Saturday, June 28, 2008

Fantasy World Belief System

When building a fantasy world, one necessary element is a belief system. Do characters believe in divine beings? Is there a formal religion? Do leaders such as priests hold special powers? Is the belief system part of the governing hierarchy? Is the belief system based on superstition? If so, how did the superstition start?

In medieval times the church collected taxes and received gifts from citizens seeking special favors. Many people believed donations procured a better place for them in the hereafter. Donated land, crops, livestock and more built wealth and holdings for the church making it an ever-increasing powerful entity. What does the belief system do for the characters in your fantasy world?

Relics, Amulets and Sacred Artifacts

Relics, amulets, sacred artifacts and other such charms add an element of magic in fantasy. These special objects are both coveted and trusted. In many a belief system, the religious or superstitious teach that divine power is attached to remains of dead bodies, as well as sacred artifacts or amulets once used in everyday living.

Think of quests for the cup of Christ or the Ark of the Covenant. Those who sought these articles coveted the power they believed it would bring them. In fantasy, the power becomes real as characters wear relics to ward off evil, harm, illness or on the positive side bring good fortune or power. Consider the ring in the Lord of the Rings, or the Ark of the Covenant in the Adventures of Indiana Jones. Fantasy often centers around a quest or a battle for control or ownership of such an article and the power it provides.

Pilgrimages, Quests and Adventure

Entire fantasy novels are written around quests and pilgrimages that set out to locate long-lost sacred articles. The quest itself is an act of faith that supports the importance of the belief system within the fantasy world. What is the motive for the belief? Is it based on what the character will receive (money, power, etc.) or to better the world? Such scenarios lead to epic quests. If the power sought falls into evil hands....

In the fantasy novel Windwalker, relics and artifacts stored within the Fortress of Stone open the door to free an entire civilization from captivity. However, the protagonist not only has to find the secret location of the mythic structure, but must also have enough faith to use the power and battle the influence of the mage. Finding the artifacts is only part of the story.

History Of The Belief System

Fantasy writers develop a bit of history and backstory even for a belief system. Why do characters believe what they believe? Over time, rituals like religious pilgrimages can degenerate to a pale rendition of the original. Consider H. G. Wells' novel The Time Machine. The simple Eloi population blindly paraded into the underground caverns when sirens blasted. Without question, it's what they believed they were to do. Underground shelters originally designed to protect, and sirens meant to warn although no longer needed became part of a distorted belief system.

Fantasy writers can develop plots based on an individual or group of individuals returning to the belief system in its purest form, or seeing it for what it really is. It's another form of good versus evil. What effect does the adulterated religious activity have on the population? What happens when people return to the true belief system? Is there a middle ground?

Mystical Orders

Whether fantasy characters are based on ancient druids, diviners, fortunetellers, oracles, monastic priests, or stargazers, mystical orders must have a base of rules to live by. Whether it's divine law or man-made is up to the writer.

Do your mystical or religious characters take vows? Are they required to take part in an annual pilgrimage? Are they obligated to serve the King or government? As an example, consider the Knights Templar (a religious military order) founded in Jerusalem in 1118. The Templars protected pilgrims from the Turks on the trip from the coast inland to Jerusalem. They served king and the church, took vows and were part of the military. History provides great resources and fantasy knows no bounds.

Creating a Unique Fantasy Belief System That Works

To make a unique fantasy belief system work requires:

1) characters who believe
2) those who don't
3) those who will come to understand or reject the belief system

Fantasy writers decide whether or not characters who hold to the belief system are serving good or evil. It doesn't have to be upfront information, but just like any aspect of fantasy writing, the belief system needs to make sense to engage the reader, because readers determine what they believe based on the provided information.

Adding an element of surprise like having the character step outside preconceived bounds adds entertaining value to keep the reader reading.

Small doses of detail added to the plot throughout the story guide readers to understand the hows and whys of the story line. It's the fantasy writer's job to make a believer out of the reader.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Historical Wedding Customs - Fantasy Writing - Part 3

Feeding the Guests

Medieval history provides plenty of rich detail for fantasy novelists planning the menu for a wedding (or any other feast). Barbaric by today's standards, etiquette at a medieval feast allowed eating with fingers, though forks and a knife were sometimes used. Napkins became popular during this era, so you can include them. Remember that, many who lived during these times were lucky to have enough to eat on a regular basis. Starvation was a real part of life and this fact may reflect in your character's table manners.

Traditionally, the wedding feast took place the same day as the wedding. Guests ate from wooden plates until the food was gone. Glassware may be constructed of precious metals, common clay or wood depending on social class. The Medieval Wedding Guide by Vanessa Hand offers specifics if you need a source for more details.

The Menu

Wedding feast particulars should fit the celebration based on social class. Every social class celebrated weddings. It wasn't uncommon for these elaborate feasts to serve up to six courses. Basics your characters would find on the menu include:

  • Roast quail
  • Turtledoves and partridge
  • Goose
  • Venison
  • Roasted boar (sanglier) Dangerous to hunt, wild boars have long sharp tusks and teeth. Yet, huntsmen scoured the forests using apple cores, rotten meat and peapods as bait. Your characters might even find them feeding on garbage dumped outside the village or castle. Smoking wild pig preserved the meat.
  • Gilded and slivered calves' heads
  • Fish Most fishing was done with nets made by spinning grasses, wool or flax. Contrary to what many would think the job of spinning to make fishing (or hunting) nets was man's work. Once they had the thread-like fabric spun, they knotted it into complex patterns and attached bits of stone, clay or led as weights. For fishing nets they attached a piece of wood which floated so they could spot their submerged nets. Fish were often preserved by pickling in a salty brine or a fermented sauce called garum which was prized by the ancients.
  • Roasted peacock
  • Mutton
  • Cheeses Because milk spoiled without refrigeration, people learned to make yogurt and cheeses. Aged cheeses can be kept without refrigeration for five years or more. Most aged cheese was made using rennet (a piece of the stomach lining from a cow).
  • Walnuts
  • Oysters steamed in almond milk Because animal milk spoiled, Medieval cooks depended on the milky liquid created by grinding almonds or walnuts and steeping the pulp in boiling water for five minutes before running the mixture through a sieve to remove coarse particles. Cooks prepared almond milk fresh as needed or could store it without danger of spoiling like animal milk.
  • Ale-flavored bread
  • Stewed cabbage
  • Tarts and custards
  • Spicy mulled wine.
  • Fruit Dried fruit included raisins, prunes, and dried apples. Without refrigeration, little food could be preserved. Apples were the only cultivated fruit. Depending on the climate of your fantasy world, characters can also collect wild fruits like pears, quinces, and even peaches. Strawberries raspberries and red currants could be found in the woods. Exotic foods like dates and pistachio nuts should only be found on tables set for the wealthy.
  • Fresh fruit preserves
  • Wine, Ale, and other Medieval Drinks Drinks included water, ale, beer, mead, milk, and wine. Within castle confines a well provided potable drinking water. Fruit juices made from cherries, sloes (a plum-like fruit), and mulberries present other possible fermented choices.

