1. Use the language in small amounts
Don't write massive paragraphs in your made up language. This, unfortunately, is one issue I have with the fantasy novel, Eragon. While reading such long paragraphs, which use words that don't mean anything to me, I find myself distracted by trying to pronounce the words in my mind. Often, the meaning of the paragraph is not fully explained and then do not benefit the story at all. If you believe your new language must be used, then only use it in short sentences or even single words. By doing this, the reader is still able to concentrate on the context within the story.
If you have a character, speaking in your new language, who must talk for a period of time, then write in English and explain. For example, '"May you always find happiness and peace when it seems there is none," Trallen said in the magical, ancient language.'
2. Make sure the words are pronounceable
If you can't speak the words without conscious effort then don't bother putting them down on paper. The reader will only get distracted and frustrated by these words and will be distracted from your story. If the point of the language is that it is unpronounceable by 'normal' people then perhaps it would be better to describe why it is so, perhaps explaining how it sounds (eg. 'The language used by the creatures sounded like a mixture of grunts and groans').
3. Explain the meaning often
Whenever you use a new word from your language make sure you explain its meaning. What is the point in using a fantasy language if your readers don't understand what is being said? Always give the meaning straight after or, as I said in point 1, perhaps merely write in English and explain that the character is speaking in your fantasy language. Another option is to write everything in your new language in italics, this way the reader will come to know that italics mean it's spoken in this language.
It may also become necessary to include a glossary at the back of your novel giving the meanings of words you have revealed.
When planning a new, fantasy language you must determine whether the language will benefit the story. Quite often it merely makes it difficult to read, confuses the reader, and causes unnecessary frustration. Of course, when used correctly, fantasy languages can add another layer of depth to your story and make it a more fulfilling read.
Scarlett Van Dijk
Image courtesy of pakorn / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
The plot of a Fantasy novel can take many forms. It can twist and turn in so many directions it may be difficult to stay on track. The first thing you need to keep in mind that most novels will have the same basic frame: Introduction, Main Issue, Solution, and End. You will find that there is much more to a plot than just those four points. You will find that you'll add secondary issues, all of which need solutions, and events that lead to the growth of your protagonist.
The introduction is exactly that. It introduces your protagonist, your world, and the feel of the novel. It will likely be a very descriptive section of your novel however, it is important to not overload the reader with information. Doing this can get tedious to read and may confuse the reader with details that may not necessarily need to be told. Your readers are not stupid; they can work some things out for themselves. Remember your first chapters are the most important of the entire final product, you need to make them something special and intriguing. You don't need to give all of the required information at once. Keep the reader wondering to an extent. Don't worry too much about getting this right first time as I have said in my 'Writing the First Draft' post. You can change this later. Trust me, you will change it.
Main Issue and Solution
Your main issue provides the foundation for the plot. The main line of you story needs to revolve around how this issue hinders your protagonist then eventually how the character deals with the problem. Depending on the nature of your novel your issue could be romantic, life-threatening, political, or endanger existence itself! Before you commence the writing of your manuscript you need to know what your main issue is and how it will be resolved. Does an evil villain kidnap your protagonist's loved ones? Is the world about to be destroyed by a natural (or unnatural) phenomenon? Does you protagonist make a dire mistake which he will struggle to correct? The ideas are unlimited. Try to come up with an issue that will require quite creative measures to overcome.
So you have your main story line but it's not much fun to read a novel that merely follows an unchanging character from start to finish without any detours. Everyone knows that in reality, nothing would progress that smoothly. Your character may change and grow either for good or for bad. A character can't do this without trials to force their change. Perhaps they find love or lose it, discover a weakness or a strength, or are suddenly placed in a life-or-death situation. All of these events may change the character in some way and give the story a more natural course. The important factor to remember when adding these detours is whether they will add to the entertainment value and course of the novel. If they don't improve the novel then let them go.
Let the Protagonist Take the Lead
Many authors will find that even with a structured outline prior to writing their first draft their protagonist will begin to take over. If you have created your protagonist well with a background and believable personality, events will pop to mind and write themselves. Don't try to stop this from happening. Quite often you will find the character grows on their own. Just because events don't occur exactly as you planned doesn't mean that they won't work. Worry about that later.
