Western literature’s oldest critic tells us why critique partners help us avoid the idiot plot… .
I finished revising The Last Omen last week, and have moved on to trying a new approach to short story writing. The novel came up in conversation with my wife two nights ago and I discovered, yet again, that telling the events of the story does wonders for ironing out the plot.
My wife is not a fantasy reader, in fact, she reads very little fiction, and since discovering audiobooks has gotten most of her “literature” from Audible. She does love a good supernatural story, but mostly in contemporary form, and on TV or a movie. I think fantasy readers are especially forgiving when it comes to certain elements of plot as long as there is cool stuff going on. As an example of this attitude, Brandon Sanderson’s most important law of magic is “err on the side of awesome.” We write and read fantasy because it’s fun, and because it satisfies our craving for the stupendous, but someone really into that side of things is not the best critic when it comes to plot. Continue reading “Aristotle Says “Pitch Your Book””→
A Veil of Spears is the third full-length novel in the Song of Shattered Sands series by author Bradley P. Beaulieu, which began with Twelve Kings in Sharakhai. The author has created a setting for the ages, akin to Hogwart’s, Randland, and Middle Earth, but I would argue Sharakhai is even better because at the heart of this series is a central character who is deeper and more complex than Harry, Rand al’Thor, or Frodo. There is a supporting cast of nobles, “gutter wrens,” Blade Maidens, revolutionaries, monsters, and various mentors, but Ceda and her quest to understand her origins remains the central driving force behind this series. If this book disappoints in any way, it’s that there is not enough time with Ceda.
In which I alienate fans of Labyrinth by arguing that an excellent codpiece by itself doesn’t create the reverence and dread of a real drama.
First the news: I had another hen eaten by a fox on Saturday, so I replaced her with four new birds that I know are female (backstory: a year-and-a-half ago when I got chicks, we accidentally got a Wyandotte rooster, who the kids named R.L. Stine). I have a sequel to Firesage outlined, tentatively called Watermark, and a rough idea for a third book in a trilogy. After some thorough beta reading I have almost got Firesage ready to send to my agent, and I think this one will sell. Despite his wariness that epic fantasy is a “cold genre” I think editors will relate to the primary question of what the main character will do to make a good life for her unborn child. I went to the bookstore the other day to look for comps (and I found some good books), but I always walk away with the feeling that my books are so unique people won’t know what to do with them. I don’t think I have ever read or even heard of a fantasy book that deals with the unique anxieties faced by pregnant women, so I’m hoping that will do it for me (if you have heard of one, please let me know in the comments, or on Twitter).
The other day I went to see the film adaptation of The Dark Tower. It was 11:55 AM on a Wednesday and I was the only person in the theater, but I suspected that even if I went at 7:30 PM on Friday, I would be in a small crowd. The movie has gotten plenty of bad reviews, including my favorite kind (sarcasm), the ones who tell you that the movie is already terrible and disappointing, and it shouldn’t have been made in the first place. These were followed by at least one “so what” review, which I read, but I didn’t really care to believe either. The Dark Tower is a majestic, beautiful, grand story, written by one of my favorite authors, and so I wasn’t going to take the word of a few people who might not even care for Stephen King’s writing.
Why write weak characters? To see them become strong people.
Last month after watching The White Queen I questioned the compliment “you write strong female characters,” by saying there’s no good reason to write a weak female character. Weak female characters, or passive ones, are simply not as interesting as strong characters of either sex. There’s no compelling reason to write a character who’s boring, at least not in a fantasy or historical adventure. Even a weak side character can just use up valuable space. “Every character should want something, even if it is just a glass of water.”
I’ve now found an exception to this. A weak main character can be quite interesting because, of course, characters need to change.
Disclosure: I consider Laurie Forest a colleague. We both write epic fantasy and live in a small state with an active writing community. I have not received any material support from her, encouragement, or endorsement to write this review. I paid full price for my signed copy.
Elloren Gardner lives in a diverse magical world, but for many reasons, her uncle has sheltered her on his farm since she was a small child. She is the granddaughter of The Black Witch, a legendary sorceress who is regarded as a patriot and freedom fighter for her people, who all achieve some level of magical ability. Elloren’s curse is that despite her striking resemblance to her grandmother, her only magical ability is to find peace, comfort, and psychological communion with bits of wood. She’s a great violinist, but can’t even light a candle, and wouldn’t be allowed a wand. Continue reading “The Black Witch (Goodreads Review)”→
In which I alienate the entire sci-fi short story readership, fellowship, and mothership.
I just got back from Paris. Yes, I’m fancy. It was great, thanks for asking. I wrote a short story while I was there (which, given what I’m about to tell you, probably will never get published). On the way back I got to watch two recent sci-fi movies and I found them interesting to compare, particularly given my previous arrogance about “entertainment” (he said disdainfully), I was surprised which one I enjoyed more. Continue reading “The Nifty, Geeky Story”→
You’d think in a trade built on putting words together, most of the practitioners would be people who can put words together on the spur of the moment, always have something to say, and can work under any circumstances. Actually no. Most writers I know have a horrible time doing that. They get distracted, they have no idea what to say, or they just don’t enjoy it at all. My wife, for example, writes beautiful prose, and has a great facility with metaphors and similes, but when she sits down to write (if she does), very little comes out. This is a fairly common experience. It’s not just that writing is not her main thing. She has a very stressful job, and listens to people all day, and doesn’t have a lot of time to just walk the dog and think about stuff to write. Even when she has time to write, she has a lot of trouble. I have a hard time relating. If I have time to write, I will write. Continue reading “Worldbuilder’s Disease: Writer’s Block with a Twist”→