    What About Vegetables?

    Few vegetables were eaten during medieval times, but vegetables of this period include: carrots, cabbage, lettuce, leeks, cardoons, onions, shallots, parsley and asparagus.

    Unlike the variety of salads we experience today, a Medieval Sallat might consist of scallions, chives, radish roots, turnips, boiled carrots, young lettuce, herbs, nuts, olives, and vinegar and oil.

    Spices and Flavorings If you show your cooks slaving in the kitchen, keep the spices and flavorings period specific. Include: Cloves, cinnamon, saffron, mace, pepper, ginger, anise, nutmeg, basil, parsley, sage, tansy, savory, betony, and rosemary.
    What About Sugar?
    Honey was a popular sweetener and preservative usually supplied by the local monastery. Sugar became increasingly popular among the wealthy. They were the only ones who could afford it in large quantities.
  • Wednesday, June 25, 2008

    Historical Wedding Customs - Fantasy Writing - Part 2

    To find interesting plot alternatives when creating a wedding scene based on medieval times. What better place to hold a fantasy wedding than a castle or a rustic country setting? Even though marriage fell under the church's purview, historically it allowed weddings to be held within the castle's great hall or in one of the courtyards.

    Who To Invite To a Castle Wedding

    Remember a caste system existed in medieval times. Arranged marriages strengthened manors and kingdoms through political ties. When developing characters realize that the wedding day included an incredible celebration. Side or window characters to place within the scene include minstrels, jugglers and other entertainers.

    Inhabitants of the manor also attended the celebration. Nobles from other manors and distant relatives were also invited. Bringing all these characters together in one place offers a myriad of possibilities to develop conflict within the plot.

    Interesting ideas for plot threads includes historical practices like the lord of the castle freeing prisoners to mark the occasion. As unrealistic as this seems, historically it happened. These types of practices open the door to include the freeing of the man the bride truly loves as she is forced to marry a man because of arrangements made the day she was born. Or perhaps she marries only to free the man she loves.

    Other interesting characters to include are the poor. Beggars gathered at the gates can feast on leftover food. It's a great place to disguise a protagonist with other plans.

    Who to Invite to a Country Wedding

    Do your characters love each other, or is their marriage prearranged? Marriage among peasants had more chance to involve love, but pregnancy often prompted weddings among lower classes. However, even among the peasants caste, marriage arrangements were often matters of business. An arranged marriage between peasant characters offers as many plot possibilities as marriages among the nobles.

    Betrothal ceremonies were held at the bride's home where the village congregated to celebrate and give the couple practical wooden utensils or other tools as gifts.

    When planning a fantasy wedding that involves characters from poor families again look to historical fact to create an interesting setting. Things like a wedding ring often could not be afforded in poorer families. One wedding tradition included giving a half of a broken coin to the bride and the other half to the groom. The unique break matches the two halves marking a one of a kind love united in marriage.

    Much like the more modern custom of showering the bride and groom with rice or bird seed, villagers showered newlyweds with seeds or grains of wheat to wish them a large family.

    Another historical aspect to prearranged marriages to incorporate in a plot or story line is that either the bride or the groom is an outsider. Grooms from another locale traditionally bought a round of drinks at the local pub for the village's young men. The reasoning behind this was that he "robbed" them of a possible wife.

    Now that you have the guest list in place, part 3 of this article provides details to feed the guests.

    Tuesday, June 24, 2008

    Historical Wedding Customs - Fantasy Writing - Part 1

    I just returned from a family wedding and have to say that with each generation they tend to become more...well let's just say more. This one had thousands of dollars of candy at a table for guests to bring home. In light of that, I thought we'd take a look at weddings in fantasy writing based in a more historical setting.

    Fantasy writing includes historical customs and traditions that offer flavor and distinctiveness to a novel's world and plot. History overflows with wedding customs that by today's ideology stand out as peculiar. Including such practices in your writing develops an element of For instance, if your character plucks their hairline to create a higher forehead to be attractive for their wedding, the detail makes for a peculiar tradition but it's really a historical practice from medieval times.

    Some historical wedding customs by today's standards would be considered strange and others are a clear variation of modern traditions which tie the reader to the story. Research customs and traditions and alter the practices to fit your developing fantasy world. Unique customs translate into believable practices creating depth to the scenes as well as invitations to plot twists leading up to and including the wedding.

    One fact to make note as you plan your novel's wedding is that historically grooms were much older than their brides. Most women were married by age 19. Plus marriages among nobles were arranged. Many times the bride and groom didn't meet until days before the wedding. These types of relationships overflow with possible plot threads.


    Brides of any era want their hair to be perfect for the big day. But what does that mean in your fantasy culture. Historically, because blond hair was admired many women coveted lighter hair for their wedding day. Of course back then, it took a lot more work to get the desired result. The process of sun bleaching took time. Other lightening process included doses of henna or concoctions made from animal innards.

    Style is another matter to consider. Most hairstyles during medieval times consisted of the hair being braided and up rather than hanging loose. The wedding day was one of the few times a woman wore her hair unfastened, flowing with loose curls. Instead of a veil, brides wore a wreath of herbs and flowers. In fantasy, herbs and flowers can also hold magical properties. Do they wear a single ringlet, or do they weave the flowers into a braid circling the crown of her head? Something more to consider as you construct the bridal crown: where do servants or others have to travel to get the flowers or herbs and what do they offer the bride? Is it risky? What is the significance?

    As I mentioned in the opening of this article, plucking the hairline was another medieval custom. Brides desired a high forehead, which at the time was the coveted look. Bringing an unusual custom like this into your story sets your world apart. Creating a female character with a high forehead would show the reader that the woman cares about how she looks and wants to be desirable.


    Do the customs in your fantasy world support a ritual bathing of the bride? Does it include your bride and groom bathing together? Perhaps it's part of the wedding ceremony. If so where does it take place? Public baths? If public baths exist, are characters usually separated by sex except for the bridal bath? Or does everyone bathe together on a regular basis?

    What about the wood needed to heat the water? Is there enough? If forests become depleted will taking a bath be expensive? Historically, by the mid-1300s, firewood to heat water became a luxury for the very wealthy. Lack of firewood forced the general population to walk around dirty most of the time.