As you come up with your plot it is quite helpful to outline, jot it all down and see how it ties together. Read my last post 'To Outline or Not to Outline' for more about this. Happy writing everyone!
Scarlett Van Dijk
Image courtesy of jannoon028 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
There is a question I have often seen on forums: How do you name your characters? I personally have never had an issue with naming characters but I would say that is because I know how. Everyone has their different methods for coming up with names. So, in this instalment of 'Guide to Fantasy Writing' I'll be talking about how I come up with character names for your ordinary characters and your more out-of-this-world character.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net".
My number one tip for coming up with character names is to look on baby name websites. You can search for hundreds of names on these sites until you find one that fits your image of your character. If you're like me, you can also search name meanings in order to find a meaning which matches your character. There is also the possibility of searching for names from a particular geographical origin, which you may be interested in if you are setting your story in a particular country.
If you don't want to name your characters using pre-existing, 'human', names then try mashing names together. Take a couple of names you like and try sticking together pieces of them. For example:
Take 'Sarah' and 'Ellie'
You could get: Sarlie, Rahel, Lierah, Elsarah etc.
The process is pretty fun too!
What I mean by 'Out-of-this-world' is completely fantastical. This includes creatures and aliens and strange races such as elves. You can use the technique mentioned above, mashing names together, to create some cool sounding fantasy names. Instead of joining existing names together however, you could join syllables together. This is almost the same process except that you just make up sounds. Ah, il, kah, der, bin, ley… it's endless. This is the process I used to come up with the name for my keer character, Ilyarahh (Il – Yah – Rah).
WARNING! When creating names by either joining existing names or using random syllables always make sure that a reader will be able to easily read the name. It can be very frustrating trying to read a name that doesn't easily flow. Make sure you can say it out loud and that it isn't too long. It may also be an idea to show a friend and see what they think.
However, depending on your personal preference you may choose to name them using descriptive words. For creatures this could be a good idea. For instance you could name a dragon character Wind Strider, Dancing Flame or Ashen Cloud. There are so many possibilities.
My last tip for creating names is to make sure your character's names are quite different. It gets confusing to read a novel where two characters names start with the same letter or sound similar.
Thanks for reading!
Scarlett Van Dijk
What names have you created?
Creatures are an aspect of fantasy writing that many people have different opinions on. You either love them or hate them. But writers, as I have said in a previous post, write what you want to write. If you want to include a blood hungry centaur or a loving land octopus in to your story then do so, but perhaps consider all the different aspects of your creature. Whether your creature is a creature of fables and myths or whether they are an original creation, try to think of them as if they were another character.
Appearance is a fairly obvious consideration but it is an aspect of creature creation none-the-less. I like to think of the appearances of real animals and combine them. How many legs do they have? Are they an insect/reptile/mammal/bird/fish? Are they furry/scaly/prickly? What colour are they? How big?
As an example I'll list the appearance for the keer from my novel, Sky Stone.
It helps to be able to design and draw the creature to formalise the image within your mind. If you don't like drawing then find images on the internet of any animals you are using to build your creature. It may also help to dot point the appearance in a similar way to how I did just above.
All animals have typical personality traits. Cats, for instance, are seen as being pompous and elegant. Think about how your creature will respond to different aspects of life. How do they react to threats? Do they run or fight? How do they react to strangers? Are they aggressive or placid? Are they easily frightened? Are they playful or lazy? Are they shy or self-assured? Of course, individuals may have their own layer of personality but you don't need to worry about that unless you have a creature as a recurring character.
Keer are very shy animals but become extremely aggressive if cornered. In this case, their appearance changes. They grow in size, their horns and fangs lengthen and their markings turn red. One keer, my character Ilyarahh, has an earring that allows her to control this transformation.
