There And Draft Again

A Fellowship of Fantasy Writers

What I Learned from JK Rowling February 19, 2014

Filed under: Inspiration,Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 5:25 am
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What I Learned from JK Rowling

J.K. Rowling continues to amaze me as a writer. When I first read her revelation that maybe Hermione should have ended up with Harry instead of Ron, I was upset. As a huge fan of the books, I felt like two of my favorite relationships were unraveling.

Ginny Weasley is perhaps one of my favorite characters in the series, alongside Neville Longbottom. We watch her go from silly little starstruck girl getting herself into trouble to a strong and powerful young woman, and her growth is all about the subtle changes along the way. She’s always on the outside of the trio but still involved, even if just by watching. She’s clever, and proves that she doesn’t put up with crap. She turns out to be quite the match for Harry, and I loved watching Harry get smacked in the face by his own feelings for her in book six.

Ron and Hermione I called after watching the second movie and seeing the trio reunited after Hermione had been turned to stone. She hugs Harry without a second thought, but she and Ron hesitate awkwardly and then shake hands. And then the way he calls for her instead of Lavender in the hospital? Swoon! My only complaint with their relationship is that it unfolded too slowly and felt a bit unnatural for that reason. I always worried that they were going to miss their moment. Happily, they created their moment in the middle of a battle. But still. Love them together.

So, of course, when Rowling admitted that she put Ron and Hermione together for her own personal reasons and that they weren’t necessarily the best match for one another, my first instinct was to scream with with the other fans about how unfair it was for Rowling to try to change things now or tell her she was wrong.

But was she? Who knows the Harry Potter world and characters better than Rowling? No one. She is the god of that world, so she knows the characters hearts better than we do. And she knows her own heart as well. It is really easy for authors to get lost in their love for their characters and to create fan service that would please them and possibly them alone. J.K. Rowling is amazingly talented, and so fans were more than willing to go along on whatever ride she took them on in the Harry Potter universe, even if it was just her own personal wish fulfillment for the characters.

This got me thinking about whether or not I do that as a writer, and I realized the answer was yes. I am incredibly impatient with love stories. When I know two characters are going to end up together, I tend to slap them together instead of going for a slow burn, even if it is more natural. I ran into this with the second book of the Heirs of War series. Thankfully, I had this epiphany before I sent it off to the editor and managed to slow down a pairing that I had originally planned on putting together in that book. I realized that getting them together now is just what I want to see and not what it best for the characters at this point in their stories. This epiphany led me to really reevaluate a lot of my plot elements and ask myself if I was writing as a fangirl or an author, and it has led to a much better book with a tighter story. And that’s all thanks to J.K. Rowling, who continues to shine as an author we can all look up to and learn a lot from.

What do you think? Do you agree with Rowling’s revelation? Have you read other series and thought that the author was being too much of a fangirl?

~Mara Valderran

 

Does your fantasy brain need a break? January 23, 2014

Filed under: Inspiration,Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 2:01 am
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You know how sometimes the best way to re-inspire your brain is to take a break? If you’re writing non-stop, you have to stretch, take a walk, go to a movie, listen to music, visit a friend. Experience some life. I hear this all the time, and I know it’s true, but I still sit down with my laptop and spend hours and hours without even glancing up to look at the sunrise. And then I wonder why my brain is clogged.

This past November, I was feeling more burned out than I ever had. I’d been working on the Serengard Series rather constantly for two years. My brain was tired. So I decided to do something that I really shouldn’t do according to my deadlines: I spent NaNoWriMo writing 50k of a historical fiction.

I’ll admit, it was painful trying to get into the historical. The story, the relationships, the romantic focus, the style — it was all very different. I wasn’t really writing comfortably and confidently until week three, and then I was on the clock to get back to release work for my next fantasy release. (Of course, I got sick, too. There was that.) And when I had to stop, I just sat there staring for a day, wondering if I’d really done a good thing or not. Would my fantasy brain be broken?

Then I got back to edits on my fantasy series. And guess what? Everything looked different! It looked fresh. Unique. Real. I’d been living in my fantasy world so long that I forgot what it looked like from the outside. What it would be like to experience it like I was coming home from somewhere far away. Reading something else wasn’t enough. I had to write something else. I had to literally take my creative brain on a real vacation.

I know, I know. I’m a broken record. “Other genres are so cool!” But seriously. Next time you need a break, sretch your writer brain. It feels really good.

–Rachel O’Laughlin

 

Feasts and Traditions December 25, 2013

Filed under: Inspiration,Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 5:10 pm
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I’m going to be the same old history nut here and draw on tradition in the real world to influence fantasy. I know, I’m like a broken record. But honestly, this is somewhere I don’t see quite as much depth and development in the fantasy genre. There are celebrations and feasts aplenty — usually to celebrate a name/birth day or a great military victory — but it seems like many of us (myself included) gloss over the whole who/where/why/what/how of tradition by stating plainly: “This is what happened and this is how we celebrate it. End of story.” But tradition isn’t usually like that. Not really.

