ON WRITING

“It’s very easy to quit during the first ten years of writing. Nobody cares whether you write or not, and it’s very hard to write when nobody cares one way or the other. You can’t get fired if you don’t write, and most of the time you don’t get rewarded if you do. But don’t quit.” Andre Dubus

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Insecure Writers Support Group - Writing outside of your comfort zone...can you help me write FANTASY?

Hello all who come by today! I hope you're enjoying a wonderful holiday season! I'm back as promised!

As writers we all have our favourite genre, right? Some write sci-fi, some paranormal romance, some women's fiction...but a whole heap of writers just love writing and reading fantasy! I haven't been one of those writers. Sure, I like some fantasy novels -- The Magus by John Fowles would be one of my favourites, and I've definitely enjoyed reading some bloggers' fantasy novels (am currently being wowed by Make Believe, a wonderful fantasy anthology featuring our very own Lynda Young), but I usually prefer to sink my teeth into a good Pat Conroy, Anita Shreve or Jodi Picoult  along with my penchant for reading and writing romantic fiction (which some say is fantasy anyhow!). I also saw the LOTR trilogy and just went to The Hobbit yesterday and really loved Avatar. That's all got to help, right?

HOWEVER, and this is the rub, what do you do when your Writing Group decides on a whole-group project? These fans of fantasy of course have decided to write a fantasy epic -- going the whole hog -- creating our own particular world (one of our members is a scientist, so the progress on this has been a little slow as he likes to get the sun in the right place to cause the right climate, blah blah). We have to keep reminding him that this is fantasy -- we can create our own world -- but he is more of the sci-fi bent.) That said, I'm sure our fantasy will stand up to quite rigorous analysis.

But I digress -- what does a romantic fiction writer do when she has to write a fantasy chapter to seamlessly blend with other chapters/characters/worlds written by other group members? Well, this bunny did a crash course in Fantasy -- devoured the books, the movies, the dictionaries. I even wrote and won joint first prize for my first fantasy story at Kathy McKendry's Knights of Micro Fiction for a story I imagined of two knights entering a Dark City, called City of the Dark Gods.

For the Writing Group joint project I was given the character of the Princess who lives in the castle on the edge of the city. She has to hook up with a commoner (young man) and go on a quest. So I asked myself -- what do fantasy princesses do/look like/act like? I read a few books such as Tamora Pierce's Alannah series which I enjoyed, so I read a few more fantasy books featuring young girls. After that,  I went to THE TOUGH GUIDE TO FANTASY LAND by Diana Wynne Jones and found that:


Princesses come in two main kinds:

  1. Wimps
  2. Spirited and wilful. A spirited Princess will be detectable by the scattering of freckles across the bridge of her somewhat tiptilted nose. Spirited Princesses often disguise themselves as boys and invariably marry commoners of sterling worth. With surprising frequency these commoners turn out to be long-lost heirs to Kingdoms. 
Well this is a good start. I can see where I can use some of this for my Princess. No question my Princess is going to be spirited, if spoilt, so has to bribe the young man to let her accompany him, but she is going to show her mettle on her quest.

You may be able to help me here as I have to write at least 1,000 words of my Princess chapter for homework and the deadline is looming.

  • Do you have any hints/suggestions on writing fantasy?
  • Do you have any particular suggestions for my fantasy Princess? Such as a name, description, personality? All suggestions welcome!!
Thank you for coming by. Click here to see more IWSG posts.




76 comments:

  1. If I didn't write science fiction, I would be a fantasy author!
    Go for paranormal romance. That covers the romance part for you and fantasy part for the group.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I love the idea of your spirited princess! She'll be the perfect match for the boy in the story. I'm still struggling through my Zellie story, but I'm sure you'll have fun with the idea of a young love blossoming between the two young teen protagonists. Can't wait to read what you come up with :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm waiting for inspiration to hit. I'm hoping for some ideas from my commenters and so far Alex and Roland have come up with something fresh.

      Delete
  3. Love your new header, too. Alex has the right idea: paranormal romance. But do a different spin on an old idea. Freud said we often fall in love with a mirror reflection of ourselves - the old Yin/Yang motiff.

    What if we pulled a page from Jung and had the princess look into a mystic mirror and see, not herself, but her animus ( her male aspects of her personality). Further what if he walked out of said mirror, liking what he saw. Would she be freaked out, or would she find herself attracted against her conscious will to the Animus?

    Or think a fairy tale Princess Leia and Han Solo with a flying dragon instead of a space ship? What if the dragon grows jealous of the princess?

    Wish you luck, Roland

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You've certainly given me food for thought Roland. Thank you. I'm not sure my writing skills are up to it though!!

