Quaraun Novel Update: Starting in 2014, in preparation for the 40th Anniversary of The Twighlight Manor Series (September 23, 1978/2018), all 2,000+ short stories are being compiled into chronological order, to be re-released as a series of 130 novels. All the original short stories are being republished both here on EelKat.com and on Amazon. In the novels, each short story now stands as a "chapter" in the novels. New scenes/stories are being writing to connect the short stories together into novel format.
Turning Scenes, Into Stories & Writing Slice-of-Life, Travelogue Style Literary Fantasy Books
| Writing Fantasy Books |
Interview With Fantasy Author
EelKat Wendy C. Allen
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I am able to write scenes quite well, in that I can have people dialogueing, places being described, and things happening, but I can't tell a story. I can't interconnect different scenes without getting bored or not knowing a way to do so.
I can write scenes, but not stories from writing
>>One approach is to use the 'road story ' method, based on one or two characters traveling cross-country and having various adventures along the way, that may or may not be linked in some way.
In Fantasy this method is know as "questing adventures". This is the way I write. I write a series of novels about 1 character as he travels across the country. He always has others traveling with him, but it changes in each story depending on who he's met along the way.
I do not plot or plan, instead I use random generators from sites like Seventh Sanctum or Chaotic Shiny, and drop something in at random.
For example, if I need him to meet someone along the road, I'll use the character generator
right now it just gave me:
- This guy reminds you of a wise owl. He has narrow brown eyes that are like two tiger-eye gems. His luxurious, curly, night-black hair is medium-length and is worn in a simple, severe style. He has a broad-shouldered build. His skin is brown. He has knobby ears and a small mouth. His wardrobe is weird, and is completely red and orange.
I'll use the attitude generator to determine the new characters stance towards my main character
right now it just gave me:
- Is very doubtful towards the character, and is stubborn about it about it. They feel this way because of the character's current activity.
If I need to give him something to do there are plot generators
the adventure plot generator right now it just gave me:
- The heroes must come to the rescue of the conjurer before the chance is gone or the heroic thief will unleash a horde of vicious monsters.
- The heroes need to retrieve an item for the artisan without the brigand killing them or the stoic captain will be executed.
- The heroes need to discover the intrigues of the farmhand or they will not have all the clues they need to solve the puzzle.
the writing plot generator right now it just gave me:
- I inherited the temple, and people think of me as a interesting woman.
- One magical experiment gone haywire is bad, two is worse, and ten . . .
- It will be Tuesday, the day of crying, which surprised exactly one person.
the plot twist generator right now it just gave me:
- The world is revealed to be dependent on sorcery - this is revealed when a character is mercilessly tortured..
- The protagonist is revealed to be a different race/species than thought, which makes things much easier.
- At the start of the story some money is introduced - everyone expects it to be used, but it's use is stranger than everyone expected
- Thanks to alien forces, the characters end up in purgatory.
- A supposedly accidental cuddle is actually caused by psychic abilities.
the Writing Challenge generator right now it just gave me:
- The story is set during a workday. The story must involve a trash can in it.
- The story is set on a river. A character is sorry throughout most of the story.
- The story must have a banshee at the beginning. A character becomes enraged during the story.
- The story takes place in mid-winter. The story must have a gambler in it. The story must involve an axe in it. During the story, a character is robbed.
- A character builds a house. A character becomes belligerant during the story. The story must have a conjurer in it. The story must involve some slippers at the end. The story takes place ten years into the future.
the situation generator right now it just gave me:
- The lazy assassin bribes the talkative warrior to seek the dark whip. The gloomy knight offers to help.
- The gloomy rogue forces the rich paladin to betray the drunken knight. The psychic behaves suspiciously when told of the plan.
- The naive slaver begs the malicious psychic to find the expensive rapier.
- The evil shapeshifter is frightened by the goblin buckler.
- The compassionate entertainer asks the hydromancer to distract the quirky healer.
then if I want to add an item for him to see/discover, I'll use the item generator
right now it just gave me:
- A very small watercolor of a hydra. It was done in a detailed style. It is in decent condition.
