Saturday, January 26, 2019


Thanks to the west side half-price bookstore I am now the owner of the writer's Digest series called Write Great Fiction. One of the books is Description & Setting. To quote from the section called science fiction and fantasy:  "in your fiction, let your description of futuristic fantastic places be as fanciful as you want them to be, but remember this; they must be, first and foremost, a stage upon which your characters do something that your earthbound readers can relate to."

To this bit of wisdom, I add the wisdom that you must also lay out the rules that the magic in your fantasy must follow. In short, the rules are quite different in Harry Potter's Hogwarts than they are in the Dragon world of the Game of Thrones.

Last spring Anthony and Kristin downloaded the draft first chapter of a novel I had written before 1994. They marked it up and told me everything that they found confusing or flat out wrong. When I came home and took another look at what I had posted I discovered I had forgotten to include the header that explained the setting and rules of magic. Here it is:

From a History Invocation used by Spell-Weather Watchers:

"And The Mother tasted smog in her clean air and acid in her sweet water and cried out at the murder of her great beasts and her beloved rain-forests. In her rage, she ordered the Instant of Change. At her will, the Demons Ohm, Volt and Ampere were vanquished and their foul electricity ceased to pollute her world. And we, her children, trembled before her wrath.

"And she unfettered the Demons of War and Famine and Pestilence to punish us, her children, for our heinous crimes. And in the Time of Chaos many offered their blood to re-nourish her Good Earth. And she ordered the Time of Metamorphosis, and some of her children became Elf, and some Dwarf, and some Fairy, and some Troll, and some remained Original Man. And fierce are the endless wars between the Five Peoples.

"Thus did The Mother replace the Stench of Foul Science with the Perfume of her Magic."

My question at the meeting will be, “Given the setting what sort of magical writing would you expect me to create?”

 ****** when you come to the string of ****** that marks the under 2000 words that everyone should read before the meeting. Everything that you will find afterward will range from an afterthought expanding on what I wish to discuss to the self-published chapters of my 1994 novel.

