Archive for the ‘guest blogs’ Category
Lisa Hook drops by again today with some tips for writing fantasy fiction your readers will love. Take a peek below.
How to Write Fantasy Fiction that your Readers will Love
Witches, demons, vampires and werewolves… they have been entertaining and absorbing us for some time now and, despite their longevity, the trend for this type of fantasy fiction is far from dying out. Paranormal fiction sales are booming, particularly in the young adult market, and they show no signs of slowing down. The public knows what it likes and it likes the fantasy genre: the darker the better. The challenge today is to come up with something original that hasn’t been done before. Once you’ve done your research, you’re ready to jump into the fray and, with a few simple tips about fantasy writing, you can create the type of fiction that your readers will love and will want to come back to again and again.
The World is the Key
Creating a unique world that absorbs the reader and pulls them in is such a crucial factor in writing good fantasy novels. You need to make the world as real as possible in your own mind, so flesh it out and cover every aspect of it so that when your characters journey through it, the reader will believe it. Think about the laws of your world, the moons and tides and gravity, the weather and geography of the land and races that inhabit the world. If you don’t take the time to create something that you believe in, how do you expect your reader to? The world of Hogwarts, Middle Earth, Never Land and Utopia were painstakingly brought to life because of the detail given to them. It is a good idea to map out the world, as well as the plot.
The world should reflect the characters and vice versa, if they don’t, your reader won’t suspend disbelief in the story. Don’t stick to 21st Century characters because this won’t work if your world is set a long time ago or in the distant future, unless the character is a time traveler. Readers like multiple stories that follow the characters through a series of events, but only if they like and believe in the characters.
Avoid clichés. Let characters be real people, with real problems. The orphan and ‘chosen one’ has been over-used in fantasy fiction and should be laid to rest unless he or she has some great idiosyncrasies that give the scenario a smack of reality. Similarly, there is usually a destiny or prophecy that will be resisted at first, but this causes many readers a great deal of frustration these days and they lose interest in the story. If the character undergoes a series of challenges that are unexpected however, and their personality develops with the story, this is a much better method to employ.
Take some time to think about your character’s personality as well as their physical appearance. The temptation among fantasy writers is to make their male and female leads beautiful beyond belief, with in depth aesthetic details such as the color of their hair and eyes and their lean physical form. The trend used to be that characters were defined by how smart they were, intellectually speaking, but from the 80s onwards, that changed radically to how good they looked.
Imagine instead a character that is quirky and who is defined by their personality rather than outward appearance. Imagine someone who is in the grip of a compulsion, such as an addiction for opium or for food. At once they become more real and more compelling than their counterparts. They could lose what they are striving to achieve because of this simple flaw in their character and at the same time the reader will relate to them. In Dragon Prince, by Melanie Rawn, the magic users become addicted to the drug that enhances their abilities, while in Tolkien’s fantasies, dwarves are often portrayed as drunks. The flaw doesn’t have to be a serious addiction like alcohol or drugs. It may simply be an appetite for something, such as an eating disorder. Research into such topics will throw light on them fairly quickly. For example, a character who overeats because of a compulsion to do so, can be found to be suffering from a craving, because ‘cravings are linked to our emotions and the need for comfort’ according to Licensed Prescriptions. By taking the time to research compulsions, addictions and other psychological traits, you can create flesh and blood characters that evoke empathy among your audience.
Structure can be difficult to keep organized in this genre because there may be sub-plots and various layers to the storytelling that are easy to lose track of. Your reader needs to be kept absorbed and enthralled by everything that is going on: there needs to be continuity in the plot as well as characters. So how do you manage all this?
A good method of organizing structure is to make a list, with each point representing the next event in the story. Writer’s Digest suggests using a stack of index cards, with each one featuring a one-line synopsis of a scene, and stick to one scene per card. You can order your scenes as you want them, and then add one or two sub-plots with your index cards too. Lay your cards out onto a table and order them where they would go best in your novel. When you think you have finished, simply go through them and see if your story makes sense. If it doesn’t, tear up cards and add new ones. A logical method like this can really work when you’re tackling a fantasy novel.
