Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Two Types of Fantasy Novels - It's In The Language

So, I saw The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian in the theater the other day. C.S. Lewis was one of my favorite authors growing up, so of course I worried that the movie adaptations of his books would fail to do them justice. But I enjoyed the movie version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, so I felt relatively safe from disappointment this time around. And I wasn't let down. The movie was thrilling, moving, and entertaining.

It got me to thinking - not so much about the pros and cons of book versions vs. movie versions (although there is a great article in Time related to that theme here) - but more about how people view different types of fantasy novels. In my mind, there are basically two types of fantasy: general interest and hard core. The Chronicles of Narnia represents my idea of "general interest". These books tend to translate better into movies. They also tend to focus on a younger audience. The hard core fantasy books cater to a generally older, more dedicated group of readers. Readers willing to spend time immersing themselves deep into the language and culture of a completely alien race.

The thing is, the hard core fantasy books can be off-putting to the general public. When done well, the elite of the fantasy reading population will rabidly consume them, but others will stay away precisely because of their world-building success. I had a conversation with my sister that helped to clarify my point (paraphrased for your convenience).

"I find it hard to read those books set in a fantasy world."
"But, you love Chronicles of Narnia."
"Yeah, but that book makes sense. I don't have to remember the name of magical powers or why the characters are afraid of sand."

This strikes me because I'm currently working on my own fantasy novel, and as I write I build this beautiful world in my mind, slinging my favorite sounds around with little regard for how the reader might interpret them. I've already invented words like Shindles, Pelinunc, midara, and chutcakes, just to name a few. To me, happily swimming in my personal world, these things couldn't make more sense. I mean, "midara" is obviously a modified contraction of "my dear," right? Right? Well, I've had people read my work, and it's not so obvious.

So here's the million dollar question: is it better to sacrifice my beautiful words so that a book will reach a wider audience, and potentially translate into other forms, such as film? Or should I keep my words and hope that the right people will appreciate them?

Friday, May 23, 2008

What if? Writing Prompts

One of the few textbooks I kept from my undergraduate college years is the wonderful What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter, which is apparently still in print. This fact surprises me, although the inside cover of the book shows a copyright date of 2004, a mere four years ago. Sometimes it feels much longer than that.

Anyways, I know that I'm not supposed to post online any stories that I intend to have published someday, because that makes the story "previously published" and many publications don't accept previously published works. But I would like to showcase my writing, seeing as this is an emerging writer's blog. So instead of posting stories, I will post my responses to exercises in the book. Feel free to comment, but remember, it's just an exercise, not a work of art!

This post is based on the exercise involving taking risks, and involves writing about an experience that never happened to you. Aka, the opposite of writing what you know.

Sweat trickled down my face as I stared at the airplane's exit door. The plane's vibrations jiggled every square inch of my body, which might have proved relaxing under different circumstances. I scrutinized the door, hoping that action would stop my mind from wandering. I read and reread the words printed on the door until they formed a mantra in my head - incaseofemergencyincaseofemergencyincaseofemergency. In case of emergency? Yeah, right. In a few moments I'd be headed out that door, emergency or no emergency, and nothing at this point could save me unless I wanted to be known as a world-class dork for the rest of my life. I sure as hell wasn't about to take the skydiver ride of shame back down to the ground as the rest of my friends fell thousands of feet, bodies floating free through the sky, their limbs writhing like drunken octopi.

(Exercise from What if? Writing Exercises For Fiction Writers, Copyright 2004, Pearson Longman.)

Monday, May 19, 2008

Urgent Information for New Writers!

I don't normally post twice in one day, but I just ran across an amazing find that I needed to share.

According to the blurb, Duotrope's Digest is "a database of over 2200 current markets for short fiction, poetry, and novels/collections." It has many useful options for searching the database, such as by payscale or genre. I think that it will prove very useful as I begin to submit short stories for publication. And don't forget that it's recommended that a writer read some of the stories from any magazine before submitting, so keep that in mind.

Thanks to Jason Sanford's blog for information about Duotrope, online literary magazine rankings, and also a recommendation for the new Novel & Short Story Writer's Market that I'm going to get right away!

Writeous Writers Unite!

Last Thursday was the first meeting of my new writer's critique group, Writeous Writers. Born out of a class taught by Karen Syed last year, our group meets monthly to hone our craft and whet the stones of our imaginations.

The meeting was a huge success! In fact, it was so successful that I'm already building a website for our group. By the way, Weebly and GoDaddy make an excellent, inexpenisive, easy to figure out solution for creating and hosting a simple website. And all you writers out there know that from the day you first start writing you should have a website, right? Your success will come much more easily if people already know about you before you start submitting manuscripts.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Random Word Generator and Writeous Writers

So I figured since I haven't posted in a while, I should get something up here. I couldn't think of anything, so I turned to a handy Random Word Generator. And guess what - my word was Character! Very fitting, don't you think?

Getting to the essence of a character can be tricky. I haven't known my characters for very long. I find myself putting them in situations where I'm not quite sure how they'll react, and I just have to figure something out. I think that the best way to develop characters is the same way you'd get to know a friend. You start out slow, you ask a few questions, you hang out together, maybe have a misunderstanding or two, but (hopefully) you eventually feel like you understand the other person. Of course, then they throw something completely different at you, and you have to shift your view; but that's what makes friendship, and reading, interesting.

I just remembered one other thing I wanted to mention: I'm starting a writer's group! One of the new members suggested the name Writeous Writers, and I love it. If things go well, I'll set up a website, and perhaps get it listed on the Maryland Writer's Association site. I'm excited. It seems like this is a critique style that will work for me. I've tried subscribing to discussion groups on the web, but they often just deteriorate into flame wars and endless promotions. Hopefully this way I'll spend more time working on my writing, and less time deleting emails.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Travels and Word Counts

Don't have much time to post, as I'm about to head out on a five hour drive, and I've got a big project to work on. However, I did pass the 20,000 word mark a couple of days ago. That means I'm almost halfway done! At my current rate, I could be done with the novel in as little as two months. And who knows, I might get even more done over my break... or, I might get completely sidetracked and not get a chance to write at all!