There And Draft Again

A Fellowship of Fantasy Writers

What A Character February 27, 2013

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 5:30 am
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K. L. Schwengel

Plot can drive a story, but without characters to keep it on the road, even the most intriguing plot can spin into the ditch. Not just any characters will do, however. They need to be vibrant, engaging, capable of either making us love or hate them. Two dimensional characters will flutter away in the breeze and leave us as flat as they are.
So, how to go about making your characters come to life?
First off, give them a flaw. Or several flaws. Even the most badass hero has to have a weakness. Internal demons, a physical issue, personality trait — without it, readers aren’t going to care overmuch about our hero. If he’s Prince Charming, perfect in every way, handsome, strong, intelligent, kind, noble, blah, blah, bo-ring. What if Prince Charming is insecure? What if he’s hiding some dark secret that eats at him? How does he handle that? How does it effect his ability to pass off the Charming charade, and what are the consequences of it? Now you’ve got a character we can possibly relate to.
Make it tough on them. Nobody gets to skate through life and avoid all the pitfalls. Throw things at your characters. Literally and figuratively. Show them overcoming adversity, or not. The most interesting characters are the ones that struggle to get to the end of the story.  And remember, they don’t always win. That’s okay. That’s why we can relate to them.
Show growth. If your heroine starts out as a spoiled, pampered girl and ends the story as a spoiled, pampered girl, you’ve got a problem. Nobody is going to want to stick with her to the end. She’ll be the character everyone is hoping will get killed off just to get her out of the way. That flaw I mentioned, those things you’re throwing at your character? They build tension and help move the plot (otherwise, they shouldn’t be there) which means they need to affect your heroine.
Make them individuals. No two people are the same. Even identical twins have something that sets them apart from one another. Use that. Study the people you know. What are their little quirks? Do they talk with their hands? Have a nervous gesture? Like to dress flamboyantly? Whatever it is, find it and use it.
Dialogue helps. A creature in its own right, good dialogue can be tricky. Read your dialogue out loud. If your tongue trips over it, you’ve got issues. Listen to how people around you talk. Most people use contractions and a lot of adverbs. They also tend not to use proper sentence structure. Yes, they dangle their participles all over the place, even in public. Give your characters their own unique voices. A fun exercise to try is to write an entire scene using nothing but dialogue. No tags, no action, just people talking. The reader should be able to distinguish between characters based on speech patterns, and word choices.
Now, while you’re creating all these marvelous main characters, don’t forget the minor ones. If they’re important enough to have a walk on role, their important enough to pay attention to. If you’re putting them in just for fluff, get rid of them. They deserve to be just as real as the main players.
Really delving into your character’s skin can be one of the most fun and exciting parts of being a writer. Readers will fall in love with your flawed hero, your sullied heroine. They’ll love to hate your psychotic antagonist. Nothing like a good baddie to get the blood boiling. But it’s up to you to get them there. To lift that character from flat and boring, to full-figured and intriguing. And always remember, how your characters view one another can also tell volumes about them.
So, what are your tips and tricks for character development? What makes a character memorable for you?

 

Cover Do’s and Don’ts February 23, 2013

Filed under: Publishing — thereanddraftagain @ 7:56 pm
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An inevitable step for any book is the cover design. For self-publishers, this bookcoverstep should be at the forefront of their minds just as the final product of their story. For fantasy writers in particular, covers are almost as important as the novel concept itself. With an abundance of fantasy tales out there, an eye-catching cover will ensure people choose your novel over others. All you have to do is follow these easy Do’s and Don’ts.

DO

Include “The Point” – Your cover should showcase the central themes and concept of your novel.

Entice Readers – The cover should give a sense of tension, adventure and excitement.

Be Flashy – Bright colors or a thrilling design will create interest for your book.

Be Unique – Fantasy story covers are often clones of each other, so use this space to display your uniqueness.

DON’T

Overdo It – Crowding the cover or having too many things squished on there can become an eye-sore.

Be Clichéd – This goes in tandem with staying unique. Steer clear of the ubiquitous magical sage, warrior princess, or anything else clichéd.

Be Obvious – Bring mystery to your cover by keeping the reader guessing instead of showing them your entire story in one picture.

If you aren’t a double threat (writer and illustrator) seek out a friend or mutual acquaintance whose artistic skills you admire so you can be heavily involved in the cover design process. For writers seeking publishing on the traditional route, keep these tips in the back of your mind and speak up to your cover artist to help them see your vision to completion.

Share your favorite and least favorite fantasy book covers here!

~Rachel H

 

Writerly Tools: Editing Edition February 22, 2013

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 4:44 am
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Here at There & Draft Again, we’ve gone over lots of helpful tips and tools you can use when writing your novel. World-building resources. Thesauruses to help expand your prose a bit. Building characters. POV. But what if you’re past all of that? What if you’ve already written your first, even your second or third draft of your manuscript?

