Technology in Your Fantasy World

Fantasy novels can cover so many different types of worlds. It doesn’t always have to be a medieval or agrarian setting. Remember, pre-computerized or pre-electrified societies had guns, cannons, and steam power. Have you wandered into Stormwind City in World of Warcraft lately? While many players ride around on traditional steeds, others ride dragons, and still more have motorized transportation. There’s no reason that a little technology can exist in your world as well, if you wanted.

Sometimes a map, creature encounters, or a sword fight are not enough. A reader needs to know what type of world s/he has been thrust into upon opening your book.

Mythical Creatures Fairy Tales Gnome Control Troll

Public Domain Image Courtesy of Pixabay

Now I’m sure some may say, “They know they’ve purchased a fantasy novel. They should know what kind of world to expect.” All well and true. But how to best describe the intricacies of your world? One unique aspect may be the level of technology.

Exposition right out the gate is definitely NOT the way to go. Imagine opening a book or using Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature and seeing something like…

It was the third age after the fall of Westernia. Many people roamed far and wide over the centuries. They built communities, new cities, and were now the denizens of four separate Kingdoms. The distances created new languages, regional accents, alliances, and war.

However, all the Kingdoms would unite when faced with a common enemy blah blah blah… Maybe this could work as a blurb, but not as a chapter opening.

Here’s My Approach

A better way to build your world is in dribs and drabs emerging from the story and characters. As an example, in my forthcoming novel An Easterly Sojourn, I have a single passage from the middle of Chapter 3 that locks in my world’s technology level and a few other things.

***

The vendor blinked his over-sized eyes and smiled ear-to-ear at Cyril, as only a Gnome could do. He held out a small, plain steel box, about two inches square and a quarter inch thick. With a flick of his fingers, the Gnome flipped the top open to reveal a wick and a gnarled metal wheel. His thumb pressed down on the wheel, and after a quick quarter turn, the wick burst into a small flame.

Cyril raised his eyebrows and smiled. “By Korak’s staff! Instant fire.”

“I’d hate to hear the price,” Daggorat said.

After a hearty round of bargaining with the vendor, Cyril paid eight Golden Claw pieces. He proudly admired the gadget as they walked away. “An amazing feat of Gnomish ingenuity and craftsmanship.”

“And you accuse me of being impulsive. Just twelve copper-jacks for our breakfasts. We could eat at the tavern for almost a whole year on that money. Why does everyone trust those Gnomes?” Daggorat shook his head. “It must be those huge childlike eyes.”

“Oh, stop casting shadows upon my enjoyment.” He moved closer and whispered, “Besides, with this fascinating little trinket, I can make fire without suffering the company of dark mages. Or bending to their will.”

***

Within this small passage, I’ve introduced Gnomes, the monetary system, some information about the technology level of the world, and something mysterious concerning both Light and Dark Mages. All while keeping the story flowing. This is the approach that I’ve had the best feedback from at critique groups. Give it a try and see what it can do for your writing!

Hope you found this writing tip helpful.

DON’T GO – COMMENT BELOW!

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An Easterly Sojourn: Chapter 7 Added

Every time The Queen and I are done #editing a chapter, I copy and paste it into a large manuscript document. That is the one which will get printed and sent off to Beta Readers. The file now contains the first seven chapters of my fantasy novel, An Easterly Sojourn.

What’s the big deal about chapter 7? Why didn’t I write a post after chapter six or five?

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Public Domain Image Courtesy of Pixabay

 

The current draft of An Easterly Sojourn has 28 chapters. Therefore, adding chapter 7 to the manuscript file means that we’re 25% complete. That is to say, if one goes by chapter count rather than words or pages. For me, the sweat beads are lessening. I bragged in a post a couple of weeks ago that this #fantasy novel will be published rather than should be published.

Doesn’t Endless Editing Get Tiresome?

Yes it does. However, there are some short stories to edit as well. The tedium level reduces when you jump between different types of work and I don’t feel stagnated or repetitive. I even switch between projects while #writing as well. Perhaps I’ll put the brakes on after chapter 10 and switch to one of the short singles waiting on the proverbial “back-burner.”

Do you switch between projects? Does working on a single project, whether writing or editing become tiresome after a while?

DON’T GO – COMMENT BELOW

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A New Chapter

As some of you know, I had to stop #writing on account of moving across the country. In recent posts, I’ve made it clear that I was back again, blogging and writing my #fantasy novel “The First Light.” I even hammered out a new short story as well.

