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Quotes to Write By – Day 27

Writing high fantasy is not for the hobbyist. It takes perseverance, cleverness, and lots of dedicated time.

I’m currently completing the second phase of world building for a high fantasy series that’s been haunting my waking and dreaming hours for quite some time. About three years actually. Adara Trosclair, for whom this blog is named after will make her appearance in the second book. I see main character in this first book clearly. She’s not like Adara, who is charismatic, sweet, and girly. Lethe, on the other hand, is bitter, snarky, resentful, and will most likely be an unlikable character. But that in no way means that readers will be unable to relate to her. Anyone who has lived on this earth may have acted like this guy:

grumpy

in some way, shape, or form. Even for a day. 🙂

But then again, maybe Lethe is more like this:

grumpy cat_people

And the entire idea behind this book — once a tiny seed — is now a mighty oak tree. Lol. Well, in my mind currently. For the past several days I’ve been working on my fantasy world’s distinct parts:

  • Continents
  • Characters
  • Religion
  • Ethnic groups
  • Jobs
  • Mythology
  • Language
  • Conflict

I also want my high fantasy idea to be fresh and to question and maybe even provide answers to current issues in the real world. Issues like racism, sexism, and bigotry.

tolkien quote

At first, I totally agreed with this quote from Tolkien. Fantasy is a great way to escape! However, escaping and being distracted is so easy and it’s not worth it. Yes, we all need a little break every now and then (that’s why I play video games and do Zumba Fitness), buuuuuuut, ignoring important issues in the world isn’t a solution to the world’s worldly ills (yes, yes, yes, I know I used the word world three times in that one sentence).

I’m considering whether or not the book would fit the Young Adult age group and if so, what kind of pitfalls must I avoid? For instance, is it okay for the two main characters to engage in sex? How violent and bloody should the sword and sorcery scenes be? And what about expletives? My husband and I are fans of Dragon Age and the rating for this RPG is “M” for mature audiences due to sex (your main character can ROMANCE other characters), violence (lots of blood — I mean LOTS), and other suggestive themes. And as I continue plotting away, do I consider my book having a dark tone like Dragon Age? HECK YA!

dragon age

Lots of blood slaughtering darkspawn, humans, dwarves, elves, and dragons!

I wouldn’t mind kids similar in age to my oldest son who will be seventeen soon reading this book. But younger than that? Wow. Just wow. Makes me feel uncomfortable.

dragon age_killthequeen

Lol. I just want Alistair. 🙂

As a child, I loved fairy tales and I also want to incorporate them into my high fantasy books. My favorites are the Twelve Dancing Princesses, Little Match Girl, and Rumpelstiltskin.

 

Regarding Tolkien’s quote, I agree more with the spotlighted quote of the day. I don’t need to escape. I want to understand.

 

Quote #27

Alexanderquote

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Quotes to Write By – Day 26 . . . with a Freebie!

 In a previous post, I discussed Octavia Butler’s thoughts on inspiration vs habit. Habit is worth cultivating. Inspiration when it comes to writing will do little for the writer. Writing every day or as much as one can is a best practice.

Initially, I planned on continuing the Quotes to Write By series for 60 days. However, I may have to take a small hiatus by day 30 in order to focus on writing a dark fantasy with sword and sorcery elements, which means I will excuse myself from all social media to make that first draft come much faster.

So, in honor of habit I share two quotes.

One from Clarence Kelland. The quote is hilarious and this dude was dedicated to sadism. 😉 And another from Ursula Le Guin.

Quote #26

clarencekelland

FREEBIE

ursulaleguin

 

 

Quotes to Write By – Day 25

Last night, I stayed up until 1:30 in the morning. A picture book idea came to me and I simply had to write it! I completed the first draft within four hours at 1275 words. I’ve always loved picture books and adore the time I share with my two youngest sons reading them and reveling in the characters and stories. I’ve never had a picture book published and would love for that to happen.

Picture books aren’t easy to write though. I think they’re much harder than chapter books and novels. Why? Well, the word count can only be so much. Also, you must be able to engage your young audience from the first to the very last page all the while focusing on theme without being too preachy. It’s a tightrope act of balancing just the right use of precise words that keeps readers reading and wanting to re-read the book until the pages are tattered and the book’s spine is worn down from lovable handling.

So, take Shakespeare’s advice because “brevity is the soul of wit”. Use great thought when choosing your words whether or not it’s a picture book and your writing will improve.

