Thursday, 24 March 2011

Fantasy Ed 101: Inventing A New Race

I thank all of you who commented on my opening. I already wrote a brand new one that expands on the scene in the cafe. I intend on posting it on Friday, so stay tuned for that.

Today, the twenty finalists of Brenda Drake's Show Me The Voice contest was posted. I, of course, was not one of them, and this was probably because, despite my haste, I did not email the entry. When I saw that I had until 12pm yesterday, the 23rd, I told myself I'll do some quick revisions and send it off. Low and behold, I check her website and its closed. That...sucked. I assumed signing the widget-thing with all the names was a possible entry, but I guess not...

Anyway, I want to sing my praises unto the master himself, Roland Yeomans, for his spot in the top twenty. Super-Mega-Ultra CONGRATULATIONS to the one and only Holy Orpheon!

I am fed-up of Orcs, Elves, Goblins, Witches, Wizards, Vampires, Werewolves, Trolls and Zombies.

I want something new.

We, the readers, want something new.

I invented nineteen races, including the Alterheroes, Portrayers, Flarions and Wisperits. I know nineteen is a bit much, but it was the most fun I've ever had writing.

Not everyone can do as such, however, there are too many resources for you not to at least try. It doesn't have to be fantastic, like Orcs, Vampires, Imperi or Thestrals, but quirky and bizzare like the Lionturtle, in Nickelodian's Avatar the Last Airbender; the Moose-Lion; the Rabaroo (Rabbit Kangaroo); or the Saber-Tooth Tiger Turtle. These were all superb; they enhanced their respective stories with a waft of fresh air.

We need that in these times, where the market is littered with derivative vomit.

Designing intelligent races is a great feat (took me 7 years to prefect all 19 of mine), but creating creatures to populate your world is as easy as mixing it up.

Here's how:

1) Think of a legendary creature (Dragon, Chimera...). 

2) Get an image of it.

3) Study it well and contemplate its features. What is its color? Its size? Its weight? Is it good or bad? 

4) Decide which part of it you can cut off and replace (head, chest, abdomen, tail...) with that of another creature or person. 

5) If you want to go a step further (like I'm about to do), merge it entirely with another being or thing. 

6) Get another image of the thing you wish to merge and put them side by side. Brainstorm possible outcomes. 


                 Blue Dragon + Female, Becomes:

Congratulations! You just created your very first race!

Writing fantasy is a discipline that requires the utmost care and imaginative prowess. It is perhaps the most rewarding genre of literature and the most fun. Give readers something to expand their imagination - to respect the art of fantasy, and not dub it as a genre of used and abused elements. There are some creatures and things that will never get old, such as dragons and magic, but take the time to invent your own, and make your everlasting mark on fantasy literature.

Class dismissed. (LOL)


Michael Offutt said...

I love your pictures you got there and I think you're right that we need more original fantasy out there. I personally would like to see more gay characters as heroes in fantasy and more m/m action that the traditional m/f action. Seems that only Mercedes Lackey has the courage to go down that road.

T.D. McFrost said...

Those pictures are awesome, right?

I think authors who simply write fantasy using the same old elements are lazy. And I am not alone.

You can get mad or take offense, but I speak the truth.

You might argue that those tired old elements still sell. Well, it's because that's all there is to read. Compare it to politicians or a bowl of filth. They're all horrible, but you have nothing else to choose from.

Readers are forced to read these used and abused elements because authors aren't taking the time to sit and come up with something original. In some tiny, subconscious way, they are indoctrinated to believe that it takes a master like Tolkein, C.S. Lewis or J.K Rowling for it to be done.

That is untrue.

In this post I've shown you it can be done.It takes time to get it right, but the end result will pay off big time!

As for gay heroes in fantasy...
that's a touchy subject that takes a mastermind to push into the mainstream. It will take timing and, sad to say, I don't think the world is ready to chant for a gay hero just yet. If they can bash a thirteen year old girl for singing a silly song, imagine the flames that will befall a gay superhero...

Tony Benson said...

Bravo - well said. There's a place for all the old stuff that keeps getting recycled, but new ideas are needed if we want our fantasy to come across as fresh.

Many thanks for visiting my blog and for following. It's great to meet you, and I'm looking forward to taking a look around more of your blog.

I'm curious - is the artwork your own? It's fabulous!

Kelly Hashway said...

