Archive for fantasy novels

Keeping Track of Fantasy Novel Characters, Places, and Terminology

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , , on June 16, 2012 by Dawn Ross

When I was writing my fantasy novels, The Third Dragon and The Raven’s Fire, I found it difficult a times to keep the names and places straight. I also had trouble keeping the characteristics of minor characters consistent. Things could get even more complicated if I decided to change a character’s name or characteristic. But this is how I kept it all straight and how I am sure other writers of fantasy novels keep their information straight.

Make a List and/or Keep a Database
Whenever I need a new character in my fantasy novel, I decide on a name, what special physical characteristics he or she has, and what their basic personality needs to be. If the character is just in for a very small part, I keep the physical and personality traits simple. But if the character is going to show up again, I try to make these features more unique and recognizable. And I keep track of it all by keeping a detailed database (spreadsheet). Each character on the spreadsheet also has indicated which book and which chapter he or she is in as well as what they did. Obviously, more prominent characters need more room to describe so I usually put, see document titled such-and-such. That document is created and saved in Word with that title. If you don’t have or don’t like to use an electronic database, use notecards and binders. Also, create a separate file or database for each element – one for people, one for places, and one for terminology.

Create a Map
Because the places in a fantasy novel are almost always made-up places, it is important to have a map. When I created the world of Ungal, I first made a map. I decided on each province name, added prominent cities, places such as forests and deserts, and rivers. I also created a database which described what the people of those provinces tended to wear, what their general physical characteristics were, and what personalities their populace tended to have. It is also good to have a general idea of how big the place is, how wide are some of the rivers and how did people cross, and whether there were any major roads.

Find and Replace
Sometimes I found it necessary to change a person’s name or the name of a place. After changing it in my database, I had to make sure I changed it in my fantasy novel too. The find and replace feature in Word makes this extremely easy. But you have to make sure you update your database and notes too.

Edit, Edit, and Have Someone Else Edit Some More
Sometimes when you get a certain character in your head, it is difficult for you to switch gears if you change his name or how he looks. Even the find and replace won’t always help you locate all the places where the changes need to be made. So to help reduce possible discrepancies, edit your book. Then edit it again. Have someone else edit it too (preferably a professional editor who is willing to also help you correct story discrepancies as well as grammatical errors). On top of having a professional editor, have your friends and family read it too. And ask them to let you know if they find something they are not clear on.

Lots writers of fantasy novels use maps. Many of them also have an index of names, places, and terminology. Robert Jordan’s fantasy novels have an index for terminology such as the definition of and how to pronounce Aes Sedai. If your fantasy novel uses made up terminology to define certain groups of people, types of objects, or magical actions, it is probably a good idea to not only create a database for this info but to have an index at the end of your novel which readers can reference. You can have an index of people as well as a map.

Protect Your Work with the DMCA – Digital Millennium Copyright Act

Posted in Miscellaneous, Publishing with tags , , , , , , , on June 2, 2012 by Dawn Ross

I’ve had two incidents this year where someone stole my content from the web and claimed it as their own. The content was not related to my fantasy novels, but it could have been. The nature of the internet makes it easy for people to copy your stuff and present it as theirs. But don’t worry, you can protect yourself in the same way I did with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)… and without a lawyer.

How to Prevent Your Work from Being Copied
Sorry, there is no magical way to keep this from happening. Digitalizing text may help somewhat and adding watermarks to photos may also help. Be sure to clearly state that it is your work and to indicate it is protected by copyright.

How to Tell if Someone Has Copied Your Work
There are a number of websites which can help you check to see if something you have put online has been copied. One such website is Copyscape.com. So if you put a synopsis or a portion of your book online for a review, copy the URL where it is located and paste it in the space on the Copyscape website. Copyscape may give you a list of websites which have duplicated your content. Click through each one to verify. Another way is to do a Google search. Copy and paste some of your content, with quotation marks around it into the Google search field and check the sites which pop up.

When Copying Information May Be Okay
I found much of my information for this article in a HubPages article titled, How to File a DMCA Complaint. Please note that even though I gave you the same information they did, I did not cut and paste. I put it in my own words and I gave them credit by mentioning them and linking to them. If someone has duplicated your content, click through to see if they gave you credit and linked to your novel. If they did, this could actually be helpful to you depending on how much they duplicated.

What to Do if Someone Duplicates Your Work
If you find work which should not have been duplicated, find the Contact Us page on their website and send them an email. The HubPages article I previously mentioned tells you exactly what you should say. If you don’t know who to send your email to, the HubPages article also tells you how to find out.

How to Get Your Stolen Work Removed
If you do not get a response to your email, the next step was a lot easier than I expected. When I found that someone had duplicated an article I wrote, I went through Google Support and filed my DMCA complaint. If you find that you have to file such a complaint, be as thorough as possible with providing Google the duplicated information. Submit your complaint and wait. When I reported my duplicated article to Google, they handled it within 5 business days. I found they not only deleted the page where this website had my article, they blocked their entire website!

