Fantasy worlds populated with dragons, magic and sword-wielding heroes are one of the most popular subjects in fiction today. My Guest this week is an author who will highlight some of the most critical issues faced when writing in this genre. Ladies and Gentlemen...
Forging Flaming Fantasy!
Oddly it started with a dream. Sounds a bit crazy really, but one night, when my elder daughter was just a baby (she's11 now) I had the single most realistic dream I've ever had. I didn't remember it until the following day, but when I did, I swear it was just like watching a movie in my head.....so graphic, so intense, so.....mesmerising. Anyhow, I told my wife, who was gobsmacked to say the least. And so was what she said to me, "You have to write it, you just have to." At the time I laughed off her idea, bearing in mind that at the time I could only type with two fingers. But over a period of I suppose months, I kept getting more dreams, flashbacks into the story.......sometimes little details, sometimes insights into the characters, sometimes twists and turns to do with the plot. In the end I suppose looking back it was inevitable that I would write it. First I taught myself to type properly......3 months, and then, well.........I began.
At first I needed complete silence to be able to write, something there wasn't a lot of bearing in mind I was taking care of one young child, with another on the way. But over time I've learned to filter it all out and can now write with the kids playing around me if I need to, but I still think I do work more efficiently in total silence. But how do you build a fantasy world? Where on earth do you even begin?
Jotting some notes, outlining the story of course. But for me, it was more than that. I know this sounds insane, but subsequent dreams were so real. Sometimes I'd wake up in the morning with a certain smell playing through my nostrils, the perceived taste of a charcoal fajita clinging to the back of my dry throat, or the 'whoosh' of a monorail door sliding closed, echoing through my ears as I headed towards the shower. So not only could I see the story running through my head, I could taste, smell and hear all the elements that made it so vivid. All of this brought a whole new aspect to my writing. I thought I'd be sitting, staring at a screen and a keyboard, words fluttering effortlessly from my fingertips. Instead, I'd quite often be overtaken by the sounds, smells and tastes of the world I was trying to create, as well of course as the imagery.
It didn't take long before things stepped up another level. I found myself with questions I couldn't
particularly given it was my world that I'd created, to which the questions
pertained. But these were facts....real world questions that needed real world
answers. In my wildest imagination, both in my dreams, and at my desk, I never
once thought I'd be trying to work out things like the top speed a dragon can
fly at. Well, when you think about it, it really shouldn't make much
difference. Should it? But I had a group of dragons travelling half way across
the world, underground. There needed to be details. Oh well, I'll guess then.
But it's not as easy as that. It never is. 'What about the speed of
sound?" I hear you say. Hmmm...you're right of course. If, as a given,
these dragons live and work underground, well most of them anyway, then flying
beyond or close to the speed of sound has to be out of the question. The sonic
boom would destroy everything in their wake. That would be the shortest-lived
fictional world ever. After that I had to work out the underground route they'd
take from Europe to Antarctica, and then how long it would take them to get
there. At about this time I was starting to envy Star Trek's transporter
technology. How much easier would that make things? After all, I think I'm
right in saying that it was invented in the original series to save time and
make it easier to get from the ship down to the planet every week.
This was only the opening chapter of my book, and there were so many things that I just hadn't bargained for. I thought I could sit and imagine underground monorails, packed with soft, giant dragon-sized seats, zooming beneath the surface of the Earth, deftly describing the noise the doors would make, or the feeling of the warm air as it exited the tunnels at the stations, caressing the cracks between a dragon's scales, warming their blood, making them feel alive. But it couldn't be that easy, even with something as simple as that. There were the G forces to consider, what route the monorail would take, and would it go through geologically unstable areas or around? And the seats. There can't be a problem with the seats, surely? Dragons using the monorail would not only be in their normal form (solitus) but would also be travelling in their mantra enhanced human disguises (mutatio). Dragons like this would look like tiny action figures sitting in huge, oversized dragon seats. How very stupid. Also, just how would a dragon in its natural form sit down on a seat in a monorail carriage? You're all shouting, 'REALLY CAREFULLY', I can hear you. No, I mean......wouldn't its tail get in the way? So how do you overcome that problem?
Again it's imagination vs the laws of physics. I won't tell you the answer - for that you'll have to read the first book in the series. But as a fantasy writer, it seems to be one constant battle between these two forces. Often there's more than one answer. But it seems all about finding the right balance. So while I would always encourage you to let your imagination loose, explain the sounds, the feel of the fabric, the mouth-watering taste of the foods, the overpowering smell of fear from an unbeatable battle and describe the scene as vividly as you see it in your head.
Always remember the imagination/physics balance, because if you don't, it'll come back at some point later on and assume the form of a hulking great, prehistoric, matt black dragon, circle over you, like a leaf falling in the wind, before swooping down at much less than the speed of sound, and rip your head off.
Eric @ ericjgates.com
As for me.........I look after my two girls, and when they're at school I'm a teaching assistant. I love playing hockey, and help coach kids, mine included. Other interests include reading, building computers, squash, cycling, great days out with my wonderful wife and kids, as well of course as WRITING! I've just published my second book in the 'Bentwhistle' series, called 'Bentwhistle The Dragon in A Chilling Revelation'
When Paul is not using mantra spells to create more dragon mayhem, he can be located here:
Amazon Author Page http://www.amazon.co.uk/Paul-Cude/e/B007339206/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0
Thank you, Paul, for an interesting insight into the creation of believable fantasy; Many new fantasy writers could learn much from your experience, especially the use of sensory data to add a realistic dimension to the worlds they create.
Eric @ ericjgates.com