Wednesday Writing Tips: Writing Fantasy Races

Writing Fantasy Races
by: Andrew P. Miller and Daniel Clark

Any attempt to survey the multitude of races that exist in legend and imaginative literature is open to criticism of being incomplete in some areas and too inclusive in others. The obvious dilemma is the question of how one defines a “race” in fantastic literature and legend. In reference to humans, the term race is fraught with political and cultural implications; in general, it refers to similarities and differences in certain physical characteristics like skin color, facial form, or eye shape. Political and cultural affinity factor into the debate as well and are sometimes more important than an individual’s particular genetic heritage. But humans as a group are far more similar in appearance than the groups that populate the landscape of the imagination. Bushmen and Celts are virtually indistinguishable in comparison to the differences between merfolk and trolls. But just as with defining human races, there are considerations beyond the physical that enter into the issue. It’s not just a question of which arbitrary physical features to consider since the differences in these imaginative beings are long established; it’s really a question of what distinguishes a fantastic race from a fantastic creature.

The terms race and creature suggest differences, and one difference is in total population in a group. It’s easy to see that a unique being like the Hawaiian shark man is a creature and not a race. Or that rare beings like the rocs are creatures and do not constitute a race. But there is a qualitative difference between the way groups of beings, like elves and giant squids, are portrayed in fantastic stories that has to do with a metaphysical hierarchy. It’s not merely a question of humanoid shape; elves are obviously patterned on humans—often they are more diminutive and more beautiful than the average human—and giant squids are patterned on their smaller counterparts in the real animal kingdom, but what about the Yahoos and Houyhnhnms of Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels? The Houyhnhnms, outwardly equine in shape, have a complex society and appreciate art and intellectual pursuits, whereas the Yahoos, outwardly human in shape, have no language and live in packs in the forest like wild dogs. Obviously, similarity to human shape is not the most important factor in determining the difference in race and creature.

As Gulliver’s Travels points out, we must not be too anthropomorphically bigoted when we determine where various groups rank on the Great Chain of Being in fantastic stories. Instead, we tend to be prejudiced by the nonphysical attributes and values of humans. For our purposes in this chapter—and this seems to hold generally true for the body of fantastic literature and legend—we define race using the following criteria:

  • Physical Similarity: This one is pretty obvious. Elves look like elves, dwarves like dwarves.
  • Population: It can’t be a unique being and still be called a member of a race. Now there can be exceptions to this; Tolkien, at the end of The Trilogy of the Ring, suggests that the fantastic races are slowly dying out and humans replacing them. A writer could create a scenario in which a being is the last of her kind, but the implication is that there once were many more.

Continue Reading…

Wednesday Writing Tips: Magical Realism Short Stories

THIS IS WHERE TO START WITH MAGICAL REALISM SHORT STORIES

By: Mary Kay McBrayer

As with any genre categorization, the edges of magical realism short stories are blurry. The term “magical realism” itself seems to be an oxymoron: if it’s magical, how can it be real? The definition, however nebulous, depends on whom you ask.magical-realism-short-stories

HOW DO YOU DEFINE MAGICAL REALISM SHORT STORIES?

I tried to reduce the definition to its most simplistic qualities: the world of the story is realistic, just like this one, or maybe a little worse. Magical elements are introduced to the world of the story, and the characters in the world treat them as though they are real, a part of their crappy world. The characters are not astounded by the presence of what seems (to the reader) magical.

Naturally there are some dissenting opinions, and because humans like to categorize things, there are some distinct sub-genres. Surrealism is “concerned with upending accepted realities,” and fabulism “is known for putting fables and myths into a contemporary setting.” (For more on these topics, click here.)

For our purposes, we have another chunk of that genre to define as well: what is a short story? What qualifies as “short,” and what makes a “story.” Again, I tried to reduce this definition to its most simplistic qualities: if I can read it in one sitting, then it’s “short.” If I have to get up for snack breaks, to check my email, et cetera, it doesn’t qualify. As far as defining “story”: there needs to be a narrative. That means, to me, SOMETHING HAPPENS. Something happens after which nothing is the same, a new status quo is reached. Much of the time, the magical entering the realistic world works as the “something,” but not always.