    Something you may or may not want to include in the bathing ritual is religion. How do religious leaders feel about bathing? Do they oversee the wedding ritual? Or are they not involved. Creating rules based on religion creates a unique world. For example, in medieval times it was against the rules to look at your body while bathing. If you incorporate such a rule and it is broken, what is the penalty? Rules like this work to create tension within the plot.

    Another superstition that caused people not to bathe was fear that water carried disease into the body through the skin. These "medical reasons" forced people to wipe dirt off without bathing and to use perfume. People still bathed but infrequently. The perfumes came from the oils of flowers combined with spices. Trade for such ingredients can be worked into the plot as improved trade strengthens a kingdom. Trade routes open opportunities for story lines. For example, if a cargo of special "wedding" ingredients is high-jacked to prevent a marriage from taking place it draws lines of conflict.

    Taking historical facts as a foundation opens the door to unending possibilities. Does a perfume hold a magical quality that causes infatuation rather than distain as a marriage relationship thrusts two strangers together? Does one of them already love another? Yes, marriage unions provide an avalanche of details that thread throughout the storyline.

    In part two of this article we'll take a closer look at the wedding setting), and in part 3 we'll see what it takes to feed the guests.

    Wednesday, June 18, 2008

    Elements of Writing Fantasy

    How do fantasy writers create a fantasy world tangible for readers? It doesn't matter if you are writing Contemporary Fantasy, Epic or Heroic Fantasy, Historical Fantasy, Mythic Fantasy, Humorous Fantasy or Science Fantasy--every fantasy story must include the following:

    Characters and Plot

    Characters and plot are introduced through dialog and action. Although the fantasy genre earns its label through fantastic settings in otherworldly realms where magical ingredients factor in, without believable characters and an interesting plot you would not have a story. Characters must capture the readers interest and usher them into the magical realm--without the character and without the plot, no one will care about the world no matter how awesome.

    Element of Surprise

    Fantasy authors must hook the reader at the beginning of the story. Introduce information readers can identify with, something that actively gets them involved. Dialog and/or action introduces a character or characters involved in a situation that gives the reader enough to make them want more. Incorporating the element of the unknown can start here. Weave a thread of information about something that readers don't immediately understand. Make it interesting and the reader continues on the quest of discovery. Keep the quest interesting by leaving enough enticing breadcrubms to lead them through the story. For example, consider the opening paragraph of Donna Sundblad's Windwalker

    "Fires burned in the bellies of small stone statues forming a circle within the Kiva. An orange glow warmed the chamber to the center of the gathering. In the back of the crowded cave, Awena sat against the wall resting her arm across her stomach. The baby kicked. Soon, her life with Cedrick would change. What kind of world would their child find? Cedrick's talk of fulfilled prophecies and the cycle of death scared her."

    In this opening paragraph, readers can identify with having hope for an unborn child and the fear of death. What does it mean for these characters?

    Don't bog down your first paragraphs with telling description. Instead, introduce descriptive elements as the story unfolds. This way they make an impact on the reader because they experience them rather than hear about them. Let the reader see the world through the character's eyes.

    Learning From the Character's POV

    A great fantasy world alone does not create a good story. It's a good start--a place for the story to evolve--but without interesting characters to bring the world to life, it will lie one-dementional among the unread pages of your manuscript. Use your characters to open up your new fantasy world to the reader's imagination. Let them see through the eyes of your characters. If trees can walk, let the reader experience it first hand through the character's viewpoint. Engage the reader and keep them reading--keep them walking in the character's shoes.

    Saturday, June 14, 2008

    Time Travel Fantasy Writing

    Time travel is a popular concept in writing Fantasy and Science Fiction. In Fantasy, the mode of travel is provided by some magical happenstance whether purposeful or by accident. Many times, this fictional travel moves to a colorful era from the past. In popular movies like Back to the Future, characters return to a time before they existed. Writing time travel fantasy opens the door for writers to pull intricate and long-forgotten details from popular history, or to push their characters into the future building on present day situations and asking the question What if? such as the Planet of the Apes series.

    What Fantasy Readers Want to Know

    When time travel carries characters to the past or future, author need to make the concept believable and interesting. What readers want to know is:

    • Where characters are and when are they?
    • How did they get there?
    • How does the character feel?
    • Why is the character there?
    • Who else is there?
    • Can they get back to their own time?

    No matter where or when fantasy characters travel in time, a thread of logic needs to connect them to their home point in time. Fantasy writers face the challenge of not only creating a reason for the character’s arrival to this new place but a logical explanation as to how they arrived.

    Time Travel Circle of Logic

    Fantasy writers carry their characters to destinations in the past or future with a purpose. In the 1980 movie Somewhere in Time, staring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour, an old woman gives Reeve’s character a watch as a young man. Later in life, the painting of a woman in a 19th century hotel becomes an obsession. He determines that he must meet that woman, and uses a physics professor’s theory to will himself back in time where he meets the woman.

    The two fall in love. The main character accomplishes his goal, and gives the woman his watch as a gift. The romantic tale is bitter-sweet as Reeve’s character discovers a modern day penny in his pocket, resulting in an instant return to the present. His quest to meet the woman in the painting was more than realized, but the time travel theory laid down the groundwork. To stay in the past, the character could not look upon anything from the present. When the love-sick Reeves returns to his own time he doesn’t realize the old woman who gave him the watch as a young man is the woman in the painting. This is a good example of the circle of logic within time travel stories.

    How Time Travel Works

    No matter how your characters travel through time, it’s important that you make the process understood. If you use time travel terms like pacetime curvature, make it clear to the reader that this is a property of spacetime that causes freely falling particles initially moving along parallel world lines to then move together or apart. Find a good source for time travel terms to create a time travel terminology that makes sense. Studying these terms may even inspire creativity to generate a new time travel theory to work within your story.

    Why Travel in Time?

    Some readers don’t like time travel fantasy, yet it is a popular subgenre. Time travel creates romantic settings (Somewhere in Time), opportunities to learn about oneself (A Kid in King Arthur’s Court), improve or change the past (A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court), or the quest may even start out as a source of curiosity to see if it can be done, like H.G. Wells' The Time Machine.

    Traveling to another time and place allows a modern character to experience an alternate history. It opens the possibility to create a paradox. The premise of most time travel plots is that points throughout time exist now. This provides the basis for visits to one of these points in time much like we might visit a place in an everyday experience. Even Einstein thought of time as another dimension.