      Delete
  4. My favourite fantasy is where the characters could be placed in any genre and still come across as real people. The only difference with fantasy is the setting (often historical in flavour) and perhaps magic is also involved. Oh, and I LOVE strong female characters.

    Awesome to hear you are enjoying Make Believe.

    And welcome back!! I LOVE your new blog look. It's brilliant.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Sounds like you have an awesome writing group . . .of course, I'm a big fantasy fan in writing and reading. Your spirited princess sounds like fun. I might give her a few "unconventional" skills - either sword play, lock-picking, survival wilderness skills (not sure how a princess would know that but maybe her mom was a herbalist or something) . . .or just something that makes her stand out. Maybe she carries wickedly sharp knitting needles . . .
    Sorry, I'm getting carried away. I think her character is probably going to be the part that stands out . . .and that can be "realistic" and fun.
    Names . . .I'm terrible with them, but here's a few . . . Aleah, Trielle . . .

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Tyrean, this is awesome. I'm kicking myself. I had a great name and didn't write it down and now it's gone...argh!

      Delete
    2. Oh and thanks for your names...I like Trielle...

      Delete
  6. I like writing in numerous genres, so I guess I can't relate to the "fixed on one genre" thing. :) Fantasy happens to be one I've written, but I haven't ever FINISHED a fantasy project. ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah, Trish, well I think most, of course not all, authors do have their main genre, that's what I'm saying.

      Delete
  7. Haha, I write fantasy, so it's really interesting to see this from the other side.

    You can do it. :) Don't get hung up on the fact that it's fantasy. It might take a little more planning or imaginative exertion to get inside your princess' head, but she is, first and foremost, a human and a woman. She's still just a person struggling with herself, the people around her, and the problems in her world. You're still writing about human beings--so hold on to that simple fact and you'll be fine. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Susan. This is very helpful.

      Delete
  8. Hi, Denise,

    AH, the tables are turned. LOL. First I want to wish you THE HAPPIEST of New Years! May 2013 fill you will all the excitement, adventure, creativity, and of course, LOVE... Love, of family, friends, writing, reading, and LIFE!

    Now back to your conundrum. As you know I am a fantasy writer that had to switch into ROMANCE... remember .... I was faced with the same dilemma as you, only in reverse. AND thankfully I managed, AND SO WILL YOU.

    You have an incredible style AND fantastic attention to details. DON'T OVER ANALYZE IT, just ease into it and create a princess.... not the conventional princess, BUT YOUR princess. Make her ANYTHING YOU want. Don't give her the same attitude, looks, temperament, personality, as others you have read about. Let HER SPEAK to you.... I promise, she will, once you relax and not stress about it. When I did my posts for the RWF, I just wrote, I didn't think about it. I created those excerpts in a few hours. And they passed. Which pleased me tremendously. You an Donna are tough and so are the other members of the group.

    PUT YOU into you princess. Your strengths, your convictions, your personality.... There have been some great advice previously. STRENGTH is important. I like the idea of some sort of weapon.... I am thinking a hair comb! Princesses always have FIERCE hair! Even if it's short a hair comb is easy to FLING>>>> lol.

    Beauty is typical, but perhaps you can give her a fine scar, on her cheek or perhaps over her lip, given to her by some evil, jealous, cousin or sibling or even better, her jealous mother.

    As for names.... When in doubt, if nothing comes to you, online there are many sites to search for fairy names from ALL countries. I know you can handle this. HAVE FUN... Fantasy is such an amazing way to write ANYTHING because there is no reality...

    Good luck, and if you need a pair of eyes I am here. You know I love fantasy.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thank you Michael for such a great lengthy reply. How helpful and encouraging are you!! I love the idea of a scar or something -- thanks!! A hair comb to fling!! Ha Ha!! Tempestuous Tempered Princess!!
    Michael, you took on the romantic task and excelled! What more can I say! I only hope I can take on this genre and excel as you did when you took up the challenge.
    Thank you bloggy friend and I wish you every happiness for the new year.
    Thanks for offering to read over my stories. I just need to find the time to get writing. Too many projects as always...D

    ReplyDelete
  10. Anytime Denise,

    That's what friends are for.... We give our time because we love to see our friends succeed. With each one of their successes brings us closer to our own. I will look forward to reading about YOUR princess... I am sure she will be AMAZING!