With those VERY loose terms defined, here are some of the most impactful magical realism short stories, including magical realism short story collections and magical realism short story authors.

Continue reading…


The Indieverse Resource Library—Your Gateway To All Things Indie!Are you looking for author services like editing, book cover design, or marketing & promotional services? Want to know how to covert your manuscript to pdf or mobi? Are you a reader looking for tips on how to maintain a home library?

The Indieverse Resource Library (IRL) is an online directory of resources for both Indie authors and readers who are seeking information and guidance on a variety of topics, including book selection, maintaining an at-home library, writing, publishing, promotion, marketing, business-management, book reviews, translation, and a whole host of other issues relevant to our Indie community!

We’re constantly updating our Elibrary with new services, articles, and blogs, so whether you’d like to just stop in for a few minutes, or submit an item or service to us, we’re standing by, ready to assist!

Access to our Indieverse Resource Library is absolutely FREE, and here’s the best news… We’re open for business 24/7! Come and visit us now at https://www.authorjbrichards.com/indieverse-resources

Wednesday Writing Tips: 13 Tips for Writing Fantasy

13 Kick-Ass Tips For Writing Fantasy From Professional Fantasy Editors

By: Reedsy

Has there ever been a better time to be writing fantasy? Where once it was a fringe genre, now fantasy is everywhere in pop culture, from Harry Potter to the memes surrounding Jon Snow.

There’s also never been a more exciting time to write fantasy. The genre is changing daily, as authors such as Neil Gaiman, Susanna Clarke, and Patrick Rothfuss continue to interpret, subvert, and stretch it to attain new pinnacles. What’s more, the public can’t seem to get enough of it, proving that there is a market for fantasy — and it’s a big one.

So, if you’re an author, where can you find a place for yourself in today’s talent-rich terrain?

In our search for the finest writing tips in the realm, we spoke to seven of the top fantasy editors on our marketplace. They’ve worked with George R.R. Martin, James Dashner, Brandon Sanderson, and many more of the brilliant authors who are re-defining the genre. Here’s what they said.

1. Identify your market

If you don’t know your market, you’ve already made a mistake, says Erin Young, an agent for Dystel Goderich & Bourret, which represents authors such as James Dashner of Maze Runner fame.

“Oh, my market is fantasy,” you might say, waving your monthly subscription of Imagination And Me. But is your story steampunkurban, or grimdark fantasy? Is it for children or young adults? Are there elves or tech? Is it set in the modern world, or is it a re-imagining of an alternate past? Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, for instance, doesn’t target Discworld’s readers, and no-one would instinctively group Harry Potter and Stephen King’s The Dark Tower in the same category.

AstraFantasyIllustration

Indeed, “fantasy” is such a broad genre that you’ll need to dig deeper to find your niche — but it’s important as your subgenre not only informs your characters and setting, it also allows you to identify your competition and audience. As Young says: “If your characters are younger, you should be writing YA or MG, not adult.”

To get a better picture of the various subgenres within fantasy, check out this guide as well as this post on the evolution of fantasy since the 1900s.

2. Develop your world through short stories

Did you know that JRR Tolkien wrote a gazillion short stories about Middle-Earth before ever starting The Hobbit?

He needed somewhere to begin. That’s exactly what Jenny Bowman, an editor who worked on Robert Beatty’s Serafina and the Black Cloak, advises: a good way to build your world is to write short stories that feature some of your characters. “Do this with the intention of excluding [these stories] from your book,” she says. “This gives you freedom to create a new universe with no boundaries.”

“Build your fantasy world through short stories that feature your characters,” and more tips inside

So if you can’t churn out the full-blown novel inside of you just yet, don’t sweat it. Dip your toe into the water through short stories, instead.

3. Plot out your story before you begin

Stories in the fantasy genre are often complex and epic — all the more reason to plot it out before. You don’t want to accidentally trip over all 99 of your storylines. And you don’t want to be that writer who gets to the end of the book and realizes they’ve forgotten to tie a knot in one part of the plot. Hello, darkness, my old friend.

That’s why Young says to get a general sense of your plot before you start writing. “You’ll know your world so much better if you know your story first,” she says. “Then, once your story is plotted out, you can use the plot structure as a skeleton to show where you want to build your world, scene by scene.”

