Tag Archives: world info

Returning from Hiatus (and possible fiction coming up)


So as most people who can read this blog know, I just finished a 2000+ mile cross country move. Multiple cats in a car for that long is definitely a recipe for insanity and has given me ideas for new dastardly deeds for some of my villains to perform.  The trip, settling in, and new job related tasks have kept me away for a few weeks (and only posting once a week before I left). Now it’s time for me to jump back into the swing of things, for both this blog and my book (and social media).

This is the first actual hiatus I have taken for a long time (since going down the path of getting the books published), as even when the first book was being edited and prepared for publication, I was still working on the edits and this blog.  This time however I have not done anything writing related, and I want to get back up to shape before jumping back into writing.  I feel like if I just start where I left off in the second Allmother’s Fire book (about two thirds or so the way through) that it won’t be as good  as it can.  I kind of feel like a car engine in an old back up car that hasn’t been used all winter, and now I have to get back to premium shape.

That’s one of the tough things I think for Kindle authors.  Most of us have other jobs and a pretty busy life with our families and friends, and sometimes those things interfere with writing.  It’s OK for that to happen, e-book writing is a marathon not a sprint, and it’s the long term that matters.  At the same time when you do stop for a while because of time consuming events in your life, finding the right way to get back into the groove can be frustrating.

So I am contemplating writing snippets of fiction (possibly even too small to be true stories, something serialized) just to get back into the groove.  I have some other ideas, but it would help both my blog and my story back so that’s what I am considering the most.

The  question is if so, what should I write?  I lean towards setting something in the Allmother’s Fire World, but not directly connected to the current story since that is what I am trying to write in again.  Then again I know a few people who would love anything in the Mandatory Paradise universe, so I am at least considering it . I could do something completely new also, so I really do not have a preference yet.  As always you can write me directly if you don’t want to put them in the comments but either way would help.

Also, although I am often dispensing what I have observed while following this path as a writer to others in this blog, this time I would love to receive intelligent advice if people have encountered other ways to ramp things back up after a hiatus.  Some of the people I would normally ask are actually on hiatus themselves right now, interestingly enough, so I would be more than willing to listen to the tips of others.

World Info

Just leaving you with one small tid bit.  So far in the world of the Allmother’s Fire the only sentient race are humans, and as of book one that is all that appears to exists.  The next book expounds upon this Universe more, and so far as of the current writing there are three other sentient races (well two definitely sentient, and one debatable) and it’s been fun to write.  I’ll let you know none are “standard” fantasy races, although one race can be found in most clockpunk novels.  Some of my reviewers (especially on goodreads) referred to my works as having a sci fi influence, which I had not thought of as much before.  I have a feeling more statements like that will be made in the second book (more in a John Carter of Mars type of sci fi, then in a Star Trek/Star Wars way).

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Fleshing out Characters Part One: Motivations and Idiosyncrasies


If characters are little more than excuses for scenes to occur a reader will quickly tire of them.  Sometimes this is not true, as some horror oriented genre stories have little time to flesh out characters before killing them.  The rest of the genres however can keep people hooked by having characters that are more than stereotypes or archetypes, and behave like real people with their own quirks and idiosyncrasies.

One of the first steps to a fleshed out characters is for each one to have their own motivations.  Notice I used the plural of that word. If they only have one, then they remain a stereotype.  For a short period of time the knight who is motivated by his code of honor, the swordsmen who wants revenge for his family, the mother who wants to protect her kids, etc, can be entertaining.  Over the course of a series or even a novel that can make a character seem one note, like they only exist for the single motivation.  To make a character better give them at least three or four motivations.  If possible, have at least one of them be set up for the sole purpose of clashing with the rest, so the character is not entirely predictable.

For example the person who wants revenge for his slain family may also have drives to protect his new (unrelated) family that might put him at odds with revenge (is it worth putting the new family in danger?)  Add a few motivations that are not directly connected to the clashing ones (he also wants to run a successful business, and to charm as many women as he can) and you have a more fleshed out character that in some scenes may have all four of his motivations at odds, and readers won’t be absolutely sure which way the character will go when faced with a challenge.

