Do you find it challenging to write fantasy as a Christian? When I first set out to write in this genre I wasn’t sure what was ‘ok’ for me to add to my stories. Could I write about wizards and magic, vampires who live forever because they suck the blood out of people, zombies who are the walking dead not anywhere close to embodying the resurrection? And what about trying to convey a scriptural message? How was I going to do that with this imagination of mine?
A. K. Preston comes pretty close to summing it up for me when he writes, “The Christian worldview is, in fact, the most creatively inspiring of all. You need only take a glance through Isaiah, Daniel or Ezekiel to see that God inspired the biblical writers with truly vivid and fantastical imagery to communicate His message to the world. This makes the speculative genre, to me, one of the richest possible from a Christian viewpoint. Here we have a place where both writer and reader step completely outside of everyday experience to consider things from a radically new perspective – a forum for ideas to be sketched out to their logical conclusion and for the hypothetical to be explored.
When it comes to sharing the truth, the question we ask ourselves usually goes “How can I answer this argument?” In my own vocation, I rephrase it thus: “What kind of story can I tell about this?” For the latter is the most truly enduring argument of all.”
Ready to have more fun? This week I’m sharing an excerpt from a blog a friend of mine wrote. She’s a talented artist and her heart is to help people discover their creativity. Here’s why I’m sharing this with you; she blogged about creating a personal (or group) flag. I thought, seeing as most of you are writers of fantasy like me, you’d love knowing how to add that creative element to your books. You could even create a flag for your fantasy world and use it on your book cover.
On her blog, Ann-Margret digs deeper and gives you links to resource further. Cool, huh? Here’s part of her blog post:
Saturday, March 24, 2018
“This activity is perfect for a family, youth group, classroom or any themed club. It would make a great ice breaker for a big event, too.
I want you to imagine that you (or your group) are a country. What would your flag look like?
There are endless ways to design a flag because you have these options to consider:
Shape (most flags are rectangular but there are a few exceptions)
If Steven Spielberg called you for advice on casting the main character for your movie, who would you choose?
As I was doing research on creating characters for my stories, I came across an intriguing idea for character profiling. If you think of a famous person and keep them in mind as you write, it helps when you write dialogue and body language. This is actually very helpful when considering how your characters will respond to events with their mannerisms, quirks and personalities. I tried that and it works!
And what if your novel is so epic that a hugely famous producer wants to make it into a movie? Hopefully, some of us will be able to do that one day. How awesome would that be? Have you already been daydreaming about who you’d cast in your movie? Let’s face it, most of us envision our stories on the screen even before we put fingers to keyboard.
Which famous person reminds you of your character?
Is your story a swashbuckling adventure with a shot of rum humour? Maybe Jonny Depp is who you have in mind for your protagonist. Or do you see the dashingly romantic Orlando Bloom as your hero?
Are you writing a sci-fi novel? Do you see Leonard Nimoy as your strange wise man, or perhaps he fits the role of a High-Elf wizard in your fantasy novel?
Who would you love to cast?
Who would be perfect in the role of your main Protagonist?
Your main Antagonist?
Your Protagonist’s Love Interest?
Your Protagonist’s Mentor?
Your Protagonist’s Sidekick?
Your Protagonist’s 4 Main Followers?
Your Antagonist’s Sidekick?
Pinterest For Role Call
By now most of you know how much I love to play around on Pinterest and create boards for my writing projects. I have boards for my characters, costume ideas, writing tips for the genre I’m currently writing in and so on. I find this casting exercise very helpful and inspiring. There’s freedom in ‘hiring’ professionals to play around in your imagination. And it’s so much fun!
I ‘hired’ a famous actor to play the role of my hero in the Dwarf story I’m currently writing. You can check out my Dwarf storyboard with sections about my protagonists, antagonists, mountains, caves, armour and more here.
If you missed my other blogs on writing characters, you can catch up here:
If you’ve been writing your story along with me, you probably have a pretty good idea of who your hero protagonist, their main sidekick, and the evil antagonist and his henchmen are and what they’re doing when your story starts, but how did they become who they are? Why is your protagonist a charming young female who loves to wander the forests of a mystical land on horseback? Why is her companion an outcast from a faraway land? What led your antagonist to despise all Elves?
