Today I’d like to welcome Mathew Babaoye to the blog, talking about his new epic fantasy novel and the ‘rules’ we writers impose upon ourselves.
Following Your Own Fiction Rules
Whether it’s science fiction, fantasy, paranormal, or even realistic fiction, every novel has micro and macro rules it has to follow in order to stay true to its characters and world. For character examples: Harry Potter does not get cyborg implants to make him better at Quidditch, Ender Wiggin does not cast magic fireballs to defeat bullies harassing him at the battleschool, Frodo does not fly the eagles into Mordor, and Scout does not wear a dress of her own volition as a young girl in Maycombe county. For world examples: Westeros has magic without warrens, ascendants, or House Champions, Redwall has overwhelmed warriors and experienced villains with dread armies without depressing/bittersweet endings where thousands are dead and the beautiful ennui-elves all sail back to the grey havens, and the alternate Earth of the Druid Chronicles has a promiscuous lead who is not afraid to get busy without the need for softcore porn scenes OR messy love triangles between humans, werewolves and vampires.
Obvious stuff right? Because those things wouldn’t make sense in the context of their stories, right? Those assertions are true for the reader, but such potential literary forks in the road are not always so obviously incorrect to authors during the process of writing those stories.
The first challenge for many aspiring authors (and for more than a few experienced ones) is whether or not they try to re-invent the wheel when conceptualizing a new story. It takes some longer than others to realize creating something completely new, with a story and storybeats that have no connection or precedent in literature, does not guarantee your story will be good – it simply guarantees that it will be different. A culinary example of this maxim: you don’t want to always eat the same dish at a restaurant OR the same meat or vegetables on any particular dish, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you want to try monkey brains and deep sea algae ala carte. Common tropes are common oftentimes because they are generally ENJOYABLE, and often railed against when someone writes a story with these tropes that is POORLY WRITTEN. It is the difference between an incredible Bildungsroman-style epic and a 99c self-published amateur-edited debut novel about a tiresome young Mary/Marty Stu on a quest to defeat the big bad guy named “Lord Evilest.”
Ok. Then once you have successfully come up with a story that is fresh AND understandable to the general reader, mapped out character personalities, narrative arcs, the world it all resides in and the rules of law and nature that govern that world, the hardest part of the formative creative process has just begin… so allow me to reference the personal, in order to explain the general…
My second novel, Nightglory, is a fantasy/fae/myth story (released November 27th) and the first entry in the “Will, Power, and Title” trilogy. The world of Nightglory is an alternate fantasy version of Earth that intersects with our own world’s history in strange and interest ways: from naming conventions to old legends, myths, and fables. In order to gain magical power in their world, one must have either the attribute Will, Power, Title, or all three: Will is simply your innate ability to force your beliefs about something onto the malleable Ontological metaphysics of their world – Power refers to metaphorical outlets of magical energy via the driving force of Will – and Title’s are magical labels you place upon yourself (if you have sufficient Will and Power) to help define your abilities more clearly, give you new applications of existing Powers, or change your appearance. The main character of the story is Goldenslaughter, who has long ago taken the Title “Queen of Night” when she usurped the rule of a hidden magical Realm by vanquishing the twisted corporeal figure of it’s living spirit.
Sounds like I had all my ducks in a row when I came up with this foundation, right?
The overall narrative still lacked nuance. Initially, the character of Goldenslaughter was simply a person naturally good but slightly twisted. Writing the story out with this understanding, all seemed well for the first few chapters, but gradually, it became obvious that something was missing… and it concerned the nature of Titles.
In a world where you can perform a magical ceremony to take a magical title which will change your Power and looks in different ways, how might that affect your psyche?
Realizing this, I went back over the first few chapters and re-wrote them with this consideration in mind, making Goldenslaughter’s character not simply a muddled heroine with some twisted qualities but a woman of good heart and swift justice who had made a decisions, ages ago, to take a the dangerous and twisted title, “Queen of Night”, out of desperate need while in the midst of a conflict with a Powerful foe that had just killed her best friend and Champion and was pressing her forces sorely, then gained the Power from her new Title to triumph. Yes… an immortal Queen starting out with the best of intentions, slowly corroded over the centuries into a mercurial, Powerful, sometimes vicious tyrant who has just started to lose her Power again at the start of my novel (for unknown reasons) and is now desperate to stem the tide.
Conflict. Pathos. Tragedy. And a natural application of the rules I had established that made PERFECT SENSE in the context of the story and world.
Lesson learned: make sure to follow your own fiction rules, in all the obvious and subtle ways, when writing a story. Readers like stories that have logical twists (unless the deus ex machina’s are really really cool, but that’s rare) which don’t break their own rules in the twisting. I mean come on: how can a reader believe in a story that doesn’t believe in itself, right?
Be true to your own fiction rules, and the rest will follow.
Will, Power, and Title
The wider world is a place of magic and adventure, host to a number of different sentient races which bicker and war and love, all to their own passions.
But within that wider world are various magical Realms: each metaphysically bordering different geographical locations rich in Power and history, each existing separate from all else, and each ruled by councils, covens, Faen courts, or the law of nature.
In the Realm called the forest vale by its oldest, immortal residents, but renamed The Night Realm by its nearly mythic usurper Goldenslaughter, Queen of Night, a balance as old as the Realm itself has been long upset, and a reckoning comes for them all, big or small, brave or cowardly, human or Faen, good or evil.
So prepare for love, loss, adventure, and mayhem, all in a magical land where anything is possible…
The Night Realm.
Mathew Babaoye is an author living in northern California, reading and writing whatever genre strikes his interest.