For more food for plotting thought, you can read up on narrative arcs here.

Continue reading…

Wednesday Writing Tips: Selling by Not Telling

Selling a story by NOT telling a story

By: WrittenInsomnia.com

Here’s the thing with telling someone about your book – be it in person, or in an ad, or via the back cover copy you’ve spent arduous hours perfecting: almost every author is terrible at it. Because almost every author makes the horrible mistake of thinking that you sell someone on your story by telling them about your story. Nothing could be further from the truth.

You have to remember you have maybe two sentences before people get bored. So you don’t start off with your story, you start off with a BANG.

What I often tell new authors — or even old authors — is to imagine your sales pitch as pictures of your kids (if you don’t have kids, imagine you do — you’re a writer, it should be easy). Every single human above the age of 20 has had someone approach them with that person’s pictures of their kids. They start showing off the pictures and yammering on about things that matter incredibly to that person, but not at all to us.

Your story is your baby in some ways. Especially in that nobody else cares at all about it until you give them a REASON to care.

Now, if that person who can’t stop showing you their baby pictures walks up and says, “Timmy’s face caught fire yesterday,“ now you are in it for the long haul. They can actually take their time getting to the good part, because they have told you something in the first sentence that makes it clear the story is going to be worth your while.

Remember, also, that ad copy and back cover copy is NOT ABOUT TELLING THE STORY. It is about providing potential readers with an idea of the tone and genre of your book, and then the only other thing you are trying to do is pose a question in the reader’s mind that can ONLY be answered by reading the book.

Continue reading…


The Indieverse Resource Library—Your Gateway To All Things Indie!Are you looking for author services like editing, book cover design, or marketing & promotional services? Want to know how to covert your manuscript to pdf or mobi? Are you a reader looking for tips on how to maintain a home library?

The Indieverse Resource Library (IRL) is an online directory of resources for both Indie authors and readers who are seeking information and guidance on a variety of topics, including book selection, maintaining an at-home library, writing, publishing, promotion, marketing, business-management, book reviews, translation, and a whole host of other issues relevant to our Indie community!

We’re constantly updating our Elibrary with new services, articles, and blogs, so whether you’d like to just stop in for a few minutes, or submit an item or service to us, we’re standing by, ready to assist!

Access to our Indieverse Resource Library is absolutely FREE, and here’s the best news… We’re open for business 24/7! Come and visit us now at https://www.authorjbrichards.com/indieverse-resources

Wednesday Writing Tips: How to Write Fresh

Writing Fantasy: How to Write Fresh When Following a Recipe
by: Jeff Wheeler

When a reader falls in love with a new fantasy world, they can be skittish about trying something new. One of my heroes growing up (and the man who inspired me to write) was Terry Brooks and his Shannara books always outsold his other series. I was willing to follow him into the world of the Magic Kingdom series and his urban fantasy series, but like many others felt the recipe of Shannara to be the most enjoyable. I was always ready for another helping!

During my own writer’s journey, I did not want to be constrained to write in a single world. My imagination has always been like the opening credits of Star Trek, with a craving to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go—well, you get the drift.

But that leads to a problem. How do you entice readers to try out a new world when everyone already loves the old one? Why start from scratch when the recipe works?

In my view, the wonderful thing about ingredients is the variety of offerings. Whoever decided to crush Oreos into vanilla ice cream was a genius. Authors are inspired by a variety of sources and then mash-up different ideas to create interesting new concoctions. Some work, some don’t. We explore and play with many. I’ve always liked to push and test myself to do something nontraditional.

So how do I make it easy for readers to swallow?

Continue Reading…

Wednesday Writing Tip: How to Write Faster: 15 Tips for Maximum Productivity

By: Perfecting Your Craft; Reedsy Blog

Writes faster than a speeding bullet! Words more powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap from one metaphor to the next in a single bound! It’s a bird… it’s a plane… no! It’s Super Writer! 🚀

As great as that sounds, the truth is that writing quickly is no superpower, but a skill that takes time and practice to develop. After all, most writers struggle just getting the right words down on the page, much less speeding through them.

