Friday, March 30, 2012

Avoiding Clichés

I think as a reader, many of us are turned off by the clichés we come across in Fantasy stories. Generally (generalizations are generally true), Fantasy themes fall into the category of good versus evil in some way, shape, or form. Generally, Fantasy plots are our heroes killing the evil ones to save the world/princess/etc…, overcoming all the obstacles before facing the bad guy.

First theme: good versus evil is a cliché, and it’s prevalent in most genres whether in the form of vengeance, retribution, or otherwise. The key for the writer (I think) is to muddy the lines a bit. Maybe the hero/heroine isn’t all that good and maybe the bad guy isn’t all that bad. For example, in ‘The Bounds’, my heroine, Robyn, derives a type of sexual pleasure when killing. Because of her experience, she understands the motivations of the bad guys and (hopefully) the readers root for her to fight the repulsive urges. On the other side, my bad guys, Keepers, actually strive to maintain an orderly and peaceful society—not a bad thing, although their reason for doing this is warped. I like the stories that mix it up a bit. If you read Donalson’s ‘White Gold Wielder’, the hero, Thomas Covenant, enters the alter-world thinking he’s dreaming, gets an erection, and rapes a girl. Not a proud start for Thomas, but we come to love the terribly flawed and reluctant hero.

Next plot: Kill the bad guy save the girl…right? Star Wars—rescue the princess and kill the bad guy or save the galaxy by killing the bad guy. It’s a cliché that sells every Superman story ever written or filmed. As a writer, I think to myself, how much do I deviate from such a simple plot? My hero has to have a goal, right? The story has to go somewhere and what is better than killing the guy who murdered your family, right? I think the most memorable stories are the ones that don’t fall into this cliché. In Fantasy (more speculative fiction), I can think of Auel’s ‘Earth’s Children’ series where she chronicles Ayla’s adventures…no bad guy (except in the first book). Taking a look at ‘Jericho Solus’, the plot was Jericho’s journey to discover who he was and why he existed. The book I’m currently working on is along the same lines in that I stay away from the clichés of “good versus evil” and “kill the bad guy, save the world”.

Monday, March 26, 2012


The winner of the Lucky Leprechaun Blog Hop Giveaway is: Tiff Pull! Congrats, Tiff, on winning your own copy of Jericho Solus. We'll be contacting you by email.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

I’m half finished writing the draft of my next novel. Much like my previous work, it's my twist on Low Fantasy. By twist, I mean my hero, Jeremy Pour, is thrust into a world with different rules and different entities, without magic wielders running around trying to get him. Can I even call my story Fantasy without magic? Regardless, it’s still Speculative Fiction. I’m at the point in the story where my hero finally begins to make sense of why he’s in trouble and begins to understand his relationship to the world around him. My heroine is the mysterious Johinda with a connection to Earth in past centuries. Maybe Johinda is not as human as she appears?

When I write my stories, I don’t build out my outline with magic in mind. I don’t sit down and say “here are the cornerstones of what makes Fantasy, Fantasy. Magic—check; strange entities—check; different world—check”. As with my current story, I focus on the characters first, situation second, objectives third, then obstacles. It seems in my thought process, magic never really enters into the equation. Don’t get me wrong, I love stories with magic weaved in, and when done well, are fantastic.

My trilogy, ‘The Bounds,’ has magic, although I never call it magic. In the story, I describe magic as a person’s ability to manipulate energy. As I said in an earlier post, there must be rules and consequences to make magic believable and I detail the boundaries and repercussions in my story.

I think my next story will be magic laden and I'll approach it with magic being an integral element in the story. I already have the concept of what I want to do and if I can pull it off, it’s going to be awesome.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Welcome to the first ever blog hop on the Jericho Solus site! One lucky winner will receive a copy of Jericho Solus via Smashwords. This is open internationally, so fill out the Rafflecopter below for your chance to win!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Fantasy Setting

When I grab a Fantasy book off the shelf and read some random pages, there are a few things that cause me to place it back on the shelf. I’ve already spoke of character races and magic. The third element in Fantasy is the setting. Typically, the setting is what defines the genre, right? You can have strange races, but the setting can be Science Fiction or you can have magic, but the story may be Romance. Setting is what grounds the Fantasy genre and I’m not simply talking about a bunch of trees rather than a steel enclosure in space. Setting is broader. It is society and culture. It’s what’s used for currency and how the people or entity’s worship. It’s everything from units of measurement to burial ceremonies.

So why is setting so ignored in Fantasy? Why do writers simply take 1300’s feudalistic Europe add Dwarf’s and magic and call it Fantasy? And we as Fantasy readers let them get away with such laziness. As soon as I read “the Lord did this” or “the Lady did that”, I toss the book right back on the shelf. Whatever happened to world building in Fantasy? This is what it’s all about and perhaps the driving reason I no longer read High Fantasy. Fantasy writers have gotten lazy or simply don’t care…and why should they, we keep buying their books.

I write what I like to read. My stories have none of the feudalistic backdrop that pollutes the Fantasy genre.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Half Off!

Don't forget to pick up your ecopy of Jericho Solus this week for half price!

Go to Smashwords and use code REW50.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Cost of Magic

As you know from my other blog post, I’m a frustrated (High) Fantasy fan. It’s kind of like your favorite sports team coming in last season after season—I don’t watch the games anymore, but I check the scores on occasion. The next concept in high Fantasy that is out of control is the rules and laws governing magic and its use. How many stories have you read where the character mutters a few arcane words and poof, he’s levitating across the mote or becoming invisible to foes. Come on! Here is where my believability flag starts coming down the pole. Many stories try to justify the magic wielders in two general categories: those individuals with an innate ability and those with learned skills. Okay, I buy both of these concepts and really don’t have an issue with them. Where I take umbrage is action and reaction, or the physical laws that must govern the use of magic. For me there has to be a penalty for using magic. To be believable, it simply can’t be Harry Potter waving a wand and saying some gibberish. This acts as a descent medium to cast the magic, but where’s the penalty? It seems the author has not done their due diligence.

Think of magic like an athlete’s ability. Take Michael Phelps (Olympic swimmer) as an example. Michael is the Grand Master Wizard when it comes to swimming. When wielding his craft, he’ll beat any foe. He would crush a novice swimmer such as myself. So I’m going against Michael in a 50 meter freestyle. Of course he crushes me and that’s expected, but what is the cost? In many fantasy stories there is no cost. The magicians have the ability and that’s it…let’s dance around and cast spells with no repercussions. I just swam the 50 meters giving it everything I’ve got. My lungs burn and my muscles have the consistency of gelatin, I’m gasping for every breath, hoping I don’t drown getting out of the pool. Michael hops from the pool as if he merely stepped from a shower. Magic should have similar laws. The caster should be effected in some way, shape, or form such as I was completely drained physically. Of course the more adept, such as Michael, the less exertion or toll the skill takes. Some stories do have robust laws governing magic, but unfortunately, there are too many stories that simply ignore any rules.