I also found a video on YouTube that had used a photo of my dog. This might have been okay except it was a photo of my dog Maya wearing her dog car harness and I use this photo to promote and sell this same dog car harness on a website I own, PetAutoSafety.com. Since they were using my photo to sell a dog car harness from their own website, I contacted them to have them remove it. And since they did not respond, I reported it to YouTube who had the video deleted within 5 business days.

When Copying Photos May Be Okay
Just because an image is one the web does not mean it is free for your use. If you are using images in your novel, be sure you get permission to use those images. And be sure to give credit for those images to the proper source. You can also buy your images from BigStock.com or other such sites.

I love how easy things can be on the internet now-a-days. For one, it has helped me get my fantasy novels published. But there is a risk that someone will steal my work. Thankfully, Google and YouTube have made it easy for me to do something about it.

Book Review – Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson

Posted in Miscellaneous with tags , , , on January 14, 2012 by Dawn Ross

Mistborn : Final Empire Series (Book #1) (Mistborn, Book 1)

I know this book “Mistborn” by Brandon Sanderson has been out for some time, but I hadn’t been reading many fantasy novels. After being left hanging with George R. R. Martin’s “A Dance with Dragons”, I needed a fantasy fix to keep me going. After browsing on Amazon.com, I saw that “Mistborn” had been a popular choice amongst fantasy readers so I checked it out.

I was pleasantly surprised. At first I was put off by the use of magic by people drinking metal chips, then ‘burning’ the metal in their body to various affects. To make magic in this way seemed a bit absurd to me, but Brandon Sanderson does a great job of making it believable. Less than a quarter of the way into the story, I was completely absorbed into Brandon’s new world of Allomancers.

The main character, Vin, is very compelling. She lives in a tenuous world of thieves where her  race is considered inferior and trust is a foolish gamble. While she acts weak for the sake of her safety, her character is strong. When a con being performed by the band of thieves she lives with goes wrong, another compelling character appears. Kelsier is unusually optimistic for a man from the same inferior race as Vin. This race, called skaa, has lived as slaves for a thousand years. They are generally a depressed lot who live only to survive. But Kelsier is no ordinary skaa. He is the Survivor of Hathsin and a Mistborn who is determined to overthrow the Lord Ruler.

Vin discovers through Kelsier that she is also Misborn and her abilities to burn various metals is a rare and exciting gift. At first, she helps Kelsier and his band in their plot to overthrow a thousand year reign only to learn more about her gift. But while she doesn’t really believe that their crazy plot will work, she begins to believe in trust and what true friendship really is.

Reading “Misborn” by Brandon Sanderon was a fantastic adventure. Each page brought me closer to Vin and her developing powers, Kelsier and his reckless schemes, and to the amazing end to a world of injustice. And although Brandon nicely wrapped up the plot in “Mistborn” there is a hint that the story continues. The story of “Mistborn” does no leave you hanging, but it does compel you to read the sequel, “The Well of Ascension”.

If you enjoy fantasy novels from popular modern fantasy writers such as Terry Goodkind, Robert Jordan, R. A. Salvator, David Eddings, Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman, Brent Weeks, and Terry Brooks then you will love the “Mistborn” series by Brandon Sanderson. Check out the first book in the series, “Mistborn“, or get all three – “Mistborn”, “The Well of Ascension”, and “The Hero of Ages”.

(Is it just me or does the girl in the book cover art, Vin, look a lot like Shannen Doherty?)

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.

Is My Fantasy Novel as Good as Other Fantasy Novels?

Posted in About the Author, Writing with tags , , on April 6, 2011 by Dawn Ross

The Wise Man's Fear (Kingkiller Chronicles, Day 2) by Patrick Rothfuss

It has been a few weeks now since I have worked on getting my fantasy novel in a format which I can put on Smashwords.  It’s really not all that difficult since Smashwords gives detailed step by step instructions.  But once again, I have found myself procrastinating.  I am too tired, too busy, or I just can’t motivate myself.  I am also very distracted with a fantasy novel I am reading.

I just finished reading “The Name of the Wind” by Patrick Rothfuss and am now reading the sequel, “The Wise Man’s Fear”.  I just can’t put it down.  I am so engrossed that almost everything else is taking a back seat.

As I am reading his fantasy novels, I am once again reminded of my striking inadequacy as a writer.  Patrick Rothfuss writes so well.  I am compelled by the characters and sucked fully into the story.  The characters are more than believable, especially the main character who has a tendency to speak and act without thinking of the consequences.  The dialog between characters flows naturally and are not at all awkward or prone to give long boring discourses.  The story is a fictional biography of sorts so it is a bunch of small stories within one big long story.  As a biography, the main character has both good times and bad.  And even when he is having good times, I still want to read more to see what other trouble he can get himself into.

In my imagination, the main character in my book is just as compelling.  I have had his story in my head for so long that he is often in my dreams.  During the day when I daydream, I think of yet another adventure he can get himself into.  But I am not so sure that this character is as compelling on paper.  Did I write him as well as I imagine him?  Are his character and his story believable?  Are the relationships between him and the other characters convincing?

I may not be as good of a writer as Patrick Rothfuss and other well-known fantasy authors.  But how will I know unless I get my fantasy novel out there for you to read?