Thanks to Nancy and Bewitching Book Tours for the great tour and guest post and dont forget the tour wide giveaway at the end of the post.
Writing What You Know for Fantasy Authors
Write what you know. It's one of the most ubiquitous pieces of writing advice. Writers hear those words from the time they first pick up a pen (or even before). It’s great advice—if you take some time to think about what it means.
At the most basic level, “write what you know” explains the appeal of legal thrillers written by practicing lawyers or murder mysteries written by real-life medical examiners. It explains why some novels and films brag that they’re “based on a true story” and why we love to read the memoirs of people who’ve triumphed over adversity or achieved something significant.
If you’ve lived an exciting life or you can give readers a glimpse into an interesting profession, writing what you know—taking your experiences and knowledge and turning them into a story—makes sense.
But what does “write what you know” mean to a fantasy author? When the world you write about exists only in your imagination—when you’ve thought about that world but you could never actually live there—should you just forget about writing what you know?
Of course not. Instead, writing fantasy means expanding the definition of what it means to “know” something.
One way to know something well enough to write about it is through research. I don’t believe in demons, for example, but I’ve got pages and pages of notes about them. Understanding what demons have meant throughout history, how they’ve been portrayed and perceived, helps me write about them as though they’re real.
Vicky Vaughn, the protagonist of my Deadtown series, kills demons for a living. Her friends are zombies and vampires, and she dates a politically correct werewolf. Vicky herself is one of the Cerddorion, a race of shapeshifters who trace their lineage back to the Welsh goddess Ceridwen. Vicky’s life is way more exciting than anything I’ve ever lived. I’ve never gone out with a werewolf. I’ve never fought a demon. I’ve never tried to talk sense to a zombie or sat down to drink a Bloody Mary with a vampire. And changing my shape means gaining or losing a few pounds, not sprouting wings or fur and becoming an entirely different creature.
I may not have had the same experiences as Vicky, but I connect with her on a number of levels. One level of connection is physical. Vicky works long hours and doesn’t always get enough sleep. I know how it feels to keep pushing when you’re tired because you need to finish something. In fact, all of Vicky’s physical feelings, from chilly October air on a flushed face to deep, toe-tingling kisses, are feelings I know well.
Another level of connection is dealing with people. I’ve never dated a werewolf with a passion for justice, but I do know how it feels to butt heads with a strong-willed partner. I know how it feels to love a sibling or friend even when you don’t agree with every decision that person makes. I know how it feels to deal with colleagues who seem to go out of their way to give you a hard time. We’ve all had to deal with a variety of people, and conflict is conflict—whether you’re experiencing it with a neighbor, a lover, or a demon.
The deepest level of connection, of course, is emotional. Although I haven’t lived the specific situations that Vicky encounters, I do know the emotions they arouse: love, hate, fear, anger, grief. As a writer, I try to call up those feelings and weave them into the fabric of my story. I’ve got my own stories, personal experiences that I’ll never write about directly, but I mine them for how they made me feel. And if I’m feeling the emotion while I write—tears running down my face, out-loud laughter, a racing heart—I know I’m doing my job.
Writing fiction—any kind of fiction, but especially fantasy—combines writing what you know with writing what you can imagine. Create a fantastical setting and populate it with fantastical creatures, but know what those characters feel on a physical, interpersonal, and emotional level, based on your own emotions and experience of the world. That’s the kind of knowing that brings characters to life. If you can connect with your characters in those ways—if you can make their feelings true and real according to what you know—then readers will connect with them, too. And the most fantastical story will feel true, because it came from what you know.
Bloodstone, the third novel in Nancy Holzner's Deadtown series, is now available. For information on Nancy and her books, visit her website. You can also find Nancy on Facebook and Twitter, and blogging with other fantasy authors at Dark Central Station.
By Nancy Holzner
Book 3 Deadtown Series
Paperback: 336 pages
Release date: September 27, 2011
Boston’s diverse South End is known for its architecture and great restaurants, not its body count. So when mutilated human corpses begin turning up in the area, the entire city takes notice. The killer—dubbed the South End Reaper—uses a curved blade for his grisly work. And even though there’s no real evidence pointing to a paranormal culprit, the deaths are straining the already-tense relations between Boston’s human and inhuman residents.
As the bodies pile up, Vicky, her formidable aunt Mab, and her werewolf boyfriend Kane investigate, only to find that the creature behind the carnage is after something much more than blood…
Nancy Holzner grew up in western Massachusetts with her nose stuck in a book. This meant that she tended to walk into things, wore glasses before she was out of elementary school, and forced her parents to institute a “no reading at the dinner table” rule. It was probably inevitable that she majored in English in college and then, because there were still a lot of books she wanted to read, continued her studies long enough to earn a masters degree and a PhD.
She began her career as a medievalist, then jumped off the tenure track to try some other things. Besides teaching English and philosophy, she’s worked as a technical writer, freelance editor and instructional designer, college admissions counselor, and corporate trainer. Most of her nonfiction books are published under the name Nancy Conner.
Nancy lives in upstate New York with her husband Steve, where they both work from home without getting on each other’s nerves. She enjoys visiting local wineries and listening obsessively to opera. There are still a lot of books she wants to read.
Nancy is offering a tour-wide giveaway- readers can enter at each stop.
Nancy is offering 5 book giveaways- 5 winners.
Each of five winners gets his/her choice of a signed copy of Deadtown, Hellforged, or Bloodstone.
This giveaway is open to US only
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