Category Archives: Writing Speculative Fiction

Writing on the fringe of reality

Writing Fantasy || Character Casting

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.

Casting characters

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:

Character Personalities

Character Races

Character Occupations

Character Names

Character Backstory

I hope you have fun casting famous people in your movie. If you can’t think of a famous person you can always cast someone you know. My advice here would be to not be too obvious!

Til next time, know you are loved by the One who created you in His image.

Lynne

 

Writing Fantasy || Character Backstory

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.)

Sleeping Baby in feathers nest
Sleeping Baby by Tawny Nina on pixabay

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

 

And check out my blog interview with the protagonist, Colin, from the sc-fi novel Singularity.

Check out Singularity on Amazon

 

Til next time, know you are loved by the One who made you in His image.

Lynne

Writing Fantasy || Character Personalities

 

How well do you know your characters?

  • 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?
Writing Character Personality Types
How would your character react?

 

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.

 

Personality Types

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.

 

What’s Your Personality?

How about you? If you’d like to dig a little deeper or find your own personality type, you can check out a blog post I wrote for my mini-course, Your Write Voice For His Kingdom.

Once we know our characters’ personalities we can go on to discovering their backstories and why they responded to events in their past based on those personality traits.

Have fun discovering the ways we were all made so differently by our Heavenly Father.

Til next time, know you are loved by the One who made you in His image.

Lynne

 

Resources for digging deeper:

There are several personality tests online but, in my opinion, these three are the best. Each one brings a different perspective to a developing character.

Writing Fantasy || Character Names

What’s In a Character’s Name?

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?

Writing Fantasy - Names. Male Nord Paladin
Writing Fantasy Names – Male Nord Paladin from ‘The Fellowship Of The King’

Art by Kirstie Shanks Brand & Web Design

 

3 Ways to Create Fantasy Names

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).

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, on Writing Character Names
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

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:

Jon Greenwood

Alex Steephill

Lara Pigstye

Beulah Wortbog

Lolita Lakebottom

 

First Name + Race

How about naming your character as easy as using their race as a descriptor?

Kreg Cave Dwarf

Felicia Fairy Princess

Harry Halfling

Trevor Troll

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

And here’s a Dwarf Name Generator for you.

 

Authors and Pinterest

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.

Lynne

Do You Ever Dream Of Being An Elf?

Do You Ever Dream of Being An Elf?

“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 you in a different realm! 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?

Lynne Collier --my fantasy alter-ego from THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE KING
Lynne Collier –my fantasy alter-ego

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:

“Think outside the box. Unless it’s a Tardis –

Always choose the Tardis!”

– Lynne Collier, ‘The Fellowship Of The King’  #christiangeek #christianlifepurpose

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Lynne

Resources

Benjamin T. Collier

Kirstie Shanks

What Is Christian Speculative Fiction?

What Is Christian Speculative Fiction?

Robot in outer space staring at the sun and planets.
Art by DrSJS

“Biblical [Christian] Speculative Fiction is speculative fiction which uses Christian themes and incorporates the Christian worldview…”  — Wikipedia.

In many of the modern Christian fiction novels, the characters are mainly Christian and act on guidance from God with no overt or miraculous divine intervention. There is almost always a non-Christian character who eventually becomes ‘born again’ and the emphasis is biblical and doctrinal, as in Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins’ Left Behind series. It differs greatly from speculations on the Bible and Christianity found in fictional work such as Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code.

An example of a story which portrays a biblical and doctrinal emphasis but also features miraculous intervention would be Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness which features demons, angels, and spiritual warfare.

Examples of stories which reflect a Christian worldview without explicitly Christian references would be The Lord of the Rings by RR Tolkien, C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, and G. K. Chesterton’s The Ball and the Cross, which are overtly miraculous in content.

So, in a nutshell, Christian Speculative Fiction is any fiction genre which gives a Christian worldview and can incorporate fantasy, science-fiction, dystopia, and other genres which invite us to connect with our Christian beliefs ‘outside the box’.

In the last few years, new venues have opened for the Christian Speculative Fiction genre. More recently, Enclave Publishing (formerly Marcher Lord Press) and LoreHaven have created a platform for writers of Christian Speculative Fiction.

Til next time, know you are loved by the One who created you in His image, which includes that magnificent imagination of yours.

Lynne

Just for fun–Check out LoreHaven’s post about Star Trek Discovery

Writing Fantasy || Conflict

Writing Conflict Into Your Novel

So you have a nice fantasy/fiction story going on and you have a happy ending. Guess what? We’re going to turn that all upside down now! Get ready to throw your readers a curveball and upset the apple cart. Every story needs conflict – even children’s stories. Think about it. Where would Little Red Riding Hood be without the big bad wolf? We all love a villain to hate.

Writing Conflict
Little Red Riding Hood and the Fox

 

10 Things To Consider Before Writing Conflict

Some elements to think about as you write the outline of your conflict.

  1. What motivates both your hero and the villain so they’re drawn into the upcoming conflict?
  • Love
  • Greed
  • Pride
  • Anger
  • Duty
  • Other ideas…

 

  1. What keeps your hero and villain locked together in this conflict?
  • Past History
  • Jealousy
  • Mutual Love Interest
  • Loss of Someone or Something
  • Misunderstanding
  • Other ideas…

12 Key Elements On Writing Conflict

Your hero tries to understand what just happened in the inciting event and what it means to them and their way of life. This is the start of Act 2.