It helps to not make these completely random (they built a new family to replace the old one, running a business makes them feel accomplished like their father who they will never know, charming the ladies gives them a closeness they will never have with their new or old family, etc) but they shouldn’t all be slight variations on the same theme either.  Often when starting a novel you as the author may only know one or two motivations.  However if you pay attention to the scenes you are writing you may see small nuances in a characters dialogue or reactions that hint at more buried drives, or a even a flashy surface motivation (be the center of attention at all times!)  that stop your protagonist from being just another revenge/protective/heroic protagonist.

Those clashing motivations also underline the another important aspect of a  fully fleshed out character: Idiosyncrasies.  In many ways it’s the things that DON’T fit the stereotype about a character that makes them as memorable as the things we are used to.  Batman, unlike all the other vigilantes DOES NOT USE GUNS.  This sets him apart from the rest and is natural within the character (guns killed his parents) but don’t fit the other modern vigilantes at all.  Some idiosyncrasies happen so often they become a stereotype of their own (fierce large warrior who won’t hurt kids) but still have more depth than if they did not have those aspects that go against the grain of their core concept.

Much like motivations, to make it more real, let the idiosyncrasies flow from the rest of the characters motivations and back story.  The gentle merchant’s daughter who goes crazy and violent when animals are hurt does this because she spent more time with her dad’s horses and the hunting dogs than most people.  The normally taciturn blacksmith who in a bar can’t stop singing loudly with no shame might have had a father who blew off stress every night at the local ale house and have fond memories of when passing it hearing his father do the same.

As important as it is to have these aspects that make a character more than two dimensional it is just as important to have all the “layers” fit.  If the things that make them different flow out of actual events in their life it feels better than just to make a character “quirky”.  In a later blog I will talk about adding quirks to characters, but things like motivations and idiosyncrasies work best when coming from logical outcomes from a characters environment.

My next blog I will talk about a contest several GenreUunderground authors are having.  It will culminate in a blog swap, where other authors are writing for each other.  Whoever guesses the most wins!  There will be prizes involved including an really awesome grand prize from Bookbaby! (more on that next time!)

So with that little bit of information in mind, we come to our poll”

Poll

Will you check out some of the other blogs to try to win prizes this October?

1)Yes.

2)No.

3)I’ll wait until I get more information next blog.

World Info about the Allmother’s Fire series:

Adulthood comes at a time we think of as early in our modern lives.  People (men or women) can own property around the age of 12 or 13 (depending upon whether or not they have “come out” as an adult if noble, and if other commoners are willing to sell to them if a commoner).  Commoners tend to embrace adulthood younger, starting families often at age 15 or so, in order to have more people help on the farm quicker.

Nobles on the other hand have a formalize ceremony where they are first considered adults, and can be heir to a house (normally this is around the age of 13).  After this ceremony, they then either run the affairs of the house, or some women start learning at the Questionary for a like in the church.  After a few years (normally 2-4) they decide what they want to do, and start courting suitable mates.  This often leaves them a few years behind in family development then their commoner counterpoints.


Ramp it up to ELEVEN!!!!: EXTREME WRITING


Much of my advice often follows the path of finding a middle between extremes in your styles of writing.  This allows the use of all sorts of techniques that hook some people but not others.  If a particular style you are using does not appeal to someone, if you keep a lot of your writing in between using too little or too much of something they will probably like some other aspect of your writing.  Most readers often fall inbetween this point too, that a lot of what they like to read are techniques used enough to highlight aspects of the book, but not over take it.  Sometimes however, it is both fun and rewarding to throw all the other advice out the window and just write with certain styles and techniques cranked all the way up with no middle ground.

Many popular sub genres fall into one of these extreme writing styles.  For example Pulp writing tends to have very little of the following: dense continuity, character growth, interior monologues – but tend to have lot of action, adventure, and character actions that seem familiar or repetitive (favorite lines or battle techniques, situations that follow similar patterns, familiar types of background characters occur, etc).  By hewing to these extremes of very little of some themes and quite a lot of others a very different writing style can be made.

Another popular sub-genre is POV fantasy books.  This style often goes over the same events through different eyes, with new discoveries made each time.  In this genre inner monologues occur often more than dialog or action, dramatic irony is used very frequently, but pacing is much slower than normal.  Even with only three aspects being more extreme it still sets the tone as something very different than most narratives.

