Prologue or No Prologue: The Debate

One of the biggest debates in fantasy writing is whether or not to include a prologue. While prologues are popular in certain subgenres, nowadays we are starting to see less and less of them. This stems from a large shift in opinion in the eyes of both authors and literary agents. Today’s post is going to summarize this debate and hopefully offer a few pointers no matter what decision you ultimately make.

The Argument For Prologues

  1. If the prologue adds to the story, it can be incredibly useful. – Make sure that if you do use a prologue, it is going to add to your story. Introduce characters that are directly relevant to your story, and make it unique. Lead your readers into the main story.
  2. Keep it short and sweet, and your prologue will stand out. A short prologue (typically under 1000 words) can be a great tone setter for the rest of the story. Are you going to set up high intensity action or a tragic event?  Make it match.
  3. Prologues are great for switching point of view. – Sometimes you may want to introduce a character in first person or third person and then switch to the opposite point of view for the rest of the story. This can be great to get inside one character’s head and see what they are thinking before leaping into the story. Conversely, you may want to observe a character or event from an outside perspective before diving into the story.

The Argument Against Prologues

  1. Authors often use prologues as an infodump. – If you’re using your prologue to get across vital information that you feel like the reader has to know before reading your story, nine times out of ten you can get rid of it. Part of being a great writer is the ability to weave vital information into your story seamlessly without sending up a blatant flare for your readers.
  2. Sometimes your prologue will make a much better first chapter – If you’re introducing action in the prologue and then continuing on (even if there is a time skip), think about if your prologue can actually become the first chapter. You may find that it’s a lot better to start right away. People who may read the first few pages of your book (especially literary agents!) will want to know everything they need to know about if they want to keep reading your story without the prologue in the way to muddle things.
  3. Readers often skip prologues. – Enough said. Why write them if readers might skip them anyway?

So which one is best? Well, I believe that’s entirely up to the writer. Do what you feel comfortable doing. Remember, during revisions, you can always change your mind. Writing is never set in stone. You can always build off of it or from it in different ways (just look at the popularity of fanfiction!).

Happy writing!

How To Know If Your Idea Is Writable

Hello friends! Today, I really want to get back to talking about the writing process. And I want to take you aaaaalll the way back to the very beginning: the idea stage. I had an interesting conversation with a fellow intern today about building novel ideas, and I thought it would be a perfect topic to bring up on the blog.

Coming Up With An Idea

So you want to write a fantasy novel, right? But you have no idea where to start. You’ve got pieces of an idea, little inklings that swirl around in your head with little connection. Or maybe you’re looking to come up with something entirely from scratch. Either way, before you start writing, you want to have something concrete to work with.

The best advice that I can give is to read. Read the fantasy genre. Read the subgenres that you’re interested in the most. This can help you narrow down what type of story you want to write, what kind of characters excite you the most, and what tropes make your heart dance. The more you read, the more familiar you will become with the genre. Don’t think that only one or two books will cut it. If you’re looking for a good place to start, I would recommend this article for a basic list of several books in different subgenres.

Is Your Idea Writable?

So you’ve got an idea. Yay! Fantastic. Now, can you write a book from it?

Depending on if you’re an outliner or a pantser, what I’m about to say next may not be the best strategy for you to figure out if your idea can carry a whole book. Some people like to jump right in and figure everything out as they go along. But I recommend at least asking yourself a few basic questions before starting.

  1. Do you know enough about where you want to go to write the first few chapters? It doesn’t do you any good to start and realize you have nowhere to go. You don’t necessarily need to know how your story ends yet. Trust me, that will come along eventually.
  2. Are your characters interesting enough? Do they have motivations for doing what they are going to be doing?
  3. Do you have a basic idea of your setting?
  4. Can you see yourself committing to this idea for a full book? Are YOU excited enough to write this book?
  5. Finally, a question you should always ask yourself before writing a book: Can you commit a little time each day to write? This is especially important. Writing everyday helps to perfect your craft and will be key to finishing your story!

Keep these questions in your mind as you’re formulating your novel idea. Most important of all though, don’t forget to have fun! Writing is fun. Creating worlds and characters and plots entirely your own is fun. Don’t lose sight of that.

