Brandon Sanderson: Fantasy Writing Lectures

I’ve been watching a series of lectures by fantasy author Brandon Sanderson on the craft of writing with the focus on the fantasy genre. These lectures took place at BYU. Whether you write fantasy or not, much of the writing advice applies to all stories.

I’m working my way through them, but what I’ve learned so far is:

  • I’m a chef, not a cook.
  • Conflict connects characters, setting and plot.
  • Everyone must be good at something.
  • Yes, but; no, and.
  • Captain Jack Sparrow is the perfect character who is incompetent, yet highly proactive, and that’s what makes him (and SpongeBob) interesting and entertaining.

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Magic Rules in Your Fantasy World

I’m not one for strict rules so while watching fantasy author Brandon Sanderson’s YouTube lecture “Magic System”, I kept thinking, The magic in my novels doesn’t have rules.

However, afterwards I considered the ideas he presented and once I broke through the dam, the rules flowed swiftly. The magic within the realm of Ath-o’Lea does have rules. Some are soft, others firm.

Sanderson imparts this sage advice: Flaws are more interesting than powers. Things your characters can’t do are more interesting than what they can do. Flaws and limitations of magic are interesting.

With that in mind, I considered the powers and the limitations used in my novels.

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Supporting Characters Who Stole the Show

When we set out to write a story, we know which characters are the main characters, the ones readers will cheer and invest emotions in. That is until books are turned into movies and actors cast to play supporting characters do such a tremendous job, they steal the show from main characters.

Did you know the main characters in Pirates of the Caribbean were Elizabeth Swan and Will Turner? Jack Sparrow was a supporting character . . . until he stole the show.

Did you know Phil Coulson was only a supporting character in The Avengers. Writers thought it was okay to kill him off . . . until fans rattled their cage to have him resurrected.

The same happened in Thor: The Dark World. They killed Loki, then realised he was too big a character to knock off, and they had to bring him back. He was supporting Thor, but we know how that went down with Loki fans.

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Critical Drinker Inspires a Wins vs Losses List

Shortly before Christmas, I stumbled upon the Critical Drinker, a YouTube critic mostly of films, but he critiques books at times, too. The Drinker is Will Jordan, author of Redemption: Ryan Drake 1. I’ve watched several of his videos for both the entertainment and insight in to how movies were constructed or, in many cases, how they were poorly constructed. As a writer, he comments on character development, plot and other aspects of story building.

His dissection of the three recent Star Wars movies is brutal. I am a huge fan of the original Star Wars trilogy – Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi – and his critiques tell me the new movies are ones I never want to see. In fact, they should be burnt. The stories trampled over our heroes of the past and are extremely disrespectful to their legacy. While I didn’t think it would be as bad as it was, I had an inkling of what was to come.

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The Over-used Trope for Character Development

Over the weekend, I watched Good Will Hunting. No, I’ve never seen the movie before even though it was released in 1997. That was the year I was working 40 hours a week at a garden centre, giving birth to my first child and settling into a new house, so I didn’t watch much of anything.

Throughout the movie, I was waiting for the inevitable. I say inevitable because many of the books I’ve read and the movies I’ve watched the past 20 years have used death to jolt the main character out of their ‘destructive’ daze and into change for the better. I’ve seen it so many times, I can often pick which character will be sacrificed for the good of character development. If it’s a character I’ve invested emotion in, I pull back before the death, knowing it’s coming. If I’m unaware, it feels like a betrayal by the writer.

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My 2020 Goals are About Writing and Living

Today, my mother turns 92 years old. She never thought she’d see this age, yet here she is. Like many of us, we are never aware of what we’re capable of doing. We just do it.

2020 is a transition year for me. There are things that must be done, and only by working off property will I accomplish them. So, this spring, I plan to begin working 40 to 50 hours a week, which will take me away from writing in the short term, yet will deliver me closer to a few long-term goals I want to accomplish in the next five years.

Much like when I worked at the garden centre a few years ago, this job will be physical (my favourite type), and I’ll be outdoors most of the time. It will chew up most of my time from April to December. Then I’ll be free to write through winter again.

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A Look Back at 2019

Eye on the DestinationIf I had to wrap up the year 2019 in one word, that word would be Unexpected.

While many things I expected to happen happened, there were many unexpected things that happened that had never before happened. They were a mixture of good and bad. All I can say is I survived intact, and it’s time to sum them up and keep moving forward.

On January 7th of last year, I posted my epic goal challenge. Here they are exposed like the bare rocks on the seashore.

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