Category Archives: Craft & Technique

How to Write a Compelling Story Using a Familiar Setting

This article is by Daniel Adorno.

fantasy planetAs a fantasy and scifi geek, the settings I choose for my stories are always quite imaginative. I want to transport the reader to some distant planet outside of our galaxy. Or to a magical realm with a deep history and interesting creatures like centaurs or wyverns flying around. It’s the fun stuff that comes with being a speculative author: worldbuilding.

Unlike realistic genres like thrillers, crime, and romance, the environments in fantasy and science fiction novels are very important. They’re almost another character in the story. Continue Reading

A Beginner’s Guide to Writing Descriptions – Part 2

human mindThis is the second part of my Beginner’s Guide to Writing Descriptions. The first part can be found here.

In this part of the guide I’m relying heavily on the belief that the best images and the strongest impressions we get from stories are those we create in our own minds.

I’m sure there are exceptions to this – as with all rules – but for the purpose of this guide, I’ve chosen not to dwell on that. If you have a good example of an exception though, please share it in the comments.

The guide is divided into three parts: Continue Reading

A Beginner’s Guide to Writing Descriptions – Part 1

pen writingNow and then – both on the forums here on Mythic Scribes and elsewhere – I come across the question about how to write descriptions. This guide is meant as an introduction for beginners and will start with the very basics on how to set up, and write, a description of something.

In this part I will touch upon three things:

  • First Impressions
  • Where to Start
  • What to Include

This guide is based on personal opinions and experience. These are not rules for how to write descriptions, but rather an explanation of what works for me. Continue Reading

Setting Stories in My Own Backyard

TuskersThis article is by Duncan McGeary.

I’ve never subscribed to the notion that one must “write about what you know.”

I mean, what do I know about a wild pig apocalypses?  Or vampires who evolve?  Or Donner Party werewolves?  Or Bigfoot and gold miners?

This stuff is spun out of my imagination, and even when I research, I like to have the basics correct while I allow my ingenuity to create the rest.

But I see no reason why I can’t set my stories in places I know, as much as possible. Continue Reading

The Power of Symbolism

symbolsThis article is by Jacob Gralnick.

How do you convey an entire idea, feeling, or characteristic without saying a word?

The same way you can foreshadow a future event in subtle passing, and you can do that with a little nifty thing called symbolism.

Used correctly, and at the right time, symbolism can add meaning and depth to your writing on the subconscious level and propel a simple passage to one that rivals bestseller and Hollywood quality scenes.

The best part: it’s as simple as whittling. Continue Reading

How to Balance Creativity with Story

balanceSurprising a reader requires that an author think differently from others.  As I mentioned in my previous article, being creative means finding new material to trigger ideas in your mind, or digging deeper for ideas in the material you have.  But when I showed my post to my wife, she referred to it as the “Darlings Workshop.”

That is, it’s what you use to create all the ideas you’re just going to have to cut later.

There can be a fine line between the creative choice and the bizarre choice, the clever idea and the idea that doesn’t fit, the solution that surprises readers and the one that yields eye rolls.  Continue Reading

Help! I Accidentally Wrote a Novel

typingOkay, so the story wasn’t an accident, but its length was.

I searched for any way to pass lonely Wisconsin winter hours while my coworkers paced an empty showroom floor, waiting for clients who needed a vehicle badly enough to brave low temperatures and icy streets.

I hated all of it. In fact, I never meant to sell cars, either. While in school for auto body repair, I turned in an application to the body shop and they sold me the job on the showroom floor!

During slow times, I wrote. I scribbled notes on the backs of financing forms, filled pages of lined paper with a story, and even based my character off my predicament purely for inspiration—not as some sort of immature way to deal with my frustrating job. So what if a few salesmen wizards had a few bad things happen to them? Continue Reading

Surviving Grimdark Fantasy for the Squeamish

grimdarkWhile there is still some debate about whether it’s a legit sub-genre or not, grimdark has become part of the fantasy lexicon in recent years.

I actually like a lot of the authors that some label as grimdark, so I’m a bit torn on if it’s a good or bad thing. The term can be used to define fantasy with more realistic grit, where morals are gray and blood is bright red. Sounds cool to me.

However, on the flip side, it’s also used as a pejorative term for fiction that is perceived as too bleak, dark, and soul-sucking. This being the opposite of the good vs. evil type of conflicts that may be more familiar for fans of fantasy.

Well, I’m here to show you that grimdark doesn’t have to be unpleasant at all. Continue Reading

Focused Ambiguity: Using Metaphor in Fantasy Writing

This article is by Walter Rhein.

Star TrekThere is an inherent paradox in the phrase “focused ambiguity”. Yet the disconnect achieved by putting those two words together approximates the mental state necessary for writing good fantasy.

One of the big mistakes a lot of new writers make in their world building is too much of a focus on practical construction. However, unless the overall theme of your fantasy book is economics, you really don’t need to explain how your “diamond city in the desert” gets enough drinking water to support its population.

An effective novel always has a strong connective thread, and, in fantasy, every character, setting, and action can be molded to function as an integral part of the extended metaphor that supports the novel’s overall theme. Continue Reading

Writing Warfare in Fantasy: A Guide to the Battle Scene

battlefieldThis article is by Aaron Prince.

Few words are as synonymous with mankind as War. As writers, war often influences the stories that we tell. People remember wars, people remember battles, and often these moments are when characters shine, plots reach the point of climax, and readers are drawn into a visceral experience that they won’t forget.

To write about war, to describe battle and it’s horrors, we must first have a basic grasp of this human creation. War is not a jaunt through a field of roses that leaves you smelling fresh on the other side, and should not be depicted as such. Understand war’s meaning first, and then write.

Continue Reading