Monthly Archives: April 2014
Adventures in World-Building: Fantasy Religions

Religion is a staple in any fantasy world. And although our society is filled with worshipers of various faiths, creating a new religion for a novel, short story, or even table-top game is bound to be challenging. Here are a few elements to consider: Pantheon or Solo God? Your characters may worship a single god, but that doesn’t mean there has to be just one. A pantheon is the collection of all gods in a religion or of a set of people. The Greek pantheon includes the deities of Olympus, yet cities would often worship specific deities. If you go the…

4 Essential Beta Readers (and 1 who’s super useful)

Every new short story or novel needs a few good beta readers. You can certainly go ahead and grab your mom, significant other, cousin, and crazy cat-lady aunt, but these aren’t necessarily the best choices. There are few types of people you’ll need to beta read if you want to maximize the benefit of these efforts. The Genre Lovers Every writer needs someone with a similar appreciation for the story’s genre. If you’re a fantasy writer, find a buddy who loves reading and writing fantasy, then go find another buddy who just loves reading. The reason for this is simple: you’ll…

Writer Gear, April 19: Out in Nature

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived -Henry David Thoreau Writing among nature is beautiful. While planted on a rock or a park bench or a fallen tree trunk, my imagination gracefully springs to life. Perhaps it’s all of the green and brown hues. Or maybe it’s the high pitched chirps juxtaposed with the fanning of leaves in the Summer wind. Whatever it…

The Charms of Cross-Genre Writing

When I hear the word “cross-genre”, I instinctively picture Gene Wilder’s Dr. Frederick Frankenstein and Peter Boyle’s  Monster performing a tap dance to Berlin’s “Puttin’ on the Ritz”. The visual says it all: easily identifiable figures of the horror genre set to musical stage for absurd effect. Comedy-horror, as it is best described, is just one of a multitude of mixed genres. Other examples include dark fantasies, tragicomedies, comedy dramas, and science fiction westerns (can you say Firefly/Serenity anyone?), and the presence of such genres leaves writers a vast canvas on which to combine the elements at their disposal. There…

Discuss: Writing Process and Regiment

There’s an idea floating around out there in the literary community that suggests a strict, x number of words milestone per day to qualify one as a real writer. I’ve talked before about my indifference to structure; if some preparation or plan works for you I figure there’s no reason to call in the chaos. But maybe this advice isn’t appropriate. Maybe there is room for a writer to change his or her habits even if the current writing process and regiment appear to work just fine. The question to ask oneself: Are my current methods actually working? More often than…

Frame Narrative Fiction

As a lover of fantasy I’m often drawn to stories built on a foundation of lore, myth, and history. If a fantasy is good, I feel immersed and intrigued. The story should feel as though it operates within a functional, developed environment. To accomplish this, many authors write lore and legend to give their fantasy world some context. Some allow the readers to experience this lore; some choose to keep it a secret. I work with the former idea. What is the best way to import lore and legend into your fantasy story? Fool around with the frame narrative. The Story Within…

Made for Television: Why Some Books Translate

George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series is a powerhouse. Even stronger, and perhaps more popular, is the book series’ television counterpart. In light of the fourth season, which premieres tonight at 9 PM EST, I’m inclined to think about the characteristics of books that translate well on television and film. Three factors, it seems, turn the tides for these literary dynamos. A Long & Large Series What books that don’t appear on television may lack is length and size. Notice I distinguish between the two. I say length in reference to the number of books in…

Sacrificing Audience For Description

While discussing “An Outpost of Progress” by Joseph Conrad with my students, I learned that a number of them disliked the story solely based on its length and “wordiness”. The latter comment caught me off guard; I don’t perceive Conrad as wordy at all. When I think about it, however, it seems that my students (and others I’m sure) believe the quantity of words is just as important as the quality. I asked a particular student “What do you mean by ‘wordy’?” He verified my suspicion. With the modern reader being so well adapted to the quick concise content and copy…