    Friday, June 13, 2008

    Fighting for the Castle in Fantasy Writing

    Castles situated on a high, hard to reach locations makes storming the castle a tapestry of interesting plot threads that offer opportunities for rich, vivid imagery when writing fantasy. To create a realistic scene, writers must know enough history to make a castle attack authentic from either side of the battle.

    How To Capture The Fantasy Castle

    To capture a castle, attackers must get beyond the walls. When writing fantasy, hold onto enough history to make it real. Fantasy writers should offer hints of how to capture or defend a castle throughout the plot threads. Don't offer too much detail, but put the pieces in place so that when the attack takes place, and these same pieces come into the picture the reader understands what will happen and how it works.

    Because of the formidable design, historically, the safest way to capture a castle was to starve out the occupants. However, this wasn't as easy as it sounds. Remember those store rooms beneath the hall in the keep? If the castle residents had fair warning of an impending attack, they could hoard enough food and drink to survive a lengthy siege.

    If castle occupants make adequate preparation to wait out the siege, it increases tension and conflict in the storyline. Action can advance as armies resort to weaponry of the era. Weaponry opens opportunities for the fantasy writer to create similar but unique weapons constructed specifically for the story-the fantasy version of the secret weapon.

    In reality, many lost their lives trying to breech castle walls. Catapults hurled stones to weaken the wall, but as attackers stormed the castle, a barrage of arrows sliced through the sky from the arrow loops.

    Another tactic to capture the castle was to fill the moat with rocks and fashion tree trucks into a rough semblance of a bridge to make crossing possible. Once the advancing mob reached the main gate, a large, heavy beam was used to ram the closed drawbridge until it gave way.

    One other weapon used to break through the castle walls were storming towers. These wooden constructions (covered in wet hides to prevent burning) were rolled against the wall to work as a ladder.

    Defending the Fantasy Castle

    When writing fantasy, the writer can also learn from history to defend the castle. If you check the article (link)Social Classes When Writing Sword and Sorcery Fantasy, you'll learn that the army defending the castle was usually comprised of the lord of the castle, his knights and villiens who agreed to fight as part of their service due, along with vassals paying homage and those who served the vassal in a like manner. At times professional foot soldiers were hired to fill out the ranks, and even knights were known to rent out their fighting skills.

    As attacking armies assaulted the castle with storming towers, defenders shoved the wooden structures from the wall and into the mob because once the first wave of attackers made it over the wall, they engaged in hand-to-hand combat to make it easier for their comrades to join them.

    Other deterrents used to keep the enemy at bay were things like pouring boiling pitch from the top of the wall onto the army below, and of course the swarms of arrows whistling into the angry mob.

    If your attackers break through, it results in bloody hand-to-hand combat, but that's okay. You're readers know where they are at every turn, how to escape, and engages the readers to keep reading to see your characters through the entire ordeal.

    Thursday, June 12, 2008

    Fantasy Worlds with Primitive Amenities

    Creating a primitive fantasy world offers writers the challenge of incorporating amenities provided in ways foreign in today's culture. Amenities include things like:
    • bathing
    • using the privy
    • sources of drinking water

    To garner details to create a realistic primitive setting, it helps to look at history, back to times when harsh circumstances greeted individuals each morning. Imagine waking without running water. No bathing, flushing a toilet or adding water to the coffee maker.

    Bathing In a Primitive Fantasy World

    Do people in your fantasy world take baths? Is it a luxury? Fantasy writers have options. Characters bathing in lakes or rivers can be found out by passersby. Another bathing option includes a wooden tub hidden beneath a canopy or tent for privacy. During the summer months, this tub could be found outside in a garden setting. In the winter, it would be found beside a raging fire indoors. Either makes for a setting spilling over with possibilities.

    In most primitive fantasy settings, wealth separates classes. The wealthy have more amenities available because they have servants to do the work. One such servant would be the bathman. This servant readies bath accessories and helps their lord or master to get dressed.

    Other than the wooden tub, a lavabo makes for an interesting bathing scene. A lavabo is "a large stone basin equipped with a number of small orifices through which water flowed, used for the performance of ablutions." Some of these lavabo were rather ornate. Fantasy writers can carve a lavabo into a shape of a creature relevant to the plot. Although such a tub is historically tied to rituals, it's existence makes for an interesting possibility when designing your fantasy's amenities.

    In the Old Testament the Jewish priests washed in a laver. This large basin sat on a pedestal of ornate bronze oxen statues. This bath set outside the Hebrew tabernacle, and represented a spiritual cleansing. Fantasy writers can add an element like this for cleric-like characters.

    Growing up, I visited my great-grandparents before they had running water. A basin sat at the door for washing hands as each person entered the house. Such a washbasin can be included in a primitive fantasy world for washing before and after meals. In fancier settings a refillable tank can be placed above the basin to help keep wash water clean, but remember it is someone's job to fill the tank.

    The Privy or Latrine In A Primitive Fantasy World

    Where do fantasy characters go when it's time to relieve themselves? Privy and latrine are names for toilet commonly used when writing fantasy. Remember, primitive times were crude. Chamber pots were a common household item, used to collect urine and feces and later dumped. For this article we'll look at the more aesthetically pleasing privies that were often used in castles. Much like an indoor outhouse, privies consisted of stone or wooden seats that emptied via a chute into water like a moat or stream. As primitive as this sounds, a privy was a bit of a luxury and unfortunately had to be cleaned. People with this job were called gong farmers.

    Another consideration when designing your fantasy privy is lighting. Is there a source of natural light or do characters have to carry a lantern, candle or torch? Is it drafty enough to blow out the light? Also, consider information from the above section and think about whether your privy is equipped with a washbasin. How advanced is your society?

    When designing the privy, think about the chute. Is it a way for enemies to gain access, or is it equipped with bars to keep invaders out? If so, who cares for the condition of the bars? Do they rust? Do they need cleaning?

    For wealthier fantasy characters, you may want to add a chamber privy. This is nothing more than a seat protruding out form the wall of a private sleeping chamber, but such a convenience may make for an interesting setting in your fantasy novel.

    And what about privacy? Do all your characters use the same facilities? What about the guards? As a writer, you can develop facilities that work for your story. Historically, large castles built special towers so guard privies could be located in one place. These emptied into a pit in the basement that made invasion to overcome the guards more difficult. Another common location for guard privies would be within the castle wall construction. Check my article on castles for more information.

    Wells As a Source Of Drinking Water

    When writing fantasy, strategically place clean water sources to make sense in your plot. Capture the source of drinking water and you capture the people. In primitive cultures wells were a common, essential source of drinking water. When creating larger castles, fantasy writers can dig more than one well in the courtyard or bailey. It may be located within a wooded structure known as a well house or if the society has the technology, the pump house. Wells can also be placed inside a castle setting. If you do this in your fantasy writing consider logistics and keep it near the kitchen or other places where water is often needed.

