Wednesday, March 26, 2014

My Guest: Paul Cude

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...

Paul Cude

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 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. 

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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
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answer. Odd, 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.'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.


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:

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 @  

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

My Guest: Gunnar Angel Lawrence

My Guest this week has chosen to tackle a difficult question that many writers are asking: What do readers want these days? Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present...

Gunnar Angel Lawrence

Television and Movies Have
Changed Your Readers

An article in a law magazine once detailed the problem prosecutors are facing that they dubbed “The CSI Effect”. Jurors are more knowledgeable about crime scene investigative techniques and procedures all thanks to the last decade of being exposed to the hit television series 'C.S.I.'  They expect DNA to snag the bad guy, and prosecutors are having a more difficult time trying cases with circumstantial evidence. Like it or not, today’s entertainment at the movies and on television has changed the culture. It has changed what readers look for in a good read.

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Now, I am from what others would call, ‘The Old School’ when it comes to my selection in books to read. When I was in high school, Bram Stoker’s 'Dracula' was one of my favorites, I read ‘Moby Dick’, ‘The Scarlet Letter’ and the rest of the classics. And I enjoyed them all. The style of writing varied wildly but the story was communicated to a generation of people without the experience of seeing the vivid descriptions in motion the way people can today with television and movies. Our collective attention spans as a whole have been whittled down to twenty and thirty second ‘sound-bites’.

In an interview not too long ago, Steven Spielberg stated that his film 'Jaws' would not be as successful today as it was 39 years ago because the audiences are different. And audiences are different because of producers like him. The audience today would not wait until three-quarters of the movie is over before the ‘monster-reveal’. In the same way that the audiences of
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movies are different today, the readers are different too. They are different because of television and movies.

Think about writing from the perspective of someone watching a movie. In this example, we’ll use the classic, 'Return of the Jedi'. The opening sequence of the film begins with the massive newly constructed Death Star hovering in space. Forty years ago a book describing the scene could wax eloquently on the silence and stillness of the vacuum of space, the colors of the spaceship and serenity of the planet sized weapon of doom. Three pages of excessive detail would paint a picture for the reader to ‘see’.

Today’s reader would tire after the third paragraph of description and want the action. The shuttlecraft bearing the evil Emperor, the landing in the Death Star bay and the opening dialogue between Vader and the Emperor would have to be forefront and compelling. Descriptive is good, but in a generation of people who have grown up watching action movies and television shows, they don’t have the patience that we ‘old-timers’ had for waiting on that picture to be painted for us.

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Many of these readers also don’t want to read chapters consisting of fifty or more pages, they don’t care that the chapter divisions sometimes make sense that way. They are reading during their commute to work, or in between tasks they are doing at home, so they want snippets. They want short manageable sections to read and then stop. For those that love thrillers, look at the pattern of shows like '24' or 'Alias'. There are multiple story lines progressing over the entire episode, each with a set of challenges that mesh together at the end. The frustrating cliff-hanger ending at the conclusion of each episode has the fan screaming but they come back for more every week. And a mini-cliff hanger at the end of these snippets form a chapter that forces the reader into the ‘one-more chapter before bed-time’ mode.

Two, three and sometimes even four POV’s move the overall story along and provide a more suspenseful arc to keep fans watching. When a book has one POV, usually the protagonist, it’s like the novels of the past. When writing for today’s lover of thrillers, at least in my case, I try to write to the pacing of one of these type of thriller shows. There’s a lot going on, in multiple locations with multiple characters and it sort of gels toward the end as they come together to achieve their goal. These days, that is what I like to read. I like to ‘see’ the action unfold before me, whet my appetite for things to come and keep reading.

The readers want to ‘hear’ the infamous ‘24’ ticking time clock in their minds as they finish the last few lines of a chapter, they want to keep reading, because the action doesn’t stop. They don’t care all that much that the protagonist had a lousy relationship with his or her father, although it may add something to the story. It’s all about what is happening, leaving the ‘why’ sometimes altogether neglected.

We can lament all we wish that today’s readers won’t experience the richness of Hemingway or Melville because of this ‘different’ culture that they have grown up in, or we can embrace it and use it to keep our readers entranced.
After years of ghostwriting thrillers, conspiracy novels and mystery books, Gunnar Angel Lawrence has published his first thriller. He is a native Floridian with a love for writing thrillers, mysteries and action stories with fast pacing and a unique twist. He lives in Saint Cloud, Florida with his dogs and is currently single. Most of his time is spent working on the sequel to 'The Perfect Day' which is entitled, 'The Consortium'. The tentative date for release is early 2015.


Thank you, Gunnar, for an interesting and informative article. Looking forward to reading 'THE CONSORTIUM' shortly.

Eric @