Book Recommendation

Hello Fiction Lovers!

This weekend I was organizing all the books I bought over the years–which made me realize all the books I still want to get in print–and came across some my old favorites. Now I’m planning on revisiting all of the interesting characters and stories they contain over the next few months. I thought I’d share what they are with you as well in case you were looking for something good to read.

The first recommendation is Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness series that gives the foundation for many of her other books. It’s about a girl, Alanna, who wants to be knight and has to pretend to be a boy to achieve that goal. I liked watching her grow up as well as the magic and battles that take place throughout the series. Pierce is very good at writing heroines and I would also recommend the other series she’s written.

The next recommendation goes to Beguilement by Lois McMaster Bujold. It’s the first in a lovely quartet composed of romance, danger, unique magic and monsters, and realistic characters. I believe it’s one of the more distinctive fantasy series I’ve read, in that it did have it’s own distinctive monsters and magic that tied in well together and made sense for the world. It doesn’t rely on preconceived expectations but draws the reader in under it’s own power. It is also one of the best fantasy romances I’ve read to date.

The third recommendation is Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson. He also creates a unique world where heroes are reborn as gods and magic is governed by color and Breath. The story involves a reluctant marriage, fear of war, living gods, and a sentient blade. Truth be told, the cover was the thing that first drew me to the book and what really made me want to read it. The cover’s simple but beautiful, and depicts the reluctant bride (so if you’re like me, you can picture her as more than a vague impression hair, hands, and body outline).

Those are the main books I really want to re-read now and I hope you’ll enjoy them as well. Feel free to post in the comments books you would like to re-read and let me know if you have any questions! I hope you have a good week!

Science and Magic

Hello Fiction Lovers!

First, I would like to apologize for not getting this posted yesterday, but I didn’t have access to the internet, unfortunately. As for this week’s topic I thought I’d talk about the relationship between science and magic  I’ve noticed in fantasy books.

Often, it seems that science is almost omitted from fantasy with only the inclusion of medieval technology or during the few times more advanced scientific understanding is included it’s at odds with magic. I believe that this comes from a belief that magic and science can’t coexist, and I think that belief comes from the stigma we’ve experienced in our world. The social norm seems to rise up science and eschew magic as we use more and more technology. But in fantasy things don’t have to be the same as it is in our world.

I think it would be interesting to see more fantasy books where science and magic work together or where science is a variation of magic (and vice versa). They don’t have be separated, but could help explain each other or be viewed as the same thing.

I’ve been taking an astronomy class and it’s been interesting to see the change in how people used to view the sky and stars as a different place, but now we understand that the stars are like the sun and everything is pretty much made from stardust. There’s something magical about that isn’t there? And there’s plenty science still doesn’t know such as how the universe began or what dark matter actually is, and perhaps in using the two together magic could explain those things. New scientific discoveries and using more technology doesn’t have to mean the end of magic, it just means that maybe we can understand magic in a new way as well.

Of course, if you just want to use magic or science or some new process that’s fine too. I’ve done so myself and it can be interesting and create worlds very different from our own. But perhaps when magic and science do come up in a work together they don’t always have to be at odds. I think it would be a fun thing to explore.

Thank you all for reading and I hope you have a great week! Let me know if you have any questions and feel free to post your thoughts in the comments.

No New Plots in Stories

Hello Fiction Lovers!

So this past week I’ve come across the idea that there are no new stories and everything that is being written is some variation on a story that’s already been told once again. I will admit that I believe this to be true in that certain types of stories are going to have similar elements–the hero’s journey, for example–but I also have a couple of issues with it.

The first is that when people mention this, in my experience, it’s typically with a tone of “why bother?” when it comes to writing. After all, if everything has already been written why bother writing more? But just because two or more things have the same foundation doesn’t mean they will look anything alike by the time the construction is finished. Let’s use the example of two identical rooms and only one thing is changed: the paint. One room is painted blood red and the other a bright pink. The paint might be shades of the same color but a visitor is going to have a different experience/expectations depending on what room they enter, and all just because the color of the paint changed. Stories work the same way; they might start with the same foundation–a story prompt or a genre–but based on the different variations they use, however slight, they can be very different by the end and thus give a different experience/expectations to the reader. Writing is worth bothering because of those variations and the entertainment they can give to both reader and writer.

The second issue is the extreme distillation of a story that one needs to employ to encompass them as broadly as the basic plots do. Rags to Riches, Comedy, Tragedy, Voyage and Return are the names of some of those plots. But those aren’t stories, not really. They’re ideas, ideas so broad and vague that there’s barely anything to them and that doesn’t make a story. Even the idea that they are called “plots” drives the point home. Plots aren’t stories but rather the foundations they are built upon. Stories are made up of characters and their decisions, the writer’s voice and style, the emotional journey they–hopefully–take the reader on, and a hundred other little things that people use and play with to make their stories unique. Another way to think about it, to go back to the earlier example, is that plots are the functional parts of the house–the walls, windows, doors, sinks, etc.–that help the people do what they need to do and stories are the lives of the people who live in that house and the personal touches they add to it. It’s why we can read so many books of a farmer boy becoming a king or a person going on a journey or people falling in love and still want more. Those were the plots and we wanted to see what the new story would bring, what variation we never expected would happen.

So there might not be new plots, but there are definitely new stories being written and read every day.

I hope this made sense and feel free to post your own thoughts on this topic in the comments or let me know if you have any questions. I’d be interested in what you all think about this prevalent idea in writing.

Story Prompt #21

Scenario Prompt:

Take two characters from two of your favorite books and have them have a conversation. It could be anything from them meeting in an inn and talking about their adventures to bickering about the best way to make rabbit stew in a cooking competition.

Have fun with it and if you wish to share anything this prompt generates feel free to do so in the comments.

Conflicting Emotions

Hello Fiction Lovers!

Lately, I’ve been reading the Last Herald-Mage series by Mercedes Lackey (whose interesting books I would recommend by the way) and her writing and characters have reminded me that characters–like real-life people–can have conflicting emotions. Sometimes when I’m writing I’m so focused on what the character is supposed to feel or how they are going to react that I find I forget that they can conflicting emotions. Having conflicting emotions can make them feel more like actual people and tie in other parts of the story to the scene you’re writing. No scene or dialogue is in a vacuum which means the emotions driving that scene or dialogue can’t be located in one either. People feel lots of different things at once about different things and more than likely they will feel those things at the same time.

Having conflicting emotions can also help with character development and motivation. It can help the reader know what is more important to the character based on what they are having conflicting feels about and what emotion they end up acting upon. A character who really wants a book but won’t go get it because they are afraid of the adult standing near it, and a character who really wants a book but doesn’t get it because they are worried about their financial situation are two very different people. The result is the same, but emotional impact and knowledge of the character is very different. Also, if the reader is told the character wants a book but doesn’t end up getting one without another emotional reason as to why the scene feels unfinished, lackluster, or confusing.

You don’t have to use conflicting emotions all the time but making use of them can make your story feel more cohesive and flow better. It can also break up the monotony of a character only being driven by one emotion–something that becomes unrealistic quickly and that becomes boring. Conflicting emotions can also point to internal vs external conflicts and pressures in the story.

I hope this post helped and let me know if you have any questions. Feel free to post your thoughts or anything you think I missed in the comments. I hope you all have a good week!

Pets in Fiction

Hello Fiction Lovers!

Many people I know–as do I–love animals and benefit from the companionship a pet offers. The moments when the cat actually deigns to use your lap as a pillow, or the dog greets you with such enthusiasm that you think you must of been gone for ten years instead of ten minutes, really help make the day go from bad to good or from good to perfect. Knowing this, it makes the distinct lack of pets in fiction disappointing. They can add so much to the story and yet often writers don’t spare the words to add them in. Pets can help the characters by giving them support, providing them with motivation to keep going and comfort when things are bad, and being just enough of a lovable nuisance to keep things interesting. Pets aren’t perfect, just like people, but that’s just what makes them more fun.

