Archive for July, 2011

Information on Horses in Fantasy Writing – Part I

Posted in Miscellaneous, Writing with tags , on July 30, 2011 by Dawn Ross

The Medieval Horse and its Equipment, c.1150-1450 (Medieval Finds from Excavations in London)

One of the most difficult things for me to research in fantasy writing was horses.  Sure, I know what a horse is and I know a little about the saddle and reigns.  But how far can horses travel?  What types of horses are best for cavalry, traveling, carrying messengers, pulling carts, or working in the fields?  How do you describe a horse in color or body?  Besides saddle and reigns what are all the other horse trappings?

Without proper knowledge of horses, I couldn’t possibly create realistic fantasy writing.  Sure it’s fantasy, but if I’m using a real creature, I should use real information on horses.  How would it sound if in fantasy writing that a horse could travel a hundred miles in one day, if a lady casually rode a stallion, or if an untrained horse did anything the rider wanted it to do, like jump a chasm?

So how far can horses travel?  What kinds of horses do ladies ride and what kinds are taken into battle?  Below is some of the information on horses that I have found in my research.  I will post more information on horses in the following weeks.

Body Language of Horses
*Ears flattened back – anger
*Ears pricked forward – interest
*Ears flick back and forth when attention is divided between the mounted person and what is ahead.
*Presents a rump – warning to keep out of its space
*Shying – jumping to one side when startled; this can cause a rider to be dismounted.
*Thrust and draw back – fear or dislike
*Thrusts head – aggression
Language – squeal (protest), nicker (greeting), neigh (normal sound you think of when you think of horses; generally loud), snort (warning or alert), roaring (wild noises, usually made when two stallions are fighting), whinny (soft neigh), grunts or groans (displeasure)

*Walk – slowest pace of a horse; can be a slow or fast walk.
Trot or jog – faster than a walk but slower than a canter; best for long distance travel
Canter or lope – medium pace of a horse
gallop or full gallop – fastest pace of a horse in which all four feet of the horse are off the ground at the same time

*Farrier – makes and fits horseshoes
*Horses can be hot or cold shod – hot is easier than cold
*Horseshoes should not be left on longer than eight weeks or their feet will be “pinched”.
When reshoeing, the old shoes must be removed so that the farrier can trim a proportion of the hooves off and ensure that the feet are balanced before putting new shoes on.

More detailed information on horses can be found in the coming weeks at my Squidoo page “Helpful Information on Horses“, and from books such as “The Medieval Horse and its Equipment“, “The Horse in the Middle Ages”, or “The Encyclopedia of the Horse“.  All these books and other great fantasy writing books can be purchased at the Writing a Fantasy Novel Amazon a-Store.

How I Came Up with Character Names for My Fantasy Novel

Posted in The Dukarian Legacy - Fantasy Novels with tags , on July 23, 2011 by Dawn Ross

Names of your characters give a certain feel to your book.  If people in a fantasy novel were named Jason, Bob, Linda, or Emily, you might think your fantasy novel is set in modern times.  If the people in your fantasy novel had names like Edward, Robert, William, Elizabeth, or Mary, you might picture an old English or renaissance setting.  If these settings don’t fit your fantasy novel, you will have to come up with completely different names.

In reading fantasy novels, I come across a lot of uncommon and/or made-up names.  Richard in the Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind is common enough.  But Richard the hero comes from a common background and a land without magic.  So the common name is perfect for him.  The heroine of this same series, Kahlan, does not have a common name.  Unlike Richard, she comes from a very different land where magic is prevalent.  Her name should be as exotic as she is.  Other uncommon names used in other fantasy novels include Pippin, Drogo, Kvothe, Rand, Gaborn, and more.

In order to come up with the names of the characters in my fantasy novel, I did three things.  First, I just randomly made up words which sounded like it could be someone’s name.  Second, I took common names and changed the spelling or letters to come up with new names.  The main character in my fantasy novel, Tomis, is one such name.  The character, Reyker, is derived from the name of Commander Riker in Star Trek.

The third thing I did when coming up with exotic names for the characters in my fantasy novel was to list names if people from different cultures in history (incidentally, I did the same thing with place names).  I listed a bunch of names from European, Celtic, Egyptian, Norse, Native American, Chinese, and Middle Eastern history.