I was able to complete chapter 16, “May the Light Shine Upon Thee.” It’s a fun and happy chapter despite its rather serious-sounding title, which comes from a ceremony that is performed within the chapter. The subsequent celebration and feast are the elements that give this particular segment its light-hearted flavor.

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As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I was deathly afraid of a dreary “Act II Malaise” taking hold of the story. However, I’m pleased with the pace. So far Act II ( chapters 11 – 19 ) has some great revelations, action, comedy, romance, mystery, and overall good times, sprinkled throughout its pages.

I’d love to you all more about it in detail, but then I’d be giving too much away.

How are you handling your version of a second act?

 

#Writetip: The Plausible Plot

Chapter 14 “Fork in the Road” of my upcoming #fantasy novel The First Light is now complete. However, after getting that first draft down on paper comes the point where I look it over for any glaring errors. Yep, I found one.

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“Fork in the Road” by Jack. Used under Creative Commons License.

A minor nemesis skulks away from a caravan in the middle of the night, and the next day the heroes must decide where he went, and whether to follow. I can hear readers thinking, “Well why didn’t they (our heroes) follow his tracks?” or “If it was dark, why didn’t they go after him at dawn?” Also, there’s the condition of the road itself. “Is it muddy, paved, dry baked dirt, or loose powdery dirt?” And of course, “If he’s skulking away, why wouldn’t he go across country?”

The fact is I failed to address any of those issues. This wouldn’t be classified as a plot-hole, but might well leave a reader feeling that the story isn’t plausible.

Rest assured that these issues have been addressed and explained, without creating a bulk of exposition. It was interesting to work my way through them, to really think about the capabilities of horses and wagons, and the logistics of travelling alone on a dangerous road.

As for Chapter 14, there is no literal fork in the road; I used the term figuratively. The main character’s next course of action is a major decision, from which there is no going back. Another fork is the relationship between my MC and a minor character. Will their romance survive their first lovers’ quarrel? I haven’t decided yet.

So it seems like I’ve come to a fork in the road as well. Isn’t it interesting when author and character are experiencing the same things?

What kinds of issues have you faced in making your novel completely plausible and hole-free?

The Special Language of #Fantasy

If you’re either a reader or an author of fantasy then it’s a probable bet that you’ve read The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. You may remember with a smile words like taters, olyphaunt, pipeweed, and eleventy-first. It was this precise nature of playing with words that brought Middle-Earth to life in a very special and unique way.

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“J.R.R. Tolkien, Da Morto” by Daniele Prati used under Creative Commons License.

As part of fantasy world-building, other authors must do the same but in our own way. We should learn from Tolkien and create a #writingtip for our usage. However, we must define what is special about the words. Firstly, you just can’t make up some strange word that is going to act like a speed-bump to the reader. You didn’t need a glossary or a long winded description to recognize “pipeweed”. You knew what it was and recognized Tolkien’s playfulness the second you read it.

Now, the world-building in Science Fiction can be a little different. Remember the tachyon particles from Star Trek: The Next Generation, and how often they were used in the series? People had no idea what a tachyon was; yet, their nature never really had to be explained. #Sci-Fi fans (including myself) just accepted it.

I’ve set out to accomplish the same type of playfulness in the world-building of Tyrhennia in The First Light. Take a look at a scene as two characters have breakfast at the Sword and Anvil Tavern in the city of Mentiria:

Daggorat leaned forward. “You should write a book about the common speech of the three kingdoms. Especially tavern slang.” Cyril responded with a negative grunt. Then Daggorat said, “Back home in Easterly, flatcakes and bangers are roundcakes and porklogs. It could be an interesting book.”

“Certainly not,” Cyril said. “Judging from the intellectual capacity of those three nobnoggins that we refer to as kings, such a treatise would probably start another great war.”

Did you pick up on the meaning of flatcakes, roundcakes, porklogs, and nobnoggins? Readers in the U.K. will recognize banger as sausage, while U.S. readers may not. However, from the use of porklog, the reader should be able to infer the meaning of sausage. Of course, The First Light is not laced that heavily with this type of vocabulary. You’ve just witnessed its most concentrated use in Chapter 1. I don’t do this again until another tavern scene in Chapter 7 and again in Chapter 14 when some characters are studying a map. I couldn’t use the word “geography” in the world of Tyrhennia, so I made up the word “tyrhenostrophy”. How do you feel about word-play for the sake of world-building?