Thanks for reading! See you next week!

Calling All Readers!

Hey everybody! I hope you all have been having a fantastic week. I know I have. I’m getting prepared to attend my first writers’ conference, and I’m working on crafting Aphrodite for my other writing project, All in the Pantheon. I’m doing the best I can to build up my image as a writer as I move into the querying stage for Chasing Fae! It’s all so new and exciting, and I can’t wait to go on this journey together with you. I want to thank all of you who have taken the time to read posts as they come down the pipeline. I’ve been hearing good feedback so far, and I want to continue down that path. All of your support means so much to me.

That being said, I need your help! Readers and writers, both old hat and new to Fluff About Fantasy, I need input. What do you want to read more of? I’ve covered a lot of different topics from a young writer’s perspective as well as spent some time promoting my own novel. What do you want to hear from me in the coming weeks?

To name a few options for you:

  • Building An Author Platform series: I have two article ideas lined up to address tips for building a Facebook page as well as a Pinterest account.
  • Worldbuilding: The SFWA questionnaire series has just wrapped up, so there’s definitely a lot of content on this site. But I’m always happy to talk about worldbuilding. Comment below with specifics!
  • The Querying Process: Learn with me as I go along!
  • More information on Chasing Fae: If you’re interested, I’d love to share more information about my novel.
  • Anything! Anything is up for grabs, as long as it’s related to books or to writing.

I’d love to generate some ideas in order to keep turning out fresh content twice a week. I want to build up this website to be something that I and the writing community can be proud of. Whether you’re a seasoned writer with several published books or if you’re a young writer like me just starting out with a new idea, I want to hear your voice. Please, please, please, if you enjoy the content that you read on this website, please comment below.

Much love. <3

Happy writing!

Writing Romance

Today, I received a request to write a bit about romantic tendencies in fantasy stories. So, I am going to go over the basics of incorporating romance into your fantasy story. I feel that is what I am the most equipped to talk about. I hope that this is helpful!

Where does romance fit in?

Adding romance to your fantasy story is a fantastic concept. It is an element that is widely used in many of today’s most popular fantasy novels. Romance blends in with other genres more easily than others because it is all about character relationships, which every story should have anyway. However, it is important to take note that romance must play as a secondary element to your story. You cannot let it take over the main plotline, or you have created a different subgenre entirely. You begin to switch over into fantastical romance. Of course, if that’s the direction you want to go, by all means ignore the above note. But if you’re looking to have romance be a subplot, make sure it doesn’t encroach on the main plot.

Romance Builds

When writing romance, you have to understand that no matter how fast a relationship may develop, relationships all build. You can notice clear steps in how the relationship developed no matter what pace. From the meeting point to the first date or the first hookup to future dates and conversations, all points should be clearly defined and moving towards your eventual outcome. These events don’t all have to be physical events; they can be mental stages as well. For example, when a character first realizes they are in love or when they decide to tell their partner one of their darkest secrets. When writing romance, make sure you can see a clear progression of the relationship.

Relationships are not smooth.

If you have ever been in a relationship before, any relationship at all in any stage, you should know that they are not smooth. They are not easy. Things don’t always go to plan. Relationships shift and break and grow back together. People fight and cry and say things they don’t mean and then apologize profusely. DO NOT and I repeat, DO NOT let your characters off easy. No matter how compatible they are, your characters will have relationship problems. Give them something to fight over. Expose their character flaws through interactions with each other. It will help them grow as characters and as romantic partners.

Don’t be afraid to write something unexpected.

Love is an interesting thing. Everyone has different experiences with it. With all of the romantic clichés out there, it can be very easy to slip into writing something very simple and straightforward. Even with all of the problems and conflict, a romantic subplot can read very fake and disingenuous. Don’t be afraid to throw something out of the box at your characters. Don’t be afraid to confront something that is normally untouched in relationships. Don’t be afraid to explore the mental relationships between romantic partners as well as the physical ones. People fall in love in mysterious ways. Let yourself write that.