But don’t despair — learning how to write faster may not be easy, but it willbe worth it! From essay crunch time to NaNoWriMo, there are endless scenarios in which speed-writing is an amazing asset. Follow these tips on how to write as fast as possible to start zooming through your projects… and maybe even take on that “Super Writer” alter ego after all.

1. Know your “golden hours”

One of the first things to do is determine your productivity peaks. Every writer has a different routine and lifestyle, which means this varies hugely from person to person: some of us may enjoy a late-night creativity spike, while others prefer the crisp concentration of the early morning.

Whenever this time is for you, max it out! For example, if you know you’re more focused at night, schedule as many after-dinner writing sessions as possible. Or if you work better in a kid-free environment, write when they’re at school or daycare. You may have to do a bit of trial-and-error to determine your own “golden hours” and arrange your schedule around them, but you’ll notice a HUGE difference in output once you do.

2. Create an outline first

Even if you’re a “pantser” who typically rejects structure, outlining is a mustfor anyone who wants to increase their writing speed. Anytime you sit down to write, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the number of paths you might pursue — but an outline can rescue you by giving you a clear-cut roadmap. You don’t have to plan out every single detail, but having a solid idea of the overall story arc will help you spend more time writing quickly, and less time fretting over what should happen next.

3. Set concrete goals

Most writers understand that goal-setting is important, but for those trying to write faster, it’s absolutely paramount. Without deadlines, your progress will be uneven and you’ll likely lose focus within weeks (if not days). So before you dive in, set challenging-yet-doable goals for yourself at regular intervals.

Don’t worry; you can start off relatively easy. For example, 500 words per session is a reasonable goal for a first-timer. However, if your ultimate objective is to write faster, you should soon be pushing yourself to write 1,000 or even 2,000+ words every session.

Also remember to give yourself proportional rewards! For example, if you do a full week of writing sessions at 500 words/session, you might buy yourself a new book. But when you do your first full week of 2,000 words/session, treat yourself to a nice dinner or tickets to a show — whatever keeps you motivated.

4. Don’t stop to edit

Our next tip is for all you perfectionists out there: don’t stop to edit.There’s no greater productivity killer when trying to write — not only does editing interrupt your creative “flow,” but it’s also just unnecessary. After all, you’re going to edit your book when you’re done, right? Why worry about it now, when you can always change things later?

Of course, this is way easier said than done. So here’s a more realistic proposal: you can edit typos and simple turns of phrase, but try not to spend more than 10 seconds on any correction. Any more and you’ll break your own rhythm and have to force yourself back into focus mode, which is (needless to say) counterproductive to fast writing.

CONTINUE READING…

Wednesday Writing Tips: What is a Motif?

What is a Motif? Definition and 10 Concrete Examples from Literature

By: Reedsy

Let’s just admit it: “What is a motif and how do you use it?” is a much less sexy question to ask than, “What’s your book about?”

But it’s just as necessary. If the theme of a book is its heartbeat, then motifs in literatureare the vessels that keep the blood coursing through the narrative. Among other things, motifs add depth to your writing and steer readers toward your book’s central message (assisted by other strong literary devices).

In this post, we’ll look at what a motif is (and what it is not), examine motif examples in action, and explore how you can incorporate motifs into your own writing.

What is a motif?

A motif is a recurring narrative element with symbolic significance. If you spot a symbol, concept, or plot structure that surfaces repeatedly in the text, you’re probably dealing with a motif. Motifs must be related to the central idea of the work and they always end up reinforcing the author’s overall message.

But how can you tell which ones are motifs? Remember that you must be able to connect a motif to the “big ideas” in a book. Just because the narrator mentions a particular pair of shoes a few times, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a motif — unless the author makes a point of tying it to a bigger question of, let’s say, escape and freedom. (Don’t worry — we’ll provide more concrete motif examples in a bit!)

Since they’re repeated throughout a text, motifs are also very traceable. As you’re trying to figure out the motifs of a given work, it might be useful to think of them as having a trail of purposeful clues. The author plants these breadcrumbs so that the reader can better work out the ideas behind the work — and its overarching point.

That brings up our next question: how do motifs relate to themes? Luckily, we’ve got the answer for you right here!