One great way to see what types of writing you like to do with certain aspects over the top is to write short stories. This is better than investing the time into long novels and then realizing you don’t write in that style well.  Another way to experiment with it is to write certain chapters with certain elements ramped to eleven.  The main hero has seen all of her family die, all of her plans go to waste and the person that did it is right in front of her with only a dozen guards standing in her way.  In that case, even if the rest of the chapters have balanced action and dialogue, that specific chapter might have no dialogue at all, and just be one descriptive action scene after another as she hacks her way to the ultimate confrontation.  This technique allows you to use a lack of moderation to enhance only one part of a narrative, without making the whole work done in a specific style.

Going to extremes isn’t something I would recommend without a plan.  I wouldn’t just say to yourself  “I want to do a book with tons of dialogue and a lot of humor, and practically no inner monologues or descriptions at all, just funny witty things said the whole time  and also make it a 1000  page epic!” just to try to create a new genre.  There will be people that like that style of book, but probably much more that will find it off putting.  Also along the lines of above, it is more palatable if only a few things in the book are extreme.  See each aspect of a book (methods of writing, subjects focused on, action to interaction quotient, tone, amount of humor, levels of irony, popular tropes used, etc) as different “dials.”  If only a few dials are ramped up, then it is easier for people to take then the whole book being completely out of the norm to the point of alienation.

So in the end I guess I am recommending even for extreme writing, to have some moderation.  How surprising.

I have not received a lot of complaints about the lack of poll, so I will do without it again.

World Info for Allmother’s Fire:

Travel times between most islands is measured in days or weeks.  There are some large islands that seem to be more out in the periphery which take closer to a month, but those are only gone to very rarely, as the rewards are not normally worth the extra costs of stocking up for months’ worth of supplies for your crew.  Getting to one specific island may take you a month if it follows a different path than yours, but on its way you will probably cross at least 3 or 4 other islands that you can stop and get new supplies.

There are horror stories of those running out of supplies and not even being  able to hook any flying animals enough to get food, but clouds when passing by ships seems to automatically refill barrels if treated right by Woodsingers, so running out of water is never an issue.  The only reasons people would risk going long without supplies is if they have no place they think is a safe haven nearby (which some rather aggressive Air Pirates with notorious ships do) or if exploring for legends.  It is said some where is an island that the true daughters of the Allmother live on, and whoever goes there will receive her blessing.  No one has gone there and returned to tell the tale, even if everyone is sure they heard of a friend of a friend of a friend who thinks they saw that island once.


Expectations: Follow and Avoid Them


Fantasy and other genre fictions have certain expected tropes that normally occur.  Dreams show the future, farm boys grow up to be heroes, prophecies lead ways to light the darkest hour, the slumbering dark lord awakens, etc.  Although there is a familiar and almost nostalgic quality to when fantasy follows these well-worn paths, long time readers are sick of them.  Many readers are fine with these qualities being in the first few novels they read, but eventually it can push them out of reading the genre for they become lazy writing crutches.  Once a line has been crossed from “this is familiar” to “this is a rip off” readers often do not want to continue to read from those writers.

At the same time, if all of it is new, with nothing known or familiar it can be alienating to the reader too.  There are adventurous readers that enjoy these types of stories, but a vast middle of your audience like a balance between comforting familiar tropes and explorative original ideas.  One of the best ways to walk this line is to give them some familiar elements, then utterly destroy what they expect to happen after that.

This can be done either by throwing in familiar things then making everything else original, or you can also make those familiar aspects cloak original twists.  For example the story can start off with a farm boy who has strange dreams of confronting an evil Dark Lord in his past lives.  The novel can then make it seem that like many fantasy novels before it the farm boy is the prophesied one who will destroy the Dark Lord!  Then of course, you can eventually reveal the farm boy WAS the Dark Lord in the past life, and he is about to be reborn in his power to destroy the world. Once that revelation occurs you could take the story anywhere from companions of the farm boy now having to defeat him, to the farm boy determined to find ways to never become what he once was. This is an example of taking a familiar element and using that to cloak original twists.

A variation of that is to have the familiar trope carry through for the character, but then having the consequences for it happening not be what you expect, especially if the consequences are more realistic.  This sort of technique is used by people like George RR Martin all the time.  Sansa dreams of being a pretty princess betrothed to her king and learns the hard way that it may not be the dream she actually wanted.  Another King marries for love, and his kingdom and army are destroyed because of it.