    And THANK YOU so much for the kind words. They are MOST appreciated.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Wow you have a lot of comments already! I'd like to throw in my two cents, and if it was already given, pardon the repeat.
    First thing, please, please, PLEASE don't make her a wimp! Find a nice balance between a Lady and a fighter. I don't know how many times I cracked open a fantasy book and the princess was either far too girly (which works sometimes) or too tough. You don't want her to be like one of the guys. She's not going to be as strong in fighting skills, but she sure is going to move FASTER! Give her a sharp, quick wit and the weapon to back it up. But this is a princess we're talking about, so she has to be just as comfortable in a gown as she is in her armor. I wish you luck! And tell the scientist to just roll a 20 sided dice and leave it at that. ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Mel. Thanks so much for visiting! You have so many helpful ideas. Some I will definitely be using. Thank you!

      Delete
  12. Happy 2013 and a great one at that.
    My fantasy advice - create the love story with a urban fantasy setting, throw in a magical or supernatural villain and sidekicks. These type of stories need less background explanations and world building efforts.
    The formula seems to work every time. :)

    ReplyDelete
  13. Hi Denise
    You've asked the right person. I haven't read anyone elses comment except Mel so I'm not sure what has been said. The bottom line is this. In my opinion good fantasy is the same as good anything. Make your Princess a strong, caring woman so the that readers love her. Give her a telling penchant to remind us she is a Princess, i.e., what is she called? Does she complain repeatedly about something, like her hair getting messed up? Make her demand excellence from her common guy without trying to change him, she is understanding up to a certain point of his problems.

    Bottom line, write compelling characters and put them into a fantastical world with fantastical adventure but don't worry so much if the characters themselves are fantastical. You should be able to super impose these characters into any time period and any genre without losing who they are. It's what they are doing that is fantasy.

    And now I will say you've given me an idea for Monday's writing post. I'll super impose a famous fantasy figure into WWII. Maybe that will help you.

    PS. You've already got my email. Love,
    Nancy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nancy some great suggestions. Look forward to Monday's post.
      I thought you might have another email since...

      Delete
  14. Hi Denise, Happy New Year to you and yours. The only thing that I can come up with as a suggestion for your Princess is to give her a secret - maybe a spiritual context in that she 'sees' things about people, akin to psychic talents.

    Perhaps she could be involved in a secret religion that is forbidden in her time.

    Maybe she has a physical ailment she has to overcome, a withered arm, webbed toes or a slight disfigurement on her body usually hidden by her clothes that only she knows about and is afraid of intimacy with anyone.

    Good luck, can't wait to read it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Excellent Sally. Yes she is going to have spiritual powers that she is at first unaware of. Great suggestions...D

      Delete
  15. Hey Denise! Happy new year!
    I think writing outside our genres is one of the best things a writer can do. It strengthens our writerly brains and techniques... and many writers have found a penchant for it. I've tried many genres and when I first started out, never expected to lean toward sci-fi---now I've found my stories are doing that inherently. Kinda cool. But romance will always have a part to play in my stories.

    So let's see, tips for fantasy writing? I'd say take the time to immerse yourself in the fantasy world before writing--draw maps, create regimes, resources, flora & fauna. All of that helps in understanding the characters and their world. As for the princess herself, I'd say get some "out of the box" ideas from The BOokshelf Muse. ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much for this advice. I love the Bookshelf Muse but wasn't aware of the 'out of the box' ideas. Thank you.

      Delete
  16. It's a good exercise to get out of your comfort zone and work in a different project all together. It looks like you've research quite a bit, and will probably do more.

    I've not written a princess, so I have no clue on what to recommend, other then writing the character you picture in your mind, be it strong and stubborn, or weak and scared.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree. Taking on different challenges helps us grow as writers. I like your personality suggestions...

      Delete
  17. Hi, Denise,
    Happy New Year. It's wonderful to take on new challenges. I don't have any tips for you in this area, since I haven't ventured toward fantasy land yet. Have fun!

    Love the masthead. Each tine you change yours, I'm tempted to change mine, but it takes me ages to find the right wall paper and header. It's fun though, isn't it? :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Joy, you know me, easily bored with my blog look. I'm getting close to what I want now. Maybe won't have to change it so much then! Yours is awesome anyhow.

      Delete
    2. Hi, Sis. Came over to see what you're doing. You are so full of energy and ideas. I, too, love the masthead. I think this one is now really you, the romantic writer. Good luck with the fantasy. That's not my genre, but I know you can do it, and do it well. Happy New Year!

      Delete
    3. Happy New Year to you too Ann, and thanks for the comments re my new look!

      Delete
  18. For me, fantasy is the hardest genre to write. So, I don't have any suggestions for you. However, I do like the princess idea you have there.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Clarissa. I would think mystery would be pretty hard, setting up all those red herrings and making sure you didn't miss anything at the end. By comparison I hope fantasy is a lot more clear cut.