What’s the story behind your story?
How do you find out the backstory of your story? As you know, I’m learning this whole process as I go along – like most of you too, I expect, as I write my Dwarf story. Thank you for joining me on this journey.
In my research, I discovered that the best information to start with is the character’s birth. (Duh.)
I also found as I wrote my first NaNoWriMo novel draft in 2015, it really does help to plot all this before you start writing your novel. I wasted many hours going back to a previous chapter to correct something I didn’t realize about my character until halfway through. Did I mention I switched my focus halfway through the story? Yep, the first half was a superhero and the second half was – well, I’m not exactly sure but it wasn’t a superhero. Something I learned from a fellow NaNo writer was to write all the main characters on sticky notes or in a journal with their own page, then add anything you discover about them as you write so you don’t lose track of information. Scrivener is another, more technical, way to organize your work. (The link goes to their page for a discount).
Let’s start with the protagonist
Where they were born and were there any unusual circumstances surrounding their birth?
Was it an easy birth?
Was the father present?
Were they delivered by a doctor or a travelling healer?
Maybe in their realm, they were delivered by supernatural means.
How many siblings did they have?
Write as much as you know about the birth of your protagonist.
Then go on to childhood.
Did they go to school?
Who was their best friend?
What was their favourite subject?
Did they excel at anything?
Did their experiences as a child influence their career choice?
Were they homeschooled or sent away at a young age to apprentice with someone?
Were they born with all the knowledge they would need in life?
How did that happen?
Your protagonist as an adult.
What drove them to be in the situation they’re in now?
Did they suffer prejudice, health issues or a failed relationship?
Write as many life events as you can think of and delete each one as you write.
Be open to adding new things you discover about your protagonist as your story unfolds.
Let the story evolve and delete any notes that no longer apply.
Then do the same for your major antagonist.
Ask why they’re angry, mean, and vicious.
People don’t start out that way as a newborn baby so what happened in their past to steer them down that path?
Is the antagonist driven by fear, guilt or jealousy?
Why do they have metal teeth or wear a mask?
Do the same for a few minor characters. Write only what’s important for your reader to know, not their entire life story.
Take a look at The Watcher by Sara Davison as a great example of backstory for her protagonist, Kathryn Ellison. Check out The Watcher on Amazon.
and Great Expectations as a wonderfully written backstory for the antagonist, the embittered Miss Havisham. Check out Great Expectations on Amazon
Do you know the personalities of these people who live in your head?
Have you spent enough time with them to know how they’d feel about what’s going on in their story?
Would their reactions to certain events or a flippant statement lead to a fight scene?
If they saw a mouse in the kitchen would they scream and jump up on the couch?
How to get to know your characters
Knowing your characters well enough to be able to use their personality traits to your advantage as you write your novel will make the writing flow easier and create logical and organic story arcs.
For example, who is your protagonist likely to befriend?
Who may hate your protagonist?
What drives your protagonist’s passion?
What may drive a particular character crazy?
How would your antagonist behave in an argument?
As I study the next steps in writing my novel, I realize I can’t answer some of the questions I need to ask to plot my story. The reason being, I don’t know what my character would do in any given situation. So, I need to take the time to get to know who these people are and what their responses would be to the events I want in my story. I need to be able to walk through this story with my characters and see, hear, touch, smell and taste what they experience and how they respond to the circumstances I set before them.
We need to take time to get to know everyone in our story. It’s fascinating and fruitful. Once we know our main characters well we’ll be better able to write an accurate and believable story. It may come in handy with a few of those friends who’re giving us a hard time. If we understand people better we may just be able to get along better.
When we write fantasy or any other genre of fictional story we need to name our characters. We get to create the people and creatures and then give them a name, so they come ‘alive’ to us as we write and to the reader who’s going to be blown away by our stories. Cool, huh?
Reading and researching old books from the countries or regions which have influenced your setting can be a big help. Consider the character of Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights. Heath means ‘an area of land covered in heather or similar low dense shrubbery’, and Cliff is ‘a high steep rock or precipice’. Heathcliff is a perfect name for the dishevelled and tortured romantic hero living on the English moors. (Dear to my heart as I was born there–not on the moors, down the road a bit).
