There And Draft Again

A Fellowship of Fantasy Writers

Creature Feature: Beasts in Fantasy May 29, 2013

Imagine this: A lush and exotic world full of strange cities and scorching deserts, darkened forests and magical waterfalls. A would be hero on a perilous quest, and the sage and wizened mentor who aids him. A corrupt empire ruled by a power hungry sorceress intent on destruction. A theme of love and courage, betrayal and redemption.

Sounds good, huh? But something’s missing

Now picture this: A Lord of The Rings in which no Balrog emerges in the Mines of Moria, no Orcs wage war, no Ents march to Isengard. No wargs, no goblins, no Eagles, no Shelob.

Oh, what a tragedy!

To me, fantasy is at its best when it features beasts of lore. Diana Peterfreund turned legend on its head when she created her Killer Unicorns Series; no divine animals these, but venomous man-eaters with fangs and razor-sharp horns. In Wizard’s First Rule, Terry Goodkind introduces us to the winged and fur-covered gars—aggressive predators that hunt using blood flies. In Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone, we fall in love with her chimaera (a beautifully altered rendition of the Chimera from Greek mythology) which have both human and animal features.

These fantastical beings, whether they’re plucked from ancient myths or from the author’s own imaginings, add a richness and vitality to the genre. They transport us to a remembered state where the impossible exists. And how not, when they first blazed so vividly in our childhood dreams? Dreams in which winged steeds carried us over mountains and mermaids sang in underground cities. Where trolls hid under bridges and werewolves lurked in shadows. And the stories I love don’t always have to include the biggest and most lavish beasts, like fire-breathing dragons, monstrous kraken, or basilisks that kill with a single glance.

No, a caterpillar smoking a hookah will do just fine.

2013-05-28_20-23-29_568

from my copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Happy reading!

Kate

 

Trilogies, Chronicles and Sagas. Why Fantasy Goes On and On… May 25, 2013

   by Raewyn Hewitt

A friend of mine once said she didn’t read fantasy because the books looked like doorstops. Too many words, too much detail to keep straight and if there was a story in there, it was either too hard to find or it never ended. Ouch.

Although I’m the first to admit everyone has their own taste in reading material, she did have a point about the length of fantasy tomes. They often stretch across multiple volumes (just check out the recommended reading on this site), can finish at the most unsatisfactory places and occasionally fail to deliver on over-heightened reader expectations.

So what’s the deal?

The Realities of World Building:

I naively thought building your own fantasy world would be easier than researching a real world location. After all who is there to contradict you? Until I started building my own fantasy world and realised it was much harder than I’d previously imagined. Because although your reader will suspend disbelief to a degree, your world needs to be both believable and consistent.

If you have magic, it needs to have its own set of rules. Cultural diversity is complicated – especially when dealing with non-human cultures.  And don’t get me started on the rules of geography. Rivers flow down to the sea, certain types of harbours are suitable for ports and settlements and towns follow a sort of logic. Just thinking about the first map I drew (just to keep locations straight) still makes me twitch.

The challenge for the fantasy writer is once you’ve worked out the kinks in your created realm, you need to deliver it in such a way that your reader can grasp it and still be pulled into the story. If your story world is complicated this can take time to build up the layers and keep the readers hooked. But if you pull it off, the reader will be invested and may be prepared to take the long journey with you as you explore this brave new world through story.

And, after such a great investment in world building, who wouldn’t want to mine that world for as much story gold as possible.

The Big Picture:

Epic fantasy is, by definition, big. The stories are often greater than the fate of one person, nations or even worlds can be at stake and the very scope of the problem doesn’t lend itself to a quick fix. However when there isn’t an obvious place to stop, practical publishing considerations call for artificial breaks. As a reader I’ve on occasion howled at frustration at where a story is finished; but as a writer I am much more sympathetic. Tad Williams gave an eloquent response to similar criticism aimed at his own books:

I’ve received an awful lot of mail, electronic and old-fashioned-with-a-stamp both, about the first OTHERLAND volume. Most, I’m pleased to say, has been extremely nice and very favorable. The only note of discomfort has been from some readers who were upset by what they felt was the “cliffhanger” nature of the first volume’s ending.

I understand and apologize. However, the problem with writing this kind of story is that it’s not really a series—it’s one very, very long novel, which should be under one cover except that 1) it would take so long to write that my family and pets would starve, and 2) they couldn’t make covers that size, unless they were adapted from circus tents. That means I have a difficult choice to make: end each part in more abrupt fashion than some readers find ideal, or create artificial endings for each volume which I believe would change the overall shape of the book, and perhaps even adversely affect the structure of the story.

