Tag Archives: fantasy

Thoughts on Writing – Using Music for Plotting (The Wishing Blade series)

When writing and plotting stories, I like listening to music. (Not so much when editing… then I prefer to see how the story is speaking for itself). Listening to music helps me set the tone of the scene, and it provides inspiration while I’m plotting, whether I’m stuck in a scene, or just want something to help convey the tone. Another benefit I’ve found is that if I listen to music while plotting, then listen to the same song again later when writing, I can reintroduce that feeling, that mood I was in when I originally crafted the story. (For this, playlists are extremely helpful).

For example, I’ve used music constantly while writing and plotting The Wishing Blade series. There are certain songs I listen to when I want to be reminded of specific characters and their motives. For example, “The Other Side” by Blackmore’s Night is one I’ve recently found useful when I want to think of Shevanlagiy’s character arc (since there’s a particular character she’s trying to keep from dying again that drives her motives).

As for influences on the world of the story in general, “Shadows” by Gordon Lightfoot, and “Rainbow Connection” from the Muppet Movie (I must admit that I’m not a fan of the original recording; I heard a different version of it when I was taking singing lessons that I became a fan of), both influenced the world. “Shadows” inspired some of the longing of Daernan’s character in The Shadow War, who sees that the world is no longer what it appeared, and it influenced how he sees the war affecting Toranih. “Rainbow Connection” pushed me toward the original idea of the Wishing Blade and more importantly toward the idea of there being some unnatural call (in this case, Magic’s Lure) pulling characters in directions they hadn’t expected (though the call in the story is a bit more sinister than that of the song).

But not all of the songs that influence the story and character arcs are ones I listened to in the early stages of writing. Aside from “The Other Side,” which was a fairly recent discovery, I enjoy several versions of “Luna’s Future” that fans have covered from the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic TV series. When I listen to the song, I enjoy picturing it as a dialogue between Madiya and Shevanlagiy (minus the names of the ponies involved, since neither characters would wish to be caught in a musical, or as their equine counterparts…). I also enjoy “Elf Glade” by Meg Davis, which I picture as a dialogue between young Lord Menchtoteale and Shevanlagiy… despite the fact that there are no elves in the story, and that I can’t go into too much detail about why I see this song with those characters without giving potential spoilers.

If you listen to music while plotting, consider the reasons for it. Does it inspire a certain mood for you? Help you picture scenarios between characters you hadn’t pictured before? If you’re stuck on a certain plot point, try putting together a list of songs that have influenced your story, or look for new ones in a similar vein to help inspire you. (Just don’t do like I do and discover that a couple hours have passed with nothing written, but with a host of new songs added to the playlist).

Another joy of plotting while listening to music is misinterpreting lyrics. The first time I heard “The Skye Boat Song,” I heard “Carry the lad that’s born to be king, over the sea to die” rather than “over the sea to Skye.” Though the plot arc that resulted hasn’t appeared in the current version of The Wishing Blade series, it led to a concept that played in the original draft, where a young boy who was stillborn was brought back to life by the high god so that he would later become king. There was no sea involved in the plot, but the character played a large role in the original story. (And who knows… he may later play a role in the world of Cirena, even if he doesn’t appear in The Wishing Blade series). Likewise, “Kingsword” by Heather Dale also makes me think of that particular story arc.

Have you found any songs to have given you story ideas because you didn’t quite hear what was being said? Or because there are variations on the song?

There were certainly other songs that influenced the world of The Wishing Blade and helped shape it into what it is today. Most of the stories I write have been influenced in one way or another by the songs I listen to (and the songs I listen to have been influenced by what I write).

If anyone’s interested, I’m considering looking at how music has influenced the other stories I’ve written and that I’m working on. But, for now, do you listen to music while you plot, and have you found any songs to be helpful in writing a particular story? 🙂

 

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Behind the Scenes – Song of the Sword

This is a cover for Melange Books. For this cover we wanted to keep with the theme of the previous books: Dragon SwordSword of DoomSword of the Quest, and Star Sword. Again, I piece-parted images of the model to get the dramatic pose we wanted, and per usual, I added specific lighting to the background and foreground using overlay and softlight blending layers, in order to make the image look cohesive. Adding a bit of “fog” at the base of the image allowed the title to stand out better while blending out the legs of the model where the stock image was cut away.

SBibb - Song of the Sword - Book Cover

Stock images from The Dollar Photo Club (Site no longer functional):
two images of the model

Stock from Dreamstime:
https://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photos-dark-ominous-rain-clouds-lightning-image18357018 – sky
https://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photo-castle-kreuzenstein-leobendorf-near-vienna-austria-image45372240 – castle
https://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photo-roche-rock-ancient-ruined-chapel-perched-top-rocky-granite-outcrop-known-as-located-mid-cornwall-dedicated-to-st-image32326080 – rocks

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Behind the Scenes – Star Sword

A cover for Melange Books. For this cover we wanted to keep with the theme of the previous books: Dragon SwordSword of Doom, and Sword of the Quest.  I used the same model (piece-parted to get the pose we wanted). In order to try speeding up the process, we fully discussed the author’s vision for the cover before I started piecing everything together. I asked him to clarify a few of his ideas, and we managed to get this put together withing four proofs (minor tweaks on each. I toyed with the idea of the flames pouring over into the series title to add more drama and flare.

