Month: July 2016

New Fantasy Times: Heroic Grievances

Inspired by Elena’s discovery of Villainous Complains last month, Kirin has stepped in to write his own take on the grievances he believes heroes are forced to suffer due to stereotyping.

Everyone likes to throw the word hero around. Saving the world. Heroic. Saving a nation. Heroic. Saving a city. Heroic. Saving a king. Heroic. Saving a tiny lamb from drowning in a flash flood. Heroic. Saving chocolate. Not one mention, thank you very much. Didn’t even get a free sample.

I mean, come on everyone. What do you really think makes a hero?

In this realm, a hero is a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds, noble qualities, who has performed a heroic act, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. You get the idea. A heroine, of course, is a girl or woman who has the same qualities, but because I’m not about to write hero/heroine throughout this whole complaint, I’m just grouping everyone together as a hero. So replace man with person in that first definition and if anyone with this land’s tender sensitives gets offended, well, umm, I frankly don’t care.

Anyhow, it’s not that I don’t agree that someone saving a nation is heroic. Though I do claim there is a difference between doing something heroic and being a hero. Anyone with power can doing something heroic, and the weakest person can be a hero. But for some reason, people always expect the hero to win. Sure, they tend to in books, because who wants to read about a hero who fails? But in reality – all right, Elena is telling me to get on with it and stop being so discouraging. I’ll pick up the topic again in a moment.

You’ve probably all heard the common quote about how some heroes are born, some achieve the position, and some have events thrust upon them…or something like that. Greatness? Or was it about greatness in the first place instead of heroes? Never mind. It works for heroes pretty well, besides missing the most important part of the role.

Frankly, the heroes that are born (to the greatness part; all heroes are born) tend to be a bit smug in my experience. They’re born to a prophecy. They are the long awaited one. They’ve been raised and pampered and trained and beefed up and then go on their quest…etcetera, etcetera.

The heroes who become heroes consciously, vary. Why anyone would want the position is beyond me. Apparently they didn’t do their research on the work involved. Or maybe they really, really, cared about people and had no one close they had to protect. All the more power to them.

Then, of course, there is the most common hero who’s normal until events come tumbling down on his head, burying him and demanding he shoulder the weight to survive…and save the nation, king, lamb, and chocolate besides.

But it’s really the spirit of a man or woman which makes the hero. The circumstances and events will bring their character to light so everyone recognizes them as a hero, but their wills and determinations and strengths are already there. That is what makes one a true hero. Their character, not what they do.

Of course, what they do is effected by their character. And there a number of common misconceptions here which ought to be rectified.

Like death having to start their story. We, I mean, heroes, don’t lose a father or child or family or village, and then decided to change the course of their life and become a hero. They really can start acting heroically before they lose something they love dearly.

And as for their poor mentors…they’re smart. They’re strong. They’re generally wise. That’s why they’re mentors, after all. And they don’t die all that easily, despite what this realm’s stories try to make it sound like. More often they stick around long after they are needed.

And as far as training is involved, heroes don’t get a pill which gives them accelerated learning speeds or abilities to train so they can take down a fighter who’s been practicing for years after only a week’s work of training on their own. A pity, really. I could do with a handful of those pills. But real skill takes months. Years, even. And heroes have to learn the long hard way like anyone else. Or else they die. Or they learn trickery, which I recommend as the better option if they’re short on time. Why do you think I became a stealthmaster?

All heroes don’t have broken families either. Some do, of course, but many have normal lives until somehow they are dragged into the light and effort of being a hero. I’ve known transcribers who have edited a perfectly good supportive, or not supportive but still pretty good, families out of their records because it was too much work to write about everyone.

Oh yes, and as far as getting wounded goes, we bleed and hurt and take just as long to recover as any other person. Whippings, getting shot in the shoulder, getting stabbed in the leg, generally getting beaten within an inch of life and yet not dying ISN’T PLEASANT. And we will lie abed recovering like a decent human being. You can’t throw us through physical and emotional mills and expect us to continue operating as if everything is still find.

On which note, I’ll go back to what Elena shut me up about earlier. Heroes don’t always survive. And they don’t always win. But when they don’t win, they get back up and keep fighting. When they don’t survive, their memory keeps others going. I would also like to point out here that I really don’t care for the records where heroes die. Yes, it’s true. It happens. I know. I just told you so. But I’ve seen enough of that. I don’t read to see failure. I read to see success. To see what I could do. Theoretically, of course.

And please, please, please, don’t expect heroes to dodge bullets, break into unbreakable compounds, rescue everyone, save the dog’s life, go days without sleep, and still have the brain-power and strength to save both their girlfriend and a busload of kids – who happen to be hanging off opposite ends of a bridge. Try it yourself sometime and tell me what you think.