Monday, November 26, 2018

An Essay on Setting

A mini essay on setting in creative writing. Thanks to the west side half-price bookstore I am now the proud owner of a complete set of the Writer's Digest ' Write Great Fiction' how to do it books. The one on the desk beside me is titled Descriptions & Settings. The how-to page that I am writing about states that everything you include in your description should advance your plot and story. In other words your written description should not just be a collection of what you see around you. When I look over to the corner of the room where I am writing this I see a poster of Robert Doisneau's Kiss at the Hotel De Ville. Suitable for a story about a street photographer who finds himself in serious trouble after snapping a picture of – fill in the blanks. Or it could be the grumpy old grandpa stuffed teddy bear complete with a cane. Suitable for a memoir about my very creative granddaughter after she wins her first Tony award. Not impossible fiction. I just contributed a significant amount of money to help pay for the professional crew coming in from New York who will make the high school girl playing Mary Poppins float around the stage in a play where my granddaughter is the stage manager. And if she finishes her own first play and her teachers approve it the school's drama department will stage it next May. Her high school, now that the family moved to Nashville, is very big on the creative arts. Or the overly expensive digital pen that works with my new Win10 surface book. A pen in the box that is sitting near a stack of large envelopes that might contain a long-lost novel. Only this is the digital age, not the paper age. When I went down into the cellar to find a carrying case for the notebook among the seven several obsolete laptops I had collected over the years I discovered one with an ancient memory stick. Much to my surprise this contained a folder entitled 1994 novel. This novel was so long-lost I had forgotten that I had written it. After some creative format shifting so I could print it out – this was written pre-Microsoft office in the near-forgotten WordPerfect. I showed an early chapter at a casual critique last spring. And listened as Kristin and Anthony pointed out everything that had left them confused in the chapter. Big take away – I had written a fantasy novel and had forgotten to include the most important setting when writing in that genre. The part that explains how the magic works. For example, the magic in Harry Potter is quite different than the magic in the Game of Thrones. I should've started with: The Talisman of the Wildflowers is the first novel of a fantasy series about honorable Men, smelly Dwarfs, ferocious Elves, irresponsible Fairies, and brutal Trolls. Sound familiar? Let's vary the basic plot. In about ten minutes the electricity goes out forever, magic replaces science, and homo-sapiens begin to divide into the five competing Peoples. We pick up the story seventeen years after the Change in a world both magical and ordinary. Zombied dogs and chocolate chip cookies, frenzied demons and bureaucratic politicians, compulsive love spells and zoning regulations-- all become important during the story. For heroines, heroes and villains: Maggie Weaver appears to be only a magic-impaired street peddler and boarding house keeper, but with much hard work and some unsuspected magical talents, she amasses a considerable fortune. With the death of her protector, Mage Fatso Freddy, she faces big problems. Chief among them is Dun&Brad, her banker, who wants to steal her money. In this society were magical talents equals status, Maggie gave up dreaming of respect; she will settle for being left alone. Instead two uninvited magicians become unwanted house-guests. Amy Parker seldom hampers her romantic imagination with mere facts. Forced to assist in her Ma's execution when she was eleven, the teenage street-thief uses her considerable if untrained grasp of high magic to harass anyone with authority. Amy wants to be a magic-warrior, the rock stars of the age, but as she might settle for a dreamy boyfriend. When she get both wishes, she comes to regret it. As Amy gains a matures and begin to understand and use her talents. Her stumbles help drive the main plot. Archmage Allen Devlin seeks the cause of the Blight, a corruption of magic so subtle he still doesn't know if he battles an Elf warlord, Fairy joker, Dwarf high priestess or an other adept. The somewhat chauvinistic mage (he's the type of hero you want to kick occasionally) has everything he wants: more money than he can spend, the freedom to wander about in disguise, and a convenient network of girlfriends who think he's someone else. What he doesn't want is a permanent address, a more or less permanent girlfriend, or the drudge work of being part of a government. In a humorous sub-plot he ends up with all three. Mage Eric the Engineer, is considered a joke by some adepts because of his efforts to apply the discredited techniques of science to magic. Then he discovers power-matrixes, a short-cut method of devising new spells. He wants to impose his version of law and order on the world. When he fights Amy in the Battle on the Cliffs at the climax of Zelda's Comb, will experience and power-matrixes overwhelm youth and raw talent? Evita the Beautiful, the Mistress of Illusions and Eric's cohort, is obsessed by her physical deformities. When she accidentally releases Demon Emil, she is forced to Distances herself and becomes a sea-lion-like serf-breeder in an aquatic alternate universe. She wants to be reincarnated into a better body. In Spice Inc, Evita enchants her and Eric's spirits into Amy's unborn twins. (Amy won her dream boyfriend... for a while.) Can Amy exorcise the evil adepts? Or will she be forced to destroy her own children? A few of the supporting cast: Corrine, Maggie's orphan niece, used to be the "nicest kid in the world until she got her hormones." Then she became cursed with Urges, magical compulsions that turn her promiscuous at inopportune moments. Justin the Magic Thief blames Devlin for the death of his girlfriend, yet reluctantly becomes the Archmage's trouble-shooter-- because that's where the action is. Someone enchanted Lori to hate all male magicians-- including Micky, her baby boy. And Micky's pa, Bluey the Wizard, AKA the Archmage in disguise, has eleven magical prodigies that prove that the gene of magic doesn't skip generations. The snobbish Furgerson clan provide comic relief. Blushing Jimmy, the only nice one, maybe loves Amy and maybe doesn't. Rachael, Amy's future tutor, thinks a little hanky-panky with the Archmage can only help her career. April, a world-class shopper and the Archmage's permanent girlfriend, doesn't agree.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017