One of the earlier mentioned techniques was to put in some familiar things in your novel, but have other parts be original.  Your hero is not a farm boy, but a trained merchant duelist, who since birth has been taught to defend the honor of her House.  She fights not to save the world from evil, but for better contracts for her Family.  Then one day in the marketplace she notices a group of people following her. And that they are in fact people she has killed in the past.  After  a long chase and fight scene she remembers seeing the symbol emblazoned into her undead opponents heads, it was the symbol of a dark god of death.  She is now determined to read the ancient prophecies to see what could be happening here, and how it ties into her family.  This takes some familiar tropes (fighting supernatural forces, prophecies, dead gods rising again, sword fighting main character) but adds original elements to keep in new (merchant duelist, prefers to fight for money not honor, has no manifest destiny as a “chosen one” etc.)

Hopefully this advice can help you to keep your novel familiar enough to interest fans of the genre but creative enough to make them want to keep reading.  Like almost all good writing, the real key seems to be striking a balance between extremes.

I notice recent polls have not been as popular, so I am skipping the polls for at least one blog.

World Info and Book Update:

The second book is moving slower.  The upcoming move and associated activities is cutting into writing time heavily, but it is still occurring.  The good news is another edit (3rd major) of Fall of House Nemeni is done which will be the Barnes and Noble version, and I will probably post it for Kindle too, but mainly for newer readers.

For World information, I wanted to talk about duels.  Typically duels only occur for nobles.  I have spoken of weapons before, and the dueling sword is worn by most nobles at all times outside of their houses.  Matters of honor are important, and a duel is the best way to often resolve them.  However, your Station in your House matters to.  The Head of a House is considered to be of such high Honor that they can ignore challenges to those that are not Heads of other Houses.  The Head of a House is just assumed to be right, and can have insults from members of Houses lower than them killed in the streets when insulted.  Of course the Head of the House who owns the person you killed might take this as an insult, which could lead to d a duel, but there should be no immediate reprisal from murdering one of lower Station.

The stories have small guilds and merchants also use dueling to resolve issues and even pirates are said to use duels to pick their Captains,.  Whether or not those stories are true might depend on the specific guild, or pirate crew involved.


Word Usage in Non Existent languages


In fantasy (and in many scifi novels) your protagonists probably are not speaking English.  They are likely not speaking and actual existing language, unless you want them to.  You could just decide by fiat that they are speaking English, but some people might have a problem suspending belief (especially if they know enough to know different Old English is from current English, and that language constantly evolves).  If you do decide that they speak their own language however other issues occur such as; can you use any puns then, what about rhymes, or wordplay like homonyms or clever phrasings, and what about modern idioms?  Below is some advice to help with these issues.

The most important advice is to stay consistent.   If you sprinkle your own (or another language’s) words for something, or an ancient word for something use it every time.  Do not use the phrase katana and broadsword as if interchangeable.  Don’t call an animal a k’ysen most of the book, and then suddenly call it a dinosaur later even if the description you gave made it obvious.  If you do pepper modern idioms into your world, decide which ones fit and why and stick with it.  Nothing is worse than having what parts of our languages are used in your world seem arbitrarily.  If the whole world seems like an allegory for the ancient Vikings, and then you use all modern English rhymes in their poetry it may pull a reader out of your world.

Modern phrasings in particular can be tricky, including what is “modern.”  Even phrases that often are in our language and seen as conventional are actually references to real life cultural events and would not probably exists in your fantasy world.   This means extra care must be taken of what types of phrases you use to keep your world feeling consistent.  Decide why those phrases are allowed. It might be because of cultural similarities, it might be events in that world, or you might let all modern idioms apply and assume that those modern idioms are translations of whatever they are really saying. If attempting to weed out modern phrasings then you will need to think hard about anything allowed.  Even my last phrases “weed out” assumes the speaker’s culture has familiarity with the process of keeping a garden.  If trying to be rigorous on phrasings, I recommend having multiple beta readers that keep an eye out just for that.