Since it is Christmas Day in much of the world, and countless millions are clustered around trees opening presents, it’s got me thinking about Biblical tradition, and the fact that there actually was no documented celebration of Cristes-messe until long after Christ, and no mention of celebrating his birth anywhere in scripture. Hmm…so this tradition commonly associated with those who follow Christ (since it IS literally titled Christ’s Mass) sprung up from nowhere? I mean, where do we decide it actually began, if it isn’t anywhere in the four books about the Messiah we’re supposedly celebrating?

(Not to mention Jesus was Jewish, and he celebrated Jewish feasts.)

Have you read the Wikipedia history of Christmas? It’s like…whoa. Many people believe Christ’s Mass started with…well, Christ. But it probably started way earlier, as pagan celebrations of the Winter Solstice, Sun God, and Epiphany wound their way into new traditions of reveling and drinking that turned into old traditions and then came new traditions of gift giving and tree-worshipping and all vaguely at the same time or before or after it was adopted by the Catholic church as a celebration of the Messiah’s birth and is now a huge consumerism event and ohmigosh my brain is tired. It’s shrouded in complexity, with many influences from Greek and Roman history and worship, and even random Santa Claus/Father Christmas/St. Nicholas connections from worship of Molech in the Middle East waaaaayy back when, all with sometimes very loose or nonexistent ties to Christianity. So maybe it wasn’t even a Christian holiday to begin with? It’s almost impossible to untangle who brought what to the table, because it’s all linked and related because people groups and stories and traditions are often linked and related.

And therein lies my fascination with traditions passed down through centuries of a changing humanity. How do we untangle it? In the pages of a fantasy epic, we probably don’t, and that adds to the realism. To be genuine, it’s got to be deep, confusing, complicated — and even you, the writer, may not know exactly how all of this started thousands of years in the past of your fantasy world. In order to give tradition many facets, consider this:

–Each character has his/her reasons for celebrating.
–Each character has his/her version of how the original feast was celebrated.
–Each character has his/her personal past connected with this feast, since it’s a recurring event.

If you go at it from your key characters’ perspectives alone, you’ll have several different interpretations. And that’s so cool. It’s beautiful, deep, diverse. It can be unsettling (for the character) if they don’t know what they’re celebrating and why. It can be warm and fuzzy because they have good memories connected with tradition. It can be creepy because bloodshed was once involved. Dude, tradition can be your wild card! What happened?

Hmm….

Rachel O’Laughlin

 

Writing Obstacles: The Best Laid Plans, Orcs, and the Kitchen Sink November 20, 2013

At heart I’m a storyteller. I’d like nothing better than to spin tales upon gossamer threads, write so ferociously that my fingers develop callouses as tough as the sole of a hobbit’s foot, and to sweep my readers off on a journey that will both entertain and challenge them. Yet it can be a hard slog carving out time to make this writing dream a reality, because often things happen that make writing time as elusive as the one ring itself.

The Best Laid Plans.

The problem with a plan is you can’t cover every eventuality. This morning I planned to get up at 6am and have at least an hour working quietly on the blog before the family woke up. At 6.15 the first child came out rubbing his eyes, delighted to find he had his mother all to himself…

In a story, thwarting the plan creates good tension. In The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf hasn’t even finished giving Frodo his super-secret-brief when he finds Sam Gamgee ‘not listening‘ outside the window.  Not to mention the Fellowship so carefully put-together at the Council of Elrond lasts about five minutes when the chips are down. In fact the most successful plan in the whole story is Frodo’s very vague idea to head in the direction of Mordor and see what happens.

As a writer, I’m learning Frodo’s attitude is pretty good: you just have to keep heading in the general direction and do what you can.

Dealing with Life’s Little Challenges. (Or Overrun by Orcs)

The foes that come against our characters come in all shapes and sizes. If I had to describe the challenges I’ve been facing lately I’d say they are life’s Orcs. Not complex or difficult to overcome, but annoying and arriving en mass.

This week I’ve locked my keys in the car on the main street in town at night, planted a whole heap of seedlings only have half of them blown out of the ground by a freak wind-storm, dug up by cats, or scratched out by the neighbours chickens who found a hole in the fence. In a fit of spring-cleaning madness I sprayed the oven with oven cleaner (that part doesn’t take long) – but when I had to clean it out in a hurry could only find 5 (yes you read that right) left hand kitchen gloves. The top of the plug snapped off while the sink was full of water and I had to pry it out with a knife and I dropped a big tub of crayons and miscellaneous craft objects all over the floor just before dinner guests were due to arrive.

