If you’re looking to start your world-building with nature and need more to go on than a hike with breathtaking views, check out this book for information on different herbs:

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Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs by Scott Cunningham is a great source of the magical aspects of the plants around us. Some have healing properties, others bring luck. Cunningham discusses herb magic in this book, but if herb magic isn’t the way you want to go it is still a great resource. Need to know what plants to line the way of a dark and eerie path your characters need to take? Look at the meaning behind herbs and the plants they come from (or flip through the illustrations). The book is available through Amazon or Barnes&Noble (available in both Kindle and Nook formats). Amazon also has a pretty good preview of the book available for viewing, so I would strongly recommend you take a look before you purchase to make sure this book will be helpful to you.

 

 

What world-building resources do you use? Hit the comments to give us your recommendations!

-Mara

 

Holiday Worldbuilding December 22, 2012

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 3:58 pm
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The holidays are upon us and I thought I’d discuss how important including them in your worldbuilding can be to the realism of the story. Now, this doesn’t mean your manuscript requires Christmas. Especially not if your fantasy takes place elsewhere or in a realm where Christmas does not exist. However, you can and should mirror the importance of holidays in your text.

Holidays create a sense of culture and community and by adding them to the world you’ve built, it gives credibility and believability to your work. There’s a few brainstorming steps you can take to create the appropriate holidays for your story:

1-      Assess the culture and community you have in your world

2-      Review our Earthly holidays (across national borders) to get inspiration

3-      Write ideas and notes about the type of celebration you wish to include

4-      Develop your holidays with traditions and nuances to bring it to life

5-      Insert into your story with foreshadowing and hints before its introduction whether on the forefront of the narrative or in the background

If you think about your favorite fantasy stories, they all employ holidays as a way of creating a rich culture for readers to immerse themselves in. You might not have believed before reading this how important holidays can be to worldbuilding, but with a little brainstorming, research and creativity, you can pull together a wonderful celebratory day or several that your readers will fawn over.

Rachel

 

World Building: In the Beginning… December 19, 2012

One of the most satisfying things about reading and writing fantasy is exploring new worlds. Whether it’s our own world transformed in a magical retelling, or a completely new creation; the joy comes because it feels real. As writers of fantasy, the question then is – how do we go about building a brand new world and making it feel as tangible as this one?

1. Start with the story.

Your world is always the backdrop to the story. It doesn’t matter how magical your unicorns, how grand the soaring spires of your cloud city, or whether the healing properties of the bobo berry have eliminated sickness forever; they won’t dazzle anyone if they aren’t relevant to the story.

So get a good feel for your story first, and then build the world up from there.

Who are your main characters? Where do they live? Who do they interact with? What political / cultural / geographical influences impact upon their lives? Unless you have a particular love of creating complete worlds from scratch (and some do), your world building need only extend to those elements that will directly or indirectly impact on your character.

2. Details, Details, Details.

Only in the planning stage – and always with your eye on the world your characters experience. This is the time to get creative and do some research. You probably need to have some idea about history, geography, geology, flora and fauna, culture, language (patterns, or idiosyncrasies if you aren’t keen on creating a whole new language), and mythology.

Create a reference document / folder or visual diary and note down things that make the world unique. Draw a map. The more you know about your world the more substance your story will have.

Keeping good records can help with consistency. This is even more important if you’re writing epic fantasy, when it can be quite difficult to keep the entire world straight in your head.

How much time you devote to this is entirely a matter of personal preference – some people like to set a time limit on their research (for fear of never being quite ready), others adopt a more organic approach. The key to remember is that each element should add something to the story.

3. Less is More.

There is a big difference between knowing all the properties of the bobo berry, and listing them all out as encyclopedic rote. It’s unlikely your reader has bought your book for a lesson on biology. So when you’re writing the story your aim is to weave the detail in seamlessly so it feels organic.

As Juliet Mariller so eloquently phrased it:

Ask dedicated readers of fantasy, and epic fantasy in particular, what makes a book special for them, and I’d guess a majority would place good world-building high on the list. I’m talking about novels in which the secondary world is so well realised and so expertly woven into the story that the reader becomes immersed in it within the first few pages: a world that’s convincing, consistent and fascinating. Its parameters and its quirks won’t be set out for us in long passages of descriptive exposition, but will be integral to the plot and will emerge as the story unfolds.

How much detail you provide is largely a matter of taste. But if it sounds like you’re narrating a nature documentary, or reciting a history lesson you might want to rethink your approach.  Remember the old advice is always good: Show don’t tell. And show in a way that would feel real to your characters and their situation.

4. Gaze Upon the World with Wonder.

I love Patrick Rothfuss’s attitude to building fantasy worlds:

We get to build castles in the sky, then show them off to people.

