Over the weekend a friend brought up a fun anecdote. He told about an author asking his daughter, “How can you kill a vampire?” The daughter responded with what we all know. Stake to the heart, beheading, stick ’em in the stun, holy water, etc. etc. Which any good, self-respecting geek would say. The author responded to his daughter:
“You kill them however the *%&# you want to. It’s your story.”
I think that is something we forget as writers. The best example goes to Twilight. Nearly everyone you meet that hates the series will say the same thing. “Vampire don’t sparkle.” And as my friend said. Yes. Yes they do. In Stephanie Meyer’s story they sparkle.
Now of course we don’t have to like it. But what we can’t say is that a made up fantasy creature doesn’t act a certain way. Who says? Vampires are very well known. But how many of us can agree on what a Troll is? Or Hobgoblin, Orc(k), and Hippogriff?
This is where one of my favorite authors succeeds so well. Everyone should check out Jim Butcher’s work. He has been able to take familiar tropes concerning all your favorite lore, and turn it on its head. Weaving and spinning new ideas into creatures like Werewolves, Vampires, Zombies, and Fairies.
Stephanie Meyer attempted the same thing. We can argue that Butcher has done it better, but they essentially did the same thing. Of course we can argue that Butcher did this much better than Meyer, but that is not the point of this post.
The point is that we often, as SciFi/Fantasy authors, get caught up in the proper way to “kill a vampire.” When there isn’t a proper answer. Because anything you can think of will be the right way. It is your story. Don’t worry about how others will react to your solution to the problems that have already been solved. Who is to say you can’t come up with a more unique way to kill a vampire than from what has already been established?
That would be an interesting writing exercise. Reinterpret fantasy elements that have been done to death. How else can you do a vampire or werewolf. Stretch your mind and see what you come up with. It is something I’ve been doing with my YA book. Taking a look at standard magic tropes and tweaking them.
And who knows. Maybe my vampires will sparkle…
Pfftt, who am I kidding? That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.
Via Wikipedia:Warbreaker tells the story of two princesses, Vivenna and Siri. Vivenna was contracted through treaty to marry the God-King of rival nation Hallendren. Instead Siri is sent to meet the treaty. Vivenna then follows [her] to Hallendren in hopes of saving Siri from her fate. Both sisters become involved in intrigues relating to an imminent war between their home nation of Idris and Hallendren.
This is the second book by Sanderson that I’ve read. The first being “Alcatraz vs. The Evil Librarians.” My review was less than glowing for Alcatraz. The main issue I had being that each chapter started with an aside before getting back to the story. My close friends didn’t agree with me, but that’s why different people like different authors.
So when I came to “Warbreaker” I wasn’t sure what kind of book I should expect to read. I chose this particular one because Brandon released it, for free, on his website. Along with every revision up to the one he sent to his editors for final proofing. So I downloaded version six, loaded it up onto my Kindle, and dove right in.
I’ll start by saying that it took be roughly a third of the way into the book to get invested. It doesn’t help Sanderson that–over the past year or so–I’ve grown weary of fantasy books. I’ve read many over my lifetime, and the prospect of having to learn about new gods, new magic systems, and new races makes me queasy.
But I have to say I was pleasantly surprised with “Warbreaker.” Despite the slow going at first, he presented me with a character that I couldn’t stop reading about–Lightsong.
Here we have a character, a Returned, treated as a god and expected to be a beacon for the people of Hallendren. But unfortunately Lightsong does not believe in his own divinity. In fact, he suspects the entire religion to be false. And that’s what really got me hooked. A god that doesn’t believe in himself? Sign me up!
Sanderson is also regarded as the man of magic systems. An author that creates unique and satisfying ways of portraying magic. I’ve listened to many lectures of his regarding his “laws of magic,” and they are really eye opening and I’ve used them for myself.
However, the magic system here–BioChromatic Breath–doesn’t do much for me. Oh, it’s very interesting and unique. But maybe I was looking for more whizbang than I received. Within the context of the story is functions beautifully. The name BioChroma took me out of the story for a bit, as I felt like a bit of SciFi slipped into my Fantasy. But I had a chance to ask Sanderson about that directly and he offered a good reason behind it.
Overall I really enjoyed the novel. Sanderson built up some great characters that went through wonderful arcs. Their motivations were solid and decisions made sense. He even had me guessing the entire novel on who were the “good” guys and who were the “bad” guys. There were some good twists and surprises along the way.
I would say my major gripe would have been the end and how the war conflict was handled. Despite the heavy foreshadowing throughout the book, it still felt like a Dues Ex Machina moment. But really, that moment wasn’t as important as the more character moments that was shown, so I didn’t really think about it too much.
Now I want to move onto Sanderson’s writing style in general. When I had started reading “Warbreaker” I felt there was something different about it. The entire time I read it I couldn’t put my finger on it. Then, after sitting in his kaffeeklatsch and hearing him talk about the Orwellian style of writing, I saw what was different.