  1. Reveal the power of the antagonist (villain) and the true nature of the conflict arising.
  2. The hero begins to recognize what’s at stake and searches for ways to fight the battle.
  3. Your hero recognizes the true reason behind the conflict.
  4. With new knowledge and understanding, your hero gains headway in the conflict.
  5. Foreshadows Act 3 (sets up the base for what’s coming next) and reminds the hero what’s at stake. (We’ll look at foreshadowing more later).
  6. Your hero rallies everything they’ve got and launches it against the enemy with a seeming
  7. A defeat for your hero after the seeming victory in Act 2. This begins Act 3.
  8. The hero questions their goal, commitment and choices. They begin to doubt themselves and their ability to win the battle.
  9. Your hero comes face to face with the enemy.
  10. The next event is a duel to the death for the hero and the villain. This can be physically or metaphorically. The reader needs to be kept on the edge of their seat here because they know one or the other will lose.
  11. The hero wins and the conflict is ended.
  12. The ending of your story should give the reader ‘breathing space’ and ease them into the hero’s new reality.

 

Watch a favourite movie – it doesn’t need to be fantasy – and see how the conflict escalates and is resolved.

 

 Til next time, know you are loved by the One who created you in His image.

Lynne

 

Resources

The Hobbit -The Battle of the Five Armies

Maleficent

Divergent

Writing Fantasy || 5 Epic Moments

How to Write an Outline for Your Novel

Researching this week, I discovered we need to go back to our premise and plot twists to see if we can now add more interesting content to the ideas we wrote. What can you glean from the premise you’ve written?

Ask the right questions for outlining your novel.

 

5 Epic Moments That Will Define Your Story Outline 

Can you think of five major events that will occur in your novel? Can you think of five ways to add your plot twists to each of those events?  When adding your plot twists, think about how these will affect the story:

  • How will this affect the protagonist?
  • Will you need to add backstory for your protagonist to show this effect?
  • Who else will be affected by this plot twist?
  • Is this a good place to add conflict? If so, between which characters?
  • Will this interfere with your protagonist getting what they want? How?
  • Will it cause a disaster for your protagonist?
  • Does your world-mapping need more of a fantasy backdrop for your plot twist to be epic?

 

Do this exercise for all your major events and you’ll have a good outline started. Try to write a rough scene for each one to revise later. If you hit a wall don’t give up. Read a book in the same genre, or brainstorm with your writing group, then just start writing and ‘pants for a while. Letting the juices flow freely may stir a firework display of creativity.

 

VisualWritingPrompts

If you don’t have any scenes spinning in your head yet, watch a TV show in the same genre as your novel. This works great for me. I’m glad I have a pause button so I can write notes as I watch. You can also find some great visual writing prompts on my Pinterest board. Later, you’ll keep what fits and file the other ideas for another time or maybe another novel.

 

Sunset on the beach
Sunset Silhouettes

 

Here’s a prompt to get you started. What do you see in this picture? A peaceful sunset at the beach, an approaching storm, or perhaps a scary scene from The Walking Dead with a horde of zombies approaching?

 

 

 

Til next time, know you are loved by the One who made you in His image.

Lynne     

 

Resources for Outlining a Novel

White Rose Writers on Pinterest

Outlining Your Novel, by K.M. Weiland

Writing a Book by Jeff Goins

Writing Fantasy || Plot Twists

What Is A Plot Twist?

As you write your story, look for ways to add an unexpected twist to the plot. These are commonly known as the ‘What If’ scenarios of fiction writing. They throw in something the reader isn’t expecting to happen in the story to add conflict, drama and adventure. Go back to your premise sentence and see where you can spice things up a little. Keep your readers guessing.

Lit sparkler demonstrating an idea

How to Write a Plot Twist

What’s expected and what would happen if it didn’t turn out that way?

Write a sentence about something in your novel your reader will expect to happen.

Now write a What If.

What if that didn’t happen at all? What would happen then?

Now turn that idea upside-down.

What if this other thing happened instead? How would the story unfold?

 

Example of a great plot twist

In her poignant novel, Rescued, Donna Fawcett (Dawson) writes about two women;

“Charlene McTaggart can’t conceive and badly wants a child. Dr Jason Steadman goes against those who would do all they can to stop a unique procedure from being performed. A procedure that will save an embryo, prevent a death and give an infertile woman a chance at motherhood”. (back cover logline)

Then Fawcett asks these questions:

“What if there was a solution to abortion?”

“What if pro-life and pro-choice could join forces to see the war over the issue end?”

“Is it possible?”

The answers to these questions fuel a powerful and emotional novel which touches the heart of the reader. As I read Donna’s book I was drawn into the world of possibilities for the female characters and eager to find out how their stories were resolved. Check out Donna’s book:

'Rescued' by Donna Dawson

What If Your Story Just Got Really Weird?

Readers crave a plot twist to keep them interested. What can you add that they may not have been written before? Write as many plot twists as you can think of. Try these exercises to get your inner Tolkien flowing:

  • It’s expected that the villain will be arrested. What if he suddenly vanishes?
  • It’s expected that the rain shower will stop. What if it turns into a red storm?
  • It’s expected that the hero will get the girl. What if she doesn’t like him one bit?

Will this plot twist change your logline? Your logline can change to accommodate your developing story as long as you remain true to your premise. Remember, your back cover isn’t published yet.

Til next time, know you are loved by the One who created you in His own image.

Lynne