The Reader-Author Contract

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We don’t talk about this, not really, but there are expectations that a reader has of a writer, and a writer has of their readers, especially where the series is concerned. This post is inspired by the fact that I have been waiting nearly 6 years for book 6 in the Song of Fire and Ice series by George RR Martin.

For the purpose of this article we’ll be talking about two types of series. The first is the open ended series. Think Anita Blake by Laurel K Hamilton, Mercedes Thompson and Alpha & Omega by Patricia Briggs, or Janet Evonovich’s Stephanie Plum books. These are all series in which each book has one or two large plots which are wrapped in over the course of that single book as well as several smaller, more personal, character based plots that continue on through the series. Really, any book could be the last because the personal plot lines won’t ever really end. These series can last a few books or a few dozen books, as long as the author continues to come up with original plots for each book.

On the flip side you have what I call goal-oriented series. Think Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones by George RR Martin, or the Belgariad and Malloreon by David Eddings. There is a point to the series, something the characters are trying to achieve, (destroy the ring and defeat the evil, put someone on the throne and restore peace, get the heir on the throne and destroy the mad god, rescue a kidnapped child and save the universe) and the series ends when this has been completed.

So what is the contract? Well, it depends on which type of series you read/write. For an open ended series the writer is responsible for consistent and continuing character development and for coming up with unique situations to put the characters in for each book. If the reader likes book 1 and book 2 they will generally continue buying books in the series until the plots become boring and stagnate.

If you are writing this type of series pay attention to your readers. When the plots are starting to feel forced or your readers are losing interest maybe it’s time to retire these characters, wrap up any lose ends, and start something new. Or pass the torch if a character is aging.

For a goal oriented series the writer is responsible for setting up a clear goal, getting the characters to the climax scene, where the characters will succeed or fail, and then wrapping the story up. Whether it takes three books or five or ten or whatever, this is the pattern that readers expect. Part of this responsibility is not stretching the series on too long past the entertainment value of the “quest” or past the completion of the goal.

If you are writing this type of series, finish it. If I wrote a stand alone novel and it ended just as the hero was walking into the dragon’s cave no one would publish it. It’s not complete. Publishers take a chance on a series. They take the chance that readers will like the first books enough to buy the rest but they also take a chance on the author because they are essentially publishing an incomplete book a piece at a time.

Readers are also taking a chance on a series because there’s always the chance you’ll find someone like George RR Martin who decides not to finish a series that you, the reader, have come to enjoy.

Rose in the Dark Preview

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To celebrate The Roses of Airon reaching 100 downloads I am sharing the prologue of Rose in the Dark.
The Roses of Airon is the prequel to the Rose Garden series. Rose in the Dark is the first novel in that series.
If you haven’t read The Roses of Airon you can download a copy FREE: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/504253
Please leave a review!

17th of Star Rise, 24th Year of the 11th Rebirth, Golden Hall, Capital City of the Province of the Metalkin – The Wedding of Princess Mallory Jewel-Rose

Princess Rheeya Stone-Rose liked weddings. She liked the silky feeling of her new red dress. She liked the sparkling lights and the sparkling wine.
I only hope my wedding is this lovely.
Rheeya was seated at a finely set table with three other young women; the princesses of the Evergrowth, the Animal-People, and the Sun-Temple. The four of them had grown up together at the Temple of the Sun but they had spent the last twelve years in their separate provinces. And then, six months ago, they had been called together by the High Priest of Vinturuth. His story had shaken them all.
“A fifth princess?!” Rheeya had asked.
“Of course,” the High Priest had replied. “One for each province. Didn’t you ever wonder where the princess of the Metalkin was?”
Betha, the Princess of Evergrowth, had rolled her eyes. “Obviously the last Metalkin princess didn’t have any children.”
“That’s not how this works. You are not the children of the last Rose Princesses; you ARE the last Rose Princesses reborn. And you were not born here. You were born far from the Isle of Light and you were brought here as infants.”
“So, where is the Princess of Metalkin,” Betha had asked.
“We never found her. She’s still in the other realm. And if we don’t find her soon our realm will be in grave danger.”
Rheeya shook her head and turned her attention back to the feast at hand. Servants were bringing out silver platters of roasted meats and steaming vegetables. Other servants moved between the tables with golden pitchers refilling goblets with sweet wine or strong ale.
At the head table sat Mallory Brock Jewel-Rose, the newly found Princess of Metalkin. Her white dress and elaborately braided hair were adorned with roses, the symbol of the princesses and their pact with Vinturuth, the Sun God. Beside her sat a broad-chested and dark-haired man with eyes as cold as iron. Rheeya shivered.
I hold out hope that my own prince, my soul mate, will be warm and gentle. But I am the Princess of the Stone Clan. What warmth is there in stone?
The music started and Rheeya forgot about other realms and dark spirits and her fear of a cold, unfeeling husband as she clapped her hands and smiled. Mallory is so lucky. What a beautiful wedding. Beside her the other princesses also laughed and clapped, celebrating the beginning of a prosperous time for them all. With five princesses sitting on the five thrones, upholding the pact and the sustaining magic of the realm, the realm could now begin to heal.

