WRITE CLUB: Sense and Sensibility

For those of you wanting a status update, the first three chapters of Finding Fae are uploaded and ready for you to read. The story will be updated with a new chapter every Friday.

I’m also having an absolute blast going back and editing the Verdantian Chronicles. I think the main reason is because it feels like taking a trip down memory lane, or reading a diary written by little fifteen-year-old Mads. I remember what she was going through outside of her writing life when she posted some of the scenes.

But most importantly, I’m finding some scenes that are absolutely making me cringe. Dear God, what was I thinking?

And besides that very, very important question, I also find myself questioning some major issues. They’re issues not quite central to my plot, but just little details that would really ground my stories, make some stuff make more sense, and I don’t know, make things more realistic?

Realistic. It’s ironic. For those of you who don’t know, I write fantasy. Making things realistic isn’t exactly my preference. I prefer fight scenes with actual trolls rather than the metaphorical ones that work in the IRS. I’ll take a good old-fashioned quest over a grocery store run any day of the week. I’m sure a lot of people would. That’s why fantasy and paranormal novels are so popular. It’s why you want to write in this genre. It’s why I’m writing it.

But for that to happen, I’ve learned you need two things to make a lasting impression on your readers. For your story to make sense, you need to have the sensibility that things don’t just happen because you want them to or because you need them to for your plot to move forward. When you start writing for people to read, you’ve unwittingly constructed a contract where you promise to create a world or a place in time that people can get lost in. For that to happen, you need two things: real-life consequences and realistic explanations.

As I hope you all know, consequences are the results or effects of an action or condition. They’re the things that happen after something else takes place. In writing, a consequence is usually the plot of your story after your inciting incident. But I’m not talking to you about plot, I’m talking to you about what happens during your plot. I’m talking about common issues someone could expect from going on an adventure. Loss of money or time — or did your character break any rules to achieve their goals? You need to make sure your character follows the same rules and expectations as everyone else in their world, and if they don’t, your readers should know what to expect. It’s why I add a “real-life” before the word consequence.

Examples of real-life consequences in fantasy can be found J.R.R. Tolkien’s work, specifically when Bilbo Baggins returns home from his unexpected journey. SPOILER ALERT: dude walks up on his own estate sale because he went on a trip and his neighbors thought he’d never return. It’s a first-world problem that is entirely realistic for Tolkien’s Hobbit-culture to have (people that keep to themselves and basically live in their own bubble), so it adds a bit of humor because this poor Hobbit just fought freaking dragons and now he has to deal with something as tedious and mundane as this. Little details like this ground your story, which will help your readers relate more. When your readers relate more, you’ll get more readers, and your story will be more successful.

Realistic explanations are more important, if not THE MOST important thing you should put in your book — especially when we’re dealing with fantasy. Explanations tell readers how things are happening and why. This is how you world-build. If you do it right, readers will flock to your work. Do it wrong… Well, then your writing will get stale and nobody’s got time for that.

Hell, even Stephenie Meyer had some of her bases covered in the Twilight series by describing her vampires’ vampire-ness, how they get their money to buy houses and islands and cars, and how they hid their true nature and abilities from mere humans. Again, details like this ground a story. It also makes things more believable, or as believable as a story about vampires can get. Some people actually believed it a little… more strongly than others. When I moved from Seattle to Atlanta, one girl was convinced I was a vampire. Convinced. Those were dark times.

Nonetheless, details like this are important. Taking time to explain the how something is and why it is helps build your magic. Giving your character consequences to the things they do make them fallible, which makes them relatable. Do this and you’ll be golden. Who knows, it may also give you a better plot to work off of.

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