Quote #25

brevityshakespeare

 

 

Quotes to Write By – Day 20

In an earlier post of the “Quotes to Write By” series I cited Mervin Block’s quote “nouns are the bones that give a sentence body. But verbs are the muscles that make it go.”

Well, let’s have a little discussion about adjectives and adverbs.

marktwain

Twain

 

Believe it or not, these descriptive parts of speech can do a lot of damage to a decent sentence, paragraph, or scene.  Mark Twain advises “if you catch an adjective, kill it.” And Stephen King admonishes that adverbs are not a writer’s friend.

Stephen-King

King

 

 

Why?

Here are some examples from King:

“Adverbs … are words that modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. They’re the ones that usually end in -ly. Adverbs, like the passive voice, seem to have been created with the timid writer in mind. … With adverbs, the writer usually tells us he or she is afraid he/she isn’t expressing himself/herself clearly, that he or she is not getting the point or the picture across.

“Consider the sentence He closed the door firmly. It’s by no means a terrible sentence (at least it’s got an active verb going for it), but ask yourself if firmly really has to be there. You can argue that it expresses a degree of difference between He closed the door and He slammed the door, and you’ll get no argument from me … but what about context? What about all the enlightening (not to say emotionally moving) prose which came before He closed the door firmly? Shouldn’t this tell us how he closed the door? And if the foregoing prose does tell us, isn’t firmly an extra word? Isn’t it redundant?”

King also addresses how adverbs can (taboo -ly words) weaken — not strengthen dialogue:

‘Put it down!’ she shouted.
‘Give it back,’ he pleaded, ‘it’s mine.’
‘Don’t be such a fool, Jekyll,’ Utterson said.

In these sentences, shouted, pleaded, and said are verbs of dialogue attribution. Now look at these dubious revisions:

‘Put it down! she shouted menacingly.
‘Give it back,’ he pleaded abjectly, ‘it’s mine.’
‘Don’t be such a fool, Jekyll,’ Utterson said contemptuously.

The three latter sentences are all weaker than the three former ones, and most readers will see why immediately.

What’s a writer to do?

Kill them! Kill them all!

Kill them? Kill them all? Not necessarily. And not always. 🙂

For starters,

  • Use strong verbs instead.
  • Describe your character’s facial expressions, actions.
  • Utilize literary devises such as metaphor and similes, which I call formidable beasts.
  • Get inside the minds of your characters with Deep POV.

At last, the quote for today:

jackmbickham

Bickham

Quote #20

“Adjectives, like adverbs are lazy words, slowpokes, tranquilizers. Watch out for them.”

Jack M. Bickham

I love comments, and I always visit back. Blogging is all about being a part of a community, and communities are about communication! Tweet with me @moniquedesir

Crafting High Fantasy: Setting the Stage

That First Chapter

Writing the first chapter is something I struggle with because I want those first sentences, that first paragraph, that first page to be absolutely fabulous. So, sometimes I’m afraid to write anything at first. I don’t have a lot of time on my hands lately. My three sons, my husband, and my full-time job as a reading teacher keeps me extremely busy!

Since I want that first chapter to draw readers in and never let them go until they’ve completed reading the book, place it down, satisfied or at best, hungry for the next book.

I dare not say that I want the first chapter to be perfect because such a place doesn’t exist.perfection and writing

 

 

 

 

The first chapter is extremely important. Especially when it comes to high fantasy. High fantasy (or epic fantasy) is a subgenre of fantasy defined by its setting in a fictional universe or by the epic stature of its characters, themes, and plot. Whatever that means, right? Thanks Mr. Wikipedia.

Basically, high fantasy, is one of the hardest fiction subgenres to write. I mean, think about it! You’re creating your own world! The continents, the oceans, the seas, the cities, the roads, the people, their cultures, who they trade with, who they fight with, who they may or may not worship. Everything. Single. Blasted. Thing!

It’s overwhelmingly . . . FRACKING-FUNTASTIC!

And the first chapter has the potential to introduce so many things:

  • the mood
  • the tone
  • the main characters
  • the conflict
  • the antagonist(s)
  • what’s at stake
  • the setting

When I originally wrote Prelude to Morning, I didn’t know that it would be a trilogy. I had some ideas that it could possibly be a series. Well, that was only if it didn’t remain a stand-alone novel. After my oldest brother, Serge Desir, fellow author and video game bad-ass and author E. Rose Sabin gave me some brutal and honest feedback on the book’s weaknesses, I realized I had a lot of work to do to make the book as wonderful as it should be. And for a  time, an agent was interested. Until, the world-building fell apart. 😦

So, I searched for help and re-rendered the map (thanks E. Paige Burks) :

Before:

Reath Before Map

This one I doodled over two days in a composition notebooks years ago. In 2013.