Motifs support a book’s theme

The theme of a book is generally considered to be the core meaning behind a story — the “soul” behind the text, in other words. Themes are almost always universal and they usually illuminate something about society, human nature, and the world.

what is a motif in literature image 3

In contrast, a motif reinforces the theme through the repetition of a certain narrative element. As you may have already guessed, themes and motifs in literature are devoted partners in crime.

To give you an easily digestible example, let’s take Shakespeare’s Sonnet 24. The theme of this sonnet is arguably that “love is skin-deep.” And one of its main motifs is sight, which is made clear through the recurring imagery of eyes. It’s not a coincidence that the motif and the theme of a text are closely related: the former props up and strengthens the other, as you can see in this sonnet.

Million-dollar question: what’s the difference between a motif and a theme? Find out here!

Symbols represent motifs

A symbol in a book is just like a symbol on a street sign: something recognizable that represents something abstract. In the US, for instance, eagles are a symbol of freedom. In The Hunger Games, the mockingjay is a symbol of revolution.

That said, when you see a symbol surface over and over again, chances are that it signifies a motif.

Let’s cut to The Great Gatsby, a classic vessel of symbolism, to illustrate this. F. Scott Fitzgerald uses the Valley of Ashes — a barren wasteland between East and West Egg — as a symbol to represent the waste and moral decay of the elite. This is a part of the book’s bigger motif of wealth and finance, which recurs through a number of ideas — among them, Gatsby’s parties, the extravagance of the both West and East Eggs, and Daisy’s voice that is described as “full of money.” That, in turn, reinforces one of the book’s major themes about the corruption of the American Dream.

To sum it up, here’s a quick chart for you:

what is a motif image 1Now that you have a better sense of what is a motif (and what it’s not), let’s see some more of them in action!

Continue reading…

Wednesday Writing Tips: Writing & Self-Editing for Indie Authors

25 Writing and Self-Editing Tips for Indie Authors

By: Derek Murphy

Years of publishing has taught me that a book written and published quickly can be just as good (or better) than one that took ten years to polish. Even though I have a PhD in Literature and spent nearly a decade as a book editor, I’ve seen far too many beautifully edited books fail; I’ve also spent times editing projects that I knew deep down weren’t commercially viable. 

That’s why I strongly urge writers to self-edit as much as possible, whether or not they hire an editor or proofreader, so they can improve their writing. A great editor will always make things better, but they won’t change or rewrite the story for you. They may identify crucial plot holes or character development problems, but they won’t fix them (unless you’re paying them for ghostwriting, most editors will fix and improve but won’t rewrite your story).

So here are 25 self-editing tips you can use to check your own work before you look for beta readers or outside help. These are based on common writing mistakes myself and the editors at BookButchers encounter most frequently in new writers.

PS) If you write fiction, I also just made a video about my 5-step book revision process (here).

 

 

Like this video? I also made a free course about editing books, with my recommended writing books for authors.

You can sign up here.

Introduction

No self-published author should publish their work without paying a professional to edit it first. But what if you don’t have the money to pay for an editor? Or what if you want to keep your costs down by doing as much editing on your own as you can?

Before you spend money on an editor, work your way through this 25-point checklist. Because the better you can make your novel on your own, the better your editor can help you make it together. Think of it like football: Get the ball as far down the field as you can, then pass the ball to your editor. Together you can go for goal.

SELF-EDITING TIP #1

Does the world need this book? If so, why?

Every year, millions of books get published. Most get ignored. Ask yourself: Why does the world need your book?

This is not an argument to self-censor. Rather to think about what you’re publishing and why. Talking to hear the sound of your own voice may be amusing, but does little to attract an audience. Talking, writing, speaking—it’s all about the audience, not about you.

Sharpening your focus at this stage will make self-editing much easier. Because if you don’t know what you have to say or why you’re saying it, then how can you sharpen your prose to achieve those goals?

SELF-EDITING TIP #2:

How’s Your Hook?

Readers have short attention spans these days, and an ocean of ebooks to choose from. You need a strong hook in your opening pages to persuade readers to cross your palm with silver.