This method was especially helpful when I wanted a character from a different land or different race.  One of the villains in my fantasy novel, “The Raven’s Fire”, is name Thorolf.  His name and character description are Nordic-like.  Tomis’ mother, Teshaure, is from the distant land of Menkhara.  Both of these names were derived from the Egyptian names I found.

There are only a few main characters in a fantasy novel, but there are tons of people and place names.  It helped me to come up with an extensive list of names before I started my novel.  This way, all I had to do was go back to my reference book and pick one which sounded like it would fit the character or place I was trying to describe.  When outlining your fantasy novel, you can find such people and place names in history or mythology books or articles.

Book Review – Game of Thrones, A Song of Ice and Fire

Posted in Miscellaneous with tags , , on July 16, 2011 by Dawn Ross

A Game of Thrones: A Song of Ice and Fire: Book One (Random House Movie Tie-In Books)

I just finished reading Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin.  Game of Thrones is book one of the epic saga, A Song of Ice and Fire.  As you may have guessed, it is a story told from different points of view from people with different ambitions to obtain, uphold, or thwart the power of the king.

George R. R. Martin does an excellent job of developing the characters and telling the story from each of their perspectives.  At first I was a bit confused because some of the characters go by different names.  For example, one of the primary characters goes by the name of Ned, Eddard, or Lord Stark.  At times, it was also difficult for me to follow because there are so many characters and so much going on.  But within a few chapters, I had a grip on the story and couldn’t put the book down.  The wealth of characters and different stories are all linked in one way or the other.  Game of Thrones wouldn’t be the captivating story that it is without its complexity.

In this story, Robert is king.  And he became king by usurping the dragon king and killing nearly all of the dragon king’s family.  Ned, Lord Stark of Winterfell and the north, is his friend.  Ned is an intelligent man with a big heart.  He always tries to do right by others, which in itself can be a weakness.  Robert had the makings of a good king but over the years he became indulgent and let his overambitious wife have her way.

The story is also told from the point of view of some of Ned’s children as well as his wife.  A dwarf brother of the overambitious queen also tells his story, as well as a long lost descendant of the dragon king.

While the story unfolds around the political intrigue surrounding the throne, there is also a silent danger from sinister monsters who inhabit the bodies of the dead.  These monsters live in the haunted forest north of the Great Wall.  There are also large wolves called direwolves, adventures along the Great Wall, different cultures beyond the sea, and epic battles.

I loved Game of Thrones so much that as soon as I finished reading it, I purchased the three sequels, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, and a Feast for Crows.  There is a fifth book out just released called A Dance with Dragons.  All these are part of the epic series of A Song of Ice and Fire.

If you are interested in reading Game of Thrones or any of the other books in A Song of Ice and Fire epic series, visit our affiliated store and click on George R. R. Martin.

My Fantasy Reference Guide – Religion

Posted in Writing with tags , on July 9, 2011 by Dawn Ross

The previous post was about a book called “The Writer’s Complete Fantasy Reference“.  When I first wrote my fantasy novel, I did not have this book as reference.  I had to do my own research.  Much of what I found was the same as in “The Writer’s Complete Fantasy Reference”.  But in some cases I found more information.

“The Writer’s Complete Fantasy Reference” briefly touched on religion.  Even though my book only briefly touches on a religion in some form, I needed more information.  I needed to know the differences between the different ranks of religious groups as well as the type of clothing they wore.  Here is a list of some of the terminology I found:

Religious Persons
archbishop – highest rank below he pope, in charge of more than one diocese
bishop – ranks below the archbishop, in charge of a diocese
archdeacon – works with the bishop, performs administrative and religious tasks
priest – an ordained minister responsible for administering the sacraments, preaching, and ministering to the needs of the congregation – in charge of a parish
deacon – an ordained minister who performs the administrative duties with the priests
prelate – high-ranking member of the clergy
chaplain – member of the clergy employed to give religious guidance to a household or public institution
minister – member of the clergy
friar – members of a religious order who practice the principals of monastic life and devote themselves to the service of humanity – no allowed to own property – worked as an individual in the secular world
monk – worked and lived with a specific community within which they led a cloistered life apart from the secular world
abbot – superior of a monastery
abbess – woman superior of a convent
prioress – nun ranking next below the abbess
oblate – young initiative dedicated to the church by their parents
novice – a person new to a religious order who has not taken their vows