If you want your own jargon (this happens particularly with magic or technology in fantasy and sci fi) it helps to keep it to a level that does not overwhelm your reader with new words they must learn.  Also, if there is something analogous in our world you can use that as an alternate way to describe it as long as it is not too rooted in one particular cultural identity.  If a person has a specialized curved sword called a dyten, calling it a sword later is fine.  Referring to the dyten as a scimitar later is not advised however, as it weakens the idea that your world’s sword is this unique thing you called a dyten.  If you can keep all your phrasing to a small amount (maybe a dozen or two words) the reader won’t feel like they need to check a glossary each time a conversation occurs.

Puns, homonyms, rhymes and the like very much rely on deciding if: the language is for all intents and purposes modern English, the language is not at all like English and you do not want anything to break that illusion, it is not English but you assume that there is some sort of wordplay in that language that the people in that world are seeing that we are not and let our version of the wordplay stay as a way your reader can connect.

Most fantasy seems to go with the third one.  The language is not English but it is treated like that in the rhymes, songs, and puns its characters use.  This is the easiest way to write, but can sometimes pull your reader out of the book much like using modern idioms.  This seems to very by reader.  Some readers actually prefer this technique for familiar wordplay draws them in more.  If firmly rooting your novel in history, or emphasizing the “otherness” of your culture you might want to write it differently.  Instead use analogues, related concepts, and wise observations for poetry instead of rhymes.  Make humor contextual instead of pun related.  When writing think  “Will this joke be the same for my Spanish, Japanese, German and Italian readers?  That sort of mindset can give you good guidelines of who to keep language integrity throughout your work

Poll:

Do you prefer your languages in fantasy and sci fi to be:

A)Modern English.  Who cares if that’s not feasible, it gets rid of all other barriers.

B)Its own unique language, and nothing modern or reliant upon being English should show.  The translated version of this novel will easily be able to use actual translations with little to no localization needed.

C)Functionally similar to modern English, but only as a device to allow the reader to be more immersed in the world.  It will have differences, but rhymes and puns are allowed and it is just assumed the world has an equivalent for them.

World Info:

Mandatory Paradise will be the focus again, since it is the newer book and I have more questions about that from people who have wondered how one structure can cover the entire island.  The truth is the Palaces are essentially connected and wind their way around the island and jut into the center of it at parts.  There are, however,  places not actually part of the Palace as a whole.  These are not residential places, and do not have the running water the rest of the island does or entrances to the catacombs.  This is where the markets are, smiths craft their wares, and the vineyards for the grapes are located.

Also thePpalaces are broken down by areas and quarters have different feels to them.  I will describe the differences between the quarters in a later article.  In general they are broken down by class and occupation, but occasionally by philosophy.  It is still all one Palace, but the culture is not nearly as homogenous as the Senate would probably prefer it to be.


Writing in Sprints


Most ebook authors are holding down a full time job, raising a family and might even have a hobby or two.  This means time is a premium, and unless they become a self-sufficient hermit (with wi fi) they will never have a schedule that allows them to write as much as they want.  This has some writers forcing strict schedules on themselves to make up for this, with either a specific time of day that they write (like maybe one or two specific hours each week day, all Saturday,  etc) or a specific goal every week (5000 words is a common one I hear).

My schedule, for whatever reasons I cannot pin down, ends up being too chaotic for specific guidelines.  I still have overall goals I would like to meet (I prefer a minimum of one chapter a week) but I do not always fulfill that.  I try to make up for this by most of the time that I write, I write in sprints, then edit at a slower pace.  Without some words or some guidelines, days can pass with nor progress on the book.  If you force artificial guidelines (I must have an hour to myself!) then it may never get done.  Instead when I sit at that keyboard and I have the spare fifteen minutes to write, I let those fingers fly away as quick as possible to put as much things down in electronic form as fast as I can!

After that, of course, you not only do the obvious spelling/grammar edits, but you can flesh out the scenes, or re word things.  You might even have to redo entire scenes this way, as the idea that sounded great in your head when pounding out a chapter quickly might not translate as well on paper.  That can happen even if you are leisurely typing out a chapter too, meticulously following out a point by point outline.  It’s much easier I have noticed filling out editing in spare minutes, as long as there is something on the page to change. 

Along those lines writing in sprints also means not always doing things in order or stopping at obvious places. Nothing defeats a novel’s formation as much as a blank page at the beginning of a new chapter or at a break in a chapter.  It’s for this reason that normally after I finish a chapter I start typing the next one, even if only a paragraph.  That way when I come back to it I have thoughts to build off of.  For me, once I have a character in a situation I can continue the plot by merely having them react to the situation.  It’s also easier to come up with said situations when finishing another chapter because my “writing brain” is fully engaged and therefore better at pulling plot out of the ether.