None of these things are a big deal; but they can be time-consuming, frustrating and certainly aren’t productive.

However I love Merry and Pippin’s strategy with Orcs: Keep a low profile and crawl away if you have the opportunity. It’s easy to be distracted by things going awry, but try to keep things in perspective. If things go wrong, do what you have to, but try and protect your writing time too. Sometimes you have to leave the water in the sink and deal with it later.

Everything Including the Kitchen Sink.

Sometimes life throws the most unexpected things at you – including the kitchen sink. The same way writing challenges come in all shapes and forms; plot problems, lack of inspiration, the hard slog of editing, illness, family commitments, unexpected visitors… Whatever form your obstacle takes, consider the dogged determination of your own characters and make a commitment to keep up with them. After all, if we can come up with creative ways to get our characters out of trouble, we can surely come up with ways to overcome any writing challenge.

Have you faced any writing challenges this week?

-by Raewyn Hewitt

 

Fantastical, Yet Subtle Inspiration in “Reign” November 9, 2013

Filed under: Inspiration — thereanddraftagain @ 9:02 pm
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I am most definitely the kind of writer that gets inspiration from things like music and television. Seeing the way two characters interact gets the wheels in my head turning, and sometimes actors’ portrayals can be such inspiration to me that I end up “casting” them as one of my characters. Music can change entire story lines for me, but that’s for another post.

Today I want to talk about the surprising inspiration I’ve found in the CW’s new show “Reign.”

When I first started watching this show, I expected nothing more than a period piece with teens, but it has been so much more. The show centers around Mary, Queen of Scots, as she joins the French court to be better protected by the marriage treaty promising her marriage to the future king of France, Francis. But things are never as easy as they seem, and though she fled to court to be safe from the English spies trying to kill her in order to easily take over her country, she finds herself surrounded by spies, danger, and political intrigue. The worst enemy she has is the one closest to her–Queen Catherine. Catherine has been told by her trusted adviser Nostradamus (ring any bells?) that Mary will bring about the death of Francis, and the Queen is willing to do whatever it takes to thwart this prophecy.

The supernatural element to this show is pretty subtle, regardless of having a prophet at the side of the Queen. Nostradamus is also a healer and a scholar, so there’s much more to his role on the show than spouting off ominous and vague prophecies. There’s also the so-called “castle ghost” who goes by the name of Clarissa. Clarissa is obviously quite taken by Mary, and constantly helping her thwart her enemies and solve the mysteries surrounding the people who plot against her. Clarissa is just girl with a sack over her head (a sure sign that she isn’t a ghost so much as probably horribly disfigured) who lives in the shadows of the castle, moving unseen through the hidden passages and easily spying on everyone, but her presence adds a sad layer of mystery to the show.

But the biggest source of supernatural inspiration and intrigue for me so far has been the Pagans in the woods. There’s so much going on there, and Francis’s half-brother Sebastian is involved somehow. I can’t wait for it to all play out and to get more on this. I draw a lot of inspiration from Celtic legends for my books, and the fact that they’ve been referred to as Druids in the story really excites me.

The fantastical elements of this show are played out very subtly, which I really enjoy. It’s such a change from shows like “The Vampire Diaries” and “Merlin” where the supernatural is front and center. The supernatural in this show only serves to add more layers to the magic that is already happening between the characters.

Image from buddytv.com

 

And, boy, is there magic. The chemistry between these actors is just phenomenal, and the stage presence they have alone is awesome too. Especially Sebastian, played by Torrance Coombs.

I’d like to think his draw isn’t just from his drool-worthy looks (and my tendency to fangirl out), but from his screen presence as well. He tends to steal every scene he is in, and I think a big part of that is that he is always in character and his character is always reacting somehow, giving you the impression that there is more to this bastard-born young man than meets the eye. There’s a love triangle brewing as both Francis and Sebastian begin to fall for our dear Queen Mary, but it is definitely a slow burn, which is refreshing to see.

I’m all about a character driven story, and “Reign” definitely falls under that category. If there was no love between Mary and the brothers, it wouldn’t be as enticing to me even with the hint of supernatural elements. But this show has the whole package for me: romance, intrigue, hints of magic and prophecy, and suspense. It makes me want to drop my WIP and go back to my fantasy series. So if you are finding yourself lacking in the inspiration department, I would highly recommend it.

 

What would fantasy writers do without Pinterest?! October 10, 2013

Filed under: Inspiration,Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 12:52 am
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Quick note: I know I said I would blog about Line Editing, but I decided to wait until next month after I’ve finished doing line edits on my second novel. Stay tuned!