Thank You NaNoWriMo for Chapter 14

The April version of NaNoWriMo struck a few days ago. I admit that I didn’t get anything done on the first of the month. However, over the past few days I finally put the finishing touches on Unlucky Chapter 13  and have since broken into a streak. I’ve completed a major chunk of Chapter 14, called Fork in the Road.

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‘NaNoWriMo Day 3’ by MP Clemens used under Creative Commons License

Within this chapter, I’ve created (what my editor and I believe to be) some of the best comic relief in The First Light. Yes, there are reasons to giggle and snort in previous chapters, but this scene is much more extended than the other punch lines dabbled here and there.

Some say that author-gods shouldn’t be too cruel to their creations. Yet in chapter 14, my main character is having one of those days, from stinging embarrassment to comical frustration. Anyway, if it wasn’t for NaNoWriMo, and having to Tweet #amwriting, I probably wouldn’t have gotten this done during the week.

You see, I’m moving soon and this week was filled with emptying closets and creating garage sale, eBay, and keeper piles of stuff. And let’s not forget the roofers that came by to patch some shingles. A busy week did unfold, but thanks to NaNoWriMo, I managed to squeeze in precious writing time and get something done.

What are you working on this April? Has NaNoWriMo helped to motivate you too?

Elvish Lives!

When it comes to world building for a fantasy novel, an important step would be the creation of another language. There’s an entire world being presented in a fantasy novel, which means different, races, cultures, climates and geography.

Elves can be an important part of any fantasy world. I love them, and refuse to create a world without them. However, I am not going to simple take Tolkien Elves and drop them into my world. Sure, they may look the same, but they will not act the same or have a similar history. Therefore they shouldn’t have a similar language either.

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Photo Andrew Dobrow (Creative Commons License)

I’m a linguistic dilettante, so I can’t resist. I’ve decided that Elvish (Varnya) on my world will be based on a three letter root system, which is of course the basis for the Semitic languages. The language will also be conceptual, and will use prefixes, suffixes, and infixes to create different words while maintaining the conceptual three letter root.

I took the Russian word for “word” – Slovo and created my three letter root SLF (“V” and “F” are very similar). Next, I thought about all of the words that could be associated conceptually.

Letter – word – sentence – paragraph – book – author – library – alphabet – message – scroll – to write – writing implement

Next it’s just a matter of vowels, prefixes, suffixes, and infixes to create all of the necessary words. I’ve also decided that the infixes “la” and “lu” are only for verbs and “doers” of the concept.  Therefore, the word for “letter” in Varnya would be Salaf, and “author” would be Salulif.

I know that in fantasy novels, created languages can be either a cause for depth or confusion. It’s a fine line to walk. How do you feel about created languages in fantasy novels? Do they help to immerse you into the fantasy world, or do they cause confusion and distance?

Unlucky Chapter 13

I breezed through the first twelve chapters of my fantasy novel The First Light. Two of the chapters weren’t even planned; they just grew as the story took on a life of its own. Then chapter 13 came along.

In this chapter there was going to be a fight scene and we were going to learn something about one of the secondary characters. I’ve noticed that fight scenes (even from best-selling pros) don’t feel visual enough. In a bind I stumbled across Writing Fight Scenes by Rayne Hall.

unlucky Photo by WoodleyWonderworks used under Creative Commons License

I gobbled that book right up and made up a few charts from the information that I gleaned. I wasn’t writing a huge battle scene, or an extended fight-to-the-death between hero and villain. It was just a small clumsy attack by non-professionals.

Thanks to Rayne Hall, I got through it, and it makes sense (to beta readers anyway). This situation was totally different from (gulp) writer’s block. I was still writing and editing short stories. I even wrote FIGHT SCENE GOES HERE and completed the rest of the chapter.

The working title for this chapter is “Assassins”; although, I’ve been toying with the idea of calling it, “Knives from the Darkness”, or something on that order.

Have you ever gotten stuck in a predicament like this one?

Rethinking Some Chapter Titles

For all who read and commented upon my previous post The First Dozen of The First Light, it should come as no surprise that I’ve since renamed chapters 2 & 4. Originally, chapter Two was called “Contemporary Antiquity,” which does fit because it reveals part of the history of Tyrhennia – a history that has ramifications for the current day. Of course, the key word is “part,” and that’s why the title irked me.