Well, first of all, let’s start by saying:

congrats

You’ve finished writing a book! Time to publish!

Wait, that’s not what I meant at all. What I really meant was that you are, as most people say, halfway through the battle. In reality, I think it is more like 1/4 of the way but who am I to nitpick?

The point, of course, is you have a long journey ahead of you filled with editing, beta readers, crit partners, etc. All of which you will need to get your manuscript shiny enough to send off to an agent or publisher. In this edition of Writerly Tools, we will be discussing editing with advice as well as tools you can use.

First piece of advice: Never submit a first draft to anything besides a beta reader or crit partner. First drafts are just that–first drafts. The harsh reality is there is a lot more work that goes into being a writer than the fun parts like developing characters, world-building, etc.

writers2

In fact, sometimes it can feel like a full-time job after the first draft is done. So what do you do? Where do you start? Well, with some nifty tools of course. We’ve already touched on this, but a thesaurus is really your best friend when it comes to editing. We all have our favorite words in our ever-expanding vocabularies, but you want to make sure that doesn’t show too much in your manuscript. If you want to get down to the nitty-gritty of editing, you can try these three tools:

1. Wordle: This is a word map of your manuscript. I have not been able to get it to successfully work for me, but other people have and speak very highly of it. Basically, you plug in your manuscript/chapter and Wordle will create word maps, or word clouds, of your piece. The bigger words are the most used, which tells you that you need to narrow down the usage a smidge (or more if you are like me and love it when characters purse their lips). Best part: It’s free! Worth a shot!

2. Autocrit: Oh, how can I sing thy praise, Autocrit.com? Not only do you offer a free preview by allowing authors to paste 700 words into your wizard and spit out some interesting bits (like overused words, for example), but for a fairly decent price you can subscribe for a year and get access to even more tools like cliches and redundancies, pronoun usage, and many more. I got the Platinum membership for $77 a year and I definitely recommend it, especially for editing novices like me. The process of editing can be overwhelming and this definitely has some good pointers as to where to start and helps you develop an eye for mistakes.

3. MyWriterTools Editor Edition: I can’t say too much about this because I don’t have it myself, but it does look appealing. It seems to be a plugin for Microsoft Word and creates checklists for writing, proofreading, and editing for you. If I am reading the site correctly, the program also creates your very own style sheet. This is definitely on my “want” list, but since I just got Autocrit and this program is $49.99 ($29.99 introductory price) and I am still learning about it, it will have to wait. Have you used this program before? Sound off in the comments!

I know not all of us can afford editors, but sometimes these programs might help offset editing costs while making your manuscript stand out as something, well, not riddle with errors. It might be worth the investment if you find yourself in the position to make it.

What are some of your tips and tricks of the editing trade? Tell us what you use and what you think of the recommendations!

Mara Valderran
 

How to write a pitch for your Fantasy novel February 16, 2013

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 9:32 am
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Welcome !

Whether you’re looking for an agent or self-publishing your Fantasy book, there comes a time in your life as a writer when you have to write a pitch for your novel. Here is a bit of advice on what to do and what to avoid when drafting your pitch…

1-      Bear in mind the purpose of your pitch is to sell the idea of your story to an agent or a reader. “Hooking” them with a 10-line paragraph summarising your 100k+ novel isn’t an easy task, but it is doable, and necessary if you want  your book to make it to readers’ shelves.

2-      A pitch for a Fantasy novel should be about 200 words long.

3-      A pitch should include:

–          Who your Main Character is and what he wants (his GOAL)

–          What the inciting incident is and why your Main Character chooses to do something about it (his CHOICE)

–          What is at stake should your Main Character fail in his endeavour (WHY THE READER SHOULD CARE)

4-      A pitch should NOT be too generic and vague. Chuck Sambuchino gives a great example of what a pitch should not be like on the Writer’s Digest website. Do go and read it.

5-      A pitch should not include everything about your story. It should not attempt to describe in detail the wonderfully complex world you’ve created. Thus it should only include your Main Character, the Antagonist and whoever is relevant to the Main Character’s goal, choice and problem. And it should not mention too many proper names and places.

6-      Last but not least, you should have beta readers for your pitch. Try to find at least one who hasn’t read your novel and has no idea what it’s about. And try to have at least one who has read your novel and can tell you if your pitch does it justice.

I hope this helps and feel free to leave us questions and comments below!

EM

 

World-Building Resources February 14, 2013

Filed under: Inspiration,Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 2:13 am
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Now that the chaos of the holidays is officially over, we must all now start to face our day to day realities again. As writers, a lot of times this means the fictional realities and worlds we create. But the question with world-building seems to always lean toward: Where do I start?

