There And Draft Again

A Fellowship of Fantasy Writers

The Tale Continues… January 15, 2014

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 8:45 am
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We love a good story at There and Draft again, so when the very creative Kathi Schwengel threw down the gauntlet, and whipped up the beginning of a serial fantasy tale, we all pulled out our pens and said, “Yes please!”

So following on from the last instalment (check it out here if you missed it last time), we rejoin Corrin and Cafyl. Only this time another watcher makes an appearance…

Calliope was flickering, a habit her mother abhorred because it made her look like a sputtering candle. But since she’d been banished to the backside of nowhere, and permitted only the smallest thread of aranthe to keep the shakes at bay, she wasn’t bothered by social niceties.

A girl and her dog were wandering through the Desolation as though it were a tumble of old stones.

Calliope squeezed her eyes shut. Perhaps she’d finally gone mad. Her mind had fabricated its own excuse, and not even a plausible excuse at that, to make contact with Faeilleah. Home. Her fingers automatically slipped into the soft leather pouch at her hip, reaching for the comfort of the solitary, silky thread of aranthe.

Pull yourself together.’

Even here, a lifetime from home, the memory of her mother’s voice still rang clearly in her mind. She’d resented her mother’s firmness back then, always insisting on obedience and propriety. Never interested in her daughter’s fixation with spinning aranthe. Strange how the same words continued to fortify her through the years of isolation.

She had to focus. The ancient wards couldn’t be breached. Had never been breached.  So the girl couldn’t be real.

Blowing out a long breath she opened her eyes.

The girl was still there. Eating an apple and clambering over the remnants of the runes that once protected the great fortress, as though the piercing dissonance had no effect on her. Even the dog was at ease. Loping between pools of tainted, wild magic without so much as a hackle raised. It wasn’t possible.

The flickering intensified, as Calliope left the small cavern that provided both shelter and an uninterrupted view over the Desolation. Standing at the edge of the dark rock, with the wind whipping up around her, she looked beyond the impossible girl.

The barren wasteland was the constant companion of her exile; its rhythms as familiar as her own body. The wild magic was stirred up today, she could feel the thrum of it in the wind, as it called the storm. Perhaps it was responsible for the girl? A vision sent to tempt her into – what? What was left for her anyway?

The aranthe curled around her fingers. Long ago she realised the ones who’d stood in judgement had sought to make her into the unhinged girl they’d painted her to be. Forcing her to stand watch over something that didn’t need watching. Hoping she’d succumb to the wild magic. But she was her mother’s daughter; she’d stand on the edge of this rock forever before she’d give them the satisfaction.

She caught a small movement to her right. A Rapier. She’d never seen one this far out. It was tracking the girl too. So focused on its target it was skirting dangerously close to the edge of the Desolation. A Rapier…

This was something. The thing that could open the door home.

For the first time since her banishment, Calliope opened her heart to the aranthe, calling it to her vision, capturing the likeness of the girl, and the dog. No not a dog – in the detail she saw it – wolfhound, with the lines of the great fae hunters. But she barely registered the detail as her fingers flew, and the Rapier appeared, reproduced in perfect, tiny, detail.

She didn’t dare stop to consider whether she should send it. With a gentle breath, it was gone. Her fate was in their hands.

If they didn’t come soon, she would be as forsaken as the land at her feet.

So there it is. I’m looking forward to seeing which direction the next instalment takes!

Raewyn Hewitt


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.

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:


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

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

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

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

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

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?



Killer New Fantasy Series? August 14, 2013

Patrick Rothfuss’ The Kingkiller Chronicle is to be a television series. Or at least last month Deadline reported it has been optioned by New Regency Productions and 20th Century Fox television as a drama series.

As a huge fan of Patrick Rothfuss, I was initially ecstatic. The Name of the Wind and Wise Man’s Fear are right up there with my all time favourite epic fantasy novels. And I’m not the only one who thinks so. NPR books 2011 poll of Top 100 Science Fiction, Fantasy Books had Rothfuss at number 18, a considerable feat for a relatively new author in a list full of classics and established Sci/Fi and Fantasy writers.