I’d love to call the chapter “True Confessions” but alas, that’s the title of a major film from 1981. Horrid thoughts about Robert DeNiro banging on my door and screaming “Are you talkin’ to me” made me drop that idea. I could use the word “Confessions” alone, but it isn’t very descriptive and sort of swipes an ancient title from St. Thomas Aquinas. (Catholic guilt alert) God knows that I don’t want to steal something from a Saint, and have Sister Attila the Nun smack me across the knuckles with a huge wooden ruler.

However, in the chapter, two characters do reveal something important to each other. Therefore, “Mutual Confessions” seems to be the winner.

QM Photo Dennis Hill (Creative Commons License)

I presented Chapter 4 to my critique group this past Saturday, and they all agreed that “The Creeping Shadow” was not a good title. In this chapter we get our first glimpse of the Tenebrae, and learn about how patient they are at implementing their plans.

However, much more is revealed about the personalities of two dark mages, Lamortain and Xymphilia (I think she’s getting a name change as well). They’re twisted, psychotic, and utterly violent. The manner in which their evil is shown within the chapter led a critique reader (Colt) to propose the new title “Lightning and Fire.”  I think I’ll stick with it. Thank you Colt, it’s so good to have author friends.

Do you perform mental gymnastics when creating chapter titles and character names as well?

The First Dozen of The First Light

I thought that writing a novel was going to be an easy task compared to short stories. For the first twelve chapters I seem to be correct. I could almost say that the book was writing itself. The words just came out of me and then they took on a life of their own.

I started by giving each chapter a title, which is a simplistic version of light planning. New chapters and sub characters were created on a whim, as if the story and the characters were directing me rather than me directing them.

Tap Photo: Rennett Stowe Used under Creative Commons License

Chapter 1 got an award from the San Antonio Writers Guild, and it was smooth sailing for the next eleven chapters. Not only is the story building, but also subtexts, themes, Jungian Archetypes, psychology, and relationships, are becoming more complex and subtle.

Also, the most noticeable difference is the amount of editing. Chapter twelve doesn’t need half of the editing that chapter one needed. On top of staying busy with the novel, I’ve been pumping out short stories along the way. I guess writing can be no different from riding a horse or playing a guitar. The more you do it, the better you get.

Here’s a list of the titles of the first twelve chapters. Some are definitely written in stone, but others I just consider working titles.

Chapter 1………… Signs and Portents

Chapter 2………… Contemporary Antiquity

Chapter 3………… A Short Walk, A Long History

Chapter 4………… The Creeping Shadow

Chapter 5………… Secret Delving

Chapter 6………… A Rogue is Born

Chapter 7………… The Stolen Kiss

Chapter 8………… To Pursue a Mouse

Chapter 9………… Parleys, Provisions, and Preparations

Chapter 10……… The Caravan

Chapter 11……… An Identity Revealed

Chapter 12……… The New Apprentice

So the work keeps rolling along. In the meantime, what do you think of these chapter titles?

Into Mentiria

The novel I’m currently working on is titled The First Light. It’s a fantasy novel set in a Tolkien-inspired world. Other muses include tabletop Role Playing Games (RPG’s) like Dungeons and Dragons, and Pathfinder.

The world is called Tyrhennia and within it are the three Human Kingdoms of Ravenna, Easterly, and Marconia. Ravenna is the most powerful and wealthy kingdom. Its capital city is Mentiria, and its second major city is called Wysteria.

Eleven of the first twelve chapters are set within Mentiria. It is a hustling and bustling cosmopolitan city containing taverns, saloons, guilds, and shops of all sorts. The tale opens during the Festival of the Summer Solstice, in which readers will encounter street vendors, performers, magicians and drunkards.  The city’s atmosphere and culture provide ripe raw material for tales and adventures.

Within the novel’s pages, the reader will follow a quest-based adventure with my two main characters, Daggorat and Cyril.  Something precious and powerful has been lost (and no, it’s not a ring), and it is up to our heroes to seek it out.  Along the way they’ll be joined by a few more interesting personas, all of whom bring something unique and fun to the journey.

Besides the novel, I’m also creating an anthology of short stories, all relating to a vision of the shadowed side of American culture. However, within that darkness are rays of light. As the stories expose dark and somewhat seedy themes, they have evoked two different emotional responses from test readers. Some laugh at the comical circumstances of something trivial gone awry, while others are shocked about the possibility of those circumstances actually occurring.  I can’t wait until it’s published, to see what a wider readership thinks!

I hope to have the short stories published within the next few months, and the novel by this time next year.  I’ll be sure to post regularly about my journey, and hope that other new authors will stop by this blog to share their experiences as well!