Writing A Fantasy Series Pt. 1

Christopher Paolini, the young author of the Inheritance Series (Eragon), was featured in The Writer. I was excited as the title was ‘Writing A Hit Series’, and Paolini has created a magnificent world in the 3,000 or so pages of his four novels.

I was disappointed with the interview. The reporter assumed that most of us didn’t know who Paolini is and what he has written. The story focused on a lot of the well-recorded autobiography (that I am sure most of us love) and the decision of the Paolini family to self-publish Eragon and travel around the country selling copies face-to-face.

But there were precious few tidbits regarding writing a series. Paolini structures his stories before he writes them. Fair enough. There are no surprises, we are told, except I wish to point out that Book Three became two books (how do you misplan an additional 700+ pages? – not that I am complaining, Mr. Paolini – you can write several more and I will faithfully buy and read them together with my sons).

My son holding his autographed copy at the midnight release... a priceless moment!

Paolini also stresses the need for a map. He warns that if there is a small mistake in detail between Book One and Four, true fans will notice.

As I continue to put Book Three of the Wycaan Master onto (virtual) parchment, (just passed the 25,000 word mark), I am continually realizing how much I must refer back to keep consistent, whether in language, appearance, or plot.

I love the spontaneity of allowing the plot to unfold. It works for me and it is part of the magic of writing. But I totally understand the value of a structured plan as Paolini suggests.

I keep three lists going: characters, chapter contents, and odds-and-ends. I do not provide much in terms of character appearance and history. I regret this now, as I need to sift through over 200,000 words. Chapter contents are kept brief – 1-2 sentences, but serves to help me refer back relatively quickly. Odd-and-ends is, well, a lot of unresolved issues, detail needed, clan structure and more.

A Great Place to Write Fantasy.

I have no doubt that there is so much more to remember and involved when writing a series. I think when I begin another, I might take more careful notes and listen more to authors like Paolini, Salvatore, and Brooks.

But I also think it is worth it. The depth and richness of a series is an incredible honor to write. More on that aspect next week.

Until then, good writing.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He has written two fantasy novels and the first has reached the Quarter Finals of  the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award as of March 2012. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (@elfwriter).

 

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At The Next Dwarf Mine Turn Left.

I came across this great article by Roberta Osborn called How to Create A Map For Your Novel. It is very cool and I strongly recommend to those of you who are fantasy or sci-fi writers and may be considering drawing a map, that you follow the link.

Two other articles that I found are from Fantasy Faction and a low-tech video.

When writing Wycaan Master, I never thought to draw a map. Only when I began to write a sequel and realized that I had to keep my characters following a certain geographical framework did I consider making one.

Given that I have no artistic talent, and that my son who helped me write and edit, better understands which end of a pencil is which, I charged him with the task. Being of prime pre-teen material, he refused. In the ensuing negotiation, we agreed to tackle it together.

We went through the manuscript and highlighted every change in direction, every named mountain range and forest. He then took a piece of paper and began to draw. We were soon off the page and took another piece of paper and, utilizing cutting-edge technology, taped the two pages together. They soon blossomed into several pages at unruly angles one to the other, with absolutely no way the map could be folded.

it was clearly destined to be crumpled, torn, and otherwise abused. Today, it sits somewhere in our humble abode under a pile of mutually discarded papers that are not yet quite trash-worthy. It is a tragic tale.

As I look through the articles above, I am struck with a series of questions for those who read epic fantasy. Remember, that I am new, if enthusiastic, to the genre. If you have the energy please answer any or all of the following questions.

1) Do you look at a map at the beginning of a fantasy novel? If so, how much do you study it?

2) Do you refer back to the map as you read the book?

3) Is there any room in epic fantasy for a GPS?

Answers to the first two questions will be greatly appreciated.

Have a great weekend,

Alon

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He has written two fantasy novels and the first has reached the Quarter Finals of  the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award as of March 2012. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (@elfwriter).