Pretend that you’re a reader, and ask yourself: Why should I care? Why should I invest my money—not to mention my time, which is even more valuable—in reading your novel? I could be watching Game of Thrones. Are you telling me your novel is more entertaining? Make me care!

And hooking the reader doesn’t end after the first five pages. There is no point at which you can relax and rest on your laurels (either within the pages of a book or during a literary career). Every word sells the next. Every sentence sells the next. Every paragraph sells the next. Every chapter sells the next. Every book sells the next.

Because as a reader? I owe you exactly squat. Zilch. Make me care. Make your writing so irresistible that I can’t help but want to read on.

That’s how you write a book. That’s how you build a career.

SELF-EDITING TIP #3:

Who’s Your Hero?

Reading a novel means donning an avatar’s skin. When we enter the pages of your book, we become, in our imaginations, at least, your hero. And we’re not going to be very comfortable if your hero is a jerk.

Your hero needs to be someone we can relate to, who we can understand. We don’t necessarily have to like him, but we have to care. This doesn’t mean your hero should be a goodie two-shoes, because that’s equally irritating. Instead, write flawed heroes and complex villains. Hannibal Lector may be a cannibal, but boy can he keep me turning the pages!

SELF-EDITING TIP #4:

What Does Your Hero Want?

A novel is just this: Who is your hero? What does he want? What’s stopping him from getting it?

Character is just another word for what the hero wants. Give us a sympathetic hero with a goal we can relate to, and the strength of will to pursue that goal at all costs, and you’ve got the makings of a great story.

SELF-EDITING TIP #5

Who’s Your Villain?

You needn’t go all Hollywood here, but your hero needs obstacles. If your hero wants a ham sandwich, and all he has to do is go to the fridge and make one, that’s not a very exciting story, now is it?

Note that by “villain” we mean the opposing force working to prevent the hero from achieving his goal. The villain and hero are sometimes the same character—for instance, a story of an alcoholic or drug addict fighting to get the monkey off his back. Or it could be nature—sailors fighting to stay afloat during a hurricane.

If you go with a human villain, be sure to give the character a touch of goodness. Evil is not cartoonish, but rather a misguided attempt to do good. Melodrama went out of fashion when the last vaudeville hall closed its doors.

Continue reading…

Wednesday Writing Tips: Writing a Fantasy Series

Writing a fantasy series? Do’s and Don’ts

By: Bridget-Now Novel

Authors such as George R. R. Martin and J.K. Rowling are living proof that the fantasy genre offers aspiring authors a crack at building vast fandoms and spin-off empires (hit movies, TV series, even candy products materialized from fictional worlds). If you’re planning writing a fantasy series of your own, here are do’s and don’ts for creating your own multi-novel fantasy story:

First, what is fantasy fiction? Some historical background

Our oldest literature is fantasy fiction. From The Epic of Gilgamesh to Homer’s The Odyssey to Beowulf, the stories that survive from ancient civilizations are stories of Gods, magic, quests and monsters. The word ‘fantasy’ comes from the Greek phantasia — ‘power of imagination, appearance, image, perception’ — and acquired the sense of ‘fantastic imagination’ from the 1500s onwards. From the 1920s, the word acquired stronger connotations of wish-fulfillment (‘a day-dream based on desires’).

Modern fantasy contains many of these root meanings. Its authors give us complex, imaginative worlds, supplying vivid day-dreams to fulfill our desires. Character’s have magic healing (or destructive) powers. Heroic saviours defeat powerful malevolence and restore order and goodness. It’s undeniable that fantasy remains one of the most popular genres (the ‘Fantasy Writers’ group is one of the most populous writing groups on Now Novel).

 
Portrait of a young J.R.R. Tolkien

Some consider J.R.R. Tolkien the father of modern English-language fantasy fiction. There were early 20th Century fantasy novels written prior to Tolkien’s The Hobbit and his Lord of the Rings cycle (such as Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirrlees and The Worm Ouroboros by E.R. Eddison), but the commercial and critical success of Tolkien’s work (and the Chronicles of Narnia novels by his friend C.S. Lewis) launched the modern genre.

Tolkien based his own work on his scholarly interests in northern European mythological sagas and linguistics. Another source of symbolism for many modern fantasy authors is the role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons, which draws on Tolkien’s fantasy world of orcs and dwarves itself.

