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Category Archives: The Journey into Fantasy

Sample chapters, short stories, and scenes

Dreams and goals

 

 

 

 

“When you give up on your dream, you die.”  – a quote from the character Nick in the movie Flashdance.

This was one of those quotes that hit me like a sledgehammer when I heard it the first time back in 1983. At the time, I had already given up on playing professional football. Although the open tryouts for the Denver Gold sure looked tempting.  Or, going back to school to become a doctor. I was already working in emergency medicine from the back of an ambulance. So, what was my dream?

Over the next several years I would write down some short-term and some long-term goals. It was fun to tick off the goals that I’d hit. And, I rarely got upset if I missed a long-term goal. Usually, I would simply reset the due date and keep going.

Then around 1994 I tried to read “The Sword of Shannara” for the third time and gave up on “The Two Towers” for the second time. I got bored with them. That’s right bored. Now before you Fantasy diehards go off on me or click to another blog, hear me out. I have since finished both works and their accompanying books and I agree they are masterful. But they would not be my first choices to reread anytime soon. The trouble was, I prefer to let my imagination create the scene. I don’t need twenty pages describing a mountain pass or pastoral field. Just give me the basics and I’ll paint the picture. I enjoyed stories that move along and don’t get bogged down with details.

I had been writing character sketches for D&D characters for years. Some of them were pretty good. I convinced myself that I could write a story that I would like to read. I fired up my IBM PS2 Model 50z, opened Word Perfect and started to write. I started with a D&D character I created but never played. I placed him in a setting and pantsed my way through. By the end of the summer of 1995, I had 32,000 words and a half-finished story. For some reason I don’t recall, I set it aside. It remains unfinished. But, I have pulled it out and reread it on many occasions.

No dream but, a splinter was implanted in my brain from this first attempt. During this same time, I had written several nature type vignettes. A friend read them and told me I should get serious about it. “Yeah, okay”. Time passes…a lot of time passes…

Okay, a decade.

Then for some reason, I decided to take a class in something. Not sure what. So, I started doing searches on various things that interested me. I stumbled on The Loft Literary Guild in Minneapolis, Minnesota which was offering an introductory class on writing fantasy fiction.

COOL!

I scraped the pennies together to cover tuition, obtained support from the domestic CEO, and registered. For the next eight weeks, twelve aspiring writers read various fantasy works and dissected them to see what worked. Some of us who were either brave, stupid, or crazy enough, submitted short pieces of our writing for the class to read and critique. I was shocked when my submission received positive comments from the class and the instructor.

Hmm, maybe I should try this writing thing.

I picked one storyline that interested me using another D&D character and started writing. The instructor told us about a writing group looking for more warm bodies. That was the spark that lit the fire to write something I could get published.

Uh oh, this sounds like a dream or at least a serious goal.  

Gasoline was poured on the fire when I was lucky enough to see my name on a byline for a non-fiction article I’d written. No, it was not the great fantasy novel I was also working on, but I was writing almost every day and I saw the possibilities. That was enough of a push to send me to the next level.

Finish the damn novel!

As you may recall from a previous post, I did, in fact, write “The End” on that novel. Okay, check that box off. Most established authors will tell you that just finishing the first draft of the first novel is the hardest part. Some polls indicate that only 5 to 10 percent of people who begin writing a novel, actually finish the first draft! Woof!

So, after a break to let the story settle, I started on revisions. The goal now becomes to turn that stack of words into something that resembles a readable story. This phase of the process, self-editing, is much harder than anyone can explain to you. It does not take long before you tell yourself,

I NEED HELP! But I’m not ready to die so,

New Interim goal – Get help!

more to follow…

 

 

 

 

 

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Revision, Revision, Revision

 

 

 

 

There! I’ve added the scenes that needed to be added to complete character arcs. I’ve included “showing” details and cleaned up the timeline. I’ve given the characters depth and conflict. Strong action verbs replaced adverbs and weak phrases. I even think a spell check happened somewhere!