Really, in the end – oh, right. I almost forgot. I mentioned personality, the will, the spirit…all that stuff which makes a hero. I stand by that. But at the same time, remember that a hero is a human. Well, most of the time. I’ve known a good number of…never mind. My point is, we make mistakes.

Also, we have, umm, *coughs* flaws *coughs*

So yes, there are qualities most heroes have, like courage and never giving up and loyalty and all those noble things. But we do get angry. Or sometimes we don’t want to get out of the bed in the morning. Or we want to give up. Unless chocolate is on the line, of course.

And self-sacrifice is all very good. But just because we’re willing to give our lives, or maybe aren’t terrified of dying, doesn’t me we want to die. I mean, come on. Life isn’t that bad. Even with villains on every side who refuse to tell you their evil plans. If we treat death carelessly, that’s only because that’s how we deal with it. Please don’t think we don’t care and just send us into more danger. Seriously, it’s like ‘oh, he survived, well here’s an even more dangerous mission. Let’s see if he makes that one.’

But, yes. I think that covers it. We’re human. Amazing humans, yes. But the anticipations place upon us are…staggering.

Like expecting us to do all kinds of random things.

While our love ones lives are on the line.

Normally with a sorrow of some kind in our background.

But we have to stay strong.

And be kind to everyone.

And rescue everyone.

And have witty comebacks.

And have a quality romance on top of all that without actually talking about any of the important problems with the girl. What’s with the not talking? And the romance? Not that I’m completely opposed to the romance part, I suppose. But who has the time?

We do try, all right. But we get thrown overwhelming odds, sleepless nights, awful food, pitiful pay (fame doesn’t feed anyone, though it might give your best friend or mentor a nice grave-site. All right, Elena, I’ll shut up about the depressing stuff now). But the true heroes will never give up…even when they aren’t given chocolate.

Have any questions, legends, or trending cliches you’d like Stealthmaster Kirin Quillblade to address? Please comment below; he promises to at least read what you have to say between his realm leaper missions, even if he holds the rights to choose what to write about and what to ignore.

Join the Legend Seekers for monthly stories about the realm leapers and fantasy time-travelers, Kirin and Elena. Click here to sign up

Posted by Hope Ann in fantasy, New Fantasy Times, Writer's Corner, 13 comments

Why I Love Hamilton (and would I recommend it?)

So, I mentioned this Broadway musical called Hamilton last week…was it only last week? It’s only be a few weeks since I first started listening to it, but already it seems forever. Anyway, I absolutely love this musical. The characters. The emotion. The music…

Overview:

Hamilton is a rap/hip-hop musical about the life of Alexander Hamilton. I know, how on earth does rap/hip-hop go with the story of a founding father? My mother looked at me really weird when I told her that. Then she stay up until 2:00 a.m., listening to the whole thing in one sitting once my sister and I got her started on it.

Not that I normally listen to this kind of music anyway. But really, this musical is a mix of about every kind of music I can think of: instrumental, electronic, rap…which I never thought I cared for, but it’s not rock music and it’s not weird and whispery. It’s more like a chant with rhythm than anything else.

However, I will say that Hamilton is not for everyone. I would consider it a PG-13 type of musical. There’s some crudeness and inferences, and there is some language…though if one listens to the ‘clean version’ (I know, that makes sound as if the original is awful) most of it is cut out.

Pros:

1. The music. The songs are very catchy and I enjoy them.

2. The characters and emotion and theme and story. The way the story is told… The way the characters are shown as flawed and yet the songs make you care for them… The way the themes run through the whole musical, from Hamilton’s non-stop action to Burr’s ‘wait for it’.

3. You learn quite a bit of history. For example, I now know that John Jay wrote 5 of the Federalist Papers, James Madison wrote 29, and Alexander Hamilton wrote the other 51!

4. Hamilton was a writer, so writing is mentioned in some of the songs, ‘how do you write like you’re running out of time…’ Love those parts!

Cons:

1. Some insinuation and crudeness

2. Some language

3. The lyrics will run through your head all night

Recommendation

I’m not excusing (or apologizing) for the cons of this musical. I don’t like them, but it’s like watching some movies. Each family has their own standard of how much they will allow in a movie or music or book for it to be acceptable. I will leave it to you to decide if you want plunge into this musical or not. For myself, I would recommend it if your standards accept it. Again, that sounds horrible, as if only someone with loose standards would listen to it. That is not what I’m saying…this isn’t coming out right. Do you get what I’m saying?

Pictures because I can and love them

These photos are all from Pinterest

Well, what about you? Have you listened to Hamilton? If you have, what do you think? If you haven’t, do you think this is something you will listen to?

