Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Cephrael's Hand by Melissa McPhail Blog Tour Guest Post

"All things are composed of patterns..." And within the pattern of the realm of Alorin, three strands must cross:

In Alorin... three hundred years after the genocidal Adept Wars, the realm is dying, and the blessed Adept race dies with it. One man holds the secret to reverting this decline: Bjorn van Gelderan, a dangerous and enigmatic man whose shocking betrayal three centuries past earned him a traitor's brand. It is the Adept Vestal Raine D'Lacourte's mission to learn what Bjorn knows in the hope of salvaging his race. But first he'll have to find him.

In the kingdom of Dannym... the young Prince Ean val Lorian faces a tenuous future as the last living heir to the coveted Eagle Throne. When his blood-brother is slain during a failed assassination, Ean embarks on a desperate hunt for the man responsible. Yet his advisors have their own agendas, and his quest for vengeance leads him ever deeper into a sinuous plot masterminded by a mysterious and powerful man, the one they call First Lord.

In the Nadori desert...tormented by the missing pieces of his life, a soldier named Trell heads off to uncover the truth of his shadowed past. But when disaster places him in the debt of Wildlings sworn to the First Lord, Trell begins to suspect a deadlier, darker secret motivating them. Honor-bound to serve the First Lord in return for his life, Trell continues on his appointed path, yet each day unveils new and stranger secrets that eventually call into question everything he knows.

Guest Post:

Building A Fantasy World - Let the Story Be Your Guide?

The average fantasy reader has a quick, intelligent mind and an above average attention to detail. As a reader, they're able to puppeteer many different strings within a story which is often complex and drawn-out over years (both in terms of the story itself and in the time it takes the author to pen it). If you read lots of fantasy, you probably take these skills in stride, but they are skills that many readers have to develop along with their love of the genre.
Yet building a world, whole-cloth, out of one's imagination requires an entirely different skill-set. When you design a world, you become its Maker. You establish its limitations, its physical barriers, and the joys and tragedies of its histories. Ultimately, as its creator, you can make your world any way you like. It could be a world of a single race--Endor or Pandora, for example--or of multiple races and kingdoms as we so often find in epic fantasies. No matter what type of world you're creating, you'll need to know some things about it in order to effectively make it real to your readers.
At the highest level, there are really two main camps when it comes to world-building, and I believe the success of the author using either of these approaches very much depends on the author's innate mindset. 
I call Camp #1 the Engineers.They believe in establishing the entire world from the outset. They've created exhaustive lists of questions that invite the author to explore a variety of topics while fleshing out their world. If you enjoy D&D, Warhammer 40K and other games that involve detailed lists which must be compared with more detailed lists in order to a) set up the game and b) take a turn, Camp #1 is the approach for you. 

You will enjoy establishing country after country, kingdom after kingdom, coming up with names of forests, rivers, towns and cities and examining their respective histories, their geographical boundaries, their ideologies and their economic products. You'll easily spend hours exploring the relationships of the ruling monarchies and plotting their family trees and blood-feuds and love every moment of it. You may find yourself developing story ideas as part of this process. Often as you begin designing a kingdom, determining its neighbors, its topography and the races that populate it, ideas will come to you--certainly you'll have a long list of character names to choose from by the end of these processes. But it is unlikely you will have much of a story.

In Camp #2 are the Gardeners. They simply start writing the story and see how it grows. "But you need to know kingdoms and peoples and places!" you scream. This camp believes all of these and more will come as the author pens the tale, growing organically as the story evolves. Certainly some things are known -- your protagonist, his or her conflict, the antagonists, and basic plot structure should all be in place. With these basics known, the world can grow around your characters.
With the Gardener approach, you might start with a country or kingdom, a few characters who have been insistent in your head for a while, and the idea that spawned your story to begin with. You start writing. Your character is on a horse, so you name the horse. He's going to a town so you name the town. He meets someone so you give them a name. What he sees and experiences while in town establishes how large or small the town is, its relationship to nearby towns or cities, and the struggles and challenges faced by its inhabitants.
The character goes into a tavern, so you name the tavern, deciding in that moment that it is a pirate establishment, so you give all of the men inside nose piercings and wild black hair. They need some kind of history, so you decide they inhabit an archipelago off the coast of this kingdom (or perhaps one far away, which changes entirely the reason they might be in that tavern). How much of their experience you share fleshes out more of the world your protagonist lives in. Each new meeting or interaction offers a chance to provide a little more of the world's varied history--to a) make it up right then, or b) to explain something you've already mentioned once and glossed over to create a mystery for the reader, or c) something you had planned all along. 
Now he's off to the castle. Is the kingdom at war? If so, with who and why. Or maybe they've had a long-standing feud, or a border where skirmishes are frequent. If the border has skirmishes, what is the topography of that region and does its topography contribute to the conflict? Is one side the home of a powerful Duke? Does he support the king or defy him? Each new branching of the story allows you to build a new idea of the world. Sometimes you invent something that changes the direction of the story entirely--which is part of the excitement inherent in this style of writing. You'll explore these ideas when you come to them and see where they take you. 

The character moves on to the next part of his adventure. You're building the world either just ahead of him or right along with him. He meets a girl. Does she become a love interest? Maybe - you'll have to see how it plays out, but for now they enjoy some banter. Does your character have family, friends, enemies? Where do each of them come from? What are their own histories? With each new character you have the opportunity to explore more of the world, its history and culture, or the conflicts that define the ideologies of its kingdoms.
Is one approach more difficult than the other? Again, it depends on your inherent mindset. For Gardeners, endlessly designing a world with no story around it is difficult and tiresome. They need the story in order to flesh out the world. Conversely, the Engineers delight in this exercise and might be wary of entering into the writing of a story with very little known about the world.

And then there are those of us who fall somewhere in between. Certainly, a little planning is helpful, some fleshing out is good. Knowing the names of the surrounding kingdoms and at least their kings or queens (or ruling Empires) is helpful in framing the context of the tale.
Ultimately, there is no right or wrong approach. Wherever you fall on the world-building scale, it's your world to create as you please, and that's the magic in being a genre-fiction writer.

Author Bio:
Melissa McPhail is a classically trained pianist, violinist and composer, a Vinyasa yoga instructor, and an avid Fantasy reader. A long-time student of philosophy, she is passionate about the Fantasy genre because of its inherent philosophical explorations.

Ms. McPhail lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, their twin daughters and two very large cats. Cephrael's Hand, her first novel in the series "A Pattern of Shadow and Light."

Here's the tour lineup ;)
10/30 The Cover by Brittany
10/31 huithiang!
11/1 The Cosy Dragon 
11/2 Window on the World 
11/12 Wolf Majick Reviews
11/12 Cristi's Reviews 
11/16 My Cozie Corner 
11/16 The Cover by Brittany
11/22 Once Upon A Book 
11/23 I am, Indeed
11/26 The Insane Writings of a Crazed Writer 
11/27 Nyx Book Reviews  
11/29 Krystal's Enchanting Reads 

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