Monday, April 30, 2012

Epic Conflicts

Okay so here's one of my pet peeves: writers who are afraid of epic conflicts and dark places.  I can't tell you how many times I've picked up a book, so excited to read it based on the blurb and been SOOOO disappointed with where the author went with it.

Now, I'll admit that this may be a bit arrogant on my part.  Perhaps where the author went is simply not where I would have gone with it, and that's why I don't like it.  (This is an occupational hazard when you write your own books.)  Even so, I often can't help but feel like some authors come up with awesome premises, but then shy away from the deepest, darkest places that the characters and/or conflicts could possibly go.

For example (don't worry I have too much respect for those in my industry to use any actual names or titles) I picked up a particular novel that sounded fantastic.  The blurb said it was about two teenagers who made a suicide pact together.  One survived, one did not.  The blurb made it sound like the story would be about the psychology of the survivor; what he thought, how he felt; what made him enter the pact to begin with.  I was so excited to see where this novel went that I dove right in.  The writing was actually very good, but the story wasn't at all what I thought it would be, and not in a good way.  It ended up being more about how the families reacted, the legal procedures that surrounded it, and whether or not to blame the teenager that survived--legally and emotionally--for the death of the one that didn't.  There wasn't a word about the psychology of it, what the survivor felt, etc.  The author went so far as to say that the only reason the boy survived was because he didn't actually want to commit suicide.  He entered the pact in the hopes of changing his girlfriend's mind.

Now, maybe this is simply the way the author envisioned the story.  Undoubtedly it was, but it felt like such a cop out to me!  This premise was so provocative and had the potential to have so much fantastic stuff in it.  Instead of exploiting that, the author decided to turn it into a semi-whodunit teenage drama.  Really?

I'm all about whodunits and teenage drama, but I think it's important to always take the conflict to its farthest extremity at some point.  Figure out what the worst thing you could do to your character would be and, more often than not, do it.  Comedians have no problem with this.  They get it.  They take everything to its farthest, over-the-top point, because that's what makes it funny.  If you want good drama/conflict, you have to do the same thing.  Of course there are exceptions, but if the conflict isn't going to it's most extreme avenue, why should the reader care?

Other examples of this literary faux pas include gearing up for a battle that doesn't happen (certain vampire battle that didn't happen, anyone?), having a character worry about something  the entire novel that never comes into play (I don't have an example in mind for this one, but I've seen it happen before!), and not going inside your main character's head to find out what they think and/or feel about the central conflict (see above example).

Not making your conflicts epic enough is a recipe for a flop of a story.  This is especially true in fantasy!  Because the readers can't relate to the world based on their real world experience, you have to make the stakes massively high to keep them coming back to your make-believe world!  Don't be afraid to make your conflicts epic, explore the darkest places, and bring your reader something they've never thought of before.

What literary faux pas irritate you like crazy?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Hello Fantasy-Lovers!  I hope your day has been fantastical!

I'm reading the brand new book of a friend of mine.  Last week Joy Spraycar's newest release, Phantom Wolves, hit shelves.  I'm only a few chapters in but I'm loving it so far.  It's an easy read and the main character is a spunky spitfire--a fun one to both read and write.

As for me, I'm researching dragons in literature.  The LUW contest deadline is coming up in about a month and, while I have things that are already written I plan on entering, I kind of wanted to write something specifically for the contest.  I've always wanted to research the role of dragons in literature, both classically and more currently.  I'm interested in putting them in a story, but I don't want to write something unless I have something new to say.  With the Inheritance series gaining such popularity and classics like the Hobbit soon to hit the big screen, it's not like the dragon thing hasn't been done.  Still, I have a few ideas I'm throwing around.

This will probably be a short story.  (Depending on how much I can hash out, maybe even flash fiction.)  The thing you should know about me is that I tend to write epic stories.  I'm don't really do 'concise.'  But, I'm going to challenge myself and try.  I'll enter whatever I come up with in the contest and if I suck, well, at least I can say I gave it a shot.

I'm thinking something along the lines of a civilization that fears/reveres dragons and a young child that will have an encounter with them.  When I was in the 8th grade (yes, I do remember specifically because I wasn't a fan of my English teacher that year) I read a story that has always stuck with me.  I have no idea what the name of the story or the author was, but it was a short story about a society where humans were paired with dragons when they came of a certain age.  In the story, the dragons looked into a person's heart and the bond that resulted was somewhat soul-mate-ish.  There was a hierarchy of dragons, of course, and if the various colors or types of dragons chose you, it meant that you were the strongest, the bravest, etc.  The type of dragon that chose you also determined what your life would be like from then on--what place you would take in society.  A golden dragon was only born once every thousand years and was the most rare and beautiful find.  In the story, the main character is badly injured just before the dragon-choosing ceremony and doesn't think he has any chance of bonding with an awesome dragon.  Crippled and in pain, he makes his way to the place of ceremony and looks into the soulful eyes of a golden dragon who chooses him.  It was one of the most powerful, evocative, beautiful stories I'd ever heard, but as I said, I don't have any reference for it.  If anyone knows, I'd be grateful for a reference.

Anyway, if I can write a story half as good as that one about a dragon, I will have succeeded.  What are your favorite stories about dragons?  What attributes do they have that you admire?  What attributes would you like to see them have?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Welcome!

Hello All and welcome to my new blog!  Why Musings on Fantasia, you ask?  Well, I'll tell you.  Many of us may know the term Fantasia from a dud of a Disney movie that hit theaters about the time our grandparents were born.  Yup, that's right folks.  While World War II was being fought on dozens of fronts, our good buddy Walt was still making cartoons.

I remember seeing Fantasia as a kid and thinking that it was SOOO boring.  Just a bunch of very old-looking cartoons set to classical music.  Who wants to watch that?  Okay, so maybe I wasn't a particularly transcendent kid, but I wasn't alone, either.  If you look up the history of the film on Wikipedia (the be-all and end-all of internet knowledge, don't-cha-know) you find that from the get-go the film got a tepid reception and never made a profit.  (Note to reader: I am an IMDb and Wikipedia geek.  I often look up histories of books, films, people, projects, historical happenings, figures of speech, and yes, even word etymologies.  Just giving you fair warning. :D )

Despite the lack of umph, several decades and many restorations and re-distributions later, the term 'Fantasia' has become a catch-all term for fantasy worlds.  The classic 1984 children's film The Neverending Story shamelessly pilfered the term to use as the name for the world created by a child's imagination.  (If you've never seen this film, PLEASE find a copy.  It's old and was never going to win any acting awards, but the depth of the issues dealt with is astounding!)

So, why Fantasia for me?  I am an author who writes over several different genres, and one of them is fantasy.  My first book, the first installment of a series, is due out this summer (2012) and is entitled Persistence of Vision.  It's a futuristic dystopian fantasy in which most of the world's population is enslaved in a collective while the few remaining individuals have been hunted to the verge of extinction.

Don't you just love the drama fantasy can create?  I was always geared toward fantasy writing, and for good reason, but I'll get into that more next time.  For now, welcome to Musings on Fantasia.  This blog will be dedicated to all things fantastical.  Much of it will be about my own thoughts, musings, writings, etc., but I will also try to keep up on news on this subject, maybe a book review or two, and probably some writing stuff as well.  (Sorry to non-writers that don't care about the technicalities of writing, but as mentioned above, I am a geek at heart!)

I welcome comments, discussions, thoughts, answers, and especially tidbits.  When I hear a provocative idea, fact, thought, or tidbit, it starts churning in my mind and that's where some of my best plot points come from.  So please feel free to share.  Until next time!  Have a fantastical day!