With visions of a Game of Thrones type adaptation, I couldn’t wait to see who they cast as Kvothe, the stunningly gifted and brilliantly drawn protagonist. I was also looking forward to seeing the world brought to life – a world Rothfuss portrayed with such depth and detail in the books.

But that was when it all started to unravel somewhat, at least in my mind. Because the books are big, full of nuance and attention to detail, and the story, told by Kvothe in the book is essentially his life story. Would it translate well to screen and still retain the intimacy and magic of the books?

Not withstanding budgets, timeslots and ratings requirements, could it ever live up to reader (my)  expectations?

I have no idea. At this stage it looks like Eric Heisserer (Hours, The Thing) is set to adapt the series and will be the executive producer – so here’s hoping he has a vision. Because with two huge books and the final instalment, The Doors of Stone, due out in 2014, he has a lot of material to work with.

And it’s true I still can’t quite forget what happened to Firefly on Fox’s watch. (Screened out of order and cancelled after one season!) Could my fan-girl heart trust them again?

Or what happened when Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series became The Legend of the Seeker for the small screen – and the story was changed so much there was no hope it would ever follow the books.

At least the HBO adaptation of Game of Thrones has shown how it can be done, and with a slew of big budget fantasy movies doing well, perhaps we’ll see more high-quality fantasy television series being made?

– by Raewyn Hewitt


Cartography 101 July 25, 2013

Filed under: Inspiration,Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 12:09 am
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Hello Readers!

Most people who write fantasy have a map in mind, some even try to draw their map. I think this is an excellent idea. It gives you as a writer an actual image to look at while writing your novel. It gives you a great sense of space, lets you know if walking from point a to point be is even possible, and lets you get to know your world even better than you knew it before. That being said, some don’t know how to make a map, even if they really want to. So I present you the basics, Cartography 101.


Typically you want to make your world as interesting and diverse as our world. This means giving a varied landscape and mountains are a great way to do that. Mountains arise in places where two tectonic plates meet. To create a mountain, simple make jagged edges around a triangle. Add shading from the west to make the mountains appear more 3D. Don’t forget many mountains are flanked by rolling foothills, which appear as small bumps on a map.



Woods and forest never really have a definite reason for standing where they are like mountains. Where you put forests is completely up to your discretion, but unless your inhabitants use something other than wood to build, they forest around major cities will probably be scarce. To create a forest, make a stand of trees, it doesn’t have to be particular skillful, just a trunk shaped bottom with a cotton ball on top. Shading for trees goes underneath the boughs and out to one side, the side you chose the sun is coming from.



Edges of a landmass are probably the number one thing I see messed up on homemade maps. They are typically too smooth for a real coastline. Erosion will have taken place over time, creating indentions and alcoves all along the shoreline, giving your MC tons of places to hide. Jagged shorelines are very easy to create. At random intervals, move more inward or outward with a your writing utensil, it’ll create a move unique and realistic coastline. Edges are harder to shade, but add shading from the waterline up to the line you made for the country. This give the appearance of more depth.


So that’s about it for Cartography 101, to go deeper you can create vales, glaciers, hidden valleys, and vast plains. I hope this helped a little in your map making adventures! I’m curious, do any of you make maps? And if you do, what has your experience been while creating it?

Write On!



Turn Your Heroes Into Antagonists, Maybe? July 17, 2013

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 6:57 pm
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Fantasy is one of those genres that tends to have a defined hero/heroine character. Somewhere near the beginning of the book — if not in the very first sentence — we are introduced to the character we hope to cheer and root for throughout the rest of the story. Amid villains, love interests, comic relief, and best friends, this is the anchor we keep coming back to.

At whatever point our villain comes in, we understand that this character is the antagonist. No matter if he/she is evil at their core, or if they just come from the opposite side of the major conflict, this is the person who makes things difficult for our hero[ine].

But sometimes, the story needs changing up. Another side needs to be shown.

The antagonist may have redeeming qualities that show through at a pivotal moment. As much as I love an evil, evil villain, I love it just as much when we get to know a different side of this character and realize they might have some justifiable motivations and/or a setting wherein they treat their fellow humans well. George R.R. Martin loves to write about this gray area: the person whose goodness or badness is not definite, or not yet decided. The beauty of this is that it shows so much humanity. It can be depressing if there is too much of it or if it goes on forever, but if done well, it can be beautiful.

