Archive for terry goodkind

Character Building – Leadership Qualities

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 17, 2012 by Dawn Ross


I am almost done with the fall semester of school. Now, I hope I can focus more on my writing. I bought three books on creative writing this week so I am ready to go! But I didn’t mention this to get off-topic. I mention it because, once again, I have not had time to prepare a proper blog post for this Saturday. What I do have is some notes I took for a report in my management class for school. What does management have to do with fantasy writing? Stay with me a moment…

My management report was on management leadership. What I found when I was writing this report is that management leadership is a lot like leadership in other fields such as military and political. I’m not talking about just simple management or ordinary leaders. I’m talking about those rare people who inspire followers, those rare charismatic leaders that encourage change.

Many different kinds of people can be a manager just like many kinds of people can be appointed as military leaders. But not anyone can truly lead. So what are the traits of a real leader and how does this information help fiction writers? I am going to answer the first half of the question first using the notes from my report.

Most leaders have a strong desire to achieve something. There is something emotional that drives them to their goal. Perhaps that emotion is personal ambition or perhaps it is a determination to right a wrong. But this personal ambition can’t be strictly a selfish one. To be a leader, one must have followers. This means that the leader also has qualities to inspire other people towards the same goal.

Two strong traits that many famous leaders throughout history have had are self-confidence and honesty. When I say honesty, though, I don’t mean honesty with everyone. We all know some imposing leaders who have done terrible things. The honesty I am talking about is the honesty “perceived” by the followers. Take Alexander the Great, for one. Born into his leadership role or not, he would not have had the eager conquering military followers that he did if they had not trusted him to bring them glory and/or riches. In school my report, I also mentioned Hitler. I hate what he did, but he seems to fit the requirements of a true leader. While he did dominate many into following his regime, he also had true followers – others who believed as he did and trusted Hitler to make their ideals a reality.

Obviously, a leader must have expertise in their corresponding field. Managers have to know the industry of the company they work for while military leaders have to know not just military arts but also have some idea of the political environment, strategic maneuvers, their enemy, the landscape terrain, etc. They also have to know their people. A good leader knows the strengths and weaknesses of his men and utilizes them accordingly. He generally has people skills which means he doesn’t sit in his tent and give orders through his immediate subordinates. He probably goes out among his men and socializes with them. He probably asks if they have any grievances and genuinely works to resolve them. A good kingly leader will likely do the same.

That is not to say that a leader must be everyone’s friend. A leader can take advice of their subordinates but makes their own decisions and is confident about their decisions. This is where the previously mentioned self-confidence trait comes in. If one does not have self-confidence, one tends to doubt themselves and their intentions. While a leader may have these feelings from time to time, especially when the adversity is at its peak, but ultimately a leader knows what he wants to achieve and has the self-confidence to see it through.

Now that you know some strong leadership traits, perhaps you can see how this information can help you as a writer. You now have information to help you in the character building of your hero. Your hero can work alone but a hero may also have followers. And if he or she does have followers, then your hero is going to need to have certain traits. No one is going to really follow a hero who can’t make up his mind on what he wants to achieve, or a hero who has no skills whatsoever. Even if your hero is a military leader but can’t fight with a sword or ride a horse, there has to be something he excels at. Perhaps he is gifted with magic. Or perhaps he is an excellent strategist.

You can even use this information to write an evil leader. Sure you can have an evil leader that rules by force. But to be even more effective, that evil leader should also have true followers. When I think of an evil leader in fiction writing, I think of Jagang in the Sword of Truth series. He had a lot of real followers, people who really believed in his sick ideals, people who looked up to him like a god and not a dictator. The way Terry Goodkind wrote this evil leader made the hero Richard’s task all the more daunting, and therefore, all the more triumphant when he won.

So here is a breakdown of my notes, most of which came from a book called “The Essence of Leadership” by Edwin A. Locke:

– ambition, desire, drive, energy
– socialized power – power used to benefit everyone in the group, not just the leader
– honesty
– self confidence
– sometimes charisma, flexibility, and/or creativity
– knowledge of their particular field such as military
– people skills
– intelligence
– an ultimate goal or aspiration

There is more to it than that, but if I make this post much longer you will fall asleep. 🙂 Does your story have a leader? If so, does he or she have most of these traits? What other traits do they have that make others want to follow them?

Book Review – “The Omen Machine” by Terry Goodkind

Posted in Miscellaneous with tags , on September 10, 2011 by Dawn Ross

The Omen Machine

I love Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series.  The series is intriguing and the characters are compelling.  Of all the fantasy novels I have read, the characters Richard and Kahlan in the Sword of Truth series are the ones I love the most.  So, when “The Oman Machine” came out and said that it was a Richard and Kahlan novel, I purchased it right away and in advance.

The day “The Omen Machine” arrived in the mail I read it cover to cover that same day.  There are two reasons it took me one day to read.  First, I couldn’t put it down.  The second is because the book was much shorter than all the other books by Terry Goodkind that I have read.

Be warned, if you haven’t read the Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind, you probably shouldn’t read “The Omen Machine”.  The Sword of Truth series begins with “Wizard’s First Rule” and continues with ten more books with the last book being “Confessor”.  In this series, you follow the journey that Richard takes from being a woods guide to Master of D’Hara.  Each book begins with a mystery and ends with a conclusion, but the series as a whole consists of Richard and Kahlan fighting against evil – ie Darken Rahl, the Keeper, then Jagang.  As I read each of these books in the series, I got to know not only Richard and Kahlan, but also Zed, Cara, Verna, Nicci, Nathan, and more.  If you have never read the series and start by reading “The Omen Machine”, you will not get to know these characters.  You will read about them in “The Omen Machine” but you will not really know who they are and you will be left wanting.

“The Omen Machine” brings back many of the same characters, including of course, Richard and Kahlan.  After the final defeat of Jagang, the world is coming to an unprecedented peace.  But that peace is not to last.  Things begin to go awry when a mysterious machine below the palace comes to life.  The omen machine at first appears to be just that – a machine.  But how is it generating its prophecies?  And how does it influence other people in the palace to give the same prophecies?  It doesn’t take long for Richard to suspect that someone is controlling the machine.  The mystery remains as to how.  And another mystery arises when Richard suspects that the omen machine is more than just a piece of equipment – it is a living entity and it is trying to help him.

The machine’s prophecies are disruptive.  People in D’Hara begin to react to the prophecies in an extreme way.  Richard and Kahlan’s rule is at stake and so is the peace of the entire kingdom.  To stop the machine, they must find out who is controlling it and find a way to stop them.

Although I enjoyed the story, I was disappointed with its shortness.  I don’t like to be able to read a book in one day.  I like to get engrossed, put it aside, then reflect.  An adventure should last.  I want to put it aside and know that I have something to look forward to the next time I pick it up.  But “The Omen Machine” moved much too quickly.

Another thing I didn’t like about the novel is that nothing in the book title or synopsis told me that this book was to also be an epic series.  I read it thinking it was a stand-alone book.  And it was a big letdown when I got to the end to find out that it wasn’t.  Why the big secret?  Would it really have hurt Terry Goodkind to tell us that it was Book One of the Whatever?  I would have bought it and read it anyway.  But because it didn’t tell me it was the first book in a series, I felt cheated.  This and the shortness of the book is almost enough to make me not read the next book – almost.  I will read the next one and the one after that.  I love the characters too much to let them go and I sincerely hope that the next book is more fulfilling.