Religious Terms
alms – money or other assistance given to the poor as charity
altar – raised area where sacrifices are offered or other religious ceremonies are performed
clergy – body of people ordained for a religious service (generic term)
convent – community of nuns bound together by religious vows or the buildings occupied by such a community
ordain – to appoint somebody officially as a priest
sacrament – something considered to be sacred or have a special significance
shrine – a holy place of worship

Religious Vestments
amice – white linen napkin or veil put on the head then adjusted round the neck and over the shoulders – bottommost garment under any other head pieces
alb – long white tunic of linen, worn over the amice or cassock
dalmatic – short version of the alb with shorter sleeves – worn over the alb
orphreys of the dalmatic – elaborate embroidery, often done in gold
tunicle – shorter than the dalmatic and not so ample – work over the dalmatic
chasuble – round cloth with hole in center for the head – short at the sides – the front and back fall into long points – worn over the tunicle
cassock – long coat fastened up front – tight sleeves – the bottommost garment
surplice – ample garment of wide linen with full sleeves – worn over the cassock
almuce – large cape with attached hood – turned down over the shoulders – lined with fur – worn over the surplice
cowl – monk’s hooded robe
habit – long and loose gown of ordinary color
maniple – kerchief-type – narrow band of plain or richly decorated material looped over the left wrist
mitre – pointed hat or crown of plain white linen or richly decorated
sack cloth – coarse material worn by penitents

These are just a few of the terms and they are mostly European.  Other religions or pagan religions may have different terminology.  If you are writing a fantasy novel, you can get ideas from “The Writer’s Complete Fantasy Reference“, from my research, or you can start of scratch and do your own research.

Book Review – “The Writer’s Complete Fantasy Reference”

Posted in Writing with tags , on July 2, 2011 by Dawn Ross

The Writer's Complete Fantasy Reference

When writing a fantasy novel, it is good to use reference material.  “The Writer’s Complete Fantasy Reference” provides the basic information that you need.  The introduction by Terry Brooks states, “Difficulty in writing fantasy is that even though it is “fantasy” it still has to be believable.”  So, when writing a fantasy novel the best way to describe a castle, someone’s clothing, or someone’s armor, it is good to have information to refer to.

“The Writer’s Complete Fantasy Reference” is an “indispensable compendium of myth and magic” from the editors of Writer’s Digest books.  It gives basic information on types of magic as understood in ancient times, the layout of a castle, arms and armor, clothing, and so much more.  “The Writer’s Complete Fantasy Reference” doesn’t go into extreme detail but it gives you an idea of where to start in your fantasy world.

The first and second chapters of “The Writer’s Complete Fantasy Reference” provide great information on the different cultures we could use as a basis in making up our own fantasy cultures.  Chapter one describes feudalism and manorialism, the structure of which ancient medieval societies lived.  It also describes the role of religion, knights, and political entities.  Chapter two describes some ancient world cultures such as the Egyptian culture, Mayan, Chinese, and more.

The third and fourth chapters of “The Writer’s Complete Fantasy Reference” have to do magic.  Although magic isn’t real, people in ancient times believed it was.  They performed rituals, believed in spirits, or predicted the future by divining the heavenly bodies in the sky.  A review of what ancient societies believed can inspire new ideas for you when writing a fantasy novel.

Chapter five of “The Writer’s Complete Fantasy Reference” gives information on how commerce, trade, and law worked in medieval times.  For example, what is a marshal, a fuller, a jarl, an adamist?

Chapters six and seven describe fantasy races and mythical creatures.  Fantasy races include elves, dwarves, giants, and more.  Mythical creatures include dragons, unicorns, harpies, and many many more.  When writing a fantasy novel with elves or dragons, you may want to stick with the most common characteristics, but feel free to expand on their natures to give them a unique twist.  Or make up your own fantasy creatures.

Chapter eight of “The Writer’s Complete Fantasy Reference” describes dress and costume of ancient times.  Chapter nine is an excellent source for information on the different types of arms and armor and it also describes ancient armies.  And chapter ten describes the anatomy of a castle.

If you are writing a fantasy novel and don’t know where to start in making up your own fantasy world, “The Writer’s Complete Fantasy Reference” is a great place to start.  You can’t very well give the reader a visual description of a castle if you don’t know the names of certain parts of the castle.  You can’t describe your hero as he rides fully armored on his mighty steed if you don’t know the names of particular pieces of armor.  Feel free to grab ideas from The Writer’s Complete Fantasy Reference and expand on them to make them your own.