We all want to create a perfect and fresh new world for our fantasy stories with creatures or races or places never thought of before. The reality tends to be a bit harsh when it comes to this. I learned this early on in creating my fantasy world. I would gush to my friend who is an avid reader about some new aspect of my world I had created and she would almost always respond with a comparison to another fantasy series where the same thing or something similar had been done. I’ve learned to develop a new philosophy with world-building because of this: Embrace inspiration as it comes. So I thought I would share with you some of my favorite world-building resources.

  1. I’ll start with the obvious and lump them together: The internet, other books, and TV/movies. The internet is always your friend. Googling can take you to places you never imagined it would go which might lead to inspiration just about anything. As for other forms of entertainment like books and TV, tread carefully. There’s a difference between inspiration and outright plagiarism. Obviously you don’t want your vampires to sparkle or your swords to glow red when the wielder is angry because a leather-clad woman is torturing him. But if those ideas lead to other ideas, I say go for it.
  2. RESEARCH. Believe it or not, your best world-building inspiration can come from simply picking up a book on mythology, history, or anything to do with magic or creatures. To get you started, I’ve listed some of my go-to world-building resource books below.
  3. Geography/Geographical Pictures. This could include geographies of different worlds. Take a gander at the maps on video games like Dragon Age. Think about the layout of your world. Is it set in a desert? Rolling fields of green? Try to find places in the world that might match (even partially) the world you are trying to build and start searching for landscape pictures of them. As cliche as it might be, Ireland is a big source of inspiration for me. I have folders upon folders of pictures of really cool places that inspire me or that are similar to something I am trying to describe. Sometimes it helps to have a visual.

My World-Building Book List:

ImageDictionary of Superstitions by David Pickering. This is a great way to set up some mythology and culture for your world. Check out superstitions and legends from other cultures. This is a great way to help build your society and the traditions the peoples of your world follow.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to follow the superstitions and legends to the T. You can pick and choose what works for you, melt some of them together, or change them almost entirely. The point is to inspire, not to write an essay!

imagesThe Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures carries a whole host of knowledge concerning the origins, descriptions, and locations of beings of myth and magic. John and Caitlin Matthews really did their research with this book, which you will most definitely benefit from. You can find everything from the well-known Banshees and Basilisks to less popular mythological creatures such as the Bunyip. If you are looking to go way outside the box of average fantasy creatures pickins’, this book is definitely for you.

images (1) Monsters: An Investigators Guide to Magical Beings by John Michael Greer is yet another great resource to get the creature-feature part of your brain rolling. Whereas the Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures reads more like a bit of a zoological text, this book deals with first-hand accounts of the “monsters” you might be investigating. There is a historical element to the mythology, which can often tie into the time period and the issues of the people of that time. You might find a creature that fits the context of your society perfectly! One that maybe a hero could battle?

How about you? What resources do you use for world-building beyond your own imagination? Let us know in the comments below!

 

The Role of the Epic Fantasy in a Byte-Sized Future February 9, 2013

In this modern age where everything seems to be getting faster, smaller and more simplified, what is the future of the epic fantasy? Will a genre known for its length, survive in a culture raised on sound bytes and fast fiction?

In order to really understand the future of epic fantasy we need to understand exactly what it is.

Wikipedia lists epic fantasy as being synonymous with high fantasy:

High fantasy (also referred to as epic fantasy) is a sub-genre of fantasy fiction, defined either by its taking place in an imaginary world distinct from our own or by the epic stature of its characters, themes and plot.

A fair definition, although I think it a stretch to suggest any story set in an imaginary world could be an epic. I prefer the definition offered by our very own Jessy Montgomery:

Epic: This genre is as big as the name hints. It deals with the human journey, the creation of philosophy, and it really digs into the human condition. Everything from the main character to the villain to the armies are big. Typically hinges on some sort of world destruction. Think Lord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkien.

But the experts aren’t all singing from the same song-sheet. Jeremy L.C. Jones wrote a great piece entitled: Something Greater: An Epic Discussion of Epic Fantasy, for Clarkesworld Magazine, where he invited 28 writers of epic fantasy (including Terry Brooks, Patrick Rothfuss and Brandon Sanderson) to comment on the genre. His very first question – What is at the heart (or core) of Epic Fantasy?’ – got so many different responses, you can only conclude any definition is subjective.

Nevertheless the overall feeling was epic fantasy is about story on a grand scale; big themes, sweeping scope, a ‘wide lens view of the world‘ and something ‘you just feel … in your bones‘.

But as the traditional publishing model is being forced to adapt to the new digital age, writers of epic fantasy – known as much for the size of their word counts as the scope of their stories – need to be open to new ways of storytelling.

1. Consider the Serial.

Although I am a big fan of the door-stopper novel (the sheer weight of Patrick Rothfuss’s Name of the Wind gives me little shivers), the future may look quite different when it comes to how the story is delivered to readers.