World Building Post #1 – What to consider

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I write mainly fantasy, some science fiction, and occasionally more realistic stuff. My science fiction is often near future sort of stuff while my fantasy is more the high fantasy sword and sorcery as opposed to urban fantasy (I love reading urban fantasy though). That being said, I’ve done a lot of world building.

I plan to do a series of posts on the different aspects of world building: geography and maps, religion and culture, technology and cultural evolution,  races and species, and alternate Earth scenarios, in some order. But today I want to do an overview on what is required in building a world, sort of a heads up on everything you’ll have to consider at some point, and some things you should consider before you even start.

First – is creating a new planet/world/etc. the right thing for your story? Give yourself an honest answer. For a lot of my science fiction creating alien planets isn’t needed to tell the story, the story fits quite well in a future Earth or alternate Earth setting, limiting the world building, and effort, I need to put into it.

Second – is this fantasy or science fiction? Is this a whole other planet that humans will stumble upon and meet the native alien creatures? Or is the whole story self-contained on this new world, with the humans, or human equivalents, already living there?

Third – how big is this world, and how big a stage does your story need? Does the story take place in a single country? I’ve got one novel like that and I’ve labelled the neighbouring countries on the map but I know little about them, except what I need for them to interact economically and politically with the country in my story. The rest of the planet is a grey-zone, I know nothing about it. I have another novel that features a smaller planet wrapped up in a global war – I know as much as humanly possible about every country, race, and religion on that planet and how they fit together.

Once you’ve answered those questions you’ll basically be ready to start. Here are some things you’ll need to design, organize, plan, plot, and decipher.

1) a map – you need this, even if it’s never published with the book, it’s a good way to track place names, distances, and such things even if it’s not to scale.

2) religion – how many deities? their genders, style of worship, and are they “real” or do the people simply believe them to be real? Take a look at David Eddings’s Belgarad series – the gods actually walk among the people at different times and talk to them, they’re real. In George RR Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice you get the feeling that the seven are just something people believe in and that’s why they’re being pushed out by other equally “fake” religions. I’ll explain this better when I get to the post on religion. Just know that religion can be tricky

3) cultural views – this includes views on gender roles, caste, class, economics, and politics.

4) cultural stage – hunter gatherer? agricultural? Victorian era? Early industrial revolution? This of course will dictate, to some extent, your politics, economics, and level of technology

5) magic – does it exist? in what form? how common? sounds easy but when we get to this post you’ll see it’s hard to create something unique and “realistic” that still fits your plot and imagination

6) races and species – how many sentient races will exist on your planet? what will they look like? how do they communicate? And guess what – you need culture, religion, magic, evolution, and tech for every single one of them. In addition you need non-sentient species: farm animals, wild animals of both predator and prey, birds and bugs, what is there and how frequently will your culture encounter them?

Yeah, I know, a lot to consider. And the bigger and more complex your world the more all of these play off each other. It’s going to be hard for me to separate them for the sake of writing an organized blog on all this, but I’ll do my best. It sounds hard but many writers claim this is the most exhilarating part of writing fantasy and science fiction – and I’m one of them. Give yourself permission, before you start the process, to change anything and everything on a whim, at any time – you can always change it back. Understand that this will take time, a lot of time, and there will be a lot of wrinkles to iron out.

I’ll walk you through the steps I use, the things I consider, and hopefully that will give you a place to start. Mainly I’ll focus on fantasy but I’ll try to note where things may be the same, or different, for science fiction.

I’m really looking forward to writing this series.

Signing off …

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