    Because wells are necessary in a primitive setting, another idea when developing your fantasy is a secret well. If you create it, give it purpose. Hide it in the basement or dungeon as a secret way into the castle, or give it magical properties like something that could be used by a healer or in a wizard's dorm.

    You've most likely seen buckets tied to ropes to pull water from a well. This method was even used to draw water from one floor to another within a castle as buckets pulled through trap doors from one floor to the next helped avoid carrying water up long staircases. Biblically, in nomadic societies, wells were conquered and filled with large stones so they couldn't be used. Women draped cloth over the mouths of wells to dry grain, which biblically was used as a way to hide men from those searching for them. Be creative. Wells should exist in your primitive fantasy world. Use them in your plot.

    Don't Forget the Sense of Smell

    With all that we've learned about amenities, consider the sense of smell when writing about a primitive fantasy world. Where do characters draw water? How does the moat smell? How about within the castle? And just think, we didn't even talk about garbage or livestock.

    Wednesday, June 11, 2008

    Steps to Become a Fantasy Writer

    Do you think you could handle being a fantasy writer? Can you see yourself working from home, meeting deadlines that you set, choosing a target audience, meeting people, marketing, and taking control of your future?

    Becoming a published author has never been easier. Hundreds of new writers are published every year.

    Readers Are the Best Writers

    Anyone who reads with a passion absorbs the underlying pattern of plot, character portrayal, storyline and background. Famous authors will tell you how they read, every spare moment they have.

    So you have a story to tell. Next step is to take note of what is popular. Write fiction your readers will devour. Readers dictate demand. Give them what they want and becoming famous and success are knocking on your door. A self-published writer might write to discover their unique style or voice but if you are writing for mainstream publishers, adhere to the rules your readers set.

    Once you are committed. Practice. Write every day. If you don't know what to write, start with writing prompts. Write, read and learn about your chosen genre. Newsletters, magazines, forums online sites, provide an endless scope for research. Take courses, join and participate in review sites. Explore your talent while you learn from others who share your passion. Take heart as you learn to recognize mistakes. You are closer to success.

    So Your Passion is Fantasy

    Fantasy follows certain guidelines. Contemporary fantasy fiction must contain an aura of magic, to fulfill the elements of this genre. Heroes on a quest demand a certain style of writing. Keep cliches to a minimum. Avoid colloquialism and slang. Create your own terms and colorful language.

    Find others who share your passion and get feed back on your work. Online writing forums, critique groups and courses can provide the necessary support write Fantasy fiction. Find courses where you can learn correct grammar, good sentence structure, crisp dialogue and formatting. Writing for the Fantasy genre is fulfilling, every writer can find support and feedback online.

    Fantasy Readers

    Target your Fantasy audience. Learn about what people are reading, by visiting bookstores, reading magazines and watching awards. Taylor your writing to the plot arcs of popular Fantasy fiction.

    Creating characters and worlds beyond imagination, delving into the depths of a crisis, or having a hero develop through conflict is exciting. The goal of writing Fantasy fiction is to write what your readers want. Follow trends, research on the internet, in libraries and bookstores, read magazines and learn what publishers are looking for in Fantasy fiction. Read best sellers, news headlines, genre forums, check out bookstores and learn what the publishers are taking onboard.

    Write Write everyday. Join writing groups, review and get reviewed.

    Research Know the genre and read the work of famous Fantasy authors.

    Learn Find your audience and create a query letter and synopsis to impress a publisher of Fantasy fiction. If your work is self edited, and polished, you might consider self-publishing and self-promotion.

    The successful Fantasy writer, will hone their grammar skills, learn to edit, and follow trends in contemporary fiction. With determination and dedication, they will succeed in their chosen career.

    Correct Grammar and Self Editing

    When the ink dries on your epic Fantasy, take time to self edit your work.

    Read your writing aloud.

    Listen for flow, for rhythm content and pace. All fiction improves when writers use this devise.

    Revise looking for correct grammar and typing errors.

    Learn to edit. Keep a list of editing tips, words common problems to avoid, beside your work. Keep to the plot arc and cull all scenes and words that deviate or fail to drive the plot forward. Watch every word and even a convoluted plot can become a flowing narrative that will keep your reader hooked to the final word.

    How to Become Famous

    When writing Fantasy, you need to know who publishes your genre. Find publishers who print fiction similar to your writing. Address the industry through writing groups, blogs, forums, organizations and writing associations. Form an opinion and write and speak wherever you can. Take the challenge, enter contests, take tutorials, and join forums of authors who share your genre. When you approach a publisher, mention in your query letter, the places with which you are affiliated and demonstrate how your time is dedicated to becoming a famous author.

    Promotion and Marketing

    To become famous as a Fantasy writer, you must promote your work. Become involved in forums, writing groups. Network, consider public speaking, attending conferences, design a website, blog, and a fan club. Submit articles wherever there is an interest in your genre.

    The old idea of publishers promoting authors has gone by the board. If you want to be a famous author or Fantasy writer, learn how to sell your books. Treat your writing as a career and do everything in your power to attract attention to your work. Learn how to promote yourself and your work as a professional. Use today's networking and promotional opportunities such as blog tours.

    Things To Do.

    Find a writing site that hosts a Fantasy Fiction forum. Post a sample of your work. Review other writers. Learn as you read. Make lists of grammar problems or solutions, points of view used, unique language, plot arcs used and publishers who print your genre.

    Tuesday, June 10, 2008

    Head Hopping and Point of View

    First Person POV

    Authors spin tales from someone’s or something’s point of view. There is the “First Person” point of view. “
    I tell you what I feel, think, do and smell.” A story written in this voice indicates the writer is the speaker and gives your story a personal feel, but I can think of one draw back. The reader will expect your character to survive. How else can they tell the story?

    Second Person POV

    “Second Person” is another point of view. “You did this or that.” This voice is much like a detective telling a suspect what he thinks the party is guilty of doing and indicates to whom the writer is speaking and is not a popular POV when writing.

    Third Person POV

    “Third Person” is the most commonly used POV, “He or she did this, feels that, etc.” I read somewhere that ninety percent of modern speculative fiction is written using this POV. Third person pronouns such as “he” and “she” are used to refer to all the characters. The advantage is that third person offers the personal aspect of a first person viewpoint while it provides the reader with more detail. Your POV character does more than speak and act. They appraise the actions of others. When they see someone grit their teeth or stomp their foot they make determinations based on the emotion experienced and this process involves the reader.