Other characters have more obscure names such as Mark Twain, the renowned author and humourist. He was born Samuel Clemens but used the pen-name Mark Twain, which means the second line on the side of the riverboat where Twain worked as a young man. The second line (mark) was 12’ and the safe depth mark for the boat.
How do you go about choosing, or inventing, a name for your fantasy characters? If I want to quickly write a short story or an ebook, I find it easier to use a name that fits with the occupation of the character.
First Name + Occupational Surname
Penelope Donkeyrider (Courier)
Dugan Bagsnatcher (Thief)
Ventrice Shoemaker (Cobbler)
Tola Axegrinder (Blacksmith)
Roland Brewmaster (Winemaker)
First Name + Setting Surname
Fantasy characters can also be named for the place where they live:
First Name + Race
How about naming your character as easy as using their race as a descriptor?
Kreg Cave Dwarf
Felicia Fairy Princess
Eleander High Elf
You get the idea. I’ve come up with a few hilarious names doing this. I’ve also found watching the credits from shows and movies to be inspiring, especially if the show was filmed in a place similar to my story world. There are name generators that can help too. Here’s a site I go to for inspiration – Name Generator
Giving my main characters names helped me to organize my files on my Pinterest boards where I stash every image I can find that looks at all like I envision my character to be as well as my story settings and other features. Now that Pinterest allows me to add ‘sections’ to my boards I have one for my hero, minor protagonists, the main villain, minor antagonists and one for settings. Also, I feel a closer connection to my characters when I talk to them if they have names (admit it, you do this too, right?) Check out my published books on Pinterest and the new novel I’m writing. I also use these images for my social media gems (unless they’re repinned and have copyright).
By naming my darlings, I feel them take on a personality, and it’s easier to write their story, how they would respond to situations and their mannerisms. Do you feel this way about your characters?
A brainstorming session with friends could generate a lot of names for you – and a lot of beverages snorting out of the nose (always a good party trick). What else could influence your characters’ names?
So, have fun with naming your characters.
What name would you give the character in the title picture?
Leave a comment. I’d love to know what name you came up with.
Til next time, know you are loved by the One who made you in His image.
“Do you ever dream of being more than you are? Being a super-hero who can do marvellous feats for others and for God? Someone who can vanquish evil by a spoken word? Well- You Are! …We are all part of something bigger than ourselves; a supernatural world which exists parallel to ours and which few of us see but which interacts with ours in a constant battle for Mankind.”
This is the introduction to my new book —
‘The Fellowship of The King – A Christian Geek’s Guide to Kingdom Purpose‘
Click the book to find out more.
Find Your Christian Life Purpose
What on earth does that mean? That’s a leading question because not all of the book is about this earthly realm. Half of it is about youin a differentrealm! The first part of the book is discovering how God uniquely designed you before you were born, to be an ambassador (a representative) for His Kingdom. How He gave you specific natural abilities, a specific personality, and ultimately Spiritual Gifts chosen for you to carry out the assignments He has for you on earth—should you chose to accept them.
Find Your Fantasy Alter-Ego
The second part of the book is a fun spin about who you might be in a fantasy realm, your uniqueness translating into a world of fiction and what your missions would be there for the king. It takes you through discovering your race, your choice of weapons, your class (occupation), creating a shield, and your code for the kingdom. Who do think you would be and what mission would you accept for the king?
The book’s a prelude to my upcoming Speculative Fiction novels set in a fantasy realm but written from a Christian perspective. More about those in the coming weeks.
I wrote this book with my son, Benjamin T. Collier, also a published author, who writes amazing novels of fantasy and science fiction (mum’s bragging rights). We had a lot of fun writing this together and putting the different aspects of humankind and fantasy characteristics together to explore the seen universe and the unseen realms of fantasy. He’s the one who wrote most of the second part of the book, and a good friend of ours, Kirstie Shanks, designed the cover and the artwork. It’s a blessing to be able to work with such talented people who are dear to me and follow after God.
If you’re not inclined to geekdom yourself hopefully you’ll still enjoy the reality half of the book and discover what God has for you in His divine wisdom. It also makes a great gift for a geeky friend. The ensuing conversations could be quite hilarious! You may find you have more in common than you think.
Til next time, know you are loved by the One who created you in His image—and remember: