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Epigraphs? How to Increase the Depth and Tension of Your Fantasy World

An epigraph is a short quotation or saying at the beginning of a book or chapter, intended to suggest its theme. Epigraphs usually come from other artists, such as poets, authors, painters, or musicians.

For example, here’s the famous epigraph, written by D’Invilliers from Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. If you’ve read The Great Gatsby, then you’re familiar with how the quote kisses upon (but doesn’t tell) what is to come (foreshadowing) and the tragic theme of gaining the superficial love of a woman — no matter what the price.

the great gatsby epigraph

I noticed that some of my favorite fantasy novels contain quotes in the beginning or at the ending of each chapter, which are both entertaining to read and build onto the story. I also noticed that one of my favorite role-playing games — Dragon Age: Origins — includes epigraphs, which though not immediately relevant to the story, entertain me with something to read while I wait for the game to load.

dragon age origins

What both of these mediums have in common is that these quotes come from fictitious works within the story’s or game’s universe. These quotes, or what TV Tropes brilliantly calls Encyclopedia Exposita, are excerpts from other fictional books “being used as an epigraph or part of the frame of the story”.

As I mentioned before, epigraphs usually come from other artists. However, since I’m writing fantasy, I want my own quotes from my own fictitious text. It took me a couple of days to create six texts for the first book in this trilogy and draft five decent quotes with imaginary authors, which makes a nice round number of 30 total quotes. I enjoyed writing the quotes and focusing each one on specific themes of music, immortality, religion, fairy tales, and so much more. Stuff I actually love, love, love to discuss! Seriously, if I’m going to be stuck with these pseudo-encyclopedias, I need to like it. Even a little, yes?

Oh, yes. In order to write epigraphs for your novel or short story, think about the underlying themes. Reflect on the conflict. Once you’re able to write one solid sentence that encapsulates what the main character wants, you’ll be able to start drafting your own mini-poems, quotes, religions tenants, or whatever it is your literary heart desires.

I had specific goals for the epigraphs that I noticed in books I’ve read and what my personal desired outcome was.

In a nutshell, an epigraph can and should relate back to the story by:

  • foreshadowing what’s to come
  • highlighting a point the author made
  • introduce a new theme or turning point (which will hopefully increase tension and suspense)
  • set reader’s expectations

All of these points should keep readers engaged, deepen the complex “reality” of your fantasy world, and perhaps even answer some questions you didn’t realize you needed answering as author and literary god.

Another great outcome of this kind of writing is that I realized how more three-dimensional I could make this world with its own encyclopedia of musicians, historians, and artists. These artistic individuals wouldn’t only need names, but backgrounds of their own. And even though these mini-biographies will most likely not appear in the story, this necessary information is essential for me while I write.

So, if you’ve fallen into a rut with your fantasy story, consider using epigraphs — your own or someone else’s — to spice up your novel.

Happy Writing!

 

 

 

 

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How To Easily Format Poetry For Ebook Publishing…

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

By Derek Haines  on Just Publishing Advice:

Formatting poetry for ebooks is simple with the right tools
Self-publishing fiction is as easy as having a Word document and then uploading.

Most publishing platforms automatically remove unwanted space and create flowing text, which is perfect for fiction.

For poetry, however, space is a tool, and it can be very frustrating when all your formatting in Word is stripped away when you upload for publishing.

It has been a while since I had to work on a poetry manuscript, and I’ll admit that I was becoming a little frustrated after my first couple of attempts at uploading to both Kindle and Draft2Digital (D2D).

While Kindle preserved at least some of the Word formatting, Draft2 Digital stripped almost all of it away.

I found this in D2d help, but it proved to be a hit and miss affair. Some formatting stuck on some…

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Enter the Dragon: The Art of Beating the Sh*t Out of Your Characters

My toddlers and I love using our imaginations when playing with Little People action figures and Beanie Babies. However, I think my five-year-old has more fun messing with the carefully created plots that I craft for our playtime.

For example, I enjoy the mundane story with generic problems while playing with my kiddos. It’s typically G-rated, predictable, and relaxing. Or what my five-year-old describes as . . .

boring

Me: Let’s have the kids get on the bus for school. Next, they’ll learn about the zoo. After that, they’ll board a second bus for the zoo and visit the animals. The zoo guide will teach them amazing facts about the elephant, ostrich, the lion, the gorilla, and even the hippo. Finally, they’ll ride the bus home. Their parents will meet them there and take them to the park to swing in the tree house. The End. 🙂

My Five-Year-Old: But on the way home from the park, a giant dragon comes and attacks them! *Ka-BLAM!* ::He knocks over the school bus, sending miniature plastic children flying everywhere:: Then, Spider-Man comes and saves them, followed by Link (the plush kind) fights the Dragon. *Pow! Pow!* *Boom, Ka-CHUNG!*

Me: Why don’t the dragon and Link become friends? Hmmm? Wouldn’t that be nice?

(Understand that his preschool teacher has lamented to me how he sometimes enjoys play-fighting too much). 😦

My Five-Year-Old: Mom! This is a dragon and this is Link. Link’s a hero and doesn’t make friends with the enemy. Geeze. ::Link smacks the dragon with his sword::

Me: Okay. So, they fight and then Iron Man shows up and tells some jokes, right?

My Five-Year-Old: ::sighs, like a weary old man:: Okay. Fine. Let’s build some mega-block towers and have the dragon and Darth Vader knock them down while Spider-man and Link try to stop them.

Me: Okay. Cool.

At times, when creating conflict my toddler is clearly a better writer than I am. He shows no mercy on the adorable Little People action figures (characters) and enjoys making life very difficult for them without batting an eyelash. In fact, I think he sometimes enjoys it. Especially when Link, Iron Man, or Spider-Man arrive to save the day.

Now, not every story calls for a literal dragon. The dragon (or the wolf) often symbolizes The Problem that your Main Character faces.

The Problem could be one of the four types of conflict:

Different Types of Conflict

I have two main characters in the story I’m currently drafting. The main conflict is Man vs. Society and Man vs. Man. These two characters despise one another and in general the society they live in. But I needed something more to heighten tension and suspense and it worked perfectly in this world of magic, science, and mystery.

I decided to give one of them a debilitating disease that threatens her life and compromises a goal that both characters share.

And if she dies? All is lost.

Whelp. Get the casket ready.

dark link grinning

Sorry, not sorry.

Now, I’ve considered killing this character off, which would totally eff things up for the other main character. And he’ll have to work his butt off  trying to pick up the pieces and carry the torch to resolution. I hesitated going that route because I wasn’t sure if that was a Rule Breaker. Do I dare allow what the main character has been dodging, fighting, and hiding from to come to pass?

Do I dare?

After attending a writer’s workshop on heightening suspense, I asked the host writer, “Is it okay if the main character’s main fear actually happens?”

She smiled. A smile similar to Dark Link’s (above) and said, “Oh, yes. So glad you asked.”

Whoa. I was taken aback. I was blown away.  In most stories I’ve read the protagonist is trying to avoid the Big Bad or their Worst Nightmare from coming true and is successful in just the nick of time.

This devious route seems like some new-level gangster sh!t.

But it’s not. I think I was just a coward and didn’t feel like I could do it. I was afraid to do something so totally twisted. Isn’t the world already filled with enough suffering? Do I really need to add another layer of terrible sadness and heartbreak?

heartbreaks

Like Kyoko Mogami (from one of my most favorite mangas, Skip Beat!) I’ll take heartbreaks and unhappily ever afters (for now) differently. For example, in the Dresden Files series (spoiler alert coming) Harry Dresden’s love and mother of his only child, Susan Rodriguez, dies. I wasn’t expecting that. I was angry. Sad. And in need of counseling. I mean, I knew that Butcher often beats the crap out of Harry, but I didn’t think he’d go there. 