      Delete
  19. I admire your pluck and determination in trying something out of your element! (No easy thing to do, especially in writing.) Also admire your group for working together on a project. (DEFINITELY not easy to do with a bunch of stubborn writers. lol)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you E.J. Will be interesting to see how this project turns out.

      Delete
  20. For me, I need to connect with a character. In fantasy, this is often difficult because some people think that world-building and magic systems are the things that are most important. I, however, think that the world-building and magic system should flow from the perspective of the main character and be told through their eyes, dialogue, and experiences.

    I cringe at the whole "epic" you've described. It seems like a lot to bite off and digest all at once. And I can tell you, I've never once thought about if the sun was right in the heavens or if the currency was what I think it should be.

    Elements I want in fantasy are 1) realistic dialogue 2) bad ass villains 3) sex (I like adult material but it needs to be visceral and real) 4) high stakes.

    I would direct you to George R.R. Martin as an example of this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your input Michael. I'm sure our epic will be awesome and what a challenge. Thank you for your elements of fantasy, especially.

      Delete
  21. Fantasy is my thing even though I write for children and YA. I would say make your princess real, she probably has flaws like normal folks so don't be afraid to give her some. Visually she doesn't have to be the image of a princess. Think about her choice of clothing. Maybe she could have a particular power or skill.

    Enjoy the new challenge.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Go Denise! I love that you're reaching beyond your genre. I've tried that recently, had some good response, but I've went back to the norm for me. Don't you think stretching our limitations only strengthens us as writers? I think it does. Best to you in this endeavor! Happy New Year!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I totally agree, Candilynn. I have written paranormal romance and some poetry, so have given myself some challenges before, but this one is pretty massive to me.

      Delete
  23. Fantasy is not much different than writing other worlds. Start with strong characters (and by that I mean make them real, identifiable, and empathetic) and be sure to add some sort of magic to their skills and the way they perform tasks.

    For instance; a blacksmith in any genre will have basically the same body build, mind set, tools, and level of skill. To add the fantasy bit though, perhaps he lights his forge with an hand gesture or uttered spell; or diverts a bit of north wind to cool the iron instead of using a bellows or water; or even cast spells of strength and endurance to make the sword stronger or be faithful to a particular master.

    As with any other story concept, focus on the characters and the overall plot - what tasks and outcomes need accomplished - and the rest will present itself.

    Even with your collaborative story effort; remember the first writing is just solidifying all the concepts onto paper. Your princess will grow and develop and change as the story unfolds and her character plots define themselves. Naming a character is always fun for me. It depends on the overall setting-feel of the story - celtic, anglo, roman, greek, germanic. Then I look up cultural specific family names and their meanings and pick one that sums up my character's overall nature.

    Keeping the meaning of the name in mind helps me develop my character accordingly and influences what actions and decisions she make in certain situations. That also helps define what type of clothing she'll wear, choice of weapons (or not). If she is spoiled, but resilient and got her heart set on a particular task (or love interest) she'll still want to dress in fine fabrics, but may not wear all the fancy bows or frills, and may adopt some male clothing while still looking totally feminim. Her attitude around servants, nobles, and especially around guardsmen (if she is going on a quest) will define her qualities as a princess more than her specific clothing.

    You'll have a lot of fun with this writing project Denise. Stepping outside your genre doesn't mean changing any of your unique writing style or choice of character types. You already write great characters with cool story plots; there's half the battle accomplished.

    ......dhole

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I thank you for your tons of suggestions. I'm looking forward to attacking the challenge which I've known about for some time but didn't feel I knew enough to get started.

      Delete
  24. Reads like you've some sound advice, I can only add that the strong character, but not too spoiled is my suggestion. Someone who knows her mind but has compassion and empathy without the 'I know it all attitude' would be my suggestion. Not perfect, but clearly a perfectionist because they are the most flawed! :)

    Have fun, and thanks for visiting my sorely sour post! Just so you know sharing all that sorrow was very cathartic and I'm feeling so much better. Throw the negative out to the blogoshpere and cleanse the world! :)

    Happy New Year!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like the sound of this Princess. And I'm glad you're feeling better with all that off your chest!

      Delete
  25. My friend Michael's book re: Catrina that I mentioned in my blog post today features one of the most spirited princesses I've ever known. ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Trisha! I'll have to get a-reading!

      Delete
  26. As much as I love fantasy and write it... you lost me at the collaboration. That I have no idea how to make work as I have only done that once with one other person and on a short story. I have no tips on how to do that far out of your comfort zone for a group project. Then again I try writing horror on occasion and never get it right.

