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January 2018

    For Writers

    There And Back Again (Wait, Where Did We Go???): Juggling Lots of Locations In Your Fantasy Novel

    One of the writing classes I’m taking had a forum discussion where writers posted some of their most prominent worries when it comes to their novels, and one of the questions posted really struck me: the writer felt like their fantasy story was whisking from one location to the next too quickly. The reader, they worried, would get whiplash zooming around their fantasy map, seeing too many locations without any one of them leaving a deep impression.

    Cue me quietly sweating onto my keyboard, because this is the realest concern, for any fantasy writer.

    When you’re writing speculative fiction — or, really, any story that has a big, big world for the character to explore — there’s an instinct to show off that world. To move your character around a lot. Usually, it’s because the story requires it — characters have quests to go on, wars to fight, journeys to undertake, sacred mountains to hike up, haunted forests to fight through, scaly slobbery monsters in vast acid-filled lakes to bring fabled jeweled tea cups to — you get the idea.

    * Is this … not … a normal plot point for any novel?

    But, sometimes, we writers can get carried away. It can be fun, and fruitful for your story, to take your characters on a dizzying roller coaster ride across your fantasy map. But how do you know when you’re taking your readers on too dizzying a ride? How do you keep that fantasy map from becoming one big, confusing, smeary blur in your readers’ heads?

    Keep your fantasy map from dizzying readers by giving each location emotional and story significance for your characters.  

    Your character, especially in a quest or journey-based fantasy novel, shouldn’t just be walking through a sideways scrolling sequence of set dressings. Every location you showcase in your story should be there for a reason

    As far as I can tell (and I am by no means an expert on this), the trick is to make sure the locations have emotional context for the characters, and to root your settings in your story’s plot. Make your locations matter, in other words, to both your characters and to the story at large.

    Let’s get a little deeper into what that means…

    Rooting Your Locations In Your Story’s Plot

    Let’s say your character is going on that epic journey where they hike up that sacred mountain to retrieve the mythical teacup, fight through that haunted forest to reach the acid lake, and then row across the poisonous waters to meet the sea creature whose ire can only be assuaged by the delivery of that bejeweled cup. You might have noticed something about each of those locations I listed…

    They all have a clear purpose related to the story. 

    Read more…

    Reading Nourishes Writing

    Yes, I’ve Read That Book … And, No, I Couldn’t Tell You A Thing About It

    I have a question to pose this week, and it’s kind of a strange one: How important is it for us to remember the books that we read? Or, more specifically, how much of a book is it important for us to remember?

    The main message, surely, is an important nugget to wedge into your gray matter after completing a novel. Once you close the covers of the Harry Potter novels, you should probably remember, if asked, that a main lesson was to defeat evil with love and not the other way around.

    The main characters, too, should probably at least ring a bell. You might not remember their names, but hopefully you can recall something of what they wanted. Maybe you don’t remember that the main character of 1984 was named Winston (who could blame you, really), but you could probably, if pressed, recall that he was trying to rebel against an oppressive government, to escape the watchful eye of Big Brother.

    The general idea of the setting is another aspect of a novel that you probably don’t want to blank on. If someone holds up a copy of Game of Thrones and asks you where it takes place, and you can’t remember if the story happens in an underwater submarine or in the magma-spitting center of a rumbling volcano in dire need of a lozenge*, that’s probably going to be embarrassing.

    * it’s one of those two, right?

    But, is it that big of a deal if you can’t recall the actual events of the book? If a year passes and you can’t really remember much about a book’s plot, does that mean you’ve failed as a reader — or that the book has failed as a written work? How detailed does the footprint have to be to count as an impression left on the reader? Are we talking bruise marks in the exact grooves of the tread, or can it just be a marking vaguely heel-shaped? Can you still count a book as one of your favorites if you can’t actually remember anything that happened in it?

    I think so.

    Read more…

    Blog

    My 2018 Bookish Goals!

    #BoutofBooks has all wrapped up! I can’t say I did amazingly at reading last week. My ambition to complete three books wasn’t quite fulfilled, though I did finish Wide Sargasso Sea and — er — start Salt to the Sea. That’s pretty good, right?

    *nervous sweat*

    What can I say? My time was monopolized. I got caught up in reading Fire and Fury, and it always takes me a long time to read nonfiction (even gossipy, salacious, less-than-substantive nonfiction) and, in my defense, I also started reading this really amazing fic Dirt, from The Last of Us. If only GoodReads let you count 200,000 word fanfics towards your yearly reading goal, am I right?

    Anyway, January is nearly half over (somehow. has anyone else accomplished exactly nothing so far this month? Just me? Oh, okay, cool. Just checking.) and it’s time to share some of my naively earnest goals for 2018.

    My 5 Bookish Goals for 2018

    Read more…

    Reading Nourishes Writing

    Bout of Books 21 | Announcement

    Hello, Happy Writers! I hope 2018 is treating you well so far. (Or at least not battering-you-about-the-head as much as 2017 did…) I have a boatload of resolutions this year, mostly around productivity and positivity, and one of them is — surprise, surprise — to read more books. That’s why I’m participating in the 21st round of Bout of Books!

    Bout of Books is a low-pressure readathon where you can set whatever goal you’d like, meet other readers and bloggers, and generally spend a week making an effort to read a little more than you might’ve done otherwise. I always have a ball participating in the 24 Hour Readathon, but I’m definitely looking forward to a little more casual affair this time. (Sitting down and reading for 24 hours straight is tough, you guys.)

    Here are some of the books I’m hoping to finish (or at least make a sizable dent in) this week:

    Cover to Wide Sargasso Sea

    Wide Sargasso Sea, by Jean Rhys

    From the GoodReads description:

    Born into an oppressive, colonialist society, Creole heiress Antoinette Cosway meets a young Englishman who is drawn to her innocent sensuality and beauty. But soon after their marriage, rumors of madness in her family poison his mind against her. He forces Antoinette to conform to his rigid Victorian ideals.

    The Cover to the Library at Mount Char

    The Library at Mount Char, by Scott Hawkins

    From the GoodReads description:

    […] Carolyn hasn’t had a chance to get out much. Instead, she and her adopted siblings have been raised according to Father’s ancient customs. They’ve studied the books in his Library and learned some of the secrets of his power. And sometimes, they’ve wondered if their cruel tutor might secretly be God.
    Now, Father is missing—perhaps even dead—and the Library that holds his secrets stands unguarded. And with it, control over all of creation.
    As Carolyn gathers the tools she needs for the battle to come, fierce competitors for this prize align against her, all of them with powers that far exceed her own.
    But Carolyn has accounted for this.
    And Carolyn has a plan.
    The only trouble is that in the war to make a new God, she’s forgotten to protect the things that make her human.

    Salt to the Sea Book Cover

    Salt to the Sea, by Ruta Sepetys

    From the GoodReads description:

    Winter 1945. WWII. Four refugees. Four stories.
    Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and haunted, by tragedy, lies, war. As thousands desperately flock to the coast in the midst of a Soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom. But not all promises can be kept…

    ~

    Are you participating in Bout of Books this week? I’d love to know what books you’re planning on devouring! Drop me a comment, let’s chat!

    The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, January 8th and runs through Sunday, January 14th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 21 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team

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