    If the reader stays in one character’s head throughout the entire story, scene or chapter, this is considered “limited third person.” An option when writing in “limited third person” is to include the thoughts of two people, but I offer a word of caution. If you bounce back and forth from one character’s thoughts to the other you lose the tension produced by the unknown because the reader is allowed to know everything. This head hopping will lead the reader to confusion, boredom or both. The rule of thumb to follow is to stay in one character’s head for a complete scene or chapter.

    I came across one such oversight in a novel I read this weekend. Set in a 1940’s gangster scenario, the bad guys shoot it out with the cops in the middle of the street. A small group escapes the skirmish. They retreat unnoticed and within a half block the sound of the battle diminishes. They hope the cops stay busy until they make it around the corner. Suddenly the POV shifted. “The front window of one of the cop cars exploded.” How would the POV character know this from a half block away and his back to the action? He could have heard it and turned to see what happened, but he didn’t. One moment I found myself sneaking from the scene, neatly tucked within the POV character’s head, and the next I transported back into the gunfight down the street. The following sentence put me back with the group turning the corner and out of sight. The confusion caused me to stop and re-read the section. This error in POV broke the tension the author intended the reader to experience.

    It doesn’t matter if you are writing about aliens that possess your characters and shift from one mind to another; you must stay within the POV character’s head until the scene changes. Why? The POV drives your story. Head hopping triggers an unnatural thought process. When you bounce from one character to another, your POV is unclear and the reader gets lost. This mistake will discourage your reader from reading your work to completion, and an editor will return your manuscript with a big red POV scrolled in the margin.

    Monday, June 9, 2008

    How to Write a Fantasy Novel - Plotting

    The following four exercises are specifically designed to develop creative writing skills in relation to the fantasy novel plot.

    1) Create a Character: The Fantasy author must know everything about their character. In a list, name and describe the character. Name family members and history from the character's family tree. Name local towns and describe industry and culture of the hero's home. Name friends, and people they might meet. Decide on the hero's level of education, diet, and reaction to various traumas. Delve into their personality and know if they are aggressive, passive, carefree or stressed to the max and why and how these traits will effect them on a quest. Once the writer knows their character and has grasped their traits, they can move to the next exercise.

    2) Every Fantasy Plot has a Quest: Introduce a quest to the character created in exercise one. How will the trouble impact on the character, his family, his town, country or friends? What are the consequences if he fails? Decide if the threat Is related to a person, creature, prophesy, invasion, magic source or natural disaster. Define how magic works in the hero's world. Who can use it, how does it work, and what are the limitations need to be set in the writer's mind before the take begins.

    3) The Journey: Now the hero has a quest to fulfill, it is the writer's task to make the journey interesting and provide means for the characters to grow and discover their strengths and somehow come to terms with the magical elements of their world. Imagine three or four different scenarios in which the hero can solve the problem facing them. Keep in mind things the hero might need to learn before they can achieve a result.

    4) The Scenario: Go through each scenario, and throw a spanner in the works. If things go wrong, how will the confrontation end? Look at the problem and find any reasons why the scenario would not work. If things get difficult, how will the scene play out? Without killing the hero, (assume if it doesn't kill them, it will make them stronger) how can the problem be resolved? Putting the hero through his paces can show you where he needs to grow and what is needed to make the plot work.

    Meanwhile having a few ideas of where things can go wrong and yet be resolved, develops a character that gains strength by facing situations linked to the original problem of the quest.

    Sunday, June 8, 2008

    Lords and Vassals as Characters

    No matter what fictional genre you write, some part of the fictional world anchors to the real world. History provides a generous wealth of ingredients to mix and blend to achieve a unique world, but one that readers can relate to and understand. When writing fantasy, lives of kings, knights, nobles and earls come to life when writers take the time to learn from history. Take for example the lives of lords and vassals from a slice of history when Richard the Lion Heart served as king.

    Learn enough historic detail to paint a realistic setting. For example, during King Richard's reign, fierce northern tribes known as the Vandals and Goths sacked major civilized areas. As the countryside settled, every man's goal was to own land. The strongest warrior made himself lord of the conquered land. He retained a large sector for himself, and divided the remaining parcels among loyal followers. In return, these faithful men agreed to fight for and pay taxes to him. Every man living on the land owed the lord some service in return. The men serving the lord were his vassals.

    Even though lords were usually noblemen, a lord could also be a vassal of a larger landowner and more powerful lord. The land dividing process continued to the smallest fragment, but provided the means for every man to have something they called their own (even though in reality they didn't "own" the land). The cost for the land was loyalty and service to the lord.

    Becoming a Vassal

    When a man agreed to serve as vassal, it wasn't by force but a willing agreement. A vassal knelt before the lord, bareheaded and unarmed, during the homage ceremony and agreed to pay homage. The homage ceremony ritual required the vassal to place his hands in the lord's hands and promise to be "his man." This worked like a signed legal document and meant he would fight for him.

    The vassal did homage to receive a fief" "a fee or feud held of a feudal lord, a tenure of land subject to feudal obligation."[1] The estate of a feudal lord would be called a fiefdom rather than a kingdom. A fief could be land, a position or the granting of a special permission. As long as the vassal continued his service, the land belonged to him and his heirs. This system of granting fiefs (or feuds) is known as the feudal system.

    Vassal/Lord Relationship

    In this fiefdom, the king was the only true owner of the land. All of the lords under the king were tenants of the land but not owners. Because of this, the lord/vassal relationship was based on loyalty, service and protection. The feudal system bound them all together. If the lord lost his land to another, the vassal ran a high risk of losing his home as well.

    To protect his land, a lord would command a small army comprised of vassals who owed him military service. The lord also required his vassals to attend his court and left the enforcement of laws to his vassals. Every aspect of life intertwined the lord with the vassal. One could not exist without the other.

    Lords gathered wealth by requiring payment of tribute. Tribute included payments on marriage of the lord's daughter, knighting of his eldest son; and tax upon a vassal who inherited a fief. Lords had the right to collect tolls, and duties on merchants traveling through his land. Unlike taxes today, the lord could not continue to raise new taxes, for no new tax or obligation could be levied unless agreed to by the vassal once the homage ceremony had taken place.

    Vassals usually retained the right to tax within their lands. Vassal's rights were made clear at the homage ceremony. It made the agreement clear to both sides. Each understood what they could or could not do. If the lord violated his agreement and tried to exceed his authority, vassals had the right to rebel.

    Social Class

    The feudal system included many classes of people. Nobles considered themselves soldiers and above working with their hands. A child born to a noble enjoyed the same freedoms as his parents because a child was born into the same class as his parents. Only nobles could become knights, barons and earls.