Sanderson writes strictly for clarity. His sentences are simple and straightforward. Rarely does he go for flowery language or complex, metaphorical ramblings. And I have to say I liked it. It read quickly and easily. He wasn’t bothered to have sentences start with the same word one after another. Which is something I try and fight against personally. But with his work it didn’t bother me.
In the end I would definitely recommend this book to others. From what I gather it would be a strong example of his body of work, allowing someone to read it, without feeling like they need to invest in a series.
Score: 83 and a star particle. Would read again.
Part 1 is over here.
If you’ve read this blog for any amount of time you may have caught on that I talk about Brandon Sanderson, a lot. The reason for this being is that he offers all of his experience and thoughts on writing for free. And as a young author–career wise–I can’t get enough of his lectures.
So when there was the opportunity to have coffee and pastries–a Kaffeeklatsch–with him at LibertyCon I jumped at the chance. It was a small, intimate setting with about thirteen other people and Brandon. The atmosphere is free form and he was willing to answer any questions. Most of the other people were there to ask about specific books and get to know “behind the scenes” stuff concerning “A Wheel of Time.”
Me, I was there for his writing knowledge. And I apologize to the fans there for monopolizing his time a bit.
My first question for him was “When you decide to put a book aside and move onto the next one?” You see, Brandon had thirteen books written before he was published. His answer wasn’t what I expected. Apparently he was–is?–the type of writer that would move onto other ideas. He would finish and then skip over to the next book.
What he wished he had learned was the revision process. Which I think a lot of us writers struggle with. We want to finish it and then get it into people’s hands right away. This tends to not work out well for anyone.
I also was able to ask him directly about the word BioChroma in “Warbreaker.” You see, I felt the word was a bit of SciFi that snuck into my Fantasy. His response–which I’ve heard him say before but it clicked this time–was that you have to imagine that fantasy books are being translated for you. So the word choices are the best approximations for the world they are describing.
Makes sense to me. And while the word BioChroma may have taken me out of the story the first time I came across it, the word quickly became a part of the lexicon for the book and was adopted without much trouble.
For those of us writing a series, another writer asked a great question. Does he plot out the entire series first? His response was very reassuring to me. He said he uses a loose outline for the series, but focuses on the first book and finishes it. Once it is done then he plots out the rest of the series.
And this is key, he states that until he finishes the first book he doesn’t know his characters. Until he puts them through the story, he can’t say what they’ll do later on. There have been times, he says, that he’s had to change his plot because the characters ended up reacting differently than he had anticipated. In the end, “character trumps plot.”
This was all very reassuring to me, because I had come to this process naturally. I have a solid idea of my first book with a vague idea of the next seven. I didn’t try to nail down my characters, but they’ve been all too happy to tell me–at times–how certain aspects of the plot should go.
The hour went by quickly. After it we all got up and moved over to one of the meeting halls and listened to Brandon’s lecture on Plot and Characterization.
I didn’t bother getting a picture during the Kaffeeklatch as I was sitting less than a foot from him and thought it would be awkward.
This particular lecture wasn’t much more than I had already heard from his various podcasts and video lectures online. But it was fun to watch him in person. Afterward I shook his hand, thanked him for everything, and was off to other lectures.
I’m going to break my rule of stopping at 500 words and tell you all what I learned about Self Publishing. Once again this panel was moderated by John G. Hartness. In this panel I learned some major things that I wish I had known earlier. I’m going to run through them quickly.
- If you want to go traditional, a small Press that pushes you is better than a large Press that doesn’t.
- Volume will promote you more than anything else.
- All the Risk and Reward are yours.
- Absolute Control/Must know what you’re doing.
- Free to write whatever/Don’t trust yourself to edit.
- Speed/Cash — takes money to get started.
- Better idea of what you’re making/Need more time to invest.
Lastly, and this was eye-opening, with the advent of eBooks we are starting to see novel lengths shorten. Currently, they are going back to the days of pulp fiction/serialized stories. The panel’s suggestion was that it is better to have shorter work that comes out more frequently, than to have a 150k story that takes a year or more.
The idea is simple. Release your work in short story/novella form and charge $0.99 for it. Once you’ve put out roughly four or five, collect them into a single volume and have that for sale at $2.99. This is essentially how Dickens and even Tolkien released their work many years ago.
And lucky for me, I have just the setting and characters I can use for this method.
Thanks to John G. Hartness and Daniel M. Hoyt, I have a great direction to take my Self Published work. Muahaha!
That’s my LibertyCon in a tiny nutshell. It was a great experience and I look forward to going next year.
My next post I’ll be reviewing “Warbreaker,” so come back for that. Until then, everyone needs to get back to writing.
Hey, just wanted to pop in and tell everyone that “Slip Drive” is now FREE on Smashwords. Follow the link to the left and during checkout put in DX83G.
I’m also interested in hearing what people think of it. Good or bad, feel free to leave your thoughts either here or on the Smashwords website.
