Monthly Archives: September 2012

The Ongoing Search for a Bold, Fresh Approach to a Well-worn Genre

Hello all,

Big thanks are in order for all of my devoted faithful; my long-suffering, precious friends who have remained supportive of me throughout my oft-shifting ideas on what my novels will be. You are truly the best and I am more determined than ever to ensure that the novels I write will not disappoint you.

As most of you know, I am a lover of the fantasy novel and have been since I first read The Hobbit many years ago – a love that deepened to proportions beyond description when I followed that read with The Lord of the Rings.

Many authors have attempted to recapture Tolkien’s magic – and failed; but most have given up that iconic quest and settled for simply writing good fantasy novels. I believe that it is possible to match Tolkien on his own field and I would even argue that it has been done recently by George R.R. Martin in his Song of Ice and Fire series. My attempt at writing is a humble one by comparison, but I believe that the biggest obstacle to writing good fantasy lies in what the author believes fantasy to be.

J.R.R. Tolkien never set out to write a fantasy novel. He couldn’t have, because ‘fantasy’ as a literary genre didn’t yet exist when he wrote and published The Hobbit. The publisher categorized it as a children’s story, and it largely was. Then, when The Lord of the Rings was published… you know, I have no idea what category the publisher placed it in, but it must have been something like ‘general fiction’, because without a ‘fantasy’ genre, where else could it have been placed?

But my main point here is that when Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings, he wasn’t thinking ‘fantasy’. He was thinking something else. Just fiction, maybe. Perhaps mythology. Who knows… But we know it wasn’t fantasy and that made a difference in how he approached his writing, and I believe that any serious attempt at writing an excellent fantasy novel ought to start at that same place, by not thinking ‘fantasy’, but thinking… something else.

The Lord of the Rings, despite its setting, is ultimately an adventure novel. Epic in scope and rich in fictional mythology, it is a story of a mythic adventure. By contrast, A Song of Ice and Fire is not very mythic, although it is quite epic. Unlike The Lord of the Rings, A Song of Ice and Fire is many adventure stories woven together into a complex tapestry of dizzying intrigue and compelling suspense. I have also read fantasy novels with dark themes, bordering upon horror. Many fantasy novels contain an element of mystery. Others are outright comedy.

What is it that all of these stories with their disparate elements (adventure, mythology, mystery, intrigue, suspense, horror, comedy) have in common? Well, it is the type of setting in which they are placed. To my observation (and I’ve remarked upon this before), ‘fantasy’ is less a genre unto itself than a type of setting, a backdrop where stories of any genre can be told: adventure, mystery, horror, even romance.

Science fiction also does this. By moving the setting to a fictional world, writers can explore themes independent from the preconceptions and expectations of our familiar world, thus highlighting the theme and thus any point the writer wishes to speak to. Fantasy is simply another type of setting that accomplishes the same thing. Tolkien focused upon his mythic world to show conflict between good and evil on a scale that our real world couldn’t realistically show. Similarly, Martin is using his fictional world to illustrate the nobility and ignobility of human nature in ways that our real world simply cannot.

Now, I understand that the publishing industry is not simply going to adapt itself to my ‘epiphany’ (if that’s what it is), just because I’ve blogged about it. But, as I said above, I believe that if I think of fantasy as ‘setting’, and not as ‘genre’, I’ll be able to focus on the actual genre of the story I’ll be writing, be it adventure, mystery, horror, romance, or suspense, and that will make for a better story.

Stay tuned, more to come.


POLL: After the website update, what would YOU like to see?

Hello, everyone! Another update!

I know that most of you are wondering what’s gotten into me lately. Two posts in two days?! I know, but I felt like I needed to make some changes to the website to reflect the recent decicions I’ve made. I’ve removed the links to my WiPs (works in progress) from the page template. They’re still on the site and can be navigated to if you have the links, but I’ve decided not to provide links to them since I’m making such sweeping changes as I just don’t think it would be fair.

On the Royal Redemption story, I’ve decided to also get the pantheon of dieties involved in the story. That will also enrich things, I think. That WiP will also need a new title.

A question for you all…

I have a lot of work to do as far as working on the plot. My question to you all is, would you like for me to blog about that process and solicit input and feedback from you about it, or would you rather wait as I do all the plotting and just read through the initial draft as I write it? Just so you know, with school and such, it could be a long wait before I am able to start working on the draft.