Copyright (C) 2013 Lisa Hook
Today, Lisa Hook drops by with an article on the relevance of the anti-hero. Please read on.
Anti Heroes and Addiction
The anti-hero has existed since the days of Greek theatre, as a character with more appeal than the conventional hero. Whilst the hero had morals, his counterpart had flaws and this is what makes the anti-hero so attractive to his or her audience. Whether it’s a violent temper, a weakness for the opposite sex or an addiction, this antagonist holds our attention and we root for them, perhaps because they seem more ‘real’.
The Noir Anti-Hero
The anti-hero has appeared in various guises through the history of cinema and literature, from Phillip Marlowe in The Big Sleep to Mr Rochester in Jane Eyre to Lady Macbeth. Through different genres, the anti-hero prevails and historical events have made this character more appealing than ever.
Film noir took the anti-hero to new levels in the 1940s and one of the reasons for this was as a reaction to the atrocities in Europe in World War II. The world was disillusioned and escapism was a way of reaching a new kind of reality. Film noir anti-heroes were hard-boiled detectives, addicted to drink, women, and sometimes drugs.
In The Man with the Golden Arm, Frank Sinatra plays the drug addicted Frankie Machine, determined to live a morally good life when he comes out of prison. Pressure turns him to gambling however and he soon begins his drug addiction once more. Although the film has an upbeat ending, with Frankie kicking his habit, the scene where he goes cold turkey is still considered harrowing by today’s standards. The film remains a reminder about the cold reality of drugs in the U.S. Addiction is not glamorized, but serves as a warning.
The Anti-Hero Today
Political events have always shaped cinema, television and literature, with the anti-hero remaining at the center of the story. Whether it’s Vietnam or 9/11, the events of the 20th and 21st Centuries have shaken us to the core and characters like Frankie Machine, Phillip Marlowe, Dexter and Hannibal become more real for us than traditional heroes.
Dexter Morgan is an anti-hero who is also a serial killer, but who kills with a conscience. He made his appearance in Jeff Lindsay’s crime novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter before appearing on screen. Audiences support him and his decision to kill those who have been confirmed as murderers. Dexter is an intelligent character, working for the police, yet harboring his dark secret and this makes him fascinating and compelling for the audience. He has become an unlikely figurehead for the U.S in the 21st Century.
Another gritty anti-hero is Lisbeth Salander from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. Lisbeth is out for revenge on society for what happened to her and she makes a fabulous anti-hero with her fierceness and complex personality. In fact, she has been psychoanalyzed by readers and reviewers, who try to understand what is going on in her mind. She may be autistic; she may be trying to cope with her trauma and therefore has a sort of attachment disorder. Whatever her psychiatric profile, Lisbeth makes a compelling antagonist who is very watchable. Larsson’s series of books are among the highest sellers of the past few years, proving that audiences want a thrilling read and a character who is the driving force behind the stories. The anti-hero is alive and kicking.
More Appeal Than Ever
We celebrate anti-heroes in our literature and on our screens today, more than ever. Why is this? The Global Post claims there is a fault line in the American psyche, that the lines between hero and anti-hero are being blurred and much of this is being laid at the feet of the economic downturn, terrorism and the loss of the American dream. Whatever the reason, it seems we are obsessed with our flawed characters of fiction. This isn’t to say that we are glorifying their flaws; certainly addiction is an issue that is taken very seriously in the U.S today. Frankie Machine’s drug problem was a wake up call to the noir audience of its time and drug abuse remains a very real concern in our society, and one that is receiving much attention. Addiction sufferers can use inpatient drug rehab ratings to find the treatment center that will help them kick their habit and the message is clear: drugs destroy lives. Frankie Machine overcame his heroin addiction in The Man with the Golden Arm and enjoyed a happy ending in this noir classic. The point is that we cared about his journey. Anti-heroes have moral flaws that make them appealing characters because we all relate to moral dilemmas.
The traditional hero is losing his/her appeal in the 21st Century. We want realism, however gritty. Let our anti-heroes be reluctant, angry, narcissistic even. They reflect the times we live in and this is why they work.
(C) Copyright 2013 Lisa Hook