Posts Tagged ‘fantasy’

This week I have been mostly …

I just wanted to give you lovelies a quick update on what I’ve been up to …

  • Applications – a couple for jobs and a couple for PGCEs.  They take up a lot of time and are quite dull, but they need doing, alas!
  • Tulle skirt.  Meh.  It’s finished, but it looks frumpy and I’m not impressed by that!  I’m plotting ways to possibly de-frump it, or else it’s going in the bin (well, probably not the bin, but the pergatory that is under the bed).  Maybe making it a lot shorter (it’s knee-length at the moment) will help, but I’m a bit anxious to do that as once it’s cut, there’s no going back!
  • Reading – I forgot to mention this in my “You Should Read This” post, but You Should Read This (Robin Hobb’s Ship of Magic).  It’s one I bought before we moved but hadn’t got around to reading yet and I’ve just picked and ye gods I already love it something rotten.  I’m only a few chapters in and I suspect it might become my favourite book ever.  Yes, that’s how much I love it.  I might have to write a full review once I’ve finished it, but for now I’m going to gush about the things I love about it: the writing is ohmygodsIwishI’dwrittenthat amazing – certain turns of phrase she uses are so simple and yet so perfect it leaves me wondering how anyone has ever described that thing in any other way, and this especially impresses me because these days I am so picky about writing that I can’t help but see every single flaw, so for me to be wowed this much is rare; the characterisation and characters – they are so incredibly real from what I’ve read so far, the chapter I’ve just finished in particular gets under the skin of that character so utterly that I felt I was seeing into the mind of another person, not reading made up imaginings; which brings me to that imagination – this is fantasy at its best, in my most humble of opinions – I’m quite well read in the genre and the ideas she comes up with are so unique and original without being too outlandish or unbelievable, which is exactly what fantasy should be.  OK, must stop gushing about Robin Hobb now, but I have major Writer Envy and Awe and Love and Wows!
  • Valentine’s-ing – the Boy and I don’t like going out for dinner on Valentine’s Day, it’s just a bit cheesy for our tastes, being out with loads of other couples and so on, so we went out on Thursday for a quiet meal and on Sunday I baked him cupcakes (raspberry with vanilla icing and red sparkles- yay!) and we got Yo Sushi take away (YUM!), watched our guilty pleasure (Smallville) and then went to a pub quiz.  It was a lovely day.

I should’ve taken pictures of the cakes, I know, but they were just too yummy not to scoff all at once … but here’s some sushi to look at instead:

I heart sushi!


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So last time, I mentioned this other addition that I made.  It was a brief explanation of my magic system.  BRIEF being the operative!

The currently direction of commercial fantasy fiction is away from the excesses of worldbuilding so beloved of Tolkein and his acolytes.  Check out what Joe Abercrombie has to say on the subject of Tolkeinesque worldbuilding.  It’s not about not doing the worldbuilding – inventing nations, peoples, cultures and attitudes is a vital part of fantasy fiction – it’s about not making the story and the characters subservient to the world.  I’m going to straight-out quote Joe Abercrombie here, as he puts it so well:

“It’s the equivalent of a film producer blowing his entire budget on sets and costume he’s not even going to use in the picture, and fondly imagining that no-one will therefore notice the abysmal script, acting, camerawork, editing and direction. Of course, there are writers who come up with weird, and wonderful, and magical settings which fascinate and enthral the reader. But, for me, those are only of real interest as long as the characters, and the dialogue, and the plots are on the money as well.” (See the above-linked interview in SFX Magazine.)

I know all the ins and outs of my magic system, but is it relevant to the story or of much interest to any reader that magic was first used back in the year blah blah blah by so-and-so?  No.  So it’s not going in the novel.

The important part of a novel is who does what to whom, or, what happens and to whom does it happen.  Character is vital, irrelevant history is not.

Having said that, a fantasy world is, by definition, different to ours, and the reader needs to feel that they have a grasp of what’s going on and where it’s going on.  Even in contemporary urban fantasy, such as The Southern Vampire Mysteries (AKA, the True Blood TV series), there are differences to our world that the reader (or viewer) needs to understand… like vampires…

True Blood

… and the reader needs a certain amount of explanation.  But the reader doesn’t need all the explanation, and they certainly don’t need a massive infodump.

I suppose the point I am trying to make is that fantasy writers need to walk a thin line by giving a sense of their world by showing the important and relevant elements of that world rather than over-explaining that world in mind-numbing detail.  There are shades of grey that tend towards more worldbuilding or less, but the recent trends are towards novels that concentrate on telling a damn good story with some great characters.