This is the result:

Behind the Scenes - Star Sword - Book Cover

Stock images from The Dollar Photo Club (Site now defunct):
katana and three images of the (same) model

Stock from Dreamstime:

https://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photo-bonfire-flame-fire-forest-autumn-flames-image34236555 – fire
https://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photo-meteor-shower-isolated-black-background-image49030556 – meteor
https://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photo-roche-rock-ancient-ruined-chapel-perched-top-rocky-granite-outcrop-known-as-located-mid-cornwall-dedicated-to-st-image32326080 – ancient ruins
https://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-black-smoke-red-flames-photo-special-nature-protection-action-intended-to-make-better-habitat-rare-heathland-image39123676 – lower fire

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ConQuest 48 – Panels and Readings!

Hey guys, I’m excited to announce that I’m going to be sitting on a few panels at ConQuest 48 in Kansas City, Missouri! The convention runs from May 26th-28th (that’s this weekend), and it’s a great resource for fantasy and science fiction writers. Definitely an event to check out to gain all sorts of writing information.

If you’re going to be in the area, and you want to see me on a panel, these are the ones I’m scheduled to be on:

Saturday, May 27th

3:00 pm || How to over-think your way out of writing

5:00 pm || Fantasy and Science

Sunday, May 28th

10:00 am || Creating Languages (I’ll be moderating this one)

12:00 pm || Reading

Thus far I’ve been enjoying practicing a couple different selections I’m considering for the reading, and tomorrow I’ll be brushing up on the panel topics to remind myself of all the awesome things there are out there.

The times I’ve gone to watch the panels in the past have been really informative, and a lot of fun. Plus, there are several other authors and speakers there worth listening to. I hope to see you there! 😀

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Thoughts on Writing – A Use for Prologues

Writers often hear that they shouldn’t include a prologue in their novel. That, if necessary at all, the prologue should become the first chapter.

I’ll admit, though I’ve often attempted to write a prologue into my stories, I’ve usually turned back around and taken them out later at the suggestion of beta readers. Prologues are often a breeding ground for unnecessary info dumps that really would be better interwoven into the actual story. (Or in my case, prologues were excuses to bring in confusing characters that weren’t ready to be revealed until a bit more foreshadowing has been dropped into the story).

However, there are exceptions to every rule, and most writing rules are really more like guidelines that, if you know their purpose, can be broken.

For example, I’ve become a fan of the writing podcast, Writing Excuses, which is an excellent resource for writers who want to hone their craft. The podcasters of Writing Excuses cover many different topics, and one topic they covered was the effectiveness (and lack of effectiveness) of prologues. An example they gave of a useful prologue was the intro for A Song of Ice and Fire, in which the readers see an example of the monsters in the introduction long before monsters are shown again in the main story. (Note: I haven’t read A Song of Ice and Fire, so I may be misinterpreting their explanation.) The point of this prologue was to set up reader expectations and promises, to say that even though you aren’t going to see these monsters again for a while, they do exist in this world and the reader will see it again.

This is exactly what we see happen in Marvel’s Doctor Strange movie. The introduction begins with a dark ritual and an exciting, mind-bending fight between the antagonist and the Ancient One, and shows that there is a whole magical side to this universe that the viewer should expect to see later. The movie then launches into the beginning of the story for Doctor Strange, which has absolutely no magic, focuses heavily on a medical-science focus, and shows a rather self-absorbed protagonist. If the movie had not started with the prologue to show the magic that would come in later on, the viewer who simply started with Doctor Strange’s part of the story would be in for a bit of a surprise once the mystical stuff shows up (landing quite a punch for both the main character and the viewer). In the meantime, those viewers who wanted exciting action and magical sequences might have gotten bored and decided to skip out on the rest of the movie. Because of the promises made at the beginning of the movie, the viewer knows that if they wait around long enough, their patience will be rewarded.

A different use of prologues is to help set up foreshadowing that readers won’t see otherwise, at least, not until far too late into the story. (The trick here, it seems, is to make sure it is interesting and still drives the plot, despite a difference in time or perspective). One of my favorite prologues is from Brandon Sanderson’s Steelheart, which is a fast-paced sequence that introduces the concept of “epics” (those who use superpowers tend to go evil in that universe) and sets up the weakness of the antagonist, though it doesn’t explain what the antagonist’s particular weakness is until much later. It does a good job of setting up that this is going to be a novel where the main character is set on vengeance, and setting up promises and expectations for the reader. Another thing I enjoyed about the prologue in Steelheart is that the whole sequence is explained later by starting with the character’s explanation of the events, but cutting before everything is explained and going to the next chapter, allowing the reader assume that the story the protagonist tells is the same one from the prologue. Arguably, this scene could have been shown at that point in the story. But then it would have slowed down the main plot and the reader would have lost knowledge about the driving force behind the main character’s actions, something that helps the reader sympathize with the protagonist (whose original goal is more or less to uncover the weaknesses of various epics so he can assassinate them).