If I want them to meet in a tavern, there's the tavern generator
right now it just gave me:
- Name: The Legendary Stallion Inn
- Overall Quality: Good Cleanliness: Decent
- Size: Medium
- Drink Pricing: Fair
- Food Pricing: Overpriced
- Room Pricing: Fair
- Drink Quality: Gut-rotting
- Food Quality: Amazingly good
- Room Size: Small and medium
- Drink Variety: Average
- Food Variety: Average, plus a few exotic dishes
- Room Availability: About half vacant
- Popularity: Healthy crowd
- Noise level: Quiet but cheerful
- Crowd: Many shady characters
- Dark corners occupied: 50%
- Sobriety: Most patrons drunk
- Patrons openly armed: Most
- Attractions: card games and darts
- Noteable Patron: the slightly wounded craftsman with a thick accent
- Menu: has illustrations
- Bartender: thoughtful
- Bartender reaction: ignores party - busy
- Bartender quirk: none
- House Special: Blue-green with blue swirls and a sprig of mint in the mug. The drink smells like lemon and tastes like cinnamon. The locals like to drink it on hot days.
When my character needs to order food, there is the Seventh Sanctum meal generator
right now it just gave me this menu:
- Seared Honied Vinegar Pineapple and Mango Lettuce with Peach sauce
- Sugar-dusted Mushroom Bologna with Salsa sauce
- Vinegared Asparagus
- Lime Guacamole and Pineapple Egg Polenta
- Vanilla Egg and Chili Guacamole Lettuce with Curry sauce
- Curried Yam
- Vinegared Lemon Pepper Carrot and Cheese Potato with Basil sauce
- Fried Spicy Banana Raisin and Olive Guacamole on Potato Wedges
- Apple Chickpea and Bean Tuna
or the Chaotic Shiny meal generator
right now it just gave me this menu:
- Slow-roasted bass with breadnuts, pecans and palm nuts with a salad of steamed skirret and plums. Served with gouda, zatar soup, naan, poached eggs and barley wine.
- Sheep with poppy seeds and pears. Served with poached eggs, apple cider and prairie turnip soup.
- Mink neck with breadnuts, black pepper and garam masala with a side of cooked fat hen, kuka and dates. Served with durian pie, chipmunk soup, aged emmental and lavash.
- Char-broiled octopus with cherries and bell peppers with a salad of sliced chrysanthemum leaves, diced chaya and plums. Served with tiger soup, roquefort, focaccia with jam, hot chocolate and soybean pie.
- Pan-fried porcupine with nutmeg, avocados and tarragon with a side of diced soko and huckleberries. Served with lettuce pie, chevre, fried eggs and lavash.
- Curried ferret rack with thyme and macadamia nuts. Served with soft boiled eggs, cantaloupe pie and payapa soup.
- Fried flat acorn noodles with goat and florence fennel on a bed of sliced celtuce, spinach and avocados. Served with lychee pie, soda bread with honey, gouda and fried eggs.
- Falcon with almonds and cilantro on a bed of diced celeriac, runner bean and avocados. Served with river almond pie, brocciu and poached eggs.
- Baked small thick rice noodles with tiger, sesame seeds and arugula. Served with chinese chestnut soup and salted goat cheese.
If I need to mess up his life, you know, because I can't think of anything else to write for the story, there is the disease generator to toss random illness at him,
right now it just gave me:
- Symptoms: abdominal pains, painful rashes, fatigue
- Cause: scratch from infected animal
- Course: continuously worsens until death or treatment
- Treatment: very simple
As my main character is a Necromancer I can further mess up his life with the zombie generator
right now it just gave me:
- This zombie is incredibly contagious. He is almost entirely decayed, and is missing a hand and several fingers. He is somewhat fast, somewhat smart, and somewhat strong. He is wearing blood-spattered clothing. He attacks mostly by tackling victims.
- This zombie is frighteningly contagious. She is very decayed, and is missing part of an arm, an eye, part of the face, a hand and random chunks of flesh. She is somewhat slow, somewhat smart, and frighteningly strong. She is wearing filthy clothing. She attacks mostly by tackling victims.
