You’ll enjoy the conversation that follows this post (my readers are the best!), and the original is embedded in the sequel, so you won’t miss anything.
‘A Defense of Fantasy’ (2015)
We all know there’s a lot of drivel out there that gets marketed as “fantasy.” All it takes is one Elf turning to a Dwarf and saying, “We must learn to celebrate one another’s lifestyles,” and the reader is lost to fantasy forever. I wish I could say I invented that example… but alas, I haven’t.
Robert Horton and Ward Bond in the original classic show
People like to ask writers–especially fantasy writers–“Where do your ideas come from?” Well, a lot of my ideas come from dreams. Like this one:
My Fantasy Tool Kit (7): Dreams
Heck, the whole Bell Mountain series started off as a dream. I still haven’t gotten around to using that Wagon Train dream, but I’ll know the right time when I see it.
And now stay tuned for a special treat in the next post…
If you’re writing a novel, you might want to have the whole thing planned out in advance before you start to write it. But I don’t do it that way.
Ask yourself this: Are you a “minor character”? Your book will be full of them. Maybe it’s someone who comes onstage for just a moment to say “Here are the gum boots that you ordered, madam,” and then exits, never to be heard from again. It’s a minor character, and you don’t even need to provide him with a name.
But he has one. He has a life. In his own way, which may never show up in your novel, he has importance.
And if it turns out that you’ll need him again–well, there he is.
This happens a lot for me, in my books. A character has a walk-on, but it turns out to be much more than that: he may even develop into a major character. Orth started out as just a henchman of Lord Reesh; but now he’s Lord Orth, the First Prester. Duke Esdras, confined to a wheelchair, will produce the climax of my current book, Ozias, Prince in Peril. I needed someone to do that, and there he was. Most of your minor characters will remain minor–but you never know. Don’t be too quick to dismiss them!
[And yes, I still have no access to my stats page, no idea of how many views I’ve got today, and heaping piles of frustration.]
Here he is in the movie.
I don’t know if I’ve ever achieved this as a story-teller: moved readers to love a character whom I made up. But J.R.R. Tolkien achieved it.
Loving a Fictional Character
Old King Theoden! Some of the things he says and does move me practically to tears. Maybe it’s because I’m so used to covering nooze dominated by characters who would definitely be on the Mordor team if they were in The Lord of the Rings. Where else would you put Chuck Schumer?
We need more models of goodness. Maybe if we had more, it’d start spilling over into our public business.
Worth a try, at least.
When I sit down to work on a novel, it’s usually with no preconceptions for that day. I start with a prayer asking the Lord to give me the story and to help me tell it. There’s much to be said for mapping out everything in advance; but I don’t do it that way.
I reckoned I needed, oh, five more chapters to finish Ozias, Prince in Peril; but I didn’t know how to end the book. I had only the faintest wisps of an idea for that. And I needed someone to perform the climactic act.
That would be Chapter Set No. 7. Bowing to the cold weather, I stepped back from No. 7 and thought I’d better type up, edit, and polish sets 5 and 6.
So there I am, typing up the first chapter of the 5th set–and bam! I run smack-dab into the very man I need to shape the climax and carry it out. There he was, written up two months ago, just waiting for me to call on him.
What was he doing in the book, in the first place? Well, he was a very minor character and I was using him as an observer, so that the reader could see things that he sees. An old duke whose battling days are far behind him. He’s in a kind of wheelchair.
And he’s just perfect for the part that it turns out I need him to play!
I mean, how cool is that? How does that even happen? I create these minor characters and the next thing I know, I’m giving them big jobs. They’re not so minor, after all.
It’s one of those things that makes my books fun to write. I hope they’re just as much fun to read.
We had frost last night, but the sun came out today so I was out there again, plugging away at writing Ozias, Prince in Peril. Let no one tell you writing novels is an easy job: my father used to call it “the life of Riley.” I got pretty sick of Mr. Riley after a time.
Maybe it was as high as 50 degrees, although I doubt it. In my novel, winter’s just about over and spring is coming. If only! Meanwhile the villains are trying to hunt down Prince Ozias–now king by right, but the Bad Guys hold the palace and the city–and haul Queen Parella out of Lintum Forest, spy-mistress Gwenlann is trying to stop them… and after writing three pages, I was ready to go back to bed with all the covers over me. But this is my calling and I have to do my best.
Some of my friends wonder why I continue to write outdoors when I could just stay inside and do it. My reasons are these: trees, wildflowers, sky, clouds, birds, bees, squirrels, and being able to smoke my cigar without stinking up our dining area. Plus no phone calls.