Character types of the fantasy genre such as elves, trolls and wizards create instant genre recognition, as do plot clichés such as the motley band of co-travellers who meet in a tavern. To avoid your series seeming like a mere rehash of these tropes, it’s important to add your own slant. J.K. Rowling’s wildly popular world in her Harry Potter series is full of re-imaginings of old fantasy tropes. Her reworkings range from different animal familiars (owls replace cats) to flying-broomsticks re-imagined as state-of-the-art sports gear.

Here are several do’s and don’ts for writing your own imaginative fantasy fiction series:

Do: Read widely within and around your genre

This advice is almost a cliché in itself, and yet it is common because it is so necessary.

The only way to really become familiar with the clichés and pitfalls of the fantasy genre is to read a lot of fantasy novels. As you read, think about what works and what feels obvious and overly-indebted to previous authors. The broader the scope of your reading, the better you will know what kinds of fantasy worlds, character types and plot topics are underrepresented. Of course, you can also satirize clichéd types, as authors such as Sir Terry Pratchett have done.

Don’t: Rely on worn-out fantasy character types

Clichéd fantasy character types such as the orphan-boy-who-is-chosen-for-a-great-task abound. Harry Potter is one example. Because of the strength of Rowling’s series as a whole, and the size of her series’ cast, a few clichés don’t detract much. When a fantasy series lays down one clichéd character after another (the fearful sidekick, the grumpy dwarf and the reluctant-orphan-hero), a series starts to feel more derivative.

Continue reading…

Wednesday Writing Tips: Worldbuilding

Worldbuilding

By: Daniel Arenson

Fantasy and science fiction are about other worlds. Sometimes worlds in the distant past, full of wizards and dragons. Sometimes worlds similar to our own but touched with magic. Sometimes other planets or our own planet in the future. One of the most challenging yet rewarding parts of writing speculative fiction is building your world. How can you invent a world that is unique, exciting, and feels real?

THE PREMISE

Does your world have a high premise, a unique selling point? A Song of Ice and Fire is about a world where seasons can last for years. Dune is about a desert planet. The Chronicles of Amber is about one true world casting infinite “shadows,” including Earth.

You can create an imaginary world simply by inventing new locations–a forest here, a mountain there. But a unique “theme” to your world will help it stand out.

My series Moth is about a planet that doesn’t spin around its axis, leaving one half in perpetual sunlight, the other in eternal night. Each side developed its own cultures, and day and night clash throughout the series. I could have created a simple world where two kingdoms battled, but actually dividing the world between day and night made Moth more memorable.

What makes your world unique?

THE MAP

Fantasy novelists often draw maps for their worlds. This process can help you learn more about your world. As you draw coastlines, mountains, swamps, forests, ruins, and settlements, you can let your imagination run and invent new locations and cultures as you go.

When I created the map for Moth, I used software called Campaign Cartographer. But a map can be as simple as something you draw with pen and paper.

Take a look at my map for Moth here. As you can see, I divided my world into two halves–one half in eternal sunlight, the other in endless night–fitting the theme of my world. I then added geographical features (mountains, forests, rivers) along with cities, roads, ports, and borders. As I was drawing the map, I was also inventing new cultures. Who would live in the desert? What would my islands’ civilizations look like? Drawing the map helped me invent not just the geography but also the people living here.

THE CULTURES

Fantasy and science fiction worlds often feature different cultures. Each of your fictional civilizations should be unique. What weapons do they use? Longswords, scimitars, katanas, ray-guns? What armor and clothing do they wear? What gods do they worship? What are their naming conventions? What is their history? What is their cuisine? The list of questions goes on.

When creating my fictional cultures, I often “borrow” bits and pieces from real Earth cultures. In Moth, the people of Ilar wield katanas, wear samurai armor, and build pagodas, all borrowed from Japan. Meanwhile, the people of Orida sail longships and live in mead halls, giving them a Nordic feel. The ruins of Til Natay, deep in a jungle, are inspired by the ruins of Ta Prohm in Cambodia.

