Make Anachronisms a Thing of the Past

I don't actually know how much this post will help you in ridding your works of pesky anachronisms, but the title just seemed to clever to resist. If you're not already familiar, an anachronism is a literary, spatial or temporal (usually temporal) transplant. A detail, a phrase, an expression, a device, or really anything else could be an anachronism; most commonly these are stock expressions or devices of our own time that we accidentally put into our works. Nor are they unique to literature, as there are plenty of examples in movies and other media. For instance, perhaps a period movie might show cars from a later model year driving around in the background. Or my personal favorite, when an author or screenwriter has archers "fire" their arrows, an expression which could not predate the advent of firearms. This last one even made its way into The Lord of the Rings movies (notably during the battle at Helm's Deep).

Building the Learning Curve

In any book, the author must introduce the characters, the situation, and the basic elements of the setting, but in fantasy and science fiction you might have a viewpoint character in the first chapter who isn't even human, living on a planet that isn't even in this universe. The very laws of physics might be different, never mind the differences in culture, history, civilization, and everything that goes along with that: systems of measurement, idioms, naming conventions, philosophical principles, mathematics, science...speculative fiction strives to introduce and immerse a reader in a world that might be completely different from that with which we are familiar.

M.A.C.E. Versus M.I.C.E.

Creative writing, or the speculative fiction genre, has long leveraged something called the MICE quotient. I first came across this when I was reading an Orson Scott Card book on how to write science fiction and fantasy (I think it was even titled How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy). The premise is that stories in the speculative fiction genre can be broadly binned as having one or more of four, primary drivers: milieu, idea, character, and event. Although most good stories will incorporate multiple of these components, with different ones emphasized at different times, there is usually one that drives the story forward.

Read On

I admit, this post is a little self-serving. It benefits me if you read more, and if more people read; I am an author, after all. It also might be ineffectual; if you're on this site, reading this blog post, you're probably already a reader, and I don't need to convince you of the benefits and importance of continuing to read - you'll do that, anyway. However, this is not just a creative ploy to present a moralistic argument for why you should really go read more Blood Magic (although you absolutely should do that). Every now and then, I'll be telling a friend about a great book that I just read, or I'll recommend a book, or I'll be telling someone about my own most recent writing efforts, and their response will be something along the lines of "I try not to read anything more complicated than The Very Hungry Caterpillar."

Where’s the Science Fiction?

Broadly, I classify my writing as speculative fiction, which includes the genres that are typically shelves under both the fantasy, and science fiction categories. Yet, you will notice that the majority of my works, both published so far on the site, and in progress, fall in the fantasy genre. Considering that my "real" job involves working with advanced, experimental satellites, that might seem somewhat counter-intuitive, and indeed I've gotten a lot of questions recently about why I don't write more science fiction. So, I've decided to try to provide an answer, other than the fact that I'm not nearly as skilled or imaginative, to why I'm not the next Isaac Asimov.

Stories Come From Somewhere

No, it's not a magical fairyland. No pixie whispers into my brain what I should write next, what stories I ought to tell. Actually, I don't think that very many stories could come from a magical fairyland, if such a place existed. It would be too nice in such a magical place, and stories, at their heart, require a digression from the pleasant or the normal. Otherwise, there would be nothing worth reading, much less writing. Which is not to say that there couldn't be a magical fairyland in which things don't go beautifully, but let's leave that possibility be for the purposes of this discussion.

Plausible Impossibility

If you've been a follower of the site for awhile, you may remember the post "Written in a Corner." In that post, I mentioned that I would write another post addressing the topic of plausible impossibility, which is an important concept in speculative fiction writing. Of course, if you've been a follower of the site for awhile, you probably also have realized that I'm not always very good at following up on these post ideas that I drop in my posts in anything approaching a timely fashion. Don't worry, I'll get to it eventually. In this case, it's only taken me a couple months.

DUNE Review

Ultra-tough, misunderstood desert cultures can be a slightly overused trope in fantasy writing, especially alternative world fantasy. They often crop up as the much-needed army for the beset hero, at just the right time, after the hero properly impresses them and meets some ancient prophecy. It might be that the origin of this tendency lies with DUNE.

Written in a Corner

As I'm working on the Fo'Fonas series, I've made the decision that I'm going to write rough drafts of every novel in the series before I will seek to publish even the first one. I think this will improve the strength of all of the novels, since I'll be able to better tie everything together and generally make for a tighter story. It will also make my job as a writer easier, because I won't be stuck with an immutable origin when I get to later parts of the series.