Character Development Exercise

Hello everybody! Hope everyone is doing well this week. I’m gearing up for the end of my freshman year, running headfirst into three written exams, two final papers, one final presentation (which luckily is already out of the way as of yesterday), and one final performance for my theater class. Wish me luck. I’m definitely going to need it.

Today, I want to talk about character development. I wrote a previous post a couple months ago about creating character profiles (linked here), and I still believe in the effectiveness of this into getting to know a lot about your characters. However, I want to introduce a new exercise that I have found to be even more effective.

This past week, I’ve been focused on fleshing out character development. In my novel, I had relatively strong characters, but their development was choppy and disjointed. More needed to be seen from them in order to make the story feel whole. After a lot of thought, I revisited working on my characters individually.

The Exercise

I discovered this tool while searching for character development exercises online. After working through the questions for a few days, I can speak for its effectiveness.

This link leads to a blog post from 2010 by the creator of the blog, Labotomy of a Writer, Anastasia V. Pergakis. It contains an incredibly detailed character questionnaire that reads like an interview. Working through these questions allows you to answer questions in your character’s voice and allow your character to take full shape.

I have learned more about my main character in the last few days than I could have imagined. I have found three new stories of her past to explore in various places in the book, stories that blend in seamlessly. Suddenly, my fingers would be on autopilot, pulling new ideas out of thin air. I feel like a new writer again.

I highly recommend giving this post a look. I feel like it gets deep into both a character’s personality and their motivations and goals, which as we know is very important to the progression of your story. Happy writing!

How To Turn A First Draft Into A Second Draft

Hey guys! Welcome back to Fluff About Fantasy on this fine Saturday. I’ve been up for hours volunteering at the local farmer’s market and finishing up some homework. I’m really looking forward to writing today; I’m on my second round of revisions moving towards a third completed draft.

So today, I want to talk about how to take the first draft of your novel and turn it into a second draft. Since I’ve just recently finished this process, I thought it would be a good idea to show you some of the steps of moving forward with your story. Don’t worry, we’ll get back to more first drafting and researching processes again!

The Second Draft: The Creation Stage

I read in an article somewhere, though I can’t remember which one right now, that the first draft is to get everything down on paper and the second draft is to make the story look like you knew what you were doing all along. I think that this is a very powerful and very useful way to approach drafting, especially in the early stages. Your second draft is a great time to fix all of those places, large and small, where you knew what you wanted to happen, but didn’t know what to say. This is where your story is really going to come to life.

Step Zero: Take Time Away.

Before you can even think about touching your first draft again, you have to put it away. The minimum time recommended is two weeks. Many authors like to have at least a month away from a draft before they come back. Others say it’s fine to come back whenever you start itching to write again. Regardless of your timeframe, time away from your novel will allow you to look at it with fresh eyes and catch mistakes much more comprehensively. Personally, I put mine aside for two weeks and distracted myself with Christmastime and spending time with family.

Step One: The Readthrough

The first step is to confront your first draft with a reader’s eyes. For this step, you’ll need a pen, a highlighter, your draft, and a comfy place to sit. Once you’ve settled in, it’s time to read! Read your entire draft start to finish with as little interruptions as possible. It helps if you’re a fast reader. If you read slowly, try to finish the book in as little time as possible. Don’t leave long gaps in between readings (i.e. a full day or more).

As you read, take notes. This isn’t really a place to fix typos, though if you’re a nitpicky reviser, it’s okay to make note of them. Mainly, you’re going to be focusing on big and small changes. Larger ones include items like a whole chapter needing to be reworked or you may find you need a whole new chapter! Smaller ones can be word choice, phrasing, or a new passage that would improve description or worldbuilding. Any and all questions you have about your own work or new ideas you want to incorporate should be noted down.

Leave no stone unturned. Don’t be afraid to kill your darlings. If it doesn’t work, even if you love it, get rid of it.

Step Two: The Revision Phase

Once you’ve read through your draft and made all the notes you want to make, you should have a good indication of how much work is ahead of you. Now onto revising. There are many revision methods that authors take to complete their next drafts. I’m going to go over a few options.