What would you like to see on the site?

Exciting news! Major facelifts for ALL of my writing projects!

Hey, everyone! Boy, do I have some groundbreaking news! I’m so excited!

First off, I want to apologize for the lack of updates here on the site. Between my political work and college, I have had to put writing on the back burner for a while. But secondly, being on the back burner means it’s at least still on the stove, and even while I’ve been focusing on other things, ideas have been simmering away all the while.

Okay… bad visual metaphor. But I do like levity, even if it isn’t quality humor.

So, as most of you have likely noticed, my two primary projects involve the same theme, essentially. Well, it’s more of a motif, I suppose. Both of my central characters are very strong women who overcome obstacles dynamically, powerfully, dramatically. In their demeanor, they are not all that different from typical male ‘action’ movie heroes. In short, they abide no bullshit, they kick serious ass, and let the chips fall where they may.  The two characters ARE different, though, in how they came to be that way and in how they interact with the world around them, but they do have those core traits in common with each other.

So, where does this lead?

Recognizing this, particularly recognizing the striking similarity of traits between Zsaka in Mortality, Interrupted and Kara in Royal Redemption, I don’t want the two stories to start to mirror each other. I don’t want Zsaka to become ‘real world Kara’, or Kara to become ‘fantasy world Zsaka’. So I’m taking steps now to avoid that, and the more I’ve thought about these steps, the more I’ve become convinced that it will make both stories stronger.

The changes I’m making to Mortality, Interrupted are several: First, I’m moving the story about 200 years forward, to the 1600s. Secondly, the central character will be a known historical figure, Countess Elizabeth Bathory. If you don’t know her by name, feel free to use your favorite search engine to look her up. She is a very interesting character and as a strong, independent woman, she fits my ‘motif’ perfectly. I intend to tell her story in the same way I was planning to tell Zsaka’s story, fitting Countess Bathory into the same paranormal back-story I had planned for Zsaka, telling the Countess’ story as if she were a being of the same sort as Zsaka, living from the dawn of time and appearing to live one life after another. My intention is to remain as true as possible to Countess Bathory’s actual life story, but adding that contrived context will certainly put her in a very new light. I can hardly wait to write her. Thirdly, in light of all that, the working title will need to change. I’ll let you know when I come up with it.

Countess Elizabeth Bathory

As for the changes to Royal Redemption, they’re also pretty exciting. I’ve been bothered by a couple of issues with the story so far. One, I’ve been struggling to find secondary storylines from the beginning; and two, I’ve always felt a sense of disappointment that my first attempt at writing, The Jezebel Diaries, failed, as some of my better writing is in that draft which I had to abandon. With the changes to Mortality, Interrupted, however, I think I can address both of those issues in a way that helps Royal Redemption a lot.

I’m going to combine Zsaka and Jezebel (who were never really very different in my mind) into a single character and bring her into the Royal Redemption story. I’m not sure exactly how I will do this yet, but the very thought has my mind jumping up and down with glee. Yeah. I said glee. However I do it, it will expand the story, provide more storylines, and allow me to explore more of the fantasy world I’m creating.

Among my literary influences have been Raymond E. Feist, as many of you may know, and now I need to add another: George R.R. Martin, the author of the Song of Ice and Fire series, which has been made into the HBO television series: A Game of Thrones. The number of characters and storylines Martin weaves into a story is absolutely dizzying, and from him I’ve learned just how far that envelope can be pushed, which is much farther than I ever would have thought possible. I have no intention of trying to match him on that, but he has taught me that I can reach a lot farther than I previously would have dared, so thank you Mr. Martin, for opening my eyes. Hopefully, that will influence my plotting and make it better. And best of all, I don’t have to get rid of anything I’ve ever written, as it will likely find a home somewhere, with a bit of tweaking for consistency.

So, to sum up, the historical novel will no longer feature an imaginary character of my creation. ‘Zsaka’, as much as I loved her, will be gone and the story will now feature the real person, Elizabeth Bathory. The fantasy novel will welcome ‘Zsaka’, reunite her with ‘Jezebel’ in terms of character, and she will now have her own part to play in the world. How I decide what those parts will be and how she interacts with Kara remain to be seen, but George R.R. Martin has given me the confidence to dream big, and hopefully that will make for a great story!

I look forward to your comments.