This youtube generation, with a love of blogs, vlogs, tweets and social media – are more open than ever to the short-byte serial. Ironically this smaller serving approach could be a great option for the writer of epic fantasy. Instead of having to manufacture a story arc for each of the six books in your story – call them instalments release them regularly (at novella size?) and readers can follow until the story reaches its natural conclusion. It’s all about how frequently you make contact with your market (and saleable units).

2. Offer Individual Storylines.

This is a favourite (and lucrative) fall-back of romance novelists. Rather than tell all the stories at once, each family member gets their own book. Because the reader is already invested in the world, they can be very loyal to this kind of series. Which is great for generating income.

Epic fantasies often include multiple POV characters and storylines – so teasing these out could be a way of telling the big stories on a smaller scale. I’m not sure how well this will work in practice, because often it is the pulling together of these threads that mark a great epic tale – but the potential is there and worth investigating.

3. Go Cinematic.

Epic stories, make great movies (emphasis on the plural) – because of the scope, action and drama translate to a visual feast. So the writer of epic fantasy would do well to consider the film-makers art of story structure, to get a handle on delivery of big elements in a limited time frame.

I personally love watching movie directors (and their team) explain the techniques they use to bring their vision to life. Although a novel and a film have distinct differences, it doesn’t hurt to consider other techniques in an attempt to reach a wider audience (and to ensure your book could easily be adapted to film).

4. Multi-Media.

The trend seems to be moving towards reader interaction and experience. Artwork, short-films, book trailers, maps, photos, music, recipes – fiction writers are already using many of these to attract readers. I must admit as a writer, I find this a daunting leap out of my comfort zone; but it is important to understand how the market is evolving.

In my opinion there will always be a place for epic fantasy. The reason it has been around so long is because it speaks to a timeless human yearning for something greater than oneself.

I think K.V. Johansen sums it up beautifully:

‘Or maybe the real reason I write Epic Fantasy is that at the age of eight I read The Lord of the Rings multiple times, and it sank into my marrow and told, This is what Story means; this is what Language is; this is how words work magic.’

What do you think?

by Raewyn Hewitt

 

The Creation of a New World: Believability February 6, 2013

Believability is a hard thing for fantasy writers to achieve. I can’t count the number of times I’ve read a review that said the plot was good, but the world-building wasn’t believable. If you are like me, this seems like a nail in a coffin lid. Most readers want a world they can escape into and understand, not one where they get lost along the way. So I have come up with four major categories that can aid in creating a believable world.

Geography

One of the main features in fantasy novels is geography. Whether the story takes place in a medieval England sort of world or the vast wilderness of Siberia, geography gives the readers an understanding of place. Studying pictures of the places you are basing your fantasy off of could greatly improve your understand of how people would move across your land. Geography should also be studied in any sort of story where you hope to explore several different kingdoms. There should be a natural progression from snow and ice to a desert. If you place a kingdom such as Russian next to the Sahara desert, you run the risk of readers being drawn from your story.

Architecture

This is a point many people overlook when first starting out. Architecture of a place is a huge deal in the real world. Most people can identify Greco/Roman, Gothic, or Eastern European architecture, even if they don’t realize they are doing it. Study the buildings of the style you like the most so you can recreate it in your story and make the world come alive. Attention to this will automatically give a sense that your world was around long before the reader entered it, architecture will give your world a sense of history.

People

This may seem like a no brainer to most, but I can’t count the number of times I’ve picked up a fantasy novel and there seems to be no difference between people from one kingdom to the next. This is especially important if your main character travels through several different kingdoms. Most all should have their own culture and their own people. Even if it is based off of a medieval England, there are still slight changes from English to Scottish. Attention to this detail will make your world seem more diverse and interesting.

Flora/Fauna

Creatures and plants are just about everywhere we look. Even squirrels manage to wiggle their way into urban cities. Adding plants, animals, or both can really improve the believability of your world. You can make up creatures all day long, perhaps birds don’t have feathers in your world (which would be ever so slightly terrifying), but you have to make sure you mention this fact and a little bit about why birds don’t have feathers or the reader will never believe it is true. You also can have trees, flowers, and grass throughout your story, but make sure it aligns with your geography. A birch tree shouldn’t be growing in an icy wasteland unless it has magical properties of some sort. Attention to this detail will keep the reader from being pulled out of your world by under explained animals or awkward plant placement.

Creating a believable world is hard and keeping all of these ideas in mind while writing can get tiresome. I personally like to keep a secret Pinterest board full of geography, plants/animals, and architecture I think fits into my world. By doing this, I relieve the stress of trying to remember everything I want to put into the story to create a believable world.

Paying attention to these four categories can expand your world, in your mind and in the readers. Are there any categories you pay special attention to when you are creating your world?

Write On,

Jessy