So did, Tsugumi Ohba, in the renowned manga, Death Note. About halfway through the series, she/he/they  (it’s a mystery) kills off (spoiler alert) L, Light Yagami’s rival and my favorite character!

L_Death Note Notes

Little did we know, that you’d die. 😦 

I hope this post helps any writer who struggles with being hard on their characters.

In one of my future post, I’ll discuss the importance of a sympathetic character. Otherwise, if and when the character dies the loss is genuine and doesn’t garner a “meh” response.

 

 

 

Anyone For a Game of . . . Rejection Bingo?

Well. The time has come, folks.

::rubs hands::

Here’s my score sheet for a short story that I can’t get through The Gates (published). No one wants to give this story a home. It’s loveless. It’s homeless. And I just want to weep. So, I forced myself to see the “bright side”: what prize can I give myself once I’ve completed an entire board? Or even an entire column?

Hmm. I don’t know. Leave me some ideas in the comments.

The only perk about this Short Story Rejection Dance is that I didn’t receive form letters. Maybe if I can swallow my YouTube shyness, I’ll read some of them.

woot

Rejection Bingo

My husband’s foot. It’s almost like a rabbit’s foot for good luck except it’s not severed. 🙂

Also, in a previous post, I had mentioned The Book. This book, Guide to Literary Agents 2018 will help me to accumulate more and more rejections? Unfortunately, yes. And hopefully some acceptances, too!

5kph and Literay Agents

5,000 Words Per Hour just helps with me writing more. 🙂

Disney Memes: The Princess as Writer

Oh my gosh! I love this blog post! I found you by happenstance and am so, so GLAD that I did! *New Follower Alert*! Eeeeek!

Aya de Leon

What if the Disney Princesses were really just brilliant writers, frustrated by sexism in the literary industry…

Snow White Day Job-2mulan haircut-1Aurora at the agency-1

Tiana writer meme

Tiana hopeful VIDA count

Snow White agent-1

ariel eels meme

Cinderella meme

VIDA Tiana angry

Snow white binders

and then this meme that started off the series…before they decided to write and were just mouthing off…

Disney Brown Princesses

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Do Your Own Research – A Warning to Indie Authors – Guest Post by, Yecheilyah Ysrayl…

Priceless information. 🙂

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

Hey Guys! Wow. It’s been a long time. I miss you all!

*waves to readers and sits on virtual sofa*

This article started out extremely long but then I realized how necessary it was to keep this short and simple.There is so much information out here for Independent Authors and so many made-up commandments it isn’t funny. Everyone has an opinion on what the new author should and shouldn’t do. Everyone has a piece of advice to give or stones to throw. If you move this way you are doing it wrong and if you move that way you are still doing it wrong. There are more laws for the Self-Publisher than there are in the bible. There is something to say about everything. This is why I humbly advise each person to experience everything for themselves and to do their own research. Sometimes you don’t need to…

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Five great bits of writing advice – and what they mean

So glad I found Matthew’s blog today. It’s inspiring and I look forward to using Heinlein’s advice on writing. Thank you, Matthew!

Matthew Wright

Robert Anson Heinlein (1907-1988) was one of the the United States’ best fiction writers of his day, in any genre.

His books intrude obliquely into pop culture. Apart from coining the word ‘grok’, he described the modern waterbed to the point where it couldn’t be patented by Charles Hall. In fact Heinlein got the patent for it in 1980. And Stranger in a Strange Land became the bible for a generation of hippies.

Heinlein was an engineer by training, which gave his SF an authenticity shared by few other authors. The spacesuit he described in Have Spacesuit, Will Travelprecisely described all the engineering issues that NASA still struggle with.  In 1941 he wrote a story describing atomic power plants so accurately the US government became alarmed about leaks from the real programme. Actually he’d worked it out from physics principles, just like Enrico Fermi and Leo Szilard did for real. When supersonic maglev…

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