After:

Reath After Map

This one I began drawing on poster board. Still not done!

Next, I created a timeline, which I’ll share in a future post.

The timeline helped me to layout the history of the world of Reath (rhymes with death — an anagram for Earth). The timeline included:

  1. The prehistoric era
  2. Past wars
  3. Catastrophic events

All of these events shaped the world as it is now for the main characters.

So much depth. So much culture. So many languages. So many places. So overwhelming like our world, Earth. And how does one condense so much beauty into a single book.

Which put me at an impasse or is it a fork in the road?

One path would lead me to writing a book that would be heavy enough to murder someone with:BIG BOOK

And a third path appeared to me.  . . I’d have to break the story into more than one book.

And Then there were Three . . .

Bloodcraft Trilogy — (why the term bloodcraft ?–which I’m proud of coining — more on that in a future post).

However, I loved the idea of music being interwoven into this world and used different types of movement names in each of the three books that echoed and underscored the story’s themes.

*Book 1: Rhapsody of the Gods

A rhapsody in music is a one-movement work that is episodic yet integrated, free-flowing in structure, featuring a range of highly contrasted moods, colour and tonality. An air of spontaneous inspiration and a sense of improvisation make it freer in form than a set of variations.

Book 2: Prelude to Morning

Preludes are characterized by being short and sweet (relatively), with a melodic and/or rhythmic motif that is featured throughout the piece.   This motif will recur throughout the piece, sometimes differing slightly as the music progresses.  A prelude may be played on its own, or as a preface to another piece, usually more complex.

Book 3: Nocturne of Twilight

Nocturnes are generally lyrical and tranquil pieces. The nocturne is known for being expressive above all else. It follows no specific form, but evolves as the music progresses.

To Prologue or Not To Prologue

In the first several drafts of Prelude to Morning, I originally included a prologue in the beginning. After researching prologues and learning that they’re only necessary if the opening is out of time sequence with the remainder of the story. So, I decided to rename the prologue as chapter one.

However, in my paranormal urban fantasy, Forbidden, Book One of Gabriel Lennox Series, a prologue was necessary because it fit that description and helped to create a creepy ending, which I wrote as a near mirror image epilogue. Thus, coming full circle. New Approved Cover 2015_Forbidden

 

How do you go about setting the stage for your high fantasy novel?

*Cited source

10,000 March Writing Challenge

fantasybutterfly

My writing life has been busier than ever. My youngest son finally turned one a couple months ago and as a result, and soon I hope to return to my “night owl” lifestyle of staying up late, burning the midnight oil and writing, reading, and writing.

I miss those days, but the time I spend with my children is so enjoyable . . . and makes good writing material! My oldest is learning to play the violin and my middle child has the funniest sense of humor! The one-year-old’s personality is developing even more. He’s charming and strong-willed: just like his handsome daddy.

So, thankfully, while scrolling through my blog reader, I noticed this writing challenge for the month of March to channel all of these wonderfully incredible moments and more!

It’s kind of like NaNoWriMo — in miniature — because you only have to write a minimum of 10,000 words.

I’ll be a little nervous about feedback since I’ll be writing “like mad” and with pure abandon! Raw and unedited stories are scary! Sometimes, they’re not even recognizable as your own.

writing-meme

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Join me, readers and writers — if you so choose! 🙂 Create an account, as a reader or a writer. it’s an easy process. All you need is an email. Happy writing and happy reading.

may-the-words

 

The Query’s the Thing!

In William Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet, the main character of the eponymous title states “the play’s the thing” in order to bring to light the truth about his father’s murder. Well, the query’s the thing for writers to grab the attention of an editor or agent! When querying, the first few pages are key!

Writers often struggle with preparing a manuscript for an agent or publisher. Nowadays, email is the way of submitting a literary piece and the shorter and sweeter the query – the better! For starters, I needed a better beginning for my dark fantasy middle grade novel, Shoes, with hints of horror and the supernatural. The beginning was as stale and dry as four-days-past-the-sale-by-date opened bag of bread. Oh, not just stale, but stale and boring. It didn’t even have the problem of mold in its staleness to make it even a little interesting. I was in trouble and would have been rejected in record time by any prospective agent or editor.

But I hadn’t realized this error until I revisited the manuscript almost a year later.