I just had to take a moment to talk about one of the lovely places all of us fantasy writers go when we’re low on inspiration, waiting for a reply from someone and our thumbs just aren’t busy, or (dare I say it?) procrastinating. But here’s the wonderful thing about it: if I’m hiding from work, waiting for something, or just having a downer, Pinterest almost always takes me back to that writing zone. I don’t know how it does this, but without fail there will be a perfect little piece of art that will grab me and instantly transport me to another world. My brain starts working creatively as soon as I catch my breath of awe. Emotions evoked send me to my story zone and DUDE, I AM THERE.

What do I pin? Well, it can be anything from a scene that captures the feelings in my story, such as this:

Marina by Guily ^^ on Flickr. http://www.flickr.com/photos/giulia_tamas/

to a moody image that describes a scene:

to a moment that provokes all kinds of feels:

By smoothdude on Flickr

to a snapshot of a character that describes them so perfectly, I can’t even:

via weheartit.com

Fantasy authors such as Susan Dennard and Sarah J. Maas use Pinterest all the time, especially because it’s great for worldbuilding. Little snippets that remind us of our worlds can be easily arranged in a symphonic manner to instantly immerse just by revisiting a board. (I know the There and Draft Again ladies are on Pinterest quite often, because I follow them and they post awesomeness!)

For me, Pinterest has the same squeal-factor as watching my favorite movies, only it takes less than a minute to scroll through a board I’ve made or find a few pins from a friend who inspires me. Yep, I’m here today to hook you on another form of social media. To convince you it belongs in a fantasy writer’s toolbox. You’re probably in desperate need of it and don’t know it yet. WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?!

And, if you’d like to, feel free to share your Pinterest handle in the comments so fellow fantasy writers can follow and be inspired by what YOU are inspired by. 🙂

–Rachel O’Laughlin

Final Note: Another great thing about Pinterest is that — like Tumblr — it does a great job of maintaining the trail of creation. Artists get credit for their work wherever it is repinned. All pictures in this post are linked directly to their original pins, where you’ll find links to the original content.

 

Video Games as Inspiration September 19, 2013

Hello Readers!

Sorry for the delay in post, but I just got stitches out and wanted to write something to celebrate 🙂

Now, onto the post. Inspiration can be found all around us. Most people look to television, movies, and nature, but an underrepresented media are video games. There are a plethora of fantasy game available for players of all strengths. Five of my personal favorites are below.

5.) Skyrim
The_Elder_Scrolls_V_Skyrim_cover

You play the role of a character capable of using the ‘The Voice’ (Dragon Language which allows you to control fire, snow, and other elements) and are charged with destroying a dragon said to bring about the destruction of the world. You are capable of choosing whether you want to use an ax, duel swords, sword, and shield, or primarily magic. You can also chose to be one of the many inhabitants of the world. The world is fairly rich with lore and you can get into the middle of a civil war if you so chose.

4.) Diablo 3
Diablo_III_cover

The third installment of the Diablo series, a series I’ve been playing since I was five, doesn’t disappoint in continuing the lore they had in the first two games. Information is giving to you through journal entries that are found throughout the game. It deals with the struggle between The Hells, the world of humans, and Heaven, and does a great job of blending story and action.

3.) Guild Wars 2
Guild-Wars-2-Logo

Very different from the other games I posted above, this game is only available to play online and can be played with many, many players. Admittedly, there are Guild Wars books, but the game is so much fun to play. It’s based in a fantasy world called Tyria that is split up by race (of which you can choose any to play). You have to quest throughout the world, gaining levels to unlock more of the story. Depending on choices you made at the beginning, your personal story will be different. However, everyone eventually must team up to take down an undead dragon bent on destroying the world.

4.) The Witcher 2
images

The Witcher 2 is also based off a book series, but is definitely a fun game. You play as Geralt, a Witcher-a monster hunter that most everyone is afraid of. The game is interesting because you can chose what you say and what you do, which drastically impacts the ending. There are multiple endings and multiple paths to take. I would say this game is more for the advanced gamer ( in my opinion) as the controls are a little hard to get control of.

5.) Dragon Age Origins
RedDragonwithlogo

Personally my favorite game of all time. You can pick between being an elf, human, or a dwarf. Of these three choices, there are paths you can take, noble, lowborn, mage, or a Dalish Elf-elves who refused to be subjected by the humans. You play as a Gray Warden, defenders of the world against the Darkspawn, men twisted from touching the seat of God. You must defend your country from the invading darkspawn, while gathering armies from others in the country. One of the great parts of the game is that you can talk to your fellow party members and form relationships with them. Not to mention the lore in the game is outstanding and consistent across all games.

SO, if you’re into playing games and writing fantasy, I would suggest checking them out. Do any of you have favorite games?

jess