Sometimes when writing in sprints real life may keep you from writing for days, or at worst weeks.  When this happens I have noticed it’s very tough to start again.  Things that have helped me before with this is: trying to continue the scene in my head before writing, jumping ahead to another chapter, or erasing the last paragraph or two and re write them differently so that new ideas flourish.

Another thing that helps with writing in short amounts is mentioned above, but can be done even if it has not been a long time between chapters: continuing dialogue, scenes, or other aspects of the novel in your head in between writing.  Often at random times such as at lunch breaks, commuting to work, or even watching TV I am wondering how characters would react to the last thing I wrote for them, or even hypothetical situations that are likely to happen from where I left them last.  When I actually sit down to write it does not always come out the same way I originally imagined it, but doing this helps you work out possibilities without constantly erasing and re-writing.

The most important thing about sprint writing is not giving up, and allowing it to happen as frequently as possible in your schedule.  You won’t type out whole chapters in one sitting like marathon writing does, but you will see progress in a way that can fit even the busiest of schedules.

Well, you will as long as you don’t eat a whole bag of jelly babies beforehand and your mind descends into sugar induced insanity and/or lethargy.

In other news:

The second Allmother’s Fire book is officially over the halfway mark now.  I can’t tell if this novel will be shorter or longer than The Fall of House Nemeni was, but it seems to me to be packing more scenes in less words as a lot of “filler” words are being excised from it.  It’s moving slower due to real life (moving across country in two months) but still expanding at a steady pace.

Also the likely next series is starting to coalesce, and I might even write a short story in that world in between book 2 and 3 of the Allmother’s Fire.  It’s not a large epic like Allmother’s Fire is, but the canvas for it’s world is vast and is also clockpunk.  It’s not however a tale of floating islands and has more of a pulp influence to it.

Also got my first Amazon 5 star review (had some on goodreads before) for The Fall of House Nemeni, and my first Amazon review for Mandatory Paradise!  I can’t describe how much a writer loves reading these things, even when the point out the weak points too (it’s honestly how we grow).

My poll ties into my post, but you can apply to yourself even if you do not write, as I am curious about how different people tackle similar things:

Poll:

When tackling a big project do you prefer to do it:

1)In many short chunks fit in when you can

2)All at one period of time with nothing else in between

World Info:

I have done a lot recently on tidbits from the Allmother’s Fire world, time to diverge for a little bit to Mandatory Paradise, since I am finally getting some feedback from it by people I do not know.  Today’s will be general answers to questions I have gotten, but edited so as to not give spoilers:

1)The cover and occasional points in the book have Alnanla in dark robes, but the first description given of Priestess’ at the Bull Dances are that they and the Priests are pretty scantily clad.  Is this a plot hole?:

Answer:

No, at the dances they do not wear alto as part of the ceremony and because no one wants to be gored by a bull because you were attempting to run around in thick robes.  When not at Bull Dances both Priests and Priestesses are modest, hence the robes.

2)If thesis stones hold such information how come they are not used by the populace in general instead of formalized teaching, reading, memorizing etc.

Answer:

Thesis stones are limited, and the Senate and Judges have a reason to not hand them out like candy.  This will become more apparent why as the story progresses.

3)If most of the populace never gets attacked by the monsters behind the shields, why are they still afraid of them?  Even though they could see them wouldn’t their fear of them go away, and the “threat” the monsters present seem unreal, much like violence has become to some people because of TV?

Answer:

Without debating conclusions drawn in that question, keep in mind that enough Lykatic Vampire attacks happen that on an island as small as that enough people know of a friend, or friend of a friend who has had someone die even if they have not seen the monsters do it themselves.  At the same time many of the citizens often do not look up at night at the monsters, because shield or no shield it’s still frightening to see dragons and gryphons careening around madly only a few hundred feet over your head.


Series: Episodic or Epic?