Habitat and Lifestyle
Where does your creature live? Appearance may give us some insight here (or vice versa). A creature with thick fur may live in cold areas while a fish, well, obviously lives in water. Do they live in snow/water/forest/mountains? Landscapes can affect what types of physical traits they will require in order to live.
What does your creature eat? Are they carnivores, vegetarian or omnivore? This may also affect what physical traits they require. Carnivores require sharp canines and claws while vegetarians don’t. Does your creature even eat? For instance, keer live by absorbing magic and hence live in areas of high magical concentration.
Other lifestyle aspects you may need to consider are:
How are they seen by humans?
How does your typical human react to these creatures? Perhaps they are fearful, curious, or friendly. Do they try to kill, capture or tame them? is the human able to use the creatures somehow? Are the creatures fearsome enough that humans must run from them? Can they cohabitate and work together?
In the case of my keer, most humans fear them due to their transformations. However, they are also curious.
What else? The above points are what I believe are the most important in defining your character but you can always add more dimensions. For instance, does the creature have special abilities? My keer are able to sprout wings and fly.
As always, writing is about enjoying your imagination. Revel in it and create something extraordinary!
If you have created a creature let me know about it in the comments section. See you next week.
Scarlett Van Dijk
Image courtesy of digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
It is important to consider where the source of the magical ability lies. By creating such a source, you add to the believability of the ability. Is the source within the person or external to them? Does it lie within an object which they must keep close such as the Sky Stone from my own novel? Does the power exist in nature and the character need to be able to tap into that source?
Strength of Ability
It wouldn't be very realistic if every mage in your story had the same level of ability. However, if there are variations, what causes them? Perhaps strength is something you are born with or perhaps it depends on the strength of the object or device used as the source for the power. Could the strength be learnt or even triggered by emotion? Perhaps it depends on how much the character wants a result from their magic wielding, or how much they believe in themselves. Is their strength dependent on how much magic they can draw on from their source at particular time?
Every ability should have a counter-ability, something that can conflict with your characters power. When considering magic in the form of elemental control this is fairly simple. For example, my character Skyla has the ability to control fire, so naturally the most effective counter to her ability would be the ability to control water. If a person's power is based on their proximity to an object then if they are separated from that object their ability will lessen. What if there existed magic-nullifying objects or areas where the person's power is worthless such as the Stedding in Robert Jordan's 'Wheel of Time' series? The possibilities are endless.
As with all writing, it is all up to you, the author. Magic is not a reality but when writing it into your stories it is important to make the readers believe that it is. So make up the facts!
Scarlett Van Dijk
What magic or abilities have you given your characters? Please comment below.
Character creation is one of the fundamentals to any story writing. Without a main character there is no plot. There are many types of characters but the two biggies are the Protagonist and Antagonist. Many believe these characters to be a simple matter of 'good guy vs. bad guy', however this is not always the case.
Your protagonist is your main character/s. You follow this character through the story. There are a number of points to consider when creating a protagonist:
I'm sure you could come up with further character aspects. The above listed points can also be considered in the case of your antagonist and other major characters.
One of the main things to consider when building your protagonist is whether they are relatable. Your main character is going to require flaws; they can't be too perfect. Make sure that they have room to grow and change (which should happen throughout your story).
Consider the 'good guy vs. bad guy' statement from the opening paragraph. Did you assume that your protagonist is required to be a 'good guy'? It is true that in most novels the protagonist is seen as a good guy but when you consider the different aspects of that character you may realize they actually are not as virtuous as you thought. The character may believe that what they are doing is warranted but go about it in the wrong way. The other option is that despite your character thinking they are in the right, from another's point of view they are the bad guy. Confused yet? Let's consider the antagonist.
Antagonist Your antagonist is the 'bad guy' of your story (or are they?). The antagonist is created to oppose your protagonist, creating a force for your main character to battle against. When creating your antagonist you should consider the same points as listed above for the protagonist. Remember that even though the antagonist is believed to be doing 'bad' things, hindering your protagonist, they must have a reason for doing so. Likely, they believe that they are in the right; an antagonist should not be summed up as merely 'evil' in a nutshell with no real motive. Imagine what it would be like to write a story from the point of view of your antagonist (ie. Your antagonist becomes your protagonist). Interesting right? You should come up with a background story for your antagonist; why do they believe what they do? How have they come to oppose your protagonist?