Often overlooked in many stories is the influence of the weather. I love using the weather generator to add things to his life yet again.
right now it just gave me:
- Over the next several days there will be very overcast skies with a chance of some clouds and high winds from the north. To the southeast there will be mist and very slight winds. It will likely be colder than it has been. Local fishers' predictions are occasionally fairly inaccurate.
- Today there will be light rain with a chance of lightning and low winds from the west. To the north there will be thunderstorms and slight winds from the southwest. To the east, a scattering of clouds with a chance of sunny weather and low winds from the southwest. It will likely be hotter than it has been. Local scholars' predictions are nearly always unreliable.
- Over the next week there will be storms with a moderate chance of ice storms and very slight winds. To the northeast there will be clear skies with a moderate chance of a scattering of clouds and very slight winds from the southeast. To the south, snowstorms with a chance of lightning storms and moderate winds from the south. It will likely be much hotter than it has been.
There are literally thousands of random generators all over the internet, so you can toss anything at your character.
Writing this way, I never know where the story will go either. So it always becomes an adventure for me as a writer to discover how to get my character from the beginning to the end, when he has these random places, people, things, and events tossed in his way.
For me, I'm someone who writes lots of random scenes first and then gets stuck trying to figure out how to piece them together as a story, and that's when I use the random generators. I find that grabbing a person, place, thing, or event at random, I'm suddenly forced to ask myself: "How in the heck is he going to deal with this?" followed by, "What in the heck does this have to do with the plot?" and "How does this connect scene A to scene B?
I don't know, this method may not work for every author or every story. It works for me and my series because I'm dealing with High Fantasy about a wizard, so I've got a magical universe where weird things can happen, like a portal can open up in the sky and suddenly spit out hellhounds or something at him. And he's a wandering vagabond, living on the road, camping in a tent between villages, going from tavern to tavern looking for odd jobs to do for people, so the setting allows for him to meet lots of people and be in lots of new places, etc. Thus, for me and my story, using random generators works as a method of keeping the story moving, thus connecting the scenes together to make a larger story as a whole.
Also using random generators allows me to get to the end of a 300,000 word novel without getting bored with what I'm writing, because I never know from one day to the next what I'm going to write. It's a road of discovery for me as an author, to click a generator, see what it gives me and then get my brain working overtime to try to figure out how to make the generator's result fit the story. It's like playing a game or solving a puzzle and it really helps to keep me excited to get up and write a new chapter each day.
I think one of the things I like about this method is the fact that, my character has goals, and I know where I want him to go, but I'm never sure how to get him there... then I toss in something from a random generator, and suddenly now I have this completely unplanned obstacles, that I had not planned to be in his life, so now I have to figure out, more about his character, his personality, and really stop and think about what type of person is he and how will he deal with this new situation that has disrupted his ability to get from point A to point B. I end up learning more about my character which I love, because I love exploring who he is.
But, not sure if this method would work for every story or every author. Maybe this method will help you? Not sure.
"Write 1000 words a day."
This advice stayed with me, but I did nothing with it. Until exactly two months ago. I had just finished a popular but not-very-good novel, and I thought, dammit, the only thing stopping me is me.
I've written every day for two months. I hit 60,000 words today and I have the rest of the story in my head. What a feeling!
1,000 words a day has become my religion. It's enough to make progress, but not enough to be overwhelming. Some days it's a struggle and some days they flow out in minutes. But every day I make myself do it, and every day the story crawls forward.
Michael Chabon's advice to me: 1,000 words a day from writing
I started with 700 words a day (I figured it was easier for my mind to reach/be motivated by a little more than 500 but not quite 1,000). By the end of the year, I was doing 2,000 words per session, 3 times a day (6,000 words a day). Now, nearly 20 years later, I'm averaging 17,000 words a day. The younger me who struggled to reach 700 words a day would have fallen over dead had anyone told me that one day I'd find 17k a day easy. :P
Funny thing is, I never consciously changed my goal to a higher number. It was just that once I got into the habit of writing daily, I discovered I had a ton of stuff to write, and once I got started, I just couldn't stop until I reached the end of the scene/chapter/story/whatever, and before I knew it it was no longer me writing a certain amount of words anymore, but soon it was me writing a certain amount of scenes or chapters a day.