(Sometimes it’s beautiful because the antagonist finds redemption and becomes a secondary protagonist and it’s super awesome (!!!), but I digress.)

Here’s what I’m coming around to. I believe it can be just as powerful for the protagonist to turn bad. Typically, most of us writers want to write a character the reader can get behind. We want someone to believe in. It is hard to tolerate a story in which our protagonist never does anything right, but it is possible to love a story in which they become someone horrible for awhile (like an anti-hero), or even indefinitely (maybe turned into an antagonist)…so long as we understand why they became this person, and we can sympathize with it.

I don’t think this works all the time. It only works when it truly is what should happen next. But I want to say this: don’t shy away from it. If you want that main character to go through a time wherein they do something terrible, it might be exactly what has to happen to make that character’s story complete. I struggled with this a lot while writing the first book in my SERENGARD series. There were awful things my main characters had to say to one another and do to their fellow characters, because that’s who they were. They couldn’t be anyone else, and I still wince when I read it, but that’s what happened. It’s scary to write like this, at least for me, and it’s not necessarily what everyone’s story needs. But if it does, do it.

If you decide you need to go to the harsher, darker places with your protagonist, here are a few things that helped pull my story through, and might help with yours:

  • It’s a good idea to make sure the secondary characters carry a little light with them to keep people reading. Maintain a bit of humor and a bit of morality in some form.
  • In the same vein, have another character in the wings who appears ready to be the next hero[ine]. There doesn’t necessarily need to be any mention of them for fifty pages, just as long as we remember that this person exists. Whether it happens or not doesn’t matter. We just need the hope.
  • Too much badness, and people get turned off. Not enough, and they’re unconvinced that it’s even a crisis. Balance it out as best you can.
  • Of course, keep your character consistent. They can’t suddenly develop a horrid temper or a thirst for blood. They need to have had this issue in a mild form before. What made them snap? Be sure it’s explained.
  • Don’t forget resolution. Even if your protagonist changes and becomes this darker character, bring the character arc about full circle, just as you would if they remained a hero[ine].

You’re the writer, and you know in your gut where this story has to go. If it has to happen, than it HAS to happen! Is it horribly hard to write? Yes. But can you do it? You totally can! I have faith in you. ❤

Rachel O


The Princess Bride and Narrative Techniques July 3, 2013

In the summer of 1992 I was injured on a working holiday and spent much of my summer watching my friend’s copy of The Princess Bride movie. (Forget flat-screens and high definition – this was state of the art VHS). By the time the neck brace came off I could quote most of that movie verbatim – it’s full of quotable gems such as:

“As you wish.” “My name is Inigo Montoya you killed my father prepare to die…” “To the pain.” “Inconceivable!”

As part of my love affair with the movie, I also tracked down William Goldman’s book and was pulled further into the rabbit hole. Because although the movie is told as a story within a story (a grandfather reading a story to his grandson), the book is even more complex – including Goldman himself as both character and storyteller.

In the book of The Princess Bride, Goldman claims to be presenting an abridgement of a story written by S. Morgenstern. According to Goldman he was read the story by his father. Some time later his fascination with the story leads him to track down a copy of the book for his own son, only to find that Morgenstern’s original version was actually a satire of the excesses of European royalty, complete with long and complex descriptions of etiquette and pedigree. Nothing at all like the tale his father told.

In the book Goldman tells it this way:

But my father only read me the action stuff, the good parts. He never bothered with the serious side at all.

And so, Goldman sets about publishing his abridged version of the book.

However, the truth is there is no Morgenstern, no son even (Goldman had daughters) and of course Florin is a fictitious fantasy realm. But the narrative technique seems to have been the key to opening up the writing process for The Princess Bride.

Goldman is quoted as saying:

And when that idea hit, everything changed. Tennessee Williams says there are three or four days when you are writing a play that the piece opens itself to you, and the good parts of the play are all from those days. Well, The Princess Bride opened itself to me. I never had a writing experience like it. I went back and wrote the chapter about Bill Goldman being at the Beverly Hills Hotel and it all just came out. I never felt as strongly connected emotionally to any writing of mine in my life. It was totally new and satisfying and it came as such a contrast to the world I had been doing in the films that I wanted to be a novelist again.