This is a very brief post about character creation but hopefully it has been helpful to some of you fellow writers out there. If you have questions or have anything to add about character creation that you consider important please leave a comment below.
Scarlett Van Dijk
Image courtesy of digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
If you wan't to know more about writing good antagonists or villains listen to First In Fiction's podcast on Villains
I will outline a few of the above which I think are worth covering in this post but when considering your own story you should attempt to describe each one of these elements.
Clothing and Food are two items which may differ due to the environment. If you have set your novel in an ice laden wasteland then food may be scarce and the clothing made of thick furs. What grows or lives in your environment? Food taste will depend on what is available for flavour and any meat can only be of animals that exist in the area.
Clothing will depend on temperature, time period (if this is relevant) and tradition. If it is cold then thicker clothing, coats and cloaks for example. Hot, then perhaps lighter clothing or sun-protective garments. If your story is set in the middle ages then you could expect tunics and hosen on men and long flowing dresses for women, this obviously being altered by social standing. Tradition can affect clothing as by the types of colours, cuts of dresses, accessories etc. that may be worn by different groups of people.
Standard of Living/Government
Culture is composed of many aspects that need to be investigated to bring your fictional world to life. If you are having difficulty with this part of world creation (and you have time) then I suggest you read Robert Jordan's 'Wheel of Time' series. He creates an extraordinary world with multiple cultures vividly described.
Scarlett Van Dijk
Share a little about the culture you have created in the comments section below.
I've decided to start sharing writing tips specifically about writing in the Fantasy genre. Excited? I am! For my first instalment I have chosen to write a post about how to choose a setting for your Fantasy story.
There are many questions you need to ask yourself before you decide on a setting. Is it set on Earth, in a city that already exists? Or does it occur in a completely fictional world? What kind of landscape do your characters have to deal with? Is it set in a medieval-like setting, modern, or futuristic? This is where brainstorming can be very helpful and also one of the most fun aspects of writing.
The basic principle behind brainstorming is to jot down every idea that pops in to your head no matter how silly they seem. Even when you believe you have found the setting you want, keep going. You may find that each point leads to a new point and some will even merge to create a completely original and complex world that your characters can explore.
What is too crazy?
In Fantasy writing, very little is classed as 'too crazy'. If you think you can write it, if it will add another layer to your story, then run with it. But most importantly, if you think you will enjoy writing about it, then do so. Don't worry so much about what other people will think; there will always be the people who don't agree with your ideas and will mock them, but there will likely be a group of people that will love them. Just have fun with it!
Don't be scared because I just wrote 'History'. I'm not necessarily about to tell you to research. Of course, if you are setting your story in Renaissance England then you will likely need to research that time period. However, what I actually mean by 'History' is what is the history of your world? What happened in the past to make it the way it is now? For instance, the setting of my novel Sky Stone, Branzia, is a country cut off from the rest of Earth. How come? Basically the two deities had a disagreement and one of these, the Crimson Knight, decided to 'quarantine' Branzia to stop the spread of magic to the rest of Earth. Because of this separation, Branzia hasn't progressed far beyond the Middle Ages despite the rest of Earth being in the 21st Century.
How about a map?
Maps are always fun to create and can act as an aid to writing and as a reference to your future readers. They remind you of the orientation of your world and the distances between different landmarks. This is especially helpful if you have created a large world.
What next? Once you have chosen a setting there are many other things to consider. How have your characters adapted to the landscape? How do they get around? If your world is covered in water, do they travel by boat or do they fly? What is the temperature? What sort of clothing do your people wear? These worlds are our creation so feel free to make them as weird and amazing as you like!
Scarlett Van Dijk
Other great posts:
'The Basics: So You Want To Write A Novel' – Nat Russo
A Writer's Tale
Scarlett Van Dijk
Writer of young adult, fantasy series, the Sky Stone series, poetry and short stories.
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