    The eldest son of the noble inherited the manor (a self-sufficient country whose capital was the lord's castle). If the lord didn't have a son, the manor would be divided among the lord's daughters and the wealth used to pull together a good marriage arrangement. If a son did inherit the manor, the father often wed his daughter to one of his knights and reduced the harshness of his son-in-law's required service.

    Applying It to Fantasy Writing

    Use history to enrich your fantasy world. The feudal system is ripe with possible scenarios involving rouge vassals, jealous daughters that don't inherit the manor, and on the flip side stories of lords and vassals that become true friends willing to fight to the death. When writing fantasy, include enough reality for readers to latch onto as they enter your new magical reality. In a world where loyalty makes it work, divided loyalties make for an interesting plot. Look for threads in history that interest you, and weave them into something fanciful.

    Wednesday, June 4, 2008

    Fantasy World History

    Every world has a history. It's part of what makes a place interesting and unique. Use the following categories to help develop that sense of history while writing your fantasy novel.

    History: The back story in a Fantasy novel can give depth to an epic tale. Each Fantasy author should know in detail the background of each landscape they create.

    Landscape: It is not only the characters, created to people the Fantasy world that need a history, the author should create the landscape from the ground upwards. Geography, topography, flora fauna, climate and seasons need to be defined, within the author's mind. Although they may not be mentioned as such in the epic saga, these concepts will help sculpt the terrain through which the characters move and interact. From the origins of the dirt, to the star systems above, the phases of the moon and the passing seasons, the author must manage the calendar as they write.

    Culture: The histories of the people of the world need to be considered. The successful Fantasy author will know the reasons for specific cultures, particular deities, and conflict between countries, states, or villages. They will know of any tyrants, biological threats, plague, storms that have affected the culture and progress of their world.

    Industry: Economics, access to trade, education, mining, and industry must be considered if the author wants to create a world that readers can experience. The Fantasy author need only have an idea of these concepts but being able to refer to such things while writing, adds another dimension to their writing.

    Once the world exists in the author's mind, they can move closer, as if zooming in on the action.

    Using Backstory: Introducing back story in a fantasy is a skill the successful author must learn. If the author has the information clear in their own mind, it is not always necessary to relate it in depth for their readers. Small snippets of detail can be used in dialogue, internal monologue, or narration. This can give enough description without becoming boring, detracting from the action or, more importantly they don't become an information dump.

    'Tonight is the Feast of Beloved Brothers.' The hero cast his mind back to the legend that elders told through the long winter nights. The tale told of the brothers who fought off the fiends in the wilds around Wherever, to save the people of the small hamlet from certain death. Then people thought the Longest Winter would never end. Faces pales as memories roused. All around the table knew the fiends gathered again, as winter deepened and game became scarce. 'Gather one and all and let us give thanks.'

    If the information is not vital to the story, leave it out. The reader doesn't need to know the whole story, just the vital bits. The what and the why, rather than the what came before. See how the next example gives the same information without the info dump.

    'Tonight we celebrate the Feast of the Beloved Brothers and remember their heroism.' The hero glanced around the table. Faces paled knowing that as winter deepened and game grew scarce, the fiends the brothers drove off, again threatened the village. 'Gather one and all and let us give thanks.'

    Things To Do
    1 Create a Fantasy world.

    2 Decide how long each day, season and year lasts. What class is the rock below the ground? Is it one readers would recognize? e.g. limestone, granite, sandstone.

    3 What type of trees, crops and herbivores can the people cultivate or hunt?

    4 What threats do they face?

    5 How advanced is their economy, architecture, steel making, medicinal knowledge? Do they have a monarchy, autocracy, or democracy?

    6 If there are countries at war, why? Is peace possible?

    7 What else can you provide as historical reference material for your unique world?

    Keep this information handy to use for reference.

    Jump Start Your Muse With Writing Prompts

    Over the years I've learned that using writing prompts generates stories that I didn't even realize I had in me. In fact, my first published short story came about through a writing prompt. The story had to include a crime that took place in a bathroom. Now who would ever think of that story without being prompted? It generated the story Shelter in the Shadows which can be found in the anthology Who Diet in Here? My first and only published mystery.

    How and When to Use Writing Prompts

    1. If you're a seasoned writer, you may have had times where you run into that wall known as writer's block. I've known some writers who give up for months or more when battling this creative blockade. Instead, turn to writing prompts as a source of inspiration. They can jump-start your imagination and get your writing again.

    2. Use writing prompts as your warm up for the day like a primer to pump your muse.

    3. Visual prompts work too. To practice writing description, challenge yourself with a visual prompt. A good source for this is children's encyclopedias. They have all kinds of interesting items to choose from whether it's from nature or history. If you want to learn how to describe a knight's armor or flowers in the valley this is a great resource.

    Another resource to turn to are the numerous stock photo sites available today on the web. You can look up photos by category and use them as visual writing prompts which help focus your creativity in the direction you want it to go.

    4. In my creative writing book Pumping Your Muse, I often challenge writers to step outside and go for a walk to promote creativity. In fact, that's what inspired this book. I went outside at dawn and thought about how I could describe the beauty I witnessed in one sentence. Thus that morning gave birth to a writing exercise I call the once sentence rule which can be used as a prompt each day.

    This book is full of prompts and exercises and following them has contributed to the completion of both of my fantasy novels. In fact the fantasy world found in my book Windwalker gave birth in a drainage ditch while on one of these walks...but that's another story for another day. The thing to note is that it all came about by using a prompt!

    5. Shopping for prompts is a fun way to get out of the house and nourish your muse. You don't even have to go into a store. Just wander through the mall looking in store windows. Find interesting items and make note of them. Take a little notebook or recorder to store up your treasured prompts for later. The following week choose items from your list and challenge yourself to write about them.

    Or while at the mall instead of looking for items keep your eyes open for characters. People watching extends an invitation to a variety of interesting characters to enter the realm of your imagination. Take the ideas spurred by the people you see home and write.

    Plan to Write

    Don't let writer's block beat you. Instead, make a plan to write. Even if it is 20 minutes a day, exercising your muse will keep it strong healthy and vibrant. Consider writing prompts as a source of vitamins that promote creativity.

    Monday, June 2, 2008

    Edit Your Fantasy Novel - Part 2

    While self-editing, think how the reader will view your work. Remember if you are to become a famous author, every word counts. When presenting your fiction writing to a publisher, (even more important if you plan to self publish), ensure you follow these simple rules.

    As you are self-editing your fiction writing, keep these tips in mind.

