Fancy Some Fantasy?
Fancy Some Fantasy?
Summer is the perfect time to catch up on reading. Visit my author's page at SynergEbooks and pick fantastic science fantasy novels from my Chosen Trilogy and Terrath series. Go on, indulge yourself.
My good friend and fellow author T.H.Morris needs our help.
He plans to self-publish his first novel, a paranormal adventure set in North Carolina, through a crowdfunding campaign via Kickstarter. But in order to achieve this Terrick requires to make as many people aware of his project as he can.
I have had the privilege of reading a sneak preview of The Eleventh Percent and fans of the paranormal genre will be well rewarded. It will literally leave you breathless, wanting more.
Check out my comments and others' praise, as well as an excerpt from the book, on Terrick's website: http://thmorris.weebly.com/
You might be forgiven in thinking that, going by this blog title, I have jumped ship and become a romance novelist. Perhaps I should, since it’s currently the biggest selling genre in North America. However, being a stick-in-the-mud Kiwi means I’ll happily remain a science fantasy writer until the day I leave this mortal coil. Or at least until the Alzheimer kicks in!
The topic under review happens to be: as an author do you favor realism over storytelling? Or put another way, do you let the truth get in the way of a good story?
Specifically what I’m referring to is scripting a fantasy fiction fight scene.
Swordplay often wasn’t the one-on-one duels immortalized by the likes of Zorro or The Princess Bride. Braveheart is a more faithful depiction of the free-for-all scrapping that dominated medieval warfare. When plunged into the frightening melee of battle, there was but one rule: strike or be struck down. (You thought it’d be “kill or be killed”, right? I opted not to be so clichéd.) Swordfighting is incredibly vigorous and tiring, meaning combatants sought to end any fight swiftly and decisively. There simply wasn’t the energy to waste on fancy flourishes with the blade. Forget Hollywood’s fashionable fight-to-the-death skewering of the baddie through the heart with your father’s sword in a climatic act of vengeance. Legs made a handier target than the (often armored) torso of an opponent. A favored technique was to slash the lower limbs, then simply step back and let your adversary bleed out – much like a shark attack. Also, the swordsman whose blade cleared the scabbard first stood the best chance of winning any life-and-death contest. Battle commenced with your sword already in hand, not drawing it challengingly to entice your foe into combat.
Therein lies the writer’s dilemma. Should the tale be historically factual to the detriment of the plot? Or does the story get spiced up with improbable swordfights which justifiably raise the tension of the scene tenfold.
My approach is thus. For the large scale battle scenes involving opposing armies thrashing it out on the field of battle, I find it’s best to stick with accuracy. Study texts on medieval warring. Pore over accounts of ancient battles. You’ll discover the army which occupied the high ground held the advantage; archers rained down suppressive fire (the longbow was roughly equivalent to today’s machine gun) which, in conjunction with heavy cavalry, broke up an infantry charge; side forays were led to attack the enemy baggage train and slaughter camp followers while the main soldiery clashed. Conduct your research and I guarantee you’ll come away with a boatload of authentic ways in which your kingdoms and empires can be pitted against one other militarily.
Individual duels give the writer some leeway. General swordfighting terms – parry, riposte, etc. – can be utilized to convey action to a reader (and sound both cool and knowledgeable to boot), yet you don’t need to be quite so literal with the facts. Building the scene to its satisfying climax is just as crucial as knowing when to thrust or block. How the hero despatches the villain, while important in terms of realism, it not as vital as the impetus driving Good to confront and ultimately triumph over Evil.
In the end it’s your call. When Garrich slew the brigand responsible for his foster father’s death in Wizards’ Goal, first volume in my Terrath series, I embellished fact with storytelling to achieve the desired result. Whatever you choose to be - realistic or dramatic – just ensure the portrayal does justice to your story. After all, it’s not called fantasy for nothing.