1. Chronologically: This is the method that I used. I worked through my changes one chapter at a time, starting from the prologue and ending with the last chapter. Any changes that crossed multiple chapters, I made notes of and made sure to incorporate elements when I got there. I felt like I could see myself progressing much more clearly, and it made me feel closer to the end with each step.

2. Major vs. Minor: Many authors like to focus on making their largest changes first. Plot holes, weak characterization: issues like that are confronted first. These tend to span multiple chapters or even the entire novel. Once major changes are made, then writers confront the smaller issues. These changes usually include items on a chapter by chapter basis.

3. Rewriting: This method is the most time consuming, in my opinion, but some authors find this to be very useful. This method of revision is a conscious choice to start over from the beginning. This is an entire rewrite of your novel. Yes, I know it sounds crazy. But some people do find it easier to incorporate their changes through the natural writing process rather than inserting changes in here and there. Hey, once you’ve done it once, the next one is easier!

Once you’ve finished making all of your changes, big and small, you’ve got yourself a second draft! Isn’t that exciting?!

Making Character Profiles

As requested by my followers, today, I want to focus on creating strong characters that can carry your fantasy story.

Now in terms of what is more important, plot or characters, I have an equivocal opinion.

They are both equally important.

Let me tell you why. Your characters are the ones who are going to drive the story. Their decisions, their thought processes, and their emotions will influence every tiny detail of your plot. More than often than not, your characters will also change the direction of your story entirely, leading you to create new plot points that you may never have thought of before.

When I am creating my main characters, I want them to be as complete as possible. I want to know exactly what they look like, where they come from, and their strengths and weaknesses. Because of this, I rely on this pdf tool from EpiGuide that I discovered around age 13.

The link above will send you to a full length character questionnaire/profile with a fairly comprehensive set of questions geared toward authors looking to get deep inside their character’s heads. Now, when you first open the document, you may think it is insanely long. And truth be told, it is. It takes me a few hours to come up with responses and fill things out. However, when I’m finished, I feel like I have a much better understanding of my characters, and my writing always improves by incorporating little details from this profile.

So. What kind of information are you going to create through this character profile?

  1. Basic information: Name, nicknames, birthday, hometown, basic information about their home, job, and relationships (if applicable)
  2. Physical appearance: very detailed questions about physical features as well as the character’s general style (what type of clothes they wear and any prominent accessories
  3. Speech and Language/Communication: This section is one of my favorites; it’s really interesting and something you wouldn’t normally think about. These questions focused on the way your character communicate. Do they have an accent? Any words or phrases that they traditionally use? What about body language?
  4. Everyday Behavior/Habits: This section is going to include things like what a typical day for your character looks like, any personal habits that they may subscribe to, as well as their skills and hobbies.
  5. Family of Origin: basic information about the character’s family and their relationship to their family.
  6. The Past: Past events and memories that have shaped the way the character is today.
  7. Relationships to Others: This section is very important. Not only do the questions help you discover how your character relates to people they know, but also people in places of authority, strangers, people less fortunate, etc. It also includes questions about how other people view your character: what their reputation is to the outside world.
  8. Mental Attitude and Personal Beliefs: These questions go deep into a character’s personal values, fears, and mental outlook on life. It also helps to identify a character’s core strengths and weaknesses. A personal favorite section of mine, I think this is the most important of the entire questionnaire.
  9. Likes/Favorites: A fun set of identification questions to round out your character’s favorite things.

Now, this is a lot of information to take in. But I would like to point it that this is not mandatory, nor the end-all be-all of character design. It is a tool to help you create and think about what are going to be the driving forces behind your characters that will move the plot forward. Personally, I utilize these solely for my main set of characters: my main character, love interest (if applicable), and important secondary characters who have a constant presence (and even for these, I don’t necessarily answer every question).

What I hope for my readers is that this tool that I am sharing with you will inspire you to dig deeper when creating your characters, help to identify areas you may not have considered during character design, and will help you on your journey to writing a fantastic piece of fantasy literature.

Music as Inspiration

Hello everybody! I got inspired to write a post on music from my boyfriend, Daniel, and some discussions I had on Twitter yesterday with people interested in finding what music inspired people to write.