So, after several days of thinking, reflecting, and brainstorming I all but smacked myself in the face when I realized the perfect beginning resided in my own childhood fears. Not fear from reading R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series or watching Wes Craven’s Nightmare on Elm Street, but guttural, soul-shivering terror of the stories my Jamaican mother and Haitian father would sometimes share after dinner.

Perhaps because of the writer in me, my curiosity outweighed my fear and allowed me to listen, taking note of the interesting real-life characters and supernatural experiences of my parents in their birth countries.

Now that I’m an adult, I vividly see the frightening potential these tales of terror can offer. Here’s the revised beginning:

“Nothing to be afraid of,” Alexander promised himself. He pressed against the hallway wall, his gaze frozen on the wooden statue. Tongue glued to the roof of his cotton-dry mouth, he couldn’t speak anymore. Like Medusa turned onlookers to stone, the creepy statue that his Grandpa Jean gave to his family possessed the power to silence those who dared to stare and wonder about its purpose.

He swallowed hard and his throat burned. Fear always made him thirsty.

He hated the wooden statue, carved with beautiful African features, a wide brim hat, and almond shaped eyes, so detailed if you stared long enough he – the statue – seemed to blink and stare back.

Alexander wished the statue would topple over and break from the living room’s coffee table.

He remembered knocking it over once, hope burning inside him like a star that its gangly limbs would break off piece by piece from the assault. But to his shock and sadness, the statue remained intact. That day sealed his opinion of the thing. It was evil. Yup, no doubt about it.

He breathed in deeply, fidgeting with the buttons of his pajamas, closed his eyes and hurried pass the despised and prized piece of furniture to the quiet of his bedroom.

He slipped under the covers and buried his face beneath the sheets. For several meetings, he shivered as his body adjusted to the coldness of his bedroom, which was always at least ten degrees colder than any room in the house. His room most likely had some story of its own to tell, like that statue in the hallway. Someone had probably died here, he thought. Or worse, there’s a monster under the bed, like the scaly monster that rested its hand on your Aunt Nadine when Mom and her were kids.

Alexander clenched his teeth to stop the chattering of his teeth, which had nothing to do with the cold.

He shut his mind off from the terrible images playing in his mind and instead began counting sheep wearing polka dotted ties.

And slept . . .
***
Here’s the original beginning I had written:

Time and time again, Alexander Brennan’s mom told him he had an overactive imagination and right now it was his only source of comfort keeping him whole. Ever since his mother became ill, the real world slowly crumpled around him, threatening to crush him. His mother also told him that he fixated on useless things like quotes. Quotes like, “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings.”

When he first heard those words he wondered and wondered and wondered where they had come from. He wondered what they meant, rolling the idea around in his mind like a piece of candy. And then he wondered the opposite. What happens when an angel loses its wings? Does lightning strike? Does the earth shake?

And this particular afternoon, while walking home from school with his best friend, Dylan Perez, his overactive imagination caused him to obsess over yet another mundane and ordinary thing.

“Shoes,” Alexander said, pointing above. Dangling from the electrical wires hung a pair of black and white sneakers with silver stars.

Dylan looked uninterested, but he stopped to gaze up at the shoes. “Yeah, so. Some bully probably slung ‘em up there, man.” He gave an awkward shrug of his shoulders, weighed down by his backpack laden with books and school supplies. “Or, like my dad told me, people just toss ‘em up there because they can. Like a game to see if you can get the shoes to lock and hold. What’s the big deal?”

“Yeah, but that’s too simple an explanation. And you know better than anybody else that the truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. So wouldn’t it be weird and yet make more sense if the shoes were left as like a sign or something by an alien. You know, like maybe aliens abducted the kid who owned those shoes and left them there as proof of his conquest?”

Alexander burst into laughter at his idea. He laughed because it was funny. He laughed because a part of him wished that it was true. He stopped laughing when he noticed he was laughing alone.

Dylan shook his head slowly. “Lex, you seriously watch way too many sci-fi movies.” He shook his head again, trying to look stern and serious, but Alexander could tell he wanted to laugh. Dylan could be just as imaginative as he was. That was one of the reasons they had become quick friends in first grade and had remained friends almost 5 years ago. It was the first day of kindergarten and during free time, Alexander and Dylan played a game of The Teacher is an Alien. Sure, they got sent to time out (since they continued pretending even after free time was long over), but it was well worth it.

Alexander wasn’t looking forward to the first day of middle school and even though it was a couple of days away, the thought of possibly being separated from Dylan made his stomach hurt.

***

Which one is better? Which one do you prefer and why? Sound off in the comments. 3-2-1 – GO!