This is the trickiest of subject material to tackle. First off, you must ask yourself, “Is a sex scene absolutely necessary?” If not vital to plot or character development, discard it. Harsh I know, but superfluous wordage is just that - surplus to requirements. Gratuitous titillation, while fine for romance novels and erotic literature, has no place in speculative fiction unless it drives the plot.
Now that you have decided that the scene is crucial to the story and not just fluff, exactly how does a writer pull off describing the sexual act without sounding crass or clichéd? That’s the tricky part, walking the fine line between good taste and bad writing without tripping over. I faced just such a dilemma penning Three Times Chosen, when Durgay and Najoli physically expressed their growing feelings for one another. Luckily, I was no longer a literary virgin thanks to the Thunderfoot mating scene concerning Bronte and Darved in The Chosen One. Life was certainly made easier for me having to describe a pairing between animals – albeit titanic dinosaurs. My first dip in the pool of romance was suitably tasteful for a wildlife show! Getting back to merfolk intimacy, in one way I was let off the hook by the fact that my couple weren’t strictly human, meaning the union between consenting Cetari was a plunge into uncharted waters. That said, they retained enough humanness that the unspoken rule of sensuality over sexuality still applied.
The old adage “Less is more” is apt. Consider the classic film Jaws. Were you frightened more by the shark actually appearing, that triangular fin slicing sinisterly through the water, or the mere hint of its presence preceded by John William’s superbly menacing score. Alfred Hitchcock was the unequivocal master of suspense, delivering scares which relied on gist more than gore. The shower scene in Psycho stills ranks highly as one of the most terrifying scenes in cinematic history.
A sex scene is therefore perfect material for exercising this type of creative restraint. Use your reader’s imagination to paint the picture without having to draw it for them line by (potentially embarrassing) line. Essentially a diluted form of voyeurism, you invite the reader to take a ringside seat, then set the scene and let their mind color the imagery. It’ll make for a more passionate read, leaving the booklover breathless and wanting more...story, that is, not sex!
Up until recently I had no trouble writing my stories. Ideas came fast and freely, the proverbial creative juices flowed uninhibitedly. Then the unthinkable happened. One day I was sitting at the keyboard, preparing to write up a storm for the third volume in the Terrath series, Magic’s Resolve, when my mind went blank. Actually, that’s not strictly true. The usual ideas were floating around my head concerning people and plots, but for some unaccountable reason my brain refused to make sense of them. Frustratingly, I couldn’t bring order to my thoughts, then put them down on paper (figuratively, of course, since the only person I know who still writes using a typewriter is my mother!) as I usually do.
Naturally, every author has heard about or unluckily experienced writer’s block. I dismissed it in others as merely an unwillingness to work on their part; a laziness of the fingers, so to speak. Much to my chagrin writer’s block is as real as a heart attack and just as crippling for someone used to so readily putting pen to paper (I know, another anachronism ). Recognizing the problem, I duly researched how to overcome this blight and became bogged down with proposals that ran the gamut from the scientific to the absurd. Suggestions ranged from taking a sabbatical, either brief or lengthy, to arranging your plotline and characters into cue cards and basically playing Happy Families until everything falls magically back into place!
Let me tell you that only one remedy irrigated my dry spell: returning to basics. I simply wrote and wrote and wrote, doggedly writing until the words physically demolished my mental obstruction. At the end of the day it matters not if you write a page, a hundred pages, or just a paragraph, maybe even as little as a sentence. Just so long as you write something. Even if the piece comes out raw and rough, it can easily be polished later on.
I’m not saying that my method succeeds for everybody. Individuals must nut out what works best for them. For me the trick was to persist, and persistence indeed paid off. This newest post is proof of that.
March 22 is Earth Day, people.
Help the planet by cutting down on paper usage and go digital!
Pick from the Chosen Trilogy, the Terrath series or, for the kids, Eamon Birdsley and help save Mother Earth.
March 3rd - 9th is Read an eBook Week. Join the revolution for $1.99.