And although it’s hard to trust anything Goldman says (especially in the forewords and anniversary additions where he continues to spout great whoppers about his life and ongoing dealings with the Morgenstern estate) – there’s something that resonates as a writer about finding the key to opening up the story-telling process.

In the case of the book, Goldman was able to put on his larger-than-life storyteller persona and control the pace and the timing of the story. In the movie, this technique (to a lesser degree) is used to pull the viewer out of the story and create tension. It allows backstory to be covered quickly – shameless telling, but in a form that works; and keeps the tone of the movie light and comedic.

Some of the most memorable books I’ve read have had interesting narrative structures. Wuthering Heights used a narrator who heard part of the tale on his sickbed and set forth and uncovered the rest for himself. To Kill a Mockingbird chose a child narrator to get to the heart of justice and racial inequalities.

In the fantasy genre, Patrick Rothfuss, in his bestsellers The Name of the Wind, and Wise Man’s Fear uses another story within a story narrative technique. Having the main character dictate his life story to a scribe during a period of time in his life which seems far from a happy-ending scenario, not only provides a framework for the story, but colours the readers expectations. At first we wonder how this character will ever attain the degree of infamy he is apparently known for, but we’re also wondering how and when it’s all going to go so spectacularly wrong. The stakes are upped at the outset.

Finding the right narrative structure can mean the difference between your story coming to life or ending up ‘mostly dead’.

For Goldman, it not only unlocked his own creativity, but resulted in an on-going dialogue with his readers as he encourages them to write to his publishers for extra scenes and continues to spin tall tales around his visits to Florin and on-going legal wrangle with the family Morgenstern. You have to applaud him for using such an unusual vehicle for drawing his readership in; because there’s no denying there is something special about The Princess Bride.

Do you have a favourite quote or scene in The Princess Bride? Or did the book or movie make an impact on you back when it was released – or (for those younger souls) when you stumbled across it?

– by Raewyn Hewitt


In Need of An Oracle? June 29, 2013

One of the things reading epic fantasy has taught me is that oracles are not to be trusted. They tend to be elusive, philosophical individuals that are more about fudging the truth and being mysterious, than being a font of good advice. (Except maybe for the Oracle in the Matrix, she was kind of cool…).

But where do we go when we’re writing epic fantasy and in need of specialist help?

In our stories our heroes either go in search of Jedi masters (or the equivalent), or more often than not (especially in the case of Jedi masters) one just happens along at the perfect moment. Or they go to some amazingly well-known, usually exclusive, but endowed-with-the-knowledge-of-the-ages learning institution (that inevitably doesn’t have all the answers after all). Or they bypass the whole she-bang and learn through the school of hard-knocks (I get knocked down, but I get up again…).

So does the same hold true for us?

The Master Writer: It seems that there are many of us working on the great epic fantasy, but only so many masters of the craft to go around. Sadly we all can’t be the chosen one (son of Darth Vader / Anakin Skywalker), able to discuss the finer points of our writing with the Gaiman’s and Rothfuss’s of our time. But unlike (most of) our characters, we at least have the internet.

Many of our favourite authors are available, if not for a cup of coffee and a chat, at least to give us some great advice based on their own experiences. Websites and the ‘frequently asked questions tabs’ are great places to glean advice. Search interviews with your favourite authors, and check out inspirational speaking engagements on youtube (one of my favourites was Neil Gaiman’s commencement speech to the 2012 graduating class of the University of the Arts (Philadelphia) – check out the link here).

Higher Education: Maybe not Jedi-school, but a great creative writing course could be the way to go. I was particularly fond of the University in Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind and Wise Man’s Fear. Like a grown up Hogwarts it contained magical classes and opportunity for invention and advancement; not to mention fees that caused Kovthe no end of grief.

If you happen to live near a good school that understands and can nurture your talent for fantasy writing – and are able to attend – you are a fortunate person indeed (and I’m very jealous). However if not, you can always check out on-line courses (I can’t recommend any personally, but feel free to comment on your own experience in this area).