Life is back to normal. Or, at least as normal as it can be with me in it. Some of you may be aware that I had spent this past weekend at LibertyCon–a SciFi writing convention held in Chattanooga, TN. My main reason for going was two fold. Learn about the industry and get to know professional writers.
Friday was a slow day, but I’ll hit the highlights. I was able to get the first two of three Thrawn Trilogy books signed by Timothy Zahn. Which is super awesome. Because these were the first books I really remember reading. I told him as much, but I think he hears that all the time so was less than impressed.
The big panel for me that night was one on writing for YA. The moderator for it was Holly McClure from Sullivan and Max–an agency–and one other panelist, Jim Minz from Baen Books. The information was fairly good. What I learned was that you can’t be too preachy with any type of message, and that YA is really starting to break a lot of taboos. It is not unheard of to have sex within the book.
While mine doesn’t have any sex, it does let me know that I can get away with more gruesome scenes if I would like.
Saturday was the big day.
I started it off with a panel on Self-Promotion. It was moderated by John G. Hartness, writer of “Bubba the Monster Hunter” and “The Black Knight Chronicles.” When I began to ask questions, Hartness called on me as “Clark”–as I wear thick rimmed, black glasses–which was fine, because it gave me a hook for future panels. They all remembered me from session to session, which I can’t Hartness enough for that. If there is anything I learned from my days in theater, you want to be remembered.
There wasn’t much more I learned in that one, as a lot of what they talked about I already do. As for as social media is concerned. What I drew away from it was that the biggest form of self promotion you can have is Volume. The more work you have out there, the more visible you will be. Which I think we all can tell makes sense.
During the panel I asked, “How do you promote yourself to Agencies/Publishers at a Con?” They responded with telling me about talking with them about your book and getting email addresses. I followed it up with, “And if you happen to have the first five chapters with you?” The entire panel exploded with a resounding, “NO! We don’t want it. We won’t take it home with us.”
So much for getting those chapters together before I went. At least I was over prepared 🙂
After the panel I was heading off to my kaffeeklatsch with Brandon Sanderson. I was on my out of the panel when I was stopped by a nice lady that asked me my name and where she could find my work. I was floored. She was a reader that wanted to find out where she could read my stuff. I felt pretty honored. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to get her name and every time I saw her again I was busy with other stuff.
So, if you’re the nice lady that stopped me outside Gallery AB and asked for my information, and you are reading this now, thank you for making this young author feel like a pro. I hope you enjoy the work and stick around for my future releases.
I’m going to end the wrap up for now. I don’t like for my blog posts to get too long. It is my personal opinion that most people drop out of blogs around the 500 word mark. I could be wrong though.
Check back for Part 2 where I talk about meeting Brandon Sanderson and what I learned from the Self Publishing panel with John G. Hartness.
I’m back from LibertyCon. It was a great experience and I learned a lot more about Self Publishing and met with some very successful authors. There were several highlights, but I’ll leave those for another update.
What I wanted to anncounce was that the two short stories that I currently have out–“Slip Drive” and “Hiroko’s Tale”–are now on Smashwords! So, for those of you that do not have access or do not use any Kindle software, this is your chance to check them out.
I have set Hiroko’s Tale to be free, as I do not believe its length can justify asking for even $0.99.
Here are the links:
Over the week I will be talking about my experience at LibertyCon and what I’ve learned. So keep an eye out for that. Until then, keep writing.
I’m going over the scheduled events for LibertyCon. Once aspect, and something I’ve failed to get across, is that the Con is also geared toward Science and Science-Fiction. So there are panels on straight science fact. Which is rather awesome. I don’t want to focus purely on writing panels, as some of these science panels could lead to story ideas.
I haven’t spoken with my friends that I’m going with yet. But I figured I’d come up with a tentative schedule of things I’d like to do/see.
3:00 – Autograph session. I plan on getting two books signed by Zahn and probably my kindle by him and Sanderson.
5:00 – Opening Ceremonies.
6:00 – Writing Series: Keeping the Reader Hooked
8:00 – Young Adult SF&F
From there I’ll keep things loose. I’m not sure how long my compatriots will want to stay at the Con or when everyone will want to eat.
10:00 – Self Promotion. This will depend on when everyone wants to get in.
12:00 – Plot Characterization with Brandon Sanderson
1:00 – Self Publishing as a viable option
Break for eating probably
4:00 – Guest of Honor speeches
5:00 – The Dark Side of Paranormal
6:00 – Proofreading & Copy Editing Seminar for Self Publishing
7:00 – ‘Packaging a Submission & Polishing to Publish’ Workshop
I’ve got this one packed. But I couldn’t see any way I could miss any of those panels later in the afternoon.
2:00 – Reading by Brandon Sanderson
After Saturday I’m keeping Sunday loose. I’ll go to whatever tickles my fancy. Hopefully my writing friends won’t mind my craziness in wanting to go to all of these panels. If they don’t, well, they are welcome to do whatever they want 😀