    Capture the Reader's Interest. Stimulate Curiosity. Don't Tell Everything. Offer Strong Images. Avoid Cliches. Involve the Reader. Keep it Simple. Omit Every Word You Don't Need. Don't Say Things Twice.

    Example One. Capture The Reader's Interest

    Take this sentence:
    'The view, from the spaceport orbiting Oram 18 in the outer reaches of the Maddren Spiral, did not capture the interest of the Regency Baron or his associates as they sat around a viewing pod.'

    In fiction writing the fatal error here is when the Fantasy writer uses the words 'did not capture the interest . . .' Here the writer has immediately lost the interest of their reader. They have indirectly told us that this is not interesting.

    Compare the sentence when we change those words.

    'The view from his private spaceport, orbiting Oram 18 in the outer reaches of the Maddren Spiral, captured interest while his associates crowded a viewing pod.'

    Offer Strong Images. Notice how the writer's of 'crowded,' rather than 'sat' improves the strength of the sentence. When writing fiction or epic fantasy, always use strong verbs and positive writing.

    Example Two. Involve the Fantasy Reader

    'The aroma of rich coffee, brought from Old Earth, aroused the senses of the hero.'

    With this example:
    'As the hero inhaled preparing to speak, the aroma of rich coffee brought from Old Earth aroused his stimulated senses.'

    Here the fantasy writer has adopted limited character driven point of view, rather than omniscient. This is one way to involve the reader. The reader is aware of the character's impressions. We see through the character's eyes, we share the character's feelings and emotions.

    Example Three. Keep it Simple.

    Compare this example:
    'The hero signaled a drone to provide guests with a sample of the drink, before he drew their attention to the latest news from Rampart 6.'

    With this:
    'The hero's signal prompted a drone to provide each guest with a sample of the beverage. Only then did the baron draw attention to the latest news from Rampart 6.'

    Edit any sentence longer than 25 words. Take care of grammar. Make sure each pronoun applies to the right subject. In the first sentence, which character drew attention to the news? The baron or the drone?

    Example Four. Avoid Cliches. Offer Strong images

    'Above the hero, the sky turned black, lightning cut across the dark sky. As sudden night dropped across the valley, the strange storm tore vegetation and rubble from the earth.'

    With this:
    'Above the hero, lightning shredded sudden night, while an unnatural tempest stripped vegetation and rubble from the earth.'

    Omit unnecessary words. Provide stronger images. The writer does not need 'the sky turned black', since 'sudden night' conveys the same image. Avoid cliches like 'the sky turned black,' 'dark night' and 'dropped across the valley' are all pretty cliched. The verbs cut, dropped and tore can be replaced by stronger verbs.

    Consider how the fantasy writer offers stronger images in the second sentence.

    Things to Do.
    Try to apply these rules to your own fantasy writing. Read the work of famous authors, explore epic fiction writing titles and see how other writers use these tips to keep their writing tight. Always keep a list of tips, hints and words to avoid, close at hand. Add to it whenever you come across any way to improve your fiction writing.

    Example List of Words to Avoid.
    Was, Were, Had, That, Still, Felt, Noticed, Saw, Just, Nice, Thought, Up, and Down. Also, avoid vague words like Really, Beautiful, Dark, Almost, Very, Just and So.

    Sunday, June 1, 2008

    Edit Your Fantasy Novel - Part 1

    Once your epic manuscript is penned, leave the novel to age for a few weeks, or months. Then take the time to polish your work before pursuing publishers. This isn't the signal to panic, but to take a deep breath and spend time self-editing your story. Even more than when you are writing, while self editing, you will need a Do Not Disturb sign. (A lesson learnt from experience.)

    Outline the plot. In contemporary Fantasy the basic plot Arc is when your main character, your Hero embarks, on his quest, gathers a troupe of companions, faces antagonists, develops through conflict and prevails in a climax. All loose ends are tied to the satisfaction of your reader in the denouement. Plot your story keeping to these simple arc guidelines. For fiction writing in the fantasy genre you will need to include some form of magic.

    As you write each scene or chapter, include five instances where the plot is propelled forward. Develop your Hero's character, the conflict, the rules governing your magic, and/or the overall plot. If you find your fantasy scene does not propel the story forward, consider omitting anything that deviates from the plot. Use this simple plot devise to keep your fiction writing tight and your fantasy reader captivated.


    While re reading, and self-editing have a list of things to look for to improve your grammar and your writing. To target the mainstream publisher you must present a polished manuscript. To help you achieve this, keep lists of 'words to avoid.' Check and correct your grammar. Correct the overuse of adverbs, adjectives, passive voice, telling not showing, cliches, repetitive words and phrases, and altered POV.

    Example List of Words to Avoid. Was, Were, Had, That, Still, Felt, Noticed, Saw, Just, Nice, Thought, Up, and Down. Also, avoid cliched words like really, beautiful, dark, almost, very, just and so.


    In English the rules for grammar change from region to region. These differences can cause a great deal of confusion. Once you have the English usage rules for your region, or the region of the publisher and your prospective readers, apply them throughout your writing.

    Read Your Work Out Loud

    Make every sentence flow. Print out your fantasy manuscript once you feel it is polished and you have completed self editing. Everything looks different in print. Go over your writing again on the computer. If possible, seek the help of other readers and writers. Have them review your work and look for plot flaws or errors in your grammar.

    Compare these Examples.
    'deposited roughly onto a rain-drenched beach, coarse sand abraded his exposed flesh, and had coated every surface and filled every crevasse with grit. He ignored the discomfort while struggling against each successive wave, to drag his companion's inert body higher onto the storm battered beach. Coarse sand dissolved beneath him as an undertow greedily tried to suck his heavy burden back into the foamy tide. Against nature's fickle temper, he bravely held ground. He dragged a mouthful of damp air into tortured lungs, and ground grit filled teeth as he waited impatiently for the next incoming surge.'

    Remove unnecessary adjectives, adverbs words ending in ly had, pronouns, gerunds words ending in ing and try again.

    'deposited on a rain-drenched beach, coarse sand abraded exposed flesh, coated every surface and filled every crevasse. Ignoring his discomfort, he struggled to drag his companion's body higher up the beach with each successive wave. Sand dissolved beneath him as a greedy undertow reneged on the ocean's bounty, trying to suck his burden back into the foamy tide. Against nature's fickle temper, he held his ground, dragging air into tortured lungs.'

    Again, cull every unnecessary word and simplify.

    'deposited on a beach in driving rain, he ignored the discomfort of clinging sand. With each successive wave, he lifted his companion's body higher onto the beach. A greedy undertow dissolved the sand beneath him but he held ground against nature's fickle temper. Dragging air into tortured lungs, he waited for the next incoming surge.'