The great thing about having pets in fiction is that they don’t have to be a dog or a cat or a fish as well. A wizard could have a dragon or a nightmare as a pet, a warrior could have their trusty stead (which could be a horse as easily as it could be a camel or rhino), a cyborg could have a sentient animal-like robot or a monkey. Truly, your imagination is the limit. The pets in question wouldn’t have to been actual animals from here on Earth unless the story takes place on Earth as we know it (and even then you could come up with an explanation about how having a fictional creature for a pet would work for that story).

This isn’t to say that every story needs to have a pet added to it. There are some stories were having a pet involved would be out of place and not  good for the characters or the pet, but having pets added to at least a few stories could help them along.

So just as there are many pets looking for adoption in the real world, I’m sure there are more than a few looking for their life long companions in fiction. I wish you luck with finding the perfect one for your story!

Feel free to post any examples of great pets you’ve read in fiction down in the comments and let me know if you have any questions. I hope you all have a great week!

Fantastical Settings

Hello Fiction Lovers!

For the past few days I’ve been thinking about the settings in many of the books I’ve read lately. All of them featured the classic European-esque setting full of fields, castles, and lords/ladies, or the normal urban fantasy setting of a Western city. Even though I like those settings as much as the next person sometimes I think we forget that in fantasy we can do anything as long as it makes sense in the story (and sometimes, depending on the style of what’s being written, it doesn’t even need that qualification).

I think it would help the genre if more authors branched out and drew from other parts of our world to influence the world they are writing or truly made up a new one that has little likeness to what we know. Doing so could make some of the classic storylines interesting again and possibly create new storylines that weren’t even possible before. After all, who wouldn’t want to read a story that takes place in a society whose morality is influenced by the moon and that has never experienced a day without snow? Or perhaps a group of reptilian-like people who live in a forest of giant mushrooms?

It would be a fun exercise I think to come up with 5-10 different settings that are different from the ones I mentioned in the beginning of this post and then start the same storyline in each setting and see how it changes/how the setting influences it. Keep in mind though that usually the best settings make sense for why they are the way they are. While you don’t have to throw all the reasoning at the reader at once it can be good for you, as the writer, to at least have a basic idea even if that idea in the beginning is only “becuase magic/the god(s) made it that way”. You could also take the route where even if the setting isn’t anything like we have on earth the society or societies that interact with that setting make sense becuase of the setting. Geograpghy has a powerful influence on culture.

I hope this post was thought provoking! Let me know if you have any questions and feel free to post anything in the comments that this post inspired.

Book Recommendations

Hello Fiction Lovers!

Today I thought I’d recommend some of my favorite books to read since there’s little better than sitting under a tree reading a book when the weather is warm, or snuggled up under a blanket with a  book when the weather is cold and rainy. Here they are:

  1. The Name of Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. Many of you have probably heard of this book but I couldn’t make this list without it. It’s a frame story where a man tells the story about he became a legend. The book is full of worldbuilding that sucks you into the story and nuanced characters. I just have one warning for those who haven’t read it yet: the book is part a trilogy and the third book isn’t out yet. Still, it and the second book are worth reading now even with the wait.
  2. Naamah’s Kiss by Jacqueline Carey. This book is also part of a trilogy but all the books are out. It follows the story of Moirin, a girl and then woman who has both the magic of her people and the blessing of the goddes of desire. There is sex in the book given the nature of the goddess’s blessing, but the book is more about Moirin discovering who she is and what it means to have a destiny. It’s full of magic and intrigue and complex characters that makes it hard to put the book down.
  3. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. This book, I will admit, I listened to on audible (it was narrated by Jennifer Ikeda) and it was very enjoyable to listen to. There were a few times I cuaght myself doing extra chores just so I had an excuse to listen to it longer. I believe it is also part of a trilogy. The book takes place in the real world, but also includes witches, vampires and demons. It blends science and magic together in an interesting way as well as having new explanations on how vampires and demons came to be and why they are the way they are.

I hope you’ll find something new you’ll like to read out of these three books! Feel free to comment if you have any book recommendations of your own or contact me if you have any questions.