If you don’t want to pay to enrol (and gain the benefit of personal feedback) there are some helpful classes recorded on youtube. I stumbled across this Creative Writing Course for science fiction and fantasy authors taught by Brandon Sanderson at Brigham Young University, which contained all sorts of interesting genre-related information (such as some good general tips for map-making / world building – like making sure your rivers run down toward the sea).

A Band of Like-minded Peers: That really didn’t work out for the Jedi (bad bad Anakin), but when it comes to writing groups – there’s something to be said for getting together with other creative types and encouraging each other to push those  writing limits. I’ve often imagined being part of a group like The Inklings, the writing group that both C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien belonged to.

In my own experience talking to someone else who gets the appeal of epic fantasy tends to help me spark new ideas, or challenge the ways I’m trying to tell a story. It’s not every day that the Tolkiens and Lewises of the world find each other, but at least on-line – through blogs such as this one – we can find other people to chat with, bounce ideas off and occasionally have a true creative meeting of the minds. Visit the blogs of other fantasy writers and get chatting in the comments, you never know who you might meet!

Trial and Error: For many of us this is how we find our way. We write 150,000 word first drafts (especially if we’re epic fantasy writers) that require epic editing more than anything else. We look at the fantasy novelist’s exam and realise we’ve ticked 80% (or more!) of the boxes. We discover that our clichés are very loosely veiled and aren’t fooling anyone (except perhaps ourselves). And sometimes our writing just sucks on its way to getting better.

But take heart, most of the pioneers of fantasy writing wrote without a road map. They believed in themselves, followed their vision and wrestled with words the same way we do, while they were writing their ground-breaking stories.

I don’t believe in oracles outside of fantasy, but I do believe we have plenty of resources available to help us realise our own fantastic stories. If you have any favourite places to go when you’re in need of expert advice (for epic or fantasy writing) we’d love to hear from you in the comments!

– by Raewyn Hewitt


Getting Down & Dirty June 22, 2013

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

Every writer out there is familiar with the concept of Show, Don’t Tell. You all know how it works.

Tell: Frederick was wet and miserable.

Show: The rain plastered Frederick’s hair to his head and soaked through his heavy cloak making it hang across his shoulders like a giant’s arm. Cold rivulets of water trickled under his tunic, slithering down his back and sending a shiver through him. With every step his feet squished in his sodden boots. If he were meant to be this wet, he’d have been born a duck.

That may not be the most masterful writing, but you get the idea. Showing raises the level of intensity by putting the reader in our character’s skin, making them feel, smell, hear, see everything our character is.

But where do you draw the line? When does it become too overwhelming?

There’s no right answer to that question, by the way. It becomes a matter of personal preference. But it’s something that’s been on my mind for a while. Personally, I like gritty — or what I’ve recently seen referred to as “grimdark”. I want to read stuff that makes me squirm if it’s making the characters squirm. Not everyone does. Some fantasy authors take that to the extreme and then get dinged for it in reviews. I got dinged for it in First of Her Kind and I didn’t think I was even being all that gritty.

Art must be fearless. That’s the tagline of friend and fellow author Devin O’Branagan and it’s something I tell myself anytime I feel like skimping on the details. If my character is a prisoner in a damp, dark cell, telling my readers the straw strewn on the floor smells bad is . . . well . . . weak. Bad like what? If, as a reader, I wrinkle my nose at the author’s description of what that straw smells like, I’m going to really empathize with that character a whole lot more. As a writer, I want my readers empathizing because that leads to caring.

Fantasy is definitely a genre with several camps. On one side we have the light-hearted, sometimes humorous, epic romp that has the Happy Ever After ending and doesn’t make us squirm in our seats. On the other is the brutally honest, face in the dirt, bugs in your teeth, hard-hitting, pulls no punches type. In between, a mix of the two. As a reader, I definitely lean toward the hard-hitting side. As a writer, I try to find a balance. I don’t want the violence, sex, or realism to ever be termed gratuitous but I realize that is also in the eye of the beholder reader. As long as it is essential to the plot and the character, and happens naturally, then I don’t consider it to be gratuitous

So how far do you go to sink the reader into your character’s skin? As a reader, how uncomfortable are you willing to get? Are there any particular authors you think handle this well, or not so well?



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?