Is it ready to go to beta readers for review? I want to say yes. But, a nagging feeling is telling me to go through it again. I know I could add a scene or two to help explain a few things. However, I’m afraid it might slow the pacing to a crawl and wouldn’t really add to the story. So, I set the draft aside for a month and worked on a different project.

After I had worked on the new story with a different setting and cast of characters for a few weeks, I found myself thinking about my draft in the drawer. From a high level, I asked myself, “Does the story flow well? Are the characters interesting? Are there any holes?”

The next time I opened the laptop (“Drawer”), the draft came up and, starting at the beginning, I read the whole story in one sitting. There were a couple spots where I felt jarred by the dialogue. A couple more where characters seemed a bit flat. I placed comments in the margins and kept going. When I finished reading, I realized I stilled liked the story. Not sure if that is good or bad!

The result of the reading is that I am going to take one more pass at it before I send it out for a real critique. I’ll be hoping for the best but expecting the worst.

 

 

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Story Plot Grist Mill

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As writers, we should see ideas everywhere. They can come out of the most surprising places or something mundane can trigger that creative spark.

Over the last 60 days, I have quit my job of 20 years, accepted the job of a lifetime, sold my house, bought a new house, started the new job and survived the first week of orientation. All without losing my mind or my temper. But, more important, there has been no fewer then eight ideas for story scenes pop into my head based on the situations I’ve been dealing with.

For example: I was sitting at a bar having a going away lunch with a dear friend. I ordered a glass of Macallan 12 year scotch with one cube. Except that instead of “cube” it came out of my mouth as “stone”. The young female bartender with the face of an angel smiled and asked, “Would ice be okay?” Realizing my poor choice of words, I apologized for confusing her.

Her eyes twinkled as she replied, “You’re going to make me cry.”

My friend quickly recommended, “You should go into the freezer to cry so that your tears make him some special ice cubes.”

At this point my overactive imagination took over and the next five minutes, I “think wrote” a scene for an upcoming short story involving a beautiful barkeep, a character ordering a drink with one stone and some ice made from the tear of a goddess. The scene will be the catalyst some unusual story lines.

My friend, who is also my alpha reader, laughed until she cried at the way the scene came together. She had never seen me do that before and has been wondering how I worked.

Every personal interaction can be tweaked a bit and used as the groundwork for your story. Maybe the arrogant moving company agent turns into the guild master who doesn’t realize he’s dealing with a master assassin. Perhaps the talkative real estate agent makes the perfect noble fop to obtain intelligence from on the royal court.

The bottom line is this: keep your eyes and other senses open because you never know where the next interesting idea will come from.

 

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777 Writer’s Challenge

It is hard to ignore a challenge. Especially one laid down by the lovely and talented owner of Sara Kjeldsen Writes. The challenge is pretty simple. Just open your current work in progress, go to the seventh line of the seventh page, and post the next seven sentences. Easy, peasy. Then tag seven other writers and challenge them to do the same. Not so easy.

After I read these seven sentences, i laughed. I was surprised that it took seven pages to get my protagonist into this much hot water. Anyway, He has a habit of biting off more than he can chew. So, here goes.

I stopped in mid-stride and slowly turned to face the most powerful wizard west of the Mississippi. She still stood behind the bar. Her eyes were wide with surprise but, she quickly recovered her composure.  Red sparks flashed from her casting rod. She flicked her hand and I heard the front door locks slam into place. Some of the patrons began to object, preferring to leave before two wizards began dueling. But, it was way too late for that.

Now a few author’s who should have something to offer up:

Kate Johnson

Scott Weber

Matthew Wright – He says he has some new fiction in the works, which I’m dying to read.

Corey MP

AnnMarie Wyncoll

 

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Free at Last!

“Ha, ha! I’m free at last, free at last!!!”

Free at Last!!

Free at Last!!\

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Finally! That wretched creature you call the Domestic CEO released me from my plastic coffin. Stuffed in there with effigies of witches, pumpkins and candy corn, I’ve been in mass graves with fewer occupants. I thought I was your writing partner? Huh? Wasn’t that what we agreed to?”