And that is no bad thing.  For too long, fantasy has stood in Tolkein’s shadow and grown stale there, with too many cliched characters wandering from A to B and infodumping all the way.

It’s quite handy, then, that this new kind of fantasy is very much to my taste.  I’m attempting to give brief hints of the world and its magic, revealing relevant pieces of information with little touches here and there, but, as I’m finding, it’s a delicate balancing act.

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I have been quite bad this week with my editing.  On some days there have been geniune reasons for not editing, but on others it has simply been me ‘not feeling like it’.  I get like that with writing sometimes.  I get like that with a lot of things, sometimes.

But today I sat down and edited three chapters and yesterday I did the same, and just like all those other things I don’t feel like doing, it’s much better once I’m doing it.

The moral of this story – just get on with it.  Even if you tell yourself you’re going to just do a few pages, once you get started, it’s so much easier to keep going.

Of course, I’m going to go back and tighten it some more, but I find it best with my own work to do a few reads because I know I’ll spot (and look for) different things each time.  This time I did the main thing I’d been putting off – adding some explanation and changing certain passages.

As I’d written on, I’d decided to change a couple of things – Quin’s obsession with jewellery became a more specific obssession with rings (to be explained in a later flashback) and Derry’s hair colour (obviously, that’s a much smaller change).  So I’ve just gone back to the chapters where the jewellery comes up and sorted that out.  I’m a lot happier with it and it’s actually added some fun to the scene.  The change came from discussions with the Dandy-man – initially it wasn’t clear that Quin’s thievery comes from a Robin Hood type desire to ‘rob from the rich to give to the poor’.  We chatted about how he read her character and I could see what he meant, and we worked out how a subtle change could make it work.

I’d definitely recommend having a sympathetic reader or two when you’re in the writing process and/or initial edits.  Now, by a ‘sympathetic reader’, I don’t mean one who will just tell you that you’re great.  I’m talking about someone who knows what they’re talking about, whose judgement you trust and who knows how to give constructive criticism.  I’m really lucky as I have quite a few of these to draw upon – the aforementioned Dandy and some friends from my MA.

Of course, everyone’s work needs hard pruning, but it has to come at the right time – ie, once you’ve written it.  While you’re still in that precarious place of writing the first draft, it’s too easy for your house of cards to get knocked down by a careless critique.  The danger being that you might give up on a work-in-progress that has a lot of potential because, based on criticism of a first draft, you think it’s crap.  Different people have differing levels of sensitivity, only you can say what yours is – be honest with yourself and choose your readers accordingly.

Next time – discussion of the other addition I made in today’s editing session, AKA Brevity in Fantasy (not a contradiction in terms!).

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Welcome to my little corner of the interweb!

I will be mostly rambling on about writing, research, the 18th Century, bits and pieces I make and anything else that catches my little magpie eye.  So, without further ado, may the rambling commence!

I’m in the last few weeks of an MA in Creative Writing (scary!) and just editing my final project – A Thief & A Gentlewoman (it’s going to be mentioned a lot, I’m afraid!  Will be calling it ‘T&Gw’ or whatever else my fingers decide to type at some silly hour of the morning).

It’s an historical fantasy about Quin, a young woman from the Gutter Streets who steals her way out of poverty.  When she meets her latest mark, Fehrim, she finds herself liking him rather more than she should… And the situation for our heroine only becomes more complicated when he is framed for the assassination of his cousin, the Sultana.  Quin must choose whether to help Fehr or continue her safe masquerade.  Meanwhile, a serial killer stalks the slums where she is from and she cannot help but be drawn into the murders.  She must discover the connection between the assassination and the killer before they strike again… Dah dah daaaah!

The series is all about swashbuckling fights, romance, intrigue and adventure in Arianople, City of Cities.  There’s a more posh blurb on the Blurb tab of this very blog, if you fancy a look.

So far, I’ve written part 1 of the first book – just over 40,000 words – and plotted out all scenes and chapters of the first book and outlined the second and third books.  The whole process took a while and has undergone some changes, but I’m pretty happy with it at the moment.  Actually, that might be an understatement – I spent a stressful couple of weeks re-working the existing plot to add some extra depth and a better resolution… Sleepless nights!  Fingers crossed, it’s all OK now… Famous last words.

Anyway, as much of a pain writing can be when there are big fat problems, I love the characters who have graced me with their presence and I just can’t not do it.  (Ah, such graceful prose from a writer!)

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