Practice and sticking to it every day, really is the only way around it.
Rothfuss is a world-builder style of fantasy author, and inside that genre, his plots take the form of endless "day in the life" vignettes. (Here's Kvothe livng in a traveling troupe of actors. Now here's Kvothe learning to play the lute. Now here he is on his first day of school... etc.) I think of this as akin to travelogues.
And, thing is, there's an audience for travelogues.
It's a style of fantasy where the prose is typically just... okay, meaning, it's grammatical, paragraph structure seems reasonable enough, sentences flow relatively smoothly. But the prose on its own is merely competent, not jawdroppingly beautiful. And yet, in some of these books, the world-building is so intriguing and the world-building ideas creative enough (magic system, mythology, etc) that readers simply enjoy being in that world.
I remember thinking "I could just watch Kvothe putter along in his life forever, one day at a time, and be perfectly entertained." But I do agree the prose on its own is merely competent.
That said, I've found to my dismay that achieving that level of "merely competent" is itself insanely difficult! Endless technical details of point of view, pacing, varying sentence length, dialogue tags, action beats, scene-setting...
I've spent six years just chasing a fairly mundane level of technical competence!
Day in the Life Slice of Life Vignette in the Fantasy genre is EXTREMELY unusual, and fewer then 10 Fantasy authors write it, so it stands out quite a lot when you see it. (I'm actually considered the inventor of that format... I've been writing it since 1978, the day in the life of an Elf wizard... 40 years and 130 novels later, I'm still writing all the mundane details of Quaraun's life and have yet to toss him into anything even remotely an action scene). You see it in other genres all the time, but almost never in Fantasy, because usually in Fantasy, people want none stop action.
But one of the reasons I like writing it, is because, I'm never at a loss for what to write. I don't have to come up with over the top plots and battles. No, instead I write about him getting up in the morning and puttering around with his daily punting session, his obsessing over what to wear, his getting drunk way too early in the day then getting into arguments with his unicorn, people coming to him begging for help with some dragon and him flipping them off with a fYk-you, and then him ranting about how much he hates humans.
It's also why it was so easy for me to go from 700 words a day to 17k words a day. Every day life is pretty easy to write. It's almost like writing a diary, because you are NOT sticking with more standard formats and have more freedom to write exactly what the character is thinking/feeling/doing, because you don't have to worry if it's important to the plot or not. That's the big advantage of writing Slice of Life Literary in any genre, is, plots are optional, and usually plots get in the way and are not included at all.
Slice of life relies on everyday activities and not plots to move them forward. It's a character driven genre, moved forward by feelings and emotions, instead of goals and actions. That's also why a lot of readers find it awkward reading, because they are used to reading plot driven stories instead of character driven stories. Character driven stories are rather uncommon.
I started writing character driven Fantasy, because I was bored out of my mind with one sword fight battle front after another. I liked reading literary fiction, but hated the modern settings, and wanted literary fiction featuring Elves and wizards, which in the 1970s, did not exist, thus the only way to read it was to write it. I didn't really have a goal for it at all, so I just took a wizard and started writing random short stories about his life. Him being a homeless wandering vagabond wizard for hire, you never see him in the same town twice as he travels across the country. The series being set in America & Canada, and me being a full time RVer, I actually drive to every place he visits and every day I'm sitting on location writing the settings. Story set on the shores of Witch Hole Pond, Maine, were written, while I sat at the real Witch Hole Pond, Maine and wrote exactly the story that the area inspired me to write.
Sadly while 1 or 2 books in the genre get popular once in a while, the genre as a whole is very much not popular, because people much rather read battles and sword fights, then "oh my, look at that landscape!" and read long tavern dialogue. Most people want to adventures of the quest itself, not the downtime and behind the scenes of the daily lives of questers when not questing. shrug
I would like to see the genre become more popular, but, mainstream people just want to read hack and slash action, and folks looking to read slice of life are a very small minority in the reading world.
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