Fantasy in particular lends itself to series.  A majority of those series have the same overarching characters and themes, and the books are connected.  Due to the strong influence of Lord of the Rings many are trilogies.  Often the series really is just one large story, broken down into smaller chunks which allows the story to be released earlier and in the case of print, because they might not be able to physically release the book elsewise.  When creating these separate books there are two ways they can do it – the book can still have the basics of a beginning, middle and end, but honestly identify more as another “chapter” of a larger chronicle then a true standalone work.  These types of books do have the downside that they cannot  be just picked up and read as its own story out of order and without knowledge of the rest of the series.  The other way is to have a completely self-contained story that continues themes amongst itself, but can be read in mostly any order and still enjoyed without knowing anything else in the series.   The downside to this type however is if the specific plot, theme, or character focus does not hook the reader, they do not feel bad skipping it.

Examples of the books focusing more on being pieces of a large series than stand-alone stories include Wheel of Time, Tears of Rage, Game of Thrones and most of the other epic fantasies that are the bread and butter of the genres.  This description is not meant to disparage those types of novels, and they can still contain the basics of a story (conflict, climax, resolution) but they are not normally intended to be read out of order, and even with recaps and Wikipedia catching reader up are really intended to be read as a series more than by themselves.  I still love The Shadow Rising by itself, and it does have it’s own plots that open and close in the same book.  I could not however hand  it to someone without them reading the rest of the Wheel of Time and expect them to love it nearly on the same scale as those who read the series in order.

The advantage of this style is it truly allows a giant Epic that the other form does not.  When read  in a row a well-built epic of this type has the potential to really enthrall a reader.  Since in essence one giant story is being composed, each individual book can allow an attention to detail, themes, characters, and events that standalones do not.  Although less accessible to people when not in order, it makes up for it in scope and depth.

Some of my favorite television is this way, including Battlestar Galactica, most of 5th Season of Buffy, of course Lost, and the “mythology” episodes of X-Files.  Most movie that are this way tend to be adaptations (other than the Matrix but whether or not that made sense even watching it in order is up to personal taste) as for economic sake when creating new movies it makes sense to allow them to stand alone without prior movies having to be seen to enjoy them.  Comic books on the other hand, for the past three decades are like this, rewarding large collections with knowledge that enhances each later story.

The other way, of self-contained stories that mainly share the same characters but do not build up to one large overarching plot is not currently the standard for many modern fantasy books.  During the Pulp era, however, this was much more common.  Sword and Sorcery books still tend to be in this format, self-contained, and so do more comedic books like Piers Anthony Xanth series, Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series.  Dresden Files (which feels more like a pulp novel then an epic fantasy) straddles the line, in the sense that reading them in order enhances the novels because you know the characters better, but it is not necessary normally required for most of the books in the series.

The fantastic thing about this is every book is truly a jumping on point for new readers.  If they love the characters they may want to go back and pick up earlier works to flesh out their enjoyment of the series, but they should never feel lost no matter where they first start reading.

I think of these things because my current trilogy is of course, the type that must be read in order to be fully understood.  The next series idea I have after this however, I am highly considering making it more episodic, and not concentrating on overarching plots so they can be read in any order.  Also, outside of fantasy my favorite genre is probably mystery/thrillers that contain the same characters, but can honestly be enjoyed in any order.

Poll Series Style Preference:

1)Episodic:  This is like Dresden, Conan, Discworld.  I like self-contained stories

2)Sprawling Epics: I like intricate tapestries of stories that wind between several books with a large overarching plot.

Results from Worldcon were good, Mandatory Paradise got up to 13 on the Epic fantasy List, and Fall of House Nemeni got up to 26th on the same list.  I have decided to finally have Fall of House Nemeni released to Nook after this cycle is over, and focus on Mandatory Paradise during promotions.

World Info:

The main adversaries to the Allmother in her religion are things called Firesouls.  They are said to possess people and come from the place of eternal torment, the Sun Below all the Islands.  It is said they are led by something called “Other” but no solid information is ever said about this entity.  The Songs of the Allmother do not focus on the Other often, and whether or not is is male or female, human or monstrous, and even how it acts are different in the various tales that have been passed down.

The Songs and stories focus more on Firesouls, and how they can control your life if you are too evil, or fall into the Sun Below.  Of course no one really knows how something could survive a fall into the Sun Below, or even more who one could come back.  Tales still persist of it happening, and if someone starts acting very strange or unpredicatable it is wondered if they have been “Firesouled” or “firetouched.”


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