“Uh…yes it was but, I didn’t realize she packed you away until it was too late to come find you. Besides, I knew you’d make an appearance about this time.”

“Some friend you are! Hey, you’ve been busy. The stories coming along and I like the twist…”

“Hush, Nabob! don’t give it away.”

“Okay, okay. But look at that section in the beginning with the entire cast. Now that really needs some work. What were you thinking?”

“Well, I was trying to keep the story moving forward and kind of glossed over it. I knew I’d come back and fix it later.”

“It’s time to get it done, Writer.”

“Not quite yet, Nabob. I still need to finish the last three scenes.”

“Oh yeah. Shitty first draft and all that, right?”

“Right.”

So, Writer, where are you at?”

“I’m in the middle of the big fight scene where Derek and Amy are …”

“Good to be back, Writer.”

“Good to have you back, Nabob.”

 

 
 

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Once upon a time…

Once upon a time... Public domain image

Once upon a time…                                   Public domain image

If you have ever read folk tales, fairy tales, or fantasy stories of any kind, you have heard the words, “Once upon a time…” The purpose of the fantasy writer, and any writer for that matter is to transport the reader to another time and place. Can you think of four words that do a better job of opening the reader’s mind? The essence of this opening evokes the reader’s mind to journey to a land far away and usually a long time ago. The ‘Once” would indicate that the story only occurred one time. And, since most end with, “They lived happily ever after.” it would seem that the conflict that created the story was gone forever.

For the folk tales and fairy tales of old, This was a great way to open the story. Any time we heard that phrase we were prepared, and still are prepared to be transported to something special. We have talked about opening lines before and how important they are. However, the fantasy genre has evolved and expanded. Paranormal and horror have melded with fantasy. Vampires and werewolves have taken over for elves, halflings, and dwarves.

Urban fantasy has exploded. Every major city and more than a few minor ones have been converted into the hunting grounds for the above mentioned vampires and Lycans, as well as, zombies, wizards, demons, druids, fae, dragons, and yes, even elves. Writing about fantasy in the current modern world created some interesting challenges for writers. How to invoke that sense of wonder and departure from reality in a way the reader would believe.  

Take Jim Butcher’s epic urban fantasy series, The Dresden Files. In the first book Butcher uses the entire first page to introduce The main character. The new mailman can’t believe the sign outside Harry Dresden’s office. It says, ‘Harry Dresden, Wizard’. You see Harry is the only practicing wizard in the Chicago phone book. Butcher puts it in your face on the first page and you either accept it or not. but from that point on you know you are reading a fantasy story set in contemporary Chicago, Illinois.

Where Butcher uses a page, others still try it with one sentence. For example, let’s take the opening line from Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles, “There are many perks to living for twenty-one centuries, and foremost among them is bearing witness to the rare birth of genius.” Okay. We will be dealing with a person who was alive and fought with Genghis Khan. You think this is a fantasy story? And even though I am not a fan of vampire stories, this opening line to Jaye Wells’ “Red-headed Stepchild” had me for the duration of the series. “Digging graves is hell on a manicure, but I was taught good vampires clean up after every meal.” This vampire does NOT sparkle! But, she does have a great sense of humor.

So, what can we do to urbanize the classic opening, “Once upon a time…?” Granted it’s not as flashy but what about…

“Right now, in a city near you.”

 
11 Comments

Posted by on March 13, 2014 in The Journey into Fantasy

 

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Fantasy tidbits

Today I am guest posting for follow blogger byjhmae. I was surprised when she asked me. But I jumped at the chance. She always has an interesting take on writing and current issues. If you have not already dropped by her blog, do so. You will not be disappointed. And today, you would get the added pleasure of hearing more from me. 😉

As the title suggests I talk about how fantasy and bringing different spiritual cultures together can create conflict. There are also a few other tidbits on fantasy writing and magic systems. Enjoy.

Fantasy – the purest form of fiction

 
6 Comments

Posted by on September 12, 2013 in The Journey into Fantasy

 

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