Very nice lesson! I agree that it's good to create things readers haven't seen before. The only thing that gets me though is that some writers make names so difficult to pronounce--and therefore remember. I think when we create new races, we need to make sure they are something people can pronounce. Otherwise, how will we talk about them?

Roland D. Yeomans said...

I'm in love with your female -- but before the dragon transformation! LOL.

Good to see you, Michael Offutt, here. Marion Zimmer Bradley had gays as characters in some of her fantasies if I recall correctly. And in two of my own (yet unpublished) I have Ada Byron and Margaret Fuller, being lovers in the exotic supernatural world found in the shadows of the French Quarter.

Kelly has a good point : agents are turned off by names that they cannot pronounce easily.

T.D. , you gave a great lesson on how to build races and interest in your novel. Sadly, I think the editors and their purchasing agents feel uncomfortable with something original -- no garantee that the publisher will get his advance back by high sales.

So that is why we get the same old, same old -- vampires and werewolves all fighting over one girl that females can fantasize themselves to be.

Thanks for the kind words and for visiting my blog and commenting. Don't hesitate to comment -- sometimes I feel as if I'm playing to an empty house.

I hate that you missed Brenda's deadline like that. Keep your eyes alert for more contests. They are out there. Have a great weekend, Roland

T.D. McFrost said...

Kelly - Thanks to LOTR, every noob out there thinks a name like Kel'thuzad or An'marak or even Izmalakefazan (no kidding) constitues a plausible name.

Most readers, especially kids, skim hard to read names, so I know better than that.

Roland - My Holy Orpheon! So glad you stopped by!

Michael Offut did a great post on exactly your concern on his blog today, so click on his name somewhere in this section and go check it out.

I think you can present something original to publishers as long as there is an angle to sell it; that being it has some sort of semblance to popular stuff (media): Superheros (which is my angle), wizards, vampires and the like...

There was also a commenter on Michael's blog who wrote an amazing clarification on the matter of derivative literature.

Permit me to copy it here:

"...every creative industry has its "factory" producers churning out by-the-numbers product, and every creative industry has its auteur-types, its people who are motivated by factors besides money.

The populist stuff, the output that's designed for maximum media penetration and maximum revenue, has its place. In the book world, for example (where, historically, publishers have been gambling on all kinds of properties like bankers on stock market shares for many years, with decidedly mixed results) some of the product that seems tired and cynically marketed and slapped together by hacks but still, somehow, sells bucketloads -- that's the stuff that pays the bills and allows publishers and/or agents to take some chances on a few of the artists out there, the ones that have new, fresh, original voices and ideas.

As usual, I guess it all depends on your perspective. I mean, let's not forget that despite what I just wrote, fewer and fewer new writers seem to be getting recruited into traditional publisher's folds. Every time I veer towards depression at the state of the industry, however, I remind myself of the excellent writers and books that I have discovered over the last 12 months, all of whom (pretty much) came to prominence through the same industry that I was getting frustrated with. The system's far from perfect, or perhaps even adequate. It's deeply flawed and needs a top-to-bottom overhaul, or, if you prefer, a reimagining, especially in the face of the digital revolution. But good writers and good books are alive and well and being published all the time.

And what with epublishing and the rise of the self-published entrepreneur, arguably there has never been a better time to be an author with something authentic to say, given the opportunities that have opened up.

Stay positive."

He's a screenwriter, a published novelist and a former journalist. You can check him out here:

Thanks for stopping by and I will definitely make an effort to post, despite having nothing to say at your humble abode. :D

Michael Di Gesu said...

It refreshing to see a writer with a TRUE imagination. Creating worlds takes a lot of talent and imagination, BUT creating species is even more so, especially making them believable.

I commend you T. D. I enjoyed your post and your comments.

As for interesting new blogs, the easiest way to scope around for blogs is by checking out what your favorite bloggers are reading. Usually in their side bar (me included) will have a list of bloggers. Literally there are hundreds that are good. I wish I had the time to read them all. Of course, I have my favorites that I visit daily, but I still try to visit others as well a few times a week.

Sorry you missed out on Brenda's contest. I thought it odd that she posted the deadline at 12am. Yes, it did have the am. Much easier to say 11:59PM.

I was bumped out for a grammatical choice. Brenda was terrific in sticking up for me. Those are the breaks when writing is so subjective.

Try and save some innocents this weekend.


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