So if you’re going to dream, dream big. Pay attention to the world around your characters. Find the little details that tell more than their face value and truly enhance your story. The way you will build your fantasy world, will no doubt be as unique as that world itself.

– Raewyn Hewitt

 

Writerly Tools: Thesaurus Edition December 16, 2012

Writing is not just a hobby, as those of us who write know. Sometimes it can feel more like a chore than a passion, especially when you hit a rough patch. Maybe your characters aren’t behaving or your prose is getting to be repetitive. Do your characters tend to shrug their shoulders or purse their lips a little too much? Or maybe organizing the massive plots, subplots, and plot twists in your head is becoming an overwhelming task.

Image

 

Whatever flavor of road block you happen to be hitting, the point is that as writers we are sometimes in need of aid when putting our ideas to paper. Today’s blog is dealing with just that: Writerly Tools. There are quite a few on the list, but let’s start with the obvious ones.

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When you are writing, the thesaurus is your best friend. Obviously you can go with thesaurus.com but there is also an alternative that seems to think outside Webster’s box. The website Thesaurasize is completely free and definitely a big help in getting those synonym balls rolling in your head. Simply type in a word and hit Thesaurize, then you can begin to browse the many different possibilities. The last one I used was for the word shard and the list the site gave me was of 95 synonyms.

 

Sometimes we don’t need a thesaurus just for adjectives and adverbs, though. Sometimes we need to think about a character’s emotions and try to channel their feelings onto the page. When a character is mad you don’t want them to always just glare at someone or scowl. You need more than that because your characters are more than just a mundane set of robotic actions on repeat. Challenge yourself! Easier said than done, right?

 

ImageWhich is why I whole-heartedly recommend The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi (available on the Nook and Kindle as well as hard copy). I have to say that this book has been my saving grace for some really sticky points in my books. I’m a very conversational and dialogue driven writer, so when you get down to descriptors I am usually banging my head against the keyboard with a lot of choice expletives, but not exactly the kind of words I’m searching for. This book has really helped me to expand on the way I describe the emotions of my characters so that I am not depending on the dialogue so heavily and I am not resorting to just telling the reader how my characters are feeling (“He was sad. He cried.”=lame).  Instead, I can look up “sadness” from the list of emotions they give you in the contents, and find the physical signs of sadness, the internal sensations, the mental responses, cues of acute or long term sadness, cues of suppressed sadness, and even what sadness might escalate to.

 

Now, of course, you could just take exact phrases from the listings they give you. But I really like that it makes me think a whole lot more about everything my character might be experiencing in that particular moment. If my character has difficulty expressing what they are feeling, they might have more subtle signs of those emotions, like in their posture or voice. If they are emotional basket cases, they might have the more obvious signs. The point is, the listing is all over the spectrum and it has only served to help me get to know my characters better. I know that with some googling you can probably find all of the contents yourself, but that is more time consuming than I have patience for and I love the organized way the information is presented. This book is really the best five bucks I have spent.

 

In my Nook book browsing for a better thesaurus than the one followed by a .com, I also found a book called The Ultimate Fiction Thesaurus by Sam Stone for $0.99 (also on the Nook and Kindle) and think it was worth the dollar. In a good way. It’s a nice exercise in expanding your descriptors and training yourself to really paint a picture for the reader. There are exercises as well as thesaurus entries for things like body type, voices, facial expressions, conduits of expression, body language, movement, and violence. That being said, it is only fourteen pages in length, so it doesn’t go into quite as much as The Emotion Thesaurus but it does touch on topics The Emotion Thesaurus doesn’t. However, there appears to be a second edition that might be worth checking out. I’ll be sure to let you guys know!

 

My list of Writerly Tools goes on, but for now I will leave you to digest the many different thesaurus options. Check back next month for more tools and be sure to leave your own thesaurus suggestions in the comments!

And as you continue down your magical journeys of writing, keep in mind what the great Zeddicus Zu’l Zorander always said…

Nothing is ever easy.

-Mara Valderran
 

The Hobbit Movie: An Unexpected Delight December 14, 2012

When Peter Jackson announced he would be bringing J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic The Hobbit: or There and Back Again to the big screen, the obvious question was how would it compare to his epic Lord of the Rings movie trilogy? Rumours of padding, and taking liberties with the story continued to gain momentum when it was confirmed earlier this year that his adaptation would be told over not two – but three movies. For a book of barely 300 pages that is more children’s story than full blown epic, many wondered how Jackson was going to pull it all together and stay true to the original tale.