Posted by Hope Ann in A Writer's Life, 5 comments

Developing Your Characters: Part 2 – The Fear

As I mentioned last month, developing fictional characters can stray into great detail. Writing pages of likes, dislikes, hobbies, and backstory can be helpful, but it can also swamp you with information that doesn’t really have a place in the story, and still leaving you wondering about how to distinctly portray the character in question.

There are three main questions, powerful, yet short, which an author should answer for each of their characters. The first question is, what does your character want? What does he desire more than anything? What will he give anything for and what is he striving for? Coupled with this question (if the character is a major one) is what does he really need, and is it what he wants?

Today, we’ll move to the second major question which can be asked of all characters:

What does your character fear?

Except in rare cases, your character is bound to fear something. If he doesn’t fear anything, then you can probably glean quite a bit of information about him by figuring out why they don’t fear anything. But generally your character will have some fears.

There are two type of fear. The first one is situational fear. As your character is hiding in a dark closet or running from wolves or in the middle of battle, his or her fear is natural. And, while some characters will be afraid to different degrees, in different situations, and of different things, if they aren’t afraid sometimes then they’re probably not human.

You can learn a lot from situational fear, but other kind of fear, the fears you want to find for this question, are the ‘great fears’ of a character’s life. Unlike ‘what does your character want’ the question about ‘what a character fears’ may have more than one answer and will likely have several layers of answers. A man may fear breaking under torture, but he fears for the safety of his family even more, while the topmost rung consists of his fear of failing his nation or his God.

Still, there will probably be one culminating fear, coupled with several others, which may or may not be related, but which also shape the character. These fears will tell you quite a bit about your character: what or who he cares for most and where his deepest loyalties lie. It also gives you another weapon to torment your poor character with, by making them choose between two fears or prodding them to see what will make them face their fear, if anything will force them to allow the fear to come to pass, or what they will give to keep a fear from coming true.

So, discover what your character wants, what he fears, and be on the watch next month for the last main question to ask of your characters.

MASTERSOFTHESOUND.COM

Posted by Hope Ann in My Writing, Writer's Corner, writing articles, writing tips, 4 comments

Captive Bride

The Volandums had absurd ideas about how to treat a captive princess. I mean, golden chains? Really? Were they showing me off to the people, or were they showing off their own wealth to me? I honestly wasn’t sure anymore.

My mount’s hooves clopped against the flower-strewn pavement of Dezmond’s central street and I briefly let my gaze wander, taking in the towering stone buildings, mapping out routes, exits, dead ends. They were crowded now, with cheering citizens greeting their returning king. Oh yes, and the Elentisaren princess who’d been the price of peace and would become their queen.

I gazed steadily at the faces passing by. Returning each insolent stare with defiance. Each slur with a smirk. Each fragment of pity with determination. But many of the gazes were ones of wonder. Or perhaps they were just staring at my ridiculous white fluttery dress. Loose bits of gauze flew about my waist and a heavy necklace hung about my bare neck while taches of gold fastened my sleeves. All in all, it wasn’t a dress I’d be able to slip away in without being recognized.

But, mostly, my gaze rested on the guards surrounding my mount. An especially grim soldier led my horse, but others closed in on all sides. Two before. Three on each side of me. Four more behind. Not as if they thought I could escape, but I couldn’t help relishing in their worry over the almost mystical legends surrounding the Elentisaren Phoenix, otherwise known as the most deadly woman assassin in history. They seemed to think she’d not stand for her princess being taken by Volandums. And that she’d be coming after me.

Ahead of me, the Volandum king shifted in his saddle. His gaze swept over me for the dozeneth time. And, for the dozeneth time I met his stare with a glare of my own and the slightest curl of my lips.

His own smile creased his beard as he turned away.

The Volandums respected strength. Already the king was well pleased with the spirit of his bride-to-be.

Except all the Volandums lacked one small detail.

And, as the castle of Dezmond loomed over us, I permitted my smirk to deepen. The Volandums thought they were welcoming a bride. Instead they were providing the Phoenix of Elentisa safe passage into their most guarded fortress.

They’d been right about one thing. I wasn’t about to let my cousin, the princess, surrender her freedom for peace.

I was the Phoenix. And I was here to bring Voland to her knees

 

Posted by Hope Ann in fantasy, My Writing, Reader's Corner, Writing Scenes, 9 comments

Books Worth Reading – June 2016

This month has been busy, but I’ve still got some reading done. Of course. Even if it was just during the evenings some days.

Three of these books are parts of series that I finally got around to reading. And only one of them is a library book. Hurray! I’m finally starting to read some of the books on my shelf. Or am adding more books to my shelf. But who really cares? And if you do, what does it matter? They’re books!

Futuristic Fiction

Last month I told you about, A Time to Die by Nadine Brandes. And, this month, I read the second book in the Out of Time Series, A Time to Speak. What happens when one expected to die and finds themselves alive? With a mission to help and lead people who hate them?