Music has always inspired me to create. I like picking out crescendos and dips in the music in which the most important moments of a scene lies. Nine times out of ten, I will have music on when I’m writing. It helps me to focus. I created a long playlist for my series that inspire different scenes, different moods, and different environments, and it’s always helped put me in the mood.

I would like to offer a good number of suggested songs for the fantasy genre in particular to help inspire you to create something amazing. I’ve sorted everything below by the type of scene or interaction or character I envision the song representing. I hope you all enjoy my choices and interpretations!

Note: All of these song selections have come from my playlist for my series. Feel free to comment on your opinions of these songs or offer a suggestion to add to the list!

Strong Willed Characters

  • Whatever It Takes by Imagine Dragons
  • Bird Set Free by Sia
  • Unstoppable by Sia
  • Rise Up by Andra Day
  • Something Wild (Acoustic) by Lindsey Stirling
  • Magnetic by Jessie J
  • Yellow Flicker Beat by Lorde
  • Minimal Beat by Lindsey Stirling
  • Moments by Tove Lo

Sad Scenes That Require Your Character to Reflect and Pull Themselves Up By the Bootstraps

  • Some Nights by fun.
  • Goodnight Goodnight by Maroon 5
  • Trade Mistakes by Panic! at the Disco
  • This is Gospel by Panic! at the Disco
  • Don’t You Worry Child by Swedish House Mafia

Breakups

  • Molly (feat. Brendon Urie of Panic! at the Disco) by Lil Dicky

Relationship Tension

  • Irresistible by Fall Out Boy
  • Anything Could Happen by Ellie Goulding
  • Something Better by Audien, Lady Antebellum
  • Infinity by One Direction
  • Love’s Just a Feeling (feat. Rooty) by Lindsey Stirling
  • If I Lose Myself by OneRepublic
  • Alone Together by Fall Out Boy
  • Night Changes by One Direction
  • Coming Back For You by Maroon 5

Passionate Relationships

  • The Last of the Real Ones by Fall Out Boy
  • Good Thing by Sage The Gemini, Nick Jonas

Sexual Tension/Release

  • PILLOWTALK by Zayn

Those “Prove Yourself” Moments

  • The Arena by Lindsey Stirling
  • Immortals by Fall Out Boy
  • Centuries by Fall Out Boy
  • My Song Knows What You Did In The Dark by Fall Out Boy
  • The Phoenix by Fall Out Boy
  • Viva La Vida by Coldplay
  • Just One Yesterday by Fall Out Boy, Foxes
  • No Place Like Home by Todrick Hall

Happy Ending Scene After A Long Struggle

  • Straight Into the Fire by Zedd

Underestimated Characters That Are Destined to Succeed

  • Castle by Halsey

Delicious Villains (very specific type of villain)

  • Bartholomew by The Silent Comedy

Anthems to Character Pairings (can apply to relationships or friendships)

  • Homemade Dynamite (feat. Khalid, Post Malone, and SZA) – REMIX by Lorde
  • Creatures Of The Night by Hardwell, Austin Mahone

Fight Scenes

  • Say Amen (Saturday Night) by Panic! at the Disco

Tips for First Drafts

Hello friends! For today’s post, I would love to talk about first drafts. For many young authors, this can be a bit of a scary concept. Taking an idea, whether you just came up with it or have been toying with it for years, and turning it into a full fledged novel is a daunting task. When you look at the blinking cursor on the blank page, it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

But that’s what I’m here for!

I want to give you some helpful tips on writing first drafts based on what I have learned in my NaNoWriMo experience to get you from page 1 all the way to the end.

#1: Get prepared.

Now, depending on whether you’re an outliner or a pantser (see this article to figure out which one you are), this step may or may not apply to you. But in my personal experience, I think it is always a good idea to start out with at least some idea of where you’re going. At the very least, a basic idea of beginning, middle, and end is a good idea as well as knowledge about your main character(s). For fantasy novels, I would also highly, highly recommend having more than a basic knowledge of your universe. It will save you so much time in the long run than creating details out of thin air where you may forget to keep them consistent. If you prefer more detailed preparation, I like to use a plot outline that I have the option of sticking to or deviating from as new ideas come to light. These tactics will serve you well as you begin drafting.