    That and I know nothing about writing female main characters for the most part. lol Umm I have a spirited prince who likes boys, does that count? ;-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We'll see how the collaboration goes. Meanwhile it is lovely to see you here again!! Happy New Year!!

      Delete
  27. Fantasy is my favorite genre. Get lost in the world. The great thing about fantasy is that there is nothing you can't do, as long as everything falls within the realm of the world you created.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Ciara. Good advice. You are quite the expert!

      Delete
  28. Hi Denise and thank you for welcoming me to the IWSG yesterday - wow! What a great group of people I encountered!

    I happen to enjoy a fantasy novel from time to time. The Dark Elf series being my favorite and my favorite type of woman is one who can hold her own out on the battlefield (if there is one) but can still be a lady at the dining hall table. Kind of like we women now, huh?

    Best of luck!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for coming by Elsie! Glad your IWSG foray was so good. It's a great time to get around to like-minded peeps.
      You're right with the personality of my Princess.

      Delete
  29. Like Donna, I look up names from different nationalities to get ideas, but often times I'll mix and match to get the sound I want. You can add double letters or apostrophes to make the names look more exotic like: Taryyn or Cha'run.

    I love the fantasy genre because you can just let your imagination run wild.

    Your idea of a strong princess sounds great, just don't worry too much about the "typical fantasy princess". Just make her real, with real problems then add a sprinkle of magic that maybe even she doesn't know she has.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the name help. I like Cha'run!

      Delete
    2. You're welcome! Yeah I like that one too, feel free to use it. :)

      Delete
  30. Oh, do make her a spunky princess and not a wimp, please! I worked on a fantasy group project for my town's newspaper this year and we somehow managed to make it work. Just follow the "rules of magic" and stay in the fantasy that has been created and you'll do fine. I agree with the comments about a strong character making it work. Give that princess a brain, some magic and a challenge and she'll do fine :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad to know a group project can work. Thanks for coming by.

      Delete
  31. Oh, it's lovely over here! Great look, Denise.

    I don't read a lot of fantasy these days, so I can't contribute much other than to say fantasy is one the more "open" genres. If the story is solid, apply talent and shake. I'm a big character arc girl so I'd prefer to see the wimp evolve into a mature intelligent heroine. Spirited and willful = feisty, and IMHO, feisty heroines are a boring cliche across ALL genres—although I still like them in Disney movies. :)

    Wishing you a bright, shining, and very successful 2013!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for coming by VR. I love your look too. Now I'm wondering why feisty is not the thing...

      Delete
  32. I wish I could direct you in your fantasy writing, however I don't write it. Someday I hope I could try my hand at it. Lots of wonderful advice on here.

    ReplyDelete
  33. That's certainly a different sort of IWSG question. How to write fantasy.

    I've written adult crime/thriller, MG fantasy, YA adventure, MG historical fantasy, and now adult speculative fiction about a post-apocalyptic future. Obviously I think it's important for writers to try out different genres to really find where their voice is best suited. :)

    Don't really have any advice on writing fantasy other than to make it as real as you can -- the characters, the dialogue, the magic, the dragons, the elves, whatever. They are real if you're writing about them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is solid advice from someone with experience. Thank you Luanne. I thought it an appropriate question for IWSG.

      Delete
  34. I think it is a lot like other genres; as long as the characters are strong, then the other elements of a good Fantasy story will build themselves around that. And there are plenty of Fantasy books with strong romantic elements.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're right, Golden. Of course my Princess will be romantically involved with her commoner.

      Delete
  35. Hi Denise .. loads of support here - that's great.

    Spirited Princess and commoner ... wandering amongst the forest glens, with the sunlight streaming through ... spying some nasties lurking on the city limits ... might open a door or two ...

    Have fun with it all and I look forward to reading the group-write ..

    Happy New Year - Hilary

    ReplyDelete
  36. Fantasy encompasses so much. The sky really is the limit, because in addition to the traditional fantasy elements, you have paranormal creatures and worlds, too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I clean canvas on which to create...

      Delete
  37. I'm a multi-genre writer, and my advice is this. Don't think about it as a fantasy as such.

    Think about it as a story. It's not really a different process to writing a historical. With historicals you build worlds based on research. With fantasy, you build based on what you see and feel through your characters' eyes.

    But write a good story set in a fantasy world, without worrying about what other writers have done. If you do that, you might come up with something amazing, instead of something recycled. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  38. Great advice Misha! I hope I do come up with something amazing!

    ReplyDelete

I love hearing from you! Hit me with your wisdom!