Thus far I have not yet used prologues in any of my published works, but that may change in the future if the right story comes along. What are your thoughts on prologues? Have you used prologues in your fiction? Do you have any favorite prologues?

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Behind the Scenes – Entrance to Dark Harbor

A cover for Melange Books. For this cover, we wanted to keep the same style as the first book, Dusk Runner. I used the same two textures to create the background (though I made sure to do the retouching on the basic layers this time, so that next time will require less retouch work). The author already had an image in mind for the main picture. While it wasn’t from one of our usual stock providers, I used the provided image and their description of the ship to find a similar picture at Dreamstime. I kept the text placement and style the same (though some adjustments had to be made, since the title was longer). We also tried two different font colors, a pale, near-white blue, and then a light blue. We ultimately chose the light blue since the color was still visible and provided the closest match to the previous title.

This is the result:

Behind the Scenes - Entrance to Dark Harbor Book Cover

Behind the Scenes - Entrance to Dark Harbor - Back of Book Cover

Stock images from Dreamstime:

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-images-brown-leather-texture-image21958744 – leather texture

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photos-old-yellow-brown-vintage-parchment-paper-texture-image24082203 – paper texture

https://www.dreamstime.com/stock-image-sailing-ship-image12784651 – ship silhouette

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Thoughts on Writing – Trickster God’s Deleted Scene from “The Shadow War”

I’m not much of an April Fool’s Day fan, but it seemed like the perfect day to post a deleted scene from The Shadow War, one which involves the trickster god, Isahna.

While I loved the scene, I ended up cutting it from the book because we didn’t really need to see Isahna’s point of view and it wasn’t quite matching the tone needed at the point in the book where it was relevant.

Be warned, there may be a few minor spoilers in this, but since this scene was cut in mid-edits, a few things have changed as to what is actually happening behind the scenes.

The overall event does still happen, though… much to Isahna’s displeasure.

Deleted Scene from The Shadow War:

Isahna held the precious oil-skin bundle in his hands. He toyed with the fabric, savoring the anticipation of seeing the shodo’charl in its full glory. He couldn’t use the stone, not yet, but once his shadows had killed the minor gods, their combined powers would give him what he needed to harvest the stone’s power—and maybe even figure out how the whole “time travel” part worked.

Or maybe he’d just dangle the stone in front of Shevanlagiy’s nose and watch her throw a jealous hissy fit. Maybe he could even work a blood deal out of her. A little more info about her past in exchange for this handy-dandy all important stone…

He grinned.

That would be worth her rage, surely.

He rubbed his hands together, made sure no traces of shadow magic were on his person, and then tossed the oil-skin back.

His jaw dropped.

He didn’t have the shodo’charl.

In its place was a piece of shiny black obsidian. Beside it, a small roll of parchment tied with a thin, curly ribbon.

Isahna tore the ribbon from the parchment and cast it into the swirling mist around him. The ribbon vanished, lost forever to the fog of the Immortal Realm.

He unrolled the parchment. In Cirenan script, each letter written precisely by a careful hand, was a note penned to multiple recipients:

If Daernan: I apologize for the inconvenience of taking this stone, but it is needed elsewhere. Too easy that a god might trick you for their own nefarious purposes.

If Cafrash: I apologize that I did not stay and guide you from Shevanlagiy’s plans. I realize you must be hurting now, and I shall try to end this as soon as humanly possible.

If Shevanlagiy: Please go back to your realm and leave us alone. You have caused us enough trouble. Thank you.

If Isahna: *See Daernan above. Oh, and I am thrilled to proclaim that I have made the first move.

If anyone else: I highly advise you avoid pick-pocketing powerful mages. On the bright side, you now have a decent sized lump of obsidian which you might sell for a small fortune.

Isahna cursed and shredded the note. He twisted his lips and tapped the table, trying to decide what to do now. The note was obviously written by someone familiar with his work, and if he were to guess, the culprit was one Nihestan Nivasha.

Did the man still have magic?

After the whole chesnathé incident, Isahna couldn’t be sure.

He rapped his knuckles on the table, then nodded decisively. He would “let slip” Nihestan’s presence to Shevanlagiy. That ought to keep her busy. With her out of the way, Isahna would have no one to stop him from taking over Cirena with his horde of shadows.

But he sure would have liked to dangle the stone in front of her nose.

Another time, another time.

Happy April first… and I hope you enjoyed the scene. 🙂

Have you ever deleted any scenes from your stories? If so, why?

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