While my fictional kingdoms aren’t copies of any real civilizations, they do include elements from cultures in our own world–weapons, ship designs, architecture, and so on. For your own worlds, you can seek inspiration from Earth or simply create your nations whole cloth.

You can also let your civilization’s environment influence its culture. On the dark side of Moth, there is no flora. That affects the cuisine of the people living there. I show them eating a variety of mushrooms, salted bat wings, deep water fish, and other foods that don’t require sunlight. Fire is precious on Moth’s dark side, with public fireplaces being elaborate and holy places of congregation. My “night folk” even wear the luminous lures of angler fish as jewelry, trapping the light in glass beads. Different environments–desert, mountain, sky, planets with vastly different geographical features than Earth–will similarly affect your world’s cultures.

Many fantasy novelists simply create copies of medieval England. For your world, you have a chance to create more varied cultures, seeking inspiration in all of Earth’s continents and your own imagination.

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Wednesday Writing Tips: How to Write Dialogue

How to Write Dialogue: 10 Simple Rules (Plus 5 Mistakes to Avoid!)

By: Reedsy

No matter what your genre, learning how to write dialogue effectively is a vital part of any writer’s education. Poor dialogue can make readers put your book down in disgust — but great dialogue can transform your characters into truly believable people, and your readers into satisfied customers.

Of course, the best kind of dialogue isn’t just believable. It also provides exposition, involves distinct language depending on who’s speaking, and — perhaps most crucially — moves the story along. Without dialogue, you’d just have pages and pages of description with barely any character dynamics or interpersonal drama. How boring would that be?

Because dialogue is one of the essential components of strong writing, we want to help you get it exactly right. To that end, we’ve put together this list of rules, examples, and more that will have you writing sparkling conversation in no time! We’ll also cover how to format and punctuate dialogue, for those who aren’t sure exactly what goes where.

If you’re especially curious about formatting, go ahead and skip to #10 using the table of contents on the left — otherwise, let’s jump right in with dialogue rule #1.

1. Enter the conversation late

Alfred Hitchcock once said that “drama is life with all the boring bits cut out.” Comparably, we could say that good dialogue is like a real conversation without all the fluff. And one of the best ways to cut out that boring fluff is to enter the conversation as late as possible.

Think about it: few “classic” scenes start with characters going, “Hey buddy! How are you doing? Wow, long time no see.” This is because people enjoy making inferences based on details in action and speech — and the last thing you want to do is insult their intelligence by spelling everything out for them.

For a more tangible taste of this technique, here’s screenwriter Aaron Sorkin talking about the first scene of his Oscar-winning screenplay for The Social Network:

“We started at 100 miles an hour in the middle of a conversation, and that makes the audience have to run to catch up. The worst crime you can commit with an audience is telling them something they already know. We were always running ahead.”

Sorkin’s ability to give the audience just the right amount of detail is a huge strength, and something all writers should strive for. So don’t slow down to accommodate your readers — make them catch up to you.

how to write a book

The dialogue in The Social Network is famous for its sharp edges and quick pace. (Image: Sony Pictures)

2. Keep dialogue tags simple

Dialogue tags are the phrases in your writing that indicate who’s saying what. For example: “I can’t wait to read this article,” Rita said. In this case, “Rita said” is the dialogue tag. It identifies the speaker and clarifies the action.

Of course, there are plenty of other dialogue tags besides “said”: stated, declared, proclaimed, the list goes on and on. But when writing dialogue, you generally want to keep these elaborate tags to a minimum.

As American novelist and screenwriter Elmore Leonard put it:

“Never use a verb other than ‘said’ to carry dialogue. The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in. But ‘said’ is far less intrusive than ‘grumbled,’ ‘gasped,’ ‘cautioned,’ ‘lied.’”

The key word that Leonard uses here is “intrusive.” You want to bring readers into your scene and make them feel like firsthand observers, without drawing attention to the fact that they’re actually not. When you raid your thesaurus for fancy dialogue tags, you risk taking readers out of the scene for a brief display of your verbal virtuosity.

In that vein, keep your tags simple — use “said” where you need to, and other dialogue tags even more sparingly. Luckily, much of the time you don’t even need a tag to show who’s speaking; either readers will already know, or you can imply it another way. Speaking of which…

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