Hello readers. I hope you are all well and safe. I participated in NaNoWriMo last November and I’m excited to announce that my new fantasy short story has just been released! I wasn’t sure I could participate because of a broken arm and shoulder (spiral fractured humerus), but I chose to do a personal challenge of 10,000 words and I made it! If you’ve never broken your dominant arm and shoulder (and I don’t recommend it if you can avoid it) it’s quite difficult typing with the other hand. Even more so while drinking tea.
The story’s about a young Nord farmer who embarks on his Rite of Passage to serve the king and the people of the Town of Refuge as evil encroaches the land.
“With all the courage he could gather in his brave young body, Warag took a deep breath and let out a loud battle cry. He rushed towards the cave entrance and closed his eyes, bracing the void and believing with all the might in his heart for that one moment of defiance. And just as he reached the darkness, he heard the wind.”
Watch for the next book in the series coming soon.
‘Til next time — be safe, be well, and know you are loved by the One who created you in His image.
Where do you get inspiration for your story’s location? I’m writing a fantasy story for NaNoWriMo this year. I have a broken arm and shoulder so I gave myself a personal goal of only 10,000 words in place of the usual 50,000. This meant I’d be writing a novella (small novel). But I was bereft of ideas for the location to a particular scene until I remembered my son had invited me to play Skyrim with him one night and — ta da — my characters had a home!
Now, understand that when I say “play” I actually mean watch, (haha) and I know as a writer that copyrights are something to be respected for the original creator. With that in mind I joined my son on a Skyrim walkabout to get the feel of the land and take notes for my own fantasy world.
I also took some notes from the landscapes of LOTR and the breathtaking photos by Ray Majoran in Compassion Gallery. His photos from Iceland are spectacular.
Have you found a particular game, movie or real life location an inspiration for your writing? Leave a comment.
Til next time, remember you are loved by the One who made you in His image.
When we write fantasy stories we need to decide where the story takes place. This is called ‘mapping’ and can be an artistic rendering of the world where your story lives, or it can be a topography of the terrain drawn like an actual map with all the hills, valleys, rivers, roads and towns. I prefer to collect Pinterest pins, but at some point, I need to discover what components make up my fantasy world and literally how long it would take a Dwarf to get to the Castle Keep. So, a drawn or written map is essential to the span of time for him on his travels.
If it takes a few days for the journey, then I know to add an adventure, altercation or meeting with someone along the way, because let’s face it, a journey without an event is just plain boring and not at all interesting to your reader. In real life we couldn’t travel three days without meeting a fellow traveller, missing a bus connection or experiencing bad weather. So it is with other worlds. That’s where the storyline unfolds, in the in-between times.If you’ve already decided on a rough outline for your story (more on this later if you haven’t already started one), now is the time to decide how big your fantasy world needs to be in order to incorporate all the events you have planned. Even if you don’t have an outline written down, you’ve probably envisioned an encounter with an enemy, a chance meeting with someone, and a plot twist somewhere. What kind of backdrop needs to be in your world for these events to happen? Walk around in your world a while.
“Far Over The Misty Mountains Cold”, from The Lord Of The Rings (you can see it on YouTube), describes the terrain beautifully and sets the scene for the Dwarves’ backstory and imminent adventure.
Your Hero’s Lifestyle
“…using real places as a springboard can help you frame elements consistently and with a more grounded result” – Ammi-Joan Paquette, author and literary agent explaining mapping in Writer’s Digest, March/April edition 2016.
Look around your real world. Do you see the potential for mapping your fantasy world based on reality?
I often draw from my childhood memories of the hills and dales of England, where the Bronte sisters gathered most of their inspiration. You can find some of those places on my Pinterest board, West Yorkshire England
Who were the authors who shaped your childhood memories of fantasy and make-believe? These are the writers we tend to remember the rest of our lives. My childhood memories of magical and fanciful tales come from four well-known children’s books:
Rupert The Bear by Alfred Bestall (originally created as a comic strip by Mary Tourtel)
Your Next Step
Draw or describe your own fantasy map and copy to your secret Pinterest inspiration board if you’re not ready to share it with the world yet. Here’s a link to my Fantasy Inspiration board which is public, but I have a secret board I’ll share once my novel is published. Or pin your inspiration to a board you’ve created to share your work with your followers. I’ve done this with my Dwarf Book I’m Writing. Another way is to cut out pictures from magazines and actually pin them to your office bulletin wall or stick them to your fridge with a crazy magnet.
Comment on how you were inspired for your creation and where you post/pin/stick your inspirational images/words. I’d love to hear about the world you’ve created.