Vampires and zombies are the latest creative craze. Should you as a writer jump on the bandwagon and pursue the current literary fad?
Tempting as that might seem, fads – like fashions - invariably change. Remember not so long ago boy wizards were all the rage! Unless you are a genuine author of horror, forget being a slave to the market. Leave that to the trendsetters and the dedicated genre writers. An author should always strive to write from the heart, to write what is nearest and dearest to him or her. Cliché as it sounds, be true to yourself. You’ll be a happier person and a better (if probably poorer) writer for not selling out in the hopes of making an easy buck.
On the other hand, if by say adding a vampire genuinely enhances your storytelling and legitimately drives the plot, by all means let a fanger join your cast of characters. AS LONG AS IT IS RELEVANT TO THE TALE. Take my upcoming third book in my Terrath series as an example. I won’t give out any spoilers, but in Magic’s Resolve I purposely introduce a supernatural element to one of my Goblin characters. In no way am I trying to follow trends. This is merely the natural progression of that particular character’s planned development. While it happily coincides with what is hip at the moment, I wasn’t influenced by anything other than evolving and enhancing the storyline.
But I guess in the end it comes down to the individual. Only you can decide if you’re a sheep that runs with the rest of the flock or bravely follows your own path.
Christmas is looming fast. Beat the shopping woes by gifting an ebook from SynergEbooks.
I haven’t posted a writing blog for what seems like ages, people. Therefore, it’s time to break the drought. What better topic to get the ball rolling than what to call your masterpiece. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a tome or television, reality or fiction. The title indeed sets the tone of your work.
For the purpose of this blog I’ll limit the field to a working book title. This needs to reflect the essence of your tale, without being too revealing. Think of it as a fishing lure. Your book’s title is the bait; a plump, juicy worm wriggling seductively on the hook. Its sole job is to entice. And you the writer are fishing for readers.
A title needn’t be short to catch the eye. The Redemption of Althalus by David and Leigh Eddings is a mouthful true, but memorable nonetheless. That said, there’s nothing simplistic about Frank Herbert’s Dune. How else does a single word encompass an entire planet, conjuring up images of sandworms and spice?
Thus a story needs to be stripped of the superfluous so that only the essentials remain. What’s left is the core of your tale and from that you build a suitable title.
Take my fantasy series, Terrath. Originally intended to be one volume the story grew so much in the telling that I opted to divide it into a three parts. That decision presented new problems, amongst them what to name the individual books. Following my own advice, I broke each volume of the trilogy into its basic components and worked from there. Book 1 dealt with the oft conflicting efforts of Terrath’s wizarding fraternity, so Wizards’ Goal emerged as the most agreeable title. Without introducing unwanted spoilers, Enemy Winter aptly described the setting of Book 2, in which a snowed-in Carallord reels under the weight of invading Goblins. And Book 3? Well, when it’s completed I think Magic’s Resolve will say it all.
Before I sign off, let me share the story behind a certain fantasy author’s trials and tribulations with the title for the pivotal volume wrapping up The Lord of the Rings. Yes, that’s right. Even J.R.R. Tolkien experienced his fair share of troubles in this crucial area. He (quite rightly, in my humble opinion) envisaged the third instalment being titled The War of the Ring. After all, the overpowering desire to possess the One Ring embroiled all of Middle-Earth in its far reaching conflict. But Tolkien’s publisher had other idea s, wanting to release the conclusion of the trilogy as The Return of the King. Tolkien argued that the title gave away too much of the plot, ruining the reader’s suspense. In the end he was strong-armed and Unwin published it under the title familiar to us today.
So, in the end who was right or wrong? Whether you side with the slighted author or support the executive decision of a controlling publishing house matters little. The outcome speaks for itself. LOTR stands as the third bestselling novel in history and the highest grossing movie trilogy in cinematic history.
Novelist Alan J. Garner is author of The Chosen Trilogy and the fantasy series Terrath.