Thus, I can only ask for the indulgence of kind readers. I’ll do the best job I can not to end volumes in mid-sentence—”And then she discovered she was . . . oops, The End”—but please understand that what you’re getting is a part of a larger work, and may reflect that. I’ll still do the best I can to find some kind of closure for each individual volume.

He makes a good case for all fantasy writers!

I for one am the kind of person that gets a special kind of shivers when my newest fantasy purchase could also be used for resistance training. Content in the knowledge that when that new Patrick Rothfuss novel comes out it will certainly be no slim volume, but a hefty great serving of his extraordinary story-telling skills.

How about you? Are you writing a trilogy? A series? A saga? Does your story (and world) just seem to grow and grow the more you write it? Do you love long books? 

 

100th Follower Giveaway May 22, 2013

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 10:00 am
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~ K. L. Schwengel

In honor of surpassing 100 followers, and to thank you all for joining us on this Epic Adventure, we’re having a Giveaway.

*cue clapping, confetti, champagne corks, fanfare, trumpets, and flying monkeys*

Sorry, but I just adore flying monkeys, and since they put me in charge of this soiree I get to choose how we celebrate.

I’d love to be able to award a flying monkey to the winner of our giveaway but they’re rather hard to ship. Sure, they could fly themselves, but they aren’t the best at following directions. Limited attention span, you know.

So, in lieu of flying monkeys (and hopefully much better) we are giving away a signed copy of my fantasy novel First of Her Kind as well as (hold onto your hats, and your monkeys) a coupon for Pre-Order/Advance Order of fellow TADA author Rachel O’Laughlin’s book Coldness of Marek due out in August.

*cue more fanfare, trumpets, sparkly dancers*

As with everything, we need to have some rules, so here they are:

The Giveaway will run from Now (yes, right this moment) until next Wednesday, May 29th. Since the purpose of doing this is to thank our followers, you will need to already follow or sign up to follow There and Draft Again.

  • Leave a comment signifying that you’re a follower and are entering.
  • Come back on the 29th to find out if you’ve won. We’ll post it in the comments section. Winner will be chosen at random.
  • How much simpler can this be, right?
  • Winners will 72 hours to claim their prize or a new winner will be chosen.

Here’s what you could win:

A signed paperback copy of First of Her Kind ~ A Darkness & Light Novel, Book One

Everyone, it seems, wants to dictate what Ciara does with her life: Serve the Goddess, destroy the Goddess, do as you promised your aunt. All Ciara wants is to keep the two magics she possesses from ripping her apart.
 And that won’t be easy.
 Not only are they in complete opposition to each other, blood ties pull her in divergent directions as well. And then there’s Bolin, the man sworn to protect her. There’s no denying the growing attraction between them, but is it Ciara he wants? Or her power?
 None of which will matter if Ciara can’t overcome her fear and learn to use her gifts. No one knows the depths of the ancient power she possesses, or what will happen if it manages to escape her control.
 Will she lose herself entirely? Or be forever trapped between darkness & light?

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AND

A pre-order for a copy of Coldness of Marek (due out in August)

A rebel and an idealist, Trzl is certain that no one loves the kingdom of Serengard as much as she does. She spends her days and nights organizing the movement to bring down the Orion monarchy, to destroy the hold of the nobles and their strict rules that have bound the people to archaic tradition.
But then a young man loyal to the crown starts falling for her, forcing her to question everything that makes her believe in the inherent evil of the nobility. As the rebellion escalates, she is caught between endangering the trust of her rebel cohorts and destroying the life of a man who might be inching his way into her heart.
Trzl’s plans turn to nightmares when her choice leaves her a single mother at nineteen. Without a friend to her name, she takes refuge near the chilling Cliffs of Marek in the hopes that she will be left alone with her fatherless son. But she has a few too many demons. A man whom she once trusted takes her captive, throwing her back into the political mess she helped create. Now at the mercy of someone she never wanted for an enemy, she must play her own hand of betrayal to save herself and her son.

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Tossing Heads With Heroines May 18, 2013

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 6:30 am
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K. L. Schwengel

No, I didn’t mean Talking Heads, although I do enjoy their music. If you’re a Labyrinth fan you’ll know where this is coming from. One of my favorite scenes in the whole movie (besides any with David Bowie as THE number one best Goblin king ev-ahr) is when Sarah finds herself surrounded by the odd, head-tossing Fireys.