Til next time, know you are loved by the One who created you in His image and gave us this beautiful world to live in.
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
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.
Why do we need to create an occupation for our characters? Well, our characters will need something to do on a daily basis while they wait for the epic events of their story to unfold. What does your main protagonist do all day? Do they work as a clerk in a shop, go to school, apprentice, or are they independently wealthy? Depending on your story genre, the answer to their occupation may be a different answer entirely. Maybe your protagonist is a dragon trainer!
The storyline will determine your characters’ occupations according to what you need to happen. For example, in order for your story to flow well, characters may need to be in a particular place at a certain time for a spectacular fight scene. Who will be involved in the scene? If you have a wonderful protagonist who’s going to be fighting, how do they fight and why? Are they saving a fair-haired maiden from the clutches of an evil villain or are they catching her as she falls off a cliff?
One scenario may lend better to the protagonist being a knight and in another story, the protagonist may be a wizard who projects a beam to catch her mid-air. On the other hand, if you’re a romantic at heart, your protagonist may be a handsome prince who just happened to be riding by and catches her in his arms as she falls (swoon).
According to the occupation you choose for your characters, they’ll need the ability to carry out their work. Writing in their abilities somewhere helps to keep the characters believable. For instance, a young scholar may not have the physical strength to wield a five-foot sword, or the understanding of human anatomy to know where to land a fatal blow. Show their skills at work instead of telling the reader about them. I’ve learned that action draws the reader into the scene.
In her book, ‘Worlds Unseen’, Rachel Starr Thomson writes a compelling story about an orphaned girl, a dying council member and a gypsy. Her characters come together from different occupations to battle the unseen forces of evil.
What occupations fit well with the story you’re writing? What will your main protagonist do? Do they enjoy their work? What unexpected twists will drive them to do something extraordinary? Do they long for an awesome adventure? You’re exactly the right person to give them one!
Creating the character races has got to be my favourite part of writing fantasy. I discovered early on in the writing process, that when we’re writing fantasy, our characters will depend largely on the type of world we envision them living in. Let’s say you have a fantasy world similar to Earth but with beings familiar to most readers of the fantasy genre. You’d probably include Elves, Dwarves, Humans, Halflings and one or two unique species of your own creation.
If you haven’t done so yet, now would be a good time to create a Pinterest board for your main characters. I find my Pinterest boards inspire me when I get writer’s block and help to keep me focused on the story I’m writing. Pinterest now allows you to add sections to your boards so you can have sections for—
Fantasy World (more on that later)
Other things you need to keep track of (you can check out my board for my soon-to-be-published Dwarf fantasy here).
We create the visual story as we read so your readers will envision the story better if they’ve already seen what these species look like. I tried to find pins of similar races to my characters to start with until my graphic designer created amazing images for my book, The Fellowship Of The King.
If you introduce a new species remember to include a detailed description of the basic appearance of your character. Fantasy readers have good imaginations, but give them a little help by describing the character’s height, hair, skin, eyes, mouth, ears, gait, clothing and such.
You could run your description by a friend and ask them to draw what you described. Does it look like you envision your character to look like? What other descriptives could you add to create a clearer picture in your reader’s mind? You can even add a link to your Pinterest board so they can actually see the characters for themselves. Remember to add your own artwork if you decide to go that route. The board could also help to pre-sell your new novel as you write!
Your Fantasy Character’s Evolution
How will your races survive in the climate you’ll create for your world?
Do they need to live underground because their skin burns easily and their world has two suns? What other attributes do they have because of this?
Will they live in trees because the world has flooded from a melting ice age? How does that affect their appearance?
Have they evolved from the original species because of some catastrophe and now look completely different?
Perhaps a Dwarf race is now hairless because a specific ingredient has been lost from their diet.
Changing a few basic features will make your characters unique but you’ll need to know why they look different from LOTR races which readers will naturally gravitate towards while they read a fantasy story. I’ll talk more about backstories later, so for now, focus on who they are and their general appearance.
You’ll need to be careful of copyright when including a race which someone else has created. It’s safer to begin writing fantasy with races which are commonly known such as the ones I’ve mentioned, or connect with a writing coach to help you with that. Any race from folklore is a pretty safe bet too.
If you decide to create a new race, chances are your creations will end up on the internet somewhere and others will use them. Are you ok with that? If not, you’ll need to copyright them.
Be sure to add a watermark to any original pictures and always link them to your website. Readers like to know the author behind the story and the artist behind the artwork.
Have fun creating your very own characters! No one else can create your characters like you can. These are your people and creatures. How amazing is that?
Til next time, know you are loved by the One who bestowed upon you His divine imagination and created you in His image.