Fortunately Jackson has proven he is a masterful film maker with safe hands, and the result is a movie which blends both the light-hearted and almost comical elements of the book, with the darker vein of a wider history (Sauron’s gathering power) foundational to The Lord of the Rings.

The story is based around a group of 13 dwarves, lead by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), set on reclaiming their mountain fortress from the ferocious dragon Smaug. The wizard Gandalf, (beautifully revived by Ian McKellan) who is aiding the group insists the unsuspecting (and put out) hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) complete the party. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey sees the unlikely heroes set out on their quest, armed with only a fancy key, an incomplete map, and a grim dwarven determination to put things right.

Suffice to stay with two more movies in the offing the group barely get a glimpse of the Lonely Mountain, but there is plenty more going on to keep the viewer riveted for almost three hours. The scenes are spectacular and varied, ranging from homely Hobbiton, dreamy Rivendell and the vast Goblin (Orc) halls in the Misty Mountains to the rich gold-laden mines and treasure chambers of the Dwarves.

The special effects are amazing and cutting edge. I wasn’t able to see the new 48 frame per second version which has been roundly criticized (so I can’t comment on how that impacted the viewing experience), but the 3D experience was rich and vibrant. The sequence shot with Gollum was sublime. Even better than previous offerings – as the graphics, writing and acting were all right on point. The action scenes, fast paced and multi-dimensional (at one point there was so much going on I struggled to keep up just watching), didn’t disappoint either.

As for the cries of taking liberties with the plot and padding with back story, there is perhaps some truth. Radagast the Brown (wizard) is introduced to the story to tie in the impact of the growing dark power. Azog the Orc, who rated only a mention in the book (as killer of Thorin’s grandfather), is elevated to the villain of the piece and a new storyline is pieced together to tie the movie into a cohesive whole. Stretching the story? Maybe. But Jackson has made an honest effort to stay true to Tolkien’s wider work while still delivering a memorable cinematic experience.

The movie sits well alongside Jackson’s previous film offerings and was a joy to watch. For fans of Tolkien’s larger works, it’s also a good excuse to dig back into the original text and find the small references Jackson mines to flesh out his film.

Highly Recommended!

Review by Raewyn Hewitt: Reader and writer of epic fantasy. Some of her earliest and most precious memories were of being snuggled up in bed as her Nana read her The Hobbit.

 

Why’d They Do That? When Our Beloved Characters Die December 12, 2012

Filed under: Reading — thereanddraftagain @ 6:00 am
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I remember vividly the line from The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks that tore my heart out and left me with tears streaming down my cheeks.

Then the mace slipped from his hand, his eyes glazed over; with a long sigh, his body slid slowly, lifelessly to the death that had finally claimed him.

No!  It was nearly the scream heard round the world.

Every reader has had a similar experience, I’m sure.  You’re lost in the story, the characters have become like family and you yearn for that happily ever after ending, the one where everyone makes it out alive.  Battered and bruised, perhaps, but ready to fight another day.  The next thing you know, that evil author has pulled the rug out from under you.  You can barely stand to read on as your heart crumbles to dust.

The resounding question is always, why?

Well, trust me, from an author’s perspective (at least this author) it’s often no easier for us to kill off a character we’re hoping will be well-loved, than it is to read it.  Heck, sometimes it’s not even easy to kill off the bad guys.  I mean, really, who doesn’t love a good baddy?  We adore our characters as much, or possibly more, than our readers do.  After all, they’re part of us.

But think about it, what keeps you turning the pages?  Well, besides a well-crafted story, that is.  What keeps you on the edge of your seat, fingers shaking as you flip one page to the next one?  What tugs you along, sinking you deeper and deeper into the world the author has created?

Many things.  But one of the biggest is tension, and to build that tension there must be risk.  The higher the risk, the more the tension.  Face it, if you know without a shadow of a doubt that no matter what gets thrown at your favorite hero, she will emerge victorious at the end, you may still thoroughly enjoy the read, but not with the same emotional investment.  And that’s what it’s all about.  If you can’t be certain what will happen next, if there is a possibility someone may not make it to the next page, aren’t you going to be just a bit more engaged in the tale?

I know I am.

When I put on my Reader hat, I want to get lost.  I want the world around me to fade to grey while the world on the pages runs roughshod over my emotions.

And, just like life, the unexpected happens.

So, next time your favorite character meets with his demise and you want to throw the book across the room (which I wouldn’t recommend with an e-reader.  No, not a good idea at all.) wipe your tears and thank the author.

“Thank the author?  But, they’ve ripped my heart out, pounced on it, crushed it into dust and sent it blowing in the wind.”

Yes.  They transported you to another world and got you so totally lost, nothing else around you mattered.

Isn’t that why we read in the first place?