#2: Just start.

The hardest part of drafting is starting.

No, really, it is.

Your head is often filled with doubts. Is this the right idea? Do I know enough about what I want to write to start writing? Am I a good enough writer to start a novel on a whim? What am I doing? It can be difficult to shut off those thoughts, especially if this is your first novel attempt.

But I promise you, you are good enough.

All you have to do is start. You don’t even have to start at the beginning if you don’t want to; you can start from any point in your story where you have inspiration. Just get words down on the page. Which brings me to my next point:

#3: Keep going.

Drafts often end up partially finished, whether due to lack of inspiration or lack of motivation. I have found that a good way to combat this is to just keep writing. Even if you know it’s terrible. These moments can be fixed in the second draft when revisions begin. I read a fantastic tip in an article by Marissa Meyer, the author of Cinder, right before I began Chasing Fae that really stuck with me as I started NaNoWriMo.

Write fast.

That’s all. Write fast. When taken at face value, it may seem a little confusing. But when explained, it becomes a fantastic concept. Essentially, Meyer sets herself a relatively short time frame to complete her first draft. A month is usually a good place to start. Then you stick to that time frame, whatever you have to do. You skip over sections that you can’t seem to connect to another at the moment to places where you have more inspiration. I wrote Chasing Fae from both ends before meeting up in the middle. It’s a lot easier than you would think, and the end result is very satisfying.

And there you have it! My best advice on first drafts. Feel free to comment with any other pieces of advice or stories about your own experience with first drafts!

A Beginner’s Guide to Imagery

This article was a specific request by my sister, Morgan, and I am hoping that it will help out many beginning authors who need a little extra help when it comes to thinking about imagery. I do not claim to be an expert on the subject; in fact, I think incorporating imagery is something that takes a lot of dedication and practice to get it just right. But nevertheless, I would like to share some thoughts on the subject that I believe would help get you in the right mindset.

Setting

One of the most important places to incorporate imagery is when describing setting. You want to be as descriptive as possible. Half of the battle in writing good fantasy stories is making your readers feel fully immersed in your universe. The easiest thing to do is start by incorporating the five senses. I know it sounds incredibly simplistic, but the following questions should showcase why this works so well.

  1. What does your character see from where they are standing? What does the scenery look like? Do they notice the colors and the hues of locations or objects? What people are visible, if any? What are they doing?
  2. What can your character hear? Do they hear people speaking, the bustle of daily life around them? Are they listening to music echo through the streets? If they interact with a certain character, how does their voice change the tone of what is being said?
  3. What smells are lingering? Does the air have a certain scent to it? Is there food or flowers nearby that can waft through your character’s nose?
  4. Don’t forget; the air can have a certain taste too, especially when other scents are involved. Taste should be used sparingly except in cases where you really want to emphasize the environment or if your character is eating (but also should be used sparingly in that case).
  5. What is your character around that is tangible? Do their clothes feel tight and restrictive, or loose and light with fabric that easily slides across their skin? What are they holding? Is it significant enough to be worth mentioning?

Now: something important to remember. Just because you have a lot of information to use doesn’t mean you should use it all. Imagery has to be used appropriately; you don’t want to overload your reader with too much detail. The story becomes too muddled and cluttered. You want to incorporate just enough to shape the world you’re trying to convey: no more, no less.

Characters

When it comes to characters, the best way to incorporate imagery is to capture personality through visual cues.

How does your character walk? Do they carry themselves with confidence, or do they hide with slumped shoulders and a closed off stance? Body language communicates emotion. It is a great way to comply by the “showing not telling” mantra.

Describing communication is also important. Does your character have an accent? Do they emphasize certain syllables on words that is unique? When they are happy, how does their face change when they’re speaking? When they’re listening, what is their neutral face? What happens if someone shocks them?

Again, as with the above section on setting, make sure you keep things clear, but also simple. Clogging characters with physical descriptions or other imagery also detracts from what you are attempting to accomplish in terms of description.

So, there you have it! A simple guide to basic imagery work. I hope to expand on this as the blog expands and as I improve my imagery skills myself.