“You’re only allowed to throw your own head!” Love it. Why? Because it’s just one of the times our heroine gets to show what she’s really made of.
Much is made about heroes in fantasy, and the qualities they should possess. Often, however, the heroine is subject to playing second string, or even sitting on the bench. Even when she’s supposed to be driving the story. Nothing will make me dump a book quicker than a simpering, milquetoast heroine. I want to see some head tossing, dang it. Occasional tears are fine. Weakness and flaws, to be expected. But constant sobbing, wringing of hands, and screaming . . . not so much.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t need the Amazonian, full-on kickassery battle chick. I’m okay with heroines displaying their feminine side. But they need to temper that with other qualities or I just won’t care if they ever succeed. Heck, I may even start hoping the bad guy does them in.
So, what do I want to see in a heroine?

  • Strength: Not physical. I want that internal strength that pushes our gal forward even when she’s terrified. She can be shaking in her boots, ready to toss her cookies, but she’s got to have the hutzpah to suck it up and keep going, beyond her limitations.
  • Initiative: Give me someone who acts as opposed to always reacting, or worse, sitting on her hands waiting to be saved, helped, or told what to do. This trait is likely going to get her into worse situations more often than not, but she’s trying. She’s making the effort.
  • Faith: Hope, optimism, call it what you will. She needs to believe there’s a way out of the situation, that at the end of the day, it’s going to work out. Yes, she can have moments of self-doubt, moments of utter despair – key word, moments. We all have them. Wallowing in them pins us down, just as it will to our heroine. She needs to believe in herself, in a greater power, in the love of someone. Something has to fee her Strength.
  • A Sense of Humor: No, not slap you knee funny, life of the party, cracking jokes and taking nothing seriously type of humor. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m somewhat a fan of gallows humor. You know, that scene where our heroine and her bestie are outnumbered 10-1 and certain death is staring them in the face, and she looks over and quips, “At least I’m wearing clean undies.” (Because whose mother never gave them that warning as they headed out the door?)
  • Love: Hey, I’m not the big mushy type, but our heroine needs to be able to love, openly and without reservation. Heroes aren’t always perfect. At least, they shouldn’t be. Our heroine needs to be able to set aside her preconceived notions of Prince Charming and embrace Prince I’m Only Human.

I’m sure I’ve left something out. So tell me, what is it you like to see in your heroines?

 

Why do YOU write fantasy? May 15, 2013

Filed under: Inspiration,Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 7:40 pm
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This may not have been deserving of a whole blog post, but I wanted to mention it because I thought it would be a lovely discussion point.

I wasn’t always a fan of fantasy. As a teenager I read every bit of historical fiction I could get my hands on. I loved the classics, but I took that further to include anything that was written awhile ago, even if it wasn’t strictly historical. I devoured the likes of L.M. Montgomery, Agatha Christie and Rafael Sabatini.

I fell in love with fantasy very, very slowly. And actually, it was the epic fantasy manuscript of a close friend that turned my head, not a published book or series. As I started to read it, I realized the “rules” of the genre were perfect for me. I could combine everything I craved; the action and adventure of Sabatini, the creepiness of Christie, and the sweet, ethereal description of Montgomery. It could all live in one world if I wanted it to.

But it was again my first love–history–that made me truly stick with it into this series. I always thought creating one’s own history was a cop-out… until I started reading the masters of fantasy. Now I think it’s beautiful. I love creating my own timeline. I love turning my backstory into something hundreds of years in the making, with politics and cultures drawn from Earth’s history, yet as fresh and unusual as I want them to be. And I love being able to incorporate just about anything into that history.

So here’s what I’m wondering: what made you love fantasy? And what made you want to write it? Now that you do write it, what do you enjoy most about writing in the genre? What is the biggest reason you keep coming back to it?

The excitement of building your own world from scratch? The permission to include and create anything supernatural or mythical? The creatures and the things that distinguish them from those we have on our planet? One particular story or author that you fell in love with? The allegorical power that comes with writing something this high concept?

In addition to the comments thread, I’ll be hanging out on the @ThereDraftAgain twitter handle for a little while today if you want to do some chatting about it. I’d love to hear why YOU write fantasy!

–Rachel O

 

How To Plot Your Fantasy Novel May 11, 2013

Hi everyone !