Writing: 5 out of 5; well written and engaging. Like the first book, the style reminds me of how a biography would follow a person’s life more than the normal novel story arc, though there is an arc too . At the same time, it was a bit quicker with more action than the first book.

Characters: 5 out of 5; the poor characters. Nadine hasn’t grown any more merciful in the second book. But I love them. They are distinct and very human. And Parvin’s struggles connect me to her so closely even though we aren’t very much alike.

Dialogue: 5 out of 5; Fresh, strong.

Theme: 5 out of 5; Very clear and foundational to the story, but at no time does Parvin’s struggles seemed forced or sections turn preachy.

Recommendation: 5 out of 5; I highly recommend this book. Though be warned, the end will leave you in anguished expectation for A Time To Rise which comes out this fall.

Fantasy Books:

I wrote about the first two books in The Blades of Acktar last month. In a fantasy land, set in some obscure corner of our world, Christians must worship in secret to escape the wrath of an evil king and his handpicked blades: assassins proficient at spying and fighting with knives. But now in Defy, war covers the land, Renna is a captive with a horrible choice before her, and the price Leith must pay to rescue her is indescribably high…assuming the rebels will even trust him enough to let him help.

Writing: 4 out of 5

Characters: 4.5 out of 5; there was so much character development in so many characters in this book. Especially Renna. And the things things Tricia makes her characters suffer…I’m so glad I’m not one of them.

Dialogue: 4.5 out of 5

Theme: 4.5 out of 5; Very clear and very up front, but it didn’t proceed to the point where it was annoying and preachy.

Recommendation: 4.5 out of 5; This is my favorite of the three books, and there’s a fourth book coming! I loved Renna in this book, and Leith, and basically everyone. Defy is a fitting climax to the last two books and is a exciting read filled with danger, turmoil, and treachery.

And here’s another third book in a trilogy, Arrow by R. J. Anderson. This was also a fitting climax to the No Ordinary Fairy Tale trilogy. In a world where fairies are real, they’re far from innocent glittering pixies. With an evil empress, rebels determined to fight for their freedom, and a fairy determined to stop bloodshed before it’s too late, this is a fascinating story.  If you like reading about fairies, then this is a version of their life you will very much enjoy.

Writing: 4.5 out of 5; good pace; very interesting.

Characters: 4.5 out of 5; fairy and human are both excellently done, though compared to some of the other books I’ve read this month, they don’t have as many distinct quirks as they could. But still, well done.

Dialogue: 4.5 out of 5; sound, solid.

Theme: 5 out of 5; Subtly woven into the story.

Recommendation: 4.5 out of 5; I loved all three books in this trilogy. The climax didn’t disappoint and is probably my favorite of all three. I love the main character, the settings, the other characters…an exciting read.

And finally there’s this book. A single book, not part of a series, just one beautiful, delicious, single book…Waking Beauty by Sarah E Morin! I heard about this book during The Very Serious Writing show podcast and, when I saw it at the library, I couldn’t resist. What happens when a prince wakes up the Sleeping Beauty, but she refuses to believe she’s awake? What happens when a princess has been tormented by dreams for so long, she won’t let anything close to her heart for fear it will be torn away again?

Writing: 4.6 out of 5; a little slow at the beginning but very interesting.

Characters: 5 out of 5; fresh, fun, distinct.

Dialogue: 5 out of 5; sound, solid.

Theme: 5 out of 5; subtle at the beginning, but the depth of allegory by the end stunned me.

Recommendation: 5 out of 5; I loved this retelling of Sleeping Beauty! I enjoyed reading about the ‘after it all happened’ story and the allegory was wonderful. If you like fantasy and fairy tales, I highly recommend this book.

How about you? Have you read any of the books I’ve mentioned and what did you think? What other Christian fantasy books do you love?

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.

Posted by Hope Ann in Book Reivews, Reader's Corner, 0 comments

Dragons and My First Podcast Interview!!!

Hey guys, guess what?!?! A few weeks ago, I was interviewed by Daniel Thomson for The Very Serious Writing Show podcast (my all time favorite writing show or podcast of any kind, I might add). And we talked about dragons, brainstorming all kinds of ideas about how to make dragons different.

Anyway, it was great fun and we came up with quite a few cool ideas. (And a few really weird ones. Don’t judge, with brainstorming what you get is what you get. *smirks*) Also, do you know how weird it is to hear oneself talking in an interview weeks after the event? But I’ll stop rambling and just post the link. You can click here to go to itunes and listen to me and Daniel chat, or you can find the podcast on Soundcloud.

Posted by Hope Ann in A Writer's Life, fantasy, 5 comments