Today I’d like to share with you a few tips to plot your Fantasy novel effectively. Whether you use this template for your first draft or your tenth one, I believe it is always useful to keep in mind the novel’s important milestones. It helps with the pace of the story and it enables you to keep the reader engaged.

one-does-not-simply-write-a-book

There are dozens of templates out there (the most famous being the Save The Cat Beat Sheet by Blake Snyder). I’ve come up with the one below by taking bits and pieces from here and there. I have found it works well for a Fantasy novel. Feel free to reuse and adapt it to your needs…

Plot Point 1 Opening/Protagonist intro (1% in)

Plot Point 2 Inciting Incident (5%)

Plot Point 3 First Turning Point (10%)

Plot Point 4 First Big Twist (40%)

Plot Point 5 Middle Turning Point (50%)

Plot Point 6 Second Big Twist (70%)

Plot Point 7 Climax (85%)

Plot Point 8 Resolution (95%)

Plot Point 9 Finale (100%)

So what do you think? Do you use a plot spreadsheet to outline or revise your novel? Feel free to leave us a comment below!

EM Castellan

 

Creating Myths: The Journey Into Religion May 9, 2013

Hi Everyone!

Creating a believable religion for a fantasy novel is hard. Not everyone wants to do it, which I understand! But some of us are crazy enough we want to make a religion for the people of our world to follow. Unfortunately to do that, you need to know a lot about religion. Lucky for you, I went to a private school where religious education was a must and I know more about religion than I ever care to! I’ve comprised a small list of common themes throughout religions to help you get started. Seeing these common occurrences could spark your brain into creating a beautiful (or deadly) new religion for your characters to follow. These are only suggestions and by no means does your religion have to contain them, they are just similarities across the board most religions seem to hit upon.

1.) Creation Story: From God creating the world in seven days to Uranus forcing himself upon Gaea and getting his manly bits chopped off, there is always a story behind the way the world was created. Why the sky is up above and the Earth is down below and why humans walk on Earth instead of up in the heavens? When thinking about your Creation Story, pay close attention to why the world is the way it is. Why are there mountains in one area instead of another? Did a baby God decide to go nuclear and dig a hole, depositing rocks in one location? In the Shinto religion of Japan, the islands were created when the Gods stuck a spear into the ocean and stirred. Your creation can be anything you want it to be.shinto

2.) The Flood: From the Epic of Gilgamesh where the world was flooded because of his stupidity to the story of Noah, nearly every religion has a story about a flood. Scholars believe this is because there was an actual flood humans lived through, most likely relating to glacial melt after the last Ice Age. In your story, it doesn’t have to be a flood, it can be anything you want it to be, perhaps a giant battle between good and evil which leaves a particular part of the country changed forever. In Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar world, there is a place where all the trees and grass have been burnt away because Lavan, a man Gifted with Fire, made fire rain from the heavens and it destroyed that part of the country. This is more along the lines of explaining some of the quirks of your landscapes in a more supernatural light. It also provides a good opportunity for a cautionary tale. images

3.) The Trickster God: While this person isn’t seen in more recent religions such as Christianity, Islam, or Buddhism, s/he is seen in almost every ancient religion. From Loki in Norse mythology (the most well known trickster) to  Veles in Slovic mythology to Iktomi (the spider god) in Lakota mythology, the trickster is the main god you can count on to mess stuff up. They are often neither good, nor evil, more of just neutral, the  “I am going to do what I want” kind of gods. Loki is blamed for Ragnarok when he releases Fenrir, Veles is responsible for killing the Earth Tree in Slavic mythology which causes the season to turn into winter. However, each god has their good points, Veles protected cattle and held off vicious thunderstorms, Iktomi was responsible for creating language and stories, and even Loki occasionally assists the other Norse Gods in protecting Midgard.

Loki_in_painting

4.) The Prophecy: As trite and cliche as it might sound to add prophecy to my list of religious needs for a FANTASY novel, it is nearly a universal thing in religions around the world. Christianity predicts the second coming of Jesus, Sakyamuni Buddha predicted twelve years after his perinivana he would be reborn and spread his teachings, and even in the legend of Arthur, he is suppose to return to save the world . Prophecies are often part of religions as they often lend hope to people, promising a better day will come. While I may stay clear away from your main character being the prophecy’s hero, it is an interesting idea to consider for your novel.

5.) Doomsday: Almost every single religion I have ever studied has a doomsday where basically the entire world is going to go to shit for one reason or another. In Norse mythology, it’s mostly Loki’s fault, in Christianity, it’s our fault. Either way, doomsday will come and only the faithful will be saved. There are so many ways for the world to end (Fenrir ate the moon in Norse mythology), so don’t limit yourself to any one way in particular. It’s your world, destroy it as you see fit.

doomsday_360_278

There is nothing saying you have to even mention any of this in your novel. This is more for you to create so you know what your  characters are worshiping and why. Having such an in depth understanding of your religion helps to understand the structure of your world. By knowing what your characters believe about their world, you will understand their motives better.

Hope this little breakdown has helped you in creating your religion!

Have fun destroying your world!

Jess